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Private Screening: A gudie to the Savannah Film Festival
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These dwarves are dandy

SCAD student group takes The World Outside to competition

They bear the unlikely collective moniker of “The Dandy Dwarves,” and they want you to watch their movie.

Producer Josh Lind describes the genesis of the ad hoc group of SCAD students, whose film The World Outside is an entry in the Savannah Film Festival’s student competition:

“Originally we had four members, just a few of us who hung out and started to collaborate,” Lind says. “It began with two film majors, one broadcast major and one illustration major. We tried to utilize essentially every major the school offers.”

The Dwarves have gained a certain amount of notoriety in independent film circles; for the past two years they’ve entered the short film competition at New York’s “Midnight Movie Making Madness,” in which teams attempt to make a film from scratch within 24 hours.

Lind says that because of the ensemble nature of the Dandy Dwarves, “it’s hard to classify what each of us does. I guess we all do whatever it takes. My role is usually what you would call the producer’s role. Teambuilding is the aspect I enjoy the most.”

As for The World Outside, Lind describes its genre as “magical realism.”

The plot centers on two competing toy factories who create virtually identical, nondescript playthings.

“Both factories make these really similar toys,” Lind says. “One character ventures out of the constrictions of what’s going on in his factory. Then the satire turns into romance.”

Directed by Lind and Kevin Phillips and written by Ben Collins, The World Outside stars Martha Allen and Ben Collins as the futuristic star-crossed lovers.

With remarkably bold use of color and striking composition, the Dwarves draw bright cinematic and thematic lines between the competing factories.

“This originally started when I began noticing different classmates arguing about things, like politics,” Lind says. “People would tend to take an unwavering stance and not see anything good in other side.”

Though the two factories in The World Outside echo the American political divide in that one is blue and the other red, Lind says the film is not trying to make a specific liberal vs. conservative analogy.

“Those are just the color themes we decided on,” he says.

The World Outside is an unusually long film for a festival student competition, coming in at a whopping 28 minutes.

“It’s hard fitting a thirty-minute film into a venue like this,” Lind says of the competition.

“It’s not easy. At these festivals people really have their eyes on ten to twelve minute features. But we didn’t specifically write the story to that length -- it’s just that the story we wanted to tell was that length. It just takes that long to tell the story.”

The World Outside screens Monday, Oct. 31 at the Lucas Theatre in Student Jury Block B beginning at 12:30 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 4 at the Trustees Theatre in Student Jury Block B, beginning at 10 a.m.

Seven minutes to sundae

SCAD student entry Riley tells a simple but timeless story about a boy and his ice cream

So how did Jacqueline Taliaferro and Jasmin Tekiner get the idea to make a movie about a little boy who wants some ice cream?

“It was kind of random, really,” Taliaferro says. “I was running through downtown Savannah when I saw a little boy, about the age where he was too young to be alone. He had a ball and was sort of wistfully looking off in the distance. It was a poetic image that stayed with me so much that I decided to make a film around it.”

In seven minutes, Riley tells the story of a young boy who sees a father and his kids with ice cream cones go into a diner.

Young Riley decides to go into the diner himself and see what he can do about getting himself an ice cream sundae.

“He’s got no money, the waitress shoos him away and there are some bullies he has to deal with,” Taliaferro says. “It’s about him conquering obstacles. It represents his life rather than just getting some ice cream.”

Riley has no dialogue.

“I wanted to make it more subtle, so I decided to go without any dialogue,” Taliaferro says. “It seemed like it wasn’t really necessary. I felt like the story didn’t need dialogue, so I just skimmed the story down to its essentials.”

Since graduating from SCAD this past March, Taliaferro has entered Riley in several other festivals this year, including the International Family Film Festival, the Palm Springs Film Festival and the Wine Country Film Festival.

Riley screens Monday, Oct. 31 at the Lucas Theatre in Student Jury Block B beginning at 12:30 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 4 at the Trustees Theatre in Student Jury Block B, beginning at 10 a.m.

Havana daydreamin’

SCAD student films Lyra Lezama in Cuba

It’s not everyday an American college student can even go to Cuba, much less make a film there. But to hear director Clayton Haskell talk about it, it was pretty easy.

