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About

Launched in January 2018, Film Pipeline spotlights both a short script and short film competition intended to find extraordinary directors as well as distinguished projects that merit financing and production. Contest selections are circulated to agencies, producers, and managers looking for emerging directors, proof-of-concept or standalone shorts, and filmmakers across a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Unlike a typical festival, Film Pipeline promotes individual directors and plays an active role in getting content produced and distributed.

Film Pipeline joins Script Pipeline (est. 1999) and Book Pipeline (est. 2014) as part of Pipeline Media Group’s suite of platforms connecting creatives with the film and TV industry. Through Script Pipeline, numerous writer/directors have produced their work, sold over $6 million in screenplays and pilots to studios, and found representation due to the guidance of PMG’s development staff–a team always on the lookout for up-and-coming talent.

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September 23rd, 2018 Short Film Competition

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Essential Viewing

The Love Witch: Film Review

By | Essential Viewing

The Love Witch

Released – November 11, 2016
Written By – Anna Biller
Directed By – Anna Biller
Starring – Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise
Runtime – 120 minutes
Genre – Comedy, horror, romance

In film, there are auteurs and then there are auteurs, individuals with such a command over a film that it’s undoubtedly their vision and theirs alone, individuals whose work makes you wonder how the hell did they all that, individuals who make italicizing and bolding the word auteur a necessity. Today, we’re talking about that kind of auteur.

Written, directed, edited, produced, scored, costumed, and set designed—whew!—by Anna Biller, The Love Witch follows Elaine (Samantha Robinson in a gloriously affected performance), a young woman who resorts to love magic to find a man, and is perhaps one of the most ambitious films in the last. . . pick a timespan. The reason? Biller enlisted period cinematography expert M. David Mullen to shoot The Love Witch on 35mm stock and to recreate the look and feel of films from the 1960s. The result is so effective, it’s difficult at times to wrap your mind around the fact that it was only filmed a few years ago, and only brief moments when modern cars or iPhones appear on screen break you from that illusion. The Love Witch’s appearance is perhaps what first gave the film exposure when it had its limited release in 2016, but without substance, the film would simply be a cool cinematographic experiment. Thankfully, The Love Witch is as thematically deep as its color palette.

Throughout the film, Biller flirts with parody, pastiche, and homage, but to label The Love Witch as any one of those is ultimately reductive. In fact, even labeling its genre as “comedy” or “horror” or “romance” is a vain attempt at boxing a truly unique film into easy-to-digest cinematic conventions. Perhaps the best comparisons are from the 60s and 70s—the technicolor melodramas, the softcore erotica, the psychosexual thrillers, and the giallo films of those decades—but The Love Witch boasts a sharper feminist critique than any that might come to mind. And that’s the key: although on initial glance it looks like an elaborate recreation of a bygone style of filmmaking, the feminist themes are decidedly modern.

Stylistic flourishes and eccentricities need to serve the story, and in this case the style definitely bolsters the themes. The movie takes place in a contemporary time, but the look is dated. This parallels modern society: specifically, women’s rights may have progressed, but many of those changes are superficial. As the #MeToo movement has shown, we still live in a man’s world and women bear its consequences. At its core, The Love Witch is a story of a woman trying to own her femininity and sexuality, but the outcomes are disastrous. In fact, many of the film’s men turn eager at the prospect of sex, but once Elaine’s desires pivot from sex to love, the men become allergic to her; they’re literally incapable of love, while sex and love are intimately intertwined for Elaine. In a way, Biller challenges the idea that we as a society have evolved significantly since the 60s and 70s and implies that sexual liberation might play into men’s desires more than women’s. The cinematography, like our world, is stuck in the mid-century.

The Love Witch is Biller’s sophomore feature; she had previously made the similarly ambitious (and perhaps even more niche) Viva, a sexual revolution satire which she also starred in, and between the two films, Biller proves herself to be a true visionary. Both are worth checking out, as her currently in-production third feature will likely be. Simply put, no other modern filmmaker is doing what she’s doing—nor as intelligently.

Interviews

Skyler Lawson

By | Interviews

 

Finalist in the 2017 Script Pipeline First Look Project with his short film Nora, writer/director Skyler Lawson was praised by Pipeline execs for his distinctive approach to filmmaking and his striking ability to combine classic cinematic technique with a definitively modern sense of storytelling.

