Chat w/ Filmmaker Catriona McKenzie, "Don't wait for permission, just do it!"

Catriona McKenzie sml.jpg

Multi-award-winning writer/director/ producer Catriona McKenzie has announced that she is setting up her own production company, Dark Horse. The first Indigenous Australian woman to direct series television in the US (Shadowhunters for Freeform), Catriona spent time as a director’s attachment on the television series Prison Break (Fox) and she interned at Ridley Scott’s production company and as a director’s attachment on his film Alien: Covenant.

Premiering at LA Film Festival, Kiki and Kitty, based on an original concept from and written by Nakkiah Lui and produced by Porchlight Films’ Liz Watts and Sylvia Warmer, is a 6 x 12-minute series about the adventures of a young, black woman in a big, white world, where her vagina is a big, black woman and her best friend. The series won two prizes at Series Mania in Paris.

We had a chat with Catriona, here are the excerpts:

What was the most challenging and most rewarding part of making this project, Kiki and Kitty?

It was a low budget, single camera production with not a lot of time so I had to be efficient and smart about constructing it. We used every cinematic tool - colour palette in locations, costumes. Kitty wears bright red dress, (of course because she is a vagina). Music, editing etc

The rewards were working with such great creatives people. Nakkiah and Elaine are fearless actors. Any Ideas I had for the scenes they completely embraced, (as they tick off their crazy bucket list scenes for example) It gets pretty wacky and they were always up for it.

And the production crew were almost all women. That was great. Sylvia Warmer is a great producer and she was always there for the production. Thats inspiring.

What inspired you to launch DARK HORSE and what are your immediate goals?

I'm the first indigenous director from Australia to direct episodic TV in USA. I studied at NYU Tisch, New York. I understand the US industry and the Australian, and there's opportunities to take our stories to a bigger platform. As storytellers we need to take up the space telling our stories otherwise those spaces will be colonized by others. Thats a big part of it. And I'm a huge fan of genre. Ridley Scott selected me to shadow him on Alien Covenant. I have a slate of genre projects across the board that come from my 'diverse' community and its the right time to tell those stories. (I don't like the word 'diverse' but we all understand what it means but I think it minimizes everything we are about)

Who are your favorite filmmakers/storytellers? What are your favorite TV shows or movies?

Ridley Scott and Martin Scorsese are big influences for me. Denis Villeneuve' Incendies was a powerful film. The Dead Girl by Karen Moncrieff is such a great film. And then there's TV and the rest. The Wire is always a go to for me. Shameless, Breaking Bad. Chewing Gum. We have such an increasing opportunity now to watch programs that reflect who we are. I'm hopeful for the future of telling our stories.

What Australian movies or TV shows, you'll recommend American audiences to watch?

Peter Weir is another favorite filmmaker and he's Australian. From Gallipoli to Witness to The Truman Show he is a master storyteller with an instinct for the emotional heartbeat of the film. He's definitly an inspiration for me.

Based on your own experiences, what are 3 things you would like to tell other aspiring storytellers?

If you want to be a story teller then tell stories. It sounds simple but there's so many barriers, (although its cheaper to tell stories now that technology has opened up) you just have to do it. 

Don't wait for permission just do it. Just do it!

You have to be stubborn and inspired at the same time. Write, read books, study people. re write. Interrogate the characters you've written. We are all colonized by the powers that be and we are part of it. Don't let your characters roll onto the page without  deeply 'scratching their surface'.

Do good work. 

Be Patient with yourself. There's so much joy to be had from a creative life and it can be frustrating too. There's ups and downs but beyond it all be inspired by doing good work. 

FSLC announces Robert Zemeckis's THE WALK as the opening night selection of NYFF53

The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced that Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk will make its World Premiere as the Opening Night selection of the upcoming 53rd New York Film Festival (September 25 – October 11), which will kick off at Alice Tully Hall. A true story, the film is based on Philippe Petit’s memoir To Reach the Clouds and stars Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit, the French high-wire artist who achieved the feat of walking between the Twin Towers in 1974. The Walk will be the second 3D feature selected for the Opening Night Gala since Ang Lee’s Life of Pi in 2012 and also marks Zemeckis’s return to the Festival after Flight, the 2012 Closing Night Gala selection. Today’s announcement coincides with the release of the film’s trailer, which can be viewed at movies.yahoo.com. The film will be released in 3D and IMAX 3D on October 2, 2015.

New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones said: “The Walk is surprising in so many ways. First of all, it plays like a classic heist movie in the tradition of The Asphalt Jungle or Bob le flambeur—the planning, the rehearsing, the execution, the last-minute problems—but here it’s not money that’s stolen but access to the world’s tallest buildings. It’s also an astonishing re-creation of Lower Manhattan in the ’70s. And then, it becomes something quite rare, rich, mysterious… and throughout it all, you’re on the edge of your seat.”
 
