Peripheral City

Peripheral City
Peri, played by Josh Elrod

Monday, December 4, 2017

From Pirate to Pal in Forty Eight Hours (cliffhanger)

So as I mentioned in yesterday's post, Warner Bros shut down my trailer on Vimeo for piracy. Scabbed footage off of YouTube of Quill from Woodstock Diary. The clip where Quill are chanting and clapping woodblocks. Nothing special. I thought that was it, I'd made enemies with Warners, might as well roll over and die. Millions of foxhole prayers later (super fast caffeinated prayers), I got a call from Kurt Galvao, VP of Feature Post Production Assets and Technology - ‎Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. He is already my pal because he was the one I tracked down my dad's footage through back in July 2014. He'd just gotten an email from David Kaplan about my piracy takedown from the Indiegogo crowdsource trailer, and wanted to know how he could help me.

I found Kurt years ago from a random post on U of Kentucky's listserv, an open forum for archivists. I found the listserv through a contact at the Paley Center, which I got from a fellow nut job treasure hunter like myself, and once I posted my inquiry looking for lost footage or TV news reels of Quill, a fellow archivist gave me a number for a person who gave me a number for Kurt. I called that number and the rest is history. He told me he'd just gotten corporate to green light digitizing all the Woodstock outtakes and believed there was Quill footage in the vault. My jaw dropped. I can't believe I  actually got that on camera. I'd decided to train the camera on myself that day on the off chance that I'd get through to someone. For the life of me, I never thought I'd actually get the guy who had his hands on the goods. Every other time I'd tried to contact Warners, I'd failed, getting shot down by some cog gatekeeper. Kurt was and is the man.

So Kurt asked how he could help me today. Just a few minutes ago. You can't know how that smallest bit of encouragement can fuel a starving artist like myself with years of failure dragging behind her like a dump on chains. I told him the same thing I'd told him years ago, that I wanted to show Quill what they did as young men, showing them their performance for the first time ever and filming their reactions. To watching themselves play almost fifty years ago. Nothing changed in my story, except this time I had The Museum at Bethel Woods onboard to host. I asked him if he thought Warners might want to be involved in any way.

We told me he thought I meant no harm in the piracy thing, that I didn't want a war with Warners over them not having release forms for Quill, I just wanted my dad, Uncle, and Quill guys to get their fair shake and to be able to celebrate their accomplishments. I did tell him I was more afraid of my family than of Warner Bros, just to give him the scope of what and whom I was dealing with and he laughed, then I told him I fully expected that Warners wouldn't work with me even if I did have the money for licensing fees, which are usually $10K per minute for Woodstock footage. He'd mentioned before in previous conversations that Warners did not have any plans for the Quill footage, and might give me a better deal than the $10K.

He said let me contact Julie Heath, have you ever spoken to Julie heath? I told him I'd emailed her several years back (still not knowing it would ever be found) but she didn't respond to my emails. I told Kurt that I asked her for copies of Quill release forms and that was the first time I actually got their attention. When they didn't have release forms, I asked if there was some way to trade procuring forms from Quill in exchange for footage, but got no reply (just like I did this weekend with Warners piracy lawyer, Michael Bentkover). I was advised not to get into a war with Warners back then by a lawyer friend, so I just dropped it. I was hoping to work with Warners, not get into a fight. Kurt said he would talk to Julie and get me a figure.

The tides change so quickly. They will probably change again. Hopefully, I'll be able to afford the four minutes at $8K per minute licensing cost, or whatever discount Warners are going to offer me. This is about as close to a miracle, short of a million dollar budget, as I've ever come. So the universe is in charge, not me.

