Ron Howard’s Project Imaginat10n Film Festival Comes to Life

Last Thursday night, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard took to the stage at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall to introduce the second iteration of Project Imaginat10n—the first ever photo-inspired film festival. An endeavor of passion, which he began in 2011, Howard and Canon U.S.A. partnered to invite photographers from all over the world—and of varying degrees of skill and accomplishment—to submit their original work. Based on different elements of storytelling, more than 100,000 photos were submitted, and from there, eight shots were selected to be used in the inspiration and making of a short film. Actress Bryce Dallas Howard took the directorial helm of the photos culled from the submissions, and created the acclaimed and award-winning short film when you find me.

Speaking to Project Imaginat10n, Howard expressed that their mission was not only to display the myriad talents of photographers across the world, but for artists to see their work in a new light and to inspire people to explore their own creativity and embark on the wonder of imagination and how a simple image can ignite an entire creative venture. And after the success of the first Project Imaginat10n process, Howard decided to see what would happen if he expanded his project into a full-fledged festival. This time, photographers were asked to interpret 10 storytelling themes through photography, from which a massive 91 photos were selected.

“I am so proud to be part of this creative journey with Canon, the impetus to ten inspiring, brave and audacious films that are a testament to the power of the imagination,” said Ron Howard, who alongside Bryce chose ten winning films from hundreds of user-generated shorts submitted. Five “celebrity” directors participated in the festival, each stepping outside the creative field which their known for to flex their muscles behind the camera and bring their photo inspiration to life.

The films selected and screening as part of the festival are:

Jamie Foxx’s “…And She Was My Eve”
Eva Longoria’s “Out of the Blue”
Georgina Chapman’s “A Dream of Flying”
James Murphy’s “Little Duck”
Biz Stone’s “Evermore”
Arrius Sorbonne’s “Dominus”
Jared Nelson’s “Chucked”
Julian Higgins’s “Here and Now”
Kalman Apple’s “A Day in the Country”
Ronnie Allman’s “Filter”

While all the short films were an excellent exercise in creativity and visionary exploration, our favorite was Chapman’s “A Dream of Flying.” Starring Dree Hemingway, Remy Bond, and Aaron Tevit, the fairy tale-esque film was a gorgeously crafted and heartfelt fantastical love story about “a girl who will spend her whole life trying not to fly, and a boy who would give his life to teach her”—which also happened to be written by Neil Gaiman. As the co-founder and co-designer of Marchesa, the short was an aesthetically pleasing and sartorially ethereal first directorial work by Chapman.

So to learn more about Project Imaginat10n, and to see all the films for yourself, head HERE. Also, check out the creative process behind the scenes with Ron Howard talking about how Project Imagination has turned into an amazing new venue for creativity, Jamie Foxx sharing his creative vision behind the camera and a directors’ roundtable (below) discussing the creative process of filmmaking.

http://youtu.be/e1L9vVH3V5w

‘Rush’ Review: By Far Ron Howard’s Best Film

Perhaps the most successful example of what some would derogatorily call a “studio hack,” Ron Howard has been making efficient mainstream entertainments since the early 1980s. The best of these (Apollo 13, Parenthood, Splash, Cocoon)  are fun, engaging movies, without any particular style or subtext to elevate them beyond the realm of decent Friday night fodder; films I might happily get sucked into while flipping through cable, but never anything that I would necessarily revisit on purpose, or feel particularly passionate about. So when I say that Rush is by far my favorite film of his career, it’s a qualified statement, though an enthusiastic one nevertheless. 

Charting the true story of James Hunt’s and Nikki Lauda’s rivalry during the legendary 1976 Formula 1 Grand Prix, what is most surprising about Rush is how it initially sets up the usual sport movie cliches—charismatic blonde hero vs. unlikeable Euro-villain—only to subvert them for something far more interesting: a genuinely character-based drama. Peter Morgan’s well-structured screenplay gives equal time to both Hunt and Lauda, and engages audience sympathy in unexpected ways, so that by the last act, we’re rooting for both men to succeed, not as heroes, but as complicated, flawed sides of the same coin.
 
