American Film

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November 2012


    This year’s AFI Fest presented by Audi, which runs November 1-8 in Hollywood, will present 140 films (84 features, 56 shorts) from 3,400 submissions across 28 countries. One-quarter of the festival's feature films are making their premieres, and entries include 12 official Foreign Language Film Oscar® submissions.

    AFI Conservatory alumni will once again have a presence at AFI Fest – 37 alumni are represented with 16 films. Heidi Levitt (AFI Class of 1987) returns to the festival, this time as executive producer of GINGER & ROSA; she was the casting director on the Oscar®-winning THE ARTIST, which played at last year's AFI Fest. Other AFI alumni include Janusz Kamiński (AFI Class of 1987) and Sarah Broshar (AFI Class of 2005) with Steven Spielberg's LINCOLN, and Masanobu Takayanagi (AFI Class of 2002) and Jay Cassidy (AFI Class of 1976) with David O. Russell's SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

    Justin Tipping (AFI Class of 2011), director of NANI, and Ryan Prows (AFI Class of 2011), director of NARCOCORRIDO – both winners at the 39th Annual Student Academy Awards® in the Narrative film category earlier this year – have their AFI Conservatory thesis films screening as part of the AFI Fest 2012 Shorts program. Shaz Bennett (AFI Directing Workshop for Women, Class of 2012) is at the festival with two entries: ALASKA IS A DRAG, which she directed and wrote, and IZZY & SALVADOR, which she wrote.

    We’re proud of the talent that surrounds us every day at AFI.


    Sacha Gervasi (pronounced Jur-VAH-zee) makes his feature film directing debut with HITCHCOCK, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. Billed as a love story about the famed director and his wife Alma during the making of PSYCHO, AFI Fest hosts the movie’s World Premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on November 1. Born in London in 1966, Gervasi got his screenwriting start with THE BIG TEASE, which he co-wrote with Craig Ferguson, and went on to pen THE TERMINAL directed by Steven Spielberg. He directed the rock-umentary ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL in 2005, which later won an Emmy® Award and Best Documentary at the Independent Spirit Awards.

    AF: You live in Los Angeles, don’t you?

    SG: I do, I live here. I actually moved here some years ago to go to UCLA film school and I’ve been going back and forth between London and here for quite some time. But now, here’s my home.

    AF: What attracted you to the story of HITCHCOCK?

    SG: The central relationship – because, as a fan of Hitchcock, having seen most of his movies at film school and before, one thing I really didn’t know about was the degree to which Alma Hitchcock, his wife, was so intimately involved in every aspect of his process throughout almost his entire career. What drew me to the story was the chance to tell the untold story of a great collaboration as well as a marriage, and I just felt there was something really resonant about telling a story about a mostly unsung, unacknowledged partner who made such a critical contribution to the work of a great artist.

    AF: Did your own marriage play a part in that?

    SG: Absolutely! Ironically…when [screenwriter] John McLaughlin’s script first came around, I was not sure about it and my wife [Jessica] read it and said, ‘You should really read this.’ And I resisted it and then I read it and I wasn’t sure. And she said, ‘Look, you could make this into the most beautiful love story, this could be a great love story – it is.’ She had been fascinated by Alfred and Alma Hitchcock for years…and she was the one who actually made me read it and ultimately was the reason that I did it. So it’s perfectly in keeping with the theme.

    AF: Did you see the HBO Hitchcock film THE GIRL starring Toby Jones?

    SG: I have heard about it, but I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure, at some point, I will. I think it’s important to say, though, that I think it’s wonderful, given that it’s Hitchcock’s centenary, that there’s so much attention on him. And I think that anything that brings attention to Hitchcock and will lead people to see his incredible films is a good thing.

    AF: Which is your personal favorite Hitchcock film?

    SG: Well, obviously it would be remiss of me not to say PSYCHO. I also love REAR WINDOW, I love VERTIGO, I love SABOTEUR, I love ROPE, I love even REBECCA in its sort of flaming, maudlin topic kind of way…A couple of the later ones, I wasn’t so keen on, but most of his films are brilliant.

    AF:  Academy Award®-winning actors, first narrative feature – was that a hurdle?

    SG: This is my first narrative film with actors…directing two [award-winners]. If you sit down and think about it, of course that’s intimidating. But…when I met with the producers…I said to them, ‘If you don’t get Anthony Hopkins, there’s no point in making the film.’ I’m the sort of person who says, ‘Let’s do it the best that we can do it or not bother.’ I was determined to get him and also to have Helen do the film. But I think there was a moment in rehearsal – Day Four – when I was sitting there and I was talking to Helen and suggesting something or we were having a discussion about the script, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I’m here with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren and they’re listening to me. It was a big shock. But for me, it was sort of the next step, having done ANVIL, which was such a great experience for me, on the subject of two rock ‘n’ roll musicians in their 50s still chasing the dream of childhood, and that was quite a handful. But I have to say, compared to the guys from ANVIL, Tony Hopkins and Helen Mirren were a walk in the park. They’re such wonderful, equally brilliant professionals…You know, mostly when you’re directing actors of that caliber, you know how good they are and you’re letting them do their job. I think the best directors I’ve observed are the ones who don’t do too much. They make critical decisions about script, about casting, about crew and then they let people work. And then they come in and gently guide when it’s appropriate, but they’re overseeing. They’re not playing the instruments; they’re conducting the orchestra…And no one on the set with me was unimportant. If the craft service guy had a great idea, I would take that.

