Tag Archives: laura zinger

On Tour: It’s Hard to Make a Living as a Letterpress Printer

10 Apr

Where it all began for Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.!

I knew nothing about Colonial Willamsburg other than that it was a historical village where Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., the subject of my documentary, Proceed and Be Bold!, saw the press that changed his life.

 Re-enactors printing in the press room at Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

I didn’t realize I was supposed to buy a ticket to enter the press room, and just got out of the car and ran to go find the room, because I had to be in Norfolk in 2 hours for the screening. I got to the press room, and was told by the re-enactor that I had made a documentary about a man who quit his job once he saw the printing press there and could I please just run down and take a photo? She was amazing and let me. I ran down the stairs and into the press room which was full of people and kids watching the two re-enactors in the room showing how a Gutenberg press is used. Gutenberg presses are really cool because they were modeled after winepresses. You can see this in the photo below.The paper is laid on top of the inked moveable type and a large wooden platform is pulled down on top of the paper to make the paper press into the moveable type and then when the paper is pulled out, it has been printed on! Substitute grapes where the moveable type and paper are in this photo and you’ve got a wine press!

I told the re-enactors and the rest of the people in the room that I had made a documentary about a man who had seen this press and had quit his job at AT&T at 40 years old and became a letterpress printer. They were all amazed. The male re-enactor told us all that he knew that people were using letterpresses to print wedding invitations and other work, but that “it’s hard to make a living as a letterpress printer.” I told him that I had seen that firsthand with Amos, the subject of my documentary, but that he has managed to make a living. The re-enactor was impressed and I gave him my card and said I would mail him a free copy of the film if he sent me his mailing address.

Then I told them I was showing the film in 6 different cities as part of a screening tour for the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundations’ On Screen/ In Person grant, and had to run to another screening and then quite literally ran back to my car so that I wouldn’t be late for Norfolk screening.

I got to the screening at the Chrysler Museum with 30 minutes to spare, checked the film to make sure it was projecting correctly, then was invited to walk around the 30 Americans exhibit at the Chrysler Museum where the documentary screening was.  (Here’s a great video of the exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery.) The exhibit was made up of the work of 30 African Americans but the museum didn’t want to identify the artists just by the color of their skin and chose to call the exhibit 30 Americans which I thought was excellent and that name alone challenged the viewers of the gallery show, because of the experiences and perspectives of these 30 Americans which included Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall. This exhibit was one of the most incredible art experiences I’ve ever had, and I was thrilled to be able to walk around and experience it during the screening of Proceed and Be Bold! at the museum.

An art instructor invited her class to the screening, because her class focused on art made after the year 2000, and she said that she felt that the messages of Kennedy’s posters fit into the 30 Americans Exhibit that the Chrysler Museum currently had at the museum. She said she could see his posters fitting into the graphic text portion of the exhibit, and having just walked around the exhibit during the screening, I agreed with her completely. In fact, the paintings with quotes on them were the ones that stopped me.

There were also direct quotes from the artists themselves painted on the walls of the exhibit, and I think this one fits perfectly with what I think is one of Kennedy’s main messages in his printing.

A filmmaking student in the audience also asked a great question about why I chose to not show or discuss the religious nature of Kennedy’s work as well. The student noted that I focused mainly on the discussion of race in the documentary. The student was right. I, personally, am more interested in issues of identity and what it is that makes us each who we individually are, and to that extent, I did not shine a very large light on the religious issues that Kennedy has delved into in his work. I also did not interview anyone during the production of the documentary who could speak about Kennedy’s religious focused work: his whipping stick and the burned bible churches. There just wasn’t enough content available to weave into the story more, unfortunately, but that’s the first time anyone has brought up that issue.

I also answered a lot of excellent questions about the construction of the documentary by the same filmmaking student in the audience who was in the middle of making a documentary about an event called Slutwalk in Canada.

After the screening, I didn’t have any Kennedy posters to sell having completely sold out by the Charleston, WV screening, but the audience members came up to me to talk to me more about the film. One woman told me that she had lived through four identities in her lifetime: Negro, Colored, Black, and African-American, and she hopes that that’s it and that there isn’t another name change that she’ll have to get used to again. She also great up in New York City and was told “coffee makes you black” too, and told me that to this day her sister won’t drink coffee.

During my viewing of the 30 Americans exhibit, I saw something that cemented for me why the On Screen/ In Person grant was an amazing experience for me as an independent filmmaker, and why I think it is one of the most incredible artist support programs I have ever heard about.

At the end of the exhibit, the museum left post-it notes and some pens where anyone who had seen the exhibit could write their thoughts and feelings about the exhibit and stick it to the wall.

