Saturday, August 29, 2009

House of Schmooze

Last night was a blast, and I don't really know where to start, so I will just start with the big news: I won the Best Director Award for "Smalltimore" at the ceremony.

That still doesn't sound quite right, it is like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, like they are going to call me and say it was all a mistake. When they were announcing the nominees I was shocked to hear my name even for that. I was up against some tough competition, including Kely McClung for "Kerberos". He seems to know the people at Indie Fest, and they had pursued him to screen his film there. Also they had invited him to be a speaker on the first day of the festival. I thought he had it in the bag. I saw the movie, a dramatic action flick with some great fight and chase scenes.

Another director I was up against was Robert Stephens for "House of Fallen". Of everything I saw at the festival, this far and away had the best production values. It also had two stars, Corbin Bernsen and C. Thomas Howell.

The other nominees were Kurando Mitsutake for "Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf", and Chip Richie for "Our Spirits Don't Speak English: Indian Boarding School," a documentary. I did not see either of these, though I wanted to see "Indian Boarding School" and I heard it was very good.

I didn't think I had a chance and was just happy to have been nominated, especially because this was an across the board sort of award, and there were about 160 films in competition. So for the 60 or so seconds between they announced my name as the nominee and when they announced my name as the winner, the thoughts flying through my head went something like,

wow, didn't see that coming, I wonder why they nominated me, don't even hope for it, Jeanie, you'll just be disappointed, but this is cool and at least I can say I was nominated and everyone who has something to do with "Smalltimore" will be excited, but what if I do win, what would I say, and would that make our chances of being nominated or winning Best Comedy better or worse, quit thinking about it, it is not going to happen, it doesn't matter, just have fun, OH MY GOD they just said I won, now what the hell am I going to say???????

Yep, pretty much just like that. Things moved very fast there for a minute as I walked up to the stage and accepted the award, and the first thing that came out of my mouth, I swear to God, right into the microphone, was, "Wow. At least now you know it's not fixed!" I'm sure the festival organizers LOVED that. I can be such a moron.

Then I said something like thank you several times, and that it was my first film, that I didn't go to school for it, and a bunch of people clapped. I don't know why I said that, it was just the first thing that popped into my head, and then I realized that might sound like showing off but that's not how I meant it, and I thought to myself, please stop spewing nonsense and say something good and get off the stage before you piss off or insult anyone else, and I said that I was sorry that no one from Baltimore could come out with me for this, but that one of the things about "Smalltimore" that I am most proud of is the soundtrack, 37 songs by 11 Baltimore artists, and one of them, Niki Lee, lives out here now and I was very glad she could be here at the awards tonight, then I think I said thank you a couple more times, grabbed the piece of paper that was on the podium with the nominees on it because I knew I would instantly forget who they were and I wanted to analyze this later, and then I FINALLY left the stage.

As I weaved my way back to the table, award in hand, it felt like that steadicam shot we have all seen in a million movies, people, strangers, in their seats, turning their faces to me and smiling and saying, "Congratulations," as I passed by them. It was very surreal, almost confusing, and I was very aware that I was unable to erase the, "WTF?" expression off my face for at least half an hour. This seemed to amuse Niki and my friend Adam who also attended with us. I met Adam Bronstein at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival in June (his film is "My Movie Girl"), and we've stayed in touch. It was REALLY nice to have him and Niki there with me, to have some friends there to be my cheering section and to share the moment with.

Also at our table, and in our corner, were Steve Belcher and Bill Rollins. Steve and Bill had a short in the festival called, "Unemployable". When I saw it, there were some scenes in it that were identifiable as Baltimore county, so I found a postcard of it afterwards and sent them an email inviting them to come to my screening, which they did. Nice guys. I think it was Steve (though it could have been Bill, I was still a bit dazed) who said to me, "I'm glad you won." It was sincere and nice to hear.

Rounding out our 10-top were some people from the movie, "Disowning Claire." Adam and I went to see this together, it screened right before "Smalltimore". It was hysterical and I loved it, the writing was very good and though the lead actress was great, I thought the actress who played the best friend, Ashley White, really stole the show. She was very nice in person, and funny, and her Dallas accent is as thick as Texas Toast. I need to write something for her. The woman who wrote it, A.C. (I can't think of her last name off the top of my head), was also very personable and funny. After the awards we all headed to the House of Blues for more drinks and to take some drunken photos, which I will post on Facebook after I get home, so if you aren't yet a fan of the "Smalltimore, the Movie" page, now would be a good time to rectify that.

