Monday, December 19, 2011

Mourning

My grandmother died. On December 7th, a day which will live in infamy.

This is the reason you've not heard from me in a while. I've been spending time with family. Now I'm mourning the loss of an incredible woman, and struggling to adjust to the reality that I will never see her again in this lifetime.

Mourning is tough.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's been a while...

Well, hello. It's been a while. I hope you are well.

You haven't heard from me in a long time for a number of reasons. We had a private screening on November 17th, which took lots of preparation. Then I needed a time of recovery afterwards. And there was a time of listening, planning and open conversation while I took feedback from folks who had just seen the film.

Technology has been a beast lately, too. Old browsers are no longer supported by Goggle/Blogger. My phone has been giving me plenty of troubles. But the biggest annoyance is courtesy of my seven year old Mac G5, which can no longer do the jobs I need it to do. It's time to put that faithful, sweet horse out to pasture. I desperately needed a new computer

Feeling that I shouldn't post something that is full of complaints... I have left this blog rather abandoned. If you have missed getting the updates, know that they would have been rather whiney ones and you haven't missed much.

Life has been challenging. But it's all relative. My first world problems are silly in comparison to the challenges people face in other parts of the world. So I try to keep mum and carry on.

So here's some good news. The film actually played at the event, I have  only a few  things left to finish it, and pretty soon we will share it publicly. I've learned so much along the way. And now I can make another one faster and better. Win!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Subtitles

We are well on our way to finishing the film. We have a private screening for cast, crew, family, and friends scheduled for this month, too. Very exciting.

One thing I can't figure out is subtitles. I know how to put text on the screen in FCP, but I'm curious if there's a faster / better way to do it. I need to do some research on it, and stop fiddling with the last minute of film.

So great to have hard deadlines for motivation. I'd like to set another one for March 2012, where we can screen the film publicly. This would motivate me to get the film on DVDs, wrap up branding, and a few other things. Screening the film at IMAX, Rialto, or Carolina Theater would all be awesome.

More work to do for now, though. I'll keep ya posted!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thoughts Regarding the Next Project

Since we're so close to finishing Abandoned Allies, my thoughts regularly turn to "what next?" A lot of people are asking me this question, too.

While I have not chosen a specific project, I do know that there will be vast improvements on the endeavor. My mind is always going about this: how can I make the next film better, more efficiently, and faster? What crew will I need to do it, and with whom do I want to work? How much will it cost to make the next one? Where will I find those resources?

It is really exciting to be thinking through these things. It signifies that I have learned so much in these past few years. It also means that I am gaining a clearer picture of the type of filmmaker I want to become, and what areas give me the most joy. I love producing, directing, researching, interviewing, and (gasp) editing.

Yeah. I hated editing at one point. It can be so tedious, lonely, overwhelming. But my career coach helped me realize how much I hated it and now ... I kind of enjoy it. Weird, huh?

As I think back on making Abandoned Allies, the parts that I enjoyed the most are what I want to focus on the next time around. The parts that I didn't enjoy? I want to find someone else that loves those tasks, and might want to work with me in such a regard.

I feel like that's one small part of what makes a great team: each person being focused on the thing they enjoy. We're all so different.

When I met with Willie, I was so curious about what he knows of sound. I could have pestered him with questions for hours. What's that button do? Why'd you chose to do that? It was so much fun to sit with someone who simply loves sound, you know?

So as we get closer to the end of this phase of the project, my mind is racing with ideas for the next project. The subject of this film has been so dynamic and interesting. It might be hard to find something I can enjoy researching so much, but I feel like "the next one" is out there waiting on me to discover it.

In the meantime, I hope to do some shorter films. Something a little silly or lighthearted might be nice, just to stretch and explore the art of making films.

We shall see!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Color Correction

Tonight we are working on color correction. This means we will edit the clips to make them look much better. I have known this was coming, so there are so many things about color in the film that bother me. I'm excited to fix those things.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sound

Today I'm meeting with my sound engineer, Willie, who will help me with a few things. I hope he can fix some problems, as well as normalize sound so the audio is all on the same level. (That means you don't have to turn the volume up and down throughout the movie.)

Willie and I met about a year ago, if I remember correctly. He has been patiently waiting for me to finish the film since then, and we are finally meeting about sound today.

Huge milestone, to say the least. We are hustling torwards the real finish line now. More updates to come.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chicago

View of Chicago from the Museum Campus, one of my
favorite places to stop on the way into town.
This week I was in Chicago for a short time.

It's been years since I visited friends in various corners of the world because I put myself on "lock down" to finish Abandoned Allies: no frivolous travel, spending, and extra curricular activities were temporarily put on hold.

Now that the film is almost finished and we have a private screening of the film scheduled, I am starting to come alive again. Or at least return to my old ways. I strive to be a better member of my family, reconnect with friends whom I have neglected, and travel again.

Since we're still tidying up the film, I can't quite "go hog wild" as my dad says. One small step at a time, and this time a little skip up to Chicago for two nights was just what I needed.

My friends Alex and Jessica were kind enough to host me on short notice. A few friends that have lived in Chicago for about three or four years were gracious enough to meet us for dinner while I was in town, too. (Each of them has let me stay with them, too. I'm so lucky to have such generous friends!)

My hosts (and fellow improvisers) Jessica and Alex.
Since there was little trip planning involved, I am sad that I didn't get to catch up with everyone. Next time, though, next time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Screening of Abandoned Allies Final Cut

It's a great pleasure to share that another private screening of Abandoned Allies has been scheduled for mid-November. This will be the first time we invite all cast and crew to come together to see the FINAL CUT of the documentary--a rather monumental occasion in the life of this film. We're still sending out invites, and I hope the majority of the cast and crew will be able to join us that evening.

