Award-winning filmmaker Brian Ratigan has been named Guest Festival Director for the 2022 season of the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival.
The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival is excited to announce that award-winning filmmaker Brian Ratigan has been selected as Guest Festival Director for its 12th season in 2022. Ratigan said, "AoBFF always provides so many opportunities for artists while cultivating a supportive community. I am honored to be chosen to work with Art of Brooklyn for 2022.”
Every season the Art of Brooklyn selects a different filmmaker from around the world to curate their festival. Executive Director Joseph Shahadi said, "This year's search brought us into conversation with fantastic candidates from all over, but Brian was the clear choice for next season and we couldn't be happier he agreed."
The founder and principal at Non Films — a label for ephemeral animation and experimental cinema — Brian screens at festivals internationally. A significant voice in the Brooklyn indie film community, his fascinating work was curated at AoBFF twice, and he has attended the festival as a filmgoer in person and virtually. The Alabama-born filmmaker is also Director of Animation for Kumar Pictures where he designs animation and motion graphics, and co-manages Chaotic Cinema.
"Brian is the first experimental filmmaker to take the reins at the festival.” Shahadi said, a position previously held by award-wining filmmakers and programmers Christie Conochalla, Alan McClane Alejos, Sean Mannion, Victoria Negri, Dave Chan and Eric Trenkamp. “The past few years have required looking at everything in a new way and cinema reflects that. Brian is the perfect choice for this moment.”
"AoBFF always provides so many opportunities for artists while cultivating a supportive community. I am honored to be chosen to work with Art of Brooklyn for 2022.”
In addition to being a successful filmmaker Brian is an experienced festival programmer and juror, having worked for Slamdance, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Animation Nights New York, the Film & Video Poetry Society, and the London Indie Festival, among others. Film programming has been central for Brian since the beginning of his career. He began exploring his love for the avant-garde and independent film in his hometown of Birmingham, AL, creating digital and 16 mm visual projections for ambient music artists and hip hop collective LOBOTOMIX while curating screenings at the Sidewalk Film Festival.
About The Art of Brooklyn
The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival is an annual event designed to connect Brooklyn's diverse independent filmmakers with peers around the world. Founded by artists in 2011, AoBFF has been named Brooklyn Creative Group of the Year, One of the Top Seven American Film Festivals and One of the Five Notable Regional Festivals Worth Traveling For. Art of Brooklyn takes place in neighborhoods across the entire borough, including those underserved by art and culture dollars. AoBFF has produced film events in 20 ADA compliant venues, in 10 different neighborhoods, often partnering with area businesses and community organizations to boost economies and empower local audiences. Over a dozen AoBFF premieres have gotten distribution, and one became an HBO series.
Brain Ratigan said, “I look forward to collaborating with the incredible AoBFF team to make 2022 the best festival yet."
Entries for AoBFF '22 are now open for films and screenplays in all genres.
Award-Winning 2020 Art of Brooklyn Film Fest World Premiere THE SUBJECT Gets Major Market Theatrical and wide VOD Distribution
Lanie Zipoy's debut feature THE SUBJECT world premiered with Art of Brooklyn in 2020 and it was a smash with our audience. It won three awards with us: Best Feature, Best Director and Outstanding Performance for lead actor Aunjanue Ellis. THE SUBJECT went on to have an acclaimed festival run and got a distribution deal with Gravitas Ventures, including a major market theatrical release — one of two AoBFF '20 feature world premieres that got distribution.
The Subject's upcoming Theatrical run in 10 markets including Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Dalles Fort Worth, Cleveland, and Detroit, and a wide VOD and release both debut on October 22, 2021. Make sure to see this powerful film!
Our 2020 Interview with Lanie:
Lanie's 2020 AoBFF acceptance speech:
Our 11th annual edition featured one of our strongest slates ever, with incredible work in all genres from the Brooklyn scene, and all over the word. Thank you to all our filmmakers and screenwriters for being a part of AoBFF, and to all our winners!
Shabier Kirchner for ‘Jamestowne’
Brad Nayman for ‘Gestura’
Peter Hogenson for ‘Inevitability’
Outstanding Musical Score:
Andy Hasenpflug for ‘Dirt’
Triple Threat (Stacey Maltin, Margarita Zhitnikova, Jay DeYonker, Catherine Curtin and more!)
Outstanding Performance in a Narrative Short: (Our first tie!)
Johnny Brown in ‘The Inconvenience of Being Black’
Louis Ozawa Changchien in ‘Sitting’
Outstanding Performance in a Narrative Feature:
Martha Brown in ‘DimLand’
Lea Zalinskis for ‘Seashells’
Outstanding Visual Effects:
Christopher Phelps and Joel Barlow for ‘Odyssey’
The Dark Side Award for Outstanding horror/thriller/Noir/ Sci Fi:
'Hell of a Pitcher' directed by Daniel Burity
The Vanguard Award for Outstanding Experimental Film:
'Entre Puerto Rico y Richmond' directed by Alicia Diaz
'Miss Blueberry Beauty Pageant' directed by Sarah Kennedy
'Sisters' directed by Sarah Nolen
Outstanding Short Documentary:
'Cat Man Do' directed by Matt Tyson
Outstanding Feature Documentary:
'Last Call' directed by Johnny Sweet
Outstanding Director of a Narrative Short:
Stacey Maltin for ‘Appetite’
Outstanding Director of a Narrative Feature:
Byron Lamarque for ‘The Desiring’
Outstanding Narrative Short:
'Song & Grace' directed by Maisa Chian
Outstanding Narrative Feature:
'One Moment' directed by Deirdre O'Connor
'Saratoga' by Robert Potter
'Koreatown Ghost Story' directed by Minsun Park and Teddy Tenenbaum
Audience Choice Award:
'Mina Martin' directed by Anthony Petrucci
The 11th Annual AoBFF runs June 1-12, 2021.
Full Schedule and Tickets will be available at aobff.org
76 minutes | United States | 2021
Horror, Animation, Drama, Thriller
Directed by Ryan Guiterman
In this midnight thriller, a demon known as ‘The Painter' comes to Earth with a gruesome mission- to create new spawn from chaos and murder. FBI agent George Rohan finds himself tasked with covering up The Painter's multiplying murders, meanwhile a dogged investigative journalist, Reila Martin works to unveil George’s growing web of lies.
75 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Peter Collins Campbell
In an attempt to shake off her melancholy, a young woman escapes the city to her family’s country cottage only to rediscover a world she’d long forgotten and the old friend who may convince her to leave reality behind.
115 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Deirdre O'Connor
One Moment is a humorous, heartwarming story of middle-age siblings struggling to manage their own lives while also caring for their recently widowed aging father. Welcome to the "Sandwich Generation." One Moment features the final performance of beloved actor Danny Aiello.
81 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Byron Lamarque
A Southern Gothic tale -- Richard is a typical Southern American who works hard and loves his wife, Claire. However, when he discovers her with another man, instead of feeling betrayed, Richard finds himself increasingly intrigued by the affair. His curiosity triggers conflicting emotions, uprooting his assumptions from the past.
As he falls deeper into despair he wrestles with the resentment he harbors toward his father and begins to yearn for the love he desires.
96 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Stacey Maltin
Just as the life-long Broadway dream of three friends is coming true, one decides that he wants to be a father and not just to art babies. With three friends, two babies, and one messy love affair, personal and professional lines become crossed in irreversible and life-changing ways.
KUBOTA’S KIMONOS. HISTORY ON SILK
52 minutes | United Kingdom | 2020
Directed by Radik Kudoyarov
Kubota's story begins with his time as a prisoner of war in the USSR during WWII. Beautifully produced reenactments capture this difficult yet pivotal period of his life. While locked up in his cell, Kubota saw a vision of the Siberian sunset which would later inspire his lifelong project, ‘The Symphony of Light,’ a series of kimonos that would illustrate the grandeur of the universe.
This fascinating documentary describes the complex and intricate craft of Tsujigahana - a traditional technique of decorating fabric. Since there were no instructions of how to recreate this age-old process, Kubota spent decades experimenting to form his own version of the method called Itchiku Tsujigahana.
61 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Johnny Sweet
The hospitality industry is the artistic heartbeat of New York. Nowhere is that more prevalent than in Queens. Thousands of artists, musicians and actors flock to the city’s most diverse borough to work in the service industry to supplement their dreams. In March of 2020 these dreamers put their lives on hold, self-isolating and sacrificing their income as Queens became the global epicenter of covid-19. As the weeks go by we follow two local bars fight off the virus, financial ruin and the deaths of loved ones, while the frontline workers battle to slow down the death toll engulfing the borough. Under strict and safe filming guidelines, we witnessed how both industries needed each other in order to bend the curve. It’s a tale of two sacrifices that saved not only the lives of thousands but the future of New York.
Right Now I Want to Scream: Police and Army Killings in Rio - the Brazil Haiti Connection
62 minutes | United Kingdom | 2020
Directed by Cahal McLaughlin, Siobhán Wills
The film was produced using participatory practices in collaboration with mothers whose children have been killed during police operations in Complexo do Alemão, Manguihos, Complexo de Maré; and Salgueira. Janaina Matos, founding member of a group of Brazilian police officers campaigning against militarization, states that in Brazil ‘it has become normal’ for police ‘to enter a territory and treat the population as if it were a war enemy…Brazil’s security policy is not aiming to guarantee security for everyone, but just for an elite while oppressing the other larger number of the population, especially the black people.’ This film explores the relationship and close similarities between the militarised policing of favela communities in Rio de Janeiro and the militarised law enforcement tactics used by the Brazilian-led UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) between 2004 and 2007.
Who is Lun*na Menoh?
81 minutes | United States, Japan | 2021
Directed by Jeff Mizushima
"Who Is Lun*na Menoh" follows the life and work of the extraordinary Japanese artist. From her early career in Japan to the underground music scene in Los Angeles, from fashion show runways featuring her sculptural designs to art galleries showing her fantastical work, Lun*na's edgy, witty and beautiful creations are explored.
