Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ReelerTV Weekly 06

It is true. The wait is over. ReelerTV is back from its summer hiatus.

Weinstein death threat, the end of IFC and Generation D.I.Y. in theaters are all in the News. S.T. talks with Joe Swanberg about what it's like to have his film, "Hannah Takes the Stairs" playing in New York. And Karina Longworth discusses the overlooked films programmed in the New Talkies: Generation D.I.Y.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Knowing Why You Do It

Yesterday we received some amazing Super 8 footage from the missionary kids' school we are focusing on in our documentary All God's Children.

While we've had some footage and quite a few photographs of the kids and the school back in the 60s already - receiving this additional film material is a huge gift. Especially after years of having worked with our limited material, I was very moved to see people and images come to life that I had only imagined.

Then those feelings were still trumped when I received an email from the woman who had shared this footage with us. In turn she had just received a copy of our cut and she wrote to express her appreciation and gratitude for us tackling this subject and telling the painful story from her childhood.

She pointed out the quote: "No, it wasn't o.k. then and it's still not o.k."
How sad that even those who weren't abused directly themselves seem to carry scars from this time in their lives.

She was the first person to watch the film
who had attended the school (besides the ones who are in the film themselves).

I was quite moved.
Her reaction gave us a feeling of validation. It reminded me that Scott originally began this journey (and I later joined) because of the children whose story needed to be told.

It is for children who have suffered the neglect or abuses that we made the film. Someone needed to listen to them and record their stories.

It is for their families and friends who need to learn and understand.

It is for the Churches that need to be honest and embrace those who have suffered.

It is for the children of the present and future so this doesn't happen to them.

I am very grateful to receive this specific feedback because sometimes you do need a reminder of why you are doing all this in the first place. Independent filmmaking is often (always?) such a long and at times difficult and even painful process. Years and years go by during which you have to sustain your focus, your energy and your faith in yourself and your work.

You do need a very good reason why you are making such a film; a reason that is bigger than the years, stronger than the rejection emails, more important than money. Something that gets you through those dark days when you think you suck and the only thing that will keep you working is the thought: yeah, maybe I'm not so great, but I've got to keep working on this anyway because I'm not just doing this for me, I'm doing this for ____________.

Been Busy Shooting

A little side note: we've been quite busy shooting lately.

- We are producing an online show for - a great website for creatives of all calibers and genres. So far we've only shot the pilot episode but we're getting ready to dive in fully after the Toronto Film Festival.

- I've done two days of shooting for my friend Caitlin Cassaro who is producing/directing a documentary about schooling in Red Hook, Brooklyn (focusing mostly on a brand new co-op day care). The shoot day last week had an extra special flavor because it was the first time I was on location without a director or producer because she was busy giving birth at the time. (Only Caitlin will produce a film, start a day care, buy a house and have a baby all at the same time!) The second day of filming was today. It was extra special again because today Caitlin introduced her son Shane to all of us. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

- And don't despair: ReelerTV is back from its summer hiatus. The latest episode is going up tonight.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Das Leben der Anderen"

Ulrich Mühe

Yesterday the long-awaited DVD of The Lives of Others / Das Leben der Anderen was released in the U.S.

Just like everyone else I've spoken to, I LOVE this movie.

Since I am (West) German, the film holds a special historical and emotional significance. But its message reaches far beyond the historical and political implications; which is what makes this film so powerful.

A beautifully crafted contemplation on art and humanity.

The power and beauty of art.
Goodness and humanity brought out by art.
How (totalitarian) governments/organizations try to suppress art.
The need of the artist to do their art which can become more important than anything else.
(Sadly, also the artist who can thus be brought to turn away from their humanity.)
The role of the artist to capture and critique the status quo - to criticize the regime.

And then again courage, love and goodness.

(Afterthought: What bugged me a little bit was the translation of the title "Sonate vom Guten Menschen" as "Sonata for the Good Man" - I believe it should be "of the Good Man" or "from the Good Man". It does make a difference in meaning. Besides, the German word "Mensch" includes men and women and really should be translated as "human being" - but that doesn't make much of a difference. Except maybe in the context of the film only showing men as being good and courageous. Hm...)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

iConcert Cal - Where Were You All My Life?

Haven't you always been dreaming of this as well: a personalized calendar that lets you know when your favorite musicians are playing in town or releasing a new album? I feel like I've seen the light - because the iTunes plug-in iConcert Cal 2.0 does exactly that based on the bands you have in your iTunes library. Brilliant!

This might only work in the US. But if that fits you and you like music: this plug-in is a must have. It's available for Mac and Windows.

Oh, did I mention that it is free?

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Voice in "The Tourist"

Today the short film "The Tourist" by filmmaking twin force James and Jeff Israel went online on the Rooftop Films/IFC site "Summer Shorts Online 2007".

It looks and sounds beautiful. WATCH IT!

And that German voice at the beginning... yup, you guessed it from the title of this post: that's me.

For those in New York - stay tuned for the date when "The Tourist" will play on an actual rooftop (or lawn) in NYC this summer.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple"

Watched the PBS documentary about Peoples Temple last night.

Very sad and informative. Very well done. Big production though.

It's amazing that there was so much footage and audio recordings available - even from the actual massacre/mass suicide! Actually it's even more amazing that with so much material available it took this long for someone to make a film.

Of course, the content is very chilling. This film makes an excellent case for how dangerous blind faith and organized religion can be. I actually liked (even though it felt odd at first) that in the end of the film we're reminded of the positive intentions the church had started out with.

Scott's Blog Overhaul

Scott just gave his blog, A Doc's Journal (hosted on indieWIRE), a big overhaul - including a video introduction.

The blog was originally intended to be about our documentary "All God's Children" but Scott now extended it to be about all kinds of different things... and a lot of online video.

In the meantime I've just been digitizing, digitizing, digitizing...

Friday, August 17, 2007


I've begun digitizing all the footage for "All's Well and Fair" - starting with the tapes from 1996. Looking at that old VHS footage it's fun to contemplate the technical advances that have made non-linear editing possible in the home and on a laptop even. I never imagined back then that one day I would be digitizing everything onto a slick little computer.

Viewing it through the FCP interface, "Gainesville, Florida of 1996" looks like eons ago and innumerable miles away. But then, during a summer thunderstorm and downpour like we're having right now in Brooklyn, the afternoon rains of Northern Florida fill the air with their humidity and the girls in the 1996 footage look directly at me ready to tell their story.

I can't wait to actually start editing. And I can't express how grateful I am for the Jerome Foundation Grant that is making this possible for me.

Born-again Mac User?

It is true.
It finally has happened.


I have switched over to the Mac!

I've already put to rest the 4-year-old Toshiba laptop (to which I had to have an external wireless adapter, a bluetooth adapter AND an external keyboard attached and which couldn't charge any batteries anymore, making it a completely non-portable laptop).

We're holding on to the Sony VAIO desktop (the one that shuts itself off whenever it pleases, preferably in the middle of doing something it hasn't saved yet, the one that recently took 48 [forty-eight] hours to render the effects on the Weitzel transition video and the one that has already killed 3 external hard drives with essential media, not to mention that it couldn't go online) for just a little bit longer while we're making a few last tweaks to All God's Children in the Avid program (hoping that the VAIO will stay alive that long).

With this change I'm also switching from Avid XPress Pro to Final Cut Pro.

That will be an interesting experience.
I have been cutting on Avid ever since I graduated from editing directly on two VCRs. And I'm not all convinced that I will like how easy everything just drags and drops. But the ease of exporting and conversion for online and DVDs has me very excited.

The thought that to make a DVD I won't have to follow these steps anymore: make digital cut out of Avid Xpress from VAIO onto Mini DV tape - record DVD from MiniDV tape with DVD recorder - rip recorded DVD into VAIO - create and burn DVD with Nero Recode.

Rumor has it, with the Mac and Final Cut Studio 2 I can just export out of Final Cut to iDVD and burn a DVD! Maybe feeling "born again" is exactly what it will be like.

But the most thrilling and important part of it all:
I can finally start editing
All's Well and Fair!

