Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review…

Well, it is really that time of year!  ALREADY?!?!  Yep, 2012 has come to a close.  I try to always reflect on the year that has passed, so here goes:

I started the year finishing Season 2 of ‘Breakout Kings’ (A&E) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  I was only a production assistant on the show, but I learned so much about production and what it takes to produce a weekly hour long program.  Of course, I attended the Sundance Film Festival.  This was my 13th year working Midnights at the Egyptian Theatre.  However, this year I flew from New Orleans and returned immediately to rejoin everyone on the set of ‘BOK’.  I know… Non-stop!

After returning to St. Louis on Valentine’s Day, I thought my year would be dead since I had no options and no offers for long term gigs until Mid-July.  However, looking back at that period of time, I accomplished quite a lot.  I Produced and Assistant Directed  the short film ‘Solitaire’ with Eric Cloughley; I assisted Pascal Beauboeuf and Beautiful Beef Productions with the short film ‘Running’ as well as steadicam work on a couple music videos and even assistant directed for him on a corporate promo video for a new company; I ran camera for Vault Media for two dance competitions in Minneapolis, Minnesota; I assistant directed for Heroic Age Studios on a Corporate Video for the Illinois Secretary of State in Springfield, Illinois; and was a Production Assistant on a couple TV programs, including ‘Sunday Best’ for BET in St. Louis and ‘The X Factor’ for Fox in Kansas City.  

In this same time period I took a huge step towards the production of my own two short films.  I launched a Kickstarter crowds-funding campaign to help promote and raise funds for my two film shoot.  Unfortunately, the fundraising campaign was unsuccessful and Kickstarter being all or nothing, I was not able to raise any of the funding I needed.  But the knowledge I gained about the process and my own two films was priceless, as was the amount of promotion I received.  So I will not truly be starting at square one when I try again. 

After Mid-July, I began a rather rough run on FOUR, yep that’s right FOUR, feature films back to back, serving as First Assistant Director on all of them.  First, I worked on the feature film ‘She Loves Me Not’ in Alton, Illinois for directors Brian Jun and Jack Sanderson.  36 hours after we wrapped I was in Elizabeth, Illinois jumping on the feature film ‘High on the Hog’ with director Tony Wash.  After that film I returned to St. Louis to mourn the loss of a close friend and AMAZING production manager, Matt Romano.  In my mourning, I passed on a project in Chicago.  But a week later was offer the feature film ‘Johnson’ and by the end of that week I was in the office working.  After Johnson wrapped, I headed back to St. Louis.  Right at Thanksgiving I worked on Missouri Shoot for the feature film ‘Apparitional’ for director Andrew P. Jones which shot in Jefferson City, Missouri at the shut down, and haunted, Missouri State Penitentiary.  

Now as 2012 is coming to a close I have been busy finalizing and submitting all my paperwork for the next step in my career.  I am becoming a member of the Director’s Guild of America.  Yep, I’m joining the union as a First Assistant Director in the Third Area (which is everywhere outside of NYC and LA).  It’s a huge step and I need to see how things fall into place, but I am truly excited and looking forward to the new heights I am reaching.  

For a while there I thought 2012 would be a slow and almost dead year.  However, it has turned out to be FAR from that.  Yes, there are still huge steps I need to take both personally and professionally, but 2013 look like the perfect time for them to be taken.  Another year is in the books, now it’s time to see what this brave New Year has in store.  See you on the other side.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sundance 2012 – Days 10 & 11

So for the final weekend of Sundance 2012, I took it a bit easy. I had planned to get out to a screening or two, but ended up packing and making sure I could get everything fit into my suitcases.

Now tonight was also our Midnight Team Dinner! It’s always great to take a night when our entire team can sit down, relax and enjoy a meal and hang out sharing stories. I’m blessed and so honored to have predominantly the same men and women fight to come back and work with me year after year. We are truly one amazing family!