I am grateful to Kurt Galvao, without whom I would never be sitting on this amazing footage of my dad and uncle. I am grateful that my Aunt gave me the perfect, articulate, ingenious interview about my family, and even synopsized what I was trying to do in an incredibly concise way. I am grateful for hunting down the Quill footage for years and finding the exact right person who could help me. I am grateful that I launched an Indiegogo campaign if for no other reason then to get a take down notice from Warner Bros, which would get rerouted to Kurt, who seems, for whatever reason to want to help me. I am grateful for my dad playing his cool music in the 60s long enough to get to Woodstock so I could find it and grow a relationship with him that I never had before. I am grateful for honesty without anger, the hardest kind. I am grateful that the flood that happened in the vault in Burbank after a 70s earthquake did not drown this four-minute segment of Michael Wadleigh shot magic that caught my family at the most beautiful moment in history, when love and peace mattered. It's beautifully shot by Michael and more than likely edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorcese's cool as shit editor. And who knows, perhaps even Scorcese was in on the post production. And who isn't grateful for Scorcese?

Resistance: Quitting's Favorite Excuse

Obstacle 1: Warner Brothers had Vimeo take down my pitch video on Saturday. I got a 'take down' notice for piracy. Shoot. I got TAKEN DOWN. I used a few seconds of their brief, deeply pixelated, blurry, and uninformative clip from WB film, "Woodstock Diary," of Quill clapping woodblocks together, which I'd plucked off of YouTube. It shows up every now and again then disappears. I guess I should've expected it, just not so fast.

I had a quick, not totally terse email exchange with WB lawyer, Michael Bentkover about Warners not having release forms for Quill and would they be willing to trade release forms for footage? His answer was  'you do not have permission to use our clip' and he wouldn't even respond to my curiosity about how we should proceed about Warner Brothers using Quill's image for years without proper permission. I apologized for causing Warner Bros any discomfort and inquired whom I should speak with. I noticed that a guy named David Kaplan was cc'd. I imagine I'm now on their radar and not in a good way. Oh no, really don't want a war with Warners.

Obstacle 2: Family (maybe harder for me than Warner Bros) – I interviewed an aunt in France who was completely forthcoming about our family's dark past, including the abuse my dad suffered at the hands of his father. Then she got scared and told me she was having second thoughts about my using her interview after all, even though I asked on film if I had permission, and she not only said yes, but at the end of the interview emphasized how glad she was to have the opportunity to be open. The next day, she got scared, tried to take it all back, and also took the opportunity to tell me how my uncle, Quill Frontman Dan, doesn't support this project vehemently. Then tried to recruit me to hear about why my dad stopped speaking to her. My family are challenged. We cut each other off at the drop of a hat. I was really mad at my aunt yesterday, but a good friend Joseph, whom I trust with my life said this heart stopping thing:

Amanda, people are trusting you with there stories
If you can’t be patient, empathetic and disciplined in that trust then the question has to be asked why should they feel compelled to help you
There seems to be enough pain and broken relationships in your family
If it is not your Prayer to be a healing influence then the same cycle of pain is only repeating it’s self through your life

Well there goes my justified self-righteous anger. 

But I do seem to have a great habit of spending thousands of dollars and hours of my life on stories nobody wants. Or maybe I just never play it out until the end. I skip the PR part of the game and just let projects languish after their creation. Like leaving a baby in a basinet and wondering why it's crying. Ugh. Time to become a better mom to my baby art projects. I can imagine my dad playing at Woodstock, not making it into the film, then getting dropped from his label thinking, well, this is it, bye-bye career. I have a wife and two babies to feed. I see that when all these obstacles appear, they seem to be road blocks from making work, and perhaps may feel like a curse, or a universal sign of STOP already. I am more than tempted to quit with all this RESISTANCE coming my way. I am. I'm weak. I feel like a poseur. Like I'm gonna' get found out if I can't make a great piece of art. What if all I make is a film about some guys seeing themselves play Woodstock for the very first time?

Resistance is everywhere. And I'm crowdsourcing for money for a film that will now only be about my dad – as other family members drop out. Hmmmm. Could be interesting. He's interesting.

