For the Love of Making Movies

The festival circuit has been a whirlwind recently. A week after our “10 Degrees Hotter” Award for Best Feature in The Valley Film Festival we were off to Texas for Austin Indie Fest.

Austin.jpgBut in between our path to distribution had begun. We hired a producers rep who overnight drastically increased our connections in the distribution world and she spent some of her time at the American Film Market in Santa Monica plugging our movie…

…and it worked. Companies requested to watch the trailer. And then requested to watch the full movies. Small companies mostly, but some really big companies. Like companies you know, companies that have made movies you love.

We were pinching ourselves that big wigs (and small wiglettes) were actually interested in our film, but we all know that there is nothing until you have a contract signed. After all, as the three of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning know well, we spent nearly four years working on making this movie before we received funding.

So we will easily distract ourselves with the next festival. And this time, we’re bringing an entourage!

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Catia and I on the plane with our assistants. They aren’t good at taking notes or messages and their script coverage is subpar, but they sure are cute!

A family adventure is a nice break, especially with more family in Austin to help out so we could go to movies. And Catia’s parents graciously rented a house for our entire family which gave us freedom to go to the fest, and still… you know, not totally neglect our children.

The fest, now in it’s second year, was a bit smaller than previous festivals. Turns out we were one of the larger budget movies in the fest, which certainly was a first for us. We watched as many movies as we could and mingled, all the while juggling calls from L.A. about distribution. Could it happen?

Also, could we win any awards and add more laurels to our poster? There appeared to be an award for almost everything, so the odds were even in our favor. There were even two awards in the category “Worst Film” which seemed like an odd thing to celebrate. Turns out, after talking to Matt the festival director, this wasn’t as insulting as it sounds. “Worst Film” was a category that people could deliberately submit their film, usually really low budget movies made quickly. A campy category, but still… I couldn’t imagine submitting my film.

We enjoyed the festival experience, bouncing from movie to movie and meeting fellow filmmakers, including an enthusiastic team from Seattle who raved about our movie. We got to town too late to see their feature, but they didn’t care, gushing on about how great ours was and that we would surely win awards. Very kind of them.

Award time came and Catia won her second Best Actress award and I took home Best Screenplay.

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Not too shabby for a writer husband and actress wife.

The award ceremony was long (Catia joked that there were awards for Best T-Shirt) and many people gave passionate speeches without worrying about being cut off. It was fun for all of us award-winners to get recognition, even if it meant little outside this room. In the huge world of show business we were a tiny bar in a rural, barely traveled village but the fire was warm and the company was great. We were filmmakers celebrating ourselves, and that is much needed as outside this little corner we were preoccupied with distribution, and deliverables, and legal documents, and searching for representation, and everything about movies unrelated to actually making or watching them.

And then came the award for Worst Film. The kid who won it bounded to the stage and tearfully (tears of joy) accepted the trophy, pleased that his movie got made and that he got some recognition. His speech was witty and heartfelt; he was happy to be there. Following that award was the Cult Classic Award, for a movie off the beaten path. The winner was our new friends from Seattle, who also gave an impassioned, tear-filled and hilarious speech about how they made their movie for $850 and how hopefully no one ever sees their Amazon purchasing history.

Both of these winners and the enthusiasm they expressed reminded me of why this all started. Of course we want success and maybe a little money and more job opportunities but in the beginning and the end (and hopefully much of the middle) we made this movie because we love movies and wanted to make one ourselves. We put it out in the universe and now it is here forever, or at least as long as movies exist.

Yes, we want the world to see it, of course. But on a smaller level, when dozens of people pull us aside at a film festival and tell us how much they loved our movie, that is just as important. So with that in mind, I am very thankful that we got to tell this story, and happy for any and every audience that gets to see it.

And there was one more award to be announced…

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Thank you Austin for welcoming and loving Closure!

Coming Home

It has been said that the greatest part of traveling is coming home.

I’d like to amend that: the greatest part of traveling to film festivals is coming home to a film festival!

