The Kew Gardens Festival Of Cinema’s 2nd Year Anniversary Review: Tragic, Timely and Titillating!

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Song of Sway Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

Kew Gardens isn’t known to be epicenter of film, but with this year’s film festival lineup – it is well on its way. This culturally rich Queens enclave is currently hosting 110 films from 23 countries, including the U.S. Canada, Italy, Turkey and South Africa. The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema, now in its 2nd year, is claiming its status as a purveyor of cutting edge cinema. Watch out Cannes! This year’s festival categories include narrative features, documentaries, short films, animation, experimental, music video and web series. The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema has partnered with the Regal Entertainment Group’s UA Midway Stadium 9 and The Queens Museum to bring these brilliant films the recognition they deserve. After meeting their crowdfunding goals, festival organizers are committed to endorse neighborhood businesses to festival attendees.

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(L to R, Elizabeth Pena and Mary Beth Peil. Photo: Courtesy of Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

On opening night, there’s always a film that steals the spotlight and sets the bar for the rest of the festival, At the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema, this night was no exception. “The Song of Sway Lake” directed by Ari Gold was it. The film about a young man, Ollie Sway (Rory Culkin), who travels along with his friend, a comical and sly Russian transient, to the his family’s once glamorous lake house in the Adirondacks to steal a one-of-a-kind vintage record with the secret recording of the hit “Sway Lake.” Ollie believes the record will improve his life and help him understand his father’s suicide at the famed lake – until his plans are thwarted by his grandmother, Charlie Sway (Mary Beth Peil). The cinematography and original music by the director’s brother, Ethan Gold are expertly sprinkled throughout the film and transport the audience back-and-forth to a simpler elegant era in America. The scoring in the film is a character in itself with nostalgic interludes between scenes. “The Song of Sway” is a romantic drama tackling the complexities of family, love, friendships, and death with beautiful storytelling. Rory Culkin and Mary Beth Peil are extraordinary to watch. The late actress, Elizabeth Peña as Charlie’s housekeeper/confidante/friend/punching bag is resilient and stoic. Known for “La Bamba” and “Jacob’s Ladder,” Peña will be missed.

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(L to R, Aurora Perrineau (Addison) and Rachel Hendrix (Lyle), Photo: Courtesy of Rushaway Pictures

Festival closer and critically acclaimed film, “Virginia Minnesota” also examines complicated friendships. The indie film by Daniel Stine about two friends reconnecting after 15 years for a will reading at the foster home they both lived in as young girls and vowed never to return, due to the mysterious childhood tragedy bestowed on their young friend Virginia. Now in their mid-twenties, Lyle and Addison embark on a journey of painful childhood memories, turbulent relationships, and self-reflection. This film will make you believe in fairy tales and the monsters that sometimes inhabit them – with optimism and faith.

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Murder Made Easy, Jessica Graham (Joan) and Christopher Soren Kelly (Michael), Photo: Courtesy of Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

Two whodunits worthy of recognition are “Murder Made Easy” by director Dave Palamaro and Canadian film “The Doctor’s Case,” directed by James Douglas and co-director Leonard Pearl. Each offers a creative spin on the murder-mystery genre. “Murder Made Easy” follows Joan and Michael, two friends throwing an elaborate dinner party for their close friends to remember the passing of Joan’s husband, Neil, on the one-year anniversary of his death. The friends may not want to ingest what these hosts are serving – literally and figuratively. Although some of the scenes are far-fetched and a little over-the-top, the plot twists are so entertaining you’re willing to forego some of the missteps in this clever pop horror film. Based on the short story by Stephen King, “The Doctor’s Case” shines the spotlight on Sherlock Holmes’ assistant, Dr. Watson, as he takes the lead in solving the murder of a contemptuous English lord. When you couple The King of Horror’s story with the mastermind detective, audiences are in store for a thrilling ride. Add to that, actors William B. Davis as Dr. Watson from “The X-Files” series and Denise Crosby (also guest-starred on “The X-Files”) as Captain Norton from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” who keep the suspense going throughout the movie.

