Everyone's a Critic (Except me. I almost failed film theory.)

Random shot of me fangirling Elvis Mitchell, w/classmate Danielle.
Obviously film school left me no time for this blog. On this the eve of my official grad school graduation, I'm scrambling to finish lots of boring paperwork (and yet still procrastinating). Perfect time to get back to it. 

Part of the paperwork I have to turn in for my thesis film (more on that later!) includes six one-page reaction papers from master class-type events I attended at school and around DC.

As I excavate these events from my email & write them up, I came across a timely one that I wanted to share. Almost a year ago at the National Book Festival, I heard E.L Doctorow speak on a panel about film adaptations. Because I started as a print journalist and aspiring novelist, and have since turned to screenwriting, this panel was special for me, especially in light of Doctorow's passing.

Me & Ann Hornaday working the 2014 AFI Film Festival
So, if you're so bored as to read about a year-old panel with some mighty fine writers (including Ann Hornaday!), I'll just leave this here for ya:

Moderated by Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday, with authors E.L. Doctorow, Alice McDermott, Paul Auster, and Lisa See, who have all seen books they’ve penned become (primarily unsatisfactory) films. 


Another September 11th

AU's 9/11 Memorial 
A couple of weeks ago I visited my alma mater, Wesley College in Dover, Delaware, for the first time since the year I graduated. 

I was a senior on September 11th, 2001, on my way to class when I walked through the commuter lobby and saw a burning tower on the TV's. It had been a hard morning for me already: on the drive in from my rural neighborhood, a bird smashed into my windshield. Blood was everywhere. 

I hadn't slept the night before, anxiety, restlessness, and back pain kept me up. None of that is too memorable, but the emotions that followed made a permanent imprint. 

Few showed up for our early class, and we were there for several confused minutes before school was canceled and campus closed. 

Classes streamed out into the street, and we whipped out our early model cell phones (pre-text messaging) to call loved ones in the New York area, or anywhere at all. 

Before all the circuits jammed, I was able to speak with a friend working in the Diamond District. Though he was far enough away, he's Arab-American, so I worried more. (We had watched The Siege together in South Jersey just a few years earlier.)

For the next three days, I sat in my pajamas, inconsolable, and watched CNN. I lost my job waiting tables at a country club. Finally, my roommate turned the TV off and peeled me off the couch. 

That led to my news blackout for the next several years. Despite being a student of media, I was not immune to the profit-driven media overtaking my emotions in lieu of providing actual information. Bad media is more than just mindlessness: it creates fear, misinformation, and wars. 

Eventually, I found my way into news so that I could be a part of the solution. As I sit here now just outside of Washington, D.C., I continue to work towards that goal. 


More Interviews with Lonnie Martin

Lonnie's first coffee in Prague. Swiped from Facebook without permission. 
Lonnie Martin landed in Prague yesterday as part of AU's study abroad film program at FAMU. The rest of our classmates who are spending the semester abroad with him are on their way.  
Excerpt from David A. Cook's A History of Narrative Film

So it's a good time to post the rest of our interview. In part four, we talk about the making of Women's Studies and dealing with negative feedback. 

In part five, Lonnie talks about film festivals, rookie filmmaking mistakes, and the business of filmmaking. 

In the final segment, Lonnie talks about his ideal situation being "just enough to get by" and we wrap it all up. 

Check out Lonnie's Prague blog, hosted by Great Society. Prague updates on my blog to follow, so we can all live vicariously. 


The Future Was Wide Open

As I gear up for my second and final year of film school, I am already fearful of not being able to find a job. In the meantime, I'm trying to stay up on this industry that's changing as quickly as the technology that makes it all possible. 

I just came across a darling six-part short film series that was created by an ad agency to market laptops for Intel and Toshiba. (My anti-consumer stance and desire to get paid to tell visual stories are having a stand off.) 

"The Beauty Inside" featured the company's laptops but it was more than an ad. It starred actors Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Matthew Gray Gubler, and had a social media component with auditions held on Facebook. The episodes vary in length, from 4:45 to 9:38 minutes. 

Last month the series won a Daytime Emmy for "Outstanding New Approach to Original Daytime Program or Series," the first to beat out a televised program. It also garnered three Grand Prix Awards at 2013 Cannes Lions, a prestigious festival that celebrates creative works in the field of advertising and communications.  

This week "House of Cards" was nominated for 14 Emmy Awards, which the Washington Post reported as "a watershed moment for video content," in terms of how awards have been handled in the past. The article mentions that in 1999, it was a big deal when "HBO's "The Sopranos" became the first series not carried on broadcast television to be nominated for best drama." 

But with the ever-consolidating media, I take this as a good sign. New companies, new opportunities for innovation and outlets for creativity. 



Horror Movies as Social Commentary: an interview with Lonnie Martin

Women's Studies is an independently-produced horror/satire about feminist ideals gone wrong that Lonnie Martin made in 2010. It was his first feature film.  

Co-produced by and starring his wife Cindy Marie MartinWomen's Studies got a decent amount of press back when the video was released.

But nothing like the amount of hits their website and Youtube pages got a couple of months ago when Jezebel posted the trailer and a barbed blurb, which set off ridiculous internet insult-slinging. They didn't even reach out to him for comment. 


Had I not known Lonnie personally, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it all. Just another white dude making movies with chicks making out.  

However, since befriending Lonnie in a film theory class at American University earlier this year, I already knew him to be a thoughtful feminist and talented storyteller. 
So I wanted to give him a voice here. We had a long audio interview a couple of weeks ago. Here's the first set: 

In the first part, Lonnie talks about his screenplays leading up to Women's Studies, and introduces his dream project, Maynard Comes Back, a horror anthology. 

In the second part, Lonnie discusses the old school horror of George A. Romero and connects the "torture porn" of Saw to the social anxiety of real life torture uncovered in the Abu Ghraib scandal.