Wish I Was Here

July 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Wish I Was HEre

Zach Braff and his brother Adam Braff made a great movie.

IMDB says: “A struggling actor, father and husband finds himself at a major crossroad, which forces him to examine his life, his family and his career.”  That’s about right, but it doesn’t really do it justice.

Wish I Was Here tackles so many family dynamics in a way that feels more truthful for all of its complexity and nuance.  The many different relationships, in the hands of a lesser writer, might easily bog the story down, but here the buoy and illuminate the film from within.  The effect is emotional complexity portrayed with complete clarity.  The writing is excellent.

The performances are excellent across the board, with a particularly impressive turn by Kate Hudson (who I’d come to think of as more of a star than a serious actor and who proves me WAY wrong; she knocks it out of the park.)

The directing is excellent and all the more impressive knowing that Zach Braff was directing a film in which he was also starring.  The film feels thoughtful, emotional, heavy at times – but appropriately so – but never labored or over-wrought.  I can’t imagine describing the film as “effortless” given the subject-matter, but overall the film has a beautiful ease and flow to it.

If you google it, you’ll see that Wish I Was Here got plenty of “meh” reviews.  Rotten Tomatoes says “Critics Consensus: There’s no denying Wish I Was Here is heartfelt, but it covers narrative ground that’s already been well trod” but I respectfully disagree.  Or rather, I agree that we’ve seen these elements before, but I disagree with a poor review.  I think Wish I Was Here covers that ground better than most and with a fresh new alchemy born of the particular given circumstances of the characters, and the ways they come together.

The film is moody and thoughtful and funny . . . a little quirky here and there.  It was self-funded on Kickstarter (raising over 3.1 million dollars) – a controversial move at the time.  As someone who has made her own show with the help of crowd-funding, I have mixed feelings about projects of that scale/scope on the same platform as my 10K web series.  At the same time, I highly doubt that Wish I Was Here could have been as special and specific as it is had it been processed through a movie studio.  And I’m inspired to see people doing just what I’m doing but on a much grander, higher-up-the-food-chain level.  Hopefully in a few years – a few projects – I’ll be higher up the chain too.

Wish I Was Here is available on Netflix and VOD.  Check it out and let me know what you thought in the comments.

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So . . . I made a show!

July 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

Gemma & The Bear-LOGO-1280x720

It’s called Gemma & The Bear and we just released the first two episodes this past Monday.

It was over two years ago that it all began – sometime between giving birth to my son and my mom’s brain tumor being diagnosed.  Kevin and I wanted to make something together and I thought it should be a web series.  We’d done theater together, but I wasn’t doing theater at the moment because I had a tiny child to take care of.  Something on-camera felt more manageable.

So we began.  We met and wrote and had a reading and got rid of everything we’d written and started again.  Working on the project was always a joy; it was also my artistic life-line.  Without the luxury of time I used to enjoy, it became important to focus on doing one thing well, and that was our show.

Late last summer – almost a year ago – we began our casting process (we paused so I could have back surgery), in the late fall we launched our Indiegogo campaign, and in December we finally – FINALLY – started filming.

We shot for seven non-consecutive days in December, January and February, going by location rather than chronology of the script.  When our office location fell through the morning before the shoot, my brother came through with his office for us and we squeezed what we’d planned to film in three days into two.  We made third graders stand outside on one of the coldest days of the year.  We re-cast a major role at the last minute because our original actor was injured.  We called in favors.  We got it done.

I handled the craft services and, later, the payroll.  I wouldn’t choose to take on those extra roles again, but it felt really good to support our cast and crew in a loving way through food, and later, to appreciate them by redistributing about 75% of what we’d raised to make the show in the form of checks to our artistic and technical collaborators.

I thought the hard part was over.  And then I found myself a producer of a project in post-production.

But now it’s here!  Gemma & The Bear.  Kevin R. Free was my collaborator in all things – writing, acting and producing – and Matt Scott as director, editor and co-writer has provided invaluable additional vision and input.  This has been one of the most rigorous and most rewarding artistic experiences of my life and while I learned a lot (and would do some things differently if I had to do them over) I am incredibly proud of what we’ve made.

We’re still working on episodes 3, 4, 5 and 6 – they’ll be out in August – but for now I hope you enjoy episodes 1 and 2.

Episode One: HE’S BAAAAAAAACK!!! – Gemma gets a big assignment at work and graduates from therapy, but a blast from the past threatens her security.

