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November 09, 2007

Update from Zambian Actor

BY TOPSY SIKALINDA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA — I played the Cop and Prosecuter in BAD TIMING. It's the first time I was opening your website and just thought i respond to your call for information.

Well I gat nothing much to say except that we are waiting to see the movie itself. From the time you came to Zambia, you kind of opened the doors for us, we really learnt a lot from you and your team. Personally am now working on a number of productions for our local TV station and applying the knowledge I got from you and the team.

Am one person who was very observant (learning in silence and getting to understand on how you shoot films on a professional note). You may not know or realise how much you taught me personally but I will always thank you guys for the knowledge you shared.

Thank you again and hope to hear from you when the movie is being released. Great day and regards to the whole team!

September 18, 2007

Load o' Poo

BY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA — BY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA — I've been getting such a load of poo lately for being slow about blogging. As you can imagine, I have had a lot of things going on. I can hear Pamela Jo already. "Oh come on, I know how much time you spend lolly-gagging." I was talking with my sister, Sandy, over the weekend and I was telling her how the whole hearing thing was really wearing on me. The pressure was becoming overwhelming. Sandy said she could tell it was wearing because of how my blogging had been. I was blogging less frequently and there just weren't as many amusing entries. I didn't know it was that transparent. I'd been trying to only write when I was feeling happy and positive. Apparently, my standards had fallen ... my idea of happy and positive just wasn't.

I feel like I've really rounded a corner now. The hearing is done. (All four agonizing days of it.) I know I've done all I could do. I gave it my best effort. Now, it's time to move on. Move forward.

Ironically, some really wonderful things have been happening. GREENing Productions has produced several new projects in the past few months. GL_DD_cover.jpgMy business partner, Pamela Jo (who is always complaining that I don't do enough), and I, have completed a wonderful two-part Art Instructional DVD. This was a project that I conceived over twenty years ago! I had said to my friend, Regina, "Wouldn't it be great if someone had recorded Socrates giving a lecture or, perhaps, Plato, discussing the Republic?" I wanted to do a series capturing gifted instructors sharing their knowledge and their skill. Gingher instructed, we used two cameras to shoot, Pamela edited, I prepped the DVD and did cover design for a wonderful six-part series on Charcoal Drawing. I've always felt like what we did (we fine and occupational art faculty) was really remarkable and that it was unfortunate that only people living in the Phoenix metro area were able to benefit from our efforts.

So, in 2005, when Thompson Publishing approached me about doing a DVD series, I was really excited. But, the amount of work and low, low, low, bargain basement royalties (8%) just didn't make it all that appealing to do more titles for them. On top of that, I was much more accustomed to a lecture structure with hands-on participation. So, the Cool School Interactus series just didn't quite cut it for me. So, we did our own series. And, I must admit, it turned out pretty dang sweet! There are a few other folks who are hoping to continue the series and we're excited to bring it to market. Next, we've got watercolor, portrait drawing and portrait painting coming out. It's all too exciting.

On top of that, we've got a documentary project that's just show up. It's about the Navajo Nation. I'm sure you're getting the awesome visuals in your head already. Canyon de Chelly. Hogans on the plateau. Sunrise. Sunset. DannyDVD.jpgThe timeless passage of life in the remote desert. I'm really excited about this project and I'm learning NOT to say anything too early because it's really in the nascent stage. Until we get a bit more committed to film, I'll have to keep it under my hat.

While we've been working on the new series, Jeniece has been working on editing the concert that Danny did for the Zambian National Arts Council last September. The final piece was about 40 minutes long. She also edited the FilmZambia Film Shoot that was held at the Le Triumph Dolphin Restaurant on 31 August. She did a really nice job with it. In addition to the two concert pieces, we were able to add his scene from the film AND the performance by his guitarist on set. The only thing left to do is the Color Correction and the Audio Mixing. Then I get to commit them to DVD. I've already finished the cover design.

September 14, 2007

Judgment Day

BY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA — Well, today is my first Judgment Day. The MCCCD Hearing Committee met at 11:00 a.m. to begin deliberating my case. Who knows how long it will take them? The original hearing was scheduled for only one day but ultimately took four days. So, if that is any sort of a clue of how the deliberations will go, I'm anticipating a resolution some time next week. I've been on pins and needles all day and feeling a bit "jangly" ... awaiting the judgment of my peers. To complete this process, I will have to go through a total of three cycles of judgment. It begins with the non-binding recommendation of the Hearing Committee. Their recommendation goes to the Chancellor. The Chancellor then makes a recommendation to The Governing Board. That will be my Final Judgment with the Maricopa Community College Disrict. It will occur on October 23, 2007. So, only five more weeks until it's all sorted out.

Overall, I've got it a whole lot easier than Dante Alighieri's characters in his most famous work. DanteDetail.jpgDante gave us The Divine Comedy with the articulation of the Nine Circles of Hell. Literature aficionados and literate humans know that Dante also described the Seven Terraces of Purgatory and the Nine Spheres of Heaven. So, I've got it a whole lot easier than any of the folks traversing those worlds. They've got three times the frustration, agony and suffering for EACH level. It's all relative, I guess.

Lately, I've been obsessing about making a Fine Art book (like the one Dante is holding in the painting above). I want to hand-set type again and run pages and carved blocks through a Vandercook Press. I want to do a custom binding and a custom cover. With everything that's been going on, I've been writing a great deal. I've got a collection of short works I'd like to commit to paper. Maybe that's something I can do to make the next five weeks pass more peacefully. Maybe I could make a small edition and share them with some of the folks who have really agonized with me the last several months. They really deserve a whole lot more than a Fine Art book but ... heck, attorney fees and independent films have drained all my discretionary funds. I'll put up images as it develops.

August 28, 2007

Zambian Storytellers

storytellers.jpgI am so looking forward to my next Zambian project! We are planning to return to Zambia to record the native stories and fables of all 73 indigenous tribes. In the Summer of 2005, I took a Digital Storytelling Workshop in Sedona that convinced me that it was important to save indigenous tales. In the Spring of 2006, MCC Media Arts offered its first Digital Storytelling class. The value of capturing the individual memories and generational traditions of the elders of a culture is something that inspires me.

In our first Zambian visit, the Chair of the National Arts Council asked us to record five Zambian storytellers and commit the footage to DVD so it could be distributed to schools and universities throughout Zambia. It was an exciting and wonderful idea. We went to the Council headquarters with the assumption that we'd be recording in one of the buildings. They had other ideas.

They marched us into the bush and we recorded the native Zambian storytellers in a natural setting. We moved a big rock for the storytellers to sit on. We found mats for the children. We used the shoot as a learning experience. Each member of the crew had the opportunity to try different positions. Steadicam, glidecam, audio, handheld. Whatever they wanted to try. We had all six cameras running and every piece of hand-built equipment in action. It was a great day. Afterwards, the crew and I spent hours lecturing about filmmaking, demonstrating techniques and networking with aspiring Zambian filmmakers. It was an increible day. Here's a clip of the day.

August 21, 2007

99.9 KEZ Calls About Beth's WOTYA

BethWOTYA.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA — This afternoon, I got a crazy phone call from 99.9 KEZ. Initially, I thought it was someone calling for some sort of survey so I wasn't really concentrating. In fact, I was thinking, "Why the heck did I answer this dang phone?!" But the young woman on the end of the line kept talking.

"I'm calling from KEZ, 99.9 FM, home of the Beth and Bill Show." I'm still not focusing all that hard because I'm thinking it's a promo call. "One of your former students nominated you for Beth McDonald's WOMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD." I'm paying a little more attention now. How kind of them to call and tell me. That's the sort of thing that really brightens your day.

"Pamela Bowman sent a really nice letter about how you went to Zambia with those 14 students to make a film AND all about how you grew the Media Arts program at Mesa Community College. We just wanted to let you know that you are a FINALIST for this month's Woman of the Year Award. Beth will make the announcement on the air tomorrow between 7 and 8 a.m. If you're the winner, we'll be calling you again." To be honest, I was so stunned I hung up without saying a thing. A few minutes later I called back and apologized for being such a dolt on the phone. I confessed that I thought it was a survey or prank call so I wasn't really listening at first.

Sarah, that was her name, was very gracious and laughed. She said she understood. She also said she'd read about the projects and she thought they were quite neat. It was a really nice moment. I'll remember it for a long time. I told her that I was honored just to be nominated and that the FilmZambia crew deserved just as much credit as I for the success of the project. And, as everyone connected with the project would attest .... As the other producer, Pamela Bowman probably deserves the Woman of the Year Award far more than I do! She had to put up with me!

August 14, 2007

FilmZambia Crew on their Experience

FZCrewKraal.jpg

BY THE FILMZAMBIA CREW, ALL OVER THE U.S. — A year ago at this time, we were in Zambia, in the middle of our first week of production on BAD T!MING. It was exactly one year ago today that we had our first day on set and we discovered that our lights were toooooo powerful for the Zambian circuitry. Even with our adapters firmly in place, it was hopeless. The bulbs flickered and the filaments fizzled. The transformer in the building smoked. It was just sad.

Gaffer Shawn, Grip Jacob, Alec, Heath and I went all over town trying to find more bulbs. When we discovered there were no bulbs on the entire continent, we got all MacGuyver. We went to an electrical store and bought halogen yard lights. The guys fashioned our own 500W and 1000W lights with reostats and switches. Thank heaven Mike Montesa brought his photographic umbrellas and stands along to Africa. He saved our souls ... or at least the films.

Crew member Jeniece Toranzo edited together a wonderful mini-doc on the FilmZambia Crew. You can see how they dealt with the challenges with the lights and many of the other difficulties faced during that shoot.

June 03, 2007

Sundance 2008 Submission Deadlines

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA — For those of you who like to plan ahead, it's time to start thinking about Sundance 2008. Yes, the festival isn't until January but there are a number of important deadlines that precede it. If you're a filmmaker, the primary concern is preparing your film.

SUNDANCE 2008 OFFICIAL SUBMISSION DEADLINES:
SundanceBling.jpgU.S. & International Short Films
Friday, September 1st, 2006
    $35 ENTRY FEE

U.S. & International Feature Films and Documentaries
Monday, September 11th, 2006
    $50 ENTRY FEE

If you're planning on attending the festival, you should book your hotel in October and purchase your festival package or pass. I heard a rumor that there would be some changes in the ticketing process (again) this year, so you may want to track the Sundance site for details. Around Thanksgiving, the sales begin. In early December, the films are announced (the new glitterati are anointed) and around January 1st, ticket selections must be made. So, while it's hotter than blue blazes out there and most of you are more worried about getting to the beach than you are to the mountains of Park City, those of us who love the festival are already aware of the ticking clock. Tick tock, tick tock.

