« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

March 30, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes!

BY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA – Today, we finished editing the Trailer for BAD TIMING, the Zambian feature film. We finished the Documentary Trailer early in the week. Sometimes, it seems like we've been working on these films forever. Yesterday, I started thinking about when and how this all got started. Of course, it all started with Jabbes Mvula. The conversation started in January with a request for a camera, but by mid-March, we were searching for the means to take a small production crew. I was going through old emails and found that it was a year ago, almost to the day, that I applied for an Innovative Project Grant to fund the flights for a six-person crew to Zambia.

Jabbes wanted to return to his home country to shoot the FIRST Zambian cast full-length, dramatic narrative feature film ever. He wanted to strengthen the film industry in Zambia. We all hoped to share our skills and experience with aspiring Zambian filmmakers. And, most importantly, we wanted to get an authentic, contemporary Zambian story into the global cinema. So, a year ago at this time, I was hoping to go to Zambia, making plans to maybe go to Zambia, but it sure seemed like one heckuva long shot. I was reading everything I could find on Zambia, just in case.

trailerArt.jpgFurther research in my email archive revealed that the grant announcment was made on May 2nd. Holy cow, May 2nd. With that announcement, we knew that a six-person crew could go but, by that point, we had 18 students who wanted to spend an unpaid work experience month in Africa helping to shoot the feature (and companion documentary). We pushed our shoot date back to give ourselves more time for fundraising. To be honest, last summer was just a blur. And yet, the pace of the summer seems GLACIAL in comparison to how quickly the time passed in Zambia. That month simply evaporated.

When we got back, time played a gruesome trick. It slowed down to a crawl and then seemed to stop altogether. It seemed to take a Herculean effort to move things the tiniest amount. I guess it took a bit to bounce back. Now, I'm happy to report, time is moving forward again at a normal pace. There are times I can't believe we ever went to Zambia. Then I look at the footage and I go flying back in time. Jeniece says the same thing happens to her. I'm hoping that we can create that sense of immediacy for the audience. That they can have half the fun we did and laugh as easily (and as often.) Stay tuned! Soon you'll be able to decide for yourself.

March 29, 2007

Nate Is Doing Great!

BY CYNDI GREENING, MESA, USA – One of the things I love about teaching is hearing that students took what they learned and turned it into a career they really enjoy. And, I'm particularly lucky because students will take the time to send an email and update me on their progress. It is THE BEST! Last week, I got an email from NATE SMITH. Nate studied desktop publishing, animation and illustration at MCC. Here's what he had to say:

colorNate.jpgNATE: "Well I’m still here working for the same company and still learning all the little quirks that there are to know. Within the year, I’ve been named employee of the month, ran the shop on my own for about a week and still get everything done, I’ve done my first professional design for a company's mural display. I was given a substantial raise recently because of the work I do and my work ethic. And I'm getting color matching certified. That's exciting. I just wanted to drop you a line and give you a little update on what’s going on here. Also so I just want to say thank you. Thank you for making the choice to be a teacher and sharing your knowledge."

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love teaching, love computers, love new media. So, teaching students like Nate is (probably) more fun for me than it is for them. I just love talking about that sort of thing. Let's face it, I just love talking. So, it's pretty cool that there was something in all of that conversation that he found useful and, more importantly, let me know about it. So, THANKS FOR WRITING, NATE! I wish you continued success in all that you do!

March 27, 2007

Get Out of Bed!

BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MESA ARIZONA - We have finalized the documentary trailer. We even sent it to the crew and friends for feedback. So far so good. The suggestions for adjustment have been minor. Now we are completing the feature trailer. We will be sending them to HBO. Yes, we are very excited.

As we work, sometimes…, okay, all of the time, we are engaged in conversation. Today we were talking about how people solve their problems. As you can imagine, filmmaking and film editing is just one problem after another. Cyndi told me about a book she read that said people solve their problems in one of five different ways. I can never remember the five ways of solving problems. So, today we made up a word so I could remember them. The word is … Oh heck, I forgot! (Guess what, that is one way of “solving” your problems. Get confused. Get very confused. If you can’t figure it out and don’t know what to do, you don’t have to fix it!)

