Monday, December 10, 2007

The New York Times features Billy The Kid

It's His World; She Was Just Filming It

Published: December 9, 2007

JENNIFER VENDITTI met the subject of her documentary “Billy the Kid” in a high school cafeteria in rural Maine. Seated apart from all the other students, who were clustered into the usual cliques, was a wiry 15-year-old in shorts and an AC/DC T-shirt.

“There was a table of bullies who pointed him out and told me he’d tried to sit with them once,” Ms. Venditti said. “They called him a freak.” She went over to talk to Billy, “and as soon as he opened his mouth, I was like, ‘Why isn’t everyone sitting at your table?’”

A casting director for films and fashion shoots who specializes in “street scouting” — the practice of plucking subjects from everyday environments — Ms. Venditti was trying to find teenage actors for a short that her friend Carter Smith was directing. She cast Billy as an extra in that film, “Bugcrush” (which went on to win the prize for best short at Sundance last year), but resolved to give her new young friend, who seemed both troubled and precocious, more screen time in a project of her own.

FOR FULL ARTICLE: The New York Times Online: "It's His World; She Was Just Filming It"

The guys at Spout have been so supportive! They interviewed me at SXSW and then again leading up to the NYC Opening. Check it out! FilmCouch #48

Thursday, December 6, 2007

NYC Opening and After Party

Last night was such a blast! The only things missing were Billy and Penny, but we know they were there in spirit.

Assistant to the Producer Jaclyn Paris

DP / Musician (Lead Singer of The Virgins) Donald Cumming, Director / Producer Jennifer Venditti, Actor / Director John Turturro, Producer Chiemi Karasawa

Actor Matthew Gray Gubler, Director / Producer Jennifer Venditti, Paper Magazine's Deputy Editorial Director Mickey Boardman

W Magazine's Creative Director Dennis Freedman, Director / Producer Jennifer Venditti

Elephant Eye's Bridget Stokes and Vicky Wight

Director Jennifer Venditti, DP / Musician (Lead Singer of The Virgins) Donald Cumming

Actor / Director Xan Cassavetes, Director / Producer Jennifer Venditti

Executive Producer Bob Alexander (Indiepix), Producer Chiemi Karasawa, Director / Producer Jennifer Venditti, Executive Producer Barnet Liberman

Producer Chiemi Karasawa, Director Jonathan Caouette, Director / Producer Jennifer Venditti

DP / Musician (Lead Singer of The Virgins) Donald Cumming, Producer Chiemi Karasawa, Actor John Cameron Mitchell, Director / Producer Jennifer Venditti, Composer Christian Zucconi

Photographer Pamela Hanson
(photo courtesy of

Actor John Cameron Mitchell (right) and friend
(photo courtesy of

DJs Tim Barber and Julia Burlingham
(photo courtesy of

Fashion Designer Alison Kelley
(photo courtesy of

Wednesday, December 5, 2007



Oh my, how time has flown.....actually, not really!
But a lot has happened since August 2005 when Donald (my DP) and I left for a 2 week road trip to Maine and West Virginia. I could reflect on all the HIGHLIGHTS but I'm sure everyone has heard enough of that already. The point of this blog entry is not to promote the film but to promote EVERYONE that has worked so hard ON the film.

I am so blessed to have been supported, enlightened, educated and guided by all of these people.
NOTE: There are many more but this is just the core crew..
NOTE 2: This is in no particular order, actually I will try to do it in order of who I met first.. TRY is the keyword..

I THANK YOU..................

Zan Ludlum, Nina Chaudhuri and Ed Kim, without your dedication, passion, understanding, commitment, focus and pure joy none of this would of been possible. Thank you for always caring and never giving up! 8 FOREVER
(There were a few people along the way who did quit or got fired, I thank you too.)
Intern special mentions and new folks (Stephanie Sadre-Orafai, Emily Meade, Brett Adamek, Emily Molligan, Natasha Schwartz, Alex Schindler, Christine Kim and Melissa Cates)

NINA CHAUDHURI, Production Coordinator
My rock, my memory, my eye, my organizer, my cross your t's dot your i's person, with the most lovely smile and wonderful attitude..... ALWAYS. I really really really am sooooo grateful to have had you by my side and so is everyone else that has had the privilege of working with you.

THOM POWERS, Documentary Programmer / Teacher
For the structure and thank god lack of structure in your classroom. It was exactly what I needed to start me on this path. And of course for all of your endless support and promotional efforts as well.

ELEONORE HENDRICKS, Street Scouter and Casting Assistant
For your eye and for saying to me "I think I just saw a really interesting kid walk out of the principal's office."

DONALD CUMMING, Director of Photography
For walking the talk and inspiring me to just film SOMETHING! And of course for never turning off the camera (except that one time) and never complaining (or maybe I'm forgetting now) but really for your wonderfully sensitive eye and spirit.

WELL WELL... this could be a book but I will make it short. Geez,from the very beginning... your interest, your thoughts, your knowledge, your dedication, your attention to detail (especially SPELLING, haha) your contribution to this project has been invaluable. The process of producing this together has taught me so much about film but even more about communication and partnership in LIFE. Through all of the UPS and downs our relationship has made me look at myself, situations and others and really contemplate and strive to learn and grow. THANK YOU for helping to make this all possible. We have come a long way baby!!!! THIS WOULD HAVE NOT BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT YOU!

PJ BARRY, Business Manager
Before there was a BILLY THE KID there was PJ, who has always supported and believed in me no matter what the COST. Literally!!!!

Wow. I remember being very scared to start editing with the editor from "The Cruise" but then we met and from only a small piece of footage you got it and you got me! As a first time director, you treated me with respect and you really listened. I THANK YOU for that.

To Jordan Mattos and Danielle DiGiacomo (Associate Producers) for being visionaries and for BOB ALEXANDER and BARNET LIBERMAN (Executive Producers) for making it all happen and continuing to make it all happen. I wish for all filmmakers to find executive producers like Bob and Barnet. Thank you for trusting our vision and enabling us to make it happen!!!!!!!!!!!

LUBOV AZRIA, Executive Producer
For being a beautiful, smart, compassionate and inspiring woman who makes things happen!! And especially for supporting and inspiring others to do so as well.

PARIS KAIN, Additional Photography
For not being afraid to get TOO CLOSE and I will be forever grateful to you for Reverend DAVE GARDNER's phone number!

ENAT SIDI, Additional Editor
For challenging me , for questioning things, for loving art, I was going to say listening but we all know (except you) that you can't hear!!! Your smarts, your speed, and lastly for caring so damn much geez THANK YOU!!!

For being musical geniuses and translating my gibber-gabber into exactly what was needed.

SETH ZUCKER, Graphic Designer
I would say that the promotional materials are the second star of this movie. They have had a life of their own to say the least. Seth, although it is always a process, sometimes longer then either of us would like-- it's always so worth it! Things never look the same without you. Thank you!

SHANE SIGLER, Still Photographer
For your beautiful photos and your generous spirit. You are a true gentleman and such a pleasure to work with.

DAMIAN VOLPE, Sound Editor
"You're my Bud" , for your wonderfully sensitive ears and your attentive mind. I loved all of our conversations and time together.... me on the meditation ball and you slamming whiskey!!! HAAHAHA just kidding....

JACLYN PARIS, Assistant to the Producer
For getting the film from the first time and all those great conversations. Your spirit, passion, and hard work are going to take you far!!! Can't wait to see where it takes you in the future.........

POSTWORKS, Post Production
The whole team there has been such a pleasure-- Matthew Reedy, Anne Bakoulis, John Crowley, and Pat Kelleher. I learned so much from your experts and I thank you all for your hard work, expertise, and attention to detail.

DANA O'KEEFE, Domestic Sales
What to say.... all I can think of is..... I love a man who is not afraid to stand alone!! Dana, your support and dedication to this film before many others is commendable and is why you stand out in this business. I guess it's why you relate to Billy as well? I remember leaving my first meeting with you and saying to Chiemi "I'm done, this is all I need." Yeah right, if this stranger, whose job is to watch TONS of films, says this about MY film and he doesn't even know me?!?!? To say the least it made my DAY!!! Until, as you know, I started realizing that was only the beginning and there were many obstacles in my future. It's been a pleasure and your enthusiasm and support has helped me so much.

THE LOVELY LADIES Bridget Stokes and Vicky Wight (and David Robinson too). Our angels that came in and swept us off our feet at the last minute. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work so closely with my distributor. To contribute and learn so much about the distribution process has really been a highlight and privilege for me. I HIGHLY recommend that every independent filmmaker goes with a small indie distributor. Even if you have the offers from the big guys, take the other road at least once. EEF, your grace and positive go-getter attitude has been a perfect fit for the BILLY THE KID team.

NY TIMES FEATURE!!!!!! Need I say more??!!! Thank you for your insight and guidance in this wonderfully powerful scary world called THE PRESS!!!!

To all the incredible festivals (LAFF, EDINBURGH, HOT DOCS, MELBOURNE, BRIT DOCS, FULL FRAME etc. and especially SXSW for getting the ball rolling!)

(To all journalists, blogs, friends, my family, ANNA IVARA, Fernanda Rossi, the lawyers,.......... thank you and TO BE CONTINUED

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Women's Wear Daily Recognizes the Outsider

The Outsider
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2007

By Sarah Haight

There's a moment in Jennifer Venditti's documentary, "Billy the Kid," when the film's 15-year-old star, all dangling adolescent arms and legs, paces the pavement outside his school. "I know I'm unique," he says in a voice-over in the film, which makes its theatrical debut Dec. 5 at New York's IFC Center. "I just don't let it go to my head."

It's an apt line for a film made by a woman whose career has heretofore been defined by hitting upon specific, even rare, beauty in unlikely people — the finely creased face of a coal miner, the sloped slouch of a Penn State undergrad. As a casting director for magazines (most often W, for which she has collaborated on 14 shoots since 1997), fashion shows, film and advertising campaigns, Venditti has stomped through one-traffic-light towns in West Virginia, crashed an African-American prom in Detroit and corralled a young butcher hauling meat on a downtown New York street (the latter for a Harry Winston shoot, no less). Long before Dove soap ads began celebrating the supple curves of "real women," Venditti was scouring suburban malls and street fairs, chasing after little girls and old men alike — the so-called ordinary folk whose specific appearances, and indeed flaws, have made them compelling models in campaigns for Levi's, Benetton and Banana Republic, among others.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Academy & Documentary Film

Billy the Kid was not shortlisted for the Oscars, and Director Jennifer Venditti was not surprised. She knew it was a long shot for her film to be noticed by The Academy, as it does not follow an obvious issue based formula. That said, she already feels like she has won an Academy award with all of the support,recognition, and feedback she has received from other filmmakers and audiences across the world.

Thank you AJ Schnack for articulating so beautifully the thoughts we have all had as film makers working in the medium of "Documentary".


"...But as word began to leak last week about which films had not been named to the Academy Shortlist and, later, which films had, emails and text messages and phone conversations flew with words like "sad", "disgusted", "appalled" and "abomination". The feeling of anger and despair was not based in the exclusion of a single film but in a whole group of films, many of which pushed creative and stylistic boundaries or marked the arrival of a major new talent.

Instead of recognizing a few of these films, the Academy - following in the footsteps of the IDA just days before - ignored nearly every single one of them. And in doing so, put the lie to a year's worth of bluster that the Academy only desired to nominate "truly theatrical films"."

For Full Article, check out ALL THESE WONDERFUL THINGS

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bully Proof Underwear

We hate FOX, but we like these kids.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

...And Nothing But The Truth

Thank you Arne Johnson for shedding some light on this on going debate about what documentary truth really means. Whatever you decide the answer is for you, hopefully people will keep expanding their ideas and continue to make passionate films. Keep the discussion going!

Thank you John Anderson for thinking it wasn't possible that I could do what I did and have it be reality. Because it is.

To all that haven't seen Billy the Kid, come see my interpretation of my time with Billy and in turn have your own experience.

Read the Article in the Fall 2007 Issue of Filmmaker Magazine.

(Click below images to englarge and read full text of article)

Friday, October 5, 2007


Thank you to everyone who came and supported Billy the Kid at the IFC Film Center in New York City! What an amazing crowd and a wonderful night!

by Charlie Olsky (October 4, 2007)

IFC Center finds a "Billy" silver-lining

After a week full of movies about abortion in fascist states, full-body paralysis, nightmarish future worlds and scary government actions, audiences in search of something more life-affirming were welcome to come to the IFC Center on Tuesday night, where director Jennifer Venditti was present for a screening of her winning documentary "Billy the Kid" as part of the third run of that theater's "Stranger Than Fiction" series--co-presented by SXSW, where the film won the Jury prize for best documentary. The movie shows several days in the life of teenager Billy, a sweet-natured but misfit kid whose blunt demeanor and abrupt temper often prove alienating; after the film was completed, Billy was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism that manifests itself as a particular type of social awkwardness.

