El Abuelo Screens at Autism-Focused Hearts Like Ours Film Festival, April 23rd, 7PM at SDSU

Thanks to Linda Burritt at the Autism Society of America (San Diego County Chapter) for writing this…

Admission free as a gift with your donation to the Autism Society of San Diego

In Celebration of Autism Awareness month, San Diego State University, along with the Autism Society of San Diego, Tender Loving Canine’s and Sierra Academy, will be presenting “HEARTS LIKE OURS” FILM FESTIVAL, a screening of three short films hosted by SDSU’s School of Theater, Television and film. The proceeds of this event will go to Autism Society Summer Camps and to Sierra Academy film and music programs for students with autism.

“HEARTS LIKE OURS” will screen these shorts on Monday, April 23rd, 7:00 PM at Don Powell Theater, San Diego State University.

The festival will showcase three short films about autism, all made by emerging SDSU student filmmakers.  From a heart-felt drama about a boy with autism who finds his voice, to a documentary about training dogs, and an experimental short film created for the autistic mind, this series of shorts is intended to raise awareness about autism. This event will also bring attention to and celebrate local talent who create compelling work on shoe-string budgets that promote social activism and help change the way people see the world.

Tickets can be acquired at the door with a recommended $10 ($5 student) donation by cash or check. You can also donate online in advance by credit card at www.sd-autism.org. Simply type in how many tickets you would like in the “comments” box with your donation of $10 or more.  Print out your tax deductible receipt and bring it to the film festival.

Your donation gets you an evening to see autism from three perspectives, while 100% of your gift goes directly to summer camp and film/music programs for children with autism living here in our San Diego community.

Film Line Up

Autistically Speaking, no. 1

Official Website
A film designed for the entertainment of an audience with autism.
Directed by Anthony Pang
Running time: 6:48

Autistically Speaking is a film/research project that begun in 2009 as a serious attempt to create a film for an autistic audience. Combining scientific research from fields like neurology and psychology, accounts from educators and caretakers, direct observations in a natural environment, as well as the concepts and theories of experimental film, Autistically Speaking addresses the individual with autism not as subject but as spectator. The project explores perception and perspective in an autistic world and explores how these individuals see and engage with the physical world, then extrapolating the observations into a film that acknowledges that way of seeing and engaging. The hope is that a model can be created to develop media/film specific to this demographic.

Strong Souls, Gentle Spirits

A wonderful story of overcoming obstacles and the human-animal bond/relationship.
Directed by Iris Caffin
Running time: 20:34

A wonderful story of overcoming obstacles and the human-animal bond/relationship is told in STRONG SOULS, GENTLE SPIRITS. The documentary tells the story of 8-year-old Jolena. After Jolena is born, her mother, Rebecca Cook, notices delays in her development. The road to have Jolena correctly diagnosed is a huge struggle for Rebecca. After several years, Jolena is finally diagnosed with autism. Despite the diagnosis and therapy, life is still difficult and meltdowns still occur. When an autism service dog is placed with Jolena, her life and that of her family turns around completely.

El Abuelo

Watch the Trailer
A short narrative film about Nick, an autistic boy who doesn’t speak. It is only when Nick is befriended by an illegal Mexican laborer, El Abuelo, that he finds his voice.
Directed by Stephen Crutchfield
Written by Stephen Metcalfe
Produced by Patrick Scott
Running Time: 19:49

The short film EL ABUELO brings the storytelling of writer Stephen Metcalfe (JACKNIFE, BEAUTIFUL JOE, studio writer for PRETTY WOMAN, MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS), to the screen once again in a tale about the mystery of human connection. The narrative follows Nick, a young autistic boy, as he surveys the world in silence, eventually finding an unlikely friend in El Abuelo, an elderly Mexican migrant worker. Through the bond formed in their relationship, Nick’s silence is broken. Stephen Metcalfe wrote EL ABUELO from a personal perspective; his teenage son is autistic. Metcalfe teamed up with Director Stephen Crutchfield (an SDSU graduate student) and Producer Patrick Scott of Drama House Productions to make the film. The film stars 2005 Independent Spirit Award nominee (Best Debut Performance in ROBBING PETER) Louis Olivos, Jr. as El Abuelo, and young San Diego theatre actor Jonah Gercke in his debut film performance as Nick. As our society struggles to welcome those on the autism spectrum, and secure our borders without betraying our humanity, the filmmakers hope that Nick and El Abuelo’s relationship provides a glimpse into what can happen when we diminish our differences, and celebrate our common ground.

Films will be followed by a Q and A with the filmmakers and Autism representatives.

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Directions and Parking Instructions:

SDSU is located on the East Side of San Diego just off the 8 Freeway, at the  College Avenue exit. At the end of the exit turn right to reach the campus. Follow College Avenue two stop lights to Montezuma and turn right. Take Montezuma two stoplights to 55th Street where you turn right. At the first stop light; turn left into parking Structure Number 5. In this structure you may purchase visitor parking passes for 2-4 hours depending on the event you are attending. Handicapped parking is located in the Cox Arena parking Area called K lot, located to the right one more stop light ahead on 55th Street.

To get to the Performing Arts Plaza enter the San Diego State University campus on 55th Street and walk directly toward the Cox Arena and turn left just past it. Follow this path uphill and eventually curving to the right. On this walkway the Don Powell Theatre and the Performing Arts Box Office is the second building on your left.

