FilmSchoolSF President Talks about Releasing his Feature Film

“It’s been an amazing journey the last few weeks as my film TORN was released in theaters. Receiving so much critical praise has been terrific, To get great reviews in both of my hometown papers – The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle – has been incredible. My favorite part of the whole experience has been the Q&A sessions with the audience – hearing what the film has meant to them. As a filmmaker, by the time you finish your movie, you’re never 100% sure it works for viewers as you hope it will. I truly believe that it is the audience that completes your film, and the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve received has been wonderful and humbling. Thank you everyone who has seen the film and posted feedback on Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.” Jeremiah Birnbaum

Produced by Fog City Pictures with a crew made up 50% of FilmSchoolSF students, the feature-film “TORN” has been held over in theaters another week. Directed & produced by FilmSchoolSF President, Jeremiah Birnbaum, the film has received phenomenal reviews:

Sensitive and profoundly human.” – Jeannette Catsoulis, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Superb, powerful performances.” – Jeffrey Lyons, LYONS DEN RADIO

“The movie’s whodunit elements, hold the viewer until the finish.” – Mick LaSalle, THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Torn rings with the sound of quiet truth.” – Andrew Lapin, THE DISSOLVE

Devastating emotional authenticity.” – David Noh, FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL

Torn capitalizes on a gripping and emotional storyline to deliver a terrific ending.” – Tony Hicks, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

See the film this weekend in San Francisco at The Opera Plaza: https://tickets.landmarkt…keting.aspx?TheatreID=226

Also check out the reactions from the moviegoers on TORN’s facebook page – click here

TORN – Opening night in San Francisco: SOLD OUT!

Fabulous night in San Francisco – TORN the San Francisco premiere was completely sold out! The October 25 showing also featured a wonderfully insightful Q&A session with the director Jeremiah Birnbaum and his creative crew of producers. See the photo slideshow above and below are some moments of the opening night, captured in video.

“It was really real. Not your typical dramatic Hollywood film”

A relatable and powerful film – “The message of TORN blew us away”

“It really touched my heart. I really felt for the characters”

TORN: San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Clara, LA premiere this friday – October 25

TORN, which premiered in New York City on October 18th, was called “sensitive and profoundly human” by the New York Times. Directed by Jeremiah Birnbaum, the film expands this Friday, October 25th, to five cities premiere on the west coast: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Santa Clara and Irvine. For tickets and showtimes see theater info below and read the full New York Times review here (

San Francisco & Berkeley (opens Friday, 10/25)
Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinema (
Landmark’s Shattuck Cinema (

Santa Clara (opens Friday, 10/25)
AMC Mercado 20 (

Los Angeles & Irvine (opens Friday, 10/25)
Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 (
Edwards Westpark 8 (

Watch the trailer for the film at

TORN: San Francisco Premiere berkeley school digital filmmaking

‘Torn,’ a Look at a Bombing’s Aftermath – New York Times Review

Subdued in mood and palette, “Torn” sensitively explores the aftermath of a mall bombing through the eyes of two mothers who each lost a teenage son in the explosion.

Drawn together at the disaster site and the police station, Maryam (Mahnoor Baloch), a poised Pakistani-American real estate agent, and Lea (Dendrie Taylor), a struggling office cleaner, form a tentative friendship. But when Maryam’s deceased son is learned to have frequented a mosque attended by a radical Muslim, and becomes the bombing’s prime suspect, hostility and defensiveness swiftly eradicate the women’s mutual empathy.

Torn Screenshot Jeremiah Birnbaum
As questions and revelations about both boys begin to surface, the director, Jeremiah Birnbaum, keeps the emotions convincingly intense if largely internalized, forcing the actors to express themselves in small, profoundly human gestures. Fathers — one Muslim, one evangelical Christian — hover helplessly on the margins, each having paid a price for his religious beliefs.

