Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hey! We won a prize.

Two weeks ago, KITCHEN HAMLET showed at the 8th annual Tupelo Film Festival. The folks were incredibly friendly by email, wonderfully communicative, and just welcoming in every way. I was so hoping to be able to go, but it turned out to be the weekend of graduation at Smith College (where I teach). Since I had to miss last year's (my sister got married), I thought I ought to show up this time. Also, my wife Adele and I were leaving the next day for a 20th anniversary trip to Paris. (Hmm, there's a sort of marriage theme to this post.) (While I'm being parenthetical, if you're going to Paris any time in the next few weeks, you owe it to yourself to see the Anish Kapoor installation at the Grand Palais.)

In any case, I wasn't able to go to Tupelo. I was doubly sorry I hadn't attended when I got an email from Pat Rasberry, who runs the festival, telling me that KITCHEN HAMLET had won 2nd place in the Features competition. (By the way, the 1st place winner was I Become Gilgamesh, and the 3rd place winner was Joyride.) This is our first award, and it would have been great to be there to receive it. Nevertheless, I'm thrilled about it. I'm of course appreciative to the jurors who selected the film.

Most of all, though, I was struck again by the astonishing work of so many people who contributed to KITCHEN HAMLET. Some of the most obvious include our Hamlet, Pat Shaw (also a playwright, whose first musical is about to open), and all the actors who give such lovely performances, and Mark Yeazel, our Director of Photography, who created the deep, saturated look of the film. I'm deeply appreciative also to the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Fim/Video Studio program, where Jennifer Lange brought me in as a guest artist and paired me with Mike Olenick, our fearless editor. Also, all the designers, crew, volunteers, musicians (Mike and Ruthy, et al), friends, and the list goes on and on. In any case, I thought about how many people had been willing to devote themselves to this project, in ways both large and small. Wow.

So, thanks to every last one of them, we won 2nd place in a film festival in Tupelo, Mississippi. It may not seem like that big a thing, but it sure as well wouldn't have happened without them. Thank you.

PS We're showing June 5th at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival! Spread the word!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where Have We Been? (Appalachia, mostly)

So a year and a half ago (give or take a couple of months), I was merrily writing blog entries. Then a little something happened: I started a new job. It's a terrific job; I'm very happy to be there. Still, some things had to slide, and this blog was one of them.

Here's the good news: Kitchen Hamlet wasn't sleeping, even though this blog was. We've shown at three festivals so far, and I've been able to attend two of them. We've shown as an official selection to date at Southern Appalachian International Film Festival (SOAPIFF), Appalachian Film Festival, and the Garden State Film Festival (GSFF).

You may have noticed a pattern. It's like a little game of "Which of these things is not like the other?" Yes, we appear to be popular with festivals that have "Appalachia" in their name. While that might be surprising for a film of Hamlet, it's maybe not so surprising for our film of Hamlet. We did film in Ohio, though not formally in the Appalachian portion of the state. And the film has an intentional rural feel.

Still, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a certain amount of relief when we heard from the Garden State Film Festival. It felt good to add a festival outside of Appalachia, or even just one without "Appalachia" in its name. Plus, it was close enough to drive to. And I did.

I'll write next about the trips I've made to festivals so far, as well as the other festivals we've been selected for. One's in the south, and one's not, but there's no "Appalachia" in the name of either.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Kitchen Hamlet, brought to you by...

I keep a Google alert set up for Kitchen Hamlet, so I can find out when people write about the movie, or when the trailer or images show up places. It doesn't get constant action, but things do appear. Sometimes, for reasons I don't understand, it brings up a page that has actually been out there for a while already.

Recently, an alert came up, so I followed the link. It led to IMDb, where there's a page for the movie, along with a trailer. I realized it was about to show the trailer, so I was preparing to leave the page, when an announcement appeared in the video screen, saying, "Video begins after advertisement." "Advertisement?" I wondered. "What advertisement?"

Sure enough, within seconds I was looking at car crashes, enormous flames, bodies in floods, and Simon Baker, in an ad for the tv show, The Mentalist. The commercial plaid out, the screen went dark, and then there was Pat Shaw as Hamlet, looking at me, about to speak.

