March 4, 2010 Updates

With the DIFF awards ceremony happening this Saturday night, we’ve been getting some press!

Here’s the article they posted on AnnArbor.com:

Detroit Independent Film Festival features the work of four University of Michigan grads this week

The inaugural Detroit Independent Film Festival — wherein indie filmmakers were invited to submit their work at no cost — kicks off on Tuesday, March 2 at the newBurton Theater, in the Chinatown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit.

More than 80 films will be showcased at DIFF, including the U.S. premiere of George A. Romero‘s “Survival of the Dead,” and the event will play host to the first-ever Michigan Film Awards.

With four University of Michigan graduates among the nominees, it’s possible that these Wolverines may get to take home some hardware.

U-M grad Cindy Chu is nominated for an MFA best actress award for the short “Qing Lou Nu,” which will be screened March 6; U-M grad and writer/director Lance Kawaswill have his film “Street Boss” (about a real Detroit mobster who was brought down by the FBI) screened on March 4 at 3:30 p.m., and Kawas has earned MFA nominations in the categories of best Michigan feature and best director; and U-M grads Wad’ih Arraf and Stephen Day‘s absurdist, MFA-nominated short “Forth, William” will screen on March 6.

To learn more about this week’s festival, and see a detailed schedule, visitwww.detroitindiefest.com.

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for AnnArbor.com. Reach her atjennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

There was also a mention of Qing Lou Nu and Bryan D. Hopkins in today’s Detroit Free Press:

Detroit’s Burton Theatre launches indie film fest

Romero’s ‘Survival of the Dead’ among the premieres

BY JOHN MONAGHAN
FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER

The Burton Theatre, which opened late last year in the auditorium of Detroit’s old Burton Elementary School, continues its ambitious mission this week by throwing the first Detroit Independent Film Festival. The event, which began Tuesday, continues through Sunday with a lineup of offbeat local films and the premiere of George A. Romero’s “Survival of the Dead.”

“We wanted something that would foster the creative impetus in Detroit and in Michigan,” says festival programmer Nate Faustyn. “We wanted a festival that was really filmmaker-friendly.”

More than 70 short and feature-length films will play over the weekend, among them Bryan D. Hopkins‘ “Qing Lou Nu,” Robert Joseph Butler’s “Solitude” and “Another Day, Another Dime” from former Detroiter Kathy Kolla.

For many fans, the big ticket will be “Survival of the Dead,” the latest in a long series of Romero horror films that began with “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968. The new entry finds warring families on an island battling each other and a zombie epidemic. Though the movie isn’t directly related to 2007’s “Diary of the Dead,” it shares some of the same characters.

Acquiring “Survival” was a coup for the local festival, as the film has been seen only in Toronto, Venice, Italy, and Austin, Texas. Romero says a limited theatrical release is expected this spring.

“I really didn’t know what to make this one about,” the revered cult director, 70, said during a recent phone interview. “So I went back to the theme of that enmity that won’t die, people that hold onto these grudges even in the face of disaster.”

Romero, who had his dance with Hollywood in the 1980s, prefers to keep his movies far away from studio control — and meddling. “No, they can’t compete against ‘Avatar,’ ” he said, “but I have a loyal fan base. The films do extremely well on video.”

The DIFF runs through Sunday at the Burton Theatre, 3420 Cass, Detroit. 313-473-9238 or detroitindiefest.com. $10 for “Survival of the Dead,” $5 for other screenings.

Russian-made ‘Sun’ shines at DFT: “The Sun” (***), playing this weekend at the Detroit Film Theatre, examines the surrender of Japanese Emperor Hirohito to Allied occupiers near the end of World War II. The new movie from Russian director Alexander Sokurov (“Russian Ark”) boasts a haunting performance by Issey Ogata as a man hailed as a deity who must now walk among mortals. He appears to have lots of mumbling conversations with himself in the film — something that may lead viewers to think the sound is skewed. 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (also 4:30 p.m. March 14).

Then, as part of the ongoing DFT Docs series, Michel Orion Scott’s “The Horse Boy” follows a Texas family on a journey to Outer Mongolia to find a cure for an autistic child. It screens at 4 p.m. Saturday. DFT at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit. 313-833-4005 or dia.org/dft. $7.50, $6.50 students, seniors.

