Saturday, March 31, 2007

Website for "All God's Children"


Over the last two weeks I've been tinkering around on a website for our recently finished feature-length documentary "All God's Children".

It's still a work in progress. Actually in some ways the site will continue to change as the journey of the film progresses.

One addition we hope to make soon is a trailer and a few clips from the film.

If you have any suggestions (especially for the links/resources page) feel free to contact us through the email address on the site.

So please check it out: www.AllGodsChildrenTheFilm.com

Instant Movies on Netflix

I can't deny it: I love Netflix.

Having become a member in the early days of DVD rentals it was a heaven-sent service when the selection at the local video store even in Brooklyn was still very slim. The large selection, convenience and lack of late fees still makes it my favorite utility bill.

Now they've added a whole other level to their service: "Watch Now" - i.e., you can instantly watch movies online in full-screen via a fast Internet connection with no extra cost (if you're already a Netflix member).

Wow!

Okay, there are catches:
  1. Of course it's not the same quality as a DVD on your nice TV screen.
  2. They don't have all movies viewable online.
  3. You have to use Internet Explorer.
  4. It only works on Windows XP or Vista.
  5. You are limited as to how many hours you can watch depending on your membership (e.g., I have a 3 DVDs-at-a-time monthly membership which allows me to watch 18 hours of movies online per month).
I have heard that Green Cine offers similar services - rumor has it that they're more supportive of independent filmmakers. I'd be interested to learn more if anyone uses their services...

Friday, March 30, 2007

... For Cultural Purpose Only

"No Commercial Value -- For Cultural Purpose Only"

That's what you're supposed to write on the outside of your parcel when you mail your screener DVD/VHS for submission to foreign film festivals.

Of course, this is to ensure that the festival doesn't get asked by customs in their country to pay any taxes or other fees.

But something is strangely depressing about writing this on padded envelope after padded envelope in the recent weeks of my festival submission marathon. The "cultural purpose" is great, the "only" is a bit limiting, but "NO Commercial Value" at all? C'mon! I know it's just about the screener DVD itself - but the more often you write it, the more it looms somewhere like an omen.

(Not unlike the Bob Dylan line
[famously performed by Jimi Hendrix] on the recent season finale of Battlestar Galactica: "There must be some way out of here...")

(And somehow reminiscent of a time several years ago when I had to convince the judge at the Department of Labor court that I totally deserve unemployment insurance because
I had been laid off from my graphic design job and my company did not make any money and that filmmaking was only my hobby and not my career. Again I knew this was only about the insurance itself - but there was that looming feeling...)

But it's not a hobby and of course the film has commercial value AND cultural purpose - so I've been very busy making DVDs, writing press kits and submitting to some great film festivals all over the world. Please keep your fingers crossed that "All God's Children" finds an audience at all of these places.

Unfortunately, we won't know anything more until May. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This American Life... ON TV!!!

Tonight the TV version of the fantastic NPR radio show "This American Life" premieres on Showtime.

Each episode of the weekly radio show has a theme introduced through a short interview/story by host Ira Glass - then two or three segments of mostly non-fiction reportage based on the same theme fill up the rest of the hour. (Recently aired episodes: Kid Logic, By Proxy & What I Learned from TV)

Enlightening, engaging and always entertaining.

No wonder it's the most popular podcast on iTunes.

But will the quality and feel of the show translate to television?

I was lucky enough to get a screener copy with the first 4 episodes (seriously I was sooo excited) and I was not disappointed. Again the short documentaries are sometimes funny, sometimes sad - but always take us on a journey to explore something new and real and introduce us to people with strong passions.

This show is not anything like documentary-esque TV shows like "60 Minutes" or "20/20". It's a whole different entity - and maybe it's not "just" a radio show on television either, but more like short theatrical movies. The episodes are not sensationalist but have distinguished style and are very cinematic.

And that's the real catch to translating a radio show to television: the visuals. The cinematography is outstanding! The main director of photography, Adam Beckman, is also a co-devloper of the show and certainly plays a big part in creating a TV version that can live up to what many consider to be the best show on the radio.

The only drawbacks: the episodes are only 30 minutes long and they air on Showtime... and... I don't have cable :-(

P.S.: At Sundance Scott filmed an interview with Ira Glass for iW: VIDEO.

Friday, March 16, 2007

TV Anchor Sexually Abused

This week CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 aired a show about Headline News anchor Thomas Roberts who was sexually abused as a teen by a Catholic priest.

I'm not sure if there will be further re-runs of the episode but you can read a statement by Roberts here.

