Friday, September 28, 2007

Music Hall show

We have an upcoming screening in Portsmouth of our Fernald film and I'd like to get many people at the screening who have been effected by disabilities and institutions to be present and to talk about how the issues of the past are alive today. New Hampshire has closed its institutions, and even in Massachusetts a dwindling group receives services at large facilities. But to what extent are the issues of Fernald (and in NH Laconia) still with us?

I made Front Wards, Back Wards because I feel the issues of the past are very present. I am concerned that if we say that we've closed institutions we might say we can forgot the mistakes (and triumphs) of the past. Or simply use them as fodder for horror films. Many people lived and died behind walls like those of Fernald (and Laconia and Pineland). Those lives had meaning and value, even as the people who held that value and meaning were systemically devalued.

As I mentioned in a post earlier the film will show again on Channel 2 on October 23 at 10PM, a couple weeks after the NHFF screening on October 12 at 4:15 at the Music Hall.

I was in a play – Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage – quite a few years ago directed by Tony Kushner (Angels in America). I played The Cook who tries to lure the charismatic Courage away from The War. But it's futile. The War is where she makes her money, and my character was left to beg for a stone for his soup, singing for his supper. I feel that's what we, creators, must do; sing our most passionate song to get people to listen. But we really are in service to others, at least in relation to others. So come to the Music Hall. You'll hear some passionate songs.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

NH Film Festival II

Something the NHFF seems to do well is establish a good atmosphere for filmmakers to come together. I think a lot of us made a decision to stay in the boondocks, because we could work here and live here. Here is where we want to live.

But there's no film industry here, just some people who express themselves with the medium. If we want to compete in the wider world – get our work seen – we need to know the wider (business) world. So a festival can help us to bring an audience of viewers as well as makers together, and we can build some of the pieces that we need to get our work to a wider audience.

Our work needs to continue to get better and our ability to bring it to an audience needs to get better.

I think it is business 101. I never did business school or classes – arrogant fool that I was (am), so it's a slow process of realizing a market. And, not being in a center like LA or NY, there are less people sophisticated in the business of film/ media. So we guess at how to bring a film to an audience. We can learn, and we can get better about it. My focus is on the production side of things, while I'll continue to find those who approach film as if it were curtain roads, or software, or medical devices, or popcorn...

Early in my career I met with a film exhibitor. After talking for a while he said, "You and me don't talk to each other." He puffed on his cigar from behind his SUV- sized desk. This was before Hummer's and Denali's so he had to make the best with he had. "You just want to make movies, and I just want to make money."

If I want to keep doing this my projects need to be viable and make money for somebody. And our work engages many. We just have to keep getting better. Here's to the New Hampshire Film Festival!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

NH Film Festival

It has been a busy month – end of summer into the high shooting season of September light.

And a few nice dates coming up:

Invites to: Taos Mountain Film Festival in New Mexico for Flying Downhill. And the New Hampshire Film Festival for Front Wards, Back Wards, right in our back yard (actually a block away for the screening at the Music Hall).

And an upcoming Prime Time slot on WGBH, Boston on October 23, 10 PM, after Frontline.

More soon.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Now or Never

We've got a new project. It's about climate change and what people are doing about it. It's Now or Never.

Melissa Play, Peter Vandermark and I are good Americans! We have all been involved in creating greenhouse gases for a long time. And now we want to conrtibute something that lowers our contribution to the problem. Peter produced, and I shot and edited a film (Out of Balance) for and with Tom Jackson about ExxonMobil's contribution to the same. But we credited ExxonMobil's contrubtion – in another sense their very literal contribution of money to causes dedicated to steer the debate away from the scientific consensus – towards inaction. They gave money to the Amercian Enterprise Institute and many more so that efforts to stall action on the growing concern about climate change would be dominant. All so that they – ExxonMobil and more like them – could make more money.

There's a good argument for the notion that everybody is simply trying to make money. But when our desire to make money goes against the welfare of others, of a common good, then we need to look at the construct. The construct needs to change. And (I believe) it IS changing because we are changing. And the world and its (our) climate is changing. That's where the current drive for solutions comes from. It relates to the above point that everybody is trying to make a buck and making a buck can be of benefit to common good when there's a good feedback loop. It seesm to me it is the feedback loop that has gone astray. Reagan and Bush felt the markets would provide all the feedback needed. But they both devalued the feedback of informed consensus. Markets have had a hard time including the real cost of their actions. Air pollution costs, toxic spills cost, and far more than may be expressed by current market value. It is a complicated calcualtion that all of us can make, not just those invested in the company and its current value.

There is a growing market for the kind of solutions we sense are happening all around us. Look at hybrid cars. They are part of a changing climate. But if one looks at the costs versus return, an economical internal-combustion car makes more sense. But there is a value in contributing to solutions. There is a value to contributing LESS greenhouse gas.

It is similar to me riding my bike into work. The savings (in terms of gas) are small. The costs is moderate –1 1/2 hours compared to the time to drive the same plus the $15 yard sale bike – but there is value in the feeling of personal accomplishment, of health benefit, of connection to my environment.

Moving from my own experience we're anxious to find what many others are doing. And moving from the "converted." We don't see this show as being about biking to work as the solution to climate change. Nor do we see exposing ExxonMobil as being the solution. Or changing the current political equation. Rather it IS those and many, many more. My sense is that they are part of a movement towards less centralized power. Like when we bombed a country to smithereens and their web of communication still made connections.

What are the solutions to climate change? A myriad ways of looking to a new form of power.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Front Wards, Back Wards

Our film about Fernald State School has just been released on public TV and I heard of a person in Wyoming who was quite shaken up by it.

I encourage people to post their experiences with the film and with institutions here. Are the issues that we touch on in Front Wards, Back Wards about the past or are the issues still with us?

We weren't looking at whether Fernald should remain open or whether it shoud be closed, but were looking at what meaning we can get from the fact of its continued history up to today. What's your expereince?


Monday, May 7, 2007

I went to Quincy (Massachusetts) to the offices of Work, Inc to interview two of the nominees for the Joe Rogers Award for independence. It was established by Joe's brothers, Len, Mark and David and their wives, Barbara, Sue and Terry. Both Frank Nasher and Patricia Bey – the two nominees for the award – were great people, but it's Patricia's story that speak to this medium. Born deaf, Particia uses sign language to speak. We had two translators, Ellen and Sharon (Patty's job supervisor), and from when the camera began to roll they were busy bringing Patricia's view of her world to us.

Independence means a great deal to Patricia. And she has brought her independent spirit to one of Boston's premier hotels, the Ritz Carlton. She works in the laundry and is a maid in the guest rooms. And she meets the high standards of a posh hotel. I aksed her about the expectations and her eyes raised up as she said that each room gets three peices of stationery, positioned just so. The towels must be placed in their particular spot, dust must be hunted from each corner, behind each and every edge.

She also spoke about her pride and excitement at buying a dress online for an upcoming company dance. She sees this as another example of her independence.

And she spoke with her love of going for a walk, and how this also shows her independence. She should be on a national panel for the benefits of exercise towards well-being.

We'll be creating a short video about Patricia and Frank as an introduction to the Work, Inc awards cermony on May 24. And this blog as well as the upcoming short video is about how we can access Patricia's world. It is such a simple and basic thing to hear another person's story, to be given the gift of witness, of presence, to just hang out with another compelling person. And this medium allows others to take part in that story and its telling (and those stories and their telling).

Patricia's story and its telling grabbed my attention. Frank's story is similarly compelling, it is a matter of leaning in and listening – a line I used to describe my early conversation with my Uncle Joe.

Keep tuned to for the posting of those clips.