One announcement, two events

Pausing from the plate spinning for a moment to delightedly announce that Strangewaze is now a partnership. Indeed, my friend and now-colleague, filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist, Erika Valenciana, and I are now co-executive directors up in here at Strangewaze HQ.

Please take a moment to read her bio, and learn about her impressive background.

And, to help us celebrate, please join us at these two events in the next few days:

The first event is Doc Talk on Thursday, March 29 in Chicago, where Erika’s powerful and important film, “La Mitad del Mundo” will be screened. (Tickets and info).

erikaAt Doc Talk, a variety of non-fiction filmmakers show short films and trailers and discuss documentary art, personal stories and social change. Each event (always the last Thursday of the month) is organized around a timeless and universal theme. This edition features female filmmakers of color working under the auspices of Diverse Voices In Documentary, a remarkable partnership between Oscar Nominated Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop. The event is co-hosted by filmmaker Anu Rana, Kartemquin’s Program Coordinator for DVID. In addition to Erika Valenciana, the evening will also feature work by Reveca Torres, Urooj Yazdani, Colette Ghunim and Dani Jackson.

And, you can also join us at the Midwest Film Festival on Tuesday, April 3, also in Chicago, where I’ll be moderating a panel discussion about documentary film with aforementioned Academy Award nominated Kartemquin Films producers Mark Mitten and Betsy Steinberg. (Tickets and info)

first-tuesdayThat evening, following the panel, Midwest Film Fest (always the first Tuesday of the month) will be screening Academy Award nominated documentary films “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” and “Edith+Eddie.”

(This also marks the first, but hopefully not last, time the words “Academy Award nominated” appears here.)

Anyway, back to the plate-spinning, and hope to see you at one or both of these events.

-Amy G. | @AmyGuth

 

 

 

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Buzzword Shark

screen-shot-2018-02-26-at-12-54-10-pm-e1519679140815.pngFirst started in 2011-ish, one of our new multimedia publishing projects, Buzzword Shark, has been a long time coming. What the hell is a buzzword shark, you ask? I’ll tell you: in 2011-ish, I worked in the Chicago Tribune newsroom, and one day, went to a meeting to talk about some new digital products the technology division would soon be making available to editorial. Only, the marketing person leading said meeting said: “Friends, we are in a goldilocking moment.” Heads nodded, though mine did not. Could I feasibly be the only person who didn’t know wtf “goldilocking” meant? So, I asked, and after the meeting leader laughed in my face, he responded, “well, actually, it means we have a decision to make, but we have a limited number of choices.”

Ugh.

Language evolves, and is fun and funny to play around with, but this word struck at the journalist in me who cannot stand anything but straightforward and accessible language, as well as the part of me that can’t stand pretentious nonsense. Because, look, buzzwords and ore than just jargon, they’re a subtle tell of elitism, and often something that makes language inaccessible to people looking to understand it. Imagine, getting a seat at the proverbial table only to find you don’t understand the language. You’d feel unwelcome, and probably eventually leave.

As I left the meeting, said meeting leader stopped me and asked if we could “do some calendaring” in order to make sure we “assess the performancing” of the new tools we’d just discussed.

Nouns as verbs is a hard pass from me. So, I went back to my desk and wrote all three of these words, “goldilocking,” “calendaring,” and “performancing” on sticky notes and set them out. A colleague, who shares my feelings about language, asked about them. I explained, and ended with “…I hope these words jump the shark quickly.”

Blah blah blah I’m a visual thinker, blah blah blah it was a slow news day, but a short time later, I’d hastily drawn a little confused-looking shark, and taped the three sticky notes to its edges, showing the words over the shark, mid-shark jump. We laughed, and that was that.

But then, colleagues started coming by my desk and adding other words, absurd, cringe-worthy examples of linguistic abuses from coworkers, spouses, press releases, and bosses. It grew.

Fast forward to 2015, when I left the company, the little shark and his sticky notes took up a good swath of wall in my, by then, office. I gingerly peeled each note off the wall and tucked it into a bright orange accordion folder alongside the shark sketch. “Eventually,” I thought, “I’ll make something with this.”

