2012 Highlights from Los Angeles Film Festival presented by Film Independent

2012 LA Filmfest Highlights

(June 20, 2012) There are so many things to explore at the Los Angeles Film Festival presented by Film Independent. Seating at the Filmmakers Lounge as I write this column (halfway through the festival, I’ve been missing a lot as some screenings I want to watch were overlapping each other. All screenings are being held at L.A. Live’s Regal Cinemas.

I started my movie marathon with the “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” 2012 Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize Winner and Best Cinematography Award (also won the FIPRESCI Award at this year’s Cannes Filmfest). First time actors Dwight Henry and 6-year old Quvenzhane Wallis give powerful performances as father and daughter who refuses to leave their land after a Katrina-level storm.

This past weekend, I've enjoyed attending the panel discussions via programs “Conversations & Talks."

Short films are experiencing a new life online with the plethora of new web-based platforms and channel contents. The creative and financial opportunities for professionally produced, short-form original content in the digital marketplace were among the topics. Moderated by Holly Willis (Research Professor of School of Cinematic Arts at USC), panelists included Amber Lawson, Chairman of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Interactive Media Peer Group Membership, Eddie Schmidt, director, Good Bread; executive producer, Beauty is Embarrassing; Peter Glatzer, feature film producer and co-founder of SHFT.com; and Thomas Zadra, Head of Business Development for Original Video, Yahoo!

Same day Saturday, AMC’s “Breaking Bad” had a Q&A moderated by film critic Robert Abele with cast members Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Dean Norris, Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk with series creator Vince Gilligan as they discuss how the show about a high school chem teacher with a mobile meth lab in the New Mexico desert has evolved into what many consider the best hour on television. Now on its final 16 episodes, the hit tv series tested the boundaries of television, developing an antihero never before seen.

On Sunday, June 17, Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Lords of Dogtown, thirteen); Rian Johnson (Looper, The Brothers Bloom, Brick); and Lawrence Kasdan (Darling Companion, The Big Chill, Body Heat) discussed about their craft and the challenges they have to go through before they became successful directors in their field.

Discussing their craft with their peers with fun and unpredictable conversations, seasoned actors Jason Isaacs (The Harry Potter films, Green Zone, The Patriot); Melanie Lynskey (Seeking A Friend for the End of the World, Up In The Air, Heavenly Creatures, Win Win), and Illeana Douglas (Ghost World, Goodfellas, Cape Fear) shared educational and informative thoughts on what actors should do to become successful in show business.

Screenwriters John August (Dark Shadows, Big Fish, Go); Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight, The Prestige); Zak Penn (The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men: The Last Stand); and Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) shared that one of the hardest and most challenging part being a screenwriter is getting an agent (among other things).

A sneak peek of some of the upcoming animated films were shown exclusively on Sunday featuring some of the high-profiled women in the animation world of filmmaking. Moderated by Rebecca Keegan, Los Angeles Times film writer and author of The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron, the panelists include Allison Abbate, producer of Walt Disney Studios' Frankenweenie; Michelle Murdocca, producer of Sony Pictures Animation's Hotel Transylvania; Arianne Sutner, producer of LAIKA and Focus Features' ParaNorman; and Kristina Reed, producer of Walt Disney Animation Studio's Paperman.

The delightful romantic comedy “Ruby Spark” was this festival’s Secret Screening surprise film, with the attendance of stars from the film Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) and female lead (also the screenwriter) Zoe Kazan, together with producers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), who said they were very lucky to have Oscar winning cinematographer, Fil-Am Matthew Libatique for this movie. “It wasn’t hard for us to convince him as he believed in the story so much,” Dayton said.

One of the most powerful and heartbreaking documentary I’ve seen -- "Call Me Kuchu" exposes the horrors of a homophobic government — its hatred fueled by right wing American evangelicals — that terrorizes the LGBT community. In Uganda, a new bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. David Kato - Uganda's first openly gay man, and his fellow activists work against the clock to defeat the legislation while combatting vicious persecution in their daily lives. But no one is prepared for the brutal murder of Kato that shakes their movement to its core and sends shock waves around the world.

Check out the rest of the L.A. Filmfest screenings and special events at www.LAFilmfest.com

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