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Friday, June 20, 2008

Penn in Cannes Brynn Shepherd (C'10), Felisha Liu (W'09), Anna Cororaton (C'09), Jonathan Rotta (C'09)

So far this week Felisha Liu (W'09) shared some of the good, bad and disappointing films she saw at Cannes, how she managed to score tickets to films through the art of begging, which Penn powerful Penn alumni she met and the excitement of her first walk down the Red Carpet!

In today's last part of our Penn in Cannes series, Felisha tells us about a very special Beach screening of a classic she attended ...and a star who made a surprise appearance!

Click here to read her post!

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Read Part 1: Penn in Cannes: The Good, The Bad, and The Disappointing
Read Part 2: Penn in Cannes: Begging and Tips For Scoring You Tickets & Access
Read Part 3: Penn in Cannes: Hobnobbing With Penn Hollywood Big Wigs
Read Part 4: Her First Walk Down the Red Carpet


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Per Felisha:

"I look around at the crashing Mediterranean waves and realize this is definitely the best class I have ever attended at Penn. Powerful waves envelope the scaffolding that is holding up the gigantic movie screen and high-tech sound equipment. All up and down the Croisette, people stop along the beach to savor Clint Eastwood’s manly portrayal of Dirty Harry (1971). Having arrived early with wine, crackers, cheese and nutella, the Penn-in-Cannes group took over an entire row of beach seating. With complementary blankets to keep me warm and food to satiate my stomach, I was in movie heaven. The audience could talk, eat, drink and socialize during the film—all adding to the enjoyment.

In contrast to the formality of red carpet premieres, the beach screening was a welcome reprieve. The chosen film was a time-tested well-lived classic that had mass appeal despite its 37-year history. The screenplay was simple; anyone can follow the good cop/bad criminal storyline. The pleasure of the film was not in its complex plot or startling artistic direction. Rather, clever one-liners remind viewers why they fell in love with Clint Eastwood in the first place. After being shot, Harry stops the doctor from cutting up his pants, saying, 'For $29.50, let it hurt.'

I suspect that English-speakers may have enjoyed the film more those who had to rely solely on subtitles. As one of the few films during the festival that I could understand without subtitles, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting back and relaxing to the sound. My eyes no longer had to race between the words and the screen, afraid of missing a single second. But since Dirty Harry’s success relies on its script, so if the jokes do not translate properly, the humor is lost.

In a surprise appearance, the famed actor and director gave an introduction to the film. Clint posed for a while by the tent, and then walked down the center of the seating area, giving the audience plenty of opportunity to capture his picture. As he departed, his quick-witted humor reminded the audience that he was the fellow with brown-hair in the movie, just in case they couldn’t tell. Clint’s current head of shocking white hair simply adds to his charisma and gives him an air of dignity that is well deserved.

As one of the last films I saw at the Cannes Film Festival, the beach screening was the perfect end to the Penn-In-Cannes program. I leave Cannes with the deepest appreciation for film, two dozen new friends, and great stories to tell. Who else can say that they saw 25 movies, including strutting down the Red Carpet 16 times in a span of 2 weeks? I already have envious friends who are willing to skip graduation so that they can go next year. The allure of Cannes…what a beautiful place."

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Penn in CannesJason Wald (C10), Felisha Liu (W09), Anna Cororaton(C09)

So far this week Felisha Liu (W'09) shared some of the good, bad and disappointing films she saw at Cannes, how she managed to score tickets to films through the art of begging and which Penn powerful Penn alumni she met.

Today, she tells us about the electricity in the air at Cannes and her first walk down the Red Carpet!

Click here to read her post!

Check back tomorrow to find out about a very special Beach screening of a film classic Felisha attended and which star made a surprise appearance!

Read Part 1: Penn in Cannes: The Good, The Bad, and The Disappointing
Read Part 2: Penn in Cannes: Begging and Tips For Scoring You Tickets & Access
Read Part 3: Hobnobbing With Penn Hollywood Big Wigs


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Per Felisha:

"Red is the color of power, strength, passion, danger and desire.

