Friday, October 28, 2005

10.28.05: Northeast Tour: Makor Screening

Last night’s screening at Makor (part of the renowned 92nd St Y) was fantastic. It was a little hectic at first because the venue had just about overbooked itself, but once the dust settled, it was all good on many levels. (Remember: the Tao. See 10/22.)

Typically, during the actual screening, when I run out of phone calls to make, I sit around outside picking my nose or something while I watch the minutes tick by until the Q & A. This is probably the least fun part about touring. At this screening, it turned out that Makor actually had a lovely little café downstairs, so I was able to wine and dine (OK, water-and-dine) publicist and friend Brian Geldin to thank him for helping spread the word in NY.

I ran back up in time to greet the audience for a very interesting Q & A. It was an eclectic crowd that contained some of my best friends and, most notably, cinematographer Steve Lerner. Steve is the only member of our crew who had not yet seen the movie on the big screen, as he moved to New York from San Francisco after his time spent in Israel. Actually, this was the first time Steve and I had seen each other at all since before he shot footage for Jericho’s Echo, over a year ago. Who would have guessed from our fateful rooftop meeting in fall 2003 that we would end up having a unique bond through shared affection for a bunch of scraggly Israeli teenagers?

Anyway, the Q & A was made all the more meaningful by the presence and participation of both Steve and Amir, lead singer of the Genders, an energetic Israeli rock band who happened to be on the NY stop of their U.S. tour and were able to come by the screening. For me, having Amir there was especially cool, because he had also been at the Tel Aviv premiere back in April. If you remember reading my blog entries from back then, it was difficult for some of the bands in the movie to have any kind of perspective, watching themselves on the big screen. They didn’t necessarily understand that, although they are its protagonists, they are not the target audience for the film. Apparently, Amir had a new appreciation of the film in seeing it through the eyes of an American audience. He said something to the effect of. “This movie is impossible to watch in Israel, but it’s totally different to watch it over here.” I hope some of the bands in the movie will get to have the same experience.

Afterwards, we had a little after-party at the aforementioned Makor Café. Makor was nice enough to provide us with 2-for-1 drink tickets and we had the musical accompaniment of some guy who, despite sounding like the equivalent of the Israeli Billy Joel, attracted quite a crowd on Makor’s lower level stage. That get-together was really trippy for me, as Heather, my pep-rally-queen, managed to wrangle a bunch of graduates from our high school class who are now living in NY. How amazing to see these people all grown up and looking good and leading interesting lives in the big city. Thanks to everyone who came out and helped make it a screening worth blogging about.

PS Heather, saving the day as always, took a bunch of photos that I will post once I get them from her.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

10.27.05: Northeast Tour: Very Interesting Stuff, Dennis, Thanks.

“In the biblical story of Jericho,” the handsome, African-American baritone explained, “the ancient Hebrews broke down the walls of the city by raising a great noise. Filmmaker Liz Nord has found some young people in Israel today who are also raising a great noise…blah, blah, blah…”

Cut to said filmmaker, talking about her movie, Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land, on the WB11 morning news show. That was how my big apple TV debut began this morning. Heather (my best friend and NY hostess) was kind enough to set her alarm for a bleary-eyed 5:50 AM so that we could watch the broadcast, and we saw it when it aired again at 7:20.

I am very happy to report that my biggest mainstream publicity exposure to date was a real success, complete with well-edited clips from the movie, the JE website address being flashed on the screen, and even an almost-parody-like pan back to the newsdesk after the report, where the main newsdesk lady replied to the announcer mentioned above, “Very Interesting Stuff, Dennis, Thanks,” before moving on to her next report. It was too early in the morning to get all dorked out about it, but I did feel a little like The Supremes hearing their song on the radio for the first time or something.

The best part about it was that I had received some great advice from Asma Hassan, Muslim author and frequent news commentator whom I had met earlier in the week. I was talking with Asma about an upcoming project that I am currently researching about Muslim-American teenagers, and I mentioned that I was going to be interviewed the following day. She said that TV adds 20 lbs. to the face, which I knew from past experience, but she gave me the antidote, as well—it also takes away 20 lbs. from the hair! So the key to looking normal on TV is BIG HAIR. Well, thank you, Asma. I finally appeared on TV without my head looking like a big tomato!

The WB11 spots were a nice way to start a big day for JE. In a little while, I am meeting with someone from the Curriculum Initiative to discuss bringing the film into high schools, and tonight is our second Manhattan screening. I might have time to write about it if I’m not to busy being mobbed by screaming fans all over the city. Hee hee.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

10.25.05: Northeast Tour: Una Bagel con Shmear (aka I Heart NY)

I love New York.
(Descending into the 181st Street Subway)

I love the buzz, the hum, the whir, the sputter, the vibrating energy of the place.

I love that when I descended into the city's underbelly this morning and surveyed the subway car's rowed seating, every single person on the entire car was seated next to someone else of a different color, with a different story, a different departure point and a different destination.

I love that everyone knows what schlep and shmear mean.

I love that in a city where so many serious things happen, there is enough frivolity to account for an entire shop devoted solely to cupcakes and another one to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

(The Cupcake Cafe, Manhattan)

I LOVE New York.
And I am SO excited for the screening here on Thursday.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

10.23.05: Northeast Tour: 3-1-5 Represent!

Contrary to my expectations, last night’s screening at the Syracuse JCC catered to one of the most diverse crowds of any event yet. The ages ranged from 11 to about 75. There were Jews and non-Jews, peaceniks and staunch Zionists, Israelis, Americans and a mix of other nationalities.

