Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Upcoming Screenings

There's a lot of good stuff going on behind the scenes right now. We've been busy with DVD duplication, film festival submissions, promo video editing, and screening event coordination. There are more screenings of Abandoned Allies taking shape, too. We haven't announced the details just yet, but you'll here it soon enough. There will be exciting things to share.

For now ... save the date: Sunday, February 3, 2013.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Meeting Academy Award Winning Filmmakers

Barbara Trent speaks at the Documentary Summit: Raleigh,
with her Academy Award sitting on the table in front of her.
On Sunday I met two Academy Award winning filmmakers, Barbara Trent and David Kasper. They were at the Documentary Summit in Raleigh. It was an absolute pleasure to meet both of them, and learn about their filmmaking experiences. I bought The Panama Deception and can't wait to watch it. I also asked a few questions related to Abandoned Allies.

If you want to read more about my experience meeting them, read it here. I'm still processing the weekend and all that happened. Stay tuned and I'll share more as soon as I can!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Documentary Summit

This weekend I'm attending the Documentary Summit, a two-day event where filmmakers talk about filmmaking. Day one was really enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to today.

Yesterday I got to hang with some fun folks and hear about the work their doing, including Angela Alford who created Granny's Got Game. I'd seen her work online and it's been such a pleasure to talk to her about it in real life. I can't wait to see her documentary about ladies in their 70s who play basketball.

We heard from film folks based locally like Joanne Hershfield, Cynthia Hill, Rebecca Cerese, Eric Johnson, Jeffrey Scott Pearson, Steve Milligan, and Elisabeth Haviland James. I hope today will be just as enjoyable, and I'm sure it will.

If you want to see the full schedule for the Documentary Summit Raleigh, visit www.documentarysummit.com.

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Interview with Our Composer

We get a lot of compliments on the music included in Abandoned Allies. Much of it was created specifically for the film by our composer Kyle Owen. The entire opening segment of the film is Kyle's work. Here is an interview with Kyle so you can learn more about his experience. Enjoy!

Kyle Owen and Camden Watts at the premiere of Abandoned Allies at
the Wells Fargo IMAX at Marbles in Raleigh, N.C., on August 26, 2012.

Describe your role on Abandoned Allies.

My formal role on Abandoned Allies was composer. My informal roles were friend, confidant, creative support/challenger, tech support, and sometimes frenemy. This is the first movie I've done, with only having some experience in iPhone game music. Most of my music has been focused in the classical chamber music world, and my goal is always to be performed and interact with live musicians. This project allowed me to approach the music differently and make the best of what I had available so that Camden could also have the best I had to offer. It was mainly ‘small works’ but some sub-projects took a lot of time and many revisions before we decided on what we were finally going to use.

Why did you agree to work on it?

I agreed to work on this film because I believe in the overall message. We not only have to be here for the people we make commitments to but also those that share our world with us. We must support each other, no matter who or where we are. The message is a lot more global, even though it focuses on two stories from Vietnam.

It was saddening to hear the story of the Montagnards. It was not surprising to me that it happened, but that we allowed them to be abandoned after the war and this is just now bringing light to the issue. In many cases, it is a human rights issue more than anything else; regardless of if I personally knew them or not, I felt sorry for them being treated that way. We can never forget those who stand by us, especially in hard times.

I literally knew nothing about the subject when signing on. I met Camden through friends of friends. I fell into the role, took a chance, and was given a great opportunity. Everyone on the team has volunteered, so everyone was donating their time. I ultimately decided that this project was worth my time and energy because I felt it was worth getting out there.

When I “signed on” I felt it became just as much my project as it was Camden’s. Although my voice didn't always need to be heard, it was great attaching myself to a project that had a voice and was sharing an important message. Although this is just the beginning for this project, and we are just getting it out there, the message is important, and truly timeless. It lasts well beyond this project and these stories.

Kyle Owen answers questions from the audience at the private screening of Abandoned Allies as a work-in-progress at ComedyWorx in Raleigh, N.C., on July 17, 2011.
What was it like working on the film?

It was a huge learning experience. Camden and I were asking questions and learning together. We were approaching things differently, so we had different questions to ask. Camden and I went from barely knowing each other, to becoming really close. We were sharing work that was unfinished. In any creative role, it is a hard thing to do, especially in new working relationships. I couldn't have asked for anything more, and I’m grateful for anything of mine that got used in the film.

There was always a constant work flow but it changed depending on what we were working on and when it needed to be done. I learned that it isn't about me but creating a product that Camden could use to help tell the story of the Montagnard people.

I tried to pay homage to the Montagnard people in the music I wrote. Although I wasn't able to meet them and speak music during the making of the film, I had a few resources that I trusted. I approached my music using them as a model. I wanted to create something that was understandable and approachable to the Western culture while still playing with harmonies, rhythms, and the ‘presence’ of the Montagnard people.

What was it like to work with Camden Watts?

Working with Camden is--and has been--fantastic. Camden has been highly supportive of everything I've done, both in and outside of the project. We knew nothing about how things would end up. I think with this project under our belt, we know how to approach each other and what we would like to have as we work together on future projects. I expect new projects to be different, and have a different tone and requirements, but that is part of the fun.

When I reviewed the final cut of the film, I realized that the first five minutes of the film are ALL my music. It sets the tone, and releases the audience into the project in a way that is really important. There wasn't overkill of dialogue, and as a ‘prologue’ to the subject it works well.

I feel lucky, and still continue, as I've been a part of this project. We have been here for each other, and that, besides getting our work out there, is highly important. I truly believe Camden and I have become close friends, that know when / how to feed off the others energy.

How do you define independent film?

Independent film, like independent music, is a voice for the people. We are able to make a lot with a little, and we all have something to share, so I feel like this is the way of the future. We can share our voice while still maintaining control of our work and engagement with the audience.

Anything else you’d like to share?

This project has been awesome! I got to see at least five rough cuts, seeing where the project started and where it has ended. It isn't often that you get to share in someone’s creative process, and for any project like this, we are learning as we go through it. I feel Camden and I were both selfless and that we approached things with the right context. Camden was incredibly open minded, and grateful of what I could bring to the table. I can’t wait to see the project progress as Camden works on marketing, promotion, and distribution.  I will always be happy I worked on this project, and that I got my first IMDb byline. The small things like that make me feel like I had an important role.

Kyle Owen has been playing the flute since he was 12, and composing music since he was 14. He is currently in college studying computer information technology, and blogs about his music at www.kyleowen.com. He is a newly wed who lives in Cary, N.C. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleDOwen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Speaking to Film Students

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with a group of Meredith College students taking Alisa Johnson's intro to film course. It is always a pleasure to visit with students, especially at my alma mater. It felt good to be on campus again.

We spoke about things specific to Abandoned Allies and challenges faced while making it. The students asked great questions about how a film is made, lessons learned along the way, and the film industry. I was so happy to speak with them and hear about what their experiences.

Side note: speaking with a class is an interesting thing. You're in front of a group that doesn't know you, but hopes you'll have something interesting to share. Knowledge to impart doesn't really matter, just don't be boring for the next hour, you know? Because it's a forced captive audience--not one that showed up by choice. I feel like people can see through your bullshit quickly, too, so it's best to just be yourself. The least I can do, I feel, is be genuine and honest. So that's what I tried to do. I tried to be honest. I tried to be myself. I tried to share what I know and, hopefully, make it relevant to what they want/need to hear. It's a tough thing to do.

The good news, for those students, is that they can come see Abandoned Allies next semester. They can come hear the real stars speak about their experiences in Vietnam and here in the States. They don't have to listen to me ramble on and laugh at myself. They can hear what these guys have to say--which, I feel, is infinitely more interesting than anything I could share with them.

They seemed like an incredibly kind and smart crowd. Not too surprising since Meredith College educates women to excel. What a great group of women. I felt like I was home, even just for a little while.

Huge thanks to Alisa Johnson and her students for the visit yesterday. It was tons of fun. Thanks, too, to Hilary Allen for the introduction to Alisa. I am grateful to all of these women for their time.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day (Observed)

Today is the observance of Veterans Day.

To all those whom serve and have served, I'd like to share my deepest appreciation. Even if we've never met, I want you to know that I appreciate all that you've been through. You've sacrificed and suffered, enduring things I may never hear about or understand.

Because of you, your service, and your sacrifice, I'm at liberty to do many simple things on a daily basis. Things you may have only dreamt about while you were deployed. Things like talk to my loved ones, sleep in a comfortable bed, or take a warm shower. I'm free to dream of limitless possibilities and a brighter future.

I live in the land of the free because of you. Last Tuesday, I walked up to the polls to cast a ballot--without fear--to vote for the people I believed in. I wasn't worried about being abused, hurt, or killed when I voted. I knew that I could vote safely.

Our democracy isn't perfect, but you defend it with your life. You fight to protect the men and women serving alongside you--no matter where they're from or what they look like. You have given so much, and you continue to give long after you've retired from the service.

You amaze me.

There are so many ways I want to thank you, but they all seem small and insignificant. When I see you in uniform at the airport, I may be too chicken to walk up to you and say thanks directly, so I might buy your lunch anonymously. I hope you're OK with that. I'm not as brave as you are. I worry that I might not sound genuine when I say, "Thank you for your service."

Thank you for all that you have done--and continue to do--for this country and its people. You may not know me, but I appreciate all that you've done. I will never be able to thank you enough. I hope that I can find a way to show how much I mean it.

Know that you are loved. I may not know your story, but I long to hear it. I may not even know you, but I love you. Thank you. A thousand times, thank you.

Friday, November 9, 2012

An Interview with Our Music Supervisor

We constantly get great feedback about the music included in Abandoned Allies. It's a pleasure to share behind-the-scenes information about the music. Annie Beth Brown Donahue served as the music supervisor on Abandoned Allies. She gathered music from talented, independent artists and helped place it in the film.

Here is an interview with Annie Beth about her experience. Enjoy!

Describe your role on Abandoned Allies.

Hmmm... I shamelessly solicited free music from any talented independent artist I knew. The film didn't have a budget, so purchasing music or rights to pieces for the soundtrack was out of the question. I wanted the music to be unique and interesting, and I didn't want it to put people to sleep.

Besides actually finding artists and reviewing their music for use in the film, I assisted Camden in deciding where to place the individual pieces in the film. I made use of my experience as a music therapist to decide what feelings we wanted to evoke during certain parts of the film. The music was being placed as the film was being edited, so there was this give and take where Camden and I both influenced each other--footage driving the music in one place and music determining the footage in others.

Annie Beth Brown Donahue at the premiere of Abandoned Allies at the Wells Fargo IMAX Theatre at Marbles on Sunday, August 26, 2012. Photo by Bobbi Whittemore (www.bobbiwhittemorephotography.com)

Why did you agree to work on Abandoned Allies?
About four years ago my sister was working for Surry Roberts. One day we had a conversation, the gist of which was, “Surry’s working with Camden to make a film about the Montagnards. Maybe you could help them out with the music.” At the time we were about to adopt our fourth child and I had cut back significantly on work outside the home. It sounded like a fun project to me. 

As a child I used to sit and listen to movie soundtracks and do geeky things like analyze what instruments or musical themes were used during different parts of the movie and why they might have been placed there. After calling Camden and learning more about the project and the Montagnards, I felt it was an important story to tell and a noble plight to support.

What was it like working on the film?
Fun. Just plain fun. Using knowledge of your own special interest to assist someone else is very rewarding. It was the kind of work that you were just excited to get a chance to do. I never cared that I wasn't getting paid monetarily. I actually felt bad that I didn't have some kind of media degree and real credentials. 

What would you do differently next time?
Not much. I think that we have an established base of contacts now, so a massive search for new artists would be unnecessary next time. One thing I would do differently would be to wait until after most of the editing was done to place any music. I think viewing the film and talking with Camden through the entire process was critical and I think having certain pieces in mind while choosing footage was probably helpful to her. I just wouldn't do the actual sit-down-and-line-up-music-to-film until most of it was finished, though, because whenever segments were edited again, we had to re-do some of the placements.

What was it like to work with Camden Watts (be honest)?

