Shorts & Snacks: Ten Meter Tower (2016)

The Tuesday after a long holiday weekend is always rough. Welcome back to work! Boo.

This week also has the potential to be crazy for me: major moments of “adulting” ahead. I’m not sure how prepared I am to face it, but I woke up this morning feeling rested and confident so that’s a start.

Considering this week, I remembered a documentary short film I saw earlier this year on the festival circuit, Ten Meter Tower. It’s an amazing examination of vulnerability and facing a fear. I’ve never jumped off a ten meter diving platform before (have you?), but there are other moments in life that create a similar sense of anxiety, doubt, courage or trust.

I think the film speaks for itself (and I have a LOT on my plate right now), so keeping this post short. I’ll be posting again soon about my SIFF travels, a festival I’m excited to experience for the first time.

For now take a break, grab a snack, take a deep breath and enjoy the insightful Ten Meter Tower. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!


Ten Meter Tower
Directed by Axel Danielson, Maximilien van Aertryck
2016 / 16 min / Sweden / Swedish with English subtitles
People who have never been up a 10-meter diving tower must choose whether to jump or climb down in this entertaining study of people in a vulnerable position.

Shorts & Snacks: Fran’s Daughter (2011)

Today I’m posting about a very special short film. I discovered Fran’s Daughter in a pile of submissions back in the fall of 2010. I was immediately intrigued by this well-directed short about a woman who learns she may have been switched at birth.

The mood is set in the early frames – light creeping through a quiet house (the wallpaper a production design choice that has always stuck in my mind). The story, inspired by a This American Life episode, could easily go into soap-opera territory, but the film is excellently acted by these three women. These elements, and more, create a thoughtful drama.

Of course I had no idea at the time, but programming this short all those years ago would change my life forever. It was how I met my husband.

I am not a publicly sappy person, but as I am in Dallas on this anniversary of meeting Eric I thought it would be fun to share the film that brought us together. Just another example of how a great film changes your life course.

Grab a snack, take a break and enjoy Fran’s Daughter!

Fran’s Daughter
Directed by Eric F. Martin

2011 / 13 min / USA 

A short film about a woman who learns she may have been switched at birth.

Shorts & Snacks: Mr. Madila (2015)

I’m in the weeds. Deadlines for programming one of the festivals I work for are looming. One day last week, I watched thirty shorts in one day. Not my best, but certainly no piece of cake either.

Which means, I’ll be keeping it fairly short here the next few weeks. Today, I need a spiritual time out. A cleansing of the mind and body. And what better way to do that than with a quick short+snack with Mr. Madila.

I discovered this clever and fun animated short last year while researching for a Denver program. Rory Waudby-Tolley successfully combines humor with cosmic insight. When feeling overwhelmed with life, this short is a good reminder that the universe is big. This short both grounds me and encourages me. And lets me laugh with ease – which is always helpful to reduce stress.

My go-to snack during these times is not always healthy. I reward myself with small treats when hitting certain goals (in the past, that’s been soda – Dr. Pepper to be specific) and lately it has been a bite of cookie dough. Yes, the baked chocolate chip cookies are tasty too, but sometimes the dough doesn’t make it to the oven.

What’s one of your self-care habits or edible treats when you’re stressed? I’d love to hear your thoughts. It will help me get over the finish line!

Mr Madila or The Colour of Nothing
Directed by Rory Waudby-Tolley

2015 / 9 min / UK 

Mr Madila or The Colour of Nothing documents a series of conversations between the film-maker and a gifted spiritual healer, exploring the inner mind, the fabric of the universe, and the nature of reality itself, through the sacred art of animation. Oooooooh.

Shorts & Snacks: Pink Grapefruit (2015)

If you’re feeling done with the cold and wet winter weather, then today’s short is the burst of brightness you need in your day.

Directed by Michael Mohan, Pink Grapefruit, tells the story of a young married couple who bring two of their single friends out to Palm Springs for a long weekend. It doesn’t go as planned. This romantic dramedy premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win a jury prize at SXSW. Michael Mohan is a talented filmmaker and one you should have on your radar.

He’s an expert at capturing the subtleties of a relationship. I first met him through programming one of his earlier shorts, Ex-Sex. (Sadly, this short is not available online to the public, but it one of my all time favorite films.) I remember a lively Q&A following an Ex-Sex screening with one very uncomfortable old man who was…frustrated by what he had seen. The experience was great (though, perhaps, difficult at the time) and one of the reasons why the film needed to be shown to an audience. In Pink Grapefruit, Mohan explores an earlier stage of relationships.

