Thursday, December 28, 2006

Shreveport director ready to shoot first feature

A local director has been making the biggest steps of his career for some time now. After a year of fundraising and years of planning, Shreveport native Jeffrey Goodman is gearing up to shoot his first feature film.

“The Last Lullaby” begins a 22-day shoot in his hometown on Jan. 22. Its production budget is $1.5 million.

Goodman remains tight-lipped about the stars, but we recently discussed some of the hires he’s made so far: producer David Koplan, cinematographer Richard Rutkowski, production designer Elizabeth Mickle, costume designer Erika Munro, first assistant director Yann Sobezynski, and line producer Matt Leonetti Jr.

Goodman is excited to work with Koplan, who produced “Chrystal” starring Billy Bob Thornton and “Winter Passing” starring Ed Harris, Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell.

“Dave produced two movies at our exact budget level, and two movies in the South. He was able to attract A-level talent to these very small films and actually get them out there,” Goodman said. “I can’t think of a more perfect candidate.”

The creative team behind “The Last Lullaby” recently met in Shreveport. When Goodman met Rutkowski and Mickle, he gave them a few pages of notes and DVDs of “The French Connection.”

“I told them what I want for this film is what I call aesthetic naturalism, and I use ‘French Connection’ as a model of that,” Goodman said. “To me it means it is a film that is intimate, very naturalistic, very raw. But at the same time (it) maintains a sense of design, a sense of aesthetic. I keep telling them I think ‘The French Connection’ has an unprecedented look. … Usually films that claim to be cinéma vérité end up being very ugly. They are all about found lighting and found frames, and, ‘Let’s just take the camera out on the streets and see what shows up.’ ‘The French Connection’ has that sense of immediacy, but it also has a sense of beauty and maintains its aesthetic integrity.”

Goodman has scouted locations for “The Last Lullaby” himself. All scenes will be shot in Shreveport or inside a 30-mile radius.

He is confident he has pulled together a team that can create a film that measures up to their hopes. Many have worked together before.

“I’m trying to create as much of a team atmosphere as I can,” Goodman said. He later added, “What my job is right now is to get all of these people into my head and let them know what it is I’m seeing, what it is I’m thinking. Then I can let go and know that they understand, that they get it and will coach everyone around them so they get it and they can deliver everything we’re after.

“I’m not someone who believes in micromanaging. All these guys that I’ve hired know their jobs better than I do. I’m not someone that believes that to be a director is to be a master of every single domain, and every single department.”

Goodman is excited about beginning the shoot and focusing more on the creative side of “The Last Lullaby.” He is still, however, working 'round-the-clock to make sure all the details are in place.

“The process of selling never ends,” he said. “You’re selling to raise the money, you’re selling to get people to let you use their locations, you’re selling to crew members to get them to work on your film, and you’re selling to get actors to work on the project. And once again, you’re selling it to a distributor to get them to buy it. ... You’d think I’ve got money to pay these people and I’ve got a fully financed film. You’d think people would be just lining up, but it’s not that. Every time we interview a camera man, it’s me trying to convince them that this is worth putting on their reel.”

“The Last Lullaby” is co-written and based on a short story (“A Matter of Principal”) by Max Allan Collins. Collins wrote the graphic novel, “Road to Perdition,” which was turned into a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Jude Law and Paul Newman.

The screenplay for “The Last Lullaby” is co-written by Peter Biegen.

An abridged version of this story will appear in The Times next week. PHOTO BY GREG PEARSON/THE TIMES. NOT FOR REUSE.

Is it too late to ruin your Christmas?

Sorry, George. 'Tis the season to celebrate apocryphal Wookiee whining.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Met is coming to Tinseltown on Saturday

The Metropolitan Opera will beam its live, abridged production of "The Magic Flute" into theaters around the world on Saturday.

Shreveporters can get a taste of director Julie Taymor's earnest, futuristic vision of a very silly farce. I saw it two years ago at the New York opera house, and it's completely nuts.

WHAT: A live HD broadcast of Julie Taymor's production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute."
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Dec. 30.
WHERE: Tinseltown movie theater, Shreveport.

What's the big deal? There are two, actually.

Firstly, this experiment is part of a larger trend. Movie theater chains are beginning to flesh out the relatively new market of live HD broadcasts with some intriguing offerings. When the "Blues Brothers" commemorative edition DVD was released last year, they broadcast the film in theaters nationally and beamed in interviews with some of the movie's makers. It was a good idea, even if nobody went. Rock concerts are beginning to get the same treatment.

Now, The Met is getting into the game with live opera broadcasts. For movie theater chains to be interested in attracting a niche arts audience -- or cultivating younger operagoers who don't own tuxes, evening gowns and private jets -- is big news.

Secondly, Taymor directed the gorgeous, bloody movie version of "Titus." A Shakespeare play hasn't been turned into a better movie since this 1999 sleeper.

Her take on "The Magic Flute" is infused with a sci-fi sensibility. She also has fun with Mozart’s devotion to Freemasonry. I'm guessing the camera's lens will bring her extravagant symbolism closer to the viewers' eyes.

In other words, go!

And don't worry about an exhausting running time. This "Flute" will be abridged and will last just 100 minutes. Only the good parts.

This is the first of six live broadcasts of six different shows on six different Saturdays. Click here for more info.

My favorite headline of 2006

Check out this story from CNN:

"S. Korea: See movie, not prostitute"

In an unrelated development, a source in Seoul reported an empty theater at a midnight screening of "Pretty Woman."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Stuck at home for the holidays

I'll resume blogging (and exercise) on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Indie filmmakers making 'Awkward Olympics' for Christmas

Daniel Lachman, a local indie filmmaker, is teaming up with friends to make "Awkward Olympics," a parodic short. They shot it this week. They will edit it in a matter of days. I hope we all get to see it for Christmas. (No pressure, Daniel.)

Check out Lachman's picture. His turn as a sports anchor who exudes contempt for his audience looks strangely captivating. I'm excited to hear someone chew off this line from the script: "No, I’m pretty sure the Germans are going to win, they’re pretty aggressive, for instance, they’ve killed at least one person every year in the rage cage events."

I'm guessing the short will be posted on the following two websites, which are run by groups that helped make it.

http://www.perennialmedia.com

http://www.moviesauce.org

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

'Factory Girl' will not premiere here Dec. 29

"Factory Girl" is being released on Dec. 29 in a single theater, and it won't be in Shreveport or Bossier City. Think the other L.A., rather.

Why just one theater? They are releasing it strictly to qualify for the Oscars.

This little tidbit was offered up by the offices of the Weinstein Company.

The movie is scheduled for a wider release during the first quarter of 2007. Exactly when will it arrive in Shreveport, where much of the feature was filmed? That's not determined yet. Rats!

This project has been attracting some savage media attention. Check out this recent gossip from the New York Post. It appears "Factory Girl" has been put through reshoot hell.

Take a peek at ESPN's 'Ruffian'

"Ruffian" was filmed in Bossier City during spring 2006. Click here to see a four-minute, behind-the-scenes look at the TV movie.

It will premiere on TV and DVD during the Belmont Stakes in June.

The cinematography looks solid, yes? Let's call it an early Emmy frontrunner.

Incidentally, the story of this movie's multi-platform release will be just as notable as its controversial subject. (Ruffian, the legendary filly, broke her leg during a televised match race in 1975 and was euthanized after a long and unsuccessful surgery.)

During a four-day window, ESPN Original Entertainment plans to release "Ruffian" on ABC, ESPN HD, other ESPN networks, VOD (video on demand) and DVD.

The strategy was partly employed with Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble (2006), an indie film that was released in theaters and on DVD at the same time.

While "Bubble" didn't burst the release-in-theaters-first model, the rules of the mainstream TV market might be different.

If you watched a TV movie on ABC and loved it, would you be inclined to buy the DVD just days later? ESPN is betting big that you will. Why? Simple. You probably will have seen it for free the first time.

Poster contest for 'Factory Girl'

Kathryn Usher, a blogger from the Shreveport area, recently posted details about a poster contest for "Factory Girl."