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The Doctor’s Case, Photo: Courtesy of Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

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Modified, Photo: Courtesy of Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

A film festival isn’t complete without stellar documentaries making powerful statements. And, after watching “Modified” and “Beneath the Ink,” mission accomplished. Filmmaker Aube Giroux takes a startling look at the inclusion of GMOs – Genetically Modified Organisms – for instance: corn crops being injected with pig genes by food manufacturers in the US and Canada with no regulations in place. Scared yet? You will be after viewing “Modified.” Giroux took over 10 years to finish this personal project and interjects touching memoir-style scenes of her family and her love of food throughout the years. It’s eye opening, frustrating and necessary to watch. “Beneath the Ink” by director Cy Dodson is a timely documentary exposing the hate and racism in a Southeastern Ohio (Appalachian region) community and what one tattoo artist is doing to help change people’s views and a chance at redemption. The film shows various facets of racism – how it is taught through generations and the individuals in this community that are committed to changing their indoctrinated hateful beliefs. It’s raw and real and we need more films like these highlighting solutions – not problems – with racism, exacerbated by the current administration.

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Beneath the Ink, Photo: Courtesy of Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

Short film “R.V” was made right after the 2017 elections by directors Will Hawkes and Melissa Center to give women a voice and take a stand on the injustices seen in this country as basic human rights are consistently stripped away by elected officials. The film follows a couple after they make a difficult decision to have an illegal abortion in a seedy motorhome after the wife is left with no other legal alternative. This film’s subject matter couldn’t be any more relevant as the looming induction of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is underway. Kavanaugh is a vocal opponent of Roe v. Wade. Time will tell if the landmark case and law that followed to make abortions legal will be phased out.

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R.V, Photo: Courtesy of Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

On a lighter note, the Belgium animated film “Catherine” by director Britt Raes, is about a girl who loves pets, but has a hard time keeping them alive, until she gets a cat. The film illustrates the universal empathy children display to animals. As she grows up she has a hard time socializing with other people but is comforted by her cat and ultimately becomes a crazy old cat lady. This film is reminiscent and a sweet reminder of the childhood pets we love and become accustomed to and how we recover from the limited time they spend with us – funny and bittersweet film worth seeing.

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Catherine, Photo: Courtesy of Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

Apart the fantastic screenings, The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema presents two panels: The Jury’s Out: Meet the 2018 Festival Jurors, and A Change Overdue: Diversity in Cinema, a discussion on diversity in independent film featuring invited filmmakers from the festival at the Center at the Maple Grove in Queens. On Sunday, August 12th, the final day of the festival, the Awards Dinner Gala returns to Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Do not miss out on this incredible film festival! To get more information and to buy tickets to the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema, click here:

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The Rosé Mansion Is Open In NYC: Get Ready For The Rosé Renaissance

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Photo: courtesy of the Rosé Mansion

After visiting the Rosé Mansion popup with friends, I was pleasantly surprised after my encounter with the two-foot story space. It will pique the curiosity of not only passerby tourists, situated in the heavily trafficked midtown – but also attract the attention of cynical and jaded New Yorkers, like myself. With its intoxicatingly pink motif consuming the former Charming Charlie’s fashion and accessories retailer, the Rosé Mansion has more to offer than meets the eye. To kick off National Rosé Day, partners Tyler Balliet and Morgan First, opened a first of its kind, Rosé-themed popup in New York City. Wine enthusiasts Balliet and First have been creating popup wine-tasting events for more than a decade with their company Second Glass, founded in 2008.

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Photo: Tyler Balliet (L) and Morgan First (R), courtesy of Tyler Balliet/Instagram

At first glance, the pink décor engulfs your brain with an assortment of pink hues demanding that you to denounce the color, from your life – for good! Yet, as you glide into the inviting and interactive rooms to partake in selfie-dom with the rest of the crowd, each room has a fascinating historical component to it. Upon receiving a rosé plastic wine glass with stickers illustrating popular rosé wine grapes, you can decorate the wall at your leisure and proceed to the rooms labeled: New York, I Love You – which traces the history of how European wine techniques were implemented into the Finger Lakes region and became a huge source for wine production in the U.S. The enchanting and fun-fact filled Sparkling Wine and When in Rome! rooms describe the history of the 6,000 year-old wine industry, and are complemented by colorful and impressionable design. We chatted with Tyler Balliet on his inspiration for the Rosé Mansion and the process it took to launch.

