Sunday, July 7, 2013

Canadian premiere at DOXA Vancouver

It was a very busy weekend in May when Gordon had his second Open Studio weekend, and I got to drive to Vancouver BC for the Canadian premiere of BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton.

The house was full, and the audience expectant

We'd spent some time in the garden getting ready for both Open Studio weekends, and I must say, it's looking great.

As soon as I set out the signs to point people to Gordon's Bell Studio, I headed north for Vancouver.  The drive was smooth, the wait at the border was short, and I was soon at my friend Gary Atkins' condo. (Gary is author of the recently re-issued book, Gay Seattle.)  After a bit of catch-up, and some lessons in international calling without paying through the nose, I took a much-needed nap.

Gary and his friend YK took me out to an astounding Japanese dinner.   And the amazing and inspirational Ian Hinkle joined us for conversation about everything from global warming to ink blots.

The Vancouver-based Radical Faeries organized an informal before-party, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Abbey of the Long Cedar Canoe) hosted an exuberant after-party, so Vancouver celebrated the film well.

The Sisters gave a rich blessing for the film.

As usual the Sisters were resplendent!

It was the first festival where I was only there for my own film, so I was disappointed I did not have time to see other filmmakers' films, nor to visit with them.  Dorothy Woodend and her team put together what appeared to be a very rich festival.

But it was also the first festival where I got to reunite with Cinematographer and Producer Ian Hinkle, who helped guide me through the early creative process of thinking through the film, including some early editing.  And it was the first time in years I had been in the same room with our incredible animator Michael Mann of Global Mechanic in Vancouver.  

Both added their individual stories to the Q&A.  Ian told how the first day we met in 2008 he shot our opening Big Joy Project  ritual at Broughton's gravestone in Port Townsend; when he was handed a glass of champagne, and James's ashes were added, it bubbled over.  "I don't know if that happens with all ashes, or only with James'," he said.  Michael told how he was given great creative freedom to "follow his weird" as he worked on the animations for poems and journals, and the film titles.  He also learned, seeing the film for the first time, that we used his sketches as background for the closing credits of the film.

After the screening, a woman said to me, "Now I am inspired to make the film I've always wanted to make."  That's the kind of response we have hoped the film would get!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Triumph at Tribeca?

Spring in New York!  Radiant!
 Was it poetry or prose? 

I'm scratching my mind to remember and figure out how to describe our 3rd U.S. premiere at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival, and how and whether the creative chromosomes align to adequately scribe the scene.
Michael Mann's animation amazed audiences

It was New York! That alone made it dramatic. Teeming with filmmakers. And filmmakers are all about stories -- inner and outer, upper and lower -- that we hope will move our filmgoers in some way.  We were pleased that so many people in our audiences said they were inspired to be more creative and live a "bigger life."

In other words, to Follow their own Weird.

Chelsea Clearview Cinemas was the
venue for 3 of the 4 screenings

BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton, our new documentary, had a big presence in the Big Apple last month: four screenings, two of which were sold out, at the amazing Tribeca Film Festival.

Broughton's poetry especially grabbed the audiences, and that was more than gratifying.  There were so many great poems that got cut out of the film, and there are also lots in it.  Here's one that didn't make it: 

Ways of Getting There

What makes you think
you know your way around?
You add the mileage
but subtract the scenery.
Why not for once 
wander off a path
without caring how
long it takes?
You might bump into
Time’s older brother
the one who never needs
to go anywhere.
          -- James Broughton

It helps to take a Broughtonian Zen attitude to film festivals, as the politics behind them are bewildering.  We had no idea which festivals would program our film.  (So far, South By Southwest, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Tribeca, DOXA Vancouver, QDOC Portland, Seattle International, Frameline San Francisco). And once you get there, you can either try to have as many meetings with industry people as you can, or you can relax and watch films. I did a bit of both.