The Red Carpet of the Grand Theater Lumiere at the Festival De Cannes is all of these and so much more. The first time I walked down the Red Carpet, I couldn’t stop smiling.

It didn’t matter that jaded people around me gave me dirty looks as I posed for what seems like an onslaught of pictures.

How many people get to walk the Red Carpet in their lifetime? Not many, and so I was going to take full advantage of the opportunity. There are two entrances to the Red Carpet: the Orchestra and Corbeille seats walk the entire carpet, while Balcony seats merge halfway up.

My first film was the 11:30pm screening of Blindness, for which I was fortunate enough to get Orchestra seats. I strutted like a VIP past the barricades separating us from the gawkers. At the edge of the Red Carpet, my friends and I paused to take it all in. Lights from the top of the stairs shone like beacons, enveloping everything in a surreal light. Photographers lined the Carpet on both sides with ever-flashing bulbs ready to capture that million dollar shot. Savoring every moment of pure bliss, I walked extremely slowly up towards the stairs. My friends and I anchored ourselves in the middle of the stairs and gave ourselves our own photo shoot alongside the paparazzi.

It is impossible not to get caught up in the frenzy. There is a sense of excitement and electricity in the air all up and down the Croisette, the beachfront street of Cannes, during the nighttime premieres. The streets are barricaded as black-tinted Renault cars drop off the movie stars one by one. Screaming signifies a recognizable celebrity, and the entire crowd pushes forward to try to get a closer look. Walking down the street is nearly impossible. In addition to the thousands of gawkers, automobiles try to drive through the masses. The worst traffic jams are the strollers going against the flow of traffic. Add on the onslaught of people still begging for last minute tickets and the result is angry shouting and violent pushing.

But in the end, it the traffic is worth the experience of the Red Carpet. Everyone wants a piece of the magic. For the little girls who grew up thinking they wanted to be Princesses, walking down the Red Carpet is about as close as you can get.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

So far this week Felisha Liu (W'09) shared some of the good, bad and disappointing films she saw at Cannes, and how she managed to score tickets to films through the art of begging.

Today, she tells us about the 2 Penn alumni and 1 Penn parent Hollywood power players she met in Cannes!

Click here to find out who they are and the inside advice they dished out!

Check back to find out from Felisha what it's like to get caught up in the frenzy of Cannes.


Read Part 1: Penn in Cannes: The Good, The Bad, and The Disappointing
Read Part 2: Penn in Cannes: Begging and Tips For Scoring You Tickets & Access



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Per Felisha:
"Penn Alumni are everywhere, including in all facets of the entertainment industry.

Through the Penn in Cannes program we had the privilege of meeting 2 successful Hollywood Penn alumni and 1 accomplished Penn parent in Cannes.



Rick Hess (C'84): Head of Creative Artists Agency Film Finance Group

Rick Hess (C'84) visited the class at the College International dormitory, and was happily surprised to remember that he had stayed in the same dorm decades earlier.

Despite his role as the head of Creative Artists Agency Film Finance Group, Rick Hess has never lost his charming personality and developed quick rapport with the class. The names he dropped during the lecture were A-listers such as Will Smith and George Clooney. It was exciting to hear insider stories about the celebrities at the Festival and made the experience more personal.

Rick explained Jada Pinkett Smith’s directorial debut in The Human Contract and the promotion that went behind promoting the movie. Will Smith flew in from the States to host the premiere party and shake hands with every distribution contact he could find. According to Rick, most stars do not work as hard and aren’t as passionate to their projects. But Will Smith has the magic touch and everything he is associated with turns into success. His recent film, The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), grossed over $300 million in worldwide sales. Much of the success is due to Will’s charisma and the public’s willingness to support his career.



Geoffrey Gilmore (C'74) Director of the Sundance Film Festival

Geoffrey Gilmore (C'74, Penn in Pictures 2002 panelist), Director of the Sundance Film Festival, also came to the College International to talk about his role in shaping the second most important film festival in the world.

More so than in Cannes, the Sundance Film Festival is all about the acquisition of films. The international community convenes at the festival to conduct business on distribution rights. Oftentimes a film is parceled off into different regions and distribution rights can be held by various countries in different regions. The United States is the hardest region to enter because of the monopolization of Hollywood offerings. It is very hard for international cinema to infiltrate U.S. theaters, other than at Indie theaters.

The production of independent and mainstream films is handled very differently. Great writing drives independent films and the content is of utmost importance for a movie’s success. As a result, the product is often more creative and groundbreaking. In contrast, mainstream films are driven by market demands. There tends to be a template for blockbusters that Hollywood follows which can seem repetitive and overdone. But since the formula works at the box office, Hollywood is hesitant to stray from the tested model.

Without a doubt, Indie films are more creative. But oftentimes, they expect too much out of the audience. Movies are a great way to relax and forget about the stresses of the week. For the American public, it is much more pleasing to shut out stresses and just enjoy the movie. The film may not be amazing, but the common moviegoer isn’t looking for the next new thing. They like familiarity and comfort, as opposed to leaving the theater confused.

I agree that Indie films have stronger character and better messages, but perhaps only the true film enthusiasts can appreciate the work. Perhaps expecting the common audience to figure out gaps in plot and to wade through artistic license is too much to ask. International films face detachment from the American audience. Subtitles and dubbing are a huge deterrent to wide American distribution. People say Americans are lazy, and when it comes to wading through 2 hours of subtitles, I wholeheartedly agree. Unless English is spoken on screen, international films face huge hurdles in American theaters.



Jeff Berg (Penn Parent): Chairman, CEO of ICM

While waiting in the hallway outside of Jeff Berg’s (Penn parent) hotel suite at the illustrious Carlton Hotel, I began to realize how important this man was. His staff greeted us inside of the classy suite and we piled around the living room with its huge bay-window view of the Mediterranean Sea. Jeff, Chairman & CEO of International Creative Management agency (ICM), explained the dichotomy of the Festival de Cannes...

The more visible parts of the event are the red carpet premieres, movie stars, and hundreds of screenings. But the important people in the industry are working feverishly in meeting rooms throughout the French Riviera, broking multi-million dollar deals. They take advantage of Cannes as an international gathering place, using the Festival as a platform for everyone in the global industry to assemble together and conduct meetings on distribution rights.


...As I am learning more about the business of film, I am considering career opportunities making use of my business background. There is no business like show business, and I would surely like to be a part of it in the future."


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Penn in CannesYesterday, Felisha Liu (W'09) shared some of the good, bad and disappointing films she saw at Cannes.

She also mentioned that

"Cannes is a private festival for industry professionals. As such, the only way to get tickets to premiere screenings is to beg. The industry insiders are penalized for not using their allotment of tickets so they are looking to give away their tickets as such as I was looking to get one."
On this note, in this second installment of our 5-part "Penn in Cannes" series, Felisha talks about
  • the competition for tickets outside of the Palais Grand Lumiere (main theater)
  • the hierarchy of badge holders
  • why having a "Cinephile badge" was a very humbling experience
  • how she was able to gain access into some of the restricted parts of the festival despite just having a "Cinephile badge" (great tips for future Cannes festival goers!).
Click here to read her post!

Check back tomorrow when Felisha shares with us some of the Penn Big wigs of entertainment she met in Cannes!

Read Part 1: Penn in Cannes: The Good, The Bad, and The Disappointing


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Per Felisha:

Swallow Your Pride and Beg
"Begging is a humbling experience. You smile, you make eye contact, but most times the object of your attention just averts his eyes and walks away.

