Tuesday, March 29, 2011


A quick recap of our biggest screening yet. 

So last Wednesday, the Phoenix Film Festival was kind enough to fly me out for a preview screening of THE LAKE EFFECT for the Phoenix Film Society. (Tomorrow, I will be flying out again for three more screenings for the actual festival which you can book tickets for HERE).   Angelinos, I’m not kidding – drive out!  We have a screening Saturday night at 8 pm!  The Cinematographer and I will be in attendance!!!

I didn’t know what to expect in Phoenix.  But when I arrived at the airport, there was a driver and that was nice.  And Jason Carney, the lovely Director of the festival took me to happy hour with some of the festival staff and that was great, though small… I thought, cool – met some nice people and we’ll have a small screening – not like I had an opportunity to advertise out here…

But then we headed over to the Harkin’s Multiplex...
Phoenix Film Fest's
suhweet venue
...where a huge banner advertizing the Phoenix Film Festival draped down the three-story glass window front… the place was BIG.  HUGE.  Still, I figured – maybe they have a tiny theatre they’ve reserved for us somewhere in the back…

But no.  The theatre was… a real theatre.  Stadium seating.  Like the Grove.  Big big.  And it was packed.  With strangers.  

my public. (ha!) 
All a director can ask for is a full theatre.  And on this night, I had it.  Bill Goodykoontz, the film reviewer for the Arizona Republic was kind enough to introduce me (this was my first brush with a film reviewer – which made me nervous – but thank god Bill had viewed and loved the film).  

me and Bill G.
I don’t know if people know this but usually during screenings like this, even if the director or cast is in attendance, they don’t stay and watch the film.  They go to dinner. 

So after we introduced the film, we went to dinner. 

Afterwards, Bill moderated the Q and A.  And much to my surprise, people stayed – they commented, they had great questions. The most difficult one by far was from Bill himself.  He said, “Is it hard for you to know that you’ve made this great thing and that it’s not getting out there?”

Honestly, in that moment, standing in such a big theatre I kind of felt like saying, two things: 1) I made something great?  You think so?  Thank you!  ...and 2) “What do you mean?  It’s out there!  It’s here, isn’t it?”   

I answered that we our domestic producer’s rep is confident that we’ll find a distributor soon and that we’re literally dotting the i's on our deal with a soon-to-be named international sales agent so the film should be released later this year…

But Bill’s question resonated on a much deeper level and deserved a truer answer. 

The real answer is:  Oh god yes, it’s so hard!  So hard that we haven’t had an LA screening!  My family, my friends, my crew… no one has seen this movie yet!  And even though I am moving on and working on other things – I feel like this baby is not yet born.  It’s so hard that we aren’t in theatres, on air, on the internet… out there.  Yes yes yes. It’s hard.


I’m off to Phoenix again tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to our three screenings over the weekend… because even if it’s just in small chunks… we're getting it out there.  AND – here’s the real news:   

We’re planning screenings for NY, LA, and the Midwest. 


Monday, March 21, 2011

Travel, An Artist's Best Friend.

So this morning, I am blogging from a toasty fire-lit cabin in freezing, snowy, windy, gorgeous Mammoth, California.

Snow snack.
I spent the past two days traipsing through the 100 inches of snowfall with my baby in her (ridiculously adorable) marshmallow snow suit and snowboarding (read: slipping and sliding and huffing and puffing and falling a lot) down the Sesame Street Trail at Mammoth Mountain with my husband and sister in law, Rachel.  Half-time included hot chocolate at the lodge, after which we attempted an intermediate slope and then scurried back to where we were more comfortable... Sesame Street.  Ah, the irony.

This trip almost didn't happen.   Between writing and the baby and writing and the baby, it seems like it is never a good time to take a few days off.  Plus, I have deadlines, dinners, looming assignments... How can I afford time to unwind when I barely have time to get wound up?   