I never would have guessed that it would be a crowd in the medium-sized metropolis of Syraucse, NY (as opposed to a small community like Eugene or a huge community like Manhattan), where what I always hope will happen at the screenings actually did. There was a big debate during the Q & A where the almost the whole audience chimed in with their varying opinions on contemporary Israeli politics. It started out with a young Israeli in the crowd who found it offensive that some of the punks in the movie chose not to join military service, when he himself was about to join up and, in his words, “protect their families.” It went from there, with a whole range of ideas represented.

I was glad to be at a point where I can remove myself enough from my movie to successfully moderate such a discussion without taking things personally.

Syracuse, New York: A Forum for Diverse Political Ideas. Who knew?

PS Big shout-outs to Mom and Dad Nord who were the best “roadies” ever during the upstate NY leg of the tour. I love you guys!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

10.22.05: Northeast Tour: The Manlius Cinema

I grew up in a very small town. It only has two traffic lights. I never really realized how small it was until after I had been away in big cities for a few years, and I returned to the shocking truth that even the word “town” is an overstatement. I grew up in a village.

It made tonight’s “homecoming” screening all the more fun, since all sorts of characters from said village and the surrounding ones came out of the woodwork. The 50-or-so-person crowd held some of my parents’ friends and some of my friends’ parents and some of my favorite high school teachers and some fellow F-M high school alums who I haven’t seen in ten years. It was almost as if a man with a boming voice was going to emerge from behind the movie screen and announce, “Liz Nord! THIS is your life!”
(Home Sweet Home)

Screening at the Manlius Art Cinema (one of only 2 art houses in the entire Central NY region) was a worlds-collide experience in and of itself, as I had spent so much time there growing up. I mentioned in my introduction to the crowd that I still remembered going to see one of the Star Wars movies there when I was a little kid, and thinking that we were actually entering a ship because of the cinema’s signature round windows. Later, my first high school boyfriend worked there and, true to the nature of my small town, his mother was in the audience last night.

The screening was a bit problematic because (I discovered two days before the screening), the cinema was not equipped to screen video. Yikes! The longtime cinema owner, Nat Tobin, saved the day by scrounging one up from a friend, but since the sound system was prepped for film and not video, there was a slight echo on all of the dialogue. Fortunately, the older crowd all just assumed that they were losing their hearing and didn’t hold the movie accountable, but I hated the fact that they had to experience a sub-par viewing. If there is one thing I’ve learned from touring, it’s that there is no perfect screening. Every venue or crowd or town has its issue, and so it’s all a good exercise in the tao for me. (OMG, I am SO California!)
(An art student at my old high school)

One highlight of the day was visiting the art wing of my old high school and speaking to some students. After getting over the shock that it has really been ten years, I truly enjoyed catching up with my favorite teacher, Mr. Niedzwiecki, and some of the other great F-M educators. (We always called him “Mr. Ned” so I loved meeting his wife at the screening later; she introduced herself as “Mrs. Ned.”)

My two main messages for the kids were:
1) There is life outside of Fayettville, NY.
2) You can have a career in the creative arts.

I was proud to be a living example of those two points that I wanted so desperately to believe when I was in their shoes ten years ago.

Friday, October 21, 2005

10.21.05: Northeast Tour: Ithaca really is “Gorges.”

Central New York is so beautiful. The fact that I took it for granted when I lived here was confirmed, as I glimpsed out of the soon-to-be-landing airplane window onto what looked like a model train set. The multi-colored train cars bisected huge, green, silo-dotted expanses that were offset by blazing red and yellow patches of autumn trees. It was stunning.

After hitting the ground, my dad drove us to the Ithaca screening along some back roads, so that I could see more of the gorgeous fall foliage that I so miss living in seasonless San Francisco. I could practically smell the wood fires burning and hear the fallen leaves crunching as we approached the Cornell Cinema. The pleasant drive was only topped by the extremely warm reception that we were given upon arriving, by Mary and Chris from the venue.

I highly recommend the Cornell Cinema as a destination for any touring filmmaker. The staff was not only as nice as could be, but they did great publicity for the show and treated me with the utmost professional respect. Plus, they run a fabulous, eclectic program that I was honored to be a part of. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I have screened at a lot of venues now. I’ve run into things like missing audio cables, inaccurate publicity, dim projector bulbs, and all sorts of mishaps, so it made tonight’s screening stand out all that much more.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

10.20.05: Northeast Tour: Homeward Bound

I am sitting in the airport terminal en route from the Big Apple to Syracuse, NY. (G-d bless JetBlue for their wireless internet hubs. Oy! The wonders of modern technology!) Syracuse would not necessarily be a tour stop for everyone in my situation, but what can I say? Before moving to Boston, London and now San Francisco, the little teeny Syracuse suburb known as Fayettville, NY, was my home.

The first show of this tour was last night, and it was OK. The venue had the screening listed in all of the big publications…even the New Yorker magazine. Too bad they all published THE WRONG DATE! Just one of the many joys of the road. At least I can blame the less-than-stellar turnout on that little faux pas. Between that and the new Jewish Week review of “Joshua’s Echo”, I sometimes wonder if there is anyone in this world who is not a complete freakin idiot.

The good news is that the folks who did turn up were amazing! Two of my absolute favorite people in the world were there, Heather and Aunt Babe (thanks for your help!), along with a bevy of people from my past (like Jon who lived down the street from me 8 years ago in London), people who were involved with the movie (Peter whose photos appear on screen and Brian who helped with publicity) and a big shout out to my NBF Isa, who brought like 6 people and who just published her first cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance.

All in all, I guess it’s good to start out the tour with a just-OK show so they can all improve from here. So, onward…

P.S. Whoever decided that these velour sweatsuits should be in style is an absolute GENIUS. They are the perfect travel wear—comfy, no belts or metal to go off in the security gate, AND they make your ass look good!