Director Jeff Mizushima follows Lun*na's artistic career, showcasing her uniquely individual expressionism and interviewing her family, gallery owners, models, fans, and fellow visual artists & musicians to find out who and what Lun*na Menoh is and why her art, in all of its forms, fits in our world.
FILM AS ART:
2 minutes | United States | 2020
Short, Experimental, Animation
Directed by Tom Bessoir
A film for 2020, a year to remember. 2020 different colors create a flicker film. Music by Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth.)
Cycle Du Matin
27 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Francis Berry
A man deals with the psychological hardships of loneliness during quarantine.
Entre Puerto Rico y Richmond: Women in Resistance Shall Not Be Moved
18 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Alicia Diaz
This dance film combines biography, poetry, and ritual with the energy of live performance to bridge stories of resistance and liberation between Puerto Rico and Richmond, VA, honoring Black women tobacco workers in Richmond and Puerto Rican tobacco factory readers and activists Dominga de La Cruz Becerril (1909-1981) and Luisa Capetillo (1879-1922).
4 minutes | Austria | 2006
Directed by Claudia Ungersbäck
Asking the question of originality in a world of DIY Reproduction.
94 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Anthony Petrucci
In this 'no-budget,' impressionist poem-dream, three outlier students cross paths amidst deadly shootings at their high school on Long Island, NY, and struggle for meaning in the ephemera and loneliness of life.
11 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Shayna Strype
3 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Lea Zalinskis
A surreal and whimsical animated music video for the song "Seashells", by San Francisco singer/songwriter Rachel Garlin. Done in stop motion with completely handmade paper cutouts.
The Other Shore
7 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Lynn Bianchi
The Other Shore is an experimental film on the topic of the refugee crisis and the wide societal gap between the fortunate and the forgotten. The four interludes each depict a different sunny scenario of various microcosms at a colorful European beach resort.
13 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Ariyan Johnson
Cell phones. Social media. Our lifelines to the outside world. Daily we’re barraged with images, words and video that trigger our emotions. But what happens when it’s one post too many and the emotional dam breaks?
Cat Man Do
13 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Matt Tyson
A shrimp boat captain in Florida spends his nights caring for the town's feral cats.
Meriem Bennani: In Between Languages
8 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Nick Ravich, Danielle Brock
What if one language just isn’t enough? Featuring her acclaimed works at the 2019 Whitney Biennial, rising young artist Meriem Bennani chronicles a recent set of ambitious video installation works, unpacking her uniquely humorous and political mix of digital animation, documentary footage, and interactive sculpture. Originally from Morocco, New York City-based Bennani explains how “being here for ten years and being English [as a] second language, and feeling like I’m losing a little bit of my first language…I’ve found that developing this practice that pulls from so many different languages of TV, cinema, sculpture and installation, mixing it all together has allowed me to hit the right note, in my own way.”
Priced Out: Why You Can't Afford A Place to Live in the City
15 minutes | United States | 2019
Directed by Dyan Ruiz
Nearly everyone living in a major city is experiencing the stress, instability and high costs of housing. Priced Out is our response to the increasingly polarized debate about why nearly everyone is struggling to afford the price of housing. Communities and organizations fighting displacement have been asking for years for a simple story that will help turn the tide. Priced Out is engaging, comprehensive and will change how people understand solutions to housing affordability. This production is voiced in English, and we are producing subtitled versions in Spanish, Tagalog and Chinese.
15 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Jessie Brown
Riddle Passageways tracks a young woman’s journey through COVID-19 as she becomes placed in self-quarantine for 14 days. Revealing her family’s annual Easter hunt tradition in which her and her brother are given riddles curated by their parents; the film follows the family’s celebration of this tradition as she remains stuck in quarantine. Depicting her nostalgia for the fantastical power of childhood and her emotional passage through the hardships of growing up and the challenges of COVID-19, the film comments on themes of identity, love, and the importance of a self-contentment with one’s individual journey.
14 minutes | United States | 2020
Drama, Romance, LGBTQIA
Directed by Stacey Maltin
At an open love party, music and burlesque dancers seduce the patrons. Jack, distracted by the elaborate and decadent food offerings, becomes increasingly uncomfortable as his wife, Ruby, flirts and later goes home with Rex, a non-binary burlesque performer. While Jack hesitantly agreed to an “open marriage” on this night as a birthday gift to his wife, he nonetheless feels emasculated. This is the first power shift away from Jack, the classic male, “master of the universe”, weakening his control and providing the audience with a variant perception inconsistent with the traditional marital paradigm.
4 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Claire Dub
On her one-year anniversary with Clark, Nell attempts to write a romantic poem. The task proves impossible... until Nell finds a way to tap into her true inspiration.
8 minutes | United States | 2020
Sci-fi, Suspense, Experimental, Silent
Directed by Nona Catusanu, Katherine Castro, Liza Gipsova, Red Dawn Trio
One woman faces her final obligation in her isolated, waning days among a post-apocalyptic world.
