Friday, November 14, 2008



Hannah Herzsprung at HIFF 2008


Vier Minuten (Four Minutes) is an intense German film about a pathologically disturbed young woman, a convict with a passionate gift for the piano, and an old woman, the piano teacher at the prison (also seriously disturbed, but in a very different way), who coaches the pianist for a competition.

It is a very powerful film, with superb performances by
Hannah Herzsprung as the young pianist, and Monica Bleibtreu as the coach.

The film's power comes from the density of problems and catastrophes suffered and endured by the two women, many of them by their own doing. These are not nice characters.

Although the film does finally make its overloaded plot entirely real and completely clear, the sheer number of problems endured by the characters means that some are predictable and some are surprising; some are introduced with an excess of exposition and some just hit you in the face; some flashbacks are clear and some are initially confusing. Almost anything one might find in a film about a women's prison, and most of the things one finds in films about a music competition are in here.

Written and directed by Chris Kraus, the film has an original pace, structure and style. It's not a great film, because it is overloaded. But because it is overloaded, it is a powerhouse.

The wild, tormented young woman is played with brilliance by Hannah Herzsprung, a young German actress. With exceptional versatility,
a year after making this film, Hannah plays an angelic young woman in Werther. Almost totally opposite characters.

Hannah Herzsprung
with her striking "blaue Augen"
at HIFF 2008

In person, at the Hamptons Film Festival where she had the singular honor -- or double honor -- of being a "Rising Star" in 2007 and then returning as a "Shining Star" in 2008, she is thoughtful, pleasant, intelligent, and mostly charming, but there is that hidden fierceness inside. She speaks perfect English and appears this December in The Reader with Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, from the Weinstein Company.

She is a young member of a new group of European movie stars whose tremendous acting skills and normal English speech will see them moving seamlessly across international borders.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008



Presentation of the Award!
Jerry Stiller, Eli Wallach, Anne Meara and Anne Jackson
All photos: by Eric Roffman from the Gala for QPORIT

The HB Studio -- one of New York's oldest acting studios -- was founded in 1945 by renowned actor Herbert Berghof. He was joined in 1948 by the legendary actress Uta Hagen. The two master teachers trained several generations of master actors in theater, theatre and film. On Monday, Nov 10, the HB Studio and the HB Playwrights Foundation honored Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara at a benefit Gala.

Jerry Stiller and Edith Meeks, Executive Director

Speakers, especially Jerry and Anne in their remarks, honored the tradition of the studio. Anne remembered her studies with great fondness. Jerry celebrated Herbert Berghof's passion for theater, recalling the time Berghof called him at two in the morning to come down to the studio to study, work on and read a new, strange play (Waiting for Godot). He remembered how Uta Hagen was nice, tough. After his audition, while accepting him into her acting class, Uta suggested that Jerry also work on keeping his day job.

Ben Stiller

Among the many speakers, Ben Stiller and Amy Stiller recalled what it was like to be brought up in a loving house with parents who were performers.

Jerry Stiller

Talking about bringing up children, Jerry mentioned that when Amy was about two, he was rehearsing a sketch called "I Hate You" with Anne and they were screaming at each other. When Amy came out of her bedroom, all upset, Jerry and Anne explained that they were rehearsing. Later when they had a real fight, Amy came out cheerfully to say... "You're rehearsing!"

Eli Wallach & Anne Jackson

The award was presented by Stiller and Meara's old friends, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson. Anne Jackson is still actively teaching at HB Studio. Many distinguished alumni of the Berghof-Hagen era have taught at the school, including Bill Hickey, actress Jill Clayburgh and screen writer Tracey Jackson (whose "Confessions of a Shopaholic" is scheduled for release in Feb 2009).

Letty Ferrer, Uta Hagen's daughter,
an active member of the HB Staff,
was among the guests.

Anne Meara, David Amram and Ben Stiller

Among the entertainments at the Gala was a terrific, long concert by David Amram -- accompanied by his son and daughter in law.

Doris Roberts

Doris Roberts, an old friend of Stiller and Meara, was among the speakers.

Sam Groom

In the post Berghof-Hagen era, The HB Studio continues to evolve. Sam Groom, a link between the B-H era and the current world, teaches a class in acting for the camera. Anything other than pure theatre was very rare in the olde days.

Snezhana Chernova

Snezhana Chernova, a brilliant actress, acting teacher, and member of the staff, and her husband Aleksey Burago, who teaches directing, both of whom were trained in Russia (not at HB with Hagen & Berghof), are among the new generation at HB Studio. With his unique energy and style, Aleksey renews the tradition of passion for theater!

