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.
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Sunday Mornings

A late start to the morning in Los Angeles. But it is still morning!

As you may have noticed, it’s been a bit quiet around here this month. Life has thrown a few curveballs and this blog has sadly taken a back burner in my brain. As I hinted at two weeks ago, E and I are in the midst of two major life events. The one I feel comfortable sharing at the moment is: we’re in escrow on a house. We were originally expecting to close this week, but between delays from the seller, broker and bank, things have been pushed more than once. Sadly, it is how this (absurd) process works, but when you’re mentally prepared to leave a place (and pack half your household in boxes) only to be delayed two more weeks… By Friday we felt frustrated, defeated and majorly disappointed. There was ice cream eating.

We’ve spent the weekend refreshing our mindset, planning and organizing around a new timeline and spending it with friends and respected colleagues that we love. Last night on the much cooler west side of the city, we enjoyed a laid-back and intimate dinner with colleagues of Eric (all filmmakers, two of them writers on Homeland which created some interesting convo given the news this week – and last night’s latest.) Today, our neighbor, Brendan, breaks in his new smoker, Lil’ (shown above) and we’ll be enjoying the fruits (err…meats) of his labor. A few close friends will join us for this final BBQ in this home.

Given the situation, I’ve spent spent most of my online time shopping for appliances and researching city permits/contractors (and starting Denver submission screening and viewing Cinema Eye Honor broadcast screeners), so links are on the thinner side this morning. I’ll be sipping my coffee and reading a few myself before making cole slaw.

  • Speaking of BBQ, tomorrow Texas Monthly drops this year’s Top 50 best BBQ joints.
  • I spent much time considering a career change. Have you? It takes you on quite the emotional journey.
  • On my reading list this morning: My Family’s Slave. (With a follow-up here.)
  • Is the gig economy working? This article is one of the better reads on this topic because it actually discusses the economics around employee vs. contract benefits. The gig economy is not going away, so something has to change to serve the those in the 1099 paid world when it comes to benefits, PFL, vacation, healthcare etc. Plenty of corporations already take advantage of the labor system in that way (E and I can attest to that first hand). Something has to give.
  • Palm inspired decor from sfgirlbybay.
  • A tea towel we may need for our future kitchen.
  • Y’all. Twin Peaks tonight! E just downloaded the Showtime app for us. (And if you need inspiration for food while you watch.)

Thanks for sticking around while I figure out a new balance of blogging and life. Announcement #2 to come. Cheers to a good week!

Sunday Mornings

It’s a rainy-like, cool first weekend of May here (and apparently in Yosemite too), so I’ve only been half-productive with my time. I’m mostly dreaming of next weekend when I finally have a proper vacation in one of my favorite places in California, celebrating my one year wedding anniversary with E.

While work is in a bit of a lull, personal life has been crazy town the last few months (with various announcements to come over the next month). Unplugging – and no cell phone service – for a long weekend will help.

Before I do unplug, here are a few highlights that piqued my interested online since my last Sunday Morning post. Curious to hear your thoughts in the comments.

  • Saturn drive (err…fly) by! Anyone else look at this photos and think…what exactly am I looking at here?
  • These pretty, bright desktop wallpapers put me in a summer mood.
  • The media bubble is real. This interesting article speaks to why that is: where the journalism industry jobs are, the overall shift from print publishing to online publishing and the economics behind specialized industry clusters.
  • Currently reading: David Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
  • I have to admit, I am intrigued by the Fyre Festival epic meltdown. In event production world, it has been all anyone is posting about (besides health care, of course). My favorite piece is still Chloe Gordon’s account. Forgetting to make people sign NDAs: amateur and crazy dumb. So many awful bros making so many ignorant and ego-driven decisions.
  • Small self-promotion plug: I was honored to join the stellar programming team at the Seattle International Film Festival this year. You can check out the full lineup here, and read some of the programmer’s picks including mine, here. SIFF runs May 18 through June 11. More on SIFF to come!
  • Cup of Jo ran a great series in April with food industry experts. Here’s a summary of their favorite tips.
  • While we were multi-tasking on something random, I streamed Blank Check (1994) for Eric. I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid and man, oh man, it is super creepy. In regards to the FBI agent: what grown-ass woman would flirt with a child? And if the roles were reversed and it was a man with a 12-year-old girl – nope, the movie would not be made. Ick. Ick. Ick.
  • I missed the memo on the yellow crayon, but blue is my favorite color so I guess this trade-off is ok?
  • There are days when I’m moving through the city and think “damn, there are a lot of people here.” Like 4 million to be exact.

