Sunday, September 14, 2014

Director's Note: "Juliana" (2014)

"Juliana" (2014) is a short screenplay I wrote in an upper level screen writing class I had no business in. Sitting next to writers working on their 2nd and 3rd feature, I was consistently faced with harsh and daunting reality of what true story telling required. The criticism was rough.  I loved it. I was fighting bulls with my bare feminine hands.

Over the course of a few weeks into the semester, out poured "Juliana" (2014)-a story on betrayal and, dare I say, the beauty of it. For this project, I envisioned a really eclectic cast that demonstrated the different and beautiful diversity we call womanhood. If only for eight minutes I wanted to give voice to the some of the women in our collection of female personalities we that reflects the women I experience on a day to day basis here in San Francisco. Tasneem Nanji and her fearless vulnerability. Marisa McFarlane and her gentle love in her voice. Bridger Fox and all that her presence commands. Vanessa DiVittorio-her bewitching eyes. All of them together-such tragic beauty.

And then came Kate.

Actor Kate Greenwood lead this beautiful cast of characters into a story with a wonderfully compelling performance, a performance that demands we stop and listen and fall head first into the pool of sorrow with her. Her presence and leadership in this film sheds a candid light on that small and quiet part of all of us that wants more, dreams of more, demands of the world MORE than it's crippling puritanical expectations. Life, with all of it's humiliating beauty can be seen in her eyes. And in the way she loves Juliana. And in the way she boldly embraces the truth of the story-as painful as it is.

Special thanks to Niranjan Deshpande and his team of men who committed to film all that I dreamed. Special thanks to the promising screenwriters at AAU. Your relentless commitment to truth telling and to the craft of putting vision to paper has strengthened my resolve.

Very special thanks to Kate and Vanessa. This is the first film I never wanted to call cut. Watching you two revel in the warmth of each other gives me hope for what I may accomplish as a filmmaker. Thank you.

This film is dedicated to the beautiful and wild youth of Chinatown. My biggest hope for all of my work is that I may provide for you new visions of love, forgiveness, and the courage to begin again.

More to come.

Your director.

Ashley


Dear John,

After watching "Stay" (2014) my amazing professor David Burton Morris (big smile-super grateful to learn from him) recommended that I read "Cassavetes on Cassavetes" by Ray Carney. I went home and looked up the man's work. I know from school that John is a pioneer in the independent film business. He worked as an actor in Hollywood so that he could pay for films that he made with his wife Gena Rowlands-totally what I see myself doing. BUT, when I began to watch some of his films I got turned off. I saw the beginning of Minnie and the acting was powerful. No filter. These actors were incredible but I couldn't get over the lack of quality in the filmmaking. Shots were dimly lit and out of focus. The framing was weird. So I told my professor that I didn't want to be like him. David brushed over my concern and continued to encourage me to read the book. So I buckled down and bought it.

David was right.

Indeed I have found a hero. This man's love and understanding of actors and of truth and of the human condition is in so many ways inspiring and convicting. I found myself looking at the mirror. How we would push his finances and his own personal life into the ground to create what he deemed truly necessary in the world was AWESOME.

So now I am studying. I'm digging deep. I'm trying to learn his methods and grow. I've found a mentor-someone with an uncompromising affection toward all of the possibilities of film and drama and story. So grateful for this.

It's so easy for filmmakers to feel alone. Isolated. Poisoned by their innate love for their own art. But this man makes me want more. He makes me want to do more, to fight for more and so I will.

Today is my fourth rehearsal for this amazing short film I'm directing titled "Adore." It's the biggest uphill battle for truth and honesty and beauty in film that I've had since...well, in a while. I feel like I need to dig down deep and ask of God for all his grace as I use all that I know to connect with these actors and tell this story.

My spirits are lifted, though. As I read about this man's own journey.

To film. To story. To actors. To us.


Paul & Joan












I sent these images to actors that I am working with to give them a visual understanding of what love looks like, at least the kind of love I envision for Tina and Amber. For me, the best thing about Paul's connection to Joan is that he finds refuge, solace, safety in her. Joan is the strong one. It's always beautiful when you see a giant become vulnerable to someone like Joan, to someone as lovely as Joan. In truth, we are all vulnerable to those we love. But these images convey just how deeply Paul is.....to her. I want my next project "Adore" (2014?) to convey this. I want Tin to be this vulnerable to Amber. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tarrantino: Pulp Fiction


They say that it’s not hard to make your first film. It’s hard to make your SECOND film. Which means that so much depends upon the success of the first. In reading an interview on Tarrantino, I learned that he approached Pulp Fiction with the idea that in order to fund a feature, he would create three short films that tied together. He planned on showing one to get funding for the other and so on. Great idea. I think I might approach that with my first feature?? But I’m a little unsure of what kind of story would that garner?? Three separate short films???


Divergent: Women in all Major Roles

So, the story is basically a lighter version of the hunger games. Even though the violence in this film is much more graphic, or rough, than in “The Hunger Game,” this film fails in deliverying the quality of content we find in the former. If anything “Divergent” delivers a satisfying experience for the roles it gives women. Kate Winslet plays the VILLIAN. A young woman plays the HERO. The mentor is played by the fascinatingly beautiful Maggie Q. How in the world did this happen??? I stayed til the very end to take it in-the possibility of it all. 



Documentary: Searching for music


Searching for music for my documentary is hard. I’m checking out the free stuff on vimeo and on the hard drive that my teacher gave me and it’s hard to figure out what to play along with all the different elements-interview, b-roll, found footage. I don’t just want to give up and play traditional Chinese music. It’s not a look at traditional China. It’s a look at a community organization that serves the new Chinese immigrants in the largest Asian neighborhood  outside of Asia. What to do…  What to do….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrjwqXwyzNU

Black & White Filmmaking

I love black and white footage. It seems like there is more color….even though there isn’t any color?? The shades of gray are so deep and the black stands out more. Along the buildings, linging each window. How is this real???

Anyway, I’ve decided to fashion a structure that is very straight forward with the elements. History.  Then b-roll of the present day footage of Chinatown. Then interviews. Sprinklied within interviews I have live footage that’s just observation, with the actual audio.


I’m learning that I really like documentary filmmaking. The concept allows for so much freedom in terms of what you can observe or “document.” But there is also a beauty to creating a structure to what people see. Everything is true. None of it is fictitious but you still have the opportunity to fashion the strutcutre to cater to your understanding of the subject matter. It’s awesome. You are not completely left up to your imagination.