VOTE! Helping Local Voices to Get Heard

One of the featured ads for the 2012 Local Voices campaign.

I am very proud once again to lend my talents to help get out the vote during this important campaign season.  While it’s not difficult to see where my allegiance lies, once again I have chosen a less obvious path.  Rather than simply cheering for a candidate I believe in, I was given the opportunity to work on spots that promote the voices of average, working class and retired Americans who have positive observations that they wish to speak.  Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters who have something to say.

This year, it is via Local Voices, the award-winning organization who continues to spread a positive and no spin message. I am proud to have edited three pieces for filmmakers John Allen and Bella Le Nestour, with special and personal thanks to Lyn Goldfarb who connected me to John, Bella and the entire campaign!  The pieces are:

  • Sean, from Lima, Ohio.  An Independent voter who saw the way the stimulus package and community grants helped turn around the economy in his home town.
  • MaryAnn, from Marion, Ohio.  This outspoken retired school teacher talks about the importance of education to help keep a nation like ours thriving.
  • Robert, from Sarasota County, Florida.  The most challenging of the pieces I worked on, Robert is an farming and agriculture consultant who talks about food security and the importance of local food production.  Sobering.

Please remember, your vote DOES matter and your voice needs to be heard!  Get involved.  Silence is not signal!

To read more about the acclaimed Local Voices campaign, check out this piece in the Huffington Post!

 

 

Acclaim: Thank You George Lucas Educational Foundation!

I’m very proud to announce that The George Lucas Educational Foundation website, Edutopia recently selected my GO PUBLIC Documentary on A Day in the Life of Maura Large as one of the thirteen best of the project!

To date:

  • GO PUBLIC films have been viewed more than 8,000 times in 42 countries.
  • Most views outside the U.S. are Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Australia, with the smallest country viewing a GO PUBLIC film being the United Arab Emirates.
  • GO PUBLIC films have been shown publicly at school board meetings, community meetings, church services and at a recent press conference with State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson.

And now perhaps most importantly, the GO PUBLIC Project has launched its Kickstarter campaign!  Please go to the website to learn more about the feature film project, and the opportunity to support not only the documentary project, but also the needs of students through out the Pasadena Unified School District!  If you can’t support financially, please spread the word via social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter!

Thanks and GO PUBLIC!

Story: The Power of Discovery Comes Tumbling Home to Me

My Fredrick Wiseman Moment?

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

This is the first time I’ve been fully responsible for the material in a documentary. I’ve cut documentary shorts, given notes and consulted on screen stories. Opined on countless films from a professional and personal perspective. But now, after my first time leading a documentary crew during the Go Public film project, I witnessed for the first time the powerful moment when a filmmaker discovers a story.

When I first started reviewing the footage that we shot on May 8th, it was with a mind full of the remembrances for the day’s events. Foreknowledge that we had captured events which had unfolded in rather dramatic ways. What I didn’t realize was how both good fortune and the strength of my team in DP Neil de la Peña and Sound Man Richard Newton that we were able to capture things that I hadn’t realized we had seen.

During our “Day in the Life” of Eliot Middle School Librarian, Mrs. Large we saw many of the things you’d expect to see. A quiet, but active place where Mrs. Large devotes her days to educating all levels of students: the struggling, the grateful and the apathetic. By midday, when my team and I ran out to catch some exteriors, we found ourselves returning to a school evacuation. One of the students, we quickly learned had set off a fire extinguisher and fire alarm.

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After the Fact: A Director’s Musings on the Go Public Experience

A Day in the Life of the Eliot Middle School Library

Student Daniel Pinto-Teixiera hunkers down for a test

The following is recollection of the day’s events during my participation in the Go Public Documentary Film Shoot.  Each crew member was asked for their reflection on that day, and this was the document that I submitted to Producers Dawn & Jim O’Keeffe.  –S.

In retrospect of filming, I am left with a wealth of emotions related to the day’s events.  In the first place, a week prior I took the opportunity to sit down and meet not only with my subject Mrs. Large, but Eliot Middle School Principal Mr. Pannell, and two students, Daniel Teixiera-Pinto and Carter Robertson.  The brief time spent during my initial encounter was enough to leave me with an impression of the place and these people.  Add to that, the memories of my own time spent in Eliot’s wise old library as a former student, and it is safe to say that I was carrying around some very distinct feelings of this place.  Most tangible to me was the importance of this tiny segment of a very personal and human institution, and a sense of responsibility that I had as a filmmaker to reveal my impressions.

Prior to filming, I set myself into a certain mindset however.  It is the same as when I pick up a still camera to capture an image: I prefer to distance myself from my subject.  I do not want to be felt as a presence to the subject.  It is enough in capturing the things that I see, that I will imprint a certain impression upon an image.  It is unavoidable.  That being said, it might have come off to some of the people that I encountered on Tuesday, that I was somewhat distant.  The fact that I had the fantastic talent of my  D.P. Neil de la Peña, and sound mixer Richard Newton, allowed me that luxury.

Arriving at the Home of the Large family early in the morning, was like being tossed into the deep end of a swimming pool.  Mrs. Large had spoken with her family about what to expect on the day of the shoot. Most importantly, she had told her three children, Eric 8, Penelope 5, and Frida 4, that they should ignore the camera.  As you might imagine, it’s near impossible for three filmmakers to “disappear” to a houseful of excited young children.

The plan to shoot that morning was to go strictly handheld, and capture the frenetic nature of an early morning as Mrs. and Mr. Large got their brood ready for the day.  We captured that, and the loving, curious and outgoing nature of this family.

After arriving at school and settling in to filming, I was once again left with a little trepidation in capturing what I saw happening in the library, and doing so in a vérité fashion.  A quiet place, with quiet activity taking place; all in an atmosphere where your subject is likely to be suspicious of your presence.

When I met Mrs. Large the previous week, I knew that this small statured, gentle-natured person was someone quite special.  She didn’t need to be someone of large flourishes or grandiose personality to leave her mark on me, or the walls of the library.  The day of filming left me with concrete examples of what I already sensed of her.  A gentle, thoughtful way of leading students toward learning.  Deep caring not only for her students, but of what she does.  The more I was there, witnessing the day’s activities, the more I began regaining personal sense-memories of my considerable days hanging out in the Eliot Library.  Before long, I had the realization that the library of any learning institution, is not only a physical “mind”, but the soul of the institution.  Sanctuary.  Whether you are a child who gets straight “A’s” and sees all of a school as a place of learning, or perhaps someone who might dread going into a certain class because they aren’t achieving the highest grades, the library and her caretaker are there to offer safe haven to a mind.

If the Pasadena Unified School District, and indeed the entire State of California choose to cut these sanctuaries from their schools, what are we leaving for our children?  Cool factories for learning?  At the very least, an institution without sanctuary.  Even prisons have sanctuaries for learning.  Continue Reading

Editor Reel: 2011

2011 has been a productive year for me as an Editor.  My partners and I have completed a new Sizzle Reel for our reality project based around Drift Alliance, and we expect to see it picked up soon for the 2012 television season.

My work also made it into live action feature and short films with Just Three Words directed by Graeme Finlayson and a documentary/narrative hybrid feature called Sweet Old World.

I’ve also completed trailers and viral marketing videos for documentary and narrative feature projects like the Emmy nominated Houston, We Have a Problem and Finding Hope starring Molly Quinn.

Much of the work is laid out in this new reel, but I’ve also been involved in everything from EPKs, PSAs and professional reels for a number of filmmakers.

I expect 2012 to be my biggest year of all, and I will be updating this website very soon with a new and updated résumé and expanded reel section with selections from specialized types of work.

For questions and inquiries I can be contacted via this website or directly via e-mail at:

connect (at) coffeecartproductions (dot) com.

From The Archive: The Idea of Stanley Kubrick (2007)

Stanley Kubrick

A couple of nights ago, I sat down to watch the recent and exceedingly limited release of the film, Colour Me Kubrick. The film stars John Malkovich in a very odd, but often fun portrayal of British con man, Alan Conway.

The film for me served as more of a curiosity piece than anything else. I’d read about Conway’s time spent impersonating Kubrick, and it was fascinating to me that a gay man who looked absolutely nothing like Kubrick could get away with impersonating the notoriously reclusive director. Alan Conway

Nonetheless, for a fair amount of time, Conway did just that, and managed to bilk his way around England claiming to be Stanley Kubrick himself. What was fascinating to me about the film wasn’t so much Conway’s story, but the fact that Conway represented an idea of a man, more than that particular man.

