This past Tuesday night, the William Vale (111 N 12th St) hosted a screening of the fantastic new Netflix comedy The Incredible Jessica James. The event was hosted by Rooftop Films, a non-profit founded in 1997, dedicated to exposing people to new films and assisting up and coming filmmakers to produce new work.
The film stars Jessica Williams as the titular Jessica James, a young playwright in her mid 20’s navigating her emotions after a recent breakup, while keeping her spirits up amidst a slew of rejection letters from theater companies. The film follows her as she learns lessons about herself through her relationship with Boon (played by Chris O’Dowd), a recent divorcé with whom she shares a budding romance, and her students at a children’s theater company. As so many people do in their mid-20’s in New York, she starts out with a very idealistic view of where she wants to be romantically, professionally and personally, and throughout the course of the movie discovers that she is actually right where she wants to be. Continue reading →
In a world full of bullshit and bullshitters, Danny Brown is as clean as a whistle. In fact, his authenticity is perhaps as pure as a baby bull’s shit. No matter how it’s put, Danny Brown is a true artist, and there’s a new documentary out tonight that will school you on the matter.
Directed by Andrew Cohn (of Medora fame), Danny Brown: Live at the Majestic captures raw moments with the indie rapper as he prepares for a homecoming show at The Majestic Theatre in Detroit. With 21 cameras, Cohn’s crew captured full coverage of the live show, but the documentary also includes intimate footage with Danny in his own hometown.
Andrew Cohn, whose career initially started with screenwriting in Los Angeles, but who is now based in Brooklyn, enjoyed much success with his first documentary, Medora. The heart-wrenching doc follows a seemingly hopeless small-town high school basketball team through their losing streak in Medora, Indiana. The film premiered at SXSW, and it won an Emmy last year.
Danny Brown: Live at the Majestic is one of Cohn’s newest documentaries (he also just finished Night School). This time, as with Medora, he seems to have been born to make this film. As a Michiganian, Cohn was a fan of Danny Brown before the rapper’s fame hit global proportions — before XXX or Old hit the charts — back when Brown was just a drug dealer in Detroit trying to make it as a rapper. Cohn says he remembers when it was a big deal whenever Danny was featured on the cover of “Metro Times” in Detroit. As a fellow Midwestern artist, he’s enjoyed seeing Brown’s fame rise as his own filmmaking success has evolved.
I had the chance to catch up with Cohn about the documentary — how it came about and what it was like working with the creative force that is Danny Brown.
Greenpointers: What made you decide to make a doc on Danny Brown?
Andrew Cohn: It kinda came about as a side project because I was in the middle of making Night School, which I was in Indianapolis for. I had been in touch with his manager about doing a doc… and had lots of ideas that just fizzled and nothing came of [them]. But when I was making Night School… his manager approached me and said, ‘Danny is doing this show…it’s his first time doing a solo show in Detroit in a long time and we wanna film it, and want to talk to you to see if there’s something bigger you want to build around it.’ And immediately I was like ‘That sounds great, I’m close, I already have a crew and a ton of resources in Detroit and Michigan since that’s where I’m from’…So, first thing we wanted to do was shoot the fuck out of the live show…we wanted to just totally blow it out… And then I went back [to Indianapolis] to finish [Night School]. And, obviously, I spent about three days interviewing Danny while I was in Detroit… then had the idea to follow some fans who were at the show, and spent a few days with them, and slowly, slowly it started coming together… It was about a sixteen-month process from the first day of shooting.
GP: How did you find the fans who were featured in the film?
AC: Danny put out a Facebook post asking for fans who were going to be at the show who might be willing to be filmed…and we found some really great characters, you know, his fan base is super, super interesting… I think for Danny, he has a lot of fans who aren’t hip hop fans, a lot of them are punk rock fans. You’ll see a lot of mosh pits at his show. But I think that’s what’s great about Danny — he brings that vulnerability to his song writing. It’s not all braggadocious. He has that street credit, but he also has a punk rock mentality. Like, he refused to sign to a major label, he has this independent streak in him where he just does things his way, and I think the audience really reacts to that. He just has a really wide audience…like a lot of kids that come to his shows, I don’t think they’re gonna see a Drake show. He speaks to people that feel maybe disenfranchised, or people that are attracted to that kind of honesty.
GP: I was really impressed with how open and honest he was [in the film]. Was it easy to get him to open up like that in the conversations you had with him?
AC: Surprisingly so. I’ve done some profiles on some bigger artists and there’s always this kind of wall. They give you the PR spin of, like, an athlete after a basketball game, ‘Both teams played hard’ — this kind of sound byte stuff. But as soon as I met him — and I’m a huge Danny Brown fan — I totally understood why people love him so much. He’s so open and so honest and so vulnerable and raw. There’s none of that fake bullshit.