This was, for me, the most perfect example of the power of artistic creation and how much it can communicate to an audience. I loved this grant, because I got to show Proceed and Be Bold! to 6 different audiences, and I got to directly communicate with them to find out what their thoughts and feelings were after seeing this documentary, and how it had changed their perspectives about race or art in America today.  It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, being able to see and hear first hand how this film and Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. had affected the hearts and minds of others.

When I was reading the post-it notes at the end of the 30 Americans exhibit, I saw how much the images in the exhibit affected their audience, and I wish that the artists behind these images could read all of these post-it notes to see the difference that their art made on so many lives.

One of the reasons I am glad to have made this documentary, one that I have discovered only after making this documentary was that Kennedy shows that yes, art is a struggle, art includes plenty of sacrifices, but the rewards of art, the communication and expression and sheer love of art makes every last minute of being an artist so incredibly worth it. Like his brother, Alan, said in the documentary so succinctly, “If you have to walk on coals to get there, then that’s sacrifice. But if you like to walk on coals, then hey, you’re having a good time.”

I think the most important message that I have seen audiences gather from the film during this screening is to just do what you love. Whether that’s art or cooking or running. Just do what you love. This is certainly the most important message that Kennedy and this documentary have taught me.

Post by Laura Zinger, OSIP touring filmmaker. Thank you for sharing all of your experiences with us, Laura!


On Tour: “Bottomless Pit of Wonderfulness”

5 Apr

I’ve never ever in my life wanted to just pull over my car, or leap off a bus anywhere with the full certainty that I had finally found a place where I would love to stay forever. That was until I drove four hours from the screening in Charleston, WV to Lynchburg, VA through the Blue Ridge Mountains. I know that John Denver is a huge fan, but that was the most exposure I had to its absolute beauty. I seriously contemplated just pulling over at least a dozen times at a dozen different places along my drive, walking up to a nearby farm and seeing if they needed any extra farm help in exchange for room and board.

I even think the Blue Ridge Mountains were more beautiful than Trunk Bay Beach at St. John’s Island in the Virgin Islands which is the quintessential beach that is in every Caribbean beach photo meant to seduce you into visiting the islands. I’m serious. Smack your head in disbelief all you want to, the Blue Ridge Mountains are gorgeous. Alas, I did not stop because my sense of responsibility is too strong and I had two more screenings left on the tour, but I am definitely going back. And probably staying forever. Or for a very long time.

Lynchburg, VA itself is a beautiful town with rolling hills and a calmness and self-satisfaction that I have only ever experienced in the South.

I checked into my hotel, The Craddock Terry Hotel which had previously been a shoe factory, and in keeping with this history, the hotel gives every hotel room a shoe box and a card where you can mark how many breakfasts you would like the next morning. Then you put the card in the box, and then the box went outside your door. In the morning, breakfast would be put in your box! I was a huge fan of this, because it made me realize how important and wonderful traditions and customs are. I know it’s a just a shoe box with breakfast in it, but I’ll forever remember this experience because it was a custom the hotel has adopted and let me partake in during my stay. It reminded me of all of the Southern customs and idioms and sayings that, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., the subject of my documentary, prints on his posters. Traveling around the South made me very aware of what Kennedy says in the documentary about how the black population in America was going from a “rural Southern, base to an urban, Northern base,” and that a lot was being lost in that transition. Meaning that the sayings and customs of the South like “Coffee Makes You Black” or breakfast in shoe boxes are being lost. A culture without customs and traditions is missing its heart, I think. It’s incredible to me how much I have learned from Kennedy and the making of this documentary and how now, even 4 years later, I’m still learning things from Kennedy and the documentary.  I was very interested to see what would come in the shoe box the next morning.

The screening in Lynchburg was at Riverviews Artspace, a large multi-space building dedicated to the arts which I felt was an incredible space/organization for a town of 50,000-60,000 residents to have and support. I walked around downtown Lynchburg during the screening to get more of a feel for the town. I saw a curious sign that I meant to ask my host, Erin, the Exhibitions and Programs Manager at Riverviews about.

I am a big fan of Interfaith Outreach organizations, but I especially love that a furniture program is in effect at this outreach association, because everyone of EVERY faith has and needs furniture!  But what really struck me was that this sign as well as a large bulletin board I saw in their downtown really lead me to believe that this town cares deeply about diversity.

Here’s another great symbol in Lynchburg that I saw during my walk that the town cares about diversity.

But I really wanted to know why then they don’t change the name of the town? Apparently, the town is named after the founder whose last name was “Lynch,” but still, I think we can all agree, that this is a very unfortunate name with a lot of emotional meaning behind it even if that meaning is unintentional.