Introduced as an almost caricatured happy-go-lucky playboy, Chris Hemsworth exudes genuine sex appeal and star charisma as British golden boy James Hunt, while slowly revealing the self-destructive side of the character’s easy charm  and “live-fast” credo. And yet as good as Hemsworth is, it’s Daniel Bruhl who steals the movie as Nikki Lauda, whose arrogance and apparent misanthropy mask a fierce commitment to excellence and an ever-more admirable lack of interest in the trappings of fame and how others perceive him. The actual story of how the season played out is riveting stuff, allowing the real life twists and turns to consistently trump our more formulaic expectations of how this kind of narrative plays out—especially if, like me, you have no prior knowledge, or interest, in Formula One history.
 
Most refreshingly, it’s the loose, energetic style of the film-making that makes this stand head and shoulders over Ron Howard’s body of work—embodying both Hunt’s recklessness and Lauda’s precision with startling cinematography (courtesy of the brilliant Arthur Dodd Mantle) and a fast-paced editing style that never lets the momentum flag while always keeping the audience well-orientated within the action. The racing scenes are electrifying, but even more so because of how the film stylistically integrates the two protagonists’ inner lives into the fabric of each race. And Howard effortlessly sets up and maintains a tone that lets the film play out as fantastic entertainment as well as a deeper examination into the ways in which two very different men are spurred to greatness, by their own demons and by each other, within a death-defying profession.
 
Unfortunately, the film’s two final scenes let the side down a little, repeatedly making sledgehammer overt the very themes that were so successfully layered in for the preceding two hours, and while by no means a deal-breaker, it’s a shame the film-makers didn’t trust the audience a little more, and find a better grace note to end on. But that small caveat aside, Rush is an absolute blast. It’s one of the happiest surprises of the fall season, and has me more excited than ever for the next phase of Ron Howard’s career—perhaps an auteur at long last.

Costume Designer Julian Day on Giving Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’ the Look and Thrill of the Time

On very rainy, very grey day in May, I sat down in an empty theater—save a lone critic or two—for an early screening of Ron Howard’s Rush. Naturally my anticipation ran high, but if you were to have told me that I’d find myself wholly embracing a Hollywood film about Formula 1 racing, I’d have vehemently disagreed. However, from the very beginning, Howard’s film totally captured me, offering a dynamic feature spun from the true story of Niki Lauda and James Hunt, their rivalry, and the near-fatal accident that almost cost Lauda his life.

As a genuinely compelling drama, not only played out as biography of the two drivers, but a story about competition and the ways life’s most difficult challenges are what propels us forward, Rush is a kinetic thrill ride that certainly leaves you satisfied. Starring actors Chris Hemsworth as the Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as Lauda, the film was shot by the brilliant Anthony Dod Mantle, who elevates the film immensely, with an aesthetic that seduces you into the danger of each race, the beauty of every high-speed scene, and the quiet moments in between. And enhancing those aesthetics even further, is the work of costume designer Julian Day, who worked to recreate the alluring and lush fashion of the 1970s. From the racing suits that Lauda and Hunt wear, to the elegant garmnets donned by the women that surrounded them, and the crowds that cheered for them from up high, he echoed the luxurious and sensuousness of the time with the help of design houses, Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo. 
 
Earlier this month, I got the chance to speak with Day about working with Howard, his personal connection to Forumla 1 racing, and the way he crafted the sleek and stylish sartorial look of the picture.
 
How did you become involed with the film and can you tell me about the experience of working with Ron Howard as a director?
I knew the producer on the film and he told me there was a movie called Rush about Formula 1 racing. So I was interested and went in not knowing that I was going to meet Ron, and obviously, that was incredible. I always hoped to work with a director as good as Ron. He’s a brilliant director, as we’ve seen over the years, but he liked my work and it went on from there. He’s a real collaborative director and an incredible guy. He really inspires people and was a pleasure to work with.
 
And interestingly, you have personal connection to Formula 1?
Yes, my personal connection is that my father built one of the cars used in the 1970s. He made a version of the Formula 1 cars and that car is actually in the film. So I used to go visit Formula 1 tracks and watch the Grand Prix. It’s an incredible sport.
 