I wish Tom Petty were here to encourage me. He bucked the industry. He had courage. I wish I could take on Warner Bros for using my dad's and his band's image without proper permission for I don't know how many years. Then maybe I could get the rights to the film footage. It seems the underdog does not get his day in court without money to float the bill. Actually I don't wish that, I wish that Warners would be like, cool project, we want to produce it. Take it away kid. That's what I wish. I don't want a fight, I want love. And I want my aunt and uncle to feel that way too, to trust me as an artist.

Should I quit? It sure would be the easiest thing to do right now. I could immediately pay back all the donators in January. I would only be out $10K of my own pocket, ten years of intermittent soul crushing work, and my once again wounded pride. And if my dad won't sign the release form to shoot in New Zealand, I just can go be his daughter for a month and a half. I mean, I'm the one giving Warner Bros a hard time for not having release forms and here I don't have release forms for my two principals, Jon my dad, and Dan my uncle. Time to shape up.

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Reason To Get Up In The Morning

Reason #1: I'm making a documentary on my family to heal us

As you all must know by now, I'm making a doc about my dad's band that was the least known band at Woodstock and am trying to orchestrate a shoot to show them missing footage which could restore them to the Woodstock pantheon. I'm going to New Zealand to shoot my dad for a month and a half. He doesn't believe that people care about this doc or that there is any gold here. My uncle Dan browbeat me a couple of years ago about how I was going to quit, and since I have kept going, he has changed tune to 'I commend you but want nothing to do with it.' There is a lot of resistance. I myself have a lot of resistance, my own doubts, but I see that stuff as the normal obstacle course of anybody doing anything valuable. It's almost like there is a great big drill sergeant in the sky saying, let's see how she'll handle this one. Right now it's something like 'where is the money coming from?' All the while expecting that in the eleventh hour, something will come through.
Or here's a good one, I spent years building the Quill Facebook page. Not one follower from the numerous Woodstock sites have donated a thing to the crowdsource. I would have thought Woodstock folks would want to see missing footage from one of their own bands, but I think hippies are pretty disappointed in how the sixties panned out, not just us punk kids they spawned. They're today's punks, super-cynical now that their ideals failed them AND their children, while their kids – the punks of yesteryear – are left looking for any reason to hope in these dark ages because we're trying to pull ourselves and now our parents too out of the depression that they set us up for in the first place. I'm not saying this cynically, I'm looking at the ride their culture has taken my generation on structurally. Because it gives me some reason to hope. Politics right now are pre-Farrenheit/Handmaids Tale, and I just want to transform the small things I can. If I can restore my family to the success and dignity they should have had as creators by proving to them they did really well at Woodstock, and as beings with purpose, all the while seeking this giant cathartic story to tell you because I am a story teller, or if one film can undo any of the damage done to my family, then I would be delighted. It's unabashedly selfish of me to want to heal my family who lost out on media (including lost Woodstock footage, a record deal, and career possibilities) by restoring that to them (with found Woodstock footage, reigniting interest in their music, and potentially career possibilities). And not just for them. I inherited their failure gene, and now I want to abolish it for all of us with one sweep of my filmmaker's hand.

Reason #2: Power breakfast with CNN's Libby Geist and NYWIFT spotlighting my doc crowdsource
NOW PUBLIC: The women's org I mentioned a few days ago that was going to post about my doc and the crowdsource campaign did so yesterday. New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT)posted about Quill and the Man's crowdsource here on their website:
I'm so honored. I shot out thousands of emails last weekend and one actually got through. I adore being part of an org with working women filmmakers. When they told me they wanted to feature this, I rejoined immediately. First thing I did as a new member, was I went to a NYWIFT power breakfast this morning where the amazing Libby Geist, CNN producer of the OJ doc series and 30 for 30 was giving an inspiring recount of her experience as a (very) fortunate producerShe was super inspiring, accessible, and friendly in her 'just say yes' positive attitude and ability to think outside the box. How she was given agency at such a young age is never going to be my story so I felt like I was looking at a rare bird on display, something precious and impossible for many of us women content creators to even empathize with. Again, not trying to be cynical here, my jaw was dropped along with the rest of the packed house at her beauty, articulate accessibility, and buddha-like countenance recounting her delightful experiences getting 'yes' after 'yes' in the predominantly male CNN sport arena with her doc work. She clearly earned what she accomplished. But I can still work on the friendly, accessible and generous-to-all part of her equation, which was lovely to watch, to hear her talk about, and Olympian in her execution.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

