Tag Archives: podcast

On Tour: St. John, USVI

14 Apr

April 7, 2015  | Tie It Into My Hand| St. John, USVI

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En route to the screening, snorkeling

I love Q&A. Every once in a while a question wakes you up out of your post-screening stupor with its candor, for example Tuesday night at the St. John Film Society when a man asked, with some incredulity, “How do you live?”

The question took me by surprise. Tie It Into My Hand is about the artist’s life, and it asks, among related questions, how someone making manifestly, one could say ostentatiously noncommercial work—any creative person who answers only to the market in which imagination haggles with time and energy—makes rent under late capitalism. And it gives specifics: how George Stoll has run out of money and had to price carrots, how John Kelly couldn’t make it as a hooker, because he had too much empathy, how Monique Jenkinson doesn’t think a lot about the things she doesn’t have, except sometimes, when she’s schlepping her groceries on her bike.

But on this subject the film doesn’t give my specifics: nine years spent in a digital sweatshop following college, the severance pay, UI, stock options, and prematurely cashed-in 401(k) monies that might have added up to a down payment on a studio apartment in San Francisco ten years ago (those were the days) if I hadn’t sunk it all into a novel (now celebrating its 13th year of composition) and my first film.

Other specifics: the blossoming of a humanities PhD boyfriend into a salaried professor husband who’s willing to assume a (much) greater share of expenses while I navigate the cross-currents of competing ever-“emerging” careers in film, fiction and music and the looming threat of AARP envelopes coming, blade-like, through the mail slot; and then there are the debts, the Kickstarter campaigns and other variations on modern mendicancy.

My answer managed to bypass these thickets, variously soporific and humiliating, and instead focused on the munificence and vision of organizations like the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and the St. John Film Society, which generously supported tonight’s program; and of co-executive producer Al Baum and commissioning institution ODC Theater, which underwrote Tie It Into My Hand. And I quoted Mink Stole’s remark in the film that, after her last cubicle gig, which she exited throwing things, she simply resolved that from that point forward she was going to get by on her art alone, and that’s how she’s lived ever since: “Somehow or other, I manage to get by.” (And I might have extended this train of thought to the E.E. Cummings line from the introduction to Is 5 that has sustained me through nights and days of abundant terror and low self-esteem, little cash, less retirement plan, and medical underinsurance, in which he disposes of security—capitalism’s highest value along with luxury and pillage—as a “birthproof safetysuit.”)

The answer wasn’t entirely graceless, but I’m only giving myself 50 percent credit for it, a failing grade, because the correct answer, and the answer next time, is, “I live by virtue of your presence here, your commitment to independent film, and your purchase of DVDs which I will be signing at the concessions table on your way out of the theater.”

Even absent this helpful prompt, DVD sales weren’t bad for an audience of 20—I sold two copies of my documentary Apparition of the Eternal Church, which I spent a lot of time talking about in the Q&A since it explains not only how I became a filmmaker, and how I wound up making films about music, but how I arrived at the experimental premise of Tie It Into My Hand, in which several dozen artists, none violinists, teach me a violin lesson on the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. I sold one copy of Tie and one of my silent-film comedy The Glitter Emergency. Two copies of my Bach solo violin CD (d minor partita and C major sonata) departed from the theater before the public arrived, an almost mystical occurrence that had everyone turning over coolers and scratching their heads. They were in paper CD sleeves and I contented myself with the explanation that the wind picked them up and deposited them on the British Virgin Islands, where one joined the CD collection of a widowed pensioner from Brighton, and the other lodged in the nest of a toucan.

I always mean to take photos of the venue and the audience on a tour like this and in the heat of battle never remember. The venue, the dramatically high-ceilinged amber-stained main room of the St. John School of the Arts, was beautiful; I itched for my violin in there. My experience of the screening was mixed. The power has gone out every night of the four I’ve been in the Virgin Islands, and the power company issued a warning for Tuesday night, so I had that knot in my stomach; but somehow the projector and sound system stayed on through all 77 minutes of the film. Audience response was shall we say inward.

This is no credit to me, but to my cast of violin teaching cut-ups:

Tie It Into My Hand is sidesplitting, and on Tuesday sepulchral silence greeted its most hilarious moments, including Margaret Cho’s newly added story about shitting herself onstage. (I challenge you to name one single thing that isn’t funny about that.) I went up to the Q&A like Thomas More to his scaffold, knowing in some sense that I had brought this on myself, hoping it would be quick, keeping faith that my suffering would one day be redeemed if not avenged; and so I was surprised when the ovation was long, the faces rapt, the questions many, and the vibe attentive, supportive, maybe even uplifted. When the Q&A was through people came up to the concessions table and parted with their money, and with their opinions of the work and about what art is and who artists are and what it is that we do. That conversation—that is how I live.