Cheers to the rest of your weekend… and here’s for a little more kindness in the world ahead.

Movie & Menu: Bad Boys II (2003)

The month of May is one of my favorite times of year. It is like an extended weekend: a month of rest and recovery. A small window of a break where I can enjoy a few lazy days and have time to do the things I enjoy without fitting them in between stressful deadlines. (Because, sadly, I’m not traveling to the French seaside for Cannes – unlike Will Smith.)

After completing a festival, I spend this month watching films or TV shows that I consider to be “guilty pleasures”. Movies I can watch and not think about. Sometimes it’s a film I’ve seen more than a dozen times, other times a big blockbuster. A film that isn’t necessarily a critical darling, but that washes over me and cleanses my palate. This month, I’m going to focus my blog on some of these favorite guilty pleasures.

Today, I’m starting this series with an all time favorite guilty pleasure: Bad Boys II (2003).

First, let me be clear: Michael Bay is an auteur. He is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, that much is true. Whether or not you like his work is a different matter. Bay has had plenty of misses (Pearl Harbor) amongst the hits (Bad Boys, Pain & Gain). I’ve lost track of how many Transformer movies exist now and can not argue for more. I’m not a diehard Bay fan (like my colleague, James Faust, is), but I appreciate the work for what it is and for the most part enjoy the insanity he brings to the screen. If you haven’t yet seen Tony Zhou’s great video essay on Michael Bay’s style, Bayhem, take a few minutes to watch it below.

Ok, back to Bad Boys II. For those unfamiliar with the plot: Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith) are a pair of Miami narcotic detectives investigating a Cuban drug kingpin’s connection to an influx of Ecstasy into Florida.

I’ve seen this sequel many times more than the first film. Both films are great, but the sheer epic-ness of this sequel is what brings me back. The opening sequence includes some of Bay’s most classic (and ridiculous) shots: the helicopter over the Miami sign, the lighting of a KKK cross against the final credit and of course, let’s not forget, the camera moving through the dance floor and under-a-woman’s-skirt in the club.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s comedy chemistry makes this film pop. Also, Michael Shannon! I always forget he is in this movie until the credits begin.BadBoysII

What makes this a guilty pleasure for me is watching the car chases, of which there are several. Two are my all time favorite: the final climatic scene where Marcus and Mike drive a yellow Hummer through a slum, with debris and explosions everywhere. The number of shots and the setup involved in this one take is incredible (look to the special features for more). But even more than that climatic scene, I most enjoy Bad Boy II‘s first car chase: where Syd’s (Gabrielle Union) drug/money drop off goes array. Marcus and Mike follow in Mike’s Ferrari (not a plausible concept for a cop to own that car even if he has a trust fund, but again…not thinking when watching) as a group of Haitian drug thugs chase after Syd. As the chase progresses, the Haitians take over a big rig hauling cars, dropping one at a time in front of the Ferrari before ultimately dropping a speedboat into the detective’s path. A BOAT. While plenty of CGI was used, the absurdity and complexity of this chase makes me smile and drop by jaw every time I watch it. If your heart doesn’t start beating faster during this action, I’m not sure what will.

After watching months and months of documentaries about human rights and narratives with subtle drama, Bad Boys II is a long, funny and absurd reset button on my world. It is a film that feels both bad for my health and totally satisfying. I like to pair it with potato chips – barbecue flavored to be exact. I don’t allow myself to buy chips because they are another guilty pleasure. I’ll sit an eat a whole bag if it’s open in front of me, which makes it the perfect snack to eat with Bad Boys II.

What are some of your guilty pleasures? Are you a Michael Bay hater, fan or apologist? What’s your favorite scene in Bad Boys II? Let me know in the comments!

