Friday, September 25, 2009

Big in Japan

[At the Indie Fest Awards with Sotu a.k.a. the CannibAlien, whose short "CannibAlien" also won]

I promised on the STM Facebook page that the next posting would be about the photo on this link:

I can't seem to copy & paste the pic, which sucks because I really love this pic! It is even better than the one above. Everything on the page is in Japanese, though, so I can't tell if there is a way to do it that I can't figure out.

Well, ALMOST everything is in Japanese. The caption of this photo reads "CannibAlien Can't Eat Rat". I was quite taken aback by this. I thought maybe Sotu thought it was a page I would never see and he was outright insulting me! This hurt my feelings, because he was very nice at the film festival and I talked to him several times. But finally I found that using one of the buttons that are in Japanese, I could scroll through other pictures of him with the mask at the awards night, and in all of them, he was pretending to eat some screaming person, and under each, the caption was, "CannibAlien Can't Eat Rat." Maybe it is a generalization about Americans, or maybe this is a ridiculously funny joke in Japan that just doesn't translate. Couldn't tell you.

Without rehashing everything I have already told you about Indie Fest and how weird it was to be in freakin' Disney Land by one's self, I do want to tell you a little about Sotu (as I only know a little about him). I believe he is the writer/director on CannibAlien, but I am not sure because his English was limited (though 100% better than my Japanese), and that is not the name on the credits.

I think Sotu was the only other filmmaker at the fest who was traveling by himself. The first day, he asked me where the sign-in table was and I pointed it out to him. The second night, I was standing in front of the theater waiting for the nightly Disney fireworks to start. He was nearby and kept looking at me. I knew he wanted to talk to me, but since for the first day and a half no one was really socializing, I was sliding dangerously deep into solitary mode. All these things were going through my stupid head,

Jeanie, for pete's sake, just talk to the poor guy, he obviously wants to talk to you, and I don't think it is in a hitting-on-me way at all, I am not getting that vibe, he's just alone, like you, in this weird place, which is even weirder for him because it is a foreign country, just give him the green light to say hello, you are probably looking like a stuck-up bitch right now, just SAY SOMETHING,

He kept lurking about and finally started talking to me, and I think we were both relieved. After that, it was all good and when we would run into each other at the fest we would smile and chat for a minute, and I was very happy for him when his short won because it was honestly REALLY good and he seemed to relax and have a lot of fun that night.

I just flipped back through the posts I wrote from Indie Fest, and I can't believe I didn't mention Bob Keiper. He is an actor who had a short in the fest. I met him at the Opening Night Party, while we were in line waiting to go into the ballroom at the Disney Hotel. He is an older gentleman, and asked if he could cut in line with me, his family was already inside. We exchanged vital movie-related stats while we shuffled slowly to the door, and once inside, he invited me to sit at the table with him and his wife and the director and producer of his movie, "A Dance of Two". Bob lives in Northern Virginia and we had a lot to chat about, and I spent a good bit of time talking to his very sweet wife, also. They both talked about how Bob was not usually very outgoing in a crowd of people that he doesn't know, so it is hard for him to force himself to network. Of course I said, me, too! Later, Bob and I walked around a little bit and did exactly that. It was easier to do it with someone who felt the same way. I've taken that walk sometimes with people who are VERY good at schmoozing and I can sometimes become a shrinking violet in that situation. But here was Bob, who has not only got a few years on me but is also SAG, and he is just as shy as I can be when I am out of my element! To have a compatriot in that situation made it a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable.

When I first got my feet wet in the biz, I thought I was the only one who felt that way, but in talking to a lot of filmmakers, I have found out that it is really the norm. We're all in the same boat. We are in an unfamiliar city, sometimes even in an unfamiliar country, putting ourselves on display via our films, waiting to be judged, hoping for the best and almost constantly just wishing someone would talk to us.

At the Heart of England Festival, my first, it was cool because everything was so contained, and none of the other filmmakers had brought a traveling companion, and most of them were American, so we just automatically hung out together. In Philly, I was a bit overwhelmed, it was much larger, much more spread out, social gatherings every night, and everyone was rabidly marketing themselves. Mikey was there with me, and in retrospect, I will admit I used him as a crutch and was not nearly as social as I should have been, though I did meet several people there with whom I am still in touch.

But Indie Fest really sealed the deal for me in a way, and it is frustrating to me now to not have another festival lined up because now I think I've got it. I met some people there who made some GREAT movies, and some of them had rather large groups with them, but they seemed really happy when I would make the rally call, "Let's go have a drink at the House of Blues!" Winning Best Director gave me more confidence in my abilities in that capacity, but attending these festivals has given me immeasurably more confidence in my self, and I am finding myself to be comfortable more and more often in situations that not that long ago would have completely stressed me out.