The truth is that escaping LA is good for me and it's great for my writing. (Side note: being "an artist" is a great excuse for so many things -- Brett: "Tara, you're so messy!"  Tara: "Honey, I'm an aaartist." 

But seriously, some of my best writing has been done in the strangest places: I re-wrote the entire third act of COUGARS on a beach in Thailand.  I finished the first draft of COVER YOUR ASSETS in a bizarely decorated apartment in Beijing.  I'm hoping that next week while in Phoenix for THE LAKE EFFECT's Phoenix Film Festival press screening (PLUG!), I'll finish my ever evolving treatment on THE CYNICS. I can not understate the importance of getting out of the city once in a while.  Not only is it good to re-charge your little Energizer bunny battery but escaping your normal surrounds and changing your scenery forces you into the moment, which as an artist is... key.  

On the road.  Seriously, we drove here.
So, this weekend in Mammoth, I am convening with these things called weather and nature... "the elements."  We don't really have these things back in LA, which most of us Angelinos justifiably cite as one of our finest features but I must say, I think "the elements" are good for you (in small, weekend-long doses).  They're humbling.  You have no choice but to keep it simple when you're confronted with an enormous gust of blowing snow (anyone else ever notice how porno sounding weather lingo can be?  If not, click here.)   The enormity of the weather here is a reminder to me that the world is big and that I am small and that is a relief.   Witnessing the intensity of these "elements" first hand also reminds me why big SUVs exist and why people the world over don't drive Priuses.  (Prii?  What's the plural of Prius?  If you comment with the answer, I'll send you a prize.)  

Really, though, getting out of your comfort zone just shakes you awake a little bit.  When you're surrounded by brand new stimuli, it makes your brain engage in a way it just doesn't do when it's sitting at your same old desk, staring at your framed THE LAKE EFFECT film poster (Send me $20 plus shipping and handling and you can have your own stunning TLE poster to stare at!) It can stimulate new ideas and crush writer's block like a tiny ant.*  So get the hell out of Dodge, Writer-Readers, it's good for you... and your Prius.  
There's a Prius under there somewhere.
*Note to Producers/Studio Execs/Financiers reading this:  I never get writer's block and I won't run off to a foreign country if you hire me. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

'You Gotta Ask yourself, “Do I Feel Lucky?" Well, do ya, Punk?'

In honor of St. Patrick’s day, this week’s blog is dedicated to LUCK.

The Irish love Jameson
and paperwork.
A few fun facts:

1. I am OFFICIALLY an Irish citizen.  Luckily, my great grandmother made it to her homeland in time to have my Grandfather back in Limerick and luckily the Irish government started a citizenship program for descendents of Irish citizens born overseas and luckily the Irish Consulate put a rush order on my application so that I could get Irish before Luna’s birth, which means she is officially Irish too. 

2. The phrase “the luck o’ the Irish” is supposed to be ironic. Think about it: the Irish have been invaded by the Vikings, the Normans, and the Tudors, they get hit by the potato famine, then they finally get to America and are treated like dirt…  the Irish are infamously UNLUCKY. 

3. I almost led this blog off with a quote from Falcor the Luck Dragon but then I realized that Dirty Harry is Irish!  His name was Harry Callahan!  When I shared this revelatory information with Brett, our conversation went like this:

Tara: “Hey, Dirty Harry was Irish!”
Brett: “Of course he’s Irish.  He’s hot headed and violent, what did you think?” 

Don’t grab your bats just yet, Irish brethren.  Brett knocking the Irish (and the Italians) and me knocking the Armenians is like the sit-com runner in our house. I often ask where he lost his goats when he migrated from Glendale and whenever I see a Kardashian on TV, I exalt to him, “Honey, your people!”

Okay, so now back to the luck. 

Today I lost my cell phone.  Or it was stolen.  Or both.  I left it on a counter at a coffee shop and some lucky guy found it, pocketed it. Buh bye, iPhone 4. Rest in some dude’s pocket.

