Friday, February 27, 2009

Reflections on the Way to the Capitol

Sitting on an airplane, en route to DC, I have the opportunity to catch my breath for a few hours, and to reflect on just how much we've accomplished over the past month. For starters, Laurie and I have carved out a 57 minute rough cut of the film -- something I thought couldn't be done -- and the proof is on three DVDs, safely tucked into the carry-on bags at my feet.

I've also updated our website (at long last, and with late-night help from my unbelievably helpful husband Nik). If you haven't checked it out lately, please do: It's bare-bones, and nothing fancy, but it's clean and up-to-date. I'm hoping to work on a much bigger, richer website in the months to come...

Other accomplishments from the whirlwind of the last two weeks: I've nailed down a venue in LA for a fundraising screening next Sunday (more info on that in my next post), sent in two more funding applications, upgraded my organizational and financial systems, and finally found a good bookkeeper. I got a screening time at the AFSC/IPS  conference being held in DC this weekend (hence the flight I'm on), and I even managed to get my hair cut. I'll drink a toast (ginger ale and pretzel snacks, please) to the end of February... may March be just as productive, but a little less hectic!

As for what's up next... this is my first trip to DC in many years, and only my second trip to the US since Obama's election. I am curious to see how things may have changed in my absence. And part of me, lately, is very very homesick... I have been in Canada now for over four years, and I feel like my American identity is slowly fading. Here I am, making a film about what it means to be American, and I myself no longer know. So part of this trip will be trying to figure that out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Three important things to know about Laurie

Since the Horse Opera website is in the process of being updated and doesn't yet include our whole team, I thought I'd just post a quick note here about one of the most valuable members of the Horse Opera crew: editor Laurie MacMillan.
Things to know:
#1: Laurie is a GREAT editor. She has taken my vision, and my overly long and complicated rough cut, and made it sing. WE LOVE LAURIE!
#2: Laurie has a great attitude. Here is a picture of Laurie, editing The Insular Empire in what has come to be known as "the world's smallest editing bay." And yet look how cheerful she is! Amazing.
#3: Laurie loves Trader Joe's -- maybe even more than I do -- and has been in severe withdrawal since her arrival here in Vancouver. Our recent trip to Seattle replenished her store of Trader Joe's Tom Yum cashews... let's hope they hold out until I can buy her more next month in LA...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Post-Seattle Update

I had meant to post something here prior to the Seattle screening, but things were just too crazy for that to be feasible. I'm happy to say, though, that we got the latest cut ready in time for the screening, and made it down to Seattle without a hitch. Our host Scott Lipsky was very generous and made his beautiful home on the West Seattle waterfront available for two screenings, which went quite smoothly.

Overall, the feedback was really useful. It looks like the changes we made in response to the Vancouver screening are working (no slow spots anymore - hooray!), and we got some really good feedback on ways to improve the look of the animation sequences. Most importantly, the audience, on the whole, seemed to GET the idea of the film.

What was interesting was that the idea itself -- the inherent complexity of the relationship between the Marianas and the US -- was hard for many viewers to accept. Similarly, our decision to give equal weight to each of the film's four characters (and their often conflicting viewpoints) seemed to make many of the mainland viewers uncomfortable. But I think this just goes with the territory. The Marianas ARE complicated, and their relationship to the US is extremely conflicted. This is not something most (non-indigenous) Americans have had to think about before. All the more reason we need to develop a really amazing website, that can help answer a lot of the questions the film raises.

And speaking of amazing websites... I should mention that I've started working with a really great designer here in Vancouver, Lara Kroeker, of Randomlink Interactive. I'm about to start a new fundraising campaign, to help pay for her services in creating the Insular Empire's digital outreach campaign.