I'm thrilled to be counted among the year's best at NewFilmmakers Los Angeles's "Best of NFMLA Awards." The Duel has been nominated for Best Short Film - Documentary, an honor I couldn't be more proud to share with my friends at the RISK! podcast and my unbelievable cast & crew. Now...what to wear on the red carpet?
Last weekend, The Duel took part in Film Consortium's San Diego Film Week. A collection of selected works from the San Diego International Film Festival, San Diego Underground Film Festival, as well as representing San Diego City College, Pacific Arts Movement & more, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles added to this cavalcade of films, partnering with Film Week to showcase SD (Heart) LA, a networking opportunity to connect filmmakers & artists from the two cities, which are closer than I think and always seem to keep forgetting! The show was capped with a fun jaunt on the red carpet with San Diego radio personality DJ Deeran Anderson-Hooper, as we both attempted to have as casual of a conversation one can hope for within a three-minute time limit. My best friend Ricky Berger snapped this picture of the two of us, my pale jacket upstaged (in the best way) by DJ's powerful color combination, deftly matching the carpet below.
I was delighted to be a part of the celebration and for the opportunities to meet new filmmakers and see their work. One of my favorites was Andy Koeger & Apple Xenos' Rosie, Oh - a virtuoso bit of magic that fluidly expressed the wonder/dread of childhood with a bravura technical feat of moving the camera's eye through space in one long uninterrupted take. I love when filmmakers make bold visual choices that imbue each image with a firm sense of place and intention, speaking to the power of pre-planning and organization. Bravo, Andy!
Since 2007, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles has been providing a home for artists to share their creative voice in an environment that supports truth in cinematic storytelling. In addition to their monthly film festivals, DocuSlate, a entire day of documentaries, was added to their yearly programming in 2016 to increase awareness and widen opportunities for representation of true stories and personal narratives on screen. Last December I enjoyed sitting down with NFMLA Board Chair Danny De Lillo for a discussion about my creative process behind The Duel, and the unique challenges inherent in “translating” someone else’s truth. As an artistic custodian of my own family experiences which have been transmuted into past works, making these connections during our discussion was illuminating for me, and helped me better appreciate the delicacy required for handling something as fragile as memory itself, especially when it belongs to someone else.
About: "NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) is a non-profit designed to showcase innovative works by emerging filmmakers from around the world, providing the Los Angeles community of entertainment professionals and film goers with a constant surge of monthly screening events."
Cinequest has welcomed The Duel to be a part of its festival this Spring, and I couldn't ask for a better time to revisit the Bay Area. The event, "showcases premier films, renowned and emerging artists, and breakthrough technology—empowering global connectivity between creators, innovators and audiences." Personally, I'm looking forward to catching my Athens Film + Video Festival alum, Carys Watford's Space Girls on the big screen, and experiencing the new life Lili's story is given each time it's presented before a new audience.
From Cinequest's Chris Garcia: "DocuNation brings heartbreaking tales together with satire and comedy, beautiful images with lovely animation, tradition with experimentation. You will find an examination of everything from the Velvet Underground to bounce houses, from spoken word poetry to Moth man. These are films that examine the pain we inflict on one another, as well as the joys simple interactions can provide, and they all come together to form the DocuNation."
More info on The Duel and its showtimes in March can be found here.
Joined by six shorts from around the world, I'm honored to share The Duel with its first live audience outside the United States as a part of the International Shorts Program at the Victoria Film Festival in British Columbia. Among the dazzling offerings this year are familiar works I've screened with before, such as director Denis Côté's A Skin So Soft, (SF DocFest) along with delightful surprises such as the latest Studio Ghibli film, Mary and the Witch's Flower. (Meari To Majo No Hana)
Though the responsibilities of grad school will bind me once again to Los Angeles, I wish I could visit Canada again. The last time, I was 16-years-old, traveling as a guest of the Toronto Teen Film Festival with my mother. I remember sipping a chocolate milkshake as cold as the afternoon at a Dave & Buster's in the shopping complex of the AMC Theatre where my film was screened. I felt worldly. It's been a blessing to have this film travel across my homeland, and though I wish I could visit each new city it finds a new home in, I'm thankful for the audiences who gather to welcome it in my absence.
With finals week at USC (mercifully) behind me, at last, I have the free time to share these photographs from NewFilmmakers Los Angeles: DocuSlate. Earlier this month, I was honored to share the screen with director Ellie Wen's Single Mother Only Daughter, a lovingly-crafted portrait of her relationship with her mother. Stitching new connections between analog memories culled from a collection of VHS tapes, diaries and photographs, Wen traces the synchronous orbits of two lives circling closer together with age. The film's foundation sourced from a recorded phone conversation between the two, Wen's husband, Greg Katz, auspiciously began filming her end of the line, capturing her moments of realization & revelation with their shared past.
Naturally, I found a kinship with Wen's work, as many of my directorial efforts are traced along similar lines of connecting the past with the present, and the web of dreams/memories that form between its many points. Both The Duel and Single Mother Only Daughter attempt to reconcile childhood mysteries with an adult life that refuses to shake them free, perhaps motivated by a duty to forgive or better understand their parents. Film is one of the rare art forms in that respect, as it grants the artist the ability to fold time in on itself, summoning new strength in re-examining the power of memories and the role they continue to play in shaping their future.
Executive Director Larry Laboe and the incredible staff at NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) have been cultivating & providing an invaluable resource for LA's film community for the past decade. I consider my upcoming screening with their new DocuSlate program as a homecoming of sorts, as NFMLA was the first Los Angeles-based festival I submitted my work to coming out of film school. As my latest offering, The Duel, nears the end of its festival run, I'm honored to be welcomed back into the same community that has provided me with so much support over the years, and look forward to sharing my new works with them for years to come.
DocuSlate, presented by NewFilmmakers Los Angeles in partnership with the International Documentary Association, will be held at the South Park Center on December 2nd. From their website:
"Each year, NFMLA receives thousands of submissions. Programming selections are based not only on the merits of a project but are designed to fulfill the criteria in regard to our mission, considerations for the Best of NFMLA Awards, and to ensure that NFMLA delivers diverse and original content consistently to the standard that we have upheld for the past 10 years."
"We are especially affected by the overwhelming flood of incredible documentary projects of important topics & unforgettable stories that we have been unable to place due to the limited festival programming slots available. As a result NFMLA is pleased to present DocuSlate, an entire day dedicated to documentary films."
The program starts at 10:30 and lasts all day long! Tickets available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/newfilmmakers-los-angeles-nfmla-annual-docuslate-december-2nd-2017-tickets-39670529622
When you can eat some of the country's finest barbecue, bask in the nurturing glow of Austin's film community and see an advance screening of Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri at the historic Paramount Theatre all in the same weekend, I think it's safe to say that amounts to an unequivocal triumph.
It was an honor to be counted among the artists, filmmakers & writers who gathered within the jewel of Texas for "The Writer's Festival," celebrating the demands and pleasures of the craft of storytelling, fundamental to the power of cinema. While my friend Erin, a screenwriter, marveled at the embarrassment of riches provided by the festival: a lecture from Oscar-winner Michael Arndt and his Endings: The Good, The Bad, and the Insanely Great springs to mind, I managed to catch as many screenings as I could. It was on Sunday I finally got to meet Marfa alums Charlotte Barrett & Sean Fallon, whose film I saw at the aforementioned festival this summer. Pictured above, they presented The Phantom Menace, a tender portrait of a couple struggling with the miscarriage of their first child in the surreal midst of a comic book convention in Southern California.
As the late afternoon sun dappled its way through the outstretched branches of the mesquite trees at the Filmmaker's BBQ, I took a deep breath and admired the plate of brisket held beneath my eager tastebuds. Only in hindsight can I truly begin to appreciate the nourishment generously provided by the festival staff, volunteers, coordinators and crew, both of the cinematic and gastronomic varieties. It was overwhelming, in the best way. As life should be.
I can't believe it's almost November. However, I'm proud to share that this new month on the horizon comes with it a new screening of The Duel as a part of The Seventh Annual Video Art and Experimental Film Festival (VAEFF) in New York City. From the website: "The most conceptually and aesthetically arresting, daring and provocative video art and experimental film from around the world. The festival continues with the ever-popular “Beauty, Sex & Shame” program, and is debuting the brand new “On the Margins” program as well as “Fashion Film – The New Wave,” guest curated by Niccolo Montanari, one of Fashion Film’s most prominent curators."
"In addition to the official selection, VAEFF invites a number of artists who continue to amaze the art, film, and media worlds with their exceptional portfolio of work. The resulting lineup is a captivating roster of both established and emerging artists from around the globe. Catch screenings of all the programs and more, including live artists talks, at Tribeca Film Center and DCTV this November 9th-11th." I'm excited to be a part of an eclectic galaxy of shorts that is sure to shock and dizzy the senses. For those of you in the New York area, come one out, it looks a great show!