May 19, 2007

Still in Motion

High school science teachers tell us that everything is always in motion. The movement might be so minute that it appears to be motionless, but in reality it still moves. We understand that standing still really is an illusion. We are all in motion.

newtonscradle.jpgAt times, this last week has felt like slow motion. Events have transpired that have made us stop in our tracks and take a look at this last year. We have spent moments remembering our goals for FILM ZAMBIA. We were so naive. We really believed we could accomplish so much. And in reflection we have discovered we accomplished more then we even intended. It is almost time to move on to new and more productive projects. As we complete these we feel such gratitude for all who have supported our efforts and encouraged us along the way.

We will continue to blog about what is happening with the film. Additionally, we'll be writing about our projects on our own individual sites. CyndiGreening.com and PamelaBowman.com. Please feel free to keep up with us and our ambitious goals. We love the feedback we get, even the negative stuff! Really!

So keep moving and ponder on Confucius. "It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." We know there is no stopping. We are still in motion.

May 08, 2007

An Enigma Wrapped in a Cypher

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA – I got home LATE Sunday evening. Flight delays out of LaGuardia. Missed flight in Denver. Two hour Super Shuttle trip home. No wonder I was wiped out yesterday. I was finally able to get my head back into work today. reflectioningMaryMag.jpg After two good meetings with distributors and broadcasters in NYC last week, I'm feeling eager to get going on this project and others. We were back at editing today and also started working on new scripts. I wish there were more hours in the day. There just isn't enough time to do all of the things I want to do. And my phone call return is far worse than usual. Even five minutes is precious these days.

Last week, at the Met, I snapped this photo of Pam looking at a painting of Mary Magdelene. I ended up liking the photo so much that I wanted to use it even though I didn't really have anything to write about it at that moment. Pam got me going with this whole "Where are all the women in art history?" question ... not to mention, where are all of the women in history. This photograph evokes the gestalt of the inquiry. We've got a woman, taking a picture of a woman who is looking at a woman who appears to be hiding herself from view ... the painting an interpretation by a man. An enigma wrapped in a cypher buried in a puzzle struggling to find the light of day. Or the organic form of one of those infinite mirror photos.

May 03, 2007

Walking, Talking and Eating in NYC

BY CYNDI GREENING, MANHATTAN, USA – bagelPam.jpgWhen I lived in Wisconsin, it wasn't essential to own a car. There was NO mass transit system so it wasn't that it was so convenient or easy to get around. The truth was that there wasn't that much to do so it didn't really matter if you couldn't get around. When I moved to Phoenix, there was no way to live without an automobile. It was over 75 miles from one side of the Valley to the other. Again, mass transit was non-existent but now it became vital to be able to get to and from work, to and from interesting things to see and do. Now, I'm in NYC and vehicle-less again. I'm in the city that is the zenith of things to do and see AND the pinnacle of mass transit.

bagelCyndi.jpgIt is odd but in some ways, NYC reminds me of Zambia. Everyone walks every where. There is a feeling of everything being in perpetual motion. As in Zambia, we eat while we're in motion. Now, to be fair, the food in NYC is quite a bit more American, so much more familiar to us. I've found the best bagel sandwich at a deli near Broadway. It's a bit of heaven on a bun. After my first visit to NYC, the thing I missed the most when I returned to PHX was the deli meal on the run. It's so New York.

Where the Boys Are

BY CYNDI GREENING, MANHATTAN, USA – We're happy to be in Tribeca because we get to see two of the FilmZambia crew members who now live and work in New York. They're both in the film industry now and, like all beginning filmmakers, they're struggling to make a civilized living and get the all important credits necessary to move upward and onward. guysNYCsubway.jpg They've been dutiful about showing us around and making sure we understand the subways. They're veterans, of course. We newbies are just proud when we arrive at the place we expected.

FilmZambia cinematographer, editor and swing crew member Jacob Felix is working with Jonathan Demme, the director of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and PHILADELPHIA and THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. He's working as a personal assistant and learning a ton. He's starting to read scripts for Demme, now. FilmZambia cinematographer and editor Alec Hart is working at Subvoyant, a post-production house on Broadway and Spring in Soho. I enjoy visiting them at work just to see what is going on.

I've only got three days left here in the city. Que lastima.

April 29, 2007

Seek and Ye Shall Find

BY CYNDI GREENING, MANHATTAN, USA – It's Sunday in Manhattan. A beautiful, bright blue sky hangs above the skyline. Our frustration with getting into films has reached a boiling point so we decided to try to get into a Broadway show instead. Ironically, that seems easier than getting into a film at the festival. As we walked toward the theaters, we stumbled upon a seekingCyndi.jpg Sikh parade moving through Golda Meir Square. There was an undulating sea of orange scarves and a plethora of flowing saris. The chanting was haunting. Click on either image to see and hear twelve seconds of the parade. That's right, twelve seconds. I didn't have a video camera with me so this was all I could get with my digital still camera. You still get the gestalt of the moment.

We were able to get tickets to A CHORUS LINE Even though this is my fourth (!) trip to NYC, it was my first Broadway show. Pamela was quite determined to get to a show and I'm glad we decided to bag the movies and catch the live theater instead. seekingPamelaJo.jpg I've loved the music for A Chorus Line since it first debuted. Seeing it was even better! I've been singing or (mercifully) humming "I can do that" and "I hope I get it" all week. "What I did for love" is in my repetoire for melancholy moments ... like those moments when we're trying to get into Mary Stuart Masterson's CAKE EATERS.

Unfortunately, much of the festival has been an exercise in frustration. We RSVP'd, as instructed. We arrived an hour early, as instructed. We got into the Badge holders line, as instructed. We got to the door of the theater and were turned away by a particularly brusque NY volunteer who told us she simply could not let us in. Hours and hours of frustration is what we experience. So, we went out to the press line to see if we could get a shot of MSM and cast and a pithy quote or two. A particularly brusque security guard tried to block our path then realized we were press and allowed us through. In the end, we saw Masterson. She appeared excited and anxious for the debut of her film ... a film we never got to see. I hope it went well.

April 27, 2007

Full Frame Winners Announced

The tenth annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival was held in North Carolina from April 12 through April 15. The winners of this year's festival were announced! Many of the films were programmed at Sundance. We screened one of the films this morning, here at Tribeca. Another of the award winners is on our screening schedule for the weekend! Notice how many films are about Africa and African issues!

FFDFF_10.jpgFULL FRAME GRAND JURY AWARD
The Monastery
Directed by Pernille Rose Grønkjær.
Produced by Sigrid Helene Dyekær.

FULL FRAME JURY AWARD FOR BEST SHORT
Cross Your Eyes Keep Them Wide
Directed and Produced by Ben Wu.Honorable Mention
Zo is dat (The Way It Is)
Directed by Elizabeth Salgado.
Produced by Frieder Wallis.

FULL FRAME AUDIENCE AWARD
War/Dance
Directed by Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine.
Produced by Albie Hecht.

CENTER FOR DOCUMENTARY STUDIES FILMMAKER AWARD
The Ants
Directed by Kaoru Ikeya.
Produced by Yoko Gon.

THE CHARLES E. GUGGENHEIM EMERGING ARTIST AWARD
The Monastery
Directed by Pernille Rose Grønkjær.
Produced by Sigrid Helene Dyekær

SEEDS OF WAR
Uganda Rising
Directed by Jesse James Miller, Pete McCormack.
Produced by Alison Lawton.
The Devil Came on Horseback
Directed by Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern.
Produced by Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern, Jane Wells, Gretchen Wallace.

FULL FRAME SPECTRUM AWARD
Banished
Directed by Marco Williams.
Produced by Two Tone Productions and Center for Investigative Reporting.

Honorable Mention
Leila Khaled, Hijacker
Directed by Lina Makboul. Produced by Robert Danielsson, Tussilago Productions, Sveriges Television.

FULL FRAME INSPIRATION AWARD
Forever
Directed by Heddy Honigmann.
Produced by Carmen Cobos.Honorable Mention
Lake of Fire
Directed and Produced by Tony Kaye.

FULL FRAME PRESIDENT’S AWARD
Lumo
Directed by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Nelson Walker III.
Produced by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Nelson Walker III, Louis Ableman.
A P.O.V. Film.

FULL FRAME WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP AWARD
Shame
Directed by Mohammed Naqvi.
Produced by Mohammed Naqvi, Jill Schneider.

THE KATHLEEN BRYAN EDWARDS AWARD FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
For the Bible Tells Me So
Directed and Produced by Daniel Karslake.

FULL FRAME/WORKING FILMS AWARD
The Devil Came on Horseback
Directed by Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern.
Produced by Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern, Jane Wells, Gretchen Wallace.

FULL FRAME/EMERGING PICTURES AUDIENCE AWARD
Angels in the Dust
Directed by Louise Hogarth.
Produced by James Egan, Louise Hogarth.
A Participant Production

April 26, 2007

Tribeca Day One

BY CYNDI GREENING, NEW YORK, USA – The east coast festival experience has begun and it is completely different from the Sundance experience. Sundance swallows up Park City, Utah and consumes the consciousness of everything around it. It becomes the have-all, be-all, end-all. Tribeca is held in lower Manhattan and, well, let's be honest, it would be awfully dang hard for anything to swallow The Big Apple. It felt like we walked a million miles today trying to get our press credenticals, locate the Box Office, get the details on Press Conferences and Press Screenings. We walked back and forth and around Tribeca. Lovely part of the city (in the past, I spent far more time on the Upper East Side, Union Square and Greenwich Village) with a feel all of its own.

tribecatix.jpgTribeca has about ten times the number of attendees as Sundance (465,000 vs. 42,000). They have about the same number of films. Tribeca reporterd 2250 feature submissions in all categories versus Sundance with 1502. Tribeca reports around 2300 short films were submitted from 41 different countries. Tribeca will screen 157 feature length films and 88 short films.

Tomorrow, we will screen FRAULEIN, a Swiss and German film about three women from the former Yugoslavia. We'll also be catching THE DEVIL RODE ON HORSEBACK, a documentary that I had wanted to see at Sundace but missed. Finally, we'll be going to a DIGITAL TO FILM WORKSHOP. There's a chance we'll be able to record it. They said it was lightly attended today. I hope that means we won't have trouble getting in tomorrow.

As festivals go, this is an odd one thus far. We've got ten more days to go so I'm sure it will shift for us soon. The press corps is omnipresent here ... far more so than at Sundance. There are reporters and broadcasters everywhere and the coverage is intense.