The milestone has me incredibly excited and simultaneously terribly nervous. The film is in great shape--so much better than it was when we shared it in July--but there are still little things I wish I had the resources to change / improve. Perhaps this is always going to be the case when making a film. I know it's true for other creative endeavors.

Nevertheless, I'm ready to share it with everyone. I can't wait until next month.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Screening of "Breakthrough" on Oct. 20th

The documentary "Breakthrough" follows several artists in their creative endeavors.
A documentary film titled "Breakthrough" will be screening in the Triangle next Thursday, October 20th at 7pm at the Rialto Theater. Tickets are $4 at the door, but only $2 if you say you're a friend of mine.

The film is a new documentary that follows the "creative quest of several local artists" and runs 51 minutes. Filmmaker Elisabeth Haviland James will introduce the film and host a follow up panel discussion. Parts of the film were shot and edited by the folks behind "Catfish," though I'm not sure exactly who helped with this new doc.

Because she is supported by two kind fellas I know, I'll do my best to be there. Let's fill the house for a fellow filmmaker, eh? Y'all spread the word!


More details are available on the Facebook event page.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Capital Leadership Initiative

The Capital Leadership Initiative (CLI) is run by the Junior League of Raleigh (JLR), and I am lucky enough to be a part of this year's program. On Monday night we had our second session at the JLR building on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, N.C.

It's been years since I was in a leadership training course like this: sitting in a room full of passionate, motivated, professional, and incredibly intelligent women. While I was studying at Meredith College, I naively thought that environment was the norm. Leadership training opportunities were common. The camaraderie of female leaders eager to improve their skills was not rare. After graduation I soon learned that such an encouraging environment is both hard to find and incredibly valuable.

This week has reminded me that Meredith College was the right place to earn my undergraduate degree. Isn't that a great feeling? To recognize that you made the right decision?

It's an odd thing to look back on one's relatively short life and recognize all of the key moments that brought you to the present. For whatever reason, I found myself rather nostalgic as I drove home from the session on Monday.

In no attempt to brag, I must say: I have led a charmed life. I am so happy to be a part of this year's CLI program, which has already helped me greatly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Studying JFK


As part of my research for Abandoned Allies, I have had the pleasure of briefly studying the life of President John F. Kennedy. I still have much to learn on many, many topics.

Yet I have never fully understood obsessions with Elvis, JFK, and Princess Di. Because these public figures changed the world so drastically and each died at a young age, reasons for the existence of such an obsession seems obvious. Curiosity has gotten the better of me over the years and so I have spent time studying each one--and have subsequently fallen in love with them along with the rest of the world. And I similarly mourned their loss as if I actually knew them once upon a time.

President Kennedy, for those of you whom don't know, is tied to the beginning of the U.S. Special Forces which is why I have been studying his life. Many people argue about the actual start of the Special Forces because its roots are traced back even further--but that's the natural course of history. One thing leads to another, which leads to another, and such is life: it is all connected and it is cyclical. That's an oversimplification, of course, but it's undoubtedly true that JFK played a key role in the development and strengthening of the U.S. Special Forces.

Ergo, I have been studying his life, presidency, and influence on strengthening a pool of talented volunteers willing to participate and lead unconventional warfare. It is absolutely fascinating, but this segment of history is clouded by his untimely death. Most of my research results in assassination conspiracies, making it challenging to easily find more about his connection to the U.S. Special Forces. I shall return to my books, where I might have more concentration information I seek--when I have more time.

I should note: this research is not as relevant as other topics in the film so I haven't allowed myself a lot of time with it. I simply find this tangent enjoyable when I return to it, and my curiosity grows stronger each time. I would love to know many more details about the Special Forces, and Kennedy's development of this elite fighting force.

The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School is located at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. I have been lucky enough to visit the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, N.C. I remember sitting in the gift shop wishing I could afford a copy of John Plaster's SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars long before I had the pleasure of interviewing him in Wisconsin.

With a tripod I took a self-portrait before leaving the airport in
Duluth, MI, en route to interview Maj. John Plaster.

While the Special Forces are, obviously, a key part of the film's subject matter, I haven't delved completely into their history and JFK's critical role. And, thus, I am reminded that there are many depths to my ignorance on the subject matter I attempt to share with my generation: the history of our nation during the Vietnam War, present day foreign trade, current immigration policy, protection of human rights, and the history and culture of a people known collectively as Montagnards.

My ignorance knows no bounds, apparently. I have a lot more to learn.

For now I am satisfied with having merely scratched the surface, knowing just enough to be dangerous, and boldly serving as a humble spokesperson for this group of people that have been marginalized for so long. It's more than terrifying to know that you may be asked to speak for a group of people you're still getting to know. Therefore, I'm eternally grateful to those supporting and leading us who confirm or correct the details I share.

Should someone challenge the truth of the content shared in Abandoned Allies, I am content in continuing conversations. I have done as much research as I can with the resources available. And because of this--knowing I have done my best--I am content to offer the response, "Prove me wrong. Do your own research. Or offer me resources that will allow further investigation."

We are limited in our resources. We have done the best with what's available. And this film is a final product which I will be proud of for the rest of my life. I have faith and a lot of hope. And I look forward to the future.

