Saturday, December 26, 2009

Moving On

Wow. Two years! Two years since I threw myself into all this, full force. Five years since I wrote the first draft of the script. 16 months since production on "Smalltimore" began. One year exactly since I screened the rough cut. 8 months since the (near) finished product (made a few small tweaks since then). 7 months since our first festival. 5 months since our first award. And four years exactly since my friend Thom, whom "Smalltimore," is dedicated to, died.

I am exhausted, and this is going to be very short. I have been sleeping like a log for the last several nights, now that my plate is nearly cleared. Giving myself a little break before the next big push forward, pursuing distribution, begins. Big screening is past, DVD is available for sale, almost 200 are already in circulation! Christmas is over, have low-key plans with friends for New Year's Eve... time for a little breather.

This afternoon I took my Mom and my brother to see "Dreamgirls" at the Hippodrome for their Christmas present, and I just got back from spending a couple hours at The Havana Club for Kelly Coston's birthday. My hair smells like cigars, but it was worth it to hang out with Kelly and Cheryl for awhile. I really do love that they turned out to be such great friends to each other, as well as friends of mine.

Tomorrow night I will see some more Smalltimore friends, Tucker and the boys et al will be playing at the Cat's Eye Pub in Fells Point for the 4th Annual Thom Hickling Memorial Party, and Phil Calvert promised to meet up with me there. You should join us!

Sorry this is a rather boring post, but it truly is just me winding down after a very long haul. There is still a lot more that lays before me, many miles to go, many challenges to overcome, and I hope you will keep following me through them. Thanks to those who have become my regular readers, and thanks especially to those of you who have been with me from the very beginning (or have gone back and read from the very beginning to catch up!). I look at my blog stats every day, and it is very gratifying to see so many repeat viewer, and viewers that spend a long time on the site. Eases any guilt I have for being long-winded :)

This is my final post on this blog. I have holiday company for a few more days, but soon I will make my first posting on the new blog, Please add it to your RSS feed and continue on my journey with me. Two years into it, I still learn something new every day, and I am not expecting that to change, ever. I absolutely love that!

I hope all of you are having a fantastic holiday season, and whether 2009 was good to you or if you cannot wait to lay it to rest, I hope you all have big things to look forward to in the New Year, I hope that you have created or are creating great opportunities for yourselves. I myself am looking forward to laying my head on the chopping block - over and over again. Hold my hand?

Monday, December 21, 2009

What's Your (Guilty) Pleasure?

Soooo, let me just preface this by saying this was not my fault. I blame the blizzard. See, Channel 23 was SUPPOSED to be broadcasting the Steelers game at 4:15pm. BUT, since the Ravens game got pushed to 4:15 so the Chicago Bears had time to get to town, I couldn't see the Steelers game (except for the amazing last two minutes of it!). So, I was innocently flipping channels and landed on - "Top Gun". The Volleyball Scene, no less. Gay, straight, whatever, you all know what I am talking about, don't even lie.

I remember very specifically the first time I saw "Top Gun", in the theater. It must have been the summer after my brief stint at the University of Pittsburgh (having already received the highest honors in my double-major, Pool and Quarters). It was two of my best friends, Lauren and Ace (both of whom I am very happy to say I am still in touch with), and I, and I think we went to a weekend matinee at the dive-y theater in a strip mall on Route 30 in Latrobe. Volleyball Scene on the big screen? Oh, yeah... If they re-released it I admit I would go pay to see that.

Not too bad on my 42" screen neither. So I lingered. They were all there... Iceman, Hollywood, Wolfman, Maverick... Goose, thankfully with his shirt ON... I was transported back to my slack-jawed youth.

This, however, was the first time I was seeing the movie as a filmmaker. Since I had come in late, it wasn't much longer until the worst part - when Goose dies. It still makes me cry. Say what you want about "Top Gun". Yes, in retrospect it was quite possibly the most homo-erotic movie ever made. Brokeback Mountain has nothing on Fightertown. But Goose's death scene still holds up, the montage that follows is heart-wrenching, and no matter how much I hold it together up until that point, when Meg Ryan touches Tom Cruise's face while she smiles and cries at the same time and his jaw twitches while he tries not to lose it, I do. I honestly think it was the best acting either one of them have ever done.

Another movie from my young adulthood has been playing non-stop on the TV Guide channel - "Dirty Dancing". If I didn't know it backwards and forwards before, I do now. I do think it is a great movie, and there is a line that I have borrowed from it for 20 years:

"I carried a watermelon?"

Remember that? The first time Baby meets Johnny? She is so flustered, that is all she can think to say, and then he walks away and she repeats the line, incredulously berating herself. When I meet a hot guy and say something ridiculous, upon retelling the story to my girlfriends, I follow up with that line, and they all know what I am talking about.

Like "Top Gun", "Dirty Dancing" takes me back. I was living in a two-room studio apartment with my then boyfriend, later husband, even later ex-husband, in Pittsburgh. I don't think I saw it in the theater. We had HBO so we watched it probably ten times. Our relationship had some (loose, and non-dancing) parallels to Johnny and Baby's. He was only a year older than I was, but with more life experience. Even at 20, I was still pretty naive (I know, hard to believe, right?). We were very young and very happy. Not really worried about where life would take us. Just happy to be together, and not thinking that anything could ever be more important than that.

I could tell you lots of stories like that, about which movie makes me think about what period of my life, and I am sure you have many similar stories. These blasts from the past have made me think about how I, and others, will think of "Smalltimore," 20 years from now. It is already a little dated for me, as I wrote the first draft five years ago, and parts were based loosely on what was going on in my life at the time. Life is not as dramatic as that for me these days. Well, I guess it is, just in different ways.

When I was writing the script, I purposely left out any political remarks or other statements or scenery that might date it. The first draft had a reference to Murphy Brown, and someone who read the script, who was about ten years younger than I am, had no idea what that was about. While I was watching "Top Gun", it was the soundtrack that really dated the movie. Every other aspect of it could be taking place right now. Remember? "Highway to the Danger Zone," "Playing With The Boys," etc... It made me think about my own soundtrack. I think it is going to hold up over time. So much of it is rockabilly... a little techno, a little hip-hop... and some beautiful ballads, some of which I first heard ten years ago, so I think they will last.

Something in "Dirty Dancing" that made me smile and think, "80s", even though the movie was supposed to take place in the 60s, was Jennifer Grey's permed bob. Which, incidentally, looks remarkably like Kelly McGillis' 'do in "Top Gun"!

When I was teaching my pre-production class at the Creative Alliance a week and a half ago, I was talking about soundtracks, and how in this town there is no excuse for a bad one. I gave a few examples of bad soundtracks, like, "He's Just Not That Into You." One of my students asked me if I thought this, and other production value things we were talking about, really mattered to the average movie-goer, or if only filmmakers noticed these kinds of things. Yes, I certainly notice these things more now, but these are the types of things that can pull you right out of a movie. I explained it to her like this: I grew up in the restaurant business. When I lived in D.C. I managed a four-star restaurant in a posh hotel. It is easier now, but for years it was difficult for me to really relax when dining out, because I notice everything. To this day, I know when I am in a very good restaurant - when I don't pick up on things like mismatched silverware, or the waiters thumb touching the food on the plate as he serves it.

The devil is in the details. When I am so wrapped up in the story that I forget I am watching a movie, then I know it is a good movie. There are so many things that can pull you right out if that, though. Bad acting, bad lighting, blatant continuity issues, scoring that has nothing to do with the mood of the scene, dialogue that doesn't ring true... just everything.

Anyway, this is just pure stream of consciousness today. I did see snippets of "Dirty Dancing," again yesterday, and I did finally notice something that I have never seen before. When Baby first says, "I carried a watermelon," then it cuts to Johnny's face. He gives her a strange look, walks away, then it cuts back to her and she says the line again, to herself, "I carried a watermelon?" Between those two lines, while the camera is on him, you can see Baby's profile but you are focused on Johnny. Next time you see this scene, watch her instead - you'll see that she mouths, "I carried a watermelon?" before you hear/see her say it again. Now it is always going to bug me. And now it is always going to bug you!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Taking Stock

Only nine days left of this blog, before moving on to the new one, Don't forget to add it to your RSS list!

At the moment I am sitting in my office, waiting for a few more people to pick up their copies of "The Red-Headed Menace," the short we made this summer. Of the people who have picked up so far, 75% have also bought a copy of Smalltimore, and I got an email today for an order of 4 more copies. Nope, I haven't gotten any further in the Amazon/UPC mess, but I haven't tried, either. Probably this weekend when we're snowed in.

This time of year people get very strange. Everyone is stressed out in one way or another, and I think this year especially people are feeling the pinch. In the last couple weeks I have had friends who had their car broken into, one even had his car stolen, and last Saturday when I was walking out of the Creative Alliance after teaching my class there, I saw an actual fistfight. You always see strange people when walking around this town, but lately they have been coming out of the woodwork. It makes sense, though. Naturally this is the time of year that people take stock of their lives (and their bank accounts). Some people don't have much to be happy about, and being bombarded with this holiday crap probably doesn't make their lives any easier. That Lexus commercial where the voiceover guy debates whether the traditional big red bow on top of the car, you know, when you are GIVING SOMEONE A LEXUS, is passe or not, really gets on my last nerve. It doesn't annoy me because I want a Lexus, I think they look very boring and aren't half as hot as my 2000 Mustang convertible. It annoys me because it is flat out obnoxious.

I find this time of year a little tough, too, because so many people focus on what they don't have instead of what they do have, and I don't have a lot of patience for that crap. It's almost like everyone got all their gratefulness (is that a word?) out of the way over Thanksgiving, so now they have to focus on the negative. Most of the people I hear moaning and groaning don't really have it so bad. Are you healthy? Have a roof over your head? Friends? Then stop borrowing trouble and realize how blessed you are.

