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!

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.

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.

 

Sunday Mornings

Texas, here I come!

My suitcase weighs 49.5 pounds. It is packed to capacity. The other bag is full of shoes. Why a bag just for shoes? Because when you stand on your feet for 12+ hours a day (sometimes running into a theater) one or two pairs of shoes for two weeks is not going to work.

I’m ready for more BBQ and breakfast tacos, familiar faces and a big Texas sky. Plus Whataburger. I’ve been craving it all week.

Keeping it short and sweet on this travel day. Here’s a few odds and ends that have been on my mind lately:

  • A new podcast from the crew of This American Life and Serial! S-Town is here on March 28. I’ll be binging on my flight post-festival, until then no spoilers please!
  • Face palm.
  • ICYMI, Cate Blanchett & Richard Linklater start shooting the adaptation of Where’d You Go, Bernadette this summer.
  • I was sad to hear of the passing of Amy Krouse Rosenthal earlier this month. In case you missed it, grab some kleenex and read one of the of her last (beautiful) essays.
  • One of the tricks about finding a place to live in LA is figuring out how far you are from the freeway or airport, both as a convenience and for all the noise/pollution. You can look up your neighborhood here: National Transportation Noise Map. #NoiseNerd
  • More science to geek out: Scientists Catch Star And Possible Black Hole In A Rapid, Dangerous Dance. Space. is. so. crazy.
  • Late March/early April is FULL of great film festivals. Kudos to all my friends out there making it happening with amazing lineups this year. Indiewire (which use to have larger coverage of film festivals in general) has a post that gives a run down of some announcements.
  • This Tropical Strawberry Hibiscus Rum Spitz cocktail looks so deliciously bright and colorful.
  • This: “At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear. “

Enjoy this lovely spring day! Thanks for reading!

Sunday Mornings

Happy Sunday! E and I recently saw Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. It was the third time this new 70mm print was screened and my first time to see it on the big screen. It was beautiful – and as strange as I remember. I was about 12 years-old when I watched 2001 for the first time thanks to my mom. It left an impression to say the least.

This new print was gorgeous. The colors vibrant and the darks deep. The second half of the film is always the best and most trippy. What was NOT enjoyable was the 30-something hipster gal in front of me instagramming most of the final 60 minutes (both photos and video). She “tried” to make it not conspicuous, but anytime a phone is out it’s a distraction. It glows. Especially in a film set in SPACE. By instagramming every two minutes, she was literally watching a 70mm print through her phone.

The absurdity of this was beyond me.

Besides the ‘gramming addict – and apparently Tom Hanks who was there that night and had his phone out too – a phone fell from the balcony above during one of the more climatic moments of the second half and landed (hard) on a man’s head in front of us. Startled, he yelled out, “Jesus Christ!”.

So, when the intro’er or programmer says to silence and put away your phones to enjoy the show… s/he is not doing it for their own health, but yours.haldonut

Another highlight of that night: HAL-9000 donuts!

And now, internet highlights for the last Sunday Mornings post of 2016:

  • I enjoyed this thoughtful article on the continued rise of streaming films, in particular focusing on Film Struck. “Streaming makes viewers pay forever, and regularly, in order to maintain access to movies that they might otherwise have had at hand—if they were near their home-video collections and if the equipment to play their disks continued to exist.” 
    What do you think?
  • Who wants to make Chocolate-Peppermint Fudge with me?
  • Or Caramel Rum Banana Bread?
  • 24-hours working at Franklin’s. I know, I know. I posted about Franklin’s last time, but this is a great piece to show you how much work goes into really amazing BBQ. There’s a reason why he’s the best.
  • A nice reminder for those of you hosting any holiday parties this month: always treat your non-drinker guests equally. I’ve cut out most alcohol the past six months for health reasons and navigating the social drinking side of this industry alone can be tough.
  • More “my generation is screwed” news.
  • If you’re a fan of reading screenplays or an aspiring screenwriter, then be sure to grab Moonlight by Barry Jenkins (courtesy of A24).
  • I’m weirdly fascinated with transportation logistics. The LA Times reflects on the future of FedEx. Check out Door to Door for further reading.
  • The transcript from the final hours aboard the bridge of the El Faro cargo ship were released. I read parts of the 510 page-transcript and could see where someone like Paul Greengrass could create a script if approached.
  • Kodak now has a website and app where you can search a location to find a movie that was shot or is being projected on film (as opposed to digital).
  • A long, good read: My President Was Black.
  • All I want for Christmas is breakfast tacos.

I hope you’re able to take a break from the holiday rush and enjoy a little sunshine today. Thanks for stopping by!

Gift Guide for the Foodie

Holiday gifts. There are so many options to choose from. Where do you start? Well this week, you’re in luck. I’m here to help!

Today, I’m posting a Gift Guide for the Foodie: a few of my favorite cooking and food items that I’m sure will please anyone on your gift list. All (but one item, #2) are things E and I have either received as gifts in the past or have bought ourselves. Nothing but rave reviews here.

So without further ado, this year’s Gift Guide for the Foodie:

  1. Help save the environment while you shop for your produce! We made the switch to reusable produce bags this year and love these cotton muslin bags from Simple Ecology.
  2. For when you need meal planning inspiration, roll the Foodie Dice!
  3. The Toddy Cold Brew coffee maker is a definitely favorite in our household. Easy to make, sits over night and you have coffee good for a week!
  4. For the wino, Honig’s Sauvignon Blanc – Late Harvest is lovely. The Honig winery is one of my favorites in Northern California and this dessert wine is a highlight.
  5. pit mitt is a must-have for any BBQ-er in your life.
  6. For the foodie who is also a history nerd, I recommend: A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell
  7. A stylish mortar & pestle is handy for every chef and doesn’t take up much counter space.
  8. A cocktail kit is nice to kick things up a notch while traveling and a perfect stocking stuffer!
  9. Give the gift of cheese. I promise, it will be their favorite gift. (Also if you want to send me something from Cowgirl, I’d be cool with that.)

Stop by on Thursday for part two of my Gift Guide, focused on the film fan in your life!

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? What are some of your favorite foodie gifts?

Sunday Mornings

Our small Christmas tree is up and decorated. We went with white lights this year, though I’m typically a colored-lights-on-the-tree fan. Most of our ornaments are from childhood, including E’s Star Wars Death Star which plays the Emperor’s speech each time the lights click on. So while working in the late afternoon, I’ll suddenly hear this speech coming from our Christmas tree:

“As you can see, my young apprentice, your friends have failed. Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station! Fire at will Commander! (explosions)”

It takes a few days to get use to.

I hope your Sunday is filled with something calm and festive. Here’s a few highlights from the internet this week to read while nibbling a baked holiday treat or sipping a hot cup of cocoa (with extra whip cream, because #Sunday).

20 days until Christmas. We got this.