Monday, January 30, 2012

My Utah: 2012 Edition (Also, why I was M.I.A. at Sundance.)

Utah is sure pretty when it wants to be. It wasn't very snowy this year, but when it did snow it was the big, fluffy, picturesque snowflake kind. When it didn't snow it was disgusting, miserable, freezing rain, so I tried to snap a couple pictures of the pretty parts of my daily drive up the canyon. The one above I messed with a little bit in Instagram, but only for the sake of cropping out the ugly highway, not enough to fabricate that gorgeous sunrise. In fact, it was so much more beautiful than that. My love/hate relationship with Utah rages on.Once the Convergence wrapped, I headed to Park City to see my old Dallas film colleagues and check out the Sundance scene. I love Park City and I would have loved more than anything to stay there all week watching movies, but I have yet to make it to Sundance Pass Holder status. Honestly though, I couldn't have asked for a better week with some of my favorite people. Missy and Ryan picked me up from Park City and we headed straight to a Mavs game! Okay, it was a Jazz game, but they were playing the Mavs and we won, and that's all that matters. I'm not really a "sports" person per say but I do like basketball and being the obnoxious fan of the away team, so I had a great time. I will say, Jazz fans are mean. If you don't want to hate Utah, don't go to a sporting event. Between the sore losers and lame G-rated dancers, it was like a bad circus around good basketball.
 Missy and I visited our favorite breakfast spot, Eggs in the City, and did some shopping and wedding planning. I hid my camera away for the most part and just enjoyed it. So, now, looking back through my camera roll, I'm slightly amused by the things I did think warranted a photo. A bike stand sweater in Sugarhouse, the biggest, yummiest biscuit I've ever eaten and a snap of our table at the (rightly) legendary Ruby's Diner.
 I also got to spend time with my dear friends Katie and Cory and their children, who I've attempted numerous times to adopt as my own. Sweet, calm baby Samantha (and the TV that I would also like to adopt as my own - side note: I sent this picture to Taso with the caption "Two things I want"); thoughtful, lovable Jaren, B's best friend, showing off his 49ers shirt because they beat the Saints (B's favorite team); and my best friend, the wild Lainey Joy. I love these babies so much!  
 In addition to playing toys, kissing the baby, watching movies and eating cake, I also discovered that there is a Juggalo community in Salt Lake and they ship in Juggalo juice by the crate. Who knew?! Yep, it was a great time with my beloved Harmon family. 
I didn't get a chance to go back up to Park City the rest of the time I was in Utah but, thankfully, they have plenty of Sundance screenings in Salt Lake as well. While I was there to see documentaries for the Thin Line Film Festival, I did get to see one feature film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, that completely blew me away. It's about what you might consider swamp people, who live below the levee in New Orleans around the time of Katrina (though that time period is never stated outright, that's the impression given). It was one of those films that tears through you and leaves your knees shaking. The little girl who carries the film -- who is really the soul of the film -- was incredible, brilliant both in her role and her post-screening Q&A appearance. During the Q&A one audience member raised their hand and said this was the best film they'd ever seen. Normally I would scoff at something like that or chalk it up to misunderstanding the wave emotion the work left behind, but I didn't. In fact, my gut reaction was applause and complete agreement. I have a theory that you shouldn't ask someone what their favorite movie of all time is, but what their favorite movie right now is. Not only does it make for interesting discussion, but it gives you a chance to talk about newer films that will never replace the stock favorites. But I digress. Beasts of the Southern Wild is my favorite movie right now at this moment. I'm so happy it ended up winning the Grand Jury Prize. If you ever get a chance to see this, you MUST! 
I'm back in Texas recovering now. Missing my friends, going through all my AHC notes and trying not to read too much about all the films I didn't get to see. Maybe next year! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sundance Art House Project and the Convergence in the mountains

This was my second year to attend the Art House Convergence, a conference for art house theater operators, programmers, distributors and insiders, held in Midway, UT in the days leading up to the Sundance Film Festival. Last year the Convergence inspired my thesis and the work I've been doing for the Association of Moving Image Archivists, and it started me down the path to running my own theater.   It's a goal that I know I can accomplish now that I'm a part of this network.

