For what will most likely be its final festival appearance, Going the Distance will play next month at the American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs, CA. I am sad to be missing this one, as it is an all-doc festival (my favorite kind!), and boasts an incredible lineup of some of the best documentary films in the world. My film screens as a part of a shorts program with the logline: "Time, age, wisdom, perseverance all play roles in this fascinating series of short films." Sounds pretty cool!!!
Monday, April 3, 2017
2300 E. Baristo Rd., Palm Springs
As I write this, I am flying high (literally! – typing it out on my flight home) after spending the past three days at the Sedona International Film Festival. I flew out here last Friday to represent Going the Distance, which played as a part of the festival’s Shorts Program. I was so fortunate to be able to make it to the festival thanks to two awesome men in my life: my husband Chris, who solo-parented our one year-old while I was away, and my brother Eli, who drove all the way out from LA to accompany me there.
Every couple of years, Eli and I try to find time for a sibling weekend where we can catch up, reminisce, and make new memories together. In 2011 we went hiking in Bar Harbor, ME; in 2014 we spent a weekend in Palm Springs, CA; this year we decided on Sedona. I was particularly excited about this trip because – despite both being huge film fans and festival junkies – we had never attended a film fest together!
Eli picked me up from Phoenix on Friday morning and we made the 2-hour trek to Sedona in his little Honda Civic. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but props to the festival organizers, because their hospitality blew us away. The festival is in its 23rd year, and wow did it show! From the minute we got there, we were treated like royalty. We were greeted by obscenely nice volunteers (including the woman who checked us in, whose daughter happens to live less then a mile from me in Somerville! – small world), showered with gift bags, provided with unlimited festival passes, and put up in a wonderfully-cozy suite at the Sedona Springs Resort.
My screening was up first, and it couldn’t have gone any better. The screening sold out, and the other films in the lineup – aptly titled Just Great Shorts! – were excellent; I felt really honored to share the program with them. My favorites were Annie O’Neil’s doc Phil’s Camino, Megan Park's narrative Lucy In My Eyes, and Tom Teller’s student thesis film (from Chapman), Icarus, which was without a doubt the most incredibly-produced student short I have ever seen in my life!
After my screening, Eli and I scanned the film program and proceeded to fill the rest of the weekend with screening after screening. We saw three narrative features (The Happys, The Sandbox, and Slipaway), three docs (Enlighten Us, Obit, and Good Fortune), and a bevy of shorts (14 in total!!). My favorite – and I think Eli’s favorite too – was Slipaway: one of the most amazing indie films I have ever seen. The film had won the “Heart of the Festival Award,” and as such, was featured in a last-minute encore screening on the final day of the festival. Wow – it did not disappoint! I was so moved by the acting (Elaine Partnow and Jesse Pepe were outstanding), the script, the score, the cinematography… really, it was hard to find anything to criticize about it (and I’m usually really good at that!), which was all the more impressive considering it was the directors’ first feature film. Word on the street is that the film has been submitted to Boston's own IFFB, so hopefully the local film/film-enthusiast community here will be able to see this amazing film later in the spring.
At the end of the festival, Eli and I bunkered down in our hotel room for Eli’s favorite night of the year: the Academy Awards! Eli prepared a delicious spread (which included waaaay too much food for just two people), and manically rattled off his predictions while I scoured the red carpet for my favorite celebrity fashion ensembles. Most people will probably remember the 2017 Oscars as the year that the wrong Best Picture winner was read (for La La Land, when it actually belonged to Moonlight), but I will always remember it as the icing on the cake of a perfect weekend spent surrounded by creative, like-minded film-lovers (including my awesome brother), in beautiful, sunny - albeit unseasonably cold - Sedona!
Sometime in December, my friend, editor extraordinaire, and head of the Boston Avid Users Group, Kenton Van Natten, asked me to participate in a panel on Women in Post Production at the upcoming January BAVUG meeting. I thought it sounded fun, and agreed to it without giving it any more thought. However, as the date of the panel neared, I wondered if I had made a mistake. I researched the other participants, and realized that they were quite, well… qualified. Much older and more experienced than me. Gulp! What did I know about being a “woman in post,” and what did I have to say that the BAVUG attendees would be interested to hear? In short: what had I gotten myself into?
A few days before the panel, I joined the other participants on a conference call to prepare our talking points. There were five panelists in total, but other than myself, there was only one other working mom. She unfortunately had to leave the call early, so we never got to talk about the topic of motherhood or how it may come up on our panel. I didn’t speak up much the rest of the call, preferring mostly to listen to the other women’s ideas. I decided that if, during the panel, I found I didn’t have much to say, I’d just sit back and let my compatriots do most of the talking. It seemed like a safe plan.
Well, that’s not how the evening unfolded… at all. In fact – surprise, surprise! – I found I had a lot to say.