For Vendetti, a casting director looking to make a series of character portraits, the entire film fell into her lap. "I met Billy in a lunch room, he was the kid that was being bullied," said Vendetti in the Q&A which followed the screening. "When he opened his mouth, I was in heaven. I was, like, 'are you kidding? Who is this person, and why isn't everyone interested in him?"

While portraits of endearing oddballs often find themselves subjected to accusations of exploitation (see: Al Maysles, Errol Morris, et al.), what impresses most about the film is how overwhelmingly humane it is. Said Vendetti, "my goal with this film was to understand someone for who they are, and how they see the world, not how other people see them and define them". "Billy the Kid" will open in theaters in late 2007/early 2008.


By Eric Kohn

The illuminating "Stranger than Fiction" series continued on Tuesday night at the IFC Center with Billy the Kid, a disarmingly funny and genuinely poignant documentary that premiered earlier this year at the South by Southwest Film Festival. The movie marks the directorial debut of Jennifer Venditti, whose ability to convey the innocence of youth and the universal anguish of being an outsider suggests a natural ear for the emotional rhythms of growing up...


Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Thank you to Mark and the whole Rooftop crew for such an incredible screening. And to all the supporters out there, keep spreading the word!

Lissy Trullie played a great set at Rooftop.

Front woman Lissy...

Erin on piano...

Lissy and Faulkner...


Greta, star of Hannah Takes the Stairs, came out to support Jennifer!

What an amazing turnout...over 400 people showed up to support Billy the Kid!
Eleonore, the photographer responsible for all these fabulous photographs...not to mention Jennifer's favorite street scouting partner in crime...has some fun in the bathroom!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Special NYC Screening of 'Billy The Kid' September 14th @ 8:30

On September 14th there will be an outdoor rooftop screening of Billy The Kid at Rooftop Films in New York City. The event starts at 8:30 and will include a live musical performance by LISSY TRULLIE and an after party.

*For more details and ticket information Click Here

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Venditti Shines as a Strong Female Director at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

The GUARDIAN UNLIMITED wrote a great piece on the emergence of talented female filmmaker's at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival. Here's what they had to say about the director of Billy the Kid:

...Jennifer Venditti's documentary about a disturbed but inspiring 15-year-old boy, Billy the kid. Perhaps Venditti shares Billy's feelings: "I'm not a very big fan of politics," he confesses. "I don't hate it, it's just not something I want to get mixed up in." Billy is bullied for his emotional and physical volatility, but he dreams of being a rock star, actor or superhero. The film follows him for a week, depicting his idiosyncratic approach to love, heavy metal and martial arts.

The modest aims of this film are misleading, for the story of Billy resonates as that of an American anti-hero: a loner lost in a fantasy world. The boy has a contradictory relationship with the community in which he lives - at one moment he wants to be the local vigilante, at another he describes how a cheerleader made his life "a living hell". Without his mother's level-headed guidance, Billy could easily be a Columbine waiting to happen. Venditti...has made an unexpectedly important film about ostracism and our strategies for coping with it.

Check out the full article on The GUARDIAN UNLIMITED website

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Special Thanks to our Friends in Edinburgh!

Our trip to Edinburgh was a great experience, but the amazing people and places that we stumbled upon were what made it an event to be remembered. Thanks guys!

The Outsider - Jennifer Venditti's favorite restaurant - how aprepos a title!

Rassa - Our biggest fan!

James - Budding Journalist Extraordinaire!

Marcus - You were great!

Grandma - a great casting find in Scotland!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jennifer Venditti in humorous run-in with 'Superbad' creator Judd Apatow

At an Edinburgh International Film Festival Q&A session, Billy the Kid director and producer Jennifer Venditti and Superbad and Knocked Up producer Judd Apatow had a humorous encounter as described on Film Maker Magazine's website by a blogger who attended the event,

"Another amusing incident came during Apatow's Q&A session when, seeing a woman fleeing the theater, he upbraided the audience member asking the question, saying, "Your question is so bad that she's leaving!" The young lady making a quick exit to fulfill interview obligations was none other than one of our 25 New Faces Jennifer Venditti, the director of the excellent Billy the Kid, which has been a favorite among the EIFF festivalgoers."