This trip has been strange at times and lonely at other times, but all in all it was well worth it, and not just because I am coming home with an award (but that, as my friend and Executive Producer Tom would say, does not suck).

Before "Smalltimore" screened on Thursday, I went through the stack of business cards I had collected in the previous three days, and realized I had met a lot more people than I thought I had. I emailed them all to remind them to come to the screening, and although only a fraction of them showed, at least I have made initial contact and the doors are open to communication. By the end of the awards night, I had almost doubled that stack of business cards, including Jakob and Scott who made "Shades of Grey", and the lead actor of, "The Truth About Average Guys". This movie, and "Disowning Claire", were two that I would not have minded losing Best Comedy to. But since "Smalltimore" was not nominated for Best Comedy, it didn't matter anyway. The short "Cross-Eyed Dinner Theater Presents!", which screened with "Smalltimore," was nominated for Best Comedy, but "The Mel Bourne Ultimatum," another short, walked off with it. It was very funny, I saw it, but I didn't think it was quite fair that Best Comedy included both shorts and features. Oh, well. I should not be complaining.

I am thrilled to have won Best Director and I never would have imagined beforehand that this would even be a possibility. For me personally, I guess it is probably the best award I could hope for, but I would trade it in in a heartbeat for Best Comedy or even Best Music/Soundtrack. Though I may be the person who brought all the pieces of the puzzle that is "Smalltimore" together into one piece of work, it took a lot of amazing people with their individual amazing talents to make the movie as good as it is. I am very proud of them, and proud to share the credit for this award with them. Congratulations to all.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


After several days of feeling like a freaking leper, or that I wasted a lot of money coming out here, finally I have various people talking/responding to me, including the guy that I thought was Jason Schwartzman. He's not. But he's still cute. Just with a smaller mole.

Besides I just found out that Jason Schwartzman just got married, so screw that guy (who has never met me and has no idea who I am) for not waiting for me.

Tonight was actually FUN. Karaoke (as a spectator sport only) at the House of Blues. I am fading so I will leave it at that. Can't wait to see (at a minimum) Adam, Steve, and Cindy tomorrow night; but I hope to see many others, including Vince, Patrick, Joe, Sato, Paul's friends, etc...

I gotta sleep. G'night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Does a fake tan qualify as acquiescing to the superficiality of LALALand? Look, I was downright pasty. Something had to be done.

Actually, haven't even seen that many plastic people and certainly haven't met any. Since my ZZTop adventure, I haven't met anyone except film people (and the bartender at the ESPNZone), and since they are INDIE film people, they are all pretty cool.

I am not quite sure what is going on day to day here. There is no organized destination for the filmmakers to gather at the end of the day, which kind of, well, blows, because that is half the fun. But the day ends late here, last films aren't over until 11pm-ish, so that only leaves room for the hardcore to go out for a few... and apparently I haven't run into them yet.

This is my third fest and they have each been so different. Though Indie Fest has less films than the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival had, there is a far better turnout of filmmakers and their entourages. However, the audiences at each screening seem to be made up of only those same people - no locals. And though there is LOADS of foot traffic past the theater, we don't seem to be capturing any of it. The people who are walking by are here for Disney Land. And when you are paying $72 a day to go to an amusement park, you aren't going to spend any of that time (let alone extra money) in a movie theater.

And the majority of people who are here to support their films, much like the tourists, travel in packs. For many it is an excuse to come to "L.A.", though that is equivalent to being accepted to a film festival in Baltimore and using it as an excuse to go to D.C. I went to 4 screenings today (5 if you count the one I walked out of, but more on that in a minute). Most of the people that I met at the opening night party that I saw here today only went to their own screening and maybe one other.

I won't mention the names of the films I didn't care for, but I will tell you what I liked best. I started off with a foreign feature today that sounded interesting. Technically it was very good, but I could tell you the whole story in 3 to 4 sentences. It would have made a good 30 minute short. But it had two child actors who were wonderful, and initially I was very impressed by some of the steadicam shots. But then it ended up having a slew of steadicam shots, and even though those are difficult and impressive, if the film is a one-trick pony it is not as interesting to watch after awhile.

The second screening I went to was a shorts block. I did not originally intend to go to this block because none of the synopses struck my fancy, but the first buddy I made at the opening night reception was an older gentleman named Bob, who very kindly folded me into his own entourage at the party before I could even start to feel silly being there alone. I have not yet met ANYONE who has a film here who is here all by themselves. Bob is a SAG actor who lives in Fairfax, and I had a lovely conversation with his wife about a documentary on photographer Eddie Adams that we have both seen, called, "An Unlikely Weapon". Anyway, Bob plays, well, a sugardaddy, in a short called, "A Dance of Two". I also met the writer/director and the producer at the party, so I wanted to see it.