Hahaha! We had some great times working together. It was a blast. We had several “working weekends” where we just buckled down and worked for hours at a time, but every minute of it was fun. Camden can make anything entertaining. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I think we were incredibly blessed to have some of our best pieces fall in our lap. I don’t think the film would have the same impact without them.

Annie Beth studied music therapy at Queens University. She started the nonprofit Signposts Ministries, which serves children who face challenges to their health (either mentally or physically) and their families. She lives near Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and four children.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Future Screenings of Abandoned Allies

Seems like more screenings are shaping up for Abandoned Allies. I've been in touch with a few folks recently who are interested in sharing the film with their audiences, especially if we can organize another panel discussion afterwards.

I'm a big fan of local screening events. It gives me a chance to share the film again, hear responses, and look for opportunities to make a difference in the community. The main goal is raising awareness about this segment of U.S. history, but we're looking for ways to foster social good as well.

There have been a number of exciting conversations. Some people encourage adding this to the NC education system so that students will learn about it. Others say that it'd be great to see a museum exhibition, book, or monument honoring the Montagnards. I agree that all of these opportunities would be great, but I need some help making them happen. So it's slow going right now, but these things are not out of the realm of possibilities.

Until then, I keep looking forward to sharing the film with audiences. If you know of anyone willing to help out, please give me a shout. With the holidays coming up, we may be looking at screenings in 2013. Y'all stay tuned here for more information.

Thanks, always, for the words of encouragement!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Managing Film Festival Submissions

Seems like my life revolves around mailing DVDs to film festivals these days. Have I mentioned this tedious process is not my favorite? (Yes, I think I have.) Since it's important, I'm trying to keep a positive attitude.

It's a tough thing to do, though. Submitting to festivals gets expensive quickly. The cost of producing the film is lingering in the back of your mind already, and then you add these new costs to the list.

There's the cost of burning DVDs, labels, and the case. Then you add the cost of each film fest submission, envelopes, stamps, etc. The straw breaking the camel's back is the occasional trip to the post office, just to make sure the thing has the right postage and makes it in the mail in time. And that usually happens when it's raining and the post office is most crowded -- how does it always happen that way? The whole thing is a bit nerve-racking, but I'm trying not to fret too much.

Without A Box (WAB) has a status page for your submissions. I never knew how much a little blue check mark could mean. The check mark means the DVD has been received, and the submission is being considered. It means ... this part of the process has gone well, at least. Now there's a hope that the little film-that-could will make it through to the final stage: being seen at the festival.

Yep, the whole thing is nerve-racking, time consuming, and tedious. One of the things I focus on to keep positive are the local screenings we're organizing. That is time-consuming as well, but the pay off is more immediate.

These local screenings are good for my soul.

A room full of people willing to watch your film, and stick around to ask questions afterwards? That's a gift right there, my friend. Something I'll never take for granted. I want more of that.

In the meantime, I'm looking into putting the film online for these submissions. I need to take the time to do that, because it would be much more efficient. No DVD production, no mailings to manage, and no waste in the process. I want the process to be as environmentally-friendly as possible, you know?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Submitting to Film Festivals

Been working hard on film festival submissions for Abandoned Allies. All of my research points in this direction, so I'm hustling to get a few submissions checked off my list each week. It's slow-going and a bit too tedious for my taste, but it's important. (Ahem--anyone wanna help with it?)

The idea of sharing the film at a festival is incredibly exciting. I'm targeting festivals that focus on Asian Americans, human rights, and social good. Festivals that encourage indie, female, and new filmmakers are also great. It goes without saying that we're submitting to festivals that screen documentaries, too.

So far the film has been well-received in North Carolina. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback about it. I hope that these festivals will give the film a new life.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Simple Views on Voting

Last night's debate got me thinking about the right to vote. Please be kind while reading this, as I don't know quite how to put it into words but I'm willing to try.

You see, voting is something I once took for granted.

For so many years, I didn't think my one little vote would make any difference. There are so many people in America voting, why should I bother? All politicians are the same, anyway, right? It takes so much time to learn about each candidate and their stance on the issues.

Now, years later, I understand.

And it brings tears to my eyes.

This voting thing isn't about me.

During the past five years I've had my American bubble burst. I don't know how else to put it. I now see a certain truth about the world, and how I fit into it. I'm so humbled and grateful for my life here in the United States. My friends have taught me about the privilege of being an American.

Recently my friend from Lebanon decided to become a United States citizen. He's been living here and working hard for years, and this decision was one he took seriously. I watched him study for months. The day he was granted U.S. citizenship was one of great happiness. He grinned from ear to ear while telling me about it, saying that he couldn't wait to vote.

Other friends have told me about the persecution in their home country of Vietnam. They escaped through the jungle, walking for days and days, to reach a safe place in a neighboring country. They were resettled here in North Carolina. A few years later they became citizens, and so did their children. They tell me stories about life in Vietnam that break my heart: abuse, imprisonment, and untimely death. Then they take a moment to share the peace and joy they feel because they live in a place of opportunity and freedom.

Over the past few years, I've seen first-hand how much it means to my friends to become a citizen of the United States. The freedom and liberty I was given at birth, they may not have even dreamt about while living in their home country. I've seen them come to this land with the terror of persecution still radiating in their eyes.

Now I see it. Voting isn't about me.

Voting is about appreciating this gift of freedom. It's about honoring the people that fought so hard for the right to vote. The people that died to make this the land of the free. So that I might walk into that poll both, absolutely free of fear, and know that my vote will be counted.

Now I see this is about exercising my right as a U.S. citizen, born in a land of freedom and privilege. I will never again take that responsibility lightly. I will do my best to learn all I can about the candidates, make an educated decision, and hold my elected officials accountable. I have a voice, it will be heard, and I am one of many willing to stand up and be counted.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dreams of a Photo Essay

I was handed boxes of films and photos like the one pictured here, while working on Abandoned Allies.
Now that the film is finished, I'd like to share these photos and the stories that go with them.
During the making of Abandoned Allies I collected more than 2,000 images. Most of them are taken by Americans living in the central highlands of Vietnam, from the 1950s to the 1970s. The subject matter is pretty similar: Montagnard life, Green Berets, and the two groups spending time together.