Was it interesting now to revisit this world that you grew up around and get to re-imagine the fashion of a time you weren’t old enough to embrace then?
Yes. Obviously my view of the 1970s is a little young, I was 10 in1975, but I have quite a good memory of it. I remember how my mom always looked very glamorous and my dad looked very laid back—maybe had one too many buttons undone on his shirt. There were a lot of incredible people around at that time and it was very easy. Looking back, you see all the photographs and you realize what a sexy year it was. People were really interested in enjoying themselves and dressing well and having a good time. So those wee some of my impressions. When you do your research, you realize that there was a lot of money around Formula 1 and they were very much like gladiators of the 1970s. They did these death defying stunts and that attracted a lot of people. Now there’s more safety in it, but I think that kind of danger has gone out quite a bit. It was an era of danger; you were putting your life on the lien every time you got into the car. These people lived for the moment and that was one of the things I wanted to get across in film with the fashion.
 
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James and Nicki were both fashioned by Gucci and Ferragamo respectably. Can you tell me about working with those labels and styling the two men?
It was the era of big labels. And they’re obviously very fantastic labels. They both represent that time and how to could be subtle but also quite brash at other times. The fabrics they wore were very important. We used a lot of luxury fabrics like cashmere and silk. Those fashion houses are so great and they’re true luxury fashion houses. You can’t get better than those two, in my opinion. They done a lot of work within films over the years and they were fantastic. But they also really represented the two couples.
 
Because the film takes place over so many different locations, did you have to create different looks to suit each race and country? There were all those people in the crowd, and was making sure they had the right look just as important at the principal characters?
I’ve always felt that the crowd is just an important as the principles. They paint the picture of the period; if you get the crowd wrong, you’ve got the film wrong. The crowd are the brush strokes of the painting, really. I did a lot of research into how everyone looked, so when you look at pictures from that era, you see that a lot of primary colors were involved—reds that pop, oranges, blues, greens, yellows, etc. That’s what I wanted to get across. When you’re going through those years and different Grand Prix locations, or when it’s raining and dark, or sunny and light, people will look at it and go, “Well, this must have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make.” But actually in some respects, it was quite a low-budget film. But the film does not feel like the amount of money that was spent on it. And so I was combining what I collected from the various warehouses and cultivated hundreds of pieces. There would be a day when we would shoot a scene in Germany in winter and then have to do the next scene of Brazil in the summer. But I had a great crew behind me; they were fantastic and we literally overdressed everybody. They’d have weather gear in one scene and then we’d shoot another scene where they’d take that off and have another outfit but it was done in a very subtle way.
 
Was there a favorite moment in the film for you or favorite look?
The whole film is really my favorite. When I watch a film, I watch it as a whole. But if there’s a favorite moment, it’s when Suzy meets James. I think that’s just fantastic and such a real moment between them on screen. But I loved doing the race suits. Some designers might not be into that, but I really liked doing all the team uniforms. McLaren actually had Adidas giving them new trainers for every single race and so we contacted Adidas and they gave us trainers. So doing the teams and the race suits were as interesting to me as doing the fashion design as well.
 
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The race suits have changed a lot since back in the 1970s, even in terms of the weight of them, how did you go about capturing the authenticity and was that something that was important?
Absolutely. I worked with two really good companies. And for different races, different sponsors would be involved. So some days we’d shoot something from 1974 and then from 1976 and it was always changing. So I sat dow with Ron and we went through all the different looks and the logos and helmets and how they would all represent the different year. I worked with a company in Italy and went to their factory and saw all the looks. They were much heavier in the 1970s and so we made them look that way. But one of the challenges with this movie was that, in a lot of movies, the gear doesn’t actually have to work. But in this, these guys were actually racing for real. So if something happened they would all have to be safety proof. We had to make sure they were all up to standards and were treating them well.
 
