Yesterday I had a slight mishap with my phone that led to me looking at emails I had sent over a decade ago. It took me a few minutes to understand what was happening and by the time I did I was hooked.
I can’t say I would recommend this for most people but for me yesterday was tremendously positive. It confirmed something I have suspected for quite some time: my memory is not as good as I believe it is.
In short I have a distinct sense of a five year period of my life when I lived in Washington, D.C. My memory of events has me doing little with next to nothing to show for it. The emails from yesterday paint a different picture, in some ways positive and others less so. But to be clear – there are some glaring holes in my memory of projects I was involved with, for months, that I have no memory of. This is disturbing.
This made me stop and reflect on the past year – questioning what exactly have I done. Several months ago I started making a list, after seeing Steven Soderbergh’s again, in an effort of better remembering what I actually watch. I am continually amazed when I add to this list that films I watched only a few months before have been all but forgotten (until I read the names, to be clear this isn’t an article about me suffering from some form of memory loss).
Below are a list of sorts of projects I worked on this past year – in the hope that someone, somewhere finds this interesting or helpful.
Nearly one year ago I participated in the FilmSupply Challenge. It was a interesting competition in that participants were given access to both FilmSupply’s catalogue of stock footage and The MusicBed‘s selection of music to create either a trailer for a movie, a commercial or a title sequence.
I chose to make a film trailer and although it was difficult to find unrelated clips (with no dialog) to string together to tell a story I am proud of my results. The rules of the competition make it impossible for me to share my trailer but one of the judges, FilmRiot‘s Ryan Connolly, made a trailer that I can share.
I will say, seeing the winners of the competition, if I had better understood the freedom of creating audio content for these videos I would have done something different. All things considered I am happy with what I did – but more importantly it was an great exercise in editing and storytelling and I am happy to have been able to participate.
While attempting to put together the trailer for the FilmSupply Challenge I also adapted my unpublished novel into a screenplay. The Stowe Story Labs in Vermont have a fall narrative lab (and were promoting but decided not to hold a November adaptation lab) that I scrambled to apply to. Numerous film/video related ventures offer fellowships to help with the cost of tuition to attend the labs. I was not awarded a fellowship, so despite being accepted I found I was unable to attend which was disheartening.
What might seem like a negative experience was, unexpectedly, quite positive. In addition to having proper motivation to stay up late and write I was made aware of other writing programs in and out of the state of Vermont (and film/video related entities as well).
Becoming clued in to the Story Labs was due in part to attending the White River Independent Film Festival. There I met several local filmmakers who helped steer me toward wonderful resources (and people) in the state. I also became aware of the Vermont Media Alliance at the event.
I had the pleasure of volunteering with the VMA from June until December last year. In addition to playing a role in organizing, reshaping and formatting their website and social media presence I was able to connect with numerous people in the local film industry. It was particularly amusing to be corresponding with the head of the Stowe Story Labs, David Rocchio, both as an applicant to the Labs and as a potential partner via the VMA – simultaneously.
Being able to see the infrastructure and resources in place in Vermont from an “insider’s” point of view gave me a better sense of what is possible (and what is not) in Vermont. I am particularly proud of two interviews I was able to do while working with the VMA.
The first is with Matt Lennon, a filmmaker who lives and works in Middlebury, Vermont. The second is with composer Zackery Nicolosi. The two of them worked together to create the trailer for the Middlebury New Filmmaker’s Festival. I was impressed with the way Mr. Lennon was able to use sections of the many different works to convey emotions and give a sense of what to expect from the festival. The music that Mr. Nicolosi wrote to accompany the visuals is moving and unexpected. Take a look below –
I would be remiss if I did not mention the incredible efforts and work done by Phoebe Lewis on behalf of the festival. In addition to helping me wrangle these two for interviews she organized all of the communications between the VMA and MNFF and bantered with me via social media far more than I deserved.
From attending events, working with the VMA and generally benefitting from the hospitality of those gracious enough to spend time chatting with me, I have been able to get to know a few Vermont filmmakers whose work I admire. Below are a handful of videos from some of these filmmakers.
Michael Fisher –
Ben Silberfarb –
Jon Andrews –
Matt Lennon –
Sadly there are others, like Ethan Murphy, whose work I cannot find online to share with you. Then there are those that I was not able to become acquainted with, like Nora Jacobson and Jay Craven but given their contributions to the Vermont film community and the impact of their work I and including two trailers below –
In March of 2017 The MusicBed held their Film Initiative which I participated in. I have been working on a science fiction screenplay for more than a decade and when I saw how this competition worked it seemed like an opportune time to try and put together a visual submission that would take me outside of my comfort zone.
In an act of kindness the good people at The MusicBed put up the package the 2016 winner of the competition submitted. I was able to download and study that submission in order to have a real sense of what was expected. I can no longer find the page they had which contained the interview and submission but on Shane Hurlbut‘s site there is a blog post which contains most of the information (and the short film that was made after winning – I have posted it below).
I’ve never attempted to distill any piece of writing into minimal text and a few broad images and the process was helpful, to say the least. Problems with my script became apparent immediately, as did solutions. In using images I found online I was able to better conceive of the story I wanted to tell – as well as the themes and issues I had been struggling to articulate and explore. I would encourage any writer who does not tend to think visually to experiment with this process as it does force you to think differently and, for me at least, the results are pleasing.
Sadly I did not win the competition but, again, the process was so helpful to my writing that I do feel like I won in some ways. Perhaps that is corny but anything that improves the work is a good thing.
I’ve tried not to make this a self-centered post, I may have failed. My hope was to point out a few of the experiences I had this past year (I did apply to the FilmicPro competition but I submitted a previously completed work so no real lesson was learned there) in an effort to show how even in failing I feel like I succeeded.
I think it is easy when there are no immediate, tangible results to gloss over a period of time and think, “Nothing happened,” but rarely is that true. I wrote and shared numerous short screenplays this past year in a hope of getting something, anything made. The only short film I completed was one I made by myself – without a script. I did have the experience, for the first time, of writing with someone specific in mind to direct and then having the ticklish conversations that follow when they don’t want to work with you.
It’s a process and I can honestly say as much as I didn’t like many parts of this process over the past year, I think, it’s gotten me to a better place. There is concrete evidence that things did happen and being reminded of that is helpful.