Now that the film is finished, I'd like to continue sharing these images. There are so many of them, and keeping them on my personal hard drive seems like a waste. I feel like the photos, and the stories that go with them, should be shared. They are not mine to keep, as it were.

There are many obstacles to turning photos into a book.

Lack of resources is the primary hurdle. Capturing the stories accurately would time, money, and energy. None of the photos belong to me, so putting them all in a book presents a challenge. I would need new permission from the photographers to publish them--and that would take more resources. Finally, putting all of them together--in some order that makes sense to a reader--likely requires the help of an editor, and I don't have one. So, there are some challenges.

I think a photo essay, in the form of a book or even a traveling art exhibition, would be really wonderful. Another way to keep sharing this story, with whomever is willing to listen. I'd need a bit of help with it, though. Perhaps that dream will become a reality one day.

Until then ... stay tuned. Thanks for the continued encouragement, y'all!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Future Screenings of Abandoned Allies

Our most recent screening in Raleigh on Sunday, September 23, 2012.
Thank you for asking about future screenings of Abandoned Allies. I can't wait to share it again, and I'm looking for ways to do so immediately.

At this point, we're showing it in places where we have a champion on the ground. Someone willing to find the best location, build the team that'll show the film, and handle event-related questions. It takes quite a bit of effort and coordination, so this champion is critical in these grassroots efforts to share the film.

If you, or someone you know, is willing to be that champion--and help share Abandoned Allies in your area--please let us know. Email me at abandonedallies [at] gmail.com. Or if you know someone in distribution, give me a shout.

This grassroots effort takes a bit of time, so we appreciate your patience as we share the film as often as we can, in as many locations as you request. We look forward to sharing the film again as soon as we can.

Stay tuned. More info soon!

Friday, September 28, 2012

I'm No Expert

Speaking to a group of NCSU students--most
likely saying, "I don't really know."
We've shared Abandoned Allies a number of times now. During the conversations that follow screenings of the film, I get plenty of really great questions. More often than not, I don't have the answers.

Ironic, isn't it? 

Here I stand in front of a crowd, years after of studying this stuff, mic in my hand--and I have no answers to share. It's a tough spot to be in, since I'm supposed to know some answers. But the truth is: I just don't. 

I'm getting more comfortable with saying, "I don't know; I'm not the expert." I'll never be the expert because I'm just the kid that made the film. I interviewed people who know much more. I've spent time with them and learned a lot in the process--but not enough. 

I've learned, what I think, is barely enough. I've only scratched the surface of a very complex subject that covers decades of history in more than one country. If anything, I wish I had more time, resources, and opportunities to keep studying it. To keep documenting these wonderful, fascinating people--and the love and respect they feel for one another. There are so many beautiful stories here, and it pains me to know that I can't share them all with you.

So, during these Q&As, when I tell you that I don't know the answer to your question, please understand that it's not from lack of trying. I'm learning and sharing what I do know. I'm so glad you asked me a question, and I hope someone can answer it for all of us.

Keep asking, y'all. I'll keep seeking the truth. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ted Hope on History

Read this today. I felt it was appropriate
"My favorite class ever in high school was the day my history teacher told us he was going to teach us to read. History wasn’t what we read on the page,but the ideas they trying to express with showing it, the stuff in between the lines.  The only way to ever read history he said, was to find the bias.  Only the victors get published, but the nature of war is that the losers are the ones that die more.  The numbers that count are the bodies piled up in mounds, not the few who live to reap the spoils; look there for the true tale of what was lost while others won." 
- via Ted Hope, Hope for Film (http://bit.ly/PrRKCf)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Recap: Screening at Saint Paul's Christian Church

Yesterday we screened Abandoned Allies at Saint Paul's Christian Church in Raleigh, N.C. It was a well attended event, with plenty of great conversations afterwards! Thank you all for coming, watching the film, and sticking around afterwards to ask questions.

I'd like to thank Diane Faires for organizing the screening. She did a fantastic job putting it together, and I'm so grateful for her efforts. Julie Mullin was kind enough to give me a tour of the gardens at Saint Paul's yesterday. She introduced me to plenty of the folks at the church, and even spoke during the Q&A session. So I'd like to thank her as well.

There are so many people helping with this film, and I feel incredibly lucky to know them. Events like yesterday's screening take a lot of planning and coordination, so I am incredibly grateful to the church and its congregation for hosting the event. They are doing some really cool things at the church, and I look forward to learning more about it.

Stay tuned, y'all. There's so much more to share!

Quite a full house during the screening at Saint Paul's
Christian Church in Raleigh, N.C., on September 23, 2012.
The church garden has things like Cambodian green beans, which
Julie Mullin showed me. We ate them straight off the stalk. Yum!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Home Movie Day: Oct. 20, 2012

Photo courtesy of Skip Elsheimer.

A Home Movie Day will take place in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday, October 20, 2012 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. People are invited to come watch home movies or bring their own 8mm, Super 8mm, or 16mm film to share. The event will be held at the N.C. State Archives Auditorium (109 East Jones Street), and is free and open to the public.

Home Movie Day is an annual, nationwide celebration of amateur films and filmmaking that began in 2002. These events provide the opportunity to see and share home movies, and learn how to care for them. How do you see what's on these films? How you get them digitized? How do you preserve them for future generations?

A lot of people have been asking me about digitizing old films. While working on Abandoned Allies I turned to the expert, Skip Elsheimer of A/V Geeks (@AVGeeks), for help with digitizing Super 8 footage shot in the late 1960s. I chronicled much of that journey on this blog (http://bit.ly/nuTanF), so some of you are very familiar with those struggles. My interest in digitizing footage has grown considerably as a result, and I'm fascinated by what Skip's doing these days.

For a filmmaker like me, preserving our cinematic past is really important. I'm so excited about this Home Movie Day, and plan on bringing some of my family's home movies to find out what's on them. This event is perfect for Vietnam veterans with footage and no way to see what's on it.

To learn more about the Triangle Home Movie Day, visit http://www.avgeeks.com/hmd.html. There's a Facebook event page as well. You can also visit the Home Movie Day website for information on a national level.

Photo courtesy of Skip Elsheimer.

Photo courtesy of Skip Elsheimer.

