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If I were to encourage you to attend The Germ on Thursday night, you might think I was pushing you to go get checked for disease-causing microorganisms—but then you’d have me all wrong.
As you may or may not already know, The Germ is an event for local filmmakers and film buffs that takes its name from that other sense of the word “germ,” indicating the first kernel of an idea. Since 2012, it has been offering aspiring filmmakers a unique opportunity to come together in filmmaking fellowship. Celebrating the initial spark of inspiration that underlies art, The Germ aims to give a push to local people who dream of making films.
At intervals, usually every few months, The Germ offers up a rudimentary suggestion for a movie, then makes an open call to the public for submissions based on that prompt. Once these submissions are received, the festival’s entrants are publicly screened, as filmmakers, along with their creative teams, supportive friends and family, and the curious public, come together to view these homemade works of cinema all based on a common cue. Germ screenings offer filmmakers a unique chance to experience each other’s work in a supportive environment free of judgment and competition, while also reveling in the similarities and differences that emerge from a shared root.
With only a seed of a concept (and a limiting condition or two) as a prompt, participating filmmakers are encouraged to craft their own movies (broadly defined by the folks in charge of The Germ as “anything that can be presented as a series of still or moving images,” whether “animation, art films, recorded stage performances, scripted work, iPhone videos, Flip cam videos, edited or unedited, fully lit, captured surreptitiously or filmed in a production studio”). Thanks to such a liberal definition of what constitutes a film, The Germ makes the magical process of filmmaking accessible to everyone, regardless of skill level, budget, or experience.
Beyond the germ of an idea and the arbitrary limitation imposed by the organizers, filmmakers are on their own to create their own beautiful testaments to reality. By emphasizing inspiration above technical prowess, The Germ celebrates the raw energy and passion that drives creativity; just as importantly, it democratizes and demystifies the process of movie making.
After a hiatus in 2017, The Germ returns this week with a program based on the cue “Pets.” Limited to five minutes, submissions are required to feature at least two locations and three characters. As most of us are crazy about our pets, this wildly popular theme should yield some special viewing pleasures.
Previous Germ prompts have ranged from simple words, like “Red” (with the stipulation that the color could not appear anywhere in the piece) and “Summer” (with the limiter that the film must be shot on a camera phone), to other works of art, such as the photo “Near Greenwood, Mississippi” by William Eggleston and the song “Tables and Chairs” by Andrew Bird. You can find a comprehensive archival tour of past Germs is housed right here.
The Germ’s next screening will take place Thursday, Feb. 22, at Windsong Productions, 351 O Street, Fresno, at 7 p.m. The screening is free and open to the public. Find more information here.
Grab your tux and pop the champagne! The 90th Academy Awards will air on ABC30 Sunday, March 4, at 5 p.m. Are you ready?
And by that I mean, have you seen all of the films nominated? Or any?
Don’t panic if you’re a little behind. Here are three ways to watch many of the motion picture nominations before next Sunday’s awards.
If you haven’t seen any of the films nominated for Best Picture yet, join the club. Life gets busy, the Olympics are on, and sometimes you just want to spend ten dollars on Black Panther instead. But award shows are always more fun if you know who you’re rooting for, so luckily Regal Cinemas is offering a $35 film festival that will make you a cinema expert in no time. The lineup includes all ten of the Best Picture nominees:
It’s true, there’s a lot of movies to see on this list. Thankfully, you can sustain yourself with a $5 medium popcorn and soda combo (in movie theater economy, that’s a good deal).
The festival starts on Friday, Feb. 23 and goes until Oscar day, March 4. In Fresno, the Edwards 22 Regal Cinema and Regal Manchester Stadium 16 will show the movies at various times staggered throughout the day. The movies for this series are rated from PG-13 to R. For showtimes and more, click here.
Sure, the Regal series covers the Best Picture nominations. What about the other movies, like the ones nominated for best sound and stuff?
