Tag Archives: nancykelly

On Tour: Nancy Kelly and TRUST at the Rehoboth Beach Film Society (Rehoboth Beach, DE)

20 Sep

When I started making documentaries in the 1970s, documentarians were the poets of the film world, laboring in obscurity, although I looked up to giants like D.A. Pennybaker, the Maysles brothers, Agnes Varda, and Frederick Wiseman.  Now, thanks to high-profile documentaries like “Fahrenheit 911,” “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Bowling for Columbine,” “Super Size Me” and “Winged Migrations,” people actually know what documentaries are.

But, although Kenji Yamamoto and I are veteran independent filmmakers, we have not (yet) made a high grossing documentary.  And while we are proud of TRUST and its endearing characters, it has none of the easy-to-sell documentary elements – no Madonna, no McDonalds, no animals, no Sundance legacy.  To top it off, these past two weeks involved many firsts: I am the first filmmaker on the first tour of the inaugural year of the On Screen In Person film series.

It might have been easier for the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation to send a name director or a documentary about a movie star or a war or the end of the world as we know it on this maiden voyage and yet they chose TRUST and me. Screening after screening, city after city, the audience and I had deep, engaged, wide-ranging discussions.

“It’s like a flower just exploded in my face – in a good way.”

Stephany, APTP member in TRUST

I float home on delighted air.  Thanks to all who made it possible.

Post by Nancy Kelly OSIP Touring Filmmaker.

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your film, your experiences, and your words with us. We are delighted that you were able to tour with On Screen/In Person. What a way to kick off the program!

–Ann & MAAF

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On Tour: The Maryland Hall for the Arts: Hanging in there. (Annapolis, MD)

19 Sep Nancy with DP Dana Kupper, by Photographer Amy Braswell for Kelly-Yamamoto Productions

For 52 weeks, my friend, the writer and artist Teresa Jordan wrote a sparkling weekly blog called “The Year of Living Virtuously: Weekends Off.  Thirteen Virtues, Seven Sins: A meditation on the search for meaning in an ordinary life.” http://www.yearoflivingvirtuously.com

In week 25, Teresa’s essay about the virtue of pride included this:

“If you practice an art, be proud of it and make it proud of you. It may break your heart, but it will fill your heart before it breaks it; it will make you a person in your own right.”               – Maxwell Anderson

After the screening of TRUST in Annapolis (number six of seven) I find myself thinking about the virtue “hanging in there,” not that Teresa’s guiding light on the subject of virtue, Benjamin Franklin, would have called it that.

When Marlin told her story to the Albany Park Theater Project and APTP decided to make an original play based on it, I simply knew that after four years of trying and failing all we had to do was film APTP creating and performing the play and we would capture what had eluded us.  But how to inspire funders to support a project that had not been completed despite being in-progress for four years?  I had not talked much about the difficulties because they were so personal and tragic.  But Peter Handler, program officer at one of the documentary’s funders, advised me to let prospective funders know exactly what had happened in those four years.  So this is what I told them:

In November 2004 – the same month we started filming APTP – my doctor told me I had to have spinal cord surgery.  Recovery was grueling and painful and I was out of work for a year.  The first place I went in spring 2006 when I was finally able to travel was Chicago to see APTP’s fabulous new play, “God’s Work” and re-connect with the company.

David and Maggie of APTP with filmmaker Nancy Kelly, by Photographer Amy Braswell for Kelly-Yamamoto Productions

In 2006 we filmed APTP researching a new play, an ethnographic exploration of genocide inspired by a company member whose Cambodian parents and grandparents survived the Pol Pot regime.  Near the end of the year, David asked me to suspend production because Laura was in and out of the hospital so often.  Laura died in June 2007, which was heartbreaking.  Many people, including Kenji, thought I should give up on the project.  But I couldn’t, because David didn’t give up on APTP, and if he hung in there, who was I to throw in the towel?  So I waited for almost a year.  In May 2008, David re-opened APTP’s doors to me.  Our first shoot was of an APTP recruitment workshop at a neighborhood high school.  Marlin attended that workshop, although she was so distant and observational, she didn’t stand out.  But!  Over the summer David let me know that Marlin had been telling her story in bits and pieces to him, Maggie, an APTP veteran who joined the APTP staff after college, and Anna, APTP’s senior member. The day we filmed Marlin telling her story I felt so rewarded for having the virtue of hanging in there.