The Triangle Home Movie Day is co-sponsored by the Film Studies Program at NCSU, the NC State Archives, Duke Archive of Documentary Arts, and AV Geeks Transfer Services.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Screening on 9/23/12 at 5pm

If you missed the chance to see Abandoned Allies at the IMAX at Marbles last month, you can see it at St. Paul's Christian Church in Raleigh, N.C. on 9/23. The church has a service dedicated to the Montagnard community, so showing the film there is very exciting. They support their congregation through the St. Paul's Montagnard Fund, and snacks will be available for purchase to support those efforts.

For more information and to register to attend, visit http://abandonedalliesspcc.eventbrite.com/.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

IMAX Screening Thanks

The screening at IMAX at Marbles was a huge success. I've been getting lots of positive feedback about it, and will write that up very soon. But first ...

Events like Sunday's screenings don't just happen. There are a bunch of people involved with making it come together. Here is a list of people I want to thank for making it possible:

The folks at IMAX: Tim Hazelhurst, Katy Burgwyn, Emmaus Smith, Sarah Walston, and Taylor Leslie. They were all so kind, helpful, and supportive. They worked hard and taught me a lot about the IMAX at Marbles in the process. Big thanks to them for their support of local, independent filmmakers.

Bill Leslie, WRAL news anchor, who served as our Q&A emcee. He's such a pro: took questions, kept the conversation going, and prevented us from rambling on (which I'm prone to do). I was able to relax and listen to the questions because he was our emcee. Bill also interviewed me about the screening last week. I owe a very special thanks to Sally Smith for greeting me at the WRAL station and keeping me calm before going on camera. She's one of the coolest people I know.

Our panelists for the Q&A: Christopher McClure, Mike Benge, George Shepard, and Joe Rimar. Some of these guys traveled pretty far to be there. They know a lot, and I'm so grateful they took the time to share with us.

Event volunteers: Astra Barnes, Kenneth Ball, Hilary Allen, Tracy Dixon, John Dixon, Arwen Carter Buchholz, Paul Stanford, and Gordon Watts. These folks were a huge help making the event a success. They're smart people who need very little direction, and they know how to make things happen. Some of them gave out movie tickets and others were behind the scenes, hustling to take care of things you never knew needed to get done.

Photographer Bobbi Whittemore agreed to capture the event for us. She sent me photos, which I have started downloading and will share with you soon. A very special thanks to Bobbi for making sure we have photos from such an important day in the life of this film.

Lisa Sullivan was kind enough to sell DVDs for me during the Q&A. She's someone I trusted to handle such an important task, and she did it with a huge smile! Thank you, Lisa.

Crystal Roberts, my marketing / communications specialist for the film, also did a wonderful job on Sunday. She chatted with folks, took pictures, and kept folks at ease. I'm so grateful to have her on my team to provide communications guidance. What a woman.

Scott Rucci, David Iversen, and Andy Poe all had a hand in producing DVDs of the film. They also provided support while making the film--offering technical expertise and commiserating about the challenges one faces while making a film.

Ashley Maria and Lea-Ann Berst, who have helped nurture my filmmaking career. Ashely Maria screened her films at IMAX at Marbles in 2011, letting me photograph the fun (related blog post here). Both of these women constantly inspire and encourage me. I'm stronger and more confident because of these two incredibly smart, talented women.

Patrick Jones, who designed many of the graphics in the film (including the Abandoned Allies logo), hustled to get the finished poster to me in time for the screening. He did a fantastic job, as always, with the graphics. He pours so much of himself into each design, laboring over the concept and tweaking the final version to perfection. Everyone raved about his work on Sunday, standing by the posters to have their pictures taken. Thank you, Patrick, for being a friend and an incredibly talented designer.

All of the folks who helped make Abandoned AlliesSo many of you were at the screening and ready to talk about your experience working on the film. Thank you for being there, meeting others involved with the project, and sticking with this thing for several years. I appreciate your time, talents, and generosity. I got so many compliments on your hard work. You should be really proud of yourselves for all that you've done--and all the things we learned together.

My executive producer: Surry Roberts. When people ask me how I chose this subject, I point to Surry. He served two tours in Vietnam during the war. He works closely with the Montagnards in North Carolina. And he's been a mentor and a friend for years. He constantly challenges me, and I'm better for it. I appreciate his insight, encouragement, and friendship.

My fiancee, Derek Roessler. This man is amazing. I would list all the wonderful things he does to make my life more enjoyable, but some of you might get sick on the lovely-dovey talk. Just know that I'm supported by a seriously tall, funny, and encouraging man named Derek. His parents, Tom and R Roessler, also deserve a big thanks. They've been so supportive and encouraging. Tom let Derek borrow his video camera so we could capture the Q&A, too!

My parents: Gordon Watts and Carole Watts. They are smart, supportive, and loving people--always willing to help me think through the next hair-brained scheme. They offer the kind of support you need from a parent, plus so much more. They dare me to dream, break through barriers, and reach for the impossible. And when I'm at my worst, they still love me the way only a parent can.

Bill Leslie, emcee, and the panel for the Q&A: Joe Rimar, Mike Benge,
George Shepard, Camden Watts, and Christopher McClure.
Photo credit: David Leblond

Tracy Dixon and Arwen Carter Buchholz helped guests
check in and get their tickets to the film.
Photo credit: Crystal Roberts

Lisa Sullivan helped by selling DVDs of the film.
Photo credit: Crystal Roberts

Mike Benge and Surry Roberts, two of the folks who were
critical in the making of Abandoned Allies possible.
Photo credit: Crystal Roberts

Derek Roessler and yours truly in front of the Abandoned Allies 
poster, which was designed by Patrick Jones.
Photo credit: Crystal Roberts
Please note: If I've neglected to include your name here, and you helped out in some way ... please do not take offense. I'm recuperating from all the hustle and bustle leading up to the screenings, and appreciate your patience while I rest up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Announcing: WRAL News Anchor Bill Leslie Will Emcee the Q&A

Bill Leslie, narrator of Abandoned Allies, will emcee the
Q&A session at the screening this Sunday.
Bill Leslie, WRAL news anchor and narrator of Abandoned Allies, will emcee the question and answer (Q&A) session at the Marbles Kids Museum on Sunday, August 26 at 4:15 PM in Venture Hall.