Personally, I am probably going to lose my job as well as my apartment in the next 6 to 12 weeks, through no fault of my own. Due to the movie, my credit cards are all maxed out, and I will likely find myself unemployed during the dead of winter, when people aren't hiring waitresses or retail employees, let alone anything that pays more than minimum wage. I just spent $600 at the vet, and one of my dogs is probably on his way out soon. He is 14, almost completely deaf, and more than half blind. Okay, that part makes me really sad, and now I am crying, but, I will enjoy his company for as long as I can and try to focus on the positive. As for the other stuff, I've been deep in debt before and I've pulled myself out. I have friends and family who won't let me end up living in a cardboard box. I always land on my feet. It is kind of exciting, actually, to see what happens next.

That's what I am likely looking forward to in the coming year, some good stuff, some bad stuff, some challenging stuff. I'll survive it all, I'm not worried. Looking back over the last year, well, the last two years since I really dove headfirst into this movie business, I can honestly say I don't regret a moment or a penny of it. There are events or periods of time, choices I have made or things that have happened beyond my control, that I can reflect on and see that when I came out on the other side of them, I was a different person and I could never again be the person I was before. Like after I moved from D.C. to Baltimore, or after 9/11, or after my Dad died. And definitely after making this movie. It might sound strange, but this experience has been as life-changing as any of those that I mention here. And in a very positive way.

There is not enough bandwidth in the internet to go into every detail of it, but if you have been following me along my journey, you already know a lot of what I am talking about. The bullet points are:

1. I made a frikkin' movie. After I decided I was going to do exactly that, every time I watched a movie and more importantly, all the credits at the end of a movie, my heart beat faster and I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. Look at all those names! How the hell am I going to get 100+ people to help me on this thing? How does anyone EVER make a movie? But, I did it. And there are over 100 names in my credits, too.

2. I'm not scared of anything anymore. Not that I was scared of a lot to begin with (hairy spiders, deep water, and Ann Coulter not withstanding). If there is anything I am hesitant to believe I can accomplish, there is a DVD case within reach that says otherwise. The most surprising benefit of all this is that I am SO much better at meeting and talking to strangers. It's exciting and has opened a lot of new opportunities to me.

3. I accomplished exactly what I set out to do with this movie. I know that not everyone in the world is going to "get it". This is a different side of Baltimore. To outsiders they might think it is the "underground" Baltimore, but if you live here you know it is the every day. My friends as well as strangers I have met at the screenings, the people who are artists, writers, musicians, the creative community of Baltimore - they love it. They tell me I did them proud. I don't have delusions of grandeur that this movie will ever receive a theatrical run (unless I am renting out the theater). But through all the changes the script went through, what I wanted to manifest onto that screen was all there. I am so proud and lucky to know these incredibly talented people, and this very special place where we gather, and I wanted to show that to the world. I believe I did.

4. And most importantly, I found my calling. I had no idea. But now I have no doubt. This is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. And I can't begin to explain how exciting that is.

Anyway... my holiday advice, for what it's worth... try to focus on the positive. One thing that drives me a little crazy about a lot of people in this town is that they would rather complain about their lives than get off their butt to do anything to change it. No one is going to do it for you. Take some chances, be fearless, and don't think you're going to get anywhere without paying your dues. And probably maxing out your credit cards.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Neverending Story

Man! All I want to do is sell my damn DVD and NO ONE is making this easy for me. I checked out selling on, it SEEMED pretty straightforward. I thought I read all the fine print, but maybe I didn't. I did read the part where it says that they can cancel me for any reason at any time, but I can't cancel them for 90 days. So, fine, I committed to that, gave them my credit card number... all going swimmingly until I try to actually upload inventory. Then it is pages and pages of paperwork (I am trying to do this online because I HATE paperwork)... and the big news is, in order to sell DVDs, you have to have a UPC number. Great googly moogly. Can nothing ever be simple?

So now I am researching how to even GET a UPC (Universal Product Code). And the one universal thing about it is, no matter where you get it, you have to pay for it. The question is, how do I know I can trust the site from which I am purchasing it? Ugh.

I have a few musician friends who sell on CDbaby, I bet they know. I'll check with some of them.

I hate this stuff. I REALLY do. Reading instructions, filing forms, ack, it is like walking uphill through waist-deep mud to me. But, hey. I figured out how to make a whole freaking movie, I can figure this out. It's just not nearly as sexy as making a movie.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Recovery, and Hanging With the Talent

[ My first marquee!!! Very exciting. And many thanks to Alvina Chu for taking this photo, as I barely had time to glance at it. I didn't even have a moment to take a photo of me in front of it! Oh, well... ]

Today was AWESOME. Got up around noon, guilt-FREE. Nothing that needed to be done right that minute. I could get used to this, what do you call it? Breathing? Yea, it's nice.

Yesterday was what I will consider my final big film-related obligation for the year, teaching my first pre-production class at the Creative Alliance. I had seven students and the class ran from 10am-4pm. I really had fun doing it, and everyone was very engaged, asked a ton of questions, and we crammed a LOT of stuff into 6 hours ( 5 really, with the lunch break). If I do it again I will try to have it go til 5pm, the last hour was pretty rushed just to squeeze everything in. I truly enjoyed it, and they seemed to also (hope so!), and I even sold Smalltimore DVDs to 5 of the 7 of them!

I got some dinner on the way home and made plans with Phil Calvert (Thom, in Smalltimore). Poor Phil was out of town for work during the screening Wednesday, so he missed it. Cheryl Scungio (Gracie) was having a gathering at her house last night, and had invited me when I saw her at the DVD release party. Since Phil hadn't been there, I thought it would be a nice surprise to bring him along, especially since Kelly Coston (Mel) was also going to be there. I picked up a couple bottles of wine (the internationally recognized price of admission for party crashers) and went home to freshen up.

Timing out how long it would take to brush my hair, feed my dogs, pick up Phil, and get to Cheryl's at a reasonable hour, I had exactly 15 minutes of time not allocated to anything. I had been up until 3am Friday night, after having attended Mob Television's Very, Very Special Christmas Special at the Creative Alliance and then spending a couple hours finishing work on my class itinerary. My sleep pattern has been screwed up for weeks, I am sure mostly due to the stress of putting together the screening & party, and then the class.

I jumped into my bed, fully clothed, laid down as perfectly as I could in order not to wrinkle my clothing, set my alarm for 15 minutes later, closed my eyes and I was out like a LIGHT. I was out so fast and so deeply that I actually dreamed within those fifteen minutes. All my huge (albeit self-imposed) responsibilities were behind me! For the moment, at least. Maybe through Christmas. New Year's if I am lucky.

Anyway, that catnap did me wonders, and I went to get Phil. On the way there got a call from Cheryl, and turns out she was having a formal dinner party until 10pm and we weren't supposed to come over until then, I had misunderstood (or more likely, forgotten) exactly what she had said at the party Wednesday. Which actually worked out fine because now I had time to stop by Henderson's Wharf in Fells Point, where my artist friend Charles Lawrance was having an exhibit, followed by part II of the exhibit at his gallery, Fin Art (which was filmed as Moxie Gallery in Smalltimore). Phil had never been there because he wasn't in any of those scenes, so it was fun to introduce him to Charles and show him around. Charles does a lot of different stuff, but the bulk of his work are these AMAZING paintings depicting all kinds of fish underwater, they are incredibly detailed and beautiful. And unfortunately, a little out of my price range. But his girlfriend Cherise, had some gorgeous photos of her own on display and I did buy one of those. And, need I say it in this town, I ran into a few people that I know but had not seen in quite some time, I also met some people who know Tucker, and another guy who said I looked familiar, who, it turns out, lives like 3 blocks away from me.

Oh, but a little earlier, I found out via Facebook (the most efficient method of spying on friends and acquaintances, unless, of course, they have a blog detailing the minutiae of their lives) that Johnny Benson (Bentley), who was also stuck at work on Wednesday, was off work and had no plans. So I called him and invited him to crash with us, though I didn't tell Phil so it would be a surprise for him also.

Cheryl's house, as described by one of her friends, looks like it is made of candy. It is simply adorable and perfect, white picket fence and landscaped pond included. Her shed, which of course, looks like an equally adorable miniature house, is heated, so that she can put her cats out there when she has company that may be allergic to them. She thinks of everything.

Phil and I arrived at ten on the dot - and they (about 15 guests) were just about to START eating. Oops. But we brought wine, so they let us in. As expected, everything was perfect. Tablecloths and center pieces and gold liner plates and, I am absolutely not joking, very detailed hand-painted wooden Christmas tree ornaments, each a different holiday scene, tied around each set of silverware with a matching ribbon. And when I say hand-painted, I mean hand-painted by Cheryl. As I marveled at all this, Cheryl's friend James who was visiting from England asked me, "Did you see the pine cone?" I had not, so he brought it to me. What otherwise would have been a strangely-shaped, fat, semi-rounded conical blob of cheese spread had been transformed into what indeed looked like a pine cone. Because Cheryl had painstakingly individually placed almond slices in vertical staggered rows around the cheese lump, from top to bottom. It looked beautiful and it tasted even better.

Kelly was there when we arrived, apparently she was helping Cheryl and James with serving dinner. She looked very pretty and was behaving so... demurely... that one of Cheryl's friends, Reggie, who has met Kelly under more normal (or rather, less normal) circumstances kept giving her a hard time. She held her composure, though. Everyone was rather dressed up, and Phil and I were passable. About 20 minutes later, Johnny shows up wearing a biker jacket, skull t-shirt, at least twice as much jewelry as I was and one of his many signature belt buckles. I love Johnny.