Aaaand cue a flurry of activity, a work trip to South Africa, film shoots, teaching, a presidential election and its aftermath and a whole lot of radio broadcasts, and suddenly, it was time to “make something with this” and Buzzword Shark was reborn. will it morph again? Most definitely. But, for now, I’m glad to have the shark back out in the world.

Follow Buzzword Shark on Tumblr and Instagram

Multiplex 10 is out!

Multiplex10posterYou’ve seen the Multiplex 10 trailer, and, no doubt, eagerly awaited Multiplex 10’s official release. Wait no more! Gordon McAlpin’s animated comedy short about the film-loving and customer-weary staff of the fictional Multiplex 10 Cinemas is officially available on Vimeo on Demand as of today, and will begin a film festival run almost immediately, as well as begin screenings at select theaters across the country. For more information about upcoming (and past) screenings, visit the Multiplex website’s screenings page.

Rent or buy the short through Vimeo here. (And, enjoy this bonus [free!] mini-episode, “Oscar Pool.”)

Based on McAlpin’s long-running webcomic, Multiplex, the original comic strip chronicled the character’s lives over the course of twelve years, yet this animated version is part reboot and part prequel. While fans of the comic will love seeing these characters brought to life, Multiplex 10 will also appeal to movie lovers, anyone who’s ever worked a minimum wage job, and anyone who’s had an annoying friend who just can’t shut up about why the things you like are terrible.

Strangewaze is proud to be involved in an associate producer capacity, and we’re looking forward to connecting at film festivals and screenings.

Find McAlpin’s comics on Amazon: “Multiplex Book One: Enjoy Your Show” (2010), “Multiplex Book Two: There and Back Again” (2014).

 

Countdown to MULTIPLEX 10

Coming to select theaters, film festivals and Vimeo on Demand on January 29th, it’s MULTIPLEX 10, the animated comedy short about the film-loving and customer-weary staff of the fictional Multiplex 10 Cinemas, based on the long-running webcomic by creator Gordon McAlpin. We’re proud to be involved in as an associate producer, and look forward to announcing initial festival dates on release day, but in the meantime, here’s the trailer:

That “yooow” at the 0:08 second mark? That’s how we’re feeling about it, too.

Greetings from Nashville

Strangewaze is representing in Nashville this week! At the PCMA convention (the convention for convention and tourism pros), I’m presenting a DIY video strategy workshop at the start of the conference at the gorgeous and LEED Gold-certified Music City Center, and holding it down and filming interviews in the Video Capture Lounge.

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I rolled in with exactly the amount of equipment I can carry and not a USB cable more and walking away from baggage claim with a bigass Pelican case all stamped with your production company is kiiiinda in my top favorite things, right up there with walking through a casino in a good suit. It says, now there is a woman doing. the. work. she. wants. and if you’re in step with her, you’re adding something to the party.  I had a video partner meeting me there, so I wasn’t even trying to solo-shoot, but admittedly, I vowed to always bring a partner-in-crime along from here on out.

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For the videos in the video capture lounge, I’ll be asking vendor partners and leaders of convention and visitors bureaus from around the world simple questions about their work, how their work is impactful, and what diversity and inclusion initiatives they have in their organizations. Psyched, of course, to meet such interesting people doing such interesting work, and very, very psyched to be shooting with people from around the world, and in front of a giant wall of windows with gorgeous natural light.

 

 

48 Hour Film Project 2017

For the third year in a row, Strangewaze represented at the 48 Hour Film Project Chicago, as I returned again to the lineup of judges.

Each year, teams around the world (I mean, look at this list) must write, produce, cast, shoot, and edit an entire short film in a single weekend. All teams must incorporate a specific line of dialogue, a character of a certain name and profession, and a specific spot. Additionally, each team receives a genre to which they must adhere. To complicate things even more, participants have no idea of their genre, dialogue, character or prop requirements until the Friday night kickoff, and all films and paperwork must be completed and handed over by Sunday evening.

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This year, each film had to have a character named either Ryan or Rachel Hammersmith who must be a pest control professional, each film had to use the lie of dialogue, “Where did you get that?” and had to use a manilla envelope as a prop, and make it work within their assigned genre.