The Q&A is scheduled between the two screenings, so that audiences may hear from people featured in the film. Also available to answer questions are people who helped make Abandoned Allies, including yours truly.

For more information on the event and to register for tickets, visit: http://alliesatimax.eventbrite.com/.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Update: Call for Volunteers

I think we have the help we need for the screening this Sunday. If you're still interested in helping out, though, please let me know. Stuff like this requires a lot of support, and many hands make light work. Thank you for all the encouragement, excitement, and support. It's most appreciated!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

IMAX Screening Volunteers Needed

Hey folks! I need some help preparing for this Sunday's screening at IMAX. If you're interested / available, please let me know immediately. Here's what I need:

REFRESHMENTS (1 or 2 people needed)
I need a friend to purchase cans of soda, bottles of water, and finger foods at the best price in bulk. Then bring the goods to the IMAX theatre on Sunday at 2:00 PM. Help set the stuff up before the event, and make sure I bring home what's not used. (I'll reimburse you; save me the receipt.)

CHECK IN TABLE (4 people needed)
About four people are needed for checking in guests. You sit at the table, smile and greet folks, ask for a photo ID, and then look up their name on a spreadsheet. It's pretty simple, but incredibly important. I need smart, kind folks to fill these positions.

EVENT VOLUNTEERS (6 people needed)
I could use a few dudes to help guide guests. You'll stand in a designated area to welcome people, guide them to the right place, answer questions, and put them at ease. This may sound unnecessary, but I feel like it's important. We have a diverse crowd attending the screening. Some of them are from out of town, and others aren't familiar with downtown Raleigh. These incredibly important people will help put guests at ease, so they come to the theatre ready to relax and enjoy the film.

CLEAN UP CREW (2 people needed)
When the event is over, I might be totally exhausted. I need a few folks willing to help leave the place better than when we came in. I don't know what, exactly, this will entail at the moment but it'll be simple things like making sure we don't leave things behind or helping me carry things to my car. Simple enough, eh?

If you, or someone you know, is kind enough to volunteer for these things please let me know immediately. I could use help from trustworthy, kind folks.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Event at IMAX Info // 2ND SCREENING!

Since the response was so overwhelming to our announcement about the first screening of Abandoned Allies, we have added a second screening on the same day. Big thanks to the Wells Fargo IMAX Theatre at Marbles for allowing us to do that.

Get tickets: http://alliesatimax.eventbrite.com/.

The schedule for Sunday, August 26th is as follows:

  • 3:00 pm - Screening of Abandoned Allies
  • 4:15 pm - Question and Answer Session
  • 5:15 pm - Screening of Abandoned Allies
Question and Answer Session
There will be only one Q&A session, and you'll want to be there! Folks featured in the film will be on hand to elaborate about their experiences and answer questions. The emcee is a very special guest whom you will certainly recognize, but I haven't announced his name yet. Stay tuned.

Event Photography
If you attend the event be prepared to have your picture taken. We will have an event photographer, and hope that you'll smile for her. Photos will be used online to promote the film.

DVDs for Sale
We will also have screener DVDs available for purchase. I'll have more information about that soon, but please plan on bringing cash if you want to make a purchase. Big thanks to David Iversen, Scott Rucci, and Andy Poe for their help making these DVDs.

If you have questions about anything related to this event, please let me know!

Friday, July 27, 2012

IMAX Show: Sold Out in 3.5 Days!

What?! We sold out in 3.5 days! That's is thrilling! Thank you all for the overwhelming support. Because of the response, we're working on additional screenings. 

If you want to see the film, be sure to add your name to the wait list here: http://alliesatimax.eventbrite.com/. If you registered for tickets but can't make the show, please let me know so we can have a full house.

As always, stay tuned for information as it develops. You can sign up for e-news or visit the websiteFacebook, Twitter, or blogThank you all for the encouragement, support, and congrats. 

More news soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What We're Made For - A New Song by Natalie Royal

Services for Katherine R'Com and her cousin Johnny Nay were held last weekend. (Related news story here.) The 10 year old girl was the daughter of Vien Siu, who is featured in Abandoned Allies

Vien and his family have been to our private screening events, often brought food with them to share with everyone, and gave honest and gentle feedback about how to improve the film. I'm a big fan of their family, and feel so lucky that I've gotten to know them while working on this film.

My heart goes out to the families who suffered such an untimely deaths last week, including the victims in the theatre massacre in Colorado. Losing someone you love is so tough.

That's why I want to share a song by Natalie Royal. When folks see Abandoned Allies, they often ask me about the music. Natalie Royal's incredible voice is the one you'll hear a few times in the film. Big props go to Annie Beth Brown Donahue, the music supervisor for Abandoned Allies, who arranged to have Natalie's music in the film. It's so powerful.

Natalie has been working on her full length album, and raised money on Kickstarter. (Her campaign has ended, but you can scope it out here.) As part of her fundraising efforts, she offered to write and record a song for financial backers. 

The song What We're Made For was recorded specifically for Sam in Portland, Oregon, but has a special meaning for me today because of the events that transpired last week. The past week has been tough for people suffering tragic, unexpected losses. I find this song especially comforting right now.

Natalie introduces the song and starts singing at 3:24 on her video. She also has a free download of the song available here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"Some times when we are at our lowest points and when things are the absolute worst, the only thing that makes anything better is another person ... The human race is really not so bad... if we look at the positives that are happening ... we'll realize how wonderful people truly are." 
Natlie Royal 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On IndieGoGo: Digitize 100 Miles of the AV Geeks films

While working on Abandoned Allies, one of my biggest challenges was finding archival footage. When we finally did find it, we had no way to digitize it. How in the world was I going to get this footage in the film? It was a stressful, uneasy time with no solution in sight.

Then I met my hero: Skip Elsheimer.

Skip and I met one afternoon at his office. I stopped by with a basket full of moldy 8mm film. He looked through it, and said he thought he could help. Then he walked me around, showing me countless shelves stocked to the ceiling with old films. It was absolutely fascinating!

He's working on a new project now, digitizing some of those films so others can enjoy them. These efforts are incredibly important. He is preserving our past and making it accessible to people who want it and need it. People like me, who had no other way of getting the footage when it was needed.