Most of the movie was shot here about a year ago. Scenes were added when the Weinsteins picked it up. Its makers are reportedly still cutting the film just days before its L.A. release date: Dec. 29.

Read a bit more on Usher's blog here.

Check out the movie's official website here, where you can find more info about the poster contest. The contest ends Jan. 31.

You can win some schwag (I want Warhol's hair or Sedgwick's mascara), plus a private screening.

If you make a poster, send it to me. I won't give you any prizes, but I might post it. Keep it clean, designers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Heatmiser, Coldmiser square off for the little ones

The YouTube crowd is rushing to save Christmas from NBC's recent "The Year Without a Santa Claus," apparently. A friend on the prairie (you know who you are) sent me this link. Her son is digging the newish track by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Rock on, little Logan!

'Last Lullaby' is crewing up

Production for "The Last Lullaby" begins on Jan. 22. The film noir indy feature will be directed by Shreveporter Jeffrey Goodman. The script is from Max Allan Collins ("Road to Perdition").

The production is currently searching for crew members, specifically locals. If you have skills, contact the following:

Matt Leonetti
"The Last Lullaby"
600 Common Street
Shreveport, LA 71101
318.222.2422 phone
318.222.2404 fax

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Braugher nominated for Golden Globe. Go, Andre!

Shreveport has one very good reason to watch the Golden Globes. (Don't laugh.)

Actor Andre Braugher was nominated for his work in "Thief," the short-lived FX series shot in Shreveport (five episodes) and New Orleans (one episode). The actor won an Emmy for the role earlier this year.

It's partly a mystery why a critically acclaimed show intended for a full series had to be written off as a mini. Yes, not enough people watched it. But since when is popularity an accurate indicator of quality? Don't audiences eventually come around, at least sometimes?

When it comes to TV entertainment, public opinion can be downright dumb. The Emmy-awarding winning (insert chortle here) "Amazing Race" survives for years, and "Thief" kicks the early bucket? "Amazing Race" is a vacation slide show of Ugly Americanism. "Thief?" A well-written, superbly edited examination of fatherhood, morality, race, loyalty and the choices complicating them all.

The show's lack of buzz or image was a marketing nightmare, yes. But can't the same be said for the early days of "The Shield?" I wish FX and audiences would have invested more in "Thief."

The Golden Globes will air 7 p.m. Jan. 15 on NBC.

Does Shreveport have a shot at the Oscars? Sienna Miller's turn in "Factory Girl" (Dec. 29) is the last remaining hope.

Local children's theater pioneer dies

Isobel Rudy died today. She was the cofounder of the Peter Pan Players theater troupe in Shreveport. The children's theater company was, and still is, driven by her lifelong passion for putting kids on the stage. Since the company produces many Disney musicals, it's safe to say she and her many casts share a deep respect for the big screen.

Here is a link to news of her death.

If you have memories of Miss Iz, please share them here or on the shreveporttimes.com website (below the story in the comments field).

Photo: Robert Ruiz/The Times.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

'Without a Santa' is a ratings stinker

Ratings for the Monday night broadcast of "The Year Without a Santa Claus" were disappointing, to put it mildly.

"Deal or No Deal" took in a solid 10.0 rating and a 15 share during the 7 o'clock slot, but the game show's (bizarrely successful) draw didn't help the Jolly One.

More than half the audience ditched NBC when "Without a Santa" took over from 8 to 10 p.m. It earned a piddly 4.7 rating and 7 share.

Ho ho no.

The TV movie was shot in Natchitoches and Shreveport.

Anybody want to share their two cents about why "Without a Santa" missed?

Source: IMDB.com Studio Briefing.

'Hurricane on the Bayou' IMAX movie opening Dec. 23

A new film examining the health of south Louisiana's wetlands is coming to the IMAX theater at Shreveport's Sci-Port Discovery Center. It will open Dec. 23 for a three-month run of daily screenings.

In early 2005, the makers of "Hurricane on the Bayou" began filming a "what if" documentary about the dangers hurricanes posed to the depleted wetlands and a vulnerable New Orleans.

They were planning to employ digital effects to map out damage potential until Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coast in August.

"Hurricane on the Bayou" now includes pre- and post-Katrina footage.

Mark Olsen reviewed the documentary for the Los Angeles Times in September. He wrote: "Seen on an Imax screen, the now-familiar imagery of the devastation in New Orleans and other areas takes on a new resonance as the sheer size of the affected areas is felt more fully. The format likewise brings into sharp focus the scope of wetlands being lost." For Olsen's full review, click here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

'Homeland Security' trailer already on YouTube

This Millennium Films feature finished shooting in Shreveport in early November. What do you think?

Friday, December 08, 2006

New casting call for 'Blonde Ambition,' 'The Cleaner' and 'Microwave Park'

Emerge Casting will hold an open casting call for extras for three movies from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at B.A. Productions, 6901 W. 70th St. in Shreveport.

The movies are the currently filming “Blonde Ambition” (Jessica Simpson, Luke Wilson) and soon-to-be-filmed “The Cleaner” (Samuel L. Jackson) and “Microwave Park” (Robert De Niro, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson). The last two will begin production in January.

Emerge Casting is seeking people from “all walks of life and all ethnicities.” In particular, the movies need Hispanics, Latinos and African-Americans. They need people to play executives and police officials. They also are seeking photo doubles and stand-ins for the stars.

Applicants must be age 18 or older, and senior citizens are encouraged to apply.

All applicants should bring a current photograph of themselves that measures no larger than 4-by-6 inches.

TO LEARN MORE
Call (318) 603-4511, send e-mail to info@emergecastingla.com or go to www.emergecastingla.com.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Hudelson/The Times. No for reuse.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What is on TV, film or DVD?

A reader contacted me today to ask what Shreveport-based movies/TV shows she can watch on DVD. To my knowledge, just "Road House 2."

Per her prompting, here's a list of projects that have finished shooting here.

Info about release dates (both theatrical and DVD) follows. If you know something I don't, please email me.

“Thief”
TV miniseries
Premiered on FX on March 28, 2006
Not yet available on DVD

“Not Like Everyone Else”
TV movie
Premiered on Lifetime on July 10, 2006
Not yet available on DVD

“Road House 2: Last Call”
Feature DVD
Released to stores on July 18, 2006

“The Guardian”
Feature film
Premiered in theaters on Sept. 29, 2006
DVD to be released on Jan. 23, 2007

“The Initiation of Sarah”
TV movie
Premiered on ABC Family on Oct. 22, 2006
Not yet available on DVD

“The Year Without a Santa Claus”
TV movie
Premieres on NBC on Dec. 11, 2006

“Factory Girl”
Feature film
Premieres in theaters on Dec. 29, 2006

“Premonition”
Feature film
Premieres in theaters on March 16, 2007

“Mr. Brooks”
Feature film
Premieres in theaters on May 11, 2007

“Ruffian”
TV movie
Premieres on ESPN, ABC in June 2007

“Homeland Security”
Feature film
Theatrical premiere date for 2007 still TBD

“Scarlett”
TV pilot
Has not been released (anybody know?)

"The American Standards"
Feature film
Has not been released (anybody know?)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Extras needed now for 'Blonde Ambition'

The movie "Blonde Ambition" is casting extras for work Thursday and Friday. For more information, contact Tara Duncil, of Emerge Casting, at (318) 525-1468 or tduncil@emergecastingla.com. The Shreveport-based production needs a real cyclist, a real welder and construction workers. Positions are paid. "Blonde Ambition" stars Jessica Simpson and Luke Wilson.

Monday, December 04, 2006

'Without a Santa' to get local screening on TV premiere night

File this under: "Things that make you go hmmm."

"The Year Without a Santa Claus," an NBC movie shot in Natchitoches and Shreveport, will be screened without commercials at Shreveport's Municipal Auditorium exactly one hour before its TV premiere on Dec. 11.

The local screening starts at 7 p.m. The NBC premiere starts at 8 p.m.

A sixty-minute head start might not propel Joe Couch Potato out of the house on a Monday night.

Since the TV movie used hundreds (and well more than a thousand) extras, however, I'm guessing the Municipal screening might stuff a stocking or two.