I was really interested to screen this documentary in front of a Southern audience to see if their reaction to the film would be different in any way from the other screenings. Everyone in the audience for the screening was over 50 years old, and this audience seemed to really connect with Amos and his message in the film. Maybe because they were closer to the age Amos was when he quit the corporate world and became a printer or maybe because several of them were familiar with academia and appreciated Amos’ disdain for institutional structure.

After the Q&A, a woman came up to me and said that she felt that Kennedy was a “bottomless pit of wonderfulness,” an incredible description that made me smile. She also had taken a class with Walter Hammidy who was Kennedy’s mentor when he was getting his MFA at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and was familiar with Walter Hammidy’s style of teaching which I was not able to portray nor show in the documentary, unfortunately, because Hammidy was either uninterested in being interviewed or camera shy.

Beth, who serves on the board of the Riverviews Art Center and Erin, both extended their southern hospitality and took me out for some great food after the screening.

Our conversation lingered on how much Lynchburg has changed in the 6 years that Erin has lived there. More young people have moved into the area due to the nearby colleges and apparently there is a group of train hoppers that have happened upon Lynchburg and stayed changing some of the dynamic of the town. I was hoping some would be at the screening so I could ask them about their lifestyle as train hoppers, but unfortunately none were in attendance.

Erin posting with an Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. poster post-screening.

Beth mentioned that Colonial Williamsburg was on the way to Norfolk, VA where the last screening of the tour was. Colonial Williamsburg was where Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., the subject of my documentary, saw the printing press that changed his life. I decided right then that I would stop by on my way to Norfolk to see that press.

But before I saw that press, I really want to see what breakfast came in the shoebox!

Here’s the breakfast that came in the box. Yum!

Post by Laura Zinger, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: Coffee Makes You Queer

2 Apr

I was insanely glad to land in Charleston, WV, and get off of the plane.

The turbulence so bad on my second plane to Charleston, WV that people were vomiting and hyperventilating into paper airplane bags. We popped out of our seats twice like an airborne roller coaster except we weren’t on any rails. The view above West Virginia was outstanding, however, or else I probably would have been hyperventilating too. The view was: trees, trees and spotted sunlight over hills of trees. Then some excavation sites which were probably mining, but I had no idea. From the sky they looked fantastic and made my imagination go wild for half an hour wondering what they were. Which luckily distracted me from the massive turbulence.

Once I landed, I had one hour to get from the airport to my rental car, then to my hotel, and then to the Clay Center Walker Theater, but since everything was so close, I made it to the theater 10 minutes before the screening started.

The theater were Proceed and Be Bold! screened in Charleston, WV.

I stopped by, said hello to Lakin Cook, who was the host for the screening, then promptly headed out for dinner while the film played.  Lakin recommended Sushi Atlantic which sounded perfect to me. Why not eat sushi in Charleston, WV?! So, after a really long day of airplanes, massive turbulence, airports and storms, I found myself the only diner in a tiny sushi shop in Charleston, WV, where the owner was playing Al Green. Life seriously does not get much better than this.


I LOVE Unagi! (barbequed eel!)

After eating, I walked around downtown Charleston for about 30 minutes. It’s a beautiful little downtown area with random wonderful corners like the one shown in the photo below.

Why is this here?! I don’t know why, but it’s beautiful!

I I also saw this little store front that made me laugh, because of its blatant marketing.

Do they? I think “Chicks” would dig someone coming over and doing their dishes or cleaning their house more often versus getting jewelry, but just my opinion.

I headed back to the screening ten minutes before it ended and slipped into the back of the theater just in time to see everyone’s reaction to Kennedy’s Poster, “Ladies, No Fighting in the Bathroom.” A wonderful man in the 2nd row clapped his hands and laughed out loud at that piece of the documentary.

After the screening ended, I answered questions about the film and talked about where Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. is now. (I think after watching the film, some people want to drive down to Alabama and meet him in person.) He’s still at his printing shop in Gordo, AL.

After the Q&A, I told the audience that I only had 5 of Amos’ posters left: Gay Pride, Love Queer Love, and Coffee Makes You Queer. The man in the audience who had earlier clapped his hands and laughed out loud during the “Ladies, No Fighting in the Bathroom” scene immediately told me that he had just emailed Kennedy asking how he could buy the “Coffee Makes You Queer” poster! We both exclaimed that it was meant to be!

Director, Laura Zinger, with Dan, one of the wonderful audience members in Charleston, WV.

Photo Credit: Phil, another incredible audience member.

Special Thanks to: Lakin Cook from the Clay Center, Dan and Phil and the rest of the wonderful audience members at the screening!

