I’ve been doing some research for the second edition of my book, Short Films 2.0: Getting Noticed in the YouTube Age. One area that I’m particularly keen on expanding is the developing reality and complexities in the film festival circuit these days. The past 18 years have been marked by a lot of changes for film festivals and indie filmmakers, particularly filmmakers making short films.
The story of how Withoutabox (WAB) went from a genuinely revolutionizing tool for indie filmmakers to slowly becoming almost unanimously hated by festivals and filmmakers alike is a powerful illustration of how much the internet is rapidly changing independent filmmaking as a whole and the importance of adapting quickly. Before Withoutabox was launched in 2000, filmmakers had to do extensive research on their own to collect a list of prospective festivals they may or may not qualify for and then fill out forms for each festival individually, often having to find someone to fill out such forms in the native language of the festival if submitting overseas. Then everything had to be mailed out with a check and a VHS copy of the film. If the film was accepted, the filmmaker was notified by mail, at which point they had to provide the festival with a 35mm film print for exhibition at the festival.
But when Withoutabox showed up, suddenly filmmakers had a one-stop-shop where they could enter their film’s information a single time and then submit to festivals all over the world. It was a major game-changer. But it didn’t take long for things to start turning sour. Right away, Withoutabox filed for a rather broad-reaching patent for their online festival database and submission service. By 2004, it was granted this patent whose summary read as follows:
Internet-based film festival digital entry and back office services suite model. As new computerized methods using a database system on a global network to administer film festivals. The methods include the filmmakers inputting film information into the database, which information becomes available to selected film festivals. The system preferably handles multiple submissions to different festivals, processes applications, provides simultaneous judging of a competition, and schedules film play times at the festivals.
As quoted in “The Seismic Shift in the World of Film Festivals” by Stephen Follows
This patent made it so that it was virtually impossible for anyone to create anything remotely resembling what WAB was offering so as to compete with it. And for years, no one did. I started submitting my first films to festivals in 2004. It was at this time that I became aware of Withoutabox. I created an account and dipped my toe tentatively into the waters of film festival submissions. My first short film I submitted to festivals was one I’d shot during my senior year of college. At 37-minutes, It was long for those pre-YouTube days. It never made it into any festivals. I continued making films and using WAB, as it was the only method available for most festivals.
In 2008, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), which itself had been bought out by Amazon a few years before, bought Withoutabox for $3 Million. What followed were years of stagnation and zero improvements on the same system that had been in place from day one as eventually every original member of the company left. There were a couple attempts to compete with Withoutabox by Submissions 2.0 and Indee.tv, but those were ultimately squashed by fear of Amazon’s team of lawyers, which was known for relentless protection of their patents. Click here for more on that.
Festivals were also held hostage by WAB’s insistence that to use their services at all they had to agree to exclusively use Withoutabox as their means of receiving submissions. Festivals that opted to sign up for other submissions services got strongly worded emails from WAB. Withoutabox also charged festivals astronomical fees to be listed at all, even if a festival was accepting free submissions, which resulted in most festivals having to increased their submission fees to remain viable, passing along the expense to filmmakers. In fact, things were so fishy that at one point the Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation into Withoutabox and it’s anti-competitive practices in demanding exclusivity from festivals. For more on this, please click here.
The one advantage to having Internet Movie Database own Withoutabox was that it suddenly became much easier for filmmakers like me to get our short films listed on IMDb simply by submitting to partner festivals. This was a welcome resume building aspect of the service, but already the site was feeling clunky and outdated having changed little in since its inception.
Finally, in 2009, a full five years after Vimeo had been launched and four years after YouTube began, Withouabox added a means by which filmmakers could upload their films to be submitted to festivals, their “Secure Online Screener” system. Prior to this, I was mailing DVDs to festivals just like everyone else. The introduction of the Secure Online Screener option seemed like good news. However, the quality was pitifully low, the system was buggy and often crashed while judges viewed films, and each submission cost filmmakers an additional $2.95 per festival. Barbara Morgen, executive director of the Austin Film Festival, had this to say about the Secure Online Screener service in 2012, “Last year, we had 1,000 online submissions, and I didn’t watch one film through that system that didn’t have a technology issue. It was constantly freezing. And that’s not the way to watch a film. And it’s not the way an emerging filmmaker should have their work shown.” For more on this, click here.
