TCFF 2019 Documentary Spotlight – ‘Seeing Is Believing: Women Direct’ + Interview with director Cady McClain

On its 10th anniversary, more than 60% of Twin Cities Film Fest’s 2019 program are driven by female filmmakers. It’s something I’m happy about of course, but I wish the general statistics about women in Hollywood is something to cheer about. As of right now, according to Women And Hollywood stats, women only make up for a mere 4% of directors.

So naturally I’m intrigued by documentaries that highlight women filmmakers. I featured the doc Be Natural about Alice Guy-Blaché (the Mother of Cinema). This time I had the privilege of chatting with Cady McClain, the director of Seeing Is Believing: Women Direct.

It’s a documentary film which emphasizes the opportunity for women to use their voice through media to change the social and political landscape and achieve full equality. Focusing on inspiring and uplifting young female storytellers through the mentorship and leadership of four diverse directors, Seeing is Believing: Women Direct opens the conversation up to ask “What is the broader role of storytelling in our society and how can women use filmed media as a unique opportunity to catalyze progress?”

The best documentaries are entertaining, insightful and fascinating. Well, this is one of those documentaries and then some. I love that there are clips from their projects along with the filmmakers’ interviews. I also adore the the stunning animation by Chilean artist Xaviera López that supports the themes of the doc.

I learned that Cady McClain is planning of turning this doc into a podcast series with female filmmakers and I really hope that would happen!


Check out the trailer:

Q&A with Director, Producer, Editor Cady McClain

1. What triggered you to make this film as your first feature? I read that it had started off as a 28 minute short, then an 58-minute version before this one (84 min) doc feature?

I actually started out with the idea of doing a feature. But there were two other women who wanted to make a similar feature and we each have our own vision. We all wanted to support each other but also wanted to have our own journey of going about it, which is kind of crazy but that’s how it turned out. So I didn’t want to compete by making another feature, so I thought I’ll make a series. So the short was supposed to be the first episode, the pilot. So I sent it to Soho Film Festival and they called me and said, ‘you should make it into a feature because they think it would be really competitive in their feature doc category.’

When a film festival called you, it was the encouragement I needed. I mean I never made a documentary before, I’ve never trained in documentary, but at least the short helped me understand what documentaries are. Plus I could build it from there, and the 84-minute film ended up winning the Audience Award at Soho International Film Festival which was amazing.

Then we also had a distributor come around who said, this isn’t long enough for iTunes (because it was under an hour). Now I have a little more understanding of how to make the doc feature I had wanted to make in the first place. So I went back and added more women [filmmakers] that I had wanted to but I hadn’t figured out how to fit them in. It’s like weaving a giant quilt to form a certain pattern, and you’re making the patterns as you go along.

2. Out of the filmmakers that were interviewed, I particularly love Lesli Linka Glatter, Li Lu and Sarah Gavron… I love their stories and the way they tell their stories. So how did you choose your subjects?



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A lot of it was happenstance. It was who I knew and who people I knew knew… you know, how certain people connect me to certain people. Suffragette [movie] happened while I was making this film, one of my friends who was a member of the DGA invited me to that screening and I was so blown away by it that I wrote to her agent. She said she was too busy touring for this film, but if you fly to London she’ll make time. So I flew to London to interview Sarah Gavron. I was also so inspired by the careers of the people I interviewed.

One was Joanna Kearns (best known for Growing Pains), who was an established actor before she became a director. Some people said it might be easier the fact that we started off as actors, but it’s still very hard to make that transition and to earn your place [as director]. And also with Lesli Linka Glatter, there is a lot of happenstance that comes in any one’s career. As she said in the film, if she hadn’t met that one man in the coffee shop in Japan, she wouldn’t have gone into directing. I learned that no career is a straight line. It’s helpful for me because intrinsically, you don’t just go to film school and then have a film career. It’s a lot to do with the people you’re in school with, the connections you made there, what’s being made now, what are you inspired to make, how you craft your forward movement, etc. Nothing is guaranteed And if you didn’t go to film school and want to be a director, you really have to look around you, what resources are available to you, who are the people you know and what stories you’re inspired to tell. You really have to work with the circle you have around you instead of thinking it’s out there or you’d have to come to LA and expect things to happen.

3. How has your background as an actress help you as a director?



I feel like I could help comfort the actors, even when they push back. Some actors could get very insecure and some deal with their insecurity by becoming very tough. I learn not to take it personally, and just read it as total insecurity as that’s all it is. They need me to be the one in control, to be the strong one. If I’m not the strong one then they get afraid and nervous, ‘oh she’s not in control.’ So they need to know that ‘I’ve got it. You can be nervous and I’m holding the line here for you and I’ve got your back. Everything’s gonna be fine.’

4. Seeing the grim statistics about women in film, what do you think, from your perspective as a female filmmaker yourself, needs to be done in the industry level?

I think there is a comfort factor for the guys. When they work together there is a code of behavior, I don’t know if I would call it a pack mentality, but there’s an unspoken code of behavior. They call it the ‘Boys Club’ for a reason, it’s like in an athletic club you know, if you think about it like that, there is a code of behavior that’s been long held that they’re comfortable with. So when you introduce a randomness, which is the female into that space, they’d have to get into a learning curve. So is this a friendly person, is she going to judge us for our code? What’s their take?? So as a female leader, I feel like I have to be kind about that, and not be like ‘I’m coming in to blow your game away.’ The way I’d do it is to say, ‘I’m coming in to make your show great, to respect the work that you’ve done thus far and respect your set up here, but now I’ll bring in my intelligence, my talent and ability to the story.’ It does take a certain kind of crafting in that conversation, so we can move from a gender conversation but more about ‘let’s talk about the work.’

