Saturday, January 31, 2009


Just found out today that I am now a member of the Independent Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild of America, west.

Which is kind of cool.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Mess

It's official -- the theatrical release title of "American Messiah" will be The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Mess.

The producer and I feel like it's a good link to the original (for marketing purposes) and still has a draw to get people into the theatre.

I'll post the new poster here when we are done with it. And release details, too, of course.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Sundance Experience

I always said I wasn't going to go to Sundance until I had a film there, but when I was invited this year by Matson Duncan to attend his Cultural Leadership Summit, I really couldn't say no. I was, in fact, invited last year, but I couldn't make things work.

The purpose of the event was to bring together a bunch of like-minded filmmakers and those who think and write about film and culture in order to discuss how films can edify culture.

The event was a great success, for me at least. I met some terrific creative people and connected with them over morning sessions as well as in between films, over great meals (and rushed ones) on Main Street in Park City, UT. The weather was, on the whole, pretty decent, with temperatures staying in the high 30s during the day and only getting truly cold after dark. Crowds were down this year at Sundance, so while there were still lines aplenty, it was at least possible to move down the street (which, from what I've been told, hasn't always been easy in years past).

It was hard to get tickets to films. This is the kind of thing that makes you really want to have your film screen at Sundance -- there is no film that doesn't have a sold-out screening.

Here's what I saw:

Shorts Program IV: Shorts programs are always a mixed bag, and there are plenty of differing opinions on what a short should be. This program contained a little of everything (in my opinion, of course). The attack of the robots from Nebula was a quirky piece about an unbalanced fellow who believes the world will be destroyed soon (by the titular robots). It worked for me, but I could easily see why it might not work for others. Sparks, an Elmore Leonard adaptation by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, seemed like a good idea, I'm sure, but, in spite of its stylistic flourishes, it was essentially a story told in dialogue-heavy flashback by the two oh-so-clever main characters (Carla Gugino and Eric Stoltz). Elmore Leonard has been done much better in the past. Next Floor was a brilliantly realized take on gluttony, as a group of wealthy eaters pigs out on rare foods until they fall through the floor -- again and again. Completely visual (almost no dialogue at all), and really effective. Short Term 12 is a terrific emotional film about a psychiatric youth residential home, filled with screwed-up kids and damaged counselors. The worst of the bunch was Choices, a pointless piece wherein the audience watches a man make love to his girlfriend while he narrates the story of having to choose between his mother and his father when they divorced in his youth. Poorly shot and needlessly "edgy," it did nothing for me.

U.S.A./Canada/Kuwait, 2009, 96 min., color
English and Arabic with English subtitles
Amreeka tells the story of a Palestinian single mother and her son when they move to America and live with her sister and her sister's family right after 9/11. It keeps the tone light throughout much of the film, focusing on her fish out of water status and her frustration at not being able to find a decent job in spite of years of experience and education. The acting is quite good, and the writer/director smartly doesn't try to make things too maudlin, even though the events are serious. By using the tropes of a typical film in this genre, the filmmaker manages to get the audience to identify with this woman, who is an outsider to U.S. audiences by virtue of her nationality. Her plight is universal, though, and her love and concern for her teenage son shine through.

The Maid
Chile, 2008, 95 mins., color
From the Sundance site: "After 23 years of service to the Valdes family, Raquel is comfortably ensconced in a vague existence between maid and her illusion that she is a family member. Her barely concealed bitterness and increased clashes with her employer's eldest daughter lead the family to think she is overworked. They hire more help, and, feeling usurped, Raquel begins to sabotage each new employee by resorting to childish antics, clinging to her ambiguous place within the family." There were some very solid moments in this film -- some real human emotion and redemptive ideas. Ultimately, it's bogged down by a repetitive first half and some not-so-great camera and sound. I remember thinking that the film should have been shorter, but when I checked the running time, it was only 95 minutes. That's never a good sign. The first two-thirds of the movie seemed to repeat the maid's war with other maids over and over, and though I'm sure this is "how it really happened" (the director explained the semi-autobiographical nature of the story), it makes for lazy and ineffective storytelling.

You Won't Miss Me
U.S.A., 2009, 81 mins., color & b/w
The title is accurate. I won't miss this film. Or, more accurately, I won't miss the second half, which I didn't bother watching. I am not one to walk out of a film. I even sat through Eddie Murphy in The Golden Child. But 45 minutes into this film, I couldn't bear any more. It was pretentious and boring, an "unscripted" attempt to capture an unbalanced woman's miserable life. I guess it succeeded, as it made me pretty miserable. The improvisational nature of the shooting was, I'm sure, thought to be pretty innovative, but I thought it made for a pretty shoddy end result, with actors looking around uncomfortably as they apparently ran out of things to say. I thought about articulating more about why I don't think this is a good film, but I feel as though I've wasted enough time on it. In answer to the director, who asked me from a distance, as I walked out of the theatre, "So you hated it that bad?" -- yes. Yes, I did. I would have answered you at the time, but I wasn't aware you were talking to me at first, and the moment passed.

If you want to read more about the film, read the description at the Sundance site.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience. I hope to be back next year, and I hope to continue some wonderful new friendships.

