Photographer Gregory Crewdson, who is famous for his cinematic depictions small-town American life, is the subject of a new documentary that will premiere March 10 at the SXSW music and film festival in Austin, Texas. Directed by Ben Shapiro, the film is called “Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters.” It takes viewers behind the scenes of the elaborate productions of some of his best known images, and if this trailer is any indication, the film shows what a regular guy he is–knocking over lamps, waking up sick with worry that things might go wrong–in his search for the perfect moment.
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Lauren Greenfield won the prize for best director of a US documentary at the Sundance Film Festival for her film, “The Queen of Versailles.” The prize was announced January 28 at the end of the festival for independent films.
Greenfield, a photographer and director whose previous documentaries include “Thin,” an HBO film on anorexia, was honored for her direction of a non-fiction film about a real estate mogul who tried to build the biggest house in America, only to be hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis. Earlier in the week, Magnolia Pictures bought the rights to distribute “The Queen of Versailles” in North America, and plans to release it this summer.
Reviewing the list of other award winners at the Festival, two more photographers’ names caught our attention.
“Chasing Ice,” directed by Jeff Orlowski, which documents how nature photographer James Balog has used time-lapse photography to show the shrinking of arctic glaciers over the years, won the award for Excellence in Cinematography in a US Documentary.
In the World Cinema category, “Valley of Saints,” written and directed by Musa Syeed, won the Audience Award for dramatic film. The director of photography on the film was Yoni Brook, a photographer and filmmaker known to us as a former PDN‘s 30.
The full list of award-winners is available at the Sundance.org Web site.
Photographers’ Documentaries Debut at Sundance
The Sundance Film Festival, the 11-day festival of independent films, kicks off today in Park City, Utah, with a roster that includes documentaries by two photographers-turned-filmmakers.
“The Queen of Versailles,” a documentary by Lauren Greenfield, which will debut on the opening night of the Festival, has already been touted as a must-see at the Festival. In the film, Greenfield, whose 2006 documentary “Thin” also premiered at Sundance, documented a time-share developer and his wife as they attempt to build the biggest house in America, and then struggle in the economic downturn. The subject of the film, David A. Siegel, has already brought legal action—not about the movie, but about the wording of the press release for the film, which claimed his timeshare business had “collapsed.”
Also debuting at Sundance, though not included in the competition for festival prizes, is “About Face: The Supermodels, Then and Now,” by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Greenfield-Sanders expanded a piece he shot for Vanity Fair, shooting video interviews with former supermodels Jerry Hall, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Christy Turlington, Paulina Porizkova, Beverly Johnson and others, who discuss the issue of age in the beauty industry.
The trailer shows that all the former models still look pretty damned good. Yet Rossellini, for one, laughs that she’s no longer invited to A list parties; her daughter is.
Photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield is being sued for defamation by the subject of her new documentary, “The Queen of Versailles,” which is set to premier on the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute is also named in the suit, filed on January 10 in Florida District Court, as is Greenfield’s husband, Frank Evers, the executive producer of the film. The suit, which seeks $75,000 each from Greenfield and Sundance, as well as unspecified damages, was first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.
The content of the film is not at issue; the lawsuit is over the press release for the film.
The plaintiff is timeshare developer David A. Siegel, whose family is the subject of Greenfield’s documentary. “The Queen of Versailles” tells the story of the billionaire Siegels as they attempt to build the biggest house in America, only to struggle as the economic downturn threatens their business and their 90,000-square-foot dream home.
The suit claims that the original press release made three false and defamatory statements: That “[the Siegel's] timeshare empire collapses”; that “[the Siegel's] house is foreclosed”; and that the film tells a “[rags-to-riches-to rags story.”
Lawyers for Siegel took exception to the wording of the press release. It was amended and publications that covered the news, including The New York Times, were contacted to correct the information. However the suit alleges that the damage to Siegel’s reputation, and that of his timeshare business, Westgate Resorts, LTD. had been done because the original description had already spread far and wide via the internet, appearing on more than 12,000 Web sites, according to the complaint. The suit also alleges that Greenfield kept the false description on her personal Web site after receiving notice from Siegel’s lawyers.
