Tag Archives: BlackRock Center for the Arts

On Tour: Blue Bell, PA

2 May

April 13, 2017 | States of Grace | Blue Bell, PA

There has been a lot of planning around this visit and I have received a detailed schedule from Brent Woods, senior director of cultural affairs that includes a tour of their communications facility with Gerry Collom who teaches filmmaking there. It’s well equipped and I enjoy getting to know Gerry a bit and hearing about the program and how it serves a very broad range of students.

Events conspire to bring us a small audience and I use that as an opportunity to turn the Q&A into more of a conversation, asking folks about their reactions to the film and anything that stood out for them.  A young man leads off by commenting how an accident like this could happen to anyone at any time and it’s clear that he can relate to  the experience of someone who is quite different from himself.

A retired occupational therapist comments on Grace’s tremendous motivation and how rare it is to see a patient like this.  I let her know how much Grace’s therapists enjoyed working with her and how much her attitude impacted the quality of care she received.  Before making the film, I hadn’t understood how much reciprocity there is between caregiver and care receiver and how much the patient’s attitude impacts the therapist.

We have an interesting conversation about Fu’s 5-year commitment to caring for Grace, something that has come up in other screenings.  One person sees Fu as being cold and withholding while most others see this as an act of generosity and good boundary setting, especially since Grace and Fu aren’t intimate partners in a traditional (or non-traditional) marriage.  This leads us to talk about the types of expectations that accompany relationships and how, in any type of relationship, it’s important to articulate and negotiate those expectations.

Toward the end of the discussion a woman expresses a view of Grace’s story that I haven’t heard before – that you can see a divine plan behind all of this.  Grace becoming a doctor, Grace and Fu becoming partners and adopting Sabina, the two of them being Buddhists and living in community all create the circumstances for Grace to survive the accident, be well cared for, and heal sufficiently to create an innovative pain clinic that continues to help people.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Mark Lipman

On Tour: Reading, PA

2 May

April 12, 2017 | States of Grace | Reading, PA

It’s almost 400 miles to Reading and I can’t believe I’ve logged close to 1700 miles already.  I’m finding endurance I didn’t know I had and am enjoying seeing the countryside in such a variety of locales.

The Miller Center is a great venue in the midst of a community that is almost 60% Latino.  An ESL class in civics makes up a significant part of the audience and I’m happy to be able to offer Spanish subtitles which a couple of the students need.  Brett, the technical director, is able to make this change at the last minute and we do a final sound check while people already seated in the theatre look on.

Watching the film with these subtitles is a first for me.  We’ve shown it with English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired and with audio description for the blind and visually prepared, but not in Spanish.  I’m very glad we can accommodate so many different types of audiences.

Talking with Brett earlier, I realize that I need to rethink my notion of audience and how to gauge the impact of the film. It turns out that Brett was on the review committee that helped select the films for OSIP and has a son with Cerebral Palsy, which Sabrina also has.  He brought the film home to show his wife and we talk a bit about raising a child with a disability and some of the life decisions he’s made to accommodate his son.

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For Q&A Cathleen Stephen, the director of the Miller Center, has invited Cynthia Huls, director of Visiting Angels, a home care service, and Zuleyka Lopez, one of her home care providers, to participate.  Cynthia notes that in her experience, the level of support Grace has through her many networks of friends and colleagues is unusual and that many of the people they care for are far more isolated. Everyone agrees that emotional support plays a critical part in caregiving and Zuleyka notes that there are times she just sits with her patients keeping them company.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Mark Lipman

On Tour: Lewisburg, WV

2 May

April 10, 2017 | States of Grace | Lewisburg, WV

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Two hundred miles later I’m in Lewisburg, trying not to make bad jokes about finally playing Carnegie Hall (yes, it takes lots of practice).  Walking around town in the afternoon, a gentleman asks where I’m from.  Turns out I’m talking with the mayor of 14 years, John Manchester.  He already knows about the screening that night and has it on his calendar, but a fundraiser that evening means that only his wife will be there.  Still, it’s great how the word gets out in a small town and how appreciative folks are of these kinds of cultural events.

Lynn Creamer, my host, has invited a nursing class to the screening and they enter as a group along with their professor.  In the Q&A one of them comments on how important it is to see the impact of Grace’s accident on the entire family, that in the hospital they only see the patient and only for a short period of time.  The film helps remind them that there’s a much larger context for the patient who is lying there in the bed.  Another student comments on how much she liked Sabrina’s (Grace’s daughter ) frankness.  During the screening I could hear lots of chuckling in response Sabrina’s teenage snarkiness and realized that they are not so far removed from that time in their own lives.