Did you want to create a distinction between the color palette of the looks at the races and the looks at home to show the heightened sense of thrill and life on the track compared to how the wold dulled outside of it?
Yeah, and I think that comes across in the film. There is a more subtle hue to the colors I used when they’re not racing. And again, rather than use primary colors and bright colors for the off track scenes, I used luxury fabrics. So you still get that sense of decadence but with the fabrics rather than the colors.
 
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Start Your Engines: Ron Howard’s “Rush” and Claude Lelouch’s “C’était un Rendezvous”

Ron Howard’s upcoming film Rush tells the story of the infamous rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the World Championship at Fuji in Japan. There’s no better way to gear up for all the burning rubber than to watch C’était un Rendezvous.

Director Claude Lelouch’s nine-minute-long cinematic masterpiece was made in the same year that Howard’s film is set. Rendezvous depicts a high-speed early-morning drive through the streets of Paris that most certainly broke a few laws. There is no narration. No music. Simply the sound of a revving engine going through its paces, images of an awakening City of Lights whizzing by (thanks to a grill-mounted camera) and an ending that is trés romantique.

Rendezvous has become the stuff of legend (Who drove the car? Was it a Formula One driver or Lelouch himself? What car was used?), with fans tracing the actual route in Paris—or making their own versions in other cities, including avid car collector Jay Leno, who did his own tribute ("one of my favorite car films of all time") on a circuit near his Beverly Hills home in a Mercedes SLS AMG.

C’était un Rendezvous (1976) [full]:

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Rush (2013) [trailer]:

Ben Affleck, Lena Dunham, and Rian Johnson All Take Home DGA Top Honors

When the Academy failed to nominate Ben Affleck for Best Director a collective “Awww, what?!” swept Hollywood. But with the way award season has been thus far, it looks like Affleck can just brush that one off his shoulder. Although he will not be taking home an Oscar this month for Argo, I’m sure he can be pretty satisfied in knowing just about every other Guild, Circle, Press, etc. recognizes his directorial effort, awarding him with their highest honors.

And last night, falling in line with the season, Affleck took home the Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award from the Director’s Guild of America. Not since Ron Howard with Apollo 13 has someone been left out of the Academy Awards and still taken home the top DGA prize. But then again, Affleck did win an Oscar at the age of 26 for the eternally brilliant Good Will Hunting, so I think he’ll be okay.

Last night was also a good celebration for great young directors. Lena Dunham beat out Bryan Cranston and Louis CK for her direction on the pilot episode of Girls and the fantastic Rian Jonhson won for his directorial work on episode “Fifty-One” of Breaking Bad. This morning, Johnson wrote on Twitter that the first episode of Breaking Bad that he directed got him his DGA card and that he’s “so lucky to work on the show and this was such a huge honor” and included this picture.

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Check out full list of of last night’s DGA winners here.

Jamie Foxx On His Latest Directing Project With Ron Howard and Working With Quentin Tarantino

Project Imaginat10n caught my imagination when a photographer caught a handcuffed NYC couple kissing just before they were separated and led to jail. He was the graffiti artist and she was the lookout. The shot seen around the world had a romantic True Romance feel to it. This image was disqualified because the photographer couldn’t get a release, but their fifteen minutes of fame created a lot of hype for this Canon project. Canon has gathered Jamie Foxx, Eva Longoria, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy to direct ten-minute films based on photographs which inspire them. These photographs must be submitted by today. Two-time Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard will be on hand to guide this crew through the process. 

The new Quentin Tarantino project, Django Unchained, is a can’t-wait-to-see flick starring Jamie Foxx. Jamie gave me fifteen minutes of his famously valuable time to discuss.

How did you end up doing this project with Ron Howard?
I saw this campaign that Ron Howard was a part of with Canon, when they had the commercial, and I said, “Wow, that seems so interesting, that seems like such a great thing to be a part of.” And then when Canon opened it up and I became one of the guys who was actually going to get the opportunity to direct and look at these pictures and bring to life a good story, I thought, man, this is great. So Ron Howard and I had a relationship; we were sitting next to each other during the inauguration, when President Obama was becoming president, and then Ron eventually went on to be in the video “Blame It on the Alcohol” with me. It was cool to reconnect with him, only this time, under his tutelage, I’ll be able to get to do what I’ve wanted to do for a long time, which is direct my own projects and see if I can become a director that can be cinematic.

