The last update I posted was literal weeks before the official start of the Covid-19 Pandemic. I haven't been sure what to say about it all. I hope if you're reading this that you're safe and healthy and somehow managing this unprecedented crisis.
As for me, it took a while to get my bearings. I find it's difficult to make plans not knowing when the pandemic might end let alone get better. Some people in my family have gotten the vaccine which relieves some stress knowing I don't have to worry about them as much.
Despite it all, last fall, I wrote and directed two short films. This first was "The Getaway" set in the 1930s. My number one priority was keeping everyone safe. Covid cases had been lower at that point, and I followed all Covid production protocols. I also kept it entirely outside. In a way, having to work around Covid protocols and restrictions forced me to focus on the story and more creative ways to tell it.
The Getaway: "A criminal couple on the run from the FBI meet one last time in the 1930s to turn each other in - and reminisce about their most epic heist." This short film will premiere this winter.
The other short film I wrote/directed is called "SAD BAT," a micro short/PSA to get out the youth vote for Nextgen America and Damnationland about the "horrors" of not voting. Starring Viva as the vampire, Bill McDonough as the vampire hunter and reuniting with Dean Merrill who was cinematographer. SAD BAT premiered in an online event near Halloween and was so much fun.
I also found out my TV Pilot "Barb" (formerly "The Resistance") was a Quarterfinalist in the Final Draft Big Break Contest 2020, and my TV Pilot "S.P.I.C.E." is a Quarterfinalist at Cinestory 2020.
Last fall, I was invited to be a part of an "Artists' Chit Chat" through Mad Horse Theatre Company in Portland, Maine where I talked about the process of filming during Covid - and got to meet some other really cool creators.
Next up - I've been invited to lead a workshop for the University of California Merced's Collaboratorium 2021: Create & Connect.
Other than that, I've been hiking, writing and watching lots of TV and movies. I recently watched First Cow and absolutely LOVE it. So unexpected - something that rarely happens!
Until we all get vaccinated and there's a light at the end of this tunnel, keep zooming, stay distanced, cozy in, stay safe and wear a mask!
The rest of 2019 FLEW by like birds flying south for the winter! (If you live in a warm climate, you won't get that). SO MUCH HAPPENED. Here's an update.
Calling all movie lovers! I was hanging out at the bar from 'A Star is Born' with my friend who was visiting from NYC doing my best Jackson Maine impression (but only because I'm from Maine). Have you been in the The Virgil yet? Lady Gaga wasn't there to sing La Vie en Rose but it looks just like the film
I finished my TV Pilot for Jynx Productions. It's called "S.P.I.C.E." and if you want to know what that stands for, you'll have to read it. But what I WILL tell you is the logline: In search of a new leader, a secret female spy group in the swingin’ 1960s enlists a reluctant housewife to help them stop an evil takeover.
I had a live reading through the weekly writing workshop I joined this past year - Deadline Junkies. A live reading is always both terrifying and exciting. You may recognize Erika Wilson from my films Arabel and The Poet. Erika was visiting in LA and did an amazing job stepping up and singing three different songs with a hilarious German accent. And it was a Quarterfinalist at Final Draft Big Break Contest! Top 3%!
"Of Mine" a short film I was Set Decorator on, premiered at the TCL Chinese Theater as part of the Dances with Films Festival.
We went from sweating in the desert, hand-building a garden, set dressing a trailer from scratch and working in a cave all day with headlamps to then watching it on the big screen. Director Cate Carson has made a beautiful film from a harrowing true story.
I worked at HBO in the production department and happened to be there during Pride and there was a Pride Party every day! We had photo shoots, a preview screening of the new show Euphoria with creator Sam Levinson and informational luncheons with activists and a board member from the Pulse nightclub memorial organization. There was also a 'Bagel Friday' Pride edition with visiting LGBTQ organizations, music and acai bowls!
Then I moved to the development department of HBO Max, a new streaming service launching in May of 2020. A few pics: The marquee at Warner Brothers during Investor Day when we had presentations; a garden party for all the women of HBO Max (and TNT, TBS) at Sandra Dewey's house (I'm in the leopard print, of course); a flower display in the lobby and conference room for the new show Full Bloom; and the awesome non-fiction team that I adore and feel so lucky to have landed with - Brett, Rebecca and Lizzie! (And Jen O'Connell and Nikki Reed).
I got to attend the Emmy Nominated Set Decorator's Party with Jessica Quattrini at Universal Studios. The theme was "French Riviera" and everyone wore white on the Europe Street back lot.
Once again, I volunteered with PEN America and got to attend their Lit Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Ava Duvernay, my Film Director QUEEN, was honored and I was honored just to be in her presence. I also wore a "goth" Dolly Parton outfit, so there's that.
