Now Streaming: The Confession

confI am thrilled to announce that The Confession is now available for your viewing pleasure.

Many thanks to Director/Producer Jaclyn Gramigna for overseeing the production of the film, and to the rest of our team for their great work. Above all, we’re grateful to our supporters on Seed&Spark, who helped make this 95% crowdfunded film a reality.

(The other 5% was paid for by yours truly, to cover a few overages. If you enjoy The Confession, feel free to send over a few dollars to help offset that added cost).

Please also feel free to share a link, as soon as you’re done watching, on Twitter or Facebook. Happy viewing!

Summary: Jacob and Ellen wander through Brooklyn, the morning after spending the night together for the first time. Jacob’s acting strange. Ellen wonders why. A confession is coming. And it’s not what you expect.

Did you enjoy The Confession? If so, follow us on Twitter!

Writer/Executive Producer
Michael DiBiasio

Director/Producer
Jaclyn Gramigna

Executive Producer/Lead Actress
Rebecca De Ornelas

Lead Actor
Jeremy Plyburn 

Check out the remaining credits for the film on IMDb!

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Hiring: Assistant PMD, The Videoblogs

After the lab, we will set our sights on completing the film and gearing up for next steps.

Team #VideoblogsFilm is on the lookout for an Assistant Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) to join marketing and distribution efforts for our independent film about mental health in today’s busy, tech-enabled environment.

Do you…

  • Feel strongly about advocating for a greater dialogue on mental health in America?
  • Have experience and a great interest in independent film, or a comparable art form?
  • Have room in your schedule to commit to performing specific administrative and research tasks, on a weekly basis, beginning ASAP and continuing through May 2016 (possibly beyond)?
  • Want to gain experience in the marketing and distribution of a truly independent film?
  • Want to establish a working relationship with hard-working producers who release a film at least once per year?
  • Live in the NYC area?

If so, please review the job responsibilities below. Apply via the instructions at the bottom of this post if interested in the position.

Responsibilities

  • Maintain and update project calendar, keep core team on track with deadlines
  • Set meetings, take notes, work with core team to update business plan(s) as appropriate
  • Under direction of Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD), research and catalog list of potential partner organizations, on national and local (US city) level
  • Under direction of Creative Producer, assist in research and outreach tasks related to The Videoblogs Dialogue
  • Help coordinate screenings in several cities
  • Assist PMD with digital release strategy implementation
  • Other administrative tasks

Compensation and Timeline

  • $250/wk, from start to May 2016
  • Flexible hours, mostly remote work
  • Potential for continued employment with this project
  • With good performance, strong consideration for larger role in next project produced by same core team

This position is project-based. The weekly amount of hours it will take to perform will depend largely on how long it takes to effectively and efficiently meet deadlines. The Assistant PMD will not be expected to work full-time, but will need to be able to perform tasks on a weekly basis and respond to emails and calls in a timely manner.

Application Instructions

  • Please send a brief cover letter to mdibiasio [at] outlook [dot] com, summarizing relevant experience, your interest in the position, and what your goals would be in performing the role of Assistant PMD.
  • Attach a resume (in PDF form only).
  • Also, at the end of your cover letter, please identify the last great book you read, and include a one-sentence reason why you loved it. Alternatively, you may also tell us about the last great meal you ate (and why you loved it).

Applications that do not follow these instructions will be sugar-shamed and then deleted. We look forward to reviewing your applications!

 

 

These Are Our Confessions…

Click the image to hear my confessions. They're not pretty.
Click the image to hear my confessions. They’re not pretty.

We’ll my lovelies, here we are. The Confession is now live over at Seed&Spark. Here’s the low-down:

  • Our pitch video is probably the funniest I’ve been a part of, after two other campaigns. If you do anything, check it out to hear some (unsettling) confessions from cast, crew and friends
  • Please note that we’re only funding for two weeks. If you dig what we’re doing, please consider contributing today. Every dollar helps, and will go towards paying creators to makes something fun/funny for you, quickly and directly.
  • We’re a Staff Pick on Seed&Spark. I must confess, we’re honored to have been selected again (The Videoblogs was similarly chosen) and are exciting to be working with once more with the S&S team.