Most of all, I look forward to finally sharing this story with you on screen.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Heroes Homecoming

This week I learned about Heroes Homecoming, a 10-day celebration of Vietnam Veterans to give them the welcome home that they didn't get 40 years ago. It sounds awesome, and it all leads up to Veterans Day 2011. Here's info from their website:
  
Fayetteville created HEROES HOMECOMING as our way of showing all Vietnam Veterans we remember and appreciate their courage, their sacrifice and everything they’ve done to defend our freedom – now and forever. American soldiers returning from Vietnam never received the homecoming they deserved, and Fayetteville wants to rectify that. We have a unique bond with all Vietnam Veterans, as our town was the point of departure and return for hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

As America’s First Military Sanctuary Community, we will give our brave Vietnam Veterans the welcome they so richly deserve. Fayetteville will host the Heroes Homecoming as the biggest commemoration/reunion of its kind for the 10 days leading up to Veterans Day 2011, featuring celebrations, discussions, fellowship, and memories for all those who attend.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Love for Producing

My love for making films started early. I can't remember the beginning, it's been there for so long. Is it possible to love filmmaking as a child, without really knowing anything about it? Hollywood and the process of making a film absolutely fascinated and intimidated me.

This week I met someone who made me remember my initial relationship with filmmaking, and helped me realize how much I've learned while making Abandoned Allies. He expressed an interest in filmmaking, but wasn't quite sure exactly what he wants to do in the industry. He had a huge smile when he talked about it, and an eagerness to get started. Oh boy, do I remember feeling like that.

As I approach a huge milestone in the production of my first film and I start to think about what I want to do next, my love for producing and directing is almost tangible. There are so many different stages of making a film, and each one is so different. I have really, really enjoyed getting a taste of it all: producing, directing, interviewing, camera operation, editing, motion graphics, etc.

It's when I'm producing and directing that I feel alive. At least, I think that's what those roles are called. They might mean something different to everyone.

I enjoy the collaboration, building of a team, picking a project, getting it going, getting it finished, being on set, building relationships, helping everyone do their job well, and being a part of the project from the beginning to the end. It will be interesting to experience another project where I may hone in on that and perfect any skills currently in development.

In the meantime, there's plenty of work to be done. This weekend will, hopefully, be the last one spent in the depths of editing video. If I can get all the clips in order the way I want them, then I can send audio files off, wrap up the end credits, and start working on color correction.

We are so close. I'm unbelievably anxious to share this film with you. The time is coming, my friends. Soon. Very, very soon.

Photos from #TriFilm

Sumit, the man behind LoneRider!

Jarvis, who recently moved back to N.C., was totally cracking me up.

I wonder what's happening on that phone? I totally interrupted to take a pic. My bad.

Beth and Jim are probably talking about the film community. I love it.

LoneRider was the perfect location for such a laid back evening










Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#TriFilm / TFSIG Gathering

Last night about 40 local film makers gathered to drink a beer and talk shop in the tasting room at the LoneRider Brewing Company. The evening was so fun.


Soon I should have more photos to share with you. It's delightful to be in a room full of people who are passionate about film making--and really great beer!

I'm incredibly grateful to the folks at LoneRider for letting us use their tasting room for the evening. Special thanks to Christin for helping set everything up, and tending bar last night. Congrats to LoneRider for being named one of North Carolina's 25 companies to watch by the Center for Entrepreneurial Development. (Read more about this on WRAL.com.) Also, big thanks to my fellow event organizers Jim McQuaid (@turnipvideo), Zach Abrams (@compcipher), and Matt Hayhurst (@matthayhurst).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Explaining the Filmmaking Process

Compare the process of building a home to that of making a film. There are finishing touches that make it more aesthetically pleasing, like paint on a wall, base boards, shoe mold, and polished hardwood floors.

Recently I've explained the filmmaking process to the people in my life who are not familiar with it. This is an interesting position to be in, having no formal training in the art and business of making a film. I can only relate my personal experiences to help people in my life understand what I'm doing.

There are a few analogies that have helped me explain the process. The most successful, thus far, has been the comparison of making a film to building a single-family house. A home is a familiar concept. Lots of people have seen a home under construction, visited an existing home, or live in one of their own. So the comparison is a visual, familiar one that works relatively well--even if none of us are home builders.

There are many steps to building a house. Similarly, there are many steps to making a film. There are also lots of people involved, each with their own special set of skills. These people join the effort to do certain jobs, and when their part of the film making process is finished they move on. There's someone providing direction to everyone's efforts, overseeing the entire process, and making sure the work meets their standards.

Turns out, this comparison works pretty well. I spend a lot of time trying to explain what I'm doing to others because this part of the process is not often "seen" by audiences. I mean, when you watch a movie you don't often think about the editing, color, or sound--unless you're obsessive, in the business, or it is unsettling to you.


Since we're finalizing post-production, I say that we'd be working on things like baseboards, shoe mold, and paint if it were a house. These are all finishing touches that make the aesthetics of the home (or film) more pleasing. Once we have picture lock, we'll improve sound, correct color, and finalize motion graphics. Each helps tell the story and makes watching the film more pleasing--so that audiences can put their energy toward taking in new information, instead of being distracted by the quality of production.


Tangential info: This is similar in graphic design. People don't often "see" design, just as audiences don't often pay attention to color or sound unless it is unsettling. A person complains about design when it doesn't meet their needs: a menu that's illegible, road signs that mislead drivers, voter forms that fail, etc. There's a caveat, of course, because not all design is mean to be functional or even legible. David Carson, for example, said, "Don't mistake legibility for communication."

I've also found that by explaining the filmmaking process I'm getting a better understanding of it, and how I can make it more efficient. Working with my composer, for example, has taught us both that he should see the finished film so he can score certain segments.