HV_smallSlide.jpgThe five ways people “solve” problems …

Get Sick (go all the way to dead)
Get Confused (go all the way to crazy)
Get Angry (go to all the way to murder)
Get Depressed (go all the way to suicide)

The fifth way to solve the problem … Actually solve it. Do what needs to be done to solve it. Why, you might ask (as I did) doesn’t everyone just solve their problems? Because, the book says, people are unwilling to solve their problems if they don’t like the solutions.

She elaborated and said, “Pam, think about it. When people have a problem they either become depressed and won’t get out of bed to fix it, or they get sick and won’t get out of bed to fix it. They get confused and can’t figure out how to get out of bed to fix it. Or they get mad and determined not to get out of bed to fix it. Finally, most people get sick of being in bed and finally figure out they have to get out of bed and fix it.

We laughed. (It is particularly funny because Cyndi spent most of January wallowing in some sad place, frustrated with what to do with the films. A little time and distance from the experience … and watching all of the footage from beginning to end as I had originally suggested … made it possible to attack the problem.)

But then, I said, “What about the people who do the “Yeah, but, I can’t change it. Yeah, but, I can’t fix it because blah, blah, blah What about the “Yeah, buts.”

peopleLie.jpgThat’s his second book, she says, The People of the Lie. People who refuse to change or handle their problems and blame other people for what doesn’t work in their lives. She always has an answer to everything to support her theories. I think producers are like that. Or teachers, maybe. I am going to put on my headphones so I don’t have to listen to her elaborate on this anymore. Or I’ll be having a problem getting my editing done on time!

So what does this have to do with anything? Not a heck of a lot. Except that filmmaking is a big problem solving fest. And there is the issue of friends and people emailing us and asking why we aren’t blogging like we used to, so I am committed to one of us posting once a week. ( Your turn Cyn!)

I also wanted to tell many of you thanks for your friendship and support these last few months. I had a big problem! Sometimes I got depressed about it. I was definitely sick of it! And often confused as to what to do. We won’t discuss the anger issues. Alec still has remnants of my bite marks! Ultimately, we got busy and solved it … and we feel pretty proud of our documentary trailer. The movies are coming along well, too. Funny how that works. If any of you are interested in viewing the documentary trailer, email us and we might just send it to you. If not, well you choose which of the five methods you’ll use to solve that problem.

March 24, 2007

Piece of Work

pic_editing_1.jpgBY PAMELA JO BOWMAN - MESA ARIZONA - We are in the editing process. We spend all day, every day (and some nights and weekends) editing these two films. Everything takes longer than I think it should. I believe it keeps getting stronger each day. We put it to bed at night and in the morning we recognize new ways to go back and tighten it . Sometimes taking a “film break” can be another way to discover answers to film editing situations. This month I spent time watching how other editors edit their films. I “sacrificed” some time and accompanied my husband to 4 movies. One historical drama, one coming of age movie, one love story and one I can’t even remember. I looked it up and it would be better to forget that I spent money on it. Oh the sacrifices we make to hone our craft!

AMAZING GRACE, in my opinion, was worth the time and money. I enjoyed how they sequenced the scenes and the story. The casting was right on. I believed in the characters and so I was drawn into their story. The music, the scenery, the shots, the detail. Truly beautiful. I also enjoyed the history lesson for my daughters.

WILD HOGS on the other hand, well, do we need to even address what, in my opinion, was a story that could have been and should have been a coming of age tale for baby boomers past, present and future? I just don’t think there was strong character development. I wanted to like it. I wanted to like them, but all I saw were the actors trying to act...on motorcycles.

SONG AND LYRICS was just fun. I could discuss character development and lack of romantic connection, but I really wanted to just enjoy a film. It has been such a long time since I just relaxed and enjoyed the fantasy. After experiencing GHOST RIDER, I suppose anything would seem good. After all doesn't everyone need a love autopsy. Doesn't everyone want to find, "A Way Back Into Love!” Oh yea, "Pop, goes my heart!" Sometimes silly can be a fun and life affirming experience. Drew and Hugh ooze with silliness and it is contagious.

As far as GHOST RIDER. Saying nothing is writing too much.