What else? I did so much hiking and camping (my favorite things!), completed a 6 month career strategy class and got to go home to Maine for Thanksgiving for the first time in 3 years.
The Oscars are this Sunday - are you watching? The movie that gave me the most JOY AND LIFE was Rocketman and I wish Taron Egerton had been nominated! I even got to see him and Elton John perform at the Greek Theater for a live performance of the film.
Can Leonardo DiCaprio do this? (I mean, yeah, probably, but come on - this is fantastic!)
I think Uncut Gems should win Best Picture and Best Screenplay but it wasn't even nominated!
Anyway, 2020 has already begun and things are moving - can't wait for the next update!
I worked on an epic music video as Set Decorator for Trisha Paytas (with Jessica Quattrini's production design). Check out the video - it reached #16 on Youtube's trending videos. A fog machine, coffin and boatloads of flowers...
It's been a while since my last blog post/update. I mostly post on social media but so many cool things have been going on I should update y'all on my website, too.
I was invited to a special panel at Fox studios that my friend Devin McNair, stuntwoman extraordinaire, was a part of as they discussed painting down/blackface and wigging in stunts (when white men wear blackface or wigs instead of hiring people of color/women to do the stunts for the actors of color/women).
And then I broke my foot! It didn't stop me from hobbling around Los Angeles on crutches - including the LA premiere of Sorry to Bother You (which I also wrote about for iamandco.com)
My original TV pilot, The Resistance, was a finalist at the Austin Revolution Film Festival and a quarter finalist at Cinestory!
I went to a panel discussion with this year's Emmy nominated TV writers at the Writer's Guild. Stefani Robinson, writer of 'Atlanta' said "The only way to not make it in the business is to give up." Ok, Stefani - noted!
Then I got to work on Cate Carson's film as a set dresser. She was one of 6 director's chosen by the Alliance of Women Directors to make a short film based on a true story - and then have it screened at Disney. We got to shoot it on two different movie ranches in the desert - and in a cave!
Then we got to celebrate at the screening held at Disney!
For the second year in a row, I attended the PEN America Literary Awards Gala, and I got to meet Barry Jenkins who was being honored! I go to the Writer's Guild Library all the time and ask to read his script Moonlight. I didn't get a photo with him but I was able to tell him that. He was kind and gracious and encouraging.
I worked on a music video for Patrick Star as set decorator - so awesome to work for Jessica Quattrini and her awesome production design again. I love Christmas decorations so this was my specialty.
Watch the music video!
Last night I went to a screening of On the Basis of Sex with a Q&A with Armie Hammer and Director Mimi Leder! Loved it!
And for fun, I went to Joshua Tree National Park again with friends...
And I dressed like Rami Malek using clothes from my closet, because that's fun, too.
Until my next update...have fair winds and following seas.
I can't stop thinking about Call Me By Your Name. I'm profoundly moved. It's a love story we've seen a million times; forbidden, new, confusing, fleeting, passionate, soulmate kind of stuff. But the way it unfolds and the acting, the Italian countryside and the quiet moments, make it feel like nothing I have ever experienced on film.
I have so many questions. Was Timothee Chalamet chosen because of his natural idiosyncratic nature or was this an artistic approach he worked on with the director? These idiosyncrasies permeate everyone else: The quirky and subtle behavior - the father hopping to the dinner table or "mock" blowing smoke into the air with his wife, Oliver falling into the pool in the middle of a conversation and auditory and visual clues into this world - the fish caught for dinner (fish out of water), the fly that hovers around Elio like he is a sweet piece of fruit - a reflection of the sensuality of the peaches and apricot juice he's surrounded by in the vineyards and meals, and the door slamming in the hallway with the wind. I had no idea what that sound was for a whole scene (and later, the door slamming shut when they are trying to be secretive). It's 1983 and no one is connected to technology, only to each other and the Italian countryside. They spend their time reading, playing piano, dancing, laying out in the sun, dreaming, studying ancient Greek statues, having sex, and thinking and falling in love. It was a beautiful treat to be immersed in a world like that and one I was a part of until Facebook and smartphones came along (Armie Hammer said if the story had been set in modern times, Elio and Oliver never would have gotten together because they would be too engrossed in their online social lives).
The second time I saw it, the theater was full and people laughed at all the little joyous, beautiful, silly moments (Elio throwing the peach pits onto the floor, or when he mumbles things under his breath). What about the unexpected love and compassion of Elio's parents? It wasn't a "coming out" trauma. The mystery and ambiguity of their sexuality creates another layer - maybe Elio is gay, or bisexual or maybe he is never with a man again. We can guess about Oliver but don't know (I haven't read the book) and the fact that it doesn't matter because it's just about love. And the music. All of the music, from the piano score to Sufjan Stevens to Psychedelic Furs. And the dialogue/scene when Elio tells Oliver, without any specific words, how he feels. I was a little confused the first time I saw this scene, because it was so stripped down and all about allusion and tone and speaking without saying the words. It's so brilliant. I wish I wrote and directed it. I want to make something that moves people like this, that captures unspoken beauty and time and "moment." It was slow and easy, like that Italian summer. You could breathe. I haven't been this moved and felt so much in a long time. And the love...it made me feel so much. Thank you Luca Guadagnino, for taking my breath away.
