Friday, June 29, 2007

We are the Winners of the 2007 LA Film Festival!

We couldn't have done it without all of your support! Thanks to everyone who saw Billy the Kid! A very special thanks to the Jury, Patrick Creadon, Rob Epstein, and Lisa Schwarzbaum.

Jen with John Larson of the Directors Guild of America at the awards ceremony
(image courtesy of indiewire)

In awarding Billy the Kid with the Target Filmmaker Award for Best Documentary Feature, the jury stated the following: “The jury awards the Target Documentary Award to Jennifer Venditti for Billy the Kid. Inspired by her extraordinarily guileless young subject and matching his unique adolescent openness with her own artistic integrity in her auspicious filmmaking debut, Venditti finds a graceful documentary voice – patient, respectful, even tender – that perfectly matches the delicate turmoil observed in the life of one disarmingly articulate 15-year-old young man with, as he says, ‘issues.’

For more check out businesswire

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Film Threat Q&A

Jen sat down with Mark Bell from Film Threat to talk about Billy.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:

At the end of the day, what do you hope audiences take away from "Billy the Kid"?

"Billy the Kid" is an odyssey into the soul of an American teenager.

I want the audience to get to know a character for who he is rather than how he has been labeled. As much as I acknowledge the benefit of a diagnosis, that is not the story I am telling. I would like this film to be about celebrating our differences and realizing our similarities - how we all want the same things in life: acceptance, love and to be understood - and as a result have more compassion for each other and ourselves.

We live in a time right now where so many kids have or will be diagnosed with some sort of behavioral disorder. My hope is that people will not let that label be the definition of who they are. Our society is filled with people who have rage whether it is due to bullying, racial or sexual discrimination, domestic issues or just feeling misunderstood. So many times we only hear about this kind of "outsider" after their emotions have come to fruition in some tragic way. Although Billy has a keen insight to his feelings and a compassionate understanding of others, he still very much struggles with the demons from his past and present. His future is unknown but I hope that through his story we can start to increase our tolerance and compassion towards those who we believe are "different" from us. Hopefully that will enable us to confront and take responsibility for larger issues that stem from that divide.

Get the rest of the Q&A here and also check out Don Lewis' Film Threat review (four and a half stars!) Interview

Lisa Murray sat down with Jen before Billy's LA Film Fest debut:

More LA Film Festival Pics

Producer Chiemi Karasawa, Billy, Spike Jonze, and Director/Producer Jennifer Venditti

Billy, Director/Producer Jennifer Venditti, and Ron Holiday

Billy & Mr. Vig

"AJ Schnack's so wonderfully supportive of other filmakers and I love to see his smile at festivals"--Jennifer Venditti

We also love reading your blog, ALL THESE WONDERFUL THINGS!

Here's an excerpt from a recent post about Billy:

Next up was Jennifer Venditti's BILLY THE KID, the winner of the jury prize at SXSW, where it premiered. This for me was a revelation, an amazingly structured and beautifully rendered film about what it is to be an outsider, starring one of the most interesting characters to grace documentary film since, well Mr. Vig in The Monastery. (It must be a banner year for docs if we can get to meet both Mr. Vig and Billy in the same year.) Venditti's film is so graceful, so funny and yet, at times, so difficult to watch, I found it to be one of the most humanistic films I've seen in some time. There are those who have criticized the film, feeling that Billy was somehow exploited in the making of it. I couldn't disagree more. This is a story of a teenage boy beginning to embrace who he is, coming to terms with what he believes, learning to face his past and have courage in his present. It is, simply, one of the best films of the year.

Billy & Penny do Venice Beach

Billy at the LA Film Festival

Billy and Spike Jonze

Billy and his new French love, actress Roxane Mesquida

Billy with the JUMP team

Billy with the cast of Trigger Man

Billy, Penny & Ron Holiday from Cat Dancers

Monday, June 25, 2007

The LA Times Celebrates Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid, lost on society's fringes

By Gina Piccalo, LA Times Staff Writer

Billy Price is the weird kid at his high school, the one who walks funny and sits alone at lunch.
But get him talking, as first-time director Jennifer Venditti did in her debut documentary "Billy the Kid," and this gangly 15-year-old from rural Maine reveals a startling sensitivity to the world and a sad wisdom about his place in it....

