Almost There

Almost There

I am approaching the finish line.  I knew it was coming but it still feels surreal.  The film is done. It is now with the color correction and sound mixing experts.  While they are performing their magic I am working with the team to create the movie poster and the electronic press kit that will be a part of each film festival submission.  We will likely submit to ten or more film festivals around the country. Then we will wait.  It will be late fall or early winter before they contact us with a yay or nay.  Pins and needles time.

Two and a half years. I have had a few misses during this time.  The picture above was one of them. I was being filmed for a possible opening sequence in the Beyond Sixty Project.  It was scripted.  I just couldn’t do it.  They were my words, more or less, but I couldn’t string them together and sound like me.  I would make a lousy actress.  I cannot imagine ever learning to memorize a script.  Maybe I am selling myself short, but I don’t think so.

What I have confirmed is that I do best when I am in conversation with people or when I am just talking naturally, about any subject.  It was the same way in my previous job. When giving presentations to groups, small and large, I would usually have note cards to ensure I covered the necessary topics but did best when talking from my heart.  As long as  I was passionate about the subject it usually went very well.

There has been a tremendous amount of passion associated with this film.  I feel so lucky to have production partners that share the feeling with me. I still work best in collaboration with a team of highly talented people. I could not have done this without them.

Several people have asked me what it feels like to be at this juncture.  It’s hard to explain but I can tell you that when I watched the last cut of the film I became very emotional when the credits rolled. It was the first time I had seen the credits and it was an overwhelming sensation to see all of our names scrolling to music that gets me every time I hear it.  It may sound corny but it’s true.

The biggest lesson learned through this process is that we are never too old to try something new.   I am in awe of all the women I interviewed for the film.  They have such unique stories and I am better off for spending time with them.  Their commonalities are clear.  They are resilient and they are continuing to remain relevant as they age.  They are not willing to call it quits and hunker down into their golden years.  They have a confidence that allows them to say no to things they do not want and a boldness to step out and try new things.  They expect some failures along the way but chalk that up to experience which adds to their resilience bucket.

Where we all go from here is unclear, but as my friend Sara says, if you are open to the unknown things can happen.

Back to work. I hope you have a wonderful day.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

February, Facebook, Fake News

February, Facebook, Fake News

February.  It has been a brutal month so far.

Just days ago, on Valentine’s Day, 17 people died while doing whatever they normally do on a Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  The families and friends of the victims are settling into their grief right now, forever changed.  Just like the people of Rancho Tehama Reserve, North Park Elementary, Umpqua Community College, Marysville Pilchuck High School, Santa Monica, Sandy Hook, Oikos University, Chardon High School, U of A Huntsville, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech, West Nickel Mines School, Red Lake, Appalachian School of Law, Columbine, Thurston High School, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, Heath High School, Pearl High School, San Diego State, Frontier Middle School, Lindhurst High School, University of Iowa, Stockton schoolyard, CSU Fullerton, Olean High School Kent State, Mesa, University of Texas Tower, have done before them.   I remember all of these incidents.  I hope I never hear of another.  I hope my grandsons feel safe and will be safe throughout the rest of their years in school.  I hope your family will be safe.

I just took a break from Facebook.  I have to keep my personal page in order to have my Beyond Sixty Project page, but I really needed a break.  Do you ever feel that way?  I know Facebook entered into a global fight against fake news about a year ago, but I am not sure how well it is working. To me, most of the fake stuff is easy to spot.  For starters look at the source.  Then fact check the stories before sharing.  What I have learned is I can do a better job of creating a more effective ” filter bubble” for what I want on see on my Facebook feed and I can stop reading the comments attached to some of the topics.  Negativity, hate and disrespect has become the norm for so many.  It saddens me greatly.

I love social media for the connections it provides.  I am able to connect with film people all over the world through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I have access to tools and information I need for my project instantly.  I am able to maintain a connection with family and friends who live far away through text or social media as often as I want.  I have been reunited with people I care about through social media.  It is mostly a beautiful thing.

In a world filled with tragedy and sad news there are ways to reset yourself without going into hiding and I have been experimenting.  I began meditating each day.  15-20 minutes is all I can do without the restlessness setting in, but it is refreshing and helpful in shooing away the negativity.  I use some of the music from Canyon Ranch, where I first learned to silence my mind (Alice Boyd!).  When the weather is good, taking a mile walk around my neighborhood while listening to music has been a big plus.  Lastly, baths.  I have a big soaking tub and have been using it quite a bit this winter with some salts or bath tea.  20 minutes does it for me.  These examples are simple but I have never been good at doing them routinely and I am glad I am now. Maybe in older age I am finally becoming wiser?

It is good to reset rather than turn off don’t you think?  I am constantly looking for new and improved ways of changing how I assimilate the negativity of the world in my daily life.  If you have any suggestions I hope you will share them.  The older I get the more I realize how important this is. So please tell me what you do!

I am looking forward to February ending.  It will end on two positive notes.  My eldest grandson, Adam, will become a teenager this weekend.   Thirteen years I have known this incredibly wonderful human.  We will celebrate him and be very thankful.

After a bit of a break I am now back full swing into editing the second rough cut of my film, looking forward to all the final steps we need to take before I can report we are done!

I hope you end your February on a positive note or two and do whatever self-care you need to keep on marching and smiling.

Peace and Love to all,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Just Like That, 2017 Turned Into 2018

And Just Like That, 2017 Turned Into 2018

Have you noticed that each year seems to go by faster?  Apparently there are scientific explanations as to why it feels that way.  One explanation is based on our experiences and how often we repeat them.  Think back to when you were a kid and list all the “firsts” you experienced.  First time you rode a bike.  First time you drove a car.  First time you flew on a plane.  Like many experiences in life, they are repeated.  Again and again.   The psychologists say all our firsts are so exciting that we make incredibly vivid and lasting memories of each.  As the years go on, and we repeat each experience over and over, they don’t make the same impression they did when we were younger.  Everything becomes a fleeting and fast series of every day motions.  Maybe some of this relates to how 2018 showed up so abruptly.

Here it is and I am reflecting a little on 2017, as most people do.  My second year retired from Genex.  My second year as a filmmaker.

I don’t miss my old job anymore but  I do miss some of the people and have done my best to stay in touch with them. So far it’s working and I like to imagine they will always be a part of my life.

I love my new “job.”  I am getting better at it.  I have made a few mistakes along the way and have enjoyed learning to correct them.  My film is now in the rough cut stages, very rough cut!  I screened it with people in or related to the film world recently and received very positive and crucial feedback.  It was nerve-racking watching them watch what we had cobbled together.  I wanted them to like it but I also wanted someone to talk honestly with me about the rough spots, and they did.  What a great group of individuals.

Now we are working on those rough spots for the second rough cut. Hopefully soon we will be ready to find some comfort in a final cut and begin to plan for final processes including color correction, sound correction and music scoring.  I try not to think too far ahead regarding distribution but those discussions are looming.  I am staying focused right now on completion and shushing the little voices in my head screaming, “who is going to buy this??”  I am not sure where it will end up but it has been a true labor of love and a learning experience I never thought I would experience.

I think about next film opportunities often.  I have a couple of ideas and I think they are good ones.  I have met and talked with a number of experienced film directors from around the country and have learned so much from them.  I wouldn’t mind tagging along with a couple of them as they make their films,  Each person has a different approach and seeing that in action is how I learn best.  I will let you know how all that pans out.

So here I am in January of 2018 reflecting.  2017 was a good year.  Aside from a pesky case of chronic Lyme Disease I am ok.  My family is healthy.  My grandsons, almost 13, 9 and 7 are active and funny and I am so lucky to live near them.  John and I went to Venice and the Austrian Alps this summer which was amazing.  Then I topped off my birthday week seeing the total eclipse of the sun in Ravenna, Nebraska.  Whoever thinks that is a non-event, not worth traveling for, hasn’t done it.  It was John’s dream and I tagged along and was blown away by the experience.  I will do that again if I can!

My partnership with Expressway Productions in Philadelphia is strong.  We had a good year together.  We are both feeling positive about the film and excited to make it to the finish line.  We ended the year at Expressway’s 7th annual holiday party.  The theme was The Magnificent Seven (Western).  John and I are now proud owners of some pretty cool western gear.  If we go to Shyamaween later this year you will be able to pick us out in  the crowd pretty easily.