    AF: Does the film aim to emulate the Hitchcock style of suspense?

    SG: Obviously, doing a Hitchcock movie, we wanted to approach it in the spirit that we felt Hitchcock would have approached it. His goal was always to entertain his audience. He always had a sense of fun and mischievousness. So we came at it from that point of view. Our goal was not to recreate scenes from the film that everyone knows; the film stands alone as a sort of epic masterwork, incredibly influential, obviously. And what we wanted to do was a counterpoint. PSYCHO’S in black and white; we shoot in color. When we did Hitchcock visual references, which we did, we didn’t do them for the sake of letting the audience know – wink, wink, there’s a Hitchcock shot. We did it because it worked for the story. We did do certain things like perspective shots, moving shots, point of view shots, but only in so far as they were relevant to the emotional story that we were telling.

    AF: What about the musical score?

    SG: That was just a fantastic experience – to work with Danny Elfman. What was great was that, when I first met Danny, he had this unbelievable office in Hollywood and you walk into the living room, which is this giant room, and there’s this massive picture of Hitchcock with a raven on his shoulder that dominates the room. And he turned to me, smiling and he said, ‘I promise you I didn’t put that up just before you got here.’ He’s a massive Hitchcock fan who, more importantly, was influenced by Herrmann. He loved Bernard Herrmann’s music and I think he loved the idea of scoring a movie about Hitchcock…in the context of Herrmann’s music being in the film. We use some of the actual PSYCHO music at crucial points. He was just incredibly excited to have the chance to work within that context, to have his music alongside one of the composers who really was his inspiration and being part of telling a story that no one really knew…I love that Charles Champlin quote: ‘The Hitchcock touch had four hands; two of them were Alma’s.’ That was the fresh thing about it.

    AF: What’s next for Sacha Gervasi?

    I don’t know! I’m really focused on HITCHCOCK and getting that out into the world and then we’ll see what happens next.


    Drum roll, please! The winner for AFI’s Red Carpet Getaway Sweepstakes is Jill Zahner from Campbell, CA! Zahner's been an AFI Two-Star member for a few years now and is a true cinema devotee. Thanks, Jill – we’ll see you on the red carpet in November!


    Thanks to all of you who helped make Membership Month such a huge success! With over 300 new members joining AFI, we were able to triple our goal. Additional donations from our current members made Membership Month an even greater success. Thank you for your extra contributions to AFI.

    Whether you’re new or renewed, come say hello during AFI Fest at the membership stations located at the Chinese 6 in the Hollywood & Highland complex, or outside the Cinema Lounge at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel where Two-Star members and above enjoy access during the day. We’ll also be hosting a Two-Star and above Members’ Reception Wednesday, November 7, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Join us!


    Now in its 25th year, the AFI European Union Film Showcase at the AFI Silver Theatre in the metro DC area features a first-class selection of films from EU member states. This year's selection of more than 40 films includes multiple award-winners, international festival favorites, plus many countries' official Oscar® submissions for Best Foreign Language Film.

    Highlights of the festival include:  Germany’s Oscar® selection BARBARA, starring Nina Hoss and directed by Christian Petzold; HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, director Roger Michell’s comedic chronicle of the king and queen of England’s visit to America in 1939, with Bill Murray as FDR; Cate Shortland’s LORE, an Australia/Germany co-production set in post-WWII Germany; Cannes Grand Prix winner REALITY, the latest from Italy’s Matteo Garrone; RENOIR from director Gilles Bourdos, an insightful biopic of the great painter’s later days and his son Jean’s awakening passion for the cinema; RUST AND BONE, the new film from France’s Jacques Audiard starring Oscar®-winning actress Marion Cotillard and rising newcomer Matthias Schoenaerts; IRA thriller SHADOW DANCER from the UK/Ireland, starring Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough and Gillian Anderson, directed by Oscar® winner James Marsh; and Ireland’s STELLA DAYS, featuring Martin Sheen as a free-thinking country priest.

    Official submissions for the 2012 Foreign Language Film Oscar® include:  BARBARA (Germany) directed by Christian Petzold; IN THE SHADOW (Czech Republic) directed by David Ondricek; JUST THE WIND (Hungary) directed by Bence Fliegauf; LORE (Australia) directed by Cate Shortland; MADE IN ASH (Slovakia) directed by Iveta Grófová; MUSHROOMING (Estonia) directed by Toomas Hussar; OUR CHILDREN (Belgium) directed by Joachim Lafosse; and UNFAIR WORLD (Greece) directed by Filippos Tsitos.

