And in Podcast News … @roughlyspeaking on Oscar Noms and @fogoftruth on “Rat Film” and “The Blood Is at the Doorstep”

On Tuesday, January 23, 2018,  Linda DeLibero – Director, Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University – and Christopher Llewellyn Reed (that’s me) – Chair and Professor, Department of Film & Moving Image, Stevenson University – joined Dan Rodricks on his Baltimore Sun podcast, “Roughly Speaking,” to discuss the  Oscar nominations announced earlier that day. Here is the link to the show. Enjoy!

Then, the next day, my podcast on documentaries  – The Fog of Truth – released its fourth episode (also available on iTunes and Stitcher). This latest was on Theo Anthony’s Rat Film and Erik Ljung’s The Blood Is at the Doorstep. Hope you enjoy this one, as well!

@BaltimoreSun’s @RoughlySpeaking Podcast on Female Action Stars + Reviews of “The Mummy” and “My Cousin Rachel” @filmfesttoday

On Thursday, June 8, 2017,  Linda DeLibero – Director, Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University – and Christopher Llewellyn Reed (that’s me) – Chair and Professor, Department of Film & Moving Image, Stevenson University – joined Dan Rodricks on his Baltimore Sun podcast, “Roughly Speaking,” to discuss the new Wonder Woman and other female-centered action films, including the World War II classic Mrs. Miniver, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this month. Here is the link to the show. Enjoy!

Also this week, in addition to the review I published here on my blog (of It Comes at Night), I reviewed both The Mummy and My Cousin Rachel for Film Festival Today. Check them out at the links, below:

The 2017 Maryland Film Festival Is Here, in Brand New Digs!

If it’s early May in Baltimore, it must be time for the Maryland Film Festival again. This year, the festival premieres its brand new venue, the renovated Parkway Theater, located on the southwest corner of Charles Street and North Avenue. Want to know what to see? You’re in luck! I wrote a piece in BmoreArt this week, and also participated in a podcast for Dan Rodricks on his Baltimore Sun podcast, “Roughly Speaking,” in which we discussed the festival (as well as the current movies Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Their Finest). Here are links to both pieces:


Welcome to SXSW2016!

SXSW 2016

It’s that time of year again, as it was in 2014 and 2015, when I took my first and second trips, respectively, to the annual SXSW Festival in Austin, TX. As I did last year, I have traveled with a group of Stevenson University Film & Moving Image students, pictured below.

STEVENSON SXSW2016_2016-03-13

This year, however, I am not just attending as a professor and blogger, but as an official member of the press, writing for Hammer to Nail during the festival, and preparing post-fest coverage for Dan Rodricks’ “Roughly SpeakingBaltimore Sun podcast and for Bmoreart. What this means is that I pre-watched 10 films before the festival began, and am interviewing those filmmakers (directors and cast) plus a few more whose films I am watching on the ground. That leaves me with less time (for now) to see movies live, but I have still seen a few. What follows is a list of those films, with brief capsule reviews, plus links to the reviews that have already been posted, as of this writing, on Hammer to Nail. The interviews will take longer to appear on that site, as first someone (that would be me) has to transcribe and condense them . . .

Let’s start with the Hammer to Nail reviews that have been posted, so far:

And now here are my thoughts on the few films I have seen since my arrival in Austin, which will not get their own review at Hammer to Nail:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016)

New Zealander Taika Waititi (co-director, What We Do in the Shadows) has made a film that is extremely entertaining in its first 15 minutes, but which completely loses its way after that. Like the young boy at its center, the script needs a a firm adult hand to guide it towards coherence. That hand is stuck in adolescent hyperactivity, however, and so much of the good will of the opening quickly dissipates in the chaos that follows. Which is too bad, as both Julian Dennison – as Ricky Baker, a rebellious tween kid brought to a lonely farmstead foster home as a last resort – and Sam Neill (Backtrack) – as the ornery father figure left to care for him – are good, with an easy and funny rapport. As the hijinks in the bush go on, Waititi cannot seem to manage the mix of comedy and tragedy that works so brilliantly at the start. The film has appeal, but not enough to sustain it through its latter half.