April 22, 2007

Broadway Bound ...

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA — We're heading for The Big Apple this week for the Tribeca Film Festival. I've been trying to expand the number of festivals I attend and blog about. While I love Sundance, it's only once a year AND there are a number of other good festivals out there. This will be my first Tribeca. Last week, we met with a producer/mentor who said Tribeca was "over-sponsored." I thought Sundance had to be the most over-sponsored festival in North America (I'm assuming Cannes holds the European title) so I'll be curious to see how the festivals compare.

Tribeca is sure to be quite different from Sundance. For starters, it's in a very populated city. Sundance cannibalizes a very small Utah town. There are more venues for Tribeca, more family films and family events. There aren't quite as many films. They're about the same duration, about the same price. Our current plan is to capture many Q&A sessions, to interview filmmakers AND review films we screen. The key goal is to take our blog readers to Tribeca in the same way we take them to Sundance. Hopefully, it will encourage indie filmmakers to look at all the festival possibilities for their films.

happyAlec.jpgOne of the most exciting things for me will be seeing ALEC HART (one of the FilmZambia crew members who also happens to be my son). Alec lives in New York and works at Subvoyant, a post production house. He works with MIKE LUCIANO, a former MCC student. I'll be able to catch up with JACOB FELIX also (another FilmZambia crew member) who is now interning wtih Jonathan Demme, director of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Pamela is going to do some research on a film project she's working on. We're both going to meet with distributors and broadcasters about the films. Should be an eventful week. Stay tuned for more reports.

April 19, 2007

Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe

simonkapwepwe.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, GILBERT, ARIZONA – According to the CIA Factbook, "The territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the [British] South Africa Company from 1891 until it was taken over by the UK in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964."

One of the leaders of the Zambian independence movement was Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe. The father of Mulenga Kapwepwe (our dear Zambian friend with the Zambian National Arts Council), Simon became the second vice-president of Zambia. He was born in Chinsali on April 12, 1922. At age 12, he became friends with Kenneth Kaunda who was also a Chinsali native. The two later met again at Lubwa Mission where they were trained as teachers. Kapwepwe started teaching primary school in Kitwe but he was already dissatisfied with the colonial government. In 1948, he was a founding member of the Northern Rhodesia African Congress, which was later to be come the Africa National Congress. He became a member of the national executive and was secretary of the Kitwe Branch.

In 1950, Kapwepwe quit teaching to pursue further studies (including Journalism) on a four-year scholarship to India. When he returned to Zambia on January 6, 1955, Kapwepwe found ANC without a leader as both Harry Nkumbula and Kaunda were in prison for having literature deemed subversive by the government. Kapwepwe took over the leadership and quickly acquired a reputation as a firebrand because of his persuasive oratory skills. Among his newly acquired policies were racial equality and passive resistance to colonial power.

I found an audio recording from 1965 by the African Writers Club. Simon Kapwepwe is discussing the challenge of Zambia's position between primarily white-controlled Southern Africa and independent Africa.

"The power which establishes a state is violence; the power which maintains it is violence; the power which eventually overthrows it is violence." — Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia

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 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.

February 09, 2007

Helping Find YOUR Voice, Tell YOUR Story

BY CYNDI GREENING & PAMELA BOWMAN, PHOENIX, USA – The FilmZambia project has been a life-altering, monumental experience for all who participated. It is because of the Zambian project that we (the producers) have come to realize and refine our life mission. We experienced such satisfaction and joy at helping to bring a new voice to the global cinema, in educating filmmaking students in Zambia, in watching our MCC students expand their skills and have profound cultural experiences. The goal of educating, developing and supporting new voices in global cinema continues to be one of our primary concerns.

However, after attending the Sundance Film Festival in January, we realized that we were overlooking the voices of U.S. filmmakers. We were inspired to expand our commitment to include finding and nurturing the voices of new filmmakers in the U.S. Attending the festival, we found our voice and are stating our desire to help storytellers and filmmakers find their unique voice and get their story into the national market.

So, we are pleased to announce the launch of Greening Productions / Angel&Wings Productions, a site devoted to supporting independent filmmakers worldwide. (You will have to read the story of how the company name was bestowed upon us in Zambia! Whle we don't make religious films, we are committed to doing good work.) On the site, you will find the dates and times for classes and seminars that will be offered in the Phoenix metro area. These classes will also be available in different national locations in the near future. In addition, we are making DVDs available to assist in your digital film development.

Wherever we traveled, people interested in film would pepper us with questions. Due to limited time, we felt we could not give adequate answers or explanations. Through these classes and products, we are now able to provide information and assistance to future filmmakers.

So enjoy the site and let us know what you think! If you have thoughts on other products and classes we could offer that would be of support, we'd love to know. We will continue our global projects (we are currently working on a FilmEcuador project and a FilmSenegal project), also. We appreciate your feedback and thoughts!

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January 25, 2007

HOUNDDOG Leads Pack at Sundance 2007

BY CYNDI GREENING, PARK CITY, USA — We saw the dramatic competition film, HOUNDDOG, this afternoon and I really loved it. It was a tough film. The heart of the film is Dakota Fanning. She plays Lewellen, a poor southern girl, growing up in a swamp. She has an abusive father, a deceased mother, a bible-thumping, whiskey drinking grandmother and several bad pals. From the title, you can probably guess that she loves music and, in particular, the music of Elvis Presley.

   


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Writer/Director Deborah Kempmeier was on hand to introduce her film and some of her crew. The film was beautifully shot by Ed Lachman (although there were times when I wanted the colors to be darker, moodier, less lush). Kempmeier thanked the audience for coming to see the film and make their own assessment of the content. (Earlier this morning, I read in my complimentary copy of USA TODAY the rather uncomplimentary controversy arising around Fanning's sexual assault in this film.) Having seen the film, I am disappointed with the grief they're getting. It was really done well AND the point of the film is clearly disgust, disdain and despair for the burden carried by women of poverty. The film shows the many ways that dreams can be destroyed and how one must reclaim that which is special about oneself in order live a fulfilled, joyful life. In addition to Dakota Fanning, the film features the absolutely amazing Robin Wright Penn as a woman whose life is far more intertwined in Lewellen's than initially assumed.
   


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Looking at the publicity stills for the film, it appears that the film was well funded. The film had a budget of $3.5 million and it shows on the screen. The film had a relatively small cast. The narrative thread meandered a bit, sort of like the snakes that populated the film. It coiled around itself at times and thrust itself aggressively forward at other times. In the end, the film (like the character) was able to take all of the poison and transform it into something personal and powerful. HOUNDDOG is one of my favorite films of Sundance 2007!

January 17, 2007

Sundance 2007: Let The Buying Begin

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA (CINEMA MINIMA) — The festival doesn't begin for a couple more days but that isn't stopping the acquisitions folks from picking up Sundance films. Amir Bar-Lev's MY KID COULD PAINT THAT has exchanged North American TV rights in and equity investment deal with A&E. With A&E on board as a partner, the filmmakers and AE will go to Sundance seeking a theatrical distribution deal. CAA and Submarine brokered the deal.

THINKfilm has already acquired two Sundance documentary films. Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine's WAR / DANCE follows three Ugandan youth from their displacement camp in Northern Uganda to the National Dance Competition. The students share the stories of their abductions and the loss of their families as they train for the dance. An uplifting tale in the tradition of BORN INTO BROTHELS, the Fines' film is beautiful to watch. The other film acquired by THINKfilm is a bit more challenging to distribute. Robinson Devor's ZOO is described as a thoughtful and tasteful tale about one's man's zoophiliac love of Arabian horses. One of the best things about THINKfilm, I think, is their willingness to take on challenging films.

While they're great at taking on difficult films, Mark Urman and the folks at THINKfilm also have to have some significant distribution successes if they are to remain in business. A glance at IMDB reveals that they are particularly adept at choosing very popular and highly distributable documentaries. Among their previous acquisitions:
• MURDERBALL
• THE ARISTOCRATS
• SPELLBOUND
• THE TALE OF THE WEEPING CAMEL
• BORN INTO BROTHELS (Academy Award winner)

One more important note! You should be sure to check out the IndieWIRE Sundance Interviews. They blogging at least two interviews per day featuring Sundance filmmakers! They sent email questionnaires to all the participants two weeks prior to the festival to give them a chance to capture thoughts about their films before the festival madness consumed their lives.

December 13, 2006

Older and (Hopefully) Wiser

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA -- Yesterday was my birthday ... a milestone birthday ... the big 5 dot 0. When I was younger, I never thought I'd make it through five decades and I sure as heck didn't think it would happen so quickly! I can't believe I moved to Phoenix 23 years ago. I can't believe I was teaching at the community college for 16 years. I can't believe Alec is 19 already. I can't believe we went to Zambia to make a documentary and feature film. As I reflect on my life thus far, the word that comes to mind is UNBELIEVABLE. It's been unbelievable.

In many ways, I think I am one of the luckiest people on Earth. The Zambia project is proof of how unbelievably lucky I am!! In addition to getting the funding to take 14 students and four (4) faculty to make the feature film and documentary, we had the good fortune to finish shooting both films. On top of that, I was super lucky and had the most amazing crew! Their professionalism and diligence in making the films was extraordinary. Their kind and generous posts wishing me a happy day show how supportive, gracious and thougtful they are as human beings.

We've been back in the U.S. for three months now. Most everyone has returned to work and/or school. Some of the crew have made large geographic changes (Shawn, Alec, Jacob), some have made major life changes (I fall into this category), while the remainder have incorporated their experience more gracefully into their daily existence. Time stops for no one and each of the FilmZambia crew march on his or her appointed path toward whatever it is that life has in store. As the elder participant, I am blessed to have had such an opportunity and I know just how special it is. Some of the younger participants may not realize (until they've passed five decades) what a unique and wonderful opportunity this was. As is evidenced by the posts, these extraordinary people definitely deserved this experience ... and I was fortunate to have them with me. I love them dearly and cannot begin to express my gratitude for all they did and have done!

This year, I've come to believe that the best gifts are often the grace and generosity of another's presence in one's life. The FilmZambia crew has been one of the greatest gifts of my life ... if not THE greatest. I love you guys ...

December 03, 2006

Sacrifices for the Film Deities

leafcuisine.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA -- I'm in Los Angeles for the weekend, talking with editor Jason Behnke about the documentary he is working on and the FilmZambia projects. An editor for eight years, Jason offered some very encouraging words about the projects and made suggestions on getting them out there.

