My First Film Festival!

Over the past several days, I've been attending the Winter Film Awards here in NYC.  Gemma & The Bear! is an official selection - one of only five selections that fall under the "web content" or "internet programming" category.  And we're really proud!  We're also really impressed with the other content we've seen in the screenings as well as with the amazing organization of the festival itself. 

Before this, I never would have considered going to a random film festival screening as something to do in my leisure time, but now I totally would.  Moreover, there are film festivals happening all over the country (I know because I've done a bunch of research submitting Gemma & The Bear to many of them) which means that everyone has access to this high-quality yet non-mainstream content.  It's exciting and inspiring! 

Anyway, here are some photos of our festival adventures if you'd like to see:

Kevin heading in to the opening reception party!

Kevin heading in to the opening reception party!

Inside the party. 

Inside the party. 

Before the screening. We were excited to find our logo on the festival poster!

Before the screening. We were excited to find our logo on the festival poster!

Here we are pretending to watch the screening before the lights go out. :)

Here we are pretending to watch the screening before the lights go out. :)

Kevin on the big screen! (see the floor lights and exit sign? we're LEGIT in a theater!)

Kevin on the big screen! (see the floor lights and exit sign? we're LEGIT in a theater!)

Stacee Mandeville (AD), Matt Scott (Director), Kevin & Me outside the theater after the screening.

Stacee Mandeville (AD), Matt Scott (Director), Kevin & Me outside the theater after the screening.

As part of the festival, I also had the opportunity to attend a presentation by the New York State Governor's Office about how NY supports/encourages film production.  They said things like "If your budget is under fifteen million . . ." but even though we're not anywhere near that level (YET) they were so positive and helpful, it was really inspiring. 

Do you attend film festivals?  What are your pro tips? 

Finish Line

The sixth episode of Gemma & The Bear - the Season Finale - was released this past Monday, and I've been crabby all week.   

Tuesday night found me sitting on the kitchen floor, reading Facebook on my phone, eating old pistachio gelatto out of the container and blowing off the gym.  Basically: willfully feeling bad about myself.  

What the . . . ?

I wrote a bit about the Gemma & The Bear journey here.  What I don't think I expressed was the extent to which the whole experience has felt like an intensive graduate program in content creation.  I know so much more than I did and am so much stronger and more capable in this area than I was a year ago.  It's kind of incredible and, looking at what I personally spent, it was probably a bargain.

So here I am.  A recent graduate without a job; in that middle place between being still tired and frayed from the final push and not yet having begun moving towards the next thing (whatever it is).  

My plan is to spend September (and maybe some of October) figuring out what the next thing might be and making an action-plan to move towards it.  August saw me struggling more and more to meet my own blogging and newsletter deadlines and so, while I hope to put more here during the next few weeks, I'm not making any promises.   I've got other writing to do in other places.  I've got a little boy starting a new school.  I'm hoping to do some quality big-picture thinking and take care of a bunch of housekeeping along the way.

In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy Gemma & The Bear.  For all of my crabbyness, it feels really good - and I'm extremely proud - to have reached this particular milestone.  Can't wait to share the next thing with you soon . . . 

So . . . I made a show!

It's called Gemma & The Bear and we just released the first two episodes this past Monday.

It was over two years ago that it all began - sometime between giving birth to my son and my mom's brain tumor being diagnosed.  Kevin and I wanted to make something together and I thought it should be a web series.  We'd done theater together, but I wasn't doing theater at the moment because I had a tiny child to take care of.  Something on-camera felt more manageable. 

So we began.  We met and wrote and had a reading and got rid of everything we'd written and started again.  Working on the project was always a joy; it was also my artistic life-line.  Without the luxury of time I used to enjoy, it became important to focus on doing one thing well, and that was our show. 

Late last summer - almost a year ago - we began our casting process (we paused so I could have back surgery), in the late fall we launched our Indiegogo campaign, and in December we finally - FINALLY - started filming. 

We shot for seven non-consecutive days in December, January and February, going by location rather than chronology of the script.  When our office location fell through the morning before the shoot, my brother came through with his office for us and we squeezed what we'd planned to film in three days into two.  We made third graders stand outside on one of the coldest days of the year.  We re-cast a major role at the last minute because our original actor was injured.  We called in favors.  We got it done. 

