Monday, August 24, 2009
Okay, this is a ridiculously long post. I don't blame you if you give up half way. Har! But...I' have been super busy...I've got to catch up. I have hardly been blogging or visiting my usual online hobbies/bookclubs in the past month or so. And here are some reasons. The photo above is a "meet-and-greet" at the Chicago Filmmakers Co-Op. I joined hoping to meet other filmmmakers and make some new friends and maybe work on some projects. It's an amazing resource. The Co-Op also has camera and sound equipment which I plan on renting in th near future. I used to belong to a similar co-op in Toronto...where you can rent film equipment see screenings of independent film and find all kinds of connections and share work with other filmmakers. Here is where I met a first time producer and I've landed up helpign him a fair bit this past month. He is in Latvia right now shooting his first major leg of interviews for his film. I will post more about that tomorrow.
Here is special speaker, John Smith, who spoke about attitude and how to make it in the film industry. He wa smarvelous. I could have listened to his stories for hours and hours, and he had a great sense of humour. He has worked on independent films, his own films producing as well as reality tv like The Bachelor. I was in heaven!
These three characters are friends I have made at my local coffee shop. They make special appearances throughout this post. Tricia on left, works at a company near the coffee shop and is a regular. Marvin is an artist who also works at Old Town School of Folk and this cafe. Jenny on the right of photo is the owner and chef. Here they are goofing in the kitchen/office of cafe. Knowing them has changed life here in chicago. I am so grateful to them and pleased to know them.
Above is a meeting I sat in on with the producer and Director of Photography...about three weeks ago. It was my second day helping the Producer who I met, at the "meet-and-greet" pictured first in this post.
Tricia took us to a local German community Centre evening with Elvis on friday night. What a blast, the place reminded me of the Danish Club. My grandmother was Danish/Norwegian Canadian...and she belonged to every Danish Canadian Club she could. We had a blast and it felt like good memories of my family growing up. Weirdly enough...this whole last few days has been like a German themed weekend. Stirring a massive set of emotions and connections. All by coincidence!
Bratwurst, potato/bacon salad, sourkraut. Yum!
Andy and Tricia dancing. I have a pic of Tricia shamelessly adoring Elvis, but I'll save that for it's own post.
Tricia and I are actually dancing with Elvis here. You can see Andy and Stagg in the background.
Hanging out with a few serious beverages (beer, mud slides, whiskey) before going to see Inglorious Basterds. Tarantino films are perfect for group viewings in a theatre. Three cheers for Tarantino!
Stagg is showing our guests a fragment of his hat collection. Isn't he cute? I could have a full time job JUST organizing his t-shirt collection, his hat collection and his studio. Oh wait...I already DO have that full-time position!
Okay...you all might remember when I was so sad that my friend Andy, who I met online...and is dancing to Elvis up there...and who helped me with Art Group in Wicker Park...moved to Wisconsin? Well, he got a really good job as an editor. For a gun magazine. Seriously. So here he is out testing his topics first week on his new job.
Wow! Not bad for his first day back on the shooting range after a few years hiatus. OOAndy!
Yes, that is the same Andy mopping here as in the photo at the gun range. Isn't he mulit-talented! Our friends Jenny and Monique were closing down their cafe this weekend. It was a bittersweet experience. We all loved hanging out in the cafe, and it has been a godsend to know these women. I've loved hanging out drinking coffee or eating fun snacks with them the past year. And damn it, have we had some laughs. Tears flowing knock down laughing. But... some personal family tragedy and the priority of time with their young children has inspired them to re-evalute their goals and close the cafe. We helped them close it up by sorting the kitchen and cleaning up and packing things. We're gong to have a big sale with art, kitchen supplies etc etc in two weeks. Anybody wanna buy a cafe? Tricia and I have seriously considered it.
From left, me, Marvin, Andy, Tricia, Isis, Jenny, Frances and Monique. Monique and Jenny are partners and those gorgeous girls are their daughters and they own the cafe.
Stagg supervising the mopping...