Episode Two: MEET THE BEAR – Gemma visits her dad, Hank, to try to get to the bottom of the Bear’s reappearance in her life.

This isn’t theater so I can’t see your faces; leave a comment!

M.C. Double-E

June 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

picstitch

That’s my rap name.

Okay.  Not really.  BUT my rap video did just come out.

You’re saying “WHAT?!”

I know.  It’s a little “off brand,” as they say.

Here’s the story:  I wrote this rap to be performed live as one of thirty short plays in Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind which is an “ever-changing attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes.”  That was back in 2007.  This particular plastic monkey had become a motif/recurring character in a number of Neo plays and this was my contribution to the clapping-monkey-play genre.  The play was pretty popular amongst the Neos, we did it at Best of, brought it to gigs from time to time, etc.  In 2011 we shot the footage for the video and our awesome director, Chris Stocksmith, who was filming it gratis for us, promptly got very busy with work and the video never got made.  About two years ago the footage was recovered and only just recently was it finally edited together by the delightful and talented (fellow retired-Neo) Connor Kalista.

So here I am, along with Erica Livingston and Rob Neill, looking younger and somewhat more well-rested than I tend to nowadays.  Enjoy!

THE MONKEY on YouTube

The One I Love

June 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

the one i love

The weekend before last, my husband and I found ourselves in the rare position of having an evening to ourselves (the kiddo was asleep early) and enough time to watch an entire movie in one sitting.  Hot Damn!

Some quick googling of “best date movies” led us to The One I Love staring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass plus Ted Danson in a small supporting role.  It’s currently streaming on Netflix which describes the movie this way:

Confronted with the potential end of their marriage, Ethan and Sophie take off for a weekend together, hoping to negotiate their future. When they reach their idyllic destination, however, the couple strolls into a bizarre new brand of trouble.

We really enjoyed it.  I wrote before about another Mark Duplass movie, Safety Not Guaranteed, and what both of these movies have is a kind of eerie magical realism that works really beautifully.

Also, as a recent producer of video content (aka Gemma & The Bear) it was hard not to be impressed with how the movie really only has two actors in it – such a smart way to have room to focus on excellent acting (which The One I Love has in abundance) and great production values.

If you watch it – or if you’ve seen it – leave a comment and let me know what you thought!

Breaking Ground on Gemma & The Bear

December 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

This past weekend we began principal photography on my web series, Gemma & The Bear!  It was so exciting to finally arrive at the moment where the project crossed over from being completely theoretical to becoming a reality.  Our cast and crew were amazing – our challenge was to shoot ALL of the scenes that take place in an office in just one weekend (we’re filming all six episodes in our first season at once, according to location, to save time and money).  Not counting clean-up and set-up, I figure we filmed for about 28 hours between those two days.  I’m still exhausted, but it’s that great kind of good-feeling tired that you get from working really hard on exactly the thing you want to be working on . . . and feeling like the effort produced good results.

If you’d like a teeny peek, check out the new promo video our director cut from some of the weekend’s footage.

We’ve got two more days of filming coming up next Wednesday and Thursday so while I go work on pre-production of those, here are some photos of this past weekend.

Kevin ("The Bear"), Jack (A.C.), Kienan (Sound), Matt (Director), Jason (D.P.), and Debargo ("Tom") working on one of the first shots of Day 2

Kevin (“The Bear”), Jack (A.C.), Kienan (Sound), Matt (Director), Jason (D.P.), and Debargo (“Tom”) working on one of the first shots of Day 2

Debargo Sanyal as "Tom"

Debargo Sanyal as “Tom”

Me as "Gemma," while my brother (doing some background work for us), tries to get our attention.

Me as “Gemma,” while my brother (doing some background work for us), tries to get our attention.

Poster for G-Rap - the fictional client for whom Gemma's working on a big presentation - in their heyday as rappers (in the show, they've become entrepreneurs).

Poster for G-Rap – the fictional client for whom Gemma’s working on a big presentation – in their heyday as rappers (in the show, they’ve become entrepreneurs).

JC Montgomery and Brian Russell as G-Rap on set

JC Montgomery and Brian Russell as G-Rap on set

Natalie Kim as Gemma's boss, "Karen"

Natalie Kim as Gemma’s boss, “Karen”

We’re all so excited to share the show with you!  We have a very in-progress website where you can check for more info and updates: gemmaandthebear.com

5 Reasons Why You Should Give Me Your Money

November 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

So I’m making a web series.  It’s called Gemma & The Bear.

Gemma & The Bear - The Gist

Good friend and collaborator, Kevin R. Free and I have been working on the project for over a year and we’re just over a week away from the end of our Indiegogo campaign.

It’s tough to raise money for lots of reasons, chief among them that asking for money is hard for most people most of the time.  I’ve often heard that it’s easy to ask for money (or anything else) for someone else – a favorite organization, say – but so much harder to ask for yourself.  I agree, generally, but I am so passionate and excited about this project, that it’s making the asking quite a bit easier, which I think is one of the best indicators that our project is a) pretty wonderful and special; b) ready to come to life.

Here are FIVE reasons that you (yes, YOU) should invest in Gemma & The Bear:

1. You’ll enjoy watching my show.  (Not sure? Check out this highly informational page including adorable videos!)

2. You are (or aspire to be) a patron of the arts.  You love to consume creative content and so you support the creation and production of that content.

3. You care about a diversity of artistic voices; you value writers/creators from a variety of backgrounds and experiences – not just a bunch of white guys (as delightful as those guys are).

4. You want the world you watch (on TV, Film or, in this case, the internet) to reflect the world around you; you want to see casting that is diverse. (We’ve made a creative and a philosophical commitment to a cast as diverse as the city in which we live; race is just one type of diversity but, as an example, of our five principal cast members only two are white.)

5. You want to see something NEW.  We’ve all heard it: there are no new ideas, but some ideas are a lot less threadbare than others.  Have you ever seen a sit-com spin on Jekyll and Hyde?  Neither have we.

The world isn’t fair.  Maybe you’ve read some of the articles making the rounds about how in the arts rich kids are elbowing out those who are less well-off because money equals opportunity.  That’s old news, but that doesn’t mean we need to embrace the status quo.  You can vote with your feet (aka your dollars) by showing support for the kind of art you value – not just the art (cough cough reality TV cough cough) you’re given.

I think you make the world a better place by supporting the arts that move you . . .

. . . and c’mon . . . this video is really freaking adorable.

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Writer’s Block, Raccoons, and Life Lessons

September 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

For the past few days, I’ve been casting about trying to figure out what I’d write about in my next (read: this) blog post.  When I became a Neo-Futurist and had to produce roughly 3-5 new short plays a week, through trial and error I came into the following process:

  1. Have an idea. Write it down.
  2. Repeat.
  3. As the deadline draws near, visit the list of ideas.  Are any of them more easily developed?  Has having these ideas in the back of my mind resulted in my brain working them out for me on the sly?  In most cases, the answer is: yes!
  4. Pluck those more developed ideas from the list and write them.  Leave the other ideas to keep growing.
  5. Continue to add ideas to the list, repeating the process from #3 any time some writing must be produced.

I think of this as planting seeds (ideas) and seeing which ones come up first, and I do pretty much the same thing with my blog.

So. For the past few days, I’ve been trying to figure out which of the little growing idea-seeds I should choose to write into a full-blown post (plant) and none have been especially forthcoming.  In a move of either cowardly procrastination OR genius intuition, I turned to Paper Girl, the blog of Mary Fons.  Mary is wonderful and was a huge source of inspiration in even starting to write my own blog – she’s so great and she makes it look so easy.  Anyway, I was catching up on some posts that I’d missed and I came across this one: Grace Coolidge, Raccoon Whisperer (see what I mean? even all of her titles are outstanding!).  Mary writes:

The goal for me with the ol’ PG is to never let it be about one thing. Life is not about one thing, after all.

Yes! I realized that part of what was hanging me up was wondering if the things I was thinking of writing about fell under the self-imposed umbrella of my blog: my life in the arts.  But, duh!  Very little doesn’t.  Moreover, as I thought about what Mary said, I realized that the more I take that attitude with my whole life the better things go.

I used to feel like I had to unwaveringly, passionately and demonstrably dedicate myself to acting.  But, when you’re trying so hard and wanting to make sure everyone can see how hard you’re trying . . . well . . . let’s just say that doesn’t make for a great audition.  I’m no less committed to acting now, but knowing I don’t have to prove it or show it and trusting that that passion is always there has brought a lot more ease to my professional endeavors – and more pleasure and success as well.

If you didn’t already click over to Mary’s blog, I encourage you to do so.  She’s a treat!

And with my refreshed sense of permission, I look forward to sharing posts about back-to-school, children’s literature, and Steven Pressfield in the coming weeks along with who knows what else – those idea seeds can be unpredictable.

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