For excitement, he took me to a health food restaurant, LEAF CUISINE. On the way over, he told me that everything they made was raw. Nothing cooked. And, it was vegan and organic. Very healthy, he tells me. Good for my body. So, off we go for dinner. When we get there, I am a little chilly so I order the bowl of Apple Spice Oatmeal and a side of Hummus with Flax Seed Crackers. Imagine my shock after my first bite of oatmeal ... it was cold. Uncooked. Raw. The flavor was good but I couldn't get over the temperature. We won't even talk about the hummus and crackers. He ate the curried wrap. The "wrap" is a big lettuce leaf. I told Jason that I had been planning on ordering the Miso Soup because I was chilly . I asked him if the soups were cold, too. Yep, he says.

So, we went back to his condo to work a while longer. (On the way home, I was able to stop for Diet Pepsi, so I was at least moderately appeased. I tried to buy ice cream but he wouldn't let me. He agreed to take me for frozen yogurt later.) So, later, we went to PINKBERRY for a frozen treat. It's real unsweeted frozen yogurt with fruit. Tangy. So, I'm freezing my fanny off and eating totally healthy in L.A. The sacrifices we make for our films!

November 26, 2006

Day of Rest

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, AZ, USA - Sunday is my day to blog. At our "campfire" meeting, Pamela assigned everyone a day to write to keep information flowing on the project. Some crew members have been quite diligent about doing their duty. Others, well, there always has to be the flip side of the coin. Since I've been posting podcasts all week, it seemed foolish for me to post again. But, I decided to write this entry instead of speaking it, so perhaps it won't seem redundant.

CyndiAlecSP.jpgLife has been a little rugged of late. I think I'm experiencing the general malaise of the entire U.S. with the spectre of civil war in Iraq, the flat U.S. economy, the declining housing market and the holiday season bearing down on us like a Mack truck. It's just a poo-poo time. So, yesterday, I was totally shocked, surprised and happy to get a my own South Park character in my email. Alec also included himself as a South Park character. Using Adobe Illustrator, he's been rendering us as South Parkies. Of course, I love the irreverent series (probably in part because it made its debut as an animated short at the Sundance Film Festival). There's a film festival episode that is to die for! And, Mr. Garrison, the art teacher is simply fabulous (since I am an art teacher and one of my fellow art faculty is named Mr. Garrison ... and, anyone who know my Mr. Garrison is shocked at the eerie similarity with South Park's Mr. Garrison). Anyway, it gave me a laugh and a half.

I've been inspired to write a great deal of late. I'm ready, eager and willing to take on new projects. I've started a new script and a new novel. The novel is coming along better than the script at this point. Frustrating because I really want to shoot another project. Ah, well, the muse does as the muse does.

yesterday.jpgLast week, a friend recommended that I watch the South African film YESTERDAY. I must say it is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. The cinematography is amazing and I would grab this cinematographer, Michael Brierly, as fast as possible. His credit list on IMDB is just long enough to let you know he's going to break out soon. Regarding the story, it's about a woman named Yesterday who is taken ill (yes, you know where this is going) and struggles to survive long enough to make sure her daughter, Beauty, gets into school. One of the best parts of the film is that it shows how difficult it is because of the ignorance and fear of the other members of the community. The film was phenomenally depressing and moved a bit slow ... but it was beautiful. It is the film I wish we had shot in Zambia. It was gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. It has been nominated for the best foreign language film. Someone said it was the first film in Zulu but I haven't been able to confirm that.

As for South African films, I have mentioned previously that I really liked TSOTSI. It won best foreign language film last year. So, you might want to check both of these films out.

November 24, 2006

FilmZambia Production Podcast - Part Five

BY CYNDI GREENING & PAMELA BOWMAN, ARIZONA, USA -- Producers Pamela Bowman and Cyndi Greening reveal the post-production challenges faced by the FilmZambia upon their return to the U.S. following 28 days in Africa. With the Sundance deadline on 21 days away and nearly 200 hours of footage, the process of shaping a story is examined. Distribution and the festival circuit are discussed. Part Five of Five.

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Podcast on Friday, November 24, 2006
FilmZambia Production Podcast, Part Five
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November 23, 2006

FilmZambia Production Podcast - Part Four

BY CYNDI GREENING & PAMELA BOWMAN, ARIZONA, USA -- Producers Pamela Bowman and Cyndi Greening continue talking about the production experience in Zambia. The perils and problems of production in an extremely remote location are explored to help independent filmmakers better prepare for their production experiences. Part Four of Five.

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Podcast on Thursday, November 23, 2006
FilmZambia Production Podcast, Part Four
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November 22, 2006

FilmZambia Production Podcast - Part Three

BY CYNDI GREENING & PAMELA BOWMAN, ARIZONA, USA -- Producers Pamela Bowman and Cyndi Greening describe some of the more memorable moments encountered by the FilmZambia crew filming in the Ngoni warriors at sunset, shooting in Mandevu and Mtendere and at the breathtaking Victoria Falls. The challenges of moving such a large cast and crew is discussed. The challenges of shooting in a country where little or no film has been produced is also covered. Part Three of Five.

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Podcast on Wednesday, November 22, 2006
FilmZambia Production Podcast, Part Three
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November 21, 2006

FilmZambia Production Podcast - Part Two

BY CYNDI GREENING & PAMELA BOWMAN, ARIZONA, USA -- Producers Pamela Bowman and Cyndi Greening explain the preproduction processes encountered in taking the FilmZambia crew to Africa in the summer of 2006. Carnets, cross-training, visas, customs forms and story development are discussed. Part Two of Five.

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Podcast on Tuesday, November 21, 2006
FilmZambia Production Podcast, Part Two
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November 20, 2006

FilmZambia Production Podcast - Part One

BY CYNDI GREENING & PAMELA BOWMAN, ARIZONA, USA -- Producers Pamela Bowman and Cyndi Greening discuss how 14 students and four (4) faculty members came to shoot the first dramatic narrative feature film and companion documentary in Zambia, Africa. Mesa Community College student Jabbes Mvula's tragic loss of his son inspired the crew to journey across the world to help establish the film industry in his son's name. Part One of Five.

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Podcast on Monday, November 20, 2006
FilmZambia Campfire Podcast, Part One
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November 12, 2006

Keeping the Fire Burning (Part Two)

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By Cyndi Greening. Phoenix, Arizona USA -- More from the Film Zambia crew members as they discuss their experiences shooting the first dramatic narrative feature film in Lusaka and Livingstone. Recorded around a campfire in Mesa, Arizona, the informal conversation offers insight into the thoughts of the crew now that they've returned to the U.S. In Part Two, publicist and line producer M.K. Racine talks about the growth she experienced. Associate Producer Pamela Bowman discusses the difficulties with locations, coordinating the actors, communication, craft services and keeping Cyndi on the set. Each crew member is asked if he/she would go to Zambia again and what advice they'd offer to others. An entertaining and informative podcast.

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Podcast recorded in Phoenix, Arizona, USA on Tuesday, November 7, 2006
FilmZambia Campfire Podcast, Part Two
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Keeping the Fire Burning (Part One)

By Cyndi Greening. Phoenix, Arizona USA -- Film Zambia crew members discuss their experiences shooting the first dramatic narrative feature film in Lusaka and Livingstone. In Part One, Unit Photographer Mike Montesa talks about preparing for the shoot, how many images he captured each day and how he logged them each evening. Make-Up Artist Jeniece Toranzo talks about how she originally thought she would be an editor and ended up taking on new positions to serve the film. Documentary Cinematographer and Editor Robby Brown talks about his memories of Zambian children and the special challenges he faced. Feature Cinematographer Carlos Espinosa reveals the difficulty he had shooting in a nation were someone else was accountable for locations and props. 1st Assistant Director Nick Marshall talks about how he communicated with and coordinated all of the members of the team and the challenge he faced keeping production moving.

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Podcast recorded in Phoenix, Arizona, USA on Tuesday, November 7, 2006
FilmZambia Campfire Podcast, Part One
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November 08, 2006

Not Out of the Woods Yet

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA - I took a much needed break from filmmaking and spent five amazing days recharging in northern California. I didn't even realize how much I needed the respite. The FilmZambia projects started in early February and hit a fever pitch in mid-May. By the time we left in August, I'd spent over seven months driving the projects. A month-long shoot, followed by two months of pressure-post nearly wrung the life out of me. As I said, I didn't actually realize it until after the trip was done.

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On Friday, I spent the morning walking in the woods near Yosemite. The air was fresh and clean because it was drizzling (as I was warned it often does in November). The smell of pine was invigorating and I saved a giant pine cone. I found myself wishing I could have spent a week or two in the woods, working on a script or two. But, I needed to get into the city.

I spent Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco. I love the city and was so excited to be there. A few years ago, I stayed in the city for five weeks to watch a friend's house. I got to know and love San Francisco; I buzzed around the city in my little red car, working on my screenplays with Karen Copeland, my writing partner at that time. Sometimes, we'd go to Muir Woods for inspiration, sometimes, to Mill Valley or even to Stinson Beach. It was extraordinary. It was easy to be creative; easy to be inspired; easy to be. No wonder it felt like I was going home when I crossed the bridge. The only bad thing about the time in the city is that it was much too short.

sfmoon.jpgThe most magical part of the trip was the chance to recapture a memory. I had recalled coming over the Golden Gate Bridge under a full moon. There was no fog; the sky was unusually clear. The reflection of the moon in the deep blue water made the Bay glitter like the Hope Diamond. I often told people about that crossing and hoped to see it again in my lifetime. On Saturday evening, I was rewarded with a full moon and clear skies. The moment was even better this time because I could savor it and share it. What a gift!

Too quickly, it was Monday and time for the drive home. Unlike a lot of people, I find driving very relaxing. With a good traveling companion, the twelve-hour trip from Phoenix to the Bay area seems relatively short. The hum of the tires on the road blends with my favorite music to create a cocoon of comfort for introspection and reflection. Conversation keeps me focused and alert. If the talk is about creative endeavors, road trips can be very productive. So, if you take a road trip with your Associate Producer, it is certain that projects will be the topic of conversation ... OFTEN ... and they were. So, refreshed, I was able to refocus on the FilmZambia projects and recommit to getting the films released.

October 27, 2006

Boys Are Broadway Bound

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA & ALEC HART, NEW YORK CITY, USA – On October 16, 2006, two of the FilmZambia crew took off for "The Big Apple." While Alec spent the spring in NYC attending classes, doing an internship and, in general, having a big adventure, Jacob was at Mesa Community College taking media arts classes. After working together to make the documentary and feature films in Zambia, the guys decided the could live and work together in NYC. So, they finished editing the rough cut of the feature and boarded (a much delayed) plane headed eastward.

