Friday, December 28, 2012

Feel Good Friday - Recology

Recology... sounds familiar, right? If you live in San Francisco, this is the company that runs the curbside pickup of your trash, compost and recycling.  Of course, yes. That's what it says on the side of the trucks that role around your neighborhood once a week, you remember now.

But did you know they're also the company that runs an Artist in Residence Program at the dump! Yes, you read that correctly. Since 1990, over ninety-five professional artists and twenty student artists have completed residencies at this one-of-a-kind program and have made art from discarded materials. 

Scary Cow at the dump!
The Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco is a unique art and education program that provides Bay Area artists with access to discarded materials, a stipend, and a large studio space at the Recology Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center (aka the dump).  By supporting artists who work with recycled materials, Recology hopes to encourage people to conserve natural resources and promote new ways of thinking about art and the environment.

Tamara Albaitis working in front
of her piece, "Dwell"
"Carpet Mountain" by
Amy Wilson Faville
This fall, I went to the dump with my Scary Cow crew to find out more about what's going on and talk to the artists.  Tamara Albaitis creates interactive sound sculptures, while Amy Wilson Faville creates mixed media constructions based on photos of items dropped off at the dump - carpets and mattresses being two examples.

Tamara, Kristian & Amy
ready for the hunt
During our visit, the ladies and I put on our reflective vests ala Charlie's Angels and went on a scavenging hunt.  Well, that is if Charlie's Angels ever stepped through piles of discarded belongings  shouting "eureka" while dodging front loader tractors.

The following month the Scary Cow crew returned for the gallery show.  These shows are open to the public and not only do you get to see great recycled art and talk to the artists but beer, wine and hot dogs are also provided!  For free!  

The next opening will be Friday, January 25th (2013!) from 5pm to 9pm and Saturday, January 26th from 1pm to 5pm.  
You can also sign up for a tour of the facility, which takes you through the sculpture garden home to works made by former artists in residence.
Earth's Tear

All in all this program, the people who run it and the artists who participate in it are fantastic and you would do yourself a favor to check them out in 2013.

Happy New Year!

All photos courtesy of Aida Daay!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Feel Good Friday - Loved Twice

My friends, the holiday season is upon us; Hanukkah, Christmas, and the end of the Mayan calendar. (If you don't read the blog this week because you're running from meteor showers, or just out buying a new calendar, you are forgiven.)

This time of year is usually spent with friends and family and often includes a gift exchange.  By now you've most likely either given your gifts or have them at your house ready to wrap. (If you don't read the blog this week because you've got to do some last minute shopping, you are also forgiven.)

This blog focus on gift-giving that happens year round.  Loved Twice is a non-profit organization that clothes newborns in need with recycled baby clothing for the first year of life.  They collect gently-used babywear, sort these garments into boy and girl wardrobes-in-a-box, and distribute them through social workers in hospitals, shelters, and clinics.

Theirs is a simple solution that supports disadvantaged babies while recycling thousands of onesies, swaddling blankets, and babywear that would otherwise end up in landfills. Since their inception in 2005 they have distributed 432,000 garments and clothed 5700 babies!

In a season of celebrating a famous birth, consider helping out the babies that are being born every day by giving what you can; clothes, money or time.

As for keeping those used clothes out of the landfill... tune in next week to find out what other creative strategies people are using to stop trash in it's tracks.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Feel Good Friday - Journeys For Good

It's Friday, the weekend is almost here and many people will soon be taking time off work to travel and spend time with their families. What a perfect (okay average) segue as traveling is the subject for this week's Feel Good Friday blog!

Posing in the window
is much easier than
painting the wall...
Over the last 14 years, I have participated in six volunteer trips with Habitat for Humanity's Global Village program, co-leading the last two.  You spend two weeks in a foreign country building houses with other volunteers and the soon-to-be homeowners and having a fabulous, oftentimes transforming, experience.  Those of you who know me, know I love it and would encourage any of you who are curious to give it a try.

What do you do if you like the idea of voluntourism, as volunteer vacations are now being called, but house building just ain't your thang?  That's where Journeys For Good comes in.