Post by Laura Zinger, OSIP Touring Filmmaker

On Tour: What’s Your Start Date?

30 Mar

I arrived in Oswego, NY the night before the screening, and stayed at a beautiful B&B in town called Serendipity Bed and Breakfast. This was my favorite hotel stay on the entire trip. I had some work to do along the tour, and took a photo of an amusing photo (at least to me) of mixing old and new.

The beautiful Serendipity B&B in Oswego, NY.

The next day, I was invited to go meet, have lunch with and speak to some of Assistant Professor of the Cinema and Screen Studies Jacob Dodd’s students at the State University of New York at Oswego.

It’s these little intimate moments that I have had along the tour to connect with small numbers of students and audiences that have made this tour so completely worth it to me. At lunch, I got to speak with Jacob and his film students Kadijah, Amanda, and Matt about the films they are currently making and want to make. I was thoroughly impressed at not only their technical acumen at a State University on the edge of the beautiful finger lakes, but also at their ability to look at the scope of their own short lives and see a visible truth about their lives and their families that they would like to try and bring to life through filmmaking. I shared with them my belief that filmmaking is teamwork, and that I find the Robert Rodriguez model of Uno Cineasta (One Filmmaker: this is my coined term too, not Robert’s in case you’re trying to look it up.) to be false in truth and nature to the true act of filmmaking. I sincerely believe that it is through collaborative effort in filmmaking, that great art is made.

 (from left to right): Kadijah, Amanda, Jacob, and Matt

I suggested to the two freshmen film students (Kadijah and Amanda) that they consider documentary filmmaking, for several reasons:

1) It’s cheaper

2) It’s much easier, because you can shoot with a smaller crew or just record audio if you are your only crew at times

3) It will teach you more about human nature and what it is that makes us people, than any fiction film you write while you are in your early, mid, or late 20s. Then when you hit your creative high which I think happens in your 30s, 40s, and 50s, the characters you create will be so much more real, because they’ll be based on the people you know, the things you’ve heard and felt, and the realities of life.

I will always feel lucky to have started out in documentary filmmaking. Spike Lee is now making documentary films. Same with Martin Scorcese. There is something you will learn about life from documentary filmmaking which is why I think even major narrative filmmakers are taking up this medium of storytelling.

I also strongly encouraged the students to make documentaries and films about their own families. Jacob and I talked about how we notice that film students get caught up in making films or telling stories about drug dealers or other such over-sensationalized stories that really have no barely or grounding in their own lives, and how hard that is to pull off. I ‘ve been heavily influenced lately by novelist Anna Quindlen, whom I believe is one of the greatest novelists of our generation. She believes this: “I can’t think of anything to write about except families. They are a metaphor for every other part of society.” This is where I think all storytelling should begin and hopefully where it ends.

Before the screening, I ate dinner with Jacob and his incredible wife who is 8 months pregnant. (Their kid is going to be the luckiest kid ever! Both Jacob and Kristy love traveling by train and they love visiting national parks.)

I was really happy to have dinner with them, because they are both teachers. (Jacob an Assistant Professor at a University and Kristy an elementary school teacher.) I’ve been wanting to talk about a documentary called Waiting for Superman, that has gotten a lot of attention since it was made. The documentary is compelling because how it was shot and constructed and brings up some interesting points (In the past, I was an instructor in video production and video editing at a Community College for three years.), but I still cannot shake the feeling that this documentary is completely biased and is turning teachers in scapegoats. We discussed the role that parents should play in their child’s education, and we all agreed that parents should play a STRONG role in their child’s education, and that it is not the role of the teacher to raise that child and bend over backwards for that child to succeed. Children need to be raised to be responsible for their own education, and it is the role of the parent to define and determine this sense of responsibility in the child, not the teacher.

 Jacob and Kristy outside the theater before the screening.

After dinner and our lively conversation, we headed over to the Art Deco Screening was at awesome Oswego Theater which is styled in true Art Deco style.

 Check out that style!

After the screening, I talked to the audience which was mainly made up of students about the film, filmmaking, and trying to convey how important it is, if you want to be a filmmaker, to just go out and do it.