For full article, check out the LA TIMES

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A privileged view though the eyes of a genuine iconoclast

That's what Denis Seguin's saying about Billy in his latest review on
Screen Here's an excerpt:

"I know I'm unique," he says in voice over as we watch him alone in that same cafeteria. "I don't let it get to my head… Sometimes I think the imaginative world is much better than the real world. But there's one difference, imagination ain't real."

That's for sure. Some sequences are excruciating: as when Billy attempts to socialise with some boys playing billiards. Despite his entreaties, they blank him. And yet he seems completely unaware that anything is amiss. The social chasm yawns before him as though he were a blindfolded at a cliff edge.

To put it in the stark parlance of his peer group, Billy is weird. Which may be why he takes a shine to Heather, a congenitally cross-eyed girl whose family owns the town diner. A conventional teenage peer but with a glaring physical stigma, she is the opposite of Billy, who is almost faun-like in his physical presence but whose invisible brain chemistry only betrays him when engaged. Their flirtation provides the dramatic backbone to the piece.

Be sure to check out the review in its entirety here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Still in Motion Interview

Jen sat down with Pamela Cohn from Still in Motion last week to talk about Billy. Here's an excerpt from the interview:

SIM: I keep flashing on Alice in Wonderland a lot as we talk—those two things [curiosity and intention] led her down that rabbit hole, that’s how she ended up at the Mad Hatter’s table. And nothing in her life really prepared her for that except this insatiable curiosity. That, of course, can get you into terrible trouble if you’re moving through with some twisted agenda. But you’ve said that Billy became and is a hero for you, and that’s how he’s portrayed—heroically. You didn’t really even use a traditional DP to shoot this—but Donald’s emotionalism and personal involvement with the subject is quite palpable. There’s no hiding behind the lens for him. It reminded me almost of a dad lovingly filming his kid. And Billy plays for that person behind the camera because he intuitively knows he’s admired and loved. That’s really beautiful to me.

What you have in common with Billy is how well defined your personal vision is about how you see the world and your place in it, proper ways of doing things be damned.

JV: Yeah, but unlike Billy when I was his age, I never was really speaking my truth—I did belong to the popular group, I was accepted and my wacky inner voice was suppressed in favor of that. I still struggle to do that today. I think we all do. And here’s this kid who’s wired in such a way, that that’s not even an option for him.

Be sure to check out the complete interview for Jen's thoughts on documentary filmmaking, the process of making Billy the Kid, and how she got her start in the industry.

Hypnotic and simple...

Here's what people are saying about Billy on IMDB:

Hypnotic and simple, this low tech gem is a genre busting documentary that achieves non-fictionally what virtually all of cinema has attempted fictionally: get the boy a soul. Boys in film, from Elliot in ET to the title character in Quixote to Porky's to The Shining's Danny are archetypes searching past Mom and Dad for a little individuality through some form of psychic mayhem. The capstone (tombstone) is the dead Haley Joel Osmet in Sixth Sense. Look carefully, culture uses these kids as rites-of-passage stand-ins, and they endure almost obscene amounts of fear and pain to ascend. News media showcases these boys in real life mostly as hooligans with guns: we reflect on troubled youth as a result of careful CNN headwashing in the aftermath of Columbine and Virginia Tech . Billy is the first documentary film I've ever seen that exhibits a narrative interface with a boy who is clearly from this archetype closet. Billy's polarizing, somewhat fearless and game for any self exploration. In the wrong hands he's a loose cannon, but here he reflects, jokes, espouses and in the lynch-pin moment, gathers the courage to ask a girl out and as we watch the exploration of first love, we realize even as we know this love is momentary, that he's done it, he can never run back to a blank world of just heavy metal and violence. Two women left their beautiful mark on Billy, one was the girl he fell for the other is the director. Truffaut (that made Small Change) and Spielberg wish they had made this.