The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized.
... [P]oetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.
When you watch your friend work his ass off for the better part of a decade, staring down doubt and uncertainty, yet resolutely continuing to put all kinds of love and persistence into a project he cares about passionately... and then you watch him knock it right out of the ballpark... Massive congrats to you on your first feature Jon, to the Rainey family who opened their lives so generously for the camera, and to the entire team who brought this powerful film to life. Look for QUEST on POV, soon.
QUEST, Jonathan Olshefski's living, breathing, stunning documentary study of an African-American family in North Philadelphia... a film that feels at once narratively firm and organically shaped... graceful, lively, endlessly empathetic... -Variety
It was a very long night, especially with a series of after-hours train fiascos factored in, but I had such a great time at the Cinema Eye Honors awards ceremony, where THE PEARL was up for a Spotlight Award. Got to catch up with old friends, hang out with The Pearl crew, and celebrate some of the most talented documentary filmmakers working today. Awards ceremonies are usually kind of weird and aren't always my favorite way to spend an evening, but a down-to-earth gathering like this one makes me feel so grateful to work in this field, amongst such smart, big-hearted, adventuresome, interesting people.
Very, very excited to be screening The Pearl, a film I edited, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Directors Jessica Dimmock and Christopher LaMarca will be in attendance for the Saturday, December 17th screening at 4pm and the Sunday, Dec. 18th screening at 7pm. From the program notes:
... an intimate portrait of a group of trans women supporting and sustaining each other... The Pearl observes but never judges, creating a safe space...
A rare and special 35mm film print screening of James Longley's Iraq in Fragments (a film I worked on as an editor many moons ago) will be presented at the Museum of the Moving Image at 4:30pm on Sunday, Dec. 4th, 2016. From the program notes:
Among the most influential and admired films of the last decade, this Academy Award-nominated film combines gripping on-the-ground war reporting with breathtaking lyricism.
Proud and honored to find out that The Pearl, directed by Jessica Dimmock and Christopher LaMarca (a documentary I edited), has been nominated for a Cinema Eye Honors Spotlight Award. Previous winners in this category include Jessica Oreck's Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (2010), Andrei Ujica's The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (2011), Tatiana Huezo Sanchez' The Tiniest Place (2012), Wojciech Staron's The Argentinian Lesson (2013), Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara for The Last Station (2014), Johanna Hamilton for 1971 (2015) and Alexandre Nanau for Toto and His Sisters (2016).
Sundance Film Festival kicked off today in Park City, Utah and in his opening remarks, Robert Redford offered the following thought:
Right now, my impression is TV is advancing faster than filmmaking.
Sundance is doing a special thematic focus on tv this year and when I first heard this, I had to scratch my head a bit - the palette of independent filmmaking has always seemed infinitely more interesting to me than the limited hues of television. But totally conincidentally, an article
that had been working its way up my reading list for a while finally reached the surface today, and it happened to be an interview with Beau Willimon (showrunner for the Netflix series House of Cards) on the topic of how streaming services are changing the nature of television.
You should read the whole article, but here are some snippets that have totally changed the way I think about tv:
TV can be...
Hyper-serialized narrative...more like a novel than anything else... hundreds of characters, weaving in and out of stories, the focus shifting for chapters at a time. It allows you to delve into characters in a way you never could in 90-120 minutes... A great character hinges on truth, and truth hinges on all the contradictions that make us human.
a 6-hour stream. There is no break. There is no episode. You pause when you want to, or not at all. At that point, what is it? Is it a TV show, is it a season, is it a 6-hour film? Who knows and who cares, really?
...if someone puts out a 600-page novel, there's going to be someone who reads it all at once, and someone else over years. It has to work either way. The most important thing is audience empowerment. You're giving the audience--especially with a full-season release--the ability to choose their experience.
[The narrative] ...doesn't have to fully resolve. In the Writer's Room, we don't talk about A story or B story, or schematic things that you'll find in that horrible section of Barnes & Noble that presumably tells you how to write a script.
...the value of the show these days is not how many people watch it, but are you serving a niche that feels underserved elsewhere?
You're in a room. You're watching what the performers are doing. You're adjusting the text because it's clear what works or what doesn't. You make changes.
You follow an impulse, you feel something electric in your gut. ...You try to stare down the scary parts of yourself... the things that make you nervous, that you're ashamed of. You try to access the parts of you that experience joy, betrayal, all of the things that make a story universal for us all. And then you fling a lot of pasta against the wall and see what sticks. For every 100 ideas, 99 of them are unhelpful. It's a real trial and error game. You bang your head against the wall until you break through. And a lot of times you don't. You're just lying in a fetal position with a bloody head. But there's a few moments where you just feel like maybe you did something interesting and original here. It's instinct and a lot of perspiration. More than inspiration. Thomas Edison was right about that.
Excited to be teaching an editing workshop at Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia.
Join me on October 30th for some nuts and bolts conversation about the editor's role in crafting stories. Here is the workshop description:
Editing brings a documentary to life, giving it shape, meaning, power, and poetry. Whether you are editing documentary shorts or features, working on your own film or someone else's, learn some strategies that will help keep momentum going even through the most difficult phases of an edit. Discuss a variety of edit room tactics for getting you closer to the story you truly want to tell. Documentary editor Fiona Otway speaks about her process and your projects with an intimate Q&A about post-production.