Did you ever see the movie The Fifth Element? It was kind of like that. Suddenly, it seemed, things took a turn. Kelly and Cheryl were being very grown-up before Phil and I got there. Phil and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, since we weren't really supposed to be here for dinner, though we were cutting up a bit in the kitchen with Cheryl and Kelly as they carried platter after platter out to the buffet. Then Johnny showed up, and now there were FIVE Smalltimorons in the house, and it was all over but the crying. You know, the crying that happens after you laugh so hard it is the only thing left to do.

We had a fantastic time, and I was really happy to be able to spend an evening with the four of them, especially since Phil and Johnny had not been able to make the show. I know they were feeling little left out, and though they missed a few minutes of the limelight, I think the five of us being able to spend some quality time together instead of in a throng of almost 200 people made up for most of what they felt they missed. It certainly warmed my heart.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pre-Pro 101

With all the hullabaloo, I have forgotten to mention it lately - if you are interested in seeing how it all comes together (and sometimes how it doesn't), come take my one-day Pre-Production for Independent Filmmakers class THIS Saturday at the Creative Alliance!

Holy Moses on Toast

Sorry no pic today, last night was one long, incredible blur and I did not have a moment to take a single photo of my own. Luckily many of my friends did, including some of The Charles Theater marquee that said "SMALLTIMORE" that I barely had time to glance at (but it looked very cool when I did). I'll have some for you soon, here and on the "Smalltimore, the movie" Facebook page (link in the sidebar).

I don't think I could have had more fun last night if I tried. I was so wired I could not go to sleep until almost 5:00am, and then I woke up just after 9:00am and laid in bed for a couple more hours reviewing the whole night in my head. As I tried (fruitlessly) to go back to sleep, I became aware that as I lay there with my eyes closed I was smiling from ear to ear. Like I am right now!

Great turnout to the screening, over 200 people, which is superb considering that we also had over 200 people in the spring when Smalltimore premiered at The Wind-Up Space, and especially great considering that people had to fight rush hour traffic on a cold and windy weekday night to get there.

I met a LOT of new people that had heard my interview on Maryland Morning on Monday and came out not because they know me or anyone in it but just because it sounded interesting. Many of them (and almost all of my friends) came over to The Wind-Up Space afterwards for the DVD release party. Getting feedback, good and bad, from all kinds of people is important, but nothing is as gratifying as having total strangers go on about how much they love your movie. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE hearing it from friends and people I know, but you expect your friends to be supportive. An unbiased audience is a much harder, and truer, test.

The party was just... amazing. Could not have been better if it had been raining champagne. I can't believe how lucky I am to know so many talented musicians. And the BEST part was that since they each only played one set, I got to hang out with them! I love going to my friends' shows, but it is a little bit of a drag that I usually don't get to CONVERSE with them much. Even on their breaks between sets I have to battle their other friends and fans for a few minutes of their time. But last night I got to really spend some time with Jen Swartout, Lauren Young, Tucker and the boys, Reina Williams, Brynn McCoy, and Tom Boynton and The Remnants. And they got to show off their skills but enjoy the party also. And everyone of them was such a pro, I didn't have to direct traffic at all, they all stuck to their time limits and swapped out their sets smoothly and did not cause me one single second of stress!

And Russell DeoCampo (owner of The Wind-Up Space)... what a great guy. Not only a supporter of the arts, but a SAVVY supporter of the arts. It is such a fantastic space, designed specifically to be adaptable to all sorts of events, exhibits, and parties celebrating any media you can think of. Hard to believe it has only been in existence for a year and a half. I am really glad I was filming when I was, before they got so busy that they are open every night of the week (thanks to my friend Elizabeth for suggesting the WU as a location last year!).

Then there are my stars... Cheryl Scungio and her Tall Entourage ruled the roost, she must have had 20 people with her! Kelly Coston was a riot as always, even though she kept slipping away from the dance floor and I kept dragging her right back to it. Orlando Gonzalez came up all the way from Miami, and brought his own posse including Johnny Alonso and Frank Lama. Phil Amico was there, too, I can always count on him. And Kyle Holtgren brought all the cool kids. Darik Bernard made it to the screening but couldn't stick around for the party, but it was good to see him. I really love that my cast loves to get together whenever we have a chance. That truly means a lot to me. And OF COURSE Regina Guy was not only on board, but helped me run the show from setting up at The Wind-Up Space before the screening at The Charles, til breaking down after last call!

Director Steve Yeager came to the screening, as did my screenwriter friend Rob Pawloski. I met each of them when I took their (individual) film-related classes at the Creative Alliance, and from there we became friends. But friendship aside, I have so much respect for each of them within the field, and their support means a lot to me. Rob splits his time between L.A. and Baltimore, and I didn't even know he was in town, so that was a great surprise!

And last but not least, my loyal-as-the-day-is-long friends. Mikey B. hopped a train from NYC immediately after work yesterday, coming straight from Penn Station to The Charles Theater just in time for the show, staying at the party until almost the very end and even helping Regina unload the tables and supllies back at my house afterwards. We were up until after 3:00am and then he had to get a train back this morning before I even got up, he has to work this afternoon. Eric Thornett drove in rush hour traffic from D.C. and also stayed pretty late. He has been to all three Baltimore screenings, and made some comment about this being the last premiere of the same movie he is coming to :) . Michelle made it, just barely, as not only was she quite sick, but she had to push her friend Megan who was in a wheelchair with a broken leg!

My girl friends Lisa, Janet, Alvina, and Elizabeth each took a shift at the DVD table, and Lisa and Jan helped sell tickets at the theater also, freeing me up to schmooze it up. They, along with the rest of my Dougherty's Pub crowd (Jody, Michael, Allison, Rob...), set up shop at a large table near the door. So I always had a designated place to take a deep breath, get a hug, or have someone hand me a slice of pizza.

I am wiped out, but very, very happy with how everything went. Thanks to everyone who came out, and please know that even if I did not get to spend a great deal of time speaking to you individually, your support means the world to me and it keeps me doing what I am doing. Much love to all!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Homestretch

I am trying very hard not to lose momentum, but man, it isn't easy. Don't get me wrong, I am VERY excited about the screening Wednesday night at The Charles (7:00pm) and maybe even more excited about the DVD release party afterwards at The Wind-Up Space (9:00pm), but I am also excited about next week, when I can go five minutes without saying the word "Smalltimore" (and I am sure that a few of my friends will be glad when that time comes as well.

But, that's marketing. Blitz, blitz, blitz, repeat, repeat, repeat. It's not really my thing, but I think I am getting better at it.

By the way, WELCOME to all my new readers! Hope you stick around, maybe even sift back through a few posting and see how we got to where we are now. This morning's interview (Tom Hall on WYPR talking to me about "Smalltimore" - ) seems to have given the blog a big stats bump. Love it.

The interview was actually taped Friday afternoon, and what aired was only about half of it. I think when my Mom hears the podcast, she will be equal parts proud and mortified. I must have said, "you know," about a hundred times. Which is actually very unlike me, but, I was more nervous than I thought I was going to be. I have gotten SO much better about speaking in front of crowds (it used to terrify me), but now I am discovering that I still have, maybe not stage fright, but... media fright. If I know I am being taped (video or audio) I get butterflies. Oh well, one more thing to conquer. Just not this week. Anyway, apologies to my Mom, and to Sister Mary Agnes, my 10th grade English teacher. I am sure she is absolutely SPINNING. I had no idea I kept saying that until I heard it myself this morning. How embarrassing.

But hey, it got some of you here, so I am not complaining about the free press! Tom Hall and his producer Katherine were very nice and I was in and out of there in 20 minutes.

It is all coming together. Have to tie up just a few more details tomorrow. It is exciting. It is also exhausting and nerve wracking. I am this way before every big event, though. For a decade I was known throughout the land for my killer Christmas party. Friends that I would not hear from for 8 or 9 months would suddenly resurface, starting late September, just to say hi (i.e., make sure they were invited). People travelled cross-country and even internationally to be there! The last one was held two years ago, when I announced my intentions to become a filmmaker.

I used to do photography and I had several exhibits in Baltimore and D.C., and twice I organized group shows of 6 to 10 artists. To any such events I have had great turnouts, but there are always those moments in the days leading up to them, where I stress and wonder if anyone is going to show up. I know it is only natural, and every artist friend and party host I know has the same feeling before every show, no matter how many times they have had huge successes. Still, it doesn't get any easier. The larger the party the bigger the worry, and this is by far the largest party I have ever thrown! I know it is going to be great, though. I am so proud of the musical line-up at The Wind-Up Space I could practically burst. I promise, you do NOT want to miss this.

Well, I have to get going. Heading down to the Creative Alliance for the monthly Cinelounge meetup. If you are a filmmaker, or film lover, or actor, writer, director, musician, whatever... you should start coming to these things. They happen the first Monday of every month, it is always fun, great networking, and you get to see new films and works in progress before anyone else. And, most importantly, the cash bar is open. Click the link in the sidebar to check out all of the CA's film related goings-on, INCLUDING my one-day seminar on Pre-Production for Independent Films, this Saturday at the CA!

And to my new readers, hope to have you here again soon. This blog is usually less commercial and more whatever goofy-but-film-related thing is going on in my life, so after Wednesday (well, maybe after Saturday), it will go back to being a little more entertaining, when I am a lot less stressed. So bookmark us, and see you at The Charles THIS Wednesday, December 9th, 7:00pm! Tix to "Smalltimore" $10 at the door.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Turning the Page

Writing offline again, while the computer is tied up printing DVDs. I won't even tell you how many I've printed. I'm almost done.