I, Tonya – Vindicating Abused Women Through Film (still a long way to go)

So, I saw I, Tonya tonight. What an amazing movie about an American punching bag – humanized and vindicated by a gorgeously talented version of herself played by bombshell talent, Margot Robbie (total win). But failed by everyone in her life, punished by white men (a judge, the press, heck – punished by all of America) for what abusive white men (husband, husband's best friend) did to her (lied, saying she knew about the Kerrigan attack, ruining her career), and now show-ponied up for all us pseudo-intellectuals to laugh and cry over all the way to the Oscars. While all these white men (screenwriters/studio) make money off her tragedy and fighter/rebel personality. And still kind of make fun of her at the same time, even as the movie itself vindicates her. I mean, I was surprised when the screenwriter seemed still somewhat superior in the way he spoke about her, as if we were laughing along with him about the circumstances and the people that populated her life – as if we were all in on the white trash joke, which maybe I could have been if it weren't for how much he capitalized on her tragedy. He told a full house that he got her life rights and only had to pay a "minimal fee" for usage. Her ex-husband, the numbskull that blew it all, was way more human about it than the writer himself, saying he wouldn't take a fee for ruining Tonya's life. AND MOST surprisingly because I don't think the screenwriter really understood that he penned the all-time empowering abused women banner movie, and then turned around and was kind of a douche by not paying her well enough for how well this movie is probably going to do. I think it's going to do really, really well

Maybe the lack of sensitivity and the lack of financial retribution to his subject leaves me feeling like it's just one more dude using an abused woman. Punching bag continued? Hmmm. Breaking ground? Bummer. I'm bitter. Boo hoo. Just some thoughts. God I LOVED the movie though. The story leaves me enraged that this happens to women far too often. It reminds me of that doc that came out last year, Amanda Knox, on Netflix, which revealed how Knox was warped by press and a few bad men (cops) who portrayed her as a killer, when all she was was a pretty young woman trying to be alive in the world. Enraged at how this can happen. And she was beautiful, not white trash, but a sexually liberated young woman, like Tonya and her funky outfits and unabashed poverty, again, bucking the norm, leaving her beauty and talents a target for male domination and reinterpretation. 

Side note: If it weren't for the ethically bizarre way in which Tonya is getting now financially used and abused once more by industry dudes, the movie really does deserve several Oscars. The actors are all spot on perfection. Allison Janney as the wicked stage mom has outdone herself. As did Margot Robbie as the awkward rebel Tonya, at ALL ages, total transformation. The guy actors played morally corrupt buffoonery sublimely. The movie structure itself took all of the things I loved about The Big Short, breaking the third wall, with actors talking directly into the lens in glib, sly humor, utilizing their tragic vulnerability as comedy, as they spoke to us in their own voices,  about their own warped perceptions, looking right into our eyes, again, in on the joke – but way better when coming from the characters. So now, how do we reconcile that this is a great piece of art with the, once again, the mistreatment of women, Tonya Harding as the stakes? She better be getting royalties is all I'm saying here. Compensation may not bring back all those years of not being able to pursue her passion, but I'm certain it would alleve the sting.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Quitting Gene - Part 3: Launching a Crowdsource Amidst Chaos

So, I spent a few weeks honing down the Crowdsource video for the Quill documentary campaign and was really proud of it. I took suggestions, I upped my game, I added and deleted, then spent another bunch of time crafting the pitch. Then I created the perks and talked it up among new and old friends. You know pitching, like I was at a pitch-fest, to whomever would listen – at dinner parties, at work, on the subway. All deeply uncomfortable for a troglodyte hider like myself. But I knew the jig was up for my hiding days if I wanted to get anything done. Two days before I launched, my beloved friend Jackie, one of my amazing screenwriting group members in the Bay Area, died in a tragic accident (?) in Botswana. She was an elephant activist and somehow managed to get crushed by an elephant?? It was also the same day that Trump lifted the ban on Elephant hunting, being able to dismember and decapitate the poor beasts for trophies. My brain went crazy with conspiracy theories.