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

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On Tour: Newport News, VA

16 Mar

March 10, 2015  | Still Dreaming | Newport News, VA

My last stop on the On Screen In Person tour was in Newport News, VA at the impressive campus of Christopher Newport University. Professors John Nichols and Terry Lee were spectacular hosts on a rainy Tuesday evening. The great fun of the evening was that the audience was very young – mostly college students. Still Dreaming has not yet played to a young audience, so I was curious if the film would resonate for this crowd. Just 10 minutes into the film, I knew it was a hit. There was so much laughter and connection with the characters. So Besta, my new friend in Wilmington, was right! Young people love this film, too. It has plenty to provoke laughter and reflection for this generation.

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All in all, I have had a really fantastic tour – meeting new fans and finding out how the film plays to all sorts of people in all sorts of places. That is just invaluable information and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. I thank The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the NEA, and all of my hosts, who have worked hard to program and promote the series. For those of you whom I haven’t met yet, I hope to see you at a screening soon!  You can keep up to date with the film at our website, www.stilldreamingmovie.com. Thanks for following along with the tour!

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

On Tour: Germantown, MD

11 Mar

March 8, 2015  | Still Dreaming | Germantown, MD

For my 5th stop, I’m in Germantown, MD at The BlackRock Center for the Arts. It is a beautiful multi-purpose arts facility that would be the envy of any town. It strikes me that it is an unusual place. It seems every municipality should have something like this, as it does a public library and a post office. Does your town have an arts center that is participation oriented, instead of solely performance oriented? Doesn’t it seem that this kind of arts learning hub for people of all ages and means should be ubiquitous? Instead, I think what’s more common is lots of little non-profit arts organizations trying to make it in their own pocket of town, if they even do exist.

BlackRock is bright and inviting, with a gallery, a beautiful and versatile theater/dance space, and many rooms for creating art of all types. There is a lively feeling of community, with folks of many ages and walks of life passing through. Today, there are classes going on, a gallery opening, and my film screening. Each activity lends energy to the other. This place really feels right to me.

One of the film’s guest panelists, Brandi Rose, Program Director for Arts for the Aging, based in Rockville, MD, said she loved the facility and wished that her organization had such a space. Serendipitously, Krista Bradley, ED for BlackRock said she loved AFTA and wanted to do more work such as they are doing. AFTA engages older adults in health improvement and life enhancement through the arts. They train working artists to work with elders throughout the DC area.

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Karen Webber Gilat, AFTA artist, Krista Bradley, ED BlackRock Center for the Arts, Jilann, Brandi Rose, Program Director, Arts for the Aging

My fingers are crossed that perhaps another wonderful community alliance is in the making.

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

On Tour: Wilmington, DE

9 Mar

March 7, 2015  | Still Dreaming | Wilmington, DE

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Last night’s screening in Wilmington Delaware was truly special. The Light Up The Queen Foundation, which hosted the screening, is dedicated to the revival of the Queen Theater in Wilmington, DE, and to assuring that the Queen becomes a catalyst for building community through high-quality programs in arts, music, education, workforce development and mentoring. Tina Betz, Executive Director of LUQ, and her staff really made an impression on me. They care deeply about the connections within the community that art can foster. They brought together the Alzheimer’s Association and the Delaware Shakespeare Festival to co-present the film, which made for a lively post film discussion.

3-7_TinaBetzFor me, it was the first screening where we’ve really had community partners present who represent the divergent themes in the film. There was a lot at stake for me personally, hoping that these two important groups would like the film. As we craft the story in relative obscurity, we can only hope that it will resonate strongly with our intended core audiences. It’s not until a screening such as this that we get our answer.

It was a thrilling moment to have Katie Maklin, the ED of the Delaware Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and David Stradley, the Artistic Director of Delaware Shakespeare Festival, speak highly and passionately of the film and its story and characters. They both come at the subject from such different places, and it was wonderful to see them connect through the story of the film. It feels like these kind of connections are the seeds to future collaborations. I hope the fruit of these are more arts programs and more meaningful community connections for our dear, invaluable elders.

And there was one last highlight. A young woman named Besta from Istanbul, Turkey loved the film. She said “I thought it maybe would be a little boring, but I loved every minute of it! I was so absorbed in the characters. I hope you know, that young people will love this film too!”. That really made my day just absolutely perfect. Thank you LUQ and Wilmington DE for a fabulous and memorable experience!

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

 

 

 

On Tour: Silver Linings and Connections

6 Mar

March 5, 2015  | Still Dreaming | New Jersey

Well, if you were a bit envious about my being in St. John, no worries, I have been humbled by a huge snow storm upon coming back to the East Coast. It’s full-on winter and unfortunately, my Monmouth University screening has been canceled due to 8 inches of snowfall. The silver lining is that I got to see some of my favorite people on earth this morning before the roads got too bad. I saw the residents and staff at The Lillian Booth Actors Home where we shot STILL DREAMING.

If you’ve seen the film, you’ll be happy to know that Joan is still playing piano with unbelievable virtuosity at age 90. It was a gift to be with her, talking music and life. She always asks about our kids and if they’re playing music. She gave me some good advice about our daughter’s violin instruction.