The Philadelphia Inquirer did an interview and gave the film some press.  Thank you PI!

Outside of my personal sphere it has been a pretty troublesome year.  Disturbing politics, fake news, #MeToo, fires, earthquakes and hurricanes have taken their toll.

At this writing, over 100 days since the hurricane, about a third of the population in Puerto Rico is still without power.  Try to imagine that.  I know of people who lost property in the CA fires.  I know of people who lost their homes and cars in Houston.   When I hear people complaining about the weather being too cold or the inconvenience of a snowy day or week all I can think about is how lucky we are to be where we are and to recognize that inconvenience is nothing compared to what so many people are going through.

So long 2017.  You were hard on a lot of people.  I hope that 2018 will be a kinder and more gentle year for everyone.  I wish you good health and lots of laughter as we make our way through 2018.

Thank you for sticking with me and The Beyond Sixty Project.  It means a whole lot to me.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

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Confessions of a Binge Watcher

Confessions of a Binge Watcher

 

According to a recent survey conducted for Netflix, 61 percent of TV streamers regularly engage in binge watching.  The definition of binge watching is viewing between two to six episodes of a show in one sitting.  It appears to be consistent across age demographics.  Is this a new cultural phenomenon?

I have never been a joiner of clubs but I believe I am a card carrying member of this one.  It all started a year ago when I was recovering from a terrible bout of Shingles. I was truly immobile and had great difficulty sleeping so lying on the couch at all hours became my place.  My husband brought us into the here and now with a subscription to Netflix and I was off to the races.

The first and most obvious joy of watching a series through Netflix or other streaming channel is there are no commercials.  With the advent of the DVR we learned to watch “taped” shows so we could fast forward through the never ending commecials for the pharmaceutical of the month. According to MarketingCharts, an average hour long TV show is 36% commercials.  It feels like more to me but I will go with the experts.  For me, there is nothing more distracting to a storyline than commercials, the ultimate disruption.

I love listening to stories and hearing the whole story so I can drink it in and let it envelop me.  It’s like reading a really good book where you can transport yourself into the story and you can’t put the book down until you are finished.  Ever have that experience? Binge reading, binge watching, kind of the same to me.

Back to Netflix and their season at a time approach.  I love it.  Netflix has given me full control over how I will watch the series of my choice. I can watch two or three episodes in one sitting or spread them out as long as I want.  From wonderful British series to the many shows produced here in the US, there is a tremendous amount of choice in programming.

I had never watched the televised series of Breaking Bad or Homeland until this year. I knew they were touted as some of the best on TV but when I had a more demanding work schedule I just didn’t get around to it.  I watched Breaking Bad over a couple months recently and can’t imagine watching it any differently. And I caught up on Homeland to bring me up to this season.  Both incredibly well done series. Admittedly, they left me breathless at times due to the intensity of the storyline but they definitely transported me.

There are people in the television industry that feel binge watching is a bad thing, arguing that TV loses its power if we don’t watch it at a moderate pace.  There is discussion that sensory overload from watching too many episodes in a short time may confuse the ending or leave the viewer with a sense of loss and sadness that the show has ended so abrubptly.

I don’t know about you but I have none of the above concerns and I think binge watching or marathon watching is an option that fits nicely with some people.  It’s a personal choice.  Just like reading a book.  Some people devour them in one sitting and others take months or a year to finish.  Luckily for all of us we have expanded choices.

I did binge Grace and Frankie this weekend, thus the reason all this was on my mind.  It’s a short series of 30 minute episodes and easy to binge in between cooking, grandkids and weekend stuff.  It didn’t disappoint and I feel fine this morning.  No sadness over the end of the show, no confusion from over stimulation.  Thanks Netflix!

Wishing you all a great week ahead and maybe even a little binge watching.

Love, Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Zac

Thanks Zac

Making a film is an amazing experience. Sometimes I feel like I won the lottery.  To learn something new at my age is exhilarating and exhausting in a good way.  This past year has been a tremendous opportunity to test myself, make mistakes, correct them and feel a great sense of accomplishment.

I just got back last night from Arizona where we filmed the Sun City Poms, a rather famous cheerleading group, all between 55-85 years of age. It was a long trip with a major flight delay getting out of Philly, but we made it in time to get some sleep and wake up early for our first interview of the day. Actually a rooster woke us all up at 4 am, but that’s another story!