It isn’t giving too much away to say that the in the story, penned by Anthony Frewin, Kubrick’s longtime assistant, we’re treated to multiple episodes of Conway’s antics, each of which would leave any Kubrick aficionado laughing at the sheer ludicrousness.

Kubrick as a gay rake of a man? Kubrick was married to his second wife, Christiane right up until the end of his life. Kubrick with an English accent? Being born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx had left a notable accent which was clearly present even in the last recordings done in his life. It’s clear from the story and in the accompanying documentary, Being Alan Conway, that Conway knew virtually nothing of his “double”. Obviously, neither did his victims. But it’s fascinating to think that despite such gross disconnects from reality, Conway screwed over many an innocent victim. And to this day for many, Kubrick remains just as big an idea as he was a filmmaker. Continue Reading

Music Video: Don’t Vote – Wil B. & The Billionaires

2008 presented a great opportunity to direct this music video for Wil B. & The Billionaires.  The video marked my contribution to the electoral process outside of the voting booth.  The rapper, Wil B. was quick to get our piece submitted to CNN’s iReport.com “Campaign ’08” online film festival, where it soon became a selected finalist in the competition.

What thrilled me about making a rather outspoken jab at the “recycled bodies” that have come to be our political representatives and the media machine that perpetuates them, was the fact that we had folks from all political perspectives participate on this film shoot.  Each committed to preserving the sanctity of the electoral process and the power of the ballot box.

A shout-out needs to go to all the cast and crew, Executive Producer for The Billionaires, Clifford Tasner, my Co-Producer and partner-in-crime Eric Mofford, long-time collaborator & D.P. David R. Hardberger.  Without these people, this project would never have come together.

Today in 2010, I finally got around to a re-cut which is as close to a final vision as I have for the project.  It’s my goal to get a second music video under my belt this year to help build momentum on continuing projects as a music video Director.  Still under wraps is a project that looks to be coming together in the next month:  a full-length music performance video that I’ll be cutting for another filmmaker who will be directing a pioneering New Age artist on his next big endeavor.

If I were to come up with a short wish list of artists I’d love to work with, it might be as follows: Michael Franti and Spearhead, The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, OVIDEO, Ben Harper & Relentless 7, OK Go, Bill Laswell & Method of Defiance, Toledo Diamond & The Toledo Show, Sigur Rós, Jamie Catto of 1 Giant LeapPat Metheny, Peter Gabriel and David Sylvian to name just a few!

As with my goals as a filmmaker, I have the goal of creating music videos which are innovative and indelible.  The sort of concepts and images that set the artist apart as much as the image and vibe. Creating the next Sledgehammer, the next Afrika Shox, the next Glósóli. . .

More to come,

–S.

Source of Inspiration: The Erotic Side of Orson Welles

I remember when I saw the above clip from Orson Welles‘ still unfinished final film The Other Side of The Wind. I would have been in my late teens or early twenties when it was screened as a part of a film festival in Santa Monica, just blocks from where Welles shot his final film appearance in Henry Jaglom‘s Someone to Love. Gary Graver, Welles’ long-time friend and cameraman was present to talk about this footage which was a part of Orson Welles: The One Man Band, and the Wind project itself.

My heart had long since been captured not only by his films such as the ubiquitous Citizen Kane, The Lady from Shanghai, and The Trial, but I also had probably finished reading This is Orson Welles not too long before. (Truth be told, I probably carried my paperback copy of the book to the screening.)

I really thought I knew Welles and his work.  The good and the less so.  I remember I had met a writer one day working at Kinko’s in Pasadena who told me something of a book he’d written on Welles.  He (like many others, including Peter Bogdanovich) indicated that Welles’ greatest work, had yet to be seen and that it existed in the form of his unfinished feature, The Other Side of The Wind. What Joseph McBride never told me was the fact that he was IN The Other Side of The Wind.

And so, this scene which features Welles’ muse and companion, Oja Kodar completely floored me.  THIS was Orson Welles?!

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Much Admired: The New Era Artistry of 1 Giant Leap

I’m rolling the tomb lid off this blog to let a little fresh air in, and some new ideas out.  When I started this blog, I didn’t really have a firm grasp on what I wanted the blog to “be”.  In a perfect world, it would be a diary of the copious projects that I was in the middle of undertaking.