An older woman who has dealt with her own disability notes how much power you have as a caregiver and how you have to give that up as a patient.   She identifies  with Grace feeling like she is a burden and talks about how important it was for Grace to return to work and continue to serve others.

It’s interesting how the film speaks to people in a wide variety of circumstances.  A young man says that what really struck him was Grace saying, “If you can, you must” as she  struggles to maneuver in a bathroom.  I ask why this stood out for him, expecting something related to disability, but he replies that he has just moved to Lewisburg and lost his job shortly after arriving.  He is feeling quite depressed and discouraged, but Grace’s words inspire him to keep moving forward with his life.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Mark Lipman

On Tour: Germantown, MD

2 May

April 8, 2017 | States of Grace | Germantown, MD

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I am actually driving from Durham, NC which isn’t on the OSIP itinerary, but I have managed to fit it into my travel schedule.  Father’s Day, a film I completed in 2003,  had an encore screening at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.  It screened there in 2004 and the artistic director has invited one film from each of the last 19 festivals back for their “thematic” program.  It’s a great honor and especially meaningful as this is a film about my father’s sudden death when I was 17 and a project I worked on for over 20 years.

During the production of States of Grace I often thought that the making of Father’s Day is what prepared me for it, both artistically and emotionally.  Both are films, in part, about sudden loss, grieving and finding meaning within a new and altered reality.  Father’s Day has no sync sound.  It is based on audio recordings of family members and our family doctor and visualizes the story using old home movies, photographs, documents and scenes in nature which I recorded – a snowfall, rippling water, and waterfalls.

When we started working on States of Grace, Helen and I agreed that we wanted it to be a poetic film, that it would need the beauty of nature to balance the challenging emotional terrain it covers.  We didn’t know quite what that would mean, but I think the nature scenes in States of Grace (snow geese lifting up from a pond, birds in flight, reflections in ponds, clouds) are direct descendants of the imagery in Father’s Day.

We get into some of this during the Q&A at BlackRock and it seems fitting to have this conversation in an art center (there has just been an artist talk in the gallery adjacent to the screening space).  The place exudes creative energy and the audience is clearly up for this kind of discussion.

I am also asked about privacy issues.  Did we have any concerns about showing the tough moments Grace went through?  I explain that Grace gave us complete permission to make the film as we wanted to and didn’t even see a cut until it was almost completed.  There was an enormous amount of trust and the issue we struggled with during the editing process wasn’t around privacy as much as balance – finding the right balance between the tough moments and the positive ones in order to create a story that was realistic and true to our experience of Grace’s experience.

For me the day is capped off with a performance of Ragu Dixit at BlackRock.  I had gotten a ticket to this sold-out performance weeks ago and am one of the few white faces among the Indians who have come out to see a cultural hero from southern India. This is a family affair with many young children and dancing in the aisles as the evening goes on.  People introduce themselves to me and sometimes provide translation when Ragu speaks directly to them in their own language.  If there is any question about the power of culture to unify, animate and uplift, it should have been laid to rest that night.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Mark Lipman

On Tour: Lancaster, PA

2 May

March 30, 2017 | REAL BOY| Lancaster, PA

We couldn’t ask for a more wonderful end to our tour than the events at Millersvillle University and the Ware Center in Lancaster, PA.

The day starts early and our host Barry Kornhauser comes to pick us up in downtown Lancaster and takes us out to the university, which is four miles out of town. The campus is beautiful. There are ducks, swans, and turtles in a large pond at the center and the entire campus is beautifully landscaped. As we walk through campus to the classroom where we’ll be presenting, Barry tells us about the history of the college, including the bit of trivia that an early president of Millersville University from the late 19th Century is best known for writing the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Our first stop is a lunchtime gathering of students from the social work department. We show the trailer and then gather in a circle to talk about gender identity and the other issues in the film. Joe shares his own personal experiences of coming out as trans and how his family responded at the time.

Dr. Tiffany Wright, chair of the Millersville University President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity, has joined us and she also shares with students the work being done on campus to create greater inclusion. The school already has a preferred name policy and the commission is working on putting other policies in place to support their trans students and teachers.

I am struck by how important these small, informal conversations are. Students asked for advice for their own lives and took the opportunity to learn more about how to ask respectful questions about gender. They also learned more about how they can become involved as active allies at their university and with their future clients.