BroadwayBoys.jpgIt's been a little over a week that they've been gone. They report that they're putting the finishing touches on their demo reels and started to contact production companies and entities via CraigsList Manhattan. They've been spending time building their skills with AfterEffects 7. After editing the film on Final Cut Pro, their skills are well-honed in that program. As you can see by the photos, the guys were well-loved and appreciated by the gals on the crew. Jacob is surrounded by Jeniece, M.K. and Pamela. Alas, the best photo I could find of Alec was one with me. I'm sure they'll hope to be similarly surrounded in NY. We shall have to see how they do with that.

Alec reports that the weather is cool and crisp. They're doing a lot of walking and exploring. Jacob is liking the New York deli food and the architecture of the city. I'm wondering if Jacob is homesick. Based on Alec's vocal quality when he calls, I'd say he's pretty dang happy where he is ... it might even be "home" to him now. I'll keep you'all updated on their progress.

October 22, 2006

Demonstrating Learning

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA – Teaching is a very gratifying profession when the students take what they learn and make it their own. I've been teaching for over 16 years and I've had some wonderful moments but the FilmZambia experience has made most of those past successes pale in comparison. Taking 14 students to another country to shoot TWO films was a daunting task and, as I've written before, the students far surpassed what I had expected or even hoped. They were simply amazing in their dedication, determination and commitment.

Since we've been back, we've spent the last six weeks editing the feature and the doc. They're taking shape and with a few more weeks of effort, they may be ready to screen. There's a mountain of footage and the films prove to be a devilish sort of "Rubik's Cube." Move one scene and seven others tumble out of place while two more fall into place. They're giant puzzles that challenge and, at times, inspire me.

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This weekend, I finally surrendered the hotel rooms we've been using as our editing facility. After 39 days, it was time to shift the work flow. As part of the process of shifting, I encouraged all of the production crew to get their demo reels in order and pursue more film work. They've spent the last week on their reels and, I have to say, I'm really impressed with what they put together. It's interesting to see how their personalities and points of view are evident in their reels. You get a good sense of who each person is by their work. [Note: There are six (6) more that are still in process and I will post them when they're done. ]

As a teacher, it is gratifying to see what they have done and who they have become.

  • Robby Brown provided cinematography and editing on the documentary and production assistant on the feature. Robby learned to live with a camera in his hand and see the world through a two-inch window.
  • Carlos Espinosa was the cinematographer on the feature film. His reel also presents some of his other short film work. Carlos has a great eye for color, composition and movement.
  • Nick Marshall functioned as first AD on the feature and assisted with editing on the feature and documentary. Kafkaesque by nature, Nick proved to be a tremendous assest in all phases of production. I'm looking forward to his directorial debut.
  • M.K. Racine was the wild card on the production. Ultimately, she provided production assistance on the feature and documentary. Detail-oriented to the extreme, M.K. was dogged in her determination to get things done. This reel is the FIRST thing she's ever edited. I was impressed.

Alec, Jacob, Jeniece, Mike and Pamela are still working on their reels. I'm hoping Shawn and Jared get theirs to me as well. Pretty nifty. This is one of my rewards for the project.

October 09, 2006

Sundance Ticket Deadline

SFF07.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING MESA, ARIZONA USA-This year’s Sundance events are particularly significant. It is the 25th year of the festival and to celebrate I am submitting my first feature film and documentary as Executive Producer! As a result I am very aware of deadlines…Edit, Edit Edit!

So, as a matter of consideration and the fact that I remind my readers every year of this information, I am letting the world know that this Friday is the deadline for the 2006 Sundance film festival registration. Yep This Friday!

The following information is located on the Sundance site.

You must register to be eligible to purchase a Festival package and/or pass. Registration for 2006 pass/packages ends October 14. Registrants will be randomly assigned a date and time during the last week of October to purchase their pass and/or package online. Package and/or pass sales are based on availability. Registration does not guarantee availability.

You must register in order to be eligible to purchase individual tickets prior to the Festival. Beginning in early November, visit www.sundance.org and complete a registration form. A computer will randomly assign a date and time for registrants to purchase a total of 20 tickets (4 maximum per screening) online or over the telephone. Individual tickets sales will take place during the second week of January and are available based on availability. Registration does not guarantee availability.
For package, pass, and ticket questions, send an e-mail to or call (435) 776-7878 Monday through Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (MST) For general Festival information, call (435) 658-3456.

Now do not get confused with the registration dates. Just register by Friday October 14th. Also, for those true movie enthusiasts, if you want to really enjoy the movie’s, Sundance suggests attending the second week (B) when the “crowd” has thinned out. Unfortunately, I do NOT concur! You have a better chance to view the movies of your choice plus enjoy the Sundance events, parties and the closing ceremonies BUT more of the films open and more of the directors/actors come the first week.

In order to do that you must meet the deadline! Friday , October 14th. Do I need to repeat myself again? I didn’t think so.

October 03, 2006

Cameras Donated To Zambian National Arts Council

movingVisuals.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA – Great news today! The folks at Moving Visuals have located TWO CAMERAS that will be donated to the National Arts Council for use by Zambian filmmakers, artists and students. When the FilmZambia crew left, we donated a dolly, steadicam, light set, gel set and sandbags to the Council. With the addition of the cameras from Moving Visuals, we're hoping to encourage the growth of independent film in the country.

If you've been following this blog, you know it's been four weeks since we returned from our Zambian film shoot. Since then, we've been working on editing BOTH the documentary and the feature. We made our own little KRAALETTE (a smaller version of the Kwazulu Kraal in a hotel in Tempe ... we've rented adjoining suites so as many of us as possible can work as many hours as possible. I've started as early as 7am, people have stayed as late as 4am. A few of us sleep here to protect the equipment. Though it may seem congested, there's something familiar and comforting about continuing to work together.

For a while, there were challenges editing the feature. We were feeling frustrated because we'd worked so hard to get it done. It was nice to have the others there to kevetch with. Then, we started working on the documentary and we got very inspired again because we were reliving all we'd been through together. I now understand why people who work on film crews together get so close and keep working together over time. You really come to know who you can trust, who will watch your back and who will come through at the end of the day. I think with us being half way around the world, we became especially close because we knew we only had each other. I'd love to go back to Zambia and make another film. I think it would be so different this time because we are so different now. We'll have to see what the future will bring.

September 30, 2006

Walking Down Memory Lane

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA – We've been editing the documentary for the last couple of weeks. We gathered over 80 hours of footage while we were in Zambia. There was another 20 hours prior to leaving the U.S. and about 10 hours since. I've always been in awe of how documentary editors wade through all that footage to craft (what they hope) is the BEST hour-long documentary. As we work on the Zambian documentary, I find that there are several really good stories that could be told. The trick is chosing the right one. The most powerful one. The most compelling one.

I notice there is an odd thing that is happening for everyone. When we first came back, it was all terribly exciting and it was fresh and familiar for all of us. Now, as we watch the footage, Zambia is becoming a more distant memory. Yesterday, M.K. was saying that it hardly seemed like we were at Victoria Falls. We were all saying that the documentary footage is like a big pile of home movies. Probably far more meaningful (and interesting) to all of us than anyone we make sit through them! I think that is the biggest challenge of documentary editing — finding the story that others find meaningful and captivating. As Zambia becomes more of a memory for us, it gets easier.

September 17, 2006

Getting Closer!

flyingGidget.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA – We've been working day and night on the Zambian documentary and feature as we're closing in on the Sundance deadline. While we can be very serious in our pursuits, sometimes we can't help but kick our heels up! (Fortunately, Jeniece "Gidget" Toranzo is tiny or my bed would be a shambles after she bounces her tension away!)

Last night, Jeniece and M.K. played "soap hockey" in my tub. Their excuse was that their feet were dirty. I think they just needed to kick the living daylights out of something. The same thing happened to the guys. For inspiration, they decided to watch the editing in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and MAN ON FIRE. (Rarely a clever idea to try to exceed the qualities a multimillion dollar film.) They had to go out and shoot pool for a few hours. Again, the simple need to smack something hard.

I find Post-Production to be more difficult than either pre-production or production. All I want to do is smack myself in the head for the things I didn't think of doing while we were in Zambia. Why didn't I have them do more of those interviews? Smack. Why didn't we get more street footage? Smack. How could we not notice there was a costume change? Smack, smack, smack. It's funny. Pre-production is all sweetness and light. Grandiose plans of what can be accomplished. Production is a bit less sunny. It's more of a runaway train that flies by all of those plans to find a rhythm and destiny of its own choosing. Post is nothing but trying to accommodate all of the wayward moments that occurred on set. So, we rejoice when we find wonderful solutions (see photo above) and smack things around when we're struggling. In spite of the suffering, I can hardly wait to do this again.

Photograph by Mike Montesa

September 15, 2006

Superheroes One and All

After spending a month in Zambia, I now know that making the first feature film in a country is an insanely difficult task. If there is no industry in place, there is nothing to support it. It’s nearly impossible to find equipment, parts or supplies. There is also a lack of understanding by stage actors about what it takes to make a feature film. They had no idea of the amount of time it took. There was the nearly insurmountable challenge of feeding, housing, moving and maintaining a film crew of 18 and accommodating a cast of 45 for nearly a month. We all began the project with tremendous excitement but, from day one, we encountered serious hurdles.

Amazingly, the crew never broke and rarely faltered. No matter what challenge they faced, they were steadfast and determined in their goal to finish the film. In the U.S., one can always throw more money at a problem when filming (that’s why so many films go over budget). That wasn’t possible in Zambia. It didn’t matter how much money I was willing to spend since there wasn’t a single bulb in the entire country. So, we had to figure out how to make it work when nothing was available. Our crew had to pull solutions out of thin air. Their creative problem-solving was amazing.