This week, The Duel & I return to the Lone Star State for the Austin Film Festival, where I couldn't be more proud to be a part of such an invigorating event known for its filmmaker hospitality and detailed programming. I promise to take lots of pictures, (okay, Mom and Dad?) but in the event that my phone's battery can't keep up with the breakneck pace of the days to come, here's a teaser I cut specifically for their website...my best efforts to excise a trailer (of sorts) from a four minute film. Enjoy, and I'll tell you all about it when I return!
This Saturday night, The Duel will enjoy a special screening as a part of RISK!'s monthly live show in Los Angeles at Bootleg Theater. Hosted by Beowulf Jones, (The Andy Dick Incident, Nerdist) the event will feature the luminary talents of storytellers Max Landis (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Chronicle) Hank Chen, (Home Again, Transparent) John-Michael Bond, (The Hard Times) Robin Reiser, (Last Comic Standing, The Pretty One) & Frank DiPalermo. (The Option Of The Coat) I'm thrilled to showcase this film on a live stage, where I feel the performer's potential to transform the room through their confessional narratives can have a truly healing effect on the audience. Special thanks to Beowulf Jones, Kevin Allison & the RISK! LA team for the invitation!
If wishes were wings, like the pair belonging to the seagull above you, I'd fly east to attend the marvelously-curated New Hampshire Film Festival (October 12th to the 15th) next week. Taking place in the charming seacoast town of Portsmouth, NH, I'll have the honor of screening alongside a host of stunning documentary shorts, whose subject range from observing Chinese vendors to weaving together the surreal, videotaped-ephemera of Ronald Reagan. All this, plus the added treat of sharing the event (in spirit) with my friend and San Francisco State alum, Joey Izzo's new short I Was There Too, which debuted at the Aspen Shorts Fest earlier this spring. Give me wings!
My spirit returns to Ellensburg next week, eight years after having travelled up the Pacific Coast Highway under the cloak of fog with my friend Nathan in 2009, listening to Television's Marquee Moon and Paul Westerberg the whole way. Somewhere, a MiniDV tape of that trip waits under dust; Windmills, frigid fields of Washington grass and the smile of a good friend from college. I hope my best wishes find my friend and the wonderful festival staff in Yakima. Their good work does not go unnoticed or forgotten.
Although grad school will bind me to the fabric of Los Angeles for the better part of October, my heart yearns to fly north and nestle in The Grand Cinema for the upcoming Tacoma Film Festival next month. I'm honored that The Duel has not only been selected for competition this year, but paired with a riveting, thematic companion as well; Kalina Bertin's Manic. Having premiered at this summer's prestigious Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, her film "...chronicles [her] journey to understand the devastating impacts of mental illness on her family. Convinced that her father holds a key piece of the puzzle, she sets out to find the truth about him." I am deeply moved by Bertin's commitment to devote her craft to illuminating her family's complex history, and look forward to seeing what she discovers along the way.
For more information about Bertin's film, please visit: http://www.eyesteelfilm.com/projects/completed-films/manic/ Tickets for and complete viewing of Tacoma Film Festival's upcoming film program can be found here: http://www.tacomafilmfestival.com/passes-tickets/
Outside KRTS 93.5 FM, home of Marfa Public Radio, a freckled canopy of clouds gather high above me, shocks of white hanging upside down in endless blue sky. It's the afternoon of July 13th, and having just drove in from Phoenix the night before, I decide to give my legs a much needed stretch while doing some sightseeing around town. Through its lobby window, my eye is caught by sleeping neon letters spelling out the station's designation. Inside, behind a pane of glass, I try my best to read the lips of the disc jockey as I gently wrap my fingers around the handle of the front door and pull. Noticing my festival pass which skips against my chest as I enter, Carolina, one of the news writers, asks me if I'm here for said festival. I nod yes and dig for its program, it having since sunk to the bottom of my canvas filmmaker bag. Fishing it free, I paw through its newsprint pages and point, "That's me,” my finger resting below a synopsis. Behind us, on the other side of the glass, a white truck idles past. The driver's tanned forearm rests on the windowsill, its fine coat of blonde hair cooled by the breeze that whispers through San Antonio St., Marfa's main thoroughfare. The engine seems to hum in tune with the stillness of the high plains, as he waits at a stop light, one of the three that I counted that day. In the distance, a slow moving cloak of grey rolls towards us, heavy with the possibility of rain. I spy a group of theatergoers on the opposite sidewalk heading west, some I recognize from the opening night dance party. They laugh, shirtless college boys in overalls and boat shoes followed by a young woman in a black linen poncho and a white cowboy hat. She furrows her brow at her smartphone’s inability to find a signal, and looking up through her sunglasses, she too, considers the sky.