All the details are here on shreveporttimes.com.

Below are the basics:

ON TV
WHEN:
8 p.m. Dec. 11.
STATION: NBC.

SPECIAL SCREENING
WHEN: 7 p.m. Dec. 11. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Municipal Auditorium, 725 Elvis Presley Ave. in Shreveport.
COST: free, but tickets are required. They can be picked up at the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau, the Municipal Auditorium, the Bossier Visitor Center and the Louisiana Boardwalk’s information center. Only six tickets per adult.
INFO: (318) 222-9391.

PHOTO CREDIT: "The Year Without a Santa Claus" stars (left to right) Eddie Griffin as Jangle, John Goodman as Santa, Delta Burke as Mrs. Claus, Ethan Suplee as Jingle and Chris Kattan as Sparky. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC Photo)

Friday, December 01, 2006

De Niro, 50 Cent team up for 'Microwave Park'


De Niro
Originally uploaded by cherurgia.

Robert De Niro and rapper 50 Cent (or actor Curtis Jackson, if you prefer) will star in the tentatively titled "Microwave Park." It will shoot in both Shreveport and New Orleans, and begin production in mid January.

The project will be Millennium Films' fourth consecutive project in Louisiana.

For another update to my story, click here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sneak a peek at 'Santa'

"The Year Without a Santa Claus," an NBC movie of the week, airs Dec. 11. The corporate website has posted an extended clip. It features the show's lively musical number. Click here, and then click on "watch a special extended preview."

"Without a Santa" was shot in Natchitoches and Shreveport during the dog days of summer, much to John Goodman's overwhelming sense of joy. He recalled during a teleconference: "It was the Santa diet. I lost ten pounds every day."

In an unrelated story, Goodman now weighs a negative forty pounds.

Photo: Harvey Fierstein as Heatmiser, John Goodman as Santa Claus, Michael McKean as Coldmiser-- NBC Photo: Bill Matlock. Not for reuse.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NBC says paparazzi can't find Shreveport


Jessica PopSugar.com
Originally uploaded by
alexandyr1.
NBC's Don Teague just wrapped a report on the growth of the film and TV industry in Shreveport. Intriguing story, and you can watch it here.

He said that Shreveport will entertain $300 million in production value during 2006. He also said the city is getting almost a dozen new productions for 2007. I don't dispute the facts (yet).

Quite funnily, however, Teague claimed, "For some reason, the paparazzi just can’t seem to find Shreveport on a map."

Um, then what is this picture of Jessica Simpson (on the set of "Blonde Ambition") doing on PopSugar.com? Perhaps it was snapped by a cartographer.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Stop calling me!

I'm sensing the beginning of a media frenzy because photographers with fake names keep contacting me.

They are no doubt interested in "Blonde Ambition," a production that begins filming Tuesday, Nov. 28. I'm counting the minutes until I see the first paparazzi pic of of an ever-saucy Willie Nelson eating a Herby K's Shrimpbuster and chuggin' (or is that smokin'?) a Bud.

They also might be interested in candids of the other stars: Rachael Leigh Cook, Andy Dick and Penelope Ann Miller ... and two others named Jessica Simpson and Luke Wilson, or something.

If you want a wee bit more detail, click here for my shreveporttimes.com story.

Meet the producer of 'Blonde Ambition'

Local filmies will have a chance to talk shop with Millennium Films producer Richard Salvatore ("Blonde Ambition," "Homeland Security"). He is the featured speaker at this month's Meet Up for local actors.

The event is an opportunity to learn about the area's newest productions and connect with industry folks. Actor and casting director Josh Durham will be there, too.
___

IF YOU GO
WHEN: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 30).
WHERE: Bears Café, 1401 Fairfield Ave., Shreveport. Near the I-20 exit.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Shreveport apparently has its own 'hero'

The following is from Jeff Benson and David Wright, The Times' resident "Heroes" superfans:

Local fans of the new fall NBC television series “Heroes” may have noticed something familiar about the list of special people unlocked by genetics professor Mohinder Suresh (actor Sendhil Ramamurthy) in the Nov. 20 episode of the series, “Chapter 9: Homecoming.”

Throughout the first eight episodes, Suresh has struggled over whether he will follow his murdered father’s work on the radical theory that there are people with extraordinary abilities living among us. Last Monday, he decided he would continue tracking down these individuals around the world. Accessing his father’s computer, Suresh finds a file listing names and cities. As the camera moves in for a close screen shot, the name Teresa Hue Pham is visible beside -- Shreveport, LA.

A real person? Probably not; however, the last name does exist in the Shreveport telephone directory. Of the characters listed on the screen alongside the Shreveport name, at least six of them are known characters, opening the possibility that more are yet to be introduced. Maybe one from Shreveport?

And what would her special ability be? So far, among the known talents: telepathy, telekinesis, regeneration, time/space manipulation, precognition, flight, power mimicry, superhuman strength, super intelligence, irradiation/burning, matter phase-shifting.

Aside from the possible local connection, the meaning of the list has stirred a number of speculations on forums across the Internet in “Heroes” discussions.

RPG.net: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=297454&page=4

Spacecast Community: http://forums.spacecast.com/forums/285519/ShowPost.aspx

Heroes -- Patient Zero: http://heroespatientzero.blogspot.com/

You can watch the “Homecoming” episode and others online and learn more about the characters at http://www.nbc.com/Heroes/.

Thanks, Jeff and David.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman remembered

Robert Altman’s sensitive genius was the heart of “A Prairie Home Companion,” his final film. The fictionalization of Garrison Keillor’s popular radio variety show was released this year.

It was not simply that Altman perfectly captured Keillor’s comic sense of the Minnesota melancholy. We’re a pensive people (I’m from Minnesota), we’re constantly aware we’re going to die, but we nevertheless love the wait.

It was that Altman was able to take Keillor’s voice and make it speak in a new way.

With his news from Lake Wobegon, Keillor always talks about folks who’ve grown tired but are strangely invigorated by warning their offspring about the perils of age.

Altman was wise enough to see that Keillor’s wholesome morbidity is the force that renews us all.

Death, in the movie, is not something to fear. It is a motherly angel of death who is kind enough to take a man during his greatest moment of pleasure: while waiting in his dressing room for a little nookie with his sweetheart. We should all be so lucky to die while feeling so happy to be alive, while waiting for something good.

I’m just thankful Altman left us with a final vision of what a great death really can be. He understood Keillor. He understood Minnesota. He understood me. At age 81, he went out knowing how I want to go: wanting more.

Robert Altman dead at 81

The word auteur doesn't begin to describe Robert Altman's contributions to film history, but it's a pretty good start.

Here are a few of the best pieces posted today:

A Rogue Cinematic Player Steeped in the Art of Ambiguity by A.O. Scott on nytimes.com

Director Robert Altman dead at 81 by Christy Lemire (AP) on forbes.com

Robert Altman remembered by Roger Moore on blogs.orlandosentinel.com

Robert Altman, Iconoclastic Director, Dies at 81 by Rick Lyman on nytimes.com

Robert Altman, American maverick, dies aged 81 by Xan Brooks on guardian.co.uk

Obituaries: Robert Altman on bbc.co.uk

Director Robert Altman Dies at 81 by Adam Bernstein on washington.com

And here's a solid piece about his process:

Radio for the Eyes by Peter Kaufman on washingtonpost.com.

Monday, November 20, 2006

'Factory Girl' for your consideration, plus trailer online


Actor Edward Herrmann talks with actress
Sienna Miller during a rehearsal for the
filming of "Factory Girl" at the intersection
of Texas and McNeill in downtown
Shreveport, La. At right is director George
Hickenlooper. Not for reuse.
(Jim Hudelson/The Times.)
Originally uploaded by
alexandyr1.

Oh, the innocent early days of Shreveport's foray into the movie industry.

Way back in January 2006 - I was just a wee reporter with a sharp pencil and dull ideas in those days - the makers of "Factory Girl" and a gaggle of paparazzi descended on our fair city. I shadowed the cast and crew during one fine afternoon shoot, watching Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller) beg for money, shoot heroin and look like a pixie from Halloween hell.

