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Lower East Side Film Festival 2021 Announces Hybrid Schedule

The Lower East Side Film Festival announced the schedule for their 2021 hybrid festival, which will run from July 8-12.

The festival’s full programming of independent shorts and features from around the world will be available online, while live screenings for vaccinated film fans will take place at the Village East Cinema.

“11 years ago, our festival was born out of the need for indie-filmmakers to be able to be a part of a community that celebrates films made with huge creativity instead of huge budgets, and that has remained an important part of our ethos since inception,” said Roxy Hunt, Lower East Side Film Festival director. “Year one, we were in a tiny storefront in the Lower East Side, year ten we were virtual, year 11 we’re hybrid! No matter where we are, we’re always excited to be able to deliver a unique experience to our community of filmmakers and film-lovers.”

View the full schedule below:

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July 8

6:30 p.m. — Happy Happy Short Shorts

Just need something to make you smile? 2020 wasn’t exactly a ‘happy’ time… so carve out some time with us to give yourself something to smile about with these gosh-darn fun-loving, laugh-inducing short films that feature everything from romance on a green-screen,
octogenarian comedians, and the nostalgia of a dirty magazine.

Films include: Ramsey, Swipe, Still Standing, Cali Dreams, A Huge Problem

8:30 p.m. — I ❤️ NY Filmmaker Shorts

An array of New York filmmakers will prove that the New York hustle is alive and well; shining bright through their films chalked full of stories that are suspenseful, satirical, surprising and smart — all things that remind us it’s: New York or nowhere.

Films include: Target is Hiring, Signal Problems, Now Is Not The Best Time, A Period Piece, An Occurrence at Arverne, Exposed

July 9th

6 p.m. — Hulu Presents: Mccartney 3,2,1

Hulu’s six-episode music series event features intimate and revealing examinations of musical history from two living legends, Paul McCartney and super producer Rick Rubin.

7:30 p.m. — Express Yourself (Shorts Showcase)

Don’t go for second best baby – put your love to the test and express yourself! From subway dancers to Cuban street artists, to anime cosplay, these short films will give you a hankering to dip into your creative side and express who you are!

Films include: Supermalo, Target is Hiring, All the Shades of Blue, Idolized, Waiting For Me (official music video by Madame Gandhi)

9:30 p.m. — Mind Fuck Shorts (Shorts Showcase)

For more than a decade, LESFF has been fucking with your mind with this ever-popular, ever-bizarre short film showcase – this year featuring a collection of films that, simply said – are a Mind Fuck. Enjoy!

Films include: Body of The Mined, Laying Out, Auction House, Smile or Die, Rangos II, Squeegee

July 10th

Location: Caveat

8 p.m. — Stand-up on Stage & Film (feat. Tig Notaro)

Join us for a night of Stand-up Comedy with NY’s best and brightest stand-up comics, and the premiere of ‘Still Standing’ – a documentary short film from director Elizabeth Zephyrine McDonough (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The Rundown With Robin Thede). The film follows two 80-something comedians, George Saltz and Natalie K. Levant, as they embark on late-in-life careers in the NYC and Philadelphia stand-up scene. Q&A with George and Natalie to follow, moderated by LESFF Juror, Comedian, and Filmmaker Tig Notaro.

July 11th

8 p.m. — All in your Head: Shorts Showcase

Is it you? Is it them? Maybe you’re just in your head about it? These films play head games — from unnatural temptations to seeing visions, to challenging the status quo; this showcase might have you deep in thought or scratching your head.

Films include: The Touch of the Master’s Hand, Say Hey, Catch More, Exposed (Eksponert), The Elephant Gown

July 12th

6 p.m. — Doc Shorts

Storytelling at its rawest, these short documentaries invite you into the world of speed demons on motorcycles, farmers of super worms, anime cosplayers, and the dreams of a Cuban street artist.

Films include: 80-200, Supermalo, Idolized, Bug Farm

8 p.m. —  Closing Night Film: American Insurrection (World Premiere)

Join us for the World Premiere of dir. William Sullivan’s suspense thriller American Insurrection, which imagines a near-future dystopian America where a civilian militia – the self-proclaimed “Volunteers” – have started tracking anyone who is not white, Christian,
straight and cisgender through a barcoding system. Desperate to flee the escalating violence and oppression, a group of friends try to escape over the border into Canada.