What is true is that before Zambia I would go to movies and I could tell I wasn’t getting into them as much as I used to. After Zambia, my family has become exasperated as I editorialize every movie experience. I analyze the actors, the lighting, the storyline, the sound, the music, the detail, the shot angle, the subtle story in costumes or food or wall decorations. As I discuss the films with friends and family they berate me about dissecting every scene and character and basically ruining the movie experience. I realize that a really good movie is done so that I don’t even notice the seams or actors or music or detail. I would be drawn into the story and the characters. That is what I want to create, a completely absorbing experience for the moviegoers. It is their ten bucks and I want to earn every penny. I want a CASA BLANCA experience. I want a GREAT GATSBY or a GONE WITH THE WIND or a WIZARD OF OZ. I want my own yellow brick road. I know it will take time and experience, but once you have had that moment in a movie that touches your heart and changes your life, well, the feeling is enchanting and empowering. To create that experience for others is exciting and alluring. It is becoming the wizard behind the curtain. It is enabling others to recognize their own heart, their own brilliance, their own courage and where they truly belong.

So back to the editing process where everyday we think, “why didn’t we get more B roll or shoot that at a different angle or where is the story?” We kick ourselves, but we also are taking notes and learning. We are getting better at this. We have moments where we are creating our own OZ. For me editing is just one more step in the process. It is fun to be able to see the story develop and unfold. It is fun to learn. I giggle with joy everyday! It is a joy to place the pieces together and watch a piece of work evolve into a work of art.

March 23, 2007

My "Gratitude Rock"

BY JENIECE TORANZO "GIDGET" MESA, ARIZONA USA. One day when I was walking out of my apartment and towards my truck, yep I'm a chick with a truck, something caught my eye. As I was walking I was looking down at the sidewalk. Yes, I tend to walk with my head looking down at the ground. Hey, I would like to know what I'm stepping into. I do not want any surprises waiting for me.

Anyway, I noticed a shape engraved or embedded into the sidewalk. The shape didn't look like it had been purposely put there. It didn't look like it was created by hand. It looked like it was an accident or some weird freak of nature that happened.

Every day I would walk by this location and I never noticed it. I saw it, but I didn't really register what it was. I realized that this shape was the shape of Africa! If you don't beleive me, I have proof! I'll show ya. Crazy huh? Couldn't believe it too when I first saw it.


I thought it was the weirdest thing. Every day now, I look down at the shape and remember all the things we did in Lusaka, Zambia Africa. It is a reminder for me of all the wonderful things we accomplished there. It's a reminder to count all the many blessings that I have received. I guess you could say it's my "gratitude rock" (hint-this is from "the Secret"). So I am truly grateful for the experience that Cyndi Greening gave me. Something that I will never forget. Thank you! Say cheese please.:)

March 21, 2007

Manifest Manifest Manifest!

BY JENIECE TORANZO "GIDGET" MESA, ARIZONA USA- O.K. so who here has watched "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne? I know I have and I loved it. Although I do believe that it could probably be shortened to an hour. I can see that it must have been hard to edit. Writers feel like all of the information is valuable and interesting. In the past I have heard things and read books on how powerful the mind is and how changing your thinking pattern can have an effect on you and your goals. I didn't really get it. I get it now! THE SECRET used interviews of other respected and inpired individuals who reinforced the concepts being discussed in the movie. It helped to have visuals and examples. I totally get it now and I LOVE IT! Now my favorite word I use so dearly and quite often is MANIFEST! But you have to say it three times ....manifest manifest manifest. Why? Cause it sounds better. It makes it feel more real and more meaningful. I don't know why really-it just sounds good ok? So say it with me. Manifest manifest manifest. And don't forget! You have to say it really really ridiculously fast! If you say it too slow, it just sounds boring and goofy.


Anyway, this has really helped me have a new perspective on life. I apply it to as many things as I can which is everything! It also helps to have other supporters to encourage you and know what the heck you're talking about. OK so I have a story...goodie goodie gum drops huh? Ha ha Just kidding, but no really I do have a story. And here it is....

