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.

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DIFF 2017: The lineup

Part of what has made the last few weeks so crazy has been locking down a program. For the last eleven years, I’ve been lucky to be part of the programming team at the Dallas Film Society. This week we’re announcing the 11th festival program and I couldn’t be more proud of this lineup accomplished with my colleagues, James Faust (Artistic Director) and Daniel Laabs (Programming Coordinator).

I often compare the Dallas International Film Festival as being like a child for me. I’ve seen it birthed from nothing to supporting it through growing pains and now entering a new decade. This festival and it’s programming has been a big part of my life – I have met incredible friends, amazing artists, even my husband, through my work with DIFF. My experiences working with DIFF have helped shape me into the person I am today.

A lot of emotion and thoughtfulness goes into each film selected and where/why it plays within the entire event. It is a GIANT puzzle piece. Is this group/community/audience/voice represented? Is this topic covered? Will this film stimulate a conversation that needs to happen? How does it work counter to this other film? Are we piecing together any themes? Then you have to actually schedule them.

One of the hardest parts is keeping it a secret and containing my excitement around what I am working on. The announcement is like a breath of fresh air. To be working for months and finally having something to share is a thrill. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted.

Two very cool highlights to mention include a spotlight on one of the best years in cinema history, 1967, and L.M. “Kit” Carson Maverick Honoree, David Gordon Green.

Bonnie & Clyde
Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

My programming with DIFF focuses mostly on documentary features and shorts. While I’m proud of the whole festival program, I am particularly excited about the Documentary Competition, Showcase, Deep Ellum Sounds and Shorts Competition sections. These are films you’ll hear about later. Filmmakers that should be on your radar. My goal is to bring the best of what I see to Dallas audiences and this program reaches that goal and then some. The 2017 lineup includes a total of 122 films. That’s at least 122 friends being added to my DIFF family. What a great feeling.

Quest
Quest (2017)

Take a look at the 2017 DIFF program here. I’ll be discussing more about DIFF in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

I’d love to hear what you find interesting in this lineup or if you have any particular questions about the process you’d like me to cover over the next few weeks. Let me know in the comments!

 

Bad short film titles

Creating a great title for a film can be tough. You want the title to stand out and stick with people. Something that highlights themes, characters or actions in your story. A hint of something scary, funny, dramatic or unworldly. Maybe it’s a metaphor or something poetic. Whatever the title, once you have it you know in your gut that it’s right.

Creating a bad title, on the other hand, is far easier.

When watching hundreds of shorts each year, there’s always generic titles that pop up several times. Before even watching a film, if I see a common title I think the film is amateur or lazy. My judgement before I even watch a frame: uncreative. A title is the first thing that sells your film to an audience – and when a short is a calling card of you to the world should you really make the title that ordinary?

Today, I’m sharing a few of the most common short film titles I’ve seen. I’m not saying that you can’t have your film titled one of these words. But what I am saying is that each year, I see at least one film – often multiple films – with this title. The one word title is most common. It doesn’t matter if you put it in all caps either. It’s still the same word. I’m wondering if your film is going to be the same as every other one as well.

As you’re reading this list, imagine what kind of film it might be. Does it perk your interest at all? Do you feel you already know what the film is about? Do you feel like you need to watch it?

Some of the title offenders include:

Repeat

Butterfly

Locked

Animal

Memory

My Name is…   (and then a name)

Crossing   (or The Crossing)

Numb

Float

Change

Beyond   (this is also usually followed by another word or two… which reminds me of the next one…)

After   (Pick a word, any word, to follow After and it has probably been done before.)

Hello    (Only Adele can get away with this now. #SorryNotSorry)

and one of the worst titles I see multiple times each year:

Home

Look, I get it. Being original is difficult. There’s a lot of content out there and plenty of films that have come and gone. But the title is the hook and just as much effort should be put into that as the film itself. So please filmmakers, make an effort with your title. I want that title to make me curious.

What are some of the worst film title’s you remember? What are some of your favorite titles? I’d like to hear them in the comments!

 

And now, a list.

Since I was a kid, I have often kept a list of movies I want to see. This started when I cut out the first American Film Institute’s “100 Years, 100 Movies” list in our local newspaper. I taped it to my bookcase and set a goal to watch all 100 films by the end of the summer. That was 1998. I was 15.

Being in a small town, I couldn’t get my hands on some of the older titles. The rental shop wasn’t a Blockbuster, it was a trailer with a drive-thru window. Yes, a trailer converted into a video rental store. I have vivid memories of the floor creaking as I walked up and down the “aisles”. Kat’s Video in small town Louisiana was never going to carry a copy of The Jazz Singer or Modern Times. I was SOL on that front.

The older titles can still be hard to find for most people. If you’re lucky to live near Los Angeles in New York (or another film-friendly city), then maybe you can catch something at your local arthouse theater. I encourage you to see them on a big screen. It is a truly magical experience. I finally saw Lawrence of Arabia two years ago on the big screen. Some things are worth the wait. Check!

For other nights, there is the internet. While finding films is often easier to view, many films are still not digitized. Popularity makes certain films a priority when it comes to updating and preserving.

AFI’s marketing leaders knew a good thing when they saw it. They spent the next ten years creating more lists (Stars!, Laughs!, Thrills!) and then reranking the top 100 again in 2007. Several titles fell off the list completely. It’s interesting to look at this list after some time away and think about what films would be on it now.

