You Just Have to Listen: Actor/Producer/Writer Rebecca De Ornelas

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Full disclosure — I am President of The Rebecca De Ornelas Fan Club. I would probably hold this title even if I weren’t married to her.

But, honestly, this is a full-on, serious, peer-to-peer interview, like all the rest on Coffee with Creatives. If you’ve seen the work Rebecca and I produce together, you know we don’t mess around or play favorites. If anything, we might hold each other to higher standards than others who we don’t know as intimately.

That’s one way in which we grow as creatives, to speak for myself, at least. We choose partners, professional or otherwise, who inspire and challenge us.

In this most recent episode of the podcast, I talk to Rebecca about acting (and producing, and writing) in both artistic and career terms. There’s a reason Rebecca is the first person I go to with any questions about my own work, process, and, often, just about life in general. She knows her shit. Now you can get a peek at the approach and expertise she brings to each of our collaborations, and to her additional work in theater, and as a writer.

Topics we hit upon in our conversation include:

  • The importance of listening, to the process of creating a compelling character
  • Stumbling into acting after years as a dancer
  • Deciding to stop something, even if you’re good at it
  • Undoing prior training that’s no longer serving you
  • Why young actors don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything
  • How meditation has saved her life, and changed her work
  • Why she likes getting older
  • Combatting feelings of inadequacy, and the advice a friend gave her that has helped in this respect

Have at it, kids. If you enjoy what Rebecca has to say, why not check her out as Margaret in The Videoblogs. You can also follow her on Twitter.

As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creatives on iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.

A Pair of Shorts: New Screenings

Well, hey! I’m excited to announce that both The Confession and Multiverse will be screening next week!

The Confession will be playing at IndieWorks in Manhattan, which is awesome because that’s where Rebecca De Ornelas and I met the film’s Director Jaclyn Gramigna, when Multiverse screened there at the same time as her short, Downtown.

This month’s IndieWorks is on March 16th, at Subject NYC. Doors open at 6:30PM and screenings start at 7:30PM.

Director Jaclyn,  Lead Actress and Producer Rebecca, and Lead Actor Jeremy Plyburn and I will all be in attendance. So, if you haven’t seen the film yet, come on down and watch it with a group. If you have seen it, come on down anyway and watch it (and all the other great shorts) with a group.

Multiverse will screen as part of the Cinema Club screening series in Brooklyn, as part of their 50th program, “Handshakes but Headaches”. I’m just guessing, but I think we might be part of the “headaches” portion of the program 🙂

Cinema Club takes place at Videology in Brooklyn, and screenings for this month’s session will start at 8PM on March 17th. Lead Actor and Producer Rebecca and I will both be in attendance.

I really want to show you my shorts. If you like them, you might like The Videoblogs, too.

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The Confession at BAFF’s 2016 Made in New York Filmmakers Showcase

confI’m pleased to announce that The Confession will be screening on February 13th, as part of the Big Apple Film Festival’s 2015 Made in New York Filmmakers Showcase!

We’re in the first block of shorts playing at 11AM at The Producer’s Club Theater, 358 W 44th St, New York, NY.

Director Jaclyn Gramigna will be at the screening, so feel free to say “Hey” to her afterwards if you decide to attend! Tickets will be available beginning Thursday, February 4th, and also at the Producer’s Club box office on the day of the screenings.

Many thanks to the Big Apple Film Festival for screening the film! And thanks again to our supporters on Seed&Spark!

The Confession

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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The Videoblogs Dialogue: Now Live!

When Rebecca and I were in the early stages of planning The Videoblogs, we met at one point with Gary Chou at Orbital in NYC. We’ve come to treat that meeting as a special one, because Gary listened to our plans (which we’ve mostly followed and are still following) but challenged us to see if we couldn’t take them a step further.

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By now, if you’re a reader of this site, you know that we’re making The Videoblogs to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health in America. And while the hope is that the film itself will become a part of that conversation, Gary’s challenge helped us address a lingering feeling that we weren’t quite taking our plan far enough, in terms of creating a project that not only sparked conversation but encouraged an interactivity that more closer mirrored today’s rising tech-enabled general culture — and its positive potential, more than its dangers.

We’re leveraging and addressing, with The Videoblogs itself, new technologies and new technologically-affected ways of living. And yet the overarching thematic message that we’re seeking to put forth with the story, in these terms, is that we can reach out through the screen to connect, not only virtually, but as a gateway to more of the real-life interaction upon which the human spirit fundamentally subsists — even as technology is making the rest of what goes into subsistence easier and more accessible.

