Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Okay, so one of my favorite actresses (who also happens to be one of my best friends) was in LA recently working with me on THE CYNICS.  We were brainstorming her character (a wise-cracking, recovering alcoholic bride-to-be) within the treatment and she reminded me about my favorite theatre game in the world.  The “YES! And…” Game. 

The improv game "Yes And" follows a vital rule of improvisational theater: Never deny your fellow actor.

So Actor 1 and Actor 2 are on stage and Actor 1 kicks off the improv with:
“I’m so glad we started this toilet paper company together.”

Actor 2 supports and adds to this idea: “Yes!  And I love that we decided to call it ‘ASSWIPES INC.’”

Actor 1: “Yes!  Everytime someone sees me in the street now when they yell, “’Hey ASSWIPE!’  I know they’re talking to me.” 

And so on. 

It keeps a scene going (Yes! And…) it keeps the energy going, (Yes! And…) it keeps the ideas flowing.  (Yes! And…) It makes me happy. 

I mean, really us writers can be so negative.  Heck us people can be so negative.  Imagine the lost potential if Actor 1 had said, “I’m so glad that we started this toilet paper company together” and Actor 2 had responded, “No we didn’t.”  Game over.

I think all writers should practice the “Yes.  And…” game, even if it’s in their own heads – especially when breaking a story.  It’s perfect for comedy because it helps you top the top. Let’s imagine… your lead character is in an interview with his zipper down (YES!  And…) He shakes his hips to emphasize that how excited he is about the job.  (Yes!  And…) His Superman underoos peek out!

I would imagine that it would work for drama or horror – There’s a killer on the loose. (Yes! And…) She’s is a little girl. (Yes!  And…) She’s a dead little zombie girl!  (Yes! And…) She likes to eat her victims!  See how fun this can be?

Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig playing the
"YES! And..." Game in A Christmas Carol
I propose that this holiday season, everyone tries to play the “Yes! And…” game at least once.  When your wife recommends that you wake up at 5 am to open toys with the kids, try shouting with glee, “Yes! And I’ll put on my Star Wars Christmas in the Stars Christmas record!”  Perhaps she’ll catch the spirit and reward your positivity and energy with her own resounding “Yes!  And I’ll spike our coffees!”

Happy Holidays from THE LAKE EFFECT family to yours.

YES!  And… See you in 2011! 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

#14 Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes

Luna teeny tiny baby booties need replacin'.
It's time to make some moolah.
So, as I may have mentioned, The Lake Effect is looking for a sales agent. In our hot pursuit, I had to get a screener to a company in Santa Monica on Friday.  With no babysitter and no runner, I loaded Luna up and hit the road.  

I buzzed the office from the street and let Luna press the button for the elevator.  I prepared myself for the confused looks from the people working the front desk.  Babies and work places just don’t go together, it seems. I didn't anticipate that the front office of this company would have glass walls, so that when I walked in with Luna on my hip, we had a nice little audience.  

Now, the term “deer in headlights,” is overused... but I would argue it's for good reason – we shot THE LAKE EFFECT in Michigan, where I witnessed a deer in headlights for the first time and they really do just stand there, staring at your approaching headlights with this wide eyed gaze... anyway, in the spirit of Michigan I think it’s appropriate to use the overused metaphor here.   The office workers just gaped at us like deer in headlights.  (A side note to this side note, when I arrived in South Haven after a three hour car ride from Detroit, I commented on the high number of dead deer on the highway.  Our intern Liz, smiled and said, “Oh, those are our welcome signs.”  How I miss our smart-mouthed Michigan interns.  Especially when I have to be my own runner.)  

Right, so I walk into the office with Luna on my hip and the whole office just stops and stares at us like (all together now) deer in headlights. 

I smile and hand the manila envelope over to the guy at the front desk.  “Hi, I have a drop off for Joe Sales Agent.”


I wonder if they think I'm a runner and doing some sort of take the kid to work day.  I check in with Luna, who is returning the office workers’ wide eyed stares. “Say buh-bye.”


And then the stunned deers’ faces thaw out into awed smiles.  They are still cooing, give cutesy waves as we leave.  

I let Luna walk down the hallway holding my finger and there's just something about how it's all working out that makes me feel so peaceful.  Like whatever this sales agent says or whatever happens with the movie is exactly what should happen.  

