Wednesday, July 18, 2007

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

DIRECTOR/PRODUCER JEN VENDITTI & PRODUCER CHIEMI KARASAWA


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

From Dazed & Confused

Go pick up a copy of the July issue of Dazed & Confused and read Hannah Lack's review of Billy. Here's an excerpt:

"'Before I went to Maine, I made a list of all these scenarios I wanted to do with Billy that would help give context to his life,' Venditti recalls. 'But as soon as I got there, I realised that in his beautiful mind, Billy had been the director of his own film for a long time. He saw the world as a film, and himself as a character, constantly changing his role to survive. So my job was just to observe, listen, and document.' It's an odd feeling, and a tribute to Billy, that after an hour and a half in his company, it's the world that seems crazy , rather than him."

If you can't find Dazed & Confused where you live, here's a scan of the article:

CLICK TO ENLARGE

25 New Faces of Independent Film

Jennifer was just named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine:

JENNIFER VENDITTI. PHOTO BY RICHARD KOEK


Jennifer Venditti

Jennifer Venditti has always walked backward into her future. “I was obsessed with characters and character through clothing — that’s what got me into fashion,” says the casting director turned director, who started out in the magazine world. She quit when she got close enough to see that for all its creativity and access to talent, the fashion industry espoused an idea of beauty that was as narrow as its waistlines.

Photographer Carter Smith had noticed Venditti’s keen eye for street casting and brought her to Scotland to find real people for a W magazine shoot. That first job grew into one of the most dynamic and successful print-casting agencies in the city, stuffing its files with characters Venditti pulls off streets from Minnesota to Rio. Smith came back to Venditti to populate the world of his Sundance-winning short Bugcrush. She was casting with Smith in Maine when some bullies told her about the boy who would become the subject of her first film, Billy the Kid.

“Sometimes, of course, casting gets trying, seeing face after face,” Venditti says. “It’s a huge turnoff when people are trying to please or impress me. Billy wasn’t even aware of the idea of conforming to the accepted. He wanted what other people had, but he didn’t have any idea of changing himself.”

Billy the Kid is as deep a character study as one is likely to find in documentary, and it was honored with a Jury Prize by the SXSW Film Festival. Billy, 15, is a strange and singular person, alone in his articulate, curious, passionate opinions. Without narration or any third-party commentary, Venditti plays the audience’s temptation to judge and diagnose with a maestro’s touch. He might be autistic, he might have Asperger’s, but who cares? Venditti believes in willing away labels and seeing beauty without demanding to understand it, and the film proves her right. — Alicia Van Couvering

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bottom Line: This revealing documentary about a teenage misfit will haunt

Stephen Farber reviews Billy in today's Hollywood Reporter.
Here's an excerpt:

"The film doesn't force a conclusion on us. It allows us to see that Billy has the potential to become dangerously antisocial, but he has a rock-solid ally in his mother, who proves to be far more generous and complicated than first impressions suggest. Like the best docus, "Billy the Kid" introduces us to some unique characters. Technically it's fairly simple but just accomplished enough to keep us riveted. Cinematographer Donald Cumming captures the small-town New England ambience. The movie's main virtue is its intimacy; it takes us astonishingly close to its characters, and this is a tribute to the trust and empathy that Venditti and her unobtrusive crew achieved. One hopes that the film finds a life in theaters, then on television and DVD, where it will last as an indelible record of adolescent turmoil."

Read the rest of the review here.

Docs That Inspire Podcast

Jen sat down with Joel Heller & Gaea Logan from Docs That Inspire for a podcast interview about Billy.

Joel Heller writes, "I fell for the film when I saw it premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival (where it also won the top jury prize). And I made a point of getting to know Jennifer in Toronto when we were both at Hot Docs."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

LA Wrap-Up

We had an amazing time in LA!!

We made new friends...

Jen & Shot in the Dark's Adrian Grenier

Actress Clea DuVall & musician Samantha Maloney


Partied with our own entourage:

Billy & his mom Penny Price-Baker
Billy & Production Coordinator Nina Chaudhuri


Won the Target Filmmaker Award for Best Documentary...

(like YOU wouldn't make a face standing next to Clint Eastwood and Dustin Hoffman!)
Also pictured, Tony Bennett & Chris Eska, winner of the Target Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative for his first feature August Evening


and drummed up some more buzz for the film...
"Everyone I know who sees it tells other people to see it. It's totally a word-of-mouth experience," Hot Docs programmer Sean Farnel tells Gina Piccalo in the Los Angeles Times. The film is SXSW jury prize-winner Billy the Kid.
-- Green Cine Daily

"Watching this documentary is an exercise in restraint -- the restraint not to write down everything that Billy says."
-- Cinematical's Monika Bartyzel

More than just a star, Billy himself is equally director, producer and editor of this film. His choices on what to say, when to say it, how he says it or whether he says it all determine the course, ebb and flow of this sensitive documentary....The result is a vibrantly real film that both imitates and creates art, a film that only the most jaded and cynical could deem rubbish.
--Naomi Wiggins' review on IFA.com

“Billy the Kid” is like a snapshot into the life of a social outcast and it’s a great film. We see the good sides and the ugly side but it’s the honest sides of both that make the film work.
--Don Lewis' Film Threat review

Thanks to everyone who came out and supported the film!!!

Director/Producer Jennifer Venditti, Billy Price-Baker & Producer Chiemi Karasawa