Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Full Frame 2011 - a doc lover's 4-day weekend.


Last week Ted flew in and we began our annual rite of Spring, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

For those deprived souls who don't have a film festival, this is how it works. You choose the films you think you want to see based on subject matter and film maker, neither of which is a sure indicator that the film will be good. The doc you weren't sure about becomes a surprise favorite while the film maker you love and would gladly grip her next project for free, serves up a yawner.

This tricky process mirrors our larger life choices, only with less vomiting and tears. Some films will surprise you, some will disappoint and some you will miss just because you can't see 'em all. My advice is to concentrate on the good films and forget about the inevitable stinkers.

With that in mind, I won't dwell on the disappointments, any more than I would on ex-girlfriends, blog trolls or unsatisfying novels.

In chronological order:

Guilty Pleasures, directed by Julie Moggan, is one of those films that if I'd chosen it on subject alone, I would have passed. I would have missed a great documentary that is not about romance novels, but about love and commitment and sacrifice that, in the end, is more satisfying than any fantasy.

This was the festival's opening film and a great choice for a primer on storytelling, with each character getting their own 3-acts. It was also the American debut.

Buck, directed by Cindy Meehl is a gem. You should search it out. Beautifully shot and edited, it's a solid film with a no-nonsense character at its center. Here's the trailer: www.buckthefilm.com.

The Bengali Detective is another film with a strong character at its center. The film follows an entrepreneurial, self-made private eye as he and his team try to solve three cases, one a multiple homicide. The logistics of shooting in Calcutta alone are boggling.

Burma Soldier is the story of Myo Myint, a casualty of the civil war in closed off Burma. Myint went from being a young soldier to becoming a voice for the democracy movement, which landed him in a Burmese prison for 15 years. Myint made it out to tell his story, captured by film makers, Nic Dunlop and Rickie Stern, narrated by Colin Farrell.

One of the real joys of this festival is the opportunity to meet the directors of the films. In this case, the subject, Myo Myint, made a tearful appearance before a standing ovation at the Carolina Theater. A beautiful experience.

One Night in Kernersville, directed by Rodrigo Dorfman is a beautifully shot short about the John Brown Jazz Orchestra recording in Mitch Easter's studio. Not surprisingly, it won the award for best short at the festival.

Tabloid, by Erroll Morris. Highly entertaining and in Morris' words, “It’s a return to my favorite genre – sick, sad and funny ... It is a meditation on how we are shaped by the media and even more powerfully, by ourselves.”

Corman's World, directed by Alex Stapleton and featuring interviews with Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson and others who owe a large debt to Roger Corman. Corman is the producer and director who, it's said, made 400 pictures and never lost a dime. If you love matinees like Attack of the Leech People then you've seen Roger Corman's work. Great stuff.

Every one of these docs is a class in how to tell a story. Each is different, each has its own POV and voice and each is worth the effort to look them up. You won't be disappointed.

As usual, I missed a number of award winners: Scenes of a Crime, How to Die in Oregon, Pit No. 8 and several others were honored on Sunday. They'll go on my Netflix queue.

A special thanks to archivist Rick Prelinger who screened some fascinating selections like Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?, Strictly Propaganda and America Lost and Found.

Full Frame, I love you.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A new web site.

I needed to update my web site so that prospective employers could see my most recent work.

This is the opening page. The design is very simple and the pages few. The tone should be familiar to readers of this blog. Now, all I need to do is slice it up, paste it all into Dreamweaver and link the links. I'll start on that later today and hope to have something up by Monday morning.

In the meantime, I wrote a few hundred new words on the novel. Not great, but it's progress.

UPDATE: It's alive! It's alive! New web site is up at http://www.davidterrenoire.com/

Someone needs a reminder.

I had lunch with a good friend yesterday and we didn't talk politics, because we wanted it to be a good time, right? Because we're all disappointed that Obama wasn't the reformer we'd hoped he'd be and much of what is wrong with where we're heading is still wrong.

Wars, Gitmo, the tax breaks, etc. We all have a list.

But then I think back to 2008 and see what could have happened. Jesus, imagine these two in charge during the greatest financial meltdown of our lifetime?

I said at the time that Obama won't be everything his supporters hope nor his detractors suspect, but still, standing next to McCain and Palin, he looks pretty damn good.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A low point.

