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Thursday, March 31, 2005

CHILDSTAR: OPENING NIGHT AT M-SPIFF



Directed by: Don McKellar
Starring: Don McKellar, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mark Rendall, Dave Foley

M-SPIFF got yet another make-over. This time not quite as considerable as changing its name from Rivertown International Film Festival to Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival. Instead of Ms. PIFF, it will now be referred to as M-SPIFF on Em Spiff.

We are often considered to be, almost-Canadian since crossing the border into Canada used to practically go unnoticed, at least into Manitoba. Hence it is always inspiring to see a great line-up of film from Canada in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul International Film Festival. Opening the festival tomorrow night will be Don McKeller's comic commentary CHILDSTAR at the Historical State Theater in downtown Minneapolis.

McKeller who will be on stage to introduce his film in which he also stars as a struggling Canadian independent filmmaker hired to drive the limo for a spoiled American child actor, played by Mark Rendall, brought to Toronto to shoot a cheesy Hollywood movie. The cross-references between Hollywood and the Canadian Hollywood North provide perfect satire for Minnesotan's living in the fly-over zone.

CHILDSTAR is funny and at moments the satire biting and should please the opening night consort at the State Theater.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

DEAR JOSH HARNETT...

In the February 22 edition of the weekly City Pages, screenwriter and retiree Paul Martin Hennessey made a desperate plea to Josh Hartnett -- Read My Script!

Behind Hennessey's Oscar week plea lurks the populist assumption that anyone can write a movie script -- anyone. And that anyone can become famous in Hollywood and win an Oscar. Hennessey puts his desire to be read up in public almost as an entitlement.

In his open letter to the Minnesota-raised actor, Hennessey states he pays $8 a ticket to see Hartnett's movies, therefore, Hartnett should read his script and he'll both win SAG and Academy Awards. Hennessey states it as the promise of an American dream come true but also an obligation, at least, on the part of Hartnett to make the project go forward.

Where do the self-promotional ideas of writers like Hennessey come from? No doubt, from countless seminars offered on marketing, packaging projects, and selling your script devoid of content, skill, ability, technique and education. Here you see the Dale Carnegie and the Harvey McKay approach on how to market yourself unfiltered, without qualification or pre-requisites.

However, Hennessey's ideas also stem from the perception that movies are the popular form of cultural expression and they belong to everybody. When you walk into the movie theater and the lights go down, the story becomes your story and you live in the world of the story. Moviegoers put themselves in the movies and, consequently, easily see stories in their life as potential for the screen. How many times have you been at a house party or a gathering of relatives and after someone has told a story, hear the expression, "Oh, that would make a great movie!"

Average citizens will do a lot of crazy things in pursuit of fame and fortune. Acts of daring-do and puffery occur in New York and L.A. all the time. Stories appear frequently in the New York Post or Daily News describing crazy acts and bazaar behavior by artists, actors, standup comedians, writers or musicians to try and get themselves recognized and bring them fame. Desperate fame seekers can also be scary aggressive in stalking people they perceive have the ability to make them famous and won't aid their cause. They jump off the Brooklyn Bridge or tether themselves to the ledge of Rockfeller Center!

The greatness of the story is not in it subject or the actors who play it, ultimately, it is in the art and craft of its telling. Often, the appreciation for the art of writing or storytelling is lost in the thrill of seeking fame or fortune. Some might see Hennessey as a crackpot and others simply think he had nothing to loose and what harm is there in trying?

What does Hennessey have to loose? Self-respect, humility, a proper appreciation for the art and craft of writing perhaps? The price of a half page ad in City Pages? Do hawker tactics to get your script read speak more about the professions surrounding Hollywood movie making or just a ploy by a desparate man?

You decide...