"A Dance of Two," was definitely the best short in the block. I enjoyed Bob's performance, although I felt very sad for his character. This block was a very strange mash-up, which made it difficult to get into any particular mood, so I think it is a tribute to his performance that I could get my head into the story. First there were four animated shorts. Then a mix of a few comedies and a horror, then Bob's short, which was a straightforward drama, and then the last short was a Samurai sword-fighting piece!

What I have seen quite a bit of at festivals that annoys me are shorts that are obviously more about practicing, or showing off, techniques and effects (especially with animation) rather than telling a story. I don't go to the movies to see someone's senior project, I want to get caught up in a story and forget that it is just a movie. I want to connect with the character(s), I want to love them or even hate them. I don't want to just watch them do things and marvel at how they did them. But maybe that's just me.

There was another short in that block that I really loved, an animated short called, "Skylight." I laughed my ass off at that, and when the projectionist wasn't paying attention and started running it a second time (which he did three times within the block), I was almost disappointed when he caught himself and turned it off.

The third screening was another shorts block, and this I wanted to see because at the opening night party I had also met some of these people. A short titled, "Boundaries of Attraction," had brought their own motley crew of eleven people all the way from New Hampshire. I would probably have to say this is my favorite so far, it was a very brave and very complicated piece, and had some very good performances.

Another very good one was called, "Captain." I had met a woman, I think she was the actress in the piece, at the opening night party. She was a machine. She swooped in on me and said something like, "You look like a dynamic female filmmaker that I need to meet," as she pressed a postcard of her movie into my hand. Then she said something about only asking one favor of me, and that was to see her movie. I was fine with all of that and was about to continue the conversation, but that was really all she wanted to say to me or hear from me, and she swooped onto the next person. I do admire her, I guess you'd call it, efficiency, but to be honest, I would not have felt guilty if I did not end up seeing, "Captain," because she made no real connection with me. Turns out, though, that it was VERY funny, and very polished, and I am glad I got to see it, even though it faked the death of one of the cutest dogs I have ever seen.

Also in that block was a short called, "The Cost of Living," which was very cute and starred Jim J. Bullock and Molly Hagan, who has been in a lot of stuff but I always remember her from the short-lived and underrated sitcom, "Herman's Head." She was one of the people in his head. She was actually in the audience, so a real celebrity sighting! She seemed very nice and I was within a few feet of her, but didn't really have anything to say, so I didn't speak to her. I thought I had seen Jason Schwartzman at the opening night party, but I was never quite sure it was him, and by the time I got up the (liquid) courage to go up and talk to him, he had disappeared. Which was probably best for everyone.

Part of this is my training from back in my D.C. days, dealing with celebrity clientele at the hotel that I worked in. I met loads of famous people, but I never asked anyone for an autograph, and very rarely was I ever impressed enough that they made me nervous. One exception was Adam Ant, but hey, it was the 80's, and though I could have probably beat him up, he was still hot. The other reason I don't bother celebrities unless I have something extremely pertinent to say, is that I always remember a story about a friend of a friend who ran into Dame Judy Dench (or was it the other Dame actress whose name I can't recall? Maggie Smith? I don't know...) outside of a theater in London. At a loss for words, my friend's friend blurted out, "I loved you in "Sister Act Two"! Not even "Sister Act ONE." She had to go with "Sister Act TWO." Needless to say, Dame Whomever completely ignored her, after visibly wincing.

The fourth screening... my first choice was a feature comedy, for a couple reasons. First, I wanted to check out the competition. I think there are 4 or 5 other feature length comedies besides "Smalltimore." Secondly, it was made by a female writer/director/and I think also actor. I like meeting people who wear a lot of hats. Plus, the female filmmaker thing. This is a boys club, believe it. Having been through it myself, I like to see what makes them tick. The interesting thing is that it is something different every time and I feel these are the people (multi-taskers, both male and female) I can learn the most from and I definitely receive the most inspiration from them, they impress me and so in my mind I think I pit myself and what I can do against them and their own accomplishments.

Wearing all of those hats, just FINISHING a feature length, and then having it accepted into a decent festival, that is a lot to be proud of. But, if it is supposed to be a straight-up comedy... and I have only laughed out loud (I am not that tough an audience!) maybe once in the first 20 minutes... when I reach that point in a movie, I give myself another ten minutes. If I don't laugh out loud or at least am dying to see what happens next, I leave. It has only happened a handful of times in my life, I hate to walk out of a movie. But it happened today. I was really bummed about that.