The teams brought their a-games, with films that arrived at my door a few days later on a thumb drive ranging from the revenge of a robotic housekeeper to heartfelt confessions on a porn set to daydrinking to the power dynamics between a woman and her cat.

In years past, I’ve noted the rather homogenous crowd of participants at this event, with most of the directors being white and male, and mostly casting white people. But, let it be said, this year, I found it extremely positive to see the needle moved a bit here. Most notably, actors and actresses of color in the lead roles of films that weren’t about race, but simply depicted humans doing human things. (Indeed, there are directors actively working to normalize casting a variety of races, ethnicities, abilities, sizes, etc in roles for which race, ethnicity, ability, size, etc is not specified. Fawzia Mirza and I talked about this on the radio a year ago.)

Ok, the films. Yes.

Hammersmith: Hurdle of Dreams took home many awards at the Best of Chicago screening and awards presentation including Best Film, and the reasons are clear: it’s funny, it’s well made, it switches between story and story-within-story well, and cinematically.

But, to say the voting was easy would be untrue. It wasn’t. There were a lot of beautifully made films. Lovebug, which took second place and several other awards, was also well made, charming, fun and smartly driven especially by the scenes in the therapist’s office.

Religio, which earned an audience favorite award, was another of the standouts for me. I loved the atmospheric feel, the set, the dynamic between the two characters from the jump, the “oh, shit!” twist, and, creative use of the Ryan Hammersmith character, for sure. (Spoiler: He’s dead the entire film.)

Knock Knock (no video available as of this writing) was another I loved; atmospheric, unnerving, simple, and well done. Actress Julie Ramos was impossible not to love in this film, and she conveyed an unbelievable amount of vulnerability, strength, fear, and fret in this short film, despite hardly any dialogue.

Mockmentary Hammersmith & Son was another audience favorite and smart, sweet definite standout addressing mother-son dynamics and expectations, as well as sexuality without resorting to a flat caricature. Another standout was Jeanie, a love story in which a man and a… cockroach fall in love. Actor Damian Anaya has an endearingly familiar and easygoing quality and he brought depth to a performance that could have been handled too lightly (I mean, his character does fall in love with an insect with a woman’s head added to it in post-production) that makes it easy to root for his bugspray-huffing Ryan Hammersmith.

Karen Wins took on major systemic workplace sexism and the “death by a thousand cuts” phenomenon through the fun and light lens of video game ass-kicking and punching oppressors, while Trypt, an imagining of Lyft for time-travel, was good, creative fun, and pulled off the hard-to-make-it-look-or-land-quite-right combination of atmospheric darkness, comedy, scenes filmed in cars, and special effects.

The Box (yet another I wish I could link for you) by BearCat Productions had some major style elements, with cinematography and editing I absolutely loved, as did Namiram, which pulled off the patient pacing of a subtitled foreign film alongside dreamy, emotional cinematography.

All that in 48 hours, and those are just a few highlights.

Hammersmith: Hurdle of Dreams will represent Chicago at Filmapalooza 2018 in Paris, competing with films from other parts of the world also made in just 48 hours. (This film from Prague won last year.)

Follow Strangewaze and Amy Guth on Instagram for photos from this event and others. 

Filmmaking on WGN Radio

Filling in last night on WGN Radio for Patti Vasquez, I jumped back into my old routine of hosting the 11pm to 2am shift, which I did for a couple of years before moving to the Saturday 7-9pm weekly time slot I have now. It’s a deliberate schedule of caffeine and slap-happy-ness, followed by a big shot of Valerian tea to undo the caffeine and get to sleep after being radio-acceptably alert.

But, during the late-night caffeine dance, my fill-in cohost, Jen Bosworth, and I talked with filmmaker Marie Ullrich (and bike messenger Margot Considine from Cut Cats Couriers— an employee-owned bike delivery service) far too briefly about filmmaking, filmmaking while female, bike messengers, fear, and hesitation.

Listen to full show at wgnradio.com.