In reality, I am like so many other filmmakers from all backgrounds and experiences these days, looking for the next opportunity to get the next project off the ground.  And really, many of us who consider ourselves “Indie Filmmakers” are trying to figure out how to bring our projects to life and paying the bills.

In the meantime, as I continue moving forward toward those projects, I’ll be sharing a number of things that inspire and move me, other creators who fascinate me, and who knows what else.

Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman

Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman

First up is the 1 Giant Leap project. The multi-media project created back in 2001 by musician/filmmakers Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman.  The double-Grammy nominated project started coming to light in the States right about the time I was exploring Brazil in the hopes of getting a similar project of my own off the ground.  I mention this not so much to draw attention to my own adventures, but more to illustrate a level of kinship that I feel with these guys.

The original 1 Giant Leap project consisted of a CD and DVD release which chronicled a six month journey in which they recorded music, filmed talks with writers, teachers and every day people.  The result is a multi-part filmed reflection on the human experience.

Catto (one of the original members of English Trip-Hop band, Faithless) and Bridgeman had the opportunity to create a work in which a diversity of talent such as Faithless band mate Maxi Jazz, Michael Franti, Ram Dass, U. Srinivas, Cosi Fabian, Asha Bhosle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Brian Eno to name just a very few.

But really, it’s best to let the work speak for itself:

“Music to me, is proof of the existence of God.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

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Frederick Wiseman’s HOSPITAL: Thoughts on Cinéma Vérité plus An Evening with Tucker Stilley

Last month, I shared a rare opportunity to view a 16mm presentation of Frederick Wiseman’s 1969 film, Hospital with a group of people who came out to support visual artist and filmmaker, Tucker Stilley.

The event was hosted by REDCAT at the Music Center in Los Angeles as a benefit for Stilley, who suffers from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  Wiseman, friend to both Stilley and his wife, Lindsay Mofford, offered a print specifically for the benefit event.  An enthusiastic group of friends and supporters came out not only have the rare opportunity to screen Wiseman’s work, but also celebrate Tucker and his work, The Permanent Record  which can be explored at TuckerStilley.com.

This was only the second film by Frederick Wiseman that I have ever seen, so I can not claim to have any real deep knowledge of Wiseman or his work, nor cinéma vérité as an overall movement.  I was however, left with a number of thoughts regarding the work, and how it relates to a world some forty years later.

The first film of Wiseman’s that I was exposed to, is perhaps his best known, High School.  I had the chance to see the film roughly 15 years ago or so in a film class, and in all honesty the film never stayed with me.  I remember how many of us in the class often chuckled at the people we were watching.  Students and teachers who were familiar and alien to us all at the same time.  At that point, I’m sure I viewed High School as more of a curiosity piece.  Since the film didn’t actively engage me as a viewer or as an aspiring filmmaker, (Errol MorrisThe Thin Blue Line was far more engaging to me in this way), I neatly filed it away as due diligence.  If I were to go back and watch it again today?  I honestly don’t know.  Certainly I’d have a better sense of Wiseman’s craft, but whether it would leave a greater mark upon me, I can’t say.

Wiseman’s Hospital on the other hand, definitely left an impression.

Hospital serves as a window into a “day-in-the-life” of the people served by, or serving in a major metropolitan hospital trauma ward and outpatient clinics.  Wiseman’s camera has all but disappeared to the subjects he focuses on. That in and of itself, is an achievement. It also seems like a reflection on a different era of media culture and awareness, but all of that should not undercut the clear patience and care of Wiseman and his capable crew.

At the film’s opening, I was taken aback by the near-surreal nature of what I was witnessing.  A title card with the word “Hospital” appears, and moments later, we are in an operating room as a patient is being prepared for surgery.  Whether there was a conscious or coincidental connection between the films, Guy Maddin‘s Tales from the Gimli Hospital is easily called to mind during the film’s opening.  The operating room, like all the rest of the hospital is cramped, and the patient appears as if he is about to be tortured upon a cross.  The machines and tools of patient care are huge and archaic, and one imagines that even the most contemporary individual might have been left with an ill sense-of-ease. However, once we get past the early moments where Wiseman rather graphically, entirely cooly and metaphorically opens the hospital to us, much of that sense of surrealism disappears.

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