Here's Jenny doing what she does best, laughing and having fun!
On Saturday evening just before we went to see Infglorious Basterds I did volunteer work in the box office for the Chicago Filmmakes screeening of South Main. I am so pleased to be part of the co-op. I am also doing box iffice this upcoming Saturday with a screening of The Controlled Mistake by experimental filmmaker Heather McAdams.
I've been volunteering on pre-production work for a film about a massacre of 28,000 Jews in Latvia. I met the producer at the "meet-up" I went to last month and really believed in his project. A few days later he got some new grant funding and had to jump into preparing to go to Latvia months earlier than he expected. So...I helped with a few things like tracking down insurance companies, finding interns, arranging archival photos, editing and proof reading proposals and thematic outlines, and sitting in on meetings, often taking notes. There is also a lot of specific protocol for film makers, when hiring and building a budget or looking for crew and volunteers, and I'd like to think I was a good support and resource person for introducing some of that protocol to a first time film maker.
I took this picture while being a stand in for a few minutes on set last week. Principal photography began last week on the feature length documentary I was helping a first time producer/director with for the past month.
I love being on set working! Even when I am just being a helper like I was on this day. I've done everything from continuity, to focus pulling, to craft service. I can schedule a film, I can edit a film and I can work quite a few professional movie/digital cameras. I guess one special quaility I am proud of about myself...is I am able to do a lot of things on set and not be a snob about it. I can take orders like to run as a P.A. ( "production assistant" is a glorified term for "go for"...and it's almost at the bottom of the totem pole, right above craft service) and I can make props or help with make-up...just all kinds of things. And the funny thing is, when I was young and had dreams of growing up to be an artist and film maker...I never knew it was the "failure" of these dreams that would contribute to my experience and ability to be fluent on film production and film sets. By this I mean...let's say maybe I had gotten sucessful when I was 25 and was able to direct films using a huge budget and mass market... Or let's say I had had a gallery represent me as a painter. I wonder what...if any... exploration I might have made in these crafts? Because I never was a famous painter...I continued to exploe all kinds of ways to make art. I began making art with recycled materials as a priority. It's possible if I was well off financially I might have remained painting in oil paints and canvas...and only thinking of formal galleries as places where art should be. If I had made some financial success as a film director...maybe I wouldn't have learned all the skills I have for various positions in production. What has happened is that if I want to make a film..I've been known to construct my own sets, to make many of my own props and to shop, design and choose wardrobes. (I once constructed a standard size poodle...out of an old faux fur coat of mine for a short film I made called Poodle. The poodle and his mistress end up dead in a swimming pool at the end of the film...and so I made a life size poodle to float in the pool next to the female star)
I guess what I'm thinking is...even if we don't end up in the path we think we will at 18 years old, or 25 years old...it's important to remember just how much we have learned and how manyother opportunities and skills we may have picked up because we didn't know any better or we didn't have a reinforcement of a classic carreer. In many ways...I found out a lot of stuff simply because I didn't "make it" or didn't have the money to hire someone else to do a job on set. Plus, I worked on many many tv sets, on big-budget, low-budget and no-budget films over the last 20 years. Doing whatever. I learned a lot of people skills too...because you need to be able to fit in with all kinds of tradespeople on a film set. From the "working class" crew of gaffers, grips and craft service...to the high brow "artsy" folks of wardrobe, set design, and cinematography...to the often more vulnerble and emotional cast of actors, make-up artists and writers. So in some weird way...my "failure" at commercial film making has been an incredible boost to my experiences in independent filmmaking.
I also had a lot of hobbies and past times...I've read a lot of books, most of the classics and tons of contemporary literature. I learned other hobbies like plant identification, astronomy, I studied Sanskrit and practiced Buddhism, mushroom identification and harvesting, anthropology, history of plays, hiking and survival skills in camping and the outdoors (I could probably survive a couple weeks outside without many tools or a prefabricated shelter)
So..."failure" can be a great opportunity for life long learning and character building. Who knew? I think maybe we should teach our kids this kind of stuff.