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Margot Considine (Cut Cats Couriers), filmmaker Marie Ullrich, Jen Bosworth and Amy Guth | WGN Radio, Chicago

State of the Projects: Summer 2017

Guth-4744Strangewaze, ever devoted to backing and creating film and multimedia work by and/or about underrepresented voices, got summer off to a well-scheduled start, as you can, no doubt, tell from our current projects online, our social media feeds (FB, Twitter, Instagram), as well as my own Twitter and Instagram.

Documentary: my documentary about online harassment and abuse of women is suddenly moving very fast, and has taken some interesting (read: whoa) research and production turns in the front half of this year, given the current climate of American political landscape and how that manifests in online behavior. As a result, we went heavy on both research and reporting in the initial months after the election and Inauguration, continue to do so, and are adding very necessary political layers to the project.

We are, of course, hopeful that the First Lady will make good on her vow to fight against online “bullying” as she calls it, but, as with everyone else, we’re waiting to see what actions she might take in that regard. In any case, we’re feeling good about this next leg of the project. (Prepare for an upcoming flurry  of behind-the-scenes photos and videos on social media.)

“The Timemaker” film: We’re very excited to be producing this narrative feature with an all-female writer, director, lead and producer team. Filming in Illinois in late summer/fall, we look forward to sharing behind-the-scenes photos and video, blog posts, and even updates as we move along with that. As we’re just entering production, we can still make room for producing partners, and hope to do so in order to help make “The Timemaker” the best project it can be. Follow the project on its website on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, to watch it unfold.

“Multiplex 10” animated short: We’re also excited to be on as Associate Producer partners for this project, too. Based on Gordon McAlpin’s long-running web comic, “Multiplex 10” is an eleven-minute animated short about a movie theater usher and a film snob who come to realize they have a little common ground in their shared — yet very, very different — love of film. It’s currently in production, and you’ll be hearing much more about it soon. In the meantime, follow the project’s progress on its website and on Facebook, and listen to McAlpin on my WGN Radio program talking about his work.

We are partnering on a couple of other projects, too, in various capacities, so please follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest, and for sponsor/partner  opportunities, job postings and the like.

Strangewaze Publishing: We’re also moving quickly to prepare to more officially launch our publishing division, which will be focusing on digital niche publications, memoir and non-fiction (though, never say never on fiction, I suppose), from, primarily, underrepresented voices.

As ever, if you have an idea burning a hole in your pocket, or for partnership and investment opportunities, please email me and let’s see where the conversation goes.

We hope your summer is off to a great start, too, and, as ever, appreciate your support, both in the community, at events, and through our social media networks.

Amy Guth
Executive Director, Strangewaze

Story Collection Day Chicago (again)

Strangewaze will partner again with NYC’s VideoOut to oversee filming in a second Story Collection Day event in Chicago.

SinforeittaFor the second Chicago event, VideoOut– with the goal of building the world’s largest library of coming out narratives– returns for Chicago Sinfonietta’s #MoreThanALetter event series. As part of the series, VideoOut will host a second opportunity for gathering coming out stories from the Chicago LGBTQ community at Alphawood Gallery on March 26 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST.

The event comes on the heels of the initial Chicago Story Collection Day event at the Center on Halsted,  in January.

VideoOut will also present Story Collection Day events in other cities. Follow VideoOut on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for city-specific details as they are available.

How to be a great radio guest

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 12.58.17 PM.pngYou got a radio spot to talk about your film. Great! Here’s how to make the absolute most of it, and increase the odds of getting invited back.