The first day I met him, we were filming late at night at the EL-P show, and they were all going to go back to Danny’s house and hang out after, and I [asked to come and film] and he was like, ‘Yeah of course!’ But I didn’t have car. I was trying to figure out how I would get back to the hotel…and he was like, ‘Oh, you can spend the night at my house! It’s fine.’ It was the first day I met this guy and he was inviting me to crash on his couch. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal, but now, looking back, I’m like, ‘Damn, that’s crazy. That’s crazy.’
GP: So, why did you approach his manager initially? Was it just because you’re a big fan?
AC: Yeah, I mean I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. I remember Danny Brown before he was big at all…he was just another rapper from Detroit. He just opened for people – he was just one of the dozens of rappers in Detroit doing their thing…To see him transcend that and be really big was really really fun to watch. And so when I approached Dart, his manager, I showed him Medora, and he and his wife really loved the film, and knew that they would be in good hands. And I just started this relationship that ended up taking a long time to come to fruition, but I think in the end there was a trust there — like we’re from the same place, we have the same point of view, you know. So that’s what was cool about doing the doc…I didn’t have to sit down and Google ‘Danny Brown’ and do research on who he is…I already knew his full story, so it made it easy when we were interviewing or talking, because I understood where he was coming from.
GP: What made you decide to have the world premiere through Rooftop Films?
AC:Just because I know Dan [Nuxoll, Program Director], and I know that they put on amazing screenings. The screening they did with Medora was unbelievable…so I knew I would be in good hands. They said that they had requests for 2,100 tickets in like three hours, or something like that, so I knew they would be able to handle the volume and accommodate Danny’s fans. I think that was really important to us — to have something where Danny’s fans have access…[something that] was going to be free, was going to be open to the public…all ages, 18 and over. So that was important to us. And you know, New York is a big market for him, so it made sense.
GP: Most of your work seems to revolve around people in low-income situations. What draws you to that landscape?
AC: I think that I love stories of underdogs. I’m not exactly sure why. I enjoy giving a voice to people who might not be given that platform. I think that there’s a lot of people out there in that part of the country who are really overcoming a lot of odds that don’t really get credit for it. So to be able to shine a light on people who wouldn’t have their stories told is really important to me. I think everyone is attracted to different types of material, and I like just making movies about real people who are trying to live in the real world, you know, and I think there are really courageous stories in that space. And I’m from the Midwest and obviously I love the Midwest — there’s just the frankness of the people — they’re very forthcoming and honest — and so I like telling stories about that part of the country — that part of the world.
GP: What are you working on now?
AC: I just finished my other film, so [I’m] figuring out the rollout with that. I’m doing something for MTV, Vice, ESPN, doing some television stuff, then basically taking a break. This will be my fourth feature film in three years. I’ve been going pretty hard for the past two years, so I’m going to take a break and see what’s next.
GP: Do you have an idea of what you would want to work on next?
AC:Yeah, I want to take a stab at doing a narrative film. Get back to screenwriting and hopefully direct something narrative. I have a couple ideas for docs. There are plenty of opportunities coming my way and it’s hard to say no, but I need to do laundry, and just get my life back on track.
GP: Get back to the basics.
AC: Yeah, exactly.
GP: I mean, that’s a good problem to have as a filmmaker.
AC: Yeah, I’m super grateful. Especially for the opportunity to make a film about your favorite rapper…it seems so surreal. I’m just grateful to have the relationship with him. He’s just a great guy, you know.
Yeah! I know.
Attendance for tonight’s show is on a first come, first serve basis, and doors open at 7. Screening starts at 8:30, followed by a Q&A with Danny Brown and Andrew Cohn. Danny performs at 10PM. House of Vans is located at 25 Franklin Street in Greenpoint.
WEDNESDAY 8/06 * SummerScreen Presents The Big Lebowski@ McCarren Park (Bedford Ave & North 12th St) 6pm, FREE, With live music before the film presented by Showpaper, More info * Rooftop Films Presents Forest of the Dancing Spirits @ Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Blvd) 8pm, FREE, Filmmaker Linda Västrik provides a glimpse at a culture so ancient that its denizens still inhabit the mythic world, More info * Arrested Development Bingo @ Videology (308 Bedford Ave) 8:30, FREE, Come as a “never-nude” and get a free drink and a frozen banana, More info
WEDNESDAY 7/30 ♫ Rhythms of Africa @ Golden Drum (97 Green St, #G1) 7:30, $15, Roots trance / dance music with the Peace Department, featuring Kevin Nathaniel, Evan Worldwind, and special guests, RSVP * Entranced: Comedy Hypnosis Show @ Standard Toykraft (722 Metropolitan Ave) 8pm, $15, Watch volunteers from the audience act out hilarious situations based on Max Kovins hypnotic suggestions, More info ♫ Nicholas Nicholas @ Muchmore’s (2 Havemeyer St) 8pm, $7, With Will Stratton / Kieran Blake / M A R T H A, RSVP
WEDNESDAY 7/16 * Family Day @ The Cliffs LIC (11-11 44th Dr) 10am, FREE day of climbing at one of the largest gyms in the country if you bring children age 6 to 16, More info * The Deadly Ponies Gang @ Socrates Sculpture Park (21-01 Vernon Blvd) 8pm, FREE, Rooftop Films presents this docu-comedy’s international premier, More info Continue reading →
It’s been a little while since I’ve had a chance to post, but I’m coming back to you with some music & film events taking place over the next few days. And as a bonus, I have a live performance video shot on location in North Brooklyn.
Last weekend, Rooftop Films kicked off their 2014 season with a night of shorts on Friday and the feature Obvious Child on Saturday. I went to Industry City on Saturday night for the screening and had a great time. I’m ready to convince you to see Obvious Child when it opens in regular movie theaters in a few weeks and to check out as many Rooftop Films as you can this summer. Continue reading →
We have the chance to giveaway the tix anyway we like. But I like things that are easy, so if you’re interested just shoot me an email with your full name at [email protected] with the subject: Rooftop Films Giveaway and I’ll randomly choose 10 folks to win a pair each! Winners will be notified by email on Thursday 6/23 morning and their names will be on the list at the event. Details below:
Home Movies and Commerical Kings is a collection of home movie inspired short films, including a special sneak preview of IFC’s new show The Commercial Kings. Before the show, Erika Spring of Au Revoir Simone will play live. It’s being held in the brand-new-not-yet-open-to-the-public outdoor bar in Williamsburg, Crown Vic.
ROOFTOP FILMS: HOME MOVIES AND COMMERCIAL KINGS (Short Films) A special collection of short films that let us peak into the lives of strangers, plus a special sneak preview of Commercial Kings, a new series on IFC. For decades people have been making home movies; capturing what they feel are important times in their lives. Home movies are made up of personal and special moments that someone wanted to document and never forget—and most of the time they rarely get seen again. But it’s a pleasure to watch them, to peek into someone else’s life, to feel a little voyeuristic. This year’s edition of Rooftop’s “Home Movies” draws inspiration from the tradition of the home movie, building off tropes of self-documentation to create accomplished works of art, and honoring the life and death of a town, paying homage to wrestling fathers and grandfather’s unknown, and giving voice to boozy family members who make you laugh and truly scare you at the same time.
The Films: MY BIG RED PURSE (Giancarlo Iannotta | Chicago, IL | 4 min.) GRANDPA LOOKED LIKE WILLIAM POWELL (David Levy | Brooklyn, NY | 4 min.) WRESTLING WITH MY FATHER (Charles Fairbanks | Lexington, NE | 5 min.) FAMILY NIGHTMARE (Dustin Guy Defa | Salt Lake City, Utah | 9 min.) FOR HOME VIEWING (Mikhail Zheleznikov | Russia | 29 min.) WEE REQUIEM (Jenn E. Norton | Canada | 7 min.) WELCOME TO PINE POINT (Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons of The Goggles | Canada | 14 min.) COMMERCIAL KINGS (Todd Cohen | USA | 23 min.)
Thursday, June 23, 2011 Crown Vic – Backyard 60 South 2nd St. (at Wythe Ave.) 8:00 PM Doors Open 8:30 PM Live Music 9:00 PM Films Begin 11:30 PM After Party at the Crown Vic
Yeah so maybe you need even more ‘toon in your life than just The Simpsons movie. I spied a cool ‘toon viewing thing going on this Friday at the Automotive High School lawn.
No matter that in the 9th grade three boys from Automotive stole my gold nameplate off my neck in front of 126. I’ve forgiven the HS for breeding thieving hoodlums.
Rooftop Films, Inc. presents Rooftop Films: Animation Block Party 8:30PM – Live Music by Demander 9:00PM – Movies Begin On the lawn at Automotive High School Tickets – $8 at the door or online HERE. Friday, July 27, 2007
A collection of some of the best new short animation in the world, curated by Animation Block. Preceded by a live performance by Demander.
Length: 2 hrs 00 mins Intermission: Yes Seating: General Admission You choose your seats when you get to the theater.
Special Note: Ticket price includes admission to the 2-hour open bar after party at Bar Matchless after the show.
Some call it punk rock, some call it grass roots, but labels aside – NYC based Animation Block is dedicated to exhibiting the world’s best independent, professional and student animation.
Their main mode of broadcast is the once a year, Animation Block Party, a three-day film Brooklyn festival in late July. ABP summer festivals are full of indoor/outdoor events, juried prizes, cool sponsored stuff, good music, cold drinks and the world’s best animated shorts on-screen. Friday night’s ABP show co-hosted by Rooftop Films will feature some of the most fun, fascinating, new short animation in the world.