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After my time in Marbella I was home for three days, then off to Raleigh, North Carolina for a production of my play IT IS DONE. Between the various time zone changes and having a four-month-old at home (and a four-year-old) everything was a haze and a blur.

But we had to stay focused. After all, our screening at The Valley Film Festival would be our West Coast Premiere, not to mention our Los Angeles Premiere. The majority of our cast and crew lives in The Valley. Over 75% of our movie was shot within two miles of the festival home base:

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Our main apartment location, just a hop skip and a jump from the Laemmle NoHo.

Last year while in post Beau and I attended a seminar on indie film marketing and PR at The Valley Film Fest and I mentioned that this would be a great festival for us. Beau slyly mentioned that a film he produced won the festival’s “10 Degrees Hotter” award for Best Feature nearly a decade ago and thought it was a great place. (“10 Degrees Hotter” because The Valley is always 10 degrees hotter than the rest of Los Angeles.) So we applied. And I sent a personal email lobbying for our movie. And we attended a pre-festival mixer to meet the team. And then, months after we first submitted, we were accepted!

We had to strike while lightning was in the bottle, to completely mix metaphors. All the cast and crew needed to be invited; some of the cast literally NEEDED to be invited since their contracts call for comp tickets to the Los Angeles premiere. Since we are starting our path towards distribution (more on that in another post) we needed to invite distributors to attend the screening. In all likelihood they will want to watch a link from the confines of their offices but on the slim chance they can make it, watching a movie collectively amidst roars of laughter (hope, hope) is the best way.

And there will be an audience! Unlike Marbella, where our second screening had three audience members not affiliated with our movie, we knew we could pack the house, as we promised the fest. And we backed it up: we quickly sold out the 130 seat venue and were moved into the big room which seats 250. We threw a pre party for the cast, crew, investors and friends and then made our way to the theater. And the crowds were waiting…

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Waiting for Theater 1 to open (Photo: Kristen Moser)

Even though it was a 10pm screening time (actually, after two shorts our movie wouldn’t start until 10:30 but we didn’t tell our audience that part) the crowds were eager and excited, exactly what you want from an audience.

A few moments to pose on the red carpet…

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From left: Beau Genot (producer), Herb Hall (actor), Jamie Christopherson (composer), Katie Rosin (producer), Alex Goldberg (writer/director), Catia Ojeda (actress), Milena Govich (actress), Marcelo Tubert (actor)

,,, and down go the lights. And we’re off.

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Nina (Catia Ojeda) and Yasmina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) get uncomfortably close on the big screen.

The audience was with us every step of the way: the laughs, the gasps (“did she just slap her?!?”) and the important lean ins when the plot twists happen. After the credits and the applause died down we did a brief Q and A, which I honestly can’t remember as it was after midnight and all I could think about was our five month old who would be awake for the day in less than six hours. And then our L.A. premiere was over!

But it wasn’t all over. Another joy of a festival 10 minutes from home is being able to pop in and see movies whenever I could, and with family in town to help with the kids, I took advantage. The quality of films was excellent. I saw compelling features and shorts that were as thought-provoking and entertaining as our movie; we were clearly in great company.

On closing night Beau, Catia and I went to the festival wrap party. Over free wine, beer and pizza we chatted with other filmmakers and awaited the awards. With such a high quality of movies I had no expectations to win the big prize. But then…

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Winners of the 10 Degrees Hotter Award for Best Domestic Feature Film!

…shocked! I remembered to thank everyone at the festival; at least, everyone who’s name I remembered. You can check out us winning the award here (jump to the 13 minute mark if you don’t want to watch all the awards).

Fleeting thought: this is our second time winning Best Feature Film at a festival. Maybe we’re on to something?

And speaking of seconds, congrats to Beau for producing two different features to win the top award at this festival! Future filmmakers: want to win Valley Fest? Go to Beau!

After the awards, another drink, a quick handshake and meeting with one of the festival sponsors who happens to be a distributor (stay tuned) and then the brief 10 minute drive home.

Our fourth film festival concludes, and while travel has been a lot of fun it is a thrill to be on the home team for this one.


Coming up next – Festival #5: Austin Indie Fest, and the road to distribution.