Tag Archives: trust

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


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: 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

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 :

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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