That brings me to my next question. I saw that back in 2000, you directed a couple of your own television shows and you did something in 2011: a TV movie.  You’ve done comedy, won an Academy Award, a Grammy, and now you are directing again. Where do you want to go with that?
I’ll tell you what: with the directing, what I’ve always told my people, I said, I’m telling you, from all of the exposure that I’ve had with these great directors – Oliver Stone, Michael Mann, Antoine Fuqua, Sam Mendes, and now Quentin Tarantino – I just think it’s a natural progression, and I feel like I want to be able to take another journey into a world that I feel I’ve learned from the best. I can’t wait to get the Canon opportunity; the cameras that they have really make it handy for what you want to accomplish and what you want to have your film look like in so many different ways and so many different angles and looks and feels. So, I can’t wait. I don’t want my short film to be just, “Okay, I finished.” I want it to be something that people will marvel at and say, “Wow, did you see that?” I want it to be something that once people see it, hopefully, you know… shoot man, I really want to go at it.

Do you think you have a leg up on your competition or your fellow directors here? You have Eva Longoria who has some movie and television experience; you have fashion designer Georgina Chapman; Biz Stone the Twitter co-founder; and you’ve got James Murphy LCD Soundsystem. Is there a slight competitiveness here?
You never know. These guys are all fantastic and they’re all visual and they have insight and that’s all it is when it comes to being a director; it’s what your vision is. I feel like I have the most pressure since I have worked with all these great directors and great projects, so I need to really make sure that I come through.

So I read that the themes are: character, mood, backstory, relationship, goal, obstacle, the unknown, and of course the last one: discovery. Do you have any preconceived notion on a theme, or are you just going to let the photos speak and react?
I would email Quentin Tarantino periodically and say, “I hope your movie is talking to you like your friend,” so I want to be able to look at these pictures and have these pictures speak to me like a friend, and once I do that, then I’ll know exactly what it is I want to shoot and what I want to write about and the story I want to be told. I don’t want to jump the gun and say, you know, it’s going to be this, it’s going to be this. I just want to really get the chance to soak all of the pictures in and go from there.

One of the things that got the public’s attention and brought people to this project was that couple that got caught holding hands on their way to jail, which was an incredibly romantic moment or something out of the end of a Tarantino-written film, like True Romance. It captivated everybody’s mind. How did you feel about that moment? Did that picture say something to you?
The thing about me is that I can really see a picture with so many different stories that people could tell. There’s so many different interpretations, so I want to see what I would come up with. I would take that certain picture and look at it and make it something different, so that’s what’s exciting about this process; it’s the fact that all of these pictures will speak to us in different ways and, like I said, I can’t wait to see what the pictures say to me.

You mentioned working with Quentin; I’ve seen a lot of people like Brad Pitt and Christian Slater talk about working with him… tell me something about Quentin that maybe we don’t know.
Remember the movie Amadeus about Mozart? I come from a musical background, and what’s great about Mozart is that he was able to write music as if he was writing his name. Quentin Tarantino is able to grab shots as if he is writing his name. He doesn’t make a big deal out of this, but I’m gonna make a big deal out of it. When we were shooting Django Unchained, Tarantino wasn’t satisfied with his endings, so he rewrote the ending in his trailer and at his house, and then he came back to the set, with it handwritten, and said, “Here’s our ending.” And the ending was better than the ending that was already in the movie. So to me, that separates him from anybody that I’ve seen, because the lines that he writes are absolutely classic, and to be able to take that and put the camera on it and then make it cinematic, is just amazing to me. And then his process, like a kid, playing music between scenes, having fun—for every hundred rolls of film we did, we took a shot of tequila or vodka or whatever it was.  He just made it fun, man. He told me, “When you leave this production, you will long to have these types of memories again.” He keeps it fun, so he’s definitely a gem.