DSMC: What inspired you and Morgan to create a rosé-themed popup experience?

Tyler Balliet: We spent the last 10 years doing educational wine events and large-scale festivals for 6,000 people. We reached a point where it was fun to do these large events but our customers wanted a more intimate experience. At the same time, we could only do so much education and interaction in this large-scale format. We wanted to take the concept of wine-tasting events and reformat it into a place that was more permanent. We looked at bars, places like Eataly, to replicate and instead of focusing on food, we wanted the emphasis to be on beverage. We didn’t want to take over a restaurant because of the logistical challenges. Building out a restaurant is really expensive. Building out a popup bar is much easier and less expensive. There are no ovens or food code regulations involved.

DSMC: I found the historical aspect of the Rosé Mansion fascinating, as most patrons will. Did you partner up with wine historians on the research?

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Photo: courtesy of the Rosé Mansion

Tyler Balliet: I’m a wine expert that’s spent 10 years in this business. We’ve received a number of awards, Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Award and Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 40 under 40 Award. I love history and for the last 10 years I’ve had the opportunity to fly all over the world. Meet with winemakers and producers in Europe, South America and throughout California. We didn’t come up with this idea in a few weeks – it’s been a career’s worth of education to put together this experience in a unique way. I made sure to consult with winemakers with 15-20 years of experience – learn the process, the logistics.

DSMC: There are 14 rooms throughout the Rosé Mansion. What inspired the décor when you conceptualized the design for each room?

Tyler Balliet: Morgan, my partner, was in charge of the décor. She’s really good at styling and branding. We wanted to make use of what was already in the space. As soon you walk in, we want you to be transported into another place – somewhere you wouldn’t find in midtown. Morgan worked really hard on the look and feel of each room. She was inspired by her travels over the years and the current design trends she reads about and discovers. I stepped in with the education aspect and together we built the Rosé Mansion.

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Photo: courtesy of the Rosé Mansion

DSMC: The Rosé Mansion will be operational through October 7th, any plans for other popups throughout the U.S.? Will you go on tour?

Tyler Balliet: We love the concept. We love the idea of taking the education and fun of wine to other places. When we built the first one it was like version 1, to be honest, we didn’t know what the reaction would be. You hope after you build it, people will like it. We’re trying to learn what people respond to, what they want to see in the future. I can tell you this: This won’t be last of the Rosé Mansion popups.

DSMC: Since the launch, have most of the visitors to the popup been women, men?

Tyler Balliet: The overwhelming majority of patrons have been women. From the feedback we’ve gotten, both men and women enjoy it. We market it and put it out there and have gotten a large female response. It’s been tough – it’s been really difficult to explain what the Rosé Mansion is to hundreds of people. But once people see it. They’re like: Oh, I get it. It’s one of the problems we had initially before it was built, before we had photos. The longer we’re open, the more people will document what it is, tell their friends about it, and enjoy the Rosé Mansion experience.

DSMC: Rosé has been associated with luxury. Eataly, The Veuve Clicquot Polo Classics, to name a few. Do you have plans on partnering with influencers to expand the Rosé Mansion brand or do you believe the product speaks for itself?

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Photo: courtesy of the Rosé Mansion

Tyler Balliet: We’ve been working with a lot of different organizations and groups. I’ve been in the business a long time. We’ve had a lot of people with a large Instagram following that have come through. I find that a lot of people think wine is complicated. It’s not. If you don’t spend years learning about it you can’t appreciate it– I don’t believe that to be true. I’m pretty good with color. My mom is an interior designer and when I was growing up, I’d say: Oh, that color’s blue and my mom would say: no, it’s not blue, there’s a special name for it, it’s this kind of blue. I didn’t understand what the word was for that, but I could appreciate it. As much as anyone else that did know the word for the color. And, that’s what wine is. Wine is in this place right now where people think it’s difficult to understand, but it isn’t, it’s really simple. If you taste wine and you want to drink more of it, it’s good, if you taste it and don’t want more of it, it’s not good and it’s your opinion. Nobody could tell you you’re wrong. We’ve had a lot of success over the years working with lifestyle publications, influencers, bloggers, You-Tubers. These people fall more into fashion and lifestyle because that’s what wine is: it’s a luxury product at the end of the day.