Despite warnings of impossibility, I held out my sign for the opening film of the festival, Blindness (2008). Very green to begging, I stood in front of the accreditation tent to the right of the Palais Grand Lumiere main theater. I thought that by standing apart from everyone else, I would have a better chance at being visible. What I failed to realize was that the reason everyone was crowded around the front of the Palais was because that’s where the tickets were.

After an hour or so of awkwardly shifting about, the guards at the accreditation tent took pity on me and told me in broken English that I should consider moving to the other side of the Palais by the exit doors. By that time, I had come to the same conclusion.

As 7:30pm drew closer, I began to see little shiny objects in the men’s tuxedo jackets. Now with the image of the Holy Grail ingrained in my mind, my eyes became lasers scanning for the elusive ticket. By this time, several of my friends had gotten tickets. I was satisfied with the knowledge that I was not going to get into the early showing. But as 11:30pm approached, I was one of the only people without a ticket for the second screening. I began to doubt not only my begging abilities, but myself.

It is hard not to take rejection personally. It is very frustrating to see your friends get tickets one by one, knowing that you may not get into the screening. Self-doubt creeps in; even though rationally you know that it is just luck. I personally witnessed two girls who got tickets after holding their signs up for less than 5 minutes. On the other hand, I had been begging for more than 5 hours. Ugly thoughts of jealously and self-loathing pervaded my thoughts.

Out of nowhere, a man walked up and handed me a shiny ticket. A rush of relief washed throughout my body and my sense of self-worth finally returned.

The Cinephile Badge: A Tease and a Necessary Evil
The Festival de Cannes is experienced much differently through the eyes of a Cinephile, which the Penn-in-Cannes students were. In a visible hierarchy based on badge color, the Cinephile badge is a necessary evil. While you need a badge to get into the theaters, the Cinephile badge is the worst of the bunch. It immediately labels you as an “outsider” from the industry, a peon not much better than the gawkers without any accreditation. The Cinephile badge is a tease; it lets you have a taste of the festival but will not let you take an entire bite.

The benefits of the badge are easily taken for granted but still valuable. The Cinephile tent proved to be a godsend if you are lucky and get there in time for a desired ticket. The tent is an equalizer among all Cinephiles. There is no level of distinction among Cinephiles other than your luck at the time. Ben Epstein tried to outsmart the accreditation system with a Short Film Corner badge, only to be thwarted by not being able to get a ticket from the Cinephile tent while the rest of us all got tickets to the Lumiere premiere. Also, some tickets that we begged for were orange, which meant that some sort of badge needed to accompany the ticket for entrance. Some beggars who did not even have a Cinephile badge were not able to use their free tickets. For once, the Cinephile badge proved to be worthwhile.

The Cinephile badge proved to be a very humbling experience—the negative aspects of the badge were plenty. It does not allow entrance to the Market, International Village, the Palais, and many of the smaller theaters. It does not allow one to reserve tickets through the points system granted to every other accredited person. It is the mark of an amateur in an environment all about reputations and connections. It tells the world that you are not in the industry; rather, you are just there to watch movies like any commoner. Even the lowest staff member of a tiny production company garners more respect than an upcoming film student who may eventually be the next Spielberg.

Inadvertently, the Cinephile badge provided to be a godsend because of the complementary black badge holder necklace. It proved to be extremely useful, separate from the badge. My friends and I quickly determined that the Market entrance to the left of the Palais was very strict about not letting Cinephiles in. We even begged a random badge holder to be our escort, but to no avail. The guards still didn’t let us in. But on the other side of the Palais, there was an entrance by the yachts that was much more lax about badges. They thought we had legitimate badges because we walked in like professionals covering our Cinephile badges with Variety magazines. Once inside the International Village, we were able to walk around the part near the American Pavilion by turning our Cinephile badges around. But as soon as we wanted to enter the other part of the International Village further down the Croisette, the Cinephile curse struck again and we were denied admission. And then got kicked out of the International Village."

