Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Website and Blog

To those of you still reading this blog, I just wanted to inform all of you that I've converted my blog over to my brand new website at!!!!

Please enjoy, scroll down to the Blog section and continue reading there! I will no longer be posting here.

Thanks so much for your reading!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sundance Do's and Don'ts

And I’m done. For me, Sundance 2013 is over. Well, sort of. I’m sitting in the Yarrow Hotel finally drinking some water (no Sundance bottle today!) and writing up this blog. I’m trying very hard not to think of food – it’s been a while since I had a really enjoyable, relaxed sit-down dinner, or something well balanced and healthy. My brain is quickly descending into a fog of every movie I saw (which I think is about…

…Okay, so I decided rather than re-doing the beginning of this blog, I’d just start from where I left off. Right as I was typing that, my boyfriend walked in, I threw my computer in my bag and finally had a delicious, full meal of tofu tacos. Delicious is relative, of course, but I loved it.

Back to business. I’ve been thinking pretty intensely about how to sum up my Sundance experience into one blog and leave you with something not only interesting to read, but informative if you plan on coming to the festival in the future. So, here’s a quick list of do’s and don’ts.

             Sundance Do’s
1)      Wear Warm/Comfortable Footwear
I’m not sure why this was the first thing I chose to write, but you will be on your feet for a lot of the time. The dress code was lax and everyone at parties seemed comfortable to me. You want to be on your A game when talking to people, not distracted by blisters. Also water. Drink lots of water. This has nothing to do with footwear, but it’s a must.
2)      Do Extensive Research/Planning Before Coming
I know I’ve said this in my previous posts, but it’s essential that you know who made what movie you plan on seeing, what the movie is about and fully planning out your schedule. It’s good to know about multiple events going on at the same time so that you always have options
      3)   Get Involved
When overhearing other people’s fascinating conversations about a film, give your opinion. While watching a panel, ask a question. Involve yourself. Don’t be afraid to politely insert yourself into a conversation and add something to it. An intelligent question to a panel is memorable!

Sundance "Survival" essentials: tote bag, business cards, water, movie ticket, glasses (don't wear contacts the whole time!)
Sundance Don’ts
       1)  Don’t Only Go to Screenings
There are so many amazing panels not to be missed, especially held by the NY Lounge, parties to attend, and networking events. Sitting in a dark room all day only watching movies causes you to miss many a networking opportunity. You can learn more about film through the people you meet than watching the film.
2)      Don’t Sleep In
You’re not going to get any sleep. Just accept it. Know that you’ll be tired, drink some caffeine and tough it out. You’re only here a short while and you have to make the best of it. A lot of the panel talks are in the morning yesterday, so don’t hit the snooze.
3)      Don’t Drink A Lot (Unless it's Water)
Yes, there are a lot of parties going on and opportunities for free booze, but don’t be “that girl” or “that guy” at the party. You want to remember everyone you’re talking to and make a great impression. Also, similarly to number 2, you don’t want to have a hangover and miss a great panel or event.

Also, just in general, have fun. It’s not all work – there are some great movies to see!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Planet Sundance

This afternoon, while eating a quick Thai lunch in between screenings, I was reminded just how much of an insular world Planet Sundance seems to be, for me at least. The Wasatch Mountains seem like another world, surrounding Park City in a snowy haze, filled with enthusiastic out-of-towners invading what would otherwise be a small town. While eating a quick Thai lunch, the Presidential inauguration was airing. I’m ashamed to say I forgot it was today until the muted TVs above the bar showed the Presidential Inauguration. Sundance is all about what’s happening at Sundance, nowhere else. Now that I’m back in my hotel, I’ll have to read about it before going to bed, and yes, if I’m being honest, after I finish this blog.

Impressive pianist on Main Street playing in 20 degree weather. Rock on, Park City!

On the shuttle bus back to my rented car with my boyfriend, we chatted about my Sundance experience as compared to journalists and even people who have films in the festival for the first time. My advice to anyone coming to the festival that is interested in making an indie film of their own is to come into the festival having done a lot of research. Knowing what films you like, you should go through the program guide ahead of time and try to target films that you think you may learn something from. I would say that going to see the big premiere, celebrity packed films isn’t important for me, just as it shouldn’t be for indie filmmakers.

Try to meet these filmmakers and find out what they did and how they did it. What steps did they take to go from idea to the big screen at Sundance? Now realistically, there are a billion ways to navigate the complicated steps needed to make a film, but it helps to not only learn from others successes and trip-ups, but also just to network. Maybe their DP is someone you’d love to work with, or some other crew member.