Steve and Joanie Wynn are a Bay Area couple who have traveled the world together producing stories for Travel Channel and other major stations.  After a trip to Tanzania to film a group of volunteers, they were inspired to spread the message of volunteer travel and created a website to do just that.

The goal of their site - and upcoming TV series - is to "celebrate volunteer travel experiences around the world."  Steve, Joanie and their son Ryan are about to go on a volunteer trip to Cambodia to film the pilot for their show.  They'll be blogging while there and putting films on their YouTube channel when they come home so we can all follow along!

As a person with aspirations to create and host a TV series highlighting the positive impact people around the world are making in their communities, I'm cheering them on and can't wait to see what discoveries they make.

I know from experience that volunteering to help others can make you feel great and doing it in another country opens you up to people you wouldn't normally meet visiting only as a tourist.  Have I mentioned that if you're thinking about something like this you should do it?  Just do it!

Tracy and I really were shoveling these rocks into a
 wheelbarrow when we weren't resting and posing for photos.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Feel Good Friday - Mazingira Monkeys

Hi All,

It's Feel Good Friday #2 and, considering this is only the 2nd week I've started this, I'm pretty excited to be able to say I haven't missed a Friday yet!

Our subject today, The Mazingira Monkey Project in Arusha, Tanzania. It's the brainchild of a man named Ramadhani Juma who I met while traveling in 2007.

Hanging bags to dry.
Tired of the plastic bags that litter the streets, parks and rivers of Arusha, he decided to collect them, wash them out and then use them to stuff animals he makes and sells to the tourists who pass through town. He does this not only to earn money for paying rent, buying food and sending his kids to school but also because he knows the plastic bags are bad for the environment and the animals that eat them.

Making the animals.
Mazingira is the Swahili word for environment and the Monkey Project is run by Ramadhani and his wife. He makes daily treks into the downtown area to check on sales at the Jambo Cafe, then collect and wash plastic bags before bringing them home to dry in the sun. When he can, he asks the children living on the streets to help him pick up the bags and in return he buys them food. Once home, Ramadhani and his wife work together sewing and stuffing all the animals by hand.

He's been making monkeys, elephants and giraffes for the last 10 years and while I'd love to be able to say he's moved into a bigger home and is sending all his children to school,  he still struggles to make ends meet. And yet, he's still committed the project because of the positive impact it's having on the streets of Arusha.

You can learn more about him by watching a video I put together. Keep in mind it was done 5 years ago before I developed some of the mad skillz I have now so be gentle.

Ta da!

If you feel compelled to help Ramadhani out, do. Buy an animal, send him an email of support or send him some cash. He's not tax deductible, he's just a guy trying to make his city a better place.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Feel Good Friday - Tess Felix

Hi.  Remember me?

I have obviously not been doing the best job of updating this blog on a regular basis but that's changing right now!  A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who recommended that if I'm trying to create a show that focuses on projects around the globe doing good work in the community, I should blog about these people and get connected to their worlds.  Brilliant.

And thus was born the "Feel Good Friday" weekly blogs!  Yes, I know that title is super cheesy so if you can suggest something more appropriate (and still alliterate - fantastic, fabulous, freaky) I'll switch. Until then, Feel Good Friday it is.

Our first FGF blog brings us Tess Felix!

I met her in August when I went with a film crew from Scary Cow to interview her as part of the travel show I'm developing.  She's an artist in Stinson Beach who creates portraits from plastic scraps she collects on the shoreline when she goes for walks with her dog, Isabel.

The idea came to her after a storm washed up so much plastic on the beach that it looked like a mosaic.  Her background as a painter inspired her to try and make something of the trash.  As Tess describes it, "the process of bringing each piece to life from the bits gathered along the shore is exciting.  Two puzzles are in play; finding the voice of the story I am attempting to tell and second, discovering combinations both in form and color to support the telling."

Filming in front of "Mr. Lucky"
Many of her subjects are personal, such as a portrait of her husband in a blue suit and her daughter envisioned as a mermaid.  The fun, and slightly disturbing, thing to do is get closer to the art so you can see what it's made of.  Straws, pen caps, water guns and condoms (in the wrapper, thank you very much for asking).  The amount and variety of materials has not been lost on Tess.

"Working with beach plastics, turning garbage and excess into something beautiful, has created a shift in my world view.  I now take more responsibility for the items I elect to bring into my life and first, weigh their value carefully."  After spending the day talking with Tess, seeing her art and finding plastic on our beach walk - now I do too.

To learn more about Tess and her work visit her website or read the SF Chronicle article from August.
Yes, you can turn a jar full of plastic bits into a mermaid!
A big thank you to Aida Daay for inspiring me to get back to blogging and Damon Tarver who took these photos!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Palm Springs Recap

It's Me!
My friends, I am back from the Palm Springs International ShortFest!  It was a fun time with many fabulous movies to see and people to meet but I am happy to have left the heat behind.

Arriving on Friday afternoon, I checked into the hotel and then went over to the Film Market to drop off copies of Behind the Bush (yes this is it finally online).  

The Market is a giant lending library where you can go and check out the films that did (and didn't) make it into the festival and then watch them on computers which are positioned throughout the room.

Ooh, we're in a binder.
After that, while awaiting the arrival of friend and fellow filmmaker, Erin, I started talking to people and watching movies! The people I met were nice, interesting and came from all over the world. While some of the movies were um, well you know, it's not easy to finish a film so bless us all for the effort, some of them were fantastic! Fantastic I tell you!

Waiting for Gus Van Sant...
A few films to check out if you can... 

A Brush With the Tenderloin - "A portrait of one of San Francisco's grittiest, yet most diverse, neighborhoods -- the Tenderloin -- told through the evolution of a community-inspired mural by artist Mona Caron."  It will be screening at the Roxie in San Francisco on July 25th at 8pm.  Go check it out. Seriously. If you are not teary by the end of this film then I guess you are not as prone to getting teary as I am.

Detras del Espejo (Behind the Mirrors) - "The worker of a cheap motel resorts to questionable actions in order to make ends meet." Oh, that doesn't make it sound half as exciting as it is.  The film starts in the middle (just like a good improv scene) and the situation keeps getting worse for said worker, Ernesto.  It's a Peruvian movie and was awarded Best of the Festival this year.  I don't know where you might be able to see it but try.

Insert your own witty
blowing wind/dress
comment here.
But a film festival can not be all about networking and movie-watching.  Eventually, even though walking around in Palm Springs is like being a bug crawling around on a lady's head while she sits under a hair dryer on full blast, gossiping with her friends, one must get out.

Mmm... margaritas!
Erin and I strolled through town, stopping to take pictures with their new Marilyn Monroe statue (well I did) and then sampling the local Mexican food and margaritas.  Bueno, Palm Springs.  Muy bueno!

More movies, more networking, more parties.  I have some filmmakers I want to stay in touch with - am getting on those emails right after this, I swear - so that's good.

The final party was at a place called Lulu.  Filet mignon on mashed potatoes in little plastic cups, a photo booth where you could have your picture taken and film festival volunteers/retirees dancing up a storm to Michael Jackson.  I mean really, what's not to love?

Final party at Lulu.
The whole trip was pretty inspirational and now my goal is to have another film together for next year so I can send it in and go back!  Now that I've learned how to better maximize the networking opportunities and to stay indoors during the middle of the afternoon, how can I not?

Rockin' our lanyards
at Lulu.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Palm Springs Int'l ShortFest - Here I Come!

As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to finish packing for my trip to the Palm Springs International Shortfest. Kind of hard to know what to pack given the temperature is 55 here and 106 there!

My short documentary about the Bushmen in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf - Behind the Bush - will be in the film market, essentially a giant lending library where people can check it out and view it. I'm excited to go down to schmooze with people, see films and attend the parties!

Earth's Tear

When I'm back, it's time to start filming the not-yet-named (hint: suggestions welcome) travel show. Although the goal is to eventually film internationally, we'll be staying local for now.


First stop, the Artist in Residence Program at the dump!  Yep, 6 artist per year are chosen from over 100 applicants for a residency period at the dump.  They get studio space, a small stipend and access to all the stuff you and I throw away.

Rockin' the safety vest!
They turn it into art, have a show and leave some pieces at Recology for their gallery.