I still haven’t finished the original AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list. I enjoy coming back to it every few years to see my progress. I’m ok with knowing I may never mark all of them off. The list was merely a step in a process, an education and an inspiration that led me to where I am today. For that I’m grateful.

Do you have a “movies to watch” list? Do you track what films you’ve seen? What movies on this list have you not seen yet?  What films are missing from this list (granted, you’ve traveled through time and it’s still 1998, so There Will Be Blood can’t be added!)

# Title Watched it?
1 Citizen Kane (1941)
2 Casablanca (1942)
3 The Godfather (1972)
4 Gone with the Wind (1939)
5 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
6 The Wizard of Oz (1939)
7 The Graduate (1967)
8 On the Waterfront (1954)
9 Schindler’s List (1993)
10 Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
11 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
12 Sunset Blvd. (1950)
13 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
14 Some Like It Hot (1959)
15 Star Wars (1977)
16 All About Eve (1950)
17 The African Queen (1951)
18 Psycho (1960)
19 Chinatown (1974)
20 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
21 The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
22 2001: A Spae Odyssey (1968)
23 The Maltese Falcon (1941)
24 Raging Bull (1980)
25 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
26 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
27 Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
28 Apocalypse Now (1979)
29 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
30 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
31 Annie Hall (1977)
32 The Godfather Part II (1974)
33 High Noon (1952)
34 To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
35 It Happened One Night (1934)
36 Midnight Cowboy (1969)
37 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
38 Double Indemnity (1944)
39 Doctor Zhivago (1965)
40 North By Northwest (1959)
41 West Side Story (1961)
42 Rear Window (1954)
43 King Kong (1933)
44 The Birth of a Nation (1915)
45 A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
46 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
47 Taxi Driver (1976)
48 Jaws (1975)
49 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
50 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
51 The Philadelphia Story (1940)
52 From Here to Eternity (1953)
53 Amadeus (1984)
54 All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
55 The Sound of Music (1965)
56 M*A*S*H (1970)
57 The Third Man (1949)
58 Fantasia (1940)
59 Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
60 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
61 Vertigo (1958)
62 Tootsie (1982)
63 Stagecoach (1939)
64 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
65 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
66 Network (1976)
67 The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
68 An American in Paris (1951)
69 Shane (1953)
70 The French Connection (1971)
71 Forrest Gump (1994)
72 Ben-Hur (1959)
73 Wuthering Heights (1939)
74 The Gold Rush (1925)
75 Dances with Wolves (1990)
76 City Lights (1931)
77 Americna Graffiti (1973)
78 Rocky (1976)
79 The Deer Hunter (1978)
80 The Wild Bunch (1969)
81 Modern Times (1936)
82 Giant (1956)
83 Platoon (1986)
84 Fargo (1996)
85 Duck Soup (1933)
86 Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
87 Frankenstein (1931)
88 Easy Rider (1969)
89 Patton (1970)
90 The Jazz Singer (1927)
91 My Fair Lady (1964)
92 A Place in the Sun (1951)
93 The Apartment (1960)
94 Goodfellas (1990)
95 Pulp Fiction (1994)
96 The Searchers (1956)
97 Bringing Up Baby (1938)
98 Unforgiven (1992)
99 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
100 Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

A Classic Combo: Casablanca (1942) & Champagne Cocktail

I’m not the first person to say how amazing Casablanca is, nor will I be the last. It only seems fitting to kick-start this blog with one of my favorite films and a celebratory champagne cocktail.

Rick, an American expatriate played by Humphrey Bogart, runs a saloon in Casablanca as the Nazi’s have invaded Europe. When his former lover, Isla (Ingrid Bergman), arrives to town with her husband, Victor Lazlo, Rick is forced to face the bitterness of his past. Victor, a renowned Nazi resistance leader, is on the run. Rick must choose between assisting Victor’s escape and his love for Isla.

There are so many wonderful things about this film that we could be here forever. But first, there’s Ingrid. Beautiful, wonderful, amazing Ingrid. Oh, how I wish I was her. Those eyes! Those hats! Her careful lighting makes her leap off the screen during every scene. Besides my massive girl crush, Casablanca truly is one of the best romance stories ever. Trust, love, war and making the ultimate choice. This film wraps you up and takes you away. Hollywood has been trying to top this ever since (and has failed often as we all know and will discuss later).

The champagne flows throughout Casablanca as refugees make the best of their war-torn situation. Rick and Isla share a glass of it often, most notably as the Nazi’s march into Paris (so the Nazi’s won’t have any to drink upon arrival).

Dating back to the early 1860s, the champagne cocktail is a sweet and bubbly delight. How could drinking a glass not make you feel like Isla or Rick, making you just light-headed enough and falling in love all over again?

If you haven’t seen this movie, seek it out immediately to remedy. Find a retro screening (support your indie theater or local film society!) or download from your favorite Silicon Valley tech giant. It is the perfect film for a weekend evening, perhaps with a glass of champagne by your side.

1 Champagne Cocktail
Champagne
2/3 oz Cognac or Brandy
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sugar cube

Dash the bitters onto the sugar cube, add the cognac and chilled champagne. Garnish with a cherry or citrus twist if you like

So here’s the classic question: Would you get on the plane? Have another Champagne cocktail favorite? Tell me in the comments below!

-Watch Casablanca on Amazon, iTunes or add to Netflix queue. Or even better, support your local rental store!-