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The Monday after Sidewalk is always bittersweet. The weekend was so much fun and jam-packed with things to do. James came into town on Thursday evening, and we went nonstop till late last night for the filmmaker’s midnight breakfast at Rojo. Our short film screening went really great Saturday night and we had a good turnout despite the fact that it was so late. We’ve already started talking with a handful of other short filmmakers in town about doing another local screening in a month or two for those who missed it at the festival, so stay tuned for that information soon.
We saw so many wonderful films, and some of my favorites were from the Shout program – Gayby and Nate and Margaret. I especially loved Gayby because it introduced a lovely thought – that we can redefine what it means to be a family. It’s the story of two long-time best friends, between a single woman and a gay man. They each want to have a child, and have reached a point where they no longer want to wait for “the one.” So, they decide to have one together…the old fashioned way. It is was brilliantly funny, heart touching and real. Who says you can’t be a wonderful parent without falling into the typical formula of a romantic relationship? I don’t know… I just thought it was a great film. If you ever get the chance to see it, you absolutely must. Nate and Margaret also brought up challenging concepts of friendship by portraying an older lonely woman with aspirations of becoming a comedian and her platonic relationship with a young gay man in his early 20′s. They both live in the same building, and are the best of friends. They seem like such an unlikely pair, but they fit together perfectly. I just love it when stereotypes are put by the wayside in favor of true connections. Partnerships, friendships, and love come in many shapes, sizes and colors.
Speaking of love, we laid to rest my Grandmother West this morning next to her husband Howard. It was a beautiful, slightly windy day as we all said our goodbyes at the gravesite. Once the service was over, my dad didn’t skip a beat and took a flower from the beautiful bouquet on top of her coffin. We all followed his lead, and I ended up with a beautiful red rose to remind me of her spirit. Earlier that morning before the funeral we got to see her one last time. As the morning light moved across the church, a beam hit her face perfectly for about 5 minutes. She looked beautiful, even though she was no longer with us. Before she died, she told my dad and Uncle Pat that her favorite dress was in a specific place in her house just for this purpose. After she passed last week, they went to her home to retrieve it… and safety-pinned to a silk and lace gown was a note that said “favorite dress.” I love that story so much. It was a beautiful dress indeed, and as I looked upon her I thought how lovely she looked in it with the sun hitting her face one last time. I will never forget how peaceful she seemed at that very moment.
Happy Sidewalk! Today’s post will be short, so I will see you all again Monday morning. If you are in Birmingham this weekend, please come out and see our film Crush play tomorrow night at 10:30 p.m. at the Alabama School of Fine Arts as part of a local short film block. Also, here is a great write-up by my friend Christy Turnipseed on Crush that you should read if you have the time.
James shared an image with me this morning that I want to leave you with below (if it isn’t clear, click on it for a better version). Have a wonderful weekend!
Some days just zap everything you have. I’ve felt like that for most of today, seemingly combating negative energy from others and even myself at times. That is until about 30 minutes ago. There is a special woman who comes in to my work from time to time to train others on physical healing techniques. She is from New Orleans and calls everyone “Boogie”. I had written her a month or two back about a natural remedy for rosacea, and the first thing she said to me today was that she had found just the thing. I will let you know what that magic potion is in just a minute. Somehow though, she transitioned and started pulling other information out of me. I voiced some current concerns which usually don’t even make me blink twice, but today I was struggling with. She listened attentively. She has such a peaceful spirit, as she absorbs what I’m saying but doesn’t let affect her in any negative way. Then I asked her what her secret was, how was she able to be such a healer for others and not let those emotions factor into her own well-being? Her answer was simple: meditation. She specifically practices chanting, an old Buddhist ritual. She does it in the mornings when she wakes up and in the evenings when she goes to bed. She isn’t a Buddhist, she just practices some of its ideas. This isn’t the first time meditation has been recommended to me, and for those of you who read my blog from time to time know that I’ve tried it in the past with little success. Then she said to me – that is why it’s call practice, because it is never perfected. Some days will be easy than others, but you will always be glad you did it. Some people call it prayer, others call it chanting, others call it meditation – but it’s all the same. It is connecting us with an energy greater than ourselves. Sometimes when life becomes too chaotic or you just need a sense of balance, you have to reach in deep to find your inner voice again. I plan to learn more about her specific practices and see how they might fit in with my life.