There are many elements I love about this short: the characters, the setting, the production design, the cinematography. But what I love most is the quietness. This desert air creates a space where anything can happen, despite whatever intentions were created at the beginning. Mohan plays with sound, allowing the awkwardness and curiosity to settle in. The camera glides through the house. The imagery, not words, reveal the characters’ thoughts and secrets.

You’ve probably been there. If you’ve ever been set up you have definitely been there. The feelings of doubt. Fear. Caution. Then perhaps your heart beats faster with anticipation or confidence. Pink Grapefruit is a beautiful example of those moments and how they blur together to make something memorable. Plus, there’s just something about Palm Springs that creates a strange kind of romance, right? (Maybe I’m just speaking from experience on that one.)

As the title suggests a perfect snack to eat while your watching is one of winter’s best flavors: a grapefruit. I’m partial to the old fashion sprinkling-of-sugar on top. That first bite of tartness is vibrant enough for me. But if you want to do something a little different, then why not try a Rum-broiled version?

Have you ever been set up by a married couple before? Experience a desert romance?
What’s one of your other favorite recipes that include grapefruit? (I like to throw them into salads too.) Let’s discuss!


Pink Grapefruit
Directed by Michael Mohan

2015 / 11 min / USA 

A young married couple brings two of their single friends out to Palm Springs for a long weekend. It does not go as planned.

*A word of warning, you may want to watch this one at home (and not in front of the kids).

Shorts & Snacks: Treevenge (2008)

In keeping with the holiday spirit here, today I’m highlighting one of my all-time favorite short films, Treevenge

This short, directed by Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisener, made a splash on the festival scene in late 2008/early 2009.  Eisener and his team take a twist on a tradition of Christmas, picking out the perfect tree, and give us a glimpse of the experience from the trees’ perspective. During this particular Christmas, however, the trees have had enough and decide to fight back.

I saw this film at Sundance seven years ago and every Christmas since, it pops back into my mind. I showed the film to my family the following holiday and now we share a laugh each Christmas as we admire the family tree. I recommend watching this with others if you can – the howl of an audience laughing and cringing together makes the film that much more fun. When festival programmers talk about searching for a film that has an original and creative idea, they are talking about a short like this one.

Treevenge is definitely NSFW. If you are not a fan of over-the-top horror films then, fair warning, this short may not be for you. But if you are in need of a good laugh (and who isn’t during the holidays?), then grab your favorite Christmas cookie, take a break and check out Treevenge below. I bet you’ll never be able to pick out a Christmas tree the same way again!


Treevenge
Directed by Jason Eisener
2008 / 16 min / Canada
After being cut down, shipped off to christmas tree dealers, and brought home and decorated in celebration of christmas, the trees are fed up with the humiliation and abuse, and take their revenge on humanity.

Shorts & Snacks: We’ll Find Something (2015)

Well, did you survive Thanksgiving? Did you eat your weight in turkey and pumpkin pie? I think I was rather successful in my attempt. I have returned from my coastal escape and it’s time to get back to work. Since it’s only Monday and we’re still easing into the week, it’s ok to take a short break and have a snack I think. Perhaps some leftovers, yeah?

In that spirit (and for those of you who financially supported America’s economy last Friday), I think Casey Gooden’s short film We’ll Find Something would be appropriate for today. Indie darlings Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz star in this short about a couple struggling to find a restaurant in New York City.

Shane Carruth is one of the more mysterious filmmakers in American cinema. He broke on to the film scene with his film Primer. Years later, he appeared again at Sundance with Upstream Color. His films are complex and beautiful. Even trying to explain his work is often simplifying all the various ideas and layers present. This time Carruth is back in front of the camera while his producing partner, Casey Gooden, writes and directs.

One reason why I love this short is because most of us have been in this situation: You’re out shopping with your partner or close friend. As the day goes on, the two of you become hungry. Each place you stop to eat, there’s a problem. Everything seems to go downhill from there. Then suddenly, you realize what you’re arguing about may have nothing to do with the actual problem at hand. Gooden captures this moment perfectly.

Time to grab your favorite leftovers (I’m a fan of a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce) and enjoy We’ll Find Something. Has this happened to you before? Let me know in the comments!

