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.

FCInterviewBanner

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

MN Web Series Spotlight: FEM 101 + Interview w/ the producer, director, showrunner & cast

Hello loyal FlixChatter readers! Today I bring you yet another exclusive interview with Minnesota filmmakers. It’s an extra special one as firstly, it’s a web series (which is a first here on this blog!) AND secondly, we don’t just have one or two key people participating in the Q&A, but a team of talented filmmakers/cast to give you insights into the making of this witty, well-written, oh-so-timely web series!

I’m so honored to feature producer Jeremy Bandow + writer Wenonah Wilms (who’ve both won the prestigious Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship awards), plus director Carrie Bush AND leading lady Erin Roberts (yes, Miss Kat herself!).

A community ed teacher gets more than she bargained for when she tries to teach feminism to a diverse and motley crew of misfits.

Feminism can be a complicated word these days! Jeremy Bandow & his team are Twin Cities filmmakers trying to stay true to the definition of feminism – ADVOCACY for equal rights for women – and with diverse, compelling characters explore the topic through an intersectional lens & continue the important conversation happening right here and now in 2019.

I had the privilege of seeing the first four episodes of FEM 101 (the first three episodes were shown last Fall) and this series is SO hilarious!! The writing is top notch with fun characters. I laughed so hard watching them, but each episode made you think about stuff you sometimes take for granted. I think humor can be tricky but even as someone who didn’t grow up in the US, I find it to be hilarious and an absolute hoot to watch. I think it’s a brilliant web series that’s hugely entertaining, but also offers up an important, timely message about what what it means to respect women and why women deserve to be treated equally.

Check out the trailer:

The first three episodes can be streamed on seeka.tv


Interview with director Carrie Bush +
screenwriter Wenonah Wilms

Q: Carrie – is this the first web series you’ve worked on? How’s the experience different from other directing roles you’ve done?

Carrie: ​Yes! Fem101 is the first web series I’ve worked on. Even though each individual episode is the same as a short film, with six episodes the characters have more time to arc so overall the length is a different experience for me.

Carrie Bush (right) directing Erin Roberts

Q: So Wenonah, you and Jeremy have won the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship award. How was the experience with Jeremy as producer? Have you worked with him before?

Wenonah: I’m honored to share the title of Nicholl Winner with Jeremy, he’s an amazing writer and a good friend. This was the first time we’ve worked together and with his producer hat on he really took charge at a high level and allowed the rest of the team the freedom to do what we do best. It was so fun both in the pre-production and production stages (which a writer doesn’t get to be a part of typically.) He had a lot of great ideas from the start but he really let me take the reigns as show-runner, which I know is hard when you’re also a writer to give over the project so I’m grateful he had that trust in me even though we had very little professional experience together. I would work with him again in a heartbeat.

Q: What’s been the most challenging process in getting this FEM 101 project off the ground?

Carrie: Honestly, this was one the easiest indie/no money projects to get off the ground that I’ve ever worked on. We had a dedicated, core team of people that came together from concept and writing to preproduction, production and post. To give perspective, on my last short film I wrote, directed, got permits, bought craft service, etc. To have a team so invested in the project and to see it though fruition is pretty amazing. The collaborative process is one of my favorite things about storytelling.

Wenonah: Casting was definitely challenging to some extent simply because its an ensemble of character that need to work together on screen. We all had our favorites and some of us had to give them up to make sure the right combination of actors came together. At the end I think we made the perfect choices and I can’t imagine the FEM101 cast any other way. This was also a very prop heavy production and we all rolled up our sleeves to make sure everyone got what they needed to make the joke work. Of course any indie project has its challenges when it comes to money, locations, time and equipment but our film community rallied and the dedication and professionalism really shows.

Wenonah Wilms on set with two of the makeup artists, Lexi Tyrell + Melissa Martin

Q: Has the initial idea evolved since its inception to the final product? Where do you get the inspiration for a feminism class to a bunch of misfits?

Wenonah: The idea was actually Jeremy’s, I was pulled in after concept and helped organize how the writers room would work. The execution was really a team effort as far as characters, story lines and tone, and evolved over time through brainstorms, table reads and rehearsals. We were all willing to make changes to make the project as a whole stronger and better – seriously, the egos were checked at the door. My job was to keep the six screenplays on track, make sure that the characters sounded the same, the comedy was consistent and that as a whole the web series flowed from one episode to the next. It was a cool, fun process and I was happy how well we all worked together to get this off the ground and running.