Robert Zemeckis added: “I am extremely honored and grateful that our film has been selected to open the 53rd New York Film Festival. The Walk is a New York story, so I am delighted to be presenting the film to New York audiences first. My hope is that Festival audiences will be immersed in the spectacle, but also to be enraptured by the celebration of a passionate artist who helped give the wonderful towers a soul.”
 
Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman said: “On behalf of TriStar and Sony, I want to thank Kent and the NYFF for this great honor. The Walk is a love letter to the Twin Towers, which through the unique magic of cinema, come back to vibrant, inspiring life. But it is also a universal story of the determined pursuit of impossible dreams, told by one of our greatest living filmmakers, and the NYFF has always been a place where such dreams come true.”
  
The film also stars Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine, Charlotte Le Bon, Clement Sibony, Caesar Domboy and Benedict Samuel. Directed by Zemeckis, the screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne, based on the book To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit, and produced by Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, and Jack Rapke.
 
The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Programming; Marian Masone, FSLC Senior Programming Advisor; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief,Film Comment; and Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.
 
NYFF previously announced Luminous Intimacy: The Cinema of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, the first-ever complete dual retrospective of the experimental filmmakers works that will include the world premiere of Dorsky’sIntimations, a new untitled work, and New York premieres of Summer, December, February, and Avraham.
 
Tickets for the 53rd New York Film Festival will go on sale in early September. Becoming a Film Society Member at the Film Buff Level or above provides early ticket access to festival screenings and events ahead of the general public, along with the exclusive member ticket discount! To find out how to become a Film Society member, visit
filmlinc.com/membership.

For even more access, VIP Passes and Subscription Packages give buyers one of the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival's biggest events including Opening, Centerpiece and Closing nights. VIP passes also provide access to many exciting events including the invitation-only Opening Night party, “ An Evening With…” Dinner, Filmmaker Brunch, and VIP Lounge. Benefits vary based on the pass or package type purchased. VIP Passes and Subscription Packages will go on sale Tuesday, June 9. For information about purchasing Subscription Packages and VIP Passes, go to 
filmlinc.com/NYFF
 

New York Film Festival Opening Night Films


2014    Gone Girl (David Fincher, US)
2013    Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, US)
2012    Life of Pi (Ang Lee, US)
2011    Carnage (Roman Polanski, France/Poland)
2010    The Social Network (David Fincher, US)
2009    Wild Grass (Alain Resnais, France)
2008    The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
2007    The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, US)
2006    The Queen (Stephen Frears, UK)
2005    Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney, US)
2004    Look At Me (Agnès Jaoui, France)
2003    Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, US)
2002    About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, US)
2001    Va Savoir (Jacques Rivette, France)
2000    Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, Denmark)
1999    All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
1998    Celebrity (Woody Allen, US)
1997    The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, US)
1996    Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, UK)
1995    Shanghai Triad (Zhang Yimou, China)
1994    Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, US)
1993    Short Cuts (Robert Altman, US)
1992    Olivier Olivier (Agnieszka Holland, France)
1991    The Double Life of Veronique (Krysztof Kieslowski, Poland/France)
1990    Miller's Crossing (Joel Coen, US)
1989    Too Beautiful for You (Bertrand Blier, France)
1988    Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
1987    Dark Eyes (Nikita Mikhalkov, Soviet Union)
1986    Down by Law (Jim Jarmusch, US)
1985    Ran (Akira Kurosawa, Japan)
1984    Country (Richard Pearce, US)
1983    The Big Chill (Lawrence Kasdan, US)
1982    Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany)
1981    Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, UK)
1980    Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme, US)
1979    Luna (Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy/US)
1978    A Wedding (Robert Altman, US)
1977    One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (Agnès Varda, France)
1976    Small Change (François Truffaut, France)
1975    Conversation Piece (Luchino Visconti, Italy)
1974    Don’t Cry with Your Mouth Full (Pascal Thomas, France)
1973    Day for Night (François Truffaut, France)
1972    Chloe in the Afternoon (Eric Rohmer, France)
1971    The Debut (Gleb Panfilov, Soviet Union)
1970    The Wild Child (François Truffaut, France)
1969    Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Paul Mazursky, US)
1968    Capricious Summer (Jiri Menzel, Czechoslovakia)
1967    The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy/Algeria)
1966    Loves of a Blonde (Milos Forman, Czechoslovakia)
1965    Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, France)
1964    Hamlet (Grigori Kozintsev, USSR)
1963    The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, Mexico)
 

For more information, visit www.filmlinc.com