So that was bad luck. 

R.I.P., my beloved.
So after my (what turned out to be quite expensive) morning meeting, I drove home angry.  Like a bat out of hell.  And yet, I made it home in one piece. 

So that was good luck.

In an attempt to unwind, I went for the wine and realized that we are out of wine.  Out of wine!  That has never happened in this house! 

So that was unlucky. 

But then I found some Grey Goose in the freezer. 

So that was lucky.

...The truth is, I don’t believe in luck.  Luck is for wusses.

At one point early in my career, I was at a networking event where I screened my short film SMACKERS and expressed frustration with how hard the journey was.  A bushy tailed young actress promised me that all I needed was a little luck and that it was sure to find me soon.  I told her that I’d been busting my hump for years and that when I finally “made it,” it would have absolutely nothing to do with luck.

So here I am ten years down the road of this journey.  And on this week…

I am waiting to hear back from one cable network about a feature writing gig.   I am waiting to hear back from a second cable network that may or may not purchase a script I wrote years ago.  I am waiting to hear back from our domestic sales agent on The Lake Effect to see who will be premiering the movie this year.  I am also hustling my butt through two feature scripts and a pilot that I really believe in.  Something has got to hit. If I throw this many things at the wall something is bound to hit.   Right? 

Maybe I just need a little… LUCK.

Erin go bragh, y’all! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's ALIVE!!!

THE LAKE EFFECT is getting out there.  And I have proof! 

Last week, for the very first time, The Lake Effect enjoyed a screening that I was not able to attend.   It took place at the Omaha Film Festival (Thanks again, Omaha!) on Thursday night.  People came, they sat in the theatre, and they watched The Lake Effect… and afterwards, two people (who are not my mom) posted on our Facebook page:  “Well done!” and “I enjoyed the film!”

I have to admit at first I was taken aback. My first thought was:  “Who are you?  And how did you get a copy of the movie?” 

And then I realized that they had seen it in Omaha, where the film was off doing its thing… without me.

It’s so cool.

Okay, so you may be thinking:  “Two guys commented on your Facebook page and you’re writing a whole blog about it?  That’s excessive.”  I was about to change my topic to “Luck and the true meaning of Mc Donald’s Shamrock Shake” but then I got an email from another viewer (again, not my mother) who enjoyed the film and that clinched it.  The film is receiving unsolicited responses from pleased viewers (plural!)

The Lake Effect screened
in a far away land, called Omaha.
I should acknowledge that THE LAKE EFFECT has been seen by other people when I was not present: festival programmers, sales agents, distributors, etc.  But that’s a little different because those are people from whom we are soliciting a response.  For better or worse, they have to respond – its their occupational obligation.  There is something special about the lovely moment when you’ve almost forgotten that you’ve created something that exists out there in the world and you hear that someone enjoyed it while you weren’t looking... and without being asked.

Once in a while, I meet a development exec at a party and they realize that they’ve read a script of mine that’s come across their desk, or I meet people who say they’ve seen Smackers.  When I was interviewing for my first job with writer/director/actor Mike Binder – he looked over my resume and saw my short film, MISS GENTILBELLE way down on the bottom and said, “You directed that?  I’ve seen that!”  I thought he was mistaken but no.  As it turns out, my Assistant Director on the film was a family friend of Mike’s and had shown him the film.  Thank god he liked it.

Still from my matricidal
student film,"Miss Gentilbelle"
It’s “so nice” (my daughter’s new catch phrase) that your work can introduce you to people before you have the chance to introduce yourself, that it can speak for you, and reach out to people you might never have the opportunity to reach out to. That’s the whole point of putting it on celluloid (er, I mean digital file) right?   

