July 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
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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July 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
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!
June 9, 2015 § Leave a comment
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.
June 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
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!
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.
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
November 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
So I’m making a web series. It’s called Gemma & The Bear.
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.
November 13, 2014 § Leave a comment
I was washing dishes and all of a sudden, I had the idea for the next thing I want to write. I’m in the middle of working really hard on my web series so I’ve been making notes as the idea fleshes itself out without really giving it any kind of concerted push. Anyway, while the new idea has been percolating independently, I keep finding myself coming back to the excellent film Safety Not Guaranteed which I watched streaming on Netflix. Here’s the summary:
A team of journalists are dispatched to find out who’s behind a classified advertisement seeking a companion for time travel, with payment on return. After tracking down their oddball prey, the team has to decide how best to approach their subject.
Even before it related (structurally) to my new idea, I’d come back to this film with some frequency. The performances are great and charming, the writing is really good and the film manages to do this magical thing where it really keeps you guessing right up ’till the end (which is the thing I want to figure out how to do for my new story) and, as I’ve mentioned it to friends, almost no one I know has seen it. So: watch this movie!
Here’s the trailer. (WordPress won’t let me embed video, alas. That link takes you to YouTube)
ALSO . . .
A few days ago, still thinking about Safety Not Guaranteed, this delightful list floated through my Facebook feed. I was a bit chagrined not to see Safety Not Guaranteed on it, but also glad to have more great movies to check out.
AND FINALLY . . .
My friend David’s very excellent movie Next Year Jerusalem is recently also available to watch on Netflix. I wrote about his movie a while ago when it had its theatrical release and the thing I’d add, based on a recent conversation with him, is that the title seems to throw people off – they think it’s just for/about Jewish people/issues and that isn’t the case. This is really a movie about the human condition and it is gently and beautifully done. So check this one out too.