5. I’m glad you included Alice Guy-Blaché in your film. I watched her doc Be Natural last year and I felt so guilty that I hadn’t heard of her. So who’s been your fave female filmmakers, or those who have helped path the way for you as a filmmaker?



I saw the film ORLANDO, directed by Sally Potter and I was so blown away by it. It’s such a huge production and it’s a stunning story about gender… a person, a being, moving through bodies, through time… yet there is something so inherently similar no matter whether she was a male or female.

Tilda Swinton in ORLANDO

There was a glimmer of me ‘Could I do that? Is that possible?’ I was trained intensely by my mother that no, it isn’t something I could do. ‘She [Sally Potter] was British, it’s different over there.’ That old argument… You see, my mom was, you know the 1950s mentality, where if you’re going against the patriarchy if you will, the consequences would not be small. You’d have to have a lot of resilience to buck the status quo. I don’t think she felt she had that external or internal support, she was fighting different battles. She wants us to be safe, you know, she wants us to be happy, to survive. Unfortunately, her understanding of the world of what is possible is so limited. I think for her, standing up for what’s right is more satisfying for her.

What’s next for you? I saw you’re in the process of directing two dramatic features (Paint Made Flesh and Journey to Now)?



I’m afraid I can’t say anything about the projects I’m working on, but yes I’m definitely excited to be working on a narrative feature. Storytelling is what I’m about. Although I enjoyed making a documentary, I don’t want to be branded that I’m only doing certain type of things. I like to jump from medium to medium, I’m glad that these films found me and it resonated in our conversations. It worked out, they like me and then I got attached, so now we’re in long conversations of developing something into being. It all came about in a happenstance way, someone I met while making the doc recommended me for one, and someone else I met through the the process of finding more women directors recommended me as a female director, ‘hey think about Cady McClain.’ I think people who saw the documentary thought ‘oh she could tell a good story.’


Follow the film journey online:


Thanks Cady McClain for chatting with FlixChatter!


TCFF screening time:
 Tuesday, October 22nd 4:15PM

TCFF 2019 Spotlight: The Ringmaster documentary + Interview w/ creator/producer Zach Capp

What do world-famous onion rings, legendary band KISS, a beloved chef from Minnesota and a former gambling addict have in common? A loving tribute to a special family in Minnesota.

Hi everyone, Ruth here. This is perhaps one of the most unusual documentaries I’ve seen… it’s rare that a documentarian ends up being part of the subject of the film he’s creating, but that’s what happened here. Zach Capp initially wanted to make a film about a film about the Worthington chef and his famous onion rings, but The Ringmaster is what I would call a ‘meta’ film as it turns the camera on the filmmaker and ends up documenting the efforts and almost-failures over a 3-year journey. The result is something extraordinary… bizarre, sometimes even painful to watch, but also fascinating and endearing. I think the film is a sweet love letter to chef Larry Lang and perhaps even the town of Worthington as well. Zach said to me at the beginning of our chat that the film reminds us of an onion – the more you peel away the layers the more you discover. 

Before I get to the interview, let me share a bit about the background behind the film, and Zach Capp specifically.

Zach’s subject, shy, quirky chef Larry Lang, is loved by his town, Worthington, MN and known for making the best onion rings in America (as verified by food critic Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post). Zach’s mother is from MN and his family vacationed in southwest MN when he was a young boy. Zach never missed an opportunity to sample the world-famous rings at Michael’s which was the Lang family’s restaurant. Larry’s father Michael created the “secret recipe” in 1949 – the 70th anniversary in 2019.

 Zach’s beloved grandfather, Martin Capp spent his formative meager beginnings in St. Paul and later in life became a huge philanthropic figure in the Twin Cities area. His name appeared on downtown hotel towers in Minneapolis and St. Paul and thousands of families would live in houses built by his company, Capp Homes, which pioneered affordable pre-fabricated housing in the postwar years. Martin and wife Esther Capp aided many charities in the Twin Cities including the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

Papa Martin with his grandson Zach Capp – photo credit: Zachary Capp

Martin Capp thought that his grandson Zach should pursue his passion and become a filmmaker. When Martin passed away, Zach decided to use the inheritance his grandfather left him to make a documentary. The young former gambling addict began a four-year journey filming onion ring chef Larry and sister Linda Lang with the intent of making them and their onion rings world famous. Much of the hundreds of hours of filming took place in Minnesota. Additional footage was shot in South Dakota and Las Vegas.

Larry Lang and his famous onion rings – Photo Credit: The Daily Globe

This documentary was made in loving memory of Martin Capp, who had such strong roots in The Twin Cities. Zach is continuing his grandpa’s philanthropic endeavors. Part of the proceeds from the film will go towards Alzheimer research.

Check out the trailer:

Listen below for the Q&A with Zach Capp:

1. Have you shown this documentary to Worthington residents who knew Larry? If so, how has the reception been?

2. In the doc, you said that ‘maybe I should’ve cut my losses and walk away.’ I’m curious as to the main reason why you didn’t walk away and persisted in telling this story?

Zach Capp & Larry Lang – still from The Ringmaster

3. Watching the doc, it’s evident that you really had a heart for Larry Lang and want to see him succeed. But it was evident that you faced some challenges in making this film. What was the toughest day filming in your 3-year journey?

4. How was working with directors Dave Newberg + Molly Dworsky?


Dave and Molly helped me see what I couldn’t see because I was too close to the story… they really reshaped the whole narrative, they breathe new life into this whole project. I’d say they helped the film find its voice.

5. Some people might see the film and think that you and the directors were unfairly coercing Larry into doing something he didn’t want to do. How do you feel about that viewpoint?

Larry Lang with a KISS band member and the band promoter – still from The Ringmaster

6. The part in the film with the KISS band and seeing Gene Simmons ate those famous onion rings, that must have been surreal. How did that scene come about?

7. Now that Ringmaster film is done. Are you still interested in making the American Food Legends series?


Thank you, Zach, for chatting with FlixChatter!


TCFF screening time:
Monday, October 21st 7:15 PM

Interview with Avengers: Endgame’s co-director Anthony Russo – ‘We Love You 3,000’ Tour

Marvel Studios celebrated the in-home release of Avengers: Endgame with the ‘WE LOVE YOU 3000’ tour. Those who have seen that movie knows the significance of that line, uttered by Iron Man‘s cutie-patootie daughter.

Nine cities and 3,000 giveaways, it’s Marvel’s way to thank fans who’ve invested 11 years in the MCU! Beginning in San Diego at Comic-Con International on July 20 and ending in Anaheim at D23 Expo 2019 the weekend of Aug. 23-25, special guests from Marvel Studios and the MCU greeted fans at various cities.

So, last Wednesday August 14, Best Buy hosted director Anthony Russo for fan meet-n-greet and signing. Thanks to Allied Global Marketing, I and three other MN film bloggers got a chance to interview Mr. Russo on the red carpet prior to the fan event.


On Display at Best Buy were a few props from Endgame, including the broken Captain America’s shield at the hands of Thanos’ mighty sword.


So I was part of the red carpet interview with fellow Twin Cities film bloggers, Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip To The Movies, Jared Huizenga from Man Versus Movie, and Mark McPherson from TwinCitiesGeek.com. Each of us took turns asking Anthony Russo a question, but because of time constraints, we only got to ask 1-2 questions each.

Listen below for the Q&A with Anthony Russo:

Paul: I have to ask what your first thoughts were when Kevin Feige told you and your brother Joe that you’d be directing the last two Avengers movies?

Ruth: In regards to your time working in the MCU, what makes you the proudest?

I’m proud that we put our best work in and I’m also grateful that it ended up working for others.

Jared: Now that we’ve come to the end of the Infinity Saga and there are 21 films. Which one is your favorite?

Mark: There’s a lot of elements you juggled on Endgame. Was there any one key aspect that you wanted to maintain throughout Endgame as things were changing?

The important things for us is in regards to the character who’s going to die in the film. We made sure we give Tony Stark a proper arc, to give them the most we could do with that arc…

Paul: How has the technology changed now since The Winter Soldier. Was there anything that you could do in Endgame that maybe you could not have done in The Winter Soldier?

Ruth: How’s your working relationship is w/ the two writers, Christopher Markus + Stephen McFeely whom they’ve worked together for 4 movies. Was there ever any friction between all four of you, and if so how did you resolve that?

“Why my brother and I like to work as a team is because we have opposing points of views… it’s like point, counterpoint, point, counterpoint, it’s like a socratic dialogue we have all day long. We love that. So not disagreeing is actually a part of why the creative relationship has value, because it helps you heat up your ideas and pushes out of your comfort zone…”


Thank you Mr. Russo for chatting with us!
Your fans love you 3000 🙂


Have you seen Avengers:Endgame? Feel free to share your thoughts about the film and/or the interviews.

Guest Post: A tribute for the late JOHN SINGLETON

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On April 29, 2019 director John Singleton passed away after suffering from stroke. He was only 51 years old.

Singleton had a somewhat successful career in Hollywood. Even though he was the youngest film director ever to have been nominated by the Oscars for his first film BOYZ N’ THE HOOD, his career never reached the heights of some of the more well-known directors today (David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Ang Lee) that started their careers in the late 80s and early 90s. For the last few years before his death, Singleton has been working mostly on TV shows. He’s the creator of one of my current favorite TV shows called SNOWFALL.

As a tribute to his work, I’m listing my favorite films that he directed. In no particular order, here are some of his best work. Just a side-note, I didn’t see two of his films, BABY BOY and ABDUCTION.

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Before this film came out, not many films dealt with the tough life in the ghetto of Los Angeles. To many outsiders, it was an eye opener of what life is like living in those rough neighborhoods. The film was a critical and commercial success. Not bad for a filmmaker who was only in his early 20s. The performances by Laurence Fishburn and Cuba Gooding Jr. were pretty great.

Shaft (2000)

After doing a few smaller budget films, Singleton decided to jump into a big budget studio film. A sequel to the 70s Blaxploitation films, it didn’t become the franchise starter the studio had hoped. In fact, the film was more well known for its behind the scenes dramas. According to reports, Singleton and his leading man Samuel L. Jackson constantly argue on the set. Singleton also had disagreements with the film’s producer and writer on the tone and script. So basically, it’s the usual nightmare that many young filmmakers would run into in their first big budget film.

The film opened in the summer of 2000, it did okay at the box office. Despite the difficult shoot, Singleton apparently wanted to do a sequel and tried to convince Sam Jackson to reprise the role. But Jackson was not happy with the film and also with the modest box office returns, Paramount didn’t want to invest their money on the sequel.

Rosewood (1997)

This might be one of the most underrated films of the 90s. A film about the horrific lynch mob attack on an African America community in 1923. For anyone who’ve never seen it, I would highly recommend it. It contains great performances by Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle and Jon Voight. When the film came out in 1997, it received mostly positive reviews but it bombed at the box office. Maybe because of this film’s failure at the box office that Singleton decided to jump into doing big budget studio films such as Shaft and Fast Furious 2.

Poetic Justice

A great performance by Janet Jackson and the late Tupac Shakur. I also loved this film’s soundtrack. This is a film I need to revisit soon since I haven’t seen since it came out over 20 years ago.