Julia Wolfermann

Performer Denusia Trevino

Julia and Denusia are members of a new generation of actors studying at HB and working with the HB Playwrights Foundation. At the Gala, Denusia presented an excerpt from the one-woman show she is developing at HB, about the immigrant experience.

Posters of productions with legendary directors, actors and playwrights line the walls of the Playwrights Foundation Theatre next door to the studio. Continuously operating through the years, recent productions have included a new adaptation of Chekhov's stories by Aleksey Burago, and work directed by Tony Award winning Jack Hofsiss, who also, currently, teaches directing at HB.

The re-assertion of the values of Hagen and Bergof and their passion for acting and theater were the spirit of the remarks by Stiller and Meara, and were then echoed in the comments of their children, Ben and Amy. As this Benefit Gala is a link to the past, it is the next generation... it is the evolution of HB into the future that will benefit!

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Friday, November 07, 2008



For the story of this event and a gallery of photos, see the post just above:

Nov 12, 2008: Photos from HB's Stiller & Meara Gala!

The invitation to the Stiller & Meara Gala
perched on my desktop

HB Studio & HB Playwrights Foundation will host

A Gala Benefit to Honor Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2008 at 6:00 P.M.
at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South

For the story of this event and a gallery of photos, see the post just above:

Nov 12, 2008: Photos from HB's Stiller & Meara Gala!

I was lucky enough to take the class that Jerry Stiller taught one semester at the HB Studio. And on days he couldn't make it to class, I was also lucky enough to study with Anne Meara, who came in to substitute for him.

He was a kind and generous teacher. Nice to everyone, although he never liked my "English accent" in my scene from "The Real Thing". (I put "English accent" in quotes because he was right... I never did have a real English accent.)

It was a very good class. I had a wonderful time working on scenes with Isabelle Fokine (grandaughter of the great choreographer), perhaps the most charismatic scene partner I've ever had; and there were many other fine students in the class.

Stiller used free-form improvs and scene study, and remembrances of his own days as a student. When one student took off his shirt for a gritty scene, he talked about Uta Hagen's objections to Steve McQueen who, Stiller suggested, seemed to almost always act with his shirt off. Anne Meara was gently focussed on getting to the emotional heart of a relationship, often using targetted improvisation to zero in on the truth of a scene.

I was most impressed because, more so than perhaps any other teachers I've had at HB (and I've studied there off and on for decades with many teachers -- it's a great place!), they were people with a generous and deeply human warmth.

Here's more information about the benefit, and the recipients of the honors:

The Herbert Berghof (HB) Studio and the HB Playwrights Foundation will host a tribute to the acclaimed and accomplished actor/comedians Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller in a gala celebration at The Players Club on Monday, November 10, 2008. Richard Pergolis of Pergolis Swartz will be the Corporate Chair of the event and television personality Joy Behar will be the MC for the evening. Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach will present the third annual Herbert Berghof - Uta Hagen Achievement Award to Ms. Meara and Mr. Stiller, given in memory of the actor/director Herbert Berghof and his wife and partner, the storied actress and master teacher Uta Hagen. The award recognizes theatre artists of extraordinary talent, achievement, and humanity who, in the conduct of their professional and artistic practice, have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to the vitality, integrity, and mission of the theatre and its community.

The evening will include a cocktail reception, dinner, and a musical presentation featuring jazz musician David Amram and an excerpt from HB Ensemble member Danusia Trevino's one woman show "Wonder Bread." The tribute will also feature remarks by 2007 Honoree Fritz Weaver, John Guare, Kevin James, Doris Roberts, Amy and Ben Stiller and Joseph Benincasa, Executive Director of The Actors' Fund. Ticket prices range from $300 for an individual ticket to $5,000 for a table for 10 and a full-page tribute in the souvenir program for the event.

The honorary committee for the gala includes Jason Alexander, Barbara Barrie, Jill Clayburgh and David Rabe, Tom Fontana, New York State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, John Guare, Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach, Kevin James, Rochelle Oliver and Fritz Weaver, Carol Ostrow, David Hyde Pierce, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Doris Roberts, Jon Stewart, Christine Taylor and Ben Stiller, Amy Stiller, Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna, and Marlo Thomas.

For information and reservations, please email to, or contact Peter Bloch, Managing Director, at 212.675.2370 x6.


Anne Meara has been nominated for five Emmy Awards. Her recent credits include appearances on Sex in the City and King of Queens. Her writing credits include After-Play produced Off-Broadway at Theatre Four and The Manhattan Theatre Club, for which she won the John Gassner Award. Another play, Down The Garden Paths, was done Off-Broadway and regionally starring Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach. Anne also created the role of Bunny in John Guare's House of Blue Leaves, received a Tony Award nomination for Anna Christie at The Roundabout Theatre, appeared in the feature film Like Mike, and in Night at the Museum with her son, Ben Stiller. She was also co-writer and star of The Other Woman, a CBS movie of the Week, which won a Writer's Guild Award.