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Penn in CannesFelisha LiuFelisha Liu (W'09) was part of a semester long Penn in Cannes program which had her and other Penn undergrads attending the festival last month.

Before the program started, she shared with us two posts about her experience with the program thus far and what tactics she was going to consider in order to get into the most screenings while at Cannes.


In this week's first of a 5-part Penn in Cannes series, Felisha dishes about some of the good, bad and disappointing films she saw. Plus she shares with us what tactics she actually used to score tickets!

Click here to read her post!

Check back tomorrow as Felisha goes into more detail about her humbling experience of "begging" at the Cannes Film festival!

Previous Penn in Cannes posts

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Per Felisha:
The Good
"The opening screening of the 61st Cannes Film Festival was Blindness. Cannes is a private festival for industry professionals. As such, the only way to get tickets to premiere screenings is to beg. The industry insiders are penalized for not using their allotment of tickets so they are looking to give away their tickets as such as I was looking to get one.

After begging for over 5 hours, I got an Orchestra seat for the 11:30pm screening. The seats were perfect: 5 rows back and centered. In this film, Julianne Moore plays a dynamic leading role as the lone person with sight in a world struck with a sudden epidemic of blindness.

The first several hundred patients afflicted with the disease are quarantined in a makeshift prison. Soon after, human nature rears its ugly head and warfare erupts between different wards of the prison. Instead of the soldier guardsmen rationing the food, the despot of Ward Three decides to hoard the food in exchange for goods from the other wards.

The first day, the despot calls for money, jewelry and other items of value. The next time, he calls for the women from the other wards. After a ward-wide meeting, the women of Ward One decide to sacrifice their bodies in exchange for feeding the 35 people in their ward. The next scenes are disturbing shots of rape and abuse, which end with one woman dying at the hands of her abusers. As the plot progresses, Ward One manages to overthrow and kill many members of the tyrannical reign of Ward Three and escape from the prison.

But, 'even when the blind are set free, they cannot run.' Outside of the prison, the core group finds that more blind people are ravaging the city. Stores are ransacked and people fight over basic commodities like food and clothing. As the only person with sight, Julianne Moore's character finds a secret store of food in the basement of a grocery store. Moral dilemma ensues, as she decides whether to let the other blind scavengers know, or to keep the knowledge to herself in the dog-eat-dog society. Corpses scatter across the city, as hungry dogs tear into rotting human corpses.

Julianne Moore's character leads her friends into her home from before the epidemic. After serving as a martyr for months on end as the only leader, provider, nurse and eye for the group, something shocking ensues...but let this be a teaser for all those who will be seeing the film!

I really liked the movie for both its plotline and its cinematography. Lighting was very important in this movie about blindness. Throughout the film, the screen would turn all white whenever a character went blind. Julianne Moore's character was the only one with sight, but she experienced the pain of blindness when she went into the dark cellar of the grocery store. Instead of turning all white, her character was blinded in a sea of darkness. It was a very ironic shot, and made a poignant statement about the importance of sight.

Human nature is very disturbing, but some parts of the film seemed unrealistic if this epidemic were to happen. The entire scene where Ward Three rapes the women of the other wards seems exaggerated and takes corruption to an unrealistic extreme. In real life, this would not likely happen because society functions on morals and value judgment. Even after losing sight, our society would likely still go on with established codes of behavior."


The Bad
"I kept waiting in vain for Soi Cowboy (2008) to get better. Not knowing much about creative direction, I was impressed that the film was shot in black and white. Perhaps there was some powerful message that I was missing due to my own naivety. But as I looked around the theater, half the people were asleep and the other half looked miserable. People began filing out of the Debussy Theater in droves.