In short, Withoutabox was not keeping up with the digital revolution. They failed to understand what was happening with online video streaming and social networking and seemed more interested in nickel-and-diming filmmakers for their subpar service. Some festivals opted to leverage these systems and work outside of WAB. Matt Marxteyn, director of Red Rock Film Festival in Utah, pointed out in a 2012 interview that, “With so many free social networking sites, there are so many options now for festivals. [WAB is] a great service, but it’s not the only one around.” The internet was changing things quickly, but WAB was slow to adapt. After all, what motivation to innovate is there when you believe yourself to be the only game in town?
While some were happy to use WAB, many festivals and filmmaker grew bitter. A Facebook page called, “Filmmakers and Festivals Against Withoutabox” was launched. In May of 2012, IndieWire wrote that Withoutabox was “facing increasing complaints from festival organizers and filmmakers that Withoutabox’s technology is clunky and out-of-date, their movie viewer is substandard and claims to exclusivity are unfair.”
Meanwhile, in the fall of 2013, the non-profit film production and distribution company I help run, Stories by the River, began accepting submissions for its first film festival, which took place in January of 2014. Knowing that it would cost us at least $1,200 just to get our festival listed on Withoutabox, we opted to circumvent WAB completely. After all, the only options at that time were pay WAB’s hefty fees or go it alone. So we set up an Eventbrite page and accepted submissions through it. We skipped physical media completely. Instead, we asked filmmakers looking to submit their films for consideration that they send us a Vimeo or YouTube link. The links could be public or private. Selected films were then asked to send us an HD file of their film we could download for projection at the festival. We used this system for the first two years of the Stories by the River Film Festival. But the film festival game was about to change dramatically.
In January of 2014, FilmFreeway launched with a completely different outlook on how to do film festival submissions in the digital age. They leveraged high-quality online video streaming as means to streamline the submission process by allowing a filmmaker to use their in-house system or Vimeo at no cost. The entire process was modern, fluid, and intuitive compared to Withoutabox, which was still largely the same website it had been upon launch fourteen years before. Even more crucially, FilmFreeway demanded no exclusivity from festivals and charged much lower administrative fees. This directly resulted in lower submission fees for many festivals, which ultimately benefited festivals and filmmakers. But how did FilmFreeway get around Withoutabox’s rather expansive patent? Simple, they’re in Canada. US patent laws have no jurisdiction in another country.
As a filmmaker submitting to festivals, I had long grown weary and frustrated with WAB. As soon as I learned of FilmFreeway, I jump aboard. While I was still using Withoutabox to some extent at the time, I made my first submission through FilmFreeway in April of 2014. Eventually, as more festivals joined FilmFreeway, my use of WAB dwindled. I made my last submission through Withoutabox on May 20, 2015. It seems I wasn’t alone.
By mid-2015, FilmFreeway matched Withoutabox in web traffic, according to an article on Stephen Follows Film Data and Education, which drew its information from Alexa (a company also owned by Amazon, interestingly enough). By the end of the year, FilmFreeway surpassed Withoutabox in traffic and has never looked back. Reluctantly, Withoutabox was finally forced to make changes. Their Secure Online Screener system was improved, adding support for HD video (years after it was already standard on other video streaming platforms) and made it free to filmmakers. Costs for festivals were lowered and exclusivity demands dropped. The site itself has also seen major improvements.
The story of Withoutabox and FilmFreeway illustrates the profound importance of competition in the market and the need for innovation in response to the rapidly changing digital landscape. What Withoutabox was when it launched in 2000 was truly revolutionizing. But it failed to keep up. It failed to pay attention to what was happening to online video distribution through sites like Vimeo and YouTube. Ultimately, greed got in the way of adaptability and improvement and Withoutabox suffered significantly. FilmFreeway now sits comfortably at the top of the festival submission game.
