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Hollywood Weekly 4th Annual Film Festival Panel

HW Festival Panel (Photo: Janet Roth)

by Dr. Laura Wilhelm, LauraWil Intercultural

Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/26/17 – This reporter was ever so pleased to cover the film panel moderated by Mr. Newton Lee at the 4th Annual Hollywood Weekly Film Festival held at the Raleigh Studios Screening Rooms located at 5300 Melrose Avenue on Saturday, September 23rd from 5 to 10 p.m.  Mr. Lee is CEO of the Institute for Education, Research, and Scholarships and also teaches computer science and media technology at Woodbury University in Burbank.  

The panelists included the following:

Elizabeth Regal, producer, writer, director, actress, aerialist/trapeze artist, model, and founder/CEO of Envision Motion Pictures.

Varda Bar-Kar, co-chair of the board of New Filmmakers Los Angeles and producer/writer/director specializing in social-activist-driven content in films and documentaries.

Donald E. Lacy, Jr., professional comedian, actor, writer, producer, and show host who was showing one of his movies in the film festival.

Steve Owens, talent manager/tv producer/branding consultant/music producer consultant with 43 Platinum and Gold Records, including Grammy albums.

Dr. George Larkin, chair of the filmmaking department at Woodbury University in Burbank.  He holds a B.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in film and media studies from UC Berkeley.

Daniel Callahan, American Merchant Bank, who is overseeing the Hollywood Magazine Digital Content High Tech Incubator (absent).

The highly interactive panel discussion included the following questions from Newton Lee as well as follow-up questions and commentary from this reporter and the audience.  The answers have been greatly condensed for the purposes of this article.

Question to Varda:  Media educates and entertains.  In 1977, 8% of Americans did not read a book during the entire year.  By 2014, 23% of Americans did not read a book during the entire year.  However, pretty much everybody still watches movies.  How do you see films and documentaries filling the gap of educating the public while entertaining them?

Answer:  My own curiosity about a subject will hopefully be shared through film!  We also need to keep reading.

Question from Dr. Laura Wilhelm:  How about writing?  Many independent filmmakers need to wear many hats when they make their own films.

Answer:  Yes, and a powerful role is now played online through social media engagement with the film viewers.

Question to George and others:  Many great movies are based on great novels.  Yet there is an alarming survey that says 42% of college students never read another book after graduation.  Are universities doing a good job in educating students?  What can be done better?

Answer:  Videos etc. are like a “natural language” for youth.  Students can learn through doing.

Question to Elizabeth and Varda: WONDER WOMAN (a great movie) has become the highest-grossing live-action film directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins.  In computer science, there is always a lack of females in the field. But is there a lack of female directors in Hollywood?  Or is it more a question of equal opportunity?

Answer:  Yes, it is a question of equal opportunity.  Women like Mae West used to make their own films until men realized there was money to be made in the field.  It is now harder than ever for women to get paid for film!

Question to Steve and others:  Music is such an important part of filmmaking.  Even silent films in the early days were shown with live music in the theaters.  Now we cannot imagine STAR WARS without the theme songs by John Williams.  Do you see any new trends with music in films?

Answer:  Both audial and visual content play key roles in today’s films, which are easier to make than ever before.

Question to Daniel:  Every filmmaker is looking for funding to finance their movies.  What criteria do investors use to make their funding decisions?

Answer (via e-mail):  Good investors use due diligence.  They carefully assess the filmmaker’s reputation based upon his/her track record.  Blockbusters tend to have a broad appeal.  Foreign films, documentaries, black and white films, and silent films have less appeal.

Films with a religious message or ones with a more intellectual humor could be a hard sell to the distributor, as well, since their audience is typically quite narrow.  Investment proposals should be in writing and contain an arbitration clause for a more cost effective dispute resolution.

There was general discussion about the difference between documentary and reality programming.  Varda felt that the biggest difference was the intentions of the genres.  Documentary seeks mainly to instruct while reality seeks mainly to entertain.

Laura pointed out that the effects in reality must usually be manipulated since the performers typically are not trained thespians.  When actors and non-actors come together on reality programming, sometimes the non-actors do better with audiences who must also deal more with reality!

The 4th Annual Hollywood Weekly Film Festival was organized by Prather Jackson, Michael D. Coxson, Maria Vascsak, Perry Sagliocco, and Mark Stasenko.  They are now accepting submissions for the next gala Hollywood Weekly event!

The new HWFF catalog was distributed to VIP guests including visitors from the US-China Film & TV Expo, the American Film Market, and invited foreign dignitaries.  Benev provided gift bags as sponsor.

Regular infusions of ginger ale and gourmet sushi were very welcome on this warm afternoon at the historic Raleigh Studios.  As the longest continuously operating studio in the country, Raleigh Studios has played a central role in creating and supporting the modern entertainment industry.  Over the years, the studio has thrived because of its commitment to providing both the highest levels of studio service and the most advanced production technology.