After promising Luna that she can press the elevator button, I say, “You know what, Luna?  This right here is one of my very best moments ever.”  

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

#13 Write the Trailer

So after a fun family-filled holiday weekend, I am always raring to get back to work and get pages out.  Of course, there are lots of steps that need to happen before I get pages out – brainstorming, character development, treatments… I thought I would share one of my favorite writing exercises with you all. 

Basically, I write the trailer for the movie I haven’t yet completed the script for.  For me, as a director/writer - I dream visually, so it helps to do this before I’ve finished all my scene breakdowns and character development.   If I can create poignant glimpses into the story for a two minute teaser, it helps me stay on point through the rest of the work.   It helps me visualize what Act Two is all about.  It’s also a great reminder that (duh) the film has to be compelling: dynamic in the individual moments as well as in the big picture. 

I actually pulled out the trailer script to THE LAKE EFFECT when we were cutting the trailer after the movie was finished to remind myself what I originally felt were the trailer-worthy moments in the film – what would bring people into a theatre?

Anyway, here’s a rough trailer script for the CYNICS.  Hope you enjoy it!  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


T-minus two days to GOBBLE GOBBLE!  

This year, my husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving, which means we’ve spent a fortune at Trader Joe’s, we have a turkey bathing in brine in our teeny fridge and I have to clean the house…  Giving thanks is a lot of work. 

It’s true, isn’t it?  Giving thanks is a lot of work.  It’s so much easier to complain!  (And often funnier.  See Seinfeld.)  We’re champs at seeing what’s missing from our lives, seeing the lack – whether it be time or money or love or a flat screen HDTV (Now you know what to get me for Christmas).
We filmmakers are especially guilty of this. We kvetch that there’s not enough time or money, not enough crew, not enough light…  While I was making the most money I ever made as a screenwriter, I opined the lack of creative control, the lack of respect, the lack of time to focus on my other projects.  
Appreciating the good stuff is just… harder.  For some reason, it takes a concerted effort to see what is right in front of us. 

I love Thanksgiving (minus it’s perverted neighbor Black Friday – sometimes I swear we’re living in some dystopian future out of a Margaret Atwood novel).   But I digress (shocker); in the spirit of the holiday, I’m cultivating an attitude of gratitude, focusing on the abundance instead of the lack.  There’s so much to be thankful for!  (I just burst into Dr. Suess book writing – Eye Book, anyone?  “So many things!  Like rain and pie and airplanes way up in the sky!”)

Beyond the obvious: I have a roof over my head, a devoted husband, a beautiful child, a loving family, and the best friends… I am thanking my lucky stars that Producer Jennifer Westin gave me the chance to make The Lake Effect.  I’m grateful for the cast and crew who gave their talents and tireless efforts to put the story on the screen.  I’m grateful for the family and friends who enabled me (as a new mom) to get the film through post and out to festivals.  I’m grateful for the awesome responses we’ve received from audiences…

The list is endless: I’m not making porno (nothing wrong with porno, just glad I’m not making it), I’m not pregnant (Again, nothing wrong with being pregnant, just not ready for #2 yet.), and you are reading this right now… thanks, you! 

Hope you’re inspired to see the good stuff this Thanksgiving weekend... CHEERS! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BLOG #11 The On-line Debut of my (old but so good) short film SMACKERS!

Pucker up, people.  It's Smackers.
So my bigtime Producer just emailed me reminding me that that I have a blog deadline looming and although she was aware that this blog would be dedicated to the online premiere of my short film SMACKERS, she kindly suggested that maybe I could mention some topics that are trending to move my blog up up up on the search engines and out of the small circle of my friends who are kind enough to read it.  

I thought, "Sure.  No problem.  I'm all about trending.  Trending and transmedia and social networking.  Look out future, here comes a girl who wore a rainbow belt with a Smurfette buckle halfway through the eighties."

I figured I could throw some casual references to current events and/or popular people into today's blog and reach millions.  Easy. Peazy. Then I googled "trending." 

Here's Google's list of what's trending at 8:52 on Monday November 14th.   