I asked them, “What’s your start date?” And I discussed with them how sometimes making a film seems so daunting and so impossible, that you keep pushing your “start date” further and further back into the future, so you don’t have to stress out again it, but that it’s better to just set a “start date,” and start that day NO MATTER WHAT. Whether you have the time or ability or money. Just start. Write a one page treatment of your film or documentary, do some research, anything. Just make it formal and stick to it. Setting a “start date” has become my strategy for my next two documentaries, because I realized after awhile that I kept not working on the documentaries and pushing it off because it just seemed to large to start them, and I didn’t have the money yet. I finally read a book by infamous indie producer, Christine Vachon called Shooting to Kill, which is a production diary of several films she has produced. She OFTEN if not ALWAYS sets a principal photography (a “start date” in film parlance) date whether she has the money or not, and adjusts as needed once she reaches that date. Her experiences made me realize that if I ever want to finish another film, I must set a “start date” and stick to it. I hope everyone in the audience that night that wants to make films went home and set a start date.

After the Q&A, I sold Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. posters in the lobby. (At this point, I only had about 20 left, because the majority of them had been bought in Wilmington, the first screening on the stop.) After watching the documentary, it’s common that people just want to touch and feel the posters.

Assistant Professor of the Cinema and Screen Studies, Jacob Dodd and one of his film students feeling the letterpress.

A male student even bought “I knew god was a woman but I didn’t know she was black. ” Which made me break out in a huge smile, because he is a man buying this poster. I haven’t yet had the experience of a man buying this poster. He said he was going to hang it in his hallway.

At breakfast, the next morning, I discovered that there are two nuclear power plants in town, but that Oswegonians have the highest electricity bills in the area! I agree with B&B proprietor, Chris, that anyone living within ten miles of the plant should get free electricity.

(from left to right) Dale and Chris, the wonderful proprietors of the Serendipity B&B.

Then after Chris left for the morning, Dale and I discovered our mutual passion for breastfeeding. I, as someone who has only witnessed others breastfeeding, and Dale, as someone who did breastfeed and came from what she called a “culture of breastfeeding.” Dale wrote a paper so long ago about the culture of breastfeeding and has promised to share it with me when she uncovers it.

And I leave you with one of my favorite moments in Oswego. When I went up the stairs to my room at the B&B, there was a giant panda in a rocking chair outside of my door. Just because.

 Hello there!

Special thanks to: Dale and Chris at the Serendipity Bed and Breakfast, Jacob Dodd at the State University of New York at Oswego and his three students (Kadijah, Amanda, and Matt), Oswego Theater, and all of the students and people of Oswego who came to the screening!

Post by Laura Zinger, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: Finding an audience in Vineland, NJ

28 Mar

This screening at Cumberland County College has been, by far, the most diverse audience that this film has ever had in terms of age. I think every decade was represented in this audience up through 80. Maybe even 90, but I didn’t want to be rude and ask.

Then a family came into the theater: a mother, 3 teenagers and a 10 yr old. I was immediately convinced that they would leave halfway through the film out of boredom or because of the intensity and controversial material in the film. I told Greg, the amazing theater manager, my thoughts and halfway through the film, he came out of the theater and said, “It’s at the Nappygrams part and they haven’t left yet…”

Greg and Judith

Still I worried about offending this young person, the teenagers and the mom, and apparently so did, Greg, because before the really offending scene where Patrick Welch, the British creator of the Micromentalist Movement, intensely studies one of documentary subject, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr’.s, letterpress printed posters which boldly says, “Fuck You, I’ll Fuck Myself” Greg slipped into the theater and whispered to the mother that there was a questionable scene coming up in the film for the 10 year old sitting next to her. She smiled at him and said, “I’m a mother! I’ve already talked to them about it. It’s okay.” Greg left the theater and thankfully told me, because I was pacing back and forth outside the theater ready to intercept what I was worried would be a fleeing family so I could profusely apologize. I sighed in relief and parked myself in a chair and waited for the film to finish, so I could go in and engage the audience in what turned out to be a vibrant and engaging Q&A session about the film.

Everyone wanted to know the normal things like how does a “normal” person like me ever meet a person like Amos? Did I seek him out or run into him a mall? Or at a poster fair?  (For the record, I met him in College after the head librarian at the library I worked at told me his artist books were the best books in the library’s entire collection.)

 The one and only Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.

Then they commented on interviewee, Karen Weeks, one of Amos’ only young printing apprentices that had know Amos when he taught at Indiana University and had also learned from him when he lived in York and Akron, AL, because she was on a large exercise ball holding her baby and bouncing up and down. Apparently, by the 4th or 5th time that Karen came on screen, they could no longer focus on what she was saying, they could only laugh at the ridiculousness of her bouncing on screen, which made me realize how important it is to get feedback on a film from ALL AGE GROUPS, not just a group that is similar to your own temperaments.

They also asked about the use of the animation in the film, and I answered, “Look this was my first film, I was a newbie. I only had the original vision of animation for the introduction, because I wanted to open the film with the force of what I feel Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. to be. The rest of the animation was just because we had talking heads on screen for too long.”