Talked to Michelle yesterday and I did tell her how many I printed. I forget what she said, something diplomatic, but I know that tone in her voice. It was her, "Don't be disappointed if it doesn't happen the way you think it will..." voice. In other words, she doesn't think I am going to sell that many DVDs. I like it when she doubts me. It makes it that much more fun when I prove her wrong. I sold sixteen yesterday, and I got an email from my friend Doug in Mississippi saying his check was in the mail for his own DVD. Seventeen! Plus Cheryl already ordered 5 extra... twenty-two. Well on my way. And, like I told Michelle, if I don't sell them all in one night, it's not like they are going to go bad!

I was going to go out again tonight, distributing posters, postcards, and see if there was anyone out and about, but it is disgusting outside and I am feeling something coming on, been sneezing all day, so I am playing it safe in my cozy apartment. Tomorrow is not supposed to be so gross, so I will spend some more time on my one-woman media blitz then. I have quite the hit list lined up.

There are still 8 or 9 festivals that I am waiting to hear back from, expecting notifications starting a couple weeks from now, spread out through March, I think. From early November through January there are very few festivals going on. After the screening next week, I will sift through and submit to a few more, and then that is it for festivals. The next step will be seeking distribution, which I have not even touched on one bit yet. Some filmmakers would not choose to self-distribute before seeking professional distribution. There are pros and cons to everything. I am too practical to think that some studio exec is going to show up on my doorstep with a distribution deal and a dozen roses. It may happen if I work very hard at seeking it out, but the word "distribution" isn't as big a deal as most people think it is. A lot of times, that means that the filmmaker signs over any and all rights to the film and never sees a dime. We've all heard how "Paranormal Activity," was made for a measly $11,000 and now it is a nationwide sensation raking in millions, right? Um, has anyone seen the filmmakers on any talk shows? If you have, I am sure they are not talking about the millions they made on it. That would be the studio that picked it up, possibly for less than $11,000. I haven't looked into it, but I will, and I'll get back to you.

People (i.e., filmmakers especially) get caught up in that word, "distribution". And it is nice to be able to say that, and don't get me wrong, I WANT to be able to say that at some point about "Smalltimore." But, like I said, I am practical, and the other thing is, it is not just my money. I have a responsibility to my Executive Producers to get them their money back. Well, in theory, or actuality even, I don't, because they each knew going in, I was very honest and painted as dark a picture as I could, that they may never see a dime of it back. But, in my actuality, I am not going to be able to rest until I do get them their money back, at least to break even. First of all, so I can sleep at night, and secondly, hell, I want to make another movie! If I can prove to my friends who were so generous with me the first time that I could get them their money back when I had no idea what I was doing, hopefully I can do a lot better the second go-round!

My decision to self-distribute was based on the old adage to strike while the iron is hot. Right now, people know about "Smalltimore." I meet someone new at least once a week who says, "That's you? I've been hearing about that! How can I get a copy?" Well, you can show up at The Charles Theater next Wednesday, December 9th at 7:00pm for the screening, then come to the DVD release party at the Wind-Up Space right after and buy one for yourself! I know some people who have been holding on tightly to their movie for years, waiting for that phone call or email with an offer of distribution. The longer they wait, in most cases, the less money (if any) they are going to get for it. I certainly don't know everything about this business, but I know my current demographic. And that is, all of my friends and current Baltimoreans that this movie represents, and all of the people who helped to make it. Those are the people who want their hands on it now, so why pass that up? I don't know where I am going to be five years ago, let alone where all these people who want my movie now are going to be. What am I going to do, Facebook them in 2014 and say, hey, do you still want to buy a copy? I am not going to let any moss grow on my feet. Over the course of the next year, if you run into me somewhere and you don't have a copy yet, I'll be happy to sell you one out of the trunk of my car. I am not afraid to make my investors' money (and mine) back for them $15 at a time. I am not going to let my ego get in the way of my responsibilities.

Anyway, moving on. Literally. Let's recap briefly, so you can understand what a huge process the whole thing has been. I wrote the very first draft of the script exactly five years ago. I didn't do much with it for two years, then I spent a solid year rewriting it. Two years ago, at my last big holiday party, I unveiled the rough trailer (click the video in the toolbar on the right, the one with me in it) that I had made in secrecy, and announced to all of my friends and family my intent to make a movie. At that time I started my first movie blog, I spent the next 8 months in pre-production, continuing rewrites up until only a month before we starting filming on August 1, 2008. Two weeks of production, a handful of pick-up days a few months later... and on December 27th, 2008, as promised, I screened a rough cut to cast and crew. At that event I also revealed that the true name of the movie was "Smalltimore," and started the new blog that you are now reading,

In this past year, I have never stopped doing my best to make the movie better and just get it out there. Even after submitting it to more festivals than I care to admit, I continued tweaking and editing. It has been to festivals in England, Philadelphia, and California. It won "Best Director," at Indie Fest in Anaheim, where we screened at the AMC Theater smack in the middle of DisneyLand, even beating out a very good film that I saw there, "House of Fallen," which starred Corbin Bernsen and C. Thomas Howell.

Every time I watch, "Smalltimore," and believe me, I have lost count by now - especially lately, when I have been watching one from each batch to make sure they are burning correctly - I see things I would do differently, and things that, if I wanted to, I could still do to it to make it better. But, there comes a time when you have to say, that's it; it's done. Could it be better? Of course. "Gone With The Wind," could have been better. This is my first film. I can live with it as is.

Anyway, the point I am meandering to is, it is time to move along. I have kept you updated on here about any other movie-related things I have been working on, and just like I have done that while my main focus has been "Smalltimore," it is almost time to swap those priorities. Of course these last few weeks, and at least the next one, has been All Smalltimore, All The Time. But this is our last big hurrah, at least the last planned big hurrah. Like I said, I'll continue to get it out there, a few more festivals maybe, and strong pursuit of distribution. Maybe another Baltimore screening next summer, we'll see what the market will bear. I would love to show it at a drive-in, how fun would that be? But if I am to be serious about turning this into my next career, I can't be a one-trick pony. I need to expand my horizons, and move on to new projects, mine as well as working on other people's.

On December 27th of this year, I will retire this blog on its one year anniversary. Like, (in theory) it will remain in cyberspace forever, so you can always refer back to it if you are so inclined. At that time, I will begin a new blog, Still me, still doing what I do, just, you know, in a broader spectrum. I hope to be able to generate the degree of name recognition for Steel Corset Productions that I have been able to drum up for "Smalltimore". I hope to have a lot of new adventures, and take even bigger chances. And I really hope that you will come along for the ride.

Monday, November 30, 2009

UnchartED Waters

[Me at Dingman's Falls in the Poconos, near Mikey's cabin. Just cuz.]

Well... this is a feeling I don't quite know what to do with. I am finding myself... relaxed. There is nothing at this very moment that I should be doing, or need to have already done. My computer is tied up right now, burning DVDs from the duplicator, so I can't get online. I am typing this as a text file and I will cut and paste it later. I am actually kind of bored at the moment. I don't have anything to... stress about. Except, you know, my credit card balances, but they are what they, and hopefully I can put a big dent in them and recoup some of that next week. But right now... the Charles Theater is reserved for the screening. The Wind-Up Space is reserved for the DVD Release Party afterwards. I don't think I mentioned it before, but when I first called Russell DeoCampo, owner of The Wind-Up Space, about a month ago to see if the date was available, it wasn't. Another group who regularly holds events there had something scheduled for that evening. But, they are friends of Russell's so he did me a gigantic favor (he offered, I didn't ask) and called them and got them to reschedule on another night (since the date at The Charles was locked), which they graciously agreed to do. Russell is awesome like that.

All the graphic design stuff is done. That was A LOT. I drove Kyle crazy for more than two weeks. He put together the (two-sided) postcard, the poster, the DVD disc art, the DVD cover art, and the movie ticket stub art for me. His reward in Heaven shall be great. I just picked up the posters and postcards today, and ordered the DVD covers and tickets. They should be ready by Friday. Tomorrow I will start plastering the town with the posters and postcards.

I did put out a press release with a DVD screener at the beginning of the month to the local publications (The Sun, City Paper, Urbanite, Baltimore Magazine) but haven't heard anything back. I am sure it is too late for the magazines, but maybe the papers will still put out a review for me this week, so keep an eye out. Can't hold a gun to anyone's head. I hope at least one of them will come through for me. I do have an interview on Maryland Morning (WYPR) early next week, can't wait for that!

And most importantly, since this is a DVD Release Party, after all, I am well into the process of duplicating DVDs. Refer back to the maxed out credit cards. But, I have to believe I will recoup that. Filmmaking is like religion, there are huge leaps of faith at every turn. With all the people that were involved in the making of "Smalltimore," and others who have done me "Smalltimore" related favors since, I probably have to hand out about 200 DVDs just to keep my promises, before selling a single one. And based on all the people that have been asking me for months when they could buy one, I hope to sell a couple hundred more on top of that. So by the time I am up to around 400 or so DVDs necessary... only made sense to buy a duplicator myself. I still have to make 50 or so DVDs of The Red-Headed Menace on top of that, for the people who worked on that production and have been waiting to get their hands on a DVD. I'll admit I am a bit proud of myself for figuring this little machine out! It has become my new best friend. Sometimes it decides to stop cooperating, but if I am nice to it, most often I set it all up and then go about my business and I come back later to be rewarded with a stack of DVDs, burned, labeled, and ready to go. It's lovely.

So that's almost everything! When I get the DVD covers from the printer, Cheryl Scungio (Gracie) and Kelly Coston (Mel) have volunteered to come over and help me put everything together. Demanded to help would probably be more accurate. When Cheryl came over for the photo shoot for the promo art, she told me she would help and volunteered Kelly as well. This past Friday Cheryl stopped by to drop off payment for a slew of theater tickets (she recently told me that she had not allowed any of her friends to come to the May 3rd screening at The Wind-Up Space, because she couldn't be there), plus some DVDs and posters. She wagged her finger at me and said, "You better not let me find you buried under a mountain of jewel cases!" It'll be fun, having her and Kelly over. I'll get some wine and we'll knock the whole thing out pretty quickly and talk about boys.