9 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Ashley Teague
Two siblings reckon with the meaninglessness of grief etiquette and customs in the wake of their father's untimely death.
12 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Helanius J. Wilkins, Roma Flowers
Through the fusion of text, movement, layered visuals, and sound, this work presents a meditative exploration of identity and Blackness in a heightened time of unrest and uprisings fueled by issues of police brutality and systemic racism in America.
9 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Cameron Tharma
A couple wakes up after the night before to find that something isn’t quite right in the bedroom. The repercussions of last nights actions might bring up some hidden insecurities bubbling under the surface of their relationship as well as new opportunities.
Gaining and Losing
11 minutes | United States | 2018
Directed by Stacey Maltin
What happens to friendship when a shared dream is abandoned? Gaining and Losing explores a friendship torn apart when a young dancer combats an eating disorder and her talented friend can't understand.
5 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Drake Woodall
A performing artist faces her fears on stage.
26 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Nat Swyer
When an out of work playwright arrives to close up his family's summer home, the ghost of his great uncle interrupts his seemingly endless solitude.
Hell of a Pitcher
11 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Daniel Burity
Hell of a Pitcher is a film about a group of high school friends that trespass on a little league baseball field on independence day.
As the night unfolds, they get stalked by a mysterious baseball player and are forced into a deadly game that questions the place of Latino immigrants in current American society.
7 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Patrick Andrew Higgins
Hunters sneak inside our homes to steal our most private moments and anonymously post the video for all the world to see.
5 minutes | United States | 2019
Directed by Eddie Shieh
A young couple walk a fine line while thriving in an open marriage until they catch each other breaking the rules.
24 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Zoë Greenbaum
A romantic comedy about liars. When Lu shows up looking for his ex-fiancee, he finds instead that a beautiful, eccentric heiress addicted to cheesecake, cookies, and rugelach has moved into her apartment.
Insider Comedy Short Challenge
7 minutes | United States | 2019
Directed by Michael Codispoti
An interview with a former band aid (not groupie) who is seeking sponsorships and credit.
14 minutes | United States | 2019
Directed by Nick Grau
In the infant colony of Jamestowne, Virginia, a young woman resorts to cannibalism to survive as her husband starves to death.
Koreatown Ghost Story
15 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Minsun Park, Teddy Tenenbaum
In this supernatural horror tale based on a Korean ritual starring Margaret Cho and Lyrica Okano, a woman entertains a macabre offer that would let her pursue her dreams, for better or for much much worse.
13 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Shane Allen
A delicious little film about grief.
Living in the blue of his computer screen, a mourning man finds himself at risk of another heartbreak when the object of his daily solace bites off a bit more than she can chew.
4 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Zack Kron
A young woman explores an apartment during a blackout with nothing more than a box of matches.
But she’s not alone...
8 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Maren Lavelle
Maya, a Queer, Korean-American stage manager in New York City, struggles to run the rehearsal for a play about a gay couple falling in love as she pores over the details of her real-life break up from the night before. In a series of flashbacks, we watch Maya and her white partner, Phoebe, reenact their first date, in an attempt to rekindle their romance, which ultimately unravels into an argument about race, class, and privilege within their relationship. In the end, Maya must choose between letting go of her grievances or the woman she once loved.
Miss Blueberry Beauty Pageant
12 minutes | United States | 2019
Horror, Thriller, Comedy
Directed by Sarah Kennedy
Welcome to the 1984 Miss Blueberry Beauty Pageant! Where the girls are a feast for the eyes and as sweet as honey. Follow these three finalists as they navigate the twists and turns of a pageant that reveals a much more sinister secret.
14 minutes | United States | 2021
Sci-Fi, LGBT, Romance
Directed by Christopher Phelps
A selfless young woman must undertake a critical mission that will either save the Earth and all of its inhabitants... or destroy it. Her fearless perseverance is only given pause by the remorseful memories of her past love who languishes on Earth, trapped in a dystopian society.
10 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Emily Lerer
An atypical love story: two close but deeply flawed friends bond in unexpected ways.
4 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Daniel James McCabe
Set on Halloween 2020, this short film follows the only trick-or-treater in NY on an odyssey through a city under lockdown.
11 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Jaclyn Gramigna
So wrapped up in creating the perfect holiday memory at their Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian American family completely miss the fact that one of their own does not intend to stick around for the dinner...or at all.
16 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Sarah Nolen
Two sisters who have grown apart reconnect after the loss of their mother. An exploration of grief, intergenerational feminism and family trauma.
13 minutes | United States | 2019
Directed by Jones
Bryn’s week goes from bad to worse, when her latest babysitting gig turns out to be a grown man. Kyle is terminally ill, and wants company for the last hours of his life - he intends to kill himself by the end of the evening.
14 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Joseph Mazzella
Amidst a grief-ridden anxiety attack, a man is gifted with a mental awakening during the funeral of his best friend.
