RECAP: MPI Masterclass with Peter Billingsley

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Behind the Scenes: Producing FIlm & TV

You might know Peter Billingsley as Ralphie from the iconic 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story. But his childhood acting roles were just the beginning of his impressive Hollywood career. He has achieved success both in front of and behind the camera, most recently executive producing the Jon Favreau blockbuster Iron Man, executive producing IFC’s Dinner for Five, and making his directorial debut with  Couples Retreat, starring Vince Vaughn. He currently serves as executive producer of the Netflix series F is For Family.

In May, Billingsley joined us for an evening masterclass, sharing over four decades of industry experience with a room of MPI filmmakers, producers, and screenwriters. Filmmakers in attendance had this to say:

“I learned a more effective way to ask for and use feedback on my film projects.”


“I really appreciated how candid and open he was. He was lively, engaging, and seemed to take a genuine interest in everyone at the dinner.”


“Peter's career and outlook on life are so varied and deep that everything he said was incredibly informative and ridiculously entertaining at the same time.”


“Each MPI Masterclass is like a shot in the arm of inspiration and encouragement, pure motivation to forge your own path.”

Learn how to apply for MPI masterclasses and other filmmaker opportunities here.

From the Set of 'The Perfect One'

MPI filmmaker Matthew Szewczyk on set.

MPI filmmaker Matthew Szewczyk on set.

A Morality Tale About Innovation in the Free Market

In 2018, after years of participating in MPI programing, earning acclaim at festivals, and doing impressive commercial work, filmmaker Matthew Szewczyk participated in MPI’s Calling Card workshop to develop a new short film that could showcase his storytelling and directing skills. There, he developed The Perfect One, a script about a young painter who revives his family’s failing business by taking an innovative risk. After the workshop, MPI acquired the script to produce the film as an MPI Original with Matthew directing.

The three-day shoot took place last month in New York. MPI would like to extend a special thanks to the cast, crew, and everyone who made this film possible.

More updates are on the way, but in the meantime, enjoy these behind-the-scenes shots from photographer David Moriya.

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#FunnyHateTour in NYC June 17

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Join WTI TV’s Lou Perez at Village Underground

Next Monday evening, MPI's comedy news channel We the Internet TV will be making another tour stop in the Big Apple -- this time at the Village Underground.

Join Lou for an evening of live stand-up, a special screening of our mini-doc Five Reasons Why We Need Hate Speech, and a panel discussion where comedians weigh in on the impact speech codes, outrage culture, and politics are having on comedy. We’ll even open the floor up to the audience!

Show begins at 10pm. Reserve your seat here -- must be 21 to enter.

We hope you’ll join us for a night full of laughs where heckling is encouraged!

Six Screenwriters, Six New Stories About Freedom

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Summer Screenwriting in Full Swing

MPI’s summer concept development workshop has launched! During this fourteen-week workshop, six screenwriters will each craft a one-sentence logline, a one-page synopsis, and an outline for a film or series whose story arc advances human freedom in an appealing, mainstreamable way. That may not sound like much -- but it’s the difficult, invisible, and important work that prepares the screenwriter to write.  

Each participant will present their work twice to their fellow screenwriters, thus creating opportunities for feedback, synthesis, and revision. Exceptional story ideas will have the potential to be produced and promoted by MPI -- indeed, A Piece of Cake, a short film developed in last year’s concept development workshop, shoots this month and will be in festivals next year.

Learn more about MPI’s writing workshops here.

In the Spotlight: Calvin Tran

Show host Rizqui during filming of  Rizqui Presents: Blockchain

Show host Rizqui during filming of Rizqui Presents: Blockchain

MPI Fellow debuts new show on Amazon Prime

MPI fellow Calvin Tran recently debuted his show Rizqui Presents: Blockchain on Amazon Prime. Produced by his production company NodeHaus, the series follows its host, international hip hop dance artist and data visualizer Rizqi Rachmat, as he explains the fundamentals of blockchain technology to an unversed audience. MPI caught up with Calvin (CT) and Rizqui (RR) to get the inside scoop on the venture. Here’s what they had to say:

MPI: Why make a series about blockchain technology?
CT: The value of this technology is incredible and world-changing, and yet the world still doesn’t understand it very well. Considering it's been ten years since the beginning of Bitcoin, I wanted to jump right in and help people grasp it better.

