Experimenting, connecting through film

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Craig Mitchell in "The Lazy Assassin," directed by Jennifer Coyette. Photo by Gil Green

The 5th Annual Malibu Film Festival begins Thursday night. Filmmakers hope to show their twist on life through their work.

By Andrisa Anderson/Special to The Malibu Times

The fifth annual Malibu Film Festival begins tonight with a bash at the Malibu Pier, featuring a fashion show, the film premieres of Jack McCoys’ “Blue Horizon” and Chris Malloy’s “Broken Down Melody,” and food and live music. The meat of the festival is, of course, the international and local features, short and documentary films that will be screened over the course of seven days.

Some 80 films to be screened, are a selection that reflects the filmmakers’ twists on life and story telling.

Paul Kelleher conducted a sort of “experiment in humanity” with actor Ted Mattison at the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert in 2002. This experiment will screen at the festival in “Nothing Without You,” a documentary starring a nude Mattison at Burning Man where he set up a camp that consisted only of the desert’s dirt ground.

Throughout the seven-day festival, he relied on the kindness of strangers to survive the temperature extremes and receive unsolicited basic necessities-a single garment and sunscreen-from the community of people in the desert.

“It’s an extremely vulnerable feeling to be buck-ass naked in the middle of the desert,” Mattison said. “There were multiple layers of feelings about the experience. There were dozens of emotions that went underneath every experience.”

Producer and director Paul Kelleher thought of the concept for “Nothing Without You” when he and Mattison attended Burning Man in 2001 and saw the colorful artwork displays and shelter, either handmade or of the RV sort, brought by the participants, who total more than 30,000 each year. He wondered what would happen if the two brought absolutely nothing to Burning Man.

“I was thrilled that I pulled it off-we pulled it off,” Mattison said. “The community really embraced the camp. It was a satisfying feeling.”

The film won an award at the first annual Artivist Film Festival in Hollywood and was a finalist at the Moondance Film Festival in Colorado this year.

“We hope people will come away inspired to support other people and realize you will get something out of giving to someone,” Kelleher said.

Connecting through film

Nina Sadowsky says she is interested in what she calls the connective tissue between humans. She and partner Trevor Macy are showing their short film “The First Year’s a Bitch,” about a newlywed couple, at the festival. As writer, producer and director of the film, Sadowsky approaches domesticity with humor and tragedy in nine minutes.

“People turn twice. They don’t know where it’s going,” Sadowsky said. “They are shocked by the violence and what comes after.”

In the film, a constantly late husband (John Livingston) and his wife who is annoyed by his tardiness (Christine Taylor) stop to put gas in the car-and lives change.

“In a way it’s a cautionary tale. Life is random, half hazardous and tragic, so be kind and loving with the ones you love,” Sadowsky said.

The couple’s escalating argument is complimented by the percussion of Pete Thomas who plays with Elvis Costello. Thomas is a friend of Sadowsky who lent his skills to help the production. Sadowsky funded the $8,000 movie and received donations from friends.

Sadowsky is no stranger to filmmaking. She has been producing for 13 years. She previously partnered with Meg Ryan in Prufrock Pictures for five years. She is now working on a book adaptation of “Indiana Gothic” by Pope Brock for Widescreen Entertainment and the adaptation of “The Immortal Part” by Christopher Wakling. Though she is concentrating on writing now, she has an affinity for directing.

“Directing is like a drug and I need more,” Sadowsky said.

How it comes together

Some films at the festival have been made possible by donations from others in the entertainment industry to budding filmmakers. Jennifer Goyette, writer and director of “The Lazy Assassin,” received a camera donated by Panavision’s filmmaker program and Sony, Goyette’s employer, provided lighting, bringing the film’s budget in just under $11,000.

It took two- and a-half days to film “The Lazy Assassin” and nearly five months to complete it in post production. The 10-minute dark comedy about a sloppy killer will screen twice at the festival.

“The more exposure the better,” said Goyette of her movie, which has shown at World Fest, the Houston International Festival.

Goyette worked on the film with producer Igor Jadovsky who plays the killer’s target in “The Lazy Assassin.”

She is now working on the production of a feature film shot in Barstow, to broaden her career, she said.

This year’s seven-day film festival is also broadening with the Festival of Festivals held at the end of the event to screen the winners from this and other international festivals. Also at the festival will be Pitch Day, allowing filmmakers to network with those in the industry and Spec Fest for international competition. Films will be screened at the Monica 4-Plex and Cine Space theaters in Santa Monica, as well as at the Malibu Library. The awards dinner will take place at the Malibu Inn.

Information and tickets for the festival can be obtained by calling 310.452.6688 or logging onto www.malibufilmfestival.org.