I remember at the beginning of all this (two years ago now!), Sean Stanley, who was my rock, my consultant, and my sounding board throughout pre-production especially (but through to present day as well), asked me to answer a long list of questions honestly including, "How much are you willing to sacrifice for the project? Are you willing to max out your credit cards? Sell your belongings? Suck the proverbial dick?" I said yes, because I knew that was the right answer. I didn't think I'd actually have to do all of that, though. I was really good with my credit cards then, had good-sized limits but most of them had very small balances, and actually I only had a few at the time. So my credit was really good, which helped me to acquire a few more cards. And every single one of them is maxed out right now, and they lower my limits whenever they can. I had three yard sales over the summer, ruthlessly culling everything from my wardrobe to my book collection. And last year I even sold off my dark room equipment, every bit of it. No regrets. And the dick? Well, I don't know what to tell you about that. I've certainly kissed some ass. But that is necessary at some point in any area of business. I don't have to pucker as much now as I had to in the beginning, when I was largely dependent on the kindness of strangers. And that's nice. Most of it now is just making sure that I take the time, even if I have to make the time, to appreciate everyone who helps me along the way. I really do try very hard not to let any of that slip through the cracks, and let people know how much their support means to me.

I can tell you this, as I sit alone in my apartment, staring at stacks of DVDs and hoping I can find a $20 bill in an old coat pocket so I can go out for a couple beers at some point this week: I am happy. I mean, I am usually a pretty happy person anyway, but, above and beyond, I am really, really happy. I can't go anywhere without people hounding me about the screening, and everyone seems genuinely excited about it. If there is one thing I love to do, it is to throw a great party, and I know that next Wednesday night is going to blow anything I have ever done out of the water. I can't wait.

The other evening I thought to myself, is it maybe just a little sad that I don't have one special person (i.e., boyfriend) to share this with right now? I mean, it is just a whole lotta happy and that would make it even better, wouldn't it? But, funny enough, I knew right away, no, that wouldn't make it better, I've just seen too many sappy holiday commercials lately. This is way too big to share with just one person. This doesn't just belong to me. It is a triumph (yea, I said it) for so many people that worked so hard to make this happen, and I am especially proud of the artists and musicians and cast who gave everything of themselves to help me manifest this image of our Baltimore. The finished product is so close to what I wanted to show the world, the Baltimore that I love, that I would be hard-pressed to tell you what I would do differently. When my friend Adam from L.A. saw "Smalltimore," he actually got misty because he said, "While I was watching it, I was thinking, wow, that must be what it is like to have a big group of friends. You don't have that in L.A." Last week I was on the phone with one person from my big group of friends, my friend Ken, who was helping me to make some beer connections for the party. Ken had seen "Smalltimore" at the May 3rd screening at The Wind-Up. He said, "I never got a chance to say... so proud," (Ken gets misty, too). He paused for a moment and then said, "It's... us!" That was probably the best review I possibly could have asked for.

I have had a few people, very few, but they are out there and their opinions are valid, who did not like the movie, and even a few who did not like it a whole lot. That's okay. It would be statistically impossible for that not to be the case. Sometimes it is hard to shake off a scathing review when you have put all of your heart and soul into something, but it is part of the whole that cannot be avoided. What makes me able to shake it off is that I don't have one special person to share this with; I have hundreds (literally - watch the credits - and that's just the tip of the iceberg) of special people to share this with, because they are all a part of it. They are the people that made me fall in love with Baltimore. And they are the same people that sometimes make me remind them why they themselves love Baltimore. And that's why I made this movie. It's... us!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cold Reality

[DVD label designed by Kyle Holtgren. I have 82 of these babies hot off the press!]

In the immortal words of Roseanna Roseannadanna, "If it's not one thing, it's another..." Yesterday before heading to my uncle's for the family feast, I finally figured out how to work my very expensive DVD duplicator. It can make up to 50 in a batch, and once it gets rolling it only takes about 7 minutes to burn a disc. It was so nice to come home after several hours and have a lovely little stack of them waiting for me! I burned 70 yesterday, and it prints the labels (above) at the same time. I already had a dozen made, sans label, that I had burned from my laptop because I was starting to panic that I would never figure out the DVD duplicator. So last night I was so proud of myself, set the duplicator up to run another batch of fifty, made sure the first one went through correctly, and fell asleep very shortly thereafter to the sound of the next few finished DVDs dropping into the basket-holder-thingie. Then I woke up this morning to a grand total of FOUR completed DVDs and a message on my screen saying, "THE PRINTER IS NOT RESPONDING TO COMMANDS." Oh, AND no heat in the building. The very old, very draughty building.

So I decided to let the duplicator have a few hours off while I attend to the heat and some emails I needed to send out, including one more print job (the DVD covers) to the printers. Started making phone calls at 8:30am and just now received word from Pepco (who is supposed to have a 2 hour response time, under our contract, and who has a kinipshin fit if anyone else touches the boiler) that they will be here an hour from now. My fingers, toes, and nose are literally ice cold.

Plus I am still waiting on the delivery of my posters and postcards. I know the job is completed, and I was hoping to receive them on Wednesday. I use Grove Printing and they usually turn jobs around so fast it makes my head spin, but maybe the holiday this week has thrown a wrench in that. I hope they show up this afternoon, I really wanted to get some posters up around town by tonight so they would be up for two weekends before the screening.

I do have some good news, though, in that I have already sold 15 tickets, 5 posters, and 5 DVDs! Cheryl Scungio (Gracie, my lead) stopped by to drop off payment for all of the above, as I put the word out to cast and crew that they have first dibs on everything. Not to worry, I should have enough of all of the above for everyone. If I can get my duplicator to once again cooperate.

I am planning on pre-selling the hell out of tickets, though, so watch this space and/or the "Smalltimore, the Movie" Facebook page to find out where I will be and when, selling tickets. Oh, and next Friday I will be taping an interview for Maryland Morning at WYPR! It will air on that Monday, Tues, or Wed right before the screening. Of course I will let you know when to listen for it!

I have to go chop some kindling now. Hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The People in Your Neighborhood

[Smalltimore poster designed by Kyle Holtgren!]

I am really starting to get excited now that I have a few more things off my plate, and particularly because some of those things are the layout of the promotional postcard and poster for the screening, which I shipped off to the printers (online) yesterday. By the way, if you need stuff like this, you should use Grove Printing (, they are cheap, their stuff looks great, easy as pie to order online (seriously, if I can do it...), and fast turnaround time. Anyway, Kyle Holtgren (David in "Smalltimore" - he is a man of many talents) is my graphic artist saviour, and if you are making a movie that you eventually intend to promote, you need someone like him on your team. For a living, Kyle designs beer labels for Fordham Brewing, and they are honestly the most gorgeous beer labels you can imagine!

So Kyle is a triple threat - a little acting, graphic design, AND he works for a brewing company! Soooo, when we were filming, Kyle helped land me a few cases of Fordham Brew to use as props in "Smalltimore". Many of the scenes take place in bars, because (a) it is a movie set in Baltimore and (b) it is my movie. So it was quite helpful to have bottles of beer on the bar and tables and not have to hide the labels - a dead giveaway of a low-budget indie.

Another person who came in quite handy in that regard was my friend Ken "Lord of the Beers" Dean, who also happens to be the husband of my Production Manager, Rebecca Clear Dean. Ken tended bar for many years at Sascha's, and he also helped out the production by procuring even more cases of beer from his buddies at Magic Hat. If you watch closely when you see "Smalltimore," you will notice that Gracie always drinks Magic Hat No. 9, Bentley Always drinks Circus Boy (my Magic Hat fave), and Melanie always drinks Lucky Kat.

When making a movie, I am always thinking about production values, and using anything at my disposal - friends who are stunt men, gorgeous mansion homes of people I know, children, animals, artwork, music, whatever... but you also need to think about the people you have in your arsenal for behind the scenes stuff like graphic design, and alcohol supplies. Very important.

Don't be afraid to ask your friends if they would like to lend their special talents to your project. Most often people are not only willing to do so, but thrilled to be asked, because you know what? Making movies is cool. I'm not gonna lie, it is. I can tell you, and I have, about all the little crappy things that go into making a movie that most people don't think about, but even with all that stuff, it is cool, and fun, and I have yet to meet the person who doesn't think so. I used to feel guilty asking people to do things like come be an extra for 12 hours, which probably entails 2 to 3 hours of rolling cameras and the rest of the time just sitting around, often not being able to talk. I still feel a tiny bit guilty, but that usually goes away after we wrap for the day and I tell those people, sorry that took so long, hope you weren't bored to death, and they look at me with their eyes a little wider than usual and their cheeks sometimes a little flushed even and they almost always say the same thing, something along the lines of, no, that was really cool, I had no idea how much goes on behind the scenes, call me the next time you are doing something!

So when you are planning to shoot a movie, even a little one, think about those things, the talents of your friends, and put them to work. My neighbor Joe, a hairdresser, helped me out a couple days on Smalltimore, my friend Lisa, a cosmetologist, did make-up for me on my short The Red-Headed Menace, and a million other examples I could give you. You can't do it all yourself. Just ask Regina Guy, who has no less than FOUR credits in "Smalltimore". I work her ass off every chance I get, and she loves it, loves being on the set, being a part of the collaborative effort, loves being appreciated for the things she does well. If you don't believe me, ask her yourself on the night of the screening, as she will be helping me sell tickets at the theater and then selling DVDs at the party! Because she is awesome like that, as are Kyle, Ken, Joe, Lisa, etc, etc, etc... You probably have friends almost as awesome, put them to good use!

p.s. there will be a VERY limited run of 150 of the above posters for sale at the party. They are 13 x 19 and will be $5 each, so if you want one, snap them up fast at the party, when they are gone, they're gone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And Even More Awesome News...