MPI: What's the biggest misconception about blockchain, and how do you address it?
CT: Blockchain is a tech protocol that can have many different applications in our lives. We demonstrate that in our show by touching on the different ways new ventures are using blockchain. It has the potential to revolutionize whole industries.

MPI: What's the greatest challenge facing blockchain right now?
CT: Slow, confusing, and unnecessary regulation. The industrial energy is definitely there, but it is diminished if major regulatory bodies act too slowly, if their laws are too confusing, or if their rules are just too onerous. We need good, solid legal parameters as soon as possible.

MPI: What did you learn in the process of making this show?
CT: Producing a documentary series requires a lot more pre-production than I thought. Even though it's unscripted, and a lot of the production depends on your instincts on-set, there's definitely so much to prepare for before shooting. Lesson learned!
RR: No matter how people feel about the hype and salience of bitcoin as an investment, BTC is undoubtedly changing markets (and minds).

MPI: What has been the response to this series?
CT: Incredible. We've gotten great reviews on Amazon, and around 5,000 views on the site,which is great for a pay-walled series. I’ve had so many great conversations where people have said I've helped introduce this industry to people in an accessible way for the first time.

MPI: How can the embrace of blockchain improve the world? How does the individual benefit from blockchain?
RR: It's as revolutionary as the printing press, the computer, and the internet. How did those benefit the individual and the world?
CT: This is a decentralized record-keeping protocol. That means truth is being decentralized instead of remaining dependent on central institutions such as big businesses, banks, and governments, all of which has been the cornerstone of the developed world since the Second World War. This is going to change the way our world works under-the-hood.

MPI: How did MPI support your early filmmaking career?
CT: MPI has been there for me since my senior year of high school, when I went to their inaugural conference with the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Since then, MPI has supported me with workshops, a strong network, and even production grants. They've done a great job of planting the seeds to help my career take off.

MPI: What advice would you give filmmakers looking to make and sell their first series?
CT: Be as unique and flexible as a startup. You're providing a real value to people and your real job is discovering what that value is and executing it. If you've got a unique idea, you’ve also got to have unique market to serve.

MPI: Tell us about the new projects you're working on.
RR: Data visualizations and engineering of F35 simulators using gaming network protocols. Next-level hip hop cultural diplomacy initiatives, focusing on conflict transformation and entrepreneurship. Founding and incorporating a new venture called Chart Supply Co.
CT: I'm developing a new show called Bitcoin World Tour, a travel-tech show on blockchain use-cases around the world. I'm also developing a documentary on Dennis Rodman and a feature comedy about marijuana and local politics in a trailer park.

Catch the first episode of Rizqui Presents: Blockchain for free (hosted by CoinSpice), and purchase the full season at Amazon Prime (hosted by CoinDesk).

MPI-Supported Screenwriter Selected for HBOAccess Writing Fellowship

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IN the spotlight: Jessica shields

Jessica Shields, who participated in MPI’s 2018 Pilot Writing workshop, was selected for the fiercely competitive 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. As Deadline reports, she will join seven other writers in an eight-month program that offers classes and mentorship with a creative executive as they develop a pilot script for the premium network.

Recently awarded the Humanitas Prize's Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship, Shields was a Film Independent Project Involve Screenwriting Fellow in 2018, during which time she penned the short film Wednesday, currently a finalist for the HBO Shorts Competition at ABFF 2019.

Shields attended MPI’s panel at the Writers Guild Festival earlier this year. She said this about the experience:

“The MPI panel reiterated the importance of expressing your unique point of view as well as being ready to pitch your project at any time. A word of general advice that resonated most with me was the importance of discerning what you'd love to make from what's smart to make. The panel concluded with a warning that you're only as good as your last project and I feel better equipped to make that next project a reality.”

We can’t wait to see what she does next!

Esquire Names MPI-Supported Freedom’s Fury One of the Greatest Sports Docs of All Time

The Bloodiest Game in Olympic History

Earlier this year, Esquire named Freedom’s Fury, a Moving Picture Institute-supported feature documentary, one of the “greatest sports documentaries of all time.”