Slowly uncovering the prejudices that calamity can unleash, Michael Richter’s screenplay lays bare the damage wrought by Sept. 11 while deftly dodging hysteria, wondering how we differentiate between innocent teenage behaviors and dangerous red flags. Most of all, it wonders if we can ever fully know the people we live with, leaving the question to resonate as deeply as the two women’s grief.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – OCTOBER 16, 2013: “Torn: Film Review.” By: Frank Scheck

The Bottom Line

This well-wrought, sensitive drama explores its incendiary topics with an uncommon subtlety.
Jeremiah Birnbaum
Michael Richter
Mahnoor Baloch, Dendrie Taylor, Faran Tahir, Sharon Washington, Patrick St. Esprit, John Heard

Jeremiah Birnbaum’s drama explores the unlikely friendship between two mothers after their sons are killed in a shopping mall explosion

A potentially melodramatic plotline is handled with a refreshing subtlety in Jeremiah Birnbaum’s quietly effective drama about the aftermath of a deadly shopping mall explosion. Depicting the burgeoning friendship between the mothers of two teenagers killed in the blast, both of whom are eventually suspected of the crime, Torn approaches its in incendiary topical issues with intelligent modesty.

After ten people are killed in a blast initially described as a gas main explosion, among the grieving survivors are Muslim, Pakistani-born Maryam (Mahnoor Baloch) and American single mother Lea (Dendrie Taylor). United by their shared grief, the two women turn to each other for emotional support. But their relationship eventually turns hostile when an investigation led by a police detective (John Heard) and an FBI agent (Sharon Washington) reveals that each of their sons is a suspect. Maryam’s son Walter, whose father Ali (Faran Tahir) was mistakenly arrested after 9/11, turns out to have been attending a local mosque. And Lea’s son Walter was the victim of school bullying who vowed revenge on his tormentors, several of whom were either killed or injured in the incident.

Michael Richter’s screenplay weaves together its various themes and such subplots as Lea’s tentatively resuming a relationship with her long estranged ex-husband (Patrick St. Esprit) with intelligence and sensitivity, not to mention an uncommon succinctness (the film runs a scant 80 min). The relationships between the complex characters are well drawn, and the ironic ending manages to touchingly upend our expectations.

Director Birnbaum has drawn well-nuanced performances from the ensemble, especially the two female leads who render their characters’ actions, such as Lea’s undisguised hostility to the authorities investigating the case, thoroughly believable.

Although it’s ultimately a bit too slight to make much of an impact, Torn effectively demonstrates that hot-button issues can be explored without resorting to excessive histrionics.

Opens Oct. 18 (Brainstorm Media/The Film Collective)
Production: Fog City Pictures, Objective 49, Precept Productions
Cast: Mahnoor Baloch, Dendrie Taylor, Faran Tahir, John Heard, Sharon Washington, Patrick St. Esprit
Director: Jeremiah Birnbaum
Screenwriter: Michael Richter
Producers: Michael Richter, James Burke, Jeremiah Birnbaum
Executive producer: Jawad Qureshi
Director of photography: Sam Chase
Editor: Bruce Cannon
Production designer: Aiyana Trotter
Costume designer: Tamara Chandler
Composers: David Reid, Derek Bermel
Not rated, 80 min.

THE VILLAGE VOICE – OCTOBER 15, 2013: “A Tender, Well-Performed Narrative on Multicultural Intricacies.” By: John Oursler

Multicultural wish-fulfillment narratives are common in American indies, particularly post–9-11. The best, like 2007’s The Visitor, keep the maudlin hand-holding to a minimum and allow the complexities of human interaction to do the heavy lifting. Jeremiah Birnbaum’s Torn does just that, so when the inevitable camaraderie between unlikely characters develops, it actually feels possible. Maryam (Mahnoor Baloch), a Muslim American, and Lea (Dendrie Taylor), a stereotypically blue-collar Caucasian, meet after an explosion at the local mall has killed their teenage sons. Singularly shared experience quickly bonds the two, until the impending investigation into whether Maryam’s mosque-attending son harbored anti-American sentiment ignites an unfortunate blame game. The highly charged material allows Baloch and Taylor to express a full range of emotions, and their nuanced performances greatly benefit the film. Michael Richter’s intimate script traverses this mercurial territory without veering into hysterics—a great accomplishment. When the women tearfully confront one another, you’re on the journey toward acceptance with them. Made for less than $500,000, Torn is proof that a little can go a long way. In fact, the microscale perfectly lends itself to the story’s quiet revelations. Sure, it feels a little bit like a “very special” ABC Family presentation, but sometimes that sort of tenderness is exactly what the world needs.