I will begin digitizing NOW!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Mother Wears Combat Boots

We just had a wonderful, but very short, visit from my friend Jessica Mills' husband Ernesto Longa. He is a law librarian, activist and former Gainesville radio "entrepreneur" who was doing an internship at the NAACP and couch surfing his way through a few weeks in New York.

While we had lots of fun and many very interesting conversations about tattooed librarians (guybrarians, hipster librarians?), his fascinating research on the "negro municipal court", very alternative traveling methods and all kinds of shenanigans, right now I actually want to use this opportunity as a jump-off point to plug his wife Jessica's new book:

My Mother Wears Combat Boots by Jessica Mills
is coming out in October but you can already place your order on

The book is based on her factual and very entertaining advice column on parenting in MAXIMUMROCKNROLL.

Jessica is an incredibly hard-working, inspiring, thoughtful, fun-loving friend, musician, mother, writer, activist and all around great person. I admire her work, energy and attitude greatly and am super excited that her book is now coming out.

She is definitely one of my biggest inspirations among my peers.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Clerical Abuse Crisis Is Not Over

Via the website A Matter of Truth, which serves survivors of clerical abuse, Rev. Tom Doyle has put out a call to gather information about abuse at orphanages.

Apparently he received a large response within days and recently sent out a message to express his gratitude. An addendum that followed a short while later was especially striking to me.

Even though our documentary All God's Children deals with missionaries' children in boarding school who were
physically, emotionally, sexually and spiritually abused by other non-Catholic missionaries, some of his words resonate strongly with what we have found in our research.

One very obvious conclusion I have reached, just based on my review of the information and the sheer volume of it, is that the experts who assert that about 70-75% of those sexually abused by clerics or religious men or women remain silent, are correct. Those who, through wishful thinking or just plain delusion, claim that the "crisis" is over simply because its not front page news on a daily basis, are dead wrong. Its far from ended.

A second conclusion is that the extent of the sexual and physical abuse of children and minors by clerics and by nuns is far greater than any of us, even the most cynical, ever expected. I believe that the bishops and other office holders in the institutional church are either intentionally misleading the public with their claims that the abuse phenomenon is passed and under control, or they are so out of touch and in such a state of psychological denial that they are impeded from both realizing and accepting the tragic reality before us.

You can contact Tom Doyle via email:

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

ReelerTV on Hiatus

In case you were wondering: there wasn't a new episode of ReelerTV yesterday because the show is on hiatus for a few weeks while S.T. VanAirsdale is working from the west coast.

The show will be back in late August.

But don't despair, you could always watch the previous episodes of ReelerTV Weekly or of ReelerTV at Tribeca (featuring films that are just now about to come out).

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Fantastic Day of Filming

Yesterday Beth, the youngest of the five sisters, let me film her and her husband's condo on the beach which is currently being totally renovated. I got some great footage of her home in total disarray - talk about transition time!

In the afternoon the sisters and I sat down for another group interview at Ann's house. Just asking very few questions they opened up and gave me the most amazing insight into their experience with aging, with the concept of time and with their families. There was wisdom, tears and an incredible willingness to share.

I was very moved and consider this interview session to have been the most fruitful. I am so grateful to the sisters for having allowed me into their lives, thoughts and feelings. It's such a great honor and I cannot wait to be able to share what I have seen and heard with others.

Thank you again and always, Iva, Thelma, Carolyn, Ann and Beth.

And of course, thank you to Ellie and Jim for their continued hospitality.

"Five Sisters" and me

Here are two pictures of the "Five Sisters" and me during the filming this week.

Luci filming the sisters (Beth, Iva, Ann, Carolyn, Thelma)
during Iva & Earl's 65th anniversary celebration
[picture by Scott Solary]

Iva, Carolyn, Luci, Beth, Ann, Thelma
after the amazing shoot on Monday afternoon
(Thelma is our sunshine)
[photo by Howard Beardslee]

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Iva and Earl's 65th Anniversary

Had a wonderful day in Florida today.

Iva, the oldest of the "Five Sisters", and her husband Earl Huffingham celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary today with hundreds of their friends and family - including all of the sisters.