Directed by Colin Keith Gray and Megan Raney, and executive produced by Hollywood legends including Quentin Tarantino and Lucy Liu, the film documents the 1956 Olympic water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union, which occurred just weeks after Soviet forces invaded Hungary to crush an anti-communist revolution. Known as the “Blood in the Water” match, it came to symbolize a nation’s intense struggle for freedom.

See what other films made Esquire’s list here. Get your copy of Freedom’s Fury here.



RECAP: MPI’s Intern Summit

Esteemed animator Colin Brady leads a session on Film & Ideas

Esteemed animator Colin Brady leads a session on Film & Ideas

Supporting Filmmakers’ Careers in Their First Hollywood Jobs

Earlier this month, the Hollywood Career Launch program’s summer 2019 class gathered in Los Angeles for the third annual Intern Summit. The day-long event centered on maximizing the opportunities from a Hollywood internship. Sessions focused on Hollywood professionalism, navigating professional relationships within the entertainment industry, and leveraging an internship to advance both career goals and interns' own film projects.

Know a freedom-minded young adult who wants to break into the film industry? Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Apply here: https://form.jotform.us/72196656628166

Learn more about the Hollywood Career Launch program: https://www.thempi.org/intern-placements

RECAP: MPI’s Business of Film May Session

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Featuring Stacey Parks, Producer & Founder of FilmSpecific.com

On May 23rd, Stacey Parks shared her distribution expertise with filmmakers in the Moving Picture Institute’s Business of Film program. Stacey, who serves on MPI’s board of directors and produced our forthcoming feature film Miss Virginia, drew from almost two decades of experience as a sales agent, producer, and consultant to give the filmmakers advice they could use in their own careers. Topics ranged from landing domestic distribution to working with international sales agents.

To learn from Stacey Parks yourself, check out FilmSpecific.com, a training and consultancy organization for independent filmmakers, which Moviemaker Magazine called “one of the top 25 websites that filmmakers need to know about.”  

RECAP: MPI’s Mindful Editor Workshop

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Editing Workshop Featured Hands-On Experience with State-of-the-Art Editing Technology

This year's Mindful Editor workshop was held at the Evergreen Stage in Burbank, CA. In addition to MPI's standing seminar production partnership with Smock Media, Mindful Editor partnered with DaVinci Resolve -- a color correction suite with which most of the editors had no previous experience. Following an introductory lecture on the program, the fellows then learned it "on the job" throughout Mindful Editor. The five collaborative editing bays competed for DaVinci licenses, which were awarded to the winning project. The winning trailer wove together the stories of three courageous women who dissented from communism.

Learn more about Mindful Editor here: https://www.thempi.org/editing-workshop



Gringa screens in Florida, LA’s Mexican Consulate, and UCLAx

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MPI Original Short scores another win at UCLAx

MPI Original short film Gringa has enjoyed dozens of screenings around the country. In the past few weeks, we’ve proudly screened it at the Fort Myers Independent Film Festival on April 25th, the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles as part of the Immigrants Arts Series on April 25th, and the UCLAxFilmFest on May 4th. At the UCLAxFilmFest, director Claudia Murray won Best Director for her work on the short.

This adds to an impressive track record of wins, including a Hollyshorts Monthly Screening Series Audience Award, Best Short at the Fayetteville Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Broad Humor Film Festival, and many more.

Gringa follows a Cuban American woman and her eccentric grandfather as they track down a rare car part for their family back in Havana. We are thrilled to have been a part of these fantastic events, which engage diverse film audiences and other creators.

RECAP: MPI's Winter/Spring Screenwriting Workshops

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MPI’s Virtual Screenwriting Workshops End on a High Note

Every great film starts with a great story. And that’s why MPI is committed to supporting screenwriters and documentary filmmakers find, develop, and craft great stories about freedom. This year, MPI is offering seven screenwriting workshops—and we just wrapped the first two.