Prepare…

  • Take a little time before the show to get clear about the key points you want to make.  It’ll all go by faster than you think. That said, prepare but don’t rehearse, and be flexible if the host takes it another direction. Roll with it. It’s a conversation.
  • Bring notes or printed articles that you may want to reference. Highlight important details on the page so your eyes can find them quickly– just be careful not to ruffle papers.
  • Avoid canceling at all costs. If you absolutely must cancel, do this:
    • Try to offer the producer a suitable replacement guest, and explain this person’s qualifications to your producer. Daily v. weekly shows will differ, but sometimes the producer might put you on the next day instead.
    • Let the producer know as soon as possible. Cancellations suck. Last-minute cancellations suck even harder.
    • At the end of the day, you’ve just made this producer’s life tougher, so be very kind, professional and apologetic about it.
  • Post about your appearance on social media, including info about how your network can listen in or find a rebroadcast later.
  • Bonus points: create a one-sheeter for your host to reference during the broadcast and email it to the producer once you get booked, or, if booked way in advance, within a day or so of your appearance on the program. This page should include the name of the project, your name and how to pronounce it, a website where listeners can go to learn more, whatever social media handles you prefer, and, if applicable, ticketing info, a few bullet points with interesting facts about the project, and a bullet point about the next milestone or event related to the project.

When you arrive…

  • Be. on. time. In fact, make a point to be early, so you can arrive and have a second to get your bearings and relax. (Also, once you’ve arrived, that’s one less thing for the producer to worry about, so you’re helping them to like you even more.)
  • Hosts are busy, producers are busy. Sit quietly in the green room until you are asked in-studio. (But, do prepare for an abrupt start once you are brought in to sit with the host. There probably won’t be a lot of time to “settle in.”)
  • Turn your phone off. You don’t know how far the sound can reach, and you’ll forget to turn it off once you get in-studio. And if your phone rings or dings or vibrates while you’re on the air…. it’s not gonna be pretty.
  • Producers will probably ask the correct pronunciation of your name and how to introduce you. Be ready with a quick answer. (Ex: “It’s ‘Guth’ like ‘truth’ and ‘filmmaker and journalist’.” Now’s not the time for, “Welllll, funny story. I kind of have three different job titles, you see…”)

How to be while on the air…

  • Don’t wear noisy jewelry. Even the tiniest little jingle form your fabulous earrings might register on the mic, so skip them.
  • Don’t give answers that are too short. Try to follow the rule of improv of “yes, and” (or, “no, because”) and add information when answering questions. One word answers are really bad, mmmkay?
  • Watch for vocal ticks like “um” and “like” and guard against them at all costs. Answer promptly and speak concisely, but don’t go so fast that you sound like you’re trippin’ balls.
  • Don’t feel like you need to be “broadcast”-y. Just be you. Be conversational. If you mess up or get tongue-tied, roll with it: nobody died. Keep going.
  • Don’t depend on the host to plug your book/film/award/project, etc. When you reference your project use the title/publication, etc, but don’t overdo it.
  • Speak the language of the audience. If you’re on a show specifically geared toward filmmaking, it’s probably okay to use a little bit of jargon since we’ll all know what you mean. But, if you’re on a show with a more general listenership, which is most likely going to be the case, don’t exclude listeners by using codewords and lingo; it won’t make you sound smart, and it will frustrate and make listeners not fully connect with you.
  • Don’t be afraid to jump in, but don’t talk on top of others. Rude, sure, but it also sounds like absolute, chaotic hell to the listener to hear many voices at once.
  • Be high-energy and positive. Not like four-cups-of-coffee-and-a-Redbull energy, but alert and on your game. If you’re tired or crabby, perk yourself up by jumping around or shaking your hands out, having a little caffeine, etc. Broadcast is exciting and you might have adrenaline already, so be careful not to over caffeinate.
  • Treat even the craziest of crazy callers with respect, no matter what. Take the high road.
  • Be genuine! Don’t be fake, or a jerk, or act or be over the top. Just be you. Broadcast, but radio especially, is just a conversation between two people. Connect with your host through eye contact. Be yourself. And remember, you got invited on the show for a reason: they want to talk with you. So, just do you.
  • Be mindful of the date your segment will be broadcast if you aren’t live on the air. If you’re taping on, say, a Friday afternoon, and your segment won’t air until Monday, don’t mention the weekend, etc. This also applies to referencing the weather.
  • Swearing. Don’t even. But, shit happens (see) and if you accidentally do, do not, whatever you do, say: “OMG, sorry, sorry, shit, I didn’t mean to do that! Sorry, OMG OMG!” Just keep going. Reason: if you’re on 7- or 10-second delay, your chatter will make it very hard for the producer to “dump” a few second of your audio in a seamless way. If you’re being taped to air later, you’re just going to give an editor more to have to cut out. (But, do apologize when you go to commercial.)
  • Speaking of commercial breaks: try not to chit chat during break about the topic you’re there to discuss, or, much at all. Save it for the air! Reason? You might have a really great moment with your host and trying to recreate it a few minutes later it on the air will sound rehearsed. When in doubt, take a cue from your host about how much conversation is appropriate during commercial breaks, as it does vary by host and show.
  • If you do chat during commercial breaks, don’t reference the conversation once you’re back on-air. It makes listeners feel left out of the conversation.
    If you absolutely must reference something you discussed with the host off the air, do it, but try not to do it too much. (“Like the thing we were saying on the break that was so funny…. “) Keep the listener/viewer in the conversation.