Some filmmakers put WAY too many expectations on the festival circuit, and others think it is a load of crap and there is little to be gained from it. The people who keep their respective faiths at those opposing extremes are missing much of the point and most of the fun, in my opinion. I went into this with no delusions of grandeur, and personally, I think they were worth every penny.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

....But It Wouldn't Mean Nothin'...

[Top, A.C. Abbott, writer/director of "Disowning Claire," one of the funniest and best films I saw at Indie Fest 2009 in Anaheim; Below, Indira Somani, who won Best Documentary for "Crossing Lines" at the Heart of England Film Festival, my female compatriots within the Boy's Club of filmmaking.]

[p.s. new pics of Indie Fest 2009 can be seen on the Smalltimore, the Movie Facebook page. Click the link on the right, and become a fan if you haven't already!]

Wow, it has been really nice to have a few days without having, as in, being obligated, to do anything movie-related. And yet, I keep doing movie-related things. Sunday I attended the Stonehenge auditions at the Creative Alliance, Monday I attended the CAmm Cage Happy Hour at the Creative Alliance, and last night I attended the premiere of the new Kevin Kangas film, "Bounty," with my filmmaker friend Eric Thornett, who I do not see nearly enough of these days.

After the movie, which I did enjoy, for the record, Eric and I caught up with each other as well as some of the Usual Suspects, a.k.a. fellow filmmakers, producers, and actors that we know, over drinks at the Club Charles. Eric knows Kevin fairly well but hadn't seen him in ages. Eric actually "appears" in Kevin's new movie, albeit via a "Wanted" poster, and a deranged voicemail message on an answering machine (Eric's screen credit reads, "The Taunter").

In keeping with the Zero Degrees of separation that is the Smalltimore tradition, particularly in the microcosm that is Baltimore indie filmmaking, Johnny Benson ("Bentley" in Smalltimore), also "appears" in "Bounty," and funny enough, also only via his voice. Johnny was present at the screening in his signature Vampirate regalia.

Now Eric and Kevin have been doing this movie stuff a LOT longer than I have been, but I couldn't help but be a little jealous of their rapport and camaraderie, with each other and with other actors and producers there that I know or know of through various channels. It is like a fraternity, complete with lots of crazy war stories. Fun to listen to, but somehow I felt a little left out.

It reminded me of when I first got to know Eric and his entourage, and for that matter, even before that when I got to know Sean Stanley and his crew. It amazed me then, and still does, how much people will do for someone else (for free) when they believe in that person and their vision. I think I have talked about that here before, but I really wanted that, I really wanted to build that for myself, and I still do.

The other thing is that, filmmaking, no matter where you go, is largely a Boy's Club. I'm not crying about it, I am just telling it like it is. And sometimes, as a woman traveling in those circles, it can feel a little lonely. It isn't easy to explain exactly what I mean, but I'll try.

The thing is, it is not even about how men and women relate to each other. It is that men relate to other men differently than women relate to other women. Guys who are filmmakers are like... guys who are football fans. Or guys who play guitar. Or World of Warcraft. Guys who share a common and all-consuming passion like that develop bonds that can make someone who is not yet fully vested, so to speak, feel like an outsider. Like you're the only one in the room that doesn't know the secret handshake.

And women... we're (a) just wired differently, and (b) there are far fewer of us in the mix. Although there were a couple - and by couple, I mean that literally: there were TWO, besides myself - female filmmaker types at the post-party, namely Stacie Jones-Gentzler and Elena Moscatt, two super-smart women who are very cool to boot.

I hadn't thought about it before, but I think it does say a lot for a woman to be able to keep her footing in this industry. Now that I think about it, I can honestly say that I don't know any half-assed female filmmakers. The ones I know are very strong, smart, visionary women who don't take any shit, and also, unlike a lot of men that I meet in this realm, do not have delusions of grandeur, and don't let their egos get the better of them. At the festivals I have attended over the summer, with only one exception (ask me in person and I'll tell you what movie NOT to see if it comes to a festival near you), the pieces by female filmmakers were often the cream of the crop. But I have seen a lot of mediocre (and worse) films and shorts by the same men who pat me on the head and tell me how much I have to learn. And I silently thank them, for I do indeed learn from them - what NOT to do.

I do feel that my own "entourage" is beginning to gel. People like Regina Guy, who I know I can count on for absolutely anything, and Michelle, of course. The three of us working together is what gave me the idea for the title of our short, "The Red-Headed Menace." Michelle and I are going to shoot another short soon, I can't WAIT. And I have a lot of both male and female actors that I know I can call on at any time and they will give me their all, and production assistants, too.

Anyway... do NOT get me wrong, I have met some amazing men who have bent over backwards for me, such as Eric, Sean, and Charlie Anderson. And most of the time I don't mind being a woman in this man's world of filmmaking. I have always liked standing out in certain ways. I was always the shortest person in my class in school, and I liked that. I like having the name Jeanie, because there aren't that many of us, and very few in my age group. I always liked having green eyes. And I've liked having red hair... um, since 2003.