Opening Title Sequence of Proceed and Be Bold!

I was so impressed with this audience, because they were so engaged and we talked for a good while. Vineland, NJ is a small town of about 70,000 people, and is in rural southern New Jersey. There are only buses along the main drag, and I couldn’t walk anywhere. I had to drive everywhere unfortunately, because my walking paths were all busy streets that were not walking friendly. From what I can tell, there is not a lot of access to art or art programming here, so people are really hungry for it and really appreciate it when they get it.

 Southern, rural Jersey ain’t so bad!

After the screening, I pulled out some of Amos’ posters that he sent me to sell for him on the tour, and some DVDs, and I think everyone at the screening bought at least one poster and I sold 4 DVDs. INCLUDING ONE TO THE FAMILY I WAS SO CONCERNED ABOUT!! I was so floored and touched. The mother told me that she loved the film and thought the message was great, and had to borrow $10 from her son to pay for the film. It was one of the sweetest, most touching things I’ve ever seen at a screening. None of the children looked traumatized either! It’s no secret that after each screening, Kennedy ALWAYS sells way more posters than we do DVDs of the film, because you can hang his posters on your wall and look at them everyday. But at this screening, in this small, rural, Southern New Jersey town, I sold the most DVDs I’ve ever sold at a screening. The other purchasers of the DVDs included a white woman in her 70s or 80s, an African-American mother who had brought her teenage daughter to the screening, and Skye, a friend I made on Goodreads, a social networking site for book readers, a few months back.

About 4 months ago when I was pretty new to Goodreads, Skye friend requested me because we had similar taste in books. I thought that was great, and immediately accepted her friend request.

A few months later, I got my final itinerary for the On Screen/In Person tour from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and saw that I was going to be in Vineland, NJ where my new GoodReads friend is from! So I wrote her that I was coming to her town and invited her to the screening. After the screening, she told me that she didn’t even know that Cumberland County College had a screening series! And I know that Greg has advertised the series like crazy and posted information about the series everywhere. How does one communicate with a community that is so spread out and unaware of events like this in their town?  My answer: the local Denny’s.

Denny’s is where to find the local community.

I know that sounds like an insane proposition, but after the screening, Skye and I went to the only place open at 11pm on a Friday night in Vineland so we could get some food, a stiff drink and geek out and talk about books The only place open that fit all of this criteria was the local Denny’s, and it was HOPPING!

There were families, high school kids who were coming out after some school dance, there was a security guard, because apparently this Denny’s can get a little out of control around 2am in the morning. We missed that action, unfortunately, but the security guard told us where we could go to see some action if we really wanted to. We really didn’t want to.

But the most amazing thing was how alive this Denny’s was with community and families. I told the woman who seated us that we don’t have security guards at the Denny’s where I’m from and I’m from Chicago! And she laughed and asked why I was in town. I told her that I was a filmmaker, and that I had showed my film at Cumberland County College that night. She asked me the name and I told her and assured it was okay that she hadn’t heard of it. She asked me if I had a copy so she could see it. And I said no, I didn’t, but in that moment, I so wish I had. I would have given it to her and asked her to call me to tell me what she thought of it. I wish I’d had 30 copies so I could have just given it away to everyone in the restaurant. I think when I can afford to, I’m going to print up a thousand copies and drive around to rural towns and just give the DVD away to people for free with a promise from them that they will call, email or text me what they thought about the film, and I’ll post all of the reviews on the website.

I still believe that the best way to reach people, to truly reach them is to show up in front of them, put your face in front of their face, get right in front of their eyes and put your words out right into their personal space, so they can experience your message right in front of them. That’s why the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation’s On Screen/In Person program is so incredible to me, and why I think it is one of the best, if not the best grant program for independent filmmakers that I have ever heard of or had the extreme pleasure to be a part of. I’ve only been to two screening locations so far, and I’ve already completely reworked my notions about what the audience for Proceed and Be Bold! is. Proceed and Be Bold! and the messages of Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. can and does speak to anyone: rural, urban, old, young, any color, any gender, any political persuasion. He is a man unafraid of what he loves in life, and goes for it. Who doesn’t relate to that or want to do that as well?

Kennedy talking after screening of Proceed and Be Bold! at the Hamilton Woodtype Museum.

Back to my Denny’s idea: Presidential candidates tour the country and meet people in diners and coffee shops and hospitals (Do they do this? They should, because then maybe they’d see how dire our public health system is and how much we need National Health Care.) because that is where the community is, where the community breathes, exists, and lives.

