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A Study in Magic and Artifice February 11, 2015

Hello Everyone! It is well past time for a post, and I shall endeavor to be better. I write this particular piece from LA, where filmmaking is literally all around us. Our film F For Franco is still in post-production because we feel that it’s more important to get it into a shape we’re happy with than to just call it good enough, only to look back on it later and say, “We could have done more.”

Lately, we’ve been working on some reflections on our film, particularly about the spectacle of celebrity. As we set up to shoot some of Francisco’s ideas, I looked at the room and saw the spectacle of what we were doing. No documentary or news program is without its share of artifice – even just standing in front of a camera lends a slightly artificial air to the whole thing. The tricks employed to eventually produce a “flawless” film are amazing. And sometimes just funny. Here are 14 seconds of a take that got up someone’s nose, quite literally:

As you can see, nothing is perfect the first time through. That’s the magic of editing, giving us a error-free delivery of eloquent thoughts and ideas. In setting up the shoot, we did more to make the magic “meta.” What you saw was my cell phone camera looking at a TV set up as an external monitor, so Francisco can look at the camera and talk, and we can monitor what he looks like, how he’s framed in the shot, etc. A bit of fakery to add to the mix. Here’s the setup in all its glory – some behind the scenes before the film is out!

It’s the art of making film. See you soon with Orson Welles!

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Boxing Day with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg December 26, 2014

Hello and welcome to Boxing Day, or Kwanzaa, or Friday. Today I indulge in a bit of wordsmithery (well, that might not be a word). We have a short video for you from F FOR FRANCO – a short segment featuring Francisco talking with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg about the TV and film industry. It’s a conversation which, in light of the recent problems with the immense hack of Sony and the once-cancelled, now limited-release of “The Interview” now seem to be more relevant than ever (certainly one of the hot topics of the past week).

Firstly, of course, we’re glad that the threats made to any theater showing the film on Christmas came to nothing, as that is how it should be.

Secondly, as you know, our film has nothing to do with “The Interview” – it is about James Franco’s creative process behind his own art and film work. However, a short talk with Rogen and Goldberg revealed their insights into the state of affairs today. In short – they feel the lines between reality and entertainment have been blurred, and that major film studios don’t want to take chances on original work, preferring to stay with tried-and-true formulas, as though no one would ever want to see anything break away from the mold.

There’s no need to go over how North Korea ought to have seen this film for what it is, how this blurring of lines (in using a real country and a real leader as its focus instead of creating a country like MadeItUpOnTheSpotia) was never meant as a blueprint for assassination. Art and film might reflect life, satirize or criticize it, but it will never be life. A photo of a plant will never replace having one in one’s home. Art can explore new areas, new ideas, and give rise to new questions and expand one’s imagination without worry about being “correct”; it never can be. There is always some artifice in the art.

Those possibilities for what art (including film here) can be and do ought to be encouraged, for its originality if nothing else. That’s what Conceptualist Films is about- making documentaries (or film essays, or pieces of art, even) that are original and experimental, interesting and thought-provoking, The film world is a business world, and while it’s understandable that a reliable, oft-used formula for creating a successful film is comfortable and safe, we believe that there’s an audience out there waiting for something new.

Click the photo and expand the screen to watch!

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Francisco Talks with a Legend, Quincy Jones December 5, 2014

Hello – today’s post will be called Photo Friday, as I had planned to give you a video, but it just wasn’t ready yet. And so, with that said, and as our editor puts the final touches to the Franco Film, with some new music by Francisco, we move along with our film on Arturo Sandoval.

Monday, November 17th, one day after our successful screening of the Franco film, we were very fortunate and privileged to visit the legendary (and I know I don’t exaggerate here) Quincy Jones. What was meant to be a simple, even straightforward interview during the early evening instead became a nearly 4-hr. (if not somewhat over) conversation between Francisco and Quincy Jones. The two hit it off like kindred spirits, their souls connecting instantly, with conversation touching on people and topics of all kinds, from musicians to philosophy to spirituality. The time flew by, and was really only brought to a close by the limitations of technology, i.e., cameras running out of memory and battery trying to capture every moment. It was such a rich and lengthy conversation that I feel quite certain that there is more here to use than just the aspects which relate to Arturo, and look forward to hopefully doing a project of some sort with him. Right now you’ll see just a small collection of photos from the evening. Quincy even had a laptop brought in to show Francisco some video of a young artist he admired, and you’ll see a couple of shots of the two of them looking intently at an nearly invisible (to us) screen.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Hollywood Reporter Review is in and is Positive, Thoughtful November 27, 2014

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Hello, everyone! It’s almost Thanksgiving in the US, and the start of a crazy holiday season. Here on the West Coast, it’s a very balmy day, for which I am very thankful. All too soon we’ll be back on the East Coast and into winter, despite the calendar. However – how can that dampen our spirits here at CF?

Sunday, November 17th we screened F FOR FRANCO at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood. It was very well-received and the Q & A with Francisco after was filled with thoughtful questions about the ideas presented in the documentary, or film essay. The very next day a thoughtful, and very positive review came out in The Hollywood Reporter, which is posted below. It’s the kind of review everyone wants for their film, and especially their first, very experimental conceptual film.

As with anything new, not everyone is going to like it. The review contains a few negative comments about the film, mostly directed at Francisco being an unknown director. But everyone is unknown at first – you have to start somewhere. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and this film is not for everyone. You have to be willing to take the ride to the end, to listen and realize you are not looking at a “normal” film at all. If you find you don’t like it, that’s fine – no one loves every film. One person walked out before the end and the Q & A, so we don’t know how much he/she actually saw, and in so doing – People’s Critic” missed a chance to ask Francisco questions about his process of directing, about the interviews/conversations with James, etc.