We’ll Find Something
Directed by Casey Gooden
2015 / 12 min / USA
A couple struggles to choose a restaurant while visiting New York.

Shorts & Snacks: The Black Belt (2016)

One more day. We just need to get through tomorrow. Then figure out the rest and how to move forward from there.

In honor of Election week, I’m highlighting one of my favorite shorts from the 2016 festival circuit: The Black Belt directed by Margaret Brown. In this short film, Brown travels to Alabama (her homeland) where the state closed 31 DMVs across the area for budget reasons. Many of these DMV closures were through the Black Belt, a predominantly African-American and poor region, impacting voter enfranchisement as the state requires photo ID to vote.

This short was commissioned through Field of Vision, a cool project of original short-form content from Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook. I highly recommend checking out their site to watch other great shorts if you have some time to spare.

Brown is an incredibly smart filmmaker – one to keep your eye on for the future. The Black Belt sneaks up on you. It showcases keen insight of a social issue, created with great care and fortitude. Brown sets the mood, capturing beautiful and rare moments of rural Alabama life. The Mobile ID unit scene is proof. That scene has been burned in my brain for months. It is an example of humor in frustration; the absurdity of systems that should be efficient. The Black Belt empowers us to continue, to move forward when it’s hard to fight. And in what has been an ugly and fairly absurd election year, The Black Belt reminds us why your vote tomorrow, and in every election, matters.

Grab a snack (I’m in the mood for fried pickles, a yummy Southern treat. See below for a recipe), check out this short and let’s all take a deep breath. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. And please go vote!

The Black Belt
Directed by Margaret Brown
2016 / 11 minutes / USA
Watch The Black Belt here.

theblackbelt
The Black Belt (2016)


Panko Fried Pickles

Recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
2 cups ridge cut pickle chips, pressed between paper towels
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups seasoned panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
1. Preheat oil to 350°F.
2. Place flour, eggs and panko in three separate shallow dishes.
3. Dredge pickle chips in flour, shaking off any excess, followed by the egg and finally in the panko until fully coated. Set coated pickle chips onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove pickle chips from freezer and fry in batches, for about 5 to 6 minutes.
5. Drain onto paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Repeat until all the pickle chips have been fried.

Shorts & Snacks: Bacon & God’s Wrath (2015)

Bacon is on the list of my favorite foods. A no-brainer. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a bacon snack. If I can include bacon in a meal I will certainly try. The how-much-bacon-is-too-much-bacon struggle is real.

So when filmmaker Sol Friedman created his last short film Bacon & God’s Wrath, I was immediately intrigued by the title. I’ve been a fan of Sol’s work for sometime now, sharing some of his unique blend of live-action and animation shorts at festivals over the years. Bacon is a turning point for his work however. It takes a personal story of faith, throws in some creative animation and becomes an exciting piece of documentary art. The Sundance jury that year thought so too, awarding it with the jury award for non-fiction.

Take a few minutes, take out a bacon snack and enjoy this short. I guarantee you’ll never think of bacon the same way again. Feel free to share you thoughts in the comments!

Bacon & God’s Wrath
Directed by Sol Friedman
2015 / 9 minutes / Canada
A 90-year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life’s experience as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.

Festival Diet 101

Have you ever attended a film festival before? If not, I highly recommend it. And not just because I work for them. Film festivals are a great way to interact with a local film community, meet filmmakers and new people. You make new friends (yes, it’s even how I met my husband). You’re able to engage in conversations and interesting discussions about films that you love (or sometimes hate) and topics that are important to you. You’re supporting the arts. I mean, what’s not to love about it?

Film festivals are held throughout the year, but there are three basic “seasons” to festing: January to May, May to August and September to late November. Sundance kicks things off in January, Cannes bookmarks the year in May and Telluride/Toronto/Venice benchmark the crazy third act in September. And then there’s all the thousands of other great film festivals that fall somewhere in between them.

In this series of post, I’ll share some of my favorite restaurants while attending a film festival. But first, let’s go over some basics of the “Festival Diet”.

Any fest vet will tell you the festival diet is real. And by diet I mean, if you don’t plan the time to eat, you may not eat anything at all. All day. It can be dangerous. People – like me and almost everyone else I’ve ever known – get hangry when they don’t eat. No one likes a hangry festival attendee (or staffer), so here are some tips and expert advice.