Now Saturday nights films were films we has already screened earlier in the festival. Our 9:00 PM screening was ‘This Must Be the Place’ Dir: Paolo Sorrentino, which we screened on Day 7, and our Midnight Screening was ‘Excision’ Dir: Richard Bates, Jr, which we screened on Day 3. One new note I will make is about the short film before ‘Excision’, ‘LAZAROV’ Dir: Nieto. The film did screen before all the screening of ‘Excision’, but I wanted to save the review. The film is look at a secret Soviet program working on reincarnating a dead chicken. It is a very odd look at this experiment that has a hysterically odd outcome. It might only have one camera angle, but it works so perfectly for this interesting film.

The other even that happens on this Saturday night, but because of my shift I never get to attend is the Awards Ceremony and Party. We always look for the list of winning films, not only to if our guesses were correct, but to see what film we would screening on Sunday.

Sunday, my Team’s shift started at 2:00 PM and went until just after 7:00 PM. The 1:30 PM film ‘5 Broken Cameras’ Dir: Emad Burnat & Guy Davidi was the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award Winner! Our 4:30 PM film ‘Teddy Bear’ Dir: Mads Matthiesen was the World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic Winner.

Once ‘Teddy Bear’ was over, that was it… The 2012 Sundance Film Festival had come to an end for the Egyptian Theatre. We packed up our supplies, turned in our keys and said good bye to our home on Main Street!

Until Next Year! Bring on Sundance 2013!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sundance 2012 – Day 9

OK, so today I was torn about which movie to start my day with. I was interested in seeing the World Documentary Feature ‘The Imposter’ Dir: Bart Layton. But looking at a throwback to my past I went with several members of my Midnight Team to the 8:30 AM screening of ‘Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap’ Dir: Ice-T & Andy Baybutt. It is a look at the history, growth and craft of Rap Music in America from coast to coast. With a soundtrack that brought me back to youth, the film really shows how this predominantly urban music and art form has grown into the mainstay it is today. It was also amazing hearing so many legendary founders of this art form describe its growth from their perspective. I’m so glad I chose to see this film. I would still like to catch ‘The Imposter’ sometime in the future though.

Next, I met up with my Assistant Theatre Manager, Brian Hart, at the Canon EOS HDSLR Storytelling Presentation at the New Frontier at the Yard. The two speakers were Patrick Moreau from Stillmotion in Canada and Shane Hurlbut, ASC, the Cinematographer for the current film ‘Act of Valor’. The presentation/seminar was AMAZINGLY informative about the use of HDSLR Cameras a tool to capture your story in amazing new ways. I learned so much about using these small cameras. I can’t wait to put some of these new tips to use.

After the seminar I made my way home and got ready for my shift. Tonight we had a special sponsor screening at 9:00 of Premiere Category Film ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’ Dir: Lee Toland Krieger. The special screening was for the great people from HP. Our midnight screening is World Cinema Dramatic Competition film ‘Young & Wild’ Dir: Marialy Rivas.

‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ is a dramatic and sometimes funny look at a young couple struggling with their relationship after their divorce. It’s one of those films that you can see yourself or someone close to you in and immediate relate to what’s going on. And the performance from Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg were superb. It was interesting to see Samberg in a role that wasn’t completely slapstick comedy, and he pulled it off!

‘Young & Wild’ was an interesting mix of religious inference and very open sexuality. It’s an interesting look at a young woman embracing her sexuality, while writing her blog in the form of her own Gospel. I actually didn’t expect it to be as sexually charged as the film really was, but it was an interesting look at a young woman finding herself. It is actually based on a real young woman’s blog, which really makes the story much more intriguing.

OK… This concludes Friday. Only one more Midnight shift, and then Sunday afternoon, where we will close down the Theatre. And I promise not to take so long getting those last two updates written.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sundance 2012 – Day 8

As I continue to get caught up on my Sundance Blogs, here is Day 8! I wanted to make sure I made it to a screening of the film ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ Dir: Colin Trevorrow. I’d been hearing a lot about it and wanted to make the screening. Well, low and behold I got up later than expected and by the time I got to the Eccles Theatre, there were NO more Volunteer tickets and the wait list had already been cut off. I was a highly attended screening, and it was the THIRD screening at that. So the Buzz was out and it looked like I was just SOL. Well, right as I was about to give up, a man just offered up one ticket! YAY! I was in! Now the film is about a reporter and two interns looking into a classified ad for someone seeking at partner to time travel with them. I’ll leave the rest of the details out; you really need to see this film. It’s fun, humorous and has a great twist at the end. Mark Duplass of the Filmmaking Duo has a great performance as the man seeking a time travel partner. This one was fun and obviously well written, as it did win the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

Also, screening with ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ was the short film ‘Bear’ Dir: Nash Edgarton. It’s about a man with great intentions of a Birthday surprise for his girlfriend and how those plans can go horribly wrong. Truly a dark comedy with laughs at tragic moments, but amazingly well done. It was a great companion to ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’.