The film stars Nadine Malouf, Michael Raymond James, Sarah Wharton, Brandon Perea, Nick Westrate and Jarret Kerr.

Directed by William Sullivan, the film was produced by Anne Dempsey, Jess Weiss, Sarah Wharton and Brandon Roots.

George Lopez and Terrence Jenkins Join “North of the 10” Cast

As Red Guerrilla Entertainment begins principal photography, George Lopez and Terrence Jenkins have joined “North of the 10.” The Rhyan Lamarr;-directed international bromantic comedy is currently shooting in Chicago and will eventually wrap in the United Arab Emirates.

Set to an international romance, “North of the 10” centers on a group of five friends struggling to succeed. The cast also includes Don Benjamin, Tosin Morohunfola, Mykelti Williamson, Yancey Arias, Samer al Masri, LaRoyce Hawkins Stephanie Nur, Matt Rife, Ta’Rhonda Jones, Andrew “King Bach” Bachelor, DeStorm Power, Wesley “Wuz Good” Armstrong and Adam Waheed.

DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, Teamsters and the Basic Crafts and AMPTP Taking Necessary Time to Negotiate Covid-19 Safety Agreement Modifications

In a statement released today by IATSE, the Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the Basic Crafts, and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), together with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced that negotiations will continue regarding adjustments to their Covid-19 Safety Agreement.

The current Agreement, which was previously scheduled to expire today, June 30, will remain in place until a new Agreement is reached.

While Los Angeles County has lifted its mask mandate, people working on Hollywood sets still have COVID-19 safety protocols in place. The Return to Work Agreement, which includes detailed COVID-19 safety protocols for screen productions, was set to expire on June 30 and remains in place.

Yale Drama School Eliminates Tuition After David Geffen Donates $150 Million

Entertainment business titan David Geffen has donated $150 million to the Yale School of Drama, making tuition free for all current and future students.

The school, now known as the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University, said the donation is the largest on record in the history of American theater.

“Yale is well known for having one of the most respected drama programs in the country. So, when they approached me with this opportunity, I knew Yale was the right place to begin to change the way we think about funding arts education,” Geffen said in a statement Wednesday. “Removing the tuition barrier will allow an even greater diversity of talented people to develop and hone their skills in front of, on, and behind Yale’s stages.”

In 2015, Geffen, who founded Geffen Records and co-founded Dreamworks Studio, donated $100 million to renovate and rename Avery Fisher Hall to David Geffen Hall.

Lionsgate Sets Release Dates for “The Jesus Music,” “The Unbreakable Boy” and “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”

Lionsgate announced the release dates for three of its films set for fall 2021 though spring 2022.

Documentary “The Jesus Music” will premiere on Oct. 1 and will have a moderate release from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company. With the Erwin Brothers as directors and Brandon Gregory and Joshua Walsh as producers, the film looks at how Jesus music rose from the ’60s counterculture movement to become a worldwide, billion-dollar phenomenon. “The Jesus Music” is a love letter to fans of Christian contemporary music and includes genre stars Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, and Lauren Daigle.

On March 18, 2022, “The Unbreakable Boy” will wide release from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company. Based on the book by Scott M. LeRette, writer-director Jon Gunn’s film tells the story of Austin, a young boy who was born with autism and rare brittle bone disease. With an indestructible spirit, he transforms and united everyone around him. It stars Zachary Levi, Meghann Fahy, Jacob Laval, Drew Powell, Gavin Warren and Patricia Heaton. Kevin Downes, Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin, Jerilyn Esquibel and Peter Facinelli serve as producers.

“The Unbreakable Weight of Massive Talent” will hit theaters on April 22, 2022. Directed by Tom Gormican, Nicholas Cage stars as a fictionalized version of himself who must accept $1 million to attend a dangerous superfan’s birthday and later ends up recruited by the CIA to save himself and his loved ones. It also stars Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Sharon Horgan, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Lily Sheen and Neil Patrick Harris. Written by Gormican and Kevin Etten, Cage, Mike Nilon, Kevin Turen and Kristin Burr serve as producers.

The Grammy Museum To Join AAFCA and PGA For 2nd Annual Black Music Month Panel

The Grammy Museum will join forces with the AAFCA and PGA for the 2nd annual Black Music Month Panel.

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) first joined forces last year to present the AAFCA + PGA “Black Music Month Salute,” a curated series highlighting the dynamic impact today’s artists have on Hollywood.

“We are pleased to continue our collaboration with the PGA as well as welcome our friends at the Grammy Museum,” said AAFCA CEO Gil Robertson. As advocates and champions of diversity and inclusion, AAFCA is honored to recognize and amplify the important cultural imprint Black music artists continue to make. We started this program last year with Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Chris ‘Ludarcris’ Bridges and executives from John Legend’s Get Lifted team to spectacular success during the pandemic and are fortunate to be here for another round as we slowly but surely emerge from this global crisis.

Moderated for the second year by Robertson with Janine Rubenstein, editor-at-large at People Magazine, this year’s “Black Music Month Salute” will welcome Tyrese Gibson and documentary director Lisa Cortés. The pair will share their individual insights about their unique journeys into the cinema landscape, highlighting both their challenges and triumphs along the way.

“We are delighted to have Tyrese and Lisa [Cortés] join us for the second installment of this dynamic program,” Robertson said. “Tyrese, who began his career as a model and singer, is a film star recognized globally known for projects that have helped change the face of the industry, while Cortés continues to expand Hollywood boundaries for inclusive content and innovative storytelling. Again, we are honored to share these candid discussions with generations now and next.”

CBSN Acquires Lucy Walker Documentary “Bring Your Own Brigade”

CBSN, CBS’ digital streaming news service, acquired “Bring Your Own Brigade” from filmmaker Lucy Walker and Topic Studios. The documentary first premiered in January at Sundance Film Festival and serves an eyewitness journey into the experiences of firefighters and residents who struggle through deadly wildfires.

“I’m thrilled and grateful that now audiences will have a chance to take this emotional, unexpected and revelatory journey for themselves, to meet these characters, and to immerse themselves in this investigation about what is actually going on with these fires, and what we can do to survive them,” Walker said. “Fortunately, I learned there are actually things we can do here in order to save ourselves that I had no idea about before I set out on this quest.”

“Bring Your Own Brigade” will have a theatrical run this summer and later be available on CBSN and Paramount Plus. Release dates have yet to be announced.

“We believe the multiplatform distribution across theaters, Paramount+ and CBSN will ensure the maximum audience for this important film that clearly outlines why wildfires have become more deadly and the very real ways we can protect our communities,” CBS News digital senior vice president Susanne Mei said.

Alongside director-writer Walker, the producers are Holly Becker, Julian Cautherley, Lyn Davis Lear and Martha Eidsness Mitchell. Geralyn Dreyfous, Lynda Weinman, Michael Bloom, Maria Zuckerman, Ryan Heller, Lisa Leingang, Regina Scully, Jamie Wolf, Bill and Laurie Benenson, Melony and Adam Lewis, Jena King, Cindy Harrell Horn, Tony Hsieh, Bryn Mooser and Kathryn Everett serve as executive producers. The sale was negotiated on behalf of the produces by Centic Media.

Action-Comedy ‘Strait Undercover’ To Star An Actor With Down Syndrome

Director Benjamin Gonyo and his production company Fish & Crown Creative are launching “Strait Undercover,” the first action-comedy to star an actor with Down syndrome.

The film stars Race Eberhardt, who plays a government agent forced out of retirement when a crooked politician strong-arms his way through a shady political campaign.

“Inclusion and appropriate representation are important to our company and me personally,” Gonyo said. We’ve created a number of inclusion awareness films for clients. We purposefully cast a hard-of-hearing actor in our feature film Fritz. My company is very comfortable in this space. We don’t see many projects starring actors with special needs. We want to change that!”

