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.