BUT, the review, the positive comments at the screening, and in the review’s comments as well, show us one thing – Conceptualist Films has Arrived With a New Brand of Film! For those who like the experimental in style and in concept – this film’s for you.

The Hollywood Reporter Review

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Conceptualist Films – Film Screening in N. Hollywood November 11, 2014

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Hello and welcome to Media Monday on Tuesday; this time – it’s stills taken from our film, F FOR FRANCO. It’s a small album to preview our film, being screened this coming Sunday, Nov. 16th at the NoHo Arts Center in  North Hollywood (11136 Magnolia Blvd. 818.508.7101). The film starts at 7pm, with a Q & A with the director, Francisco, directly following the film. This film is not an sensationalist piece on Franco, nor is it a biopic into his life; rather, it explores some of his own earlier art and film work from his creative standpoint. The film takes a journey into his creative process – what he thinks about and considers as he plans and executes his vision in his various projects, and the possible implications of that for other artists. Francisco and Franco have conversations in such places as the Chateau Marmont and the LA Theatre, and the film contains rarely, if ever, seen before footage.

If you’re in the area, and are interested in seeing Franco in an experimental film unlike other documentaries, please give the NoHo Arts Center a call and join us. Hope to see you there!

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Rabbit! Rabbit! November begins with an announcement! November 4, 2014

Hi everyone! Media Monday is nearly over in my time zone, but I might squeak it in. Technically, you’re supposed to utter Rabbit! Rabbit! on the first of each month – the first words you say of the month, as well. Why? According to British tradition, it will bring good luck for the whole of the month. Not a bad deal, IF you can remember to do it before you say something else. 🙂

 

We’re excited to announce that F FOR FRANCO will be screening on Sunday, November 16th at 7pm at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood! It’s a great chance to view the film and give us some feedback. If you’re going to be in the area, please call 818.508.7101 if you’re interested in going to see it. There will be a Q & A session afterward with the director (obviously, Francisco) to further discuss the ideas presented in the film.

 

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And for your media bit, a leftover from last week’s Facebook post – a full track from Soundcloud instead of a sample (no video this time, though) – https://soundcloud.com/conceptualist/adding-and-subtracting

You can buy the track or the album from the player on the website, or Amazon or iTunes. More soon!

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The Conversation with Andy Garcia October 23, 2014

AndyStills15Hello, everyone! What a wet, wild, windy Wednesday night! But it was beautiful on Friday, 3 October when we arrived at Andy Garcia’s office to shoot an interview with the actor/director/producer for our documentary on Arturo Sandoval. Francisco has a gift for asking thoughtful questions and having a conversation with his interviewees, rather than conducting a conventional interview. The two discussed Arturo and musicians like him, leaving their home country in order to have the freedom to play the music they want to. Here are some stills from the shoot. 🙂

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Book Review to accompany one of our upcoming films September 29, 2014

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Hello! As I may have mentioned, we don’t like to be bored here. Francisco’s book,
The Engagement Aesthetic is filled with still images depicting the new media art he is discussing. So, it made perfect sense to make a film based on the book, where the art, which almost always requires some form of the moving image to activate it, could be even better represented.

Here is a very thoughtful review of the book from Elizabeth Mix of Butler University:

Ricardo (art theorist and documentary film producer) wisely avoids pitfalls associated with new media: the fast-changing nature of the technology that underpins it, and an unlimited array of possible examples to discuss. Instead Ricardo focuses both on the experience that new media provides and its critical difference from earlier, specifically object-based, or “modern,” forms of art. The book’s title might mislead potential readers, as Ricardo’s work is not really about aesthetics per se; nor does it fit into the category of art criticism. Rather, the author posits that digital media inspire an interaction with an audience, and that this engagement can be productively explored through the artistic process of critique (an open-ended and reflective process of exploration that begins with the senses and avoids judgments). Each aesthetic property identified (e.g., metonymy, performativity, reflexivity) is linked both to art history and theory (including Merleau-Ponty, Bakhtin, Barthes, Benjamin, Habermas, and others). Despite the weightiness of the material, the short-chapter structure and restrained use of jargon makes this volume surprisingly accessible. While this volume’s most obvious use is as a textbook for a graduate-level course in new media theory, it may find a wider audience among practicing artists. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students through professionals/practitioners.
–E. K. Mix, Butler University

Watch for some sneak footage of this film to come soon! Have a great day! 🙂

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The Conceptualist and James Franco – Friday Evening Edition! September 26, 2014

Here’s your Friday Evening Edition of The Conceptualist! In this quiet, meditative show, hear about a point in time in James Franco’s life that I think we all have experienced at one point or another – the need to do something, to change something about our lives. Enjoy and enjoy your weekend! 🙂 My broken record – click to watch…

 

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Cut To Jay, Francisco, (and James Franco) Conceptualist pt.3 September 9, 2014

It’s Media Monday on Tuesday – now a regular item for us.

Welcome back to The Conceptualist! Episode 4, but we decided to do a little shuffling around – you’ll find out why soon ( 😉 ) – and make it #3 instead.

In this episode, two of James’ former teachers – Jay Anania of NYU, and Francisco, formerly of Rhode Island School of Design, discuss the artistic inspiration behind some the early films that Franco made (Kenneth Anger, for example), and what Franco was exploring in his projects at NYU.

This colorful piece serves as an excellent introduction to our film, and does what several of our posts (and videos on our Youtube channel – subscribe to get all of the latest videos on all of our documentary subjects!) do – it uses B-roll footage to add to one’s understanding of a film we’re working on before you see it, rather than being tacked on to the end of a film as deleted scenes, or never seen at all. Enjoy!

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