Eberhart started acting with Artists Unlimited, a group that provides opportunities for people with physical and mental disabilities to perform in the arts. He met the Fish & Crown Creative team on the set of the TV pilot “Kodeklan,” who ultimately developed the upcoming film around Eberhart’s quirky sense of humor and love for action heroes.

“He loves anything to do with performing, this is his passion in life,” says Suzanne, Race’s mother and manager. “Those with Down syndrome seem to have this real desire to act and perform and so the more opportunities that we can put out there the better. People are going to see them just how they are, the same as you and I.”

The film is being financed by Fish & Crown Creative, through presales and crowdfunding campaigns that aim to raise 10% of the estimated $1 million budget. “Strait Undercover” will begin shooting this fall with a release scheduled for summer 2022.

Check out a 5-minute documentary and film trailer that introduces Eberhart and his team.

Visual Effects Society Announces Special 2021 Honorees

The Visual Effects Society (VES), the industry’s global professional honorary society, announced the Society’s newest Lifetime members and this year’s recipients of the VES Founders Award. The names of this year’s VES Fellows, Honorary members and inductees into the VES Hall of Fame will be announced at a later date. The honorees and Hall of Fame inductees will be celebrated at a special event in October.

Award-winning Visual Effects Producer Mike Chambers and international business and marketing consultant Rita Cahill were named recipients of the 2021 VES Founders Awards. The Society designated digital production manager and noted VFX historian Gene Kozicki, acclaimed creative and cinematic director Richard Winn Taylor II, VES, Mike Chambers and Rita Cahill with Lifetime VES memberships.

“Our VES honorees represent a group of exceptional artists, innovators and professionals who have had a profound impact on the field of visual effects,” said Lisa Cooke, VES Board Chair. “We are proud to recognize those who helped shape our shared legacy and continue to inspire future generations of VFX practitioners.”

Cinema Audio Society Launches Youtube Channel

The Cinema Audio Society has launched its own YouTube channel.

Social committee co-chairs Amanda Beggs and Michael Wynne will upload the first playlist release on June 29 followed by an additional four weekly releases as part of their first series “Getting into the Mix CAS Series: Meet the Winners.”

Titled “Creating the Sound of Mando with Foley Mixer Blake Collins CAS,” the first episode will celebrate the 57th CAS Award Winner in the half-hour category for sound excellence: The Mandalorian Chapter 2: The Child.”

“We are pleased to launch the Cinema Audio Society YouTube channel,” said CAS President KarolUrban. “The original content available exclusively on our YouTube Channel will serve members of the industry internationally while aiming to engage new professionals and further our core principles of education, celebration and advocacy of the craft of sound for picture.”

The 58th CAS Awards, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments in sound mixing, will be held on March 19, 2022, at the InterContinental Downtown Los Angeles.

‘What’s My Name Again?’ Cast and Crew Announced

Other Brother Productions has announced the cast and key crew for the upcoming independent dramedy “What’s My Name Again?”

Set in the year 1985, the film will follow a seemingly quintessential teen grapple with the decision of choosing one of his three fathers’ last names before he comes of age.

The film will star Ryan Winn as Bo Baxter and Allison Byrnes as Karen Humpton. The supporting leads include Nick Schultz, Talia Mychael Blaney, Lucas Coleman, Theodore Newton and Daniel Abraham Stevens.

Writer-director Spencer Zender produced the film with cinematographer Seth Fuller and Margo McHugh. After principal photography in Los Angeles and San Diego wrapped on March 18, “What’s My Name Again?” is currently in post-production.

Eva Longoria and Sid Ganis Appointed to Academy Museum Board of Trustees

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures announced that Eva Longoria has been appointed to its board of trustees, while Sid Ganis will become the museum’s first honorary trustee.

Since starring in “Desperate Housewives,” Longoria has led the charge for female representation in Hollywood and cemented herself as an entertainment industry staple known for her work both in front of and behind the camera. Ganis, a film executive and producer, has been integral to securing the future of the Academy Museum. He will now serve on the board in a lifetime position.

Longoria and Ganis join existing board members Ted Sarandos, chair; Miky Lee (Mie Kyung Lee) vice-chair; Kimberly Steward, secretary; Jim Gianopulos, treasurer; Patricia S. Bellinger, Jason Blum, Arnaud Boetsch, Olivier de Givenchy, Laura Dern, David Dolby, Sidonie Seydoux Dumas, Ray Halbritter, Tom Hanks, Dawn Hudson, Bill Kramer, Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, Ryan Murphy, Isis Mussenden, Dominic Ng, Katherine Oliver, David Rubin, Regina K. Scully, Emma Thomas, Diane von Furstenberg and Kevin Yeaman.

As the governing body of the Academy Museum, the board leads the museum toward a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical and legal governance and financial management policies in addition to securing adequate resources to advance the museum’s mission.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open to the public on Sep. 30.

Array Releasing Acquires New Zealand Indigenous Drama ‘Cousins’

Array Releasing, the distribution arm of Ava DuVernay’s social impact collective Array, has acquired the North America and UKIE rights to the indigenous drama “Cousins.”

Based on the novel of the same name, the film follows three Māori cousins — Mata, Missy and Makareta — who lead separate lives, yet are bound together forever. Orphaned Mata believes she has no whānau (family) and lives out her lonely childhood in fear and bewilderment. Back home on the land in New Zealand, the driven and educated Makareta flees an arranged marriage to study law and begin the search for her missing cousin. She leaves behind cheeky yet dutiful Missy who takes on her role of kaitiaki (guardian) of the land. As the years pass and land surveyors begin to encroach, their promise to bring their stolen cousin home seems more unlikely than ever, until a chance encounter changes everything.

The cast includes Rachel House, Tanea Heke, Briar Grace-Smith, Ana Scotney, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Hariata Moriarty, Mihi Te Rauhi Daniels, Te Raukura Gray and Keyahne Patrick-Williams.

Helmed by Māori filmmaking duo Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith, “Cousins” is written by Patricia Grace. The film is produced by Georgina Conder, Libby Hakaraia and Gardiner under Miss Conception Films and Whenua Films with investment from The New Zealand Film Commission.

The acquisition was negotiated by Gordon Bobb of Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein and Lezcano on behalf of Array, and Gardner and Grace-Smith on behalf of the film.

“Cousins” debuted at number one at New Zealand’s box office when it was released earlier this year. It made its worldwide premiere at the Māoriland Film Festival in New Zealand in March, where it won the 2021 People’s Choice for best feature drama.

The film will make its U.S. debut on July 2 in select theaters including the Angelika Film Center (New York City), Consolidated Theatres Pearlridge (Waimalu, HI) and Consolidated Theatres Ward (Honolulu, HI). It will then make its streaming debut on July 22 on Netflix.

Third Coast Content Begins Production on ‘116: The Unashamed Story’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Third Coast Content has begun production on “116: The Unashamed Story,” which is slated for a 2022 release.

Directed by Dave Rivera, the documentary delves into the impact of a trailblazing label formed by Lecrae and Ben Washer and includes poignant behind-the-scenes footage that visually reveals the challenges that the artists and label faced, as they broke through barriers to create poignant music.

“We could not be more excited to work with Lecrae and his team,” said Ben Howard, principal at Third Coast Content. We love how he has been a disruptor and leader in the worlds of music and faith and are excited to tell the story of Reach Records and ‘116.’” 

The “116” movement has been an unmatched catalyst for change in hip hop and the church. At the height of Reach Records’ greatest musical achievements, Lecrae and “116” artists have artistically and creatively broken barriers within the music industry and the faith community. In the process, they challenged both secular and religious audiences to examine their social positions and prejudices.

Lecrae calls the journey from then to now, “exciting, painful, deeply moving and life-changing over the years,” adding, “my production company, Three Strands Films, is looking forward to the process of making this movie with Third Coast Content and sharing our journey with the world.”

Erin Mae Miller and Howard from Third Coast Content join Lecrae’s production company, Three Strands, as producers. Funding partners include Provident Films and Our Daily Bread Ministries. Executive producers include Adam Thomason for Three Strands; Bill Reeves and Brian Mitchell for Educational Media Foundation; Matt Brubaker and Dave Gavette for ODB; Trey Reynolds and Terry Hemmings for Provident Films.