    Click here read more about the showcase

    With the AFI European Union Film Showcase Passport, you'll zip right past customs (the AFI Silver box office) and be admitted to every film in the festival:

    Early Bird Discount for the Passport is October 19-November 1:
    $150 General Admission/$125 for AFI Members

    After November 1:
    $175 General Admission/$135 for AFI Members

    Valued at more than $575!


    Join AFI and Academy Award®-winning Director Peter Jackson at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on Thursday, December 6, for the U.S. Premiere of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. Individual tickets starting at $500 and packages starting at $5,000 are available at and proceeds benefit AFI’s education and preservation initiatives. THE HOBBIT, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s enduringly popular Middle-earth masterpiece, is set 60 years before THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy begins.

    Jackson’s trilogy stands among the greatest movies of all time as part of AFI’s 100 Years...100 Movies list, and all three films have been honored with AFI Awards, the American Film Institute’s “almanac” of the year’s most outstanding achievements in film and television. This U.S. Premiere promises to be an extraordinary evening celebrating a modern master, Peter Jackson. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY will be released nationwide on December 14, and will be featured on the cover of your next American Film™.


    In an announcement that tickled the world, quintessential King of Comedy Mel Brooks was named the next recipient of the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award. A true genius of cinema, Brooks has brought both laughter and depth of emotion to the screen with a repertoire ranging from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to THE ELEPHANT MAN.

    The festive tribute will be held Thursday, June 6, in Los Angeles. AFI Five-Star members and above are invited to join us for the event, but if you can’t make it, TNT and Turner Classic Movies will broadcast the tribute later in June. Three-Star members and above will receive a special AFI Life Achievement Award DVD of the evening with member-exclusive content. This event is destined to be an historical gala of hilarious proportions – and not just because the 2,000 Year Old Man is on the guest list! Brooks is a master of entertainment and winner of the coveted EGOT (meaning he has won the Emmy®, Grammy®, Oscar® and Tony®). He holds of an honorary doctorate from the AFI Conservatory and a special place in the hearts of filmgoers around the world. Congratulations, Mel!


    In August, Mary McIlwain, AFI Manager of Social Media, relocated from the Manor House to the second-floor offices of the new Communications Department in the Warner Bros. Building. We chatted in a room undergoing a major makeover, including freshly assembled office furniture – much of it put together by McIlwain herself. Her workspace features an eclectic mix of posters ranging from THE ANGEL WORE RED, THE GOONIES and JAWS to LABYRINTH and VERTIGO. As expected, her answers to our 10 questions were Twitter-length and Facebook friendly.

    1. Where are you from? I was born in Hammond, Indiana, which is a suburb of Chicago, but I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    2. Where did you go to school? I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Photography from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

    3. What did you do before you came to AFI? Directly before I came here, I worked for Netflix for about three and a half years. I worked in the site content department, which handled web metadata, photographs and film descriptions, as well as special projects related to improving search capability and tool development. I later moved into the international expansion streaming team where I helped to launch Netflix’s first international divisions in Canada and Latin America.

    4. How long have you been at AFI? I have been at AFI for just under a year and a half.

    5. What do you do at AFI? I manage AFI’s social media presence, which means I manage all of the Institute’s Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts, edit and digitize content from the AFI Archive for the home page and AFI YouTube site, and manage content objectives for I also work on special projects such as developing the mobile app for AFI Fest and participate in larger communication strategy decisions.

    6. How does that affect our members and insiders? Everything I do is hugely important for members and insiders because I communicate all the good things that AFI does: news about alumni and current Fellows, their film projects, the faculty and staff, and the many AFI programs including AFI exhibition and annual AFI events like AFI Awards and the AFI Life Achievement Award. I think it’s great to be able to communicate that kind of information in the immediacy that social media can provide.

    7. What was your best day at AFI? That could have been any one of the eight days of AFI Fest last year. It’s such a huge effort to put on a festival, in general, and with an event the size and scale of AFI Fest, it was really rewarding to see everything come together. On a personal level, it was amazing to see so many films and meet filmmakers from all over the world. I’m really looking forward to AFI Fest 2012 in November.

    8. What are you working on today? Today I’ve been working on helping the AFI Conservatory Admissions Office increase awareness of the campus tours and the opportunities for incoming students to see the campus. I tagged along on the weekly campus tour, took a bunch of pictures and learned a lot more about the program and how the film production process is structured. Now I can better communicate on behalf of the Conservatory, and help get that information out to prospective students. For the rest of the day I’m working on a social media guide for filmmakers coming to AFI Fest this year, which is a best practices guide on promoting their films and engaging audiences, both in advance of and during the festival.

    9. What don’t your colleagues know about you? Most of my colleagues likely do not know that I secretly make goofy, sci-fi action movies in my spare time.

    10. What’s your favorite film? If I wanted to sound smart, I would say Errol Morris’ THE THIN BLUE LINE documentary. If I wanted to sound a little more cultured, I would say Wong Kar-wai’s IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. But, in all honesty, it’s ALIENS. I love it and I’ve seen it so many times. Sci-fi action!