Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Unsettled Premiere

I first connected with Adam Hootnick, director of Unsettled, a few years ago when he was still a producer at MTV News, and I was talking to them about Jericho’s Echo. At the time, I thought, “how many Adam Hootnicks can there be in this world?” and it turned out that yes, he was the same Adam Hootnick who grew up in my hometown and attended my rival high school. It also turned out that we were about to share another rare bond—Adam was getting ready to leave all things sensible in his life and go shoot an independent documentary in Israel. Been there, done that.

Fast forward a few years, and Adam was one of the first people I met with when I moved back out to the east coast. Lucky for me, I arrived just in time for the NYC premiere of his now finished documentary, Unsettled. Even though Adam and I don’t know each other very well, I felt a real rush of emotion at his successful premiere last week. I was so happy for him. I know what it’s like to take such a risk and pour your heart into something, and then finally enter that sold out screening filled with friends, family, and colleagues and to think, “Holy shit. I did it.”

And he really did it. Unsettled is an excellent film and you should go out of your way to see and support it. In fact, he is planning a cross country tour and you can contact his production company about bringing the film to your town. The movie is not only about a timely and important topic—the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza—but it is very well done, with a great sense of pacing and character development that truly (dare I say it?) engages the viewer. Plus, it has an excellent soundtrack…perhaps a skill gleaned from Adam’s MTV days. Documentary filmmakers will be particularly impressed at how Adam and only one other cameraman manage to intimately follow six young characters over the appx. six days of the operation, each of whom is in a different location and on a different side of the issue, without seeming to miss a beat. I really don’t know how they did it, and, for me, that added to the tension and intrigue of the stories themselves.

Adam, congratulations. I can’t wait to see your next films!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Live from NY!

(Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge)

Those of you who have been following my adventures for a while will know that I love New York City. (Thank you, Andrew WK, for putting an excellent tune to that sentiment!) Now, thanks to the aligning of stars and an open-minded husband, I can call this amazing city my home!!!

I am so excited to be here, and to be closer to my old friends and family, and to become part of the world’s most vibrant media community. I am cooking up a new documentary idea, which will be shot here, and I have been having all kinds of meetings with industry folks to figure out where I belong workwise within the local production scene.

Here are the best things so far (in no order):
1. Pizza and Ice Cream!
2. Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge
3. Reuniting with people who have known me for more than 10 years and still like me
4. Taking a tour of Coney Island with an old crazy guy named "Captain Bob"
5. Taking a graffiti tour of our neighborhood on bicycles
6. Having to look up the weather in the morning because it is different every day
7. Possibilities and Opportunities
8. Striking up conversations with strangers
9. Running into three female media personalities on the same day: Paula Zahn, Mary Snow, and Kelly Ripa. (Is it a sign?)
10. Running into new or old friends on the street almost every day, even though it’s the country’s busiest city and I only know a handful of people

Saturday, May 12, 2007

SFIFF and an ode to Chris Wiggum

(Ocean Beach on the evening of our going-away bonfire)

After seven rollercoaster years, Seth and I are packing up and leaving the Bay Area. As these entries are mainly film related, I'll spare you my mushy goodbyes and just talk about getting to go out with a bang, as the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival happened to coincide with the weeks of our departure.

For the past 4 years, I have had the excellent task of sitting on the Documentary Selection panel for the festival’s Golden Gate Awards. That means that I get to help sort through and choose the top picks among the piles of excellent docs that get submitted to the festival each year. It’s cool being a part of SF’s biggest and the country’s oldest festival, and also getting a sneak peek at the top docs each year. Admittedly, it can get a little mind-numbing when you are in your eighth-straight hour of movie watching, but then some gem will sparkle you out of your stupor and you’ll be so glad you are there. We had one of those films in our panel group this year, where everyone in the group immediately agreed that it should be passed on to the fest, and it was, and now it looks like it is getting a theatrical release, so you should see it: Ghosts of Cite Soleil. It’s a haunting and colorful film about two brothers involved in dangerous politics, hip hop, and gang warfare in Haiti.

Another perk of doing this duty is that I usually get invites to the fest’s big ol’ parties, and there were some doozies this year. Opening night was in City Hall, and that was pretty amazing, but it was on my last day of work at Film Arts, and we had a little post-work-going-away-thing, and by the time I arrived at the massive dome, I was already a little woo-woo and so I pretty much didn’t have much steam left. Thank goodness for my dear colleague and friend, Simone, who gave me a lift home. The highlight of the festival for me was actually the Centerpiece party, which appropriately happens smack dab in the middle of the festival. This is the second year that Bay Area Women in Film & TV has sponsored the film & party, and as an outgoing board member I got to bask in some of that glory and also get the chance to say goodbye to so many of the AMAZING women that I have met and worked with in that organization over the years (Liza! Erica! Ondine! Simone!).

(SFIFF's Thanks to BAWIFT: Alison Lohman in Delirious)

One petite bone to pick...being that a professional women's media org is giving a whole pile of cash to sponsor this shin-dig, you'd think the festival would take into consideration some of its choices. For instance, in his little thank-you-sponsors speech before the film, the male festival director stated that BAWIFT is "an organization that we are happy to get into bed with." Huh? Somehow seems like an inappropriate choice of words, sort of like the inappropriate choice of film, which was the movie Delirious, starring two men and directed by, guess who? A man! I guess they tried to have estrogen representation by having the female lead come up with the director for the post-film Q & A...too bad she played a half-dressed, ditzy pop star in the movie and could barely form an intelligible sentence on stage!

But back to the party. As mentioned earlier, I loved that I got to use this event as my own little goodbye to the Bay Area film community. I went with my friend Carlton from Disposable Film Fest and The Tribe, and aside from my BAWIFT chicks, got to see a lot of my other favorite faces from the local film world, like Scarlett, the dynamo behind SF Women's Film Festival, and Malcolm from Shooting People. Best of all, though, was my film festival staple, Chris Wiggum. Chris is the right-hand man at Karen Larsen, the Bay Area PR firm that handles everything film-related worth noting.

I met the fabulous Mr. Wiggum when I was working at Mill Valley Film Festival a few years ago, and have seen him at just about every festival I’ve been to since. He even helped Jericho’s Echo get some great press when we were in the SF Jewish Film Fest. Chris embodies what I love about the SF (as opposed to the LA) film scene: he works hard without being a stress case, he always looks great without overdoing or fake-tanning it, and he is sincerely nice without always wanting something from you. Kudos, Chris, and thanks for helping me say goodbye to SF in style.

PS, If you are going to be in SF in June, make sure to check out the youth films at Frameline…There are some real gems that were created by LGBT teens and “elders” while I was running TILT earlier this year!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Children of Men

Children of Men, the new movie by Alfonso Cuaron. Go see it. I will be trying to interview the brilliant Cuaron for Death + Taxes this year, as he is also doing the movie of my new favorite book, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I have never used this blog to make recommendations for you all, but here it is. A new year. Check it all out as soon as possible: Children of Men, Alfonse Cuaron, and A History of Love. Enjoy.