It's a pretty awesome program and I'm looking forward to speaking with the artists and learning more about when I'm back.
This is just trash.  Gross.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Volunteer Vacation

You know I am a fan of the volunteer vacation.  I've gone on six volunteer builds with Habitat for Humanity, each one unique and memorable in it's own way, and I hope to one day turn that number into seven.

If ditch digging, cement mixing and house building isn't your thing - you can still have a fantastic volunteer experience abroad.  Journeys For Good is an organization dedicated to giving you all the information and inspiration you need to travel the world and make a difference.  Check out their website, book yourself a trip and then go find your passport!  Actually, you should probably switch the order of those items up just a tad.
Taking a break from painting
in Madagascar to pose
in the window. 

And if you think a Habitat trip just may be your cup of tea after all, watch the video from my 2007 trip to Madagascar to help you decide: Go Mad!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

6 Degrees of Separation

The good news of the week is that I'm taking some actual steps to make a local version of what I'd like to become an international travel show!  I've met with a fellow producer in Scary Cow who is on board and I'm working to identify people and organizations to profile.

Here's where you come in.  

Do you know anyone who works for or has utilized the services of any of these organizations: Scrap, Creativity Explored or Girls, Inc?  They are all appealing to me in different ways.  

SCRAP’s mission is to stimulate creativity and environmental awareness in children and adults through promoting the creative reuse of materials that traditionally have been discarded as waste.

Creativity Explored advances the value and diversity of artistic expression. We provide artists with developmental disabilities the means to create, exhibit, and sell their art in our studios and gallery, and around the world.

Girls Inc. of Alameda County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. We are a local affiliate of the national Girls Inc. organization, which provides vital educational programs to millions of American girls, particularly those in high-risk, underserved areas.

If you do know anyone connected with these groups, whether you're separated by 1 degree or 6, please give me a shout.  My goal is to make short videos for these groups much like the ones I made in Africa 5 years ago.  (I can't believe it has been 5 years but it most certainly has).

Thanks, homies!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spring Update

Well, so much for the pressure of being followed leading me to more frequent updates.  But hey, I've got some for you now and here they are!

I submitted a shorter, more clear version of the Bushman film to the Palm Springs International ShortFest, which takes place in the middle of June.  I'm going down there whether or not the film makes it in.  Utah in the winter, Palm Springs in the summer?  Extreme temperatures is just how I roll!

Two other Scary Cow films that I produced continue to make the film festival rounds.

The Magic Man has been in Hill Country (that would be Texas), Boston, and New York!  I haven't been traveling with this film since Utah but all is going well.  To stay updated, the Facebook page is your best bet:

Kethron's Bucket-Mending & Hymen Emporium has been accepted to festivals in Connecticut and Mumbai.  Mumbai!  Unfortunately I won't make either of these but I wish this film well.  Updates can be found on this Facebook page:

In non film related news, my friend Roz Savage is about to embark on a two person row from St. John's in Newfoundland to England so they get there in time for the Olympics!  It's the Olympic Atlantic Row and you can follow their progress here.

MUNI or Bojangles - which is faster?
I was lucky enough to see Roz, Mos and Bojangles (their boat) at an event in San Francisco before they left.  The boat had been docked at the Hyde Street Pier undergoing repairs and preparations for the journey.  Some final touches were being made on the streets of San Francisco outside the event.

After some snacks, networking and gin & tonics (how British!) all that was left were speeches by the boat.

Well that and photo opportunities for the fans...

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out what step comes in between the films I made in Africa and a desire to buy a camera and plane ticket to Colombia for more of the same.  There have to be local people and groups I can film with a small crew before I get kidnapped by the FARC or end up in a hotel full of secret service and hookers.

All ideas are welcome.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Slamdance Recap - Now With Photos!

Although startled by white flakes falling from the sky, I survived and enjoyed my first Slamdance!
12 hours on the road and a time
change and we're still gorgeous!

After a 5:30am pickup on Friday the 20th and a 12 hour drive to Utah The Magic Man crew (director, DC Kasundra, cinematographer, Tom Krymkowski and producer, yours truly)  checked into our hotel, changed, drove another 45 minutes and rallied for the opening night party!