This year I had to scrape together (and borrow) the money to attend. (A huge thank you to Texas Filmmakers for sponsoring part of my trip.) I went back and forth on whether or not it was a good idea but ultimately I knew it would be worth it. When I was asked to speak on a panel, that sealed the deal. I was headed to Sundance. This year's AHC was bigger, warmer and moved to a slightly less intimate resort. I also couldn't afford to stay at the resort this year, so my wonderful friends Missy and Ryan made the drive up and down the canyon from Salt Lake twice a day to take me and let me sleep in their comfy guest bedroom. Sometimes I can't believe I have such nice friends. 

On the first day they gave us our little AHC bags with a Sundance water bottle and a notebook with a slot in the front for business cards. I point this out because I've never made more use out of a conference/festival bag. I filled that little notebook almost completely up with notes and, as I look at it now, business cards are overflowing out of the front pocket. (The water bottle came in handy too!) That's all to say that I learned so much at this AHC and met so many people who were willing to share their knowledge and resources. The mantra seemed to be, "let's not just sit around talking, let's go out and make things happen" and they backed it up, too. Everyone was engaged, offering to volunteer and help out where they could, voting on ways to improve the AHC as a network and getting down to business rather than wasting time debating unimportant issues and inflating their own egos (like some other professional groups are known to do).

I learned about profitability, sustainability, running a non-profit, staffing, programming, operations, the ins and outs of digital technology (and how frustrating they can be for an art house theater); I heard Tim League and Ted Hope speak and got to sit in on a round table discussion with Bingham Ray and learn from him. I was invited to visit different AHC theaters across the country and to learn from them.

My panel went very well. Any nerves I had when I spoke on the panel at AMIA in November were gone. I knew this was my audience and that what I had to say was useful to them. The panel focused on the future of 35mm film projection, and included Katie Trainor, who works for the MoMA Film Department and is a long-time projectionist, Brian Belovarac of Janus Films, John Vanco of IFC and me (could I be more out of place?). I talked about my work with AMIA and what I learned through working on my thesis. The room was open to the things we had to say, which were largely (but realistically) in favor of trying to maintain and support film projection. The two morning sessions on the cost of implementing studio-compliant digital technology left a lot of people frustrated and deflated, so I think they were happy to talk about the projection technology that's always worked for them. When I hear projectionists and small theater operators talk about why they want to continue to show film, it reminds me that all of the bullying talk (from studios, academics and sometimes archivists) about them being nostalgic and sentimental is really unfair. These theaters are mission-driven and committed to education and authenticity. It's not one or the other, but both. Anyhow, the session was great and I had a really good time listenting, learning and answering questions.

On the second-to-last day they screened a Sundance film for us, Monsieur Lazhar, which was so good. I got to hang out with my friends James and Amy, who will be opening the Citizen Theater in Fort Worth and are awesome, catch up with friends I made last year and make a couple new ones. It was a good time and it left me ready to get to work on bringing the Fine Arts Theatre back to Denton.
(Just some snapshots of awesome dinner centerpieces, Russ Collins speaking, the Zermatt Resort and James and Amy's feet. Taso told me to take a bunch of pictures and this is what I delivered...)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union

I am working on a post about Sundance, but let me just take a moment to say how nice it was to hear our President demand fairness last night. I grew up always hearing that life isn't fair and, while I accepted that, a voice in the back of my mind asked every time, "But what if it could be?" Yeah, I'm an idealist, but I just loved hearing our President stand up for what's right and fair. 

"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules."
It was inspiring to hear him talk about clean energy, bringing home troops and redistributing war money, race/class/gender/sexuality equality within our troops, equal pay for equal work, keeping kids in school and sending them to college (not to mention throwing a bone to those of us with a jillion dollars in student loan debt), common sense fair taxes and more. Maybe he can't accomplish everything he preaches, but at least he's talking about the right things. It's a breath of fresh air through the current political climate.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I made a Brontosaurus!

