Tag Archives: allentown

On Tour: BLAST! in Allentown, PA

13 Apr

Inner workings at the Silverball Museum

On the way to Allentown, we took an excursion to Asbury Park. Highlight was the Silverball Museum on the boardwalk. It’s full of gorgeously maintained vintage pinball machines.  The space reverberates  with that familiar clanging noise and each machine is accompanied by a detailed description of its history and playing strategy. Turns out the owner also owns the Cluck U Chicken Company. His daughter is autistic, but he discovered that she responded well to pinball machines. So he started buying them for her. The collection evolved into this museum. Fun to see the complicated inside of one of these machines.

Da Vinci Science Center

Two hours on the road, brought us to the Da Vinci Science Center, right near Dorney Amusement Park in Allentown, PA.  BLAST! has exposed me to a network of these affiliated organizations, such as The Franklin Institute in  Philadelphia and the Coca-Cola Science Center in Georgia.  They always have the most fun, interactive exhibits and are a great way to get young people excited about science. Which of course is exactly what we want to do with  BLAST! as well.

Inside the Da Vinci Science Center

As might be expected at a science center, most of the questions after the screening were about science. There was even a scientist in the audience who asked a technical question about what kind of detectors the telescope used.  Uh-oh. Since I’m not a scientist myself, these are the times I wish my astrophysicist brother Mark (who stars in BLAST!) were with me. When we appear together, I pass those questions on to him. But this time, I had to channel him and remember how he has answered these questions in the past. Hopefully, I did OK, but I can just picture him shaking his head…


Struggling with those science questions!

My cousin Colleen Dooley happens to live in Allentown. She came to the screening with her husband Peter, their daughters, Kate and Caroline and friend Emily. I haven’t seen Kate and Caroline since the were 5 years old. Now they’re 17 and almost as tall as I am!  We all went out after the show and had a great time catching up!


Emily, Paul, & Cousins

Next up Erie, PA, near the Canadian border in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania.  First plane ride of the tour!

Post by Paul Devlin, OSIP touring filmmaker

To read all posts by this filmmaker, please click here!

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On Tour: Perspective

5 Mar

March 1st – the road from Erie to Allentown, and thoughts on perspective.

It was just one of those days where things don’t go as planned – my 11:15 am flight from Erie to Philadelphia/Allentown wasn’t happening. First the flight was delayed out of Philly, due to weather, and then, once on the ground in Erie, engineers found a mechanical problem. And pushed back the already delayed flight. And pushed it back again. And again.

By 2 pm, I called Brigid at the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation (my travel guru) and suggested that I get a rental car; I was sure I could drive the 300 miles to Allentown in time for the Q and A after the film. Brigid and her boss were reluctant – they didn’t want to impose on me. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to get on the road. Perspective. From Brigid’s kind point of view, I was being imposed on by having to make such a long drive. From mine, it was freedom and control over my own destiny. There’s something about getting behind the wheel of a car and heading off on a road trip that makes me happier than almost any thing else. I’m in control – I’m not dependent on anyone else to get me where I’m going, or to keep me from getting there.

The drive was long, and gray, not particularly scenic. But I had time to think and to listen to music, and to think some more – a good journey. Brigid had been concerned that it would be stressful; for me, it was relaxing. (Not to mention the fact that I was simply grateful to be driving on huge, paved highways; a similar drive in Sierra Leone, across dirt roads, would have taken two days). Perspective.

Six hours later, when I got off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, not far from Allentown, I asked the woman at the tollbooth how long it would take to get to town. “Well, that depends,” she said. “It could take you a while. Allentown is really big.” I stifled a very good-natured laugh. I’d just driven 300 miles in six hours, and had only a short way to go from my perspective. Not to mention that I come from a city (Los Angeles) that takes two hours to drive across at its widest part. Perspective. I smiled and thanked her and went on my way, and pulled up outside the theater about 10 minutes later. The Fambul Tok screening had already begun, with some 80 people inside – the biggest crowd yet for an OSIP screening, the staff told me. I waited for the film to end and went inside the beautiful theater for the Q and A.

