Phil Holland Ad One

FilmGate Interactive’s third iteration starts today in Miami. The film festival/conference is an interactive, immersive event that is part entertainment and part an educational workshop for emerging filmmakers. The creative and independent organization is quickly rising to be the main stage for “transmedia” storytelling in South Florida. It is a new field, and an exciting one, as its technology-heavy aspects have lowered the barriers of entry associated with traditional filmmaking. “There are a lot more women and is a more egalitarian and definitely independent,” says Diliana Alexander, Executive Director of FilmGate.

FilmGate Interactive is a creative conference living at the intersection of storytelling and new technology and runs from Feb. 20 – 28. Now in its third year, it promises to deliver well-rounded content while making it fun as well. The week is packed with events for everyone. As a film lover, I cannot wait to experience some of the interactive screenings, but there are plenty of events for filmmakers that are simply not available anywhere else in South Florida.

There is a cornucopia of events to attend this year in a short time span, which can easily become overwhelming. “This year there are a couple of themes behind the conference,” says Alexander. The thematic strands behind this year’s events are climate change, the right to privacy and death. Sobering issues that are covered via interactive filmmaking, like One Dark Night, which re-casts the story of Trayvon Martin’s death through a fully immersive virtual reality experience. According to Alexander this a “must-see” interactive exhibit. Director Nonny de la Peña has been leading the charge on advocating for experiential journalism and using transmedia, as it changes how we receive information. In a recent TED Talk, she made the case for virtual reality technology use in journalism that puts the audience inside the story.

tech playground meeting

The festival is also spotlighting France this year, and one of the more important representatives of the nation comes via the screening of Wei or Die, a 90 minute interactive feature film by Simon Bouisson. The screening is a North American premiere and will be shown with subtitles. This is another of the must-see films in FilmGate Interactive. Wei or Die is a multi-camera narrative that tells the story of hazing gone wrong. Bouisson, along with the film’s producer, will attend FilmGate Interactive. Another not-to-miss screening is Do Not Track, an interactive web documentary about tracking data on line.

A new addition to this year’s FilmGate Interactive is “The Percolator Industry Pitch Session,” which aims to connect filmmakers with local talent. The program entails a training session on how to pitch ideas to networks and will be followed by actual opportunities to pitch to a few networks including VICE, MTV and others still to be confirmed. Up to 15 local filmmakers will be able to pitch their ideas to individual networks, which will then gather for a closing panel to give feedback to the entire class of participants on what worked and what didn’t. “Even people who were not able to participate in each session will be a part of it through the workshop,” says Alexander. This is an innovative idea that is clearly a welcome addition to South Florida, home to talented people that at times struggle to connect with the right resources to create locally.

Capture

Finally, it wouldn’t be South Florida without a kick ass party. FilmGate Interactive hosts its “kickoff” party mid-festival, on Thursday, at 7 p.m., at the Deauville Beach Resort. In addition to a great time, there are a pair of free events and several ticketed workshops like a sound workshop, led by Billy Wirasnick who has helped pioneer the Slow TV movement in the U.S. “Sound is such an important asset in immersive filmmaking,” says Alexander. Also, local actor and Emmy Award Winner Jordi Vilasuso will lead a two-day intensive Master Class designed for actors. The festival will also host a three-day Cinematography class in Stiltsville with RED Digital Cinema led by Phil Holland, a digital imaging specialist on several notable movies, including credits on several X-Men and Fast & Furious movies. Also it sounds idyllic to be in such a unique, historical location.

The festival kicked off in 2013 thanks to a winning a big grant during the Knight Foundation’s Arts Challenge that allowed FilmGate to become an international Conference, which allowed the festival to bring some of the most innovative storytellers from Canada, London and France to Miami. Alexander says the grant allowed for than important guests to take part in the festival but also brought important ideas to it. “Being a Knight Grantee, outside of financial assistance, also introduces you to other amazing projects, and we have gained many collaborators from just sitting beside other recipients of amazing projects and loving what they are doing,” she says.

As the film community grows in South Florida, there will be more need to build peer-to-peer bridges and share technical knowledge about filmmaking. This is one of those areas where FilmGate shines. Although South Florida is not a filmmaking hub, that dream may not be as far-fetched as it once seemed.

Ana Morgenstern

For tickets go to: www.filmgate.miami. Individual screenings are $10 for subscribers. Advanced tickets are $60 and include access to the Tech Playground, workshops, projects and an invitation to the launch event. An All Access Pass can also be purchased for $120, which includes invitations to industry happy hours, the kickoff pool party at the Deauville Hotel and the Future Survivor themed closing party and awards ceremony.

(Copyright 2016 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Poster-High-ResWith X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer returns to directing the characters he first successfully brought to the big screen more than 10 years ago in X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 (2003). In between he directed the fanboy-maligned Superman Returns (2006), the even less liked Jack the Giant Slayer (2013), not to mention the underrated, though problematic, Valkyrie (2008). After these diversions, among others, one has to wonder…  Does he still have the touch that made the first two X-Men films so enjoyable before he handed the series off to Brett Ratner, who directed probably the least liked film of the franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)? Can his new X-Men film measure up to the humanity director Matthew Vaughn brought to the series with X-Men: First Class (2011)? And how far gone is the witty, suspenseful director who gave us The Usual Suspects (1995)?