DSMC: Would you agree that one of the selling points of rosé is its affordability?

Tyler Balliet: The coolest thing about rosé is that it’s not very expensive. You can go to a retail store and buy really good hand-made rosé bottles – that comes from family-owned wineries for between $12 – $15. That’s pretty amazing. It’s one of the successes of rosé. It’s not just a trend. It’s becoming an entirely new product category for a whole new generation of wine consumers. It’s really high quality. Another great benefit: it doesn’t cost a lot to make rosé. Red wine, it takes 3 – 5 years to make a bottle, whereas rosé can be turned around in 6 months. It’s meant to be more of an everyday, easy-to-drink thing. Americans aren’t used to thinking about wine in this way. They think of it as this high-end, sophisticated beverage. And, all throughout Europe, it’s normal, it’s just something you drink daily. Rosé is the first real movement in the United States to get rid of that snootiness. It’s wine. Just drink it. Have fun, but make sure it’s high quality and it comes from a good place.

I love a good rosé and at the Rosé Mansion popup you’ll have the opportunity to taste rosés from around the globe that will satiate your palate. There’s never a wrong time to have rosé. And, it’s here to stay. Enjoy it with your friends, family or alone with your burger or hummus. The Rosé Mansion will be open through October 12, 2018. To learn more about the Rosé Mansion and get tickets, click here.

The Brooklyn Film Festival’s 21st Season is Upon Us: Get Ready for Love, Loss, Triumph and Controversy

The Brooklyn Film Festival is back with a vengeance – an artistic, thought-provoking reprisal – in the form of documentaries, features, narrative and animated shorts meant to strike a nerve, inform and leave audiences with a welcomed or unwelcomed – shock to the system. The film festival kicked off its 21st season at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn with a treasure trove of documentaries produced by The New York Times and a mix of animated and experimental films from the Brooklyn Film Festival. The 10-day festival is comprised of approximately 125 features and shorts from 30 countries spread over all continents, except Antarctica. The lineup includes 19 world premieres, 21 from the USA – 37 east coast debuts and 30 first-time screenings in New York City. The festival will present in total 36 short narrative films, 16 short documentary films, 25 animated films and 20 experimental films. There is bound to be a film for all tastes in this roster of diverse presentations from around the globe.

I’m a film buff and constantly seek out new and exciting films – especially independent films that will stake a claim on my brain and will leave me deep in thought for days. Two films that have ambushed my psyche so far: “Lieutenant of the Alt-Right” and “The Story of Esraa.” As the title suggests, “Lieutenant of the Alt-Right” is about one of the members of an extremist, white nationalist group. At first, I scoffed at this documentary, but as I was watched the film’s subject, Eli Mosley, a rising white supremacist leader, whose deep-rooted white male inadequacies was becoming the focus of his drive to spew hate and present himself as an American hero – was quickly challenged in the film. Bravo! To filmmakers, Emma Cott and Andrew Michael Ellis for letting the narrative take shape and expose Eli Mosley and his group’s false, albeit dangerous beliefs, and shed light on to an unfortunate rising movement.

Lieutenant of the Alt-Right, Credit THE NEW YORK TIMES

Photo: Courtesy of Times Documentaries

The second film that left a lasting impression on me is: “The Story of Esraa” – a young 20-something woman who challenges Egypt’s system by attempting to live her life free of her country’s constraints on family, religion, and personal freedoms as she embarks to rent an apartment with her like-minded friends, only to find obstacles and disappointment. This film will resonate with everyone who’s struggled to find their identity and establish themselves on own their own terms. I felt sorrow and hope for this woman, and as I chatted with one of the filmmakers, Mona El-Naggar, Mark Meatto, and Yousur Al-Hlou, I learned about Esraa’s story further. It made me question the freedoms and choices I currently have in the U.S., but for how long? With this administration at the helm chipping away at our Democratic freedoms daily, who’s to say, we can’t find ourselves like Esraa one day?