When I was in college (Go Gauchos!) and doing theatre – I directed my first one act (David Ives, anyone?) and it was sensational (or at least I thought so and some of the 200 audience members who witnessed the event were kind enough to perpetuate this belief). A week after the show closed, however, I realized with a heavy heart that that was it. The show had flashed in the pan and then it was over. This of course, is part of what makes theatre so magical.  It’s that fleeting, temporary, get it while the getting’s good nature of the beast that we love to feel a part of.

But as a director, I hated that aspect of theatre.  I wanted to create something that would stick.  Something that would last forever… So in my artistic quest for immortality, I began making movies.

Strangely, there is a side effect to making last art that I couldn’t have anticipated.  Having a film out there is almost like having a little piece of you roaming the earth unsupervised… it’s like I’m sleepwalking, going places and doing things I don’t remember… it’s just like those films where a detective is hunting down a murderer and then they discover that the murderer is them!  Alright, maybe not exactly like that.  But it can be mildly disconcerting when people know your work before they know you.  It can make you feel exposed.  It’s like they’ve read your thoughts… or your blog!

Really, though it’s still an amazing thing to think that my work is doing what it is supposed to do… getting out there, reaching out to people I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to touch.  I’m very much looking forward to this happening more once the movie is on TV, On Demand, and the internet.  I hope that more strangers will find and fall in love with THE LAKE EFFECT.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

TO DO: Buy Groceries, Win Oscar.

This week’s blog is dedicated to… The Aaaaahscars.

Hello, Lover.

It’s not an infrequent thing for a family member or friend to call me around Oscar time and declare, “I can’t wait until you get your Oscar!  Are you going to thank us? Can we come?”  I would bet that almost all of my filmmaking friends have heard the same thing from their well-meaning loved ones…   No pressure. 

Of course, WIN AN OSCAR is on my short list of Things To Do.  Of course it is!  Isn’t it on everyone’s?  …No, I guess it wouldn’t be.  Honestly, though - I think “Win an Oscar” would be on my list even if I sold insurance for a living. 

I have to admit, I didn’t really get to “watch-watch” the Oscars this year.  My husband is out of town on a shoot and some friends convinced me that I could bring my delightful 19 month old to their place for a viewing party and so… when I wasn’t pulling Luna down off the coffee table, I was yanking her fingers out of someone’s 7 & 7, or prying her fingers off the volume knob on the receiver…

Despite my daughter’s lack of interest in the show, I did get to see Anne Hathaway sing (because it made Luna stop doing donuts around the coffee table and clap, “Singing!”) and Melissa Leo cuss at the crowd in the balcony.  I even got Luna home and in bed in time to see Natalie Portman gush about her newest and best role (pretty Mama) and Colin Firth do his wonderfully understated, fabulously dry British comedy thing.  

I love the Academy Awards.  I love the movie montages that remind me of what this medium is capable of, I love the appearances from the Old Guard that remind me that making movies makes us a part of history (at least Film History).   Then, in no particular order, I love the dresses, the gushing, and the crazy actors.  I don’t mean to dismiss the crazy – it’s a close bed fellow with genius and actor-crazy, specifically, is so darn fun and exuberant - unlike writer crazy which, while equally self-destructive is all defeatist and internal and not nearly as fun to watch.

I have to admit that over the past few years, my love of the Oscars has waned along with my belief that I would one day be accepting one.  “So sad!” you say!   I know.  It’s totally depressing.  I sell a script, I’m in the guild, I make a movie, I am in the industry! Amongst winners! Getting screeners of the Oscar Nominated films! I’m closer than ever and it’s almost like the Oscar is an illusion and the closer I get, the further away it seems.

Despite all this, and - let's be honest, perhaps because of all this, I'm keeping WIN AN OSCAR on my To Do List. My belief that I might actually do it is part of my director brand of crazy. Believing in the impossible and then motivating to make it real is exactly what it takes to get a movie made in the first place. And I’m a believer.  Call me a deluded dreamer, but I may just have an Oscar in me yet.