Dallas International Film Festival 2017: Recap part 2

Last week, I posted a few highlights from the first weekend of DIFF. Today, I’m continuing my recap of the 11-day festival.

As the first weekend of the event comes to a close, I move into the awards and jury process of my job. Coordinating multiple juries is no easy task. The invitation process takes months. I asked over 35 people to fill 12 spots during that time. There are different personalities to juggle and travel itineraries to communicate. In the end, we had one of our best group of jurors yet (you can read about them here).

Screenings continued as Monday kicked off the week. The jurors who were not local to North Texas began arriving on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, all screenings were being balloted and DIFF programming coordinator, Daniel Laabs, was leading a team of volunteers to count ballots following each morning’s staff meeting.

@stradstylemovie director Stefon Avalos at the Q&A! #stradviolin #diff2017 #filmfestival

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We set up private screenings for the jury in the morning and they watch a few with the public. Every year is different based on what is allowed between schedules of both people and films, available screeners of the films (vs. encrypted DCPs) and the venues themselves.

After viewing all the films, the jury comes together to deliberate. It is during these two hours that my world begins to spin. I try to communicate next steps with several departments at once. Time is of the essence. This day is an adrenaline rush and always surprising. Then I am deep into spreadsheets for DFS Honors, finalizing show flows and seating charts. You can read about all the DIFF 2017 winners here.

DFS Honors became our awards presentation a few years ago, the idea being a Golden Globes style dinner with awards that would act as a fundraiser for the non-profit. I think it’s a mix-bag event. Lots of moving parts with different egos involved, constant last-minute changes, expensive and typically more money spent than raised. It is another event where I’m also playing a kind of stage-manager role – this time without a headset – while a show host. Because it typically includes several different speakers both from sponsors, jurors and other special guests, there is only so much you can control once the show begins. The event usually runs long and by the end almost all the filmmakers, jurors, guests and sponsors are happily…drunk. Then the party moves to the festival lounge for late-night karaoke, where the staff tends to finally cuts loose after a long nine days/nights. Of course, you party hard only to get up and start screenings again at 11:45am with honorees, winners and late-to-the-program films.

On the last weekend, I snuck away from the theater after my final intro for a sunset walk around my old stomping grounds at SMU. Even though I lived near the campus for some six years after graduating, I never went back and never properly showed Eric where I spent those “formative” years. It was a quiet night on campus, barely any students walking around (they were all getting ready for their greek parties I told Eric, as we saw the buses lining up near sorority row later). Wandering the halls of my old class buildings felt like a relief, a strange feeling of nostalgia combined with closure. It seemed like a proper way to end my two weeks in Dallas and this particular film festival.

DIFF 2017 was a tipping point year. We succeeded in the usual places – a strong program of films and making filmmakers feel welcome – but the years of a struggling budget showed in a way that could not be avoided. Changes need to be made and I think there are opportunities to refocus the festival that will only improve it. It is something James and I discussed often during my time in Dallas and we’ll continue to chat about throughout the summer. Venues, length of festival, major fest events, marketing, and, at the core, fundraising – all key elements that must be addressed before the fall.

There are a lot of people who care about this event and I truly believe it is an important cultural part to the city of Dallas. It is a disservice to continue on the same path we’ve been on, thinking it will somehow improve without actually making the necessary changes needed. I realize this may sound vague, but the discussions are still in the early stages. (Happy to chat offline to anyone interested.) My hope is that some of these ideas get a chance. Time will tell.

Below are more of my favorite photos from this year’s Dallas International Film Festival. Back with our regularly scheduled program next week! Thanks for reading!