  1. When attending a film festival, snacks are your best friend. Always have a snack in a bag or pocket. Trust me. I’ve never eaten so many granola bars in my life than when I have worked during a film festival. Another good option: a small pack of almonds or trail mix. String cheese is good, but only if you eat it right away. No one likes limp, warm string cheese. Ew. When you want to see back-to-back movies and that involves standing in a line for 30 minutes too, you will need a snack. And there is only so much popcorn you can eat. Which leads me to…
  2. The festival diet sometimes only consists of concession stand popcorn. Corn is in almost everything we eat already. There is only so much popcorn you can eat before you feel like a walking goop of butter and corn. I speak from experience.
  3. Sometimes you need to miss a movie in order to eat dinner. (From a programmer, that’s hard to admit because I want your butt in a seat!) Even if that dinner is you only sitting down for 30 minutes, you must do it. If you’re lucky enough to sit down with friends for a true 90 minute meal, then bravo! You have it all. It is one of the most satisfying feelings ever. And sometimes it is actually better than whatever film you might have gone to. (Your hangry friends will tell you later.)
  4. If you’re working or volunteering at a fest, sometimes you need to remind your colleagues to eat. Or your intern/co-worker needs to remind you to eat, oh so gently. (Claire, you were always the best intern/coordinator because you GOT this.)
  5. Hydrate. And not with all that free Stella Artois in the festival lounge. Festing takes a toll on your body. The late nights, the sponsored alcohol, the dark auditoriums. (It really is amazing that any of us survive this work/lifestyle.) Bring a reusable water bottle and refill often. I’ve always thought the best in-kind sponsorship was Sundance’s partnership with Brita. We have at least a dozen green Brita/Sundance-branded water bottles in our house thanks to them and use them all year round. #NeverEndingImpressions. You’re welcome Sponsorship Dept.
  6. If you’re not a local, ask the staff or volunteers for restaurant recommendations near the venue. The locals take pride in their city and those working the festival often want to show off the best of what their city can offer. Then GO EAT.

Stay tuned for highlights from great restaurants, bars and other must-stop sites from my film festival travels.

What tips do you have for staying full while testing? Let me know in the comments below!

Shorts & Snacks: Next Floor (2008)

Short filmmaking is incredibly important. This form allows filmmakers to hone their skills and work out their ideas. You’ve seen short films before. Music videos and commercials are a kind of short form filmmaking. It’s all about telling a story and telling it well in only a few minutes. As audience’s attention spans grow shorter and shorter, learning how to tell a story and capture someone’s interest in a matter of minutes is vital. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences define a short film to be 40 minutes or less. Personally, I’m a fan of anything under 23 minutes (and I think there’s a sweet spot for shorts in the 5 to 16 minutes range). As a film festival programmer of shorts for over ten years, I’ve seen thousands of short films covering all different genres. When done well, shorts remind you why you love movies and that is hard to achieve. Sometimes, you’re part of a discovery experience. You truly appreciate talent when you see it.

So what does short films have to do with food? Well, think of them as a snack. A creative refueling for the artistic soul. They could be healthy or bad for you, but either way they are a great break in a long day – or from watching a lot of features.
Shorts and snacks make a perfect pair. It only seems fitting to start this series with Denis Villeneuve’s 2008 short, Next Floor. This was one of my favorite films that played the circuit in 2008/2009. Seeing it on the big screen in all it’s 35mm glory was a treat. (Let’s pause here because, yes – this was when shorts were still on 35mm at a festival! How quickly that has changed in the last few years.) This short is equal parts clever, beautiful and outrageous. It’s been over eight years since I first saw this short and I will never forget the visceral feeling of awe I experienced seeing it on a big screen in a dark theater.

A short like Next Floor is how a filmmaker grabs the world’s attention and proves you can take on the bigger, feature-length stage. And grab attention he did. Since Next Floor played at film festivals around the world, Villeneuve has gone on to direct the features Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015) and this fall’s Arrival (2016) with Amy Adams (which I’m very excited to see).

What’s your favorite snack? Grab it and let’s watch some short films, yeah?

Next Floor
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
2008 / 12 min / Canada

During an opulent and luxurious banquet, complete with cavalier servers and valets, eleven pampered guests participate in what appears to be a ritualistic gastronomic carnage. In this absurd and grotesque universe, an unexpected sequence of events undermines the endless symphony of abundance.

Next Floor from Centre Phi | Phi Centre on Vimeo.