Last weekend the Independent Film Festival of Boston (or IFFB, as we locals call it) hit up my hometown of Somerville, MA. IFFB is always one of my favorite weekends of the year. Held the last weekend in April, it feels like an annual reminder that spring is on its way! I love the films that come to the festival (the programmers do an excellent job!), and I try to get to as many as I can. This year I had an all-access pass, thanks to my film Going the Distance screening as a part of the Shorts Program. I found it a bit ironic that the year I finally scored a festival pass was also the year I have an infant at home :) No worries; I still made it a fair number of screenings and panels (7, to be exact!), and had a great time schmoozing with my fellow film buddies at various festival events.
Both screenings of the Shorts Program went really well. The Friday night screening sold out, and it looked like the Sunday one came close to selling out as well. I am usually nervous in Q&A situations, but I had so much fun talking about my film and the audience was very engaging. It was great to give the update that Penn Relays has officially changed the title of the race to the Mixed Masters 100m Dash (as opposed to the Men's), as well as the fact that all three of my subjects repeated their performances in this year's race. Betty even improved on her time by a full second!
One of the highlights of the weekend happened at an odd time: 2 am on Saturday night, to be exact. I had woken up to feed my son. When I checked my phone for the time, I noticed a bunch of congratulatory texts from friends. Huh?? I had no idea what they were talking about.
As it turns out, I had won the Grand Jury Award for Documentary Shorts at the festival!! It was very surreal to parse this information in the middle of the night while in a sleep-deprived state of new parenthood. I was so shocked by the award; I thought winning was such a stretch that I didn't even go to the awards ceremony that night - oops! As I mentioned, though, I am a huge fan of IFFB, so having my short win an award there, well... I'm very honored. And I also may have teared up a bit at my new parents support group meeting later in the week when relaying the story of my groggy realization of the win. The last three months (well, year, if you count my pregnancy) have been all about the baby... which has been exciting and weird and new and wonderful. But. It was really great to get a reminder that I had a career before the baby and will continue to have one after him. What a great affirmation at a time when I needed it the most. Thanks IFFB! :)
I'm very excited to announce that Going the Distance will make its Boston debut in a few weeks as a part of the Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFB). This is a huge honor, as IFFB is the Boston film festival, and typically features many of the most entertaining, provocative and awesome films of the year. I'm really excited to have my work screened at IFFB, and especially excited, too, that the festival takes place in my neck of the woods - Somerville! :)
Going the Distance will screen twice during the festival as a part of the Shorts B = Bravo block. Purchase tickets here. Screening info below:
Some more good news: another film that I worked on, East of Salinas, will also be screening at IFFB, playing at 2:30 pm on Sunday 5/1 at the Somerville Theatre.
Wow! I have really learned not to underestimate the power of the internet! Two weeks ago, Runner's World magazine ran a short piece about Going the Distance on their website (I love reading the comments on their Facebook post about it!) and since then, the film's YouTube views and online presence have absolutely skyrocketed! As I write this, more than 65,000 people have watched the film, and that number has been increasing by the thousands every day!
In addition, the RW article prompted other publications and blogs to run stories on the film. I have linked to some of those articles below (apologies if the links break down over time!):
A few weeks ago, Going the Distance made its festival debut as part of the shorts block at the Salem Film Festival. I was very impressed with the turnout for the shorts program, which took place on a brisk Sunday morning at CinemaSalem. I was also very impressed with the other films programmed into the block, including two films by friends and fellow Nonfiction Cartel members, Gen Carmel (Letter to Subi) and Ben Pender-Cudlip (Memorial).
The last few months have been a bit of a blur! A few days before I welcomed my son, Silas, into the world, I got the very exciting news that my Penn Relays film – Going the Distance – had been selected from more than 900 submissions as one of five finalists in the NBC Sports Cptr’d Short Film Competition! The competition – which is in its inaugural year – challenged filmmakers to make short films on sports-related topics of their choice. It was affiliated with the South by Southwest Film Festival, so after a month-long “online viewer voting period” (during which I pestered my friends and family with way too many “please vote!” emails and Facebook posts), NBC flew all of the finalists down to Austin, TX during SXSW for the watch party and winner announcement.
The event itself was great. It was held on a giant lawn overlooking Lady Bird Lake on a perfect spring day: sunny, high 70s… exactly the kind of day you’d relish after spending the previous four weeks cooped up with a newborn (no offense, Silas!). Nicole and I wandered around with our beers, and did some good old-fashioned people-watching before the ceremony. Note: Austin is great for this no matter what time of year, but especially during SXSW! When it came time to announce the winners, they had us all sit on a stage for a short Q&A. It was very informal and relaxed, which I appreciated as I am not one for being in front of the cameras!
My film was awarded 2nd place in the competition. Of course I was gunning for first (who wouldn’t be?!), but I was also very happy and honored to take home second place honors.
