July 12, 2014

Crowdfund THIS: Leeches

Screenshot fragment from the WishBerry website (apologies to RandomMotion Advertising Private Limited and FilmKaravan).

Too long between posts, yes, but it's s/hero time — time to go to bat for my friends Payal Sethi and Pooja Kohli at FilmKaravan — and you're invited.

To take the plunge: 34 days are left to get yourself a funding piece of Leeches. Not a horror film — and certainly not about the creepy creatures suggested by the title — this is instead a simple story about a sixteen–year–old Hyderabad girl who hatches an unlikely plot to save her younger sister from being sold into marriage for a day. (Sadly, contract marriages, as they are called, are an all too common example of the sex trade in that region.)

Payal is hoping to raise Rs. 6 Lakhs for her film (USD $10,000) by Thursday 14 August — or they will have to start the funding process all over again. (And yes, WishBerry is very much like Kickstarter, an “all or nothing” proposition.)

With women filmmakers still very much treated like a burden in show biz, I'm joining the chorus in asking anyone with spare change to give generously (even Rs.1,000, or USD $17 gets you a digital download of the finished film, so the rewards are good).

Although they are based in India, WishBerry will allow and does welcome contributors from other countries (just make sure you have a valid credit or debit card, and don’t pledge beyond your financial constraints).

Please don't let Payal and Pooja down. FilmKaravan has done some wonderful things in the past, and your support will make all the difference. They're waiting.

[UPDATE 2014.07.18: The cameras will roll — Leeches has been 100% funded. FilmKaravan will now look to raise as much as possible for post–production. The campaign will remain open until 14 August, so you still have time to give what you can.]

May 9, 2014

Splitting the series (updated and amended)

A short note this time, because of the usual juggling of my rôles as video producer, supermarket checkout clerk, assistant housekeeper on behalf of two retired parents, and webmaster for the late Diane Wolkstein (I will stay on as webmaster for the storyteller's daughter, Rachel Zucker, who is now the keeper of her mother's incredible legacy).

To this you can now add the title of "remedial Spanish student." That's right, I am returning to the language I studied when I was a junior high school / high school / community college / university student — and which, thanks to what became the New York / New Jersey affiliates of Univisión and Comcast–owned Telemundo, was the first foreign language I was able to grasp while growing up.

For those wondering, my deficit areas are: verb tenses, finer grammatical points, vocabulary, and — I wish we covered this in junior high — idioms. As in, the sort of Spanish you hear and speak on the street as opposed to the classroom.

(Just for the record, I am not abandoning Esperanto. On the contrary, it stays with me, because it still helps remind me how word and sentence structure work. Moreover, those who study Esperanto are far better prepared when they decide to tackle another language.)

As for Just One Story...: I've decided that it deserves a better title, and it will be Do Tell! (That should put some much needed kick into the show.) It will also be losing the Diane Wolkstein episodes — only because I want to put my late friend's work into its own separate showcase, honoring her memory and her legacy.

The re–titling will begin in June — partially because I won't be able to afford a lot of trips to Central Park this summer. And I am still waiting for the 2014 storytelling schedule, so I can decide which dates we will settle on. That schedule still has not been made public, so I am still hanging.

Lately, I've been replaying Xenon Pictures' DVD edition of Perry Henzell's 1972 cult feature The Harder They Come (in no small part because his tale about a Jamaican "rude boy" who straddles the fused career of famous singer and infamous criminal keeps me hooked). The Region 1 DVD came bundled with Universal–Island's soundtrack CD, and lately the Jimmy Cliff tracking "Sitting in Limbo" has been haunting my sleep. Given what's up in the air for my summer, you might understand. And not just from the song's title, mind you.

[UPDATE 2014.07.18: The 2014 Central Park schedule did eventually come, along with a request from artistic director Laura Simms not to bring the camera this year. A real pity — but it's her show now, you might say. My show stays, with apologies to Mr. Cliff, in limbo until I can convince enough Long Islanders and outside tellers to help me do a re–boot. As for the Spanish self–study… I'm giving it a breather, for lack of study partners from within my own Unitarian Universalist congregation. Hopefully not forever.]

March 3, 2014

One uncertain summer

I am writing this in early March, and already I am approaching the summer of 2014 with some trepidation.

Even as we will soon be able to resume work on Just One Story… and thus get through the backlog of future episodes, we are also keeping close tabs on the labour situation involving the Long Island Rail Road and its parent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA. The LIRR’s rank and file employees have been without a current contract for some time now, and there have been some pushes to get the matter resolved — but without success. The MTA has ruled out any talk of actually giving LIRR employees even a small raise in their salaries, and have instead insisted that said employees forfeit certain benefits and submit to cost–cutting measures that are more likely to increase tensions on the job.

In late February, what was supposed to be a two–day gathering to air out the most sticking of issues ended abruptly after a mere four hours — without both sides meeting face to face.

The upshot of all this is that without a new contract deal in place, the LIRR’s rank and file will be free to strike in July.

That will be damaging enough to the many weekday commuters of the LIRR, who choose to ride the rails to and from their cubicles or office desks. But it will be equally damaging to Rosegarden, because we use the LIRR to get into New York City and record our signature show.

In a nutshell: No LIRR, no passage to and from Manhattan — and thus, no Just One Story… episodes. That simple. And that sad.

For now, five things need to be decided:

• whether there will be a 2014 story season at the Statue of Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park (and money to pay for it),

• who will be the artistic director this year (Laura Simms, or…?),

• who will be telling,

• whether or not we will be invited back to record some of the story hours, and most importantly…

• whether or not the LIRR’s rank and file will strike — and if they do, how long will it last.

You can help decide the first item by heading for the Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Center website and making a donation via PayPal or any of the other methods available. If you enjoy coming to Central Park every summer for stories, then please do your part. It is bad enough that the original storytelling tradition is impoverished when compared to cinema, theatre, opera, broadcast media and the like. That needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Rest assured, we at Rosegarden will be able to keep ourselves busy during the summer if we need to. It would, however, be preferable if we don’t have to sacrifice something that gives so much pleasure summer after summer.

P.S. to the LIRR employees and MTA managers who may be reading this: Please get your act together and get a contract done and signed. We’d prefer to think the world of you in the end.

[UPDATE 2014.05.09: The 2014 Central Park schedule still has not been announced. From what I understand, Laura Simms is staying on as artistic director. If there is a LIRR strike, it would happen on Sunday 20 July. One neighbor of mine suggested that it wouldn’t last more than a weekend, but we’ll see.]

[UPDATE 2014.07.18: No recordings this year, because the camera has been un–invited. Pooh.

One piece of good news: A new tentative agreement between the MTA and LIRR union representatives was reached yesterday, thus canceling the strike. One out of two ain't bad.]