Steve Smith
Niciolas Cage
Ravens vs Falcons
Latin Grammy
Android Gingerbread
Los 4.2 release

Effing Garfleid?  WHAT?!  No Thanksgiving?  No Harry Potter?  Maybe I don't understand what trending is.  I admit it - I barely have time to brush my teeth let alone my hair.  I have a precious hour and a half to write during naps and then another hour after bedtime IF I skip washing the dishes.  I'm a mom!  Keeping up with a fifteen month old who can stand on chairs and unpack a toy box in under 10 seconds is donkey bonkers.   By the way, all you mom bloggers who seem to have time to make sugar free organic carrot cupcakes with bunny ears and then write about it, what are you snorting??? 

I don't even have time to look all the trending things up to find out WHY they're trending.  
So I ask you, readers:  Is Steven Smith a football player? Did Nick Cage get arrested?  What kind of Cruise is in the news - Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruise, Booze Cruise?  I was so curious about Adroid Gingerbread (a new edible robot perhaps?)  that I learned we'll soon be using our phones to pay for things - Not sure yet if it lets you pay with rollover minutes. 

Okay - so this brings me to the long overdue reason for this post.... sharing SMACKERS - the first short I ever wrote and directed.  It enjoyed a very long festival run back before VIRAL had anything to do with the internets... but it is super duper viral.  

Clocking in at a mere minute and a half, Smackers parables the downfall of Junior High royalty.  Hopefully, it'll give you a good quick laugh at your desk this morning.  

PS: If you like Smackers, please PASS IT ON.  Share it.  Re-post it, blog it, tweet it, like it, digg it, book its face.  

My dream is that Smackers is seen by more people on-line than it ever was in a theatre and then it can show up on a trending list and confuse the hell out of someone else. :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


So this week, I was given a powerful reminder of how affecting film can be and also how very talented
and amazing my friends are.

Last week, my friend Zack Mathers created a video of his sister shaving his mom’s head.  Zack’s mom Rene is fighting cancer.  Even the rough cut of this video had me racing to find the phone in tears to call Zack to tell him how beautiful it was – how touching and funny and inspiring… how he had captured his family at a crossroads, facing their battles with laughter and love… and I was desperate to see and hug them all.   My words can’t compare to the actual work, so please take a second to check it out.

Mom's New Haircut from Frequent Flyer Productions on Vimeo.

Then on Saturday, my friend Lynette Howell had the LA premiere of her Oscar-buzzed-about film Blue Valentine and I was proud as punch to be there cheering her on from the red carpet to the after party.  I can say again, even the rough cut of this film was a marvel – but now that I’ve seen the big beautiful final version flickering up on the screen at Grauman’s, I promise that it is worth all the buzz and it is worth all the many many years she fought to get it made.  (A side note: The MPAA has given this intimate portrayal of a marriage falling apart an NC 17 rating; meanwhile, the most violent films are given PG-13 ratings.  Our American hang-ups about sex and our comfort with violence is another blog altogether, so I’ll just quote Amy Poehler and say to the MPAA, “Really?!”)

Here’s the link to the Blue Valentine trailer on Itunes.

Finally, last week, my phenomenal cinematographer husband Brett Juskalian was in Vietnam shooting a music video for a Vietnamese boy band.  He sent me a clip of the shoot on a night that I was feeling really low because he knows that I am a complete freak for dance videos, dance movies.  I had a copy of Girls Just Want to Have Fun on VHS that I watched so much, the tape finally snapped sometime in the late nineties.  Anyway, watching this Vietnemese boy band do a hip hop dance off with girls from the future in front of their cryogenic time machines was AWESOME. Film doesn't have to change the world to change your world if just for a couple of hours or a moment.
Here's the vid:

If that doesn't work, here's the link to it (my lack of tech savvy will not stop this blog from being posted on time!) 

So basically what I’m saying is I have really cool friends (and an extra super cool hubby).  

No, that’s not what I’m saying.  I mean, yes they are cool but more importantly, these people (and so many more of the ridiculously talented people in my world) remind me what this funny little thing called cinema is capable of. Whenever I’m sitting at my desk scribbling away through a nap time and feeling thoroughly disconnected from the Universe, these people and their greatness remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing. They inspire me to be my best self and my best artist.

I hope to reach all of you with more of the work that they helped inspire soon.

Maybe next week, we’ll do a revival of some of my old short films while we’re waiting for The Lake Effect to bubble to the surface.  

Stay tuned!  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blog #9 Guest Blog from Producer Jennifer Westin

Hi all, in my next guest blog I promise to back track and give a bit of insight into the producer’s story behind The Lake Effect but this entry will be a bit of a tangent. Hope you’ll come along.