Big congratulations to Rodrigo Reyes and team for their theatrical release of PURGATORIO, which begins October 3rd at the Cinema Villeage in New York City!
As an editing mentor for the IFP Labs, I was lucky to see an early cut of PURGATORIO and particpate in an in-depth dialogue with Rodrigo and his editor Manuel Tsingaris about how they were shaping the film. Even in its unfinished form, I was impressed by the strong vision they expressed and their determined commitment to using an unconventional structure to re-imagine the well-worn meta-narratives of migration and borders.
PURGATORIO is rolling out in theatres across the United States. I hope you get a chance to see it.
KISS THE PAPER continues its festival journey... Now screening in New England at the Collinsville Film Festival, alongside Deborah Stratman's Hacked Circuit, as well as White Blaze by our friend Brian Bolster, and more! The festival runs the weekend of April 25th through April 27th, 2014 in Collinsville, Connecticut.
As a result of its television broadcast on the PBS series Independent Lens, HELL AND BACK AGAIN has just been nominated for the Best Documentary award at the 34th Annual Emmy Awards, sponsored by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. We are incredibly honored to be included in the lineup alongside the powerful film The Loving Story, Project Nim, The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom, Saving Face, and Patricio Guzman's profound documentary, Nostalgia for the Light.
Delighted to be screening KISS THE PAPER this year at the upcoming Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore...
* On Thursday, May 9th, 2013, the film screens at 4pm in the Charles Theatre.
* On Saturday, May 11th, we'll screen again at 5:30pm in the Windup Space.
Super extra excited to be programmed alongside longtime friend and collaborator Annie Silverstein's lovely short Noc na Tenecku (Night at the Dance), about one of the last Czech dance halls in Texas!
Two more screenings of KISS THE PAPER just around the around the bend...
On Saturday, November 3rd, 2012, KISS THE PAPER will screen at the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival in Colorado Springs, Colorado. What an honor to be included in a program with so many awesome lady filmmakers!
Not too long after that, KISS THE PAPER travels to New York City for its Big Apple premiere! Couldn't be more excited to be included in the lineup for DOC NYC, where they are screening some of the very best documentaries of the year. There will be some incredible filmmakers attending the festival and showing new work. Also, super excited to be screening alongside Brian Bolster's beautiful short, THE LOOKOUT, once again. Don't miss our big show Thursday night, November 15, 2012, 7:15pm at the IFC Center!
A few opportunities to see KISS THE PAPER coming up this month...
On Wednesday, August 15th, KISS THE PAPER will screen at Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia as part of their Storyville series. The program is presented by PIFVA (Philadelphia Independent Film & Video Association), and includes new work by several Philly filmmakers, including Malia Bruker, Doris Chia-Ching Lin, and David Block. Storyville is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
The weekend of August 18th and 19th, KISS THE PAPER screens several times at the Living History Event in historic Hillsborough, New Hampshire. KISS THE PAPER will screen alongside the popular Katemquin Films documentary TYPEFACE. Limited edition letterpress-printed KISS THE PAPER posters will be available at this event.
Last but not least, at the end of the month KISS THE PAPER travels to Birmingham, Alabama for the Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival. KISS THE PAPER screens on Sunday, August 26th as part of the Doc Shorts program. I'm extra excited about this program because the film will screen alongside NIGHT AT THE DANCE, by my talented friend Annie Silverstein.
In recognition of Memorial Day, our film
Hell and Back Again will have its television premiere
on PBS -- Monday, May 28th at 10 p.m. all across the United States.
This is a film for anyone who is curious to know more about America's involvement in foreign wars and anyone who has friends/family who have been to war...
Mark your calendar and help us spread the word!
An artist cannot make a masterpiece unless he has opened himself and loved something enough to get it all the way over to the audience... If you keep at it and care enough, and if the gods give you an occasion... and you are full of love and excitement... and then if you have enough enthusiasm left to sit at a dusty table with it and re-construct that moment - then you get a work of art. - Brakhage
Wow. I am so incredibly behind in updating this thing! Life has been busy. But I had to drop in briefly to announce that KISS THE PAPER will be screening at two great festivals over the next few weeks.
First up, Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, nestled in the wine country of Northern California. I hear that folks love letterpress in these parts, so I hope they'll come out for the show. The film is part of the shorts program that plays on Saturday, March 31st at 11:30am.
And then after Sebastopol, KISS THE PAPER travels back to the East Coast for the illustrious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which runs April 12th thru 15th in lovely Durham, North Carolina. Don't know the exact screening time yet, but Indiewire has published the official lineup of films, which looks fantastic! I'll be attending this one and can't wait to partake in the bounty... (P.S. I'm bringing letterpress printed posters, postcards, and DVDs with me!)
KISS THE PAPER will be screening next at
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival! Catch the film at the Crystal Theatre on Saturday February 18 @ 2:20 pm.
Some of our new friends from the Slamdance Americana Documentary Shorts program will also be showing their beautiful films (keep an eye out for Josh Gibson, Brian Bolster, and Kevin Gordon), along with several filmmaking pals from Seattle (Tracy Rector, Ellen Fricke, and Gretchen Burger)... Looks like it'll be a week and a half of documentary bliss out there in Montana.