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Q&A following Shorts 3 program
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James and I actually sat down together one night to eat dinner. This is incredibly rare. Not sure when the last time this happened in eleven years of the festival.
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One night in the DIFF 2017 Lounge.
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WHILE I WAS GONE filmmakers chat with coordinator Daniel Laabs at the SAG Indie Filmmaker Party.
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Director of Operations, Scott Rosza, and Operations Manger, David Jeter, take a break after building the DFS Honors red carpet.
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DIFF 2017 Shorts Jurors on the DFS Honors red carpet.
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DIFF 2017 Narrative Feature Jurors at the DFS Honors red carpet.
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DIFF 2017 Documentary Competition Jury at DFS Honors.
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Filmmaker Noel Wells accepts the Texas Grand Jury Prize from Panavision and the Texas jury for her film, MR. ROOSEVELT.
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Dallas Star Award Honoree, David Gordon Green, at DFS Honors.
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Beastie Boy karaoke after DFS Honors.
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Epic post-DFS Honors Karaoke: Power of Love with a dancing Lea Thompson!
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With Eric in town for the second weekend, we had to go back to Pecan Lodge to pick up BBQ with friends Claire (a former coordinator at the fest in town to visit) and Karen (DIFF marketing manager).
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Garland HS step team before screening of documentary STEP.

Sunday Mornings

It is Earth Day weekend and nothing like a heat wave in Los Angeles to remind you of climate change! E is away for a bachelor party and I’m enjoying some quality solo time. I decided to head west for the cool ocean air.

I found myself first near LAX, at a park watching planes take off and land. It is a weird quirk, but I am strangely fascinated by watching them. Then I explored Marina del Rey, finding a spot in a park to lay down under a tree and watch boats (err, yachts) come in and out of the harbor. After the past few months, I found a close kinship with a nearby sea lion (as shown above with a buddy), who only moved once… to sneeze.

Here’s a slice of internet fodder for you Sunday reading pleasure:

  • If you like analyzing photography, this is all kinds of intriguing: “Fairytale Prisoner by Choice: The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump
  • I need to get back to my Seinfeld evening routine.
  • I need suggestions for summer reading! I’m adding this one to my library list. What else should I add?
  • Did you listen to S-Town yet? I binged on the flight back to LA and then finished it off from the couch. What’d you think? (I loved it.) An interview with host/narrator/producer, Bryan Reed. (Also a nice reminder: make sure you have a will.)
  • I only got through about season 2 of Girls before moving on to other shows, so I have not watched the last episode or season obviously and read this article prepared for the spoilers. Valid points made and hitting home to me. I wonder how much of the ending was influenced by Apatow. Your thoughts?
  • I’ve been drinking a lot of lemonade lately as spring has sprung. This cucumber lemonade will be next.
  • Anything Men Can Do I Can Do Bleeding
  • Anna Faris live-tweeted Chris Pratt’s Hollywood Walk of Fame morning. I’m not one for celebrity following, but this was cute.
  • A little Earth Day weekend reading. Louisiana, my home away from home. This is nothing surprising to me, just a sad reminder that where I use to live will likely not exist for my grandkids to see.
  • Space Mountain is my favorite ride at Disneyland. They are dropping the Star Wars decor and going back to being just a ride in space… As long as they keep the song, I’m good.

I hope your day has a little sunshine and wildflowers in it today. Enjoy a little mother nature if you can!

Dallas International Film Festival 2017: Recap part 1

Hi there. I took a week off. It had to happen. Between flying back home and rushing back into a few personal hurdles, I needed to collect my thoughts and take some space.

Things are starting to settle into this new post-fest routine now and for that I am grateful.

For the next two weeks I’m sharing highlights from the 2017 Dallas International Film Festival. It was my eleventh year and I could feel a shift, not always in a good way. (But more on that later).

My trip began with an airport pick up from two of my friends from college, Maya and Katie. They were heading down to Waco for Katie’s birthday getaway, but first we had a quick snack and caught up on life’s adventures. That night, the Texas sky welcomed me back with epic storm clouds which I adored from the patio of Central Market (oh, Central Market, how I love thee.)

The week started out the new DFS office at Commerce House, an advertising agency. The new office was filled with cubicles and shared work space, far different that the film society’s previous home which was more private and had a little space for seasonal staff to work as well. While not ideal, the fest staff has made this work, but much of the season staff end up working remotely (which is fine as long as the communication is kept up appropriately…). Also one of the final tasks to prep: ballots.

The ballots are in @dallasfilmsociety HQ! Get ready to vote for your favorite docs, narratives & shorts during #DIFF2017!