O.K. so a few weeks ago, I was out with my girlfriends celebrating a birthday. There were three of us in the car. We decided to go into Scottsdale and everyone knows that Scottsdale is terrible for parking. We even went into a parking garage and was literally driving around for about 10-15 minutes. We just kept going around and around and up and down the levels and yet no parking. Several other people had the same idea. Some would have luck and get a parking spot right before we could get to it so it was just frusterating us all! All of a sudden I said" Let's manifest it. We need to manifest a parking spot". Now I'm sitting there thinking-this will work. Why, up at Sundance Pam, Cyndi, and I and sometimes Nick would be in the car and we would all say "Ok, now let's manifest a parking spot". And wala, there would be a perfect parking spot for us 9 times out of 10. It worked great! And when it didn't, it was because we knew we were pretending to believe. O.K. now so when I said it this time....it didn't quite go the way I was expecting. One of the girls said "What the....manifest? What the heck is that? Don't ever say that word again. What's next? Are you going to say you believe in aliens?" At first I was offended then shy about even saying it. Then I thought-hey! This is a great word that everyone should know about! I asked them if they even heard of the word and they only said that maybe people used it back in the day like ancient times or something like in murders. They really didn't know the true meaning of the word and how powerful it is. And how often the bible uses it! So I explained what it meant as best as I could and they kind of sort of got it, but not really. "Just don't used that word in public" is what one girl said. At this point, I wasn't offended anymore and now I laugh at how my friends reacted. I kept telling them "it's a great word and you're going to hear it more!" I told them that you have to say it three times fast.

Next time I know to only say it around people who know about it. I felt like a complete goober. Make sure you watch the movie too so you know what the heck I'm talking about. You won't regret it. I don't! And for all those Oprah fans.... the movie "THE SECRET" was mentioned on there also...twice! So you know once it's on Oprah, they mean business huh?!

Well a few days past since that night. Then I received a message on my myspace that said "Manifest it Baby!!! Manifest it!!!" And this was coming from my friend who told me to never say the word again! And then a few days later another message "manifest anything lately???" My point? They love the word! See I manifested that people will start saying it even if at first it's weird. You're gonna love it. Can't stop the inevitable. What are you going to manifest today? I challenge you and you can't give up and quit. Manifest manifest manifest.

March 15, 2007

Full Frame Documentary Films Include Africa

BY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA – Every year I think I'm finally going to make it to FULL FRAME DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL. This year, it's from April 12 – 15 and it's the TENTH year! It always falls in that time of year that I have trouble getting away because it's mid-semester (not to mention TAX TIME ... and I never have my taxes done early AND it's all the way across the country in Durham, North Carolina). I recall when FULL FRAME first appeared. It was the year following my first Sundance. It was a small festival then, serving a very small niche market ... documentary lovers.

ff_logo.jpgThey were so far out in front of everyone else on this one! At Sundance this year, we went to several workshops at the House of Docs. Cara Mertes was talking about how popular documentary films have become and how Sundance is supporting the surging interest. Now, don't get me wrong, docs have always been supported and popular at Sundance but, in the early days, it felt more like the rest of the festival supported the docs. Now, the docs are holding their own and even surpassing the features in some instances.

Several docs that screened at Sundance are on the Full Frame slate. Among them:

  • BANISHED by Marco Williams
  • CRAZY LOVE by Dan Klores
  • THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern
  • EVERYTHING'S COOL by Judith Helfand and Daniel Gold
  • FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO by Daniel Karslake
  • MANDA BALA (Send A Bullet) by Jason Kohn
  • PROTAGONIST by Jessica Yu
  • WAR/DANCE by Sean and Andrea Nix Fine
  • WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN by Steven Okazaki

I either saw several of these films or saw the filmmakers on the Panels. MANDA BALA won top awards at Sundance. I personally loved Okazaki's film. I really wanted to see FOR THE BIBLE and WAR/DANCE. I liked Dan Klores previous film RING OF FIRE: THE EMILE GRIFFITH STORY. Alec and I both really loved that one.

There is a film at FULL FRAME that I am trying to imagine how they're going to make it interesting ... seriously. It's called HELVETICA ... it's a film about a typeface. You know the film world is getting crazy when they can make a movie about type. Gary Hustwit has made a film about "graphic design and the global visual culture." I want to see how he pulled this off!

A couple of other films that really caught my attention were THE KILLER WITHIN (about what happens when someone you know and love reveals himself to be a murderer) and ANGELS IN THE DUST (about a family-run orphanage serving children living with AIDS in South Africa).

