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

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[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: Wilmington, DE

1 Dec

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

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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.

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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

On Tour: Reading, PA

1 Dec

October 18, 2017 | Oil & Water | Reading, PA

Oil & Water — Learning in Reading, PA

The student looked at me like I was full of bull.  “Money makes the monkey dance,” he said, shaking his head. “The world will never change.”

I felt his anger and frustration, and I knew I needed to do better. Reactions vary to the story of the Cofan people’s struggle to survive the onslaught of oil development and devastating pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Some viewers are hopeful and inspired by Oil & Water’s main characters, Hugo and David, while others are angry and overwhelmed, almost to the point of tears. Still some are cynical; the story reinforces everything they already believe about the way the world works; that the little guys always get squished.

I often say to my young son, “The world’s not fair, let’s make it better.” When I’m touring with the film, I sing pretty much the same tune, only I ask audiences to try to hold back the weight of all the world’s problems, and focus on just one. “Find something you care about, and just do one thing,” I hear myself saying again this past week, this time to students at Reading Area Community College. “If everyone pitched in and did one thing, things could be different. Change does happen.”

And I think that’s mostly true. But then I notice a few students looking at me, shaking their heads in disbelief. I feel pangs of regret, and I realize that the answer about how to live in these challenging times is not the same for everyone.

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The “Frogs” of Reading-based Bullfrog Films

I know that the reality for some is more like Hugo Lucitante’s in the film, just trying to survive. They’re working jobs and going to school, and raising families.  Some are recent immigrants or refugees, or are themselves from poor, marginalized or underrepresented communities. To these people, I would like to say, I see how hard you are working and that you want a better future. Keep questioning and working to be problem-solving community members. And like Hugo does, keep going. Pay attention to what’s happening in the world. Take that learning and use it to dream, vote, and speak up for yourselves and others. And thank you for the conversation, your words make an impact.

Those of us who can do more, should. We can vote with our wallets and choose to buy, or not, based on our values. We can join with environmental organizations in our own communities, and demand that corporate and government leaders behave responsibly. Visit www.cofan.org to learn more about Hugo’s tribe and how to help or support David Poritz’s efforts at www.equitableorigin.org.  Spread the word about www.oilandwaterdocumentary.com, and host a screening with friends or a community group. Rent Oil & Water at www.bullfrogfilms.com, and while you’re there, check out the other 700 documentaries on the site.

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The film director with Dr. Linda Lewis Riccardi’s ethics class

Thanks to Bullfrog Films’ Winifred Scherrer, John Hoskyns-Abrahall, and Alex Hoskyns-Abrahall, who came to the Miller Center for the Arts screening, and brought friends. They distribute my films Oil & Water and Busting Out and have my back as a documentary filmmaker. Bullfrog is the leading American publisher of independently-produced environmental and social justice films, and I am grateful for their mission, humor, friendship and support. I visited the “Frogs” at their Reading, PA offices, in handsomely converted farm buildings with solar panels that help fuel their work. We talked film, politics, and laughed a lot.

Others whom I learned from on this tour include Miller Center for the Arts’ Natalie Babb and Cathleen Stephen, the best hosts a filmmaker could hope for. As well as Reading Area Community College ethics professor, Dr. Linda Lewis Riccardi, and environmental science adjunct professor Bob Hoskins, who invited me to meet their classes. Bob moderated the post-screening Q&A, and his ability to jump in and explain science and social issues was a godsend. I was delighted to spend time with them and their vibrant community of passionate, thoughtful people, and glad for the reminder to meet people where they are.

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

On Tour: Bloomsburg, PA

21 Nov

October 16, 2017 | Oil & Water | Bloomsburg, PA

The Road to Bloomsburg

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The Road to Bloomsburg, PA is both beautiful and blighted, with breathtaking views of rivers and forests, as well as vivid reminders of an energy industry that is dead, dying, or fraught.

The route winds through Schuylkill County to Ashland, a crumbling coal town that announces itself from a sign on the chain-link fence surrounding a football field. The “Ashland Black Diamonds” won the Pennsylvania state high school football champions back in 1935. I was struck by the sight, as Oil & Water features footage of a similar athletic field in a poor Ecuadorian oil town, only there the sign on the fence says “Bienvenido” (welcome), with a smiling oil drop mascot.

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Grayish buildings and weathered banners bearing the photos of war veterans line the full length of the main road through town. Ashland’s glory days ended with the Great Depression and the coal mine was closed. Just north of Ashland lies Centralia, an abandoned and polluted town where an underground mine fire has burned since 1962.

From there, the road winds through lushly forest hills to Bloomsburg on the banks of the Susquehanna River. Bloomsburg is an oasis made up of tidy homes and businesses in a valley that looks up the hill to stately Bloomsburg University. Here I was welcomed by Civic Engagement Coordinator Tim Pelton. Tim is the affable former editor of a leading scuba diving magazine, who has stories to tell about working with Jacque Cousteau as well as film crews from the James Bond franchise. Before the screening we chatted about the state of the journalism profession (I’m a former newspaper reporter) and the other environmental films he brings to the university.

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Tim Pelton (left) and Francine Strickwerda

Tim facilitated an engaging discussion with Bloomsburg students and local community members who asked smart, heartfelt questions following the screening of Oil & Water. One audience member wanted to know what I got personally from my experience directing Oil & Water. Filmmaking allows me to explore and find meaning, especially in dark places. With Hugo and David’s story we shined a light on a terrible injustice and saw hope for the future; something we all need. Further, sharing that story in person with communities like Bloomsburg increases the impact and grows connections, and that is awesome.

While my trip to the university was too brief, Tim’s warmth and the earnest interest showed by audience members left an impression. I was buoyed by the people I met and their concern for the world around them, from their own backyard, all the way to Ecuador. As I drove away from the town, toward my next stop on the tour, I wound back past Ashland, the rivers, and the trees.

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

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