MSPIFF 2018 opens today! Showcasing WOMEN & FILM, MN-MADE FILMS & Tribute to INGMAR BERGMAN

Drumroll please… the 37th Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival opens today! From April 12-28, MSPIFF is showcasing 158 new feature films and 120+ shorts representing 70+ countries to audiences throughout the Upper Midwest. The Film Society is making things easier to watch movies and participate in a plethora of events and parties! You can catch a free ride on opening weekend with Metro Transit, you can download the PDF of the entire schedule, or better yet, get the Film Society App … a new tool to fest year round.

Check out the official trailer:

The opening night film is RBG, the acclaimed documentary celebrating the life and lasting influence of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

From filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West, this documentary feature showcases the life and lasting influence of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as RBG and “the notorious RBG.” With unprecedented access to Ginsburg, the filmmakers chart her life as she grows up in Brooklyn, pursues an education, falls in love, accepts an appointment to the Supreme Court, and establishes a friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The film and opening night reception and party will take place at St. Anthony Main, a beautiful venue by the river in downtown Minneapolis.

WOMEN & FILM

MSPIFF’s showcase of female directors from around the globe continues to grow every year, and 2018 is no different, featuring a wide variety of outstanding narratives and documentaries from around the world. MSPIFF programmers have brought in women-directed films that are in the vanguard of global contemporary cinema.

“The #MeToo movement has underscored the inequalities in the film industry like never before. Our Women & Film and Chasms and Bridges programs examine the chaotic and divisive world we live in today, as well as the resistance movements that seek to affect change, and we have sought out films that invite discourse and understanding.”
– Susan Smoluchowski, Executive Director of the Film Society.

There’s a specific ‘women directors‘ tag on the MSPIFF schedule page that shows ALL the films by female filmmakers. Here are some of them:

SILICONE SOUL

Let me start w/ this documentary… not only because it’s made right here in Minnesota, but I also happen to know the woman who made it! Melody Gilbert is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and teacher, and her latest doc is certainly a thought-provoking one. I made a small contribution to its Kickstarter campaign and it’s also scored by Charlie McCarron, who also did an outstanding job scoring my short film Hearts Want.

Love comes in many forms, and in Silicone Soul, the need for companionship and understanding is shown in the bond between humans and their synthetic companions. Tenderly captured by Gilbert, the bonds shown in the film are diverse and layered: from romantic relationships, to friendships, to a recreation of the love between mother and child. Silicone Soul does not allow for its subjects to be easily labeled or judged. Instead, the film is a collection of resoundingly human stories that reflect universal themes—the desire for love, compassion and communication.

ANGELS WEAR WHITE (JIA NIAN HUA)

Xiaomi, a motel cleaner, watches as a district-commissioner checks in alongside two girls, Xiaowen and Xin Xin. On the surveillance monitor, Xiaomi sees the commissioner push his way into the girls’ room, and she decides to record the event with her smartphone. In the wake of the assault, Xiaomi’s story does little good for the girls as they face their unconcerned families and a society that would rather put the blame on them than offend their attacker.

Director Vivian Qu is fearless in her all too true-to-life portrayal of violence against women and how both law and society so often fail to act.

THE BLESSED (LES BIENHEUREUX)

In postwar Algiers, Amal and Samir are a middle-aged couple hoping to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary. Drifting through their day, they eventually find themselves at a restaurant. Here, they confront their differences and disillusionment, threaded with the unsettled atmosphere of postwar society. Outside, their teenaged son Fahim and his friends, Feriel and Reda, spend their day on the streets of Algiers. They too reveal ideological differences among them, their banter soon leading to the reveal of hidden wounds left by the Algerian Civil War that shaped their current world.

Sofia Djama’s debut feature employs this multi-layered narrative to craft a stirring drama that illuminates the generational states of unrest left in the wake of the Algerian Civil War.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

It wouldn’t be MSPIFF without Juliette Binoche! I have seen three of her films at the festival in the last four years.

Joining two icons of French cinema, filmmaker Claire Denis and actor Juliette Binoche, Let the Sunshine In is far from your everyday romantic comedy. Binoche takes the leading role as a newly divorced Parisian artist named Isabelle, who finds herself at a crossroads. Isabelle longs for another chance at love but is not willing to entertain the rolling list of hapless bachelors that drift her way, such as an actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a banker (Xavier Beauvois), and a kindred spirit (Alex Descas) who won’t commit.

 

MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS

I can’t wait to see this one as the filmmaker is from my hometown Jakarta!

Hailed as the first Satay Western, Indonesian director/writer Mouly Surya’s Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts follows a widow’s quest for justice after a brutal home invasion. A multi-national production (co-produced by Indonesia, France, Malaysia and Thailand), Surya’s feature film charts one woman’s fight to reclaim her body, identity and home after a drifter, Markus, and his gang overtake her world.

Told across four acts, Marlina transforms from a docile victim into a lethal avenger, targeting her oppressors with calculating precision. Marlina, having taken vengeance on Markus and his gang, makes her way to the police station to turn herself in and meets her pregnant friend, Novi, along the way. As the two embark on a journey across the land, we are spectators to Marlina’s emotional journey as she comes to terms with her actions and their consequences.

RISKING LIGHT

Another MN female filmmaker made a thought-provoking documentary that’s filmed in Cambodia and Australia to capture stories of forgiveness from two members of Australia’s Aboriginal “Lost Generation.”

Dawn Mikkelson’s Risking Light is a meditation on forgiveness, layered with a theme that is rarely seen on the screen—forgiving the unforgivable. Five years prior to making the film, Mikkelson met Mary Johnson and O’Shea Israel, a meeting she describes as a life-changing event that would lead to the development of Risking Light. It was then she learned that Johnson had chosen to forgive Israel for the murder of her son, which motivates the tone of humanistic mission in the film.