What do you think? Does this comparison make sense, or do you have a better one? How do you explain your work so that it is more easily understood?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Best Time for Video Editing

Six o'clock on Saturday mornings have become the best time for editing.
The moments of most intense concentration and productivity for editing Abandoned Allies have become Saturday mornings starting at six o'clock. (To many of my friends, this is laughable. Why would anyone wake up so early--especially a Saturday?) I find these to be the quietest hours, and therefore the most productive.

It's become a ritual. I wake up early, tip toe to the kitchen to feed my dog and start the coffee, then tip toe back to my office to turn on my Mac. (Meanwhile my dog eats so loudly that tip toeing is rendered pointless.) While the coffee is brewing, I start Final Cut Pro. By the time the computer and software are up and ready to roll, my dog has finished eating and the coffee is hot and ready to wake me up. I lock myself in my office with my dog and the first cup of coffee.

Then it's time to work.

In these quiet hours, I am a video editing power house. My dog rests at my feet and eventually falls asleep. I own my little world while rrelentlessly editing video. Unstoppable. In the zone. Going full force without looking back.

It feels great to make progress on these early, quiet Saturday mornings.

For so long I have had a palpable disdain for editing video. Now I have what I need and I know what I'm doing. As a result, these quiet Saturday mornings are fruitful and enjoyable. I look forward to the time I can be selfishly alone, able to delve deep into the story and let all the other noise fade away. It's just me and the machine, with the perfect conditions for working.

So much of this project has been, well, really difficult. It's a weight I carry daily. A self-imposed pressure that others in my life have trouble understanding--and that's putting it lightly.

But I see this thing as a welcomed challenge. Can I do it? When will I finish it? How will it be received? How can I make the next film better and more efficiently?

It's very hard to do, this indie film thing. But on Saturday mornings, when I have the peace and quiet I need in order to finish it--it all seems like less of a challenge and more of a joy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Doc Director Coming to Raleigh

If you are interested in documentary films, Gary Hustwit (@gary_hustwit), director of Helvetica and Objectified, will be in Raleigh on Monday, November 7th for a special screening of his latest film Urbanized. Get more info (and tickets) here: http://urbanizedfilm.com/raleigh-durham-special-screening.

I'm really excited about this event because I heard Hustwit speak at Full Frame 2010 but was too nervous to get his autograph after the panel discussion. Looking forward to seeing his latest film, and hearing what he has to say.

Urbanized poster (source: urbanizedfilm.com)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Heavy Minds

My mind has been particularly heavy these days, as the film draws to a close. I'm unsually lost in such deep thought that I have become awkward around others when I would normally be giddy and outgoing.

The weight of everything is tough, and that is typically something I keep hidden but I find it harder to disguise these days. It rarely does any good to talk openly about your personal struggles whilst trying to overcome them; it hasn't served me well, and I think it's particularly poor form when you are leading others. But keeping that cool exterior facade has grown too challenging.

That being said, not every day is as tough as these have been. I am always grateful for this opportunity, and all of the people making it possible. The challenges I face are insignificant compared to many things others face in this world.

But if you think on it, send positive thoughts my way. I feel very fragile these days.

There is very good news just around the bin, and I look forward to sharing that with you soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Well, hello, Health.

Great news: I'm feeling so much better today.

For those of you new to this blog, the relevance between my personal health and the progress of Abandoned Allies might not be immediately obvious. Since I'm the producer, director, and editor of the hour-long film, it's fairly relevant. This is, after all, the diary of a documentary blog; a journal of how it came to life.

Today I attempted the first four mile run/walk since I got sick last week. It turned out to be mostly walking. These leg muscles are hating me but I feel like I'm likely to get my stride back again soon, especially since we'll get a break in the typical 90° weather by this weekend. Looks like a new season is on its way here in North Carolina.

Since I'm feeling much better, progress on the film is progressing quickly again. Annie Beth and I accomplished a lot over Labor Day weekend, so I feel we're in great shape. I have some tidying up to do now which means I need to fit B Roll to music and get picture lock, set up time to do color correction, wrap up all motion graphics, finalize end credits, and get our sound engineer going so we can normalize all audio. I'm grateful that we have a team moving these things along.

In the mean time, I'm also working with my marketing communications team to get things in order so that we have a smooth transition from post-production to distribution and promotions. This phase of the project will probably be drastically different, but I hope it'll be much more energizing. Editing has been so challenging.

Time to get back to it. More to come soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Health & Wellbeing. Ha.

Well, I managed to get sick again. Tonight I'm drinking hot tea and Nyquil, hoping that tomorrow I won't sneeze my way through the day.

Wednesday morning I woke up hurting and exhausted. Tried driving to Durham but 10 minutes into it, decided that it wasn't a good idea. I almost caused several accidents because I was so out of it. The rest of the day involved soup, sleep, and a bunch of mindless movies.

Thankfully I'm on my way to feeling much better now. I better start feeling well soon. This will be a long weekend no matter what.

Take good care of yourself, my friends.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Delightful Progress

This weekend turned out to be a huge success. Annie Beth and I were incredibly productive, and placed the entirety of the film's music.

As I prepare to rest tonight, I find myself very satisfied with the current state of the film. This is good thing.

It's become difficult to hide my frustration with the length of time it's taken to finish Abandoned Allies. My family, friends, and crew chide me regularly about it.

Most of the time I handle that well, but because I have grown weary it has gotten more and more difficult. I am especially disappointed in myself because Dr. Hickey and Rev. Long passed away before I could get the film finished. It saddens me deeply.

It has been a difficult road, working on the film but complaining gets me nowhere. I am not a fan of whining.

Besides, the level of supposed suffering on my account is laughable in comparison to the treatment of the Montagnards in Vietnam who are persecuted. News about such things is released regularly. It keeps my pity party in check but, more importantly, is my source of sense of urgency for ompleting the film--in hopes it may be a catalyst for change.

Once I get some rest, I shall share more details with you about placing music in the film.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Progress on Finalizing Music

It's great to report that we are making excellent progress on finalizing the music in Abandoned Allies. My music superviser, Annie Beth, and I have been working on it since Saturday. I'm very grateful to her for sharing her Labor Day weekend with me. (Many thanks to her family for sharing AB'a time, too.)

For the first time in a long time, my frustrations have subdued. Tomorrow morning I hope to work on the final segment of the film, then tidy up the remaining bit of music.

AB has done a superb job in collecting music from independent artists. The selection of songs is most impressive.

More details to come.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Event for Triangle Filmmakers

On September 28 from 5:30 to 7:30, people interested in filmmaking can come together for a locally crafted brew at LoneRider Brewing Company (near RDU): http://trifilmevent.eventbrite.com/.

The event is free. It is a collaborative effort among a few folks interested in beer and talking shop. We hope it offers filmmakers a chance to meet in real life, mingle, and eventually collaborate on projects.

When I started Abandoned Allies there were only two of us working on it. I knew so little about filmmaking. I struggled regularly. Over the years, though, I have met some really talented, passionate people who have saved my sanity and certainly helped make my film infinitely better.

Join us on September 28 at LoneRider Brewing Company to drink a beer and talk shop. We look forward to meeting you there, and learning more about what you're working on.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Farewell, August

Today's the first day of September. Time to bid August adieu.

August was a tough month for me and the film. Because of the double-screening weekend in July I was really burned out. August became a month of recuperation. There were also personal things keeping me busy: birthdays to celebrate, family to visit, and some natural disasters.

I'm hopeful think September will be better. The weather is getting cooler so I have started running again, which always makes me healthier and happier. We're finalizing music on the film this weekend, which means we can launch straight into the final stages of post-production. Marketing, communications, and branding efforts are shaping up well.

The collaborative efforts that will happen after I finish the video editing are really keeping me going right now. The following months will seem a lot less lonely, and I'm looking forward to that. Editing video in a room by yourself (with your dog at your feet) gets to be pretty lonesome--especially if you're a social being like I am.

I'm having lots of conversations with really talented people who believe in the project, and that breath of fresh air is very needed at this point. To express my gratitude to all the people who have offered a hand, word of encouragement, or hug would take entirely too long. I'm one lucky woman to be surrounded by such amazing people.

There's always more to share than what I post here. So I'll do my best to keep sharing as often as I can. Stay tuned, friends. Thanks, always, for the support and encouragement.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finalizing Music

Great news: this weekend we're finalizing the music for Abandoned Allies. I'll be with Annie Beth, my music supervisor, for the better part of three days and I'm really looking forward to it.

That also means that this is my last week of making changes to the video. When I meet with Annie Beth this weekend, we'll start putting music in its final place and there will be no more major changes to the story line.

HURRRAH!

Stay tuned. More to come.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Super 8 Footage

Here's a photo of the Super 8 footage Surry shared with me. Most of it was covered
in a white mold or dust but wasn't so brittle that it got destroyed in the transfers.

In the past week, I have gotten several exciting emails about more B Roll that can be used in Abandoned Allies. As a result, I visited Skip Elsheimer of A/V Geeks (@AVGeeks) on Tuesday.

Working with Skip has made this part of the filmmaking process infinitely more fun. What was one of my biggest struggles has become one of my biggest joys. Knowing I have the help of an expert has been a huge relief.



Skip recently re-transferred the Super 8 footage that Surry shot during his time in Vietnam. When I visited Skip he skimmed through some of the newly transferred footage. It is BEAUTIFUL. The difference between the first and second transfers are amazing. Skip is such a pro.

Skip moderated one of the A&E IndieFilms Speakeasy Conversations titled One Foot in the Archives with archivist and filmmaker Rick Prelinger (@footage) at the 2011 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C., last April. Listening to Skip and Rick talk about old films--the preservation, cataloging, and sharing of it--has made my interest in the subject grow exponentially. They speak with such love for studying old films, the people in them, and the art of archiving it successfully so that it can be shared.

Since Skip's been kind enough to transfer the Super 8 footage for Abandoned Allies, I recommended him to a Special Forces Vietnam veteran who has offered to share his footage with me for the film. Joe and I are meeting for coffee on Saturday morning for an introduction. I can't wait to see his footage in hopes that I might share it with you in Abandoned Allies.

This was a photo I took when I transferred the Super 8 film using Skip's machine
last year. It was really cool to finally do that with his expert assistance..


The journey with this Super 8 footage has been a long, challenging, and exciting one. Read some of my old blog posts if you want more background about it:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Great Many Thank Yous

There are many people who helped make the recent private screenings of Abandoned Allies successful. I wish to extend a dear thanks to the many folks, including the people who are helping me make the film itself (too long a list to share here).

Here are just a few of the folks who helped me screen Abandoned Allies twice in one weekend, with more of our cast and one of our largest private audiences yet. I wish to thank:

Abandoned Allies Cast and Crew
Obviously there would be no film screening, if there weren't people helping make the film. The cast have shared so many hours with me to help me learn about the Montagnards, U.S. Special Forces, and Vietnam War. The crew has been incredibly supportive as well. Together, many of us have learned how to make a film. Both the cast and crew have been really patient as we strive to make Abandoned Allies a great film. To each of them, I owe a huge thanks.