I handled the craft services and, later, the payroll.  I wouldn't choose to take on those extra roles again, but it felt really good to support our cast and crew in a loving way through food, and later, to appreciate them by redistributing about 75% of what we'd raised to make the show in the form of checks to our artistic and technical collaborators. 

I thought the hard part was over.  And then I found myself a producer of a project in post-production. 

But now it's here!  Gemma & The Bear.  Kevin R. Free was my collaborator in all things - writing, acting and producing - and Matt Scott as director, editor and co-writer has provided invaluable additional vision and input.  This has been one of the most rigorous and most rewarding artistic experiences of my life and while I learned a lot (and would do some things differently if I had to do them over) I am incredibly proud of what we've made. 

We're still working on episodes 3, 4, 5 and 6 - they'll be out in August - but for now I hope you enjoy episodes 1 and 2.

EPISODE 1: HE'S BAAAAAAAACK! Gemma gets a big assignment at work and graduates from therapy, but a blast from the past threatens her security. CAST: Gemma Woods: Eevin Hartsough Karen: Natalie Kim Tom: Debargo Sanyal The Bear: Kevin R. Free and Jojo Gonzalez as Dr. Dormer

EPISODE 2: MEET THE BEAR Gemma visits her dad, Hank, to try to get to the bottom of the Bear's reappearance in her life. CAST: Gemma - Eevin Hartsough The Bear - Kevin R. Free Hank - Ray DeMattis More at

This isn't theater so I can't see your faces; leave a comment! 

M.C. Double-E

That's my rap name.  Okay.  Not really.  BUT my rap video did just come out.  You're saying "WHAT?!" I know.  It's a little "off brand," as they say. Here's the story . . .

The One I Love

The weekend before last, my husband and I found ourselves in the rare position of having an evening to ourselves (the kiddo was asleep early) and enough time to watch an entire movie in one sitting.  Hot Damn!  

Some quick googling of "best date movies" led us to The One I Love staring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass plus Ted Danson in a small supporting role.  It's currently streaming on Netflix which describes the movie this way:

Confronted with the potential end of their marriage, Ethan and Sophie take off for a weekend together, hoping to negotiate their future. When they reach their idyllic destination, however, the couple strolls into a bizarre new brand of trouble.

We really enjoyed it.  I wrote before about another Mark Duplass movie, Safety Not Guaranteed, and what both of these movies have is a kind of eerie magical realism that works really beautifully. 

Also, as a recent producer of video content (aka Gemma & The Bear) it was hard not to be impressed with how the movie really only has two actors in it - such a smart way to have room to focus on excellent acting (which The One I Love has in abundance) and great production values. 

If you watch it - or if you've seen it - leave a comment and let me know what you thought!

Time-Sensitive Culture Alert: "Next Year Jerusalem"

Hello! We (the Royal "we") interrupt the scheduled postings for this blog to tell you about the FABULOUS movie I saw this past Saturday night.

The film is Next Year Jerusalem.  As it happens, I know about the movie because I know the filmmaker personally.  But, before you start thinking that I'm just pushing my friend's project because he's my friend: stop thinking that!  If you've ever known anyone who's made something truly excellent, you'll know the feeling where on the one hand is the regular guy you know and make jokes with and then there's this other really talented artist who created this amazing thing and you're honored and surprised to realize that you know him too.  It was like that.

Anyway, here's what you need to know:

1. Next Year Jerusalem is currently screening in NYC through May 22 at Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, New York, NY - (212) 255-8800.  Tickets are available for purchase at - search zip code 10011 for the Quad and select appropriate dates and showtimes.

2. The film will screen in Los Angeles May 30 - June 5 at Laemmle Cinemas, Locations and Showtimes TBD - (212) 255-8800.  (If you live in or near LA, please consider going to see the film in honor of my June 4 birthday. Seriously!)

3. You can see a trailer for the film here!

The movie is about eight residents of an old folks' home in CT who take an unlikely but inspiring trip to Israel.  Honestly: I'm not a fan of old people.  I do not swoon for Young @ Heart, Dr. Ruth never made me anything but uncomfortable, and while I just tolerate Santa, I see Scrooge as a fairly accurate portrayal of the majority of people in his age group.  So, I expected to appreciate this movie but not to really like and enjoy it.  But I did!  That is how good Next Year Jerusalem is.  Because it's really about how we choose to live our lives - the classic Viktor Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I do hope you'll see the film - or, if you can't, that you'll sign up for news about future screenings and the DVD release - and then leave a comment with your thoughts.