Monday, January 19, 2009

American Messiah on iTunes, and a Sundance Update

Well, I returned last night from my brief Sundance experience, and I have stuff to report, but I'm not sure I feel like typing it all up right this minute. I saw several good features, one awful feature (it's not Sundance if you don't see one lousy film), and some interesting shorts. And I got to meet some really cool people, indie filmmakers like myself, and getting to connect with them -- and with the people who helped to make this trip possible (members of a Park City church) -- was both encouraging and humbling.

So, more on that later...

The other news I wanted to report is that my first feature film, The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah is now available for download on iTunes. Which is, you know, pretty cool.

UPDATE: adding a link to American Messiah in the iTunes store: see the movie here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Clean Freak screening at da Vinci Film Festival

You haven't heard me mention any screenings for Clean Freak of late, and the reason for that is that there haven't been many. The film inexplicably hit a streak of rejections that I really don't even want to talk about.

Well, it's not really inexplicable. It's a 27 minute film that's part documentary and part mockumentary and also contains a wry and subtle commentary on the nature of documentary filmmaking in general. So, um, yeah, it's been a real crowdpleaser.

I'm being too hard on it, perhaps. In actuality, I think the running time is the largest factor in the film's many non-selections, because fests prefer their short films to be 10 minutes or under, as a general rule.

Anyway, I've completely buried the lede here -- Clean Freak has been selected to screen in the 1009 da Vinci Film Festival. The fest takes place March 6-8 in Corvallis, Oregon.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

So Maybe I'm Controversial After All

When my first feature, The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah, was making the rounds at festivals, I had thought it might inspire some controversy because of the religious satire in it. Now, I should preface this all by saying that I am a very religious person, and the satire in the film was aimed squarely at people who abuse and misuse religion for their own purposes.

And since I sensed it might be controversial, I was almost disappointed that it wasn't. Most people took it as intended or just found it funny.

But today, someone was finally offended enough to do something about it.

I have been working with a distributor in the midwest on a small theatrical distribution for the film. I had intended to keep this quiet until I had all the details worked out. But I had a conversation with the distributor today during which he explained that he wasn't going to be able to release the film in the theatres that he deals with because of the title and the poster art -- specifically, the word "messiah" in the title and the images of Christ on the poster.

So, hmmm...

I was taken by surprise, only because the film hasn't inspired much controversy thus far. But this is a case of perception trumping reality -- it's not the content of the film that offends (apparently), but the fear that people who see the poster and hear the title will believe something about the film that isn't true.

Thus, if I want to see it get a theatrical release, I must change the title and the poster design. To end any speculation: I've decided to do just that, simply because I'd like to see the film released, and I don't feel that I'm compromising any principles. I'm not having to change the content or intent of the film, just the perceptions and concerns created by the title.

And, in any case, I suppose it's better to be controversial.

I'm also choosing to view this is as a positive. It's a chance to rethink something that's already been completed. I have lately had some misgivings about the title (I always wished I'd chosen to call it "Local Messiah" as I think that would have intrigued people more, and audiences always react positively when Brian calls himself a local messiah). But I can't use the word "messiah" at all now.

So, if you have any title suggestions (or poster design suggestions, for that matter), leave them in the comments below. And I'll share the new title choice and poster design when we have it complete...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Become a Fan of ENDINGS on Facebook

If you're on Facebook, I encourage you to become a "fan" of my new film Endings on there. I just started the page for it...

Endings Facebook Page

Saturday, January 03, 2009

First Clip from ENDINGS

Well, for all three of you anticipating my new film, I decided it was about time to post some footage.

Below is a link to a scene from a longer sequence in which one of the main characters, an addict, is in a "forced rehab camp." The scene has very little sound work and only a basic "bleach bypass" color correction, so don't take it as complete.

The actors are: Matthew Brumlow as Chris (the drug addict) and Ka Beesler as Marlon (who runs the rehab camp).

A scene from ENDINGS from Chris Hansen on Vimeo.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Well, I haven't posted anything in forever, and I'm not just being lazy. The holidays are always pretty light around here, just because I tend to be consumed with stuff at home and don't have as much to say about film and etc.

So, a couple of quick updates:

Endings is still in post-production. The rough cut is complete and stands at about one hour forty-four minutes right now. I'm going to delve into it next week with the film's producer to see what still needs work.

Also, I finally had a chance to watch The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and I really enjoyed it. The slow pacing really worked for me, and I enjoyed seeing a film that allowed the story to play out so delicately and deliberately.

The music accentuated it quite well, and the performances were very solid (specifically Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck as the title characters, but Sam Rockwell as Bob Ford’s brother Charlie was also terrific). I especially enjoyed the last 20-30 minutes, which played out the aftermath of Bob Ford’s life as a result of the killing. Most studio films would have concluded soon after the killing, but this was not Jesse James’s story, so Robert Ford’s story deserved a chance to play out.

The meditation on celebrity and fandom really interested in me (in part because I've been thinking about a documentary on fandom of a particular thing for a while), and Pitt seems like a really interesting choice to play James, who was an uber-celebrity of his time, after all.