I’m not the only one touting this, but indie film has to be about community. By seeing and supporting Sundance small indie films, you not only learn from them, but you show that there is a want and need for smaller films in the film landscape. Why see a film with a well established director, veteran actors and a larger budget when it will probably be out in theaters or at least available On Demand in a few months or a year? Go see the things that may or may not get picked up. Take advantage of the smaller films Sundance has to offer. I’m strangely proud to say that I haven’t seen many celebrities. I’m looking for the passionate people out there, the like minded newbies trying to make it happen.

Sundance Day 2!

I’m sitting in my hotel room right now, shoveling Reese’s Pieces and sorting through business cards, flyers, ads, promotional papers and lots of other “Sundance papers,” as I’m beginning to call them. Sundance is a tiny little microcosm in the mountains of film junkies all looking for something, most of us not exactly knowing what, but the excitement in the clear, mountain air is inspiring enough for a city dweller like me.

An interesting thing I’m already beginning to learn about this festival is that anyone can be someone. If you’re here without a film in the festival, nobody knows the difference. Networking is about presenting yourself in a professional, open, intelligent, and receptive way. If you listen to people and let them pitch you their work, I’ve found that people are extremely generous in giving you their time. They want to know what you’re working on, after all, it could be the next “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” or at least a project they can hop onto.

Park City in the morning!
My boyfriend, Robert Levin, despite approaching the festival from a much different, journalistic perspective, warned me that for everyone, Sundance is about pacing yourself, learning how to make plans, throwing them all away, and instead finding an event or a film to attend and seeing where it takes you. This go-with-the-flow nature of the festival has been a bit rough for me to contend with at times, considering I’m a heavy duty planner, but I feel like Sundance is accidentally just replicating what filmmaking is all about, happy accidents.

Today I began my day with Outfest’s brunch of bagels and fruit where I met some great filmmakers. I then saw three very different movies: first, the documentary "Which Way is the Front Line From Here" about photo journalist Tim Hetherington, next the tense indie drama “A Teacher,” and lastly, the intimate character film “This is Martin Bonner.” These movies are all vastly different, and I learned something interesting by seeing each of them. The Q and A’s were fascinating, especially to hear of Hannah Fidell’s process in using form to change the subject matter of “A Teacher” from a subject matter which audiences are very familiar with into something unsettling and unique.

I look forward to more films tomorrow (most people reading this, it will probably be today 1/21) because I’m posting it so late at night, Kickstarter’s Party in the evening, and another day in lots of winter gear. Did I mention that it’s freezing here?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sundance Recap Day #1

Yesterday was one of the longest, yet most rewarding days I’ve had in a long time. My day began at 4 am in NYC followed by a layover in Houston, landing in Salt Lake City around noon, renting a car and driving to Park City with my boyfriend.

I immediately went to a Tisch Alumni event at Grub Steakhouse in Prospector Square (which I’m actually headed back over to for a brunch in a few minutes for OutFest). The reception was really enjoyable. If you’re showing up to events alone, you have to look for an empty seat near friendly faces and just kind of plop down and chat. I met a lot of great people, some writers, filmmakers and producers, some surprisingly not even from Tisch. I also reconnected with some old film friends and hopefully will see them again at the festival.

Always have business cards in hand. People swap them like Pokemon trading cards.

After the alumni event, I wandered for a while, hopping on shuttle buses, exploring Main Street and hanging out in the Filmmaker Lounge with a few magazines and a chai latte. Then, I met up with my boyfriend for dinner and ran over up the mountainous Main Street to the Slamdance Festival to see my producing partner Katie Maguire’s film that she worked on “Hank and Asha,” (here’s the trailer) proceeded by a really great short by Columbia MFA director Victor Hugo Duran called “Fireworks”. Trailer here.

Slamdance is an extremely well organized festival, and very welcoming to new filmmakers. The audience was very receptive and excited about seeing new innovative works. Both “Fireworks” and “Hank and Asha” were stories that we’ve seen before—the former about children and the latter about love—yet, they were told in innovative ways. “Fireworks” was shot in one day, with lots of improv after the filmmakers trusted their guts and threw away most of the script, and “H&A” was told through videos sent from the two characters in different countries. They never acted in a scene together.

Overall, so far, Park City is beautiful, the festival is so worth it to come out here, and I’m tired, but so excited to see what other films and people I can see and meet. For me, it’s not about the stars, it’s about innovation, indie and art.

Stay tuned for more updates and hopefully some interviews with filmmakers!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Marathoning and Filming: More in Common Than You Think

As many of you know, especially if you’ve been following this blog, marathon running and planning my film have been two major focal points of my life over the past year. But, what you probably don't know is that marathon training and making a film have more in common than you’d think.