Q: I love the first four episodes! It’s a comedy but also has plenty of educational substance about women, feminism and of course sexual relations. Given he subject matter there seems to be a danger of being vulgar or even exploitative/gratuitous. How do you balance that in the writing process?

Carrie: We had a lot of conversations about this in the writing room. For me, it really came down to trusting the people in that room. We wanted FEM to be edgy and to explore different issues that are not openly discussed in our mainstream society. I think we need to be open and talk about the things that are considered taboo in a tasteful, productive and honest way. Hopefully if we talk about some of these issues more, they will create more understanding.

Wenonah: This was something I was a bit nervous about at first. Comedy is very subjective and hard to do without the pressure of making a comedy about a very sensitive and important subject but I always think of comedy like a Trojan horse to be able to deliver a message without being on a soapbox or sound preachy. It’s an absurd premise with a serious message.

There were lots of women involved in every step of the process and we were very aware of what might offend someone and willing to dial it back or come at it differently if we felt something wasn’t landing right or could be taken the wrong way. We poked fun at the people, not the cause. We definitely took risks but I don’t believe anything we did was outrageous or in poor taste or offensive. It’s not going to be for everyone but that’s okay. That’s part of making art.

Q: So Carrie, you filmed all 6 episodes in 4 days! Wow! Tell us a memorable filming moment that stood out to you.

Carrie: It’s all such a blur I cannot remember anything! 🙂 But seriously, the thing that stands out to me the most is the laughter that was heard from cast and crew every time CUT was called.


Interview with actress Erin Roberts

Q: Is this your first experience working in webisodes? If so how was that compared to your previous acting jobs?

Erin: This is my first experience working on a web series, or having a recurring character in ANY kind of series. It was REALLY fun to get to look at the arc of a character and see HOW she changes over this implied six weeks of time. Of course you do this in a play or movie too, BUT it was an exciting challenge to try and address this when filming all six episodes in only 4 days-and in a little more than a week. It was definitely a collaboration with writing, costume/HAM consulting and making some personal choices in how my character was evolving along the way. It was fast and furious and VERY fun!

Q: You’ve been acting for a long time and you’re also an acting teacher. How’s your experience help you with this role?

Erin: Teaching is a lot like performing. There is something extremely exciting AND nerve-wracking about standing in front of people. You have to keep people’s attention, help facilitate their learning, while also entertaining them. I think this is why actors make great teachers. We’re people people! We love to communicate. I also think that being the teacher gave me the role of rallying the troops on and off screen and that’s something I love to do!

Q: What do you like most about playing Miss Kat?

Erin: I was very lucky because, thanks to Jeremy’s idea, the character of Kat was essentially pattern after, and created, for me! Not a lot of actors can say that and I canNOT thank him (and the other talented writers) enough for this opportunity. I feel very blessed. SO, what’s great about her is that I get to have a lot of my own characteristics punched up in a more comedic extreme!

She is very passionate about people and her feminists cause and she is bound and determined to successfully connect with her students. That said I think she’s a little naive and therefore struggles with understanding WHY some people might not agree with her. She’s very empathetic and motivated and might be in over her head-regardless she’s not going down without a fight! I can totally relate to these challenges in my life! Sometimes life throws curve balls and, like Kat, I do my best to stay proactive and positive.

Q: Would you share about the casting process for this? I know you’ve worked with Jeremy before of 100,000 Miles A Second short.

Erin: I was on board from the beginning (lucky lucky actor me), so I got to be part of creating the other characters and consequently, casting the rest of the ensemble. While in the writing room with Jeremy, Wenonah, Carrie and Janet, actors we knew came to mind while we riffed. We were able to put together a list pf folks we wanted to have come in and read. We have SO many awesome actors in The Cities, and we saw a bunch of talented people, but I’m happy to say we got everyone on board that we made first offers to. This group was made for this show!

Some of the colorful students of FEM 101

Q: How was the experience working with this team and cast? How collaborative was the process?

Erin: The process was extremely collaborative. From the writing room to the set, I think there was a very open atmosphere to ask questions, play with characters, and tweak. Everyone was in it to WIN it, from craft services to writers, to sound and HAM, from producing to set direction…we were all working on a shoestring budget. People were clearly very committed to the project and generously gave up their time and energy (and even finances) to make this all happen! Congrats to everyone!!!

Q: Any favorite scene that stood out to you during filming? Please share if there’s a memorable snafu that happened.

Erin: Considering the quick turn around on everything, I’m actually surprised that no major disaster happened! I think that the universe wants this puppy to have some legs because we were extremely lucky with pretty much everything! That said, wait til you see the sculptures that Wenonah made for the homework assignment in Episode 4. A definite favorite and total surprise!

Q: Lastly, anything you are most excited about in episode 4?

Erin: Episode 4 is exciting because we are introduced to our first “special guest.” Kat brings in a friend/colleague to help talk to her students about sex… I will leave it at that 😉



Interview with Producer Jeremy Bandow

Q: How did this idea of FEM 101 come about? Did you always intend it to be for a web series?

The idea for Fem 101… It’s kind of a perfect storm of events that brought this show to creation … First, it was March of ’18. The Me Too movement had just been making some headlines, and I wanted to do something to be a part of that, to help combat the injustice and inequality women face (still, yes today, in 2019). I knew something like Fem 101 wouldn’t be much but it could maybe start a conversation, and at least be a step in the right direction.

One day I got Minneapolis’ Community Ed catalog in the mail. Paging through that, I noticed all sorts of odd, nearly comical classes. I thought, there should be a class for feminism! That could be funny, and ~ *gasp* ~ educational? Voilá, the idea was born! I texted Erin about it, asked if she were interested in playing the teacher, Miss Kat. She heartily said yes. This got the ball rolling. Wenonah too, was all in. I sat down with my WheeI·House partner Adam Olson, who also has been on board since Day 1, and before we knew it we were headfirst into development and pre-production.

We did always see it as a web series. There are no limitations, and you have instant, free, and worldwide distribution. What more could one ask for? (Don’t say money 🙂 )

The stellar team of FEM 101

Q: So Jeremy, you and Wenonah have both won the Nichols Screenwriting Fellowship award. How was the experience with Wenonah as the showrunner?

We do always joke about being the only two Nicholl Fellows from Minnesota. Quite an honor. I never had worked with Wenonah before. I think we both feel lucky and happy to have gotten the chance to work together on this. Wenonah is a brilliant writer. While all of us were involved creatively, we leaned on her written words throughout this process. Having Wenonah as a showrunner was especially helpful, as she took multiple writing passes at the entire season to make sure all the episodes flowed together seamlessly. Due to her work in this capacity, we have characters who arc, plants in early episodes that pay off in later episodes, storylines that develop, build and resolve, etc…

Q: Jeremy, you’ve had experience as a writer and director, but why did you take a producer role for this one? Perhaps you can also talk about the process of working with Carrie as director?

I actually like producing! But no, I understand the question. It felt terribly antithetical to even consider directing the show, so I never did. I did have a seat in the writer’s room. Wenonah brought Carrie on board very early on to direct. Immediately there was amazing creative synergy, and we instantly fell in love with the vision Carrie developed for the show. When you watch the episodes, it shows how masterfully she brought her vision to life. I cannot overstate how tirelessly Carrie has worked on this project, from developing shot lists and storyboards, to working with camera and art and all the various departments, to working with the actors and getting the performances, now these last months in post-production, and more…

As the producer, my job was to give Carrie everything she needed to bring the show to life, and to try and limit unforeseen challenges, which are always bound to happen in a film production because there are so many variables at play.

Q: What’s the plan for future episodes? Please tell us more about Seeka TV and how people can watch Fem 101.

Seeka TV is a-mazing! It is a streaming platform for independently produced web series, dedicated to bringing great content to audiences around the globe. The first half of our season is now streaming at watch.seeka.tv/fem-101 – and we are planning on releasing the 2nd half of the season early spring, in just a few weeks from now. If you haven’t already – check out Seeka TV and Fem 101!


Thanks so much Jeremy, Wenonah, Carrie & Erin
for the insightful interview!


UPCOMING LIVE SCREENING

FilmNorth February Cinema Lounge
Wednesday at 7 PM – 10 PM
Bryant Lake Bowl & Theater
810 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Minnesota Cable Channel MCN6 rebranding – Q&A w/ actor/producer Russell Johnson

One of my goals with FlixChatter blog is to help promote indie filmmakers here, near and far. So when I heard that a local cable network is being rebranded to focus on MN-made content, I knew I wanted to highlight that here. Fortunately, the producer of the Minnesota-made film programming, Russell Johnson, is a friend of mine.

MCN6 is a Twin Cities local, non-affiliated cable network featuring MN made content in support of building strong diverse community. It reaches seven county metro area, over 600,000 cable subscribers. This year, MCN6 is being rebranded as a Minnesota-made Channel, produced by Russell Johnson as the MN-made programmer. The MCN6 is now managed by Stuart Devann and his management company, and Kevin Chilcote is the station’s General Manager.