In case you missed it, we also have some cool incentives lined up for our gracious supporters. We’re sending out the first batch in the below two categories today:

ssconf3

If you’re able to help at all, we’d appreciate any and all support. Even if you just like our silly video — please consider sharing on Twitter or Facebook.

Here are some samples you can copy and paste:

TWITTER

Listen to these embarrassing confessions — and then please join me in helping these sad people! http://bit.ly/1NIWzYU

FACEBOOK

Oof. I cringed listening to these confessions. Check it out and then please join me in helping these sad people! http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/confession

Thanks for being cool. I confess — it would really mean a lot to us to make another project for you while we put the finishing touched on The Videoblogs!

What do you say? Do you have 90 seconds to watch our pitch

IMG_1639 (1)The Confession
A short drama (with some humor)
Writer: Michael DiBiasio / Director: Jaclyn Gramigna / Starring: Rebecca De Ornelas

Jacob just spent the night at Ellen’s for the first time. The still-new couple wanders into Brooklyn the next morning, to hang out. Jacob acts strange. Ellen wonders why. A confession is coming. And it’s not what you expect.

The Confession: Applying Lessons Learned

EDIT: The Seed&Spark funding campaign for this film has been launched! Go here to watch our (not at all embarrassing) pitch video. Every dollar helps!

IMG_1639 (1)
Confession — we want to make something for you again. Read to the bottom for the full scoop!

As has been discussed here already, the process of completing The Videoblogs has been as exhausting as it has been amazing. (Lately, it’s been mostly amazing again, but more on that in the near future).

To recap — there have been two primary difficulties I’ve faced since we wrapped, and additionally as we and I have continued with the work of finishing the film.

The first was the fallout from working so hard, for so long, to not only get a feature film shot but a super low-budget feature film that takes on the heavy subject of mental health. On a personal artistic level, I followed up production by focusing primarily on crafting a no-holds-barred superhero spec script. In retrospect, I think the idea behind that was to have a ton of fun, and to explore a story without restrictions of scope or budget. (It was a true blast to write that one).

But I actually want to talk today about the other challenge, which requires a bit more unpacking.

Something happened to me over the course of the last few years. I’m not going to go into the details yet again, but suffice it to say that I crossed over to a place where I can (need to) share work here, frequently, such that you and I can keep up our relationship.

All that is a long way of confessing that, while completely understandable and necessary, it bothers me a bit that it’s been about a year since I shared a film with everyone. And, realistically, The Videoblogs won’t be out until next year.

So, what do we do?

Well, here’s something else I’ve learned over the years…

Lesson: Smash problems together

Problem: The Videoblogs, while amazingly fulfilling, has created the need for a change of pace, a little fun, in its wake.

Solution: Make something fun.

Problem: We haven’t commiserated over a large-scale creative thing since last year, when Multiverse was released at our party and then on this site.

Solution: Make something at a manageable scale, and share it immediately.

So. That catches you up as to why Rebecca and I have decided to make The Confession, a new comedic short film that we intend to fund, shoot, edit and release before the end of the year.

Lesson: Greater collaboration leads to better work

Find out more about Jaclyn: http://jaclyngramigna.com/
More about Jaclyn: http://jaclyngramigna.com.

Also, we’re introducing a few other lessons into the making of The Confession.

We’ve teamed up with the talented Jaclyn Gramigna, who will be directing/producing. I have to focus my directorial duties on The Videoblogs. Also, we’re aiming with this film to create a situation where collaborators are wearing one to two hats each, versus the “usual” three or more.

I like Jaclyn’s work, and we’re excited to collaborate with her.

Lesson: (Educated) guerilla-style fits us best

When we realized that The Videoblogs would only happen if: 1) I served as director of photography for the film (saving time and money) and 2) We shot guerrilla style — I spent a ton of time testing out all the research and experience I had gained over the past several years. I also grilled Daniele Napolitano, the man responsible for the beauty of Multiverse, on how to max out my camera, over the course of a three-hour drive.

The idea behind this, despite certain limitations, was to achieve photographic results that measured up to the overwhelming majority of what you might see in a well-done indie film today. I’m happy to say that — with the help of Alex Hollock and others — that we seem to have achieved this goal. We intend to shoot The Confession the same way, with the same cameras, and with even more knowledge that we had going into The Videoblogs.