The last question is the easiest to answer:  The old director is long gone, sucked deep into his passion for superheroes first manifested with the early X-Men films before going wayward and indulgent with Superman Returns and then hitting a wall with Jack the Giant Slayer, the director at his most cold and dispassionate. Unfortunately, his time spent with mediocre films has a presence in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s made plainly clear when considering what Vaughn brought out of the youthful X-Men characters in First Class. x-men-days-of-future-past-DF-26952R_rgbIn the hands of Vaughn, who burst on the scene adapting a darker group of wayward heroes with the excellent and harrowing Kick-Ass, the X-Men felt human in a manner the franchise has never felt before or since. When Michael Fassbender as Magneto and James McAvoy as Professor X tangled verbally while coming terms with their powers and the role they had to play on this planet, the script and the director gave them space to explore their burden without over exposition. The British actors stepped up with performances that made the characters seem like something more than cartoon characters. Those performances were the best special effect of the entire film.

There’s just no room for that kind of soul in this epic version of the X-Men, and it’s fun an diverting, as these summer tent pole films should be. However, as Vaughn proved (not to mention Christopher Nolan and Marc Webb) these superhero films can still have soul brewing below the digital effects and stunt choreography. X-Men: Days of Future Past has an uphill battle for space to flesh out our heroes, as the drama is packed not only with characters but doubles some of them. With time travel at the heart of the film’s plot, the drama sees the younger mutant heroes in a parallel story line with their elder counterparts.

All the actors are back, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, McAvoy and Patrick Stewart as a younger and elder Professor X, and Fassbender and Ian McKellen as Magneto. There’s also Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and even Ellen Page playing the most essential Kitty Pryde role of the entire series. DF-07871   Hugh Jackman as Logan in X-Men: Days of Future Past.All are quite capable thespians, but the film just feels too concerned with set pieces and action sequences to allow for much feeling. There are even expositional speeches some characters give on their own histories to help clarify who they are to the plot and where they are emotionally. Ultimately, it is futile to look for any redemption beneath the 3-D effects and the convoluted plot of this new X-Men film.

That said, no one is going into an X-Men film expecting to feel emotionally involved with the characters unless you’re bringing childhood sentimentality with you. The film literally cuts right to the chase in a world in ruin where our hero mutants are being hunted down by giant robots called Sentinels. Kitty Pryde has mastered the ability to send the consciousness of one her fellow mutants back in time, so her rag-tag group of familiar heroes old and new can stay a step ahead of the attacks. As this on-going war unfolds, the drama includes lots of action sequences. x-men-days-of-future-past-DF-02072_rgbSinger’s longtime editor John Ottman also provides the film’s punchy orchestral music that accentuates the action a bit too literally sometimes. Like the campy ‘60s-era Batman TV show, punches are often emphasized with musical stings. The battles with the Sentinels, though, are vicious affairs that feature many dying mutants. Thanks to time travel many get to the chance to die more than once, some in quite horrific ways, even if they are ripped apart in their elemental states. But it still seems futile. Only when Wolverine volunteers to have his consciousness delivered to the watershed moment of these Sentinels, in the early ‘70s, does hope seem to arise, but he’ll have to convince an embittered, young Professor X about his mission.

It’s telling that despite all the thrilling melees between mutants and sentinels and the twisty plot, that a brief moment alone with one character steals the entire film. There’s a glimpse into the experience of Quicksilver (played impishly by Evan Peters) with his power to speed himself up through the moment while everyone else around him practically freezes. He, Wolverine and Professor X are trying to bust Magneto out of a maximum security prison when they are confronted by security guards who fire a barrage of plastic but deadly bullets. x-men-days-of-future-past-DF-24983Rv4_rgbQuicksilver saves them all before Wolverine can even extend his claws. It’s a split second, but it’s drawn out to two and half minutes as Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” is used to score the “action.” The melancholy classic adds a nice dimension to what would be just a mere humorous set piece. Peters captures a sort of loneliness in an almost mundane expression of his mutation, as he sets the guards up for profound failure before they can even realize it. It’s a brilliant scene in a film that certainly does not forget humor in the face of apocalypse, but more significantly, it has a bit more resonance in highlighting how lonely these heroes can feel, which cuts to the core of the perpetual us vs. them message behind the X-Men.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a fine action movie, and it will do well for the ongoing domination of superhero movies at the box office. Singer knows he’s not creating anything more than this. You can tell that even in how he handles the exaggerated  ‘70s wardrobe of the characters. He knows he’s not obliged to re-create the ‘70s of American Hustle or Boogie Nights. That’s why it’s kind of funny to see Peter Dinklage in a polyester suit and a Tom Selleck mustache. It’s all comic book exaggerated, and everyone steps up with the degree of severity that these kinds of films call for. But it’s a miracle what spending a little time with a character does to flesh out the proceedings.

Hans Morgenstern

X-Men: Days of Future Past runs 131 minutes and is rated PG-13 (some mutants suffer brutal deaths, there’s an impactful use of the phrase “fuck off” and you get a gander at Jackman’s backside). 20th Century Fox invited me to a preview screening for the purpose of this review. It opens in theaters pretty much everywhere this Friday, May 23.

(Copyright 2014 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)