‘Leviathan’ Short Review

a documentary directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel

I’ve been meaning to watch this documentary for a while after reading about it in the New York Times. It’s a unique cinematic experience, one I should have seen in the theater. So strange, so difficult to forget. I don’t know if it’s fair to recommend it, as I know with very little story to hold on to, the visuals and sounds will probably put most to sleep. But if you’re a bit of a filmmaking geek, you might want to catch this oddity.


My ‘Bosch Stiftung Film Prize Nominee Forum’ Experience

I just came back from Berlin where I attended a film forum organized by the Robert Bosch Foundation. Organized for nominated projects competing for their 2013 Arab-German co-production film grants. 

I first found out about the Bosch Foundation and their generous funding opportunities this past summer in Amman where I attended a short-film project market hosted by the Royal Film Commission of Jordan meant to help Arab writer/directors partner up with German producers. After some pitch training and meetings, I decided to join forces with an ambitious producer, Jessica Landt from Beleza Film, and apply to the co-production grant together with our short fiction project The Stork.

We were shortlisted and invited to the Nominee Forum with nine other teams, each working on either short fiction or documentary projects, also made up of Arab and German filmmakers. It was an intense few days of training rounded out with good food and conversations. I think we all left more prepared to officially pitch our projects in February to the jury during the 2013 Berlinale.

Since I found it so useful, I thought I’d summarize my highlights:

Pitch training with Cathy de Haan: I first met Cathy in the Amman project market, where she introduced us to the art of pitching, but here she had more time to expand on her advice. She reminded us of the essentials: to keep things clear, consistent and concise – reflected in everything from how we use our voices, our bodies and the design of our visual material. We’ve got to relax, to enjoy the process, because we’ll never have this opportunity again to speak to this particular audience about this specific film. We tend to get so wound up with our presentations and ourselves that we forget about our audience; who we’re actually pitching to and who has ultimate power. What do they know about the project already?, what do they want to hear and how/why will they be moved by your project? Even if they’re critical of the pitch in the end, we should be appreciative and answer their concerns seriously, as their questions and feedback is proof they actually took the time to hear our pitch.

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How to Kickstarter Your Dreams

As a Sundance alumnus, I received an email back in January about a new Sundance-Kickstarter intiative that my lab project is eligible for.

If you haven’t heard of Kickstarter before or aren’t quite sure how it works, some of the basics are covered here. I’ve been following the site for some time now, mystified by the insane success stories like the TikTok Nano Watch that raised nearly a million dollars or the Diaspora social network that exceeded their funding goals by 2000%.

Encouraged by those projects I’ve been offering my help to fellow filmmakers in creating a funding campaign tailored to their project and funding needs.

About a month ago I finally found someone brave enough to take my advice: Sasha Collington, a fellow Binger FilmLab alumnus. She decided to try a Kickstarter campaign to finance her next short film Lunch Date:

I originally planned to write this post as a way to help her get the word out about her campaign. But then she reached her funding goal of $2,100 in less than 48 hours! Since that initial success, Kickstarter featured the project on their homepage which helped skyrocket funding to $5,600!

So instead I’ve decided to write this up as a short case-study to encourage you to try the funding resource yourself and some tips on designing a strong campaign.

I attribute her Kickstarter success to the following reasons:

  1. Even though she is an emerging filmmaker, she has a track record as a storyteller.
  2. The project has a strong team of crew members she’ll be working with whose bio/work she highlights.
  3. A unique pitch video that gives you a sense of the film’s tone and author’s humor in a way that a written description can’t.
  4. A unique set of rewards tailored again for the film’s tone and irony. Some of these rewards, like ebooks, actually extend the story-world of the short film in a crossmedia manner (check my earlier post on crossmedia).
  5. Adequate amount of time for the funding requested.
  6. The campaign was advertised to potential patrons in email-waves: first to her family & friends, and then to her larger network of Facebook contacts as well as those of her fellow crew members.
  7. Original campaign goal wasn’t too greedy, rather the bare minimum that she needs to get the film made. And she honestly spelled out how the money will be spent.
  8. Most importantly, she’s viewing this as one step towards building an audience of patrons who might want to support future projects.
Again, take a look at her page, you might find her example useful and there’s still 3 days to pledge if you’d like to be a part of this unique gem (campaign ended: she raised $5,871!).

Neo Middle-Eastern Cinema –

Here’s another short paper I recently wrote for my Cinema Studies class. It’s my attempt to find a filmmaking aesthetic and production model  that is appropriate for the Middle East at this time – especially for new filmmakers like myself.

It still needs a little work, especially towards the end where I need to suggest concrete steps we can take as filmmakers – tell me what you think and give me any advice on how I can make it stronger:

Neo Middle-Eastern Cinema:
Filmmaking Trends and Possibilities

There’s a new crop of emerging Arab filmmakers who have taken it upon themselves to produce films in opposition to the Middle-Eastern stereotypes Hollywood has produced in the last several decades. While this is a worthy cause, the region and its people are in need of films for their own consumption. We need a cinema that acts as a mirror for the audience, a place of reflection and discussion of one’s culture, history and people. Yet is there a current model for a type of filmmaking that would satisfy these needs? As mentioned in a recent New York Times article [1], there has been a recent revival of neo-realistic films, especially in the US, that derive their strength from their intimate portraits of characters living on the periphery of society. This new generation of filmmakers remind us that the ‘small’ can be large, and the ugliness in the world can be divine.

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Berlinale Highlight #4 – ‘Crossmedia Storytelling’

WARNING – this is a fairly dense post –

But I think any storyteller out there, whether you’re a filmmaker or not, will benefit immensely by following some of the links and possibilities mentioned.


During the Talent Campus there were three separate panels devoted to the topic of Crossmedia Storytelling. Personally, these sessions alone were reason enough to hop on a plane to Berlin for the Campus – hopefully you’ll see why.

Let’s first start with a description of each of the three events taken directly from the program:

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