Nora stunned us a little. Predominantly with its style. Not sure many directors have this type of look and feel anymore. Across the board, too: the directing, the score, the cinematography, the locations. . . . As you know, we’ve affectionately labeled it “Neo-Americana” (if that term has already been taken, so be it—we’re giving it a new definition). What gravitated you toward this approach? Did it happen organically, through a direct influence of classic cinema and the rural areas you were accustomed to? Or was it a conscious decision to give your work an identity unlike other filmmakers?

Thank you so much for all of your kind words toward my work. It makes me so happy when people connect with it, because I’m only trying to tell the stories the way I know how. From my heart and my gut. I always follow a gut feeling on things, and once I commit to that personal vision, no one can stop me. I like to follow through and make the best piece of cinema I can and embrace the restrictions of the production.

The most important thing is letting my true feelings out. That is what every director should be doing, in my opinion. No artist should be afraid to let their heritage and identity take center stage in their work. I’m from Indiana. I grew up on a grain farm that has been in my family for over 100 years. I didn’t take over for my father, as he did for his, and so on, so I take this opportunity very seriously. The moment I decided to honor that history and put it at the forefront of my work, whether that be location or tonality, everything changed for me. I don’t hide from the intuition that has been gifted to me from my family. It’s a unique voice. That of pride and handwork, but also faith that when you put the work in, it’s going to rain and something will come of it. It’s all about timing and bloodying your knuckles when no one is looking. That farm is not too far off from the mentality you have to have as a filmmaker, in my opinion.

We see it even more in the feature screenplay of Nora, this aura of nostalgia with a modern slant. It’s a romantic yet brutally stark portrayal of Middle America. The realities of a changing world colliding with the familiar conventions of the past. Like the style of the short, few are willing to grapple with this subject matter. What was your intent with the script, thematically speaking? Why is this story so important?

That is such a flattering breakdown of what I tried to accomplish with that script! You are spot on. Nora is the most personal thing I have ever written. Everything in that script is based on real life in some way or another. And not just my own life, but my mother and father’s as well. Nora takes place 15 years in the future. . . . I did that so people would accept some of the struggles of the small-time farmer, what small towns are facing now and not pass judgment. It’s about the burden of lifetimes of work and land changing hands between generations. It’s about committing to keep what your family built even though the world is turning its back. It’s about two brothers squeezing every bit of youth they can out of their lives before they are thrown into the riggers of running the farm for their father. They build and race cars to distract themselves, they get mixed into some dark business operations, their hands are never clean and made of stone. . . . This is Middle America.

A line from the film is “In this country, if you’re gonna own anything, own land. . . . They stopped making that a long time ago.” That is a direct quote from my father, and it’s 100 percent true. But the game is rigged against a small-time farmer in a lot of ways. It’s hard to make money, as production costs go up but the market goes down. The most interesting thing about this script, though, is that the struggle is experienced by an immigrant girl who is seeking refuge from deportation. The audience sees it through her eyes, a fresh take that suggests that the immigrant and the blue collar worker are after the same thing, no matter the politics involved. It’s called the American Dream. I’m trying to put an authentic portrait on the screen, the good and the bad of that place, and let the audience decide what’s right. That’s all I can do is hold up a mirror to that theater and take them to a place they’ve never been.

You’re obviously a talented director. However, you’re also a composer—and already finished literally the entire score to Nora. Pretty ambitious. And it’s a brilliant score, to be honest. Why was it important for you to lay the groundwork for the music? Did you do it before or after you completed the feature?

Well, let me just say that this means a lot. Most people don’t know that I am a composer as well. I quit my design agency and freelance jobs cold turkey to write Nora, so it was a six month battle with myself to put the most authentic portrayal I could on those pages. Everyday, all day, I was pouring my soul out, and for the first time in my life, I was focusing all of my energy on one project. If I’d get stuck in the script, I’d turn off Final Draft and start composing. Letting all of that organic flow into the music without passing judgment. In a lot of ways, it would help inform the cinematic language of the project. It was unlike any score I had heard because I was relentlessly chasing down the “sound” of my home and my version of it. There aren’t movies about where I grew up, so I was freed of expectation. A script is meant to be performed, not read so it helps the reader get a sense of where I’m headed as well.

My only objective was to convey this intangible connection I have with that place and those characters. I’m sure a bunch of those tracks won’t make it into the movie, but I know some of them will. It is an incredibly powerful tool to have as I switch modes from writer to director. My job is to inspire everyone involved to do their best work. Having the score lets me offer a tonality to anyone who wants it to be a part of their process. It’s a good way to make sure we’re all headed in the same direction. It keeps the vision tight, but also allows for organic reactions when the scenes come alive for the first time on that celluloid.

What composers have impacted you most?

Man, you’re putting me on the spot. . . . I guess I can only answer as to who I listen to most: Jonny Greenwood, Hans Zimmer, Arvo Part, Chris Dudley, Fabio D’Andrea, Aaron Michael Smith, Ryan Taubert, Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Krzysztof Penderecki, Joep Beving, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, and the late Johan Johansson.

You’re shooting your first independent feature soon (on film, no less), Whelm. How did it come together? From idea to securing financing?

I had been shopping around a couple films, trying to find the right financial partners who could get on board with my vision and got really close a couple of times, but it wasn’t quite right. So after I got a phone call about some money falling through, I decided to not ask permission to make something good and write exactly what I knew I could pull off with the resources I had. I called up my DP and great friend Kassim Norris and ran an idea past him, and he was all in. I did the same with the actors that are in my last film (a WWII short called Left Hand), and they were all in. So I threw caution to the wind and started to write.

Whelm is an American Depression Era thriller and heist film, where a small family in Indiana gets tangled between a legendary bank robber and an eccentric and dangerous rival criminal. It’s based where I grew up as well and is a culmination of some local legends that I grew up with, but also me just making the movie I wanted to watch with my best friends. But don’t get me wrong, it is incredibly personal as well. You won’t have to dig very deep to find that it is a commentary on chasing fame and celebrity. It’s a cautionary tale about finding out just how hollow of an endeavor that is opposed to the people you have in your life. We need to shift our thinking to how we can serve rather than how we can gain. The spirit of the production is that we are all going to push each other as far as we can, with the promise that I have their back.

It’s just a bunch of people that I’ve worked with who are world class, but the industry hasn’t caught hold of them yet. Delil Baran in particular. I wrote the best character I could for him, he is an enigma and audiences should be ready to hear that name. He is a force to be reckoned with, as are the rest of the actors in the film: Ronan Colfer, Dylan Grunn, Francesca Anderson and Grant Schumacher. I have been telling everyone that the film is going down in October, no matter what financing comes through. . . because even if we fulfill our perfect budget or not, I know that I can pull off an impactful story with the ingredients that I have access to. Ten years of building relationships and constantly over-committing and delivering have led me to make this film, and I’m more than ready. That being said, I’ve been betting on myself my whole career, and if anyone wants to go on that ride with me and support my feature debut, my line is always open. All I can promise is my passion for the work and hopefully a great piece of cinema.

The best choices you’ve made thus far in pursuing a career as a writer/director? The worst? If you had to change anything or had to tell a fellow filmmaker what to do and what not to do. . . ?

The number one best choice I’ve ever made in pursuing this career is not waiting for approval from someone else. There is no one waiting to hand you a golden ticket, and you’ve got to earn it. I make only the films I can make, so hopefully, they will know me, for me.

I’ve made a habit of Over-Committing and Delivering. I constantly go outside my comfort zone and burn the boats after I take the island. I give myself no choice but to move forward. I think that’s how we have to be. I couldn’t do that without the support of my wife, Natalie. I’ve known and loved her since I was in high school, and she is down to get in the trenches with me when the money isn’t coming in. She knows how much it means to me, and I want to pay her back with all I have. If I can make a living doing what I love, that is what I’m chasing.

I would say to fellow filmmakers, surround yourself with people you want to go to battle with, people who are brutally honest, and people whose taste you admire. Talent is great, but has to be equal with taste and honesty or it doesn’t work. You can learn that the hard way. Always bring value to the equation, and never come to a conversation with your palms up. If you stick to your identity, personally and as an artist, you’ll attract the right people. This goes for audiences as well, especially since everyone can hide behind a cell phone. If it’s not for them, then that’s okay, everyone is different and it’s not Burger King.

Don’t ever change your voice to try and hit the zeitgeist. If you do, you will be late. Art isn’t sports, so please, I beg you, put authenticity into the world with your work. We are all starved for it at the moment!


 

Skyler Lawson

Skyler Lawson is an award-winning writer and director known for his films Clayfist, Nora, and Left Hand. His sights set on telling visceral stories that reflect American culture as he sees it. Each one of Lawson’s films are trademarked with lush and evocative camera work, paired with challenging and personal narratives. His unflinching honesty often serves as a mirror of culture in the United States, but also offers an optimistic hand as it challenges the audience to look inward. His work is quickly emerging as a cinematic force to watch for as his focus is now on feature filmmaking.

Follow Skyler: Twitter