TORN – The Official Trailer

An unexpected bond forms between two women when their sons are killed in an explosion at a local shopping mall. When the police find evidence of a bomb, one of the sons becomes the prime suspect, threatening the two mothers’ new friendship and forcing them to question how well they knew their own children. Torn is a powerful dramatic journey that invites each of us to confront our own perceptions of the world and one another.

Cool Shorts, Bro!

We did it once before!
Now we’re back!

SFSDF makes a return to the Roxie Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District to screen the hell out of some killer shorts. This time we’ve got Class 11 of the 1-Year Program throwing up some of their best work. On tap:


“We, the Class of 11, look forward to sharing the fruit of our loins with fellow filmmakers and movie fans,” shouted renegade ringleader and part-time Atmospheric Vibrancy Constable (AVC) Richard Falzone from atop a still-smoldering snowmobile somewhere outside Seguin, Texas.

Tickets? A paltry $10 at the door. GO! GO! GO!

All About Evil Wins a “Best Of…” Fog City Pictures

Nothing like starting the New Year off with great news!

San Francisco’s SF Gate released a list of the “Best Rep Films of 2010” and we’re excited to see All About Evil on the list. Fog City Pictures contributed to the success of the film and was credited as Associate Producer on the film.

“We were super-excited to be able to help All About Evil become a reality, said Fog City Pictures owner, Jeremiah Birnbaum. This film demonstrates the kind high-quality filmmaking that the Bay Area can produce – talented cast, great locations and a flair for the the over-the-top.”

The film includes such talents as Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Slums of Beverly Hills), Thomas Dekker, (Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, A Nightmare on Elm Street),Cassandra Peterson (better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) and the John Water’s standard, Mink Stole.

From the SF Gate article…

“All About Evil,” May 1, Castro:
Local personality Joshua Grannell is better known as Peaches Christ, famous for her “Midnight Mass” film screenings. But shedding the drag and putting on his director’s viewfinder led to one of the best locally produced films of the year, a severed-tongue-in-cheek horror film with wit as sharp as the knives. Stars Natasha Lyonne, Mink Stole and Peaches herself helped Grannell kick off the film with a memorable Saturday night show at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Full article

FilmschoolSF grad contributes to The HIV Project

We sometimes have so much fun making movies here that we maybe forget that filmmaking can be a serious endeavor – something that can change people and capture the most important moments of our lives. Film is perhaps the most powerful a medium we have and, when used correctly, can bring good to the world and act as a ever-long testimonial for the magic of our lives.

San Francisco’s The HIV Project has turned to film to help spread their message of HIV awareness and prevention. Their hand-picked compilation of short films capture heartache and happiness of a community under attack by a deadly disease.

From their Kickstarter fund raising page:

“Still Around” is the “The HIV Story Project’s” most ambitious art project so far: We challenge 16 local filmmakers to make 16 5-minute short films about people living with HIV. The end result will be a video AIDS Quilt for the 21st Century about those still around – a feature-length compilation and celebration of life, that represents people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations.”

One of the films in the compilation is short titled “Instant Dad” with was written and directed by SFSDF One-Year Filmmaking alum, Rick Osman. Rick came to FilmschoolSF over year ago with a background in Real Estate – and without any filmmaking experience to speak of. And now here he is, relatively fresh from graduation, and already shooting work that is capturing audiences and changing lives.

“I was delighted to direct this short autobiographical doc about raising my nephew during the height of the AIDS crisis and be able to share with people how important his arrival in my life was to my ultimate survival, said Rick.

The compilation has been submitted to the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival and confidence is high. “Instant Dad” was edited by FilmschoolSF faculty member, Milena Grovensky.

You can catch the films this Friday, December 10, from 6:00-9:00pm at SOM Bar in the Mission during The HIV Project’s Holiday Celebration and Fundraiser.