My first night in town, I enjoyed the Broadway play by Nora Ephron about old-time journalism in New York City, Lucky Guy, starring Tom Hanks.   Then, it was back to work.

Our "red carpet" featured musician Stavo Craft (who
appears in the film), Producer Max St. Romain, co-
directors Eric Slade and Stephen Silha, and 4 of the
NYC Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

We were told that it's almost impossible to have a film shown both at South by Southwest (in Austin, TX) and Tribeca Film Festival.  We were fortunate to be one of the few.  And the Tribeca folks - from the founders to the staff to the volunteers - were incredibly kind and affirming to us.  Programmer Jon Gartenberg, who introduced all of our screenings and managed the Question & Answer sessions afterwards, could not have been a more effusive host.  Not only was he a great fan of Broughton (in fact, he programmed the Museum of Modern Art film screenings where I initially met those films), he loved the way the documentary honors Broughton, but also shows his dark side and follows its own "Weird."

Jon Gartenberg (c) introduced all our screenings.
He's seen the film 10 times, and continues to love it.

Three of our screenings were "blessed" by Sister LaDiDa of the New York Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  (Broughton was an honorary Sister when the drag nun service group started in San Francisco in 1979, and did performance art events with them.) That set the tone for a very charged, engaged audience.
Sold out audience at our New York premiere
April 21

It was wonderful to reunite at last with Dawn Logsdon, our editor and co-director.  She and her partner Lucie Faulknor are working on an amazing new documentary about the public library in San Francisco, FREE FOR ALL.   Dawn observed that since James Broughton never met with much success in New York, it was a pleasure to bring a film about him that was so well received.

In fact, The Village Voice named it one of the 10 films not to miss at Tribeca!
Tribeca was the first time Editor and Co-director
Dawn Logsdon (center) saw the finished film

Eric and I were thrilled to be joined by Robert Haller (r)
of Anthology Film Archives at the premiere

Our intrepid producer Max St. Romain made the trek from Mexico City, and added a lot to the proceedings, including a breakfast with composer Michael Nyman, who lives near Max.  Max has been a guiding star for the Big Joy Project from Day 1.

Thanks to the hard work of our publicist Matt Johnstone and his sparky assistant Elizabeth Trieu, Eric and I did a number of interviews, for media including The Hollywood Reporter, Bomb Magazine, The Times Weekly, FRED Film Radio, COOL Magazine, Nuestra Tele Noticias, Word and Film, and Tribeca Film Festival.

It was wonderful for me that my cousin Francie Fitch Mann and her son Nat, along with second cousins Andy Deck and Craig Wuepper and their fabulous girlfriends, joined us for the final screening April 27, and a great lunch afterward at a Middle Eastern restaurant.

And my hosts, John Haworth and Howard Rubenstein, brought my Principia College friends Margo Goodale and Jeff Sholeen; we had a lunch after the Monday screening with plenty of political debate and gossip.

Kitten Calfee, our Producer for Marketing and Distribution, continues to do an amazing job with our Facebook page (please like it!) and our extensive outreach.

Poetry or prose?  A bit of each, a lot of fun, some amazing parties, some great new friends, and more New York stories to tell...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Orlando oasis: This is Really It

Each of the feature documentaries in competition
 got a full page in the Florida Film Fest catalog

Florida Film Festival in Orlando (April 5-14) was our second U.S. festival for the new documentary, BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton, and I was the only one of our team who could make it there.  It was an amazing experience, full of insights, surprises, and celebrations.
With my bro-in-love John Reimann, sister
Alice Reimann and mother Helen Silha

One great thing was, my family joined me for the first screening, a matinee on Saturday April 6, at the Regal Theater in Winter Park.  The audience was small – maybe 50 – but spirited.  My mother, sister, and brother-in-law finally got to see the completed film on a big screen with good sound and picture.

We drove back to Sarasota, Longboat Key exactly, where my family has taken winter vacations since I was 14, and celebrated my birthday on Tuesday the 9th.  We also swam, walked the beach, and toured the colorful private rooms in the Ringling mansion.