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Photo: Courtesy of Times Documentaries

The accompanying films on opening night were fantastic as well. The animated short from Italian director Fausto Montanari, “Weird” about girls being different and perceived as odd is a painstaking glimpse of society’s judgmental lens on how we see each other and ourselves. “Deportation Deadline’s” subject matter, by directors Brent McDonald, John Woo, and Jonah M. Kessel is straight from our current news cycle, as many families are continuously torn apart by ICE agents with deportation orders enforced by the Trump administration. The relevancy is strikingly accurate and telling of the injustices currently happening to undocumented immigrants in our country.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

The Brooklyn Film Festival’s (BFF) theme this year is: “Bad times make great art.” And I for one can’t wait to see what’s in store for the duration of this provocative festival that has been staging international and competitive films and independent production of films and drawing worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema. BFF promotes artistic excellence and creative freedom without censure, and has done so since 1998. To see an encore of The New York Times produced documentaries and the Brooklyn Film Festival’s stellar films, click here for ticket info, venues, dates and times. Viva la Cinema!

 

Jonathan Baker Discusses The Resilience of Filmmaking in his New Documentary: ‘Becoming Iconic’

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Photo: courtesy of Jonathan Baker

Jonathan Baker isn’t new to the Hollywood scene. In fact, the writer, producer, entrepreneur and first-time director has immersed himself in show business for the last two decades – one interesting venture at a time. His appearance in “Amazing Race” season 6 along with his then wife, Victoria, sparked controversy, but that didn’t deter him from pursuing worthwhile opportunities and make his artistic mark in entertainment. Serving as writer/producer on Warner Bros.’s Through Scavullo’s Eyes, a documentary on fashion photographer, Francesco Scavullo and the comedy, Dirty Tennis, starring Dick Van Patten and Nicolette Sheridan – earned Baker The VSDA and the New York Film Festival Award for Best Comedy Video of the Year.

Back in the film festival circuit with his new documentary: Becoming Iconic, premiering at the Manhattan Film festival, April 21st, Baker presents audiences with a captivating look at what it’s really like to be a first-time director and directing a feature-length Hollywood film. The documentary chronicles Baker’s experience making his first feature film, Inconceivable – released June 2017, and interjects interviews with industry titans: directors, Jodie Foster (Money Monster, Little Man Tate, Netflix’s “Black Mirror”), Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Jacob’s Ladder), Taylor Hackford (Ray, Dolores Claiborne) and John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, Short Circuit) on their experiences with directing – particularly the struggles and rewarding moments they endured. Inconceivable is billed as a “sexy dramatic thriller” and is about an unhinged woman (Nicky Whelan) escaping her abusive past that moves to a new town and befriends a mother (Gina Gershon) with fertility challenges and supporting husband (Nicholas Cage). Whelan’s character becomes obsessed with Angela’s (Gina Gershon) daughter. There really isn’t anything “sexy” or “thrilling” about women not being able to conceive naturally or the process of egg donation, but I was intrigued to discover the impetus behind the making of this film and what led to it’s production. The screenplay, penned by Chloe King (“Red Shoe Diaries”, Poison Ivy II) is the daughter of Zalman King, who made erotica films popular with 9 ½ Weeks and Wild Orchid. As I watched Becoming Iconic, I quickly stopped to think about the nuances of making a film, Baker’s painstaking challenges in the film depicted with candor and put my thoughts about Inconceivable to the side. I recently chatted with Jonathan Baker on his journey to filmmaking, lessons learned, and what the future holds for this eclectic risk taker.

DSMC: What was the defining moment you knew you wanted to be a director?

Jonathan Baker: It wasn’t about being a director. Directing became part of my journey. Because I’m a control freak, I didn’t want to work on a project and leave final say up to someone else. I wanted to do it myself. I want to own it from beginning to end. Two directors that influenced me are Robert Evans and Warren Beatty. I was playing poker with Robert Evans once and he said: “Jonathan, if you don’t own your content they’ll run you over.” And, that scared me to the core. That was 20 years ago. He said, “You either write it or you buy it. Because if not, you’ll never have the control you want.” I kept that under my hat for a long time. Wanting to be a creator, but not necessarily a director. Then I ran into Warren Beatty and he said “Jonathan, if you can write and produce and do all this stuff, you might as well direct. I told Warren that there are other people out here who can do it better than me. Beatty said, “If you don’t direct your own pictures you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” These are all monumental moments that you’re absorbing. Whether you get what you want or don’t. You’re still scared shitless! It doesn’t matter. I’m a filmmaker, and I love all aspects of this business. I love to touch every point of it and that’s why I put myself in as an actor in the film.