If you want more info about this, Skip has an IndieGoGo page: http://www.indiegogo.com/avgeeks100milesDonate if you wish. Share with others who may be interested. 

Skip's a great guy, who's working on a really cool project. He's done a lot to help me make Abandoned Allies, and I'll be forever grateful. Show him some support, won't you? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Screening of Abandoned Allies at IMAX

It's a great joy to announce that on Sunday, August 26th at 3:00 p.m., we'll be screening Abandoned Allies at the Wells Fargo IMAX Theatre at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh. We'll have a question and answer session following the screening, so stick around. See you there!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Announcement Has Been Rescheduled

We promised you an announcement today, but in light of recent events we've decided to wait. Out of respect for the families and communities who have suffered tragic losses this week, we will share the news at a more appropriate time.

Earlier this week the Montagnard community in North Carolina suffered the loss of two children in a drowning accident. Services will be held this weekend. The family suffering such an untimely loss has been a loyal supporter of our efforts for years. My thoughts and prayers are with them during this incredibly tough time.

H'Katherine R'Com (via WRAL)
Last night a tragic event occurred in Colorado at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight. A gunman entered the theatre through an emergency exit door, shooting and killing 12 people and wounding another fifty people. My thoughts and prayers are with the community in Colorado.

(via LA Times)
These untimely and senseless deaths have left me deeply shaken. I'm so sad for these families, and will keep them in my thoughts in prayers. In the meantime, I plan on spending time with my own loved ones; simply thankful I get to spend more time with them.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Very Sad News

Monday evening, I got an email from Lap, one of the folks who's helped me a lot with this film. He told me about the deaths of two young children here in North Carolina.

Later that evening, I saw it on the news. (WRAL: Two children drown in Neuse RiverOne of those children is the daughter of Vien, a man whom I interviewed for this film. 

Vien, his wife, and his two girls have been so supportive while we've worked on this project over the years. They came to so many of the private screenings, patiently talking with me about how to make it a better film. They were so kind to bring food each time, too. While I didn't get to know the girls very well, I enjoyed every interaction I have had with them. 

Their youngest daughter, Katherine, passed away on Monday. Earlier this week, Surry and I visited with Vien and his family to offer condolences. 

I want to be considerate of these families who have suffered such tragic losses this week. I'm so sad. Please know that my heart is with you. 

Screening Announcement Coming Soon

Hey folks! We have some exciting news on the way. Stay tuned, as we'll make an announcement this Friday at noon about the next screening of Abandoned Allies! Here's a hint. :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Pace of Filmmaking

I like to jump in and get things going full speed ahead. So, more often than not, a slower pace is really tough on my creative process. Last month I welcomed a chance to go full speed ahead on a film. 

I participated in the Greensboro 48-Hour Film Project with friends. We jumped in. Our team started and finished a film in one weekend. It was glorious.

On the set of Love Struck, our submission to the Greensboro 48-Hour Film Project.
The 48-hour film project pace makes you work a certain way. You shoot only what you need since there's no time to edit out what you won't use. You work longer hours, since you only have one weekend to create and finish the film. If you're lucky you have a base of operations, where your crew of talented people collaborate and hustle.

The weekend was very different than how I have operated with Abandoned Allies. I learned a lot from it. I really enjoyed it, and I know I'll put those lessons towards my next film.

When it comes to Abandoned Allies--a feature-length, serious documentary about cultural differences, war, and foreign policy--the pace is very different. It has been a slow and steady pace: one of observation, learning, researching, conversing, earning trust, proving worth and honor-ability, and genuinely appreciating the world and the people in it. 

I have learned so much over these past few years, and I have grown up a lot because of this project. That's very good. I am eager to use what I've learned on new projects, so I can make those infinitely better than the last thing I worked. And constantly get better as a storyteller and filmmaker.

I'm now trying to now find a balance that allows me to use my creativity, but not reach burn out as much as I have while working on this film. I also want to have quality time with family and friends, to keep healthy relationships. I want to travel, build a lovely home, and have a family of my own. I want to do work that is this inspiring, educating, meaningful, and challenging. I want to make a dent my the universe with projects like this which, hopefully, challenge us all to be better neighbors and friends. But I also want to be that better neighbor friend, too.

We're now finished with the film, which means I have a new list of tasks in front of me. Namely, making the film available for people to see. So we're working on DVDs, online efforts, and live screening events. 

Just as I was getting used to these waters, we find ourselves in uncharted territory once again. It's good. I am anxious to share this labor of love.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Life of a Film(maker)

There are many chapters in a person's life, marked by age or milestone. Films grow up in a similar fashion, I believe. They are conceived, born, and eventually leave the nest to take on a life of their own.

In the life of Abandoned Allies, a new chapter has begun. We have edited, tweaked, and improved the film as much as we can (with the resources available at the time we made it). Now it's time to send this fledgling out into the world and see if it can fly.

We have a public, local screening taking shape. No official details to share just yet, but please stay tuned. We'll be sure to give you the info so you can see it, and attend the Q&A session afterwards.

In the mean time, my personal life has seen milestones and memorable moments. This past month was especially joyous.

On May 18, 2012, my boyfriend proposed while we were vacationing in Positano, Italy. Yesterday marked one month since we got engaged, and we are still grinning like idiots. The vacation, engagement, celebrations, and a birthday have made for a whirl wind of a month. One seriously happy month in my life, with many more to come.

If you haven't heard much from me in a while, that's why! I'm now back in the States, back to work, and ready to share Abandoned Allies. Y'all stay tuned. More to share soon!

Derek and me on the day we arrived in Italy, hours before
we got engaged. Behind us is Mt. Vesuvius.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Public Screenings of Abandoned Allies Coming Soon

Want to see Abandoned Allies? Fantastic! We're organizing public screenings this year and hope you will join us. More information about these events will be available as things develop. For now, be sure to sign up for our emails so you can get the latest about the film delivered straight to your inbox.

Register for emails here: http://eepurl.com/k6DXf.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Power of One

A single protester staring down the tanks
in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, June 1989.
Watch the video: http://youtu.be/qq8zFLIftGk.
Never underestimate the power you have to change this world for the better.

