Photo Essay: Graceland

March 10th, 2011


Touring the South(s)

March 8th, 2011

Ashley and I have been on the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers for a week now. As I type these notes, we are driving on I-55, heading from Memphis to a screening tonight in Jackson, Mississippi.

The program we are screening on this tour have been appropriately packaged together under the title “Southern Stories.” The two fictional films (Gina, An Actress, Age 29 and Quick Feet, Soft Hands) were shot in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the documentary (For Memories’ Sake) is a portrait of a woman who’s lived in a rural area outside Nashville all of her life. The cast and crew for these films is largely drawn from the areas in which they were shot.

Charleston Guest House

Guest house. Charleston, SC.

So, while there is a truth, and a convenience, in advertising the films as “Southern Stories”, I’m also ambivalent about labeling them this way. I have long believed that the South is not a monolithic place, except in American mythology, but that there are, instead, many Souths.

Visiting the three places we’ve screened so far — Johnson City, TN, Charleston, SC, and Memphis — has driven that home in dramatic fashion. I can’t remember touring three cities in such short succession that are more different in their cultural, racial, economic, and geographic diversity.

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New look and new directions

February 17th, 2011

I mentioned recently on this blog that there would be some changes coming to Self-Reliant Film. Last year, Ashley and I began distributing three of our films on DVD to universities, libraries, and other institutions. In the process, we quietly formed Self-Reliant Film, LLC to serve as the banner under which those works were released.

Now we’re gearing up to make new films together under the SRF name. You’ll be hearing more about those projects as they develop.

This blog has aimed to serve the DIY film community for over five years, and that won’t change. If anything, we’ll be trying to post more regularly and bring in new readers in the process.

As part of this new energy and direction for SRF, some of the changes are visual. One will be a redesign of this website. A quick look at this website’s masthead reveals another change: a new logo (actually a set of logos).

Though the posterized John Cassavetes image has served this blog well since its beginning, as SRF has emerged as a production/distribution company, it didn’t seem right to appropriate Cassavetes’ image — no matter how much we admire him and his work.

The new logo — part of a family of new logos created by the wonderful designers at Nathanna — suggests both the forested place we call home and where we make work, as well as the philosophy of self reliance.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

– Thoreau, Walden (Chapter 2)


SRF on the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers

February 8th, 2011

During the month of March, Ashley and I will be screening our films in eleven cities throughout Southeast as part of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. We will be screening Gina, An Actress Age 29; Quick Feet, Soft Hands; and For Memories’ Sake.

Southern Circuit is a long-running program of SouthArts (formerly the Southern Arts Federation). As described on their website, “Southern Circuit is the nation’s only regional tour of independent filmmakers.” The program is supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with other support coming from the National Endowment for the Arts. To say that we’re honored to be selected and excited to screen our work this way would be an understatement.

Here are the dates and venues of our tour. If we’re coming to your area, come see us. If you have friends in any of these cities, spread the word! We’ll be posting Facebook invites to screenings and notes from the road to the new Self-Reliant Film fanpage.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 – East Tennessee State University – Johnson City, TN

Friday, March 4, 2011 – Halsey Inst. of Contemporary Art – Charleston, SC

Sunday, March 6, 2011 – Buckman Performing Arts Center – Memphis, TN

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 – Millsaps College – Jackson, MS

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 – Clemson University – Clemson, SC

Thursday, March 10, 2011 – Western Carolina University – Cullowhee, NC

Friday, March 11, 2011 – Center for Doc. Studies @ Duke Univ. – Durham, NC

Monday, March 14, 2011 – Capri Theatre – Montgomery, AL

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 – Manship Theatre – Baton Rouge, LA

Friday, March 18, 2011 – Arts Council of Central Louisiana – Alexandria, LA

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 – Lucas Theatre – Savannah, GA

Besides us, this year’s Southern Circuit includes tours by Alex Karpovsky, Jenny Abel, and Kimberly Reed, among others. You can read more about all the filmmakers here. For our tour page on the SouthArts website, click here.


The Panasonic GH2: Some thoughts.

February 4th, 2011

I have made no secret of my frustration with DSLRs for making motion pictures. I’ve wanted to love them, sure. In my quest to find a small camera I could love, I’ve bought and sold (or returned) a Canon 7D, Panasonic GH1, and a Nikon D7000. The Canon and Nikon were each impressive in their own ways, but I gave them both up because I could never fully trust the image that I saw in their LCDs. After being burned a few times by outrageous moire that only appeared once I could view footage on a real monitor, I gave up trying to shoot with those cameras.

The GH1, which I tested last summer after my frustrations with the Canon cameras, was more promising, especially with the ballyhooed firmware hack that surfaced last year. That camera didn’t have problems with moire or aliasing, and its mirrorless design (the GH1 is not, technically speaking a DSLR at all) opened up the opportunity for using several different types of lenses (PL-mount cine lenses, Nikons, Canons, and many more).

Unfortunately, the camera clearly felt like the product of a “consumer” division of a large electronics company. Parts of the camera felt shoddily put together, there were reports of design issues with the lugs that held the neck strap and, worst of all, the camera exhibited a nasty fixed pattern noise problem that made any dim area in a shot have strange vertical blue streaks. Hacked or not, the camera didn’t seem ready for prime time. Hope springs eternal, though. I thought, Panasonic might be onto something if only they would fix some of these glaring problems.

In December, I managed to get my hands on the GH1’s successor, the still-hard-to-find Panasonic GH2, shortly after they arrived in the US. A month or so later, here are my thoughts on the camera as a tool for filmmakers.

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