Traveling with an experienced crew is awesome.   I travel with a Director of Photography, a Second Camera person, a Sound Mixer and a Production Manager. Each plays an integral role in the filming of the subjects and uses multiple pieces of equipment to ensure we get exactly what we need. I can’t begin to describe the amount of equipment that goes into a film shoot like ours.  I wish I had taken a picture of it all gathered together in the many shipping containers, special cases, etc.  Hours are spent packing, unpacking, building and dismantling cameras and other equipment.  It is a major process for each crew member.

Zac, one of the owners of Expressway Productions, is our Director of Photography, or DP. He has been with me since the beginning of the project and truly understands what I am looking for when interviewing the women.  He manages the rest of the crew to ensure lighting, sound and alternative film shots are capturing all possibilities.  Aside from that he is the “King of B-Roll.”  That stands for background footage.  No matter where we are, or who we are shooting, there is ample time set aside to capture film footage related to the subject we are covering.  A most recent example: picture me driving a 12-Passenger van/bus (the kind that almost needs a ladder to enter) slowly through the streets of Sun City, AZ with a huge camera set on a tripod, touching my right shoulder and completely blocking my view to the right.  The lens is pointed out the front windshield and is capturing the neighborhoods, the orange trees and the senior citizens on golf carts.  This goes on for an hour or two until Zac feels we have enough footage. On occasion he asks me to stop and he hops out, grabs another camera for a close up shot of a sign he likes.  Little pieces of this footage will make it into the film.  I love waiting to see what catches his eye.

Zac is a perfectionist.  He does not quit until he gets the lighting just right or the shot framed exactly as he wants it.  I watch him.  He’s watching the light fade to night and he is springing into action to go outside and secure a light panel against a picture window.  That amount of light coming in through the blinds keeps the lighting consistent and we go on. By the end of the filming, forgetting about the panel,  I am tricked into thinking it is still light outside.

We ended our second day of filming in AZ with the Wickenburg Rodeo Days Parade.  Two and a half miles. Zac, Ian and Sean walked, jogged and ran the distance getting shots of the Sun City Poms from every possible angle. Sometimes they wore harnesses that held their heavy equipment, sometimes not.  They kept up with the 80 year old baton twirler and the rest of the Poms, with an average age of 74, performing to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart. It was quite a sight. I don’t know who amazed me more, the Poms or our camera crew.

I have no doubt that when I begin editing the many hours of footage from Sun City it will all be good and once again I will have trouble choosing what to use in the segment. Stay tuned!

Thanks Zac, for being a great partner and a truly exceptional DP.

Have a great day!

Love, Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is Something About Vermont

There is Something About Vermont

I have lived in a number of states and climates throughout my lifetime. I have been fortunate to have visited all but two states in the U.S. and several different countries. That said, I feel justified from an experience standpoint to say “there is something about Vermont.”  Those of you who know me have often heard me say I wished I was still there.

My family moved to Vermont when I was entering 10th grade.  I wasn’t happy about it then as you may imagine. Coming from a more urban area it was an adjustment. Walking into a new high school, (Go Rutland Raiders!), not knowing anyone, registered about a 7.5 on my anxiety scale.  Luckily I have the kind of personality that allows me to walk up to strangers and introduce myself.  Luckier was the fact that the first people I approached were kind and curious about the new kid.  It did not take me long at all to form friendships and get introduced to my new town.

At some point during this introduction I looked up.  I can’t remember the exact moment but I stopped thinking about what 15 year old girls think about and I noticed something. I saw the staggering beauty of the mountains that formed a circle around the town.  It was foliage season and the colors were spectacular.  The air seemed cleaner than what I had been used to and there was a slowness that existed around me that felt comforting.  It was like my breathing became slower there.  I actually recognized that at age 15, so there must have been something special going on.

Life went on, as it does, and I left Vermont for other places but came back twice and not because my family was there.  The second time I returned they had already moved away themselves.  I came back because I could breathe better.  I say that as a state of mind, not that I have breathing issues! It always felt safe and was a place where I could collect my thoughts and figure out my plan.  The combination of the natural beauty, the people and the simplistic way of life still suits me well.