Oscar party at Dino’s in Ferndale: They’re calling it the Foscars, or “fun Oscars.” So says Greg Russell from “Movie Show Plus” on WMYD-TV (My TV 20), host of Sunday night’s Academy Awards Party at Dino’s Lounge in Ferndale. The free event, beginning at 7 p.m. and running through the end of the show, will feature a limo parked out front, red carpet, champagne, snacks and prizes.

During the commercials, contestants in a Micro Mini Challenge will screen their short films as a prelude to this fall’s Ferndale Film Festival. 22740 Woodward, Ferndale, 248-591-3466. Film fest info: 248-534-5354 or ferndalefilmfestival.org.

Redford bets on ‘Day at the Races’: Among the Marx Brothers’ most entertaining vehicles is 1937’s “A Day at the Races” (***), which finds the comic trio saving a sanitarium while playing the ponies at the racetrack next door. 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Redford Theatre, 17360 Lahser (at Grand River), Detroit. 313-537-2560 or www.redfordtheatre.com. $4.

Hitchcock rarities play Penn: 1956’s “The Wrong Man” (***), starring Henry Fonda as a jazz musician wrongly accused of robbery, is tonight’s offering in a new Penn Theatre series of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. The 7 p.m. Thursday series will focus on rarely seen Hitchcock works, all screening in 35mm prints. The other titles: “Suspicion” (March 11), “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (March 18) and “Rope” (March 25). 760 Penniman, Plymouth. 734-453-0870 or www.penntheatre.com. $3.

Contact freelance writer JOHN MONAGHAN: madjohn@earthlink.net

With so much interest in the film festival and my rising career as an actress, I also gave a few interviews in the past couple of weeks.  One was with my old high school, Grosse Pointe South.  The other two were with Seaholm High School and lastly, my friend Roborobb.  When I have access to the articles/interviews, I will post them here.

The newest episode of The Midnight Hour also premieres tonight at midnight, and every Saturday (10:30PM) and Thursday (midnight) for the rest of the month in the Troy, MI broadcast area.  More below:

Comcast 52 & WOW! 18:

March 4, 11, 18, 25 (midnight)

March 6, 13, 20, 27 (10:30pm)

A drunken, murderous circus clown (Jamie Wheatley) gets a new lease on life as a travelling nightclub hypnotist. His sensuous assistant, Wan (Cindy Chu) begins to suspect a connection between his bizarre stage act and a series of brutal homicides in the towns in which he plays. John Tynan, Jr., Curtis Lee Vest, Angela Roberts, Jonathan West, Carol McClure, Michael J. Vanderpool, Dave Dork (30 min.)

Those are all my updates for now.  I hope some of you can make the awards ceremony!  In case you need the info for that again:

Tickets may now be purchased online:
http://www.burtontheatre.com/diff1/

Come see Qing Lou Nu screen at the first annual Detroit Independent Film Festival Awards Ceremony! Description of the awards ceremony follows below.

7 :30 PM – 2010 Michigan Film Awards Best Short Nominations/Award Ceremony @ Deroy Auditorium 5203 Cass Ave, Detroit MI 48202

Qing Lou Nu (2009, USA, Bryan D. Hopkins)
Walls collapse with tragic consequences when a Chinese prostitute hears the words, “I love you.” Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Qing Lou Nu” is an edgy reinvention of the timeless classic that explores the collision of east and west.

Running Time 25 Mins

**7 Michigan Film Award Nominations including Best Narrative Short, Best Editing and Best Director Bryan D. Hopkins, Best Actress-Cindy Chu, Best Actor-Axel Harney, Best Cinematography-Mark C. Davis Jr., Best Supporting Actor-David G.B. Brown

Ciao!

~c

UPDATE on March 5, 2010

We got some more press in The News Herald!  Read the article below.

East meets West: Banker-turned-filmmaker finds niche with indie film

Published: Friday, March 05, 2010

Cindy Chu pictured in incense scene from Qing Lou Nu

Click to enlarge

By Andrea Blum

Bryan Hopkins, 34, says he’s done enough living for 100 lifetimes, and now wants to use those experiences to tell stories to make people think and feel in different ways.

