Three film pros whose work wins airtime and awards

Cutters L.A.’s Aki Mizutani

AN OSCAR STATUETTE could be in the future of Cutters’ L.A. editor Aki Mizutani, who edited Sundance-winning director Lucy Walker’s “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”.

The 40-minute film is one of eight short-listed docs for an Academy Award nomination in the Best Documentary Short category.

Walker had intended to shoot a short film in Japan about Japan’s cherry blossom season, but switched themes when Japan was devastated by an earthquake and major tsunami last March.

Walker and her DP, Aaron Phillips, shot the story of how survivors hardest hit by the tsunami found the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season began anew.

Walker signed Mizutani to edit after a lengthy search in New York and L.A. for a bi-lingual Japanese editor.  “She loved the film I cut that also had a cherry blossom theme,” says Mizutani, who has been with Cutters since she came to the U.S. from Japan four years ago.

Mizutani’s film was a music video: a Japanese Tribute version of an earthquake song written and performed by the 30 Seconds to Mars band.

“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” has a good shot at being nominated and possibly winning an Oscar.  British-born Walker’s “Waste Land” was on the Oscar shortlist in 2010, the same year it won Sundance’s World Documentary Audience Award.  Nominees will be announced the end of January.

THE ARTISTRY of Red Car’s motion graphics designer Kevin O’Rourke is displayed in “Trek Nation,” a doc that Trekkies, especially, will flock to when it airs Dec. 18 and Dec. 28 on the Sci Fi channel.

Red Car's Kevin O'RourkeThe doc is about the journey of Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, the son of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, who was 17 when his father died, through the touchstones the elder Roddenberry left behind, from the first “Star Trek” TV show to J.J. Abrams’ feature last year. 

“Trek Nation” was produced by former Chicago editor Seth Skundrick and Nicole Rittenmeyer’s New Animal Productions, a boutique doc house based in Brooklyn, New York.  

This is Red Car and O’Rourke’s fourth New Animal assignment in three years.  O’Rourke had designed the graphics for critically acclaimed docs “9/11: The Days After,” “The Presidents” and “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” 

Next up for O’Rourke is a New Animal doc about the Civil Rights Movement.

An illustrator, oil painter and block print artist, O’Rourke has been with Red Car for nearly two years.  A native of Grand Rapids, where he studied at Kendall College of Art, he spent eight years in Detroit with Universal Images and Postique editorial.  

Doc maker Steve JamesTHIS HAS BEEN A GOOD YEAR, indeed, for director Steve James and his anti-gang violence doc, The Interrupters,” co-produced with Alex Kotlowitz, which was nominated for a 2012 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary after collecting top prizes at prestigious festivals.

Now, topping off the year of deserved recognition is the $50,000 USA Fellowship grant James has received from United States Artists, a nonprofit organization that contributes no-strings-attached financial support to American artists. 

James is one of 50 outstanding performing, visual, media and literary artists this year who received the annual grant. The third time is the charm for James, since this was the third time he was nominated for the grant.

And for the third time this year, “The Interrupters” will screen at the Gene Siskel Film Center Dec. 16 for a full week.