Surry Roberts
He is the one who initially wanted to record the history depicted in Abandoned Allies, and has gone above and beyond in supporting the efforts to make the documentary film. Knowing I needed to focus on the film before we showed it, he coordinated logistics with our cast. He hosted the screening, provided snacks, and directed the conversation after the film.

Jack, Chris, and Jenny Spencer
These amazing folks were responsible for the delicious cupcakes, running the A/V equipment (mingling music, the big screen, playing the DVD, house lights, etc.), and setting up the club (putting out seats, tables, etc.). Big thanks to them for showing up earlier than expected, and allowing me to be completely relaxed because they were in control of logistics at the club. (Plus, they give the most amazing hugs. I love Spencer hugs!)

Jessi Nemeth
When I asked her to run concessions for Sunday's event, she said yes with no hesitation. She's one of the hardest working women I've ever met, and one of the most dedicated actresses, too. When she played a character in Chris Moore's film Flush With Fear, she rolled in the dirt and poured coffee on herself to make her costume authentic. If you bought a drink or snack at the screening, Jessi is the one who served you with a smile. (Big thanks to those who tipped her well, too!)


Jessi Nemeth was a character in Flush With Fear, and is one of
the hardest working ladies I know. She managed concessions
at the Abandoned Allies screening at ComedyWorx.

Elizabeth Jackson
EJ is a dedicated volunteer with Abandoned Allies, focusing on event planning. For the recent private screenings, she helped me think through event logistics ahead of time and kept me on schedule at the event. She kindly and gracefully scooted people from the lobby to the arena so we could start the film on time. She also helped me think of ways to collect feedback and take questions from the audience. I'm thrilled to start putting together more events once the film is finished, knowing she's there to help make it happen in style and excellence.

Elizabeth Jackson has been a long-time volunteer with Abandoned Allies, helping
us with planning events. She was a huge help with the screening at ComedyWorx

Brian Crawford (@BCwritr)
If you said something on camera at the screening event, you were talking into Brian's camera. He filmed the event and is creating a short video for the web. He's been willing to edit it all together, which takes a lot of time and effort. I really appreciate him being there. The footage is stunning, and I can't wait to share it with you. We're in post-production and working through a few things, but hope to have that online in the next few months.


Andy Poe helps Pam Ross with the mic, as Brian Crawford
prepares the camera for her interview.

Andy Poe, David Iversen and Mike Garske
You've already heard about the fellas at the Brite Spot Collaborative (related blog post), and Andy Poe is the one that introduced me to David Iversen and Mike Garske. They helped me finalize the film by exporting it from FCP and then burning it to DVDs. Andy had to remind me to breathe. David scanned through the timeline and fixed a few things I'd struggled with in editing. And all three of them joined me for a beer while the film exported. I owe them a huge thanks for their help because that process has given me a LOT of trouble in the past. Andy also helped Brian by wrangling people in to say something on camera at ComedyWorx, and I'm most grateful for it. These are top notch guys, dedicated to doing great work.

Jason Kelly
If you had your photo taken at the event, Jason was the man behind the camera. He met Brian Crawford and me at ComedyWorx the day before the screenings to scope out the place in order to get great photos (related blog post). Not only were the photos fun, beautifully lit, and exactly what I needed, they were also online almost immediately. He's a dear friend for helping me out, and I'm incredibly lucky to have such help.

Jason Kelly was our photographer, and put the photos online
immediately. Pam Ross took this shot for us, though!

Carole Watts
My ever-supportive, wonderful mom. She's been helping me make this film since the beginning, and just finally got to see the latest cut. She brought yummy brownies to the screening and even posed for a few pictures--she seriously hates being in pictures.

Other Unnamed Folks
There are a number of other folks who helped out, and I'm sorry for not naming each of you. Many of you made me so happy simply by showing up. And there's one guy in particular that has been unbelievably supportive. To him, and all of you, I owe a huge thanks.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Private Screening at ComedyWorx: Part II

Yesterday I shared a bit about the private screening at ComedyWorx held on Sunday, July 17th. For those of you who weren't there, don't fret. We shall find plenty of opportunities to share Abandoned Allies.
It's really wonderful to finally share the film with the people I love--even thought it's not finished. They have watched me work on this thing for so long.

These are the folks I call when I am at a breaking point. They offer a shoulder to cry on and they consistently ask when they can see the film. These are important people in my life, and it was lovely to have so many of them in one building on a casual Sunday afternoon.


It is great to be surrounded (and supported) by people you love.

Working on a project like this is incredibly challenging. I'm surrounded by people that are supportive, though, and that is a rare thing for many artists. Sure, there are times where they seem upset that I've been putting so much energy into the film because it means we can't spend more time together. But I think, on the whole, they might understand a little better why this project is so important.

Every day since the screening, I have been lucky enough to get feedback from them on how to make Abandoned Allies better. It takes time, effort, and energy to share constructive criticism. The feedback we've gotten has been incredibly helpful, and I'm so thankful to all of the folks who have shared their thoughts on how to make improvements.

The conversations this week have been really enjoyable, and confirm that we're on the right track. I know there's a lot of work ahead of me, but I feel much more confident in how to do it now. That's a great feeling.

Here are more photos from the event, taken by the talented Jason Kelly. Enjoy!


The crowd gets an introduction to Abandoned Allies before it starts.
After the film we did a Q&A session. Composer Kyle Owen (@KyleDOwen) talked about
what it's like to figure out working together on the film's original compositions.

Jason Kelly was kind enough to be our event photographer. He did a great job!

Patrick Jones, Helen Hanna, and I are all from the same home town. Go Pam Pack!

Lea-Ann Berst was kind enough to join us. She's one impressive woman.
 
