Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thinking Creatively: Seeking Ways to Raise $515 to Attend the Full Frame Fest

Today I got the news that I did not get the grant to attend the Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, N.C., this April.  While this news could be crushing to some, I see it as a new challenge.  I've had my share of challenges working on this film, and believe that it builds a bit of character.  While my focus must remain finishing the film, I am brainstorming ways to raise funds so that I can still attend.

The Full Frame Fest is dedicated to documentary filmmaking.  As a first time filmmaker working on a documentary it would be an honor to be there as an attendee, soaking up everything and feverishly taking notes.  I'm fairly starved for opportunities to talk with and learn from other filmmakers, and being in a setting such as this festival would satisfy that craving.  Film is a collaborative form of art, and so conversations and interactions like that are critical to making the final result much better.  When you learn as you go, often times learning from other people who have been through the same things is best.  Our film is about a group of people that deserve to have their story told in the best means possible.  Being in an environment where I can watch other documentaries and listen to other filmmakers will help us make drastic improvements.
A Festival like this offers a sustained, concentrated exposure to the sheer emotional power of documentary filmmaking, its ability to communicate the drama embedded in human experience. In Durham last weekend, you could walk into the stately dark of the Carolina Theatre and lose yourself in real life. —A.O. Scott of The New York Times

The festival website lists the Priority Pass cost as $515 total.  This would be my ultimate goal but there's also a Festival Pass listed at $210 total.  I truly believe that raising $515 in a short amount of time is possible, but so desperately want to focus on finishing the film.

Making a film on a zero-dollar budget leaves room for creativity.  If there's a will, there's definitely a way.  In the grand scheme of things, those passes may not seem too expensive to some people.  But when you know that digitizing Super 8 footage costs about $200 or more, you have to prioritize how money is spent.  Attending a festival is great, but getting that film digitized so that we can finish the film has to come first.

So I'm now accepting creative ideas for ways to attend the festival via comments to this blog post.  I have until March 18th to raise $515 if I understand their website correctly.  You fine folks have any ideas?  I'm all ears!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lock Down Continues

For quite some time I've been on official self lock down, desperately trying to wrap up Abandoned Allies.  We've been working on it for two years now, and I'm beyond anxious to share it with everyone.

So I've taken the shape of a recluse for a bit, at least until I can make enough progress on the rough cut to pass it along to my talented teammates for editing, music, graphics and polishing.  Being a girl who likes to be around people, it's been really tough to stay home, sitting behind a computer screen, listening to the same clips over and over again.  Editing is such an art, and the people who do it for a living amaze me.  I appreciate knowing how to do it, but truly hope to have a team of editors on my next film!

So today I took a short break to rejoin the world for a few brief hours.  This morning I had coffee with a dear friend from Meredith College.  She's top notch in my book, and it was wonderful to catch up with her.  From there, I went to the set of Bursters to help another friend with his film for a short period.  It was a much-needed relief from my humble home office (which, I should add, smells like my stinky dog who is overdue for a bath because I've been so focused on editing the film).  

What a glorious few hours outside!

My friend (and fellow improviser) Chris Moore has been working hard on his horror film Bursters.  They needed a few extra bodies on set today, which gave me a delightful excuse to be with friends, outside, in the most wonderful spring sunshine, not to mention a chance to be on set watching everyone work in front of and behind the camera.  

It's really fun to watch.  I am totally hooked.  Everyone there was doing such a great job, which I mentioned in my post on Sunday.  I could have stayed all day.  The image shown here includes Alena Koch, the lead actress who is also an improviser.  Both Chris and Alena are helping with Abandoned Allies.  I'm stoked about being able to lend a hand on set, even if it's just taking production still shots.  As a photographer, I find being behind the scenes rather thrilling (even with the down time that happens on occasion).

In the meantime, lock down continues.  I think the triple latte, sunshine, healthy dose of being around people and a bit of learning from watching other filmmakers today really gave me the boost I needed.  I'm back at the computer working all night tonight, and feel completely energized about it.

June release?  Here we come.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Hurt Locker

War films have been an informal bit of research for me while working on Abandoned Allies.  I like to study the them to see how characters and the subject matter are portrayed.  There is much more to war than politics, soldiers, equipment and death.  War has unseen scars in place far away from the battle fields.

When The Hurt Locker came out on DVD, I was excited about watching it. A lot has been written about the film, so I'll leave you to Google the reviews and read the words of critics who cover it much more eloquently than I ever will do here.  I will, however, simply say that it was a fine film and I enjoyed it very much.

It was only after watching the film and enjoying it a lot, that I found out a bit of the Hollywood story behind the film. Last night the Oscars aired.  The Hurt Locker won six Oscars, including best director and best picture.  This is the first time a woman has received an Oscar for best director.