THE RIDER 

I saw this trailer weeks before it was announced it’ll be the CLOSING NIGHT film at MSPIFF. So I absolutely can’t wait to see this on the big screen!

In Chloé Zhao’s resoundingly human film The Rider, the narrative is framed as both documentary and drama focused on 20-year-old rising rodeo star Brady Blackburn (played by Brady Jandreau) as he undergoes a crisis of identity. In America’s heartland, Brady suffers a head injury that almost kills him; forcing him to pick up the pieces of a life that has forever changed. A truly unique feature, the characters in The Rider, including Brady, are members of the actual Jandreau family, who have experienced events identical to many in the film.


MN-Connected Films

One of the highlights of MSPIFF is of course the MN-connected films. I want to highlight a few films either made by or shot in Minnesota that are playing at MSPIFF this year.

Virginia Minnesota

I’ve got my ticket to see this one and I’m looking forward to it!

A story of a fragmented friendship finding new ground, director Daniel Stine’s feature film debut Virginia Minnesota begins with a young woman at a crossroads. A local production, the film was shot during the fall on Minnesota’s picturesque Lake Superior coastline.

My Aqal

For one night, a small hand-crafted shelter glowed in the night. Somali refugee artist Ifrah Mansour, who was behind the project, speaks to art, tradition and collaboration in the face of adversity. Directed by acclaimed MN filmmaker Maribeth Romslo, who’s one of the directing duo of the wonderful feature drama Dragonfly that premiered at MSPIFF in 2016.

CLEAR and Through the Banks of the Red Cedar

Filmmaker Maya Washington actually has TWO films playing at MSPIFF, wow!

CLEAR is a dramatic short under the Chasms and Bridges II block. Synopsis: Ember’s first day home after a 16-year prison sentence for a crime she didn’t commit is bittersweet as she uncovers how her family’s lives have gone on without her after all these years.

Through the Banks of the Red Cedar is a documentary feature. Synopsis: In 1963 at Michigan State University, Head Coach Duffy Daugherty chose 23 black men to play on the college team. From this move came legends Gene Washington, Bubba Smith, George Webster and Clinton Jones. Director Maya Washington, Gene Washington’s daughter, charts the legacy of her father’s career and influence, along with the impact the events of 1963 have shown in the present day.

Grandpa Ben

This film is loving portrait of 92-year-old Minnesota artist, Benjamin Vickery Jr. Directed by MN filmmaker and projectionist Justin Christopher Ayd, this sounds like an intriguing and heartwarming documentary short.

Part of the Freewheelin’ short block.

911 

A 911 dispatcher answers a distressed call from a couple stopped for a suspicious car reported. That’s the premise of this short doc by Alison Guessou and Justin Christopher Ayd. 

Part of the Looking Out shorts block.

Of course I’m also thrilled to have my short film be a part of MSPIFF this year! As I’ve mentioned in this post, MSPIFF played a key role in this film as that’s where I first met Sam Simmons who became the lead actress. It was a few months before I finished the feature script, but I felt like I had just met my character Lily when I saw Sam who’s also from the UK! But aside from that, it’s a huge honor to be able to screen my indie romance at this esteemed film festival alongside a variety of international shorts from all over the world.

Two former lovers reunite for a play by the drama teacher who first brought them together. They still carry a torch for each other, but will their love survive after the truth is revealed about their past?

Thanks to Jason P. Schumacher and our team of talented MN filmmakers/crew who brought my vision to life. Click on the banner to get tickets!


MASTERS OF CINEMA TRIBUTE

For the 2018 Master Honoree, MSPIFF will honor the memory of the great Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman. As we near his centennial on July 14th, Bergman films take centerstage, not only here but in venues across the world. A prolific craftsman, with over 60 projects to his name—from narratives to documentaries, theatrical to television—Bergman was also an unapologetic inquirer in the affairs of the heart and the depth of the soul.

I’m thrilled for this as I have a huge blindspot on Bergman [gasp!] Yes I know, I know, I feel bad that I haven’t followed through on people’s recommendations that I should see his films! But hey, there will be THREE screenings of Bergman’s films at MSPIFF, which then leads to a 16-film Bergman retrospective on May 25-June 7. The Film Society is bringing to the Twin Cities the Swedish master’s iconic classics and lesser-known titles in his oeuvre, a feast for cinephiles and admirers of Swedish culture.

  • Summer with Monika—Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1953, Narrative
  • Persona—Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1966, Narrative
  • Trespassing Bergman—Jane Magnusson, Hynek Pallas, Sweden, 2013This documentary feature from Jane Magnusson and Hynek Pallas highlights the legacy of Ingmar Bergman’s career through the eyes of a group of filmmakers, creatives and artists inspired by his work. “Trespassing” into Bergman’s home, the filmmakers gather together to share their own experiences with the filmmaker’s collection of work, all arguably masterpieces, and what the films meant to them and the wider world of cinema.


Hope to see you at MSPIFF! The full schedule is now online and they even have an MSPFilmSociety app that’ll surely come in handy in the next three weeks!

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Valentine Special – A tribute to the film-related influences that inspire ‘Hearts Want’

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Today is actually the only night where I don’t have somewhere to be this week which is a treat for me. So my hubby and I are going to get some takeout from one of our fave restaurants (most likely Thai) while my hubby treat us w/ some chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert. #yum

I often post something romance-related on V-day, such as favorite unconventionally-romantic films, cinematic romances or favorite romantic couples. But for this year I thought, since my short film is an indie romance, why not share some of my film influences (whether it’s authors, filmmakers, talents or films) over the years. My short film is a subset of the feature screenplay of the same name. It centers on former lovers Lily & Jacques who reunite for a play by their drama teacher after seven years apart.