I wasn’t about the give up on the film just yet, so I forced myself to delve deeper into the plot. But there was nothing there to grasp in this surface-level portrayal about a petite Thai girl and her obese, Danish boyfriend Toby. The girl seems more interested in his money than his unborn child. The hot/cold relationship leaves the audience confused and detached from either character. By not creating attachment between the audience and the characters, viewers have no obligations to jump the gaps in plot progression. One scene shows the girl crying in disgust after having sex with Toby. Another shot shows them staring lovingly into each other’s eyes in pure bliss. A third showed a different Thai girl lovingly hanging onto Toby with the original girlfriend looking on. Since nothing happened in between that would cause such a shift in affections, it just shows the disconnection between the director’s vision and what the audience experiences.

The most frustrating scene was of an old lady walk down the hallway in slow motion. The repetitive motion lasted for over 10 seconds. If that wasn’t bad enough, she turns around at the end of the hall and walks back down the hall for another 10 seconds. The scene made absolutely no contribution to the plot, and only made the audience angry for wasting their time.

In fact, the entire film was a waste of time. It felt like the Director was simply compiling an assortment of artistic techniques and inserting them in a lifeless screenplay, much like a schoolboy anxious to use all of his newfound classroom knowledge. Even when the film switched from black and white to color shots, there was no life. It was the same choppy, disjointed scenes, just brighter. It is easy to understand why this movie could never make it in the American theaters."

The Disappointing
"I did the impossible—I got into the first screening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The buzz around Cannes was mounting for a week before the main attraction of the Festival. Indy fever was raging strong across the town. The majestic Carleton Hotel entrance was adorned in Indy attire as enormous banners enveloped the façade of the building. It was hard to miss the huge amount of advertising money that the studio spent on promoting this film. From previous experiences with begging for tickets, I told myself that I would not even try for Indy tickets. It would be a waste of time in the blazing sun and I would miss out on watching other movies.

But when Sunday came around, I went downtown early in the day line up for the Cinephile tent.

After securing tickets for later that night, my classmate Anna Cororaton and I had nothing else to do. With nothing to lose, we took out loose-leaf paper and made signs for Indy. The front of the Palais was crowded with people seeking tickets so we distanced ourselves away from other people. Anna went across the street while I sat in my usual spot on the street divider. An hour passed with no luck. The harsh midday sun started to blur my vision. All of a sudden, Anna ran over with an Indy ticket in her hand. That was great, but I was still without a ticket. We resumed the sign holding for another hour to get a ticket for me.

Half an hour before the doors closed, a woman came up and nonchalantly handed me an orange folded ticket. At first I was in disbelief because I never thought I would be able to get in. I thanked her profusely in both English and French, hoping she would be able to receive my gratefulness at least in one language.

The 1pm screening lacked the star-studded affair of the nighttime screening, but the excitement inside the Lumiere Theater was not dampened. The applause was thundering as soon as the all-too-familiar Cannes theme song appeared on-screen. The audience went wild when Spielberg’s credit appeared.

Unfortunately, the movie did not live up to its expectations from excessive marketing. The story plot was too coincidental, and overly predictable. With George Lucas’ influence on the movie, there had to be aliens somewhere in the film. The problem was it didn’t flow well with the rest of the movie. A huge divide exists between the first part of the film and when Indy reaches the Crystal Skull room. My expectations for Indiana Jones are about quick reflexes, rugged strength and clever problem solving. Adding supernatural features dilutes the authenticity of the saga. I could easily see Lucas’s influence in developing the second half of the film. There are extreme levels of computer animation and less emphasis on actor skill. Some of the shots definitely had the feel of the Star Wars series. After rustic images of trekking through the jungle and sword fighting atop jeeps, it seems bizarre that aliens would leave in a high-tech spaceship. Overall, I liked the first part of the film much better because it brings back the nostalgia of the Indy series."

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Transformers 2

Check out these videos from last week's filming of Transformers 2 just outside The Castle!



The videos include both "Bumblebee" whizzing by and Shia LaBeouf doing some exercises in front of The Castle!



videosClick here to check out the videos!





PhotosCheck out the photos here!





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