Shooting TRUST, by Photographer Amy Braswell for Kelly-Yamamoto Productions

Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, Nancy Kelly

All photos by Amy Braswell for Kelly-Yamamoto Productions

OSIP Podcast #1: An Interview with Nancy Kelly, Filmmaker of TRUST: Second Acts in Young Lives

16 Sep

Photo by Kelly+Yamamoto Productions

Kelly+Yamamoto Productions at work.

Yesterday, Nancy Kelly joined me for a podcast interview. We talked about why she made her latest film, important moments in the production process, and how she came to be a filmmaker.

Listen here to find out  how she came to consider herself an artist, hear her update on one of the kids in her fabulous film TRUST: Second Acts in Young Lives, and learn what city in the US is the best for filmmakers to live and work in.

Thanks for your time, Nancy!

Photo by Kelly+Yamamoto Productions

On Tour: Frederick, Maryland, Weinberg Center for the Performing Arts & Heartly House

16 Sep

Are you man enough to walk a mile in her shoes? Ashley and Tamara, spirited women from Heartly House, set man-sized pairs of shocking pink and lime green patent leather stilettos on a table in the lobby of the Weinberg Center where TRUST was to screen.  They were promoting an upcoming event in which the mayor, the softball team and other “high profile” men in the community totter a mile in these most outrageous-looking high heels.  The walk is political and performance art with public, personal and existential messages that raise awareness about domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.  Everyone coming to see TRUST stopped to look at those shoes and talk with Ashley and Tamara.

When the lights came up after the screening, Ashley, Tamara, Weinberg Center Executive Director John Healy and I discussed the film with the audience.  Some distributors have criticized TRUST for being about too many things – but that’s the nature of the Albany Park Theater Project’s work, so the film couldn’t help but have that quality.  The breadth and depth of the questions the audience asks during these post-screening discussions is strength, I think.

During the discussion, one woman in the audience said she felt uncomfortable with the idea of thirteen-to-fifteen year olds dealing with the ugly, evil side of sexuality. She wasn’t even sure how she felt about people that young being exposed to the idea of sex.  Tamara took the microphone and described in the most upbeat tone, a program she does for kindergartners, teaching them the names of different parts of their bodies and move from there to the concept of good touching and bad touching.  What a way to answer that question!

Filmmaker NancyKelly at the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

At almost every screening in the year since we premiered TRUST, I’ve invited someone from the local rape crisis center to join me for the discussion with the audience.  I have come to love and respect the people working to raise awareness, treat, and prevent sexual violence – the very act of talking about such things is a revolution and they do it with verve and a smile.

Post by Nancy Kelly, On Screen/In Person Touring Filmmaker

On Tour: Monmouth University, Long Branch, NJ: Simple But Crucial

14 Sep

The people I met when TRUST screened in Long Branch touched on almost every thread Kenji and I wove into the film.

One of the interesting buildings in Asbury Park, NJ.

The afternoon before the screening, Monmouth University Associate Professor Donna Dolphin and I met with Cecilia Reynolds, publisher and editor-in-chief of Nosotros, a monthly newspaper serving Latinos in the NJ/NY area.  Cecelia’s office is in the Center for Immigrant Services on Main Street in working class Asbury Park (Bruce Springsteen’s stomping grounds).  As Cecilia interviewed me about TRUST, the hallway outside her office was busy with kids coming to do art projects and mothers needing medical attention for their sick children.  Cecilia responded to Marlin’s story – lots of women in her community can relate to the abuse Marlin suffered and Cecilia knows how important portrayals of the very Americanized teenage immigrants and teenage children of immigrants are in raising awareness about the importance of passing the Dream Act.  Cecilia is going to screen TRUST, which is subtitled in Spanish, at the Center.  Donna, who is an advisor to the student TV station, is going to get some students to produce stories about the Center and also help Cecilia find interns.