Last weekend I was honored to join Grand Central Art Center's summer exhibition, with a video installation of The Duel, which will run from July 7th to September 17th. My film will be housed within a screening room, alongside new works by artists Michael Nannery, Davy Sumner and Lucio Muniain. Reuniting with Director/Chief Curator John D. Spiak was a real treat as well, having first met him during his curating of the Arizona State University Art Museum and its accompanying film festival, in 2009. After we, two Phoenicians, traded secrets about what impromptu cooking surface works best during our oppressively hot summers, (a dashboard or a sidewalk) he gave me a tour.
GCAC is a dynamic, three-story art space that houses live/studio spaces for visual arts graduate students, the Grand Central Main Gallery, Project Room, Education/Teaching Gallery, Grand Central Theater, Gypsy Den Café, Hipcooks, Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Institute, MASKA, classrooms, and a studio and living space dedicated to the center’s international artist-in-residence program. It's a privilege to be part of such a vibrant institution for the summer, and as my film plays in its own hypnotic loop there, I hope you'll find a small window in your day to stop by and say hello.
It was a delight to speak with The Daily Mini about the creative process behind the miniature sets I designed for The Duel. A premiere destination for lovers of all things tiny, the Brooklyn-based art blog showcases "unique and extraordinary miniatures from around the globe," and it was an honor to be counted among them this week. Special thanks to Nicole Neri for her photographs and Kate at @dailymini for editing the piece.
Last weekend, I was made a guest of Limited Engagement for a jaunty discussion of the craft of storytelling with writer/host Jared Duran. The Phoenix-based arts & culture podcast focuses on engaging with artists of all types, from music & the performing arts to visual art and writing. It was a delight to speak with Jared about The Duel, and join his roster of fantastic previous guests. Tip: If you're looking for something intellectually stimulating to keep you company while you work, I highly recommend checking out the Limited Engagment archives for a fantastic collection of other artists discussing their processes and compulsions. (My choice of words)
A month out, and I'm already creating a mixtape for the drive. I'm juggling a galaxy of songs to light the way across the desert, through the western border of New Mexico and into the Martian heart of West Texas, home of the inscrutably cool Marfa Film Festival. A destination that's been on my radar since its inception in 2007, I'm thrilled to be a part of its week-long celebration of avant-garde international cinema this year. From its website: "Our program celebrates innovation and excellence in filmmaking through meticulous curation and fostering a relaxed social space where up-and-coming filmmakers and adventurous cinephiles mix with film veterans and living legends in a captivatingly scenic, culturally rich environment." I can't wait to spend a week captured by Marfa's arid calm and the cinematic visions of artists from around the world. Until then, I must gather the songs for the drive ahead, and make room for the dreams to follow.
The Duel is heading to San Francisco this weekend for SF DocFest, an annual festival devoted to the art of documentary filmmaking in all its eclectic forms. Now in its 16th year, the two-week-long celebration promises a wide variety of non-fiction films, from a Super 8 collage of behind-the-scenes footage from the set of Blue Velvet, to the mechanical spirit of the California typewriter featuring Sam Shepard and Tom Hanks. With dozens of short films, live musical acts and the world premiere of Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, produced by Green Day and narrated by Iggy Pop, it's destined to be a blast.
However, as is the case with the plurality of festivals I've attended with so many wonderful films & events to choose from, the best one can hope for is to catch merely a fraction of what's offered. Temporal limits of my weekend trip notwithstanding, I will do my utmost to take in as much of what's sure to be a fantastic time spent in the cinematic jewel of America's west coast.
Tickets to my screening, on June 3rd and June 5th, can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/yaxdr9jh
As I bounce my right knee up and down behind my desk, thinking about the bags I have yet to pack, I'm excited to return to the city that nurtured my undergraduate studies more than a decade ago, and hope that some of my favorite haunts and cafes will still recognize me in their windows. Those who still remain, that is. Perhaps somewhere in between the shoulders of those great, yawning streets that wind downhill towards the bay, I'll find some new memories to make, new reflections, and share them all with you next week when I return.