I walked down the hall to another theater where there was yet another shorts program. This was a fairly cohesive block of drama and horror. Could have lived without most of them, but they were well done. I don't like blood & guts, but even seeing a well made horror flick is better than seeing a poorly executed comedy. It has been a crapshoot so far, but that seems to be par for the course at festivals. Audiences have also been scant, though the later the screening time, the bigger the audience, so I am hoping since "Smalltimore" has the last time slot on the last night that (a) we will have a decent audience and (b) it means that the programmers thought it was a strong piece. Cross your fingers and knock on wood for me, and I'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

I am writing to you from my hotel room in Anaheim, the Fairfield Marriott to be exact. A nice place, clean room, a pool, a Pizza Hut Express on the third floor. Too many kids running around for my taste, but what can you expect of Mouse Town? I am literally across the street from Disney Land.

I arrived yesterday afternoon, a day and a half before I can even register at Indie Fest, but I wanted to get my bearings and adjust to the time difference so I can hit the ground running. Since I flew AirTran and forgot that they don't feed you, I hadn't eaten since 8:00am east coast time and it was now eight hours later by the time I settled in to my hotel. Had a meal at the restaurant next to the hotel, Millie's, I think. McDonald's, IHoP, and Denny's abound here. Soooo many families with little ones. Found a mini-mart in a hotel half a block from me, so stocked up on some RIDICULOUSLY overpriced snacks and breakfast stuff to stick in my fridge. Still cheaper than eating out every meal, though.

In the early evening I decided to walk over to the AMC theater in Downtown Disney (where Indie Fest is taking place) to see what it was like. The next movie playing was "The Ugly Truth", which looked kind of cute, so I bought a ticket. Word of advice: wait to NetFlix it.

It wasn't horrible, but I can't say it was good. It had many of the attributes that I hate about typical romantic comedies, that I tried to avoid doing in "Smalltimore". For example, if you saw the commercial, you saw the movie. Absolutely not one single surprise. And then, of course, the charming rogue falls for her and has a change of heart about the existence of true love. Seriously, if any of you have ever met a man who has actually CHANGED, please put him under glass immediately, as he is the last of his kind and we need to perform scientific experiments on him. There are romantic men out there, I've met them - it's just that they've always been that way. And the manwhores start that way and stay that way as well. No offense intended, just calling 'em as I see 'em.

Though the film was disappointing, it made me feel better about "Smalltimore". I can't wait to see it again with a new audience. There are a couple things in "Smalltimore" that I was afraid would be obvious before the reveals, but based on crowd reaction at other screenings, apparently not everyone saw the twists coming, and I like that. Also feeling more confident about my sound, cuts, lighting and color. There were some glaring editing problems in "The Ugly Truth" that really surprised my for a "Hollywood" movie.

Afterwards, I walked across the promenade to the ESPNZone and had a cosmo there that was not too shabby. But everyone there, of course, was traveling in groups or couples and I felt like I stuck out, being alone. Traveling alone in Paris is wonderful, I love it. Traveling alone in Disney Land... I was starting to feel very awkward. And I didn't want to shake my confidence so early, I have a lot of schmoozing to do this week. So, with the plan of sneaking a couple cans of Bud Light from my room down to the pool and dangling my feet in the water, I headed back to the hotel.

I didn't get far when I saw a digital screen on the House of Blues that read "ZZtop!" I watched for a minute and then it said, "TONIGHT!" I thought, really? ZZtop at a bar in Disney Land? I watched it cycle through a few more times to make sure it was not some sort of ZZtop tribute band. Didn't seem to be, and didn't look that busy, so I walked up to the box office to see how much tickets were. Seemed like a random adventure, if it wasn't too expensive, why not?

There were only two people ahead of me, and I almost turned to leave, thinking there is no way this is going to be less than $40 or $50. Suddenly this man appeared out of nowhere beside me and asked, "Are you getting a ticket?" He looked to be in his 30s, short hair slicked back, a longish pointy beard, and more tattoos on his arms than I could count at a glance. He told me his girlfriend was sick and had to bail, he had an extra ticket and had paid over $80, would I take it for $40? He said he'd walk in with me and I could pay him inside, which was good cuz then I knew it wasn't a scam, but I really wasn't looking to pay more then $20-30. It was already showtime and I guess that was better then nothing, so he agreed to $20 and a drink, and we went in.

