Tag Archives: pa

On Tour: Bethlehem, PA

24 Nov

November 15, 2015 | Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos | Bethlehem, PA

A Sunday drive up I-95 was much more successful today. I’ve never been to Bethlehem, but I do have some memories of nearby Allentown—I did an interview at the Masonic Hall for a History Channel show, and I also once brought home a live lobster from a restaurant. The sign said, “Lobster—any way you like it.” So my college roommate and I thought it would be great to take Lucifer—our name for him—home as a pet. He didn’t last long in the hotel.

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I pulled onto the Lehigh University campus just before sunset and was struck by the Alumni Memorial Building in the fading light. 2015 is Lehigh’s sesquicentennial—I don’t get to use that word very often. I was taken to dinner by Deborah Sacarakis, who was part of the selection committee for the film. She invited some interesting folks, including an art professor named Berrisford Boothe.

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The Zoellner Center for the Arts is a modern multi-purpose building whose theatre was a great space for the film. A small but enthusiastic crowd was enthralled with Miriam and her work. It’s always a wonder to me how visual artists of significant success like Miriam still toil in the shadows. Makes being a documentary filmmaker look like a breeze!

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Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Jonathan Gruber.

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On Tour: Erie, PA

24 Mar

March 16th, 2014  | Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines| Erie, PA

Stop one on our tour. This is a special tour for me as I am traveling with my entire family. My partner, and one and a half year old daughter decided to fly into Cleveland because it was the most direct flight. That meant we had one extra day to acclimate and investigate! My daughter has never seen snow and has no vocabulary for cold weather. Every time the wind blew in her face she screamed, “Hot!” By the time we got to Erie, she was excited about the “icey” and though the snow was rock hard, thrilled at each snowball we managed to sculpt.

We drove into Erie right on schedule, our car packed to the brim with suitcases, snacks, toys, cold weather clothes, along with the requisite postcards and DVDs for my film, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. My family dropped me off at the local NPR station, WQLN, for a radio interview, while they explored town. I met Christine Olivier at the station, my gracious host and coordinator of the performance arts series at Mercyhurst University. Christine told me about the town of Erie, a historical railroad terminus and Great Lakes port, and a couple spots to hit while we were there.

My first screening was a Sunday matinee and while the good weather (by Erie standards) and approaching festivities of Saint Patrick’s Day may have kept some away, the audience was warm and receptive. The Mercyhurst Taylor Little Theatre was charming and classic. As I waited outside the lobby during the screening (I’ve seen the film a few times!), I caught one of the ushers watching the film from a cute little peekhole that had once functioned as a projector cutout.

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I always appreciate my chance to speak with the audience and this Q & A was no different! I was delighted to hear from one audience member who thought the film would be a hit with the women in the senior citizens’ organization she coordinates art events for. After the Q & A, one woman even asked me to sign the postcard. I have a fan!

Our biggest thrill was visiting the Presque Isle State Park, a jutting peninsula onto Lake Erie. We were told to watch for the ice fishers, their colorful tents looking like tiny bugs out on the frozen lake, and the kite surfers skitting across the surface. We even saw one family playing a little ice hockey. We braved the wind and darted onto the beach, marveling at the icey, 15-foot wave formations from currents pushing up under its frozen surface. We let my daughter, Zora, test the ice until she begged to go back “side” (inside). And then it was time to hit the road again.

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Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan.
To listen to a podcast interview with the filmmaker, click here.

On Tour: Erie, PA

10 Feb

February 9th, 2014  | The Exquisite Corpse Project |  Erie, PA

At the rental car dealership in Erie, Pennsylvania, I was delighted to be handed the keys to a silver Chevy Impala – the same car that Ryan Gosling’s character expertly wields in the opening scenes of Drive. Unfortunately, the make and model of our cars would end up being the only commonalities between Gosling and I, as I don’t think I ever exceeded 15 mph on the snow-covered roads of Erie.

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Four years ago, just two weeks after completing production on my first feature film, The Exquisite Corpse Project, my wife Joanna and I left the snowy Northeast and moved to an island in the Caribbean. It was a decision motivated by our shared spirit of adventure, our love of the ocean, and my need to avoid another winter of seasonal affective disorder (a made-up-sounding condition that I wholeheartedly believe to be real). We’ve lived there happily ever since. We still experience some semblance of winter in the Caribbean, however the seasonal low is still in the high 60’s, so even then long pants are often excessive.

Packing tip for those traveling from the Caribbean: long pants are not excessive in Erie, Pennsylvania, where there have been over 115 inches of snow in the past three months. I asked the concierge at the hotel if it ever stops snowing, and she said, “Oh, sure! For about fifteen minutes in the middle of June. Then it starts up again.” I did not pack appropriately.

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My frostbitten toes aside, Erie is beautiful. Dozens of sheds clutter the surface of the lake, where fishermen sit huddled together over holes in the ice and wait for a tug on their line. Everywhere I go, people are talking about how great the snowboarding had been that weekend, and where they were going to snowboard next. When I told someone that I’d never been snowboarding, he said, “When you live in this kind of climate, you have to find things to love about the winter.” I really liked that. He then asked me where I live, and I told him that I live in the Caribbean. He chuckled and said, “Do you know what people around here call people who live in the Caribbean?” He smiled. “Cowards!”

He might be right.

Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Ben Popik.
To listen to a podcast interview with the filmmaker, click here.

In Good Time, The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland hits the road in Erie, PA

3 Nov

Leaving my home in Portland, ME and landing in Erie, Pa I discovered there’s one surprising connection between the two cities. The restaurants feature seafood emblazoned in big letters across their marquees. Of course living on the coast of Maine it seemed a bit odd to fly 600 miles inland to see big seafood signs. But then as someone said travel broadens the mind.