Of course, I was there with my camera and filmed for the entire afternoon. It was a wonderful celebration at their granddaughter Becca's house with many generations of Nesmith offspring.

Celebrating the love of these two great people lasting for 65 years, seeing all the sisters with their families and witnessing the warmth between life-long friends was a moving experience. I can imagine the footage from this event to provide a joyful denouement for the documentary. We'll see...

In the evening Scott and I had the chance to spend a little more time with some of the sisters and their spouses, which was very special - especially because I was camera free and could just relax.

I will upload a picture or two from the party when I'm back in New York.

Today was also the birthday of Thelma, the second oldest sister, and of Henry, the middle sister's (Carolyn's) husband who passed away two years ago. The youngest sister's (Beth's) husband, Bill, had his birthday yesterday and Beth and Bill have their 50th anniversary coming up this week. Carolyn, not to be outdone turned 80 in July.

To all of them I send out a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fish in Florida

Scott and I are in Florida for the weekend; for me to do some filming for the "Five Sisters" documentary and for us to visit with Scott's family.

This trip is a good reminder that after all it is actually hotter and much more humid than in New York City (which we easily forget during those dog days like this past week).

Tonight we celebrated Ellie's (Scott's mother) 60th birthday at a great restaurant "just a short pelcian glide south of St. Augustine": Salt Water Cowboys. Casual dining at its best, with interesting variations and well executed classics of seafood and swamp food dishes (you've got to try it to believe it), an atmospheric interior with hanging plants, aligator skins and Daddy's Stick Furniture and a magnificent view of the sunset over the marsh land and intercoastal. I also highly recommend their Salt Water Cowboy cocktail, especially if you swap the Morgan's for some coconut rum. Yum.

Definitely check it out if you find yourself hungry in St. Augustine. (Be warned of longer waits on the long porch.)

NY filming regulations back to drawing board

Good news about the threat of new regulations for filming on the streets of New York, which some of us have been quite alarmed about: they're back to the drawing board for now. Here's the statement from the "anti-new regulations" site Picture New York.

"Great news! The Mayor's Office of Film announced Friday afternoon that they are headed back to the drawing board with their regulations.

You spoke – they listened. And did the right thing. Wonderful, right? We'll be watching for the revised regulations, so we'll have to get back to you on that. Tony Overman, president of the National Press Photographers Association really got it right: "We are offended at the notion that a city agency or police officer would have the power to keep a photographer from taking a picture or video on a public street. City property belongs to the citizens and the city has no right to limit safe, constitutionally protected behavior in a public venue."

Stay tuned for the next stage — new proposals that we hope truly reflect the massive outcry of this community of 1st Amendment-loving amateurs and professionals alike. Read the complete statement from the MOFTB .

Read about it from Diane Cardwell in the Saturday New York Times: After Protests, City Agrees to Soften New Rules on Photography Permits"

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Jerome Foundation Grant

Jerome Hill

I have the most wonderful news to share:

The Jerome Foundation has chosen to give me a New York City Film and Video Grant for the production of my documentary All's Well and Fair.

I am so very grateful they believe in my work and trust that I will deliver. It is not only the money (although it is essential in me moving forward with this film) but also the encouragement and confidence boost this provides. There is just nothing like receiving this kind of support for your work.

It's a shame that there are not more organizations like the Jerome Foundation that support individual artists. I'm a big believer that the arts are an essential part of society. Engaging with art helps promote a healthy mind and soul. It is a way that society can express itself and question the status quo. It helps us grow as individuals and as a society.

On days like this I feel so lucky that I am a filmmaker and now get the chance to be creative.

I cannot give enough thanks to the Jerome Foundation and the review panel!!!

Learn more about artist and artist supporter Jerome Hill.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

ReelerTV Weekly 05

This week's ReelerTV News reveals Film Forum's fall film slate, pays tribute to Bergman and Antonioni and discusses Picture NY's efforts to keep indie filmmaking cheap and easy in New York. We dropped in on Jeffrey Blitz to talk about his latest film, "Rocket Science" and Logan Hill from New York Magazine sits in the lobby to preview and review Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's biopic, "El Cantante" and David Wain's biblical comedy, "The Ten". Enjoy.