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Opening Night was held at the Dallas City Performance Hall with a screening of Bonnie & Clyde (1967) with actress Faye Dunaway and screenwriter Robert Benton in attendance. Earlier I met with James at the venue to do a quick tech check and discuss show flow one final time. The night, of course, started late. It doesn’t matter how many times you say you are going to start on time for these things, when an actor arrives late and then slowly takes time to walk the red carpet (which can’t exactly be rushed since that’s what part of the job is) everything else falls behind. The other crux: the sound team who was part of the presentation in back of house had to mic Dunaway and Benson in the green room and then come back to the booth before we could start. I sat in the booth with the presentation team counting the minutes and then rushing out to the red carpet to put pressure on the timeline. It was at this moment I met Robert Benton, a lovely gentlemen, and escorted him off the carpet and backstage.  Eventually Dunaway walked off carpet and now it was a timer to get her mic’ed and get the show started. The second crux: speeches. I’m never a fan of long speeches on Opening Night, but it never fails to happen. Everyone wants to be heard. Because Dunaway was in attendance, a fifteen minute conversation was also added to the beginning of the show. While part of the great experience of a film festival, you can see how this all adds up. One of the best parts of the night though, was sharing it with my Mom who flew in for the festivities.

With Opening Night officially under our belt, the first full weekend hit. Each first Friday, DIFF holds the Filmmaker Luncheon sponsored by the Texas Association of Film Commissions. It’s a great time for the filmmakers to meet each other after arriving to town, get to know the programmers and meet with the various film commissioners from the state to talk about any future projects. After several years in one location, this year we changed it up. The gracious folks of Pecan Lodge hosted us. It was a dream come true. We feasted on delicious brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausage and trimmings. I happily smelled of BBQ for the rest of the day. Thank you, Diane and Justin!

The first weekend also offered amazing Q&As with filmmakers and special guests. Dealt received a standing ovation at its first screening and I was thrilled to have director Luke Korem and subjects Richard and Kim Turner in attendance. City of Joy was powerful and the audiences were engaged with every word. I also had the pleasure of meeting show-runner Kurt Sayenga, an incredibly smart man with a good sense of humor. My Q&A with labor activist Dolores Huerta was a surreal moment. Towards the end of the Q&A she lead a “Si Se Puede” chant and took the time to chat with everyone individually outside the auditorium. My weekend ended with one of the more insightful post-screening discussions with filmmaker Christine Clusiau. She was incredibly kind and gracious. I loved hearing about her travels.

Standing ovation for film subject, magician Richard Turner & Luke Korem's #DEALT! #DIFF2017 #DIFFDocs #Magic 🎲🎬

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Very cool to have KURT SAYENGA EP/Showrunner @natgeo "Breakthrough: Predicting the Future" at #diff2017 #redcarpet #docuseries #natgeo

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This was just a sliver of the happenings from that first weekend. It’s hard to be in so many places at once. I never even made it to the Magnolia Theater since most of my work was at the Angelika Film Center that weekend. Between High School Day, an outdoor screening, special receptions for films and more, there was a lot to do. Stay tuned next week with more highlights from the second half of DIFF 2017.

More of my favorite photos from the first weekend festivities below (as taken by me and the DIFF photography team.) Do these photos make you want to attend a festival?

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Tech-ing Opening Night with Artistic Director James Faust
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Mom joins me on Opening Night of DIFF 2017
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View of the Opening Night conversation with Faye Dunaway from the booth
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DIFF 2017 Opening Night party
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Texas + BBQ
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Filmmakers grabbing BBQ at the Luncheon.
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DIFF 2017 Filmmaker Luncheon at Pecan Lodge
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With DIFF print traffic coordinator and friend, Keith Arnold
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With Kim Turner, Richard Turner and director Luke Korem after screening of DEALT.
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44 PAGES director Tony Shaff speaks with audience members after his screening.
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Artistic Director James Faust introduces GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?
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The MUSTANG ISLAND crew
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Audience awaiting a screening of LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKA
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At the Q&A with Dolores Huerta
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WIth DP Brett Curry and EP Kurt Sayenga
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TROPHY co-director Christine Clusiau
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A volunteer with DIFF Theater Manager, Dallas in between shows.