For more blog entries regarding the festivities, check out Film Maker Magazine's Blog

Chart Attack Reviews 'Billy the Kid'

Kevin Ritchie, from the Canadian music site Chart Attack, takes a look at new and groundbreaking documentaries including Billy the Kid. Below is his review posted on the Chart Attack Website

4 out of 5 stars...

Every now and then, a writer or filmmaker stumbles upon an interesting character in the most mundane of places to create a compelling story from ordinary circumstances. In Billy The Kid, filmmaker Jennifer Venditti does exactly that with Billy Price, a charismatic yet misunderstood 15-year-old high school student with behavioural problems. She essentially mics Billy and follows him around his small town in Maine as he pontificates on everything from his tumultuous childhood to his heavy metal heroes and becomes infatuated with a cute, 16-year-old waitress with "shaky eyes." Venditti brilliantly captures the fumbling awkwardness of Billy's difficult and carefree phase without ever seeming intrusive. Accordingly, Billy's story is both sweetly-affecting and melancholic.

—Kevin Ritchie

Monday, August 27, 2007

Billy the Kid wins Best Documentary at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Billy the Kid had a great run at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, winning the Jury Prize for Best Documentary.
Movie fans from Scotland and abroad attended the festival, one of the most recognized in Europe, and had great things to say about Billy the Kid.

And check out these amazing pictures of the Scottish Highlands!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"a disarming, truthful coming-of-age tale"

We're having an amazing time in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. We just had our last screening on Saturday, but in case you missed it, check out the four-star review in the Scotsman:

Billy the Kid


THE documentary Billy the Kid could have been a very sad story indeed were it not for the fact that its subject, a twitchy, nervous hyper-intelligent American high-school student with severe behavioural problems, is clearly determined to savour every second of his life. Jennifer Venditti's film will make your heart break harder and faster than you are probably accustomed to. It outlines some of the difficulties 15-year-old Billy Preston and his mother negotiate on account of Billy's alternative wiring (he cheerfully attributes his condition - the medical diagnosis of which is only revealed in the final frame - to having "different brains").

But watching Billy as he goes about the business of being a normal teenager, he's so attuned to what's going on around him that you can't help but feel positive that things are going to work out for him. The bulk of the film is focussed on his attempts to woo Heather, a fellow outcast on whom he has an enormous crush. This could easily have been a recipe for the kind of mock-the-afflicted documentaries that intentionally or unintentionally exploit their subjects for laughs, but Venditti's sensitive style avoids this completely, offering up a disarming, truthful coming-of-age tale.

Billy the Kid wins Melbourne International Film Festival!

Out of the one hundred documentary features screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival, Billy the Kid was voted the best documentary by audiences beating out Michael Moore's Sicko!

Thank you to the programmers, filmmakers, and audiences at MIFF! And congratulations to the rest of the top ten documentaries:

Top 10 Documentaries:

1. Billy The Kid (Jennifer Venditti, USA)
2. Words from the City (Rhys Graham & Natasha Gadd, Australia)
3. Beyond Our Ken (Melissa Mclean & Luke Walker, Australia)
4. Lagerfeld Confidential (Rodolphe Marconi, France)
5. Dirty Three (Darcy Maine, Australia)
6. In the Company Of Actors (Ian Darling, Australia)
7. Forbidden Lie$ (Anna Broinowski, Australia)
8. Sicko (Michael Moore, USA)
9. Hope (Steve Thomas, Australia)
10. Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Stephen Kijack, USA)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The road to the Oscars begins....

Coming to a theater near (some of) you!!

Begining in Los Angeles this weekend, Billy the Kid will have a limited run in theaters across the county to qualify for the Oscars.

As AJ Schnack (whose film Kurt Cobain About a Son will be opening in LA at the Nuart on October 5th and at the IFC Center in New York on October 3rd) writes of the LA qualifying screening:

"It's an annual ritual - unknown to almost everyone in Los Angeles - by which you can get a sneak peak of some of the biggest docs of the year, some even before they have their official "World Premiere". But you'll have to go to some of Laemmle's most hidden theaters (all the better to qualify with) like the cavernous Grande in downtown LA or the subterranean One Colorado in Old Town Pasadena."