FEATURE CREW

superShawn.jpgShawn “The Flash” Downs did lighting on the feature film. Initially, we brought four very expensive light kits to Zambia. The first day of shooting, we melted a transformer and blew several bulbs. Our expensive lights wouldn’t work. We had to go to the electrical store and create a low-cost, low-power solution. We ended up using shop lights with halogen bulbs of varying intensities. When presented with his new lighting gear, Shawn adapted without complaint. He lit the sets quickly and efficiently. No matter how small the location, he could bounce, screen or gel the lights to create great visuals. I look at the footage and I’m in awe of what he did. The guy’s got a great eye. Maybe even two of them.

superCarlos.jpgCarlos “The Dark Knight” Espinosa was the cinematographer on the feature. He used the Sony HVR-Z1U, high-definition camera and he was the man in charge of capturing the director’s vision. Like The Dark Knight, the work of a good cinematographer is hard to see. It’s in the eyes of a satisfied audience as they get lost in the story. As the cinematographer, Carlos was first on and last off the set each day. He hung out of helicopters and buses and cars. He pulled Zambia through the lens so the world could see what we saw. Only better. To look at the images, you’d never know what he went through to get them on the screen.

superMikey.jpgTechnically, Michael “Thor” Montesa was unit photographer for the feature. At the end of the month, Mike had over 40GB of photographs taken on set, on location, in the wild and of the crew. Some of the images have already been seen on the blog and in the crew video. The images are powerful, evocative and beautiful. His Zulu warriors leap out of the image and into your imagination. Mike is an amazing crew member and, one day, I am certain he will run his own crew. He was a great support to everyone. You could count on him to do whatever it took to make things work. Get sandbags, block windows, jerry-rig lights, carry a live light to follow the action. Whatever it took. He’d do it. Mike was the backbone of the feature crew.

superNick.jpgNick “Green Lantern” Marshall was first assistant director. On set, he got the nickname “Tick Tock” because his primary responsibility was to keep things moving. He had to make sure the crew got set up as efficiently as possible, that the cast was in make-up and on set as quickly as feasible and that all scenes were accomplished for the day. The biggest challenge he faced was his evening meeting with the producers (me and Pamela) to go over what needed to be accomplished the following day. He had all of the responsibility and none of the power to personally move things. With only three weeks to shoot, he never lost sight of what we had to get to make the story work. I’m looking forward to when he directs his own feature film. He’ll be strong and steady after this experience.

superEdgar.jpgEdgar “Silver Surfer” Rider was the script supervisor. Like the cinematographer, Edgar was one of the first on set every day and one of the last to leave. He monitored the progress of the script scene by scene, take by take. Edgar watched the script inch toward completion. In spite of the daily grind, Edgar was the best pair of hands we had on the set. He moved more gear than anyone. When we went out at night, he partied with an enthusiasm that was contagious. A theater major, Edgar enjoyed watching the development of the characters as much as anything else.

superJeniece.jpgJeniece “SuperGirl” Toranzo did make-up and hair. Initially, Jeniece came on board as an editor but we were needing someone to take care of the cast visually. Jeniece jumped in and learned to do make-up for dark fleshtones. There aren’t a lot of all-black casts in the Mesa area so she had to research and study and prepare on her own. Not only did she make the cast look great, she caught the continuity details that others overlooked. She hid microphones, removed sheen and adjusted prosthetic pregnancies. With a cast of 45, there were days Jeniece must have wished she really were Supergirl. She handled them all. She made them look good and feel great about giving an authentic performance. We call her “Gidget” because there’s always fun around her. She’s just super.

Superheroes All for One

DOCUMENTARY CREW

superRobby.jpgRobby “Superman” Brown was the cinematographer on the documentary. Unlike the feature crew, Robby was on duty 24/7. Whenever anything was going on, someone would shout, “Doc cam!” and Robby was racing for the action. Trying to catch the truth behind the truth, Robby sometimes had to force his way into confrontational situations to capture the moment. Toward the end of the trip, it seemed as though Pamela’s camera had been surgically implanted on the end of his arm. No wonder we had about 80 hours of footage for the documentary. Super job, Robby!

superHeath.jpgHeath “Aquaman” McKinney was the audio guy on the documentary and almost anything else he needed to be. You could always count on Heath to “go with the flow.” In addition to serving as a human alarm clock each day, Heath would take care of anything that showed up for the day. He always adapted cheerfully to whatever was thrown his way. On the flight home, he even cheerfully went through Customs in Johannesburg to return sound equipment to Susan. The rest of us were terrified he wouldn’t be able to find her or that he’d miss his flight. He didn’t do either. As he had the previous 27 days, he navigated cheerfully.

superJared.jpgJared “Hellboy” Moschcau was the Unit Photographer on the documentary. Originally assigned to do sound on the documentary, Jared asked for a reassignment when he discovered a real love for grabbing a great shot that we could use on the blog or in the film. One of the youngest crew members, Jared became the mascot of the Kwazulu Kraal. He would bound into our rooms to see what was happening. He knew he’d get a task to do if he came to visit. He came anyway. In all the literature, it says that “Hellboy” is a special friend to DOOM. He was a special friend to the Doom Room. He was special to all of us.

SWING CREW

At a production studio, the “Swing Crew” consists of the folks who move from sound stage to sound stage, constructing and preparing whatever needs to be done. Our swing crew served the feature crew, the doc crew and the production staff. Now that we’re back in the U.S., they’re hard at work on post production.

superJacob.jpgJacob “Spiderman” Felix is particularly gifted at constructing useful devices and tools out of virtually nothing. He built a dolly from a floor display, some skateboard wheels and a couple of broom handles. A few pipes and weights became an efficient steadicam. He worked with the Glidecam so that it had a broader range of motion with more subjective control. Give him a couple of rolls of duct tape and he’ll build you a submarine, if that’s what you need.

superAlec.jpgAlec “Wolverine” Hart declared at the beginning of the trip that he wouldn’t shave until we returned to the U.S. Within a few days, he could have been Wolverine’s twin brother. While Wolverine is known for his keen senses and fierce hand-to-hand combat, Alec is known for his fashion sense and his fierce verbal jousting. An editor with a keen eye, Alec is happiest in the editing room. He’s working harder now than ever before.

PRODUCTION CREW

The production crew does all of the behind the scenes activity that is vital to the completion of the film. Often unsung, unrecognized and under-appreciated, the production crew makes sure the film gets, well, produced.

superMK.jpgM.K. “Batgirl” Racine sometimes worked with the documentary crew but toward the end of the trip, M.K. primarily functioned as a Line Producer for the feature. A line producer will manage the day-to-day physical aspects of film production. If I wasn’t on set, she was there to monitor and report the progress. She and Nick kept things moving when it didn’t seem like anything would. Likewise, she kept pushing on the documentary. If M.K. is given a task, she won’t stop until it’s done.

superPamela.jpgI’ve put Pamela “WonderWoman” Bowman last on the list, at her request. She’s hoping everyone will be tired of reading and will skip over the ending. The request is representative of how Pamela served as the Associate Producer of the two films. She worked behind the scenes and always put the needs of the production above hers. Very few people know how vital she was in getting the films completed. She got on board early and provided encouragement and support from the earliest stages. In June, when I lost faith, she found it and pushed me to continue. And, at the end, when I was so weary and frustrated with the enormous problems we faced daily, she’d just keep calling cast members, arranging for transportation until I could get going again. She was a better producer than I was. I am looking forward to when she produces her own film. It’s just a matter of time.

September 12, 2006

Hip Deep in Post Production

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA – We returned from Zambia on the evening of Monday, September 4th. After four weeks of traveling and a tough three-week film shoot, most of us would have preferred nothing more than to take a week or so off to rest up BUT we're trying to make "THE" festival submission deadline. So, we're all hard at it. We're hip deep in post production on BAD T!MING and VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION. Instead of going to bed in the "Pink Palace" each night, we go to our own homes for a warm meal, a soft bed and working showers. In the morning, we congregate (again) to keep pushing these films to completion.

In all my years as a teacher, I've never seen such determination and dedication from a group of people. The more amazing thing is the amount of trust they place in each other. Each member of the group counts on the others to give the production their best work. In school, there were always "slackers" ... students who did almost nothing, started late on everything and hoped to "squeak through" on minimal effort. FilmZambia is definitely a capstone project for this crew. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks.

Whenever I'm working on a screenplay, I go through phases were I positively HATE what I am writing. Right after I finish a script, I can't stand it!! I always have to put it in a drawer for a couple of weeks. I abhor it. All I can see are the mistakes. After a few weeks, I'll take it out and read it and I find myself liking what I've written. I sometimes think I'm clever.

The same thing happened in Zambia. It was such an effort to finish this film! The last couple of days were EXTREMELY stressful. The long flights home didn't help. I was worried that it wasn't going to come together or, worse, if it did come together, it wouldn't look or sound good. What a pleasant surprise I've had for the last few days. As we capture the footage, log the documentary tapes and review the storyteller footage, I am SUPER HAPPY and EXCITED about what I'm seeing. The footage is looking good. The actors are believable. The sound is (mostly) good. Some of the 2nd Unit footage is incredible. As our trip to Zambia fades, the films are taking shape. Who knows what else will be materializing with this group?

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September 10, 2006

I Owe, I Owe

BY CYNDI “MUKUMBA” GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Last spring, I got an idea and it became a dream. My dream was to go to Africa to make a movie. I wrote a grant and talked about it in my classes and was surprised to find that other people could make that dream their own. They could find a place for themselves in my filmmaking madness. On August 8, we got on the plane with all of our hopes and mountains of gear. I look back now and realize that I am not the same person who got on that plane. The experience of making this film with these people has irrevocably changed who I have known myself to be and I owe all of THEM so much.

postZambiaParty.jpgWe had a FilmZambia Party last night. It was a chance for all of us to get together and reminisce about all that had happened and catch up with how we were all doing stateside. We reunited with the faculty who had left Lusaka after ten days and told them all about our adventures. We had a potluck with a mountain of food (we could have eaten for a week in Zambia on all that was there) and a slideshow that Mike and Shawn put together. Shortly after the slideshow, the crew gathered ‘round and surprised me with several touching gifts. There were letters of appreciation, a crew photo album, Livingstone photos, pens, a wall hanging and a book of Zambian tales. As I looked through and read through everything, I kept thinking that I should be the one showering them with gifts. I kept thinking about how much I owed each of them.

I want to publicly thank each of them for their contribution to the film. Without them, this work could not have been done. Their generous hearts and able hands took a wild idea and turned it into a tangible reality. As we work feverishly on editing the films for the impending deadline, I am more awed and amazed every day at what they were able to do. In my next post, I’ll write about each crew member (this should take most of the day!) so that you can better understand what I am talking about. They are amazing, courageous, deeply committed people who wove a dream out of thin air.

September 08, 2006

Production Crew Slideshow

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September 05, 2006

Caught Between Two Worlds

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA - We spent 33 hours flying back to the U.S. and I arrived more exhausted than I've ever been in my life. It took everything I had just to get my mountain of baggage to the car. The ride home was surreal. I couldn't figure out where I was.

I sat down on the couch and was asleep before dinner was ready. I don't recall going to bed but know I did because I woke up there in the middle of the night. A dim light was streaming from a doorway to the left. I thought I was back in Livingstone, sleeping in my cot at Taito Falcon Lodge. I thought I was looking at the thatched walls and ceiling. I thought I could make out the mosquito-covered beds in the room. Ahhhh, everyone is safe; sleeping peacefully in their beds. I could relax.

