Friday, April 2, 2010

That thing that has a name

Destiny?  Divinity?  Whatever you wanna call it, that thing that happens that has a name is really great.  There are moments that feel like pure coincidence...but I stopped believing in that a long time ago.  Very few of those coincidences feel like coincidence, but more like destiny.  It's indescribable when it happens.

Take, for example, the phone call I just experienced.  A series of events led up to the phone call, and it is a rather long story that took place over the course of a few years.  A lot lead up to the phone call that just took place.

This guy, living in some other part of the country, working on something incredibly similar to Abandoned Allies, whom I tried to meet years ago but missed, found me on LinkedIn and sent me an email asking me to call him.  So I did.  The energy on the line was palpable.  We could have talked for hours.  After hanging up the phone I realized it's that thing that has a name (although I don't know what to call it).

There have been moments like this throughout the life of this project.  I have found myself in some pretty memborable situations, some in particular that a young girl traveling alone probably would fear.  Or maybe anyone in their right mind would be apprehensive about or fear.  Yet, the whole thing has this air of protection around it that I feel rather fearless about some of the things.  I don't say yes to just anything or everyone, but on ocassion an opportunity or person comes along that you feel destined to work with, you know?

Nothing is formal just yet, but I hope to meet this fellow filmmaker in person sometime soon.  If things work out, that could very well happen this month.  And that's just like this film to make it happen this month.  I'll be sure to keep ya'll posted.

Next Week: Full Frame Film Festival

Next week is the Full Frame Film Festival!  Thanks to so many of you, I am able to attend the festival next week and I couldn't be happier about it.  For years I have been trying to go as a volunteer, but things just didn't work out for various reasons.  This year was a bit of a mess, too, since the volunteer opportunities were filled by the time I found out that the grant didn't come through as I had hoped.  But thanks to the generosity of my friends and a few people I don't even know, next week I will be Full Frame bound!

You'd be so proud of me, too.  I have already studied the list of movies and events, to make sure I see what is most helpful for Abandoned Allies.  There are a few can't-miss documentaries, some specifically about wars (past and present), policy, and government corruption.  Enemies of the People looks especially interesting because it is about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, something that's fairly close to our story although completely different at the same time. 

I'm interested to see how these filmmakers tell the stories, and what techniques are used to give the backstory/history and details that help audiences fully understand it.  I feel a lot of clarity in how to tell our own story recently.  There are a lot of side stories that are interesting and worthwhile, but they don't add much to this particular focuse of the story to they end up getting tossed out of the main film.  It's sad because they're so great, but you don't want the audience to get distracted or miss the main points you're sharing with them.  You want them to make up their own minds, do their own research, and find their own way to help, but you can't force any of that or they will want to walk out.'ll be interesting to see how other filmmakers have approached similar subjects.

During the festival, I plan to do a lot to help you feel like you're there with me, since you've supported me and are the reason I'm able to attend.  Using Twitter, Facebook, this blog, Flickr and all sorts of other methods, I will keep you posted on the experience.  If you're tuned in to some of those social media channels and watch/observe regularly, please forgive the rapid increase in noise coming from me during the festival.  There are ways to tune out some of that if it gets to be too much.

Facebook has a means by which you can hide someone's status updates.  I'll be connecting my Twitter account to Facebook for those few days, so that you can follow along.  If the updates get to be too much, just click on the hide button next to my latest update and you won't see anything else from me until you decide to unhide. 

Facebook has directions on how to unhide, which is really easy once you figure it out.  All you have to do is scroll to the bottom of your news feed page and click on edit options.  You'll see a list of people that you've chosen to hide and you can then click on uhide to start getting their updates sent to your news feed again.

Next week is going to be so much fun, and I am really looking forward to it.  Thank you all for helping me attend the festival.  You're so generous and I'll be forever grateful for your help in making Abandoned Allies a great film!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Two Years, Lots of Changes

When we first started this project, it was a pretty small one.  We planned to take a few months to interview five people, and then put that together to make a short film on the subject.  We just dove in the deep end and started it, with little regard for the challenges that lie in front of us.  (Or is it lay in front of us?  I can never get that one right.)  We were confident that it would be finished within one year, since it would only take a short bit of time (maybe a month or two) to interview the people on our list.  From there we could easily put that footage together to make a short film.  We started it in March and would have it finished by fall of the same year.

Here we are two years later, still wrapping up the film.  It's been an incredible journey, to say the least.  Over the course of these two years, so much has changed.  Our team of people helping with the project has grown by leaps and bounds.  The interest in our project--and when we will finish it--grows daily.  I started this blog as a public diary, thinking few people outside my family and friends would find interest in it.  Now I hear people follow our project and want updates regularly.  We have also upped the ante in terms of production quality, too.

When we first started, we were shooting in standard definition.  We then switched to HD after the first few interviews.  Over the course of time, I got more and more used to the differences in film and still photography and picked up tips from people to improve our composition and lighting.  My background in still photography (including studio lighting) helped greatly, but film is very different than still photography.  Additionally, I was learning all about the Vietnam War, Montagnards, Special Forces, interview techniques, trade policies, immigration rules, war strategy, and capturing audio/visuals.  It was a lot, and I am grateful to have been so ignorant of just how big the challenge was when I accepted it.  But that's what you do: you learn, try, and improve along the way.  There's no better way to learn to walk than by taking the first step.  Eventually you start walking with confidence, and before you know it you take the act of walking for granted.  One of the interviews I shot in DC is a particular favorite of mine since the lighting and background were pretty great, but there was still room for improvement on the whole.  It's hard to do all of that (or rather a little crazy to try it that way).  Many hands make light work, and much more fun.  Collaboration is the key to making the film great and working with talented, creative people is a passion of mine.

Last weekend, I felt a touch of dreams turn to reality. 

Sounds cheesy, but it's beyond exciting to have professionals willing to lend a hand to a project that's so near and dear to your heart.  Joshua Steadman and Gabriel Nelson helped me reshoot one of our standard def interviews.  I know firsthand that it takes a great deal of time and effort to make a set look and sound as good as Josh and Gabe did.  They have won my heart, professionally speaking! 

Josh and Gabe gave me the great gift of being able to simply show up and interview George.  What a joy!!  I didn't have to pack/carry equipment, set up a set, test audio/lighting, break down a set, or break a sweat at all.  I just arrived on set and interviewed when the time was right.  They even let me watch some of the footage while they broke down the set (which was probably a kind disguise to keep me from getting in the way or breaking anything since I'm terribly clumsy).  The whole day was entirely too easy, and I will be forever grateful for their help.  I will always want to work with people that are this down to earth, kind, professional and committed to excellence.  What great guys!

More information about these fellows will be posted soon, but for now I wanted to capture just how wonderful it is to see the changes that have happened over the course of two years.  The only thing that hasn't really changed?  Policies that support the allies we abandoned so many years ago.  But that's the thing: there's hope for that yet.