In communities where there is no known or accepted center for the arts, you have to go to the local Denny’s to tell people about it, because that may be where the town hangs out and congregate. Based on my observations at this Denny’s for the short time that I was there, this is a town that likes to talk to each other and spend time together. There were families with young kids up at 11pm and midnight talking and enjoying each other’s company while Skye and I enjoyed our conversation. It was a beautiful thing to see, and I think if someone just walked in there and told them about the film series or hung up posters there and invited the community to come see a film and then go to Denny’s afterwards to talk about it, I really believe they would.

And here’s a photo of Jean Luc-Goddard, because everyone should watch his infamous film, Breathless, at least once in their life. My favorite line in the film is, “Live forever, then die.” So contrary and so Kennedy.

Special thanks to Greg and Judith at Cumberland County College, to all of the amazing audience members I had the pleasure to meet and talk to, and to Skye you tells me what good books to read and is the most avid and incredible reader I have EVER MET. And she’s only 24! You inspire me to become a better reader, Skye!

Post by Laura Zinger, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: Proceed and Be Bold! at Theater N

27 Mar

Delaware’s only Art Theater, Theater N at Nemours in downtown Wilmington, DE.

Last night, Proceed and Be Bold! screened in Wilmington, DE at Theater N at Newmours. According to Beverly Zimmermann who runs the theater, it is the only art theater in all of Delaware!

One of Theater N’s wonderful volunteers and Beverly Zimmermann

Bev and I had an incredible conversation while we ate dinner during the screening (I’ve seen the film over 100 times at this point, and usually take a breather while it screens for new audiences.) about the city of Wilmington, how Joe Biden lived there at one point and took the train to Washington DC every day (Go, Joe! Great job of using public transportation!) and about Bev’s incredible knowledge and love for film. Bev has seen more films than I have, and it was an absolute pleasure to hear her thoughts on what she has seen and enjoyed.

Many of the graphic design students that I had spoken to earlier showed up for the screening, and afterwards it was incredible to see the hope and inspiration in their faces after seeing the choices Amos Paul Kennedy Jr, made in his life, and how he lives his life today as a Printer.

I sold Amos’ posters for him after the screening, and got to experience again the joy College students have in being able to afford to buy Amos’ posters and hang them on their wall. There is not much out there that College students can afford, but they’re usually able to pull together $20 for two of Kennedy’s posters.

There was one audience member in particular, named Carlton, who was especially insightful about the particulars of Kennedy and the film, and we had what I considered an incredibly profound conversation about the topics raised and questioned in the film after the screening. Thank you for your incredible conversation, Carlton.

The next morning after the screening, I was still determined to not get into the rental car unless I absolutely had to (like if I hurt myself so badly, I had to go to a hospital or I had to drive to the next screening location), so I decided to take another bus to Fresh Thymes again. But the bus took forever to show up, so I decided to walk  the mile and a half to the café. Little did I know that Google Maps was going to take me right along the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail.

This is the first view I have of the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail. Does anyone realize how beautiful Wilmington, DE is?!

The trail went along almost the entire mile and a half walk to the café, and I totally enjoyed every second of it.

 A big, beautiful creek, with a smaller canal, lots of green space and other people out enjoying it too.

When you’re in a car, you are speeding along at however many miles n hour, and you lose everything! Your sense of smell and touch, you miss the beauty all around you, you stop thinking, you become reactive, angry and stressed. You’re most likely alone because 77% of all drivers drive solo. You can’t read while driving most importantly, you stop thinking and being.

Look what you’re missing!

Really, I highly encourage everyone to get out of their cars, take public transportation or walk whenever you can. You will notice the world again. I did, and I was just in a small town called Wilmington, DE.

Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Laura Zinger

On Tour: It’s So Worth It to Be an Artist (Laura Zinger in Wilmington, DE)

26 Mar

Sign I liked in downtown Wilmington, DE

I recently sold my 10-year-old Honda to a dear friend of mine who also just so happens to be Nicole Hollander, the creator of Sylvia as well as the topic of one of my next documentary features.

Since then, my main modes of transportation have been the Chicago CTA system and my own two feet. When I was prepping for the On Screen/In Person Tour, I knew I would have to drive to all of the 6 screening locations, and was trying to figure out a way to balance this out with my new found beliefs that cars are probably going to prove to be a large part of the downfall of human kind (because of the pollution and societal disconnection it causes).

I decided that I would balance out all of the driving alone in a car polluting the world about 4-5 hours a day by walking and taking public transportation whenever I possibly could.

The first screening location on the tour was Wilmington, DE, where, before the screening, I was slated to talk to 50 Graphic Design students and faculty at the Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD) during a very cool one hour speaker program they have called “Common Hour” where an artist or graphic designer or some other creative professional would come in and talk and present to the students for an hour about their career and advice they had for transitioning from college student to working professional or just a plain old regular happy human being.