Mercyhurst College is home to the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center the first stop on my tour is about a 15 minute drive from the Sheraton Bayfront Hotel where I am staying. The D’Angelo Center is large, at least from a filmmaker’s perspective, 800 plus seats. Its director, Michael Fuhrman is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts, a knowledgeable presenter, and affable host.

I did two screenings today at 2:30PM and 7:30PM. It was, for me, a good turnout, a combined audience of 170 I would guess. Many were the Center’s loyal following who show up to every film or event. They were very positive about In Good Time and stayed to ask questions after the film. I continued the discussion with individual audience members in the hall after that.

One woman told me how 25 years ago when Marian McPartland performed in Erie, she was then a teenager and went to the concert. She made sure she had a front row seat. Marian’s performance was a transformative experience for her. She decided to be a musician and she still performs today. Marian is not only a pioneering musician but also a pioneering educator. She started doing visiting artist presentations for youth in the 1950s. There is a scene in In Good Time of Marian in a master class working with a college student who musters up her courage and comes on stage to improvise with Marian in a two piano duet. It makes for a lovely moment in the film.

Marian McPartland and the filmmaker at a prior screening of the film.

The next screening is tomorrow night at Allentown Symphony Hall, Allentown, PA.

Post by Huey, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: The Silence

12 Sep

The story of screening TRUST at the Allentown Symphony is one of being reminded to keep things in perspective.

Thursday was one of those awful travel days – thanks to tropical storm Lee, my plane was hours late landing in Philadelphia, President Obama declared Pennsylvania a disaster area, and I had no idea whether what lay ahead on the road from Philadelphia to Allentown – maybe cresting rivers?  I was anxious about whether I’d arrive in time for the evening screening and fuming in a long line at the rental car agency when Robin Flores from the Allentown Symphony called to say she had just spoken with the teacher who’d screened TRUST that afternoon for fifty of her students.  Apparently this particular class was a rowdy bunch of students, but they sat riveted through the entire film.  Even after the lights came up, all fifty sat, very still, in complete silence for a full minute.  I struggled not to burst into tears – that’s how Kenji Yamamoto, my filmmaking partner and husband, intended audiences to respond to TRUST.  And with that, the bad travel day anxieties faded into the distance, where they belonged.

The following morning, Robin and I arrived bright and early at Lehigh Valley Performing Arts School in Bethlehem, a charter school of 600 plus students. Theater teacher Diane Wagner led us into the black box theater, where the fifty students who had seen TRUST wanted to talk about the silence.  They said they were usually a boisterous audience, leaping to their feet to give a standing ovation after seeing something they like, but after seeing TRUST, no one moved, no one said a word.  One young man said that after the lights came up, he was feeling and thinking about so many things, he thought it would have cheapened the experience not to have that silence.

The students told me Ms Wagner had paused the film part way through, because they were crying so hard after hearing the incest part of Marlin’s story, she felt they needed a break.  When Kenji and I were editing TRUST, our concept was to break Marlin’s storytelling into four sequences, so that after each sequence, the audience would think that her story couldn’t get more traumatic, but then, in the next sequence, it would.

The class is made up of 11th and 12th graders who have been together in the theater class since 9th grade.  Ms Wagner said right now, they are casting for a play and the students are consumed their individual concerns about auditions and parts.  From her perspective, one of the best effects of showing TRUST was seeing the students regain perspective about the big picture, the community of their theater class, and raise their heads above all the trying details of auditioning. She said she planned to buy a copy of TRUST and show it every year.

This is what I live for – what a great experience.

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

On Tour: Nancy Kelly checks in from Erie, PA

8 Sep

Michael Fuhrman from the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center at Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA, my first stop on the On Screen/In Person tour, called in response to what must have seemed like an anxious email I’d sent asking for a sound and picture check before the screening.  After assuring me the projectionist would meet me to do the check, he said their theater was the only performing arts center between Buffalo and Cleveland and that close to 10,000 people a year come to the films.  From that conversation, I got the idea that Michael and his staff had been providing people in Erie with access to independent films for a good long time, and that they had cultivated the audience, and that people probably had faith in what he screened and came to see whatever he presented.

These are turbulent, frightening days in American independent cinema, with independent distributors and cinemas folding, and access to screens and audiences is not what it once once – and hearing Michael so confidently describe his audience reminded me of a press conference I was part of at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1992, when I was there with THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD, a narrative feature I directed.

Filmmaker Nancy Kelly addresses the audience at Mercyhurst College.

About six of the American independent filmmakers attending the festival took part in the press conference, including the actors Keanu Reeves and Bruce Davison. The Soviet Union had collapsed a year before and Russian artists of all kinds were struggling with the difference between being an artist in a socialist and a capitalist economy. The filmmakers, for example, had experienced a precipitous loss of access to screens, which they complained were now showing more commercial, cheaply-made action, adventure and porn movies.  At the press conference, we were asked, “How did American Independent filmmakers get control of screens in the US?”  I honestly had no idea – in fact, I wanted to crawl under the table.  Sandra Schulberg, co-founder of the Independent Feature Project, co-producer of Northern Lights (1979), a pioneering American independent film, took the microphone and described the people in cities all over America who, in the 1960s and 1970s, started film societies by renting cinemas on weekend mornings to show independent and foreign films.  She said over time, the people who started those film societies grew them into evolved into film festivals, independent cinemas and independent distributors.  I listened and learned, because I’m part of a group independent filmmakers who came along just a few years later and trod paths blazed by Sandra and those she was describing.

And, the two Erie screenings proved Michael has indeed built a solid audience that brings a lot of curiosity to a film screening.

Filmmaker Nancy Kelly speaks to an audience member at an On Screen/In Person screening.

All photos by Randall Stankey, Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center Projectionist, 2011

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

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