You mentioned Mozart writing like he writes his name and Tarantino being able to move on-the-go and adjust and correct himself. How do you prepare as an actor? You didn’t become an actor early in your career, but you rose quickly. You blew me away with your performances in On Any Given Sunday and Ray. How do you prepare for a role? Do you act like you write your name?
Well, I’ll put it this way: I think you have to give it to a higher being—I call it God-given—that it’s something where it’s a sixth sense, you know? It’s something that you just feel. When it comes to acting, I just feel something. When it comes to creating, I just feel something. And that’s what it is. You can’t really put your finger on it. I’m always thankful, I’m always thankful that I am touched by whatever that is, that creative gene. It allows me to jump into different worlds—like music and movies—and really give those worlds respect. I can’t put my finger on it, but I have to maximize it. I know that I have to get into it and give all I can. When you look at my 10-minute film from this Canon project, I want to make you absolutely wowed by the performance from the actors and actresses, and the story that you see.

You talked about Ron Howard and Quentin, but what other directors, or any other kinds of creative people, have inspired you?
I’m inspired by Floyd Mayweather Jr.; I watch him and what he’s done in his career and how tough things have been, and am amazed at how he makes things happen with his charisma and acting. I’m inspired by Ray Lewis, a guy who’s played in the league almost 15, 16 years in football, and every time he speaks he’s so inspiring. LeBron James—a person who really, really wanted something, and set the wheels in motion that some people would be angry with him about, but he knows if he doesn’t do it in a certain way that he wouldn’t be able to get what he’s set out for. I’m inspired by President Obama, a person who is, even when it’s chaotic, still the coolest person in the room, and able to make a choice – even though it may not be the best political choice—but what I feel in my heart. I’m inspired by outside entities that fuel my ideas and stories in my art; that’s what I feel gives me the most feelings, when I use that type of energy that’s not in my field.

Afternoon Links: Charlie Sheen Back Where He Belongs, Madonna Off to Cannes

● Uh oh. Charlie Sheen was just rushed to the hospital from his home in L.A. No, Charlie! Oh, wait. Two young girls were seen exiting the house at the same time. Go Charlie! [TMZ] ● Kanye West follows one person on Twitter, and her name is Kim Kardashian. Can he please stop being so avant-garde? [Media Takeout] ● Ron Howard is a little late on the “wanting Javier Bardem to appear in your movie about a lone cowboy on a quest to find a metaphorical tower” train, but better late than never. [Deadline]

● The Cannes Film Festival just got some much needed star power: Madonna will premiere her directorial effort, W.E., at the poorly-attended fest. [Perez] ● Lifetime is slamming the gas pedal on a movie called William & Kate, about the future King of England and his prized stallion, who also happens to be called Kate. [TV Guide] ● Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only news “paper,” The Daily, will officially launch on February 2. We look forward to their flashy new gossip column, Screen Six. Ba-dum…..ching? [HuffPo/AP]

What Val Kilmer and Kid ‘n Play Have in Common

They’re raping my childhood again. Hollywood studios that is, who have reached a maximum aversion to anything other than pre-branded material. The 80’s are of late an especially ripe era for plundering it seems, with recent reboots, remakes, and re-jiggerings of such minor landmarks a Red Dawn, The Karate Kid, and Clash of the Titans all bound for the multiplex in short order. I have a feeling that this rapacity for old scripts isn’t ending here (you wish!), but rather beginning, and I’m steeling myself for lots more. A case in point is the news that two more sorta-beloved, second-tier 80’s favorites (though admittedly one is from 1990) are now slated to get the new millenial varnish job.

Pajiba reports that both science comedy Real Genius and musical (what?) House Party are serious contenders for remakes right now. The former is already going through re-writes at Columbia under the stewardship of Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment, and the latter is apparently in line to be a Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) project. These will be crap movies, rest assured, though neither of them inspires an “Oh God, why?” so much as a plain old “why?” These were never very interesting (or in the case of Real Genius, profitable) pictures to begin with, especially House Party, which was basically just an ad hoc vehicle for a rap duo Kid ‘n Play. Hitchcock may have famously averred that the best movies come from second-rate movies, but no one ever said good films come from crap movies.

Things will only go downhill from here.