Today I’ve been wondering if going into film producing was the wrong thing to do with my life. 

Before we get all Xanax, let me explain:  today is Election Day here in the States and while the country debates the future of our education and health care systems I’m looking at examples of DVD box cover art.  I’m a fairly political person, or at least I care a lot about the social and financial challenges we face. Which every election cycle makes me ask the question—should I be doing something more…Significant with my life?

I bat around the idea of becoming an errand girl for the Sierra Club or delivering water for Doctors Without Borders in Haiti.  But then I realize I’ve come to a place where my skill set is pretty specific.  I don’t know anything about water safety or medicine or saving jellyfish (other than I support all those things).

And then I remember the other side of the coin—art is significant.  True, it’s not as necessary as clean water, but historically once a society has got the basics under control, they start creating art.  They need the water to live, but they live for the art.  Yes the world would have survived without 500 Days of Summer, but it was very funny and sweet.  Which leads to the two great potentials of Movies as Art: entertainment and social commentary (best done together!).  When times are tough, people need diversions. You get great 1930’s comedies like Bringing Up Baby and great 2009 comedies like The Proposal.  The incredible reach of cinema makes it a powerful instrument.

And it is exactly that reach that gives social commentary films such power.  There’s nothing quite like a great film made at just the right time to kick off a necessary society-wide discussion.  And so in honor of Election Day (and so I don’t have to change career paths) I give you:

Jennifer Westin’s list of the 10 Best Social Commentary Movies of All (my life) Time.

Philadelphia—quintessential Hollywood at its best. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington confront homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic.  With stars that big, the whole of America had to pay attention.

Do the Right Thing—race relations in the troubled 80’s in Brooklyn. Spike Lee depicts how things can spiral out of control on one hot day.

Three Kings—my generation’s war movie. Ironic, sad, funny, a little sexy, David O. Russell picks apart the first Gulf War.

District 9—sci-fi parable with an anti-apartheid message in last year’s wonderfully inventive South African indie.

Heathers—classic critique of 80’s Me Generation values, Shannon Doherty + Christian Slater + Winona Ryder = a wicked dark comedy

Boys Don’t Cry—Kimberly Peirce’s harrowing drama tells a real-life story to spark empathy for its tragic subject and gender identity issues.

WALL.E—Pixar’s brilliant dystopian children’s story has dark undercurrents for the parents.

Boyz in the Hood—stark tale of an urban ghetto in LA, John Singleton’s first feature shed light on how tough it was.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner—not made in my lifetime but remade in my lifetime (Ashton Kutcher & Bernie Mac anyone?) so this classic about liberals confronting their hidden racism slips in.

Safe—one of my personal absolute favorites, Todd Haynes’ movie starring Julianne Moore as a detached housewife with mysterious ailments touches on Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and loads of feminist theory.

Notes on the list:
-Of My Lifetime:  Arbitrary? Perhaps but if I didn’t limit the possibilities somehow there’s no way I could choose just 10.  Plus I’m partial to my generation and didn’t want to make an All Vietnam War movies list.
-I didn’t include any movies based on novels because someone would surely write “Hey, that’s based on a novel” in the comments section.  But that did knock off a lot of great ones (Blade Runner, The Hours, Children of Men)
-I didn’t include any documentaries because they are so often social commentaries that they’d take over the list.
-I didn’t include TV because it’s outside the scope of this blog (until we run out of movie stuff to talk about).
-I’m a child of the 80’s, sue me.

Final Disclaimer: There are plenty of great ones that I haven’t seen or am forgetting or that I personally just don’t like. Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BLOG #8 “Hurry Up and Wait”

Okay, so this is the portion of our program where we wait.   Just like in production where we hustle through rehearsal and then wait for the lighting crew to get the set pretty, or in post where we hustle through the edit to wait for the clip to render (I hate that spinning beachball soooo much)…
We have hustled to get the movie done and into the hands of some sales agents… and now we wait to hear back and see if we can marry up with the right company to sell this film. 

So what’s a filmmaker to do in these oh-so empty moments, when the film is out of your hands?   I spend time with my family and friends, I catch up on the news, I fill out my absentee voter form (VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!) and I watch movies and tv shows that I’ve neglected…  and then I come into my messy office and I look up at my white board – which is covered with a slate of projects.  If those projects are ever going to get as far as The Lake Effect has, I’ve got to get a move on.

Here’s the breakdown:

I’m excited to say that Jennifer Westin and I have had so much fun working on TLE together that we’re teaming up on a second project, (which, really, I should be writing instead of blogging about). It’s still in treatment form but it’s shaping up to be a fun and funny ensemble comedy about love and friendship.  It’s loosely based on my childhood friends, actually – a group of complete assholes, whom I love dearly.

This one’s a TV pilot that I’m penning with my very dear friend and amazing comedy writer Cindy McCreery.   Seriously, that girl funny.  Can’t tell you much about that one yet except that it’s set on the south shore of Long Island where I grew up and it’s cast of characters include some colorful Italian Americans that may be inspired by my family.   (Are we seeing a pattern here of me raping my real life for content?  Beware ye close to me, lest you get immortalized…)

Prude is actually a script of Cindy’s that she’s considering letting me direct.  It’s a very funny take on high school sexuality – sort of like a female American Pie.  Genius.

This one’s simmering on the back burners.  It’s about a documentarian documenting her dysfunctional love life.   I have toyed with the idea of doing this as a cumulative webisode series, playing the documentarian and shooting half the movie on my webcam.   Maybe the back burner is the wrong place for this one…

Ah, Tits.  This is an oldie but a goodie.  It’s a dramedy about a typical teenage girl struggling to grow up in a near-perfect suburban world when she realizes that only one of her boobs is growing.  This film has had actors and financing come and go – it only needs like a half a million dollars and a name actor to be the best thing ever.  

And last but not least… UNTITLED TV SPEC
I’m working on a Modern Family (I know, I know, “Everyone’s doing it.”)  But I straight up love that show.   I’m convinced that the creators snuck into our house and took notes on my husband while crafting the character of Phil.   Anyway, finding a home on a TV staff would be very cool.  There’s so much amazing creative work going on in TV right now, it’s a great place to work on character driven stuff, and you know that what you’re writing will actually be seen!  What more can you ask for? Plus, baby needs a new pair of shoes and I hear TV jobs come with these things called paychecks. 
So what’s the trick to maintaining sanity while waiting to hear back from that agent/ executive/ sales company…? Keep on keeping on. Attack that to do list with your whole heart. Dive into that new project head first. Also, it doesn’t hurt to listen to McHammer radio on Pandora.  Nothing inspires me to “move it move it” like early nineties hip hop.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BLOG #7: Filmmaking and Sex… a metaphor.

Alright, it’s drizzling in LA.  It’s been overcast for an hour and (along with the rest of the city) my seasonal-affective-disorder is kicking in. 

In my cynical state, I thought I would share a little metaphor that I was discussing with some filmmakers at an artists’ club in SoHo in the wee hours. 

What is the value of niche/art film if no one ever sees it?  If you’re making obscure little indie films that no one ever sees but which you really enjoy, are you really just doing it for your own pleasure?  And isn’t that kind of like masturbation? Moreover, if art film is masturbation, then that would make their opposite, studio tent pole event movies… prostitution?  
Picasso's Les Mademoiselles d' Avignon
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not placing judgement on what kind of films people choose to work on.   I have friends who write tent poles and friends who make movies for an audience of one… and I’m mighty proud of all of them actually.  Hell, I’m proud of anyone who gets any sort of movie made.  Lord knows it ain’t easy.

I’m just trying to figure out what the balance is, if indeed there is a balance.  Maybe there’s a different answer for everyone.  Film is art, film is commerce.  There is a large gray area between those extremes and I think that they have a lot to learn from each other.  

The studios spend lots of time and market research developing films in the hopes of  reaching as large an audience as possible.  Films for everyone - it sounds like the perfect marriage between communism and capitalism – ideally hit all four quadrants of viewers: men and women, young and old.  I would argue that these films are less about individual expression and more about their ability to please, their broad appeal.  Unless of course they are made by Pixar.  Talk about balance.  They’ve managed to support artistic vision and reach the masses.  Bravo, Pixar.

Alright, so that’s the model of successful balance on the top tier – what about for us indie folk? How do you create film that pushes the limits and is a true creative expression of your yearning little artistic soul and ensure that lots of people are going to want to sit in the seats munching popcorn for two hours of it? We can’t hire Tom Hanks (or let’s face it, even get a read from his agent’s assistant).  As an independent filmmaker, how do you balance?

Finding the balance as an indie filmmaker -- using cinema as a tool for artistic expression while also getting people to actually SEE the films that I am pouring my heart and soul into… that’s the goal.  So, maybe there is compromise on the road to independent distribution.  What that is, I have no idea.  I get the sense that I’m opening a can of worms here… maybe I’m just trying to incite someone to comment on this blog!!!!  I guess really, I’m hoping that  somewhere in the large gray area between masturbation and prostitution is… making love.   



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BLOG #6 RAIN(DANCE) OR SHINE - Raindance Film Fest Wrap Up!

It is an 
understatement to say that Raindance is a really cool festival.  Stridently independent, they eschew politics to program great work, whether or not it has names or glory attached.  Everything I saw was unique, entertaining, and engaging.
where the magic happens.
God, I love going to the movies.   The dark theatre, the cushy seats, the escapism found halfway through a bucket of popcorn.  I know we’re all moving toward watching cinema on our Iphones (not that I’m knocking my Iphone – I heart my Iphone) but really, an image the size of a playing card cannot compare to the Calgon-take-me-away experience of 4k projection, stadium seating and surround sound.  But I digress… what I want to say is that watching The Lake Effect projected in all it’s glory in a first class theatre… ruled.

Sandwiched between Resident Evil and
The Other Guys.  Not bad company. 
All my fears (no audience, technically difficulties, tomato throwing) were allayed.   There was indeed, a crowd. The lobby was packed when we arrived twenty minutes before our screening and the 200 seat theatre felt full enough – could’ve been the opening weekend of anything (except maybe Harry Potter… let’s be real).  Jennifer and I hid in the back row as the lights went down and the movie came up… and then (thank god) the audience laughed, they gasped, they wiped tears.  They got it.  

Jennifer said that she spent the entire movie watching the audience but I somehow managed to forget to worry about what they might be thinking and just experience the film.   It was the first time I’d seen it look and sound how it was supposed to and it was beautiful.   Not just the technical stuff but the film.  I really felt that the film itself was beautiful.  After so much work and some uncertainty about what I’ve invested two years of my life in, this night, this festival gave me a chance to fall back in love with my film.   The whole point is to reach people, right?  To affect an audience, to share human experience.  This night was just that. 
Winners of the London Mums
TLE ticket giveaway!
Okay, so here’s the thing, I’m home now – back in LA.   I’m still riding the high of that night, the excitement, the generous compliments from the crowd – the fact that several older British gentlemen were in tears… but I’m not sure what’s next.  I know a lot of people stateside are anxious to finally see what this is all about.  All four of you reading this are thinking “I want to see what made the older British gentlemen cry!”  We don’t have any festivals or screenings lined up quite yet but believe me we’re working on it.  I’m committed to carving out a real strong life for this film even if indie film is collectively on the operating table. Which is to say, if you have the inclination to see The Lake Effect, you will be able to see The Lake Effect.

At the very least, it will be Jennifer and I on the road in a beat up van, screening the film for our fans across the country.  Film tour, anyone?  

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blog #5 Nerves and Things

Tonight's the big night!  

Tonight, we project our nicest HDCam copy of The Lake Effect to the British public… I’m suddenly struck with the few images I’ve seen of British Parliament (Verbal assaults from a flurry of white wigs, or is it whigs?) American indies have a tough time here, so I hear. 

I'm a bit... nervous.  Maybe it’s the bustling metropolis that’s right outside the theatre doors.  Or maybe it’s because the line-up at Raindance has been so impressive or because the programmers and staff are so incredibly cool...  

I shouldn’t be nervous.  We have at least a dozen friends coming to cheer us on (thank you thank you thank you), not to mention an entire fan club for our British actress Tara Summers (who does a flawless American accent as Natalie, btw).  We’re having a pre-party and an after party and it’s going to be all good.  Right?