Quick bio on Russell Johnson:

My introduction to the media began with the 1990’s as I worked with several news journalist reporting on the crimes of a destructive cult and I even made an appearance on CourtTV. I would write my unpublished memoir Deceived A Journey into Darkness about my experience in the Chung Moo Quan martial arts cult. Although the book remains unpublished in 2017 I release a 19 episode titled Deceived Podcast. While living in Colorado, I assisted 7-time Women’s World Martial Champion Kym Rock in making several self-defense videos for her Fight Like a Girl program.

Moving back to Minnesota in 2013, I became involved in the film community first as a volunteer at Twin Cities Film Fest and as a production assistant on several films including Sad Clown, Dragonfly. I would fill many roles in film including location manager, producer, reporter and actor.

​How did you get involved in the rebranding of MCN6 as a MN-made channel?

Russ: I am a member of the Minnesota Filmmaker Meetup group which is activity working with MCN6 on the rebranding. I was invited to the first rebranding meeting because of my connection to Twin Cities Film Fest and the local community.

Russell + Stuart Devann at the MCN6 Live Dance Party on Feb 9

A: What would you & the MCN6 organizer envision the rebranding to be and how it would affect the MN/TV film community?

Russ: Most of the talented people that I know who work in film do it for free and they do so because it’s their passion. MCN6 wants to give a home for Minnesota Made film to be seen. We want to a community sponsored channel that through advertisement and sponsorship that we will be able to pay for content.

Russell and director Jason P. Schumacher – Sad Clown won TCFF Best Audience Award Short in 2014

I know you’re passionate about films. What are some of your favorite movies growing up? Have your taste evolved over the years? 

Russ: I was a fan of the old horror films. When I was a kid there was a program TV called Horror Incorporated I would like to produce the Minnesota version of that. I am a fan of Alfred Hitchcock and films like The Birds and Rear Window. Bruce Lee martial arts films and the TV show Kung Fu had an impact on my life.

You’ve been involved in the MN film community for a while. What are you most passionate about that’s happening right now? 

Russ: I am excited that we are heading into the 10th year of Twin Cities Film Fest an organization that has brought joy and happiness to my life. This year the Independent Television Festival moves to Duluth Minnesota and for me this is an exciting time to work in television. Minnesota is about to become the hub of independently made television programming and with that comes opportunity for jobs in our community. My understanding is that they want to turn Duluth Festival into the Sundance Independent Television.

Lastly, please talk about the Valentine’s Day programming coming up on February 14th.

Russ: MCN6 wants diverse programming that represent all of Minnesota. I came about the short films selected in several ways, by posting that I had accepted them, reaching out filmmaker that I know and attending film festivals looking for them. The films are relationship-based but not all in a conventional or conservative way.

One of the films a woman falls in love with an electrical fan. As I understand, Hearts Want, the film that you wrote/produced Ruth, was filmed in MN but the story is actually set in the UK. The films are diverse in front and behind the camera. The Man Crush features a male to male crush and other films have black and women writers, directors.

LIST OF FILMS
(not necessarily in the order that they will appear):

  1. Sad Clown – Jason P. Schumacher
  2. Snail Mail – Josh Mruz
  3. The Man Crush – Ricky Loup
  4. A Verdant View – Nathan Block
  5. All Choked Up – Brent Duncan
  6. Hearts Want – Jason P. Schumacher
  7. The Unicorn – Jew DreamFirstBorn
  8. Wiggle Room – Pedro Juan Fonseca
  9. The Journey – Gwen Orth Ruhoff
  10. Sex Life – Cole Meyer
  11. It was you – Andrew Stecker
  12. Grown Men on Swings  – Dan Stewart
  13. A Perfect Night – Samuel Mueller
  14. Blue Silver – Nathan Block
  15. Cami Leon – Amber Rhodes and Ryan Schaddelee
  16. Herb & I –  Sebastian Schnabel
  17. BlunderLust – AJ Allan
  18. Relationship Spread – Jon Leininger
  19. M 4 W – Cynthia Uhrich
  20. Vows – Ingrid Moss and Alex Kohnstamm
  21. The Midway – Patrick Pierson
  22. Evergreen – Adam Zuehlke

Thanks Russell for the interview!

Be sure to tune in MCN Channel 6 on Wednesday evening, Feb 14th
and MCN6.org Live Stream from 6 – 10:03PM CST.