Today's been rough. The payout that Jenny was promised is now, after the paperwork is done, only two months instead of three. That means our ability to pay our bills has just been shortened by thirty days.

I continue to work on the novel, which in today's market is like buying lottery tickets, and I continue to update my web site so that prospective employers can see my portfolio.

Which in today's market, also feels like buying a lottery ticket.

But what else am I going to do?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Men at Work

With the help of a friend I've got my computer talking to my web host. That's good.

I still can't figure out how to make a few small changes until I can get the time to completely redesign the site. That's bad.

I'm thinking about it, in the dark, at 3 a.m. That's not great, but OK.

I'm in here trying to get it to work again at 3:30. Not so good.

I should be working on the novel.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Updating my web site.

The last time I updated my web site was in 2006, so to help in my job search, I wanted to maybe change the design, update the portfolio and make sure the phone number was right. (It isn't.)

So, I open up Dreamweaver CS4 this morning, try to download my existing site and I can't connect to my host. I don't know why.

I change my password. I check my ftp address. I make sure that the site is where it should be. (It is.)

But it won't talk to me.

Two hours later and I am at a loss. So, I have reached out to a friend for help. I'll let you know how it goes.

For those who want to see what it looks like now, go to www.davidterrenoire.com.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is this thing on?

One of the the scariest things about the Internet is that nothing ever goes away.

Including this blog.

That's just one of the many things I know that politicians don't seem to understand. Or maybe they just don't care.

But luddite politicos aside, I'm shedding some new light on this dark planet to document some of the things that have happened to your narrator and his family since we last convened. For a lot of you, this will be old news from Facebook. But for the rest of you who care (yes, both of you), here's a rundown beginning from last October.

1. Things at work heat up. Carlos and I are tasked with creating a 12 minute documentary, shooting and editing as we go, for a show in November.

2. Molly and her fiance, Mark, move to Nashville, where Mark has a better job selling shoes than he had here. Hard to imagine, but it's true. Molly gives up her first employment in two years, a job she enjoys and is doing well, to be with the man she loves. We wish the young folks well and plan to stuff the rent we'd been paying on their house into a retirement account because between supporting Jenny's mother and now supporting Molly and Mark, we've got nothing put away for ourselves.

3. Work gets more intense and 60 hour weeks become common.

4. Around the middle of November, Molly moves back home. It appears that Mark, who moved to Nashville with a job, can't understand why Molly hasn't landed employment in a few weeks. Because, hey, the economy is booming, right?

5. Thanksgiving. Carlos and I work on the documentary on the Friday after Thanksgiving. We are the only people in the building.

Shortly after that, Molly checks herself into the hospital.

6. On December 14th, my sister calls saying my mother is in the hospital. Should I come out to Oklahoma? Should I wait until Mom's back home? My sister says to wait.

7. With Christmas approaching, the family becomes almost paralyzed with waiting. Meanwhile, work ramps up to more nights and weekends.

8. Christmas. I have bought presents for Jenny and Molly. My presents are from my sister, sent before Mom went into the ICU.

9. My sister calls. Mom has been sent home. It is a matter of days. By the luck of the cosmos, I get a check for a freelance gig I'd done last summer that pays for our flight to Oklahoma. Molly and I arrive on Wednesday afternoon. Mom opens her eyes and smiles. Tears fill her eyes and she closes them. The next day she is gone.

10. I fly home. Work is intense. I raise my voice to an account executive who has rewritten one of my headlines. HR tells me to go home for a week. It's the week of my colonoscopy, so I go.

11. My health is deteriorating and no one knows why. Work is back with a vengeance. Our department is told that we're unreliable and uncollaborative. We go back to logging 70 hours a week while the other departments, those who are reliable and collaborative, go home at 5.

12. Last week, as I approach my 61st birthday, I am called into HR and fired. They mumble some reasons why, none very compelling, and after five years, I pack all my shit in a box.

13. Yesterday, we learn that Jenny is getting let go, too. Her co-workers believe she's losing a step or two, and we fear they're right. We are faced with the prospect of far too much money going out, and no money coming in. I begin looking for work.

And that's where we are today.

As the next few months unfold, I'll be using The Planet to document what it's like to be over 60 and looking for work in this job market.

Stay tuned. It should be fun.