Next, I raced over to the Prospector Square Theatre for Shorts Program 3. The program contained 6 very different short films. Here is the list: (Now, I’m going to give the descriptions directly from the Sundance Website)

‘Dol (First Birthday)’ Dir: Andrew Ahn - A gay Korean American man yearns for a family life that is just out of reach.

‘The Fort’ Dir: Andrew Renzi - On a rainy day, a young boy builds a fort in the woods when a man appears and offers to help.

‘Frozen Stories’ Dir: Grzegorz Jaroszuk - The two worst employees of the supermarket are ordered to find a goal for their lives.

‘L Train’ Dir: Anna Musso - Sunny is a self-regarding teenager fighting her way through an inner-city blizzard—again. Suddenly, she encounters someone who forces her to consider an altruistic, though perhaps absurd, action.

‘Rolling on the Floor Laughing’ Dir: Russell Harbaugh - Two grown brothers return home for their widowed mother's birthday, only to find themselves competing with a strange man for her affection.

‘Surveillant’ Dir: Yan Giroux - It's another quiet summer day in Park Dufresne. The neighborhood youth loiter until a new park monitor appears for his first day of work. Two universes clash, and a territorial struggle begins.

Now, of all three Shorts Programs I screened this year, this one appealed the least. I hate saying that, as so many wonderful films screen at Sundance, but these just didn’t get me as motivated as the other two shorts programs did. I guess these shorts seemed a lot more traditional, more film school feel; I’m really not totally sure what it was. They still were Sundance worthy, so I give them mad props!

From there, I was originally heading back to my condo to get some writing done and change for my shift. I ended up waiting at the transit center for a connecting bus, when I ran into a friend who said “Hey, I’m going to see ‘I’m Not a Hipster’ right now, you should come!” And low and behold, something just said “GO!” So, I went. Now, ‘I’m Not a Hipster’ Dir/Scr: Destin Daniel Cretton was in the NEXT Category. It was about a struggling singer/songwriter dealing with his sisters coming to town with their dad to pay their last respects to their Mother, and spread her ashes other the ocean. The story looks at the struggles of both family and the indie music scene. It also has an amazing soundtrack of original songs. It’s gritty, raw and very real. I could see so many elements of myself or friends in the characters and easily believed the story. SO WELL DONE. I highly recommend this film. I’d buy a copy to keep in my collection, as well as the soundtrack… And that’s saying something.

So, Three Screening all back to back, raced home, quick change and off to my shift. Our two screening tonight are at 9:00 PM ‘The Pact’ Dir: Nicholas McCarthy. We showed this earlier at midnight. And at Midnight tonight we have ‘Grabbers’ Dir: Jon Wright.

Now, I didn’t watch ‘The Pact’ the first time we screened it because it is a horror film and a little much for my taste. But last time I didn’t comment about the short film that preceded the feature. The Short Film is ‘Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise’ Dir: Kelly Sears. It’s a short made up of yearbook photos moving across school building photos and images and gets darker and more gruesome with both music and bloody imagery. Interesting, but just not my cup of tea.

Now, the Midnight Film tonight, ‘Grabbers’, is a monster comedy about aliens attacking Erin Island, a small fishing village off Ireland’s coast. The reluctant authorities realize there is only one way to not have their lives sucked out by the monster… Get VERY DRUNK! I thought it was very cute and funny. In the same vein of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ or ‘Hot Fuzz’, this Irish Monster comedy keeps the drinks and laughs coming, even as the monster tries harder and harder to kill everyone. If you want a monster movie with a few laughs, I highly recommend this one!