Short Film Spotlight: FORGET ME NOT + Q&A with director Nicholas Goulden & producer Angela Godfrey

As a film blogger, I’m so fortunate that I got to ‘meet’ filmmakers (whether virtually or in person) from all over the globe and help champion their work. I first learned about Forget Me Not in early 2017, right when I was I was in crazy pre-production mode working on my own short film Hearts Want. Thankfully I got in touch again with director Nicholas Goulden and producer Angela Godfrey earlier this year and got to see his wonderful, heartfelt short film set during the holiday season in London.

Alone and invisible to the world, a homeless man and the ghost of a little girl discover they are each other’s only hope of finding peace in time for Christmas.

The title of this film is most appropriate as it’s one of those films that will linger in your mind long after you watched it. It also has a very significant meaning given the story revolves around two people who are ‘forgotten’ by people, especially during the hustle bustle of Christmas at a busy London junction.

Renowned Scottish actor James Cosmo played the homeless man Benedict, with Ruby Royle as the little girl Isobel and John Heffernan as a working man who offers Benedict coffee daily. It takes a bit of time to figure out just who the little girl is and why she keeps approaching Benedict, and that’s the point. I feel like the deliberate measured pace is a contrast to the speed of how everything and everyone is moving every day, unaware of what’s happening around us as we’re so focused on ourselves.

There’s such a quiet grace in the way the story is told, with few words spoken. Yet it packs an emotional punch and the scene at the end got me all teared up. I’m not going to give anything away, as I hope one day the film would be available for public view.

The cinematography (by Chris Fergusson) and music (composed by Matthew Slater) is absolutely stunning and adds even more emotional resonance to the overall viewing experience. I adore the story that speaks about themes of hope and caring for those who are most in need around us. Kudos to filmmaker duo, director Nicholas Goulden & producer Angela Godfrey (both of them also wrote the screenplay) for creating such a beautiful film, both thematically and visually speaking.

4/5 stars


Q. What’s your background in film? And what made you decide to make Forget Me Not a short film?

Nicholas – I started at the bottom, as a runner, and worked up. I came to the film industry in my mid-twenties with the intention of telling stories that interested me, but first of all I had to learn the craft – and stay alive! While directing, writing and producing independent material, I moved up through the AD department to 1st AD, primarily on films and commercials. This experience has given me a huge wealth of knowledge which I’m able to bring to my directing work.

Regarding making Forget Me Not a short film, I guess the simple answer is we planned it that way. The short film format was perfect for the story that we wanted to tell.

Q. Angela, you’ve been involved in huge studio productions costing hundreds of millions. What’s been the most gratifying thing for you in making something much smaller on a personal level for you?

Angela – I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been involved with lots of high budget film and tv productions and I still very much enjoy being a part of them, but as a Script Supervisor I tend to only be involved in a very small way. So for me, having the chance to build a story that is important to me personally and see it grow right from a tiny seed to where it is now has been incredible.

Q. Forget Me Not is such a beautiful, poignant story. What’s the inspiration for the story? Was there a personal connection for either one of you?

Nicholas – The inspiration really came from the desire to address themes that are not only important to both of us as people but also resonate with a contemporary audience. We all go through times when life is against us and we feel lost and alone – hopeless – so telling a story that addressed different facets of that felt very worthwhile.

Angela – In doing so, we wanted above all to make as well crafted and affecting film as we could that could strike a chord with everyone who watched it. It is also a very visual and sound heavy film with minimal dialogue which means it can be enjoyed by people around the world no matter their age or language.

Q. There’s a magical realism in the story, yet it still very much grounded in the day-to-day reality. Tell me how you balance out those elements in the film, esp. for Nicholas as a director.

Nicholas – Finding that balance was really important and something we worked a lot on. I looked at it very much from the point of view of a real world where magical things happen, rather than a magical world where real things happen, so the emphasis was on a naturalistic approach. It was conceived exactly as you’ve described – grounded in reality with a touch of magic.

A still of James Cosmo as Benedict

Q. Please tell us a bit about the casting for the project, particularly James Cosmo, who’s a pretty well-known character actor even here in the States. I’d also love to hear how John Heffernan come on board.

Angela – As relatively unknown filmmakers it’s very difficult to persuade an actor who is in high demand to come and work on a short film, in the freezing cold in the run up to Christmas, so we were very lucky to have a very talented Casting Director, Rachel Sheridan, on board, who knew both James and John would be perfect for the roles of Benedict and Jack. Having Rachel behind us, helped us approach James and Jack in a professional way so that we could be taken seriously.

Nicholas – For Isobel and Owen, we contacted agents all over the country, looking at hundreds of actors, dozens of submission tapes and ultimately auditioning about thirty actors. It was a long, time-consuming process but totally worth it, bringing us the fabulous Louis and, of course, Ruby.

Forget Me Not‘s John Heffernan gets his mic adjusted by Production Sound Mixer Malcolm Cromie before stepping onto set. Photo credit Daniel D. Moses (www.danielmoses.com)

Q. How many days did it take to shoot the film? Looks like there are mostly night shoots or was it in the wee hours of the morning?

Angela – We shot the film in 3 and a half days. We worked ‘split days’ which means our call time was later than a normal shooting day, allowing us a few hours of daylight at the start of each day and then the rest was shot after nightfall, and we’d wrap by 11pm. Having a child actor as a lead made life harder as we had very strict times that we had to adhere to, so everything was tightly scheduled.

Q. What’s your favorite part of the shoot? Conversely, any memorable on-set snafu you’d like to share?

Nicholas – My favourite part was shooting Benedict taking a bite of the cookie – his performance is delightful and still makes me chuckle. With so many emotion-laden scenes, the shoot was especially intense and that scene was always intended as a lovely moment of levity. James absolutely nailed it.

As for snafus, we had niggles but we were fortunate. Given the time restrictions everything went remarkably smoothly, which is a testament to the level of planning which went into it! But we had our moments – for example we had managed to hire the coffee cart but didn’t have transport to get it across London – the delivery costs would have blown a hole in the budget and we had no driver let alone usable van of our own. In the end, Jonathan, one of our floor runners who had come over by coach and ferry from Utrecht in Holland to be part of the shoot, cycled the thing across London through the freezing rain. It was titanic efforts like that which really held us together.

Q. The location in bustling Hammersmith is almost a character in itself. Tell us a bit about how you choose that location.

Nicholas – Angela and I were familiar with the location prior to the project. The architecture of the flyover has a brutalist beauty which really appealed to us. Also, there is a fascinating contradiction in the fact that it’s thronging with people and traffic practically 24-7 but only because people are trying to get from somewhere else to somewhere else. That makes it quite a lonely, isolating place, and the perfect mise-en-scene for our story.

Forget Me Not‘s DoP Chris Fergusson prepares with actor James Cosmo stand. Photo credit Tom Harberd.

Q. I LOVE the mood and tone of the film, brought to life by the gorgeous cinematography and score. Please tell me a bit about working with DP Chris Fergusson and composer Matthew Slater?

Nicholas – They were both fabulous to work with. We had a good run up as we waited for the right time of year, so we talked extensively with both Chris and Matthew about the mood and tone we wanted for the film to make sure we were on the same page.

Our budget didn’t allow us much shooting time given our ambitions, so with Chris we worked extensively to flesh out a tight shot list which would allow the vision to come to life despite the practical restrictions.

Angela – We spent lots of evenings inspecting the locations. Chris even made digital 3D mock-ups of the location so we could plot camera and actor positions and see what the shots would look like months in advance. This really helped when it came to the shoot because we didn’t have to waste any time on the basics, instead finessing already well thought out shots to tell the story in the most beautiful way possible.

Working with Composer Matthew Slater was incredible from start to finish. He really pushed the boundaries with the score capturing the emotion of the characters and the story perfectly. The recording took place at the infamous Studio One at Abbey Road Studios, conducted by Matthew and performed by the world renowned London Metropolitan Orchestra. We were extremely lucky to have this as it’s pretty much unheard of in the short film world and adds a whole new dimension to the finished film.

Forget Me Not Composer Matthew Slater Conducts the London Metropolitan Orchestra at Studio One Abbey Road. Photo credit Daniel D. Moses.

Both Matthew and Chris were an absolute dream to work with and both gave an incredible amount of time and expertise to the film. We hope Forget Me Not is the first of many!

Q. Lastly, what’s next for both of you? Any feature project that your prod company Keen City is working on?

Angela – We are currently developing a TV show called Lady of the Med which is about an ordinary expat mother, living on the coast of Spain who gets tied up with the local mafia and becomes a spy for the UK government, and a feature film called ‘Grace Escape’, a black comedy about an elderly grandma who wants to die her own way, so escapes her care home intending to jump off the cliff where her husband tragically died many years previous. Both very different to Forget Me Not, yet they deal with family relationships and will be very emotive and hopefully great watching!



Thank you so much Nicholas & Angela for the interview!

MN Short Film Spotlight: 100,000 Miles A Second + Interview w/ filmmakers/cast

As I have mentioned on the TCFF page, it’s time for another Minnesota Shorts Showcase, sponsored by Twin Cities Film Fest! Last week I had the privilege of chatting with the writer, producer and leading lady of one of the short films screening this Saturday… the highly acclaimed 100,000 Miles A Second (which I think is a pretty darn cool title!)

A woman with multiple sclerosis has a conversation with a homeless street musician about how fast we travel through the universe, realizing her thoughts about herself are the real issue in her life.

Director: Jeremy Bandow
Writer: Patricia Fox
Producer: Kelly Lamphear-Dash
Cast: Erin Roberts, Sean Emery

Despite its brief running time (only 7 minutes long), this film packs a punch. Both narratively speaking as well as emotionally. For the most part we only see a woman (a terrific Erin Roberts) in the car, basically having a nervous breakdown. We get a glimpse of what she is going through but it’s never explicitly-said what she’s suffering from. And that’s the beauty of Fox’s script, that what the protagonist is going through is something we could all relate to. A lot of our frustration, anguish, rage, etc. are internal struggles, something we feel so intensely more so than something we physically experience.

I always admire stories that deals with heavy subject matter without making it too heavy-handed. There is a lightness to the way the story unfolds, especially in the key scene where the woman interacts with the homeless street musician (Sean Emery). Both actors are so great in their roles and were memorable in conveying the emotions of their respective characters. I love the music too, which adds so much to the uplifting tone of the movie. Director Jeremy Bandow did a wonderful job telling this story beautifully. The use of special effects to emphasize the theme of ‘speed’ gets the point across in a fun and efficient manner. Kudos to the filmmakers involved in making this a memorable short that’s both inspiring and entertaining.

Last Thursday I had the privilege of chatting with three of the women behind this wonderful short film.

Interview with screenwriter
Patricia Fox

1. When I watched the film, I felt like this is personal story that’s perhaps based on a real-life experience. Is that the case? Can you tell me what’s the inspiration behind this story?

​Yes, this really happened to me. It happened 10 or so years ago and I’ve told the story to people and it always gets a strong response from people, so I sure it had emotional power. When I received free classes at FilmNorth (formerly IFP), I took one in writing film short form and when we pitched our ideas for a short film in class, the instructor said THIS is a short and encouraged me to do it. I already knew I wanted to do it but this confirmed my instincts about it.

2. How did the short film come to be? Did you know the director, Jeremy Bandow, before you collaborated on this film? 

I actually went to graduate school with Jeremy and we’ve always had the same aesthetics, a similar taste, in film. As a finalist for a grant, I got to take this class in web series/short film at IFP for free. And since I had this idea for a while, because the story of this film actually happened to me word for word, I pitched this idea to the class. I got encouragement from that class that my idea is perfect for a short. The teacher said it’s the kind of stuff festival programmers are looking for, where there’s something at the end of it, it’s like a ‘punch to the stomach’ so to speak, that opens your mind to think of something in a different way.

3. I love that the film opens with John Milton’s quote ‘The mind is its own place.’ How did you come up with that quote that’s so perfect for this story?

​I’ve been sort of obsessed with that quote for years. I first encountered it in book of daily inspirational readings called Pocket Full of Miracles by Joan Boasanko. It is from Paradise Lost by John Milton. The quote completely encapsulates our protagonist’s issue in the film. The “problem” is merely how she’s choosing to “think” about it.

4. I’m also curious about the intriguing title ‘100,000 Miles a Second.’ What’s the significance of that title for you?

The homeless guy I had this encounter with said that’s how fast we are traveling in the universe. It turns out, that speed is about half the speed of light. I thought it was a powerful title that would get people’s attention.

5. Despite the serious subject matter, there’s a lightness to the way the film unfolds, and there’s such cheerfulness in the way the street musician interacts with the woman. Is that a deliberate tone that you and the director agree on?

​Yes, it was deliberate. I want the message to be positive and give people the room to make up their own minds about what it all means. A lot of it has to do with the actor we cast, he’s extremely engaging, he is a performer, and we wanted to use his strengths as an actor to help us spin this tale.

6. Tell me a little bit about the music in the film, which somehow fits perfectly and adds such richness to the story. 

The real street musician I encountered at the Co-op was playing a fiddle and he was playing Bluegrass music. So I knew I wanted the same type of sound for the film. Just so happen that the actor, Sean Emery, knows how to play the instrument and this type of music. It’s in the call sheet when we’re casting that it’d help if the actor has a musical sense and can play music. He actually performs at the State Fair and he had taken class with our casting director Cynthia Uhrich, so he turned up to audition for this role. He ended up writing the song in the end credits, apparently he wrote it a while ago and never did anything with it. He played it for us and we thought it’d be perfect for this movie.

7. Since you also produced this film, what’s the process like in finding the right producer and cast to bring your story to life?

Kelly asked to be part of the project, which I gratefully agreed. Once I asked Jeremy Bandow to direct, he brought the shooting crew with him. They work together a lot. We knew all all the extras personally. We found the other people we needed to bring in during post production, like the sound designer. Since we were working on a hot set in the form of a busy, urban store open for business, but we also wanted to play with sound during the speed up and slow down of motion sections in the film.

Interview with lead actress
Erin Roberts

1. How’s the experience making this film different from your theater experience and other acting jobs you’ve done in the past?

In my experience film is very different from theater because you don’t have a lot of control over the outcome. I kept checking in with writer Patricia and director Jeremey and reminding them that they needed to tell me if I wasn’t giving them what they needed on camera. It’s hard as an actor, (and as a control freak), to hand over that power to someone else therefore The trust level must be very high and I learned that quickly. Luckily I had such amazing collaborators. Specifically with film, after the shoot, the final product is completely out of our hands as actors. The film, the TV show, the video, is all made in post production. So the actor needs to Step back knowing,!and hoping, that they did their job, then let it go. It’s very very different work for me.

2. How did you prepare for the role of  The Woman who suffers from MS?

In prepping for this role playing Patricia, an actual person living with multiple sclerosis, I just wanted to talk to her… A lot. I wanted to hear her thoughts and feelings and experiences now, and during the onset of the disease, which is when this short film is set. The film is so relatable because it’s not just specifically about MS but about people going through personal and very difficult times in their lives. I was less worried about imitating Patricia and more focused on bringing the essence of her experience to the screen. As per the physicality, she struggled with issues in her left foot which caused her to feel uncomfortable on that side while she walked.

As an actor it’s important to me that I don’t pretend that something is bothering me- that will just show a “ quality”but not specific realism or reality. For me I needed something real to remind me that that left side was trouble. In preparing for the role I walked around with a rock in my shoe as a physical reminder that there was something that’s bothering me. Ironically on the day of the shoot I walked outside and saw one of my neighbors nephews Lego blocks on the street, a bright color red, which was a color Patricia and I had talked a lot about for this character, and I knew that would be My “rock”. I taped it to the ball of my foot and the rest of the day walked around with it sticking into my foot as I walked. It worked like a charm. It hurt like hell. And I think did the trick. I have that Lego block on my desk as a reminder.

Exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the set

 

Interview with Producer
Kelly Lamplear-Dash

1. How did you come across this project? Have you and Patricia collaborated before?

I’ve known Patricia for many years. We met in a screenwriting class and have been part of a writing group ever since. I had been encouraging her to produce something since she has so many wonderful scripts. This was actually a new script; however, it immediately had interest and momentum to being done. It made logical sense that this would be the one to get produced.

2. What have been the most challenging part in making this film?

Securing the location, finding the talent, getting the crew together all fell into place extremely easily. The challenging part was the weather on the day of the shoot, which was all outdoors. We had to cut it short. Then we had a time delay of a few weeks to be able to go back and re-shoot due to the talent’s schedule. It’s a challenge to make sure everything looks seamless. Added to that was the issue of the green screen for the little bit of special effects that were used. Again, in post trying to make it look seamless.

Oh and on the first day of the shoot, there was the major the solar eclipse! It was August 21st, and I remember we almost called it off. But I felt like, considering the storyline and themes on this film, astrologically, things had to get started that day! The weather did get the better of us that day, so we had to wrap things early, but yeah the first day of shoot was indeed when the solar eclipse happened!

3. I know you’ve produced several documentaries before. Is this the first narrative short you produced? How’s that different in terms of process with producing documentaries?

Yes, actually it was. The main differences are related to the size of the production. In documentary, you usually have a skeleton crew and a single or couple for the interview subject. In narrative, there is a much more detailed crew to handle all the various aspects, especially about lighting, plus tech for maneuvers like dolly shots, etc. For talent, you have to have makeup and wardrobe, plus set design, props, etc. Of course, you have the talent, which can be anywhere from one person to one hundred. Even though this story centers around the two main characters, there was still a fair amount of extras, plus we were at a real co-op that had customers coming in and out that we had to control. The biggest shift is that in documentary you have to capture what is interesting in the real world that applies to your story versus in narrative you are altering your surroundings to create the world of the story.


Check out a clip from 100, 000 Miles A Second:


 

Thanks so much Patricia, Erin and Kelly
for this fun interview!