I attended the PEN Center Literary Awards at the "Pretty Woman" Hotel in LA (Beverly Wilshire).Oh what a night! I finished Janet Mock's Redefining Realness and just started Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (we received free books of all the nominees!). And Margaret Atwood received the Lifetime Achievement Award!
I had the pleasure of working as Production Designer on a short film called Spanko, written, directed and starring Melanie Zoey Weinstein in September here in Los Angeles. It was an awesome experience and the crew were so great to work with. Spanko is getting ready for festival submissions. I saw a cut and I can't wait for everyone else to see it soon.
This shot is from a fantasy scene where I created a "goddess tent."
Last April (time flies in Los Angeles, without seasons I can't keep track of when things happened!) I was asked to do a screenwriting workshop with high school students from various high schools near the Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine, at Bates College (they even provided my plane ticket!).
It was truly a pleasure to share my passion for screenwriting with students who have just as much passion. They were insightful, engaged, immensely creative and supportive of each other. Don't worry about the future; the kids are gonna be alright.
I remember seeing the original Disney animated Beauty and the Beast as a kid, but I can’t say it was my favorite. I was more into Batman and Jurassic Park. My sister and I didn’t recite lines from it the way we did with Aladdin, but we knew all the songs, and even performed a stage version for one of our dance recitals.
On a whim one afternoon I went and saw this new Beauty and the Beast in the theater and I was surprised by how entranced I became. It was magical. People in the theater cried. Full of heart, gorgeous visuals, and a celebration of the original, Beauty and the Beast represents all the best reasons we love going to the movies. I’ve now seen it four times, along with thousands of other theater-goers, helping to make it The Highest Grossing PG Film Ever in the U.S.
Did this “tale as old as time” speak to you? Here are 7 ways Beauty and the Beast tugs at our heartstrings.
1. It was filmed to closely match the original
Experiencing deja vu? I was delighted to find the film didn’t stray far from the original animated version. The pacing, visuals and songs were nearly identical. Even though I hadn’t seen the original in more than a decade, it was like visiting an old friend and slipping into a familiar space. In fact, the trailer is a shot-by-shot remake.
Watch this side-by-side comparison:
2. Emma Watson as Belle.
Belle isn’t a princess, as she makes note in the movie. She’s the nerdy, book-worm in a town too small for an ambitious young woman of the world. A feminist of her time, Belle is played by self-proclaimed feminist Emma Watson, who has spoken on issues of feminism for the UN and elsewhere, even winning the first “genderless” acting award at the MTV Movie Awards.
3. The Visuals
Director of Photography, Tobias Schliessler, filmed on extensive practical sets built on soundstages in and around London, England. Even Belle and her father’s fictional town of Villeneuve, built on Shepperton’s largest set, is based on the real village of Conques in southern France.
The costumes, hair and makeup and set design were inspired by the original movie and by 18th century France. I noticed they used gold hues throughout the film; the gold on the ceiling that becomes a part of Belle’s classic yellow ballroom gown and to match Lumiere and Cogsworth’s metallic bodies. And who doesn’t love seeing the real life glowing rose in a svaroski crystal case?
4. John Legend and Ariana Grande
John Legend and Ariana Grande (known for her impressions of Celine Dion), tackle the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ song, originally performed by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. With 82 million views, it’s become a hit within its own right. You can view the new version and the original below.
5. Dan Stevens as the Beast
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen Downton Abbey, stop reading now.
When our most beloved Downton Abbey gentleman, Matthew Crawley, died in a car crash (as a way to end his contract), leaving Lady Mary without her soulmate, we were crushed. How would we go on? Seeing Dan Stevens reach new success as the Beast almost makes up for Matthew Crawley’s death. Almost.
Apparently, I wasn’t paying attention the first time I saw the film, because I didn’t recognize him at all!
7. The Supporting Cast
What do Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Professor Sybil Trelawney all have in common? “They can sing, they can dance, after all miss, this is France!”
Sir Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci play castle servants who become household objects after a curse is placed upon them. Hearing these recognizable voices adds to their roles. Seeing them in human form again at the end, in a hilarious but sentimental conclusion, will make even the coldest of hearts warm. Need a tissue? I think we all have a little something in our eyes.
The Poet has won the Audience Award for Best Horror Short at the SENE Film Festival in Providence, RI! Thank you audience!