The Riverview resident abandoned corporate life as a mortgage banker at Quicken Loans to find his niche as an independent film director.

“The same mortgage crisis that hit everybody hit me,” he said.

After becoming unemployed, he decided to pursue one of his passions.

“I was working to get paid and trying to have fun on my off hours,” he said. “I decided that philosophy wasn’t working.”

He cashed in his savings and enrolled at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan.

“I found that I was a perfect fit for it, and I fell in love with it,” he said.

“Now I’m trying to claw my way up and make up for 30 years I spent doing other stuff.”

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Hopkins was drawn to music and photography at a young age, but set his creative tendencies aside to serve as a parachute medic in the 82nd Airborne Division.

At Kent State University, he discovered a passion for world culture that led to a three-year trip around the world.

During that time, he studied religion, culture and international politics primarily in Asia.

“I got my degree in comparative religious studies,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in philosophy and religion.”

He met his wife in Taiwan and spent a year as an English coordinator for the Taiwanese military.

And it’s those experiences among others that Hopkins uses to inspire his creativity.

“Being a filmmaker allows me to take my business background and unique experiences and culminate them into one artistic expression,” he said.

“It’s the perfect blend of philosophy, art and corporate expression.”

One of his latest efforts, “Qing Lou Nu (The Prostitute),” is nominated in seven categories at this weekend’s first Detroit Independent Film Festival.

The DIFF was started by indie filmmakers for indie filmmakers.

The free five-night festival held at the Burton Film Theatre in Detroit will showcase short films from Michigan and around the world.

Hopkins’ 25-minute film is an edgy reinvention of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart,” with a twist that explores the collision of East and West.

His first non-student film, the idea sprang from his membership in a director’s club at MPI.

“We were going to do a version of Poe’s story and I had spent a lot of time in Asia so the director of MPI asked what I thought about going Asian with it,” he said.

Hopkins said the story fell in line perfectly with his storytelling method.

“I write dark stuff,” he said. “I’ve been through more downs than ups in life. I relate to a funeral more than I can relate to a wedding.”

The stylistic bilingual picture explores the life of an Asian prostitute trapped in a contradictory world of passion and obligations, and the stunning climax when a naïve, unsuspecting client confesses his love for her.

“I started seeing certain images in my head,” he said. “The incense ritual at the beginning of the film and mixing between something so sacred with something that a lot of people see as dirty.”

When it came time to cast the film, Hopkins said it was quite a challenge to find a willing actress to take the lead.

“I put Craigslist ads out and tried to find people everywhere, and no one would take the role,” he said.

The sexual nature of the movie prevented many Asian actresses from agreeing to take part, according to Hopkins, because overt sexuality is taboo in Asian culture.

In the end, local actress Cindy Chu was the last person seen for the role only a month before shooting began, Hopkins said, and she gave an amazing performance.

The film, made on a $1,000 budget, is nominated for Best Narrative Short, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography and Best Editing at the DIFF.

It also earned the “Audience Choice Award” at the Mitten Movie Project in October.

“The response has been great,” he said. I’m so glad that people get it.”

Hopkins, along with a cast and crew of 32 people, spent roughly a month filming in Troy and Royal Oak. The work was completed last summer.

“I’m trying to really explore a different side of things,” he said. “It’s not a love story, but I love the idea of playing with people’s definitions of things.”

For him, the greatest aspect of filmmaking is causing someone to walk away with a changed view of the world.

“It’s one of the most challenging times in Michigan’s history,” he said, “but if someone could watch this film and see that with this darkness there’s also a lot of powerful experiences and great art that can come from it, then that’s great.”

“Qing Lou Nu” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Burton Theatre.

Also on the bill is “The Tank,” a short film by written by Wyandotte Police Det. Scott Galeski and directed by Joe Johnston.

Filmed at the former Wyandotte Police Department, the movie chronicles the interaction among five men in the holding cell known as “the tank,” as they await arraignment.

“The Tank” will show at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

For a full schedule of films showing at the festival, visit www.detroitindiefest.com.

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