Song & Grace
11 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Maisa Chiang
When a stubborn Chinese grandmother can't rely on her usual translator to communicate, she must find a new way to celebrate her 75th birthday with her American granddaughter.
The Inconvenience of Being Black
8 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Ukachi Arinzeh
A young motorist faces the challenge of driving while Black during a routine traffic stop.
Things Could Be Worse
7 minutes | United States | 2021
Directed by Mecca Mcdonald
After a fight with his coworker young man deals with his anger and the world’s perception of it over the course of the night. In a year where so much pain from black bodies was on display, Writer and Actor David Bell start a conversation about the voice, anger, and joy of black men in America. This short talks about how the world might judge us but how we judge ourselves.
15 minutes | United States | 2020
Directed by Brittney Rae
In a dystopian Miami landscape in the late 60's, Lucy, our lead character, is trapped in a cult-like pool club, an example of a social group reinforcing societal pressures of conformity. In this world, everyone is required to choose a social group to assimilate to at the age of ten, separated by gender and arranged by skin-tone. As a result of an unorthodox family dynamic, Lucy is self-aware and independent at a young age, a trait that carries onto her young adult life. While in shock after discovering her mother's sudden death, Julian, her estranged friend from a different social group, invites Lucy to a secret gathering of rogue social group members, (each representing a true civil rights activist of the 60's), who are high in revelry and speak on ideologies rebelling against this American Dream.
25 minutes | United Kingdom | 2020
Directed by Breanne Krause
Love Locked is an escape room dating show where individuals are set up on blind dates in an escape room looking to find their true love. If couples are able to escape, there will only be one question left to ask; Do they ever want to see each other again?
2021 Screenplay Competition:
WALLS&BALLS by Kenneth Klein, Irwin Hahn
The MicroCosmic Cartoon Show by Prema Rose, Hugh A. Rose, Suryananda Rose
Saratoga by Robert Potter
Heaven Schmevin by Jim Norman
Amira by Bob Celli
The Strange Affair of the Elevator by Katy Regnery
THE BRACELETS by Joanne Bellew
Underbelly by Sally Stubbs
Nescience by Bryce Jackman
Just Jane by Carl Huebner
SAVING SIMON by Joanne Bellew
Quest for Light, Adventure of the Magi by Byron Anderson
Racism Is Funny by Greg Fusco
Are You Wild Like Me? Pilot: Dirt Universe by William Nawrocki
The Mourners by John Painz
Dog Bite by Sean Kenealy
Back in Business by Jim Norman
Review by Jonathan Zarantonello
Bringing Down the Cartel by Chris Feistl
The Postcard by Mike Sorrinni
The Carrier by Todd A Restler
Dead Shot Mary by Robert K. Benson
North River by Joseph M. Montagna
Benjamin Lee High School by John Pastore
6 Fairview Drive by Paul Charisse
Little Compton by Rachel Ingrisano
Yoga Like Me by Eric Hollerbach, Emily Hollerbach
The Overpass by Jeff Baker
Imago by Sean Mannion
I AM HERE by Francisco Solorzano
Shane and Ivy - We're Eloping to Vegas by Sandra Gregory
Hanging Gardens of the Sea and Sky by Zoë Greenbaum
Retirement Road Trip by Joe Leone
Surprise by Robert K. Benson
The Death of Jeremy by David Seader
UNDER DARK by Paul Charisse
Filmmakers Eric Silvera and Sean Kenealy co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in "The World's First Two-Person Action Movie" IN ACTION. The feature had its East Coast Premiere at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival's 2020 Digital Edition, taking home the coveted Audience Choice award. The film's successful festival run led to a distribution deal with Gravitas Ventures.
AoBFF's own Jake King had some questions for Eric and Sean on the devotion to take this unique film from concept through production, how they built their audience, advice for filmmakers, and much more.
IN ACTION has a very interesting production journey. We’re still impressed by how you made it. Can you tell the story?
In early 2014, Sean and I sat in a pizza joint near Union Square brainstorming ideas for our next project. Sean pitched: “I want to make a feature-length action movie with two people sitting in chairs talking to each other for $5,000.” I said, “I don’t know what that means.”
“We can use fast-paced dialogue, and descriptions of what’s happening, and quick cutting to make it feel like it’s action packed, even though it’s just us sitting in chairs. We’ll call it How To Write and Star in Your Own Action Movie.”
I was intrigued. Then Sean added, “We have no Hollywood connections, and any other script we write is just going to sit in the slush pile. You do stand-up so you can perform, I act, we both write, and you studied film in college. Let’s make something that can’t be ignored.”
Later, I walked through the East Village and kept picturing a car chase with two people sitting in chairs. If the camera was constantly moving, roving around the chairs, and there was quick cutting, strong sound design, and we took the scene seriously, maybe it could feeeeeeeel like a car chase. I was in.