Why then didn’t I stay?  Lack of opportunity for me back then was the real kicker.  I had two children I was going to have to put through college someday and the prospects of advancing my career were limited.  Add to that long, hard winters.  I was not financially equipped at the time to have the appropriate vehicle to live where I was living. Being semi-off the grid (only wood heat) in a drafty old farmhouse at the top of the mountain is a challenge in both winter and mud season.

Each year it took 9 cords of wood to heat the house using two woodstoves and I became adept at helping to split and cut wood. It was hard living but it was glorious.  Our view, all the way to the New Hampshire White Mountains, was breathtaking in every season. The kids could cross country ski out the door for as many miles as they wanted to.  The four room school house they attended had some of the best teachers they would ever have. My friends were the best.  There were locals and those who had come from all over the country because they too had felt that special something. I felt pretty rich then even though I had no money.

But it wasn’t to be forever given my nagging desire to grow and expand my future opportunities.

My last exodus from the Green Mountain state was 33 years ago. Seems I have lived a couple of lives since then.  I still go back, not nearly as often as I would like, and still dream of having a little house there that I can escape to.

Each time I go, as soon as I cross the border into Vermont, I take a deep breath and feel the same calmness wash over me that I felt 51 years ago when I was a sophmore in high school. It’s pretty magical and I have met others who say they have that same experience.

I get to have the feeling again this week as I drive north, entering into Vermont on Wednesday.  This time I will bring my work with me as I will be filming a woman in Lamoille Valley for the Beyond Sixty Project.  I can’t wait to get up there with the crew and hang out on Lake Elmore for a couple of days and take in the winter scenery.  Anticipating the feeling I will get is already making me smile.

I hope you have a place you can go to that gives you peace and calm.  Sure is worth the journey. If you haven’t tried Vermont I highly recommend it!

Love and Peace,

Melissa

 

 

 

A Look Back

A Look Back

2016 was quite a year. Unless you were hiding away all year in your safe place you know it was not a particularly good year.

In the United States we had a historic election. The battle to the White House was the nastiest in history. We had our first woman on the ballot.  She lost after securing the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes.  I will not elaborate.   It has all been said.

Europe saw continued focus on terror attacks with the worst assaults in Istanbul and Brussels.

In Orlando a mass murderer opened fire inside the Pulse Nightclub, our deadliest mass shooting of the year.

Britain voted to leave the EU, a real shocker to folks across the pond with rippling financial consequences. There are efforts underway to block Brexit so we will have to stay tuned.

Cyber hacks and WikiLeaks contined to make regular headlines.  The Russians have been accused of hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s email server, attempting to sway the election in Trump’s favor.  WikiLeaks may have conspired with them by releasing thousands of the hacked emails.  Data breaches at many of large US corporations may have put your personal information at risk.  Yahoo just announced this past week that their system had been hacked…..again.

Aleppo. A humanitarian travesty of epic proportions. Pray for these people if you pray.

Fake news.  Apparently it is everywhere.  Will 2017 give us a guide to help us find real news?

_______Lives Matter.

I will stop with this list.  It is not nearly complete but certainly highlights some of the top issues we have faced as humans during this year, 2016.

However, good things happened in 2016 too.

A woman was acutally on the Presidential ballot.  We have to remind ourselves of that milestone. The thick glass ceiling was shattered by Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris and Catherine Cortez Masto, when they were elected to the Senate. Pramila Jayapal and Stepahnie Murphy grabbed seats in the House of Represenatives.

The US women’s gymnastic team took home some gold!

Sexual assault survivors got a Bill of Rights ensuring their cases will be regulated fairly.

Friends of mine were married.  New babies were born. There is healthy food on my table. My family unit is well and working hard at their life interests.

I have hope for 2017.  Even though I consider myself a realist, I am also optimistic.  I have seen countless tragedies unite people to improve common causes.  I have a feeling we will see more of this in 2017. I will certainly continue to do my best to be a part of something larger than myself.

I was supremely fortunate in 2016 and for that I am very grateful. I hope you can say the same. Thank you for following my blog and reaching out to me with ideas and suggestions for my new venture. Your kindness and support is a part of what keeps me grounded and moving forward.  I appreciate each of you and wish you all good things in the year to come.

Peace and love,

Melissa

“You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one”

John Lennon