Lesson: The film is (equally) about both artist and audience

I have already sung the praises of crowdfunding. I’m singing them again, now, not only because we need your help to make The Confession, but also because — this is how I would like to ideally operate.

Woah. Thank you.
We’re very grateful to our audience for funding production of The Videoblogs, Multiverse, and other films.

By now, we feel confident that we can deliver a quality film. The products of the past ten years (Over Easy, Sex and Justice, Multiverse, The Videoblogs) hopefully provide evidence of that. What I would love to do with The Confession is to do it all again — we make an entertaining but quality film, via your support — but also, in doing so, to prove a very simple point.

Where there’s a good team and a receptive audience — there can also be a squarely even exchange. With few parties in the middle complicating timelines and ballooning costs.

We seek your support in making The Confession, so that everyone can get together for a day in September, get paid a (nominal) wage to shoot something fun, and then quickly deliver that fun thing to you, who by then will hopefully have made it happen.

On that note…

Lesson: The most efficient way to get things done well is to pay a fair cost for them

We’ll raising funds to make The Confession on Seed&Spark The campaign will run for two weeks. If we’re successful in raising the $2,000 we’re looking to raise, we will be able to focus more completely on quality — and on getting the film quickly to you, first — by paying the decent wages listed in the campaign Wish List, feed everyone for the day of shooting, hold our collaborators schedules for the few but necessary hours we’ll need to get it all done, and (if all goes well) submit to a handful of film festivals after we deliver to you.

Rebecca De Ornelas will play Ellen in The Confession. Our Seed and Spark campaign launches on Sunday!
Rebecca De Ornelas will play Ellen in The Confession. Our Seed and Spark campaign launches on Sunday, 8/30!

If you decide to contribute even a small amount, you’ll be securing a first look at The Confession, and making a statement in favor of paying artists (directly) to make their work and share it (directly) with you.

All things told, it’s a modest experiment, with a (relatively) modest financial goal attached.

If you can’t contribute at this time, that’s totally cool. But we’d love your support spreading the word on social media, if you’re on board with what we’re doing. Please be on the lookout for Tweets, Facebook posts, and that sort of stuff.

This could be another step in our ongoing, (healthy and uncomplicated?) relationship. And if it works, maybe we’ll try it again next year.

What do you say? Do you have 90 seconds to watch our pitch

IMG_1639 (1)The Confession
A short drama (with some humor)
Writer: Michael DiBiasio / Director: Jaclyn Gramigna / Starring: Rebecca De Ornelas

Jacob just spent the night at Ellen’s for the first time. The still-new couple wanders into Brooklyn the next morning, to hang out. Jacob acts strange. Ellen wonders why. A confession is coming. And it’s not what you expect.

Coffee with Creatives: Meeting in Isolation

IMG_7512
Amos converses with lead actors Ryan Egghold and Jennifer Damiano.
Hello, Coffeeheads! Thanks for coming by, take a seat! Isn’t that comfy?! It’s made of goose!

It’s not goose. But clearly I have some pep today. This morning is the first morning wherein I’ve felt decently healthy, after nearly a week of being down with the sickness. On that note, please forgive the audio (and voice) quality of the intro and outro for this otherwise informative and humorous episode of Coffee with Creatives, with Writer/Director Amos Posner.

Amos’s first feature film, B-Side, was released last week on iTunes and other platforms. I enjoyed it, and in addition to talking about the specifics of making the film, we also touched upon such related subjects as:

  • The importance of making mistakes on a small scale before jumping into something bigger
  • Learning from mentors
  • Freeing up your imagination to allows surprises that improve the product
  • How to find and trust key collaborators
  • Adopting new perspectives in the face of what’s been done before
  • The role that Britney Spears’s Toxic played in the genesis of B-Side

That’s a lot of good stuff. Especially that last part. Give it a listen!

Or head on over to iTunes to download to your phone.

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The Vulnerability Paradox

Margaret (Rebecca De Ornelas) and Vee (Phoebe Allegra) know the value of a short walk in the sun. From The Videoblogs.
Margaret (Rebecca De Ornelas) and Vee (Phoebe Allegra) know the value of a walk in the sun. From The Videoblogs.

Okay — fuck.