There were a lot of great questions – many from a personal perspective. One woman wanted to know if something specific had happened in my life that made me want to help try to make the world a better place. A man talked about his own life experiences, and being brought up in an “NAACP oriented family” where much discussion took place about being black in America. But, he said, nothing he’d ever heard compared with what he’d seen on screen in Fambul Tok, and the story of Sierra Leone. “And those people went through that, and still they found love and compassion.” He said the film had given him a whole new way to consider challenges in his own life. Perspective.

At the end of the evening, after most everyone had left, a man and woman came up to me and told me that the audience had been almost entirely made up of people who were part of their social service programs – a veterans program, a half-way house, a drug treatment program. I’d had no idea. But what they told me gave me a whole new framework for considering the post-screening Q and A, and where the questions were coming from, and why. They told me they were sure that there would be many interesting conversations, sparked by the film, the next morning.

I drove away from the theater thinking about Fambul Tok in a new light, and what its message could mean for people who were struggling with some of these challenges. I wish I could have eavesdropped on the conversations that happened after the film. Perspective. It was a day full of so many.

Post by Sara Terry, OSIP Touring Filmmaker

On Tour: Money Matters Screens in Allentown

6 Feb

The second stop of the “Money Matters” On Screen/In Person tour is Allentown PA. A two plane trip from Erie PA, one of which was literally 15 minutes, and no they don’t offer water on such a flight. The day is going smoothly until I get a call from the venue contact. She is super sweet but I can tell she is hesitant. She tells me that they reached out to two different teachers for them to bring their students to the screening. Both of them declined due to the graphic language of the film. Man, these small towns are tough. She was very apologetic. I’m thinking ‘I bet the venue is going to be amazing again’. And I was right.

Entrance to Allentown Symphony Hall

We screened at the Symphony Hall in downtown Allentown. A refurbished space that looked great with three levels of seating. I was shocked to be screening in such a space and I also understood why it would have been a task for them to get to the target audience of the film. This type of film seems like if it would be left field for their typical patrons.

Just in case you didn’t know THIS FILM HAS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE. Posted on the entrance doors. They don’t want ANY problems.

At this point I’m expecting the same response I got in Erie but it wasn’t. Just about all that came stayed for the talk back. Even the ushers, who I was told never stay for the films.

The viewers were angry that the screening was not well attended. One gentleman who spoke almost came to tears because he worked with an entire community that would love and appreciate this film. He ran a veterans treatment facility a block away.

He said to me several times “I am inspired by your film”. A lot of times I take what people say as politeness. Who is going to trash your work to your face? Now I’m not wishing that to happen, I’m just saying. He went as far as inviting me to screen at his organization the next day. So I did.

The following day I had an impromptu screening at Veterans Sanctuary. It was a packed house. They were really engaged and made observations I hadn’t discussed in while. What I thought was interesting with this session was that there were maybe 10 women in this group of about 80. But it was mostly the men who asked questions. Hmmm I wonder why.

Veterans Sanctuary- They are into it.

The visit to Allentown turned out to be great. Thank you to Robin and Robert for sharing “Money Matters,” with your communities. Next stop: New Brunswick, Rutgers University.

Walking around downtown there are random signs that say ‘guns’. It may be time to leave Allentown.

Post and photos by Ryan Richmond, OSIP touring filmmaker.

On Tour: Huey visits Allentown, PA

8 Nov

The view from Huey’s Allentown Hotel Room

Part of the fun of the tour is getting to interact with audiences and to hear their responses to the film I’ve just spent five years making. Another plus to the tour is getting to meet the presenters at each site. At historic Allentown Symphony Hall that person is Robin Flores. I arrived early at Symphony Hall and saw a woman setting up a display table. It was Robin and after phone calls and e-mails we get to meet. She then shows me the Hall’s screen. It is big, very big. I think something like 30 feet by 18 feet. It’s the largest screen I have shown any of my films on. The projection looked fabulous and the sound matched it in amplitude and crispness.

We had a good crowd of 70-80 people. But for just a few they all stayed to talk about the film. It was gratifying to hear their positive feelings about the film. We talked for quite a bit and then many of them lined up while I signed DVDs. Several in the audience told me about their associations with Marian. One woman’s father had played with Marian, some had met her through friends and some related seeing Marian at concerts and how memorable it was.

