VIDEO: FILMMAKER DAVID LOWERY ON “A GHOST STORY”

We sat down with filmmaker David Lowery to talk about his  new film A Ghost Story. Lowery wrote, directed and edited the film.

At first blush the film appears to be about a ghost that haunts its old home. But, the film stays with you long after you have seen and prompts thoughts about the cycle of life, rebirth, memories, home, passage of time and love. These are questions that we typically shove to a forgotten corner of our minds and seldom think about them A Ghost Story left me wondering about what is life, and what is your role in the world.

How did Lowery get the idea for writing the script for this unusual film that evokes strong memories of love life, history, time and home? Was he inspired by Steven Spielberg’s ET? Or was it the children’s book on ghost that he read as a child? Tune in to hear Lowery share what inspired him to write A Ghost Story, and what he learnt from it.

A Ghost Story stars Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and others. The film releases wide in the US on July 28, 2017.

This interview was aired on TV in the US.

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VIDEO: SFFILM’S NOAH COWAN

We sat down with Noah Cowan, Executive Director of SFFILM to find out about their long-term strategic direction and what it means to be a film institute in San Francisco. In early 2017 they changed their name to SFFILM from San Francisco Film Society.

SFFILM has year around programs and works with various organizations to help promote films,filmmakers, artist development and outreach programs for students. They host an annual international film festival, provide grants and support artists, and work with high schools to educate students on how to read films and apply them in learning other subjects. SFFILM has one of the biggest grant making programs for commercial films and were instrumental in the making of Patti Cake$, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of Southern Wild and other films says Cowan.

We are not a standalone entity but are part of the San Francisco Bay area fabric points out Cowan. They work with various organizations like San Francisco MoMa, San Francisco Opera, Pacific Archives and others. It is essential to connect with the technological change in cinema and evolve with the community points out Cowan. Earlier this year they introduced an online screening room and a mobile app for their members.

Cowan joined SFFILM in 2014 and prior to that he spent many years at the Toronto Film Festival.

This interview was aired on TV in the US.

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VIDEO: JAMES IVORY ON FILMS, ISMAIL MERCHANT AND INDIA

We sat down with director James Ivory to talk about growing up on the west coast, arts, films, Ismail Merchant, Ruth Prawar Jhabvala, Satyajit Ray and India. Ivory also shares some of his favorite films from his childhood days.

Ivory was born in Berkeley, grew up Oregon and every year they visited San Francisco Bay area to spend time with their extended family. He studied architecture and fine arts at the University or Oregon and filmmaking at University of Southern California (USC). At USC he made a short film called Venice: Themes of Variations. His second short film The Sword and the Flute was inspired by Indian miniature paintings that he first saw in an art gallery in San Francisco. It was this film that led to his interest and connection in India and also his first meeting with Ismail Merchant.

In 1961 Ivory and  Merchant formed the Merchant Ivory Productions. Around this time they also started their collaboration with writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. The trio made award-winning films like Shakespeare Wallah, Heat and Dust, A Room With A View, Howard’s End, The Remains of the Day and others.

This interview was recorded at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, where his film Maurice was screened.

This interview was aired on TV in the US.

You can watch our weekly TV show in the US. Here is a list of TV stations that broadcast our show. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel and podcast where we feature new interviews.

VIDEO: DIRECTOR JAMES IVORY ON INDIA, SAEED JAFFREY AND ISMAIL MERCHANT

We caught up with director James Ivory at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival, where his film Maurice was screened. This is a highlight of a longer upcoming interview. In this clip Ivory shares how his interest in India developed and the first documentary he made on India called The Sword and the FluteIt was through this documentary that he came to meet actor Saeed Jaffrey and Ismail Merchant.

