Reflections On Quarantine Film Making

Today, I was reminded that art is alive and well. The Hollywood industrial process has been under tremendous pressure. The indie film world, also slowed, is still at work too, even though COVID remains with us. I say this because I’ve been judging the Quarantini Film Festival, a monthly fest founded by Dana Olita that supports and awards filmmakers making socially-distanced short films during this difficult time.

Quarantini Film Festival supports the indie film community during the pandemic with access to online screenings and awards.

I have learned and been reminded of a few things while judging the Quarantini entries:

  1. Art finds a way. I’ve seen some great films submitted to Quarantini Film Festival. Where there’s a will, there is a way, even under un-ideal circumstances.
  2. Sometimes, constraints embolden our creativity. Doing a lot with a little is part-and-parcel of low budget film making, but the constraints indie filmmakers are creating under are unprecedented. I’ve seen amazing creative risks taken on screen in the last three rounds of the Quarantini Film Festival. Some hit and some missed the mark, but when business-as-usual goes out the window, we have to ask what’s possible. I’ve witnessed tremendous creativity under the pressure of the pandemic.
  3. The pandemic has many people committed to speaking their truth, directly or indirectly. I’ve seen heart-wrenching drama shorts, contemplative docu-dramas and wicked comedies that all hit home. All of us have a story to tell that’s part of this larger pandemic narrative.

The truth is many film festivals and the whole culture of film festivals going forward is uncertain. Theatrical exhibition is still difficult and frankly, unobtainable in many areas. Your larger press outlets like Variety, Deadline, The Hollywood reporter, et al, are only really covering the larger festivals that have film markets. That gives sort of skewed picture of the filmmaking landscape in general. Indie filmmaking is alive. Indie films are being shown. It may not be on a large screen, but you can get your work out there on online fests like Quarantini. Seize the moment. You’ll never know what you’ll learn, how you’ll grow or who you’ll impact.

The Inner Ghost Town

018B723F-0201-4856-8D5B-BA7DB059E182 (1)Today, I took a trek to Mentryville, a ghost town in the Santa Clarita area. I was doing a preliminary scout for a project awaiting funding.  As I walked around the abandoned buildings, it was apparent to me that inside of us, we often carry around an inner ghost town.  What outdated structures (beliefs, habits) have we not cleared?  What projects have we abandoned? What dreams did we have to leave behind when our hope dried up?

So often a ghost town develops when a resource is depleted or an industry moves away.  Mentryville is dubbed “California’s First Oil Boom Town”.  Today, I was challenged to look at the ways I’ve been depleted.  I was also challenged to assess how much I’ve been holding on to “yesterday” instead of looking ahead, how the winds have shifted in my life and how my inner and outer landscape has changed.  1D638D20-B6EF-4B90-A445-E7579A071C51

Of course, the idea of a ghost town, implies a lack of life.  A ghost town is populated by ghosts, the dead who have unfinished business.   The ghost towns of our psyches are where we have unfinished business–the unsaid, the stuff we wish we had or hadn’t done.  The inner ghost town is the unanswered questions of our pain that we replay and revisit looking for answers that may never satisfy.  Instead of going over and over again what could and should have been, it’s more profitable to clear the structures that are falling down.  Too often, stasis feels safe, when it’s really what’s diminishing our possibilities.  Everything and everyone has their time and place in our lives.  Sometimes a controlled demolition of our inner ghost town is necessary.

 

Stick With It!

I helped cut a trailer for a documentary film for the first time yesterday and I didn’t flinch once!

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Planning the documentary trailer.

In all seriousness, though, I didn’t appreciate the growth process of the past two years of my life until I sat down and watched that trailer.  I’ve branched out into a whole other skill set, something I never really formally trained for or planned for.

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Armin Nasseri edits a preview trailer for “George Hobbs:  Stick Figure Wisdom”

Armin Nasseri and I are working on a documentary about George Hobbs, a lifelong prop master in the movie business, who’s pursuing his passion for art.  We put a preview trailer together today for distributors.

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect.  When you do fictional narrative, you have a script.  You know what’s coming!  With a doc, it seems, it’s a lot more like picking from beauteous fragments, because you just don’t know or can’t guarantee what will be said or not said.

I was pleasantly surprised!

I just started doing interviews two years ago and the opportunity to do in-depth interviews with George has been amazing.  We’re still shooting this amazing project.  Expect it to come out in 2020!

 

Inspiring Quotes from Avant Garde Filmmakers

This weekend, I will be hosting the Concrete Dream Film Festival, founded by Mulholland Drive actress Rena Riffel.  Part of preparing for this event has been to take a deep dive back into my film school days to rediscover avant garde, experimental and arthouse film.

Here are some gems I found!

Alejandro Jodorowsky

“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.”

“Failure doesn’t mean anything, it just means changing paths.”

“One does not go to the theater to escape from himself, but to reestablish contact with the mystery that we all are.”

“For a true artist, difficulties become opportunities and clouds become solid present.”

“Most directors make films with their eyes; I make films with my testicles.”

Maya Deren

I make my pictures for what Hollywood spends on lipstick.

Jonas Mekas

As a film-maker and a poet, I feel it’s my duty to be an eye and an antenna to what’s happening around me.

I live, therefore I make films. I make film, therefore I live.

Man Ray

To create is divine, to reproduce is human.

An original is a creation motivated by desire.

David Lynch

Life is very, very complicated, and so films should be allowed to be, too.

Yoko Ono

Art is like breathing for me. If I don’t do it, I start to choke.

Art is my life and my life is art. Yoko Ono

Andy Warhol

Art is what you can get away with.

Kenneth Anger

Making a movie is casting a spell.

Luis Bunuel

Mystery is the essential element of every work of art.

The Concrete Dreams Film Festival is June 11-16 in Los Angeles, CA.  For tickets and information, click here.  This year, there will be a special guest appearance by cinema icon Phillipe Mora, who will be presenting the Phillipe Mora Award for Filmmaking.

Sneak Peak of The Spirit Room

I’ve been talking about this short for months and it’s finally here.  The Spirit Room, by Adam J. Ung, is now out of post and coming to film festivals near you.

Here’s your first look:

 

I’ll keep you posted about screening dates and times.  Congratulations, Adam & the whole Spirit Room team.

Hollywood Dreams Announces Nominees

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Photo courtesy of Hollywood Dreams Film Festival

I am very honored that Seeking Valentina, a short film which I produced with Armin Nasseri, has garnered two nominations at this year’s Hollywood Dreams International Film Festival, including BEST SHORT & BEST VISUAL EFFECTS.  Our film screens later this week, in Las Vegas.  Want to catch it in Vegas?  See here.

Hollywood Dreams calls itself,

“A blend of new classic world film, hospitality, industry connections and of course a hearty brand of distributors, buyers, audience and special guests will round out what is sure to become a major stop in the vein of top U.S. and international film events.”

  For a full list of nominees for this year’s Hollywood Dreams International Film Festival, click here.  Congratulations to our cast and crew, whose talents and efforts continue to receive world-wide acclaim and many thanks to Del Weston and Theresa Weston, the founders of Hollywood Dreams Film Festival.