Please note that parking will be available for $3 during the film festival, Guests are not allowed to park in SP spaces

For parking details and a map go to  –   http://theatre.sdsu.edu/html/GettingHere.htm

•    Structure 4 take the elevator up to the walkway bridge.  Handicapped parking is on the top level.
•    Structure 2 Visitor Parking Permits are available inside Structure 2 (Hardy Avenue)
•    Parking Lot M, Lot Q and Lot R Visitor Parking Permits are available in these lots and will allow visitors to park on any space.
•    Handicapped Parking spaces are available in Lots M, Q and R for free. Some handicapped spaces are available in Structure 2, 4, 5 and 6 with a permit

Thoughts on the Long Work Hours of Film Production

So I got an email from one of my friends yesterday. He had to cancel an evening meeting with me because he was working on a music video. They had already been shooting for 12 hours. He half-jokingly said they’d be there until sunrise. It was 8pm. Do the math. That’s a 22-hour day.

While this is rare, the average production day for a film/television crew is 13 hours+. On student/indie sets, it can be really bad. I’ve heard of students pulling three 18-hour days back to back.

In 2006, Academy Award-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler made a documentary called “Who Needs Sleep” that shows how sleep deprivation and long work hours in Hollywood are a lethal combination. Wexler recently wrote this article for the Huffington Post that talks about the health and safety dangers of “Sleepless Hollywood”. The article marks the 15th anniversary of the tragic event that led Wexler to make the documentary – after working a 19-hour day on “Pleasantville”, assistant cameraman Brent Hershman fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car. He was killed.

On the short films that I’ve directed, I’ve tried to keep the days as short as possible (12 hours maximum), and give the cast and crew at least 12 hours of rest.  These decisions were partly driven by budget (the SAG contracts I used required overtime pay for work in excess of 10 hours in any day excluding time spent for meals, and rest period charges if performer is not given at least 12 hours of rest), but mostly driven with the well being of the cast and crew in mind. I, like Wexler, am an advocate of the 12 On 12 Off campaign. The campaign has “three basic rules of humane and responsible filmmaking”: 1) No more the 12 hours of work; 2) No less than 12 hours of turnaround; and 3) No more then 6 hours between meals. (Perhaps an exception would be shooting French hours on an 8 to 10 hour day.)

Not everyone in film and television has long hour production days inflicted on them. According to this article, Clint Eastwood is known for working 9-hour days. On top of that, Eastwood has a history of finishing a product early and under budget, and, in my opinion, his films are stellar. Talk about efficiency and excellence.

Thankfully, my friend mentioned above only had to work a 14 hour day. As filmmakers we are a committed bunch and we love what we do. We’ll work as hard and as long as it takes to get the job done. But to what end? Time with family, mental and physical health, and public safety are all sacrificed. Hopefully, it won’t take another tragedy or broken family to wake us up.

To close, here’s a comment from Sidney Lumet on long hour days in Hollywood – “Now I know that great movies have been done that way, and I know great performances have been achieved that way, but in my view they have been great movies or performances despite the hours, not because of them.” (From “Directors Speak Out” clip by Haskell Wexler, 12 On 12 Off Blog, posted January 29, 2010.)

Do you have any stories about working long hours (or short hours) on set?

Quotes from Fade In interview with Ben Foster

Just read a good interview with actor Ben Foster on www.fadeinonline.com. Here are a few quotes from Mr. Foster that resonated with me…

On directing (what he’s learned from Oren Moverman’s directing style)… “…if you do your research, and you do your homework, and you come in and create an environment that allows the actors to listen to each other, you can do no wrong. It’s all about protecting that space.”

On burn out… “Nick Cassavetes said something really lovely to me that I’ve held onto about some silly job that will go unnamed that I didn’t want to do…’Well [do it], [do it] if you have to, but just make sure you don’t blow your own candle out.’ And Hollywood will do everything, it will find every weak point in your heart and in your mind, and try to blow it out. And that may be by making your candle so bright that it just fizzles after a few years…”

On working with great actors (Al Pacino and John Travolta in the upcoming film GOTTI)… “Yeah, bring your A game, but they will raise your game. And then, on top of that, these are professional make-believers. These are people who refuse to grow up. These are full-grown adults in costumes.”

Trailer for 2009 film THE MESSENGER starring Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster. Directed by Oren Moverman.

A Tip for Moonlighting Filmmakers

The starting line

If you’re at the beginning of your career as a filmmaker like me, and especially if you have a family to support, you’ll likely find yourself needing to do your creative work at the end of an already busy day. It is HARD to get going when your tank is already on E. Adam Pash over at Lifehacker writes about those critical moments between giving up and wasting your night, and deciding to get up and get creating.

The key, according to Pash, is just getting started. He makes a deal with himself that if he logs just 10 minutes on his project, he can go back to wasting his night away, guilt free. More often than not he finds himself getting caught up in a burst of productivity—always a welcome event in a moonlighter’s life. If you find yourself in the same boat, hop on over to Lifehacker to read the full article. I know I need all the help I can get.

Andrew Stanton on Story @ TED

Andrew Stanton of Pixar fame (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares about writing compelling stories that people connect with. Some great takeaways:

“Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” – William Archer

“Stories affirm who we are.” – Andrew Stanton

“If things go static, stories die, because life is never static.” – Andrew Stanton

Watch the full video here:

Out with the Theater, in with the Remote Control?

Image by Jeremy Toeman @ Flickr.

I just read a great piece in the New York Times about the future of indie film as seen by Ed Burns. Burns, the director behind “The Brothers McMullen” sees indie films playing and making money, not in theaters across the country, but rather on your TV screen through cable and satellite on-demand programming. Maybe it’s nostalgia or a too-clear dream in my mind, but the thought of not seeing independent films in the theater makes me sad. But if the big screen won’t take us, maybe we just shack up with the small screen and call it a day. Burns seems to think that’s the way to go. What do you think?