Ivory and his filmmaking partner Ismail Merchant through their Merchant Ivory Productions have made nearly 40 feature films. While neither Ivory nor Merchant have won an Oscar for their work as director or producer, their films have won them a handful of Oscars. Their repertoire of films include Howard’s End, Maurice, Heat and Dust, A Room With A View, Mr & Mrs Bridges, The Householder and others.

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VIDEO: MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM

This was my first trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium that is about 90 minutes away from Silicon Valley. While I have visited Monterey and Carmel many times, I never did manage to visit the famous aquarium. Monterey Bay Aquarium demands your total attention from the moment you step in. There is so much to see and learn about oceans and marine life and how to conserve them. You need about 5-6 hours to explore the museum and even then you might feel you did not do justice to it.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located right down the famous Cannery Row of Monterey.

 

The aquarium is located in a former sardine factory. You can find out more about the history of the former sardine factory right as you enter the aquarium.

There is so much to see and experience at the aquarium from the kelp forest to the live feeding of penguins to exploring the Ocean’s Edge, the sardines, jellyfish, the sharks, stingrays and other marine life. I found myself standing mesmerized by the Kelp Forest exhibit and had to reluctantly walk away to explore other parts of the aquarium like The Open Sea and the jelly fish exhibit.

DIRECTIONS TO THE MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM: The Monterey Bay Aquarium is about 90 minutes from Silicon Valley. We parked at the Cannery Row Parking Garage and walked down to the aquarium.

VISITING THE MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM: The  aquarium is open from 9.30 to 6.00 pm PST. Check Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website before you plan your visit.

RELATED LINKS: Travelling through the back roads of Gilroy, Salinas, Watsonville and Carmel

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VIDEO: FILMMAKER AMIT MADHESHIYA ON THE CINEMA TRAVELLERS, WALTER MURCH & FILMS

Filmmakers Amit Madheshiya and Shirley Abraham’s award-winning documentary The Cinema Travellers shows you a different side of India’s love for films. The duo takes you on a magical ride around the small villages and towns outside of Mumbai (Bombay), India’ entertainment capital, which is home to Bollywood film industry. What we get to see in the film is a dedicated band of cinema travellers or dream merchants who show films to an audience that gets to see 35mm films about once a year.What you see is a whole different world – an analog world filled with old 35mm films and 35mm projectors and the films are screened in pitched tents.

We sat down to speak with Madheshiya during the 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival. Madheshiya and Abraham produced, directed and co-wrote their debut film that took them nearly 8 years to make. Both had to learn a lot about filmmaking and how to edit the film. Madheshiya shares that he learnt a lot by reading Academy Award winner Walter Murch’s (The Godfather) books and watching his films.  The films’ cinematography is the one that hooks you into the film and we wanted to find out how Madheshiya shot the film and what kind of camera he used. We also find out how he developed an interest in photography and about his mentor in his boarding school in Nainital, India. Tune in to find out about the making of The Cinema Travellers.

This interview was aired on TV in the US. Here is a list of TV stations in the US that broadcast our show. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel and podcast where we feature new interviews.

VIDEO: ROBERT BYRNE OF SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL

Meet Robert Byrne, President, Board of Directors of San Francisco Silent Film Festival, film restorer and engineer. We sat dow to talk about how he developed his passion for silent films, the legacy of silent films and his work in restoring silent films. We also find out why Byrne switched his major from film and theatre to computer science. After working as an engineer for many years, he went back to pursuing his primary passion in films.

Many films were destroyed or lost over the decades. But every now and then a lost print will surface like the 1916 on Sherlock Holmes starring William Gillette. Byrne was involved in the restoration of this iconic  film since Gillette is the one who created that memorable get-up for Holmes through his stage play, which later on became a silent film. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle approved of Gillette’s stage play on Holmes. That long coat,  curved pipe and the deerstalker hat are creations of Gillette points out Byrne.

Every June the San Francisco Silent Film Festival takes place where they showcase silent films from around the world. The festival recreates the silent film era experience complete with live music by well-known orchestras. This year the San Francisco Silent Film Festival runs from June 1 through June 4, 2017 at the Castro Theatre.