In concrete terms, Gary pushed us to consider how we could take our message and apply it to an active, real-life, two-way solution. The idea greatly appealed to me, as I’ve grown increasingly frustrated by the broadcast-only structure of legacy long-form storytelling. And Rebecca took the challenge head-on. After some back and forth with Gary, we started working to plan The Videoblogs Dialogue in parallel with the production and release of the film.

It took some time to get going (we’re bootstrapping indie filmmakers after all!), but now it’s here. And I’m very excited and very proud and thank Gary and Rebecca for their roles in making it a reality.

Special thanks also to Paul Gilmartin, Grace Parra, Ashely Esqueda and Alice Spivak for lending their time to the contest and the cause. Their early commitments to serve on the jury for The Videoblogs Dialogue helped us gain momentum in the early days of planning, and even though it took some time to get the contest together and now launched, we continue to remain grateful for their help.

And of course thanks also to:

  • Project UROK, an official partner in the project, and an organization that does amazing work encouraging people to talk more openly and honestly about mental health
  • Co-sponsor Seed&Spark, a forward-thinking company that helps empower film and media storytellers, and promotes community and interdependence in the independent film industry
  • And co-sponsor Big Vision Empty Wallet, a film and media incubator that encourages and supports filmmakers working in today’s tech-enabled environment and champions diversity in storytelling

More below. But all the information, including how to enter the contest, can be found on the site for the film. I look forward to seeing what entrants submit. Let’s (safely) talk about this stuff.

thevideoblogsposter (1)The Videoblogs Dialogue is a user-generated video contest, in which participants submit their own videoblogs (3 min or less), pertaining to themes of mental health and/or personal struggle. Participants aged 18-24 are eligible to win a $1,000 Cash Prize and Mentorship package, to be put towards the creation of their own short film on mental health. Anyone age 18 and up can enter for the chance to have their videoblog included in the closing credits of The Videoblogs.

We’re running this contest to contribute to a greater dialogue about mental health in America, and to encourage tomorrow’s artists, filmmakers and performers to bravely engage with what have classically been labeled as difficult subjects (depression, anxiety, trauma) with an ultimate focus on hope.


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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!

602066_10100681300095942_1773576913_n (2)Subscribe to my list for advanced (and free!) access to new (creative) content produced by yours truly. I send one email per month (sometimes less).

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!

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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.

Multiverse Returns to Katra Film Series!

I'd like to tell you more about the film, but I'm drawing a blank.
I’d like to tell you more about the film, but I’m drawing a blank.

Rebecca and I are pleased to announce that Multiverse has been passed through to the second round of the 2015 Katra Film Series in NYC.

We’ll be screening the film again, at Katra, on the evening of 7/18. Head on over to Katra’s Facebook page for more info on the films playing and how to attend.

I plan to be there, and Rebecca will be in attendance as well. If you haven’t yet watched our creepy little film on a big screen, with a room full of other people — I recommend swinging by and trying the experience out. It’s uncomfortable! In a revealing way. I think.

Other great reasons for attending include:

  • To support your favorite neighborhood indie filmmakers (we’re now eligible to move on to the final round in January)
  • To watch other great shorts (films, not tiny pants)
  • We can high-five in person, or clink beer bottles, or share some hummus. They have hummus.

Hope to see you there! Let us know here, or on Facebook or Twitter, if you’re coming!

Multiverse at 2015 Katra Film Series

Edit: I forgot to mention that there’s a discount code for tickets. KATRA10.

"Do you know what you want?"
“Do you know what you want?”

Hey, Wonderful People.

Just a quick announcement that Multiverse will be screening again in its native NYC, this time at the Katra Film Series in Manhattan.

Details below! If you live in the city, please come by, say hello to me and Rebecca De Ornelas, and watch a bunch of other curated shorts. There will be drinks.

And there will be a vote at the end of the night. Per Katra’s site:

Each selected work will compete for the audience prize voted by the folks in attendance and the winning film will advance to the 2nd round which takes place in July.

Launched in the Summer of 2012, Katra Film Series screens a selection of quality shorts by emerging and award-winning filmmakers in NYC and provides a great networking platform for industry professionals. In partnership with Everyone Matters and Rhino Films the 2015 Grand Prize Winner will be awarded a one-on-one meeting with acclaimed Producer Stephen Nemeth from the Academy-Award Nominated The Sessions and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

We’d love to see you there! In fact, I’ll bring a few copies of my book as an additional incentive. Say hello, get a free book. Who says I don’t take good care of you?

2015 Katra Film Series – Sat. Feb 7th, 6pm-1030pm

217 Bowery St. between Rivington & Prince St.
New York, NY 10002

  • 2 for 1 house drink specials from 6p-8p
  • $15 advance online ticket sales (includes screenings, Q&A, and afterparty)
  • $20 door price (includes screenings, Q&A, after party)
  • Full dinner menu available

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