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Photo: courtesy of Jonathan Baker, Jodie Foster with Jonathan Baker

DSMC: How did your relationship with Warren Beatty come about? How did you first meet? I know he was very influential in the work that you’ve done with Inconceivable, Becoming Iconic?

Jonathan Baker: Warren was introduced to me through Hugh Hefner. I would play cards with him every Wednesday. Every Sunday, Hugh would have movie night at his house. I was peripherally hanging out and was able to get to know him. Ten years later, we were still friends and Warren was looking to sell his house. He had never sold a piece of property ever. I convinced him to sell me his house. Reluctantly, he did. It’s kind of him passing the torch, from old Hollywood to new Hollywood.

DSMC: While making Becoming Iconic, you were also directing your first feature, Inconceivable – which wasn’t the film you initially wanted to direct. When everything was said and done with the production partners, Emmett/Furla, and the studio, Lionsgate, what was the outcome of these relationships?

Jonathan Baker: I wanted to make Fate and Icon simultaneously. Lionsgate just sat by and let everything unfold. They were more interested in protecting the entity instead of protecting the film and me. Emmett/Furla and I have run into problems. Sometimes you say what you do and do what you say. And, when that doesn’t happen, I don’t take that lying down pretty quickly. I’m a force to be reckoned with. I got the job done. You take the high road in this business. Because of the relationship with Inconceivable and me owning 50% of the copyright – I only had half the say. Going forward, I will own the full copyright. That’s where the real problems came about. At the end of the day you make your decisions and have to live with the decisions you execute. As a director, I’m responsible for the content. I worked with Emmett/Furla because they brought in 50% of the financing, but I didn’t let our disagreements get in the way of making the film.

DSMC: How did you connect with documentary filmmaker Neil Thibedeau to make Becoming Iconic?

 Back when I was with CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and talking to Warren Beatty, I went on a quest to interview all these directors; the love of them, the love of their work. For me, the greatest part of learning is getting these commentaries. The commentaries are fascinating. I loved it! The things that you don’t know – that you don’t understand about movies. I thought would be great to start with Warren Beatty. And, work my way down the list. It was a journey for me. Many of the greats didn’t make it into the documentary: Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Costner. When I was in the midst of collecting all this information, Lionsgate had asked me to direct. And, I had all this footage of these interviews. I thought, maybe I can juxtapose these interviews with my stories. I got Neil to come in and tell my story. In the middle of telling the story we ran into issues with Inconceivable. I sugarcoated it pretty well. It was interesting to say the least. I thought I was going insane, but when I called up these directors, they confirmed that all these obstacles were part of the filmmaking experience. It was just really worse for me.

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Photo: courtesy of Jonathan Baker, on the set of Inconceivable, Nicolas Cage and Jonathan Baker

DSMC: Were you discouraged as a first-time filmmaker by the negative reviews Inconceivable received? Did these affect you? Is this par for the course?

Jonathan Baker: I read them. When you have an ego, and put yourself in a movie, make a documentary and you want to write and direct it, the haters are out there. I get it. The thing is this: if they’re not writing about you then you’re in worse shape. Inconceivable is popcorn movie for women. With this film, the substance was cornered by the performances and that’s what we all had to work with. What I would disagree with is all the people’s commentary. I read them too. I don’t fight their reviews. As long as people actually saw the movie and have something to say about it. For me, the journey of reviews is taken with a grain of salt. Given the options, limitations, and pressures I was put under by the studio, I’m happy with the results of Inconceivable.

DSMC: What do you want emerging filmmakers to take away from Becoming Iconic?

Jonathan Baker: First of all, like Project Greenlight, this documentary needs to be shown in all the colleges and film classes. It’s a 101 requisite for this business. I give complete insights into not making an independent film, but a studio film. What it takes. How hard it is to hold your vision because it’s extremely easy to be derailed from your vision by producers, studios or even production staff. You have to be completely malleable, but still a leader. These are the most important elements from Becoming Iconic. What I hope people can relate to. I get to step alongside these iconic directors that have made a difference and convey their knowledge to others. The greatest gift each of us can offer one another is education, understanding, and guidance. That’s how we are human.