Currently, Netflix is showing the following nominated films:
• Icarus (nominated for Documentary Feature)
• Strong Island (nominated for Documentary Feature)
• Last Men in Aleppo (nominated for Documentary Feature)
• Mudbound (nominated for Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Original Song, Adapted Screenplay)
• Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (nominated for Visual Effects)
• On Body and Soul (nominated for Foreign Language Film)
• The Boss Baby (nominated for Animated Feature)
• Beauty and the Beast (nominated for Costume Design and Production Design)
Of course, this doesn’t even scratch the surface. You can still see many of the other nominated movies in theaters, such as The Disaster Artist (Adapted Screenplay), I, Tonya (Lead Actress, Supporting Actress, Film Editing), and The Greatest Showman (Original Song).
You can find the complete list of nominated films here.
I personally only care about Icarus winning something because that documentary is amazing. Do you have a favorite movie that’s up for an award? Drop it in the comments. Then tune in to ABC30 and watch Jimmy Kimmel host the 90th time these little gold statues are handed out. It’s going to be a glamorous evening, and with $35 and a little screen time, you’ll be ready to cast your vote for Best Picture.
Calling all filmmakers: If you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced competition, look no further than the CMAC 12 Hour Film Race.
All films completed in time will be screened at a free special event on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. at CMAC. Following the screening, the judges’ results will be announced and cash prizes will be awarded: $500 for 1st place, $250 for 2nd place, and $100 for 3rd place.
This Saturday, the red carpet will roll out at the Tower Theatre for the premiere of “Brick MADNESS,” a feature film about the cut-throat world of competitive brick building—and you’re invited.
“Brick MADNESS” is a mockumentary, which means it’s a documentary-style movie about something that isn’t actually real (though I wish competitive brick building was). Think “Best in Show” or “This Is Spinal Tap.”
Local director Justin McAleece and his crew spent eight years fine-tuning an alternate reality where grown adults try to out-build each other using “Brix”—a product that stands in for the trademarked-in-real-life LEGO®. The brick creations in the movie are extensive and required an epic amount of man hours. (So many hours, one of the behind-the-scenes builders, Carl Merriam, realized his true path and is now a set designer working for the LEGO Group in Denmark.)
Says McAleece, “The LEGO creations that we used in the film fall into three categories. The vast majority of the builds outside of competition were already at the Bricks by the Bay convention in Santa Clara. We worked with builders to be able to capture them for the movie.
“The ones featured in [character] Max Grand’s house and elsewhere are, in general, things that were already built by Carl Merriam and a few of his friends. Then you have the actual competition builds and title treatment that were created specifically for the movie and those were masterfully done by Carl and Jason Wada and probably a few others. Those were great because it was like Christmas every time they brought them in to show me.
“I would say that things that were built custom for the movie probably took 500 hours or so. The other prebuilt things that we see represent hundreds of thousands of hours worth of building.”
Chances are, you’ll recognize someone or some place in the film. Lots of locals fill the scenes as extras. You may even recognize some of the cast, which includes past and present Blimprov actors like Anthony Taylor and Magnus Chhan.
In fact, the people were the best part of the process for McAleece. “My favorite part was the camaraderie on set. I got to work with people I love and together we created something that we all believed in. Usually a project is all about the director and producer and then everyone else. In this case though, because this was an ensemble cast and all the producers and writers were also actors and everyone was doing everything, we had very little of that hierarchy. It was incredibly fulfilling to see how much passion everyone put into a project they were getting paid very little for and that didn’t have the perks of a normal ‘big’ set. We really believed in each other.”
Saturday’s “Brick MADNESS” premiere is a one-night-only event. The movie starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets range from $10-$15. Although the rating of this film is roughly PG-13, there’s no sex or violence in it. There are, however, a lot of cool block-built creations, and one giant reason to see the film: according to McAleece, it’s good.