A lot of what he has to say resonates with the experience of the victims we interviewed for "All God's Children" who were abused by Evangelical missionaries, not Catholics. The shame, the inability to tell others, the decades that pass - and then the courage. A courage which I applaud in Thomas Roberts as much as in any non-celebrity.

What struck me most was this:

"When I was in college, another boy, Michael Goles, came forward and reported his abuse at the hands of Father Jeff. I knew I could help Michael if I, too, revealed Father Jeff's abuse, but out of a feeling of self-preservation, I remained quiet. Michael wasn't believed, and his case was thrown out of court." - Thomas Roberts

How big the shame, how terrible the fear must be that you are not able to step up when someone else has already gone public and a conviction may depend on your testimony.

This is also something we came across in the making of our documentary with one of the alleged perpetrators. The person making the accusation still stands alone with no one braving to speak up against the alleged abuser.

Then the closing words of this article struck me. While I'm currently in the midst of submitting our documentary to festivals in hopes to bring it to an audience and maybe open the doors to wider distribution - worrying if it's good enough, if programmers will select it, if we cleared all legal rights, if the color is corrected, if we can afford another submission, etc. - I'm reminded again of what really matters. The people in our film suffered a lot and making this film may have caused them some more agony, but just like Thomas Roberts, this is why they told us their stories:

"If this story compels even one person to seek help for being sexually abused, then it is all worth it. All it takes is telling one person. From there, strength grows and you can tell a second person and so on. Then you can finally have control of your life back."
- Thomas Roberts

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

DVD Cover Design


Another milestone - over the weekend we designed the DVD cover and label for "All God's Children". We hope that soon we'll be able to fill the more sparse corners with film festival laurels...

Dinner with a Sister

Sunday night we had dinner with one of the "Five Sisters": Beth Weitzel - and her husband, two kids and their spouses. They were all visiting New York to watch Beth's granddaughter sing at Carnegie Hall with her school choir on Monday night.

We went to an outstanding Chilean restaurant in the theater district called
Pomaire (46th St. & 9th Ave.).
We had a most wonderful evening of good wine, great food and excellent conversation.

Additionally the Weitzels made a very generous contribution to the production of "Five Sisters".

A big thank you both for a fantastic evening and the support of our work!

Other recent developments with "Five Sisters" are:
  • a finalized trailer (I screened it for the filmmaking collective I'm a member of on Saturday and they gave very positive feedback and had some great input for the overall project) and
  • the plan to visit Thelma, another sister, in Ohio sometime this year for additional filming.

Friday, March 9, 2007

FINISHED!!!

Color correcting at Glue Edit & Design
featuring Rich Darr in All God's Children

It's been a little over three years since we conducted the first interview for our documentary feature All God's Children...

After spending 23 hours straight (we saw sunset and sunrise) at a marathon color correction and mastering session we can finally announce:

ALL GOD'S CHILDREN IS FINISHED!!!

Now it's on to making screener DVDs and submitting to festivals.


The sun rises over the Hudson River
(18 hours into it, 5 more to go...)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Fiscal Sponsorship!

The International Documentary Association [ida] came through for us again:
All's Well and Fair and Five Sisters have both been accepted for fiscal sponsorship! Yay! (Actually they accepted both projects about a month ago - unfortunately the packet mailed to me got lost along the way.)

In December I had blogged about writing the applications and posted the first few paragraphs from the proposals for All's Well and Fair and Five Sisters.

A fiscal sponsor is a not-for profit organization with 503 (c) status which offers to accept donations on behalf of the artist and thus makes the donation tax-deductible. The sponsor retains a small percentage for their services (5% in the case of [ida]).

The tax-deductible (or not-for profit) status is required by most grant givers and of course highly appreciated by all donors.

So from now on, if you'd like to make a financial donation to either project you can write out the check to the International Documentary Association and put the name of the film in the memo field.

Then just mail the check to:
Good Hard Working People
P.O. Box 170077
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Shortly thereafter you will receive a receipt from [ida] to file with next year's taxes.

Soon I will set up an account to take online donations as well. Just in case you've got a credit card burning a hole in your pocket... :-)

Monday, March 5, 2007

All's Well and Fair

It finally happened - I officially changed the name of my long-term documentary project.

In 1996 when I filmed the first part of this portrait of three single punk rock mothers on welfare, I had just moved to the States from Germany and found the title All Well + Fair very clever. Enough years of living in the U.S. have convinced me that the expression really does start with "all's" and that plus signs aren't that clever either.

So now that the second part (2006) has been filmed and the documentary takes on a whole different life, a new better title seemed appropriate: All's Well and Fair.