Aye, the warm make-believe memory is enough to make me wistful.

The Weinstein Co. has finally confirmed its Oscar hopes for the feature film. It opens Dec. 29.

Click here to see the trailer! (Thanks, Anon.)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Goodman, Burke had a jolly time in Natchitoches, Shreveport

During a conference call today, the stars of "The Year Without a Santa Claus" expressed affection for Louisiana. Here are short excerpts from the interview with John Goodman, who plays Santa, and Delta Burke, who plays Mrs. Claus.

Goodman, who lives in New Orleans with his family, said it was good to film in northwest Louisiana. "The way things are going, kid" – he called me kid! – "it was nice to give a little shot in the arm for the state economy."

He added that a week spent in Natchitoches was the best. "The things that they put up with ... ." No kidding. During evening hours, the crew would block traffic on Front Street for hours on end.

Burke didn't get to shoot in Natchitoches, but she dug Shreveport. "It was great to shoot there. I love Louisiana." She mentioned she formerly lived in New Orleans. "They were so gracious and accommodating to the film in Shreveport."

Executive producer Mark Wolper was on hand to offer his two cents on Natchitoches. "I don't think I've ever filmed somewhere where the community and the people were so accommodating."

Ah, shucks. They like us. They really like us.

The TV movie will air Dec. 11 on NBC.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Local short competing in Apple film festival

The short called "Desolate" by Chris Lyon and Luke Lee has been posted to the website for Apple's Insomnia Film Festival. The Shreveport filmmakers made it during 24 hours last weekend.

Click here to see it.

Watch, and rate it if you want to. Voting closes Dec. 5. They are competing against 145 films. If enough people like "Desolate," Lyon and Lee get free Apple stuff.

If you want to chat about the short, or even review it, please use the comments field below or email me at akent@gannett.com.

Is movie-making a 'clean industry?'

Kathryn, a reader of this blog, sent in this link to an intriguing AP story. It ran on Yahoo this week:

Study Finds Hollywood Can Be Filthy
Tuesday November 14 5:43 AM ET

Special effects explosions, idling vehicles, teams of workers building monumental sets all of it contributes to Hollywood's newly discovered role as an air polluter, a university study has found.

The film and television industry and associated activities make a larger contribution to air pollution in the five-county Los Angeles region than almost all five other sectors researched, according to a two-year study released Tuesday by the University of California at Los Angeles.

Although Hollywood seems environmentally conscious thanks to celebrities who lend their names to various causes, the industry created more pollution than individually produced by aerospace manufacturing, apparel, hotels and semiconductor manufacturing, the study found.

Only petroleum manufacturing belched more emissions.

"People talk of 'the industry,' but we don't think of them as an industry," said Mary Nichols, who heads the school's Institute of the Environment, which released what researchers called a "snapshot" of industry pollution. "We think of the creative side, the movie, the people, the actors we don't think of what it takes to produce the product."

To read the full story, click here.
Photo: Val Horvath/The Times. Not for republication.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How did Louisiana escape Borat?

If you watched the map in "Borat" closely, you know Louisiana barely escaped being the butt of Sacha Baron Cohen's make-glorious-fools-for-humor jokes. I'll bet he filmed a scene or two in the Pelican State. Know anybody who spotted a bear in the back of an ice cream truck during summer 2005? Tell me. I don't want to wait for the DVD's deleted scenes.

A Mississippi TV station got hammered in the mockumentary. If you didn't catch the following AP article, it's worth the read. Below is an excerpt:

'Borat' duped TV producer (click for full article)

By KATHY HANRAHAN
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

JACKSON - The antics of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as his alter-ego Borat aren't funny to a former Jackson television producer who says she was duped into giving Cohen air time.

Former WAPT-TV Channel 16 morning-show producer Dharma Arthur claims Cohen's live interview led her life into a downward spiral. Arthur said she won't sue the filmmakers or Cohen, but merely wants an apology. ...

Arthur, 35, said she was contacted by a publicist claiming to sponsor a reporter from Kazakhstan who was working for Bulgarian television and traveling across the United States to get a look at life in American behind the propaganda. ...

On the premise it was a documentary to be aired in Bulgaria, Arthur and others at the station signed a release allowing Borat's crew to use their images.

During the 6 a.m. show, WAPT anchorman Brad McMullan started to interview Borat, and Arthur says the character "went nuts." Borat opened the segment by saying he had to go "urine" and then offered to share his sister with the newsman, Arthur said. The station tried to cut to commercial but had technical problems, Arthur said. Eventually a commercial break was taken and an intern escorted Borat to the door.

"She had him right out of the studio and he went back in," Arthur said.

Borat went back onto the set and hugged weatherman Ken Johnson during the morning forecast. Arthur then personally removed Borat from the set, but the damage was already done.

"It happened. Our people handled the situation extremely well and now we're in the film," Barkley said.

Though Arthur stayed with the station through Hurricane Katrina a few weeks later, she left in March.

"This guy is causing harm and that is not funny," she said.

Click here for the full article, which includes a hilarious bit about a dinner-gone-seriously-unglorious in Natchez.

Va-va-va-voom! Strip down acting to its bare essentials

Here's the most bizarrely titillating email I've received this week: Learn acting from strippers. Obviously recognizing the genius that is Elizabeth Berkley, lsu216@yahoo.com writes:

I'm trying to organize a meetup at the Deja Vu during the month of November if anyone is interested.

The subjects on the agenda will include the following:

1) Mastering Non-Verbal Communication: The Art of Body Language

2) Stage Acting: The Art of "Stripping Away" Your Inhibitions

3) Audition Techniques: Effective use of Props, Prepositions and Propositions

4) Live Acting & Performance

5) Scene Analysis & Critique. I have contacted local performers Heather, Amber, Bubbles, Crystal, Bambi, & Velvet, and they are in the process of making arrangements to be available for the evening. Please RSVP.

Please, please, please RSVP. I want to cover it! Or uncover what's going on. ... Whatever, just email lsu216@yahoo.com.

This must be a hoax, but can you pretty please make it real?

______

UPDATE 12:45 P.M. Alas, lsu216 responded to my query, "its only a dream...its only a dream!" Visions of a Pulitzer have been shattered, but it was sure worth the laugh. Borat would be proud.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Crew union seeking new members

If you've worked on a movie crew in Louisiana for at least 30 days, IATSE Local 478 is requested you join its union. All projects that have filmed in Shreveport recently have been union-based, according to the Shreveport-Bossier Film Office.

Eligible applicants include anyone who has worked on a feature film, TV, video or commercial project. Job titles included gaffers, paramedics, location assistants, set designers, construction workers and more. Check out IATSE Local 478's website for a list of what jobs cut the mustard.

Upcoming feature film shoots for Shreveport include "Blonde Ambition" (end of November), "The Cleaner" (January 2007), "Harold & Kumar Go to Amsterdam" (January 2007) and tentatively "The Last Lullaby" (January 2007).

These movies won't get made by themselves!

For information about joining, contact:

Mike McHugh, Business Agent
IATSE Local 478
(504) 486-2192

Betty Jo LeBrun-Mooring, Executive Director
Shreveport-Bossier Film Office
(318) 222-9391.

Got scooped by Cojo

Entertainment Tonight recently visited the "Homeland Security" set in Shreveport. Unlike me (insert a string of four-letter words here), Cojo was able to sit down with Meg Ryan. Here's a link.

And like you, I'm not quite sure how to make fun of this picture.

Friday, November 10, 2006

DIY moviemakers have 24 hours to complete short for Apple film festival

DIY moviemakers earn nothing but my respect. College students who spend their student loans on making short films are endearingly nuts. They call in favors for locations, "borrow" music for soundtracks and usually shoot on public streets without permits.

What they do bleeds passion, guts and attitude.

Sure, there are a lot of crappy, undisciplined DIY projects -- have you ever seen anything remotely interesting on YouTube? -- but Chris Lyon (right) and Luke Lee (left) don't make them.

They meet a nice standard for young DIY filmmakers. Their most recent shorts are atmospheric, sharply shot, well lit, tightly edited and just plain fun. And their obsession with murder, mortality and symbolism is, well, definable. That's more than most DIY filmmakers can say.

On websites like theirs, you can watch taste and sensibility develop. They get better each time out, and it's casually fun to chart their progress.

If you want to see a sample, download "Snapshots of a Death." Don't worry about that title.

Starting at 5 p.m. today, Lyon and Lee will lead a team of moviemakers participating in Apple's Insomnia Film Festival. They have to make and submit a short film (one to three minutes long) within 24 hours. Whatever they make will compete against lots of entries from around the country. I'll post a link when it's live.

"We’re given specific instructions, and we don’t know if they are going to give a genre or a specific prop or a specific line. We have a few cooker cutter ideas of how we can do it," Lyon said.

Their film will be judged by you, me and Dupree until Dec. 3. After that official judges will determine the best of the top 25 and dish out some Apple schwag.

Good luck. I at least want an Apple sticker.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Holy Santa Co., Shreveport! 'Without a Santa' is all you

Well, well, well, extras. It seems the TV industry is finally giving you some face time. "The Year Without a Santa Claus," a TV movie starring John Goodman, has visages from northwest Louisiana plastered all over its candy-colored world.

Who, oh, who gets the most exposure? I recognize a few folks. One featured prominently is Shreveport's most accomplished mugger, Eric Gipson.

He plays a henchmen of the evil elf (Chris Kattan), who is sucking the spirit out of poor Santa with a craze to commercialize Christmas. Shocker of a storyline, I know.

The star throws a cell phone, and Gipson catches it. The star looks confused, and Gipson raises a single eyebrow. As schtick goes, it's scene-stealing.

"The Year Without a Santa Claus," another cautionary tale about consumerism gone wild, premieres Dec. 11 on NBC.

If you think you are in the movie, email me a mugshot.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Shreveporter's 'Judges' is on the rental racks

Stephen Patrick Walker, a Shreveport native who made the low-budget "Judges" in Virginia, has recently moved back home to make more movies.

"Judges" is currently available through Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery and his website. Box stores' dot-coms might have it, too.

To make things cooler for Walker, his people (I love that stupid phrase) are currently pushing "Judges" at the American Film Market's trade show in Los Angeles. They are hoping to land "Judges" an international distribution deal, perhaps in countries like Germany, Spain and Japan.

"It's a modern-day western, basically a revenge tale about a drifter who comes into town to avenge his brother's death," Walker told me back in March.

The spaghetti western-inspired feature runs 96 minutes and was made for $150,000 (that's not a typo).

If you haven't seen it, it's worth the cheddar. Despite being made on the cheap, it's big on attitude and atmosphere. The script cuts some seriously good cheese, too.

"I really just love those sarcastic one-liners and decided that was the kind of film I was going to write," he said.

Hollywood Videos in Shreveport and Bossier City have it. I checked.

Walker graduated from Shreveport's Southwood High School in 1996.

Soon I'll chat with him about his plans.

And by the way, "Mr. Brooks" was screened at AFM. It stars Kevin Costner, Demi Moore and William Hurt and was shot in Shreveport between April and July.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Shreveport gets state award for film support

Shreveport will collect some hardware for helping film and TV productions relocate to north Louisiana after hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged south Louisiana. On Wednesday at an awards banquet in Baton Rouge, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and the Louisiana Division of the Arts will honor the city with a Governor’s Arts Award for helping develop the state’s cultural economy.

The statement singled out Shreveport and north Louisiana for “(stepping) forward to aid productions in relocating to the Shreveport area. ... As new feature films are announced, the Shreveport-Bossier City region looks forward to playing a leading role in the continuing growth of Louisiana’s film industry.”

Arlena Acree with the city’s Economic Development office said the award was a good sign. “It provides another example of what Shreveport can do to lure the business here,” Acree said. “We make it easier for them to make movies here, and the word is really getting out.”

Budgets budgets for all 13 productions shot in northwest Louisiana from October 2005 to present total an estimated $207.7 million. Most industry experts commonly estimate that as much as one-third of this figure has been spent in Louisiana. Three additional features — “Blonde Ambition,” “The Cleaner” and “Harold & Kumar Go to Amsterdam” — are scheduled to begin production soon.

For a link to the full story and list of award recipients, click here.

Mozart documentary, concert set for Friday

Cinephiles and music lovers will pay tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 250th birthday on Friday, Nov. 10.

The documentary “In Search of Mozart” will be shown at the LSUS University Center in Shreveport. The 7:30 p.m. screening will be preceded by a 7 p.m. concert by the Premier String Quartet.

“In Search of Mozart,” directed by Phil Grabsky, investigates the famous composer's life and mind.

Perhaps more importantly, can it explain the relative disappearance from movies of the incredible Tom Hulce? "Where's Boofy?" (I think he's in "Stranger than Fiction," thank goodness.)

Door admission is $5. LSUS staff and students get in free if they show a current ID. Proceeds will benefit the event’s sponsoring organizations, the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra and the Robinson Film Center. For more information call the SSO at (318) 222-7496 or the film center at (318) 424-9090.

The quartet is made up of Shreveport Symphony Orchestra members: concertmaster Kermit Poling, assistant concertmaster Elizabeth O’Bannon, acting principal violist Adrienne Gabriel and principal cellist Ruth Drummond.

Photo credit: Kerstin Joenssen/AP.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Extras casting call for 'Blonde Ambition'

"Blonde Ambition," a Millennium Films feature, begins filming in Shreveport at the end of November. There is an extra's casting call today (Nov. 5) at the Louisiana Boardwalk.

The movie is a remake of "Working Girl" and stars Jessica Simpson and Luke Wilson.

Millennium Films will wrap production on "Homeland Security" this week.

OPEN EXTRAS CASTING CALL
For: “Blonde Ambition” starring Jessica Simpson and Luke Wilson.
Needed: humorous extras to play construction workers, German-speaking executives, cab drivers, office executives (esp. African Americans), puppeteers, mimes, jugglers, clowns, midgets and a robust German female barmaid. Must be 18 or older. Senior citizens welcome. These are paid positions.
What to bring: it is recommended that applicants bring a snapshot of themselves, no larger than 4 by 6 inches.
When: noon-7 p.m. today (Nov. 5).
Where: Louisiana Boardwalk management offices, Bossier City. Doors are located near the escalator on the second floor of the parking garage.
Cost: free.
More info: info@emergecastingla.com or emergecastingla.com.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bo Duke never gave up the General

The golden boy behind the 1969 Dodge Charger has returned to the road. John Schneider, who earned his fame as Bo Duke on the '80s television series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” will pull into the Louisiana Boardwalk's Regal Cinemas on Tuesday to promote his self-produced movie, “Collier & Co.”

The movie will be screened at 7 p.m. He will start signing autographs at 5 p.m.

"I haven't had this much fun since I was 16 and shooting a super 8 movie of me driving fast around a corner in a yellow Capri," Schneider said.

The star wrote the first draft of “Collier” while working on the “Dukes” set more than 20 years ago. It’s about a car thief trying to put his family back together. And yes, for "Collier" he does drive an orange 1969 Dodge Charger for getaway scenes. It’s called the Traveller (or "I don't own the copyright" for short), the name of General Robert E. Lee’s horse.

And it seems the Traveller is attracting just as much trouble as its predecessor. Schneider is towing two orange Chargers on the back of a Dodge truck from city to city for single screenings. Two nights ago while driving near Enterprise, Ala., a bullet supposedly went through a Charger window.

"There was glass coming out of the jump car. Somebody had shot out the window," Schneider claimed, but failed to blame the real culprit. "I can't think anybody was doing it on purpose."

A three-word hint: "Gyet, gyet, gyet!"

Schneider hopes people laugh at what he calls a family movie. His production company paid for it.

"It’s a very ambitious home movie. I recognize this when I watch this," Schneider said.

He has been touring cities throughout the South, and in some cases, delivering the movie reels to the projectionist himself.

"Walking up the dark stairs and seeing where the movies go and how to load reels onto the projector, this has been really fantastic," he said. "This is the most important end of the motion picture industry."
______

IF YOU GO
What: Screening of “Collier & Co.” starring John Schneider.
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 7. Autographs begin at 5 p.m.
Where: Louisiana Boardwalk’s Regal Cinemas, Bossier City.
Admission: $10.
Website: www.collierandcomovie.com.

Friday, November 03, 2006

'Half Nelson' puts the squeeze on 120


Half Nelson Crowd
Originally uploaded by
alexandyr1.

The Robinson Film Center's Chris Jay reports on last night's screening below. I couldn't go because I was doing this. I want to know what readers thought of the movie and event. Lastly, note what Chris writes about the next movie in the series:

"A small but enthusiastic group of around 120 moviegoers attended The Robinson Film Center’s one night-only engagement of ‘Half Nelson’ starring Ryan Gosling on Thursday night. The crowd was a true cross-section of Shreveport-Bossier City, comprised equally of scruffy college students, professionals still dressed for the office, and retirees. Most of the audience members with whom I spoke had read the glowing reviews of ‘Half Nelson’ and were exuberant about having the opportunity to see the film without driving to Dallas.

"The film’s honest portrayal of a young, drug-addicted history teacher’s struggles to keep the lives of his students on-track while flirting with complete self-destruction obviously left many audience members shaken. Perhaps the most difficult (and rewarding) aspect of the film is that it does not end with the standard Hollywood-style redemption of the protagonist. We’re left with a glimpse of what this man’s life could be like were he able to stay sober, but no reassurances that he can. A group of around 50 audience members remained after the credits rolled and gave a standing ovation for 'Half Nelson,' which was a wonderful moment to witness. In these times of dropping box office grosses and endless, mindless sequels and re-makes, bringing this film to Shreveport-Bossier City was rewarding.

"Thursday’s ‘Half Nelson’ screening was an experiment of sorts, to see whether Northwest Louisiana would turn out for a film like this. The organizers were encouraged enough by the attendance and enthusiasm on Thursday night that we have decided to bring one film per month (roughly, depending on holidays and the usual scheduling considerations) until the grand opening of The Robinson Film Center in downtown Shreveport. Possible films for December are ‘The Science of Sleep,’ ‘The U.S. Vs. John Lennon,’ and ‘The Queen.’ I am always seeking community members who are willing to help promote these events. If you would like to help pass out flyers and spread the word, e-mail me at cjay@robinsonfilmcenter.org. To receive monthly updates about this series, sign up for our e-newsletter at http://www.robinsonfilmcenter.org/."

-- Chris Jay

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Show your love for the Goss!

Ryan Gosling, who has single-handedly made the skinny-and-scruffy look cool again, can be seen at 7:30 p.m. tonight in "Half Nelson" at Louisiana Boardwalk's Regal Cinemas in Bossier City.

No, the star won't be there for the launch of the Robinson Film Center Presents series, but plenty of cinephiles will get to see him act all Oscar for the indie flick.

Today marks RFC's biggest effort to date to bring independent film back to the theaters of Shreveport-Bossier City.

Tonight's screening only happens once. Tickets are $7.50 each. Buy them at the door of the theater. Do not stop at the ticket window. Call RFC at (318) 424-9090 to make reservations, if you like.

RFC's Chris Jay will blog about the screening tomorrow on Louisiana Movies, and I'm expecting him to send in a picture. I don't want to post a shot of him, a tub of popcorn and a mass of empty seats. ... No pressure, Chris.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All signs pointed 'Harold & Kumar' to Shreveport


Producers of 'Harold & Kumar':

A wise reader, Noma Fowler-Sandlin, recently shared a thought about a possible location in Shreveport: "You must 'scout' the great street sign on the corner of Highland and Stoner for them. It's time has finally come. It must be in this movie!"

Smokin' advice, Noma.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hold onto your hashish: 'Harold & Kumar' are coming!


haroldkumar
Originally uploaded by alexandyr1.
The gods must be smiling on Shreveport, because the sequel to “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” is set to film here in January. Actors John Cho and Kal Penn will reprise their roles for the feature film.

“We’re excited. It’s kind of a road picture,” said line producer Lampton Enochs.

En route to Amsterdam to chase romance and obtain smokable substances illegal in the U.S., Harold and Kumar will travel through Texas, Mississippi, Miami, and Guantanamo Bay. The movie will be shot almost entirely in Shreveport.

“It’s a great project. It will definitely show off what Shreveport has to offer,” Enochs said.

I personally can't wait to see the flyers for the extras casting call: "Seeking males and females ages 18 and up to play stoners. Must be punctual." Fat chance.

The Mandate Films production is tentatively titled “Harold & Kumar Go to Amsterdam.” It will begin shooting on Jan. 22.

'Premonition' trailer posted online


PremonitionExtrasGregPearson
Photo by Greg Pearson/The Times.
Extras line up at Creswell Elementary
in February.
Originally uploaded by alexandyr1.

Locals itchin' to get an early look at "Premonition" should log on to the official website. There's a long trailer posted there. The thriller will be released in March 2007.

It stars Sandra Bullock and Julian McMahon. It was shot in Shreveport earlier this year.

In terms of plot, it looks like we have a case of mistaken memory. A wife plagued by visions of her husband's death tries her darnedest to save him from dying. And guess what? Nobody believes her.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Did the movie shoot at your house?

I'm working on a story about where movies and TV projects have shot in Shreveport and Bossier City. I know "The Guardian" took over Commerce Street, for instance, and remade James Burton's club into a coasties' bar called Maggie's Hangar. I know "Road House 2" spilled about 100 barrels of blood in Rockin' Rodeo.

But where else have they shot?

If you have a funny or infuriating story about a production taking over your street, your house or your life, please email me.

Also, if you have run into stars at the oddest places -- Andre Braugher liked to shop at Target -- let me know.

I want to write about it!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's official: Samuel L. Jackson to film in Shreveport

Local McDonald’s eateries better stock up on Royales with Cheese, because Samuel L. Jackson is headed to Shreveport. The “Pulp Fiction” legend will star in “The Cleaner,” a Millennium Films feature that will begin a seven-week shoot in January.

“Louisiana has done a terrific job with their tax incentives,” said Michael Flannigan, an executive producer with Millennium. “Shreveport seemed to make sense because of the other films that have been there, particularly ‘The Guardian.’”

Millennium is currently making “Homeland Security,” a feature starring Antonio Banderas and Meg Ryan, in Shreveport. That project wraps Nov. 10.

The company also will begin shooting “Blonde Ambition,” a feature starring Jessica Simpson and Luke Wilson, during the last week of November.

“It kind of made sense to stay in the same neighborhood,” Flannigan said. He said Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower flew to Los Angeles to convince Millennium to do business in northwest Louisiana.

“It’s big,” Hightower said about the company’s plans to shoot three features in a row in Shreveport. “The more we get under our belt, the more we are likely to do. They are first-rate, highly respected productions.”

Hightower agreed that Millennium’s commitment bodes well for the film industry in Shreveport. When asked if he was a fan of any of the stars coming, the mayor said, “When they film in Shreveport, I obviously am a fan.”

___

and just announced ...

Open extras casting call
For:
“Blonde Ambition” starring Jessica Simpson and Luke Wilson.
Needed: humorous extras to play construction workers, German-speaking executives, cab drivers, office executives (esp. African Americans), puppeteers, mimes, jugglers, clowns, midgets and a robust German female barmaid. Must be 18 or older. Senior citizens welcome. These are paid positions.
What to bring: it is recommended that applicants bring a snapshot of themselves, no larger than 4 by 6 inches.
When: noon-7 p.m. Nov. 5.
Where: Louisiana Boardwalk management offices, Bossier City. Doors are located near the escalator on the second floor of the parking garage.
Cost: free.
More info: info@emergecastingla.com or emergecastingla.com.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sienna Miller, Shreveport still loves you

The super-talented Sienna Miller (see "Casanova" and pipe down) has been riding a run of un-super press recently. In a current interview with Rolling Stone, she renames the location of her latest movie: "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh." Oh what, oh what, fair reader, could rhyme with Pitts-burgh?

"How about Fittsburgh, Alexandyr?" Please.

“Blitzburgh?” I’m guessing Sienna’s not a Steelers fan.

"Or Ditzburgh?" She’s wittier than that.

"Let's go with Sittsburgh." Getting warmer. Just add an h and drop the extra t.

Given her scatological affinity for Steeltown – a place where steel-working and flash-dancing once existed in perfect harmony, a place famous for Roberto Clemente and Mean Joe Green, a place with two world-class museums – what did Sienna think of Shreveport?

She filmed “Factory Girl” here last winter. Let’s be glad she didn’t call us Poo-port.

Rolling Stone is soliciting reader comments: Should Sienna apologize?

I want to hear from you, too: Is this celebrity "controversy" completely crap?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

La. pieces falling into place


StageWorksJimHudelson
Photo by Jim Hudelson/The Times.
Not for reuse. Photo taken July 18.
Originally uploaded by
alexandyr1.
Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. If there's one polysyllabic word you need to know when chatting with industry folks, it’s infrastructure.

If the state is to continue to grow (or simply keep) its TV and film production industry, it will need to offer production facilities, post-production facilities and a free carwash with every oil change.

Shreveport is assembling its bits and pieces. I covered that here. Pictured here is the StageWorks of Louisiana soundstage facility in Shreveport (photo by Jim Hudelson/The Times).

The Advocate just reported on a new post-production facility, Louisiana Media Services. It will enable the makers of "Homeland Security" to edit their film in Louisiana. That’s huge! Click here.

And last week, the Times-Picayune reported on the groundbreaking in New Orleans for LIFT Production's 300,000-square foot movie studio complex. That’s huger. Click here.

The state has attracted $620 million in total production value so far this year. With other states quickly getting into the game of aggressive tax incentives, the only way Louisiana will continue to stay ahead of the curve will be by making it cheaper and easier to make movies here.

All these stories read together suggest that the private sector in Louisiana is hustling to do just that.

(Oh, and “huger” is a word, albeit an awful one.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Impromptu audition for 'Snakes in His Pants' foiled

As an entertainment guy, I don't get to cover the disorderly-and-disrobed-in-public beat as often as I should. But Adam Kealoha Causey, our cops reporter, does.

Last Tuesday, here's what he discovered near the "Homeland Security" set. None from the movie set claims to have witnessed it. ... Cough it up, moviemakers! We know it's on 35 mm.

Notes from Adam follow:

"Here's why local film buffs should take a minute to listen to police scanners: the police might catch a naked guy bugging a movie crew.

"So I'm about to head out of the office Tuesday night when I hear on the scanner that someone has called the police because a naked guy was strutting through Mojo's and that he had been running through the set of 'Homeland Security,' which was blocked off on Texas Street downtown. I don't know much about this movie, but I do know that Antonio Banderas was not the naked guy.

"Apparently the fellow had stripped because he thought there were snakes in his clothes, according to a Shreveport police officer on the scene and a Mojo's manager. His truck also broke down in the middle of Texas Street. After pushing it out of the way, SPD loaded him into the back of a patrol car -- after putting pants on him.

"Now I know this sounds like a funny take off on 'Snakes on a Plane,' but this poor, sweaty guy did not seem to be right of mind .... I couldn't say for sure what was wrong because I'm no medical doctor. But naked people running are almost always funny under any circumstance.

"Anyhow, look closely when 'Homeland Security' comes out. May there'll be a jump cut showing some member of Shreveport's movie-enthusiast community."

Adam. Wanna switch beats?

An early look at 'Homeland Security,' now filming in Shreveport

I wrote a couple of big movie pieces today for The Times. One was a an overview of how north Louisiana is performing, and another is a cheeky story from a day on the set of "Homeland Security."

Director George Gallo was a great interview, and it was fun to watch Antonio Banderas and Colin Hanks work for a few hours.

Millennium Films graciously provided this early photo, credited to Jon Farmer/Nu Image.

Pictured are Meg Ryan, Selma Blair, Antonio Banderas and Colin Hanks. They are dining at Shreveport's most exclusive (and nonexistent) Albanian restaurant.

Friday, October 20, 2006

'Initiation of Sarah' story on Megan Thoma

Times reporter Jane Bokun filed a cool piece on Megan Thoma today. The TV movie premieres at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 (Sunday) on ABC Family. Here's an excerpt:

"Megan Thoma got more than she bargained for when her 15 minutes of fame came calling.

"The LSUS junior was an extra in an ABC Family original television movie called the 'Initiation of Sarah' which will air on Sunday, when she was called in for a scene with actress Jennifer Tilly.

"'I had a scene where they needed someone to hand Jennifer a dagger – and I did it!' Thoma said. After that, she said, 'whenever anyone needed anything done as an extra in the scenes they called me.'"

For the full story, click here. Thanks for the piece, Jane.

Jessica Simpson, 'Blonde Ambition' to film in Shreveport

Singer and entertainment star Jessica Simpson is coming to Shreveport to film the feature "Blonde Ambition," according to sources with Millennium Films.

The production company is currently making "Homeland Security" with Antonio Banderas in Shreveport.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

'Initiation of Sarah' premieres Oct. 22

"Initiation of Sarah," a TV movie of the week made in Shreveport, premieres at 7 p.m. on Oct. 22 (Sunday) on ABC Family. Did you get a part? Did you work on the movie? Please email me and I'll chat you up a bit.

Pictured here, and holding a dagger, is Shreveporter Megan Thoma. My advice is not to ask for her autograph.

The plot of "Initiation of Sarah" involves the supernatural, sororities, sisters and spats, I take it. I really don't need more reasons to tune in and TiVo. Do you?

Oh, and check out that promo video on the official website. It strings together this catty bit of dialogue. "Personification of evil. ... That isn't her real hair color." Jiminy Crickett!

The movie stars Mika Boorem, Morgan Fairchild and Jennifer Tilly.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mr. Royale with Cheese currently off the menu

If you happened to peek at my blog earlier today (thanks, Mom), or at shreveporttimes.com, you might have read a tasty little morsel from the Associated Press about a big-screen snake killer coming to Shreveport. I had no reason to doubt the facts of the AP story when we posted them.

A few hours later, I was notified by a publicist and an attached production company that these facts apparently weren't true, even though they were reported by the Associated Press on Oct. 14.

For the fear of advancing the wrong information, we immediately withheld the post on this blog and updated the information at shreveporttimes.com. (My boss helped.) That done, I immediately began making calls to reconfirm the AP story.

Now 10:22 p.m., I can't make the story stick. My calls made earlier today to two officials at the production company have not been returned. Attempts to confirm the story through a publicist were unsuccessful. And I was just notified by email that there would be no official comment.

So let's be clear: As of right now, I personally cannot confirm that Samuel L. Jackson is coming to Shreveport to make a movie in early 2007, nor am I confident in assuming he will.

If this information changes, and when I'm done scraping egg off my face, I'll let you know.

And come on, producers. Spill it. My mom is dying to know the truth.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Audition class set for Nov. 4

The HURD Actors Studio is holding an actors' workshop on Nov. 4. Participants will work with Toni Cobb Brock to improve their "on-camera audition" skills.

Brock served as casting director for "Invincible" and the upcoming movies "There Will Be Blood" and "Texas Lullaby."

There will be two sessions for different age groups.

WHAT: On-Camera Audition Workshop with Toni Cobb Brock.
SESSION 1: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 4. Limited to kids ages 7 to 12.
SESSION 2: 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 4. Limited to adults and teens (ages 13 and older).
WHERE: FX Extreme Hair Studio, 2420 Line Ave., Shreveport.
COST: $100.
TO REGISTER: call Tara Duncil at (318) 573-0039 or email Jamie Baremore at jjbaremore@aol.com.
DEADLINE: Oct. 28.

Friday, October 13, 2006

'Dallas' repopulating. Cast your vote for Jessica Fletcher!

The highly anticipated movie adaptation of "Dallas" appears to be retooling its cast. John Travolta is still set to play J.R. (I love it!), according to Variety (requires registration) , but names like Luke Wilson, Jennifer Lopez and Shirley MacLaine appear out for now. What in tarnation?! I wanted those interviews!