Birthday dinner - dinner & photo by John Reimann

The view from the tower of the roof tiles at
Ca D'Zan, John & Mabel Ringling's mansion

Mabel Ringling's rose garden

A winged lion at the Venetian style Ringling Mansion

I returned to Orlando for four days of spectacular movie-viewing and partying with other filmmakers and with our wonderful “street team” of students (David, Nate, and Brittany) from Florida Central University, who posted and distributed cards and did radio and web publicity for the film.

Our second screening was at the fabulous Enzian Theater,
where you can lounge on couches and eat
(or dance) on tables.

On Friday, I participated in a panel on filmmaking artfully moderated by Rollins College professor Denise Cummings.  

Getting ready to go onstage to introduce BIG JOY

Saturday was the awards brunch at the Enzian, and BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Documentary!  That was a great surprise.  And it was wonderful that T.R. Boyce and Andrew Mudge's The Forgotten Kingdom won the audience award for Best Narrative Feature.  They participated with us in the 2012 Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) Labs for first-time filmmakers.

Friday, March 29, 2013

BIG JOY: International premiere sparkles at Hong Kong International Film Festival...

Happy Easter! A typical exhibit at a sparkling megamall
One of the amazing restaurants in Hong Kong
has a fabulous aquarium - don't think this was for eating!
Hong Kong is a mega-mall city full of mirrors and contradictions: stunning skyscrapers, beautiful old hills.  Life drilled up ~ not unusual to find a pub on the 5th or 105th floor … and down into glistening subway malls or ancient tunnels and caves.

Some of the thinnest skyscrapers I've seen!
So it’s a great place to bring James Broughton’s fusion of West and East, male and female, fast and slow, this and that – into the world outside the United States.

It’s an honor to be part of a festival with over 300 films from 68 countries, showing in various places around this polyglot Asian citystate.  And to be part of a festival that honors film as film, that brings such films as Broughton’s “The Bed” and “The Golden Positions” to audiences in the original 16mm format.  Indeed, it’s the first festival to mount a 2013 centennial retrospective of 8 of Broughton’s 23 films, along with our new documentary, “BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton.” 

When I met the festival’s director, Roger Garcia, in New York at Independent Film Week in 2011, he knew Broughton’s films (as an experimental filmmaker himself) and immediately warmed to the idea of a retrospective.  He also offered introductions to other festivals which might consider doing the same. 

Now, my first time in Hong Kong, it amazes me to see the program Roger and his colleagues have assembled.  So many truly insightful and beautiful films.  So much diversity.  Lots of courageous choices.  I walk around amazed at the endless shopping opportunities, both for festival films and for everything from motor parts to duck gizzards, cameras to bling.

Amazing veggies at the wet market

At the same time, thanks to connections made through the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota, I’ve had a chance to give two lectures at City University of Hong Kong’s Creative Media Center, one on the future of journalism (The Sixth W: What’s Possible Now?) and one on the move from journalist to documentary filmmaker (focused on my experiences with BIG JOY). 

City University of Hong Kong's Run Run Shaw

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Austin in the Blood. Texas, that is.

World premiere marquis at Stateside Theatre, Austin, Texas
March 9, 2013

What to say about the world premiere of BIG JOY: TheAdventures of James Broughton?

Eric Slade and Stephen Silha at the first Q&A,
introduced by Janet Pierson who knew James Broughton
and Joel Singer at San Francisco Art Institute

It was 8 days of non-stop attention to detail, press interviews, screenings, meeting people, and making merry. The reception to the film was all we could expect. Audiences said it inspired them. Critics wrote glowing reviews. And we loved being part of South by Southwest (SXSW), the festival of music, film, and interactive media which has become one of the world’s major creative showcases.  We joined 160,000 participants!

