the traveler's resource guide to festivals & films
a site
part of Insider Media llc.

Connect with us:


Film Independent’s Project Involve Making Diversity & Inclusion for 25 years!


Every single year—like a grotesque rite of passage—an annual report detailing the lack of diversity, inclusion, and income in Hollywood is circulated and for a brief moment of time, all tongues are wagging and heads are swiveling around in disgust. Murmurs of “something must be done” swell in a cascade and then … another year rolls around, with another report and the ritual begins anew.

But twenty-five years ago the team at Film Independent said enough and actually did something about it creating Film Independent’s Project Involve a brave move—especially in 1993.

25 years in Hollywood, where the “normal tenure of an industry exec rivals the lifecycle of a Mayfly” in its brevity, is an accomplishment not to be ignored.  

Project Involve—Film Independent’s signature diversity mentorship program—has remained in place, steadfast in its mission: to support and enable the visions of independent artists and visual storytellers hailing from every facet of our multi-cultural community.

Here is an excerpt from a conversation with Angel Williams (Project Involve Fellow, Directing Track & Current Manager of Artist Development at Film Independent); director and producer Mel Jones (Project Involve’s Producing Track 2012) and Kady Kamakate (Project Involve Producing Track, 2017).

Q: Looking back when you first stepped into Project Involve, and now, what did you expect?

Angel Williams: Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. Project Involve runs annually for nine months and selects filmmakers from diverse backgrounds and filmmaking tracks. During the program, participants create short films, receive one-on-one film industry mentors, access to production-based master workshops taught by top film professionals, career development training, industry networking opportunities and more.  My good friend and frequent collaborator Mel Jones had gone through Project Involve – it was how I became aware of the program. Going in I already had an outline of sorts of how to maximize the opportunity. I knew that I needed to be thoughtful and intentional about my mentor ask and that the value of the program could extend long after the program ended, building relationships with talented artists that I could create a body of work with.

Mel Jones: Speaking from my experience. Mentorship is paramount. After all Hollywood is an apprenticeship business. And no matter how many degrees you have there is nothing like seeing someone in action and then modeling your approach from what you've learned. I am the producer I am today because of my Project Involve mentorship with Stephanie Allain who is now my producing partner. And as a developing storyteller, it meant giving me access to the world in ways I would not have been able to experience.

Kady Kamakate: I participated in previous shoots before as an AD and PM so I was familiar with the production side of things but not the curriculum. My expectations were for those to be fairly formal and routine, and I was really surprised to see how candid the guests are and how intimate the setting is. It really feels as if you're having a personal conversation, and they really are open to the industry and their filmmaking journey.

Q: Looking back what is the value of mentorship? What is mentorship for a developing storyteller?

AW: Mentorship is everything.  I don’t know a single artist who’s found success without mentorship and that’s key to sustaining a career.  In a lot of ways mentors are like a parent-child relationship – you inspire and nurture one another and gain a lot of wisdom in the process of growing alongside one another. Project Involve is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and over the years we’ve had the participation of some amazing mentors including Effie T. Brown (Dear White People, Real Women Have Curves), Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich), Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me, Eve’s Bayou), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento), John Singleton (Four Brothers, Boyz n the Hood), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, American Gun), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Bradford Young (Arrival, Solo), Chayse Irvin (Lemonade), Rachel Morrison (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station), and Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale).

MJ: Speaking from my experience. Mentorship is paramount. After all Hollywood is an apprenticeship business. And no matter how many degrees you have there is nothing like seeing someone in action and then modeling your approach from what you've learned. I am the producer I am today because of my Project Involve mentorship with Stephanie Allain who is now my producing partner. And as a developing storyteller, it meant giving me access to the world in ways I would not have been able to experience.

KK: I think mentorship comes in different ways. I haven't had a mentor most of my career but I don't think that's hindered me in any way. What's been important to me is peer-mentorship, those in your circle that brings you up.  It's as simple as bringing you on projects, to bumping you up in title/responsibility and generally taking a risk on you. That's been instrumental in my growth and something I always make a point to do on my own projects. I find it important for us to take chances with our own friends/peers, after all, if we don't make opportunities for our own community we're part of the problem.

Q: Why are diverse stories important? 

AW: Representation and diversity on screen are so important because we must see ourselves.  Cinema is such a powerful tool and when not used responsibly it can have a negative impact on our cultures.

MJ: Diverse stories are important because they allow for us to connect to one another in ways we wouldn't otherwise connect. I also believe stories have the ability to heal and to challenge peoples ways of thinking and belief systems so we should do that in as many ways as possible with as many voices as possible.

KK: If we want to live in an inclusive and progressive world, we must demand to hear stories from those that are underserved and underrepresented in our society. It's imperative.

Q: As storytellers in this program how much of the business side do you learn?

AW: After I completed Project Involve in 2014 on the directing track they asked me to come behind the curtain and run the program alongside Francisco Velasquez.  Project Involve focussing a lot on the business of filmmaking because in my opinion—so many emerging filmmakers aren’t even remotely prepared for that part of it.  You get to hear from studio executives, agents, managers, attorneys—but the most valuable conversations come from the filmmakers sharing their personal stories about the business.  That’s why mentorship is vital – a good mentor will school you on all the lessons they learned so that hopefully your experience can be different.

MJ: As producers of Project Involve you are tasked with producing a short. So that you can sharpen your ability to put a crew and a film together. But apart from that project involve has Master Classes with Industry Professionals that span from Composing to Producing.

KK: Project Involve does a great job of bringing in guests with a breath of experience and strong careers, which is really where you get to hear some gems. Also as a producer, by nature, we are more involved in the business side of things, but not necessarily the other tracks. So with Project Involve all the tracks (DP, DIRECTOR, EDITOR) get to see the process from scratch and are really intimately involved in a way that doesn't happen in the "real world". Everyone strategizes on fundraising or helps out on set in capacities that are new to them, it's a serious team effort and you walk away with a greater understanding of the process. 

To learn more, go to:

Zep: Sex, Comics, Childhood, & Transgression


While French comics have been enjoying attention in the US as far back the 1970s when Metal Hurlant was brought to over as Heavy Metal, there is still much in the world of "bandes dessinées" that has not crossed American eyes. Zep (real name Philippe Chappuis) is a Swiss born author whose work is wildly successful in France, thanks to his raunchy humor, cartoonish art, and a general disregard for authority. Yet he remains an unknown the United States. Zep’s career in comics dates back to the 1980s when he was a contributor to the anthology magazine Spirou. His long running comic, Titeuf, a bestseller in France, follows the escapades of a young boy with an oddly shaped head as he navigates life, school, adolescence, first loves, and parents. The series suffers from a particular conundrum of having humor too risque for children in the U.S., but it is also too kid-centric to appeal to older audiences here either.

Zep is known primarily for his comedic works such as Happy Parents, Happy Sex, and Titeuf, but his first English release in many years is the weighty A Story of Men from IDW. A Story of Men follows a could-have-been rock band, as they have a reunion with their former band leader who has enjoyed success while the rest of the ensemble drifted off into obscurity. While Titeuf is drawn in vivid primaries, A Story of Men opts for muted greys, occasionally mixed with hints of blue or magenta with paneling mostly contained to a 3x3 grid. While Titeuf is influenced by comedic French comic artists such as Gotlib, A Story of Men pulls from the tradition of new wave cinema and directors such as François Truffaut and the art drops cartoony visuals in favor of moody realism. While the visuals and the tone of A Story of Men is totally removed from that of Titeuf, it still embodies themes and motifs explored in Zep's more comedic works, namely adulthood, fatherhood, sex, relationships, and the nature of (and compromises with) rebellion.

I met with Zep at his hotel near Grand Central Terminal, where this interview was shot overlooking the grey and wet streets of Midtown. Zep shared his thoughts on the transgressive nature of childhood and how it’s reflected in Titeuf, and his depiction of sexuality within his work how it became a mission in life.

This interview was conducted by Renzo Adler and Brad Balfour.