After the ceremony, Nicole and I wandered around Sixth Street for a bit, trying to summon the energy for a celebratory drink. However, four weeks of no sleep + flying halfway across the country for 24 hours does not a drinking mood make, so in the end, we settled on some Voodoo donuts and went back to the hotel for a full night’s sleep… the trip’s true prize! :)
I traveled to Philadelphia in April to document participants in the men's 75+ 100m dash at the prestigious Penn Relays track and field carnival. I was fortunate enough to meet some very interesting characters (not excluding my crew, pictured below), perhaps the most interesting of which was a fella named Champ Goldy. The 5th "Champ" in his family, Goldy - at 98-years young - is a decorated senior runner. Enjoy this sneak preview profile of him, and stay tuned for the completed film, which should be finished sometime this fall.
With my crew and runner Betty Leander (86 years old) at the 2015 Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
I am renting a fancy lens this week, and its currently raining. So... I thought I'd use Zoey as my muse. We made a short film together: "Zoey and the Boring Day." Enjoy!
"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
Although this is a concept that I've appreciated for a while, lately it has become a bit of a mantra for me. Looking up at the bulletin board in my office, there's evidence of five (!!!) projects that I'm currently working on... and that's outside of paid work and teaching! While I'm excited to be so immersed in these projects, I'm starting to worry that my immersion will soon become entanglement. I wonder if the Voltaire quote applies here. Is trying to make my work "perfect" inhibiting me from actually finishing it?? I remember feeling this way in grad school; I only declared my thesis film finished in order to graduate. I remember feeling like I had more work to do on it. And yet, today - seven years later - I look back on that project with a lot of pride. It was done, even though I couldn't see it clearly at the time. So in trying to learn from that experience, how can I shift the "ongoingness" of my projects towards completion?
This Ira Glass excerpt provides some relief:
I think his point is an important one. Building a body of work is crucial not just as a way of keeping professional goals in sight, but also in honing and understanding one's skill set.
When I was in high school, my soccer teammates and I cleverly made t-shirts that read, "Don't just do it; do it right." I liked that sentiment at the time (and we were sticking it to Nike... yeah!!!), but maybe there's another side to that coin. Maybe sometimes it is just better to finish something... to see something through to the end. And while I'm loathe to quote Larry the Cable Guy ("Get 'er done!"), I have to admit that there's some wisdom in that very simple - albeit obtuse - phrase.
So my new goal is that by the time the snow melts around here (and that's actually affording myself quite a bit of time, unfortunately...), I'll have a completed film to share. And if it has some missing pieces and loose ends ... well, I suppose I'm okay with that.
Earlier this month I traveled to Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Acadia National Park in Maine to do some shooting for a short film I'm working on. I spent three days visiting with Ashley Bryan, celebrated author, poet, artist and storyteller who - some 70 years ago! - was a college buddy of my dad's at Cooper Union. I met Ashley in 2009 after my mom serendipitously bumped into him while on vacation in Bar Harbor. Ashley is one of those people who just sparkles. He has a heart of gold, a perpetual twinkle in his eye, and a deep, smooth voice that inflects the slightest hint of a British accent (even though he is from the Bronx!). After three or four prior visits to Little Cranberry, I knew that the focus of my film would be on Ashley's youthful spirit. How does someone in their 90s stay so young at heart? What fountain of youth has he discovered? What is his secret? And how can I capture it on camera?
“People say that the most tragic thing in life is the death of a child,” Ashley told me, “so don’t let the child within you die.” At 91 years-young, he really practices what he preaches. His home is stuffed to the gills with a toy collection more than 80 years in the making. It includes gadgets, figurines, puppets, carvings, trinkets, collectibles, antiques, ornaments, artwork, and everything in between, all meticulously arranged and displayed on shelves throughout his home.
I thought that documenting Ashley's collection could be a way to portray his youthful spirit. My plan was to punctuate moments in his life through his favorite toys and try to understand the significance behind the most special ones - his favorites. This idea was detoured when Ashley informed me - many times, actually - that he doesn't have favorites. "But surely there must be one or two that are extra special," I encouraged. "No," he maintained, "no toy is more special than the other. I appreciate the joy in each of them." He was steadfast.
So, in staying true to the nature of documentary, my original focus for this project has shifted significantly! But I have a feeling the new angle will be better than my original one. Thank you, Ashley, for reminding me how important it is to keep the little girl inside me alive. It is with her in mind that I vow to HAVE FUN while creating this film. Now, on to the edit! About 200 GB of footage awaits...
Okay, so it's not exactly the New Year anymore. But... since this is my first post in 2015, I'm going to cheat that a little. Twenty-fourteen was a really great year. Highlights included:
So… 2014 was wonderful, and I am super-excited to see what 2015 has in store.