Big thanks to everyone who came to watch the film!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Private Screening at ComedyWorx: Part I

Last weekend was a busy one, as I mentioned in previous blog posts (here, here, and here). It was a milestone weekend for Abandoned Allies, to say the least.

On Sunday, July 17, 2011, we showed the film to the largest crowd yet. I've already written about why I wanted to show the film this way--even though it's not finished. See the bulleted list on the blog post here.

This private event was for my special guests: family, friends, and my fellow ComedyWorx improvisers. This audience was entirely different than those I've previously invited to watch it. These are people who may not know the film's subject matter but have been willing to listen to me drone on and one about it. They have been incredibly supportive of my efforts. Some of them had not seen a snipet of it, and others have watched the latest cut of Abandoned Allies so many times they probably feel that watching the talking heads version was torturous.

I had no idea what to expect, but am very  happy with the event and all of the feedback we've gotten since. Confession: numerous times throughout the weekend,  I thought I'd made a huge mistake inviting people to see a film that's not yet finished. It's a scary thing to do.

Nevertheless, the event started at 2pm and a number of folks got there early. Everything ran so smoothly. We mingled first, then at 2:15 welcomed the audience. I introduced Abandoned Allies and then the film began. Nearly 60 minutes later, the film ended and a Q&A session began.

The event was a really, really helpful one. I'll write more about it soon. In the mean time, here are a few of the photos taken by Jason Kelly. Enjoy!



The crowd waiting to see Abandoned Allies mingles in the lobby at ComedyWorx.

Pam Ross puts on a mic with the help of Andy Poe while
Brian Crawford (@BCwritr) prepares the camera for her interview.


After the film, I took questions from the audience because I needed
to know what was on their minds after watching Abandoned Allies.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011: Part II

When I saw this sticker on the back of a car, I knew
I was in the right location for the screening.
On Saturday, July 16, 2011, at 5pm, we shared the latest cut of Abandoned Allies with more of our cast members. It was a delightful but difficult and long day. I really enjoyed having our cast in the same room. I look forward to celebrating with them all together when the film is finished.

At the private screening, the cast shared feedback that was incredibly helpful. I wrote down notes about the pieces of the film that bother me, and jotted down suggestions from the cast afterwards. We had an in-depth talk about the film, what we want to do with it, and why it has been put together in such a way.

Surry and I shared our mission for the film: raising awareness. We can't make any promises bigger than that, but we want to share this particular story with those willing to listen. This is not a political film with a heavy agenda, but one that explores a segment of American history that has previously gone unnoticed.
As I explained to my family and friends on Sunday, you can't walk into just any book store and pick up a book on the subject. Believe me, I've tried. The books I read to learn about it were written by most of our cast members, many of which are hard to find. If you're willing to put forth a bit of effort, though, they can be located. For example, one of our cast member just put together something he's selling on Amazon about the Jarai tribe.

Every time I chat with some of our cast members, like on Saturday, they stress the importance of showing people the truth of what's happening today in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. They relay stories of pain, suffering, and death happening in their homeland at the hands of the Communists because they were our allies. They want to use the film to tell the world that their people are in trouble.

So there were some interesting conversations on Saturday, some of which pained me greatly. I can only imagine that these folks are totally outraged because their people are suffering--but they sit calmly by me and tell their stories. They are working hard to be heard, share their story, and keep their culture alive but I imagine they feel like no one is listening.

I'm not sure if they are openly suspicious about me, but I feel they are looking for signs that I am, actually, trustworthy. It's like they want to know that I really will use the film will raise awareness. That I actually am grateful for their time. That they should, really, continue to buy in to the project and the hope that it will do any good. Perhaps I am sensing something that's not really there, but I can almost feel it hanging in the air.

It's as if they want to know that I am not using their story to start a film career, make a buck or two, and then vanish into thin air afterwards. And if they are thinking that, can you blame them since that's what happened in the early 1970s?

These things are never spoken, mind you, but I am sensitive to it because they've been wronged so many times. I don't want to promise anything I can't guarantee delivery on later. They've been marginalized and ignored for so many years. Why would anyone--especially some young Southern girl who is as ignorant as I am--actually give a damn about helping?

Who would still have hope after that long? What could I possibly do to make a difference now? I'm just some kid making a film for the first time. The list of things I don't have is a long one, but my blood, sweat, and tears are invested in Abandoned Allies so I don't plan on going anywhere any time soon. It's hard to say that, so I'd rather just show it by forging on and continuing to build a friendship with them if I can.

It's really hard to ask someone for just a little more patience. Just a little more hope. Just a little more of their time so that I can get the story straight. Especially when I have nothing to offer them in return.

So, yeah, Saturday was a really challenging day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011: Part I

As I mentioned yesterday, this past weekend was a long one! We packed so much into one weekend that I'm covering it in several blog posts this week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011 was a busy day. I managed to get a lot of sleep the night before, so that was divine. I woke up well rested--not a familiar feeling these days. I also got to do my usual run, which has been rare because of the heat.

Running is really important to me. It's my time to process everything. Being in shape makes life so much more enjoyable. In the past two months, though, it's gotten too hot to run. I have decided to look for a gym but haven't found the right one yet. (I'm really picky.) So when we had a "cool front" come through last weekend--lowering temps from about 100°F to around 88°F--I was truly thrilled to go running!

Therefore, I had a great start to such a challenging day. Huge win. I know these two things seem so unrelated to Abandoned Allies, which is why I don't talk about it much here. It's important, though, because it means I can handle the things that go with finishing Abandoned Allies and this past weekend was particularly crucial.

