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.

…Bring the Jazz

I had a vision. An audio vision, if you will.

As we were gearing up to shoot the movie I thought about the music that would become basically an additional character to the film. Since this movie is a detective story, and we would be paying homage to some film noir traits, I wanted to have a jazz score.

But how to do that on a limited budget? In his excellent book about ultra low budget filmmaking Rebel Without a Crew, Robert Rodriguez says the answer is simple: write your own music.

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Robert Rodriguez: a one man band.

One problem. My six years of piano and five years of saxophone in my formative years did not translate into actually being able to WRITE music. Unless I want the score to be REALLY minimalist (and out of tune), I had to think elsewhere.

Enter Zak Shelby-Szyszko. He lives and breathes jazz. He works or has worked for jazz-dominated record labels such as Resonance Records and is a consultant for the Angel City Jazz Festival. I came to him with a crazy idea: does he know any up-and-coming jazz artists who would be willing to place their original compositions in our movie for… ahem… VERY cheap? And the emphasis on original compositions. We can get an artist to donate their music for free, but if they are recording a John Coltrane song, we’d still have to negotiate with and pay the Coltrane estate. Zak watched our rough cut, said he could certainly help, and so we hired him.

Very soon I spent hours listening to dozens of recommended musicians. All VERY talented. And fairly quickly we were able to pick songs that reflected the tone of scenes. Some songs were clearly just temporary tracks, like we’re not really going to use this Miles Davis song for the climactic fight scene. But the tone was right. After a few months we had filled our rough cut with dozens of songs, about half from artists who might be willing to license their music for very cheap.

As for the rest, enter Jamie Christopherson, a talented and seasoned composer who had worked with our producer Beau before. He, Zak and I watched a cut together and discussed the music arc, including various tracks and themes for different characters. It was very easy to figure out what would be scored and what would be placed music.

Fast forward a few months. The score is finished and beautiful. Jamie recorded in his home studio, bringing in a jazz guitarist and horn section to round out some tracks. As for the placed music, we are still in negotiations with some of the artists but I am optimistic that we have our music.

We might not have a finished movie yet, but for now, the soundtrack exists on my computer. And if all goes well, it can grow up into a soundtrack album someday.

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Can’t publicly share the songs yet, but if you want to come over for a drink some evening I’d be happy to play the soundtrack for you.

Next up: color correction, visual effects, and a VERY BIG EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT!