The Champs Elysees Film Festival’s in partnership with U.S. in Progress awarded the U.S. in Progress Prize to “Creative Control” Director and the film’s star, Benjamin Dickinson, and Producers Craig Shilowich, Melody Roscher, Zachary Mortensen and Mark de Pace. Dickenson’s first feature film “First Winter” premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.
“Creative Control”, a dark sci-fi comedy is the near-future story of four Brooklynites whose tech-obsessed lifestyles get the better of them. Anxious, ambitious ad executive starts a chain reaction of destruction when he becomes obsessed with his best friend’s free-spirited girlfriend while working on a campaign for a new generation of Augmented Reality Glasses. The life-like avatar he creates of her becomes too life-like as the blurred boundary between reality and fantasy spreads into an out-of-control space where everyone’s public, private and imaginary lives implode.
Benjamin Dickenson grew up in Wheaton, Illinois and moved to New York in 1999 to attend NYU’s undergraduate film program. After graduation he and some friends from school started Waverly Films in a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Benjamin started directing music videos for DFA record artists such as LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture and the Juan Maclean. He has since made videos for Q-Tip and Reggie Watts, the “disinformationist” who c is currently appearing on the IFC television series “Comedy Bang! Bang” which began airing on June 8, 2012 and was renewed for a third season which will premiere in 2014. He has also directed commercials for Google, The Ford Motor Corporation, BMW, MTV and Guitar Hero.
Producer Marc de Pace is a partner at Ghost Robot, another Bushwick production company. In 2011 Mark produced Benjamin’s “First Winter“released by Film Movement. He exec produced Michael Cera’s short film “Brazzaville Teen-Ager” and Joey Garfield’s feature film “A Love Letter for You”. HIs producing credits also include music videos for Bjork, The Rapture and Grizzly Bear and ads for Google, Toshiba and AT&T.
U.S. in Progress Paris took place during the third edition of the Champs Elysées Film Festival in Paris, on June 11-12 2014. The program presented 4 U.S. indie films in post-production to European sales agents, distributors and festival programmers in order to achieve completion and to foster the circulation and distribution of American indie films in Europe. The event has doubled the amount of submissions this year and is quickly achieving a winning track record.
The trajectories of the directing/ writing/ producing/ acting teams of the other three contenders are all trending distinctively upward:
Writer/director Matthew Lessner and producer David Henry Gerson presented “Automatic at Sea”. Their short film “Chapel Perilous” previously won the 2014 Audience Award at Sundance. Matthew’s previous feature “The Woods”, distributed by Film Movement, premiered in the New Frontier Program at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and was shortlisted for Independent Spirit and Gotham Awards. The San Francisco Film Society has awarded him two grants for his upcoming feature “Terror Tuesday”. Producer David Henry Gerson also starred and to my eye and in my opinion is one of the few mature (adult vs. boy-type) male leads in this new generation of actors. Manly, threatening and aloof in his role, in life he is also smart (a graduate of Colombia University with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and currently attending the American Film Institute) and engaged, as shown in the shorts he wrote and directed “Broken Badge” about a NYPD officer and American Standard about a veteran returning home from Afghanistan to his illegal immigrant girlfriend.
“Eugenia and John“ directed by Hossein Keshavarz whose film “Dog Sweat” was released by Indiepix to critical acclaim in 2011 and which the New York Times called “polished; the young actors warmly believable” and NPR called “astonishingly gutsy” screened his second film, “Eugenia and John”, produced by Mryam Azadi, Chad Burris and Amy Durning, stars Wesley Tunison and Venecia Troncoso who has the distinction of having starred in the Sundance hit, “Mosquita y Mari“.
“Winning Dad” was written, directed and produced by Arthur Allen with producers Julia Bruk and Case Barden. This LGBT romance is the debut feature of a young man whose career path after graduating St. John’s College in Maryland, is as entertaining as his film. After supporting himself for several years in the Seattle Theater Community (and washing windows at the Space Needle), in 2008 he joined the United States Merchant Marines where he wrote “winning Dad” aboard the USNS Gilliland. On leaving, he was recruited by the Washington United for Marriage Coalition as part of its Speaker’s Bureau to campaign for marriage equality in Washington State. In 2012 he began working for an Arabic translation company and represented the United States at the second Baghdad International Translation conference in Baghdad, Iraq.
If these four films are not quality enough to show the success of U.S. in Progress, the paths of the other films they have shown over the three years included Sundance film 2013’s winning film “Ping Pong Summer” directed by Michael Tully and starring Susan Sarandon, Amy Sedaris, John Hannah, Judah Friedlander, and Lea Thompson was picked up for domestic distribution by Millennium and Gravitas and is currently in release theatrically in U.S. The premium international sales agent, Films Boutique, has sold it to France, Germany and Russia.
The former U.S. in Progress films, “Ping Pong Summer”, “Sun Belt Express“, Summer of Blood” by Onur Tukel whose film “Richard’s Wedding” also showed in U.S. in Progress, are also showing at the Champs-Elysees Film Festival, the only film festival in Paris. This year CEFF is also hosting The Paris Coproduction Village with 12 feature films in development from Italy, U.S., Israel, The Philippines, Romania, Sri Lanka and U.S., Germany, Chile and Argentina, Thailand, Turkey, Italy and Canada, and Australia. It is also hosting the four-month Paris residents of the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation, a dozen young directors whose selection is based on the quality of their shorts or first feature film and on the merits of their project currenlty in development their motivation.
The Champs Elysees is alive with the energy infused by the top level of fresh new talent, meeting for cocktails if not over dinner and lunch every evening in the terrace of Publicis at the top the the Champs Elysees, overlooking the Arc de Triumph.