I'm trying to sort out what was so odd about this experience. At one level, it was quite strange to see this commercial, any commercial, before Kitchen Hamlet. The film is about as uncommercial as it can be, perhaps intentionally, so there was a discontinuity between the two things. (I've also seen a car ad come up, I think, though I can't remember which; this was an even odder disjunction.) I have no doubt I agreed to something, in the process of posting the trailer, that gives IMDb permission to put up an ad before the trailer, so I'm not complaining that they snuck this in. I think I was most thrown by the commodification, or more accurately the commercial utilization, of the trailer and, by extension, of the movie. I have had thoughts about how we might sell the movie; I had certainly never thought about how the movie might be used to sell something else.

On the other hand, I was also secretly (well, not so secretly now) thrilled. There was something so pathetically validating about the feeling that anyone would bother to throw an ad in front of the trailer. I have proudly made an enormously non-commercial product, only to find myself excited to see it used for commercial means, and sitting cheek by jowl with commercial product. I was pleased, in essence, to have sold out, though the price was zero.

What conclusions? What nugget of wisdom from this dual response? None, I'm afraid. Just a musing on the allure of commercial validation. We've got the submissions going now. We've had a couple of rejections, and some encouragement. I hope I'll have more to share soon. Meanwhile, I find myself thinking about the secret truth that even when we want to hid our light beneath a bushel, we're hoping the light is neon, and the bushel at least a little translucent.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kitchen Hamlet Has a Fan in Wasilla?

So I've been using Google Analytics to track traffic on the Kitchen Hamlet website. The information the site provides is tantalizing, fascinating, obscure, frustrating, and surprising. Sometimes, I can see just when someone in a given location has visited the site; sometimes, I can see how they got there; sometimes, I can tell we've been visited from a particular network. Other times, it's utterly mysterious what's going on, when it happened, etc.

One piece of information I can see is how long visits to the site have been, on average, from various locations. We've been visited sometimes for mere fractions of a second. On average, people visit the site for two minutes and nine seconds. (This is deceptive, however, because the number is computed starting once a visitor begins visiting beyond the front page.) Our single longest visit so far was for 22 minutes and 16 seconds. (Honestly, I don't think even I could figure out how to spend that long on the site.) This visit was from Wasilla, Alaska.

This information entertains me beyond reason. I love imagining Sarah Palin spending looking at Kitchen Hamlet at all, let alone browsing the site for 22 minutes. Better yet, I can tell that the visit was on July 25. Why does that matter? Well, it turns out that was the very day that Sarah Palin resigned as governor. I picture her (before the speech? after?) watching the trailer again and again, ending each time on the closing words of the trailer: "The readiness is all."

If you are our secret Wasilla admirer, post a comment or send an email and let us know. And ex-Governor Palin, if it's you, there's a DVD with your name on it. Just say the word.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mike and Ruthy at the Calvin

It's such a treat to see friends doing well, growing, and getting new opportunities and making the most of them. We just got to see our friends Mike and Ruthy come through Northampton, to open for Billy Bragg. Mike and Ruthy wrote and performed the music for Kitchen Hamlet, and you can hear some of it in the trailer. (They actually are also both in the movie, as the Player Queen and the Third Player.)

Mike and Ruthy met Billy Bragg in May, when they played at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday concert. Mike played and sang "Union Maid" ( a song with one of my favorite lines, about "the goons and the ginks and the company finks") with Billy, and they struck up a friendship, and before you know it, here were Mike and Ruthy as the opening act at the Calvin.

We hung out with them some beforehand, and helped watch Will, their 1 1/2 year old, during the show. (We also hung out during sound check, and Billy Bragg brought our son out on stage with him to hear how everything sounded.) The visit was fun, we had a terrific dinner at Thai Garden, and it was lovely to catch up (& finally give them a copy of the movie). Most of all, though, it was amazing to hear them play.

Mike and Ruthy have certainly played big spaces with their band the Mammals, and supporting Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Arlo Guthrie, and others, as well as at Carnegie Hall for the Pete Seeger birthday show. Still, hearing the two of them fill the space at the Calvin was different. And they did fill the space. Their sound translated so well from the smaller houses we've seen them in, and it made me want them to have more chances to fill up big rooms like this. Their harmonies have never been more gorgeous, the guitar rang out, Ruthy's fiddle lines floated through the theatre.