“Writing the Calling Card Short Film” met weekly from January through April. Along the way, seven filmmakers wrote and revised short film scripts on subjects ranging from moving dramas about political refugees escaping tyrannical states, to comedic takes on online witch hunts, to marijuana legalization. Each participant presented their work twice to the larger group, using the notes received during the first workshop to revise toward their second presentation.

“Documentary Storytelling” likewise met weekly from January through April—with a brief hiatus in the middle so that participants could move their films forward. Some used the time to polish rough cuts; others used it to do field research or capture interviews and new footage. One participant even considered converting his doc into a narrative feature—a thought experiment that proved richly illuminating as he decides how best to frame and produce the story he wants to tell.

Led by MPI chief creative office Erin O’Connor and executive vice president Maurice Black, both workshops received rave reviews. Participants called the workshops “transformational,” “inspiring,” “collaborative,” and “challenging.” Additional comments:

This workshop is a wonderful opportunity for you to improve your story and also collaborate with immensely intelligent and experienced people.
To be able develop a project within a community willing to give you honest and forthcoming feedback is a dream for many writers who often have to navigate the limitless choices a story presents without input, affirmation, and objectivity from a group of others skilled in the craft.
The workshop is an excellent way to develop or improve one’s own writing discipline. Being part of a weekly scriptwriting group, that includes two major presentations of one’s own writing, really helps an individual writer hone their craft and better prepares them for future collaborations with writers, directors and producers.

Later this month, MPI will launch two additional workshops: Concept Development, led by Erin, and a second Calling Card workshop run by Maurice. Both will run throughout the summer.

RECAP: Filmmakers Thrive at MPI’s Directing Workshop

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Inaugural Directing Workshop receives Rave Reviews from Participating Filmmakers

From April 25-28, the Moving Picture Institute produced its first directing workshop. We designed this invitation-only seminar as an exclusive opportunity for up-and-coming writer/directors in our network. In particular, we invited promising alumni of MPI programs and screenwriting workshops, as well as filmmakers who are already green-lit to direct MPI original projects in 2019. Two of those projects included forthcoming MPI Original shorts A Piece of Cake and The Perfect One.

Over the course of the seminar, seven writer/directors learned from working film and television directors about best practices and visual storytelling. Shorter sessions included masterclass conversations with student Oscar and Emmy-winning filmmakers, who are at breakout points in their careers.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to provide this opportunity at no cost to our filmmakers.

Here’s what our filmmakers had to say:

If I could go back in time, I would never have gone to film school. I would rather have invested my time learning from working industry professionals curated by MPI.
After going to film school and having dozens of professors where maybe one or two provided superior value, MPI gave us access to people are all providing superior value. This is a much better use of time, is far more hands-on, and doesn’t sink a student hundreds of thousands into debt.
This was a phenomenal workshop. I believe I walked out of it a better director. It forced me to confront new ideas I hadn’t considered, let me explore the perhaps unconscious themes in my own work, and gave me the chance to experiment. I am thankful to the supporters who made this tremendous opportunity possible for myself and the other fellows.
I’ve been fortunate to attend a number of MPI workshops and this was absolutely one of my favorites. Incredibly helpful. Thank you!

Sign up for the Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge!

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MPI TO SPONSOR SHOWCASE SCREENING

Our friends at the Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge are entering the 8th year of their two-week short film competition in LA. Several filmmakers in the MPI network have participated in the past, thanks to the amazing prizes and networking opportunities. We are proud to sponsor the screening on June 7th.  

Participants who sign up to make a film must also give help to at least one other filmmaker, as well as receive help from another filmmaker in the competition.

If you don’t want to make your own film, you can sign up as a Collaborator and help others make their movies -- this is a great option for actors, for example. Check out this video for more information about CFC and its filmmakers.

Sign up on the CFC website—the cost is $40 for Filmmakers and $25 for Collaborators.

The best films, as chosen by CFC’s celebrity jury, will be shown to a full house at the prestigious Harmony Gold Theater. You'll have the chance to have your film seen by Two and a Half Men co-creator Lee Aronsohn and Iron Man producer Peter Billingsley. More judges will be announced soon.

They’ll also award over $12,000 in cash prizes, camera gear from RED and Moondog Labs, production software from Final Draft and Red Giant, and a chance to win a $10,000 grant towards your next film.