Although we covered a lot of ground in our discussion, the talking point that resonated the most with me was the struggle of balancing work and family. I may be a relatively new mom, but this balancing act has really consumed the past year of my life… and, really, much longer if you count my pregnancy and the many years in which I contemplated how the hell I would figure out a way to have kids and maintain my career. When this discussion point came up, I found myself making some strong assertions. “This is something that men just don’t contemplate in the same way,” I said at some point. I went on to point to an example of that, explaining that my husband, Chris, had decided to quit his job and start his own business when our son was just six months old. “I am proud of him, and his business is doing great,” I explained, “but that’s something I would never have considered in the first year of our son’s life. I wouldn’t have given myself the luxury of that possibility because I just assumed I would have to sacrifice part of my career in order to be a mom… especially in the beginning.” I was worried that voicing an opinion like that would alienate and perhaps even offend some of the people in the room… particularly the men. But I learned throughout the evening that this wasn’t the case at all; in fact, most of the men there seemed genuinely interested in hearing our thoughts, particularly on matters that they might not think about the same way (like work-life balance). We went on to talk about a lot of other things, but it was in the discussion about work and parenthood that I found myself really hitting my stride and finding confidence that I didn’t know I had.
I learned a lot from the other panelists that night – who really were older and more experienced than me :) – but more importantly, I learned a lot about myself. Some of the comments I made were thoughts I had never articulated before, and had never really known to be true until the words left my mouth. I learned that much of my experience and background – including my time as a Women’s Studies major in college – has helped to shape me into the editor and person I am today. I learned that 10 years into my career, I do have valuable insights to share… lots of them, actually. And I learned that parenthood is such an eye-opening and transformative experience, that being even just one year into it, I now have completely different thoughts, fears, values, goals and perspective than I did just one year ago.
Perhaps it was a long time coming, but being on that panel helped me uncover something I hadn’t realized before: I had spent so much time worrying about the ways that parenthood would inhibit my career, I never considered the ways it could enhance it. Now I look forward to finding them out.
I found out a few weeks ago that one of the subjects of my last film, Champ Goldy, has passed away. His obituary can be read here, and a short write-up in the Philadelphia Inquirer can be read here.
I had a terrific time filming Champ at his home in the Spring of 2015. I had arranged our shoot just a few days before, and I showed up with two crew in a bit of a frenzy; Champ was our third interview/location of the day! To say he was a sport about it is an understatement. He was so relaxed as we came into his house and proceeded to rearrange everything in sight to set up the shoot. After the interview, we went outside with him to shoot training footage - which we made him repeat about 1,000 times! Poor guy. Our shots kept getting interupted by neighbors passing by who wanted to talk to Champ. He was clearly the celebrity of his neighborhood! At the end of what seemed like an incredibly long day, we were finally done shooting, so we bid Champ adieu. As we were sitting in his driveway, packing up our gear, I realized that I had forgotten to have him sign a personal release form. So I knocked on his door again, release form in hand. Champ's wife called me inside, and there was Champ: sitting in his La-z-boy, smoking a stogie. I guess it surprised me to see a 98 year-old champion athlete puffing away in his living room. I smiled, and secretly wished he had busted out the cigar while we still had the cameras out.
Rest in Peace, Champ. Yours was truly a life worth living.
Some more good news! Going the Distance was awarded the prize for Best Short Documentary last weekend at the First Glance Film Festival in Philadelphia!
Things have been exceptionally busy for me lately. Last week I attended my first Boston Film Fatales meeting, where we were each asked to share something good relating our work/art. My share was how proud I am that in addition to working full-time and being a new mom, I am plugging away at two short film projects and making slow (but steady) progress with both. It wasn't until I said that out loud that I realized how much I really do have on my plate at the moment! Sometimes it feels like too much. But I know how important each of those parts are to me, and that the key is trying to strike a balance. I often think of Suprabha, from my film The Spirit of a Runner, and how she said that she never set out to run 3,100 miles, but rather approached her journey one mile - even one step, sometimes - at a time. So I'm trying to channel her at the moment. Also Bill Murray (baby steps...) ;-)
Anyway, I've been working on one of the projects - which unfortunately I can't divulge much about for now - for over five years. I would place it in a "rough cut" state still, but I am getting much, much closer to figuring out how to finish it, and I anticipate that will happen sometime this spring. I am very excited about this film, but since I really don't want to say anything more just yet, I'll shut up about it for now.
The other project I've been chipping away at is a short film about my Uncle Bob's WWII story, which is summarized nicely in this article from the New York Daily News. Also, here's a mini-tribute I wrote about Bob last Veteran's Day:
"I want to take a moment to give a shout out to my favorite vet, my Uncle Bob, who – at the age of 19 – became a WWII POW, losing his leg in the process. I don’t know a single person with a more optimistic, hopeful, and grateful outlook than this man, who understands full-well the preciousness of life. Bob has spent a lot of his time working with wounded vets at Walter Reed hospital, and now at age 90, he continues to attend weekly meetings with fellow WWII POWs. Bob is a staunch liberal and has spoken up about the horrors of war. Something I’ve learned from my uncle is that supporting our troops and being anti-war are not incompatible views, nor are they partisan issues. I’m tired of the rhetoric that paints a different picture. As grateful as I am to Bob for his service, I’m equally grateful for how he has spoken up on these issues and reminded those around him how truly terrible war is."