I arrived in Wilmington the day before the screening and decided to acquaint myself with the town itself by walking around and using Yelp to find out the best and most affordable places to eat according to local opinion.  I answered a million emails that have been overwhelming me for months, discovered that the shower in my hotel room had “invisible bathmats,” and watched the newest episode of The Office on Hulu. (Andy goes after Erin! Sorry, did I ruin that for anyone?)

 Sheraton Suites in Wilmington, DE: Home of the Invisible Bathmat

The next morning, according to my new found beliefs that cars are both evil and stupid, I set out to take public transportation to go to a little breakfast café that was highly recommended on Yelp called Fresh Thymes.

I ended up taking the 10 Bus to the café, and being from Chicago was shocked how friendly everyone was on the bus, and that they were all talking to each other. On Chicago buses, I try really hard not to talk to anyone and just put on my music and ignore everyone. I actually chose not to put my headphones on during this bus ride, and just openly eavesdropped on all of the conversations, because it was pretty impossible not to.

After an amazing breakfast at Fresh Thymes, I got back on the 10 Bus with the same driver, and settled in for another eavesdropping session. One stop later, a woman got on the bus whom the bus driver immediately recognized and greeted warmly as Ms. Kathy.  She got on the bus, knew the bus driver, talked to everyone who got on the bus after her, and handed out flyers to everyone included me. When I asked her what the flyers were for, she told me that the city was trying to move the bus route out of the downtown area, and that they were all going to fight it.

Soon after, an older gentleman got on the bus.  The bus driver knew him immediately too. This man was an Ex FBI agent (or an Ex-cop) from NYC. He was fighting the moving of the bus route too. The bus driver introduced him to Ms. Kathy, and he and Ms. Kathy starting talking passionately about fighting the moving of the bus route. They were both leaning towards each other discussing how they were going to work together to fight this.

I sat there completely shocked and amazed that there was a protest being organized in the bus seats right in front of me.  They literally talked about lying down in front of the buses like how people laid in front of cars in NYC to protest the Vietnam war.

I worry a lot and often about the loss of public, civic spaces that America is undergoing right now due to monolith corporations like Amazon.com, and lack of funding. Library funding is being cut, which is terrifying, because libraries really are the pillars of our communities in that they give their citizens free access to information and intellectual freedom. If we lose our libraries, and we lose independent book stores and independent businesses because they cannot survive in the current structure of America, where can we freely gather in protest and to organize?  I started thinking that public buses were going to be one of the last remaining public spaces for communities and American citizens, but I had never really seen the bus used this way until taking the 10 Bus in Wilmington, DE, where I witnessed Ms. Kathy, the Ex-FBI agent, and the bus driver all working together to organize a protest on a moving bus. I have never in my 33 years of life seen Democracy this immediate and in front of my face before, and I was so moved by what was happening in front of me that I went back to my hotel room (with my invisible bathmat), and rewrote the talk I had prepared for the students at DCAD.

Below is the talk I gave them, titled “It’s So Worth it to Be An Artist.” I also want to say how impressed I was with the student body and faculty at DCAD. They were open, communicative and alive with ideas and comments. It was one of the best talks I have ever had the pleasure of giving about filmmaking, art, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., and Proceed and Be Bold!


It’s So Worth It To Be An Artist

 Laura Z talking to students and faculty at the Delaware College of Art and Design (Photo Credit: Shawn Hall)


Because you get to be creative, you get to interact with people, and you get to collaborate and grow as a person.

I was on the 10 Bus this morning and there was a protest being organized by citizens in your community who are against the bus being moved out of the downtown area.

Ms. Kathy got on the bus, knew the bus driver, talked to everyone who got on the bus, handed out flyers.  Another gentleman got on the bus. He was an ex-FBI agent  from NYC. He was fighting the moving of the bus route too. He and Ms. Kathy talked passionately about lying down in front of the buses like how people laid in front of cars in NYC to protest the Vietnam war.

Ms. Kathy doesn’t want to take the 12 bus because if they move the buses out of your downtown area, and she is forced to, when she gets off of a long day of work, she’ll have to take a CAB to get to the 12 bus. What is the point?!

We are losing all of our public spaces like bookstores to Amazon.com. Library budgets are being cut. I feel that the only personal spaces we will have in the future are public buses. Ms. Kathy and the rest of the people on the bus this morning were using the buses in a way I have never seen before in my entire life to organize a protest movement against the moving of the bus routes out of downtown.

They need your help, because their flyers SUCK.

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