Meanwhile, savvy filmmakers and film festival organizers kept an eager eye out for something that might disrupt Withoutabox’s stranglehold on the festival market. FilmFreeway has proven to be the perfect disruptor, which has been a welcome thing. But are there side effects to FilmFreeway’s success at toppling Withoutabox?
Well, for one thing, it’s now easier and cheaper than ever to launch a film festival. Virtually anyone can do it (at least once). And the data seems to suggest many people are giving it a go.
FilmFreeway allows users to sort festivals by many criteria, including the number of years a festival has been running. In January of 2018, setting the display options to show only festivals that had run for a single year resulted in a list of 1,374 film festivals. There were 999 festivals that had been running for two years, 730 for three years, 516 for four years, and 384 for five years. Maybe some of these festivals existed in other forms prior to using FilmFreeway, but the reality is that the majority of these numbers likely represent festivals that launched in earnest in recent years. Even if only half of those numbers represent truly brand new festivals, this trend indicates a steady rise in the number of film festivals being launched each year. At some point, this bubble will have to burst, but the trend continues for now and this indicates that more people and organizations are creating their own festivals. In short, there are more film festivals today than ever before.
What this suggests to me is that the purpose film festivals serve is fundamentally changing. Especially when it comes to short films, it is now quite unrealistic to expect that getting into festivals will get Hollywood studio executives or distributors to see your work and come talk to you about making more films. These executives, producers, and distributors simply are not in attendance. On the other hand, if your goals are to get your film in front of indie film enthusiasts, share it with appreciative audiences that will see your work projected on a large screen and not on a smartphone, and do some networking with other indie filmmakers, there are now more opportunities than ever.
For more on the rapidly evolving reality short films face today thanks to the internet, check out my book, Short Films 2.0: Getting Noticed in the YouTube Age, available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
We’re very excited to announce that we are in pre-production for a wonderful short comedy called “Undatement Line,” written and directed by Chris Esper. “Undatement Line” deals with the whoas of dating in the online age. We’ve had the pleasure of showing some of Esper’s previous short films at theStories by the River Film Festival and we appreciate his focus on story and exploring meaningful topics from fresh angles. In fact, we’ve shown an Esper film at every single one of our festivals thus far and his short film, “Always a Reason,” took home the SbtR Award for Excellence in Storytelling at our 2015 festival. So we are very much looking forward to working with him on this new film project. The casting process for “Undatement Life” is underway with production scheduled for this fall.
Esper has also authored a very engaging book, The Filmmaker’s Journey, detailing his journey so far as a filmmaker where he shares many great insights into the growth process every filmmaker has to undergo as they set out to develop their visual storytelling and writing skills. The book is available in trade paperback and on Kindle through Amazon. You can check it out here: www.amazon.com/dp/B01F6J3W5O/
Recently, Esper’s book was reviewed by Mike Knox-Smith. You can read that review here. I’ve read the book and highly recommend it!
We are very excited to announce the official nominations for awards at this year’s Stories by the River Film Festival. This year’s selection of short films spans several genres and styles and will be a great evening of engaging independent films. The festival takes place on January 30th, where the awards will be presented following the screening of the films. To get your tickets to attend the festival, clear here!
And now, our nominations …
Best Color Correction:
Worm Free Society
Worm Free Society
Worm Free Society
Best Production Design:
Worm Free Society
The Race Card
Always a Reason
Worm Free Society
Best Performance (by whole cast):
Worm Free Society
Worm Free Society
Worm Free Society
In addition to these awards, we will also be presenting four special awards, including our SbtR Excellence in Storytelling Award. Audience members in attendance will be able to vote for the Audience Favorite Award. The winner of the Audience Favorite Award will receive a $100 cash prize.
We hope you’ll join us for this celebration of New England independent filmmaking. Last year’s event was sold out, so be sure to get your tickets today!