It’s been a long winter. It’s been a long winter because it’s been a long winter, but also because we’ve been in post on The Videoblogs since shortly after our shoot wrapped in September. I spent most of October battling a perhaps “normal” post-film depression, logging and organizing footage when I could, and since then have been chipping away at a rough cut that is probably a few weeks from finished.

Again — especially in indie film terms — I realize that a lot of that is “normal”. Considering that we’re close to a Next Big Step (the rough cut) it’s also exciting.

But I am barely keeping it together.

Now, to be clear, I am still keeping it together. As many of you know, I’ve spent much of the last few years striving to be better about self-care, at the same time that I’ve been working to build better habits that have led to increased creative productivity. I’ve also written here about the benefits of having (sort of) learned the hard way to pace myself. But as both the preceding statement and the relatively long period of quiet here on the site might reveal — it hasn’t been easy. I have stumbled and I have briefly forgotten some of the aforementioned lessons (it happens).

I want to spend some time talking about why that’s been the case, for my own benefit as well as, hopefully, that of others who may find themselves in a similar boat now or in the future.

Speaking personally, the hardest part of wrapping The Videoblogs was returning, bleary-eyed, to my standard day-to-day existence, having accomplished a major life goal — of which I was and am immensely proud of and grateful for — but which also exposed my heart to the world in a more widespread way than at any other point in my life. This was the way it had to happen, and I have accepted and continue to accept that. But it doesn’t mean it has been easy. Or that it’s over, for that matter. Despite my vulnerable state, it’s not over by a stretch — the film hasn’t even been seen by anyone yet, except me.

It felt normal when my head took a bit of a dip, following our shoot, because filmmaking is a large scale endeavor with a lot of emotions at stake (as is the case with most large scale endeavors). As I’ve said, I’ve been through it before — though never on this scale — and I’ve luckily met and continue to commune with other indie filmmakers who also go through it all the time. What I wasn’t prepared for, that happened sort of after we wrapped but basically at the same time, was the return of Great Panic to my life.

I don’t know why I supposed, in a general way, that I was done with prolonged periods of intense panic (lingering naivete, perhaps) but I suspect that the condition “caught me by surprise” months after the shoot because I was just…under a lot of pressure…and in a constant state of motion.

The Videoblogs has been a huge undertaking. In a way, as I have said before, it’s a culmination of years of work, learning, research, and preparation. In another, more tactile way, it was and continues to be a big thing with many moving parts operating with very limited resources. As its Director and one of its main Producers, I think it’s understandable that I might have had to commit in the short term to a bit of delusion in order to simply get through those hard parts of the process where the stakes were highest (the months leading up to production and then production itself). Indie filmmaking is a specific form of necessary madness, and it takes a mad person to even try to adequately honor a story with little else but a mash-up of similarly mad souls, a minimal cache of resources, a fart and a prayer.

To reiterate, I went into The Videoblogs with the benefit of years of practice in the technique of low-budgeting filmmaking, with the support of a community of peers to talk to (some of whom thankfully reached out unsolicited with helpful advice when they heard Rebecca and I were tackling The First Feature), and a clear knowledge, based mostly on these things, that the journey was nevertheless probably going to end up as something that would have to be gotten through —  before the experience of it was fully understood.

This does not make either the specific undertaking or me as a person special. I’ll end momentarily with a softer definition, but that’s arguably a partial description of life experience as we know it — some things just have to be gotten through, worked through, to be not only appreciated but respected as the eventual touchstones they may become as we continue on our respective journeys.

Still, I think that, over the course of the last several months, I lost sight of all that, a little bit. As I have said, I think it’s understandable (and forgivable) but I did, in my anxiety, occasionally forget the fact that this was never going to go perfectly, that it was never meant to go perfectly, that there’s time to let it go the way it has to go, and that I don’t and can’t possibly know how this is all going to play out — in terms of not only the film but my life as someone who feels compelled to make films and other works of artistic intention.

Who even wants to have it all figured out, to be done learning, at thirty years old (or at whatever age you are, as you read this)? It sounds nice, when you fantasize about it, but that’s not life. Life’s confusing and messy and surprising and funny and sad and everything else. While planning has its uses, all plans are doomed to fail in some way. As an aside, I’ll have more to say about that soon, in another post I’m working on that more broadly examines the relationship between artist and art, and wherein I’ll attempt to focus on the potential graces of this truth.

For now, I want to end this by going Catholic on you and confessing.

I have slipped, in my zeal to Figure It All Out (Now). I have overworked. I have overeaten, gaining probably fifteen pounds in gummis and cheeseburgers, because post-production is a dehumanizing process that turns men and women into anachronistic junk-consuming bent-figured computer-punching cave people. I have undershared, in forgetting how important it has been for me to keep in touch here and to listen to your feedback. I have let the winter cold and the cold reality of an indie filmmaker’s economic condition serve as excuses for under-socializing. In a desperate fit of existential questioning, I juggled editing with a mad dash of writing — all the while continuing to work full time — and developed nerve issues in both arms.

In short, I went a little crazy. Again. But I am slowly crawling back. Again.

Because that is what we do.

Though it took me some time to acknowledge this, the arm injuries have been a blessing in disguise, serving first as a red light and now a yellow light to work at a realistic pace and scale.

Similarly, in emotional terms, I’m trying to listen to my heart and experiment with a better system of exposing it more carefully — but with the same level of faith — by, for instance, swapping in targeted depth for broad nakedness. It’s no small thing, to risk yourself by putting work out into the world. But when I remember that I’m really only talking to those who will hear me, or really only have to commune with those who are willing and ready to meet me and the work on an approximately level plane — it gets a lot easier.

So I’ve started to feel better, and to behave more responsibly — because all of this, this experience, it’s beautiful, too, isn’t it? We can’t forget that.

I would have to believe in the beauty of the struggle, in some deep way, to do what I do. Again, while I understand what happened and why…now that I’m on the other side of it, I wonder why I ever doubt the results while I’m still engaged in the process. The artistic life, like all kinds of lives, is both struggle and relief, is as much about getting through the difficult times as it is appreciating the good feelings that come from having done that next thing. And I really do want to appreciate this moment. It feels right to do that.

The dirty trick of all this, I think, is that there’s no way of knowing, as mere humans, when things are going to go well or when circumstances are going to test you.

Arriving finally at the vulnerability paradox, I hereby state — until I forget it again — that I understand that when I risk myself through my work, that I must then also try to let go of any fears of potential results. There’s no other way to authentically experience the full rewards of any one endeavor as well as or as completely as any potential damages (which, as I have said repeatedly, come with their own eventual benefits as well).

Up until this point, I have engaged more often in a less fruitful pattern: fearing the risk, eventually building up the courage to take it anyway, then shying (at least in part) from the results of the undertaking. I don’t begrudge myself this past behavior, but the benefit of having so many others on board with The Videoblogs, as both collaborators and supports, is that I am able to ultimately shrug off any reflexive re-defensing of my vulnerable self via the strength that comes with the knowledge that this is not as lonely an undertaking as it sometimes feels.

It may have started with myself and my closest creative collaborators risking ourselves by openly stating that we felt this sort of a story — about mental health and reaching out via the screen and regaining some sense of community in an increasingly stratified and alienating modern world — needed to be told, and it may make sense that in telling it I feel exposed and afraid to move on (in spite of the fact that I am moving on now), but even as I have struggled in recent months I have known, somewhere, that what I was going through was normal, that this particular moment in time, where things were “okay” again, would come, and that I would find my way back here to you. Thus, the only way to assuage the fears that arrived as a result of becoming vulnerable, the only way to ease the defensiveness and the panic at the thought of judgment — is to name these fears and become vulnerable yet again. And this isn’t the last time, over the life of The Videoblogs, or hopefully mine in general, that things are going to happen this way.

This paradox can be wonderful, if we choose to embrace it, because (in my experience) abandoning the compulsion to control outcomes helps us switch perspective such that we may appreciate the difficult times as well as the good. When I remember to do this, to offer a basic metaphor, I find myself able to recall. say, the bitterness of distasteful experiences as adding depth and contrast and fullness to any additional sweetnesses that were there before or are forthcoming. Similarly, any one struggle could be re-framed as a splash of the acidic, for mixing with the sweat of life to add variety and excitement to a day that perhaps seems a little too blankly reduced to extremes of bitterness and sweetness only. I think those metaphors work. I don’t know. I’m hungry.

The point is that though I forgot it for a while, things are going to be okay. I can be patient. I can talk and share and especially I can laugh and shrug and just ride it out and trust the work.

Because that’s really all it comes down to, isn’t it? Do the work and be heartfelt about it and find your own heart in it and share with others and hold your breath and wait and trust and, when it’s all over, when you’re ready — do it again.

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We Ate A Lot of Brisket: Austin Film Festival Recap

Sunshine makes smile time.
Sunshine makes smile time.

When we were in the late stages of preproduction on The Videoblogs, Rebecca and I realized that we needed to get away. Any endeavor as large and as exhausting as the making of a film requires (in my opinion) that we (the endeavorers) pay a little added attention to self-care. I have learned that this involves not only sleep and a focus on general physical health but also making plans to relax (or it’s not going to happen).

This is necessary not only because it’s just true — but because no one wants to burn out or blow up at a crucial moment during whatever project it is that you’re working on. That sort of refutes the idea that it’s truly important to you. If it’s important, you have to respect the journey enough to know that the journey can’t continue or “end” if you don’t put your best self forward in the journeying.

So we completed some important late-stage tasks as best we could, and two weekends before our first shoot date we booked a last-minute overnight trip to Long Beach. We informed the rest of our team that we were going to be out of touch for two days and I even asked Rebecca to change my email password so I couldn’t work. She performed the task with glee.

It was an important reset. And when it was over we realized we were probably going to need another one after production. One evening, we discussed visiting Austin, since we had been wanting to visit for a while, and when I came home from work the next day there was a mailer from the 2014 Austin Film Festival waiting for us at home. We took that as a sign and booked some cheap airfare, a reasonably priced room on AirBnB, some film passes for the festival…and that was it. We finished shooting the film and just barely recovered in time (it takes a long time to recover from an indie shoot, especially if you have to get back to a day job when it’s over) to make the trip. We went with simple aims — to enjoy ourselves (in and around the city itself, as well as at the festival) and to milk our less-than-ample hill of “post-first-feature” cash to pay for coffee, bus passes and a meaty mess of delicious street truck grub.

Well, we just returned from our short stay in Austin for #AFF2014 — and I’m so glad we went. Here’s a recap of what we learned and experienced:

Sadly, the tiny train tracks did not lead to a tiny village full of tiny food trucks.
Sadly, the tiny train tracks did not lead to a tiny village full of tiny food trucks.

Austin is great. Coming from New York, we enjoyed being in a city and yet at the same time being able to quickly leave the busyness of downtown in order to swim, drink free beer (on Saturdays), linger outside at a coffee shop, etc. We can do this where we live in Brooklyn, but streets are obviously smaller and more densely packed. And it’s not 90 degrees and dry in October. I also liked that people weren’t scurrying everywhere all the time. Or complaining much. It felt good to move at a more human pace. People in Austin also wave and say “hello” and seem to mean it. It took me a while to get used to that.

Also, as Rebecca observed, it was nice to see so many generally fit people casually walking/biking/jogging/skating around in no particular hurry. Although we wondered how so many Austinites could remain fit with all the delicious food around. Speaking of which…

The food was as good as the girl is adorable.

“We ate a lot of brisket.” That’s a quote from Rebecca. We did indeed eat a lot of brisket. And a decent amount of pulled pork. And pulled chicken. And other forms of meat and sweets. The famed food trucks of Austin did not disappoint. My favorite spots we were able to hit up were Valentina’s (for tacos and BBQ sandwiches) and Lick, where I inhaled a cone of dark chocolate ice cream made with sea salt and olive oil and then strongly considered doing it again immediately. I wish we could have eaten more.

Woah. Thank you.
Team #VideoblogsFilm appreciated the opportunity to meet some of our supporters IN REAL LIFE.

Hugs, IRL. I made it a point ahead of time to try to make tentative meetup plans with a few special Twitter friends (and #VideoblogsFilm supporters!) who were also going to be at #AFF2014. In retrospect, I should have done this with even more people. Maybe next time. Happily, though, Team #VideoblogsFilm was able to finally meet Seed and Spark Super CEO Emily Best (along with S&S Community Manager Nicole Malek), as well as #VideoblogsFilm supporter (and writer) Jenni Prange Boran and #VideoblogsMonologue collaborator Asmara Bhattacharya. This felt special, given that our film is about moving from isolation to community — via reaching out through tech.

Something, Anything. This is a feature, Written and Directed by Paul Harrill, that we made a point to see at the festival. I was excited to discover that it was playing, since I used to frequent Paul’s website on DIY filmmaking years ago, and had also remembered seeing that the project had been selected for IFP’s Narrative Lab, which seems like a very cool program (and a necessary one). The synopsis of the film itself appealed to both of us:

When a tragedy shatters her plans for domestic bliss, a seemingly typical Southern newlywed gradually transforms into a spiritual seeker, quietly threatening the closest relationships around her.

The film didn’t disappoint. It was quietly observed, very well shot, and the performances were all great. More than that, I loved the quiet bravery of the story. It’s not a popular choice to make a small, quiet film about spirituality. Not in the face of a contemporary American cultural environment that more often eschews spirituality in favor of “easier fixes”. Without spoiling anything, it was also wonderful to see a film push against the equally incomplete notions that love can act as a replacement for belief in the self or that life direction is something that can or should be just “stepped into.” I don’t believe either of those things to be true — not now — and it was heartening to watch a story unfold that made me feel less alone in these terms.

I will be reminding everyone again in a few months, but Something, Anything will be opening theatrically in NYC in January. See it then, if you can, or find out how to watch it in whatever other ways it becomes available.

Animation is hugely admirable. Another highlight of our #AFF2014 experience was the Animated Shorts Program. I don’t have much more to say than that. Rebecca and I both were just blown away by how good, and how inventive, and how flawless the animated shorts were — and we tip our hats to the filmmakers and filmmaking teams who make the choice (if it is a choice) to go down that difficult path.

Something that bothered me, though, about the shorts that we saw…was that a lot of them originated from outside the US. That in itself doesn’t bother me, and I don’t mean to suggest that the berths weren’t deserved or that the filmmakers who were accepted to screen shouldn’t be commended (we enjoyed all the films) — but many of the projects seem to have been supported by the governments of their countries of origin. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about (it’s a small sample size, I know), but it made me wonder how much more difficult it must be to create complex animated work independently here in the US, where artists don’t seem to get the sort of institutional support that other countries offer. I’d be interested to hear what others think. Still — the animated shorts slate was full of admirable work that made me feel like a bit of a slacker.

Women in film are arriving. All the Twitter friends Team #VideoblogsFilm met at #AFF2014 were women. The protagonist of Something, Anything (the excellent Ashley Shelton) was a woman. Many of the Writer/Directors of the animated short we saw — women again.

I am well-aware of the problem of equal representation in our industry. But the sense I get, at least from what I have observed in my career to this point — is that change is coming — from the ground up. Maybe that’s not perfect and maybe we still have a long way to go but I don’t think this is an incorrect observation. And it’s good news.

And that’s it. It was great to get away for a few days to relax and recharge. And now, to follow-up on what Rebecca reports below…it’s time to get back to work.

The Grace of The Crowdfunded Indie Film

Lead actor Rebecca De ornelas "records a videoblog".
Lead actor Rebecca De Ornelas “records a videoblog”.

As many of you probably know, we wrapped production on The Videoblogs late last month. Years of general preparation and months of work for this specific production culminated in a few weeks of shooting. Overall, I’m proud and happy to say, things went very well.

Also, some temporary stress-related weight gain aside, I also made it out of the process fairly unscathed (if a bit exhausted). This is good. This was a goal.

I’m almost as happy about how generally smooth it all went as I am with the fact that it happened at all. As promised, I will write more (relatively) soon about the entire experience of making the film, but for the moment I think it’s worthwhile to reflect once again at how grateful we at The Videoblogs feel to be in this position. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but we seem to have squeaked things out by prioritizing what’s important (story, performance, and the health of ourselves and our collaborators) at the expense of, say, a more expensive equipment list or a more elaborate plot structure. In all seriousness, it was a production engineered for and by both its cast and crew…and its audience.

For instance, as an example of this relationship at work…

More than once while shooting The Videoblogs, a cast or a crew member thanked me for something simple like providing a decent meal.

We mostly ate large turkey legs while on set.

First of all, it surprised me greatly to hear that there are still producers and filmmakers out there NOT providing decent meals. “Feeding your team well” is the second most basic rule in filmmaking after “make sure to have a camera”. Not only is it the decent thing to do – it’s just not smart to keep working while anyone (including you) is hungry. Even when pushing to complete a scene. I’m not even going to waste any more time talking about this.

Except to say that I didn’t accept the thanks – not personally. I explicitly made sure to recognize our supporters on Seed and Spark instead.

They (or you, as the case may be) deserve the thanks. And I want to talk for a moment about what that means not only to me personally but on a larger level.

I’d like to put forth the notion that a crowdfunded film isn’t only “cool” and “disruptive” but, also –- graceful.

For me, it felt more invigorating to credit our supporters for the means to make The Videoblogs than it did to accept the thanks myself.

Because the thanks don’t belong to me. They belong to you — to anyone and everyone who has contributed to the film in any way, whether monetarily or by spreading the word. Even by reading this or other posts on my site, you’re helping me and my collaborators to keep moving.

Woah. Thank you.
Woah. Thank you.

Last month, I accomplished one of the major dreams of my life. I successfully shot a feature film that I’m proud to stamp with my name. I don’t even have to edit it to know that. I don’t need any more validation than what we’ve already received by reaching (eclipsing) our goal on Seed and Spark — until it’s time to deliver the film to this same group. I am thrilled to be able to continue my journey as a filmmaker by bringing a cut of The Videoblogs to our supporters as soon as possible.

Beyond ideas of validation, the crowdfunding process is also fun. It’s my favorite sort of fun, too. Mischievous fun. Because, by so many (false, cynical) measures — this should not have worked.

It was not easy shooting a feature film for $20,000. I know people have done it for less. I salute them until my arm falls off, and then I salute them with the other arm until it too falls off.

Still, The Videoblogs is a rouge’s film. I feel fairly confident saying that (whatever it means). We bit, scratched, and clawed to eke it out over the course of a limited number of shooting days. Everyone on the cast and crew, and all of our producers, sacrificed to make it happen. I’m immensely proud to have come out the other side mostly intact. I still can’t feel one foot, sometimes, but as long as it continues to work for now I think I’m good. Right?

But back to the mischievousness. And the grace.

They are one in the same, as far as I’m concerned.

I know the journey isn’t over, by a stretch, but I can’t help it. I feel as if we (all of us) have gotten away with something here.

The Videoblogs isn’t special, by crowdfunding standards. We gave it a try and we thankfully seemed to have pulled it off. But, damn, does it feel good to be doing this in true independent (interdependent) fashion.

Regardless of how the rest of this plays out, I and my team are privileged enough to be making a film — to say it again — for our audience made possible by our audience.

That’s powerful. And beautiful. And it feels right. In today’s difficult indie film environment, it even feels…graceful.

I thank you. Not for the last time.

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Videoblogs Update: A Walk In The Sun

Our three leading ladies for the film.
Our three leading ladies for the film: Masha King (L), Rebecca De Ornelas (C), Phoebe Allegra (R). Photo by Zach Nading.

I just got back from a walk in the sun.

We begin shooting The Videoblogs in two days and I was able to go out and enjoy a walk in the sun.

This is not to say that things haven’t been busy. They have been. It’s been a long few months, and definitely the last two weeks have been a dash.

But we are in very good shape heading into Monday. And this is mostly because of all of you.

Thank you, once again, for your support — both financial and moral. We’re excited to begin this crucial leg of the journey.

I feel very fortunate. If you had told me a few years ago that I was going to have enough peace of mind to take a walk, get a bagel and a coffee, and then take my time on the way home to enjoy and appreciate life — two days before shooting my first feature film — I wouldn’t have believed it.

Has it all gone perfectly? No. But I’m not even sure I had any perfect expectations this time around. All I know is that, soon, Monday is going to come and we’re going to be on set shooting our film. We’ve done as much work as we could do, prior to now, to set things up as best as we could to squeak out something special. We’ll see how it goes.

Again, it couldn’t have happened without all of you. And it definitely couldn’t have happened without the wonderful cast and crew we have on this project.

It’s a privilege to be working for and with you all. More soon.

– Michael