“If you’re on the fence about seeing this movie, I want you to know that it’s better than you think. I’m not trying to hype it up, I just know that ‘local’ means amateur to many people and I think the final product here is light years aways from amateur. People from the invite-only premiere have told me they went in trying to support a ‘thing that their friend did’ and walked out realizing they forgot that they were even watching people they knew—that it was a real movie, in the best way possible.”
And if that doesn’t convince you, “Here’s the deal: if you buy a ticket and watch the movie and think it sucks, then I will personally refund your money, no questions asked. You can’t get that at Maya!”
So there you have it folks, a one-night, guaranteed chance to see a project full of
LEGO Brix and laughter.
To purchase a ticket to the Saturday, Sept. 9 “Brick MADNESS” premiere, click here.
Looking for something to do this weekend? Here are some fun suggestions for events happening in Fresno and beyond. Make sure to check our calendar for even more stuff to do.
Join the Fresno Bike Party for a ride through Fresno. Meet at 7:30 p.m. at Fresno High School for a ride through the Tower District to Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. in downtown Fresno. [Details]
Join the Central Valley Horror Club and other local horror movie fans for a night of screams and laughs with a free horror movie complete with amazing beers and a potlucks This month’s screening will be 1993’s “Man’s Best Friend.” Movie starts at 8:30 p.m. at Full Circle Brewing Co. in downtown Fresno. [Details]
Celebrate the music and life of Prince by joining tribute band The Purple Ones in an homage to his critically acclaimed 1987 masterpiece album and film. Event is from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at Fulton 55 in downtown Fresno. Cost is $18-$22; 21 and over. [Details]
[See more Friday events here]
Saturday from 1-4 p.m., head to the Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center, 4867 E Kings Canyon Rd. in Fresno for an afternoon workshop designed to exercise your creativity and promote hopeful, happy expectations. This free workshop includes amuse bouche (single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre), beverages, all crafting materials, raffles, prizes and more! [Details]
Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Building, the director and students of Hālau Hula I Ka Lā school will perform 28 individual hula presentations depicting a tour of the island of O’ahu, ‘Iolani Palace, and the history of the last reigning monarchs of Hawai’i. Both shows will include students of all ages, live musicians and percussion, and Hawaiian chanting. Tickets are $18 and are available for presale or at the door. [Details]
There be pirates in the wilds of Kearney Park. Come see the cannons, the pirates, the Governor and all manner of costumed persons. Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Read our post on the festival here. [Details]
If you like dogs, head to Chukchansi Park to see the Fresno Grizzlies take on the Memphis Redbirds Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Baseball fans who have registered their dogs in advance will be there with their furry friends. Purchase your tickets online, make sure to use the promo code FGVAC17, and $5 of each ticket you purchase will go to the Valley Animal Center. [Details]
[See more Saturday events here]
Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., bring your family to Arte Américas for free live music, Folklórico dancers, storytelling, crafts, games, prizes, read-to-a-dog, food, snacks, and ice cream, and more. [Details]
Stacey Dwyer from New Belgium Brewing will be on hand to talk all things beer at Gazebo Gardens Nursery from 2-4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets to this event include tastings of a full range of New Belgium beers and access to Stacey’s encyclopedic knowledge of sustainable brewing. El Premio Mayor will be in attendance. Tickets are $25 in advance at the nursery or by phone (559) 222-7673, or $30 on the day of. [Details]
[See more Sunday events here]
Fresno Filmworks will present two screenings of the Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 10, at Fresno’s Tower Theatre (815 E. Olive Ave.).
“I Am Not Your Negro” is a reinvention of civil rights activist James Baldwin’s unfinished book, “Remember This House.” Baldwin’s book was to be a look at the lives, and ultimate deaths, of his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Filmworks, “the film brings Baldwin’s manuscript to life, using his own words and explorations on the racial narrative of America, with images, sounds and music from both the past and present.”
I asked Jefferson Beavers, who serves on the Filmworks board as development director and chairs a committee that works on memberships, sponsorships, community partnerships, youth outreach, and strategic planning, to tell me more about this month’s offering.
FresYes: What made Filmworks choose this particular film for this month’s screening?
Jefferson Beavers: Filmworks chose to screen “I Am Not Your Negro” for several reasons. One, the film was recently an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature, and we always try to show as many Oscar-nominated independent films as we can when they’re available to us. Two, the film is distributed by Magnolia Pictures, a small distributor that we have enjoyed a loyal 15-year relationship with, and we often partner with them to bring their best indie and international movies to Fresno.
But most of all, the urgency of the film’s content made it an essential pick for us at this current time. It’s part of our mission to bring culturally significant movies to the community to engage within a public space.
Considering the American political climate, in particular the atmosphere created by the current presidential administration, we think “I Am Not Your Negro” holds deep significance at this moment.
The amplification of a multitude of voices, we feel, is always crucial, no matter what the film selection. But the opportunity to share the work and worldview of James Baldwin, one of the iconic literary voices in this country’s history, made this film a particularly relevant selection for us. Baldwin famously says: “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.” We feel that’s a story our communities deserve to hear so we can collectively grapple with it.
FY: What have you chosen for next month’s screening?
JB: Our next Filmworks screening is Friday, April 14. We will be showing this year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, “The Salesman,” a dramatic thriller from Iran by master filmmaker Asghar Farhadi.
Thanks to Jefferson Beavers for talking with me. You can find his post on resistance films, like “I Am Not Your Negro,” here.
From Haitian director and social activist Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, “I Am Not Your Negro” is rated PG-13 and is an hour and 35 minutes long. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors.
Fresno Filmworks presents films on the second Friday of each month. Check out the website for more information on upcoming films.
Following the early screening of “I Am Not Your Negro,” Fresno State panelists Thomas-Whit Ellis, Melissa Harris and Dr. Francine Oputa will lead a discussion.
Ellis is a professor and theatrical director in the Department of Theatre Arts, Harris is a graduate student in the Department of Communication and Oputa is director of the Cross Cultural and Gender Center.
“The Gallows” is a new horror film opening today. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s gathered “Blair Witch”-level buzz over the past couple months and was produced, in part, by the same company that has been scaring the pants off audiences for the past decade with films like “Insidious,” “Paranormal Activity,” and “Sinister.” It also just so happens to have been shot in Fresno and written, directed and produced by two guys with local ties.
“I don’t think we could’ve made this film anywhere else.” – Chris Lofing
Filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing came to Fresno for different reasons. Cluff moved to the area with his family before the start of his senior year of high school; Lofing came here on the hunt for cheap locations for his film school thesis and decided to stick around. Eventually the two would meet, when Cluff auditioned to be a stuntman on a film Lofing was making, and go on to form Tremendum Pictures.
A string a viral videos and short films made together would eventually lead to the pair’s first feature film, “The Gallows,” which started production back in 2012. Shot at locations around the Valley—Warnors Theatre, Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Clovis North High School, to name a few—with a four-person cast and tiny crew, Cluff and Lofing had big hopes for their indie horror film. Hollywood heavyweights like Blumhouse Productions and Warner Bros. would eventually come calling after the guys released a trailer online, helping the filmmakers see those hopes fulfilled and get this Fresno-based film international distribution
“We thought we were gonna go for the moon with this movie and we got it. And some stars. We wrangled some stars in along the way.” – Travis Cluff
“The Gallows” could likely follow in the footsteps of “The Blair Witch Project” at the box office. That film, made for $60,000, went on to gross more than $140 million in 1999. No matter how much money “The Gallows” pulls in, one thing’s for sure: it’s already a hit with locals, who now have some serious bragging rights over Hollywood. And Cluff and Lofing are likewise appreciative of the city that helped bring their film to life, saying they will continue to make Fresno their home base for future productions.
The filmmakers are even planning a “Gallows” haunted house in October at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium where much of the film was shot.
Here, Cluff and Lofing talk about where the idea for the film came from, what production was like and what they’ll be doing on the day the film opens, which, if you’re reading this on Friday, July 10, 2015, is TODAY! So go see it.