As for the rosacea, she recommended lymphatic massage (which is what she was training others for specifically today) on a regular basis. Also, she gave me a secret potion to put on my face: Aveda’s All Sensitive lotion mixed with 2 drops of helichrysum oil, 2 drops of lavendar oil, and two drops of carrot seed oil. She recommended that I start taking vitamin B and B12 on a regular basis as well, and also suggested milk thistle for its liver-protective and regenerative properties. It’s nice to know that I have some options outside of taking a low dose antibiotic for the rest of my life. Once I give them shot, I will report back how they worked for me.
It’s a big week folks – the Sidewalk Film Festival is here and there is a lot to look forward to. Most of the out-of-town filmmakers arrive on Thursday just in time for the kickoff party that evening. So once Thursday is here, it’s almost solid festival time until late Sunday night. Friday I am participating in an all-day panel to talk about fundraising for independent film, which I am excited about. That evening will be the opening night film at the Alabama Theatre (always so much fun), then Saturday and Sunday are fully booked with movies within the Sidewalk Film Festival radius downtown. This is such an important festival for writers and aspiring filmmakers to go to, because no other local event leaves you feeling more motivated and full of ideas. If you don’t live in Birmingham, then I highly recommend going to your own local film festival (or one nearby) to understand what I’m talking about. It’s storytelling in one of its best forms and you will meet some of the most talented well-rounded artists. And… don’t forget to come see Crush on Saturday night at the Alabama School of Fine Arts at 10:30 p.m.!
Sometimes rain can wash away your best laid plans… and that was the case for Vero and I this morning. We had planned on a 6 mile run that I was really looking forward to, but instead I got to stay in bed for an hour and a half longer b/c of the weather. I have to say though, that is always a nice Friday (or any day) treat to get in a few more hours of rest.
The Sidewalk Film Festival is one week away, and I couldn’t be more excited! I can’t wait to absorb in all of the films and be surrounded by artists of many kinds. The festival has an energy that I can’t describe…and the fact that it only happens once a year makes it even more special. We are so very lucky to be able to host an event recognized across the nation as one of the best film festivals. And it’s right here in our own backyard.
This weekend I get to explore Athens, GA with James, a city I’ve never been to before. That will make two visits to Athens this year – one in Greece & the one in Georgia. We will be taking the Megabus from Atlanta on Saturday morning and will return Sunday afternoon. I’ve always heard Athens, GA is a really fun college town full of art, music, great food and history. It’s only an hour and a half from Atlanta, so it will be an easy trip to and from. And maybe I will run into Michael Stipe if I’m lucky…
What is your time worth? Have you ever thought about that? Most of us only think about that concept in relation to work, but really every second has a price tag – monetary or otherwise. If you were to stand aside and look at your life as an ongoing project, would you let it be subject to negative thoughts or emotions? Would you let it watch mindless TV instead of doing something that would let it grow emotionally? Speaking only for myself, I know that I take for granted that I still have many years left, and that time is my oyster. If I don’t do it today, then I can do it tomorrow. Then I think about people who I know that are sick, who have definite limited time left here on earth, and they do not let one moment pass by without taking full advantage. They savor life and its moments like a piece of delicious chocolate. Another thing I’ve noticed about these people is that they express their love unselfishly at every possible chance. They want all of their loved ones to know how they feel, and by doing that they generate this positive energy – almost from another space and time. Like they have a secret that we don’t know. That love is the answer to everything, and truly living is the only way to move forward in this short life we have. Sometimes it’s nice to sit on the couch and have a “me” day, as the body and mind need rest. But if we find ourselves sitting there being unhappy, then we aren’t fulfilling something crucial in our destiny. What is it that you’d like to do with your time on earth? I know my answers to that question. I’ve even started to visualize myself at older ages…something I couldn’t do until recently. I see myself clearly at 35, 40, 45, 50, even 75…as a woman who means something to herself, to others and the community around her. I only want to do important work. I want to create, to write, to accomplish my goals and dreams. I also want to be surrounded by love and people who lift me up. I think the future has that in store, because it’s what I want.
