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.

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.

Psst…Super Top Secret Sneak Peak!

Can you keep a secret?

Here’s some stills from my first round of interviews for Domain of Horror!

Horror Talk with Kristin West:  Dawn Noel
Learn how to portray a zombie like a pro from Dawn Noel of Fear the Walking Dead.

 

2017 checks
Scream Queen Debra Lamb and I have many things in common, including the fact we’re both still writing “2017” on our checks and it’s already 2018.

Debra’s interview will be on Domain of Horror on 1/9.  Dawn’s will be up on 1/11 or catch them both on my YouTube channel on the evening of their release dates.

The Spirit Room Garners First Award

hollywood laurels

Congratulations to the super-talented cast & crew of The Spirit Room, helmed by Adam J. Ung.  The Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival awarded the short Best Horror Short.  I was honored to play the role of Peggy Wily in this award winning film.  Learn more here.

 

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.

Celebs Dish on Sexism in Radio & Horror Film Life

bill o

We had a lively conversation on What Women Want Talk Radio this week week with celebrity guests Melissa Carter and Bill Oberst Jr.  Melissa, a famed Atlanta radio personality, discussed the glass ceiling of the radio world.  Bill, dubbed indie horror’s sexiest man, discussed his vibrant acting career, including his upcoming stage offering, Ray Bradbury’s Pillar of Fire.

Listen in!

Catching Up with Ace Michaels

My friend Ace Michaels has been slaying with his online talk show on Facebook.  During my recent trip to Las Vegas, I got the chance to sit down and catch up with Ace.

ace 6

Check it out!  

 

Hollywood Dreams Announces Nominees

hollywood dreamz
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.

Behind the Scenes of The Litch

This week, I got to have a fun part in The Litch, directed by James Balsalmo of Acid Bath Productions.  It was a high-spirited, improvisational shoot.  Coming out later this year, the film also stars Tom Sizemore, the legendary  Lloyd Kaufman and fellow scream queen Genoveva Rossi.  James is creative, collaborative and fun and I told our manager Matt Chassin that he was like the “Christopher Guest of horror”.  This is sure to be a fun horror comedy.

kristin meat cleaver

 

Armin Nasseri of Seeking Valentina fame was also on-hand helping with our scene. It was great to have his positive energy there.  I can’t wait to see it debut on the big screen later this year!

litch group shot

 

 

LIKE The Litch on Facebook to get all their updates!

the litch

Why I Support Student Filmmakers

Today, I had the privilege of emailing back and forth Dr. Diane Dusick of the Inland Empire Media Academy, regarding their upcoming film festival.  This year will be the third year in a row that I’ve been a judge of their student film festival.

IEMA 2017

I think student films are vitally important to the future of film making, perhaps not the individual films themselves, but the validation that young cinematic voices need to thrive in the very competitive film industry.  How many times have I hears someone say, “It’s just a student film?”  Often.

“It’s just a student film” negates the fact that the student has chosen a career path in film.

“It’s just a student film” negates the artistic voice of the student, even if that voice is still trying to find itself.

“It’s just a student film” lowers our expectations and does not explore the struggle all film students have in making their first works.

It’s a battle to make a film, even for a pro, even for someone who’s made hundreds.  How do we create pros?  How do we foster professionalism in filmmaking?  Though schools, through mentoring, through sharing.

This is why I support student film.