When TRUST screened at Rutgers University last week, Carlos Fernandez, Director of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture, learned I was born in Massachusetts and told me about a project he did in Lawrence Massachusetts, helping the Anglo and Latino arts communities find ways to work together.  One of the first things he did was identify whom to contact – so basic, yet so crucial.  As Donna and I we left Cecilia’s, I felt like we had just taken a similarly basic, yet crucial first step.

That evening, at the lovely Pollak Theater, TRUST looked rich and colorful on the screen.  That theater has a fantastic projection system.  The audience was students and professors from theater, screen studies and communications classes, and people from the community.  When the lights came up, everyone – everyone! – stayed for the Q&A, something Chad Dell, Chair of the Department of Communication says he has never seen happen in his fifteen years at Monmouth.

 Lynn Lehrkinder, psychological counsellor at Monmouth U. joined filmmaker Nancy Kelly for the Q&A.

The questions were perceptive and unusual – someone asked about the structure of TRUST – which deals with time in a non-chronological way more commonly found in fiction films and is something Kenji and I are very proud of.  Someone asked about what it was like to be included in a theater company for all those years.  I loved it.  Every time I walked up the stairs to their space, I was excited and happy, knowing that the APTP-ians would welcome me with hugs, look me warmly in the eye, and then return to being themselves and doing their intense, life-changing work while we filmed.

Nancy Kelly speaks with audience members, including OSIP partner Chad Dell,  after the screening at Monmouth University.

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

On Tour: Nancy Kelly & TRUST@ Rutgers New Brunswick Campus

12 Sep

TRUST screened on Friday night in New Brunswick, New Jersey, at the Douglass Residential College, a women’s residential college at Rutgers University.  The screening organizer Carlos Fernandez said most of the students are also the first in their families to go to college.  And, on Friday night, the audience for the TRUST screening was almost all women.

Carlos, who is the Executive Director of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture at Rutgers, asked me to talk about what he saw as a common thread in my films, that they are about outsiders and are often about women.  That is certainly true of four of my eight films: the documentaries TRUST, (Marlin a Hondureña is the heroine), Downside UP (a first-person documentary about my dying working class hometown, in which I am the protagonist), and COWGIRLS (about women who work as cowboys on cattle ranches) and my narrative feature film THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD (about a young Chinese woman who comes to America during the Gold Rush as a slave).

THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD is probably the most extreme example of an outsider film – almost every element in the story and production was enough to insure that it would never, ever see the light of day.

Killer reason number 1: the heroine of the story. Lalu Nathoy, a young Chinese woman. There are no Asian American actresses whose name attached to the film would compel a Hollywood studio or investors to believe they’d make money on the film.

Killer Reason Number 2: the director – me.  A woman. Women direct only 5% of American dramatic feature films.  In Hollywood, the image of a director, the “helmsman” is that of a man.  That was true in the late 1980s when I was trying to get THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD made and it is true today.  It’s just pathetic that the percentage of women directing features has not changed during my career.

Killer Reason Number 3: the story is set in the American West. As a genre Westerns were dismissed with a phrase we heard again and again from men in suits sitting behind their desks: “Dust is dead.”

We succeeded in making THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD (it was released in 1992 and is now available on iTunes) because the PBS American Playhouse series supported it because they wanted to tell American stories whose heroes and heroines were people of color and supported it; because the Sundance Institute was cultivating regional American filmmakers and invited us to participate in its famed June Lab; and because an independent investor, a Caucasian married to a Chinese woman, loved the interracial love story part of the film and filled in the financing gap.

However, dust was still dead when we finished THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD,  and we had hell finding a distributor.  Then DANCES WITH WOLVES was a box office success, dust was no longer dead (!) and we got a distributor.

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

Press: OSIP News Story from Erie, PA

12 Sep

Check out this report on On Screen/In Person from Erie, PA news station WICU, featuring filmmaker Nancy Kelly and host site partner Michael Fuhrman :

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