Alive and Kicking

Alive and Kicking (Susan Glatzer, 2016)

Susan Glatzer’s debut documentary takes a look at the popularity of swing dancing since the 1980s, when, according the film, the long-neglected (but never forgotten) dance style began it’s slow return. One of Glatzer’s talking-head interviewees points to the 1990s “trifecta” (as she calls it) of Swing Kids (1993), Swingers (1996) and the Gap Khaki commercial (1998) as the turning point in swing’s revival, kicking it into high gear. Whether you care about this history or not, there’s a lot of great dancing on display, and the film is made with a certain pep that keeps it going, even when its narrative falters. For this is the kind of movie where the filmmaking is not as engaging as the subject matter. Glazer’s – and her subjects’ – hearts are fully in this endeavor, so I feel like a heel being so critical, but there is something profoundly irritating to me about history being told by its participants – of course, partisan to their cause – than by actual historians. In other words, a few actual experts – rather than enthusiasts – would give the film greater heft. Glatzer also sets up a a false dichotomy of work vs. play, where almost everyone in the film seems to hate their day jobs, sneering at those who don’t wish to dance – and be free! – as they do. Still, there’s enough here of interest for a qualified recommendation. Do with that what you will.

And Punching the Clown

And Punching the Clown (Gregori Viens, 2016)

Singer/comedian (and singing comedian) Henry Phillips plays a fictionalized version of himself in this follow-up/sequel to director Gregori Viens’ 2009 Punching the Clown. The events of that previous film (which I haven’t seen) are alluded to here, but this is more or less a stand-alone story, requiring no prior knowledge of Phillips or his sad-sack misadventures. Instead, all one needs is a desire to laugh and a tolerance for comedies of embarrassment. Phillips is an engaging on-screen presence – even if not all of his jokes resonate with me (I get tired of his constant borderline-sexist tales of woeful relationships) – and the gags outside of the stand-up routines are very funny. With great support work from Tig Notaro (Tig), her real-life partner Stephanie Allynne (In a World…), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Sarah Silverman (Take This Waltz), among others, And Punching the Clown is a frequently delightful riff and failure and success . . . and failure.

Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry (Ilya Naishuller, 2016)

Now that I have been through the hellish experience that is Hardcore Henry, I look back to my (positive) reaction to its trailer and wonder, “What was I thinking?” Why did I imagine that this would be anything other than one continuous bloodbath with a completely incomprehensible story? While it’s true that the opening 10 to 20 (I can no longer recall) minutes of the film have a certain (fascist) exuberance to them, after that what plot there is descends into mind-numbing repetition of one gruesome (and graphic) killing after another. Shot entirely from the first-person point of view of its titular character, Hardcore Henry mimics the aesthetics of many a first-person-perspective video game, a tactic not without interest as a cinematic exercise, but not enough to sustain the movie for its 90-minute length. Unless, of course, all you want to do is kill, kill, and kill, in which case, welcome to your own private nirvana.

Stay tuned for more SXSW film news throughout the week.

“Roughly Speaking” on the 2016 Oscar Nominations

Rodricks Oscar Noms

Today, Linda DeLibero – Director, Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University – and Christopher Llewellyn Reed (that’s me) – Chair and Professor, Department of Film & Moving Image, Stevenson University – joined Dan Rodricks on his Baltimore Sun podcast, “Roughly Speaking,” where we discussed the just-announced 2016 Oscar nominations, giving our opinion on what we agreed with and what we didn’t (here are my own lists of the best films, the best acting, and the best artistic and technical work of 2015). We also talked about the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has, once again, mostly ignored people of color in its choices.

Here is the link to the show.


The Force Is with Rodricks and Reed: “Roughly Speaking” on “Star Wars”

Star Wars Collage

On today’s edition of Dan Rodricks‘ Baltimore Sun “Roughly Speaking” podcast, we discussed the new Star Wars film and its place in the overall legacy of the now 7-episode saga.

Here is the link. I come on at around 11 minutes.

There’s other good stuff on there, too, including information on the William Porter trial and a great book review by Paula Gallagher of the Baltimore Public Library.

You can also subscribe to receive these podcasts automatically (instructions at the bottom of the link’s page).


A Reappraisal of “Dear White People,” on “Hammer to Nail”

Dear White People Collage

So no reviews of new films this week, though I may go and see Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq this weekend. I did, however, publish an essay on Hammer to Nail two days ago, on the 2014 film Dear White People, in light of the recent college campus protests about race and my own (negative) reaction to the hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon. Check it out to understand the strange amalgamation of photos, above.