Amid all the music, drinks and meeting fellow filmmakers, we gave out a lot of 3D glasses to get people excited about our film.  We were part of the Anarchy Program (though I still don't understand why) and screened two times during the festival. But more on that in a moment.

A snowy first day
Saturday morning we were up early to get back to Main Street in Park City.  It was a positively blizzardy day! Well, maybe it wasn't a blizzard but there was a lot more snow than I'm used to seeing. Fortunately, I was dressed appropriately with a jacket, hat, boots and gloves. I still needed to get some lessons on how to walk heel to toe so I didn't slip and slide to an early grave - or twisted ankle.

Main Street
As fabulous as it looked, it was cold and gave me a good excuse to stay inside, give some interviews with our crew, watch some films and socialize. A poorly done documentary that shall not be named was followed by Rollertown, a funny film about the mafia taking over a roller rink to turn it into a video arcade. Did their evil plan work? I bet you know the answer.

TMI - Home of Slamdance
(and sometimes home of TMI)
All of the Slamdance festivities took place at the Treasure Mountain Inn - and yes, they call it TMI. When we weren't watching movies, going to panel discussions or schmoozing at the happy hours there, we were eating and drinking at our favorite restaurant on Main Street, the Wasatch Brew Pub!

Yes, the biggest draw was the fact that it was right across the street from TMI but they had good food and brewed their own beer on site. My favorite (for the name) Polygamy Porter - Why Have Just One? Why indeed.

Tom and DC enjoying the local brew

Why don't I wear 3D
glasses more often?
Sunday we arrived at TMI for the Slamdance red carpet photo shoot.  Too bad the email we got had the wrong date and it had already happened Saturday. No worries, we've got cameras and we know how to use them. We did also get a private photo shoot with the official Slamdance photographer. I'm waiting to see if we can get a copy of those photos.

Tom shoots DC
Another thing that kept us busy all week was putting up posters. Main Street has a few designated spots for both Slamdance and Sundance posters. Sundance was this other film festival taking place on Main Street that week. You might have heard of it.

One of the biggest differences between the two festivals (besides the fact that the Slamdance films really were made independently as opposed to the Sundance films which were made with A&E Indie Films and HBO Documentary) was the clothing.  One of the Slamdance teams was running around in plastic yellow ponchos with the name of their film stenciled on the back.  The Sundance volunteers all wore Kenneth Cole ski jackets with Sundance stitched into the front. Sheesh.

Tom fighting the good fight
But back to the posters. We would put ours up, only to have them covered by posters from all the rest of the films.  This process was repeated multiple times a day.  I suggest they get archeology interns to take the posters down and study the layers as they work backwards in time.  You've got to be able to learn something.

Posing before the posters
are covered up.
Finally Sunday night arrives and our film screens.  A full house, 3D glasses on everyone and rave reviews!  DC did a great job speaking after the film.  He repeated the questions and had answers to all of them without rambling, giggling nervously or chewing gum.  Huzzah!

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were much of the same.  Movies at TMI, parties and happy hours up and down Main Street, buffalo burgers at the local eating establishments and far too little sleep.  Celebrity sightings included: Spike Lee, Neil Young, the kid who plays Luke on Modern Family, William H. Macy (seen behind me but not by me), Nia Vardarlos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), John Hawkes (Deadwood) and Terri Garr - though I was the only one who saw her so this can neither be confirmed nor denied. Even so, I have totally convinced myself it was her.

Even the graffiti is film related
Thursday we were able to watch most of the other shorts blocks - some creepy films, some beautiful films, some films that made you cry.  That afternoon The Magic Man screened again.  Smaller crowd but still a big, positive response.
Beth our Slamdance liaison

At the end of the night it was the closing party.  A chance to hang out and then say goodbye to some of the people we met, a chance to try and meet just a few more.  It was exhausting but fun.

Goodbye, Utah

The next day - a week after we arrived in Utah we hit the road, going back to Cali.  Now I've got to get on following up with people I met and keeping those connections going.  That and posting these pictures on Facebook.  I'll get right on it as soon as I finish my nap.

Team Iceland!

Hell to the Yeah

Chillaxin at the Slamdance HQ

I love snow!
(for one week only)