1)      Planning
My marathon training is completely mapped out ahead of time from day one to the finish line. I know how much I plan to run every day, when I will run, what I can eat (my stomach is weird), etc. I use this plan to psych myself up and mentally prepare before a daunting run. Similarly, getting a film off the ground and “running” so to speak involves an equal amount of planning, if not more. I know when I want to start shooting (Fall of 2013) and what steps I need to take. You need to make your hires, get your finances in place and structure your pre-production schedule with your team on board to make sure you have everything set and ready by the time you have set to film. Organization is key for both.

2)      Staying Open to Possibilities
Marathon training has many unexpected possibilities. Taking advantage of these possibilities is what makes the “work” into fun. An unexpected turn off a usual course and discovering a new running route, or doing a loop backwards can really mix things up and reinvigorate you. Similarly, in pre-production, bringing interesting people on your team that have different backgrounds and experience can shape your film into something you didn’t realize it could’ve been before. Don’t have tunnel vision!

3)      Determination
You know that phrase, “If anyone could do it,” blah, blah, blah. Well, it’s true. Marathon training and planning a film are difficult, exhausting, and often times make you question why you started doing it in the first place. I’ve looked at my running schedule and thought, “20 miles tomorrow? I’m going to burn out. Someone just break my leg.” I’ve rewritten my script more times than I can count and had weeks where I felt like it will never turn out to be good and that I’m not capable of doing it. Screw it. Make your brain stop hating itself. When this happens, think why you started pursuing your goal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished that 20 mile run and felt absolutely great afterward. It’s all about the journey, right?

4)      Seeing the Finish Line
Many psychological studies have been done studying the power of visualizing a goal and its success rate in reaching your desired destination. Although I didn’t get to physically run the NYC marathon this past year because of Hurricane Sandy, seeing the finish line in the park motivated me so much that I’ve had many “marathon dreams” imagining myself crossing the finish line. I look forward to that moment, knowing it will happen this coming November. When I think of my film, I see it in my head, I hear sounds from it, scenes, I know how I want it to look. Yet, in planning a film in today’s market, you have to go further. You have to see what market your film fits in and imagine it playing in certain festivals. My favorite visual inspiration is hearing applause after my film at a festival.

5)      Be Realistic
Now, I know I’m not going to win the NYC Marathon. I’m not a professional athlete, I’m not delusional, and it’s just never going to happen. I also know that my film Gold Star is not going to make millions and millions of dollars across the country. It’s just not that kind of film and I’m not that kind of runner. Having realistic expectations with your end goal in mind is extremely important. In order to succeed in the long run (pun intended) after you cross the finish line and when you’re done shooting, you have to know what you’re doing next. What festivals should I target? How should this film be released? What race should I do next? How can I get faster? How can I become a better filmmaker?  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Don't Be Obsequious

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me more times than I can even count, “Don’t be an obsequious girl.” He thought I was quiet, a lemming following the others off the cliff, when really I just went with the flow in school because I knew filling in the right bubbles on a test wasn’t the be-all end-all. That being said, I was and still am a people pleaser, so I tried to do that really well. Life is not a test that has answers A-D, it isn’t raising your hand and politely waiting your turn

I don’t want to die and have my tombstone say, “She sat behind a desk for 40 years and never made a mistake.” Or, “She was well liked by everyone,” or anything like that. I want to impact people on an emotional, visceral level. I want to tell stories. I not only want, but I need to be remembered. I can never be obsequious. Why? I’m terrified.

I’m terrified that I’m going to wake up and be 60 or 70 or even 80 and have nothing to show for it with no work of art I’m proud of that has touched many people’s lives. As Woody Allen said, “I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” I feel as though artists are immortal. A great work will live on. It’s impossible to kill art and the voice of an artist. The ones that are different, take risks and don’t take no for an answer (this includes saying no, as well, when appropriate) are the ones that last.

I think as artists, we should never have to apologize for something we want to do or have already done.

The past few years, I’ve met with countless agents and managers who look at my resume and say, “Wow, lots of film. Where’s the theater?” to which I normally replied, “Well, I’ve just been busy with film recently.” Time for a change. Time for me to stick to my guns and say, “You know what? Film is my passion. Film is what I really want to do.”

People will always try to fit you into a box. In a meeting for an acting talent agent in New York, some are presumptuous in assuming an actor’s resume will be filled with theater. When meeting in LA, they will be disappointed if they don’t see film. Don’t let people tell you who you should be. Don’t apologize for your uniqueness or vision. Stop pussyfooting around where you see yourself going. If there’s any resolution for me this year it’s to finally listen to my dad and stop being obsequious.