From Bantam to Fort Collins, Nashville to Rhinebeck, we invite you to catch special preview screening at the follow locations:

August 17-23
Laemmle's Grande 4-plex
345 S. Figueroa St.
Downtown Los Angeles, 90071

August 29-31
Bantam Cinema
33 Village Green Drive, Suite 11

September 4-6
Railroad Square Cinema

September 13-15
Vickers Theater
6 North Elm St.

September 19-20
Lyric Cinema
300 E. Mountain Avenue

September 4-6, 11-13, 18-20, or 25-27
Del Oro Theater
840C East Main St.

October 1-4
Upstate Films

October 14-16
Pickford Theater
1416 Cornwall St.

October 25-27
Little Art Theater
247 Xenia Ave.

October 26 - November1
The Flicks
646 Fulton St.

October 30 - November 1
Savoy Theater
26 Main St.

October TBD
Belcourt Theater
2102 Belcourt Ave.

November 10-12
Newburyport Screning Room
82 State St.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

RSVP Screening at Pace

Thanks go out to GRASP's Ben Fox and New York City Department of Education's Shelly Klainberg for their help in organizing this week's screening at Pace University for the students and teachers of the RSVP program.

In its third year, the program was developed by New York City Department of Education Special Education District 75 and GRASP to teach social and vocational skills to students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders). With the addition of few GRASP members, we had a lively screening and discussion, with talk about relationships, making friends, and an ASD diagnosis.

As Ralph, one of the students in the program, explained: Asperger's is just a bump in the road. It's there to slow you down, not stop you. It doesn't mean that you cannot cross the road, just that you have to maneuver around it. Karin, a mother of a teen diagnosed with Asperger's, quoted Patty Duke to describe Asperger's as a explanation, not an excuse.

After the screening, Juan, a GRASP community member only recently diagnosed, sent in this high school photo:

He writes, "This may or may not be something; it’s a photo of me my senior year in high school (’91). I’m in the extreme right. Remind you of anybody? (Body pose; sunglasses, even the hairstyle)."

Well we definitely see it!!

Thanks to everyone who came out!

A Mother's Comments

We had a special screening of Billy the Kid this week at Pace University for teens and teachers involved in New York City School District 75's RSVP program (more info on the program, screening, and Q&A in the next post!)

Thanks to Michael John Carley getting the word out to the GRASP network, we also had a few special guests from the Global and Regional Aspergers Syndrome Partnership, including Karin & Jessa, a mother and her fourteen year-old daughter, who immediately reminded us of Billy.

Here is Karin's response to the film as posted on the GRASP Families/Clinicians blog:

I don't know if all of you got the email about the screening of this movie at Pace University. I received it, wrote to the person and took my 14 yr old daughter to see it yesterday.

As the parent of a 14 yr old (almost 15) Aspie - I was in tears by the end of the movie. I felt as though someone had turned the camera on my life and had captured the essence and spirit of my child. I was moved beyond words.

Jennifer Venditti has made such a lovely documentary about a young boy who knew he was "different in the brain" but did not know why. He accepted himself as he is and he lives life to the fullest -albeit with all the inherent social difficulties our kids face. He does it with such a lack of guile and complete honesty that you can't help but be touched by him. Billy was not diagnosed until well after the movie was filmed. Those of us with teeanagers will recognize our own in him.

As a movie about a different kind of kid - wise and innoent yet incredibly socially naive at the same time, it is beautiful, touching and moving. The movie never once mentions the word Asperger's. It is wonderful on its own.

I encourage all of you to see this gem of an experience. I can't thank Jennifer enough for making this movie. Truth be told - even my daughter cried (and she insists that she didn't like it - I suspect that Billy's life and hers are far too similar for her to be comforatble)

If you get the opportunity - see this, expereince this.

Truth & Marketability

Gina Piccolo's article from this past Sunday's LA Times touches on interesting questions about truth, marketability, and documentary films. Currently in negotiations for distribution for Billy, of course, we were intrigued....

"...when a quiet little film about Antarctic birds can pull in more than $125 million worldwide, documentaries have proven they can appeal to the masses, competing for box-office dollars right alongside Hollywood blockbusters. Entering that arena creates a new dilemma for ambitious documentary filmmakers. On the one hand, they want a theatrical release, because that's the tried-and-true path to a broad audience and a high-profile career. On the other, if they stray too far from real life, they risk losing the social and cultural caché of a documentary. A feature film telling the same story just doesn't pack the same wallop."