May 15 – Midday Cinemorphosis: Tentpoles, Tadpoles, Studios and Streams

[NOTE: Missed the show? Check out the podcast!]

Rodricks May 15 2015 Poster

Join host Dan Rodricks and me, Midday film critic Christopher Llewellyn Reed – Chair and Professor, Department of Film/Video, Stevenson University – on Friday, May 15 – the day another franchise releases a new film, Mad Max: Fury Road – at 1pm, as we discuss the changing nature of moving-image entertainment. Which films do you like to watch in theaters? Do you even still go out to the movies? What television/cable/streaming series do you like to watch, and why? Tune in to hear what we have to say, and add your own voice to the conversation by listening live and emailing your comments and questions to, or by calling in at 410-662-8780 (locally), or toll-free at 1-866-661-9309. If you can’t listen locally, you can live-stream the show on-line. If all else fails, you can always download the podcast afterwards, either via iTunes or the Midday page.

UFVA 2013 Highlights

Yours truly and his pal Savvas Paritsis (now of DePaul University), on the final day of the conference.

Yours truly and his pal Savvas Paritsis (now of DePaul University), on the final day of the conference. Photo taken from a cell phone – excuse the quality . . .

I have just come back from my third UFVA (University Film and Video Association) conference. This year, it was at Chapman University, in Orange, CA. If you would like to see my notes from the past two conferences, here are some useful links:

From 2011:

From 2012:

For 2013, instead of writing up the conference by theme or by day, I’m just going to describe some of the highlights – the workshops/panels, etc., that I found particularly informative – and list some of the web links and presentations that the speakers provided.

Before I do so, however, I just want to express how much I have enjoyed the last three conferences. It has been a great joy to meet and speak with my peers in the field of teaching film and video production and studies. Attending UFVA every year exposes me to new ideas and opens my intellectual, artistic and technical horizons. I am profoundly grateful that I made the decision to sign up in 2011.

I arrived early in California, on Saturday, July 27, and headed out to 29 Palms, 2 1/2 hours east of Los Angeles, to hike in Joshua Tree National Park for a few days. Here are my photos of that trip, and of my return to Los Angeles, where I spent one night in Santa Monica with my old film school friend Savvas Paritsis (pictured above, with me, on the final day of the conference). The first photo in the collection is of me and a college buddy of mine, Jason Patent. Upon landing in the Orange County airport, I posted my status on Facebook. Amazingly, Jason, who lives in China, and whom I had not seen in years, had also just landed (his wife’s family lives in the area). He saw my posting, replied, but I had already put my phone away. Not to be deterred, he guessed, correctly, that I might be renting a car, and tracked me down at the Budget desk. His wife Colette showed up, and we ended up having a wonderful conversation for over a half hour. I knew then that this was going to be a good trip.

So what were the highlights of the conference, for me? You can take a look at the full program and see what you might have liked, but here is what I found most interesting, from what I saw, in order by day . . .

Screening 2C, 10:30am-12:15pm: 

The University SitComSeasons 1 & 2 (F, 90 min., NR)
“The University”, a SitCom produced in the Film/Video Department at Stevenson University, was created in 2011 to bring traffic to the university’s website. Produced by faculty and students working together, it follows the misadventures of bumbling videographer Hank Howard as he makes a promotional video for the school.
While my screening – like so many – was sparsely attended – it was nevertheless a great pleasure to showcase the great work my students have done over the last two years working on this extra-curricular project. You can watch the series on Vimeo.

Panel 4E, 3:30-5:15pm: 
Best Practices In Documentary Storytelling – Teaching Beyond Talking Heads and B-Roll
The panel will explore successful techniques and exercises for teaching documentary storytelling at both the undergraduate and graduate level in an effort to elevate students nonfiction films to a place of engaging narrative.
Yes – this was a panel on which I served, but I’m listing it because I was so very fortunate to hear my illustrious fellow presenters. What follows are my notes:

1. I went first, and I offer you a pdf of my PowerPoint presentation.
2. John Schmit
Talked about the utility of of Michael Rabiger‘s “Scenic Intentions”
John likes to plan in-class activities for students to film, which teaches them how about coverage.
  • Tent Setup
  • Table Games
  • Climbing Wall
3. Aubrie Canfield
With her students on study-abroad trips, these are the steps she uses in the filmmaking process:
  • Step 1 – Define World
  • Step 2 – Story Summary
  • Step 3 – Outline Structure (five-parts, thinking in scenes: character, conflict, stakes, arc, resolution) – Campbell’s Hero’s Journey
  • Step 4 – Shoot Scenes
  • Step 5 – Paper Edit – recreate outline from footage actually shot
They bring narrative story techniques to doc filmmaking
4. Melinda Lewin
There are no longer just linear distribution outlets (multi-platform distribution)
Identify “the engager” in story
Presented trailers for 2 films made by her students: Unhappy Country and The Revisionaries
5. Jan Krawik
Shooting ratio is a problem, more so now in digital world than on 16mm – too much footage
Always ask, “Why does this want to be a film?”
She doesn’t like word “b-roll.” How about “Foundation footage” or “visual evidence” (Melinda Lewin)

WORKSHOP 5L, 8:30-10:15am:
Futureproofing for Filebased Workflow
File-based workflow is here and 4K is right around the corner. This workshop will help you prepare for and use file based workflows including 4K editing, monitoring and playback”
Jeff Way, AJA Video Systems / Sebastian DiStefano, Adobe
This was a really useful technical workshop where I learned a terrific amount about the file-based workflow systems offered by AJA and supported by Adobe. All photos were taken on my iPad in a dark room, and so are not all that great.
1. Jeff Way
Use Ki Pro Rack as a VTR in a broadcast set-up. Hook up to a broadcast switcher.
Stand-alone device, but can also hook up to a computer or monitor.
Migrating away from PCI Express slots to Thunderbolt
Already, USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 2.0 are on their way.
New Apple Mac Pro will be a Thunderbolt device, with no slots (PCI)
AJA IO XT is Thunderbolt device
AJA T-Tap – thunderbolt in, HDMI/SDI out
“Debayering” – get RGB data from RAW image
4K monitor out of China, for $999, due this Fall – amazing possibility!
4K is supported (Apple Pro Res 4:4:4) by AJA devices
H265 compression is on its way – to be used for 4K Netflix streaming
With 4K, you can get “2 shots for the price of one” (shoot wide and then reframe): end of cinematography as we know it?
Ki Pro familyKi ProKi Pro MiniKi Pro Quad (dual SSD drive bays), Ki Pro Rack
You can record, simultaneously, an HD file to camera’s internal CF/SD cards, and a 4K file to Ki Pro – nice!
Kona cards = MAC on a PC
2. Sebastian DiDtefano
Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) = 2 new codecs over CS6
In box with Premiere are Apple and Avid codecs
In SpeedGrade, ProRes 4K can be slow, but in Premiere, you can reduce viewing resolution to play back in real time.
In SpeedGrade for CC, you can make color-grading “look files”
LUT = Look-Up Table for color definition of a color space: complete color gamut of space you’re working in.
Issues for students shooting in 4K: hard drive speed and storage
Putting 4K footage into 1080 timeline – you get all that extra frame, and it plays like 1080
CC has audio syncing built in (PluralEyes like capabilities)

PANEL 7E, 1:30-3:15pm:
Anatomy of a Film
Story is told through many prisms in a collaborative endeavor like the production of a feature film. Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,
three members of a production and post-production team (participants to be announced, pending their availability) will discuss how they interact with each other to create a complete and successful story. 
Randy and Norman brought in filmmaker Destin Cretton, along with his producer Asher Goldstein and his composer Joel P. West, to talk about their latest film, Short Term 12 (opens 8/23/13).
AMPAS has lots of resources for students and educators, including the Nicholl Fellowship, which Destin Cretton received in 2010.
Destin Cretton first made short film about the experience of working at center for at-risk teens, also called Short Term 12.
He made 8 shorts, of which the last was Short Term 12, which won a jury prize at Sundance.
Producer Asher Goldstein’s script notes to Destin didn’t try to solve problems, but were vague enough to point out issues and inspire, instead.
     • You should never give a note based on what you would do, says Asher.
Destin was having trouble finding investors, even with Sundance win for short and the Nicholl Fellowship, so he made I Am Not a Hipster first, to prove he could do a feature.
These guys were smart and funny, and the clips and trailer from their new film look amazing. Looking forward to it. It was inspiring to hear them talk and tell their stories.

PANEL 9E, 8:30-10:15am:
Interactive Storytelling in the Transmedia Landscape
As interactive digital stories gain more prominence with mainstream audiences, do we, as media makers, need to alter our narrative strategies to accommodate this growing form? In this panel we will explore the effectiveness of audience engagement in online interactive narrative, followed by a robust discussion with attendees.
This was a really well-conceived panel with thoughtful presentations that each gave a different perspective on transmedia storytelling. Since everyone of the presenters uploaded their PowerPoint presentations to the UFVA website, I have linked to them, below, rather than providing my own notes.
1. Jennifer ProctorThe Problems of Interactive Narrative
Twitter handle = @proctor

Jen’s presentation was far-ranging, far-reaching, and fascinating. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

2. Kari BarberOklahoma’s All-Black Towns

Kari used her own recent experiences creating interactive online materials as research for her new documentary as a template for her thoughts on the subject. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

3. Jane McKeever: Interactive Storytelling for Theme Parks and Gaming

Taking the panel in a new direction, Jane gave us a fascinating look at how interactive storytelling works in theme parks and gaming. Here is a pdf of her PowerPoint.

4. Kemp LyonsThe Princess Is in Another Castle: What Can Conventional/Online Interactive Storytelling Learn from Successes in Gaming?
Finally, Kemp ended the panel by continuing the discussion of gaming and its influences on narrative. Here is a pdf of his PowerPoint.

WORKSHOP 13K, 8:30-10:15am:
Interactive Tools for Teaching Production and Film Studies
This workshop will introduce attendees to interactive, online tools to enhance teaching both media production and media studies courses. Tools covered include Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker (video mixing, annotation, and interactivity), Voicethread (video commenting and annotation), and Zeega (interactive authoring).
Again, Jen Proctor came through with a brilliant summary of a fascinating topic. I had actually gone to another panel first – one that didn’t work for me – and I am so happy that I got up and left (sorry, panel presenters!), as Jen’s presentation of the materials, below, will be extremely useful to my teaching this fall.
Here are the four main web links that formed the basis of the workshop:
Voicethread allows comments on video.
Jen uses clips from YouTube, but you can upload your own content directly
It also allows public AND private comments
One can use for ripping clips from YouTube and Vimeo.
Voicethread costs $99/yr/instructor or $999/yr/dept.
Mozzilla Popcorn Maker – launched in London in 2012 at the Mozilla Festival.
Hands-on annotation of video clips
Allows one to have pop-up windows at specific spots. Jen’s students thought that this made for a good pre-writing exercise.
100% cloud-based
Media/events columns contain tools for annotation
You could make audio commentary in SoundCloud and then upload it to Popcorn Maker – you can then lower volume of original clip.
You can add maps and logos to the video – work in layers, as in any video editing tool.
Assignment – have students prepare a Popcorn video as a pre-production document.
Popcorn has no privacy settings.
Zeega – less useful than it used to be (they made it more mobile friendly)
You can add animated gifs. You can create animated gifs in Photoshop. You can also find online resources – there is even a gif tool in Zeega.
You control pacing of presentation.
You grab your audio and video from other sources (I believe you create text within the program, however).

PANEL 16E, 3:30-5:15pm:
Creating and Teaching the Web Series
In this panel, we will discuss the benefits of having a web series project in the curriculum, particularly the web series as a good vehicle for teaching students how to create in the short form and how to embrace a larger, serialized structure. 
I came late to this panel, as I had, once again, started out in a different panel that did not work for me. My notes, therefore, are brief. As a faculty member who oversaw his own students’ production of a SitCom series (see the beginning of this blog post), I was particularly interested to see how other people do it.
Cal State L.A. is a grad program with many already-working professionals from the local Los Angeles area. They produced the SitCom as part of a structured course.
The SitCom they presented is Weather or Not (
School signed contracts with students and the students retained the rights.
Alan Bloom suggests I try reading Directing and Producing for Television: A Format Approach, by Ivan Curry (Focal Press), for my own SitCom productions.
Wish I had seen more of the presentation, but what I saw was worth seeing. The conversation that followed the panel was highly participatory.
Thanks to all who gave of their time, brilliance and energies to make this year’s UFVA conference a success.