There are too many thoughts and opinions to share about this here, but let me simply say how much I wish Bigelow a personal congratulations.  It's delightful to see a woman make a film about war, a great one, and to see it celebrated in such fashion last night.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Past Few Days

To say that the past few days have been busy would be an understatement.  I am too excited about getting a good night's sleep tonight.  It's delightful to be so exhausted from doing what you love.  I highly recommend it.

Here's quick recap so I don't fall too far behind, although it's just the past few days and there are some other updates that I will share soon enough.  Right now I'm wrapped up with finishing the film so it leaves little time for posting updates.  It's a great place to be, though, for sure.

Thursday: Surry's Birthday Party
Thursday was Surry's birthday.  He's the reason I'm working on this film.  Served as a Green Beret during the Vietnam War, and continues to work closely with the Montagnards here in North Carolina.  Since he's done so much for others, it was an easy task to throw him a surprise birthday party.

A few of us have been busy for the past few months conspiring, and I have to say that it was SO much fun!  The look of surprise on his face was entirely too gratifying!  I was absolutely thrilled to see about 100+ family members and friends tell Surry happy birthday, and share stories about the adventures he's had in his life.  We had a toast/roast, and some of the fellas that have known Surry for a long time had me in tears from laughing so hard.  What a great night.

A big, big thanks is owed to my co-conspirators Arita Suwandari and Adam Shepard.  There were many, many others who helped make the evening a huge success and I'm so grateful to each of them for helping make Surry's birthday so much fun.  (My sister helped make cards that told guests where to later find the photos I took that night, Snow's family brought some amazing BBQ from Durham, and we had a beautiful cake from Ilya Koltusky, owner of Sweet Loralee Pastries..yum!)

Surry's one amazing fella, and I'm so happy that we could do something to show him how much we appreciate his presence in our lives.  So many people offered their time, talents and resources to make the evening a total success.  I had such a great time, too!

Friday & Saturday: Music for Abandoned Allies
Annie Beth returned to Raleigh on Friday to talk more about music for Abandoned Allies.  She's been doing an incredible job collecting music from some seriously talented artists.  Not only is she collecting music, she also wrote and recorded what we're calling the theme song for the film.  This is the type of woman you want on  your team.  No joke.  I want to work with people this amazing for the rest of my life.  I'm a huge fan of such a talented, smart and motivated woman.  How she accomplishes all that she does, while being the dedicated parent of four children (all aged 5 and under) is something I simply cannot fathom!

On Friday night we met with Kyle Owen, a young man I know through some of my fellow improvisers.  He has volunteered to help us with music for the film, specifically music without lyrics.  He composed a sample prior to the meeting based on a poem I wrote (that Annie Beth used to write our theme song), and he also shared some music he created in the past.  Today he also sent a new sample based on some of the Montagnard music I played for him Friday night.  It's really exciting to think that we now have a means to score segments of the film! Yes!

When I started this project, I never imagined we'd have so much original music for the film.  What a huge blessing this is to me, to have people working hard on it to make it easy.  When other parts of the project have been so challenging, I am so relieved to have something run so smoothly now.  What a relief!  I can't wait to share it.  Simply can't wait.

Sunday: Shooting Behind the Scenes Footage for 'Bursters'
Today I was lucky enough to linger on the set of 'Bursters', a film by my friend Chris Moore (@ilikefilms), pictured at the left with Todd Tinkham.  They started shooting yesterday, but I could only make it out there for a short time today.  It was incredibly fun to watch.

Shooting a documentary is so different than a fiction film.  If you're lucky, there are scripts, actors, blocking, lots of crew and more.  It's a different energy, but equally fun.  I was really impressed with the level of professionalism, although not surprised at all that everyone is such a delight.  They were very kind to let me capture them while working.  The energy on set had, to me, a similar feeling: the mutual respect, love and appreciation that exists between the U.S. Special Forces soldiers that served in Vietnam with the Montagnards.  The comparison may seem like a stretch, but it felt very familiar today.

There are so many fun film-related things happening in the Triangle.  It's really exciting.  Tonight Kyle returned to my place to loan me a bigger computer monitor (THANK YOU!), and we talked about the film's music and what I might do to repay the favor of having his help.  Reciprocity is a big thing for me, and I want to offer my volunteers something in return for their passion, dedication and support.  I have nothing to give them, so it's a challenge to find a way to offer a hand.  As we chatted, I had a rush of emotion (probably related to getting too little sleep and having entirely too much coffee this morning).  Nevertheless, I realized how lucky I am with where I am at this point in my life.

I am living the dreams I had as a kid.  It's so rare in this lifetime to find such a gift, and few days have gone by where I've taken this for granted.  Rarely is there so great a satisfaction as doing what one loves each and every day.  I am one lucky lady.