I have a lot to say about my trip to Utah, but every time I sit down to write a post, all I want to do is post these pictures. So, yeah, I went to Sundance and it was really amazing and inspiring, and I saw my friends and had a great time... but I also made a really freaking cute brontosaurus.

My friend Katie makes these rad stuffed animals from her own patterns and she taught me how to make one when I visited her in Utah. I really wanted a brontosaurus (did anyone else have that book about if dinosaurs still existed when they were kids, the one where the little boy uses a brontosaurus as a slide? - I wish I could remember what it was called...) so we drew one up and it turned out SO CUTE.
I just had a talk with myself this week about making my online persona more professional, and THIS is my first post about my trip to Sundance. Keeping it real, I suppose. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hi from Utah!

My love dropped me off at the airport long before the sun was up and I was off to Salt Lake City. When I landed, the valley was being dusted with a blanket of snow - the kind with big flakes you can see even after they've landed. The kind that makes it almost impossible to drive. True story: Missy was on her way to pick me up from the airport when she hit a patch of it and spun out across the highway. Don't worry - she's okay! - luckily she was driving slow enough to only cause mild cosmetic damage to her car and slightly less mild emotional trauma. 

Feeling pretty useless that I couldn't do anything to help, I hopped a cab to Vertical Diner to wait for her. The staff was so friendly, running out to help me bring my bags in out of the snow and fixing me up with a warm drink and a spot at the warmest booth. I ate like a king (who had woken up at 4 a.m. and flown through three different cities on one of her least favorite airlines and was starving and cold) - a huge late breakfast of biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns, tofu scramble and sausage - all vegan, all so very, very delicious. 

Missy met me there and took me to a chiropractor appointment that she'd booked for me when I called her day before yesterday in a TMJ-induced migraine stupor (because she's the best). I know this recounting of my day is getting very boring, but I feel the need to mention this because... omg. I don't even know how long I've been miserable for. So long that I didn't even know I was miserable, it had just become the norm. The daily headaches, stiff neck, blurred vision and sleepiness were erased with one adjustment and some brief deep tissue work. I feel like a new person! The rest of our day was spent meeting up with friends we hadn't seen in years and having our customary Chinese food/sitcom dinner ritual. I think I've probably told her a thousand times in the last five hours how happy I am that I have use of my jaw and am headache free. It's been a good day.

So why am I in Salt Lake, you ask? I'm speaking on a panel at the Sundance Art House Convergence! I'll be talking about my thesis and the future of celluloid film projection. The rest of the time I'll be hanging out with my friends James and Amy and learning all I can about how to restore and run a movie theater, then hopefully I'll catch a couple movies at Sundance and get one thousand job offers. For now, I sleep.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A rite of passage.

I think everyone slams their finger in the car door once in their lifetime, right? B's number was up this weekend. According to the doctor, it's not broken. According to B, it warranted a day off from school for a doctor visit and x-rays. In his defense, it looked way nastier than in these pictures. It was totally black at first, and when he woke up this morning he couldn't move his thumb at all. It was swollen so huge! I'm pretty sure he's going to lose the nail. Gross. I do kind of like the outline of E.T.'s head on his fingertip.

Oh, not much.

I haven't been blogging much because I'm BUSY. Truly. You may think it's strange that someone so unemployed could have so much to do, but it's the truth. I was asked to speak on a panel at the Sundance Art House Convergence called Archives, the Art House and the Future of 35mm. I think that's what it's called at least... but that's what it's about. I'm going to talk about how art house theaters should show film prints (as opposed to digital projection) and, once again, be the only person on the panel without a job or title. I'm trying to not feel horribly self conscious about this and just go with it but... ... ...So, yeah, I've been prepping for that, trying to scrape money out of every nook and cranny (and credit card) to afford to get myself there and finish a publication that I've been working on for over a year that I'm supposed to distribute there... which is still not finished, much less printed. Other than that I've been tiptoeing around the idea of planning a wedding and, oh, you know... TRYING TO FIND A JOB.