We made a list of action tropes we’d embrace: a mismatched heroic duo, core eccentric villains with generic henchman, one-liners, and over-the-top violence. But what about the story? We agreed it was best to develop a storyline for an actual movie and ignore the two-person premise during this process. The plot: Two idiots writing an action screenplay get flagged by the government based on the content of their emailed plot ideas, and uncover a giant conspiracy.
We wrote for several months, and, once satisfied with a draft performed live readings in my apartment to understand what did and didn’t work. We also hoped to entice potential producers we invited during these sessions, but no producer fully committed...
We then decided to film a reading of the script as a prototype to prove the idea played. Over a single day, and using two camera operators and a sound person, we shot the original premise: An Action Movie With Two People Sitting In Chairs In One Room.
Sean edited the prototype. Turns out, it didn’t fully work…but there were a few scenes where the idea truly coalesced. Sean cut a short trailer from those moments and we used that trailer to get our producer, Alex Nordenson, on board. While he hadn’t produced movies, he was a producer at an ad agency and understood the intricacies of production, shoots, and the creative process. Alex was instrumental in getting the film made, the consigliere throughout production process.
The prototype taught us that for the Two-Person Action Movie premise to work, it had to evolve into something more cinematic. Two actors, in limited locations, on a tiny budget was still the goal. However, we revised the script to show more, tell less, and pinpointed sections that could use mixed media (animation, hand-drawings, etc.) to enhance action sequences. The revised draft, evolved concept, and prototype trailer were enough to excite some core crew members to join the production.
We raised funding via Kickstarter waaayyyy back in Summer 2015 and shot the film on weekends, between the summers of 2016 and 2017 (we had to break for a long period because my second child was born and then my wife had a nearly fatal case of sinusitis). We used two locations for the shoots.
Acts 1 and 3 were shot in the small office of my day job. My VP of Sales and CEO allowed us to shoot on the weekends for free, “as long as everything was back to normal by Monday A.M.” This saved so much money, and we converted the office into a wedding reception, a bar, a hotel room, a supermarket, living rooms, a “highway car chase”. Plus, it had bathrooms, a kitchen, offices, and a conference room, all location types needed for the script. For Act 2, Sean found a 750-square foot photo studio in Long Island City, Queens off Craig’s List. It was cheap, grungy, and could be transformed into the various settings of the Underground Lair where our characters are held hostage.
Our D.P., Mateo Marquez, did an awesome job figuring out how to shoot and light the scenes within these tight parameters so that each setting felt different, even if we were just redressing the location.
During post-production, our editor, Billy Nawrocki, became a core member of the team, eventually also taking on the role of post-production coordinator. We gave him the note, “Imagine if My Dinner Andre was edited like a Michael Bay film” and he ran with it. His work is a major reason the concept of this film was pulled off; Billy’s editing has been singled out in reviews and won/was nominated for Best Editing at several festivals.
All in, the film was a six year journey from idea to post-production, made patiently on the side while Sean and I worked full-time, non-entertainment industry careers, raised families, and had a couple nervous breakdowns.
In addition to playing the leads, you both co-wrote and co-directed the film. What was that experience like, and do you have any advice for directors working together?
Sean and I have a great partnership and we really lean on each other’s strengths. As writers, we’ve developed a good system of how to approach a project. Generally, over a series of conversations (and then random texts with ideas) we develop the overall story and map out the major beats/themes/plot points. Then, Sean writes first. He has an incredible ability to turn out pages quite quickly and that gets things moving. I have an incredible ability to overthink and analyze so if we waited for me to start a script, we’d still be staring at a blank screen. Once Sean sends me the pages, I begin to edit and also build upon ideas that are in the story. Then I send Sean the revisions and he starts to revise and build. It comes back to me and the process continues. By the time we get to the end of an Act, it’s like multiple drafts have been written, and the screenplay has become a mind-meld between both of our ideas/visions.
As directors, we both work really hard to listen to each other and be respectful of the other’s opinions, even when we totally disagree. My wife watched us have an “argument” on set one day and couldn’t believe how calmly we sorted it out. She’s remarked that we’re like a very well-functioning married couple, and if marriages approached an argument this way, there’d never be divorce. Hahaha.
Our advice for other directors working together:
There are many fun and interesting scenes in IN ACTION. Were there any particular influences in regards to films or filmmakers?
We were influenced (and stole) from a lot of different kind of movies. From an action movie standpoint, we really pulled from the tropes of the 80s/90s heyday - flicks like Commando, Predator, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, The Rock, etc. to both develop the plot and lovingly poke fun at.
However, this is a movie that’s basically two people talking to each other the whole time, so we also referenced My Dinner With Andre, Creep, and a lot of Richard Linklater’s work (Tape, the Before Series, Slacker) - films that are dialogue-heavy with limited casts. Then we edited these talky scenes like it was a Michael Bay movie, hahaha.
There were truly a lot of disparate influences that we used for specific scenes: a single-take POV fight was inspired by the Ordinary World scene in Layer Cake, while scenes that take place in a therapist’s office were inspired by the interstitials of couples chatting in When Harry Met Sally.