“Taken individually and collectively, these [false] statements portray Siegel and Westgate as essentially broke and out of business,” argue Siegel’s lawyers, GreenspoonMarder, in the complaint.
The suit alleges that Siegel and Westgate Resorts have suffered damage to their reputation. It also states that “various owners” and “potential customers” have questioned the financial security of Westgate as a result of the press release.
US-based private equity firm The Blackstone Group has reached an agreement to buy 44 percent of Leica Camera AG in a deal to be completed by the end of the year, Blackstone and ACM Projektentwicklung GmbH, Leica’s parent company, announced today.
Blackrock investment funds will acquire the stake through a holding company, the announcement said.
In a statement, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, the chairman of Leica’s supervisory board, called Blackstone “an experienced and internationally established strategic partner.” The deal, which is likely to be completed by the end of the year pending approval from government regulators, will help fund Leica’s “growth plans into new markets such as Asia, South America and the Middle East,” he added. Leica is coming off a 2010/2011 fiscal year when they turned record profits, the company reports.
Axel Herberg, Blackstone senior managing director, also emphasized a focus on emerging markets in his statement. “We are very excited about supporting Leica to secure long-term commercial relationships, specifically in emerging markets, and help strengthen the company¹s operational and retailing capabilities globally,” he said.
With the help of a grant, 48 interconnected DSLR cameras, and some long hours of editing, Ryan Enn Hughes produced a pair of videos that combine thousands of still photographs into a 360-degree look at ballet and “Krump” dancers. Check out the results and the behind-the-scenes production video below. We corresponded with Hughes via email to find out a bit more about the project, and how and why it was made.
PDN: What interested you in creating these 360-degree videos?
Ryan Enn Hughes: The 360 Project stems from a proposal I wrote and received for a Chalmers Arts Fellowship—a funding body in Canada that supports extraordinary research and creation projects in the Arts. My proposal was to “explore the structural elements of the moving image,” which is in its essence the still photograph. My background is in Film Production/Cinematography —it wasn’t until late in University that I immersed myself in Photography. Over the last few years, more than ever, Motion Pictures and Photography have started to cross-pollinate—digital capture, digital software, and digital presentation methods in both media make the integration of the two fields seamless. Coming from a film background, I’ve always had a desire to push the still image further. The 360 Project is where I ended up.
Working with dancers is something I’ve been doing for a few years now (RGB Move, Ballet!, C-Walk, etc). I’ve always been taken by the concept of capturing a “peak moment of action,” and dance really lends itself to that concept. The way I view the project is like this: it is constructed of still photographs that when assembled like a flip-book create a motion picture, which end up resembling a type of rotating digital statue, which we in turn edited together.
PDN: Can you give me a rundown of the equipment you used?
REH: The gear used was 48 Nikon D700′s, 4 Broncolor Pulso G 3200J Lamp Heads, 4 Scoro A4S Packs.
PDN: How long did you spend editing the project?
REH: Post-production was a very big undertaking. There were several steps necessary to get to the end product. Before we could get into any actual editing, each frame in every 48-frame set had to be Photoshopped—painting out all the cameras that were visible in the original captures was a time consuming process, but enabled us to have greater control over the images. The editing process and sound design (Zelig Sound) was undertaken at the same time—it was a back and forth process exploring various editing techniques and sound design elements. Fortunately this project was not on a hard deadline, and our timeline was designed to allow our team to explore creative options.
PDN: In applying for the grant, what was your pitch in terms of the value of the project as a technical and creative innovation?
REH: I suppose the biggest factor in pitching this project was its interdisciplinary approach—the fact that it combined ideas, tools and methodologies from a variety of media. Another exciting factor was that what I proposed wasn’t a normal method of production—the gear, software, and know-how to create a project like this hasn’t been overly accessible in the past for arts based projects—it has certainly been around, but the availability, particularly the software to handle this type of project, I feel is new to a broader group of creatives.
PDN: Now that you’ve completed a pair of these projects, how do you imagine using this experience and this style of production in the future?
REH: This has definitely been the most technically challenging project I’ve undertaken to date. It’s definitely set a new bar for me personally in terms of where I want to take my work—both technically and creatively. I’m very interested in pushing the editing style used in “Krump 360″ and “Ballet 360″ further—making edits more complex, faster, and integrated with sound. I’m very interested in taking this style of production and applying it to Music Videos and Commercial Work.
Adventure photographer Jimmy Chin recently shot a feature story for National Geographic about the derring-do of modern day rock climbing, and Renan Ozturk of camp4collective.com made this behind-the-scenes video of Chin at work. It’s full of spectacular views, sweaty palm moments, and insight about how Chin works while dangling from a climbing rope on El Capitan and other Yosemite cliffs.
A Florida state court judge has ordered the city of Ft. Lauderdale to quit barring photography in public places around a Hollywood film set. The emergency order, issued on Tuesday, was in response to a lawsuit filed last week by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the the publisher of South Florida Gay News (SFGN). They sued the city because Ft. Lauderdale police, who were reportedly moonlighting as security guards for the production of the film “Rock of Ages,” starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin, were preventing photographers and citizens from taking pictures of the set from public sidewalks and streets nearby.
Broward County circuit court judge Michelle Towbin-Singer wrote in her order that the city and its police chief “shall not prohibit or inhibit the taking of photographs at or from any public area surrounding, near or adjacent to the film set…For purposes of this order, the term ‘public area’ shall include any area where members of the public have a right to be, but shall not include areas that have been lawfully closed to access by members of the public.”
The film production began June 6. Police had posted signs around the film set that said “Warning. No Trespassing. Photography of this area is strictly prohibited. Strictly enforced by FLPD. Violators subjet (sic) to arrest. City Ordinance 16-1.” The SPJ and SFGN sued on the grounds that the ban was a violation of first amendment rights. The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) subsequently joined the lawsuit, after the city failed to respond to its request to lift the ban.
Production for the movie ends today, but NPPA attorney Mickey Osterreicher says the plaintiffs will continue to press the lawsuit in order to get a declaratory judgment from the court, stating that such bans violate the constitution. “If we don’t get a declaratory judgment, this will happen all over again” the next time a Hollywood film production comes to town, Osterreicher says. A declaratory judgment by itself won’t prevent city officials from banning photography in the future, he explains, but it would deter such a ban by making it difficult for city officials to claim ignorance and by exposing the city to costly civil penalties.
At this year’s LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, VA, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier made her intentions as an artist and activist clear in a powerful presentation of her work that combined diaristic snippets about her relationships with her grandmother and mother with stories about the community of Braddock, PA, where she was raised. Frazier’s reading, reminiscent of a prose poem, was intensely personal, heartfelt and, at times, forceful and defiant, drawing on the history of Braddock as a once-prosperous steel town, and on its current state where poverty, joblessness and pollution-related health issues plague the largely African-American population.
Frazier’s work has previously been included in high-profile group exhibitions such as the 2009 Triennial at The New Museum and a 2010 group exhibition at PS1 MoMA, and she has had solo and two-person shows at her gallery, Higher Pictures in New York, and elsewhere. The work she has presented thus far has been comprised primarily of self-portraits and portraits of her grandmother and mother, whom Frazier taught to photograph and considers a collaborator. Yet the full breadth of her work and her ambition for it has not been widely known, she says.
“Until I spoke today, I don’t think people were aware of what the work was about, because it’s complicated,” Frazier told PDN after her Master’s Talk. “Today was a huge breakthrough to be able to come here and talk to people.” (more…)
Camp 4 Collective create adventure and expedition-based films that follow athletes to some of the most beautiful and remote locales in the world. Another of their films, “As It Happens,” recounts a climb a pair of Camp 4 climbers/filmmakers made in Nepal, which they documented in real time, sending dispatches via a satellite modem powered by solar energy. “As It Happens” was recently a Vimeo editor’s pick.