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