“If you’re going on an educational or cultural basis, there are actually plenty of ways to go to Cuba. It takes a lot of paperwork, but I had a lot of help from a group called Global Exchange,” he says. “I’ve always been intrigued about going to Cuba. I think a lot of the appeal has to do with the fact that Americans can’t easily touch it. But despite the history, the Cuban people are very friendly to Americans.”

As is the case with many a gringo who travels to sultry tropical climes, he fell in love -- not only with Cuba, but with a woman.

“I actually wanted to do a different film than what ended up happening. I originally wanted to do sort of a rock opera thing. But I got there, and I was like, oh man,” he says. “I met Ana (lead actress Anabel Bouza) when I was there, and she was able to show me a more authentic Cuban experience. So I made the decision to eventually come back to Cuba and continue shooting. Of course, it was also so I could see her again.”

When Ana found out Clay had to do a film for his thesis at SCAD, there seemed only one solution.

“I had to do a thesis, and she wanted to be in the film. My Spanish at the time was not good at all. In retrospect I have to say from a director’s standpoint it’s a really bad idea to make a film in a language you don’t speak. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Though Lyra Lezama is entirely in Spanish, there are subtitles in English. The film is about a young girl who wins a lottery and then must decide what it means to her and whether to tell her friends and family.

“A lot of the film ended up getting cut. It’s now at 17 minutes long, which is really amazing because we had to cut a lot of scenes,” Haskell says.

“It’s really hard to make these short films. How do you make the audience give a crap about the characters in that small a time frame? But I have come to the conclusion that less is better.”

As might be expected, Haskell used Cuba’s enormous natural beauty to his advantage.

“It was all shot in magic hour,” he says, using film lingo for that brief time just before the sun goes down. “Everything kind of has pink overtones.”

Perhaps succumbing to the tropical mindset, Haskell didn’t over-plan the film. In fact, there wasn’t really a script at all.

“It’s not a documentary, it’s not a full-on narrative. It’s more of a hybrid. It’s a little bit of both,” he says. “The whole thing evolved on the spot. We would incorporate whatever was happening at the time. It was a very guerrilla style, run-and-gun shoot. Everyone around became part of the film. For example, we needed a doorman, we found a real doorman.”

Haskell describes incorporating one of Cuba’s usual nationwide civil defense drills.

“While we were there Cuba had a ‘Defense Day.’ That’s when all the schoolchildren go around with guns in case the U.S. attacks them. That’s kind of the mindset, they assume our government’s going to attack at any minute. So we included that.

“I’m ready to go back down right now and make another film. I guess you could say I’m still pushing the cultural exchange thing.” w

Lyra Lezama screens Monday, Oct. 31, in Student Jury Block A at the Lucas Theatre beginning at 10 a.m. and Saturday, Nov. 5, in Student Jury Block A at the Trustees Theatre beginning at 10 a.m.

Poem inspires film

Q&A with director of Ma Chere Petite Maxyme

Lisa Inserra, director of Ma Chere Petite Maxyme, is the founder of Vox Theatre Company in New York City and currently teaches video production in the Tampa Bay area. The film’s cinematographer, Chad Cogdill, is a SCAD MFA graduate. We interviewed Inserra by e-mail last week.

Connect Savannah: Tell us about Garren Small’s poem and why it inspired the film.

Lisa Inserra: The poem is very personal, and a personal story is always something that translates well on film. It is also about an obsession with another human being, and I think we can all relate to that at some point in our lives.

Connect Savannah: Some say it's more difficult to make a short, but others say the brevity can lead to a better film. What are your feelings?

Lisa Inserra: The short format is accessible and affordable for the filmmaker and it is easy for people to wrap their minds around a story that is told concisely.

There are a lot of observations about life that are better told in the short format because they are just that, observations, not long narratives.

Connect Savannah: Tell us about the circumstances of making the film -- the place, the sets used, the budget, etc.

Lisa Inserra: It took three years to find the right situation in which to shoot the film.

This was because of budget considerations and because our above the line

talent was spread out in three states and working on other projects.

Connect Savannah: What does it mean to you to have a film in this festival?

Lisa Inserra: Any juried or curated festival is a great venue in which to show your work. It lends credibility to your efforts and, if you can attend the show, it's a great networking opportunity.

Ma Chere Petite Maxyme screens Monday, Oct. 31, at the Lucas Theatre beginning at 10 a.m. and Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Trustees Theatre beginning at 10 a.m.