Here are some pictures from the last couple weeks.

We had a graduation dinner for Taso at Greek Isles (the family Greek restaurant). Taso's Aunt Dianna made him an NYU bear that put my bear to shame in a big way (that's her in the background looking rightfully proud). I then adopted the bear for my own because I also went to NYU and the bear has sparkly feet, so obviously I need it more than he does.

New Years Eve was quiet and uneventful, unlike the major party times of 2011. Instead, this happened:
I ended up on the couch with my sweetie, so all was well that ended well.

Since the holidays, my son has been WORLDS happier, better behaved and more motivated, so that is VERY exciting! This is not to say that we don't have epic meltdowns or mega defiance from time to time, but things are getting better. He is happier, calmer and - slowly but surely - more confident.

He wrote this and I love it.
He has horrible handwriting because he's a mad genius. Just FYI.

And, finally, I took my cat to the vet for some simple vaccinations and nail clipping and she totally lost her mind and went crazy on her poor doctor. It was very confusing because I literally lay my head on top of her all the time while making high pitched noises and she just chills there like she doesn't even notice me. I realized at this appointment that she is a middle aged lady at this point, so maybe she just can't be bothered to react to my shenanigans anymore. I don't know. But she did not like her pedicure, I'll tell you that much. I bought her treats and a catnip toy to apologize for making her suffer through that and she forgave me, as you can tell from this video: http://vimeo.com/34818525

And here she is being funny and awesome, just because:

I have more to say, but not in this post. More soon!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My son carried the same backpack from pre-K until about a month ago. That's right, halfway through 4th grade. I don't know why I never bought him a new backpack when I bought all of his other brand new school supplies each year. It just held up so well and he liked it so much. He never thought to ask for a new one. After a couple years I started to get sentimental about it. This was his FIRST backpack and he could still use it. He was still my little one, just starting school, which meant less removed from the days we got to spend together playing outside, making lunch and watching Sesame Street. 
But, when his big 4th grade binder started coming home with bent corners and I found myself stuffing papers in and having to help him zip it up... I realized the time had come. Taso and I were at Index when we spotted this Nike bag that looked like a Ninja Turtle and featured B's favorite color ever: brown. The deal was sealed. We tucked it into my back seat so that it would be there to greet him when we picked him up from school. I couldn't bring myself to throw out the old backpack, but it has definitely been forgotten. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Handmade Christmas

This year I decided to hand make most of the presents I gave for Christmas. Actually, pretty much all of them. Taso's family is big so we drew names, and I got his Aunt Dianna. Aunt Dianna has a thing for teddy bears. She makes them herself and they're gorgeous. Every one is personalized and named. They have their own room in her home. The second I saw her name, I knew I had no choice. I had to make an Aunt Dianna bear. My sewing abilities are modest (A-line skirts, baby clothes, curtains, pillows) so I found a pattern that looked somewhat manageable. Well. Somewhat manageable when you're working with fur-like material and tiny little bear body parts is a heckuva lot harder than anything I've done before!
I picked super soft fabric so that if the bear didn't turn out too cute, at least it would be soft and cuddly. I used Christmas music note fabric for its little accessories because the a capella choir Aunt Dianna is in recently put on a big Christmas concert that we all went to. 
It took me several days and several emergency calls to my grandma along the lines of, "WTF I HAVE TO EMBROIDER THE EYES?! HELLLLLLLP!!" I made some things simpler for myself (no embroidery, for example) and only gave up in disgust once or twice. By the time I stuffed his belly and made the last little hand stitch up his back, I had accepted the fact that his little eyes and nose were a little crooked and his muzzle didn't quite stuff right, and I was pretty proud of the little guy.
I think Aunt Di liked him. 

I made scarves for some of my friends, and still have four of them sitting in my room, covered in now-outdated Christmas wrapping paper and bows. I realized that, rewarding as it can be, it's a lot scarier to give people gifts that you made yourself. I guess I better get over it and send these out before Christmas 2011 is forgotten.