I am very excited to announce that Going the Distance will be screening at festivals in New York and Philadelphia next month! It is an official selection of the New York City Short Film Festival, as well as the First Glance Film Festival of Philadelphia. It will also be showcased at the Mass Media Expo here in Boston next month.
MASS MEDIA EXPO:
As a locally-based short and official alum of IFFB, Going the Distance will be screening at the Mass Media Expo (presented through the Massachusetts Production Coalition) on November 5 at the WGBH studios. I am most likely going to be in NYC that weekend, but if not, I will definitely swing by the expo.
In August, for my first job back from maternity leave, I worked on a pretty cool project with my friends, East of Salinas director-and-producer team Jackie Mow and Laura Pacheco. I edited their documentary short, Swinging Las Vegas, which takes a look at the divided Latino vote in Nevada. The piece is part of a larger series of short films called Postcards from the Great Divide, which analyzes factors in the deeply partisan split within today's American electorate. The series' mission is to "help provide a greater understanding of how changing demographics and political self-sorting will continue to have a profound effect on American politics for years to come."
A blurb on Swinging Las Vegas:
"Nevada used to be a deep red state, but things have changed. Thousands of Latinos have moved there, many to work in the gaming industry, and now the state has turned purple. With retiring Senator Harry Reid's seat up for grabs, what can the state GOP do in the year of Donald Trump to get enough Latino votes to put themselves over the top? The answer may hold the key to the balance of power in the next Congress."
Also, check out this article from the Washington Post, which features the film and takes a deeper look at the hotly-contested races going on in Nevada this election cycle.
You can watch the piece below, or on the Political Postcards website, where you can check out the eight other films in the series. The series will broadcast on PBS later this month; I'll post information on that air date when I get it.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Going the Distance is currently screening online through October 15th as part of the New England Online Film Festival.
The festival did a short interview/write up, which went out yesterday. You can check it out here.
My favorite tidbit is the anecdote about editing while pregnant :)
Last weekend I made my annual trek up to Maine for the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF). I feel lucky to have discovered this awesome festival 5 years ago (!!!) when I went up with the East of Salinas team to pitch at the Points North Forum. I've been going every year since, and *sigh,* I LOVE this festival! In terms of my professional life, there are two weekends a year that I wait for with bated breath: IFFB in April, and CIFF in September. I look forward to the quality programming and thought-provoking content, and I always return home feeling motivated, creative, and inspired. Plus, it's so "New-England-romantic": a tiny little coastal town, the crisp air signaling that fall is right around the corner, and now - 5 years in - a familiar cast of faces from the east coast doc community. It was especially cool being there this year because I nostalgically reminisced about being there last year, 5 months pregnant. It simultaneously felt like yesterday and forever ago. Funny the strange, warping effect parenthood has on time!
Anyway, I really packed it in this year, catching 4 feature docs (Cameraperson, Do Not Resist, Best and Most Beautiful Things, and Newtown), 4 panels (on virtual reality, branded content, cinematography, and social impact campaigns), the Points North Pitch Forum, and a shorts program. The highlight, for me, was a masterclass taught by cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. She didn't shy away from the relationship between the camera(person) and the subject(s). I think too often we're taught to shoot as if we're invisible - a fly-on-the-wall. But she embraced the role of the camera in forging relationships, talking about how the cameraperson's movement through space in and of itself shifts what unfolds in the scene. Really cool food for thought.
Another highlight was Best and Most Beautiful Things, which I had heard a lot about since I know several of the film's principals. I had high expectations based on the press the film has gotten, but my impression ended up being even better than my expectations. I thought it was a fantastic film; beautifully-shot (way to go, Sarah G.!), and edited in such a nuanced way. I don't often say this about documentaries, but I'd really like to see it again. It was that good.
A final highlight from the weekend: the Saturday night party! CIFF parties are always really cool, and this one did not disappoint. The party was in an abandoned mill in Rockland, and the festival decked it out with all sorts of awesome decorations and spaces - including a brass band!!! I am super-proud to say that I stayed up until 3 am dancing... with a 7 month old at home, that is no easy feat :)
I am pleased to report that Going the Distance continues to see success on the festival circuit. Last month it was invited to be a part of the lineup at the Marblehead Film Festival, where it played on a giant screen at Crocker Park right before the fireworks over July 4th weekend. It also took top prize honors in the category of short documentary!
It was also invited to screen in the New England Online Film Festival. This festival is pretty cool, in that it doesn't take submissions, but rather curates a program from all of the top New England film festivals. So its directors work with the directors of regionally local festivals such as the Rhode Island International Film Festival, the New Hampshire Film Festival, the Independent Film Festival Boston (where my film screened), etc., to put together a comprehensive online program. Pretty cool, huh?
Last but not least, I wanted to share the exciting news that last week, I received a call from Champ Goldy's daughter, who told me that her father would finally be getting a chance to see the film in which he played such a big role!! It's a long story, but up until now, Champ has not gotten a chance to actually see Going the Distance. I'm so glad this is finally changing, and I'm excited to report back with his impressions of it once I hear back from him!