March 14, 2007

Getting Ready for Tribeca

BY PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, ARIZONA — Today, our press credentials to the Tribeca Film Festival were approved. This festival is in New York City. Manhattan. The Big Apple. I have never been to New York City but a year ago I had never been to Africa, either. Manifest and whatever you want can be yours. I have always wanted to go to New York. My grandfather was born there. I want to look up his history and see his house. So I am going to believe that this will happen and then it will.

According to their website, "The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff as a response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. tribeca.gifConceived to foster the economic and cultural revitalization of Lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music and culture. The Festival’s mission is to promote New York City as a major filmmaking center and allow its filmmakers to reach the broadest possible audience." The sixth annual Tribeca Film Festival (my first, however) will run from April 25th to May 6th, 2007. The Festival is anchored in Tribeca (that is the triangle below California) and takes place in additional neighborhoods throughout Manhattan, featuring film screenings, special events, concerts, a family street fair, and panel discussions.

In my experience, good motives breed an environment for creativity and acceptance of new ideas. Even though I graduated in journalism and enjoy covering the indie films and their creators, it is the production of my own ideas and the sharing of my own creative thoughts makes me want to attend this festival. I am excited to learn from others who will share their filmic vision and have inspired one of my own.

March 13, 2007

Clear Your Head, Clear Your Schedule

BY PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, ARIZONA — I love this time of year! I can eat my breakfast on my porch …for two days … and then the nasal drip begins. My eyes get puffy and the allergy breath nauseates even me. I would love to be able to scratch my brain! sunshineGirls.jpg Anyone have a brain scratcher? Knitting needles? Really long q-tips? So the allergy medicines are purchased and I am back on my bike riding to work. Today I made Cyndi take a break and go outside just to sit in the sunshine. We can only stare at those monitors for so long. I keep going over to the Lakes' pool before work, during work, after work. It’s not like watching exercise gurus on T.V. I actually swim while I am there! The exercise is invigorating and motivates me to get my work done so I can go play some more. The truth is that I feel like I am playing when I work, but looking out of the office window at the beckoning sunshine is … just … well … more than this girl can take!

I am convinced that finding time to play outside helps the work progress. We are getting things done. We are almost meeting our deadlines. Believe me, this is an improvement! Last week, Cyndi’s family was here. There was a phone conversation she was having with her sister because, apparently, she was supposed to have met them at a restaurant. “I am almost there. I will be right there. Really! I am just exiting the freeway.” I couldn't believe what I was hearing. She was still sitting at her editing desk! Even if we aren't actually making a deadline, Cyndi thinks she is! She always thinks she's going to make it.

With all of the pollen in the air, my head is so stuffy, I can barely remember what day it is. So spring has sprung. Ain’t it great? Hope you indie filmmakers are making your deadlines. If you're struggling with allergies, let me recommend Benedryl. As a child of the 70's, I've always been told drugs can be a wonderful thing! They make it so much easier to love this time of year … and meet your deadlines … for real!

March 12, 2007

Wish I Were Going SXSW

sxsw07.gifBY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA — I attended the SXSW Film Festival for the first time last year. I had never been to Austin, Texas (and if I ever spoke of going to Texas, I generally had something fairly disparaging to say about the state) so I was totally shocked at how much I liked the city. Since I'm such a Sundance aficionado, I was even more surprised about how much I loved the festival. Of course I love the films at festivals but there TWO other things that make ache to attend them. First, I adore the panel discussions. The latest trends and current production methods are discussed by industry professionals. These discussions create the second incredibly valuable thing about festivals — access. All filmmaking is about getting connected to the "right" people, the people who can fund your film, star in your film, distribute your film. At the festivals, these normally well-insulated, virtually invisible people become very approachable. There are hundreds of film success stories that start at one festival or another.

SXSW has the MOST extensive panel discussion schedule I've ever seen. For the four days of the film festival, they host 17 panels PER DAY. Most panels are comprised of four or five panelists so the depth of knowledge and experience in the room can be quite substantial. (Although, there certainly are exceptions. Last year, I was on a panel about film blogging. It was a whole bunch of fun but, hey, it was me.) Even if you can't attend SXSW, you can check the Panel Schedule find out who the movers and shakers are in the industry. On Sunday, there was a panel on finding the narrative thread in documentary. I would have loved to catch it.