Big Day

Watch out, this is going to get personal and long. So you may want to skip this.

Today is quite a significant day for me. May 18, 2011. Two-thousand and eleven - wow, how long it took!

For the first time today, I will be showing one of my full-length films in Germany, my home country.

To cut to the chase, this is significant because after moving to the US in the early 90s, one of the reasons why I wasn't ready to return to Germany for all those years was because I wanted to make a film first. I wanted to come back with something, I guess I wanted to come back AS something.

In Gainesville, Florida - circa 1994

Since then I've made short films, music videos and two full-length documentaries (there actually are also some pre-film school fiction and documentary features that haven't seen the light of day in a long time). 

Last year, it was finally time to return home for a while.

And today there will finally be a screening of All God's Children, the documentary my husband Scott Solary and I made together.


I've often imagined what it would be like to come back here with a great film and how wonderful it would be to share it with my family and my friends in a real movie theater. They'd be so proud.

Well, tonight isn't quite the way I imagined it. The screening will not be at an amazing movie theater or a significant film festival. I actually had to organize this screening myself. It's going to be in a basement of a venue in Kreuzberg, projected from my own laptop via a computer cable. (This is nerd speak for: it won't look its best.)

With Scott and his mom Ellie (who did a lot of the transcriptions) at the premiere at Sarasota Film Festival in 2008

Scott can't be here because he's on a job in New York. My parents won't be there tonight. And I regret not having tried to organize getting them here earlier or expressed or realized how important that would be for me. 

None of the people from the film will be here. Some even had expressed they'd travel to Germany if I gave them enough notice. You know what, I didn't. Because maybe a little bit, I was embarrassed that it wouldn't be a magnificent location - and I didn't want to waste their time. 

With Jennie Couts McDonald and Dianne Couts (who is in the film and whom I should have given more notice this time)
I hope my brother and my sister-in-law will be there. I know some of my wonderful friends from Berlin will be there. Most of whom I didn't even know before I came here a year ago.

Since I've been working on getting the German subtitles together myself until the last minute (before I started writing this), I didn't have time to get a haircut or a nice outfit. Needless to say I don't have "a date" either. But then maybe this is how it should be - because it seems fitting to the whole process: if you want it, you gotta do it (yourself) no matter what - and vanities have to fall by the wayside.

So here it is: I'm back and I'm showing my film - and I'm NOT a successful, known filmmaker.

But this is the more positive realization: That's okay. Because I'm back and I'm showing my film - and I AM STILL a filmmaker!

So maybe life and our dreams and our ambitions don't quite work out the way we envision them. I think it's important we realize what is at the core of our desires - and focus on that.

In my case it's: people and stories and the wish to make a positive impact.

I still love making films, I still love meeting people, being with people, hearing their stories, feeling with them; I love filming, creating stories, editing, telling you about them and finally showing them to you - and I wish that my work will make a positive difference. 

Filming Beverly Shellrude-Thompson (Canada, 2004)

I'm so grateful that I have been able to pursue my passion for so long and hope I'll be able to continue. A big thank you to everyone who has been involved in making these films, especially to the people willing to be in front of my camera. 

On a filming break with Bev in Canada, 2004

Tomorrow we will also release All God's Children online. It's our last big step in getting the film out there. 

And in a way it will be the end of a journey that began during a weekend with Scott's great aunt and uncle in New Hampshire in the summer of 2003 when they told us about the horrors their sons had gone through at boarding school in Africa. A story we felt we couldn't turn our back on.

With Ann and Howard Beardslee at Jacksonville screening, 2009

It's been a long and bumpy journey. It was full of amazing and gracious and inspiring people. It was full of tears and sadness. It was full of disasters and rejection and disappointment. It was full of perseverance and meaning and kindness.

With Marilyn Christman, Beverly Shellrude Thompson, Dianne Darr Couts and Rev. Richard Darr at New York City Screening, 2009

The next journeys have already started with All's Well and Fair, which is finished already (and isn't really winning awards either - but will still find its way to you), and with Five Sisters, which I still hope to edit one day, and in a way with In A Berlin Minute. And maybe I'll finally get to make Summersquash, the narrative feature script I put aside when we started making All God's Children... 

Okay, one more piece of unrequested admission: I'm quite nervous about tonight. People in America are so friendly and gracious, that even if your friends don't like your work, they'll still tell you nice things. Germans can be frighteningly honest...

Home Turf Screening in New York City, 2009

P.S.: It feels weird to have put so many pictures of myself in this blog post. Quite self-indulgent. But writing this was actually quite emotional (and I mean the teary kind). So I'd like to balance that out with some of the personally wonderful moments from this film's journey. So there!