If you haven’t seen it yet, below is the teaser to my short film…

Jane Austen

This is no surprise at all to those who’ve read my blog regularly or follow my filmmaking journey. I mentioned in my the film’s crowdfunding campaign that the story is partly inspired by my favorite Austen novel, Persuasion.

There’s something so timeless about long lost love and second chances… and how the heart doesn’t always fully recover no matter how long time has passed.

A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman… He ought not. He does not.
– Captain Wentworth

Seven years has passed when Anne Elliot were reunited with Captain Wentworth, but he hasn’t forgiven the fact that she had broken their engagement. The agony of repressed feelings and fear of losing the ones they truly love is something so relatable even in modern society… and the fact that the story is told from Anne’s perspective, a woman, makes it all the more significantly poignant.

I love that in Persuasion, Anne pointed out to Wentworth’s friend Captain Harville that many literary works in that day were all written by men. ‘Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story’ Anne says. That’s all the more reason I wanted to tell Hearts Want from the woman’s perspective, who also has to own up to the decision she made seven years prior when she left the man she loved.

The beauty of Austen’s work is that they’re filled with wonderful, fully-formed female characters! Yes there are iconic men like Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth, but for me, it’s the inner strength of Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood that always inspire me. Their patience and endurance seems like a lost art in today’s world, but don’t let their demure demeanor fool you, nor mistake their perseverance for weakness. As I’ve mentioned in this post, Elinor loves ardently but she’s also fiercely realistic and principled, and she perseveres despite her emotional suffering. In essence, she is a survivor.


Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Though I don’t go to the theatre as much as I would have liked, I’ve always been fascinated by the world of theatre. I have seen Phantom of the Opera three times on stage, including the not-so-successful sequel Love Never Dies in Adelphi Theatre, London.

The critics panned this cinematic adaptation but I LOVE the lush visuals and sensuality of this POTO adaptation. There’s such a titillating mystery of love in a historic, vintage theatre. The setting of where a film is set can add so much to the atmosphere and mood of the film, especially in a romance. That’s part of the reason I set the love story of Hearts Want in a theatre and I insisted that we filmed it in 100+ year-old The Southern Theatre in Minneapolis. It may not look like it from the outside but the inside could’ve been an antique theatre somewhere in Europe.


Amma Assante’s Belle

As a fan of period dramas, I’ve seen a boat load of them, but it’s rare to see a strong woman of color at the center of the story. Belle is a historical romance set in 18th century England, so naturally it’s scandalous for a prominent figure in London society to take in a mixed-race girl as an adopted daughter.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in ‘Belle’

I love that Belle is an intelligent, elegant and headstrong woman who isn’t afraid to speak her own mind. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is exquisite in the title role and her beauty definitely inspires my female protagonist Lily, who’s a mixed-race woman born in London.


Jane Eyre

True love is never easy. It doesn’t get more tumultuous than Jane & Rochester’s gothic romance. As the old adage says… “If you love someone set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were.” Easier said (or watched) than done, surely.

Every time I watched a Jane Eyre adaptations (the 1983 with Zelah Clarke & Timothy Dalton and 2006 version with Ruth Wilson & Toby Stephens are my personal faves), I’m always in awe of Jane’s resolve to stick to her principles.

Inspiration can truly come from many forms. I don’t usually listen to pop music, my car radio is always tuned to Classical MPR, so I often come across certain songs from YouTube. I remember seeing this music video of 1983 Jane Eyre set to a song called The Reason. I thought the lyrics about being sorry for the hurt one’s caused and wanting to start anew resonates with me so much… we all have made mistakes in the past, don’t we all wish we get a second chance to make things right?


Stanley Weber

Every writer needs a muse 😉 This dashing Frenchman isn’t exactly the first actor who’ve inspired me in my literary journey. A certain Scotsman actually inspired me to write a novel that I never got around to finishing.

But Stanley is the first actor who’ve inspired my first screenplay! It just so happens I had seen him in a British rom-com (Not Another Happy Ending) as I just started writing my script and I was instantly smitten.

Photo by Madame Figaro magazine

Yes, the tall, wavy-haired, blue-eyed actor is extremely easy on the eyes, but the more I learned about him, the more I was intrigued by his versatility as an actor (juggling theatre, tv and movies in his native France and beyond) as well as his zest for life. I’d think that people who has such a passion for life would just be as passionate about love when he falls for someone. The Parisian also seems like a free spirit with a voracious love for the ocean (hence the sailing scene in Hearts Want), motorbikes, and traveling. Heck even his Instagram photos are inspiring!

If I had a time machine, I’d transport myself to Théâtre de l’Atelier in Paris to see Stanley on stage in Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. Interestingly enough, the play has a Minnesota roots as the protagonist is from St. Paul! There are similarities between the play’s male character Mat Burke to Hearts Want‘s Jacques, in fact, my feature script opens with a scene from this very play!

So yeah, thank you for the inspiration Stanley… he’s definitely my dream leading man if I ever get to make the full version of Hearts Want 😉

Casablanca/Roman Holiday

The ‘love is letting go’ theme is perhaps more beautiful to witness in the movies than to experience in real life. Few romances are as heart-wrenching as the love story of Rick and Ilsa set during WWII. The WWII-themed play at the beginning of Hearts Want‘s short was partly inspired by this film, though the leather bomber jacket Jacques’ sporting is directly inspired by Gregory Peck’s 12 O’Clock High.

Speaking of Mr. Peck, some of you might know I was at one time obsessed with him. In fact I still owned a bunch of his dvds. The one that gets played a ton is Roman Holiday, and that beautiful but bittersweet finale gets me every single time.

I’ve mentioned that exquisite scene in my tribute to Roman Holiday

Joe walking alone in the empty palace corridor as everyone has left, his steps echoing as he reluctantly leaves the building. As he passes the two guards, he still takes a glimpse towards the stage once more. Empty. The music swells up, forcing us to realize they’re never going to see each other again. Joe keeps on walking towards the camera and disappears, carrying the memory of that day in Rome that he too will cherish for as long as he lives. Best. Finale. Ev-er.


Her

I remember seeing this film on a nearly empty theatre at a press screening and I almost couldn’t move when the end credits rolled. It’s the story of a lonely writer dealing with an impending divorce who finds love when he least expects it. There’s such a captivating male vulnerability in Joaquin Phoenix’s soulful performance as he slowly but intensely falls for his AI Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson).

The euphoric joy and intense sadness he feels for Samantha is so palpable, it’s perhaps one of the most emotional love story I’ve ever seen. Just because the love story is not between two human beings doesn’t make it less emotional. Samantha said it best…

“Falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a socially-acceptable form of insanity.”


Age of Innocence

I recall a review that says something about the spirit of the exquisite romantic pain depicted in this film. It’s certainly one of the most painfully-exquisite portrayal of unrequited love.

Newland Archer: You give me a first glimpse of a real life, and you ask me to carry on with a false one. No one can endure that.

Ellen Olenska: I’m enduring it.

This may not be a violent film from Scorsese in physical term, but it’s certainly a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. Visually-ravishing as well as a visceral depiction of the agony of love. I guess I’m a sucker for tragic tale of impossible love, which has been done countless times, but few are as beautifully-crafted as this one.


Notting Hill

Last but not least… I have to include at least one rom-com and nobody does the genre as well as Richard Curtis! The Anglophile in me naturally gravitates towards the London scenery, which is practically a character in itself in the film! It really makes me want to set my story in England, though I ended up choosing a small seaside town south of London that has a prominent theatre Hearts Want, it’s called Chichester. There is one a similarity between Julia Roberts’ Anna Scott in that my protagonist Lily is a successful actress, but of course the circumstances of the story is completely different.

In any case, I thought the opening scene is the perfect introduction to the film’s protagonist and the world he lives in.


Ok so I don’t necessarily count Shakespeare as one of my major influences, despite having seen quite a number of his plays. But I’ve always admired playwrights, hence I have a playwright (Martin) as a prominent character in my feature script and Hearts Want is the name of his play that reunited Lily & Jacques.

The Bard certainly knows a thing or two about writing romances. As he says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream…

The course of true love never did run smooth.


Thoughts on these talents/films? What are some of your own film influences?

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TCFF 2017 Day 3 – ‘Hearts Want’ first screening in the ‘Ties That Bind Us’ short block and ‘A Gray State’ documentary

Day 3 of the Twin Cities Film Fest is actually quite a momentous one for me… If you know me well or have been following my blog and/or Facebook you might’ve guessed why.

I took the day off Friday because I knew it’s be quite an emotional day for me, showing my artistic baby, my passion project I’ve been working on the past year to the public for the first time. We had a private screening to the cast/crew and our close friends, but to actually seen it on the big screen in an actual theater is another thing entirely.

The moment the first scene came on screen, accompanied by the score… I went a bit verklempt, naturally. There weren’t many people in the theatre, which is typical for an early afternoon screening, but I’m so grateful to my friends, coworkers and even fellow bloggers who did come out and saw it… you know who you are, your support means a lot to me guys!

Hearts Want’s leading man Peter Christian Hansen attended the Friday screening

The Ties That Bind Us short block itself is chock full of wonderful relationship-themed films. Kudos to our short programmer Josh Dahlman and Angela Andrist for the awesome film selections! Of course I’m biased as to which is my favorite (hey you’re always going to think your baby is the cutest, right?) but I was truly impressed with all the films within this block: All That Was Broken, Head Above Water, Hearts Want, Heath Takes a Trip, Deadbeat, Resolutions, and Sundogs.

I really love Heath Takes a Trip, which is about a famous writer who suffers a breakdown and goes on a road trip with a stranger. It grabbed me right from the get go (which is quite a feat since it played right after my own film). It was emotional, funny, beautifully-shot, with a dreamy-like quality that has its own twist. It reminds me a bit of M Night Shyamalan’s Signs at times perhaps because of the corn fields, but also because it made you think one thing but it turns out to be another. I love Arch Harmon in the lead, as well as Ted James (who’s also the writer/director) as the rather whimsical stranger.

Resolutions is an intriguing, brutally-honest slice-of-life story of two couples that takes place over one New Year’s eve. It starts out like a low key celebration but as the evening progresses, something is revealed that turns things upside down for one of the four characters. It’s a simple setup that packs an emotional punch with the right amount of smolder and tension. The acting is brilliant, especially Nadine Malouf as Frankie. It’s got a female director, Tamara Fisch, who I hope will continue to make more films in the future!


Honestly, I don’t think I could really properly review a film such as A Gray State. I didn’t know much about the events surrounding the death of David Crowley, an Iraq vet who’s a charismatic aspiring filmmaker. I was going to read this New Yorker article by Alec Wilkinson before we see this documentary, but I decided I’ll read it after. A few people sitting near me know the subject of the film so naturally it’s so emotional watching the film as I could hear sniffles all around. Since the filmmaker was based in Minnesota, I’ve seen some of the actors who appeared in the trailer of the feature film he wanted to make, called Gray State. In fact I took a photo with the main actor in that trailer, Danny August Mason, when his short film Windage played at TCFF a few years back.

I went into the film pretty much blind, and the way filmmaker Erik Nelson set up the film, he played up the conspiracy theory aspect. I think it’s best that you find that out for yourself why that is, which is rather obvious given the subject matter of making a film called Gray State. The film is set in a dystopian near-future where civil liberties are trampled by an unrestrained federal government.

Erik Nelson is no stranger to doing a film about a grim subject matter, as he directed Grizzly Man. The film’s executive produced by Werner Herzog whom he frequently collaborated with. At the Q&A, Erik revealed that he combed through Crowley’s archive of 13,000 photographs, hundreds of hours of home video, and exhaustive behind-the-scenes footage of David’s work in progress. It’s a heart-wrenching look at what looks like an ordinary family tackling an extraordinary project… but something along the way, something went horribly wrong. What actually happened and what people want to believe is at the core of the film and the lines between them are inherently blurry. It’s pretty riveting, unsettling and emotional film, one that will linger for a long time after you saw it.

Q&A with Erik Nelson – conducted by TCFF managing director Bill Cooper

Fun at Industry Night!

It was a warm Autumn night with temps in the 70s. Great to catch up with friends and some visiting filmmakers during TCFF’s Industry Night.

Stay tuned for my recap of a jam-packed Day 4 starting with two insightful film panels and two features, Beauty Mark and Cold November, back to back.


What’s in store for Day 5


So, stay tuned to more daily TCFF coverage!


HEARTS WANT in the press – only hours left on Kickstarter

Ok here’s the last Kickstarter post you’ll see here… Y’know what, whatever happens I’ll be so relieved when it’s done. If you think it’s tough making a film, well, try launching a Kickstarter campaign 😉


We’re still only 75% funded with mere hours left as I’m done posting this. I’m a glass half-full kind of person so I’m extremely grateful for our backers! Of course I’m not gonna lie I’m nervous we won’t meet our goal… and if you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s an all-or-nothing campaign which means if we don’t meet our goal we’ll get nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

But hey I’m optimistic 😬 … [well what choice do I have]… and I’m super grateful for my friends who have been so supportive, both financially and also in spreading the word about my Kickstarter campaign!

THANK YOU again Paula, Shivani, MarkNostra, and Dan for your tremendous support on various social media channels!

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was invited to be a guest on The Film Pasture podcast [thanks Vern!] Link below:


I’m also honored to be featured on Top 10 Films site run by my pal Dan Stephens [thank you Dan!]. Read on if you’re curious about my filmmaking journey…

It’s fun being on the other end of an interview once in a while 🙂


If you listen to InSession Film podcast later this week you might hear about Hearts Want there too (thanks JD Duran!)

 


Just a quick note on what I’ve been watching…

Well I managed to see War For The Planet of the Apes and I LOVED it! The three ‘Apes’ films now stands one of my favorite cinematic trilogies ever. It’s such a compelling journey of this genius ape, living in two worlds whilst trying to save its kind from extinction… it’s such a heart-wrenching, poignant story that’s strangely relatable. Definitely one of my faves of the year.

I haven’t got around to seeing DUNKIRK just yet, for sure we will next weekend. The press screening happened to hit on the day I’m meeting with my composer for the film, so obviously that takes priority.


Ok folks, I’ll be sure to post a review sometime this week (from our awesome contributor Richard of Cinemuse Films). I also have a couple of interviews with a MN-based director and a female filmmaker whose film just screened at Edinburgh Film Festival. So stay tuned!

Just days left on HEARTS WANT Kickstarter campaign

Can’t believe we’re in mid July already! Time sure flies in the Summer time… and time seems to fly even faster when one is running a Kickstarter campaign.

Yep, it’s just 9 days to go until our campaign ends folks… and we could really use your help in crossing the finish line. We are still hoping to submit this film to Twin Cities Film Fest soon to be eligible for 2017 run in October, so time is of the essence. If you’ve always wanted a chance to be a part of a female-led indie film with talented indie filmmakers and actors, this is your chance!

Watch this video from our leading man Peter Christian Hansen on why you should back our film…

Minnesota theatre goers might’ve seen Peter on stage in various productions, including at the Guthrie. He’s also the artistic director of Gremlin Theatre), as well as the leading man of the Australian indie sci-fi Project Eden whom I interviewed last February.

Did you check out the rewards yet?

On top of the automatic rewards of feeling good for being a big supporter of indie film [natch], there are also actual rewards!

My hubby and co exec-producer Ivan had been working tirelessly to make props for the film just a week prior to filming! This is NOT the film poster, but rather a poster of the play within the film that’s called Hearts Want where the lead characters Jacques & Lily reunite for after seven years apart.

Check out this time lapse video of Ivan’s poster sketch:

My hubby also created these theatre posters that’s posted on the wall of Lily’s dressing room:

Check out the various updates posted on the Kickstarter page… including meeting the mostly-female crew who were super fun to work with on and off set.

As a longtime supporter of #womeninfilm I’m extremely grateful for the chance to work with so many amazingly talented women in the Minnesota film community!


You can follow the journey of Hearts Want film on Facebook, Instagram and also Pinterest!


 

Week In Review: A comedic play, Spider-man Homecoming and podcasting

How’s your weekend everyone? Well it’s been quite a whirlwind week for me, but a fun one nonetheless. I didn’t get an extra day off for Fourth of July, but still a four-day work week is better than five 🙂

I did manage to see a fun play on Friday night, a French farce called Don’t Dress For Dinner. It’s actually the opening night of the theatre company run by my lead actor Peter Hansen, in which he also starred in with five other actors.


I also got to see one of its rehearsals last week which was really fun to see. I had never been to a play rehearsal before and the fact that it’s a comedy is even more delightful to watch. Oh as if I hadn’t been busy enough w/ my film AND Kickstarter campaign, I also helped redesign his theatre website. (yep I need a vacation real bad!)

Saturday was a hot day, so after a scorching afternoon going to Art Crank in NE Minneapolis, we cooled off watching the new Spidey flick.

I have to admit I wasn’t all that enthused to see this so if it wasn’t for my hubby’s insistence, I probably would’ve waited for its VOD release. Fortunately it ends up being a pretty decent flick which is NOT an origin story, thank goodness!

It’s fun to see Peter Parker being a proper teenager and Tom Holland is perfectly believable in the role. Some of the banters between him and his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon) seems too cutesy with all the ‘awesome’ which at times doesn’t ring true. But as the film progressed it didn’t bother me and they do have some fun memorable moments. Our young’un hero is far more eager to be a hero than in past interpretations but I’m glad actually gets to do something heroic and does it on his own account.

I hadn’t paid much attention to this film so I was pleasantly surprised to see Michael Keaton as the villain. He’s definitely one of the best villains in the plethora of Spidey movies I’ve seen over the years. My fave is still Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) from Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 2 and Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is right up there with him. I like villains who are more of a tragic character, not an all-out monster hellbent on destroying the world. I enjoyed watching Keaton as a cross between Batman and Birdman when he’s wearing the birdlike costume, but his character actually has some depth. There’s also a pretty bizarre father-daughter storyline here that I did not see coming.

The movie starts out pretty light, Peter’s fanboy-ing over Tony Stark also gets overdone, but the movie actually grows darker with a genuine sense of dread. I am however quite puzzled by the hype over Zendaya in this movie. Not because her acting wasn’t good but her character barely registers here to even make any impact. Yes I appreciate that she’s not just another love interest but I wish the slew of writers actually gave her something to do. The movie does hint that she perhaps will have a larger role in the inevitable sequels.

Despite me feeling blasé about this reboot, this movie ends up being pretty enjoyable. There are a couple of thrilling action sequences though the finale is still way too loud & bombastic. Casting-wise, Holland fits the role nicely and he seems to have fun doing it. There are fun moments of Peter poking fun at members of the Avengers which is in keeping with him being a 15-year-old kid. It was pretty fun seeing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his chauffeur/personal assistant ‘Happy’ (Jon Favreau) as part of the story too. I’m not exactly clamoring to see more of Spidey movies though, but I suppose if they gotta make ’em at least they don’t suck.


The weekend is topped off w/ my first time doing a podcast! It was fun being a guest for an episode of The Film Pasture, hosted by my friend Vern from Vern’s Video Vortex with film blogger Kristen Lopez. Vern was kind enough to invite me to discuss our picks of Top 5 Female Filmmakers and let me promote my short film Hearts Want which I can proudly say has a strong woman of color in the lead and done by a mostly-female crew.

I will post the podcast here once it’s up. As you know I’m a big supporter of women filmmakers and having just written/produced my first film, naturally I have even more respect for those who’ve made it in the male-dominated film industry.


Well, did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen the newest Spider-man movie, what did you think?

Weekend Roundup: Quick review of BABY DRIVER (2017)

Happy [almost] Fourth of July weekend! It’s not really a long weekend for me as I’ll be working both Monday AND Wednesday, though the office is pretty much dead today with everyone taking a day off.

Last week was a pretty hectic one, hence I hadn’t even posted anything other than my short film update. Well, as if making movies wasn’t nerve wracking enough, I also launched a crowdfunding campaign is Kickstarter campaign last week. We had a good start but we still have a long way to go before we reach our goal.

Shout out to Paula, Shivani, Mark, and Nostra for your tremendous support on various social media channels!

This weekend I did manage to fit in a movie night… and it was a ton of fun!

Move over Guardians of the Galaxy. I think the movie w/ the best retro soundtrack this year belongs to Baby Driver. It’s also one helluva heist action flick that gets your blood pumpin’ from start to finish.

I like Edgar Wright and his Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy (especially Hot Fuzz!) but for some reason I haven’t been paying much attention to Baby Driver. I think I only read an article a while back when it was a hit at SXSW and then of course I was intrigued by the stellar reviews (97% on Rotten Tomatoes!) So naturally I had a high expectations going into this movie. Fortunately it didn’t disappoint!

I dig car chases!! I grew up w/ two brothers and played with matchbox cars instead of Barbie dolls as a kid so I always enjoy a thrilling car chase in the movies! Man, what an opening scene!! You can watch how they made it in this featurette. That’s perhaps one of the best car chases since the first Transporter flick, but this time we’ve got a kid at the wheel with a cutesy name Baby (Ansel Elgort). Yep it’s B-A-B-Y. Hence the title.

It’s obvious Wright himself is a big fan of heist movies and crazy car chases, and it shows. He’s also got an ear for music, and music is truly the fuel for this exciting ride. You go see this for the action, but there’s also a pretty compelling story and a character worth rooting for. Elgort isn’t the most charismatic young actor but he acquits himself well here and it’s easy to root for Baby who’s had a tragic past and wants out of the crime business. He’s surrounded by a fun supporting cast: Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, and Lily James as Baby’s love interest. I’d say it’s quite inspired casting, especially in regards to Jon Hamm. The romance between Lily and Ansel seems deliberately too cutesy, cheesy even, but it’s kind of sweet, too.

In a way, Baby Driver is a heist flick & coming-of-age movie in one. And that makes it refreshingly original, as we see this kid who gets picked on and taken advantage of finally breaking free and coming into his own. The rather restrained ending is quite a pleasant surprise to me given how many blockbusters seem to go for deafeningly-bombastic finale.

So if you’re in the mood for fun music, crazy action and some sweet little romance, you can’t go wrong with Baby Driver.This movie’s also got heart to go with all the cool moves. And of course, plenty of Wright’s cheeky brand of humor too.

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Have you seen ‘BABY DRIVER’? Well, what did you think? 

A film blogger’s journey into indie filmmaking – writing/producing ‘Hearts Want’ short film

It’s been forty plus years in the making. No, no, it didn’t take me 40 years to write the script, though if I had written something as an infant I might’ve been a literary genius by now.

Some of you know my life’s been consumed by my short film project lately. Well, I had just launched the Kickstarter campaign to help fund the film, so I thought I’d share the journey of how I got here…

It feels as though I’ve been wanting to make a film for as long as I remember. Even in grade school, whenever the recurrent question ‘what do you want to be when we grow up?’ came up, I always proudly answered that I wanted to be a screenwriter. Yep, even long before I knew what a screenwriter was! For some reason, I had always had this longing to follow my late dad’s footsteps, who worked in the Indonesian film industry long before I was born.

Life has an interesting way of working out. So no, I didn’t end up going to film school or anything remotely close to it. I had been a longtime film fan, but I didn’t even start blogging about film until well after I graduated college. Little did I know that this wee film blog finally led me to realize my lifelong dream!

How it all began…

Thanks largely to Twin Cities Film Fest and being a press member with a couple of PR companies, as a film blogger I had the privilege to interview various indie filmmakers. There’s nothing more gratifying and inspiring to learn from filmmakers who love making films and passionate about the craft. Whilst blogging about film, I’ve also been writing all kinds of film concepts, but nothing has been fully fleshed out until the one I started writing about a year and a half ago…

The journey of making Hearts Want truly has been a whirlwind… and it’s not over yet.

So yeah, the reading became the catalyst for this short. I still can’t believe how far we’ve come since the script reading back in January… and how well the two-day shoot went despite barely having any pre-prod time. When people say your first film is made w/ your blood, sweat and tears… well they aren’t kidding. This is a passion project w/ a capital ‘p’ and it’s a personal one for both Ivan and I. My hubby is not only the exec producer, he’s also a prop master, stage hand, behind-the-scenes photographer, video editor (for our Kickstarter video)… all that on top of juggling his full-time day job and lending emotional support during the most stressful times of making a film.

The people who’ve inspired me…

As I mentioned in my Kickstarter page, I’ve been a long champion of #WomenInFilm and am constantly inspired by female filmmakers who’ve thrived in a male-dominated industry… powerful filmmakers such as these…

and this…

I’ve also been blessed with meeting fellow directors in person whose work have inspired me… Emily Ting who directed Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong, Ashlee Jensen who co-wrote/directed Project Eden Vol I, Pamela Romanowsky who directed The Adderral Diaries, Rebecca Weaver who wrote/directed June Falling Down, and Kate Nowlin who wrote and starred in Blood Stripe, just to name a few. (Also shout out to Remy Auberjonois, Kate’s husband and Blood Stripe‘s director who narrated my script reading! I’m forever grateful to them for having inspired me to finally take the leap and make my first film!

My own film also wouldn’t have been made without the help of my two producer friends, Kirsten Gregerson and JoJo Liebeler

With Kirsten & JoJo at the script reading in January

… as well as my two amazingly-talented leads Sam Simmons and Peter Christian Hansen who’ve stuck by me despite all the various setbacks during pre-production…

I also have to thank Noah Gillett, another actor from the script reading who also reprised his role in the film.

… and of course, my phenomenal MN-based crew!! Thanks Jason & co! Check out the bio of our cast/crew on Hearts Want‘s IMDb page.

I also want to shout out to people who’ve lent support during filming, from helping with the company move, catering, being extras and help with networking, etc. I appreciate you Noah Gillett, Shawn Dunbar, Becky Kurk, Dani Palmer, Emily Fradenburgh, Whitney Khan, Holly Peterson, and Briana Rose Lee.

Special thanks to my dear friends Julie Tan and Vony Bedford for coming to set and be extras on day 1. Vony’s cutie-pie daughter Chloe is ‘Brigitte’ in the film (you’ll see who she is when you watch it) 😉

But the journey isn’t over yet…

If you’re familiar at all with the filmmaking process, principal photography is only half the battle. As I learned in my crash course, filmmaking is always more difficult and more expensive than you ever thought it would.

So yeah, consider helping us cross the finish line, even if it’s just helping spread the word that would mean a lot to us. The ultimate goal is still to make a feature film of Hearts Want, so if you help support us now, you’d also help bring us closer to making that huge-but-not-impossible dream a reality! 😀

Would you consider making a pledge or spread the word about the campaign?

 

Updates on Hearts Want short film & quick review on The Lost City of Z

Hello folks! Been a while since I wrote anything for the blog. Well actually the last post I wrote was on the eve of filming Hearts Want, my short film… I published it past midnight and my hubby just got done printing my cast/crew contracts that night, if you can believe that!

Well, suffice to say I hadn’t really got time to watch/blog about anything these days. I took only 2 days off work after filming, but I still had a ton of stuff to take care of that week… returning costumes, writing checks, SAG paperwork, etc. I knew that post-filming I’d have a bit of a postpartum depression as we’d been running on adrenaline so much during pre-prod and principal photography that my life felt so utterly boring afterwards, ahah. Going back to work was particularly tough… I have to say I have been disillusioned w/ my job and the place I’ve been working for over a decade, and I enjoyed being a writer/producer so much that I know I want to do more of it.

If you happen to be on Facebook, would you kindly give Hearts Want Film Page a LIKE please?


Some people say it’s hard to ‘recover’ from something bad, but it’s equally hard to recover from something truly amazing. It could be because it’s my ever first film that I’ve been working on from the start, but I really couldn’t ask for a better experience! Everything went without a hitch and we even finished early both days, which was incredible given that we barely had time for pre-prod at all. I enjoyed every minute of the whirlwind two-day shoot.

The place where we did Day 1 shoot and the first half of Day 2 is a local theater called Southern Theater, which was built in 1910 so it looked like a vintage theater in Europe. It’s absolutely perfect for the play-within-the-film that’s set in the 40s (hence the bomber jacket and retro headscarf). Thanks to my amazing art director Cheri Anderson who found eight of these fantastic columns from a theater company that matched the look of the space perfectly. The two vintage lamp posts completed the look.

First day was a relatively short 10-hour day, but the second day was a pretty grueling 14+ hours shoot with a company move (that is moving to another location mid-day), which means we had to pack up the stage set pieces before we moved. Kudos to my director Jason P. Schumacher for being such a capable captain of the ship. It certainly helped when he’s assembled a phenomenal crew to get things done.

We only had to shoot three major scenes the second day but they’re dialogue-heavy and quite emotional for the actors. I was practically grinning ear to ear the entire time I watched my two leads Peter Hansen and Sam Simmons in character, their chemistry is incredible. Let’s just say the scene in the dressing room is muy caliente [fan self]

So in case you’re wondering… right now my film is in post-production. I’ve got one of the 1TB hard drives with all the raw footage so it’s been fun watching all the takes and I’m diligently taking notes for editing purposes.

My goal is to get this film ready for Twin Cities Film Fest later in October… but I’m working on launching a crowd-funding campaign now, so stay tuned!


This weekend I actually did have time to see a movie on the big screen! My hubby and I helped our friend (and lead actress) Sam move to her new apartment, then we went to see The Lost City of Z.

This was actually the opening film of Minneapolis St Paul Film Fest (MSPIFF) two weeks ago but I wasn’t able to attend because of the shooting schedule. I’m glad I got to see it in theaters. I quite enjoyed it despite it being a rather long film and has some long dramatic moments. I think people expecting a full-blown adventure film a la Indiana Jones might be disappointed. It’s a rather reflective adventure drama focusing on the struggle of the protagonist, British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett with his obsession to find the lost city.

I thought Charlie Hunnam was terrific in the lead role. Glad Brad Pitt passed on the role though he still signed on as producer. Hunnam has the rugged look, presence and vulnerability that made me identify with his role and easily empathize with his character. Robert Pattinson didn’t really make a dent in this film though I appreciate him taking on more understated supporting roles (and barely recognizable under a full beard) despite being an A-lister after Twilight. Another two actors I’m impressed with are Sienna Miller and Tom Holland (the new Spidey) as Fawcett’s wife and son, respectively. Glad writer/director James Gray didn’t make Miller just another devoted wife, but she actually has quite an integral role here in an era where women barely had a place in the conversation.

Holland is quite a versatile young actor. He didn’t appear until past the halfway mark but he was memorable. I like the scenes between him and Hunnam who convincingly played his dad despite only being 15 years apart in age.

If you’re curious to check it out, I urge you to see this on the big screen. The visuals are pretty striking but it also has an engaging story. It pains me that this film bombed while the more-bombastic-but-unapologetically-silly Kong Skull Island is a hit! I didn’t bother to review that one but I would have given it a 2.5/5.

This film however, is equally riveting and heartfelt. It also has an inspiring message against bigotry and racial supremacy that is more timely than ever.


So that’s the scoop on my passion project folks. How was your weekend? Seen anything good?

Finally… Hearts Want Short Film shoot begins!

It says ONE MORE DAY above but as I’m writing this post, it’s actually less than NINE hours until cameras are rolling!! 😬

As you can imagine, my hubby Ivan Maramis and I likely won’t get much sleep much tonight. We’ve been making a ton of lists… and checking ’em twice (or more) to make sure we don’t miss anything. From props, snacks, call sheets to contracts for all cast/crew… there are SO many little details to go over my head’s spinning! Being this is my first time in making a film, naturally I’m super nervous but extremely excited at the same time. But I’m confident in my cast/crew, that they will BRING IT and do a stellar job! In fact, I KNOW they will!

The fact that today is EASTER sure keeps things in perspective. I feel ever so blessed to be given this opportunity of a lifetime to make our first film… I firmly believe we wouldn’t have gotten here without the Lord’s blessings.

For updates on the film, check out Hearts Want FB page… I’ve been updating the page with photos from our blocking rehearsal…

… as well as a video snippet of my two phenomenal leads practicing a scene.

I’ve also been meaning to post this a while back, but check out the trailer from the amazing short film Sad Clown, directed by Jason P. Schumacher, a seasoned Minnesota filmmaker who’s directing Hearts Want!

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Besides my two talented (and gorgeous) leads Sam SimmonsPeter Christian Hansen, I’m also blessed with a seasoned, hard-working 18-people crew! Most of them have been making quite a few of films, in fact some have won some awards from film festivals. But aside from that, they’re also the nicest, fun-loving and gracious bunch of people that I know it’ll be a joy working with them! So yeah, I fully believe my project is in good & capable hands.


THANKS to all of you blog readers who have been following my passion project. Please pray and send well wishes our way as we’ll be filming 10-14+ hour days both Monday & Tuesday!

I shall have more guest reviews in the coming weeks, including The Fate of The Furious, The Promise as well as a review from 2017 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF) that begins last week!