Becoming Iconic will premiere at the Manhattan Film Festival Saturday, April 21, 2018 at the Cinema Village. For more information on the screening and to get tickets, click here. To learn more about Jonathan Baker’s new films and fashion projects, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parkland and Other Outspoken Student Activists Led Protests For Gun Reform – With No Plans Of Slowing Down!

march-for-our-lives-washington-17-gty-er-180324_hpMain_4x3_992In the midst of the highly anticipated and highly rated Stormy Daniels Interview on “60 Minutes” and the “Who Bit Beyoncé?” controversies, there was the student-led ‘March For Our Lives’ protest Saturday in Washington, D.C., with sister marches across cities in America supporting their mission for gun control reform. I was in D.C. for the march and I’ve been to many rallies protesting all the unfathomable and inhumane policies pushed by this new administration in New York City. But, this march was different. The cause felt universal. There was solidarity in the air that permeated and touched every man, woman, and child present. Emma-Gonzalez-MarchforOurLives-RTR-imgEmma González’s six minutes and twenty-seconds of silence included in her speech – to demonstrate the short amount of time it took the gunman to wipe out the lives of 17 victims – solidified the fact that this tragedy happened, and it could happen to ANY one of us, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. And, if we don’t fight collectively for effective gun policies from our government, these mass-shooting epidemics will cease to exist. González, one of the student organizers and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Parkland, FL sparked a movement, along with her classmates, in just 5 weeks of the massacre on February 14, 2018. There were donations and support given to the teens by some of Hollywood’s A-listers, Oprah Winfrey and George Amal Clooney to name a few. Kimye (Kanye West and Kim Kardashian) and Steven Spielberg were in attendance. As much as I love these celebrities it was great to see that their association with the protest – or even their presence didn’t overshadow these students’ mission. Although the crowd was wowed by performances from Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Lin- Manuel Miranda – the true superstars were the inspirational Parkland students and fellow gun violence survivors/activists who took to the podium visiting from Los Angeles and Chicago.

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Two little girls (King, (from left-to-right) Adler) that stole the spotlight and gave the most impressive and touching speeches of the day are Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King’s granddaughter and Naomi Wadler. King led a chant that had the crowd enthralled and enamored with this spirited 9-year-old, descendant from the iconic civil rights leader. Not to be left behind, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler quickly commanded the crowds’ attention with her choice words: “I am here to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news,” Wadler said. “I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential. For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have just been numbers. I am here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls, too.”

The national and international ‘March For Our Lives’ protests continues to have momentum and is receiving equal parts media coverage and backlash from the NRA and pro NRA supporters. Close one million people attended the ‘March For Our Lives’ in D.C. alone. Rick Santorum, former Republican senator recently stated students should forego protesting and learn CPR – to which Parkland teens responded: “CPR won’t save gunshot victims’ lives” as drew ridicule from healthcare professionals and other ‘March For Our Lives’ supporters condemning the former politician. One thing is clear: these young leaders have proven they can articulate their message with eloquence and class and will not be silenced or bullied by adults with power. They have tenacity and conviction to AFFECT real change in Washington to prevent further mass shootings.

Big Gay Ice Cream x Hot Sox Sock Hop Event Evokes Nostalgia In NYC

The South Street Seaport District was a backdrop to popular, consumer fan favorites: Big Gay Ice Cream and HotSox. The two brands hosted an event at Mr. Cannnon’s Speakeasy recently, celebrating a collaboration between the ice cream powerhouse and the fashion-forward original novelty sock line – with a launch of the Hox Sox x Big Gay Ice Cream limited-edition socks. The socks have the city’s skyline set against Big Gay Ice Cream’s signature motif with the words “Big” and “Gay” emblazoned on each sock.