Last night I got the opportunity to celebrate Alan Hunter’s 15 years of service with the Sidewalk Film Festival, an organization very close to my heart as most of you know. When I moved back to Birmingham in 2004 or so after living in Atlanta, I hardly knew a soul besides my family in the city. Almost immediately upon my return, my grandmother Gayle gave me a clipping from The Birmingham News for a film festival monthly meeting announcement, as she knew I had an interest in independent film. I decided to go on my own, and was immediately introduced to then festival director Erik Jambor (founding father along with Wayne Franklin). I felt so accepted and at home with the local film community, as well as inspired. I made quick friends with several people who I still know and love to this day – Sam Frazier, James Brown, Arik Sokol, Kelly Suzanne, Catherine Pfitzer…just to name a few. I started volunteering on other filmmaker’s projects while learning the process, and fell head over heals with the art. I never could have imagined myself following that path when I was younger, as the concept had never been introduced as an option. A whole new world of ambition, creativity and dreams opened up before my eyes. On top of all that, to actually attend the festival itself and see what others create from around the country, and even the world, almost completely blew my mind. There were people out there actually doing this on a large-scale and being successful at it. This medium brings so many arts together: sound, visual, writing, producing, editing…there are so many moving parts. It’s the ultimate creative challenge. There are also many different types of films: shorts, features, documentaries, animations, etc. Some spark your imagination, others make you think about the world around us. My favorites are usually in the feature documentary category, but I also love a good indie horror film. Rachel Morgan and Kyle McKinnon do such an amazing job each year programming the festival and offering a variety of films for almost any taste. If you’ve never been, and you live in the city, I hope you make 2012 the year you decide to change that. Get your tickets here!
The festival is now run by Chloe Collins, who performs nothing short of miracles to make the annual magic happen. The current team is pretty spot on, and just thinking about this year’s event makes me burst with excitement. If you do attend, please try to make our screening for Crush, a short film directed by myself and Rebecca Pugh. It will be showing at 10:30 Saturday evening at the Alabama School of Fine Arts along with some other great Alabama shorts. We hope to see you there, and if you do come, please look for me and say hello!
I will leave on this final note: Thank you Alan Hunter for all of your service to a festival I love so much. I will never forget the special memories I got to share with you at various points, especially in 2006 for Piece of Cake. Your dedication is contagious.
Besides the fact that Baby Kitty decided it was a good idea to poke holes with her teeth in the cover of my new philosophy book “Lucid Living” by Tim Freke, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far. I’m not certain what someone else would think about it though who has never heard him speak, because I can clearly hear his voice as I read along…which gives it another level of impact. He has great pauses and a British accent that only add more charm to what he is saying. I really admire people who can stand in front of large groups and express bold ideas with courage. It just goes to show that if you don’t believe in what you are saying or doing, no one else will either.
If you’ve noticed a new private “page” on my blog, it’s because I’m about to launch my book presentation to help attain an agent as well as a book contract. I’ve been spending a lot of time on it lately to polish it up. Keep your fingers crossed, I hope to start sending out my proposal next week to a select list.
For those of you who live in Alabama, or are from Alabama, I hope you make special note of Alabama Gives Day on February 2nd! This is a chance for us to collectively give to some of our favorite local causes. It’s no secret that two of my favorites are the Sidewalk Film Festival and Humane Society (both Greater Birmingham & Shelby County). While looking through the list of charities, I randomly came across the fundraiser that I did last January & February for the Great Birmingham Humane Society (Jen Jogs for Cats and Dogs)…and guess whose little photo was on there? Sweet Kitten’s. It is now a happy memory. I will certainly be donating on Alabama Gives Day in remembrance of her.
I have really missed writing in my blog for the past few days. While I still did my daily post, the last three were very short due to time & exhaustion. It’s nice to be sitting in front of a computer again thinking about what I want to say. The windows are open this morning and the cool air is pouring in. In fact, it is almost a little chilly. I love it.