Jackie wrote an amazing adaptation of Ernest Shackleton's South Pole expedition and was a central, most fun, kind, and loving member of our writer's group whom I met a year and a half ago at The Mill Valley Film Fest's master class, Telling Women's Stories for their Bridging the Gap program. After a ridiculously bad breakup with a man I thought was the love of my life, Jackie put me up in her cabin for a month to nurse out the wound, and then when I got a job at the Mill Valley Film Festival, for another two months in her basement apartment (different from New York in that Sausalito basements stick out of hills and usually have a view of beautiful gardens). She had an aged chihuahua named Annie and a brown calico named Gabby with a crimped tail whom she was devoted to. She had lamas, goats, and donkeys who were all the subject of her affection. She hosted our writer's group often, encouraging us to try each and every dish she would make, but never eating herself. She was literally made of light. She brought us to her ranch in Sonoma and threw us all on a golf cart and catapulted us up a mountain to her glamping spot, where there was a beautiful outdoor dining table to eat, talk, workshop our scripts, look at the mad red Sonoma sunset. She made everything fun. She was a joy to be around and when you were near her, you felt everything would be okay.

So there I was the day after her death looking at the launch button for my Indiegogo campaign, wondering what kind of callous asshole would launch when beautiful people are dying? I knew she would be bereft if I stopped now. She loved Woodstock. I could hear her voice in my mind going, "Nooooooo! You can't use me as an excuse to quit!" So I pressed launch, but then went to bed for a week and didn't look at it once. I was supposed to go to New Zealand with my dad to film him for a month and a half during the crowdsource campaign and knew it probably wouldn't coincide with Jackie's memorial whenever that was. My dad had bought tickets really fast when there was a price dip and I didn't really get the chance to mull over much at all. Plus a couple of jobs went away. No income, a dead friend, plus I'd tapped out my friends and families from past Crowdsourcing over the years.

So, I've talked a lot about the QUITTING GENE. Part of my process in this Quill doc is to try to exorcise that demon from my own operating mechanism. I inherited it from a long line of quitters. I don't want to quit anymore using the evidence at hand that says I'm not a success. I look at my dad and at his band walking away after the evidence said they failed after Woodstock as a prime example. To me he had the best PR of a lifetime, playing in front of a half million people at the world's most famous concert, but he didn't see it. The evidence said they weren't in the film, got dropped by their label, and the music industry is all crooks, time to quit... All very valid thoughts. Me, I've walked away from plenty of near successes. I got bored, or squirrely, or fear took over and told me I wasn't good enough and best to move on. When you feel like quitting, that is the perfect time not to quit. The perfect time to wait for more to be revealed. If they had asked around even just a little more, they would have found the truth. I did and I'm fifty years out from the event, and I could see the endless possibilities for them, or anyone if you just don't quit.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Quitting Gene - Part 2: Never Give Up!

So, I woke up with a brain that said hide under the covers today. Don't go out or get up out of bed. It's all fruitless. This is usually how I wake up every morning. Then proof of goodness and life trickle in like a gentle spring emerging from a mountain cave. A few days ago, I announced the documentary Indiegogo campaign to thousands of my contacts. I chose anyone I recognized and anyone who looked like they had anything to do with film. Most bounced back. One email got through however, I reached someone from a delightful Women's media org who reached back and told me she wanted to promote my Indiegogo campaign as their featured crowdsource campaign on their website. Sigh of relief number one, big breath out. Then, my good friend and occasional boss, Peter, told me to call him to get clear on what kind of help I needed. Then he hooked me up with an agent who handles more literary/screenplay kind of folks (which I am, mostly). He thinks perhaps she may be able to help with insights and sent her my links. Perhaps we will speak later today. Okay, that was unexpected and awesome moment – sigh of relief number two. He also knows someone who is dating one of the Kinks and could possible introduce us. My dad played with The Kinks at least once and if they remember playing with dad, perhaps they'll grant me an interview. Okay, sigh of relief number three. Never give up! It's not all fruitless. Just hedge doubts in anyway possible. The universe can be kind and benevolent even when I can't imagine it. It surprises me. I love mysteries, and in mysteries, there is evidence, but evidence only helps for the building blocks in the narrative, and often only provides an interesting red herring. I have to look beyond the evidence into the void and keep moving.