The filmmaker visits Mr. Seckler’s Class

The next morning Robin picked me up in time take me to Allentown High School, her alma mater, for an 8:15AM class. Going through the tight security at the high school reminded me I wasn’t in Maine. We were escorted by a student to the basement room of Mr Seckler’s Theater class. They were a good group of students. I showed them some clips from In Good Time and they really liked Marian. I think they were fascinated by seeing what to them is an old lady full of spunk, giving energetic performances, and coming up with funny one liners. Next I showed them examples of student made movies done in residencies I have done with K-12 students. They perked right up for these movies and we ended with a great discussion about filmmaking and creativity.

Post by Huey, OSIP Touring Filmmaker

On Tour: Jim Hanon visits Allentown, PA

13 Oct
Bob Hope had performed at the symphony hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania back in the days of vaudeville. What a great venue for the On Screen/In Person tour. It might have been nice to play off the history of the place and tell some jokes before the audience discussion, except the nature of the film doesn’t lend itself to that.
We had an older audience, and I enjoyed a different kind of discussion because many of them remember the civil rights movement in the US. Naturally, there was some discussion about whether it is appropriate to compare the nonviolence movement in the US to the middle east and most specifically the Palestinians. I find it very easy to understand why all the protagonists in the film mention their inspiration in Dr. King, for the center of what they are struggling for is equality.  They see nonviolence as the path toward equality and equality as the path toward peace. At the same time I also understand why some feel any comparison is misleading.
How you feel about the Palestinian people is at the heart of whether you agree if the comparison is appropriate. If you feel they are terrorists at war with Israel, then the comparison is outrageous. If you feel they are civilians struggling to survive and make their respective societies better for both peoples then the comparison is nothing short of inspirational.  The film, Little Town of Bethlehem, ia about the joint Israeli and Palestinian nonviolence movement. They are paying the price within their respective societies to bridge the gap between the two peoples. They believe, as Dr. King did, “Their destiny is tied to our destiny.”
In the early days of vaudeville the stage was segregated. It was wonderful to be back on an old vaudeville stage with this story. And it was great to be among the thoughtful people of Allentown.

Post by Jim Hanon, OSIP Touring Filmmaker

On Tour: The Silence

12 Sep

The story of screening TRUST at the Allentown Symphony is one of being reminded to keep things in perspective.

Thursday was one of those awful travel days – thanks to tropical storm Lee, my plane was hours late landing in Philadelphia, President Obama declared Pennsylvania a disaster area, and I had no idea whether what lay ahead on the road from Philadelphia to Allentown – maybe cresting rivers?  I was anxious about whether I’d arrive in time for the evening screening and fuming in a long line at the rental car agency when Robin Flores from the Allentown Symphony called to say she had just spoken with the teacher who’d screened TRUST that afternoon for fifty of her students.  Apparently this particular class was a rowdy bunch of students, but they sat riveted through the entire film.  Even after the lights came up, all fifty sat, very still, in complete silence for a full minute.  I struggled not to burst into tears – that’s how Kenji Yamamoto, my filmmaking partner and husband, intended audiences to respond to TRUST.  And with that, the bad travel day anxieties faded into the distance, where they belonged.

The following morning, Robin and I arrived bright and early at Lehigh Valley Performing Arts School in Bethlehem, a charter school of 600 plus students. Theater teacher Diane Wagner led us into the black box theater, where the fifty students who had seen TRUST wanted to talk about the silence.  They said they were usually a boisterous audience, leaping to their feet to give a standing ovation after seeing something they like, but after seeing TRUST, no one moved, no one said a word.  One young man said that after the lights came up, he was feeling and thinking about so many things, he thought it would have cheapened the experience not to have that silence.

The students told me Ms Wagner had paused the film part way through, because they were crying so hard after hearing the incest part of Marlin’s story, she felt they needed a break.  When Kenji and I were editing TRUST, our concept was to break Marlin’s storytelling into four sequences, so that after each sequence, the audience would think that her story couldn’t get more traumatic, but then, in the next sequence, it would.

The class is made up of 11th and 12th graders who have been together in the theater class since 9th grade.  Ms Wagner said right now, they are casting for a play and the students are consumed their individual concerns about auditions and parts.  From her perspective, one of the best effects of showing TRUST was seeing the students regain perspective about the big picture, the community of their theater class, and raise their heads above all the trying details of auditioning. She said she planned to buy a copy of TRUST and show it every year.

This is what I live for – what a great experience.

Post written by Nancy Kelly, On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker

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