If the story is true, I need readers to post their thoughts on who should play Bobby, Sue Ellen and Miss Ellie. I cast mine for Christian Bale, Keira Knightley and Angela Lansbury. Why? Brits make better banter and look funny in cowboy hats.

Times columnist Teddy Allen offered funnier suggestions in June. Allen chose Schwarzenegger for J.R. but noted the Terminator is starring in a competing project: "Sacramento."

Beginning in May, rumors starting flying about where "Dallas" would shoot. The Dallas Film Commission said the production would split time between two locations. The real Dallas would get it for four weeks, and Shreveport would get it for eight.

I reported on this for The Times in May and June. Locally, there have been no official or significant developments since then. Variety reported that 'Dallas' could begin shooting in January.

Shreveport is still in the running, methinks. I'm trying to break more news on this, but it's like trying to steal a long-horned Cadillac from Southfork.

Thanks, Tim Greening, for the tip on the Variety story.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Big-screen indie film series to begin Nov. 2

The Robinson Film Center plans to spice up local screens with a new series of independent films. The nonprofit film center will bring "Half Nelson" (Ryan Gosling) to the Louisiana Boardwalk's Regal Cinemas in Bossier City on Nov. 2.

The once-only screening of "Half Nelson." will begin at 7:30 p.m. A ticket is $7.50.

What's significant here? "Half Nelson" is currently in arthouse theaters elsewhere. If this series is successful, local cinephiles won't have to drive to Dallas or wait months to see low-profile, Oscar-caliber movies through Netflix.

RFC plans to make the series semi-monthly.

To buy advanced tickets from RFC, call (318) 424-9090. Tickets can also be purchased at the theater on the night of the screening. RFC's Chris Jay advises folks to just show up at theater #8.

To see the trailer for "Half Nelson," click here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Love trash? See 'Gone Tomorrow' at La. Tech

This just in from the Tech news bureau:

"Journalist and filmmaker Heather Rogers will present a lecture on her new book titled 'Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage' Thursday, Oct. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Louisiana Tech.

"The lecture and the showing of a short documentary film (also called 'Gone Tomorrow') will be held in the auditorium of the Institute for Micromanufacturing. The presentation is part of the School of Architecture Lecture Series.

"In 'Gone Tomorrow,' Rogers takes the reader on what amounts to a tour through the underworld of garbage and brings meaning to the things that society discards.

"'Gone Tomorrow' also explores controversial topics like the politics of recycling and the export of trash to developing countries.

"The book was named an Editor’s Choice by the New York Times Book Review and a nonfiction choice by The (London) Guardian.

"For more information, call the School of Architecture at (318) 257-2816."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Peewee footballers flip for ‘Zorro’

Antonio Banderas took a break from shooting “Homeland Security” in Shreveport on Friday to meet the Bossier Parks Steelers. The unmasked movie star thanked the peewee footballers for cleaning up an empty, rundown house that was later transformed into a secret restaurant for the comedy.

“Antonio Banderas was extremely nice. He got up in the middle of them and shook everybody’s hand and gave them high fives,” said Steelers coach David Szwak. Szwak owns the house.

One kid asked the star if he really did back-flips off of the horse in the “Zorro” movies.

“Well, I can’t really do that anymore. I have somebody do them for me,” Banderas said with a big smile.

Come on, Antonio. You can fib. After all, you were wearing a mask!

As an added bonus, the Steelers were given a guided tour of the set during a lunch break.

“Homeland Security” also stars Meg Ryan, Colin Hanks and Selma Blair.

(Photo courtesy of David Szwak.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Wave-Maker: 7 questions with Maher Ahmad, production designer of 'The Guardian'

Many of the waves in "The Guardian" were created within a 750,000-gallon wave tank in Shreveport. Maher Ahmad, the movie's production designer, played a big role in creating them.

He designed the tank, which measured 80 feet wide, 100 feet long and eight feet deep.

Surrounding half of it was a five-story cyclorama that was painted bright blue. It served as a giant blue screen.

The other half was surrounded by splash guards. They could be removed to get cranes, cameras, crew and actors in and out of the tank.

Dump tanks, or 4000-gallon drums, released water down chutes and onto the actors and vessels.

Three 150-horsepower fans and eight hidden chambers were used to generate waves that measured nine feet or more from the top to the bottom of their swells.

In other words, there was some serious wave-making going on. I sent seven questions to Mr. Ahmad. Below are his answers.

Alexandyr Kent: The Bering Sea is as much a character in the movie as Costner’s Ben Randall and Kutcher’s Jake Fischer, and a huge part of those rescue scenes were filmed in a 750,000-gallon wave tank in Shreveport. How challenging was it to create this “monster of nature,” as director Andrew Davis termed it, within a land-bound industrial park?

Maher Ahmad: The fact that we were using a basically untested approach to the making of waves, and the additional pressures of time and budget, and the fact that we had already started building the tank once in New Orleans and had to start all over again in Shreveport made it very difficult job indeed. It took the coordination of not only my efforts coupled with the our construction coordinator and his crew; the paint dept and its crew; the special effects and stunt departments and their crew; but also the outside work of a variety of engineers (including structural, environmental, soil, mechanical, and electrical engineers). And on top of that, we had to deal with a scarcity of labor, materials, equipment, and supplies that was due to reconstruction efforts going on in New Orleans.

AK: As the production designer for “The Guardian,” how did you balance the audience's desire for thrills with the story's demand for drama? Was there ever a point at which you feared the sea would overpower the storyline?

MA: Those kinds of decisions are really more the province of the writing, directing, and editing than any decisions that I make. I gave them the sets and the environment; the director and writers decide what to shoot and with the director the editor decides what specifically the audience sees.

AK: Technically, what was this wave tank capable of creating? How big were those waves during the rescue sequences? When we watch the film with rolling water and the blowing wind, it looks like the actors are in trouble.

MA: Because the tank was pneumatic rather than mechanical, we had great control over the kinds and the power of the waves we could make. We actually never had the power up full during any of the scenes. We got six-foot swells and troughs but we probably were capable of making them much, much bigger.

AK: What effect in the film is your favorite, and how did it add to the tension of the scene?

MA: For me, my attitude to the work I do on my films is that of a good parent: I love them all, although some my be different than others, some may be more successful or attract more attention than others, they are all pretty wonderful, and I love them equally.

AK: Tell me a bit about the scene when the rescue swimmers (Kutcher and Costner) save the kayakers in the cave. You installed a cave in the wave tank. How big was it? What did you do to make the environment and the water inside the cave look so authentic and threatening?

MA: The cave was a 150,000-pound set that was built from steel, rebar, foam, and plastic next to the set and then moved by two 150 ton cranes and dropped into the tank. It had to withstand a terrible beating form the force of the waves. It was about 40 feet high, and 80 feet wide and about 60 feet long. It was open three feet at the bottom which caused the waves to bash against it in a realistic manner.

AK: You have rolled a passenger jet over for “U.S. Marshals” and sunk a pirate ship for “Miss Congeniality 2.” Was creating the effects for “The Guardian” just another day at the office, or was the challenge especially demanding?

MA: Every aspect of every film has its own particular demands and problems. "The Guardian" was by far the biggest water picture effort that I have done and the previous films that I did that had water work were a good preparation for what we all managed to pull off in Shreveport.

AK: Lastly, was there ever a point when Costner, Kutcher, the actors and the stunt doubles said, “Maher, enough with the crashing waves already. I can’t take it anymore!” Did you really beat them up as much as it appears in “The Guardian?”

MA: Again, I was not directly responsible for how long the actors spent in the water, or what they were required to do while in it. It is the director and the stunt coordinator that subject them minute by minute to the rigors of the tank. However, it is indeed the fact that the actors were heroic in how hard they worked, and how little complaint they made, under extremely difficult circumstances.
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The wave tank is now owned by Ken Atchity and a group of investors. The facility is now called the Louisiana Wave Studio. I'll talk with Mr. Atchity about the future of the facility soon.