Recently, we’ve started telling people that In Action kind of a mix of John McTiernan meets Richard Linklater meets What The Hell Happened To Me-era Adam Sandler/early-Kevin Smith with a dash of the ZAZ comedies.
The film won Audience Choice for our 10th Anniversary edition in 2020. Did you have a plan in place to involve your networks to watch and vote?
Definitely. We started with our core team and brainstormed different communities we could reach out to. Friends and family were the obvious ones, but we also contacted coworkers, creative circles, and basically anyone we could think of!
We also tried to be purposeful with how we timed all of our outreach. Sending an email or posting on social media every day with the same details will get boring fast. So we spaced it out and included new info with each post/email, such as reviews or write ups from smaller blogs and newspapers.
We encouraged our communities/crew to share details on the movie as well. The In Action team only knows so many people, so we really leaned on our friends and family to spread info on our behalf, which was a BIG help.
And with all of our outreach, we made sure to include specifics on the Audience Choice Award and how to vote!
How early in the filmmaking process did you start to cultivate fans? Any advice for other filmmakers on how to create audience interest?
Honestly, we didn’t really start to cultivate fans until Art of Brooklyn. Up until that festival, no one outside of our team (or other festivals we applied to) had access to watch our movie. AoBFF was the first time we could encourage everyone we know to watch - especially with the festival being online.
That said, people definitely knew our movie existed, but a lot of folks didn’t know what stage we were at. AoBFF solidified we were a “real” movie to a lot of our community, and it helped us start to make a fanbase. As for advice, I’d say just keep people posted on what you’re doing with your movie - from pre-production to finished product.
Sharing clips, pictures, news, or anything else relevant keeps your movie on people’s mind. They might not be able actually watch your movie yet, but when it DOES become available it’ll be good for them to already know a bit of your backstory.
IN ACTION recently scored distribution with Gravitas Ventures — an amazing achievement! Can you tell us how that came about?
Eric and I didn’t have a huge film community when we started In Action. We definitely didn’t know any agents or have any leads with distribution companies. So playing at festivals is what helped get us attention.
Right after Art of BK, a producers rep reached out to us offering to help find us distribution. This was a very windy 6 month journey filled with rejection, dozens upon dozens of phone calls, redesigning our poster (then redesigning it again…), but it was the beginning of us landing a deal with Gravitas.
What advice do you have for filmmakers in regard to submitting to festivals, as well as promoting your film?
Treat the festival submission process like you’re applying to college. So build a list of your reaches, your “This feels like I have a good shot and would be happy there” and your safety schools.
The key to doing this: understanding the genre your film fits into (if it’s easily definable). Then researching festivals that focus on that genre first and if they’ve accepted films in the past similar to yours. If so, what other festivals did those films show at? Then you can begin to build a list of festivals that probably make the most sense and expand outwards/broader from there.
We used FilmFreeway often to get a sense of other filmmakers’ experiences, the history of the festival, their requirements, etc. There are so many festivals to choose from, but FilmFreeway is a good way to sort through them.
Entry-fees add up quickly so have a good sense of your festival application budget and if it’s limited be discerning. But at the same time, take a few chances - AoBFF was a reach for our no-budget, weird concept-of-a-film, but we were accepted and it opened the path to eventual distribution.
Promoting — emails, social media, texting your friends, whatever platform or research you need to do to get the word out, do it. Be nice to friends and family now because they’ll come through for you and help too years later when your film is released.
Once your film finds distribution and will be released, consider hiring an (affordable) publicist who can help seed your movie across different media sources that you’ll have no access to on your own. A filmmaker friend thought PR was useless until it helped their small, indie debut receive a review from The New Yorker, which led to a Hollywood gig.
2020 was our first-ever Digital Edition. It was a very different experience but we were thrilled with the results. What was it like having your festival run during lockdown?
This was our first festival run. Eric and I were able to go to one in-person festival (which happened the week before the world shut down in March 2020), and the rest were online.
Of course, it would have been amazing to meet more people in person (and to see our movie on the big screen as opposed TVs/laptops!), but festivals like AoBFF did an incredible job of keeping the energy exciting and hosting networking events while being fully online.
Being online also pushed us to share our movie with EVERYONE we know. Sure, it would have been amazing to show in Brooklyn, but if we had, then we wouldn’t have reached out to so many people out of state to watch. Online festivals definitely gave us a bigger audience, and in the long run I think it made us focus more on marketing and building a fanbase.
Do you have any future projects in development that audiences can look forward to?
We’re currently talking to producers about our next horror-comedy feature called Reject. It takes place in the festival world (not too outside the box of AoBFF…). Hopefully we can share more soon!
The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival Names Award-Winning Filmmaker Christie Conochalla 2021 Guest Festival Director
After an international search, the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival has named award winning filmmaker Christie Conochalla as Guest Festival Director for their 11th year.
Art of Brooklyn Executive Director Joseph Shahadi said, "I met with filmmakers and programmers from all over America—and the world— this year. There were several great candidates but in the end it was clear that Christie was the perfect choice for 2021. I can’t wait to see her vision for this season unfold."