I was snuggling back into the pillow when I remembered I had left Africa. I sat up with a start. Where am I? I just couldn't make sense of it all. I slept fitfully.

zebraSun.jpgWhen I woke up, I realized that we were back in the U.S. and Africa was only a memory. I was angry at myself for feeling so discombobulated but, when I looked at the African Voice blog, I realized I was in the same place as some of the others on the crew. I really enjoyed M.K.'s post (below) about letting that other life go. Heath's post about the little details of that existence was comforting. I know that I'll never be the same after that month in Zambia. It's good to know that others were similarly altered.

As the person who was in charge of this whole adventure, I was constantly worried about the safety of the group and the success of the project. I don't think I realized how stressed I was until we finally got back. I am relieved to have everyone back home. No (serious) injuries or illnesses. Everyone in generally good spirits and wiser for the journey. I find myself wishing we were in something similar to the Kraal so we could gather over breakfast and find out how everyone is doing ... but, everyone is now doing that with family and friends. My "nest" is empty and my "babies" are on their own in the world again.

I want to wish each and every one of them well and THANK each of them for the fantastic, unbelievable job they did in Zambia!! There truly aren't words to express what they had to go through to make this project work. Amazingly, they did it. Individually and collectively. I can think of numerous times in which EACH of them excelled and contributed in profound ways. I hope this is evident in the documentary. They are an amazing and wonderful group and I am lucky to have worked with them! I feel exceedingly blessed for having had the chance to be in Africa with them.

August 27, 2006

Capacity Building with Ms. Kapwepwe

BY CYNDI GREENING, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Mulenga.jpgWe've found a real jewel in Zambia. Mulenga Kapwepwe, the Chairman of the National Arts Council Board has been a real Godsend. She helped us find fantastic storytellers and a terrific student audience. She's also deeply committed to capacity-building in the area of fine art and performing arts in Zambia.

August 21, 2006

Motivating Child Actors in Zambia

AlisamPiriToo.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – On Friday, we had a wonderful shooting experience. The folks a ZNBC, ZNIS and ZAMNET allowed us to use a soundproof stage to shoot the classroom scenes in the film. With all of the children there, the teacher and the policeman, we really needed the space. It also allowed us to build a lot more motion into the shots. We were able to use the dolly and the glidecam. We could have used a few more area lights. Of course all of the equipment means nothing if you don't have good actors. We had some wonderful child actors. The children are so natural on camera; they aren't self-conscious at all. In fact, they barely seem self-aware. One of my favorites was little Alisam Piri. I learned how a Zambian child indicates he doesn't know what to do. I asked him to write his name on a piece of paper. He quickly complied. When I asked him to write his numbers, he turned his hand palm up and waved it from side to side. Monica, his teacher, said, "He doesn't know his numbers yet." He was a great little actor. We even made him cry on cue.


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When they were acting, Jabbes promised them each a very special present. He gave them each a brand new MCC pencil of their very own. They were very excited with that gift. I can't imagine American actors being satisfied with a pencil. Jabbes has been doing a good job with the actors. I'm surprised how well they take direction. He tells them what he's trying to achieve and they respond so well. Even the more seasoned actors have been really great about giving him what he wants.

Blowing Off Steam

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BY CYNDI GREENING, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – After an incredibly long, hard week, the crew got some good downtime this weekend. In addition to going to a fun restaurant and Congolese dance club, they got to go shopping on Sunday at a street market. They bought gifts for themselves and others. With a film crew, there is just no way to escape cameras. So, it was no surprise that our bus ride was spent getting fisheye photographs of everyone. It was silly. I think it was the most relaxed I've seen the crew since we left Phoenix Sky Harbor. They were tense when we left and anxious to do a good job all week so the stress level was high. It was good to see them laughing and playing around.

Night on the Town

BY CYNDI GREENING, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA _ We've been in Zambia for two weeks now. For those back in the U.S., it may seem like we've been gone a long time but time has raced for us. Trying to get a film shot in a foreign country in less than a month gobbles time.

In spite of our strenuous schedule, we are getting to see a bit of Lusaka. Our filming locations move us about the city quite a bit. When I was reading about Zambia before I left Arizona, I read that there were 800,000 people in the city. Phoenix has about a population of about a million and is the national capital so I thought Lusaka would have a similar feel and rhythm to Phoenix but it doesn't.

My childhood hometown of Chippewa Falls has a population of only 12,500. The college that I teach at has more than twice as many students as my hometown. Currently, there are more than 28,000 students as Mesa Community College. I was surprised to discover that Lusaka feels more like Chippewa than Phoenix. Much more. It's a bit more spread out than Chippewa.

There are very few "robots" in the city. In Zambia, a "robot" is a traffic light. I've only seen five or six so far. They use turnabouts and stop signs for what little traffic control there is. Traffic can get quite congested on the main roads at certain times of day. It reminds me of when the Northern Wisconsin State Fair comes to Chippewa. Clogged roads and lots of excitable people.

Another way that Lusaka has a small town feel is our lack of anonymity. Everyone seems to know what we're doing. Every time we make a request or leave the compound, there are a whole bunch of phone calls made to ensure that we will be happy and safe. Then, when we get out into the community, people come up to us to tell us that they've heard about our project or they've seen us on television. No doubt, their ability to recognize us is enhanced by the size of our group and that we're all Americans.

Last night, we went to a restaurant and a dance club for fun. I thought the crew needed to have some time to chill out and be silly together. The restaurant had karaoke. Jared, Heath and Edgar were the only ones brave enough to sing in front of the group. Watching Edgar perform Michael Jackson's BILLIE JEAN in a wig, hat and shades was priceless. Then, we went to a Congolese dance club. Nearly everyone danced. At the end of the night, everyone was laughing. It was great for us.

Zambian Tales

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BY CYNDI GREENING, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – On Saturday, we spent the morning recording Zambian storytellers in the woods behind the National Arts Center. It was a very surreal morning. Impalas wander the grounds freely and motorists are advised that the animals have the right of way on the roads. We saw large birds that resembled ravens except that they had white chests. The flock looked as though it were going to a formal event in their best tuxedos.

Then, we met with several aspiring Zambian filmmakers. The students and I presented how to light a set, use a boom mic, use wireless mics, apply make-up and make a stronger story. Several students were very brave and pitched their film ideas to us. Then we demonstrated how to build and use a steadicam and budget dolly. We also demonstrated the glidecam. Afterwards, we all went to the ARCADES (a strip mall) to have pizza together and talk some more. We did a radio interview to offer advice to beginning filmmakers in Zambia. The question here is the same as it is in the U.S. How do you find the money??

August 18, 2006

MCC Film Team at Kwazulu Kraal

BY CYNDI GREENING, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – I'm always getting after the crew to blog more and I realize that I haven't blogged hardly at all. I'm actually due on the set in ten minutes so this won't be long either. I wanted to take a quick minute to let everyone know that the MCC film crews are doing fantastic work in Zambia. We've now formed into a theatrical crew, a documentary crew and a logistics/special features crew. They are working with determination, fervor and creativity. They are capturing fantastic footages and superb performances. Our patron, Dr. Ng'oma has provided a wonderful base of operations for us at Kwazulu Kraal. We're all becoming very Zambian. We are a community who gathers in the courtyard to talk, tell stories of the day and draw strength. It's ironic that we've come to a land were the community is very important and have adopted that aspect of their culture. I must get to the set. I'll try to blog more this weekend.


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August 08, 2006

Why Film in Zambia?

whyZambia.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER — When you think about how complicated it is to take 14 students and 4 faculty members to another continent to shoot a film, you might wonder why we made that choice. Here's a short piece on why we think it's important to shoot BAD T!MING and VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION in Zambia.

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How Jabbes Came to Mesa Community College

JMatMCC.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER — Sometimes, it's amazing to realize how serendipitously this all came together. How did Jabbes come to Mesa Community College? Why did MCC sponsor such a project in Zambia? This piece might clear it up.

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The Inspiration for the FilmZambia Projects

inspiration.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER — We leave for Zambia tomorrow. Principal photography begins on BAD T!MING on Monday, August 14. The following video will help you to understand what inspired these projects.

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August 01, 2006

Film Zambia Crew

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July 29, 2006

The Village of Chieftainess Nyanje

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA — A few days ago, Jabbes posted a photograph taken near his mother's village. We've been looking at images from Victoria Falls, Lusaka and numerous villages. It's been a good experience for all of us because it helps us to envision where we're going and what we'll be seeing in the process of making these films. In addition to looking at images, Jabbes has been preparing us for the cultural differences. We've learned that "pants" in Zambia refers to underwear. Never say "Nice pants" to anyone in country. Asking for a "napkin" will get you a diaper. Wearing any clothing that exposes your stomach or midriff is highly offensive (not that I intended to wear any tube tops, anyway).

Chieftainess.jpgWe've also been taught that there's a difference between "city life" and "village life" in Zambia. City life, it seems, will be more familiar for those of us from the U.S. We've seen photos of shopping malls (thanks Dave), traffic turnabouts and statues. The geography makes it resemble a city in the American Southwest. Whenever Jabbes describes an area of Lusaka, he always begins by saying the "density" of the area. The images we've seen have been medium or low density. I think it is the high-density areas that will be most surprising. We do shoot in a high density area for a couple of days. I'm mentally trying to prepare for that.

The third week, we will be going to the Livingtone and, hopefully, Chipata areas. We also hope to visit Jabbes' village and meet his tribal leader, Chieftainess Nyanje (pictured above). He has prepared us for the proper way to meet the tribal elders. I look forward to the opportunity to meet her. The cultural and educational exchanges are as important to me as making the films.

July 21, 2006

They're Here!!!

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July 20, 2006

Fun and Learning at MCC

MCCbrightLights.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, AZ — Tonight, it was suggested that I blog from the teacher's perspective. As the person who started this wild and crazy adventure, I guess I'm probably most aware of all that has occurred to get us to this point. It all started as a modest little project to help an MCC student make the first feature film in his country. Since then it has evolved into a more robust and far-reaching project. It's touching more students, including more faculty and affecting more Zambians. It can all get so serious.

While there's a lot of good work we're hoping to do, the truth is, we are all having so much FUN doing it. Every time we're together, the excitement in the room is contagious. The students practically run around, getting and setting up lights and cameras. Like a well-oiled machine, they move through the scenes. Afterwards, they smile and kid around as they put everything away. Cases and cases of equipment are carried around like they're filled with air.

RobbyJabbes.jpgEven more amazing is the relationships that are developing among the crew members. I've worked on other film crews and this is not all that unusual. A friend of mine said that it was classic "siege mentality." There is a closeness that developes between people who endure challenging events together. Whatever the cause, there is a trust, reliance and comaradarie with this crew. As a teacher, I try every day to make a difference with my students. I hope that they learn as much as possible, enjoy themselves AND get value for their time. Weeks of instruction in the classroom don't even come close to impacting students the way the Zambia film project has ... and we haven't even left yet.

July 02, 2006

Party People

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A wonderful party was hosted on Saturday evening by Priska. Arizona Chairman Fred welcomed Arziona Zambians and the Zambian Film Crew to the event. Native Zambian food was served including wonderful hors d'oevers made by Nali. Students Andrew, Danny, Don, Frackson, and Chibwale shared their reflections on the similarities and differences in U.S. and Zambian education.

Danny and Pauline tore up the dance floor. Jeniece and Jacob joined in the dancing. Frackson explained how popular Nigerian music was in Zambia. He also shared that his elder sister had come for a visit but she was a bit bored because life in the U.S. was not as communal as life in Zambia. He also explained a great deal about the differences between patrilineal and matrilineal tribal succession. It made it more clear why the situation with Konwandi was as it was for Jabbes. Later in the evening, Roy, Mike & Tracey came in from Tucson. Roy bears an uncanny resemblance to Snoop Dogg. Kennedy chatted a bit about Mondo music.

Bob, Ian and Sam were some of the first to arrive. They had been at the earlier gathering at Cyndi's house. Sam and Nali talked about the difficulty in finding good jobs in Zambia. The unemployment rate is quite high. At some point during the evening, nearly everyone shared how much they missed Zambia and how much they wanted to go home but, at least for right now, it's better to work here to support those still at home. At the end of the evening, Cyndi was asked to talk about the film projects. There was a huge outpouring of support from the Zambians in attendance. At the end of the evening, Paul (who has a wild and crazy sense of humor) said he'd be coming to Sundance with us this year ... if we rented a big enough house!

July 01, 2006

Why Zambia?

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA - Sometimes, people ask me, "Why Zambia?" It's a good question. Initially, I became interested in the Zambia feature film and documentary project because of Jabbes. As my student, he made short films that I found compelling, including the loss of his son. While it was sad and moving, it was the determination that Jabbes had to honor the memory of his son by establishing the film industry and stimulating economic growth that continued to propel me into the project. This project was about more than just his personal loss. It was about making a significant contribution to his country.

I started writing the Innovative Project Grant Proposal and researching everything I could find about Zambia. I started with the CIA Factbook. I found out that:

  • Zambia was about the same size as Texas
  • The population is about 12 million
  • The national language is English
  • It is predominantly Christian
  • Zambia is a demoncracy with elected government officials
  • It has been independent since 1964
  • Mining and agriculture are the chief industries
  • Infant mortality is 86/1000 live births
  • About 16.7% of the children are growing up without parents because of HIV/AIDs

Zambia came out of the horrific colonial slave-trading past (To better understand that period, you can watch the Spielberg film or go to the website on AMISTAD). In 1964, Zambia gained independence. Zambia's first president said that Zambia could not truly be free until all African were free. A very profound conviction.

Like Jonathan and Lorra Gilbert wrote in their posts, it's our responsibility to do our best to commit our lives to make a difference in the world. By the grace of God, an accident of birth, really, we were born in the richest country in the world. Now, we have a chance to support economic growth and build an industry in an African nation that would really benefit from that effort. It will improve the lives of many Zambians.

Why Zambia?

How could we refuse? Initially, one of Zambia's sons asked us to bring the stories of his people to the world. Since then, Zambian citizens, arts patrons and many government officials have invited our participation. As photographer and Kenyan Activist John Schaefer said to me yesterday, "We save our own souls when we do this work." We are lucky to have been asked.

June 24, 2006

Who We Are

BY THE AFRICAN VOICE DOCUMENTARY FILM CREW, MESA, AZ, USA - The last week, we worked on a short video to give people a sense of who we are and why we're doing what we're doing. Three of the editors put together versions of varying length.

WhoWeAreSm.jpg SHAWN DOWNS put together the Who We Are in Two Minutes movie. Shawn recently graduated from Arcadia High School and will be going to the LA Film School upon his return from Zambia. Shawn is an excellent cinematographer, gaffer and all-round crew member. Shawn had a short film in the PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL 2006. I'd count on seeing great things from him in the future.

WhoWeAreMed.jpg LINDSEY BLACK crafted the Who We Are in Five Minutes. Lindsey graduated from Mesa Community College. She has made numerous short films and is looking to build a career in the independent film industry. Lindsey enjoys acting, editing and producing. Already a Sundance veteran, Lindsey is looking forward the 2007 festival. She learned a great deal about networking at the last festival from actor, Adam Scarimbolo.

WhoWeAreLong.jpg MICHAEL MONTESA completed the Who We Are in 17 Minutes. Another Sundance veteran with a commitment to work in the independent film world, Mike is a respiratory therapist by vocation and photographer/cinematographer by avocation. Mike has won several awards at the annual Mesa Community College Art Show. In addition to being a great on-set photographer, Mike loves designing movie poster and DVD case covers. His designs are terrific.

June 18, 2006

PODCAST - Colin Boyd, The Big Picture FM101.5

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THE BIG PICTURE with COLIN BOYD on FREE FM101.5

Podcast on Sunday, June 18, 2006
Recorded in Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Show Details


Podcast feed
Direct download link (Right-click or Control-click to download)
indieWIRE blog
AZCentral blog
Personal Weblog
Email

By Cyndi Greening. Phoenix, Arizona USA (indieWIRE) -- Film critic Colin Boyd interviews Jabbes Mvula and Cynthia Greening about filmmaking in Zambia. Greening will produce and Mvula will direct BAD TIMING, the first dramatic narrative feature film to be shot in Zambia. Simultaneously, they will produce VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION, a documentary about the making of that feature and the establishment of the film industry in Zambia.

June 17, 2006

Sarah McLachlan's Music Video Budget

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BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA - Anyone who knows me knows that I love, love, love the music of Sarah McLachlan. The founder of Lilith Fair, McLachlan is a powerful activist and artist. Today, Gina sent me a link to her music video for her song World on Fire. The music video is very simple because McLachlan simply sits and sings while title cards, graphics and photographs go by explaining how she *really* used her music video budget. She cites the price for things like hair and makeup ($5000) or the production company ($11000) and how that money was used in places like South Africa, Kenya, Afghanistan and Calcutta. It's an awesome piece.

I told Alec about it tonight and he said it's been running for quite a while on MTV and VH1. Dang it! I feel so behind the times! Press this World on Fire Link to view the video.

June 15, 2006

Words of Wm. Jefferson Clinton

"I will get things done for America ... Faced with apathy, I will take action. Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground ... Faced with adversity, I will persevere. I will carry this commitment with me this year."
Bill Clinton (b. 1946), U.S. president in the New York Times.

June 05, 2006

The Clock is Ticking

jabbesSuave.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, LOS ANGELES, CA, USA - Jabbes and I leave for Lusaka three weeks from today. I feel the pressure of the clock now. We've been breaking down the script, prepping the equipment, trying to anticipate anything and everything we're going to run into over there.

I stopped in Los Angeles over the weekend to visit with another friend who is working on a documentary using the Panasonic P2. His footage was awesome! He's been working diligently on his documentary and he's an amazing one-man crew. He showed us how he loads up his camera with Sennheiser boom and wireless microphones and puts spare digital storage in the pack. He's been in quite a few risky situations but he keeps on shooting.

We're a small crew on the two Zambian films but clearly great footage and diligence can create a great product. I realize that one of the big assets we have is Jabbes. He knows the best actors in Zambia, the best playwrights and crew from Zambian National Broadcaster. We have a number of assets in country that will really support getting great projects done. He's been a producer for 16 years; he's got connections and awareness of how to make this happen when we get there. I'm anxious to get going now.

May 30, 2006

Links Bar Added to Blog

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA - If you look to the lower right side of this blog, you will see that we have added a links section to make it easier to get to sites and blogs of importance. Email me other links of importance and we'll get them up, too.

May 28, 2006

Getting Our Feet Wet

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BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA - If I weren't a producer, I think I'd be running some sort of crazy sideshow. Being a producer gives one experience in balancing dozens of competing interests while soliciting the creativity, passion and commitment of each team member. It teaches you how to stretch yourself to reach every conceivable entity that wants to support the project.

As a producer, you're working to satisfy the needs of the creatives (director, actors) and the crew. You have to satisfy the investors and financial people. You've got to figure out how to reach out to the media and provide what they want. In our case, there are the needs of the Zambians (private and government officials) and the needs of the college.

Is it any wonder that sometimes, we producers just have to let off a little steam? Saturday evening, at the PoolParty for Zambia, I was dared to jump into the pool ... how could I resist? I jumped into that with the same passion that I jumped into this Zambian feature film project. Sometimes, you just got to get in and get your feet wet. It can be scary and refreshing ....

May 25, 2006

Working Like a Dog

kayla.jpg BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA - Jabbes once told me that dogs are not allowed in the house in Zambia. In fact, dogs are generally chased away. That wouldn't be too good for Kayla. She travels well but will be staying behind while I'm in Zambia. Jabbes in I will be leaving in little more than a month now. I've been reminded that I need to get my paperwork done. (There are always so many forms to be filled out.)

It's been an exhausting week. One of the reasons I wanted to have a blog for the films is so other people could see what we all are going through to make a film happen -- the good and the not so good. The students have shared their tremendous passion for making the films and creating a cultural exchange with Zambia. They are showing how focused they are on getting these films made. They're ready. A tight crew has formed. As the producer, raising the funds, getting the equipment in place and making sure all the "right" people are getting on board is part of my job. It's a big job. It's an exhausting job. It seems like something "big" happens every 16 hours or so. Sometimes good. Sometimes challenging.

Jabbes told me he's working on a blog post called, "I want to make a film." He said it's such a little line but people have no idea what it takes to make that happen. He and I have been working hard since January. Now, things are opening up more and there is more support. For a long time, it was just the two of us.

Sometimes, I get stressed out and grumpy. I feel the weight of this project on my back. So many dreams, goals and desires. The feature film. The documentary. The training and teaching. The long-term educational exchange. Thus far, people are getting on board and helping to push the dream forward. It helps to lighten the load a bit.

This weekend, we're having a gathering so everyone can relax and celebrate our successes thus far and prepare for the successes off the future. We'll put up some photo so you can share in the down time as well as the prep time.