You may feel small. You may feel like you don't matter. You may feel like the problem is too big, and you don't have any solutions. You may feel like it's too late.

You may not have the energy left for one more fight. Do it anyway.

The world is watching. We're waiting for a super hero. Not a guy in a cape, with super powers--even though that'd be cool. We just need a regular person, ready to take a stand for something good.

We need you. You are the perfect person for the job--just as you are right now. We don't need you when you're smarter, richer, or skinnier. We need you right now.

Never underestimate how much you matter. You are precious, important, and valued. If you were here with me, I'd give you a big bear hug. I'd tell you over and over again that you're loved--like that scene from Good Will Hunting, where the repetition and intimacy break down your barriers so that you finally, finally get that you're loved.

You might be one person, but that's all it takes sometimes. Never underestimate the power of one. Never underestimate the power of a simple gesture. Do something good in this world. We all need it. Need to believe that good still exists. That it will prevail.

Feel like you're facing a huge challenge? Have no fear. Take inspiration from this guy: http://youtu.be/qq8zFLIftGk.

You can do it. We're waiting for you.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Publicity Photo Shoot

This week I did a publicity photo shoot for Abandoned Allies with the lovely and talented Ann Tobler of Miss Jee's Photography. I'm incredibly grateful, even though being in front of someone else's camera makes me a little nauseous. Ann was very kind and patient, which made things infinitely more fun.

We can't share the photo shoot results just yet. Sit tight. You'll see something out very soon!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Working on the Website

The Abandoned Allies site is under construction. We have a placeholder right now, but I hope that something fancier / more custom will develop in the coming months. I've  been chatting to folks, trying to figure out the best way to move forward.

It seems like relying on WordPress would be smart, since I know how to make updates easily. Themes are also relatively inexpensive, and easy to customize. I've been experimenting with my personal site, camdenwatts.com, to dust off those skills.

This has made me realize how much effort I have put into becoming a story teller. I feel web development has changed drastically while I've been pouring myself into post-production. It has me thinking about developing skills, and what I really want to focus on in the future: becoming a better filmmaker.

That being said, there's still no budget for hiring a web developer. It'd be great to hand this off to someone.

This, I think, is one of those constant struggles for an indie filmmaker. Everything I read encourages indie filmmakers to distribute their own film, and stay committed to the project to the end. I want to do that, for sure. It seems ideal, something we all want to do; however, it's really exhausting. I've poured so much into simply making the film--fighting every battle, challenge, and nay-sayer along the way--that the energy needed to get an audience after it's finished is almost completely gone. This is why I'm doing little things to help recover and regain that energy.

The website is nagging at me ferociously. If you, or someone you know, is willing to help take over this effort, please give me a shout. I desperately need some help leading these efforts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Memorials and Mourning

My grandmother and grandfather
on their wedding day in 1942.
This weekend my family will gather for a memorial service honoring my grandparents. There have been many conversations and preparations leading up to this weekend, and it's finally here.

You may recall that my grandmother passed away on December 7, 2011. It's been a really tough couple of months following her death--as anyone who's lost a loved one could imagine. It's been a struggle to stay focused on the film; mourning has taken such a prominent role in my life and we've been busy handling her affairs, with my father leading the charge. I had no idea that it cost so much money and required so much energy just to settle the estate of a loved one. It's exhausting.

This weekend will be bittersweet, but it'll be nice to be with loved ones to honor two people who were such a big part of my life.

Some of you have been wondering why I haven't been as social lately. It's because I've been busy spending time with family and trying to handle things as best I can.

I'll return soon. I promise.

Related Blog Posts:
Lessons from my grandmother
The man who owns much
Getting back to work

Monday, April 30, 2012

The People Don't Know Their Power

The People Don't Know Their True Power
(source: http://bit.ly/IA6cIz)

There have been a lot of conversations about North Carolina's proposed Amendment 1. It's a hot topic, and voting happens on May 8th. This post isn't about the amendment, where I stand on it, or how you should vote.

This is, however, an exploration of how much your vote counts--even when you feel the odds aren't in your favor. It's easy to discredit a single vote because we live in such a large country. There are more than 311 million people here, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Last weekend I was chatting with someone about voting, specifically about the amendment in North Carolina. Based on the content in my Facebook stream, I was shocked to learn that the amendment has a chance of getting passed. We chatted about why that possibility exists, and how the demographics of our state might influence such a thing. One of the conclusions drawn from that conversation: each vote matters--a lot. Even (or especially) when it seems the odds are against a voter.

We may feel like our vote doesn't count here, but it really does.

We, as citizens, have an opportunity to think for ourselves, then make an educated decision on a matter. We have an opportunity to meet with our elected officials and tell them how we feel, influencing their actions. We have a voice, we have the power to be heard, and we have the opportunity to change the world.

But making an educated decision often takes time, research, and effort. More often than not, it can feel like a big burden to many people.

Earlier today I talked with another man about this amendment, sharing what I know in an unbiased way so he could make his own decision. He had gotten confused about what it meant to be for or against it. He hadn't heard all of the details, and didn't feel like he had the time to make an educated decision--so he isn't going to vote at all.

The cartoon at the top of this post is spot on: we, the people, don't know our true power.

Working on Abandoned Allies has made me realize that being a citizen of the United States is more than just opportunity. It's also a responsibility. People in other places around the world watch Americans because our country is a world power. If we, the people, don't take the time to vote or educate ourselves on the matters, politicians get full reign to do what they think is in our best interest. This, it seems, has led to a negative reputation for our people and our country.

Like the subject matter of Abandoned Allies, this is a complex issue. You can't summarize how all Americans behave because there are so many of us and we live in a very diverse country. I can't provide scientific evidence at the present time, just anecdotal evidence about our approach to voting here in the States. It's something I'd like to explore further if / when I have the time. (See what I did there?)

Nonetheless, I encourage my fellow Americans to take the time to learn about what's happening in your community, and find a way to become an active citizen. People in other parts of the world are being thrown in jail for speaking out about what they believe, but we have a chance to speak freely.

What we have is a luxury: a chance to be heard. What we have is a responsibility: a chance to vote. What we have is a bright future: a chance to make a difference in the world.

Go vote. You don't know your own power, my friends.