Christie is a writer/director/producer in Los Angeles with a passion for creating complex stories about queer women for a mainstream audience. She is an AoBFF alum, with two shorts in the 2020 edition, "August in the City," which she directed and "House of La Reine" which she produced. Her body of work showcases her love for telling widely relatable stories about lesbian characters.
Best known for the multi-award winning " August in the City" and the lesbian rom-com "Once Upon a Zipper," Christie's first feature "Forever Not Maybe" recently earned her Best Director at the North Hollywood Cinefest Film Festival, and has been rated the most-watched film on the LesFlicks streaming platform . Her most recent short "Marry Christmas," also available on LesFlicks, was released on Christmas Day 2020.
Christie's screenplay for her magical realism dramatic feature "Finding Yesterday" placed in competitions including the Black List Writer's Residency, Script Pipeline, and the Golden Script Competition. She also works as an entertainment professional in the television and live event industry and is heavily involved with the Alliance of Women Directors organization.
Of her role curating the films of the 2021 AoBFF, Christie said,
"Having spent almost a decade with various projects in festivals all over the world, it is such a special opportunity to be on this side of the process and entrusted to work with the Art of Brooklyn for the programming of their 2021 festival. Thank you for your trust in me. Ok, enough about me, time to talk about the filmmakers! Let's do this."
The Art of Brooklyn Film festival's mission is to bring the borough's vibrant independent film scene into conversation with their peers around the world. Since 2016, AoBFF has invited a different Guest Festival Director each season, to keep its programming vision fresh and diverse. Past Directors include León Mexico/ Brooklyn-based film programmer Alan Mclane Alejos and award-winning filmmakers Eric Trenkamp, Victoria Negri, Dave Chan and Sean Mannion.
Submissions for the 2021 AoBFF, including films and series in all genres and a screenplay competition, are open on Film Freeway until May 2.
Every year the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival invites a new Guest Festival Director to curate the films for our upcoming season. For 2021, we're excited to be casting our net wide. If you would like to be considered, read the full post below and answer these 3 questions:
Please email us your cover letter, CV, and any relevant links. Use the subject "2021 Guest Festival Director"
The Art of Brooklyn is an award-winning international film festival that brings Brooklyn's vibrant, diverse independent film and media makers together with their peers around the world. Founded by working artists in 2011, ten+ festival premieres have gotten theatrical distribution to date — and one became an HBO series. AoBFF has been awarded One of the Top Seven US Film Festivals (2014), Brooklyn Creative Group of the Year (2016), and One of the Five Notable American Film Festivals Worth Traveling For (2020). Acclaimed for being only festival in the world to produce screenings in neighborhoods across Brooklyn, including those underserved by art and cultural organizations, AoBFF pivoted during the pandemic by producing one of the most successful digital festival editions of 2020, earning a mention in Film Festival Today.
Every season AoBFF invites a different film professional to serve as Guest Festival Director for our upcoming season.
AoBFF invites a new person to direct the festival every season to prevent any single point of view from dominating our curation. This is one way AoBFF builds equity and inclusion into our organizational structure.
Since 2016, the Guest Festival Director has been drawn from Brooklyn independent filmmaking community. Past Festival Directors include award-winning filmmakers, screenwriters and programmers Eric Trenkamp, Victoria Negri, Dave Chan, Sean Mannion and Alan McLane Alejos. For the 2021 season the call is opened up internationally.
Our 2021 Guest Festival Director will curate the films remotely from anywhere in the world and work closely with festival staff via regular video calls during pre-production and production. For 2021 we are planning a hybrid event, with live screenings in Brooklyn (depending on pandemic conditions) and live streamed screenings and real time filmmaker talkbacks and panels using a secure digital festival platform with integrated video conferencing software. This technology allows the Guest Festival Director to play an active role with filmmakers and audiences during the festival.
What do I have to commit to?
You'll watch all the films submitted to us for our 2021 season and decide which will become official selections. You'll meet regularly with AoBFF staff pre-festival. You'll make a first draft of a schedule, deciding what screens with what, and when. And during the festival you'll facilitate filmmaker talkbacks and audience Q&As. This is a purely creative opportunity by design, so you wouldn't be responsible for any administrative tasks. We work with you on all of these areas.
Will I have any help?
Of course. Our diverse Selection Committee watches every film and provides you with their notes and recommendations, but the final decisions are yours. Our Program Manager will keep you on track with calendar benchmarks so you don't fall behind and you'll meet regularly with our Executive Director, who'll help you design the schedule when the time comes. But you would be directly responsible for the curatorial vision of the 2021 AoBFF.
Do I have to have curatorial experience?
Not necessarily. We've had very successful Guest Festival Directors who'd never curated before, and none had been responsible for an entire festival. This is designed to offer a creative opportunity to the broadest possible group of potential curators.
Will I get paid?
The 2021 Guest Festival Director will receive a nominal stipend, but this is NOT a salaried staff position. If you are seeking a salaried staff position at a film festival this is not a good fit.