A word about being on the phone…

  • If you are going to be a guest on a program by phone, try to be on a land line. We know, we know. Nobody has a land line anymore. We know. But, try.  If you must be on a cell phone, be in a place where you get absolutely, amazingly, impeccable service. If your service sucks and you start breaking up on the air, there’s a good chance the producer is going to drop you to save the audio integrity of the show.
  • Do the segment in a quiet room, and never on speaker.
  • Be sure to turn your radio off, and let others know to stay the hell out of that room during your interview.
  • Pro-tip: take advantage of the ability to have your notes, printed out articles to reference, etc. in front of you when calling into a show.
  • Another word about phoners: it’s really, really easy for listeners to get very bored very fast when listening to a voice through a phone on the air. Take steps to guard against this by being energetic, professional, and over-enunciate. You’re already going to sound less clear just by virtue of the fact that you’re on a phone.

How to move while on the air…

  • Be really careful about not breathing into your mic. But do get close (really close) to mics in front of you, and try not to turn your head away from them. Same applies to being on air via the phone.
  • Remember: the show invited you to speak with them. Lean in, be interested, make eye contact with the host. Act like you want to be there.

A few special notes about eating and drinking…

  • If you are prone to getting dry mouth, pause to drink water when your host is speaking. Dry mouth is a super gross sound on the air. Super gross.
  • If you have to taste or sip on the air for a show, get away from the microphone, whether that means moving yourself away from your microphone for a second, or turning you head away from your lapel mic. Better yet, don’t eat or drink unless you’re on a cooking show, or you’ve gone to commercial break.
  • No gum, no mints. Ever. Nothing in your mouth. Listeners can hear it when you speak.

After the show…

  • Thank the host/producer/network on social media. Then, follow-up a day or so later with a polite thank you email to the producer and to the host. This will help you get invited back, especially if you take the time to thank the producer; hardly anyone remembers to thank the producer. Seriously.
  • If there is a podcast posted online, share it with your social networks, again making sure to properly tag the producer/host/show, etc. They’ll appreciate the effort.
  • Listen or watch your segment to check for vocal ticks (like saying “like” a lot, for example) so you can get better and better each time you make a broadcast appearance. It might really suck and be painful to listen to yourself, but do it anyway and help yourself improve.
  • Stay in touch, but not too closely. Keep the producer in the loop about big developments, ways you can be useful or offer expert insight on relevant news topics, but don’t drive them crazy with too-frequent contact.

A note about pitching producers…

Once you have been on the air a few times, and as your work progresses, you might find yourself needing to pitch a producer. Great! It’s important to build and nourish these relationships for the long-haul, so pitching is recommended.

First, remember that producers want every idea to be great. Think about it: when you give a producer a great idea, you’re making their job easier, so don’t timidly approach like they’re some kind of mean gatekeeper. Be cool, be friendly, and be brief. Use a straightforward, clear subject line. Be kind and don’t send something long. Just a “hey, I have this story I wrote. I’m willing to talk about x, y and z aspects of this subject. Here’s how to reach me today.” Boom. (And, it goes without saying: proofread– you are, after all, pitching yourself as an expert source.)

Amy Guth is founder/executive director of Strangewaze, a filmmaker, journalist and talk radio host on WGN-AM in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at @amyguth