[Will Lurie as Andrew in a scene from filmed in Fin Art, a.k.a. (in "Smalltimore") Moxie Gallery]

Yet another hot happening you are invited to:

Charles Lawrance exhibit at Henderson's Wharf & Fin Art in Fells Point, Saturday, December 12, 6:00pm-9:00pm. Come to an art exhibit in the real gallery (Fin Art) that serves as "Moxie Gallery" in "Smalltimore," just days after the "Smalltimore screening on December 9th!

Here is a production secret just for fans of "Smalltimore, the Movie" Facebook page and the faithful readers of this blog: in one of the Moxie Gallery scenes in "Smalltimore" (filmed in Charles Lawrance's Fells Point Gallery, Fin Art), Gracie says to Bentley, "Do we still have any Charles Lawrance pieces?" The room they are standing in is floor to ceiling paintings - every one of them a Charles Lawrance. Just my little inside joke and "thank you" to Charles for allowing me to film in his gorgeous gallery. Come see for yourself, and meet Charles. I'll be there, too!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Mother of All Line-Ups

[Very happy Madame Director]

I have thrown some KILLER parties in my time, ask anyone, but Ladies & Gentlemen, I have outdone myself.

I am ecstatic to announce that the SWEEEEET line-up for the Smalltimore screening post-party at the Wind-Up Space (Charles & North Ave) on Wednesday, December 9th(immediately following the 7:00pm screening of "Smalltimore" at The Charles Theater) is:

9:15-9:40pm Jen Swartout
9:50-10:15 Lauren Young
10:30-11:15 T.T.Tucker & the Bum Rush Band
11:30-11:55 Reina Williams
12:10-1:00am The Remnants

Don't be late! NO COVER!!! CDs for sale!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Onward & Forward

[I hope to shoot my next short in this building, a creepy old Civil War-era jail. Am I the only one who sees the face of a bald inmate staring me down in this photo?]

Just a short one today, I have loads to do and have been distracted by Facebook and the Pittsburgh Steelers all day, nope, don't wanna talk about it.

The Poconos shoot is shelved probably until March. I need some distance from the piece right now. It is like in football, when your team is rolling down the field on an incredible drive and just as everyone knows you are about to score, the other side calls a time out and it messes up your whole groove. If I tried to immediately regroup and get it done, it wouldn't be good, and I just don't have time to do it well before the "Smalltimore" screening on December 9th, and after that the weather is probably going to make it too difficult, along with some scheduling issues.

So, gotta shake it off. I recently visited a Civil War-era jail that is under renovation. It is a very cool location and I have an open invitation to shoot there. The script has been stewing in my brain since I saw the place, and I believe I will get started on it soon. Just a short, but very different from things I have done so far.

Tomorrow I will be announcing here the final line-up for the "Smalltimore" screening post-party at The Wind-Up Space. If you are a fan on the "Smalltimore, the movie" Facebook page, though, it is old news to you because those fans get the info first. If you haven't become a fan yet, please click the link in the sidebar and get in the loop!

And now, I am off to tackle something I have been dreading but also am very excited about: setting up my brand-new DVD duplicator. There are a lot of instructions. I HATE reading instructions. But I am going to take my time and read them word for word and get this thing rolling. Miles to go before I sleep, piles (of DVDs) to burn before I screen...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Failure to Launch

[Bar Louis in the Hotel Fauchere in Milford, PA. Sushi pizza here is the ultimate comfort food for me, and it is a good thing. See below.]

I can't even tell you how upset I am. Or rather, was. At least I can see straight now. Couldn't do that for almost three days. Ahhh, so many lessons learned this week. And absolutely nothing else accomplished.

I am still in the Poconos, staring at a sinkful of dishes and a mountain of food, much of it that will go bad if I don't give it away. Less than a week ago I was so far ahead of the game! This was going to be the smoothest shoot ever! Only two actors, instead of my usual cast of thousands, only 10 pages, only three locations, but the majority of it taking place in one house. I had had two great rehearsals with the actors, including blocking, and they had it down pat. I had gone to Sam's Club and put $350 worth of groceries on my card, the only one that isn't maxed out. 3 of the 6 people that were going to be on the shoot are vegetarians, but two eat fish, so what I saved not buying meat I spent on crab cakes and shrimp scampi. Had my car packed to the roof with all of this food, plus props, computer, dogs, suitcase, me... Got up here Saturday night, unpacked all of it by myself, took me about an hour and a half. Eric arrived a couple hours after I did, he needed to shoot some B-roll of a little town up here for his movie. We did that on Sunday, I talked to the grip, Kit, while she was on her way up, and when she was only a few miles away, I got a call from Michelle's girlfriend that she was sick and was not coming up.

No DP.
No gear.
No movie.

No kidding.

I don't really even want to talk about it, but this blog is for you, to show you the downs with the ups. I'm not going to go into detail about how I feel about the whole thing because I haven't really sorted it all out in my head myself yet. People get sick, can't do much about that. Kit was a good sport and I took her sightseeing the next day before she headed home. I was able to reach the actors before they got on the road. They were disappointed, of course. Disappointed doesn't begin to describe how I felt.

Eric had his camera with him but no mic or lights. He would have made the 7-hour+ roundtrip home and back if I had asked him to, he's a good friend like that, to get the gear, but it really didn't matter without a DP, and he couldn't take the next 2 days off work.

After Kit left on Monday, I felt like I needed to stay up here another day just to calm down, regroup, maybe come up with an alternate plan. But after thinking about it, I really have no time to do this all over again before the "Smalltimore" screening on December 9th. It is just too much. The DVD release is the priority now and I can't take my eye off that ball.

I got some emails taken care of and some other stuff related to the screening done, including final confirmations of the musical line-up at the post-party. Details coming soon, I'll save that for when I am in a better mood and can give you the news with the excitement it deserves. I'm calm now but quite depressed about the whole thing, and at the prospect of reloading the car with all this food. Giant pain in my ass. And nothing to show for it. Absolutely nothing.

I haven't felt this terrible since I was in the early stages of pre-production for "Smalltimore". I had been talking to someone about producing the movie for a couple months, I thought we were on the same page, and then he asked for money - money that I didn't have, and even if I did, couldn't see paying for production work. Production is hard work, it is a pain, and takes organization, connections, and patience, but it is not brain surgery. I'm not saying that producers aren't worth paying, I am just saying that I am capable of doing it myself. I wasn't sure of that back then, though, and I was terribly depressed because I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I thought this person wanted to be a partner because he believed in what I was doing, but it was just a job to him. I had gotten myself into the mindset that I needed him to get this done, and some of that was because he made me feel that way, that I didn't know what I was doing.

But after I got over being depressed about the situation, I got pissed off about the situation, and I was determined to get it done and get it done well, so I would never have to be dependent on someone like that, and so no one would be able to tell me that something takes longer to do or costs more than it does because if I did it myself I would know. And now, I do, and other people are asking me to produce for them. I never wanted to produce, I wasn't really interested in that end of it. But here I am.

And where here is, is that I am still dependent, too dependent, on people who know how to operate a camera. That has to change. And it will.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Day in the Life of an Independent Filmmaker

[Cheryl Scungio posing for cover art/marketing photo]

7:47am - wake before the alarm. Relieved I don't have to get up until 8:30am.
8:02am - give up on trying to go back to sleep, too many things on the "to do" list in my head.
8:10am - feed dogs. Feed self. Shower.
8:53am - start pulling food out of the fridge to arrange snack trays for actors for today's rehearsals for the short we are shooting next week. Decide to be generous and defrost some shrimp cocktail. Check shrimp and realize it is freezer burnt. Chuck it.
9:16am - Bring food upstairs to where we will be rehearsing. Rearrange chairs and tables to recreate the set so we can start blocking movements. Locate props and bring them to the set.
10:57am - actors arrive. Have an at-length discussion about areas of the script that they are not completely comfortable with yet.
11:12am - choose wardrobe from among the options they brought me.
11:31am - start rehearsal. Very heavy dramatic piece. End up chopping almost a whole page of dialogue. Work it all out until piece is very smooth and everybody is happy.
1:12pm - While showing the actresses how I want them to sit on the floor, I kneel on my skirt at the same time I am standing up and rip a big hole in it. Hike the waist up and pull my top down over the hole. carry on.
2:29pm - Nail the last scene. Everyone is emotionally exhausted. Decide not to over-rehearse, let the actors go half an hour earlier than scheduled.
3:03pm - order via phone the DVD duplicator that I researched online yesterday. Max out two credit cards in the process.
3:37pm - Cheryl Scungio, my lead in "Smalltimore", arrives for a brief photo shoot for DVD cover art and marketing materials. Hilarity ensues.
4:02pm - finally a moment to breathe. Haven't seen Cheryl in months. We catch up, talk mostly about filmmaking and boys.
5:13pm - Cheryl leaves. I hit the computer to email movie stills from "Smalltimore" to Kyle Holtgren. Kyle plays David in "Smalltimore" and he is helping me with the artwork/graphic design.
5:34pm - realize I forgot to plug in my Tom-Tom. Have to hand-write Mapquest directions to Kyle's office in Annapolis.
5:48pm - Cross several items off my daily "to do" list on the dry-erase board on my fridge. Smug sense of satisfaction until I get to the bottom that says "Balto Sign". I was supoosed to take a photo of a sign that says "Baltimore" for the cover art. It is now pitch dark out. I curse daylight savings time, and myself.
5:55pm - change into a skirt that isn't torn.
6:01pm - gather camera, directions, purse, phone, house keys, car keys. Exit house to drive to Annapolis. Cold air hits my feet and I realize I am still wearing my comfy sandals that were fine for rehearsal but have nothing to do with the rest of my outfit.
6:02pm - go back inside, change shoes. Realize I haven't eaten lunch, let alone dinner. Suck down some Bolthouse Farms protein drink. Go back to car.
6:04pm - realize I don't have the cord that connects my camera to the computer to retrieve the photos of Cheryl. Go back inside to get it.
6:06pm - Enter car. Realize that I left the paper with directions on it in the house when I went back in to change shoes. More swearing. Go back in house.
6:08pm - finally leaving parking lot.
6:27pm - stuck in traffic only three blocks from my house for 20 minutes. Somebody drove their car through a railing and onto the light rail tracks. MLK is blocked off. Traffic is a mess.
6:29pm - call Kyle. We decide to scrap meeting in person and instead he will rough it out and send me a proof. Need a drink.
6:45pm - call my friend Elizabeth. She is stuck in traffic also. Also needs a drink.
6:49pm - have made an 8 block circle and I am back home.
6:55pm - It's too cold to walk 4 blocks to Dougherty's pub in a skirt. Realize I have no nice clean clothes because I have been too busy to do laundry lately. Have to choose between cute & cold or comfy & cozy. Opt for the latter and throw on my Steelers sweatshirt hoodie and black jersey pants that usually don't leave the house.
7:07pm - arrive at Dougherty's. Regale my friends with stories of my filmmaking-related financial woes and make them all promise to come to the screening of Smalltimore on December 9th at the Charles Theater at 7:00pm, and also buy several DVDs. Each.
7:40pm - my neighbor arrives with a copy of the press release I sent him because my printer isn't working.
5:59am - wake up on my sofa, TV on. Grab my dogs and go to bed.
6:27am - give up on going back to sleep. Too many things on my "to do" list running through my head.
6:52am - blog.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dog Days