Higher Learning (1995)

This film’s about race relation in college campus is probably more relevance in today’s world than many would think back in 1994. I haven’t seen this film since I saw it on opening weekend with my friends back in early 90s, so I don’t remember much about it. I do remember that I liked it but some of the stuff that happened in the film were kind of over the top and a bit cliché. This is another one of Singleton’s work that I need to revisit.

Four Brothers

This was Singleton’s last big-budget production film. A kind of strange action thriller that I still didn’t know how it got green lighted by the studio. The film starred Mark Wahlberg playing Mark Wahlberg. It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t that interesting and the action scenes were pretty lackluster.

John Singleton was not one of my favorite directors but he had enough talents that I thought he can make a big comeback. Sadly, we’ll never know if he could but I appreciate his films.

Rest in Peace Mr. Singleton. 


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What are some of YOUR favorite films by John Singleton?

Documentary Spotlight – ‘Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché’ + Interview with writer/director Pamela B. Green

One of the perks of covering film festivals is discovering cinematic gems that I otherwise would not have come across. This is one of those sparkling gems I got to see at MSPIFF this year. Not only is this film speaks of a topic that is near and dear to my heart as a female film critic/screenwriter/filmmaker, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché is eye-opening, inspiring, captivating and absolutely delightful to watch!

Pamela B. Green’s energetic film about pioneer filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché is both a tribute and a detective story, tracing the circumstances by which this extraordinary artist faded from memory and the path toward her reclamation.


‘Be Natural’ Review

Directed by: Pamela B. Green
Written by: Pamela B. Green, Joan Simon

Have you ever heard of Georges Méliès? The Lumière Brothers? Thomas Edison? Most likely your answer would be yes. But how about Alice Guy-Blaché? If you say ‘Alice who?’ then you’re not alone.

PORTRAIT OF FILMMAKER ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ IN 1912*

I remember feeling really guilty that I didn’t know who Alice Guy was, I mean I consider myself well-versed in cinema history. Or so I thought. But then the opening of this film asked that very question, ‘Have you ever heard of Alice Guy-Blaché?’ to a number of filmmakers working in the industry (i.e. Catherine Hardwicke, Jon M. Chu, Peter Farrelly) and many of them had never heard of her.

FILMMAKER ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ (WITH HAT) ON SET OF THE LIFE OF CHRIST IN FONTAINEBLEAU, FRANCE, IN 1906

By the time Jodie Foster’s voice came on as the narrator, I was glued to the screen, captivated and deeply curious to hear more about this untold story of Alice Guy, the forgotten ‘Mother of Cinema’ who’s seemingly been absent from cinema history through generations. Pamela B. Green has poured her passion and admiration for Alice Guy-Blaché and it shows. She utilized her background in motion design (she’s the founder/owner of Pic Agency in Los Angeles) in her storytelling style. I love that the film goes beyond showing talking heads and an immense wealth of archival photos/footage, but it’s also a thrilling detective story. The animation/motion graphics helped convey the filmmaker and team’s journey in finding the right people to tell Alice Guy’s journey, including her daughter Simone Blaché.

FILMMAKER ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ (CENTER) DIRECTING A PHONOSCÈNE FOR GAUMONT**

It’s immensely inspiring to see a woman behind the camera in the late 1800s. Alice Guy is shown in various photos directing actors on set. By her own account, she made the first narrative films ever in 1896! However, despite having made over 1,000 films, it’s heartbreaking that Alice had to fight to get credit for her work. It’s also astounding that even a hundred years later, there’s still a huge disparity for women behind the camera. I’m SO glad I finally learned about Alice Guy-Blaché and her crucial place in the cinema history. This film is so overdue, yet it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. As more people are championing gender parity in cinema, this film would likely inspire to keep up the good fight.

I can’t recommend this film enough to anyone who loves cinema, whether you’re a casual movie-watcher or involved in filmmaking at any capacity. Check out where this film is playing next on their official website.

* Photo courtesy of Be Natural Productions
** Photo courtesy of Anthony Slide


Check out the trailer:


Quick Bio on Pamela B. Green

Originally from New York, Pamela B. Green lived most of her life in Europe and Israel and as a result, is fluent in English, French, Italian, and Hebrew. In 2005, she founded PIC, an entertainment and motion design boutique based in Los Angeles, California. Green’s work ranges from feature film main titles, motion graphics, creative directing, directing and producing music videos and commercials. She is known in the industry for creating titles sequences and story sequences using her knowledge of graphic design, animation, editorial, and archival rare stock footage research.

Q&A with filmmaker Pamela B. Green

As soon as I saw Be Natural film, I went on Twitter to share about the film and to thank Pamela for shining a light on such a cinematic pioneer & visionary who’s somehow forgotten/omitted from film history books. I then contacted Pamela via her official site and was thrilled that I got to chat with her over the phone last Wednesday. Check out my Q&A below on some insights into her filmmaking journey.

Q1: What inspired you to tell Alice Guy’s story and let the world know that she is the true #MotherOfCinema?

I saw a tv show about women pioneers in cinema which included her. The show mentioned Mary Pickford (who co-founded Pickford–Fairbanks Studio with Douglas Fairbanks) who’s also well-known as an actress. But the fact that Alice Guy had done so much and had her own studio, she stood out. I had never heard of her at that point, and the more people I asked, I realized that many people also had never heard of her. I did more research and talked to some people in the academics community who said ‘oh everyone knows about Alice’ which made me angry because that [statement] is not true. Only a small group of academics knew about her.

I kept asking people that I work with in Hollywood, those I do jobs for, studios, and nobody had heard of her. I decided to do something about it. At that point I wasn’t sure what it would be yet, but coincidentally I was working with Robert Redford on a couple of films. On a second film, I told him about Alice and he was shocked as well. He said ‘well what are you going to do about this?’ Then I said, well I think I should do a documentary because I don’t think there’s enough work has been done to really explore Alice besides the academic aspect, restoring her films, documenting what she had done, etc. but it wasn’t a full exploration of her.

FILM STILL OF BESSIE LOVE (CENTER) IN THE GREAT ADVENTURE (1918), DIRECTED BY ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ – Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art

Q2: How long ago was this, that this journey started?

Oh a long time ago. In 2011 I was talking about this. Then we did a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 which was quite successful. Then the head of Geena Davis’ institute [SheJane.org] found out about it and then she talked to a big producers Geralyn White Dreyfous, Regina K. Scully, Jamie Wolf who came on board. They’re not part of Hollywood, but people who often fund social issues pertaining to women. Hugh Hefner and Jodie Foster also came on board as executive producers. They’re all visionaries who understood right away why I had to make this film. Instead of having to fight the system in Hollywood, I went the other way and they really helped me.

Q3: Did you face resistance from people who try to maintain the status quo of cinema history?

Yes. I get a lot of resistance from France, the Academics, professors. And Hollywood didn’t fund this movie. I mean they participated but Hollywood didn’t fund this movie. It’s completely donation-based. The ‘wallets’ just wasn’t available I guess, so I got funding from social media and these wonderful women. Barbara Bridges from the Denver Film Society is one, basically a lot of women behind the men who helped fund this movie, a lot of philanthropist women helped tell this story. The film is also distributed independently, outside of the studio system. But I see it as a positive thing, I was able to make the movie that I wanted to make, and marketed it the way I wanted to market it. There’s not many ‘fingers in the pot’ while I was making the film.

Q4: I love that the film also plays like a detective story, and the motion graphics helped convey that so wonderfully. Was that a conscious decision on your part to tell the story that way?

Yes, from the very beginning. I wanted to have Skype interviews, contact people around the world. Some people in the industry said to me ‘It wouldn’t be aesthetically correct. Why would you do that? It would look bad, what do you know about editing, etc.’ So I got a lot of resistance and people saying that I didn’t know what I was doing while making this film. So it’s similar to how Alice Guy was treated and had to deal with, that is having people second-guessing her as a filmmaker.

A still from the documentary

Q5: Where can people see Alice Guy’s extensive work? Is there plans to make her work readily available to the public?

Our film opened at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center on Friday, April 19. Then IFC Center in New York on April 26, then slowly we’re opening in multiple cities in the US and internationally [check out the film’s official site for schedule].

As far as Alice Guy’s films, there’s the Gaumont DVD collection [available on Amazon]. Kino Lorber Distribution company has some of her American films which they’ve released as part of the Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers disc [available on Amazon]. I’m also working on doing her American collections available for streaming. There are about 150 of her films in existence and we’re setting up a foundation that would hopefully support that venture.


Follow the film journey online:


Thanks so much Pamela B. Green for chatting with FlixChatter!

MSPIFF 2019 Spotlight: Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story & interview w/ filmmaker Louise Woehrle

There are countless of stories of war that have been depicted on screen, whether narratives or documentaries. They are inherently fascinating to me, and I’m especially intrigued by stories of survival, especially when told by the survivors themselves, as in the case of this remarkable WWII documentary with a Minnesota connection.

Told by U.S. Eighth Air Force Bombardier Lt. Charles Woehrle, one of 10,000 prisoners in Stalag Luft III – depicted in the movie ‘The Great Escape.’ At age 93 this remarkable man, a gifted storyteller, relives his experiences with vivid detail. His personal account of being shot down, captured by the Nazi’s and surviving two long years of tremendous hardship is filled with grit and grace.


MSPIFF Screenings:

Parkway TheaterTue, Apr 9 7:00 PM

St. Anthony Main Theatre 2 – Sun, Apr 14 4:15 PM (RUSH ONLY)

Marcus Rochester Cinema – Fri, Apr 19 7:00 PM


Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story Review:

In the promotional material for the film fest, the film is billed as ‘saga filled with grit and grace.’ I couldn’t agree more after seeing the film, I feel that it was how the late Lt. Charles Woehrle lived all his life… up until he passed away at the age of 98. It’s truly a good thing that Mr. Woehrle’s niece Louise is a gifted filmmaker, as she brought her uncle’s story to life so beautifully.

Though this film depicts a harrowing story, it has such hopeful, uplifting tone, a certain quiet grace that shines through when the then 93-year-old Charles Woehrle told his story on camera. Director Louise Woehrle used footage from 13+ hours of interviews with her late uncle, and combined them with various photos, real footage, countless memorabilia, plus re-enactment scenes to tell an inspiring tale of survival.

Lt. Woehrle capture shot with fellow comrades in Allied prison camp

Lieutenant Woehrle spent 22 months at Stalag Luft III prison camp along with other Allied officers. This film allowed him to provide the voice for his fellow comrades who couldn’t tell their own stories. There’s also a delightful story about how he received an unexpected gift from Patek Philippe, the luxury watch company from Geneva while he was a prisoner of war. I was so invested in the soldiers’ stories that when I saw the footage of General Patton liberating the Allied prison camps, I literally cheered. As a movie fan, I was amused to see footage of classic Hollywood star Clark Gable who joined the Army Air Force and was part of the 351st Bombardment Group.

This is a film told with passion and care. The amount of meticulous details is astounding, and they’re woven together seamlessly with the ‘talking head’ interviews and re-enactments to tell a cohesive story that’s suspenseful, thrilling, deeply-touching and inspiring. I have to mention the wonderful music which mixes the classic theme from The Great Escape by Elmer Bernstein, as well as those made specifically for this film. Great music adds such richness to the whole experience and that is definitely the case here.

I’m glad I got to see this film and learn more about a real life hero, as well as others whose stories are told through him. A brilliant showcase of the triumph of the human spirit. Lt. Woehrle’s and his comrades’ experience certainly gives me a whole new appreciation about life and the freedom we enjoy every day.

Q&A with filmmaker Louise Woehrle

Q1. What sparked the idea that you wanted to tell your uncle’s story?

The idea was sparked after my dad died in 2006. I was still working on my feature documentary Pride of Lions (co-directed with my brother John Woehrle) so I knew it couldn’t happen right away. By 2010 when my uncle was age 93, I could wait no longer, and that’s when I got busy. I knew that even if my uncle passed away after I shot his interviews in the studio, I could still tell his story.

Q2. Sounds like you filmed this five years before your uncle passed (when he was 93), how long was the interview process with him specifically? 

The interview process happened in 3 in-studio interview sessions, lasting 3-4 hours each. I had subsequent interviews at his apartment later.

Q3. Did you learn new things about his tale you didn’t know before? 

Yes, I learned a lot of new things. The one that stands out the most is the watch story. We had been shooting at a Stalag Luft III reunion in Detroit. I was interviewing a PoW who was on oxygen. He was wearing a Rolex watch that was broken and he said he never took it off because he had it in prison camp. So, when my uncle and I were flying back to Minneapolis, I asked him if he had a watch in camp? He looked at me and said, “Let me tell you a story about a watch.” That’s the first time I heard about the Patek Philippe. I think it was never mentioned because his house was robbed in the 70s and the watch was one of the stolen valuables. He just moved on and did not talk about it. I knew, at that moment, what that watch meant to him and so began my search for the watch and ultimately a replacement watch from Patek Philippe.

Q4.When watching the film, I was astounded by the amount of details of footage, photos, memorabilia, etc. that really makes for effective documentary storytelling. Would you share a bit about the research and process of collecting all of those items?

My uncle held on to his WWII documents, logbook, journal, artifacts, letters from home, Patek documents and the negatives from the photos he took at the end of the war with the Voigtlander camera that ended up in the Nuremberg Trials. I also attained scans from Col. Clark’s photo collection from the Air Force Academy Library. Those photos were taken with clandestine cameras by the PoWs. I also worked with the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, MN. They provided uniforms, tin cups, red cross parcels, the French Box car and more.

Charles Woehrle’s POW ID card

I was able to attain 2 film reels from the footage that was used in William Wiley’s 1944 documentary film Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress. 16 mm reels from an archival film licensing online platform, Critical Past. I did a deal with them. If they sent me the reels of film, we would do the digital transfer for them. My colorist, Dave Sweet at Pixel Farm specializes in the transfer of 16mm and 35mm. Because we worked out an even trade, Critical Past did not charge for the use of the film. I also scored on the use of the B-17 from EAA in Wisconsin. That’s a whole other story of convincing them why they should work with me. All things led back to Uncle Charles and his true story. He lived it and we get to document that story!  It was a 95-degree day when they landed for 4 hours at Anoka Airport. I had to rent commercial air conditioning units so none of our re-enactors would pass out from heat stroke with all that gear on.

Q5.I thought the re-enactment scenes were well-crafted and looked very believable. How’s the process of casting the actors and recreating those air battle scenes? 

We used green screen while shooting the B-17 on the ground at the Anoka airport. The goal was to shoot as much as we could with the limited time that we had. VFX were always going to be a part of the equation but I had no idea how far we could take it. I saw this sequence as being critical to the film. I was working with one of my several shooters on the project, Alex Fournier, who also assisted in some editing too. He studied art at the Chicago Institute of Art so he had a real talent for learning VFX. Alex fell down the rabbit hole learning what he needed to make a bullet coming through the fuselage look real, taking a still image and animating it and creating a scene of jumping out of the B-17 look real. He must have worked for 3 months, straight. I was very involved in editing that sequence. I knew it had to have the right rhythm to work and so did Jim Stanger, my editor who seamlessly connected each piece. Splice came in and took the VFX to the next level with their contributions.

For the B-17 air battle sequence, I had to rely on Minnesota Military Museum’s help, specifically historians Doug Thompson and Charlie Pautler. I told them that I wanted young guys for the roles who were in shape and could wear their hair short. My historians delivered a great group. I also used some of the same guys on the forced march sequence. Three of the PoWs were family, my son Luke Enyeart (age 19), nephew, Dylan Woehrle and my uncle Charles grandson, George Kelly. Keep in mind, none of my reenactors were actual actors. The only true actor in the film was the voice over for Charles mother, Anna. That was voiced by veteran actor Sally Wingert. The woman who played the mother role, Joan Lambert had acted in high school and she was a mother, therefore, she could relate to the story. How I found Joan is yet another serendipitous event.

Q6. Did you make contact with any of Charles’ former crew that you’re making this film?

Actually, it was a family member of one of my uncle’s fellow crew members who contacted me. The daughter of Sgt. Charles Eaton (Top Turret) who is standing next to Charles in the photo of the 4 PoWs standing after they were captured. Eaton is standing next to my Uncle. They pretended they did not know each other. The daughter called me because her dad did not talk about the war and she hoped that Uncle Charles could shed some light on some unanswered questions. I arranged a conference call with Charles, the daughter and her sister and myself. They asked what their dad was like back then because the man they grew up with seemed fractured emotionally from the war. Their dad could never get over the fact that he could not get the radio operator to jump. The kid was too scared so he went down with the plane. After Uncle Charles told them about want a great guy he was and how you could always count on him, etc. they started to cry. Later they wrote to us and said how healing it was to talk to my Uncle and that it explained a lot. Uncle Charles also told them that their dad did everything he could to help the radio operator but had to jump at the last second to save his own life.