We had an absolutely fantastic event last night. The room was packed and there was lots of sincere excitement over the films being screened and the awards being presented. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who participated in the festival last night, everyone who submitted films, Erica Derrickson for being our MC for the awards, and I am particularly thankful to Kristina Stone Kaiser for so masterfully organizing this event! Thank you so much to all of you!
Let’s take a look at the winners last night in the order in which they were presented:
Congratulations to all of our nominees and winners. Every single one of the ten films officially selected to be part of our festival this year deserve recognition for the passion, dedication, and incredible amount of hard work and talent poured into creating each one. We are so honored to be able to showcase these films and be able to celebrate the work of these filmmakers.
On a final note, I am quite excited that just today, hot off of it’s four awards and eleven nominations last night, “The Womanhood” has officially been released on the web. You can now see this amazing short film for free on YouTube and Vimeo. I highly recommend checking it out and liking the film’s official page on Facebook.
Tomorrow night, we will be holding the very first Stories by the River Film Festival. Tickets for the event sold out on Wednesday afternoon! I can’t wait to sit down in that packed and buzzing room to celebrate indie filmmaking from New England and from across the country. Once the ten official selections have been screened, there will be a chance for those present to mingle, chat, and network with fellow filmmakers in attendance. Following this time, we will be presenting the awards to the films which have been nominated in various categories as well as the Audience Favorite Award that will be voted on that night.
I want to take a moment to look a little closer at the four films that have been nominated by our panel of judges (of which I am a member) for the Best Picture Award. Those four films are: “Brightwood,” “Take My Keys,” “Thieves,” and “The Womanhood.” Each of these four films stood out to us as possessing not just specific qualities that were well executed, such as the scripts, cinematography, production design, performances, and directing, but these four films also exemplify that core virtue and purpose of cinema: good storytelling. And to be clear, this is not to say that the other six films we selected do not also succeed in telling their stories well. The nomination of these four films for Best Picture is an acknowledgement that these three narrative short films and one music video combined the technical excellence and artistic crafts of each discipline involved in the filmmaking process in the service of telling stories that we found particularly compelling. And in the spirit of the Best Picture Award, they present the most cohesive and complete package as short cinematic stories. So let’s take a closer look at our nominations for Best Picture in alphabetical order:
“Brightwood,” produced and directed by L. Gabriel Gonda (along with a team of producers and co-producers who helped bring this story to the screen), tells the story of Sparrow, a young girl who initially seems to have a rather idilic life. However, as we are pulled deeper into the story, we learn that there is a much darker side to her and her brother’s home life. Exploring the amazing resilience of children, “Brightwood” offers a visually rich and stirring picture of the importance of imagination in coping with life’s harsh realities. The film is also nominated for several other categories, including Best Screenplay by LaDora Sella, Best Cinematography by Connor Hair, and Best Directing for Gonda.
Of specific note to our community of New England filmmakers is that Local Art Director and Production Designer, Bryan Felty, is nominated for his work as the Production Designer for “Brightwood.” Gonda and much of his team are located in Seattle, Washington. Screenwriter LaDora Sella is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Take My Keys,” is a music video directed by Nick Pedini & Christopher Thomas and produced by Carlyne Fournier for the song by the same title by Matt Clarke & MattyFee. This cautionary tale of youthful indiscretions relating to drinking at a party that leads to a car wreck may seem like an odd nomination for Best Picture. Yet, so well crafted is the narrative Pedini and Thomas mold with the visuals (aided by the effective production design by Fournier and the tight editing by Pedini), that a very compelling and moving story unfolds before our eyes. It may not be a traditional narrative short film, but in many respects, it is more effective at telling its story using music and visuals alone in three and a half minutes than many longer narrative short films out there. We are glad to see projects like this being produced in New England and we think you’ll enjoy it too. Even if you can’t join us at the festival (or if you are just that impatient), you can check out the music video on YouTube. “Take my Keys” is also nominated for the Production Design (also by Fournier), Editing, Make-up, and Visual Effects, among other things.
“Thieves,” produced and directed by D. Erik Parks, is set in a not too distant post-apocalyptic future. We follow one man’s journey through empty city streets seeking any means to survive he can happen upon. When he’s confronted by two other people, he must make the choice to trust them or run. Featuring excellent use of locations and Nashville streets devoid of activity and life, “Thieves” succeeds instantly and sucking us into a disturbingly still world. We quickly get a sense that most people are long gone. However, those left may not be deserving of trust so easily. In true indie film fashion, Parks wore several hats in the making of “Thieves,” serving as screenwriter and editor along with his producing and directing responsibilities. Challenging as that may be, Parks utilizes a solid cast, fascinating locations, and kinetic cinematography by Jordan Lynn that drops us into a hauntingly silent Nashville and then keeps us on edge the whole time. “Thieves” is also nominated for Writing, Editing, Cinematography, and Directing, among other awards.
“The Womanhood,” produced by Stephen Cashmere, Ellen Dickson, and Tara Mastroeni, and written & directed by New England native Yvonne LaBarge, pulls us right into the emotionally volatile moment in ten-year-old Jocelyn’s life when she has her first period. Bucking predictability, LaBarge crafts a witty and endearing tale as Marian, Jocelyn’s mother, is confronted with having to have “that talk” mothers know one day they’ll have to have with their daughters. Weaving an imaginative story of a secret society of heroines who are initiated upon having their first period–as periods are actually a part of the superpowers all women have–LaBarge offers us female empowerment with genuine humor and warmth. The writing is sharp and cleaver and the cinematography of Dan Finlayson is beautiful. “The Womanhood” has also earned nominations for it’s writing, cinematography, editing, and directing, among several other categories.
So that’s a quick look at the four Best Picture nominations. If you’ve got your ticket for tomorrow night’s first Stories by the River Film Festival event, you are in for a treat with not just these four films, but all ten selected shorts. For those of you unable to snag a ticket for our screening and awards show in Quincy, Massachusetts, I highly recommend you keep an eye on our Facebook page for news about who wins what tomorrow night and for where you might be able to catch these films in the future!
2014 marks a new milestone for Stories by the River. This year we are starting things off by launching our very own film festival to celebrate short films and the efforts of independent filmmakers in the New England area and around the country. We have officially selected ten short films which will be screening at our festival event on January 24th taking place in Quincy, Mass. Following the screening will be the presentation of several awards and an opportunity to mingle and network with the filmmakers in attendance. Seating is limited and tickets are selling quickly. So if you are interested in attending, I highly recommend getting your ticket now!
We have several categories in which many of the selected films have been nominated. We will also be presenting the Audience Favorite Award at the festival once the films have been screened and the audience votes tallied. Erica Derrickson, creator of the Hollywood East Actor’s Group, will be hosting the festivities. It’s sure to be a fun and lively evening.
Let’s take a look at the ten films selected this year in alphabetical order and their respective nominations:
“The Actor,” written by Mike Messier and directed by Skip Shea and Messier, tells the story of an actor who looks back at his past choices in a crucial relationship that has shaped the direction of his life. Embracing the black box theater setting, the film unfolds much like a play within the space and in the interactions between the characters.
“Amy Kidd: Zombie Speech Pathologist,” written, directed by, and starring Audrey Noone, blends genres in a unique way. Faced with a post-zombie-apocalypse world where things are far from what they used to be, Amy Kidd has to resort to some innovative thinking when it comes to staying afloat as a speech pathologist. In this short, zombies and comedy blend quite well.
“Brightwood,” written by LaDora Sella and directed by L. Gabriel Gonda, tells the story of a young girl caught between her imagination and the harsh realities of her life. Contrasting beautiful fantasies with the ugly pain adults seem so capable of imposing on our world, “Brightwood” feels right at home in the company of films like Pan’s Labyrinth.
“Candles in Paradise,” written and directed by Rob Azevedo, is a film about loss and the fragility of life, especially in face of senseless acts of violence. Looking at what may await us on the other side of this life, “Candles” focuses on the story of one young woman and her journey into the the other side.
“Mildred’$ Million$,” written and directed by Ben Proulx, is a comedy created as part of a 48 Hour film competition. Instantly dropped into the lives of a man who’s just lost his IT job and a woman who has just won the lottery, “Mildred’$ Million$” explores the desperate measures we might go to in order to ensure our survival and the role of relationships in this complicated mix.
“Residual,” written and directed by Christopher D. Grace, is a psychological thriller focused on a husband and pregnant wife. As they draw nearer to the birth of their child, strange things being happening around the house. Even as they try to make sense of the unexplainable, things that go bump in the night take on an unexpected nature.
“Still Life,” written and directed by Chris Esper, chronicles the early efforts of a young photographer as he navigates the often difficult landscape of criticism and self-doubt. Passion and frustration mingle as the photographer struggles to remain positive and hopeful. With clear resonance to the journey every young artist must take, the film takes on a definite meta-fiction quality as it mirrors the difficulties of becoming a filmmaker.
“Take My Keys” is a music video directed by Nick Pedini for the song written and performed by Matt Clarke & MattyFee. More than your run-of-the-mill music video, Clarke & MattyFee’s song tells a powerful story about the consequences of drunk-driving. Pedini takes full advantage of this and crafts an engaging and haunting narrative strictly using visuals.
“Thieves,” written and directed by D. Eric Parks, is a post-apocalyptic thriller that follows one man’s search for a means to survive in a world where order has been replaced with chaos. Who to trust in this profoundly broken world is not readily apparent. Blending careful use of empty locations and visual effects, “Thieves” draws us quickly into a world of mistrust and uncertainty.
“The Womanhood,” written and directed by Yvonne LaBarge, is a witty and quirky take on the what can often be a scary and confusing time for young women as they begin having their period. Whimsical and endearing, the film chronicles the story of a mother as she helps her daughter enter this new chapter of her life.
Well, that’s a quick introduction to the ten short films playing at the 2014 Stories by the River Film Festival. Join us January 24th at The River South Center in Quincy Center (walking distance from the Quince Center T stop) where you can see all of the films, meet the filmmakers, find out who wins what, and celebrate some great storytelling. I hope to see you there!
Mikel J. Wisler is an award-winning filmmaker who has written, produced and directed several short films. He is also the co-founder of Stories by the River and runs the monthly River Film Forum.
Kristina Stone Kaiser is co-founder of Stories by the River, President of The River South Center and pastor of The River Church. Before she was these things, she graduated with a masters in Vocal Performance.
Judy S. Moore is the co-founder of The River South Center’sSpring into Reading Program. As a graduate of Emerson College, she is an established communications and editing professional and is well versed in the world of film.
Shane Fuller teaches film and theatre at Milton Academy, after several years of teaching college. He has directed several productions for both stage and screen, and has an MFA in Script and Screenwriting.
Dominic Stone Kaiser is, among many things, a sound engineer. He began his studies in Sound Recording and has now developed a wide understanding of technology. Dominic has worked alongside Mikel and Kristina to give Stories by the River its’ start.
Getting new stuff can be great. But when you’ve grown so accustomed to something and had it for so long, replacing it can also feel a little sad. This week, I said goodbye to my ‘97 Saturn SL2. Now, my wife and I got it in 2005. But still that’s eight years of having that car. The reason that particular car is so significant to me is that around the time that we got that car, I also bought my first HD camera. And over these past eight years, both that camera and that Saturn proved to be very valuable filmmaking tools.
With the camera, I shot several short film projects, ultimately achieving my objective at the time to get into film festivals. In fact, two of those projects shot with that camera went on to secure international distribution. The Saturn served me well when my friend Dan and I drove down to Texas for three weeks so we could volunteer as Production Assistants on a feature film being shot in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This was an amazing experience that taught me so much, including: be more attentive at 3 AM when you stop at a gas station near Tulsa to fill up because you might fill your gas tank with diesel by accident–no good. But hey, we got that sorted out and that car kept running like a charm. We were able to be part of a professionally run feature film set. This kind of hands-on experience is invaluable! I learned so much! And the Saturn made it into the film twice: Once parked, and once I drove by in it in the background of a shot.
That Saturn eventually became the car I drove most of the time and carried my filmmaking gear around in. Somehow I managed to cram way more gear into that thing than should be possible (and one time it wasn’t quite possible and resulted in a cracked windshield on the set of a concept trailer I was producing with my friend Jed).
So saying goodbye to my little Saturn made me feel a little nostalgic. This car served me well and allowed me to help make some great films. In fact, two in particular stand out to me.
In 2009, I hopped in my Saturn and drove down to Princeton, New Jersey, to pick up my friend Steve so we could drive together to South Bend, Indiana to shoot a short film I’d co-written with my long-time filmmaking partner, Andrew Gilbert, which he was directing. That short film is “Evaluating Kaitly.” As I think of my Saturn, I can’t help but recall that long trip with Steve out to Indiana and back so we could shoot this film. We even managed to power up hard drives and Steve’s MacBook Pro on our drive home so he could start processing the HD footage we’d shot and get the editorial organization process started on the road. The car got us there and got us home, carrying gear and luggage. But the real gift is that we were able to be part of telling a moving story, of helping bring to life this story that was inspired by real events in the life of a woman battling cancer and struggling to find the will to face each new day with joy. I’m glad I got to be part of telling that story!
In 2012, my Saturn, by virtue of being already on the set of “Melt,” became the car that our main character was traveling in with his son and daughter. So we loaded it down with prop luggage and parked it in front of the diner we were shooting at, and there sat my little red Saturn in the frame, humbly adding to this beautiful story of sacrifice and renewed hope as a father struggles to make ends meet for his children and how sometimes the hardest thing to accept in life is the help we are offered by other people. What an honor it was to be chosen by director Chaz Sutherland to be the cinematographer for “Melt.”
So you see, when I think of my Saturn, I think of all the amazing things I was able to be part of in those years of driving that car. I’m not really a car guy. It’s really about what I was able to do with that car. And it feels a little like the end of an era in my life to part with the car. In fact, as life would have it, I ended up parting ways with both that HD camera and the Saturn in just a matter of a couple of months after having acquired both around the same time eight years ago. Talk about really feeling like it’s the end of an era.
Such transitions in life are part of our reality. And while being overly sentimental isn’t really a good thing, taking a moment to look back and reflect feels worthwhile. Particularly, I am proud of the help I had form that Saturn in being able to tell two amazing stories I hope you’ll check out, “Evaluating Kailty,” and “Melt,” because they mean a lot to me.
The flip side of such transitions is that this could be the start of a new period in my life. At times we have let go of old things to make way for new things in our lives. And I would like to face this new period in my life with hope and expectation of getting to tell more great stories (doing so while carrying more gear more comfortably in my 2008 Outback that’s replaced my ‘97 Saturn).
Today I was getting ready to announce Stories by the River’s first ever Film Festival on Facebook. (By the way, you can submit your short films and sign up to attend the event here.) And as I was posting about this event that I am ever so excited about, I saw a very disturbing update come across my news feed about some motorcyclists that got into a tiff with a man in a van in New York City. You can’t help but click on something like that, so I did. And I saw this video:
And all of that got me thinking about the fragility of life, the brevity of life. (In fact, I had just broken into my home only a couple hours before…for the second time in two weeks! Every time I “break in” to my house with such ease, I think about how vulnerable I feel. Most of the time, I’m happily unaware of it!)
And then I think about movies like Evaluating Kaitly. Here you have a film based on a true story that also puts me in touch with these ideas. So I don’t know. Maybe take a moment today to hug someone as if life is actually a gift, do something special for someone just because, and breath deep some fresh air – because you can – because you are alive. And living is a pretty amazing thing.
– Kristina Stone Kaiser