Jerry Stiller was nominated for an Emmy Award and won the American Comedy Award for his portrayal of Frank Costanza on Seinfeld. He just finished nine years as Arthur Spooner on King of Queens. In film, Jerry was most recently seen as Mr. Pinky in the movie Hairspray and Doc in the Farrelly Brothers movie Heartbreak Kid, where he starred opposite his son, Ben Stiller. Broadway has seen Jerry in Hurlyburly, The Ritz and Three Men on a Horse, while other film appearances include The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three, Airport '75, the original version of Hairspray, Zoolander (also with his son, Ben) and the starring role in The Independent. He has also lent his voice to animated films including Teacher's Pet, Lion King 3, Lion King 1½ and the CBS holiday special, Robbie the Reindeer.

As Stiller and Meara, Anne and Jerry played record-breaking engagements at Max Gordon's Blue Angel and The Village Vanguard and were seen on the Ed Sullivan Show 36 times and received many awards for their radio and TV commercials that include Amalgamated Bank, Blue Nun wines and United Van Lines. They have been honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; with the Productive Aging Award, presented by the Jewish Council For the Aging in Washington, D.C.; and with the Thalia Award from Humber College in Toronto.

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Saffron Burrows as Melody Wilder in
Amy Redford's THE GUITAR

The Guitar, a new film by Amy Redford opens today at The Sunshine Theatre (143 E Houston St, NYC 10002, 212 358-7709).

The film stars Saffron Burrows in a commanding performance as a woman who reinvents her life after she discovers in one afternoon that she has lost her job and her boyfriend, and has (very) terminal cancer.

The film has been a selection of the Sundance, Vail, and Hamptons' Film Festivals.

Saffron -- for her powerful and sensitive peformance -- as well as the cinematographer, Bobby Bukowski -- for his inventive and beautiful cinematography -- deserve attention come award season. The script (by Amos Poe -- with some nice zingers) and Amy's sensitive direction are fine as well.

At the
Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF), HIFF 2008, I had the opportunity to interview Amy Redford. Here is a VideoPost from that interview. Following the video, there is a transcript of the QAQ ( that's QPORIT Asked Questions -- pronounced, "quack"), and the basic credits with a link to IMDB.

(Note: If you have a problem running the embedded video, the stand-alone video interview may be found at: )

CREDITS: The Guitar

Direction- Amy Redford
Screenplay- Amos Poe
Cinematography- Bobby Bukowski
Editing- David Leonard
Music- David Mansfield
Released by Lightning Media.

Melody Wilder- Saffron Burrows
Roscoe Wasz- Isaach de Bankolé
Cookie Clemente- Paz de la Huerta.

Transcript of the QAQ ( that's QPORIT Asked Questions -- pronounced, "quack")

Please see the video interview for Amy's responses to these questions!

1- Saffron Burrows is a striking presence in The Guitar, the first feature film by director Amy Redford.

2- This is Eric from QPORIT with a video report from the Hampton’s film festival where I had a chance to sit down with Amy for a conversation about her film.

3- I asked her how she came to make the film.

4- The film is rather stylized; she’d say metaphorical. Not to be taken absolutely literally. It is front loaded: in the first few minutes of the film, Melody is fired from her job, dumped by her boyfriend, and learns she has terminal cancer with just a month or so to live.

5- There have been several films recently with similar starting points: The Bucket List, and Last Holiday come to mind. I asked Amy what is unique about her film.

6- I mentioned that the film is stylized. It is beautifully and inventively shot by Bobby Bukowski Although most of the action takes place in one large loft, it never feels confined. Bukowski deserves attention at awards time. I asked Amy about the style and the cinematographer.

7- There is one very special shot. Melody is silhouetted… sitting on a wndow sill with her guitar. I asked… Who set up the shot?

8- I recently wrote a theatrical script in which the central character is a woman trying to figure out how to present sex in a play. The Guitar has several scenes with nudity and sex and I was very interested in Amy’s approach as a director to shooting such scenes.

9- Amy is a first time feature film director. She is the daughter of Robert Redford and Lola Van Wagenen. I asked about how she learned the technical aspects of film making, and what role her family played in her life.

10- Many thanks to Amy for this conversation. For more stories about the Hamptons Film Festival, The New York Film Festival, and many other interesting things, please check us out at QPORIT – Quick Previews Of Random Interesting Things -- … For links to more information about The Guitar, visit us at QPORIT and check the post entitled, THE GUITAR & AMY REDFORD posted on Friday, November 7.2008. Visit us at QPORIT often; browse; subscribe! Post a comment! Hope to see and hear from you there (here!), soon!

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