Lt. Woehrle cooking with his bunkmates

Q7. And was it Charles’ idea to honor their stories, as in providing a voice for those who didn’t make it?

Uncle Charles honored his fellow airmen, always. When he went to France as the last survivor of the crew, he took it upon himself to represent all his crew in the best way he knew how. He documented every part of the trip and put together books for each family of the crew and sent to them. He felt it was his duty as the last man standing. That’s just how he lived his life. So when you ask, was it his idea to provide a voice for those who did not make it, I would have to say yes. Was it my idea to include that theme in the film? Yes. The mission for Whirlygig Productions from inception in 2002: “Telling stories that help us see ourselves and others in new ways, promote healing and connect us as human beings.” I have shortened the tag line to “Shining a light on stories that need to be told.” For me, there always needs to be the purpose of a greater good that can come from a story. Uncle Charles lived his story, I was lucky enough to document it through this film.

Q8. Sounds like your uncle lives his life with ‘grit and grace.’ Would you share one personal moment of you and your uncle that you’ll always carry with you?

Yes – one day we were talking over dinner and I asked him who in the family reminded him of my Dad (his identical twin). I was thinking one of my 4 brothers, maybe my sons. He gently pointed his finger at me. I was moved. Uncle Charles and I were there for each other – at that moment, I understood our connection on another level.

Louise at age 14 with her uncle Charles at the piano

Q9. The moment where Charles went to a Detroit Air Show is very moving, esp when he got inside the bomber airplane similar to his B-17. Please tell me one of your favorite moments making this film.

Well, that was one of my favorite moments because up until that point he was telling me there would be no way he would ever get into a B-17 again after all he had been through. So when the young captain on the tarmac asked Uncle Charles if he wanted to go up into the plane and he said “no, no, no,” and the guy driving the golf cart said “yes, yes, yes,” or something like that…something switched in him and he did it! I was blown away. It brought a lot of joy to not only him, but the rest of us watching him.

Lt. Woehrle with Louise at the Detroit Air Show

Q10. I love the music used throughout and you’re credited as the Music Supervisor. I noticed that you used the theme from The Great Escape film by Elmer Bernstein.

Thank you. Music is the bedrock of my storytelling. I studied music growing up and into college. I became a music therapy major at the U of Minnesota. Music is integral to every story. When we were editing the Stalag Luft III prison camp sequence my editor, Jim Stanger asked if we could use the music from the Great Escape movie to get us in the spirit of being there. Of course, I said yes but was worried we would get so attached that I would never be able to find music to replace it. Elmer Bernstein composed beautifully to the spirit of that film. Well, as I thought, I got attached to the music so much that I reached out to the Elmer Bernstein Family Foundation. They referred me to Sony ATV. It took 4 months of emails back and forth with detailed examples of how the music cues would work with the sequences. Finally, they said yes and allowed me to use 4 cues at a minimal fee. They understood this was an independent film about a pretty impressive man who lived the real Stalag Luft III. I am very grateful that they got on board.

Q11. How did you select the music for this film?

I have a good sense of what a scene or sequence needs emotionally and musically. I used that inner knowing when diving into the various music libraries. The right music sort of jumps out at me. I lost myself for days looking for various music cues. There were a few cues that my editors used to cut to that we left in too. My music editor Ken Chastain did a great job providing transitional music or creating certain classics, like Silent Night, Amazing Grace or tonal segues.

My son Luke Enyeart composed 4 cues after Uncle Charles capture and during his time in the cold and hardship in prison camp. Luke wrote a couple of the cues with his good friend Will Honaker. Luke’s primary instrument is the guitar. He has composed music for 4 of my film projects and possesses great emotional intelligence in his music. You can’t teach that.

Q12. Lastly, what would you want people to take away from after seeing this film?

I hope they feel like their hearts have been opened and tended to by the life of Charles Woehrle. I hope they can walk away feeling inspired by kindness, compassion, and love for our fellow man. I want future generations to know how much we owe the Greatest Generation and hope that my Uncle’s story starts a conversation and offers some healing for families like the Charles Eaton’s.


Follow the film journey online:


Thanks so much Louise Woehrle for chatting with FlixChatter!

MSPIFF 2019 Spotlight: ‘Singin’ In The Grain – A Minnesota Czech Story’ + Interview with filmmaker Al Milgrom

It’s one of the most exciting times of the year! MSPIFF always have a wonderful lineup of documentaries and this is one I had the privilege of seeing early thanks to one of the film’s producers, Kelly Lamplear-Dash, who also helped me land this interview. When I first heard about this film, I was immediately intrigued as I love films about music AND this one happens to have a close personal connection to my adopted state, Minnesota!

Dan Geiger (left) and Al Milgrom

What makes this extra special is that one of the film’s directors, Al Milgrom, is a Minnesota film legend. The founder and artistic director of U Film Society in 1962, and co-founder of this very own Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival in 1981, he’s had a second career as a filmmaker going back to grad student days at University of Minnesota.

His credits include doc features _Russian Journey_ (1959), Dinkytown Uprising (2015); shorts: The Bramble Experience (1971) , Rediscovering John Berryman (2014).

Co-director and editor Daniel Geiger is a veteran filmmaker based in Minneapolis. He’s has worked in the film business for over 37 years on feature films such as: Fargo, North Country, Purple Rain, Wildrose, Far North, Herman-U.S.A., Snow and The Jingle Dress.


It was exactly a week ago that I spoke on the phone with Mr. Milgrom. I had met him last year at a film event, and he was fascinated that I was from Indonesia. He likely knows more about Indonesian cinema than I do, and have even met famous Indonesian filmmakers/celebrities like Garin Nugroho and Christine Hakim. It’s clear that Mr. Milgrom loves learning about other cultures, which is how this film was born.