We then head across campus to a joint class of undergrads, including those from a Philosophy class entitled “Gender, Utopia and Society.” The room is full and the students ask fantastic questions about both Joe’s experience as a trans man and a musician and my experience as a filmmaker and storyteller seeking to honor and represent people with love and integrity. We talk about gender and media and music and addiction and families.

One student in the back row thanks Joe and I for bringing these stories into popular conversation and shares that she is also trans. Her voice is shaking and she confesses that it’s scary and vulnerable to tell people, especially in such a public way, but that it feels good to be open about it. Everyone in the room claps for her.

We head back into town and start the tech check for the evening’s event. The lobby is already starting to fill with people. When the doors open, the audience starts pouring in. The beautiful Ware Center fills with people. By the time the program starts there are more than 200 people in the theater.

The event begins with a panel discussion featuring Dr. Meg Day, a professor at Franklin & Marshall College; Dr. Tiffany Wright from the Millersville University President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity; Alexis Lake, a local therapist specializing in LGBT practice, and Tara Stark, a member of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. They each share their thoughts on the film and the ways it resonates for them personally. They invite the audience to track what is—and isn’t—present in Ben’s story and to look for the nuances. As a director, it is an honor to know that these people have taken the time to watch the film, think deeply about it, and prepare these comments to share with the audience.

The film begins and I can feel the engagement of the audience. They laugh and respond audibly to moments in the film. In the final scene, I can hear the sniffles in the room. I am deeply honored and so happy to be here.

Following the screening, Joe plays a set of music. He’s on fire and people are LOVING it. This night really feels like a special event, the culmination of an amazing month on the road. I’ll soon be on a plane home, but for now, I am so grateful to be in this theater in Lancaster, PA. We have truly done what we set out to do — engage, connect, discuss, and share a story we care so much about.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

On Tour: Wilmington, DE

2 May

March 29, 2017 | REAL BOY| Wilmington, DE

The sun is low and warm as we arrive in Wilmington’s arts district, with its old brick buildings, some newly renovated and others in disrepair. We’re staying at a BnB just blocks from the venue, so we are able to walk through the neighborhood to get a sense of the place. Joe walks in front of me, carrying his guitar case, and I’m filled with a moment of deep gratitude that we are able to be part of this tour across the mid-Atlantic — to see so many places, meet so many people, and share our film with them.

Before the screening begins, and as we wait for the sun to drop behind the nearby buildings, Joe performs a few songs. He performs his usual set and then, because the sun has not quite set and the room is still speckled with sunlight, he shares some of his new music, including “Following the Sound”, a song that will be part of the upcoming musical he is writing the music for. The musical is about Albert Cashier, an historical figure who was assigned female at birth and then enrolled in the Civil War as a soldier and lived as male the rest of his life.

After the REAL BOY screening, the event organizers invite the audience to have some pizza and gather at the tables set up in another part of the room. We are joined by the other panelists: Karla Fleshman of the LGBTQ Youth Mentoring Initiative at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware and Cristina Valcarcel Mikijanic, Health and Physical Education teacher at Cab Calloway School of the Arts. The space feels very intimate and informal, which allows us all to have more of a conversation than simply to answer questions from the audience. People share their own experiences as parents, as members of the LGBTQ community, and as allies. Many people have come to this event to find out how they can better serve the trans youth in their lives. They are teachers, health care professionals, friends. I am heartened by their stories and their genuine desire to make a difference. We talk about our own lives, about our own communities, about Albert Cashier, and about the ways we are working to show up to make their communities more gender-inclusive.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

On Tour: Brookvale, NY

2 May

March 28, 2017 | REAL BOY| Brookvale, NY

The screening at the Tilles Center on the Long Island University Campus is our northernmost stop on the tour. It has been raining hard all day when we arrive and we’re led into their huge 2,000-seat auditorium, where they host a wide range of events, from large concerts to live theater and touring musicals. The walls of the venue are lined with headshots of famous people who have performed at the Tilles Center — from YoYo Ma to Kristin Chenowith to Kevin Bacon’s musical duo, the Bacon Brothers.

As showtime approaches, the space is mostly empty and we start to worry the rain is keeping people at home, but at the last minute, students from the university begin filing into the theater and by 7:05, a decent-size crowd has settled into their seats.

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The film looks and sounds fantastic and it’s great to see it on the HUGE screen. The students ask great questions during the Q&A following the film and after the official program is over, they flock to the front of the theater to talk and take selfies with Joe and have him sign their CDs.

It’s wonderful to screen the film on college campuses, where so much conversation is underway about gender identity and so many intersecting issues. We’re grateful for how much we learn from young people and look forward to more.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

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