September '17 Digital Week II

Blu-rays of the Week 
The Man with Two Brains
(Warner Archive)
Director Carl Reiner and star-writer Steve Martin collaborated for the third time on this lunatic 1983 comedy about a brain surgeon who falls in love with a brain in a jar (voiced by Sissy Spacek) and hopes to plant it into the head of his luscious but hateful wife.
Despite many stretches of silliness, it’s the most sustained and funny comedy the pair made together—followingThe Jerk and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid—thanks to Martin’s prodigious comic skills and the fearlessly funny performance by Kathleen Turner, who simultaneously sends up and revels in her own sexpot image. There’s a great Merv Griffin cameo as well. The hi-def transfer is good.
(Blue Underground)
Dick Maas’s cleverly titled slasher movie is set in Holland’s jewel of a city, whose famous canals provide excellent cover for a rampaging murderer. It’s too bad that, at 113 minutes, the movie is simply too long, sinking under its own weight of too much repetition and false starts.
Still, a decent cast does fine work, especially Monique van de Ven, known for her appearances in Paul Verhoeven’s early films. The hi-def transfer looks good and grainy; extras include a making-of featurette and interviews.
Endeavour—Complete 4th Season 
(PBS Masterpiece Mystery)
For this fourth go-round, Endeavour Morse teams with Fred Thursday for more murder investigations, as they prowl the Oxford area in the summer and fall of 1967 to find those responsible. Shaun Evans and Roger Allam again have fine chemistry as the detectives, and there’s an attractive supporting performance by Sara Vickers as Joan Thursday, Fred’s daughter and Endeavour’s unrequited love, returning for the final episode.
The four whodunits, set in lovely countryside locales, are well-paced, if not always convincingly argued. The hi-def transfers are excellent; extras are short featurettes and interviews.
Seemingly forgotten since its 1865 premiere, Franco Faccio’s operatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play has been heavily if intelligently pared down by librettist Arrigo Boito (who also penned the libretti for Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff), but Faccio’s routine music only comes to life in the pageantry scenes and, surprisingly, the tragic climax.
This 2016 Bergenz Festival production is well-staged by Olivier Tambosi, superbly sung by Pavel Chernoch (Hamlet) and Julia Maria Dan (a sympathetic Ophelia), and beautifully performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and Prague Philharmonic Choir under conductor Paolo Carignani. Hi-def video and audio are first-rate.
(Cohen Film Collection)
In 1987, Director James Ivory and producer Israel Merchant followed up the previous year’s Oscar-winning breakthrough A Room with a View with an adaptation of a less acclaimed E.M. Forster novel about repressed homosexuality in early 20th century England. (The script was by Ivory and screenwriter Kit-Hesketh-Harvey.)
Sumptuously mounted and smartly acted by a cast led by James Wilby as Maurice and an unknown Hugh Grant as his lover, Maurice is nonetheless too slow-moving and long to have much dramatic impact—even if it was cut down from three hours, as Ivory himself states. The film’s restoration looks exemplary on Blu; a second disc of extras includes several Ivory interviews, deleted scenes and commentary.
DVDs of the Week
Citizen Jane—Battle for the City
(Sundance Selects)
In the 1950s and 60s, urban activist Jane Jacobs fearlessly took on New York City planning czar Robert Moses for, among other things, his feckless attempt to put a highway through lower Manhattan to connect the Holland Tunnel with the Lower East Side bridges, thereby decimating neighborhoods.
That fight is entertainingly recounted in Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary, crammed with archival interviews and statements from the adversaries themselves. (Marisa Tomei provides the voice of Jacobs.)
Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In—Complete First Season 
The groundbreaking comedy-variety series debuted in 1968, and—as the 14 first-season episodes show—was full of irreverent, topical, and silly humor from the get-go, with ringmasters Dan Rowan and Dick Martin introducing and interacting with a cast featuring Goldie Hawn, Joann Worley, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, and Henry Gibson.
Among the guest stars willing to send themselves up were Johnny Carson, Tiny Tim and Sammy Davis; extras include the series’ pilot episode, highlights from the 25th anniversary reunion, bloopers, and an interview with creator and executive producer George Schlatter.

Beyond the Longbox: Sex, Death, & European Comics with Katie Skelly

"My Pretty Vampire"

Known for her bold colors, bolder characters, and retro throwback style, Katie Skelly has carved a niche for herself in the world of comic books. With her premiere book, “Nurse Nurse” and her latest release, “My Pretty Vampire” from Katie Skelly blends 70’s cult movie sleaze, European comic styling of Guido Crepax and Jean-Claude Forest with a modern sensibility. The result are comics that are elegant in their simplicity compared to many other over-designed art styles, but with stories rife with gleeful sex and violence.

Beyond the Longbox interviewed Katie Skelly on what she looks for in a protagonist, what comics are the building blocks of her work, and what it was like writing erotic comics with a Catholic upbringing.





Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

No Calendar Events Found or Calendar not set to Public.