Tag Archives: conversation

On Tour: Lancaster, PA

4 Jan

November 9, 2017 | Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw | Lancaster, PA

Host Barry Kornhauser really went to bat for this screening, with able assistance from Amy Banks, Arts Communication Manager of Lancaster’s Ware Center, where Mind/Game was screened in a beautiful 300+ -seat theater.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In Lancaster, I was busy for the good part of two days!  An interview with a student named Alex, for an article in the local paper, the first day.  The next morning Chamique Holdsclaw herself showed up (yes, it was expected, Barry went the extra mile to make it happen), and ‘Mique and I did a podcast with John Walk, which can be heard here: http://lancasteronline.com/sports/wnba-star-chamique-holdsclaw-talks-with-john-walk-for-inspirational/article_0f24abea-c587-11e7-b510-bb59b923df8f.html

Then Chamique and I did a couple of sessions with students and faculty during Millersville’s “common hour.”  A shout-out especially to Beth Powers-Costello and Tiffany Wright for making that happen, inspiring their students and asking great questions.

Then off to Wanja Oganji’s social work class; and from there Chamique to an African-American studies class while I was whisked off to a filmmaking class at nearby Franklin & Marshall College– very sharp and creative students working on their own short films– I hope my insights helped them.

In the evening, the Mind/Game screening was preceded by an excellent panel with mental health professionals and educators (who had pre-screened the film) preparing the audience with background on some key mental health issues that would come up in the film they were about to see.

5-MIND GAME pre-screening panel

A crowd of 328 (!) packed the sold-out Ware Center Theatre.  A very live crowd watched the film and then Chamique and I did our thing with a long and spirited Q&A.  Chamique was subsequently mobbed by admirers and entire high school and college sports teams, for photo ops.  A reception followed, Chamique and I autographed Mind/Game DVDs that were purchased, conversations ensued well into the evening.  It was a visit to remember!

One last note: Barry Kornhauser– though he was too modest to mention to me during the visit– had just two weeks earlier been awarded the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Pennsylvania “Artist of the Year” award!  Read about it here.

An honor to have spent a couple of days in your company, Barry!

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Rick Goldsmith.

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On Tour: Washington, DC

4 Jan

November 5, 2017 | Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw | Washington, DC

Atlas-IMG_0128-best

[photo, l to r: Goldsmith, Amdursky, Page-Kirby; credit: Doug Yeuell]

The Atlas Performing Arts Center has become the center of the recently-renovated Near Northeast neighborhood of Washington, DC.  Thanks to my host Doug Yeuell, an assembled diverse crowd of 40 or so packed into their small “black box” theatre for stop #2 on my tour.  It was a “live” crowd, with audience reaction indicating basketball afficionados as well as therapists, a family with 3 pre-teens and others.  Q&A moderator Kristen Page-Kirby of the Washington Post-Express began with provocative questions about the filmmaking process, and I delved into how Chamique and I worked together, especially at key crisis points during production, including one episode that almost shut the film down mid-production.  I was joined on stage by Loren Amdursky, MD, an adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist, who added insight and elaboration to the mental health journey that I depicted on-screen.  The feeling in the room, filled with educators, mental health professionals and who knows who else, spurred an energetic discussion among audience and panel-members alike about the need to de-stigmatize mental illness, and also how we should look at “mental health” as something that applies to everyone, and should be viewed as such, much like we view “physical health” as important to all, and not just the “absence of illness.”  A young African-American woman came up to me after the Q&A and shared her own mental health journey with me and related how much the film and Chamique’s story resonated with her experience.  It was the kind of screening that makes one feel validated in putting 3 years into production and another 2-1/2 (thus far) into distribution.  I felt like I was indeed reaching my intended audience and indeed making a difference in people’s lives.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Rick Goldsmith.

On Tour: Waynesboro, VA

4 Jan

November 2, 2017 | Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw| Waynesboro, VA

After a 2-day stay in beautiful Shenandoah National Park, hiking among the fall colors on the Appalachian Trail, I exited the park to the south on my way to the newly-renovated Wayne Theatre in downtown Waynesboro, VA.  A lightly-attended screening of Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw nonethelss generated a terrific hour-long Q&A with me and my panel-mates: Chris Graham, moderator and  Augusta Free Press editor and ESPN commentator (who had posted a podcast interview with me a week earlier); Dr. Kenneth Hubert Brasfield, a psychiatric pharmacist;  Crystal Graham, Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; Becky Snead, LPC, PACT Supervisor at Valley Community Services Board; and John Spears, director of Youth Sports at Waynesboro Family YMCA.  Each one of us presented different perspectives on a variety of mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, and the critical need to bring the mental illness discussion “out of the closet.”  Thanks to hosts Tracy Straight and her Wayne Theatre staff for an energizing kick-off start to my tour.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Rick Goldsmith.

On Tour: Waynesboro, VA

3 Dec

October 26, 2017 | Oil & Water | Waynesboro, VA

It started with a fire in Atlanta. Tracy Straight’s apartment burned to the ground while she was visiting family back in her hometown of Waynesboro, Virginia. There was nothing to go back to, so she stayed.

Since that time, she got married and had a few kids and built a new life in her old community but with an unexpected new purpose. The year she moved back home she heard that the old, long defunct, Wayne Theater in the center of Main St. was to be torn down. A parking lot would replace it. This news kicked off the second fire in Tracy’s life. A burning passion to save this theater.

After 17 years and over 11 million dollars raised, the 1926 building was ready to shine again. It’s not just the theater that revitalized, the whole of Main Street benefited too. Busy restaurants and cute new shops line the street, no doubt boosted by something happening at the Wayne seven days a week.

