My ‘Bosch Stiftung Film Prize Nominee Forum’ Experience

I just came back from Berlin where I attended a film forum organized by the Robert Bosch Foundation. Organized for nominated projects competing for their 2013 Arab-German co-production film grants. 

I first found out about the Bosch Foundation and their generous funding opportunities this past summer in Amman where I attended a short-film project market hosted by the Royal Film Commission of Jordan meant to help Arab writer/directors partner up with German producers. After some pitch training and meetings, I decided to join forces with an ambitious producer, Jessica Landt from Beleza Film, and apply to the co-production grant together with our short fiction project The Stork.

We were shortlisted and invited to the Nominee Forum with nine other teams, each working on either short fiction or documentary projects, also made up of Arab and German filmmakers. It was an intense few days of training rounded out with good food and conversations. I think we all left more prepared to officially pitch our projects in February to the jury during the 2013 Berlinale.

Since I found it so useful, I thought I’d summarize my highlights:

Pitch training with Cathy de Haan: I first met Cathy in the Amman project market, where she introduced us to the art of pitching, but here she had more time to expand on her advice. She reminded us of the essentials: to keep things clear, consistent and concise – reflected in everything from how we use our voices, our bodies and the design of our visual material. We’ve got to relax, to enjoy the process, because we’ll never have this opportunity again to speak to this particular audience about this specific film. We tend to get so wound up with our presentations and ourselves that we forget about our audience; who we’re actually pitching to and who has ultimate power. What do they know about the project already?, what do they want to hear and how/why will they be moved by your project? Even if they’re critical of the pitch in the end, we should be appreciative and answer their concerns seriously, as their questions and feedback is proof they actually took the time to hear our pitch.

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The Figure

This spring I signed up for a short figure drawing class at the Lexington Art League to help me as I develop a lookbook for Shelter. The human figure is a complex subject and something I’ve been reluctant to try to capture as a whole on one page. In my past work, it’s been easier for me to cut up the body, and deal with parts of it at a time, like portraits. Here’s an example from an exhibit a while back:

But this class gave me the right amount of courage to begin developing my weaknesses and explore the complex problems the human form offers. It was short, just four weeks, meeting for three hours at a time – but with that small dose my enthusiasm and endurance for drawing grew.

Here are some results from those guided sessions:

After that, I started attending open model sessions at my local university on Saturday mornings. Here there was less guidance, each artist exploring their own goals in the medium of their choosing. The results have been hit and miss so far but I’m enjoying the process. Some of my favorites so far:

I’m enjoying this process, working with no goal in mind, not thinking about an ‘audience’ or even expressing myself. Just observing what’s in front of me and trying to represent it with the simplest of tools. There’s something meditative in just ‘looking’ at someone, the features that make them unique, the bend of a wrist, the curve along the back of an arm …

It’s also been a great reminder of the need to devise one’s own curriculum that addresses personal weaknesses. And to invest our time and resources in our passions and interests regardless of what they may be.

I’ll continue to post my artmaking on my tumblr blog as well as photographs if you’re interested in following along.

2011 in Review

2012 getting closer. Before I make any resolutions, let me first reminisce on this year’s accomplishments and what I’m most proud of:

  • Completed my ‘100 poems in a 100 days‘ project. This was a great teacher of the value of ‘just doing it’ and how our potential creative output is actually a lot greater than we think. And of course there were other insights along the way.
  • Blogged about my Binger Lab experience with Shelter. Those posts became a separate kind of laboratory where I could tinker with ideas I had for the script and how to direct the film.
  • Helped out as a Kickstarter Consultant with funding campaigns for two short films (‘Lunch Date‘, ‘Plato’s Reality Machine‘).  This taught me a great deal about how one can raise funds and might be useful for 2012 if I decide to kickstarter a project of my own.
  • Got back into taking pictures and drawing on a more regular basis. Even rented a studio for a few weeks to paint.
  • Abandoned Facebook and shifted over to Tumblr as my main social media site. A few months ago I found Facebook to be a distracting burden instead of a creative tool, so now I’m using Tumblr as a scrapyard of ideas, both taken from others and original ones, to use later. This shift has forced me to stay in touch with friends more directly, by email and phone.
  • Used MyLanguageExchange.com to start chatting with natives in Egyptian Arabic. This has been quite a workout, as we’re not speaking within the confines of a lesson or class, but rather talking freeform about anything and everything. But I’ve made more progress in the last three months than I have in the last five years; and I’ve reached a higher fluency than ever before. With all the recent events in Egypt we’ve had plenty to talk about.
  • Started treating regular fitness like an adventure, experimented with working outdoors and different tools like iPhone apps, running, kettlebells, etc. For the past few months I’ve been using a great little app called BodyFate. It lets you train with the equipment you have handy, and the workout comes at you in an unpredictable manner as if you’re working with a shuffled deck of exercises. My training now is goalless, it’s just about putting in the time on a regular basis and eating sensibly. Ironically, because I’ve ditched the ‘workout plans’ and fitness gurus, I’m in better shape now than ever before.
  • Bought a Kindle and started reading more often and everywhere. While a digital book can never replace a physical one, the pros do outweigh the cons. I’m able to travel with my entire library and revisit my books and highlights very quickly. It’s also easier for me to draw connections between the different books I’ve read on a particular subject or across disciplines.
  • Last but not least, I got to witness my younger brother get married. It was a beautiful, humbling experience and reminded me of what truly is important in this life.

The irony is that none of these accomplishments came out of a set of resolutions I wrote for myself at the beginning of 2011 – they were simply the result of me following my curiosity and needs as the year went by. Maybe ‘going with the flow’, and simply embracing your questions and interests, pursuing the things you want to be doing more of, is a more useful tool for realizing a resolution than the resolution itself?

I’m excited to see what I achieve with this same, goalless approach for 2012, as I get closer to my 35th birthday.

Binger . . . again

I’ve been reluctant to blog about my ‘Shelter’ journey only because I didn’t think it would be useful to anyone out there. But I’ve decided in these next four months in Amsterdam to share my experience, trials and tribulations as I participate at the Binger again for their Directors Lab. I think blogging will be a great way to organize my thoughts and journey as I get closer to the production of this film.

Stay tuned!

Berlinale Highlight #4 – ‘Crossmedia Storytelling’

WARNING – this is a fairly dense post –

But I think any storyteller out there, whether you’re a filmmaker or not, will benefit immensely by following some of the links and possibilities mentioned.

Enjoy:

During the Talent Campus there were three separate panels devoted to the topic of Crossmedia Storytelling. Personally, these sessions alone were reason enough to hop on a plane to Berlin for the Campus – hopefully you’ll see why.

Let’s first start with a description of each of the three events taken directly from the program:

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