Here are the dates for this year's competition:

  • May 14—CFC Kickoff Party

  • May 15-29—Competition Period

  • June 7—Short Film Premiere (proudly sponsored by the Moving Picture Institute)



Legally Speaking: Texting Suicide

Can an online troll be held accountable for another’s demise?

JUST RELEASED: Constitutional law professor Barry McDonald and We the Internet TV’s Lou Perez hash out yet another free-speech question in a newly released episode of WTI TV’s “Legally Speaking” series.

A Massachusetts woman encouraged her boyfriend to commit suicide. Is she guilty of manslaughter, or was she within her First Amendment rights? If she's guilty, how should we punish online trolls who try to goad people into suicide? These are the questions raised in the latest episode of “Legally Speaking,” We the Internet TV’s series on the finer (and weirder) points of the First Amendment.

Watch the video here, and be sure to post your own questions about free speech in the comment section!



RECAP: MPI’s Business of Film April Session

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filmmakers from across the country participate in virtual session on leveraging festivals

Last month, filmmakers and producers in our Business of Film program heard from Daniel Sol, the festival director and lead programmer of LA’s prestigious Hollyshorts Film Festival. Our filmmakers learned how to make the most of their calling card shorts and festival runs. To get a sense of the conversation and practical advice, watch Film Courage’s excellent playlist of interviews with Daniel.

Many MPI filmmakers have participated in the HollyShorts Film Festival, as well as the HollyShorts Monthly Screening Series at the TCL 6 Chinese Theatres. For example, MPI original short GRINGAwon the Monthly Series Audience Award in December. The MPI-supported documentary INCARCERATING USscreened in 2017. A few years prior, MPI filmmaker and Business of Film program participant Cyrus Saidi screened his MPI-supported sci-fi short L1TTL3 BR0TH3R.



This is "Legally Speaking"

A WE THE INTERNET TV SERIES ON ALL THINGS FIRST AMENDMENT

We the Internet TV's head writer Lou Perez is at it again...with a brand new series, “Legally Speaking,” in which he joins forces with Pepperdine University School of Law professor Barry McDonald to bring viewers up-to-speed on all things First Amendment.  

Lou launched the series in early March and has since shared six episodes.

The latest episode, “Kitten Crushing Videos (yes, it's a thing),” follows the story of a California man who posts online videos of a woman crushing kittens with her heels. Illegal, right? No! Watch the video to understand why!

Subscribe to the WTI TV channel and click the bell to turn on notifications from them, so you don't miss any of their new videos.

We the Internet TV Launches #FunnyHateTour

WTI TV ’s head writer Lou Perez onstage

WTI TV’s head writer Lou Perez onstage

The Funny Thing About Hate Speech with Lou Perez Brings Comedy to Serious Debate

Last Thursday, We the Internet TV’s head writer Lou Perez kicked off the 2019 campus tour, The Funny Thing About Hate Speech, to a full house at SubCulture in NYC.

After some back and forth banter with the audience, Lou premiered the latest WTI TV mini-documentary, 5 Reasons Why We Need Hate Speech. Then former ACLU president Nadine Strossen and free-speech activist Zach Wood, both of whom are featured in the mini-doc, joined Lou onstage to discuss their first-hand experience of being censored.

This show was the first of five stops -- Lou plans to bring the tour to Denver, Portland, Berkeley, and Raleigh this fall. He promises new panelists for each show, along with fresh jokes and loud outfits. As always, he welcomes hecklers with open arms.

If you haven’t watched the mini-doc yet, what are you waiting for? Check it out here and be sure to visit WTI TV’s website for updates on tour dates and locations.



MPI Filmmaker Toby Fell-Holden Becomes Vimeo Staff Pick

Photo credit: tobyfellholden.com

Photo credit: tobyfellholden.com

Join us in congratulating Toby

Earlier this month, MPI-supported filmmaker Toby Fell-Holden was honored to learn that his short film Balcony had become a Vimeo Staff Pick. Way to go Toby! You can watch it here.

Toby is a critically-acclaimed writer/director. To learn more about his career and his advice for filmmakers, check out MPI’s 2018 Spotlight on him.