At the sound check, even they seemed struck--not by the space itself, but by their sound it. When they actually performed, they were ready, and they made full use of the space, adjusting their set list, and I think their sound. An audience that had come to hear Billy Bragg gave them its full attention, and a wonderful ovation at the end of the set. I heard the final songs from backstage, with Will in a stroller, while Adele and Eli watched from the audience.

If you want to hear Mike and Ruthy, you can check out the schedule on their site. We're hoping to go hear them at the Montague Book Mill on August 21st. It's a much smaller space, but they'll still sound beautiful. In the mean time, I'm hoping they keep growing and keep making new music, and I'm hoping a future full of spaces both small and big for them, and for all of our friends out there making art of every kind.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Do We Have a Doppelganger?

Doppelganger: a ghostly double of a living person, especially one that haunts its fleshly counterpart. From German, the phrase means literally "double-goer." While Kitchen Hamlet is not exactly a living person, nor particularly fleshly (though the tones are a bit fleshy in color sometimes), I'm starting to wonder whether the movie has its own "double-goer."

Back when we were in Atlanta, finishing the movie up at LAB 601, Gabe Wardell, the executive director of the Atlanta Film Festival, was kind enough to meet with us. We had a great, wide-ranging conversation with Gabe (who turns out to know Hamlet a heck of a lot better than I would have guessed), and discussed everything from trailers to premiere status to Tom Stoppard. Somewhere in the midst of our conversation, Gabe said, "I think I've read about your film. Were there any articles about it?" He then named a few different publications that cover indie and low budget filmmaking.

After a brief, irrational, burst of pride, we realized that Gabe must be mistaken. There had, sadly, been no articles about us. (That's changed a little since then--see this article from Haverford College--but not much. Anyone want to write an article? But back to the point.) It took a moment to convince Gabe that this was true, and then he said, "Well, you must have a double out there."

I didn't think much more about our alleged double after that, until this morning. I friend I haven't seen in more years than I will admit to recently contacted me on Facebook. We exchanged hellos, updates, etc. This morning, I got a message from her saying "heard recently about Kitchen Hamlet, and am delighted to know that you directed it." Where? Where has she heard about Kitchen Hamlet? There's not much word out there, that I know of, and none I know of where you could hear about the movie without hearing about me. Our doppelganger has struck again!

So, anyone out there know anything about this? Aware of our double? (Not Hamlet 2, which was coming out as we were shooting last year.) Another Kitchen Hamlet out there? A Dining Room Hamlet? Pantry Hamlet? Attic? Let me know. Post a comment here, or drop me a line. And again, if you want to write that article, we're happy to help.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

IMDb listing

Is there any process on earth less intuitive than posting or editing a listing on IMDb? I doubt it. Our IMDb listing is up now, and though it has repetitions, omissions, and errors to spare, it still feels like an accomplishment to have gotten it up at all.

At first, I submitted information through Withoutabox (the online service for submitting to film festivals), which is owned by IMDb. The Withoutabox site made all sorts of wonderful claims about how the easiest way to get your listing clear on IMDb was simply to transfer information already entered for film submissions. So I did. Oops. The result was a listing with about six names, half of them wrong.

No problem, I thought. I'll go over to IMDb itself and correct them. That's where the fun really started. There are these astonishing forms to fill out, none of which seems to give you the opportunity to correct earlier errors, and none of which made much sense on its own. So fine. I filled out the forms as best I could. And I waited.

Now IMDb makes clear they're going to take a while to process this information. What they don't make clear is that they're going to process it in random dribs and drabs, so that things get worse long before they get better. (Here, I will admit that all of my work on this issue may have had something to do with the fact that my own name did not yet appear anywhere in the listing.) Eventually, most of the information I sent in made it onto the site, though as I said, still with a number of goofs. I've submitted some more wonderful forms, and am hoping to correct some of those as well.

Next up, trying to get our trailer up on the site. Meanwhile, visit our IMDb page if you like, though I hope it will get more accurate, and more interesting, soon. Also, keep an eye out on our Kitchen Hamlet site for some stills and other pictures that we'll be adding soon.

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