To keep my mind off of it, let’s change the subject.  Let’s talk about…

Things you might not know about what it’s like to be a filmmaker on the indie festival circuit:
  • You get very close to your producer.  For example, Jenn and I are sharing a double bed in a flat in Pimlico. 
  • You try to stay under budget.  For breakfast this morning, Jenn and I ate oatmeal packets that I brought from the hotel we stayed at in Colorado.  No joke. 
  • You walk a lot.  Cobblestone streets plus boots with heels = sore calves.
  • You become a pack mule.  Laptop, umbrella, big posters, small posters, postcards, water, emergency granola bar (chalk that up to the mom in me). 
  • You stay up very late.  Our first day in, Jenn and I arrived at 6 AM.  20 hours later, with the Spice Girls pumping at the very divey, very awesome Phoenix Club in Soho, we called it a night.
  • You, for a short while, are reminded that you are an artist, that you have a community, and that what you are doing is totally, totally worth it. 

(An addendum:  If you haven’t seen it yet, read the “Mompreneur” article that the popular British parenting site London Mums wrote about me! http://www.londonmums.org.uk/busmums/busmums.html  A big thanks to Monica Costa!)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Cooler than a laser light show... 

Ah, sweet recovery from a weekend of high altitude celebration in Boulder!  What a great town and a cool venue to have our very first public screening in…  If you’ve never had your movie projected in a planetarium, I highly recommend it.

I want to give a big thank you to those of you who rallied to come to our 9:30 pm screening on a Sunday night.  Especially those of you who laughed and cried and whooped and hollered.  The highlights of the weekend included: Paul Larson’s beautiful set at our awesome pre-screening party, Luna clapping happily for all the winners at the awards dinner, and a comment during the Q and A by a mid-wife in the audience who remarked how well she thought the way the birth was represented…  Whew – if someone who has witnessed hundreds of births thinks I got it right, I’m happy.

Hello, Apollo Cinema.
So I’ve got three HOT days in LA to prep before Jennifer and I jet off to London for Raindance. Thank goodness we have a lot of local friends who are drumming up support as well as British Moms (er, Mums) who are championing TLE on their blogs/sites (check out: Babes About Town, London Mums) Now that I think about it, we should really host a party out there…

In between TLE work I am spending quality time with the wee one and prepping a TV movie pitch for ABC Family for Thursday… which is exercising totally different muscles (at least I’m exercising something.  I haven’t been to the gym since July - oye).  

Our little Superhero.
Speaking of ABC – our lovely lead actress, Kay Panabaker’s AWESOME new show NO ORDINARY FAMILY premieres TONIGHT on ABC at 8/7central!  I’ve seen the pilot and I assure you that this is a show worth watching – it’s great and Kay is great in it.  That girl’s gonna be a big star - our little TLE family couldn’t be prouder. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I should be on pins and needles, counting down the days until our premiere at Moondance (plug: Sunday the 26th at 9:30 pm – click here for details).  Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet.  Or maybe I’m just too busy!   Yesterday, I was chasing after a very mobile one-year old who was running around the house wielding our newly printed postcards cooing, “Ross! Ross!”
Luna is a big fan of
actor Ross Partridge.
I am actually scribbling all this furiously before naptime ends - the MacGruber-like pressure is on… the seconds ticking down… Luna will wake in 4-3-2… hand me the chewing gum!!!

The week before a fest is like mini-pre-production.  We’re hustling to fill a 250 seat planetarium and to get some reviewers to show up (C’mon reviewers, if you’re reading this: SHOW UP!).  We’ve launched TLE’s website and posted our trailer (hopefully if you’re reading this, you’ve seen it, liked it, and shared it!). We’ve teamed up with Real Baby, a store in Denver and Boulder to do a ticket giveaway.  We’ve emailed newspapers, radio stations, and bloggers and we’re starting to line up interviews… Yesterday, Jennifer unveiled our suh-weet posters – I’m planning on wallpapering my house with all 500 of them (yes, that’s right.  We printed 500 posters– we’re nothing if not ambitious.  PS: anyone wanna buy a poster?).

Truth be told, this is the easy part – festivals are (at their best) celebrations of cinema.  I’m excited to meet the other filmmakers and see their films (especially the controversial POPE JOAN with John Goodman).   We have lots of cast and crew flying out for the screening and the post-awards-ceremony-pre-screening par-te at the Boulder Draft House!  The film’s very talented composer Paul Larson of THE MINOR CANON, will be playing a set of songs from the film and our trailer will be screening on 8 flat screen TVs around the bar.  We’ll have Lake Effect drink specials, CDs of the score and copies of our poster for sale… like I said, festivals are celebrations!  And of course, there’s the screening and the Q & A…

I’m not always a fan of watching my work with an audience – it’s like hearing your own voice recorded – you’re never sure it quite sounds like you.   And then you have to get up and talk about your work – which is a bit redundant, like an addendum to the film.  I’d rather sit behind a two-way mirror and eavesdrop as the audience talks amongst themselves…  that’s assuming that there is, in fact, an audience and that they like it. 