Tracy is now the Executive Director of the Wayne and her passion hasn’t (I can’t help it…) waned. She is just as enthusiastic about the On Screen/In Person tour as she is the marionette show this week, My Fair Lady next week and the art gallery upstairs from the theater currently featuring art from Montana.

Laurel and ED of Wayne Tracy Straight

It’s this kind of community potluck of entertainment that can give a small downtown life. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people move back home to Waynesboro or any small town that gets a cultural shot in the arm like Tracy has given to her hometown.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Laurel Spellman Smith

On Tour: Washington, DC

2 Dec

October 24, 2017 | Oil & Water | Washington, DC

It was a long, sad, exhilarating and fascinating day in D.C. I woke up at 6:32am to snag online tickets to the African American Museum knowing it would be one of the highlights of a trip to the Capital. Clicking through the time options 10am: Not available. 10:30: Not available. 11am Not Available… finally, 12:30pm 2 tickets available! I felt like I had won the lottery.

When we arrived at the gorgeous bronze laced building, I was full of anticipation. It’s really a jewel on the Mall. With the current and historical racial tension that haunts D.C., this new space on the national lawn feels sacred. The museum does not disappoint. In fact, it over-delivers. It’s so chock-a-block full of information that we only got half way through before I realized we had to run out to get to the sound-check for the Oil & Water screening.

As we raced over to the Atlas Theater, I thought about how this city was built on the backs of African American, who make up 50% of the city’s population, yet this critically important museum was debated for 100 years and only finished last year!

Atlas and new H Street Car

Just outside the Atlas on H Street there was a sign discussing the importance of the theater, a community hub in the vibrant and racially mixed neighborhood. Though it opened as a white-only establishment in the 1930’s, in the 1950’s it became a desegregated venue in a heavily segregated city. After the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, the Atlas fell into disrepair and closed like many of the businesses in the area. In 2006, the theater was renovated and reopened as part of a larger plan to revitalize the neighborhood.

I’m so glad the theater is back up and running. It’s a beautiful space and an important part of the community. But I realized from my research about the neighborhood that the tensions aren’t over. Current residents now feel the gentrified street is pushing them further and further away from the city. Conflicts arise from what type of businesses are valued on the street and by whom. Rents are going up. And the new street car is a visible sign of the changes being made to this ever-changing city.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Laurel Spellman Smith

On Tour: Wilmington, DE

1 Dec

October 22, 2017 | Oil & Water | Wilmington, DE

Laurel at the Queen

Filmmaker Laurel Spellman Smith at Queen Theater, Wilmington, DE

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been on the road with Oil & Water, we finished the film in 2014 after which we spent more than a year touring film festivals around the world. Now it’s been nearly two years since I actually watched the film. As I sat in the audience of my own film at in downtown Wilmington, a thought caught me by surprise, “wow, I was there!” It’s interesting to think that the making of this film consumed my life for 8 years but as my life has changed, those memories have become more distant. Watching the film again reminded me of what it was like to actually film those scenes: in the village, in the jungle, in the oil muck, in the heat. It all came rushing back to me, I could practically smell the damp foliage and acrid air.

Laurel filming David

Co-director Laurel Spellman Smith filming David Poritz in Ecuador

As the credits rolled my focus snapped back to my chair in The Queen theater – sitting with a small crowd of Delaware residents I was reminded of just how far I had come. Not just across the country to show this film, but in my initial thoughts about tackling this contentious subject, in a country I had never visited, with a prosumer camera and my film partner, Francine, who also had doubts. But the thing is, we did it. And now, 11 years since we took that initial step off the plane in Quito, Ecuador only to board another flight and then an 8-hour canoe trip to the deep Amazonian rainforest… the story hasn’t become less relevant. In fact, it continues to resonate with communities all over the world. And that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Laurel Spellman Smith

On Tour: Blue Bell, PA

1 Dec

October 19, 2017 | Oil & Water | Blue Bell, PA

Oil & Water — Before Hollywood, there was Pennsylvania

Stars were made in Montgomery County. In the early years of movie making, Betzwood Film Studios on the banks of Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River, was the world’s largest, most advanced film studio.

I learned this surprising history from Brent Woods, senior director of cultural affairs at Montgomery County Community College, in Blue Bell, PA. Woods is deeply engaged in building an audience for the arts, and his enthusiasm for this community and its role in film history is infectious.

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Today the college is home to the world’s largest known archive of Betzwood movie studio artifacts, thanks to resident expert and history professor emeritus Joseph Eckhardt. According to Eckhardt’s website, https://mc3betzwood.wordpress.com, Betzwood was a sprawling 350-acre complex where more than 100 films were produced and circulated worldwide. It was built by Siegmund Lubin, a German-Jewish immigrant, who by 1912 was America’s first movie mogul. Lubin is credited with being the first to mass market films, and he employed up to 1,000 people who churned out five to six million feet of film at the studio each week. Among the footage Betzwood created was this train wreck, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-SV46oJR8o&feature=youtu.be, which Lubin used in five of his films. Click on it, it’s really a train wreck.

As I toured the campus on my final stop on the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation tour, it was easy to imagine stars emerging from this community today. I observed students composing music, recording a radio show, and pitching projects in a classroom that looked more like an executive suite. I saw several dozen camera bags loaded with gear for students to make films, as well as a television studio and state-of-the-art editing suites. Students at Montgomery County Community College are learning in an exceptional environment. I’m excited for them, and perhaps even a little envious.

I’d like to thank Jerry Collom for inviting me to meet with students in his advanced video production class, as well as Matt Porter for the department tour, and Iain Campbell for the care he took in ensuring a perfect screening. Thanks especially to Brent Woods for taking the time to give me a window into the community’s future, as well as fascinating past. I couldn’t have asked for a lovelier way to end the tour.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Francine Strickwerda

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