Saturday, April 30, 2011

Made in Idaho

Here's an interesting article about a film that was made in Idaho - Boise, in fact - though now that the legislators have cut off their own educational system at the knees, one wonders how they expect to build the workforce needed to continue with these kinds of projects - certainly kNIFVES, our film networking/workforce development group, is doing its part. I do know we've discussed locally how to get the incentives program funded, as well as how to explain intelligently how Idaho's filming costs end up being low enough to make the difference when it comes to incentives programs...

Here's the article, out of the Boise-based Idaho Statesman newspaper:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Las Vegas, with update

Well, we did it. My family congregated from all around the country - every corner, I believe - in Las Vegas this past weekend to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday.

Yes, tomorrow I turn 50. Exactly how did this happen?

My siblings, parents, uncle and their spouses/fiancees appeared miraculously and somewhat dramatically for the Big Event. We ate too much, laughed a lot, and could have been anywhere, really, and not just in Vegas. We did do a wee bit of gambling. I lost. And I'm very grateful that everyone made the effort to come celebrate.

Also present, by happenstance, was a good friend of mine who lives in Phoenix. I have known her for twenty years - met her right before I turned 30, in fact - and she came with my family to the Birthday Dinner, on Saturday evening, at Nora's Italian Cuisine. They sat us in a back room - twelve people, was the final count - all sitting at a round table that filled the room there. Apparently we ordered every appetizer on the menu, along with several entrees - it was excellent food. As if my family's presence was not "presents" enough, I had a variety of treats for the day - a massage/pedicure/manicure in the a.m., a sweet jewelry box, fifty trees planted in my name, a show, an certificate, a wonderful necklace and a rabbit. Actually, it was a human being dressed as a rabbit - the Easter Bunny, I think he thought (but my brother explained it wasn't that, and it wasn't "accidental" that it was a rabbit in the first place, ha!) - who came with a singing telegram and then wanted to dance. So I danced with him. It's all on tape, or so my brother-in-law assures me. As the TSA check-in guy said at the airport in Spokane - when he saw I was going to Vegas - "What happens in Vegas ends up on Youtube!" We shall see. We shall see.

On Sunday, as most of the family was departing, I ended up staying with my friend from Phoenix, who was staying at the glamorous Bellagio. It was a perfect day, weather wise, and we sat out at the pool, sunning. This was a far cry from when I left Spokane (sans jacket, as I knew I wouldn't need it in Las Vegas). As I had walked to the Spokane airport from the parking lot last Thursday, it had snowed. And the wind had blown, as though we were on the Great Plains. (Coming back on Monday, it poured rain. Oh, well. The parking-lot-to-airport hike is only about five minutes, in Spokane.)

The other thing that tried to affect my trip was my cat Alex - or, should I say, the cat fight that Alex apparently had a week or two ago, that gave him the scratch on his head that broke open into a sore on Thursday, about three hours before I had to leave. Alex. He's such a pain, that cat. He sees all cats as directly challenging his authority to rule the neighborhood - and every cat fight starts with him going head-first into battle. This is how these cat-scratch battle scars always end up on his head. But I didn't fret too much - I just put a cone on his head to keep him from scratching at the wound, and my neighbor checked on him to ensure that he could eat and could not remove the cone. He was grumpy by the time I got home - Alex, not the neighbor - but he was healed - or nearly healed. I told him I was sorry, but I was not about to let him make me cancel my trip to Vegas. After all, you only turn 50 once. (It's 49 that you can repeat as often as you prefer.)

UPDATE: Well, Alex is doing well. The cone is off, the head is healed, and he is out and about, looking for another cat fight. It's good to see him back to himself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cyberspace Chorus

I happened upon this wonderful story of making music via the Internet. It was orchestrated, literally, by an artist named Eric Whitacre. Here is his story of how the global chorus evolved - it's a little long, but worth the view - short version is, basically one young girl posted on youtube a clip of herself singing this piece of music, written by Eric Whitacre; they came up with the idea of inviting others to sing; and ultimately they put together a clip of all of the youtube posting of people singing the song from their own various bedrooms and living rooms, with Eric directing them - all via cyberspace. Here's the longer story:

Here is the first piece they created:

And here is the one they are now developing - a vision of global participation:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Filming PSA for Post Falls Domestic Violence Hotline

kNIFVES, my movie networking and workforce development group (I'm the board secretary), just finished up a day and a half of filming a 30-second public service announcement for the Post Falls (Idaho) Police Department's domestic violence hotline. We did it as a training workshop - "PSA in a Day," we called it - and we had a mixture of cast, crew and students totaling about 45 to 50 people. It was just so great. The proposal came to us just a month ago. This means that kNIFVES - with its all-volunteer board and no executive director - went from the seed of an idea to a 30-second PSA in one month. This includes getting the writers' group to write scripts, brainstorm them, winnow them down from 13 to 8 to 3 - all incredibly great scripts, by the way, so no small feat to reduce the number down to 3 - from which the police department selected one. It also meant networking the professionals in this region willing to donate time and equipment to good cause, and project.

The ultimate script has a total of four scenes, with voiceover, showing three instances of abuse and then the final victim making the phone call to the hotline for help. It was really emotional to watch the filming, as the scenes are very intense - a teenaged girl trying to get out of a car and her boyfriend yanking her back in; an older, sophisticated woman with a black eye putting on sunglasses in the privacy of her bedroom to hide the abuse she's suffered, as she readies to go out of the house; and a young couple in the early morning where the husband nearly hits the wife with his fist because of a sink full of dirty dishes. The title of the commercial is "Break the Cycle." The kitchen scene shows, at the end of it, the couple's little girl, watching, which then prompts her mom to make the phone call for help.

It thrilled me to have so many students attending, and the variety of them, all interested in learning about the practicalities of filming, being able to participate, having the crew and the director (WJ Lazerus, kNIFVES' president) stop action to explain what they were doing and why - the thought process behind the various shots from a practical, creative, and time-sensitive prospective. I loved how the crew donated time and equipment to our process - how the police department kept feeding us meals and snacks - how everyone pitched in to make the project a success.

The actors, too, donated their time. When some were introduced, I asked how they all felt about doing these scenes, given the topic. One said that it was a topic very close to them, and how honored it felt to participate. It seemed like there was a story to tell there - a story like the three being told in the commercial. This is a topic that is prevalent but taking place so often behind closed doors. It was really gratifying to know that this workshop, and the ultimate product, not only turned out to be a great training tool for up and coming cast, crew and writers, but would actually have the potential to touch people's lives.

This topic is close to me personally, as I have worked on this it in the past. I haven't done so recently - it was more when I was younger, both in college and in law school. In college, I volunteered on the local hot line. In law school, through the clinic there at the University of Maryland, I represented an abused woman who was convicted of first degree murder for killing her abusive husband, and who never had any of that abuse admitted as evidence in her trial. Ultimately one thing led to another, and we ended up rallying the community of mostly female lawyers to do three things: make a video of these women's stories (because my client was just one of about a dozen women in similar circumstances in Maryland prison); get legislation passed in Maryland that would allow evidence of the battered spouse syndrome in assault and murder cases where the spouse on trial had been abused; and work towards clemency for these dozen or so women who were in prison in Maryland but had never been allowed to explain their circumstances during their trials. All three goals were met, and the governor gave most of the women clemency from their prison sentences. I was gone from Maryland when the women were given clemency - I had graduated from law school by that point and was in Wyoming, clerking for a judge - but I felt so proud of the work that got accomplished based on what we had started, there at the law school.

The last two days have made me think of that project - have reminded me of how far we, as a society, have come since 1990 - as this kind of information is now part of trials, no need to fight to allow for that kind of fairness - but also, how far we still have to go. I mean, here we are, doing a PSA for abuse victims out there who don't know how to ask for help. Each circumstance is individual. Most abuse occurs behind closed doors. There is much to know, and not enough public education that takes place, even now - when we know so much more.

They say that the police can tell you which houses are ones with domestic abuse - they know the homes where they will be called to referee every few weeks. But this PSA is to reach out to those people who suffer that kind of domestic abuse in silence - the ones who do not pick up the phone and make the phone call. I hope this PSA reaches them, inspires them to reach beyond where they are and "break the cycle."

Sunday, April 3, 2011


As I sit here waiting for a refrigerator...

I love the house where I live. It was built in 1912 (I made that up - but it had to be around then). It has high ceilings and dark wood floors, the gorgeous wood somehow surviving various tenants' impulses over the years to follow painting trends. Bookshelves are built in, in that same gorgeous dark wood, as is a buffet in the dining room. I even love the funky cardboard-like paneling that someone installed back in the '50s, we guess. We think someone went through the neighborhood saying that everyone's kitchens and bathrooms would benefit by putting up paneling on the walls... It's weird, but interesting. Very kitch.

The house is not without its drawbacks. The heating system is an Octopus in the basement - what they used to use for coal-heating systems - a central source with huge metallic tubes that lead from the source to the individual rooms. While it no longer uses coal for its heating source - thank goodness - the system was never removed - just converted to a modern system, using the Octopus arms to distribute the heat. (It is also the cooling system - no air conditioning for this old house! There's a light switch that I can turn on in the summer - it runs the Octopus' motor which sucks the cooler air down below and circulates like a fan, just like the thermostat triggers the motor to run heat through the house in the winter.) This is an inefficient, expensive way to heat the house in the winter. Yet my rent is so reasonable (yes, I rent this sweet home) that I don't mind the expense in the winter. It all balances out in the end.

One of the drawbacks of living in this lovely home is that the facilities are older than dirt - or so it seems. About a year ago, the toilet broke. I called a plumber to replace it. (Oh, I also have the best landlords ever - who immediately take care of whatever needs fixing, either by fixing it themselves or authorizing me to hire someone.) The plumber said he figured he would be able to fix the toilet itself, and not have to get a replacement toilet. Um, I said, I love your optimism, but I think you may have to replace it. When he got here, he said there was no way to fix it - it was about 50 years old, or some such thing (maybe not, maybe only 30 or 40 years old, I can't remember - "really old," is what I remember him saying). So I got a brand new toilet. It was so exciting!! (I know, I need more excitement in my life, if this is considered one of the Big Events of 2010.) My landlord had said I could authorize whatever, but that he didn't want a gold toilet, or anything like that. So it was funny when the flush handle turned out to be brass.

So this week, the refrigerator died. I didn't notice right away - didn't notice the lack of humming coming from the kitchen, or anything. I did think it was odd that the ice wasn't forming well. When it dawned on me that I had a dead refrigerator, the cold already had mostly faded away. We made phone calls, my landlords and I. They decided they wanted a new refrigerator rather than the very-reasonably-priced used one that I had found at a local appliance store. Luckily they didn't want a big one - most new ones are mammoth, these days - so it actually will fit in the little alcove I have for it - sort of squeezed in next to the stove, but that way the appliances are off to one side and I can have a little table in the kitchen for casual dining. Real cooks would find this situation awkward, to say the least. Me? Not so much.

So now I await the new refrigerator. It shall be delivered today between 1 and 3 p.m. I'm kind of excited about it. Another appliance goes from 1950 to the 21st century. Not that the dead refrigerator is that old - not that I know of, anyway.

I'm also excited about having a completely cleaned-out refrigerator. Though I do think I'll miss my various science experiments... I mean, what's the purpose to a science experiment if you can't keep it around for years? Isn't that how it became a science experiment in the first place?

It's also a little thrilling to imagine a completely clean corner of the house, as I plan to clean out under the refrigerator before the new one arrives.

I haven't been able to have frozen items this week - my neighbor graciously took my frozen items for safekeeping in his freezer - and refrigerated items didn't last too long with the ice that I bought - well, not after the ice melted and I didn't replace it. So one nice thing about the end of today - I'll be able to have half-and-half again for my morning coffee.

And that opening line, above? It's a play on the words of Tillie Olsen's short story "As I Stand Here Ironing." She was a writer from Santa Cruz, California, who was also a mother and home keeper, who wrote around, and about, the mundane chores of life. Maybe that's why I noticed the refrigerator so much this week - I'm writing again, and anything can be a distraction when I write.