Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Next #TriFilm Event

Hello, friends!  A few of you have asked for another filmmakers gathering, so I was looking at some mid-March dates. Using Twitter I recently proposed the evening of 3/23 or 3/24 for another gathering.  Wednesdays seemed to be a pretty bad evening for a handful of folks, though.  I've asked a fellow filmmaker and community organizer if one of those nights would work well for his group so that perhaps we could have a joint event some where in the middle of the Triangle.

Sit tight; we're still working out the details.  Since the #trifilm gathering is rather informal, I wanted to give everyone a heads up about what plans are in the works.  We'll keep you posted, for sure!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Before I Began

Before I began working on Abandoned Allies, I knew very little about the Vietnam War and almost nothing about the Montagnard people.  When I first started talking to our cast members, I questioned where they got their news.  How were they hearing about what's happening in Vietnam and I knew nothing about it?

The same question came to me recently, "Where do you find this news?"

When I found a lot of great articles online today, I realized the only reason I found them is because I'm actively looking for them.  We live in a sound-bite world where we digest news in a decreasing amount of minutes--if at all--on a daily basis.  If the first few paragraphs aren't interesting, we move on.  If the broadcast news doesn't entertain, we turn the channel.  We take less and less time to do our own research to find out what's really happening, so if it isn't served to us in an easily-digestible manner then we don't hear it.

There's no one to blame for this, really.  It's not just a "sign of the times" either.  It's just, simply, the way things are today.  I know because it's how I behaved before I began this project.

Now that I know people in Vietnam (and other places around the world) are being persecuted--raped, jailed, or murdered--for being an American ally nearly 40 years ago, I have started actively seeking more information.  You know why?  Because I'm angry about it.  I am embarrassed that our media puts more weight on an apology from Tiger Woods than it does on people being hunted in the jungles of Vietnam.  I'm upset that my generation can tell you all about Hollywood celebrities and nothing about foreign policy.  And yet, I am desperately trying to tell this story as objectively as possible so audience members can make up their own minds.

There's no doubt that this project has changed me.  It's altered my entire existence.  Before I began, I thought politics were something best left to politicians.  Now I realize that is what they want you to do.  By being ignorant of what's happening, we leave the fate of our nation, future and destiny in the hands of people that may not have our best interest in mind.  And that's putting it lightly.  It's a widely acceptable hasty generalization that politicians are crooked and corrupt, so why would we leave politics to them?

Before I began, I was clueless about a lot of these things.  I am saddened by the fact that this film may do nothing to make a difference, but it's not going to stop me from trying.  I've seen the power of film and social media in action.  I know what a group of people--even a small group of people--can do to make positive change happen.  And I believe, without a crack in my faith, that big things can happen when seemingly little people make the decision to stand up for what's right.

Without a doubt, this film has changed my thoughts on a lot of things.  Before I began I was a much different person.  Not better or worse, perhaps but definitely different.  I dream that this film will find its way into people's hearts, the hearts of people that can make a difference, and that my country will indeed keep the promise it made so many years ago: we will help you find freedom from oppression.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Screening Events for Abandoned Allies

As editing on Abandoned Allies continues, the idea of screening the film to select groups keeps buzzing around in my head.  You spend so much time editing and analyzing the story that it's easy to get too close to the project.  You start to wonder if the things you think are important are still really important for an audience.  Or the opposite--is something you think unimportant, and therefore cut out of the film, actually really important and need to go back in so that the audience isn't confused?

From the get-go, I have wanted to organize some screening events so that we get honest feedback from people that will hopefully make the film better.  Screening events help you get feedback from people so you can make the story tighter, pacing better, and film more memorable.

There are details about screening events, having never attended nor organized one, that have left me wondering.  Thank goodness Jane Kelly Kosek, who writes a blog All About Indie Filmmaking, just posted an entry titled "Focus Group Screening for Take Me Home".  She answers a lot of the questions that have been floating around in my head.

Is it better to have written, anonymous feedback?  Should it be people you know, or complete strangers who know nothing about the project?  What is the energy in the room like when  you screen your film for the first time?

The screening events have been a nerve-racking thing, continuing to nag at me as I put clips in order on the timeline.  Her post helped quiet a lot of those thoughts so that I can return to them once we have the rough cut finished.  Take a look at her entry: http://bit.ly/bwRVF6.  It is well-written and includes some great tips.  Enjoy!