At three o'clock on Saturday, I went by the IMAX theater to pic up my camera battery and charger. I accidentally left it there last weekend while shooting pictures of the Volcano Girl screening (related blog post). The theater was packed with people waiting to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It was so crowded, and some folks were dressed up as characters.

The entire space at IMAX was alive, loud, and filled with excitement. What a great time to stop in for such a simple thing. As I walked out, I marveled at the excitement brought on by a film. How apropos.

Immediately after that, I met two of my guys at ComedyWorx to prepare for the private screening happening the following afternoon. Brian Crawford (@BCWritr) and Jason Kelly both offered to help me capture the screening on Sunday.

Brian Crawford and Jason Kelly met me at ComedyWorx
to prepare for the screening on Sunday.
How lucky can a girl get to have two photographers willing to show up on a Saturday afternoon to get prepared for an event the following day? That's the sign of a good camera guy / gal: someone willing to put in the extra effort, visit a location, study the lighting, test some shots, and think about what they want to capture before the event happens. I love it.

The site visit only took a few minutes, and we scooted out as the matinee show started. The club was packed which is always good to see. By the way, if you go see shows at ComedyWorx, please let me know and tell me what you thought, eh?

Immediately after the visit with Brian and Jason, I went straight to the next appointment: screening the film with more of our cast members. When I pulled up, I saw a Special Operations Association (SOA) sticker on the back of a car and immediately knew I was in the right place. That's a great feeling.

The screening took a few hours: to get set up, show the film, and talk about it afterwards. Since so much happened that afternoon/evening, I'm going to continue breaking it down into different blog posts. You'll hear about that screening tomorrow, mk?

Big, big thank you to both Brian Crawford and Jason Kelly for meeting me on Saturday to prepare for Sunday's event. I have many more thank yous and details about the weekend to come. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Very Successful Weekend

Last weekend was a huge success, and there are many details to share.

I'm still recovering from the hustle and bustle, but plan on sharing more information throughout this week. It amazes me that two days should be broken down into a week's worth of blog posts because so much transpired. The long and short of it? We had two private screenings of Abandoned Allies in one weekend.

Saturday night we shared the film with more of our cast members. Sunday afternoon we shared the film with one of our largest audiences yet: my family and friends.

This weekend was so wonderful. I desperately needed to share the film because
  • I see problems with a few things in it
  • I don't have a good ending yet
  • I am learning all of this on my own and need constructive criticism
  • I need to feel the energy in the room while the film is on screen
  • I want to hear what thoughts people have after it because I won't always be with the film to answer questions and don't want people to walk away terribly confused
More details to come. It was an unforgettable weekend. I am delighted to start sharing the film with people, even though it's not totally finished.

Stay tuned!

After the latest cut of Abandoned Allies screened at ComedyWorx,
I took questions from my family and friends. I'll use those questions
to help make the film better and possibly for FAQs on the website.
Photo credit: @AshleyMaria

Friday, July 15, 2011

This Weekend

This weekend is going to be amazing. We are sharing the latest cut of Abandoned Allies with the cast on Saturday afternoon / evening, and then with another private group on Sunday afternoon. I am thrilled!

The film isn't finished yet, but we're getting closer and closer all the time. We will continue tweaking the end of the film, finalize music, mix sound, color correct, and complete the end credits in the next two months. I hope to have the film finished by this fall, if all goes according to plan.

If I've learned one thing: setting hard deadlines like screening events is incredibly motivating to get the film finished. It forces me to stop tweaking and be done with it, and helps motivate my team to get it totally finished. I think we are all ready to be finished with it so that we can share it.

Therefore, I hope to immediately set a date for a more public screening this fall. Stay tuned on that, folks.

The events for this weekend have helped me, once again, appreciate the many people who have helped with Abandoned Allies over the years. It's incredible to take stock of so many folks, each so willing to help out. (Perhaps they take pity on me for working on such a huge project with no prior experience?) I've been so lucky to meet and work with such interesting, passionate people. I just love North Carolina, and all of my fellow filmmakers. The collaboration is wonderful.

So, I've gotta buckle up because this weekend is going to be a wild ride. Thankfully, though, the film has been exported and the DVDs have been burned. We share the film at two private screenings this weekend. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Volcano Girl Screening at IMAX



Volcano Girl, a film about a super hero who gets fired, screened at the Wells Fargo IMAX Theatre at Marbles in downtown Raleigh, N.C., last Sunday afternoon. It is a short film directed by the talented and funny Ashley Maria. She's a grad student at the University of Southern California studying Film & Television at the School of Cinematic Arts.

Watching a film in the IMAX theatre with the filmmaker and screenwriter is an incredible feeling. In fact, just watching an independent film in such a fabulous theater is amazing. I'm so glad the folks at IMAX at Marbles were willing to work with a "local" filmmaker (she's still in school in LA but is from the area). Part of making a film is sharing it with people, and doing so in that location is just drool-worthy.

After her two films played, Ashley Maria did a Q&A session. She talked about what happened behind the scenes while making Friday Night Fright and Volcano Girl. The latter is her thesis film since she's graduating this December.

Ashley Maria has a blog titled Life as a Film Student. She's quite talented, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what she does next. Check out the Volcano Girl website for more info on the film.
Here are some photos I took at the event. Enjoy!


Ashley Maria, director of Volcano Girl, with Jan Delory

Josh Eiserike, Volcano Girl screenwriter, and Ashley Maria talk about their film.

Lea-Ann Berst (proud mom, talented marketer) and Ashley Maria wait for the film to start.

The poster on display in the lobby of the IMAX Theatre at Marbles in downtown Raleigh, N.C.