[This is my Max. You can tell he is asleep because he is not licking my hand. Or arm. Or foot.]

The last 24 hours or so have really sucked and it is both sucking my motivation to get movie-related things done and propelling me towards doing just that. I seem to do the best, and the bulk, of my work at night when no one can bother me. And since it is Halloween and everyone will be out, my phone should not be ringing and I should be able to get some stuff done. I was supposed to go to a party tonight (and last night, for that matter), but I am just not up to it.

It all started Thursday afternoon, and I am not going to get into the details of it, but work at my day job is really stressing me out, to the point that I couldn't get to sleep until almost 4:00am that night. Too much to explain, but one way or another, I am probably going to be out of a job, AND my apartment, by the end of January. Basically I am trying not to get myself fired before I get myself laid off. But they aren't making that easy.

So Friday morning I hand to have a confrontation with a few people. I had already had this confrontation two months ago, on the phone. This time it was in writing. It seems to have quieted down for the moment. We'll see.

Then in the afternoon I was googling to see how much word is out there about "Smalltimore". The good thing was, there is a lot, and it is popping up on other people's sites and pages and that's great. But also I stumbled across a review by someone who saw it at a festival, and this person ripped it apart, though they at least conceded that the production values were good. And I do agree with that person that the credits are too long and I am going to try to speed them up. But still, it was really brutal and it further soured my mood. This review was followed by someone else's review who saw it at the same festival, and that one was quite the opposite, that person loved it, so that was nice to read. But the wind was still sucked out of my sails. It is to be expected, not everyone likes everything. There are some movies out there that people go on and on about that I despise. Part of the game. Whatever.

What else... I thought my bulk shipment of DVDs and cases would have come in yesterday, and it is still not here. This is worrying me.

I was supposed to go to a costume party last night but didn't have a costume. I don't really like dressing in costume but I think it is also lame to go to a costume party without a costume. Turns out the decision was made for me. I was cat-sitting for my friend Greg (Greg generously loaned his house to "Smalltimore," it was Tony's house in the movie). I went over there to make sure Buddha had food and hang out with him for a bit. When I got there he seemed out of it, and long story short, I called Greg and ended up taking Buddha to the emergency vet. He didn't improve and they had to euthanize him this morning. Greg just lost his other cat a couple months ago, and the whole thing really sucks, though I am glad I was there to take care of Buddha.

So I get home from that ordeal and I find a man sitting in the dark in a parked car in my parking lot. I asked if I could help him and he got belligerent with me immediately. Which, of course, was EXACTLY what I needed to be coming home to at this point. He lied to me and said he was a driver for a guest at the inn. I knew this wasn't true and told him, "You need to leave, now." He replied, "YOU need to leave!" The only reason I was sure this guy wasn't TWELVE YEARS OLD was because he was a behemoth. So yea, that all makes sense, right? Park on someone else's property, and when a woman half your size who informs you she is the manager of the property asks you why you are there, become threatening. Makes perfect sense. Then I said I was calling the police. He said go ahead, call the police. Then he said HE was going to call the police. Then, I called the police. Then I called my neighbor to come over and wait with me for the police, because I just realized the guy may be nuts as well as being an asshole. The police came, and told the guy to get off the property. Sometimes I just hate people. Seriously, this guy had to be close to 50 years old and acting like that. WTF?

I'm just exhausted. Just been going non-stop for weeks now. I just need a couple nights to myself, to get things in motion for the December 9th screening, and to finish organizing the Poconos short that we are doing a week from Monday. I am not going anywhere tonight. Well, I am going across the street to help my neighbor Philip do his make-up before he goes to the party I was supposed to go to. But then I am hibernating and getting stuff done here. Just not in the mood to talk to people.

Which is why I posted this picture of Max. Max and my other Yorkie, Timmy (both can be seen in the opening scene of "Smalltimore"!), keep me sane through these kind of days. A little dog-snuggling goes a long way. Excuse me now, I need to get back to doing exactly that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"No Rest For the Wicked...

...and the good don't need it!" That's what my old boss used to tell me, anyway. Though I think he was just trying to get me to laugh about working 70+ hours a week. To imagine I want to get out of the hotel business and into the movie business! It isn't any less work, though it is more fun, and usually does not involve making beds (though even that comes into play from time to time when dressing a set - hotel management experience really does lend itself to moviemaking!).

The above photo may not LOOK like work, and it wasn't really, but it is still movie-related and I am still doing my part to promote Baltimore as The Place To Be for indie filmmakers. The guy checking out Orpheus' bum at Fort McHenry is my friend & fellow filmmaker Adam Bronstein ("My Movie Girl",, who was visiting from L.A. Well, actually he lives in L.A. but was on the east coast because his film screened in NYC last week and he has family over here and had been visiting his Dad in NYC and his Mom & sister in Philly, so he was almost here already, but it sounds cooler to say he was visiting from L.A. than he was visiting from Philly. Though now I've gone and ruined that.

Anyway. I've mentioned Adam before, I met him at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival in June. We stayed in touch and when "Smalltimore" screened in Anaheim he drove 2 hours through hellacious traffic to see it and did that again to come to the awards ceremony where I won Best Director. Then his movie screened in NYC last week so I went up there for that, then he came to Baltimore for 3 days to hang out. It was really fun showing him the locations where we filmed "Smalltimore" and he even got to meet and hang out with 3 of the actors.

While I was in NYC, in addition to seeing Adam I also got to see Mikey B, one of my Exec Producers, and another filmmaker, Vagabond Beaumont ( I had met Vagabond at my very first festival, The Heart of England FF, in June, and hadn't seen him since so that was fun. Also I went to see the Broadway show "Oleanna" starring Bill Pullman, and got to see him for a few minutes afterwords. If you go waaaay back to the near beginning of this blog (actually, the previous blog, you can read about Bill's influence on "Smalltimore". Too much to go into right now. Bottom line, he is a great guy, and has been a great cheerleader and very supportive of my efforts as I elbow my way into this world.

The day before getting to NYC I went up to Mikey's cabin in the Poconos with Michelle and her girlfriend/AC/right arm Megan, to do some pre-production for the new short we will be shooting in November. That was both fun and very productive, and we are all feeling really good about this project. In less than 3 hours from the time I am writing this, the two actresses in the short are coming to my place for our first read-through. I love this part of the process. Not everyone does this. I like to have this time to give my actors some input. I believe it strengthens the characters if the actors are given a chance to tweak them just a little, to work out any dialogue that might not come across as naturally in life as it does on the page, and to give the actors time to question me about the background of the characters. It helps them to own the part, as well as giving them a sense of ownership in the entire process. When we were doing the table read of "Smalltimore" last summer, several of the actors commented to me that it was very cool to have their opinions considered. That doesn't mean I changed everything they suggested, it is just that actors so rarely are asked for input, and they appreciated being heard. As a director it gives me a better handle on where they are coming from, and for the actors it gives them a chance to become comfortable with me and my style.

Of course there is a whole lot more going on on top of that. Last night was the Members' Committee meeting at the Creative Alliance, where we screen films that have been submitted for the next 4 months of programming and weigh in on if we think they are a good fit. Tonight I am going to go over some materials that were sent to me by Li Zhu, who I have worked with on a couple other projects and I will be helping her with casting her new short. I really love casting. It is like Christmas shopping to me, finding the perfect actor for the part is like finding the perfect gift for a friend. When it is perfect, you just know it, and there is such a satisfaction in that.

The big deal, of course, is the "Smalltimore" screening at The Charles Theater six weeks from now. I have to get together with Kyle Holtgren ASAP, he is going to help me design some marketing materials and cover art for the DVD, and I will probably have to get Cheryl Scungio to come in for a photo shoot so we can slap her smiling face on the cover and posters, since she's my lead.

Then there is figuring out how many DVDs to make and how to make them. I ordered the DVDs and cases in bulk yesterday, and dropped off the check for the theater rental the day before that... it is no joke that you have to spend money to make money. Actually, the saying should be, "You have to spend money to have a snowball's chance in hell of breaking even," but I guess that is not as catchy and slightly discouraging. Economics is so very... inconvenient. If I want to make 600 duplicates of the DVD, I can pay someone else to do it and spend $700-$1,000. Or I can buy a low-end DVD duplicator for about $1,300, not including ink cartridges. Or I can buy a better one for about $2,000. Or I can try to burn 25 DVDs a day from my laptop for the next month and hope that that doesn't kill my very expensive laptop. Which is the only option that at this moment I can actually AFFORD.

Buying the duplicator makes the most sense and it would pay for itself if I sell enough DVDs in the not-too-distant future. I just don't have the money to do it, not even on credit right now. So the best I can come up with for the moment is, start off burning DVDs from my laptop for the next 3 weeks, make only the minimum payment on my credit cards this month from my first paycheck and then with the remnants of my first November paycheck and pretty much all of the second November paycheck, buy the duplicator and I'll have it about 2 weeks before the screening date and have time to make a couple hundred on that, before killing my laptop. And then everyone I have ever met needs to buy at least two DVDs of "Smalltimore". This means you.

I am not saying all of this to complain, and it will work itself out, I always find a way. I am just saying this because that is what this blog is for, to let you know everything that goes into all of this, not just the fun and sexy parts that result in a decent final product or big event. There is a lot of elbow grease, and a lot of cold, hard cash, that go into both.

Not to mention time! Somehow in the month of November I have to pull all of this off, including casting for Li and shooting this short for 3 days in the Poconos. Oh, and on December 12, three days after the screening, I am teaching a pre-production class at the Creative Alliance (, and I need to prepare for that.

Well, I have to go get ready for the table read now. Put some snacks and drinks together for my actors (Megan Rippey and Julia Broder, if you're curious), and read over the script again to mentally prepare myself. It is a heavy drama and it will be interesting to me to see the difference in this type of table read. The one for "Smalltimore," was a blast, 15 people sitting around the table laughing our heads off. This time, just three of us, and one of the actors (Julia) I haven't even met in person yet, I cast her from seeing her at the Stonehenge auditions.

I think if I ever decide to get out of the filmmaking circus I might... join the circus! It is sort of like that, so much going on at one time, making sure each ring is under control and operating smoothly. Either that or firefighting. Lord knows I have enough experience putting those out! I probably wouldn't meet the height requirement, though.

More semi-incriminating photos of Adam Bronstein will soon be posted on the Smalltimore, the Movie Facebook page: Keep up to date with Smalltimore happenings both there and here!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

SMALLTIMORE DVD Release & Screening!

[Cheryl Scungio, Johnny Benson, and Kelly Coston in "Smalltimore"]

I have been ridiculously busy and surprisingly productive lately, speaking at the film class at UMBC, applying for some local film-related fellowships, writing my film resume, finishing the script for the new short, going with Michelle to Mikey's cabin to do some pre-production for that short, scouting locations for the short AFTER that short (not yet written, still brewing), going to New York to see my friend Adam's film, "My Movie Girl", at the CMJ Festival (I submitted, too, didn't get in :( but very happy to be there to support Adam!), but most importantly, nailing down the big screening and DVD release of "Smalltimore" at The Charles Theater!

"Smalltimore" Screening & DVD Release
Wednesday, December 9th
7:00pm at The Charles Theater
1711 North Charles Street, Baltimore

RSVP here via Facebook to the Social Event of the Season! All are welcome!

There will be an EPIC post-party very close by, immediately following the screening. Details to be announced soon. Hope to see you there!

I am exhausted, but will write more when time permits. Enjoy my brevity for the moment, we both know it won't last :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Racking Up the Credits

[Mikey's cabin in the Poconos, the location of my next short film, being shot later this month.]

How did I get so busy? Ya know, I have to stop asking myself that. I accepted a long time ago that at this point in my life there is really no such thing as "down time." If I am NOT busy, then I am in trouble...

Earlier this year, though don't ask me to pinpoint exactly when, I decided that, in addition to pushing "Smalltimore" at any festivals I could get it into (3 so far, all of which I attended this summer, one at which I won "Best Director"), I decided that I would dedicate the rest of this year to working on other people's projects in order to bulk up my resume with screen credits. Well, I got my wish. And no, I am not going to say, "Be careful what you wish for," because I am very glad to have gotten my wish, even though every moment that I take to breathe these days leaves me feeling a little guilty that I am not busy working on something.

So, what have I been up to? Well, you already know about my short, "The Red-Headed Menace," that we filmed in July and won the Judith Reinart Independent Spirit Award for in August, at the 29 Days Later Film Festival. "TRHM" screened again this past Monday at the Creative Alliance at the monthly Cinelounge meeting. That was really fun. Great turnout, loads of great feedback. After we screened, along with 2nd ("Tiny") and 3rd ("Apnea") place winners from 29 Days Later, I had to go up to the stage with the other two filmmakers for a short Q & A. It was only later that I realized that not only was this the first time I went up to a stage for something like this without my heart beating faster in a bad way, but I actually felt very comfortable and really enjoyed it. I never thought I would get to the point in my life when public speaking did not terrify me, but here I am.

Along those lines, but skipping ahead, this weekend I am preparing to speak at a class at UMBC next Tuesday taught by Kimberly Moffitt on the subject of Film in Baltimore. She is giving them the link to this blog today so thought I'd give them a little shout out. Look forward to meeting you guys! Last year Kimberly found me after reading something about "Smalltimore" online, and asked me to speak at her class last December. That was pretty nerve-wracking at first, but it turned out that I really enjoyed it. When I left that day, which was their last class before final exams, she told me that some questions on their final would be about my presentation. How cool is that? I was glad to get another call from her this year, looking forward to it. There was a time when I would have only thought of standing in front of a class like that to be pure torture, and here I am wishing I could do it more often. That is the beauty of filmmaking. You can't even imagine all the amazing lessons and personal growth that come with putting yourself out there like that until you actually do it.

But, as usual, I digress.

So, to update you on the other projects I have my hands in: last weekend I got back to work on the feature, "The Rosens," with Director Steve Yeager, though this time in addition to being Assistant Director I have also taken on the responsibility of Co-Producer, which basically means I do a bit more leg work in between filming days to help find locations, props, personnel, etc., that make the operation run more smoothly. Such as, I got Regina Guy on board to do Craft Services during the weekend shoot. Always great working with her, and partaking of her famous homemade chili :)

You already heard about "Please God, Someone Normal," so I won't recap that again. Other projects I have been asked to participate in but as they are still in early pre-production I have yet to get my hands very dirty, but will before year's end: one of my Production Assistant interns from "Smalltimore", Shernay Williams, is producing a short with her writer/director brother, and I will be doing some consulting with them next week and possibly through the length of the project, due to be shot in November. Another PA intern, but this one from "Ju-Ju: The Witch Doctor Chronicles,", Li Zhu, who also served as Assistant Camera on "The Red-Headed Menace" is preparing to shoot her thesis piece for Stevenson University and I will be doing some consulting and likely some production work for her. Normally, I would not be excited about working on a student film, but Li is such a perfectionist and I know that she has such a sharp eye that she will make certain that her piece is flawless, and I know the final product will be something that I would be happy to have my name associated with. Shernay's project as well. I read her brother's script and I think it has great potential.

So, there are a couple more screen credits. I wouldn't do just anything for screen credits, though, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't let my name be put on something unless I was proud to be a part of it. Another project that is very early in the works is an untitled short by Craig Herron. It will be heavy on the computer-generated effects and I haven't worked on anything like that before and I am looking forward to that getting off the ground. I will likely help with the script and on the production side.

Production isn't really what I want to get into, but I am good at it and there is a demand for those who are. It is problem-solving, creative thinking, event planning, and putting out fires. Pretty much exactly what I have been doing in hotel management for the last 20 years.

And finally, once again I am creating my own slew of screen credits by writing, producing, and directing another short, tentatively titled, "Skeletons." Michelle Farrell and I are teaming up again to shoot this at my friend (and one of my Executive Producers from "Smalltimore") Mikey's cabin (above photo) in the Poconos. "Skeletons," is a very heavy, dramatic piece with only two actors, so it will be very different from my previous work. I am looking forward to the challenge, and to challenging Michelle (i.e., driving her crazy) to make this no-budget short look like a million bucks.

On top of all that, I have been writing up proposals and filling out applications for a couple of local fellowships that could, if they so choose, award me with film gear and work space. Don't want to go too far into that and jinx it, so I'll let you know the outcome.

But the thing about those fellowships, and about the big hopes I have for what will be going on in my life a year from now (more on that after January, don't want to jinx that either), is this: bottom line is, it doesn't matter. I want these things, I really want them, I feel I deserve them and I could do justice to the people who might award me these things by giving back to them a quality product which is really their goal, to help an artist to do exactly that, and they would make meeting my own goals a whole lot easier, but the bottom line is: I will do it with or without them.

I am not saying that in a way to thumb my nose at anyone, that is not what I mean. What I mean is that, if you are going to do something like this, you just have to freaking do it, and you can't depend on anyone to help you get it done. I spent over a year, after deciding to make "Smalltimore" a reality on screen, thinking that I was dependent on other people who knew more than I did helping me to get it done. It was not until several people along the way did not live up to my (possibly ridiculous) expectations did I say to myself, screw this, I AM getting this done, one way or another. And I did.

Once I did that, as I have talked about before, other people that I had not expected to help me stepped forward and gave me support that I could not have dreamed of asking for. That's the way it goes. But you can't count on that either. You just have to move forward. None of this is brain surgery. All of it is hard work, and getting your hands dirty. The trick is to be above nothing. That is what gets people's attention, and respect.