Audiences of all kinds crave authenticity, and the desire to satisfy that hunger in splashy, dramatic ways has helped warp the line between truth and fiction to the point that the scandals are hardly shocking anymore... Filmmakers, meanwhile, have answered the demand for heightened reality with a flood of documentaries, driven by accessible technology, a polarized political climate and the promise of fortune planted by those rare blockbusters. The market is saturated with docs, YouTube clips and camera phone videos motivating filmmakers to find creative ways to break through the clutter.

In this context, merging documentary and feature film seems like an almost evolutionary step .... It's also the source of the skepticism surrounding "Billy the Kid," about the small-town coming of age of a disabled teenager. In the film, Billy Price meets a girl, falls in love and loses her in a matter of four days -- a neat dramatic arc some viewers suspected was set up. Before Sean Farnel, the programmer for the Hot Docs festival in Toronto, agreed to screen it, he quizzed director Jennifer Venditti until he was convinced the film was authentic.

"There's a lot of new ideas about what documentary is and what it means," said Farnel. "And a lot of the rules that have been set are now being broken. The core of it gets down to the responsibility of the filmmaker to represent events as she or he experiences them. Within that, there's quite a bit of play -- as long as, overall, you've told a story how you've experienced it."

We love Piccolo’s article as a response to John Anderson's Variety review of Billy that misunderstood the film as being scripted:

“The major fallacy about "Billy the Kid" is its masquerade as verite filmmaking. On the contrary: Almost every scene is a set-up, with sequences involving Billy and his would-be girlfriend, Heather, shot from multiple angles, but not, it seems, multiple cameras. That the film feels scripted should shock no one. Venditti apparently spent all of eight days shooting, hardly time to get anyone comfortable, so even the scenes of mother and son are stiff and inhibited, as if being observed by a stranger.

Leave a comment and tell us what you think about the state of documentary film and Billy the Kid's place in it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cinematical Indie Chat

Jen sat down with Monika Bartyzel for a Cinematical Indie Chat.
Here's an excerpt from the interview...

What indie films out in theaters, or on DVD, have you been watching lately?

Lately I've been obsessed with Ten by Abbas Kiarostami. It's amazing how the line between documentary and narrative has been blurred. I really love 10 on Ten with the director. I really relate to his vision. Also, I enjoyed Once by John Carney. I thought the performances excellent. I just re-watched one of my favorite films Fat Girl by Catherine Breillat, and I also just re-watched The Five Obstructions by Lars Von Trier.

What's the one indie film from the last year that you'd recommend to friends?

The Lives of Others by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

What mainstream films have you seen lately that didn't suck?

I've been at film festivals every second or running my casting company, so I've barely seen anything mainstream, but I really want to see Knocked Up. I need to laugh and I heard it's great for that!

Which filmmakers most influenced you in your work?

This question is difficult for me because I am influenced by so many different things. I love John Cassavetes and Robert Altman and am just learning about Kiarostami. I enjoy a lot of films but am most influenced by real life and the characters I see around me every day.

What are you working on now/what's up next for you?

Running my casting company so I can pay for all the debt I'm in from my film. And there's an indie narrative project I'd love to work on but can't mention yet. And I'm working on developing another documentary involving all my casting tapes, auditions, interviews and street scoutings from over the years.

We'll be following Jennifer's new projects, like this mysterious indie narrative she wants to work on, so stay tuned to Cinematical Indie for the scoop.

Go to Cinematical for the full text.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Maine's got Moxie! Maine International Film Festival '07


We had a great time at the 10th Anniversary Maine International Film Festival in Waterville. We met a bunch of cool people, got tons of feedback from the screening, and even managed to scout a few new faces. Thanks to Ken and Beth Eisen at Shadow Distribution. We also got to check out the film Girls Rock and found out director Arne Johnson rocks, too!

Here are a few of the highlights:

It wouldn't be Maine without Frank the Moxie Man!

Adam Roffman (or "Adam as in Adam West" according to Billy) AKA the Fried Food Man, Program Director from the Independent Film Festival of Boston

The aforementioned fried foods

Billy and his new friend/fan Carl who runs Autistic Duck, a website about his own experiences with Asperger's

Billy with Carl's sister Elizabeth (looks like Billy's got his eyes on her)

Jen's always on the lookout for a new face

Random scouting of Billy the Kid bumper sticker

Philosophy Professor David “Hutch” Easton's notes on the screening