November 29, 2007

Documentary talk

The 20th annual International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam is taking place now. It began on Nov 22 and lasts through December 2. Eleven straight days of documentary screenings... I've been dreaming of attending this festival for years. It's just one more thing that appeals to me about living in Amsterdam - for such a small city, there's so much going on.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I finally got my hands on a camera and did some taping. It felt great to be behind the camera for my own project again ... It's literally been years since I've done that. It's very small scale stuff, but it taught me a great deal. For instance, every time I use the Sony HDV camera it's always too dark. Always. I need to stop assuming that what I see through the LCD screen is what I'll see on a regular TV screen. I realize that even though I'm using this swanky, somewhat hi-tech camera, in my head I'm operating on the same rules that I learned when I first started learning how to film oh... seven years ago. I love video and am in no way a "film is better" snob, but I understand film in a way that I don't understand video. When I'm adjusting the f-stop on the video camera, my mind almost always starts thinking about what f-stop I would use if I was looking through the lens of a B&W 35mm film camera or a bolex 16mm.

The only thing that that will get me up to speed and thinking digitally is practice, so that's what I'm doing. I'll be editing all weekend and my goal is to have something finished by mid-December.

I am pleased with some aspects of my filming. For instance, the sound is really great and everything seems pretty much in focus (doesn't sound like much, but I consider that an accomplishment!). I was able to make my subjects feel comfortable in front of the camera (and was lucky enough to work with people who weren't camera shy!). I had to ask some very sensitive questions during one of my interviews and wasn't sure if I would be able to get through it without reacting, but while I had the camera running I stayed very focused on the task at hand. I saved all the reaction for after I turned the camera off.

So back to the topic of living in Amsterdam... Even though it would obviously be easier for me (logistically and financially) to live there with a real job and have some kind of work permit, there's still a part of me that just wants to live off savings and a bit of freelance work while I actively pursue trying to get into the Binger Filmlab for September 2008. I actually just realized they also offer a Documentary Directors Coaching Programme, which may be more up my alley rather than the Creative Producers Programme.

All of the options in front of me are good ones, I just have to wait and see what happens. November flew by at the speed of light, and I hope the same is true for the next four months!

November 16, 2007

Inching closer

Lots of exciting work-related and documentary-related stuff going on, and fortunately both of those things are pushing me closer to Amsterdam. I had a meeting with someone from this commercial post-production editorial company that I have my eye on - the agency with offices in both Portland, OR and Amsterdam (and a very small operation in NYC). It went really well, and getting in with this company would be a really huge step in the right direction for my career AND my goal to live in Amsterdam. Right now all I can really do is hope for the best and keep on top of the situation.

Ideally, I could freelance in Portland for this company for a few months, and in the off time I would go to LA and do the office job. That would really be the absolute best-case scenario. Experience, money, the chance to live in a new city, the chance to move ahead in the lovely world of post-production.. it's all really exciting to consider.

Last weekend I went down to my old hometown, Philadelphia PA. I was lucky enough to have a long lunch with my former boss, Gretjen. I worked for her as the Program Assistant for a non-profit cinema for several years, and value her advice and input more than just about anyone. She's made really important documentaries, she's fought for public access to come to Philly, and she's currently the Program Director for Scribe Video Center. By the time we were done with our meal, I felt like I had real direction. I know what I have to do next (WRITE!), I have an idea how much money I need to raise, and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to go the fiscal sponsorship route rather than trying to start my own non-profit business. Gretjen's advice and guidance really means the world to me, and I spent hours on Saturday writing and researching. Very, very productive.

I also spent time in Philadelphia with good friends that I don't get to see too often. Over brunch one day, my friends were asking me all sorts of questions about Amsterdam - mostly practical questions like how much I expect to pay in rent. It felt really good to have an answer (or at least a very educated guess) to everything I was asked. I really have done my research! The more I tell people, the more I get "oh, I have a friend/cousin/brother/ in Amsterdam, I'll get you in touch with him/her if you want." Yes! I do want that! I got back in touch this Dutch guy Marcel, who was my Hospitality Club host during my third visit to Amsterdam in September 2006. Right away, he said "you are welcome at my house." That's an invitation I certainly won't turn down when the time comes. When I stayed at Marcel's apartment, that was the first time I saw "real" Amsterdam and completely fell in love with it. I didn't know at the time that I would end up planning to move there, of course, but it all kind of seems to make sense now.

November 3, 2007

Organizational habits

This past week was particularly crazy, between work and Halloween and just general ... craziness. So I took a few days "off" from my obsessive need to plan out this move. I genuinely like planning and making charts and spreadsheets and organizing notes and coming up with backup plans and backup-backup plans. It's what makes me good at my job, and hopefully means I'll be a good producer. I'm also sure this is a direct result of me being my mother's daughter - she sent me two different spreadsheets to explain how much money I could expect to make if I go to work at her company for 8 weeks with everything worked out to the penny.

Moving to Los Angeles for 8-10 weeks is still on the table, but I also had another option pop up out of nowhere early in the week. A friend of mine told me about an editorial house that had offices in Portland and Amsterdam. She had met with someone while she was in Portland a few months back and said "hey, you might as well see if they have anything." A company that has offices in both the US and the Netherlands is a dream situation. I sent the company my resume and a short email, and they responded quickly and quite positively. There is a position they need filled in Amsterdam, working with a young editor from NYC - seems to good to be true! I had a really great phone call on Monday and since then I've been going back and forth with emailing the woman who runs the Portland office. It's possible I could have a job in the Amsterdam office sometime next year, but of course, it's also possible that nothing could come from all of this talk and I'll end up working full time in LA... but what a great set of options!

I'm using my Amsterdam-Paris train ticket as a bookmark (since I'm still reading the same book I was reading when I was there last month), and every time I see it I get excited. Beyond my dreams of being a documentary filmmaker and my career goals, I just love knowing that I'll be back in Europe. I'll finally make it over to Poland to visit my friends out there, I'll get to spend more time in Germany, and maybe one day soon I'll even be able to afford a visit to those pricey Scandinavian countries. Paris will be just four short hours away by train and I'll be living in one of my favorite cities in the world. That makes all this planning worth it!