Ah, there they are… the pins and needles... and uhp - there's the baby calling.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

#2 Down to the Wire

Jennifer Westin, workin' it.
I’m sitting next Producer Jennifer Westin, who is right now investigating the latest UPS drop off time and the closest drop off location to our tape house, where The Lake Effect is gettin’ laid down.   

We’re a week late on our deadline to get the movie to The Raindance Film Festival in London and we’re only two weeks out from our screening at Moondance.  The good news is that the film is FINISHED.  It is DONE DONE DONE and we will get it to the church on time. 

The Lake Effect has been gestating on 10 Mac computers, 6 hard-drives, and 5 monitors… and after a lengthy Labor Day spent attempting to solve our credit crisis, we got our ducks in a row, and it was done… which was weird.  It was done. 

A lot of filmmakers experience depression after the completion of a film.  I specifically remember a number of filmmakers crying to our academic advisor in the aftermath of the mad rush to finish our student films at UCSB...  (I may or may not have been one of them).  Honestly, it’s like postpartum depression: all that anticipation, all that sleep deprivation… minus the hormones.  There’s no more passion and potential – just the reality.  For the record, when Luna was born I was on cloud nine for months – I was all glowy and gushing constantly, I had (have) such a huge crush on her. 

Truth be told, I’m not experiencing that postpartum thing at all now.  I won’t lie.  I’m exhausted… but I’m too busy to think about this as over!   The end of the post-production process is really just the beginning of the life of this little movie… and I’m very very excited to see what it grows up to be.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

blog #1: OMG, I have a Mom Blog.

It’s currently 2:20 am on Labor Day and I am sitting on the floor of a home office in the San Fernando valley while a friend/colleague tries to figure out why Final Cut/Motion isn’t making our credit roll nice and clean and professional.   The credit roll is one of those things that seems so easy – it’s the earliest form of animation on a movie  - they used to roll a sheet of paper by the camera… I’m tempted to try that now.  Picture me, with a sharpie, a paper towel roll, and my iphone, making movie magic in the kitchen.  If this doesn’t work by 4 am… it’s happening.

This has been a strange pattern on this movie – the easy things have turned into behemoth and troublesome tasks while the hard things have often slipped right into place, eg.: convincing my producer that she should take this journey with me, getting an amazing cast, shooting without going into labor.  I’ll admit that at times I’ve been extraordinarily frustrated by our lack of money and resources on this shoestring budget.  It’s not easy to work so hard for so long without a pay-off but mostly I’ve been stoked that we managed to make this movie.  Totally stoked and enjoying the entire crazy process – even when our movie was a homeless little hard drive going from computer to computer, even when I spent the first four hours of my first mother’s day working on our sound mix, even when we had to re-color time the movie three times.   Thank god Jenn (the producer extraordinaire on the film) is so positive… and such a powerhouse.  She moves mountains (or gets someone to do it for her) giggling the whole time, “It wouldn’t be The Lake Effect if it was easy!!”
Poster by: Nick Tamburri
As you may or may not know (I’m still wondering if only my mom – or even my mom - will read this fine blog I’m creating) I was eight months pregnant when we shot The Lake Effect.  The entire impetus for shooting this film came because I was pregnant, I was assessing my life, I was scared that I had nothing to show for the ten years I had angled to be a director, nothing to show my daughter when she came… and I got an email from a producer looking for a project.  A lot of people thought I was crazy to take on such an immense project while pregnant but I did it for her, for my daughter – to show her what was possible, to prove that hard work pays off, to let her know what she’s made of.  

We literally planned our production in reverse from my due date, setting our wrap day just days before the last day I would be allowed to fly.   It was down to the wire -- My water broke 12 hours after we wrapped a pick-up shoot in Hollywood...



That was 13 months ago.  Nothing makes time fly like having a baby or shooting a film.  Honestly, making a movie and having a baby are a lot alike: It’s a lot of waiting, a lot of pushing, and once you get it out in the world, you just hope that people are nice to it.