The Quitting Gene: I'm making a documentary about my family

Okay, it's 2017, I haven't written in a while. I made a pilot called High Falls, which flopped pretty badly because I walked away from it. I seem to have the quitting gene – when the going gets tough, the tough turn into marshmallows with thorns and ask you to take a bite. I hid. I'd shot 30 pages in two days with a small crew, a large cast, and two producers who were green and didn't know what they were doing. It seemed we were cursed to not have any pre-production meetings to designate tasks, which was my fault, because I was a green producer, too. In any case, there were missed call times, late shoots, terrible car shoot days, and infighting due to wrecked nerves and too much work for everyone on a tight budget. Especially me. In the end, I was so embarrassed by my own behavior that I hid for the next several years. I also didn't see it was my fault until way later, I was the one with the most experience and was baffled as to why everyone blamed me. I should've known, pre-production meeting required for all shoots or production will go badly. Production 101.

Fast forward to 2017. Now, I'm making a documentary about my dad whose band played at Woodstock in 1969 then disappeared: he also has the quitting gene. He's always been on the lookout for that next big hit. When things seemingly fail, he gets itchy and moves on to the next thing. I do that too! Inheritance, a bizarre creature that uses us like hosts and drives us like vehicles. Although to some extent, it's good to know when to quit and start a new project to keep honing your skill, but dad quit music entirely. I was a musician who quit music entirely, too. And there have been moments when I've felt that way about film. It's got to stop. What if the things we've done and ran from are waiting for us to give them the full attention they deserved in the first place, and our karma won't let us move on until we've completed those first tasks? Or relationships? What if Woodstock is waiting for my dad to see his success and his gifts so that he can move forward in life with a more sober, well-rounded idea of himself? What if finishing this documentary is the key to my sober, well-rounded idea of myself? He is hard to get along with and definitely did not have the stuff to be a dad. I pray my inner kid stays put with her lip zipped and the adult filmmaker prevails.

So, here's the problem. I've been collecting interviews and footage for the last decade or so, and am about to go to New Zealand with dad, knowing full well it will be difficult. He inherently can't see who I am, I have no money, no escape plan, and no Plan B. I don't have a producer, my apartment is on the line, and probably my sanity. My nerves are shot. I am crazy to be going. Very few folks I respect who know me, my constitution, or my family think it's a good idea. My dad insists we should write a screenplay while on the road in New Zealand, an action adventure that will make us rich, no matter how many times I tell him we're already shooting a film. He doesn't understand his gold in the Woodstock past, and can't see it as a success. He CANNOT hear what I am saying. It's always been this way, it always will be. I know he is a damaged child himself, just like me. His dad didn't recognize him for who he was either, and beat the shit out of him to boot before leaving (also a quitter who quit on his family). But there are gifts here: that my dad played at Woodstock, that I got to go on a treasure hunt for lost footage and images, and I got to unravel a mystery of how his band Quill fell apart. I love treasure hunts and mysteries! Plus a family drama with the carrot of catharsis at the end. I yearn for that carrot. It could be the transformation I've been waiting for my whole life, or it could be giving love to my dad who also never got enough of it. Unclear. Stay tuned. Or we could just be shooting a documentary about a father and daughter writing an action adventure movie in New Zealand.

Here's the Indiegogo link. Please watch: