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Beautiful Beaufort

Stuffy the Stand-in at the Beaufort International Film FestivalBeaufort is a beautiful, charming area, and we had a fantastic time at the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF) this past week.  Brian had to work for the first part of the festival (including the screening of Saying Goodbye), so our sister Joanna agreed to go with me as both paparazza (see her photos from the weekend here) and moral support to keep me from dissolving into a puddle of nerves.

On Wednesday night, BIFF held an opening night reception at the Old Bay Marketplace Rooftop, and luckily the weather was perfect – not too cold, not too hot.  While enjoying the delicious food from local restaurants, we had our first celebrity sightings: Tom Berenger and Powers Boothe.  I was too chicken to talk to either one, but I had Joanna take surreptitious pictures of both of them. 

The screening for Saying Goodbye was on Thursday at 1:40.  Not only was I already nervous that I’d be doing the Q&A without Brian, but I was anxious about the venue, since I’d heard it had about 500 seats.  That would be the biggest venue we’d played in, and how embarrassing would it be when the only people who showed up were Joanna, me, and a few friends.  Luckily that was a silly worry because the most amazing part of the BIFF is the Beaufort Film Society that sponsors it.  The members are passionate supporters of films and filmmakers, and they would show up at the start of each day and watch movies until the end of the day.  So even on a Thursday afternoon, the theater was almost two-thirds full, which was awesome.

Jocelyn and Stuffy at BIFF screening

Even better, they were a very reactive audience.  We had a lot of laughter and tears during the Saying Goodbye screening, and while I’d love to claim it’s because Saying Goodbye is just that incredible, all the movies that week got the same animated response from the audience.  It’s truly gratifying for a filmmaker to play in front of that type of audience.

After the screening, it was time for the Q&A.  I took Stuffy the Stand-in for support, but I still almost fainted when Ron Tucker (the charming director of BIFF) handed me the microphone.  Somehow microphones make public speaking even more intimidating.  But the audience was so gracious and asked such fun questions that I immediately felt at ease.  The entire screening and Q&A plus the conversations with audience members afterwards were such a wonderful experience and made me so proud of the movie the Saying Goodbye team has made. 

After the screening, we were able to relax and enjoy things more.  On Thursday evening, there was a reception and table read of the screenplay finalists.  Brian arrived on the scene on Friday.  Since we’d never visited Beaufort before, the three Rish siblings tried to balance sight-seeing with watching films.  We probably didn’t do either justice, but we got a nice sample of both.

Then on Saturday evening, BIFF held a glamorous awards ceremony.  We’re a little disappointed our winning streak was broken, but it was a huge honor that Rebecca Koon was nominated and that we were a short film finalist.  Besides, there are some things more important than bringing home a trophy like the enthusiastic support we got all week from new fans and a few opportunities that came up that we’re keeping mum on for now so we don’t jinx them. 

Brian and Jocelyn with Kim Delaney at BIFFAfter the ceremony, there was an after-party where we finally worked up the nerve to talk to some of the famous people in attendance.  Kim Delaney was very sweet, and Tom Berenger is not only handsome and charming, but extremely nice.  He and his partner Laura chatted with us for the longest time about dogs and editing and film festivals.  And for this old-school Tom Berenger fan, that pretty much made my night!

We had a great time at the Beaufort International Film Festival, and we want to thank Ron Tucker, Rebecca Berry and the rest of the Beaufort Film Society for having us.  We highly recommend BIFF to filmmakers out there looking for a top-notch festival experience!

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If a talking man-dog predicted your death...

Is anyone watching the FX comedy Wilfred?  It’s a dark and darkly funny show about a depressed man (Ryan played by Elijah Wood) who sees his neighbor’s dog as a man in a dog suit, even though everyone else sees him as a regular dog.  The two become friends and spend their time getting high and getting Ryan into trouble.  In last night’s episode, Ryan decides to volunteer at a retirement home, and it ends up looking like Wilfred has the ability to predict the patients’ deaths.

 ** Spoiler Alert **
After the media gets involved, there is Wilfred at the nursing homepressure for Wilfred to predict another death, and Ryan walks in on Wilfred smothering a patient with a pillow.  It was so funny (in a morbid way), especially because when Brian and I started this Saying Goodbye adventure, we discussed (half serious, half joking) turning our drama into a horror film by having the cat actually murdering the residents.  It was so great to see Wilfred actually executing (ha!) that idea.

If you’re interested in watching the episode, you can find it here.  It’s a show for mature audiences, so it’s probably not safe for work.

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Enjoying the Best of the Fest

This is the second time in a week that we had two screenings on the same day, so after making Brian’s co-workers cry, I jumped in my car and hustled back to Charleston for the Best of the Fest night at the Cinebarre theater.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get there in time to catch the 7:00 screening, which featured my two favorite films from the CIFF: God and Vodka and Place Stamp HereGod and Vodka is an appealing drama perfectly balanced with humor, and I wasn’t at all surprised when it won the Audience Choice Award for Best Short.  And Place Stamp Here is an utterly charming film that won the Audience Choice Award for Best Animation.  Turns out the twin sisters who made it also animated one of my favorites from last year’s CIFF, although the wonderfully creepy style was so different I never would have guessed.  I’m always so awed by people who can draw – I have a bunch of short stories I’d love to turn into animated shorts, but even preschoolers would laugh at my pathetic stick figures. 

Saying Goodbye screened in the 9:00 block, along with another of my fest favorites – The Perfect Hurl.  Surprisingly, the two guys behind it are still in college - the film was so much fun and so well made that I know they have a bright future ahead of them.  I was also fortunate to get to see several of the shorts I missed during the festival, including the Jury Award for Best Short The Story of Us, which had great music and interesting visuals, as well as the darkly funny Atroz, winner of the Audience Choice Award for Best Foreign Film.  And I hope this isn't too conceited to say, but I loved watching Saying Goodbye on Cinebarre’s big screen!  They have an excellent projection system, so it was reassuring to see that people watching it during Cinebarre's preshow will get to see it looking so snazzy.

It was a fun evening with an appreciative crowd, so our thanks again to the Charleston International Film Festival for including Saying Goodbye in the Best of the Fest night. 

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Cross It Off the Bucket List

Jocelyn Rish on setWe mentioned earlier that we're excited to be included on IMDb . . . well, I have to take it a step further and confess I’m doing friggin’ cartwheels. 

My fascination with IMDb began many years ago.  Those of you who know me know that I watch more television than is healthy for a sane person.  In fact, my screen name on several forums is BoobTubeJunkie.  One day while watching a show, I saw an actor that was driving me crazy trying to figure out where I’d seen him before.  So I headed to the computer to play google detective, and that’s when I stumbled across IMDb.  You know the sound that happens in movies when an angel appears – that celestial musical 'aaahhh'?  Well, that sound totally echoed through the room that day.  My eyes grew wide, my mouth fell open, and I was captivated. 

Oh, the hours I’ve wasted on IMDb: reading trivia about shows and movies, figuring out where I’ve seen a “hey it’s that guy” actor before, snickering at the bizarre forum posts.  But through it all, in my secret heart of hearts, there was a longing to be included in this amazing Internet Movie Database.  But I knew it would never come to pass – there’s no way a gal from small town South Carolina with hopes of being a novelist would ever have the opportunity to be included.  I’m still astounded by how it happened, but through this wild and wonderful adventure of bringing Saying Goodbye to life, I now have my very own page on IMDb.

I’m so excited about it, I’m even considering paying IMDb’s ridiculously high price to put my picture on my page even though:  1) I’m not an actress, so having my picture on there doesn’t make a lick of sense and 2) There’s no such thing as a cute picture of me (see exhibit A above). 

At the risk of sounding sappy or trite, I do have to say this has been an important lesson for me.  Even if a dream seems silly or completely unattainable, keep doing what you love and it may come true in unexpected ways.

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We sliced and diced some pumpkins this weekend and (surprise, surprise) I carved mine into a cat; so I had to share my masterpiece with everyone.  I hope you’re having a wonderful Halloween weekend!

Death Cat Pumpkin

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The Inside Scoop

Chris Holland's Book Film Festival SecretsThere’s a lot of advice floating around about film festival strategies, so as we’ve been finishing the film, we’ve been doing our homework.  One of the books we bought was Film Festival Secrets: A Handbook For Independent Filmmakers by Christopher Holland.  I thought it was great – tons of information delivered in a succinct engaging format.  In fact, I’ve become a bit of a fangirl: I’ve practically memorized many of the sections; I quoted Chris in several of the classes we taught the students; and when Brian and I have conversations about our film festival plan, I’m always going, “Well, Chris says we should do so-and-so.”  So imagine my excitement when I saw on Chris’s website that he offers his consulting services for a very reasonable price for shorts.

We contacted Chris and sent him the latest version of Saying Goodbye.  He then emailed us his thoughts on our film, a list of fifty film festivals where he thought Saying Goodbye would be a good fit, and marketing suggestions targeted to our movie.  But today was the most exciting part – we got a one-hour phone consultation with Chris.  It took all my willpower to reign in my groupie-like gushing so I’d seem like a professional.  Chris had some really nice things to say about the film, especially the acting and production values.  He was also impressed by the jump we’d already gotten on marketing.  His main concern was the running time of the film, just like our other professionals Jennifer, Roberta, and Ann.  Although we’ve done a lot of cutting since the first rough cut, it’s still at a little over seventeen minutes, which makes it too long for most short programs at festivals.  Chris reiterated that our chances for acceptance at festivals would be greatly improved if we could get it under fifteen minutes.  Looks like it’s time to take out the pruning shears again.

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Testing the Waters

Jocelyn and Brian at CIFFMarch and April are busy months for film festivals in South Carolina, which is ironic, because that’s when the weather is the most amazing, so who wants to sit in a theater all day?  Anyway, since Brian and I had never been to a film festival before, these local ones were the perfect opportunity to see how things work before we (hopefully) attend festivals as official selections.  Plus it was a chance to scope out the films and filmmakers we will be competing against in the future. 

We watched the shorts programming blocks at the Charleston Film Festival, the Charleston International Film Festival, and the Indie Grits Film Fest.  I had never really watched short films before we started to make ours (I know, shame on me!), but now I’m hooked.  I love the economy of storytelling and the way it’s possible to deliver such powerful emotion (whether it’s laughter, thrills, or tears) in such a short time.  I know I’ve done this backwards, since you’re supposed to study the craft before attempting to make your own short, and I’ve learned so much by watching the shorts at these festivals.  I’ve seen what works to pull the audience in (funny is better) and what doesn’t work so well (don’t be pretentious).  As we refine the final edit, I’m applying what I’ve learned, and I’m already itching to get started on a new project. 

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Shopping Queen

Mary Elizabeth PowertballThe other day I had the TV on in the background when I heard a voice I thought I recognized.  I looked up just in time to see a familiar redhead doing a spastic dance of joy around a store.  It was a commercial for the SC Lottery featuring our Mary Elizabeth Cobb as a shopper who is SUPER excited about buying her first Powerball ticket.  I’ve seen the entire commercial several times since then, and I giggle every time Mary Elizabeth takes off on her crazy dance of celebration.

Mary Elizabeth on One Tree HillWhen I asked Mary Elizabeth about it, she also told me about another recent gig where she played a shopper.  It was the February 8th episode of One Tree Hill called “My Attendance Is Bad But My Intentions Are Good.”  While I will embarrassedly admit to having watched the first season of OTH, I dropped it once it went over the top on the ridiculous scale.  But since I am a fan of Mary Elizabeth, I forced myself to watch the entire episode on the CW website. Mary Elizabeth did a great job as a condescending customer, completely different from sweet, sensitive Kathy.

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Picky, picky, picky

My day job is working as a quality assurance analyst at a software company, which means I’m paid to nitpick other people’s work.  Add to that the fact I had a very clear picture in my head when I first wrote the short story, and poor Cliff didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he joined our team. 

Today we made another editing pass on Putty Gone Bad, and I came to the session armed with pages of “suggestions” for making the movie even better (keep in mind that I know nothing about editing).  Luckily, Cliff was a patient teacher and walked me through all the items on my list.  In many places, I saw the wisdom of the choices he had made; in other places, he agreed that my suggestion worked better.  In the process, I learned so much about all the things an editor has to be mindful of when fitting the plethora of puzzle pieces together into the prettiest picture.  I actually had fun getting to dip my hands back into the creative part of making the movie, and I hope I didn’t drive Cliff too crazy.

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Just Standing Around

Jocelyn stands inSo remember how much I love being in front of the camera... as in not at all?  Well, it’s even worse when there are 20+ people in the room looking at you.  As the script supervisor, I didn’t have much to do until the action started, so they decided to put me to good use as Alma’s stand-in.  At first I wondered if I should be insulted (I don't have that many grey hairs yet!), but if Rebecca doesn’t mind playing older, then I shouldn’t mind standing-in older. 

So before each shot, I get into position and everyone stares at me while they make adjustment to lights and gels and fans and stands and on and on while I fidget uncomfortably wondering if I still have any of the bagel I ate earlier in my teeth.  Every once in a while Dave will mutter something like, “Oh, that’s so unattractive.”  He’s talking about the light, right?  Right?!?  And it doesn’t help that I can see myself on the monitor – yikes!  I’ve heard the camera adds ten pounds, but even if that’s true, I’m still going on a diet when all of this is over.  I seriously don’t know how actresses do this every day.