Wednesday, March 28, 2007


For weeks, maybe months, my pilates teacher has been trying to get me to commit to the simplest home practice. We call it "swan at the wall daily." I drape over one of those big gym balls, with my feet against the wall, and lift up, into a a swan (or cobra - basically an arching up of the upper back forward, legs extended, hips lengthened.) It's a pretty cool move. Feels great, gets everything working. It only takes a few minutes. But it's taken Wendy weeks/months to get me to actually do it, instead of just saying I would. Why? I dunno...why? Because I'd always rather email. Or the ball is in living room and it's too chaotic and public. Because I'm resistant to most daily practices.

So now she's trying a new tact. Emailing me daily to probe my feelings and thoughts about it. She shared a quote about accountability and promises that I was going to blog about until I realized it was from Landmark Education and I worried there could be copyright issues. It's an interesting approach where she and I are bonded in this effort together. She talks about "my asking her to support me". Interesting turn of phrase but powerful -because since I do care so much about her, and the fantastic quality of insight, training, and smarts she has to offer me, I don't want to let her down. She's giving me so much, I want to make sure to do her justice. To honor her time and teaching. But why do I need to include her in the equation? Why can't/don't I just do it because it's good for me?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Excellent Michael Woolf piece in April Vanity Fair

Just caught up with this terrific, horrific, Michael Woolf piece on the Scooter trial/affair in the April Vanity Fair.

Around the corner from the trial of Scooter Libby, during a late-afternoon break, Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, was telling me that the Republican Party is kaput. "The brand isn't just sick—it's dead. The G.O.P. is cracking up." (Luntz is a marketer marketing his new book, Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, about political marketing, and knows he needs a compelling message. We have a brief discussion about whether his thesis about the end of the Republicans might get him some publicity.) The Bush administration, in other words, could well have brought one of the greatest marketing and P.R. success stories of the modern era—the rise of conservatism and the Republican Party—to an end.

Scooter Libby struggled to stay afloat as Karl Rove, Tim Russert, and Dick Cheney stayed safe. Illustration by Daniel Adel.

It may be smart to analyze the Libby trial and the Republican Party in marketing rather than political terms. Effective marketing is the Republican lifeblood—developing and crafting and delivering the message. (more)

Disturbances in the Field

I read a book years ago that I can barely remember save for the title: Disturbances in the Field. The words rattling in my head as all around, friends and family are weathering crises. All of a sudden. All around. Disturbances in the Field. Fissures. Human relationships so fragile and mysterious.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jane and Darfur

It's true that I've the annoying tendency to understand the world through my friends. I say "annoying" not only because others have called it that, which they have, but because I know it is. "Lazy" and "indulgent" I suppose work as well. I engage through personal connection and anecdote. So be it. It's my way in.

Last week during sxsw I had the pleasure to run into two very good, old friends. The second, a British expatriate mother of four, ended up producing The Devil Came on Horseback. I discovered her involvement rather randomly. Having a post Doc Tour screening (The Trials of Daryl Hunt) drink with Annie Sundberg , she decided to show me the opening for her new film. She was rushing to finish for Sundance. The name Jane Wells appeared as producer. "Jane Wells!" I told Annie I used to have a good friend name with that name -- a young Brit in NY when we were in our twenties. We'd had our first kids around the same time, then she had three more. We'd been in touch only briefly. Oddly enough we'd run into her eldest on our very last day in Taveuni. He was there volunteering. We were hanging around the airport waiting to get out after the morning flight we'd booked was full. It was a delightful surprise.

This was another delightful surprise. A woman of priviledge, I'd last heard that she'd moved her family to Aspen. Didn't know why, or how it was working out.

I made a point of attending the Devil's first sxsw screening. Then Jane was, more beautiful and somehow youthful, than decades earlier. My jaw dropped as she began to speak. Even more after I'd seen the devasting documentary. The indulgent life I'd imagined in Aspen now replaced by a dogged obsession with the genocide in Darfur. Tonight I caught up with her numerous posts on the Huffington Report. I'm humbled and in awe.

Some samples:

From Nov. 23, 2005: The Drug that Chose Me

There is an old song by k.d. lang, "My Last Cigarette," with the line, "sometimes your drug chooses you... " I have been thinking the same applies to passions and causes. Why are some of us compelled to work in a food kitchen while others campaign tirelessly for the rights of the spotted owl?

Obviously my concern with Darfur and that particular genocide comes under this category -- in my lifetime I have been aware of, but disconnected from, genocide in Cambodia, the Balkans, Rwanda, Iraq....perhaps Darfur chose me....

One day it may happen that we wake up and feel we must act, and naturally we want others to act too. We hope to influence others to see the way we see, feel what we feel, give where we give and help as we wish to help. Every cause worth its salt recognizes this and acquires or solicits celebrity and influential spokespeople. Lobbyists might be hired, politicians pick their issues, journalists pick their battle cries. Americans put on their bumper stickers (well I do) and as a result we all hope to sleep better at night, perhaps having "done something." Sometimes we are collectively bombarded as with the tsunami...sometimes a creeping consciousness occurs and grows. (more)

The latest: Good News from Deep in the Heart of Texas

Austin, TX.-- Something good came out of the Texas Capitol yesterday: a unanimous vote cleared the proposed Darfur Divestment Bill (# 247) through the senate committee stage. As Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale, (R-Tomball) explained, it was a signal to the world that even Republicans in the President's conservative home state can work in a bi-partisan way to end what the UN has deemed the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today: the genocide in Darfur...

....I was grateful that the authors of this legislation asked me, and others involved in the documentary about the genocide in Darfur, The Devil Came on Horseback, to testify before the senate committee. We were in Austin for the SXSW Film Festival and the opportunity to add first-hand witness testimony was serendipitous. At Sundance in January we had attended a lackluster panel "Making Movies That Matter, Matter" and I had wondered whether, beyond the runaway success of An Inconvenient Truth (a film made by a politician), documentary really has any place in American politics today. A far more robust SXSW panel on political documentaries "Doc Politics As Usual" took place at the same time as the Senate hearings and we had to divide up our creative team to speak at both events. It was a good moment to see the confluence of political will and the power of film. (more)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

i think the end of my sxsw 2007 highlights

The Buzzcocks! Almost embarrassed to still love them 30 years later. But I do as much as ever. The songs burned into my brain. I could sing What do I get? in my sleep. (No love!)

Finally made it to the Flatstock poster show I've been missing for years. What a delight! Wall after wall of pure great design - in the form of rock posters. Loved so many of them. Some favorites though it was hard to choose:,,,,,,,,,,

Watching Emily Hubley's animation from the upcoming The Toe Tactic accompanied by original music by Sue Garner, with Angel Dean and Doug Weiselman at the Hideout. I hadn't thought I'd get there. I was restless and still in the running-around-mode when the magic of the original live soundtrack and the animation took hold. I'd seen the work before, but not like this. As Emily said more eloquently in her introduction...something about the magic of the great creative collaboration, that mysterious something we're all a part of, bursting forth.

Watching Nick Drake: A Skin Too Few Saturday morning at the Convention Center theatre with the music crowd. Seemingly spun out of thread, as there are few photos, no audio interviews, and definitely no film of the hauntingly beautiful singer/songwriter. A sad tale of an even sadder life. I'm sure I loved it because I find the music so absolutely perfect. It works as a film on very simple terms, very well formed to its subject.

All in all a terrific week.

Anne Thompson: the voice behind Risky Biz - new site

Anne Thompson, the savvy entertainment writer/columnist/industry analyst/blogger who created the Risky Business brand many years ago, has a new home online with Her new blog is: Thompson on Hollywood. She's always a great read!

Oh, and this about Professor Pierson


UT class gets a lesson in film promotion

Students serve as producer's reps for documentary critical of Michael Moore.

Friday, March 16, 2007

In a large studio classroom on the University of Texas campus last week, 20 students bounced ideas off their teacher, the lanky and gregarious John Pierson, a lecturer in the department of radio-television-film.

This was no textbook exercise. Their real-world, semester-long task was to promote and seek distribution for a documentary already having its world premiere at South by Southwest.

To make things more interesting, the focus of their efforts was the film "Manufacturing Dissent," a documentary by directors Debbie Melnyck and Rick Caine that critically examines Michael Moore, the notorious filmmaker sanctified by liberals and vilified by conservatives.

The first screening at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday loomed a mere three days away.

(full article)

continued sxsw 2007 catch up - billy the kid

I kid Roseana about how much she must hate this blog since she stopped emailing after I sent her the url. The director of the new nonfiction feature, Billy the Kid chimes in, "Ooh, what blog? Will you blog about my film?" I explain I don't review films but she's interested anyway. She wants the attention. So this is my two cents about Billy the Kid. I found myself a bit in reserve during the screening. I was surprised to hear the complete gushes all around as the lights went up. I was even more surprised and moved to observe the tears and shared admissions in the lobby, "Billy's just like my son...."

This film clearly touched a nerve. The jurors awarded it its prize for "a haunting and intense cinematic experience that truly allows the viewer to enter the world of its all too easily misunderstood protagonist." In the Q&A, the director described Billy as a hero - a boy who is so strongly who he is, regardless of the pressures to be otherwise. She loved that he compromised not one single bit.

So why did I feel resistance ? I appreciated the film, why didn't I love it? The romantic thread alone is one for the ages. As a mother, am I too aware of the reality of Billy's life? Is making him the hero, too simple minded for me? Of course, if he were my child, I would love him fiercely, and only hope I could be as calm and understanding as his mother appears to be. But is this 8 day immersion the whole story or just a shiny gloss? Why do I have this nagging feeling that something is missing?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

sxsw 2007 catch up

A fair weather blogger I've turned out to be. Going when the going gets rough - well, not really rough. Just busy! March 6 was the Texas Motion Picture Alliance (TXMPA) lobby day at the Texas State Capitol. We kicked off with a board meeting on Monday, then training later that night. Tuesday about 150 industry participants spent the day at the capitol meeting with reps, then all gathered at a lovely party at the Austin Museum of Art. Great film crowd, lots of legislators, staff, and several cast members from Friday Night Lights which just wrapped its first season filming here. On Thursday we attended a private Austin Film Society pre-Texas Film Hall of Fame event for board members and sponsors. Friday was the glamorous and highly successful Texas Film Hall of Fame event. I particularly enjoyed the tribute to the recently departed great Anne Richards and the very loving and moving speeches by inductees Richard Linklater and Elizabeth Avellan.

Saturday I hit the movies, some panels, and lots of great socializing. I've always had a great time at sxsw, but now that I live in Austin, I cherish the opportunity to hang with old friends, and make lots of new ones. Everyone is just so happy to be here, reveling in the Austin vibe. Earlier in the week I'd started stressing about how to apportion my time - too many films, too many friends, but it ended up playing out just fine - one moment flowing well into the next. Yes I didn't see everyone I hoped to, nor did I converge with the interactive crowd, but it was a great, successful time nonetheless.

Films: (some of which I saw before the fest began) Hannah Takes the Stairs, Steal A Pencil for Me, Blackbird, Scrambled Beer, Audience of One, Manufacturing Dissent, Cat Dancers, The Devil Came on Horseback, Camp Katrina, Kurt Cobain About a Son, Knocked Up, Smiley Face, Billy the Kid, Run Granny Run, Inside the Circle, The Lather Effect, The Prisoner or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair, The Unforeseen, Great World of Sound, Diggers, Third Ward TX, Elvis & Annabelle, Forfeit, The Last Days of Left Eye, Nick Drake: A Skin Too Few. A couple I missed that are on the top of my catch up list: Fish Kill Flea, Everything's Cool, After the Wedding, Helvetica, Blindsight, The King of Kong, Grammy's.

Some highlights:
Richard Linklater in his panel "conversation" with John, talking about how during the Fast Food Nation shoot - at one point, they had a location for only 2 hours. His great DP started stressing, "I can't do this in two hours. We need a day." Rick's invaluable 1st AD jumped in, "Anyone could shoot this in a day. Only WE can shoot it in two hours." Rick continued, "sometimes you just have to make that attitude adjustment."

Granny D, the (now) 97 year old subject of the wonderful and inspiring, Run Granny Run, said in her Q&A, "They say you forget the camera after awhile. Well you don't! In this case it made us be our better selves."

Getting great feedback for the catalog copy I wrote for Hannah Takes The Stairs, Scrambled Beer, Blackbird and Steal A Pencil for Me, all films I was thrilled to be able to help promote. The Steal A Pencil crew even called inviting me to join them at the Four Seasons for a drink. I loved meeting Jaap and Ina Polak, the subjects of that extraordinary documentary, Michelle Ohayon, the talented director and Theo Van de Sande, her excellent DP.

Listening to Elizabeth Avellan in her panel "conversation." Unpretentious, generous, and inspiring as she shared how she'd learned to do her job, grow, to transcend the hard times and move forward.

2 am meeting up with Joe & Kris in the pouring rain, moving on to eat and hang with some others, having missed their, by all accounts, fantastic premiere of Hannah Takes the Stairs.

Finally getting a chance to see Marcy Garriott's invigorating and insightful Inside the Circle after these last few years of becoming her friend, and watching her move through the creative process. Particularly delighted to spy her at the end of the second screening, after the crowd was gone, just hanging in her jeans and sweats, hanging in a circle with her husband and subjects of her film - the bboys Josh, Omar and Romeo, all hanging and laughing, enjoying each other.

Watching movies at the Paramount. Finally seeing Kurt Cobain About a Son and giving over completely to it. Watching everyone fooling around with their smartphones. Fondling them the way we used to attach to our packs of cigarettes. Starting to get the hang of texting myself on an old even pre-camera cellphone (trying to stifle my email phone envy). Actually kind of loving the process as a few checked in by text. No surprise that it's a social hot line but I find that I appreciate the way it feels like the better part of Jr. High, your pals looking out for you.

Las Manitas.

Loving the Wednesday arrival of the rockers. The changeover of the vibe. Rockers everywhere! Undeniably so.

Running into a lifelong friend completely unexpectedly after a Q&A . Since he was staying at the Four Seasons, I said, "let's have a drink there and see Iggy Pop in the bar." Which we did - Iggy quietly sitting by himself in the late afternoon. Our own conversation delightfully skipping over the decades - from the mid-60s to now, a lifetime of organically crossing paths and staying in the mix.

The Stax Revue at Antone's. Really don't mind being an old fogey when the music and the performers are as hot as this!

[To be continued]

Monday, March 05, 2007

Joan Didion's magic

This is why I still love Joan Didion's writing today - as much as when I first discovered her @ 1972.

[excerpt from NYT article: The Year of Hoping for Stage Magic]

...... Early that October, when Scott Rudin asked if I would consider doing “The Year of Magical Thinking” as a play, I was negative, even vehemently so. I had devised a narrow track on which to get through the fall. The book, an account of the year that followed the death of my husband, was just published. I had promotion ahead, flights, 5 a.m. pickups, Starbucks cappuccino at the gate in lieu of breakfast, Boston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, check in, check out, stay on track. I did not want to write a play. I had never wanted to write a play. I did not know how to write a play.

I repeated this.

I repeated it to Scott, and I repeated it to myself.

Yet at some point in the days that followed I was seized by the idea that the fact that I had never written and did not know how to write a play could be the point, the imperative, the very reason to write one. My husband had died, our only child had died, I was no longer exactly the person I had been.

True False then sxsw

I love film festivals. Love immersing myself into the multiple screenings, and the high impact socializing. At any festival I can reconnect with someone I'm happy to see from the last 30+ years, and meet new people I find interesting and talented. It's generally a short connect but intense, and often memorable. Good friendships really develop that way over the years. My brother-in-law used to debate me on this. "They're just your work friends", he'd say. "Not your real friends." And I'd disagree. I don't see it that way at all.

This past weekend found us at True False, a great new fest on the landscape for non-fiction films. Far away from the film biz and media, in a small kind of wonderfully arty midwestern college town, the festival can screen gems from Toronto, IDFA, and Sundance, and sneak films that are premiering at Sxsw, Tribeca, Fullframe and beyond. Premiering your film has become a bloodsport - doors opening and closing accordingly. True False has positioned itself out of that competitive fray, and therefore, yields a more enjoyable experience for actually watching the films. Talented filmmakers come from all over the world to share their work with the enthusiastic audiences. It's a terrain often neglected, not possible with the current distribution system. You get the feeling they're really grateful you've made the trip. And the filmmakers get to hang with one another and decompress a bit from the more pressurized festivals. It's a lot of fun.

This year marked the debut of their Swami program. The acronym doesn't make any sense but the program does. It matches a select group of new filmmakers with some industry professionals (aka swamis) for some informal conversation. We spent the day meeting together and individually. The swamis spanned a nice range of experience. Fun for us to see each other, really wonderful for the filmmakers to get the overview.

In our conversations John and I discovered a pretty hilarious disconnect. Used to American filmmakers charging up their credit cards to complete their work, we first asked an Israeli, then some Basque directors if they had any debt. ??? was their reply! Every other nuance we'd been able to communicate. "Debt" and "loan" and "having to pay back investors" brought back only stares. Then laughs as we finally got our point across. It's only the Americans who gamble that way making their films.

Now on to sxsw starting on Friday, always a great time, with the Austin Film Society Texas Film Hall of Fame kicking off the festivities. Lots of films and people I'm excited to see.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

love this image

Love this image found on my friend Jarren's not particularly active blog. It's totally arresting and exquisite. I asked her the source, she said she found it in an article about the evolution of women and showing their bodies. I'm just crazy about it.

It reminds me of this odd lovely day years ago when I ran into a good friend's husband at a NYC auction house. I was trying to familiarize myself with buying photos at auction. I had a little death money burning a hole in my pocket and thought I would use it to buy art. I decided to buy one photo, this one time. For 18 months I haunted photo shows, and galleries, and the auction houses. This particular day I ran into JV. Turns out he was a collector/dealer in 19th century erotica and this was his world. He explained the workings to me and took me on a little tour of some of his other daily haunts. It was delightful and rare, like sightseeing in a foreign land. I bet he'd know all about this one.