OK… There is Thursday (Day 8)! I’m working to get each and every day of Sundance 2012 caught up on. I know I can do it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sundance 2012 – Day 7

So, today began my second big push to be productive at screening films while at Sundance this year. I started my morning off with a Press and Industry screening of ‘Ethel’ Dir: Rory Kennedy. The film looks over the life of Ethel Kennedy, her relationship with Bobby, their 11, yes 11, children, and how she handled the Kennedy life in politics. It was actually an interesting documentary. I wanted the chance to see a doc about one individual person. I have been considering a doc about my brother for a while, which I haven’t totally forgotten about. I guess I thought this might be a little inspiration and motivation. And, it kind of was. Be sure to look for ‘Ethel’ when it airs on HBO later this year.

I followed that up immediately with a quick bite to eat and the Press and Industry Screening of ‘The Words’ Dir: Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal. Now this was an interesting film about a writer played by Dennis Quad reading two sections from his new book entitled ‘The Words’ about a writer, played by Bradley Cooper, dealing with the origins of his hit novel. It really was quite a story within a story, and sometimes within another story. I know right, how do you keep them all straight, but in this film, it really well written and produced, so you stay on track without getting lost. The film was in the Premiere Category of films, so it should be coming to theater or at least a cable channel near you soon. I recommend you check it out.

For those who are curious about the P&I screenings I got to go to, it’s one of the perks of being a volunteer. Now, it is only on a space available basis, but if I’m early for what I REALLY want to see, I can usually get in.

After leaving the Holiday Theatre I ventured over the New Frontier at The Yard. There was an Adobe Presentation I wanted to attend, but because of the run time of the screening, I didn’t make it in time. However, I was about to take in several exhibits at the New Frontier. Now, since New Frontier moved out of the Main Street Mall across from Egyptian Theatre, I really haven’t been able to experience it as much or as often I have in years past. There were several interactive exhibits, but several took a while for the interaction, and I passed. One did stand out to me. ‘Evolution (Megaplex) Artist: Marco Brambilla was a 3-D Media Installation with a scrolling mural of images from classic films throughout the ages, but only a character or single image, and IN 3-D! It was quite amazing. And also quite fun to see how many films you could notice as the mural scrolled by before repeating itself. Another ‘Hunger in Los Angeles’ Artist: Nonny de la Peña was an Immersive Game Environment, basically a live action 3-D video game. I wasn’t able to stay and wait my turn, because there was a line, but it sure looked interesting. I’m actually kind of upset I missed the chance.

After my visit to The New Frontier at The Yard, I headed home to get ready for my shift that night. Our two films tonight were: at 9:00 PM ‘This Must Be the Place’ Dir: Paolo Sorrentino; and at Midnight was ‘Black Rock’ Dir: Katie Aselton. I was actually about to screen both of these film while on my shift, so here goes.

‘This Must Be the Place’ is about a former Goth rock musician played by Sean Penn who must confront his fears to deal with the death of his estranged father. He in turn decides to take up his quest to get retribution from the Nazi soldier who humiliated him in a concentration camp. The film is a very interesting look at one man realizing it is never too late to discover who you really are, and how you can help others along the way. As odd as the film is, it is quite good.

‘Black Rock’ is a female thriller about three girls who travel to a remote Maine Island for vacation, and a little soul searching, only to run into the wrong group of guys. When innocent advances get taken too far, the girls must fight to defend themselves and try to make it off the island alive. This is the second film from Aselton, who also happens to the wife of actor/producer Mark Duplass. Quite a change from her first film, this one shows women being more empowered, sometime aggressive, especially when their life is on the line. As much as there were a few parts that were somewhat predictable, others really caught me off guard. The film looks beautiful, the locations in Maine are quite breathe taking, and the action isn’t too bad either. I enjoyed the film, and think it is definitely worth seeing. I’m glad it was picked up for worldwide distribution. Keep your eye out for it!

OK, there is Wednesday! I know I’m WAY behind now, but I’m fighting to get caught back up. My time as you can see by the length of this Blog was quite full for several days, and once back in Baton Rouge, I was right back to work with little sleep. So, I’m going to get caught up as fast as possible. Sorry for the delay everyone, but I promise, they are all coming! Talk to you tomorrow.