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Jilann with Joan Stein

Dimo is continuing with his rock art, and has been experimenting with a urethane finish. We talked about the pros and cons of this shinier finish and discussed how he’d really like to have a show of the work.

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Jilann and Dimo in his art studio at The Lillian Booth Actors Home

And Harold is still as upbeat as ever, ready to give a kiss hello, a quote for enlightenment, and a piece of advice.

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Harold Cherry and Jilann

I am grateful for this chance to be out in the world with the film on this tour. In the end, the most rewarding part of filmmaking are the human connections made, both with the subjects and the audience.

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

On Tour: St. John, U.S.V.I.

6 Mar

March 3, 2015  | Still Dreaming | St. John, U.S.V.I.

Yesterday I had the day to myself before dinner with Andrea Leland, the head of the St. John Film Society. It was my brief window to enjoy the miracle of this tiny island before catching a flight out today. I wanted to head to the beach, and if I was brave enough, go snorkeling. I am not a carefree ocean swimmer, but a hesitant and sometimes fearful one. Snorkeling was something I really wanted to do, but still felt wary, especially since I am here on my own. Everyone suggests snorkeling with a partner for safety.

At breakfast, guests at my hotel suggested Waterlemon, a tiny cay off of a beach that lay at the end of a 20 minute trail along the north shore of the island. It sounded like too much for me – being alone and a bit nervous. Instead, I went to a closer beach called Cinnamon Bay, rented my gear and cautiously went out into the turquoise water. After gasping too much air and sea water in my initial anxious haste, I was happy to see some vivid blue and yellow fish and a few purple sea fans along the bottom. But the water was choppy, the air quite windy at this cove. A couple who was snorkeling nearby were lamenting the lack of sights under water. They were talking about going back to Waterlemon. They told me they had seen sea turtles there that morning. Wow. I had to try that. Seeing a sea turtle has always been one of my dreams.

My excitement helped me push through my fear of heading out solo to the tiny cay. When I got to the parking area, I couldn’t find the path. When I eventually found it, there was no one else on it. The view was a gorgeous real-life postcard which helped me relax as I walked. Eventually, I did see a small beach up ahead. There were plenty of sunbathers and a few snorkelers.

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Heading out into the water, I felt elated. This water was calm and easier to swim in and I couldn’t wait to see a turtle. I saw many stunning fish, some coral heads and big sea birds along the shore. It was a thrill to come up against the oncoming traffic of a huge school of silver fish, who parted around me. But no sea turtles were to be found. I had to get back to Cruz Bay for the screening, so I surrendered to not seeing any turtles on this trip and headed into shore. Just as I did that, I looked to my right, and swimming along beside me was a small sea turtle. He had a beautiful brown and yellow shell, and glided through the water, every few minutes coming up for air. I swam with him for 10 minutes, wondering if it was possible to cry with a snorkel mask on! I was amazed and emotional at this serendipitous gift. As I finally turned into shore, a stingray swam under me. I caught my breath and headed to the beach, so very glad I had decided to dance with my fears instead of playing it safe. It once again confirmed one of the central ideas to our film, STILL DREAMING – that there are great rewards for facing your fears and pursuing your dreams. Thank you St. John for a wonderful day and a fantastic screening!

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

On Tour: Erie, PA

2 Mar

March 1, 2015  | Still Dreaming | Erie, PA

For a filmmaker, there is truly nothing like seeing your film in a darkened theater, on a big screen, in the embrace of an enthusiastic audience. This experience mends the cracks in your spirit which were caused by long lapses in funding and rejections along the way. It heartens you after the requisite struggle with narrative, character development, and the question of ‘what is the right stylistic approach?’ And it reconnects you to other human beings after a protracted process of working in solitude. This is the magical time of bringing forth a story into the world.

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Still Dreaming on the big screen at Mercyhurst University.

 

Here I am in Erie, PA, for my first stop of the 6-city ON SCREEN/IN PERSON tour, sponsored by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. I am so grateful for this opportunity. STILL DREAMING is still very new, having only screened 3 times thus far. Today, I got the opportunity to see how the film plays to a small city audience, one made up mostly of retirees.

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Charlotte Fairchild reminisces about her understudy role in Mame on Broadway.

 

The audience was fairly quiet during the screening today, whereas the NYC and Washington DC audiences had been raucous. I felt that they were enjoying it, but I wasn’t sure how deeply it affected them. They were a kind and respectful bunch, asking polite questions about the subject matter and the filmmaking process. Where I really felt the impact of the film on them was after the Q&A. People started coming up to me, telling me how deeply they had been touched by the film, and how important its message is. Many people bought DVDs to share with friends, and gave me ideas of where to screen the film next. This is when you know the film is successful – when people just can’t wait to share it. Thank you Erie! Now you know how I have felt for the past three years, working to finish the film! Onward to St. John – if I can get outta this beautiful, snowy place!

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

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