His name was Jason. He was super-nice and smiled all the time, he reminds me a little bit of Russell from the Wind-Up Space, if Russell was covered in ink. I had no cash on me and didn't see an ATM so I bought the first several rounds. But by the end of the concert I think Jason bought as many rounds as I did.

The concert was great, and I tell you what, those guys (ZZtop) are very, very smart. And very, very old. But the reason they are smart is because they have been doing this for decades and probably have another decade or so left in them, and they look and perform the same as they have from the very beginning. There is no acrobatics like the type a crowd expects from, say, The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith. You just have two guys in long full beards, playing guitar on stage. Once in awhile one stands behind the other and they swing their guitars in unison and the crowd roars. Brilliant!

On the way out, we stopped by the swag table to see if they had any ZZtop CDs. Inexplicably, they did not, and all the swag they did have was ridiculously overpriced. I strongly protested but Jason insisted on buying each of us a red bandana with an image of the ZZtop car in the center. It is a nice memento of a fun evening, but I won't even tell you what he paid for them. Then we went to get something to eat, as we had both had many beers and he still had to drive home. We found a cafe in Disney that was still serving food and split a few appetizers. After a bit I went to the restroom. When I came back, Jason was gone and our plates had been cleared from the table! I didn't know what to do. Had he really left without saying goodbye? I know he had to work in the morning but I didn't think I had taken that long in the bathroom, and we hadn't even really finished our meal. He had been too nice all evening to be this rude. Hadn't he? I sat down at the empty table, feeling idiotic. Maybe he had gone to the bathroom also. I'd wait a minute and see.

After what seemed a very long moment or three, he did indeed reappear, and yes, he had just gone to the bathroom also. I was quite relieved. "I thought you left!" I said. "And they cleared our plates." One of the apps had not even been touched, I couldn't believe they just ditched them. We talked for a moment, waiting for the waiter to bring the check. The waiter appeared, looking a little confused. "You... switched tables?" he asked. We looked to an empty table to our left - where our food was still sitting. I had sat down at the wrong table. We laughed our heads off.

Jason walked me back to my hotel, even though his car was parked several blocks in the opposite direction. He is a native and it was so nice to meet someone who totally shattered my pre-conceived notion of anyone living this close to L.A. He was very down to earth, generous, and hospitable, and actually would fit right in in Baltimore. He promised to come to the screening next Thursday with his girlfriend, and I really hope they show.

Tonight I am laying low, and have been living off the leftovers that we did end up having boxed up from the cafe. Tonight I am going to sift through all the movies screening at Indie Fest and figure out a game plan of what I want to see and any filmmaker panels I want to attend. I also am going to be breaking down a short script into a shooting schedule. Michelle will be DP and I will be PM/AD on a 3 day shoot in Arlington over Labor Day weekend. It looks to be a fun piece and I am looking forward to it. The nice thing about working on someone else's project is only having to wear 2 or 3 hats instead of nearly all of them. Well, I better get to it. All for now...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Countdown to Cali

[This is a photo I took recently at Dingman's Falls up near Mikey's cabin. I just like the photo :) ]

Well, I have at least STARTED on the million things I need to do before I leave for California early Thursday morning. Burning a few extra DVDs of "Smalltimore", started some laundry and dishes. Keep forgetting to fake tan my legs, though. I am going to stick out like a sore thumb over there.

I went up to Mikey's cabin last weekend, because MICHELLE and her girlfriend were going to a Cyndi Lauper concert up there and she bugged the snot out of me until I agreed to go, and I bought tickets for me and Mikey, and they were going to spend the night at Mikey's even, and then JUST BECAUSE she got a really well-paying 4 day gig, she backed out and didn't go!

Mikey and I had fun without them anyway, and after the concert we ran into Cyndi Lauper getting on her bus in the parking lot and she invited us in for a drink. We waxed nostalgic over magenta fishnet stocking, oversized plastic jewelry, and the death of John Hughes. We invited her back to the cabin for a late-night feast of salmon & black bean cakes I had made from scratch, which we grilled on the back deck along with fresh corn on the cob, and then we crank called Rosie O'Donnell. Okay, none of that happened except for the salmon cakes & corn on the grill, but that's what I am telling Michelle, and you better back me up on this.

Mikey and I really did have quite the feast on the grill on Friday, we also grilled asparagus and eggplant, and downed half a box o' wine called "Angel Juice". Saturday he had to go back to NYC. After locking my keys in the trunk of car (so embarrassing to have to call AAA to let you into your convertible when the top is down...), I found an amazing winter coat for $25 at the flea market while waiting to be rescued from myself. Then went to the outlets in Tannersville to get some West Coast-worthy clothes. In my daily life I find that I am usually suitably dressed for Baltimore, usually overdressed for Pennsyltucky, and recently realized I had no decent clothes for L.A.-ish area. So I stocked up on some great bargains at Liz Claiborne, Jones New York, and Ann Taylor, even though I occasionally make fun of Cheryl Scungio for buying all her clothes from the latter. Have I mentioned that she is currently working with Charlie Anderson in a new feature titled, "Heaven Burns"? She plays a character who is addicted to oxycontin. I LOVE it. (Love that Charlie has her in such a role. Not love oxycontin.)

Anyway... brand new clothes always gives you an extra boost of confidence, don't they? Really psyching myself up to be as outgoing as possible, even though I am a little intimidated at the thought of... well, the West Coast in general. It is just very different there, I think. So many pretty, plastic people, or at least that is what I imagine. I have to remind myself that mostly I will be hanging out with other filmmakers, most of whom will be just as nervous as I am.

Winning the Judith Rheiner Independent Spirit Award at the 29 Days Later Festival last week pumped me up a bit, and I have to remind myself of that when I start to waver. Steve Yeager dropped by to see, "The Red-Headed Menace" today, as did Bobby DeAngelo, one of my actors in it. Steve had dropped in the day of shooting just to check it out. He was impressed (his word, not blowing smoke!) which was nice to hear, and Bobby seemed genuinely pleased. There are still some things I want to tweak but even without those things I am pretty satisfied with it myself. Even Michelle didn't have too much to say about it (as in, ripping it apart).

I will have free internet out there (yay, Marriott!), so I'll try to give you some updates from LALA Land. And if you have ANY friends, family, or acquaintances in the Anaheim/L.A. area, you better send them to see "Smalltimore", and please tell them to say hello to me. It screens at 9:30pm on Thursday, August 27th, at the Downtown Disney AMC Theater. They can check out the synopsis here:;jsessionid=A3EEC8BF3E6239B474001DDDB56E600A

and please click on this link as often as possible to boost our profile! Because it is screening with two shorts, it is unfortunately listed on the AMC site as "Shorts Block 15", but I am trying to get that straightened out. Well, have procrastinated long enough, going to go throw some stuff in the dryer and try to get some sleep so can get up early and take care of the 999,999 things I have left to do. Wish me luck and send me good vibes for Indie Fest!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Victory is Ours!

[My first award, the Judith Rheiner Independent Spirit Honor! "The Red-Headed Menace" won 1st Place at the 29 Days Later Film Festival]

If you weren't at the Creative Alliance last night for the 29 Days Later Film Festival, you missed a great time. And not just because I won something shiny!

Dawn & Dean, the organizers of the event and the competition, did a fantastic job, as well as contributing shorts of their own to the evening's line-up, though they decided they were not personally eligible for an award. There were 10 films in the competition, plus Dean's and Dawn's, plus a bonus short from Mob Television, so attendees got to see THIRTEEN shorts for $8! There was drama, horror, and lots of comedy. No two were alike, and all were enjoyed by a very enthusiastic (and sold-out) crowd.

Forgive me my cheesy-ness, but it really did warm my heart to see so many of the people who participated in the making of "The Red-Headed Menace" in the crowd. Of course Regina was front and center, of course Michelle was late :) . Of the EIGHTEEN actors that had speaking parts in our little 8 minute short, nine of them were present, including Nicole Smith, who played the oldest of the three children in the movie. She looked excited and happy when she arrived, but after we won, I thought she was just going to burst! Other actors attending were Cheryl Scungio, David Thornhill, Jr. (who got more screen time than he bargained for, thanks to some funny improv he did with Megan Rippey), and my reluctant star/"Make-up Girl", Lisa Knoch. Also both of our stunt guys, Jeff Wilhelm and Mark Mosier and their wives were there, and they seemed very happy with the way the stunts came across on screen. They are already thinking about how we should kill/maim/ignite Mark for the next production. Many of my extras were in the crowd, such as Kelly Coston, Linda Gustafson (who snagged the primo spot I had slated for Kelly, but she arrived a few minutes after we were ready to shoot because she was coming directly from Philadelphia airport), Lois Tuttle, and Lois' fake date Gary Morin. Crew members Megan Reed, Fred Besche, Elizabeth Foks, and J.R. Maroney were there, and Craig Herron, who was not actually crew but an actor this time, but he also designed my logo for Steel Corset Productions that I got to use for the first time. Short story long, "The Red-Headed Menace" was well-represented.

As a bonus, dear old Mikey B (ONE OF my Executive Producers on "Smalltimore" - Hi Tom!) came down from New York for the big to-do, and we are heading to his cabin in a few hours for the weekend. I'll be taking my hard drive and laptop to do some more tweaking on the short before I turn a copy over to the Hampden Short Film Festival, so hopefully you will be able to see an even better version of it there on Saturday, September 12, and ALSO since we won first place, "The Red-Headed Menace" will screen again at the Creative Alliance on Monday, October 5, during the CAmm Salon/Cinelounge monthly event.

I want to tell you about how happy I was to win this award and how much it meant to me, but I can't quite figure out how to tell you without sounding obnoxious about it. I put a LOT of work into this short, and it was nice to be recognized for that, but everyone who made a short can say the same thing. "The Red-Headed Menace" really was a group effort, and though I was at the helm, it would not have been a fraction of what it was without the incredible (and extensive) cast and crew - almost FIFTY people! I was even happier for them than I was for myself, because everyone worked very hard, took direction well, and it was a long day of shooting, but everyone did everything I asked of them, above and beyond. When Dean announced us as the winner, it was the shouts and squeals and (Regina's) screams that put a smile on my face more than the actual win did. It was an electric moment and I truly enjoyed it.

Michelle supplied the Grand Prize of a weekend's gear rental, but she was not one of the judges, none of whom I had ever met, so it was an impartial panel. I was talking to one of the guys from Mob Television (they took Second Place) afterwards, and he told me they didn't mind Second Place because that was the prize they really wanted, 8 hours of special effects work provided by Craig Herron/Herron Designs. Mob Television's short, "Tiny," was hysterical and my favorite (besides ours), and I would not have felt bad if they would have won. They always come up with funny shorts and I knew they would likely be my stiffest competition. "Tiny" will also be screening at the CA on October 5th.

The Judith Rheiner Independent Spirit Honor is named after a friend and mentor of Michelle's. Judith is battling cancer and was not able to attend. I've heard some amazing stories about her and hope to be able to meet her someday, and I am very proud to have received the first award in her honor.

Everything about this competition and the production itself was a lot of fun, and it is hard to pinpoint what "the best part" is. It is very satisfying to be recognized, it is good for the resume, it was an incredible feeling of camaraderie to have so many of the cast and crew there, excited and cheering for us. It was encouraging to have people who worked on "Smalltimore" want to be a part of it, and now to have those same people plus all the new people that worked on "The Red-Headed Menace" asking and offering to be a part of whatever I come up with next. That means more to me than I can explain in words, it makes me feel like I am doing something right, and it is more flattering than any award could ever be.

Last summer when I was shooting, "Smalltimore," which overlapped my friend Eric Thornett's shooting of his own feature, I was sort of jealous because Eric has his own sort of semi-permanent crew/cast/entourage, that work pretty well as a team, people he can count on, who will line up just to work with him for nothing but the glory of it. I also saw that on a monthly basis when attending CAmmSalon/Cinelounge at the Creative Alliance, with Mob Television setting the example of what a tight and self-sacrificing group of creative friends and cohorts can come up with. I wanted that. I really wanted that. But I had no idea how to go about getting that.

I think that probably the best part of making "The Red-Headed Menace" is that I feel like I have that now, or at least the beginnings of it. I do have people now, both cast and crew, who know that they can count on me to do what I say I am going to do, and to pull together a production that they can be proud to be a part of. And they reflect that back to me and give me their best, and that hand-in-hand effort is what results in a great production.

And I think the single most important thing that has come out of this that it has cast in stone both my friendship and working relationship with Michelle. We really were like a well-oiled machine the day we shot, and I know it is just going to keep getting better. If "The Red-Headed Menace" had not won, it was my evil plan regardless to talk her into doing another short with me before the end of the year. Now that I won the gear package for a weekend, that will definitely be happening - just with a bit less arguing about it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

(Under) The Wire

[My good friend and very patient professional extra, "Pantsless" Pete Smak. Though you can see his back in "The Red-Headed Menace," I don't think he has actual face time, so I thought I'd give him some here!]

Yep, no doubt about it, still hate sound, and credits for that matter, though I am getting better at both of them. I left all of that until today, plus of course I had to burn the thing to a DVD, which takes some time (though burning a short is not nearly so excruciating as burning a feature!). The DVD finished burning at 5:43pm, about the time I jumped out of the shower, was in my car at 6:28pm, got a primo parking space on Thames street in Fells Point, ran into the Waterfront Hotel and handed in "The Red-Headed Menace" to the 29 Days Later Film Project with roughly 16 minutes to spare. You know that's how I roll.

It still, to my eyes and ears, needs some tweaking (which I will do before turning it over to the new Hampden Shorts Film Festival - mark your calendars for Saturday, September 12, especially if you can't make it to the Creative Alliance next Wednesday!), but overall I am pretty pleased with it, and the production values are outstanding, if I do say so myself.

I had forgotten to record some screams that take place, so Jeff Wilhelm and Mark Mosier saved my butt by recording them in an actual studio for me last night and sending me the WAV files. It is SO much better with the screams.

Michelle's all mad at me (in the joking way that we are always mad at each other) because we didn't have time to get together to tweak it and I didn't burn her a copy (mwah ha HA). She is actually IN the movie, and I want her to see it for the first time with an audience. She might be bringing her Mom to the screening, and she is keeping it a secret from her Mom that she is in it, so that should be fun. Michelle did really well, and somehow she was a good sport at the same time she was fighting me tooth and nail, she kept trying to weasel out of her lines and ENTIRE SCENES while we were shooting! Man, she drives me nuts sometimes. She kind of had us save most of her stuff for the end of the shoot (half-hoping I would let her out of it), which was fine with me because by then there would be less people on the set so hopefully she would be a little less nervous, and also because I knew she'd be tired by then and I'd be able to get her to do what I wanted so that I would let her go home. There's one little clip where she is carrying a camera, and two or three times she carried the damn thing right in front of her face while she was saying her lines. "CUT! The camera is in front of your face AGAIN. We're doing this until you get it right, so don't even THINK you are going to wear me down." I won. I always win.

For all her bitchin' she admitted it was a fun shoot and it went very smoothly. I feel that way, too, but if I write another script set in a fancy restaurant, someone please shoot me (and not with a camera) immediately.

I am very excited about the festival on Wednesday, I can't wait to see all the shorts of my competitors! Out of 15 teams we started off with, we ended up with 12 entries, so a 20% wash, which is pretty much what I had guesstimated to Dawn & Dean (the organizers) when we met to consult about the project. I would not have even been surprised at 30%, so 12 films is really fantastic!

This was my first short, and even though we had 29 days to make it, we really pulled it off in 18. I was having writer's block the first 10 days, even though I knew the general outline of the story, but I did not put pen to paper until July 20. Spent the next 5 days in a frenzy of pre-production, really only organizing cast and crew at that point, and there was probably 25-30 hours of work just dressing the set and preparing the meals for cast & crew (almost 50 people!) in advance. My feet were killing me well before I stepped onto the set to stand on them for another 13 hours (on Sunday, July 26).

I made the first pass at the edit that Wednesday, but didn't touch it again until 2 days ago. Then I got the video cut where I wanted it, and sent Jeff and Mark a semi-panicked email about the missing audio. While I was in jury duty (do NOT get me started) on Monday, I brought the file with everyone's signed releases (except Michelle's, refer back to, "Man, she drives me nuts sometimes"), and wrote out an organized list of the credits so (hopefully) I didn't miss anybody. I ALMOST forgot my own Mom, who spent many hours with me Saturday night, prepping the real food, the fake food (which was also real - frozen steaks leftover from our final day of production on "Smalltimore" last August - two of the extras ATE them!!!), and the flower arrangements.

I received the audio bits from Jeff last night, but had spent several hours on my neighbors' porch drinking wine, so I didn't touch them. I learned a long time ago not to edit or even WRITE after more than ONE drink. On the occasions that I have, it is always the same: I believe it is the most perfect thing I have ever created, and then the next morning I read it and ask myself, what the hell is this CRAP?! I HATE wasting my time (at least like that), so I don't do it anymore.

So that left me with today to correct all the audio (no small feat, audio is such a bitch, always), add the new audio and finesse that, and add the credits for the almost - say it with me - FIFTY people who worked on the movie.

I got it done. What I did not get done was a lot of work at my day job or cleaning my apartment or going to the store for dog food that I am out of - all of which needs to get done by 3pm tomorrow, as I am going out of town for the weekend.

But, in true Jeanie Clark Style, I shall further procrastinate and head next door with my laptop to show the movie to my friendly neighborhood Waiters in Tuxedos at the Prime Rib, because most of them (I had SIX in the film!) have to work next Wednesday so they can't come to the screening. I'm sure I'll have a drink or two while I am there also, but that's all right, because I have no problem doing laundry after a few belts. Makes it more bearable, really.