Author archives: James Kaelan

  • The Four-Sided Triangle

  • The opening scene of Take Me to the River—Matt Sobel’s incendiary debut—unfolds like the epigraph of a light, introspective coming-of-age tale. Ryder (Logan Miller), listening to music in the back of his parents’ car as they advance toward a family reunion in Nebraska, removes his headphones and asks his mother (Robin Weigert), with the taint of moral superiority in his voice: “Do they know I’m gay?” The answer, we learn from her strained expression, is no. Sitting in a theater in Wroclaw,[...]
  • Usurping the Privilege Economy

  • Back in the spring of 2014, after successfully navigating my first crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark, I texted the following hyperbole to a friend: [Crowdfunding] is an experience that will unite our generation as WWII did our grandparents. That sounds like something a kid who hasn't been to war would say. But I mean that it's the struggle of a new creative generation. And it's important, not just because it fosters character and humility (which it does), but because it's one of the most [...]
  • The 21st Century Auteur Quiz

  • The Auteur Quiz was such a surprising success (like, 9,000 people took it!), and we had such a blast making it, that we've devised a new questionnaire: The 21st Century Auteur Quiz. All the potential outcomes are filmmakers we've covered in BRIGHT IDEAS. Which means, for instance, that Josephine Decker can get Josephine Decker. And Ryan Coogler can get Ryan Coogler. Whether they do or not depends on how well we actually know their processes. Let the experiment begin!
  • I Am Thalente

  • The first time Thalente Biyela skated with Tony Hawk, he was 12 years old and homeless, sleeping beneath the concrete overhang of the Durban skatepark where he spent his waking hours. The second time they rode together, eight years later, they were 8,000 miles west, at Hawk's skateboarding Mecca in Southern California. In BRIGHT IDEAS Picture's first feature film release, I Am Thalente, Natalie Johns chronicles Thalente's harrowing journey—from the streets South Africa, to the lights of Los A[...]
  • The Auteur Quiz

  • Have you ever wished that someone would take the time to create a metaphysical quiz to help you determine which 20th Century filmmaking luminary you're most philosophically aligned with? Yes? No? Who cares? I'll tell you who cares: We do! And because we care, we spent WAY too much time creating this intricate questionnaire with 16—count them!—16 potential outcomes. So take this quiz, and share your results with your film dork friends!
  • Fomenting the Revolution

  •   On August 14, 2013, six weeks after starting at Seed&Spark, I sent an email to our CEO, and BRIGHT IDEAS' future publisher, Emily Best. In it I laid out a patently insane idea: What if our fledgling startup, at a time when we hardly had the money to cover payroll, launched an aggressively independent print publication about American film? "To build a community of innovators," I posited, "we will profile the people innovating in accordance with our values. We will create genuinely [...]
  • (Some of) the Best Movies of 2015

  • This list—which contains 17 titles in total—strives, not to rank, but rather to contextualize the films I saw during 2015 that, for one reason or another, deserve discussion. One grossed $100 million. One came out on VHS. One doesn't have any words. One was shot on an iPhone. One consists of a single shot. One cost $35 million to produce. One cost $12,000. All deserve to be seen.   3 films I think about almost every day A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence Roy Ande[...]
  • Rumors of Print

  • We've been working so hard on the latest issue of BRIGHT IDEAS that we almost forgot to tell anyone about it. So, let us tell you a bit about it! Appearing next Thursday at Sundance's NEXT FEST at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel Downtown LA, issue no. 4 of BRIGHT IDEAS is the most audacious edition we've produced. From a choose-your-own-adventure essay about the present and future of Virtual Reality, to new exclusive work from the Zellner brothers, to a profile of the filmmaking collaborators Ra[...]
  • Editor's Note, Issue no. 3

  • When we launched BRIGHT IDEAS, one of our primary goals was to extract ourselves from the echo chamber enclosing the film press. If possible, we wanted to identify work before our perceptions were tainted by the people paid to influence us. If this sounds haughty—and idealistic to the point of unachievable—it is. But agents and publicists, as the old studio system has fragmented over the last four decades, have kept wide the gap between creators and their audiences. Even for ostensibly “independ[...]
  • Towards a Poor Cinema, Part II

  • In my private theorizing, I have imagined the ideal film collective as a small group dedicated to the production of one film (or a succession of films): a writer/director/editor; a creative producer/co-director/co-writer/co-editor; a cinematographer; and a producer of marketing and distribution, hell bent on communicating the group's vision to the world, and getting the film seen. Having spent some time recently, though, at the Sarasota Film Festival with Leah Meyerhoff, founder of Film Fatal[...]
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