It’s hard to sum up how we gave birth to our new baby, but it involved poetry, music, and getting in trouble with the police for having a bed on the streets of Austin.

We were honored to be one of eight documentaries out of 900 submissions to be chosen to be in the competition at SXSW.  
Janet Pierson, senior programmer at SXSW, greeted 
Stephen Silha at the filmmakers' welcome lunch 
at Austin's Troublemaker Studios,
owned by director Robert Rodriguez

Lucy's, our favorite chicken & oyster spot

Big Joy poster crew, including (front, l-r) Eric Slade,
Michael Port, Kitten Calfee, Palmer Stevens, 
Max St. Romain, (back l-r) Kyung Lee, Alex Gildzen,
David Senk, Stephen Silha, Tony Krebs, Gordon Barnett

A number of our production team assembled for the premiere, and we rented a house so we could sleep up to 12 people comfortably.  Among the crew:

Eric Slade, co-director and careful guide along the shoals of interviewing, researching, animating, and piecing together the story.

Max St. Romain, our intrepid producer from Mexico City, who has been involved from the beginning, designing our first website, many of our t-shirts and graphic materials, and consulting with the music.

Kyung Lee, who has seen the film through post-production after ably assisting Dawn Logsdon in the editing process.

Kitten Calfee, our amazing producer for marketing and distribution, who coordinated much of the posting of posters and who MC’d the poetry reading at Bookwoman Bookstore, one of the few stores in the country which has a small stock of Broughton books.

Consulting Producer David Senk, who managed our tickets and logistics, some networking, and several events, including the Bookwoman reading.

Alex Gildzen, the archivist who first managed the organization of the Broughton papers at Kent State University in Ohio, and who plays a major storytelling role in the film.
Clayton Farris and Matt Johnstone keep in touch with press

Matt Johnstone managed our publicity, which included a number of media interviews, and a live appearance on a very funny Austin radio show.  Clayton Farris ably assisted him.
In "The Bed" outside the theatre after world premiere: 
(l-r) David Senk, Alex Gildzen, Kitten Calfee, 
Eric Slade, Kyung Lee, Stephen Silha

Eric and I were fortunate to be joined by our partners, Michael Port and Gordon Barnett.  Both pitched in to help the process, and Gordon made us smoothies and managed the challenging load-out magnificently.  He also assisted in one of the most exciting activities of the excursion: taking a bed around Austin to promote the film.

Tony Krebs with "The Bed" outside our 
rented house in Austin

The bed caper was the brainchild of Tony Krebs, an activist, organizer and communications specialist from Seattle who happened to see the film at a private preview screening last month. Tony volunteered to help us create the bed, and he ended up doing much more, helping to supply the house and keeping a steady calm in the midst of occasional craziness.

Dear old friend Canis Millican loaned us his bed, which he and Tony outfitted with wheels so we could maneuver it through the city’s streets and sidewalks.  (We were happy that 6th Street was closed to auto traffic day and night!)

Kitten Calfee is joined by several Sisters ofPerpetual Indulgence,
who hosted our after-party
at Rain bar (Broughton served as Sister Sermonetta)
James Broughton’s film, The Bed (1967), was his most famous film, and featured a number of San Francisco luminaries (including Alan Watts, Imogen Cunningham, Anna Halprin, Gavin Arthur, Jean Varda) cavorting on a bed which rolled over the hills of Marin County.  It was pioneering in its celebration of naked bodies, and was the quintessential hippie film.
Kyung Lee, Stephen Silha, 
Max St. Romain and Eric Slade 
enjoying The Bed

Three Austin police write a ticket to Kitten Calfee

So celebrating all the things that can happen on a bed seemed a great way to invite people to focus on Big Joy. Lots of people posed with Kitten as he positioned himself in his underwear on the bed. Ultimately, the Austin police posed too as they wrote him a ticket for “advertising without permit.”  They made us remove the signs, but had no problem with the bed being there.  By that time, it was about time for our third and final screening to begin.

Response from the press was phenomenal.  Beginning with the Hollywood Reporter on opening day, we had excellent reviews from The Edge Boston, Austin Chronicle, Film Threat, and the Brain Pickings blog.  

Local writer and teacher Andy Campbell wrote a beautiful report for Austin Chronicle blog on the poetry reading at Bookwoman Bookstore.  

All in all, SXSW Austin couldn't have been a better place to celebrate our "weird" new film.  Austin's in our blood, and we're cookin' with steam.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Live from New York

A rainy day in New York - as seen from the HBO headquarters
It’s been a long while since I’ve blogged, and for good reason I guess:  I’ve been working my tail off finishing the film, BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton.

And we’re almost there – what a triumph and a relief.  It will be released next year, just in time for Broughton’s Centennial!  At the same time, how sad.  You work on a film for four years, molding and shaping it, creating and then “killing your children” as you edit out scenes.  And once it’s “in the can” (one of many gloriously outdated expressions in filmmaking), you can’t change anything. 

We ritually gave birth to the film last month, all 82 minutes of it, at the annual Summer Gathering of Radical Faeries at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Detroit, Oregon.  It was apt and poetic that we staged a sneak preview of our work-in-progress there.  For it was there that I met James Broughton in 1989, at a winter gathering of Radical Faeries; we were assigned to the same cabin.

I had seen a few of his films 10 years earlier when I stumbled into them at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  There, I was transfixed by his visions of a world where things are perfect after the fuddy-duddies get overturned, nudity is natural, humor hugged and contradictions embraced.

Now, it seems, all but a small number of experimental film freaks and poetry aficionados have forgotten about Broughton.  Hence, this film. 

Here’s how we described it in some 24 meetings we had during Independent Film Week September 16-20 in New York:  “Big Joy is a documentary about living your passions and becoming the person of your dreams, disguised as an inspiring biopic about the wild and crazy California filmmaker and poet James Broughton.”

On September 17, people got to see 20 minutes of BIG JOY

Independent Film Week, organized by our favorite filmmaker support organization, the IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project), is an annual marketplace where emerging filmmakers get to pitch their works-in-progress to various industry executives and festival programmers.  I also went there last year with the multimedia Big Joy Project, when the film was still in “rough assembly” stage.  This year, we had an almost-finished film to show, and the response was encouraging.

We met with HBO in their beautiful headquarters in midtown Manhattan, and were able to hand our film to Sheila Nevins, known as the Goddess of Documentaries at HBO.  We also met with American Documentary/POV, Strand Releasing, Motto Films, and with many fine festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, Frameline, NewFest and Hot Docs.

It really helps to have a finished piece of the film to show.  In our case, we showed a 20-minute preview and for the Labs Showcase we showed the first three and a half minutes.  Readers of this blog can watch it via a sneak preview here:

We were astounded when each of the 20 films in the IFP 2012 Labs (10 documentaries and 10 narrative films) got to show 4 minutes, and our film got a rousing response.  One filmmaker even told me, “This inspires me to go back tonight and edit my film with even more creativity than I thought possible.”

A scene from Big Joy (from Broughton's film Erogeny) - as seen on the big screen outside at the  IFP Labs Showcase presented by Rooftop Films

A reporter from the Daily Mail of London posted a blog report saying she loved being “seduced by the silly” in the Big Joy clip.

We’re now in a waiting period to see which festivals accept the film, while we continue raising money for finishing, marketing, and distribution.

Eric Slade's film about Harry Hay, Hope Along the Wind, showed at the Radically Gay conference

Co-director/producer Eric Slade and I also participated in a conference the following week at City University of New York, NYU, and the Gay & Lesbian Center called “Radically Gay:  The Life and Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay.”    It was an interesting mixture of academic, fun, and faerie events celebrating the founder of the first national gay organization in the U.S., the Mattachine Society, who also “co-founded” the Radical Faeries.

The view from Alan and Andrea's house on Martha's Vineyard
That, plus a marvelous visit to Martha’s Vineyard, where I was hosted by my friends Alan and Andrea Rabinowitz, made for an exciting and exhausting three weeks on the East Coast.
At last, a bit of a rest!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another amazing love story ... Johnny & Kristin!

 Johnny's parents kiss him off while sister Sarah, bride Kristin, and brother/Best Man David laugh on

It was another tear-jerker.  Family Wedding Number Two for 2011: Nephew Johnny Reimann and Dr. Kristin Jacobsen, amazing athlete, veterinarian, and human being.

Kristin Jacobsen had it all mapped out – literally.

 Kristin doesn't like cake, so she ordered an "ice cake" - very Minnesota - which melted beautifully with colored lights during the evening

She had organized a rehearsal dinner at “Spill the Wine,” a trendy restaurant in a restored factory.  She gave everyone in the wedding party spreadsheets so they knew where to be when and how to get there.

Johnny and Kristin’s wedding was quite different from his sister Sarah Likens’ in June.  No church, no minister, no hymns.  It was en pleine air, atop a beautiful terrace at Nicollet Island on the Mississippi River in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.   Across the river, you could see the brick condominium where Johnny and Kristin have lived together for two-plus years.
 The wedding party getting ready in the "green room" 

Officiating graciously was Justin Gaard, a childhood friend of Johnny’s and a radio personality in the Twin Cities.  He established his “man of the cloth” position from Universal Life Church, which gives on-line ministerial licenses, and proceeded to crack hilarious jokes even as he performed the simple ceremony beautifully.
Lindsey Jacobsen with mother of the bride Liz Jacobsen

Kristin’s beautiful sister Lindsey, as Maid of Honor, watched after the train of Kristin’s wedding gown, and helped Kristin keep her cool as her carefully orchestrated wedding flowed on.  Johnny’s brother David was a solid Best Man, who provided a comical moment as the diamond-studded wedding rings in his pocket got caught on an errant thread when he pulled them out.
 The bridal bouquet
 The ceremony was joyously sparse, with very few frills – just a lot of personal comments most of which had been solicited by the couple ahead of time:  grandmothers’ advice (honesty & first-priority love), their own reasons for marrying each other (integrity and fun), parental suggestions (take alone-time and together-time often).  

 Kristin thanks Grandma Helen for great advice

A lavish reception followed in the adjoining pavilion -- made from the ruins of a boiler factory built in 1886.   There, a photo booth provided guests an opportunity to take funny photos in various styles (b/w, color, sepia, etc.), which went into an album which you signed – a great way to remember more than just the guest list.  Nearby, photos of the weddings of the bride and groom’s parents and grandparents proffered a window into the past. 

Gordon and I had fun in the photo booth

After a luscious dinner, we danced late into the night.  Young relatives wowed the group with break-dancing, even as the bride and groom danced with everyone.  The Reimann and Jacobsen clans melded.

 Proud parents Alice and John Reimann - whew, enough weddings for awhile!

The next morning, the grandmothers hosted a brunch at the Westin Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, built around the old Farmers and Mechanics Savings Bank, where I had first deposited my coins in elementary school. 
Helen, Mark and Gordon enjoy breakfast with the groom the morning after
The bride and groom then swept away to their honeymoon in Costa Rica and Belize, where they planned to hike and scuba dive.

 Kristin and Johnny Reimann - the honeymooners - made a quick getaway the next morning

Having two weddings in one year put all our cousins together more than we’ve been for decades.  We enjoyed looking at photos, many card games, a great performance of “Hairspray” at Chanhassan Dinner Theater, and a hike at the family farm (since sold to the Philadelphia Community, a wonderful Theosophical group).

 Cousins Francia Mann, Charlotte Wuepper, my sister Alice (mother of the groom), Lynn and Jim Shaffer - on Nicollet Island

And we noted how few divorces have happened in our family.