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Donny Tsang, @donny_tsang on Instagram for the BGIC Event

With its zany and iconic designs, the sock brand has maintained its pulse on pop culture and art throughout the years. Their collections include the Norman Rockwell line, the Artist Series for both men and women and now the wildly popular emoji designs. Growing up in New York City, I’d frequent Greenwich Village as a teen and would find the wildest and original patterns at their stores. With striped and polka-dot hosiery in my fashion arsenal: I was unstoppable in high school and college. The sock brand has been a beacon of self-expresion since it launched in 1971 with silkscreened bright opaque socks. Now HotSox is in 1,700 U.S. stores and can be found throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Co-founder, Doug Quint of Big Gay Ice Cream has been a fan of the quirky and stylish sock brand and was approached by Hot Sox for a collaboration. Big Gay Ice Cream, with its high quality ingredients and untradational toppings has been around since 2009. You can spot their colorful trucks parked around New York City’s famous streets in the summer. In 2011, they set up a brick-n-mortar outpost in the East Village, a second in the West Village, and branched out into Philadelphia’s Center City with another store. They produced their first cookbook: Big Ice Cream: Saucy Stories & Frozen Treats in 2015. Quint and his business partner Bryan Petroff, have been approached by other companies for merchandising opportunities, but opted out to stay true to the brand until they relaunched their site with original products.

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Donny Tsang, @donny_tsang on Instagram for the BGIC Event (from left-to-right, Doug Quint and Bryan Petroff)

When I asked Quint if these limited-edition socks were designed to advocate for the LBGTQ cause, Doug said although we do support and are active in the LBGTQ community and currently support the Ali Forney Center (an organization whose mission is to rescue homeless LBGTQ youth from the streets and place them in safe environments) their motive was to create a fun, durable, unisex sock to make people happy. And guess what? They do. When I put them on – they stay on – and if only for a brief moment, remind me of younger care-free years.

Whether you love history, art, geography, pop culture – or just fashion, check out HotSox latest sock designs and the limited-edition Big Gay Ice Cream x HotSox retailing for $12, here

For everything Big Gay Ice Cream News and Products, click here

Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Ad – Who’s at Fault? Everyone!

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Social Media has revolutionized the immediacy of how the public reacts to news and entertainment. Forget the days of snail hate mail of yesteryear sent to networks and celebrities in large bags. Every single person has a voice – and social forum to be heard. Less than 24 hours since the new Pepsi ad was launched featuring Kendall Jenner, one of the hottest it-models of the moment – the ad has been pulled from every marketing vehicle imaginable. What happened exactly? I follow the Kardashians on social as I’m a pop culture junkie and after I viewed the fury-inducing ad on Kris Jenner’s Instagram, I wasn’t moved, I brushed it off, yet I had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t be well received by the public. It was awkward in execution, odd images of Kendall Jenner abandoning her “model” duties and joining a protest. After having attended two protests this year: The Women’s March in following the inauguration and Not My President’s Day March in February. This commercial didn’t necessarily poke fun at protests – it trivialized the protesting experience. It lumped protests into the next “cool” thing young people are doing or engaged with. Similar to the “Cash me outside, How bout’ Dat?” teen or the incessant iterations on the Internet of Salt Bae. Yeah, nope. The Twitterverse was not having any of it. Everyone and their, mom, aunt, dad and grandpa had to something to say about it. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, posted: “If only Daddy would have known the power of #Pepsi” with a picture of cops strong-arming Martin Luther King Jr. in the 60s.

Pepsi is such a well-known global brand and being asked to be a Pepsi ambassador is mecca for any celebrity: A sign that you’ve made it. Recognition is absolute. Your star power is blinding! If you look at Kendall Jenner’s Instagram post just days before the controversy unfolded, there’s a picture of her idol, Cindy Crawford in a 1992 Pepsi ad.

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Kendall and her clan (momager, Kris included) were so clouded by the prestige Pepsi invokes – that they forgot the messaging behind this partnership. It was an afterthought. No one said, “Hey! maybe this is ad’s message is a little insensitive to people’s causes” As an adoring public, fans, spectators on the sidelines, we want our favorite models, actors, and sport stars to reach the pinnacle of success with all the advertising, movie, fashion deals out there – but one misstep and the crucifixion begins. Kendall Jenner has removed all traces of her ad on her social media accounts and Pepsi has apologized and lamented their insensitivity. But we as a the public must not go on the attack and instead educate companies, and clueless celebrities about history and what protests mean and can achieve for the misrepresented and people without a voice. Not once did I see or hear anyone say: “Hey Kendall, come to my town or join my group so you can see what protesting is really like and what the impetus behind this march means.”