Close-up of Eddie Shimota Jr. playing the accordion

Before I started asking my questions, I told Mr. Milgrom that I had seen his film and that I enjoyed it. He asked if I was bored by all that music and I assured him I wasn’t. I love learning other cultures and the Czech heritage is so different from my own, which makes it all the more fascinating. I like the fact that it centers on a certain family, as the Shimotas became sort of the ‘face of the Czech community’ so to speak. Some of his family members and friends also chimed in throughout the film to give insights into what it means to be Czech-Americans.

As I was watching the movie and watching Eddie and his son played the accordion, I actually felt a bit nostalgic of my late mother who liked polka music and could play the accordion really well. My mom was always the life of the party back in Jakarta, Indonesia, every time she came out with her accordion, as it’s still quite a rare instrument there. Having lived in Minnesota for over 20 years, I’m always discovering new things about the State, so I’m glad I got to learn a bit about the Czech community and various cultural events such as the Veseli Ho-Down, Montgomery’s Kolacky Days, New Prague’s Dozinky Festival, etc. that’s been passed down through generations.

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Singin’ in the Grain is a film that should appeal to every immigrant, or anyone whose parents and grandparents migrated from another country (which are all of us, really). 45-years in the making, the film followed the life of Eddie Shimota in a series of footage spanning 40+ years and three generations. The boy in the poster is Eddie Shimota Jr. as a young teen, which is seen throughout the film from his youth all the way to the time he has his own wife and kids. It’s a film that celebrates a rich cultural heritage and the tight-knit Czech community in Southern Minnesota through folksongs and dances. Music is such a universal language, and something that anyone from any culture can relate to.

When I asked Mr. Milgrom why he chose to explore the story of the Czech community, as opposed to other immigrant communities such as German or Irish, his answer was simple…

The German community is more well-known to people here. The Swedes and Norwegian culture has become assimilated, as is the Germans, so the unique quality has disappeared. 

Mr. Milgrom also mentioned the fact that the Irish culture is pretty much only celebrated during St. Patrick’s Day, and the Norwegians and Swedes tend to belong to the upper bourgeoisie in Minnesota (middle or upper middle class) while the people in this documentary are mostly agricultural farmers in a section in Minnesota where, until the highways were developed, weren’t that well-known.

Mr Milgrom himself grew up in a Bohemian community in Pine City, Minnesota, so he already knew a certain amount about the folkways and their culture, even their language when he’s sometimes invited to their house when he was 10 years old. His early love for cinema was through Czech New Wave filmmakers like Milos Vorman, Ján Kadár (who won an Oscar for Shop On Main Street), etc. In fact, some of those filmmakers came to New Prague and were credited as consultants in this film.

Apparently Mr. Milgrom wasn’t initially planning on making a film about Eddie Shimota. Someone mentioned to him about the Hoedown Festival and Eddie’s band was the star of that festival that takes place every August in Veseli. At the time, Mr. Milgrom didn’t even know it was going to be a film, but he found Eddie to be a good subject for a series of interviews, plus he and his band were accessible to him. 

“The point is, I really liked the characters. I like Eddie and the Czech people there. They’re very different from the Academic community at the University. 

Eddie Shimota Sr.

The film shows public domain footage of immigrants coming to Ellis Island that ties in very well with the Czech heritage story. It also talks about various aspects of the Czech heritage in the Bohemian community that’s still being practiced today. There’s even footage of a Czech Honorary Consul (Ambassador) of the Midwest visiting a school in Montgomery, one of the largest Czech communities in Minnesota. But music is integral to the film, and that’s the ‘ties that bind’ if you will, as people of various socio-economic classes (some are farmers, surgeons, etc.) but they’d come together and play music together. 

The Shimotas reflect the culture of the ‘old Czech’ that arrived in the late 1800s and settled in New Prague as they form farming communities. Mr. Milgrom said that the old Czech has been somewhat diluted by the new arrival of new generation of Czech immigrants after Velvet Revolution in 1989, with their own folk-Slavic beat and vibe that’s very different from Eddie Shimota’s world.

In my interview, Mr. Milgrom discussed a bit about the clichéd term ‘America is a melting pot’ that’s rooted in the 60s and 70s.

“… in this day and age, especially after the ‘Make America Great Again’ propaganda slogan, various ethnicities want to reclaim their identity, they don’t want to be a melting pot. They want to preserve their own cultures… the Blacks want to preserve who they are, the Puerto Rican want to preserve who they are. Perhaps not the Irish so much as they’re so political, but the Greeks want to preserve who they are, they don’t want to blend in with everybody and want to preserve their language if they can. The process of assimilation tend to dilute their cultures. The Czech want to preserve their culture because they’d get swallowed up by everybody otherwise.”

Eddie Shimota Jr (in a dark shirt playing an accordion) continued his father’s tradition in the Veseli Hoedown, 2011

Singin’ In The Grain is a wonderful celebration of such a vibrant and dynamic Czech heritage. I’m happy to have seen a glimpse of their culture and music through this film, and perhaps even participate in St. Paul’s Sokol Hall later this year. The music alone makes it a fun to watch and it’s easy to be swept up by their joyful smiles and warm community spirit. It may have taken over 40 years to make this film but I’m glad Al Milgrom and Dan Geiger got it done. It’s definitely a film worth seeing by everyone, but especially Minnesotans!


MSPIFF 2019 SHOWINGS

St. Anthony Main Theatre 3 – Sat, Apr 6 2:00 PM (RUSH ONLY) 

Tickets still available for these two performances:
St. Anthony Main Theatre 2 – Wed, Apr 17 4:15 PM
Marcus Rochester CinemaThu, Apr 18 12:15 PM