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LA FILM FEST ’06: Words of Wisdom From Harrison Ford; “Beyond Conviction”; and Are Costumes Fashion?

LA FILM FEST '06: Words of Wisdom From Harrison Ford; "Beyond Conviction"; and Are Costumes Fashion?

Hollywood was again in the spotlight at the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival Monday night in Southern California. Big-time director George Lucas welcomed festival filmmakers to Skywalker Ranch last week for the pre-fest retreat, and on Monday Han Solo himself joined participants for the annual Filmmaker Reception. While actor Harrison Ford, one of this year’s honorary co-chairs at the LA Film Fest, didn’t seem to spend too much time meeting and greeting filmmakers at Monday’s L.A. Film Fest party at the W Hotel in Westwood, he did take the stage to leave attendees with a few words of wisdom (most of which are included below). The much-appreciated remarks were received a bit like a commencement address to the L.A. Film Festival’s ‘Class of 2006’.

“You’ve distinguished yourselves by making a film worthy enough to get into the festival,” Ford began, after being led through the party to a small podium near the pool and then receiving an honorary award from Film Independent executive director Dawn Hudson. “You’re in the game, now let the fun begin.”

“To tell you the truth, I’m at something of a loss,” Harrison Ford explained to the attendees, speaking slowly, with a deadpan delivery. “I can’t tell you that if you work hard enough your success is guaranteed because there are no guarantees. And we all know people who don’t know the meaning of hard work who have wonderful careers.”

“I can’t tell you to be true to yourselves because I don’t know who the hell you are and I don’t know what yourselves are really like,” Ford continued, “And besides, some people are better telling other people’s stories then they do their own.”

“I’m going to tell you something that’s easy to say, but really hard to do: Find your own way.”

“Ignore the formulas; the five easy steps; or whatever you heard in a meeting from someone who used to work with Jerry Bruckheimer.” Amidst much laughter and applause, Ford continued, “You don’t need to know what’s going on in the business, you don’t need to read ‘Daily Variety’. ‘Weekly Variety’ will do.”

“In short, conventional wisdom produces conventional movies,” Harrison Ford concluded, “And that’s about the last thing we need more of right now. So welcome all of you to the club. Good Luck. And I hope some day I’ll have the good fortune to work with some of you.”

And with that, Ford posed for a few quick photos and then, walking with his rumored fiance Calista Flockhart, made his way back across the party with Dawn Hudson towards the exit.

[Check out a video clip of Harrison’s Ford’s fesitval speech that indieWIRE has posted on]

Victims v. Perpetrator in “Beyond Conviction”

Victims of violent crime confronting their perpetrators is the subject of director Rachel Libert’s LA Film Fest competition doc, “Beyond Conviction,” which has had people buzzing here in Westwood. The emotional new feature is actually three separate stories, beginning with the case Lyndy Kelley who was violently raped by her brother in 1990. Years after his conviction and incarceration, Kelley confronted her brother who is being held in a Pennsylvania prison. The state began a program in 1998 to allow victims or victims’ families to obtain answers, while offenders are allowed to express themselves after years of reflection. The idea is to allow both parties to find a closure and, hopefully, redemption.

“I had this feeling that anyone at any time could be affected by violent crime,” commented Kelley after a Monday afternoon screening of “Beyond Conviction” in Westwood. “There are so many people who don’t say anything. I hope that by doing this film it will help people to open up and get the help they need…and so that some of the perpetrators will feel a little remorse.”

Originally, Libert had followed six separate stories, but settled on three for the film. “Each person had a slightly different motivation, and the nature of the crimes were different,” Libert said, regarding why she chose the three particular groups featured in the film. In the second segment, a mother confronted the man accused of killing her son, who was being held in a Pennsylvania jail awaiting trial on a non-violent charge. The film’s third segment focuses on a young woman whose mother had been killed by her boyfriend.

Not surprisingly, anger and tension to varying degrees are evident in all three stories. What is perhaps more astonishing is that all three cases also displayed transcendence and even some forgiveness in the course of their emotional meetings.

During the Q&A, Kelley explained that forgiving her brother was partly motivated by her desire to raise her young son in a more positive environment. “I can’t raise my son to be forgiving and understanding, if I can’t do that too.”

Considering Costumes, Not Fashion

On Sunday evening at the W Hotel in Westwood, organizers presented one of the more unique talks, hosting an insightful discussion about costume design. But be warned, don’t call it “fashion.” Deborah Nadoolman Landis, author and president of the Costume Designers Guild and the person who designed Indiana Jones’ costumes in “Raiders of the Lost Ark“, noted during the discussion, “We help the director to tell a story.”

Louise Mingenbach, Jeffrey Kurland, and Deborah Nadoolman Landis talk about movies and costumes at the LA Film Festival. Photo by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

“Costumes are one of the ways that we do that.” Continuing, she added, “Costume designers are really cultural anthropologists, we are the Margaret Mead‘s of our business.” In the film business, she explained that costume designers are intended to build a set of clothes for characters, rather than simply act as stylists who shop for and dress the actors. “We are not asked to dress people…we are discovering who they are.”

Charlize Theron on the read carpet is fashion,” director John Landis (moderator of the discussion — and husband of CDG president Deborah Nadoolman Landis) explained , “What she is wearing on the red carpet is not.” And he emphasized that costume design,” “has nothing to do with fashion (and) everything to do with character.”

Jeffrey Kurland, longtime collaborator with Woody Allen on his films, summarized, “Design takes plans in your mind. Design is in the way you construct a character in your mind.”

Louise Mingenbach, in the spotlight for her work on Bryan Singer‘s “Superman Returns” which is debuting in theaters today, offered a bit of insight into the look of the new film. “We wanted Superman to be the only blue and the only red and the only yellow in this whole world that we created,” Mingenbach explained. “Everyone else wears brown and grey and muted tones. It was a very controlled color palette.” But she added, that despite all the care taken to design and build every costume, audiences are not supposed to notice any of her work, “because it’s just about the characters.”

Of course, lower budgeted movies may not have such flexibility and may also rely on acquired clothing for a film. “Whether mixing custom made, sketched (clothing) with bought, rented or found merchandise,” Nadoolman Landis explained, “Ultimately we are trying to get at the truth of the characters.”

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