This past weekend was more than I could have ever asked for. I had some anxiety leading up to it about a few things, but once it got going I never looked back. I met so many new friends from in town and out-of-town, and my normal schedule was totally thrown out of the window. It was like time didn’t exist. Well, time didn’t exist until the no sleep pattern started to catch up with me on Saturday. I really enjoyed running the Sidetalk panels, even if I do miss a lot of the movies that are playing at the festival during the day. I get to hear some interesting conversations about independent film that I would otherwise never be privy to. All and all, it was a great weekend. And while I didn’t take too many photos myself, I know that I was in a bunch taken by the festival photographer. Those will be posted in the next few weeks so I’ll be sure to upload them here as well.
Can you believe that Thursday is the first day of September?? I can’t… but I am so grateful. I feel like there are happy times waiting for the rest of 2011, and the coming of fall is just the beginning of that. I can’t wait to wear a comfy sweater or to put on some high boots!
Sidewalk weekend is officially in full swing! Most of the out-of-town filmmakers arrived yesterday just in time for the first two parties, which lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. An electric chemistry happens when you put a lot of creative spirits together at an event like this. It’s not news that making a film can be an all-consuming project, so being able to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor at film festivals such as this one is a huge reward for a job well done. A lot of the filmmakers here in town are highly accomplished and have big futures ahead of them. It’s really cool to be a part of that for one weekend a year.
It was a smart call to take off of work today. I still got up at my usual time (thanks body clock) but I plan to take it easy for the better part of the day. I will probably squeeze a run in sometime after lunch, as well as a nap. :) Tonight is the opening night film, which I believe is pretty close to selling out at the Alabama Theatre. There is a “red carpet” party before the movie, followed by a post party at the B&A Warehouse. Sounds like another late night…
Today is the first official day of the Sidewalk Film Festival weekend!! I am still going in to work today until about 3 p.m., then I head home to get ready for 2 fun parties tonight. I am officially off of work tomorrow & Monday, because heavens know that I am going to need the extra rest. My time this weekend will be equally split between having fun and volunteering. Sleep is totally secondary. :)
For those of you in the Birmingham area, I hope you take advantage of the special menus during Birmingham Restaurant Week. I have two reviews left to post for Little Savannah and The Gardens Cafe. While visiting these establishments, I realized even more how important it is to support our local businesses. Plus, they are offering a whole lotta good food for very little money this week. For a full list of participating restaurants, click this link.
Sometimes when I get really excited about something (for example, Sidewalk), I start to develop anxiety as well. I guess when you really think about it, excitement and stress make you feel similar ways… except one is positive and one is negative. As most people who know me would say, I am overly full of energy at any given moment. That energy is either translated as a joy for life or worry and anxiety. Usually I can find healthy ways to channel my energy, other times it is a little more difficult. I do this in anticipation of big trips too. I get so excited in the weeks leading up that my mind starts to run away with me. So, an ongoing challenge for me is to realize that it’s hard to really experience something until it’s actually happening to you. And while looking forward to something can be fun, I shouldn’t let it consume me. Once again the word balance pops up in my life. Simple moments are important, too.
This is the beginning of Sidewalk Film Festival week, which is so special & important to me that it’s almost bigger than the holidays. This is the 13th year of the festival, but I’ve only been attending for the past 8. In fact one of the first things I did when I moved back from Atlanta in 2004 was go to the very first Sidewalk Salon, their monthly meeting/presentation held at Rojo. I instantly made friends that I’ve kept to this very day, and I fell in love with independent film. It’s really amazing that we have such a nationally recognized festival here in Birmingham. Every year I try to be involved as much as I can, whether through managing the Sidetalk panels or having a movie in the festival myself like I did in 2006 with Piece of Cake.
Today also kicks off my reviews for Birmingham Restaurant Week. Be on the lookout for a post on all things delicious at Ted’s Restaurant around lunchtime today.
I kept having the strangest dream last night, that someone was in my room near the landing of the staircase. I even woke up once and screamed. It was a man and he was green. How spooky is that? I am pretty sure it’s because of the scary movie I watched with my friend Rebecca, Insidious, a few nights ago. It was pretty cheesy for the most part, but we still screamed like little girls several times during the extra creepy parts. I really don’t think that my carriage house is haunted, it’s just my imagination going crazy. Famous last words…