And really, I am not complaining, just observing, while I have a few minutes to breathe and reflect on the whirlwind that has been this summer. I am happy to be where I am, and even though I might have had a few girlie "moments" after Kevin's premiere, you know what? There were people there who had never met me who knew who I was and knew about "Smalltimore," though they hadn't even seen it. Move over, boys. I'm not leaving anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Somewhat Normal

Hey there. Another long-ish period of silence, but with good reason. I was pretty beat when I got back from California, plus had to catch up on the Day Job. On top of that, just before I left for Cali, I had agreed to take the position of Production Manager/Assistant Director on a short film called, "Please God, Someone Normal," filming in Arlington over Labor Day weekend. That meant that while I was in California trying to promote "Smalltimore" and meeting as many people as possible, I was also doing pre-production for PGSN. I was in contact with the Director, Jonathan Reed, almost daily, plus Michelle, who was DP and referred me to Jonathan for the job.

Friday, September 4th was the first day of filming. Jonathan treated me and Michelle like gold, even putting us up in a very nice hotel the night beforehand so we didn't have to face the hellish weekday morning drive between Baltimore and Arlington. He even found us a pet-friendly hotel so I could bring my dogs and not impose, again, on my neighbors Phil & Ron, who had just finished dogsitting duty while I was in California for 10 days.

The script was 15 pages, and is a comedy. I thought it was cute when I read it, but I wasn't sure if we could pull off all the big shots Jonathan wanted to really pull out the laughs. But it turned out to play out even funnier than it read, and Jonathan was really flexible with the actors and when he or Michelle would think up something funny on the spot, we would throw it in and give it a try.

Jonathan had flown in two friends of his from L.A. who are comedians, Steve (I never got his last name), and Noel ElGrably. They were a lot of fun and kept everyone rolling. There were so many takes during which it was nearly impossible for people not to laugh while we were filming. It is going to be a long time before any of us can think of a quesadilla without hearing techno music in our heads and picturing Noel (in the gayest voice ever) chanting, "Quesadilla, quesadilla," while sashaying and trying not to let his junk fall out of his booty shorts. You had to be there.

We were only shooting 3-4 pages a day, but that allowed us (a) to have time to set up some AMAZINGLY gorgeous shots, and (b) to actually wrap each day in 12 hours (thought we worked EVERY minute of it). In "Smalltimore" I learned to love the jib-on-a-dolly shot. In "PGSN" I got to witness a jib-on-a-dolly-on-a-ramp-built-of-plywood&apple-boxes! Impressive.

Yesterday, last day of shooting, we were woefully behind schedule at a location, the L.A. Bar & Grill on Columbia Pike. Jonathan thought we'd be done by 3pm, which is what he had told the bar owner originally, but we didn't get out of there until after 5:00pm. I was stressed and trying to move it along but there were several shots we really couldn't live without. The owner didn't get upset about it, even when he had customers start coming in at 3pm. Since we were still shooting, sometimes a Production Assistant would hold his customers outside for a minute while we finished a shot. From 3pm to 5pm I tried not to sound apologetic but at the same time not sound bitchy when I yelled, "QUIET!" before every take. As PM/AD, though, it is definitely not my job to make sure everybody likes me. They just need to listen to me. I'm okay with that, and everyone was very cooperative. I have been in that same situation, on a shoot in a bar where we are still filming after real customers come in, and either people won't be quiet, or worse, they will not only NOT be quiet but will complain loudly about how they didn't come into a bar and pay for their beer so that they can be told to shut up.

But the customers were really cool, we did not have to do a single re-take because of customer noise. When we were about to do the last shot before shooting cutaways that didn't need sound, I announced, "This is our last take with sound! Thank you so much for your patience!" and I heard one customer say, "That's okay! It was kind of cool to watch."

I forget that sometimes, that people who have never done this always, always find it fascinating. That is one of the most fun things about filmmaking - everybody wants to talk about it, all the time! People who do it love to talk about it, people who don't do it love to talk about it.

I am a Gemini, as you may or may not know, and according to my horoscope, September 4th (first day of shooting PGSN) was supposed to be a banner day in my house of career, whatever that means, and supposedly a lot of doors to future successes were to be opened for me that day. It was a fantastic shoot, and I hope and expect it will lead to other great things. It was such a pleasure to work with Jonathan, Tina, Kerry, Eddie, Jack, Patrick, Scott, Ricky, Lexy, Kenny, Cindy, Skylar, Megan, Noel, Steve, Jasmine/Kate, Sara/Heather, Marcus, Edan, Travis, Erinn, Will, and as always, Michelle. Seriously, it is a rarity to work on a set where there isn't even one single person who was lazy or unpleasant. I was very surprised to find out that the lead actress, Kate, as well as the Chief P.A. (who was more like Assistant Production Manager) Tina, had never done this before. They were total pros and on point at all times, as was everyone. I SINCERELY hope we all get to do it again sometime, and sometime SOON!