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VIDEO: AARON LINGTON & CHRIS MOTTER ON JAZZ AND JAZZ IMPROVISATION

We sat down to speak with Dr. Aaron Lington and Chris Motter on jazz and jazz improvisation.  Dr. Lington shares how technology has changed the way people play and learn to play jazz. There is a lot students can do with technology today he shares.  Mother shares how he uses technology to transcribe the music on his computer and learn to play tracks.

How and when do they start improvising well-known jazz standards? It is a 3-stage process explains Dr. Lington. It starts with mimicking, followed by assimilation and finally innovate on that track. Not every jazz musician gets to that third stage of innovation he points out. Louis Armstrong was an innovator as was Duke Ellington among others he adds.

Dr.Lington and Motter then do a show and tell of jazz improvisation. They play a few well-known jazz standards like Billy Strayhorn’s Take The A Train followed by their version of improvisation.

Dr. Lington plays the baritone saxophone and Motter plays jazz guitar. Dr. Lington is a musician, teacher and composer, who teaches at San Jose State University. He is also a member of the Grammy winning band Pacific Mambo Orchestra. Motter graduated from San Jose University in music.

April is #jazzappreciation month.

This interview was sponsored by Zoho Corp and aired on TV in the US.

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VIDEO: FILMMAKER JAMES GRAY ON “THE LOST CITY OF Z”

We caught up with filmmaker James Gray to talk about his new film The Lost City of Z. Gray was in San Francisco to attend the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival. We spoke to Gray about why Brad Pitt sent him the novel and how he got attached to the project and what did he learn from making the film.

The Lost City of Z is based on David Grann’s best-selling novel by the same name. Gray wrote, directed and co-produced the film that was largely shot in Columbia, South America.  This is a true story about an early 20th British explorer Lt. Colonel Percy Fawcett, who was convinced there was a lost civilization in the Amazon. Finding that lost city became Fawett’s magificient obsession and over a course of 20 odd years he made multiple trips to South America in search of the city. He was convinced he had found the remnants of an ancient civilization, but he had a hard time convincing others of his finding.

The film stars Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland among others.

The Lost City of Z  releases in the San Francisco March 10, 2017.

  • Title: THE LOST CITY OF Z
  • Running Time: 150 minutes
  • Status: Releases April 21, 2017
  • Country:USA
  • GENRE: DRAMA

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REMEMBERING BILLIE HOLIDAY ON HER BIRTHDAY

Jazz musician and composer Billie Holiday would have been 102 years old today. She was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia  and died rather young on  July 17, 1959.

Holiday was a gifted singer, whose voice captured deep and complex emotions in an effortless manner. You simply can’t be indifferent to Holiday’s music, especially her voice. Emotional, moody, soulful are some of the words that come to mind when you listen to her sing. There was something magical about her voice that made you sit up and take notice. You simply cannot ignore Holiday’s voice.

Holiday has the ability to convey emotion writes Tom Vitale in this article. He points out that Holiday was greatly influence by Louis Armstrong’s vocal style. Until I read Vitale’s article I had not made the connection on how strong Armstrong’s influence was on Holiday.

“Even when she sang a happy song, she seemed half in a dream world she wasn’t sure she should share,” writes Geoffrey Himes in What Makes Billie Holiday’s Music So Powerful Today.

Holiday started singing in the 1930s. “There was something special about her. Jazz musicians and some fans heard it, and so did a young record producer named John Hammond. He heard an 18-year-old Holiday sing in a small club in April 1933, writes John McDonough. Holiday came to be noticed in 1939 when she sang Strange Fruit.

Here a rare interview of Holiday talking about jazz and the book she wrote The Lady Sings The Blues.

Here are a couple of songs from Holiday for your listening pleasure. Did I mention that April is #JazzAppreciation month?

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