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.