Losing your (festival) virginity

So my short film ACID TEST premiered last Sunday as part of Literally Short Film Festival’s “Local & Fresh” Selection of Texas shorts and I think it went really really well. A short write-up on it is found on the film’s website blog and includes a post about our cast-crew-contributor screening that occurred the week before. So I thought I would use this opportunity to express the anxiety of launching into festival season.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! As a filmmaker, it’s hard enough just to get your film off the ground and into production. Then it’s another beast to get it through post. Then you have this thing, this video file, that you want people to see and you look out into the vast ocean of content and opportunities and you realize you are but a molecule of H2O. And while getting your film picked by a festival is completely out of your hands, there’s all this strategizing and connection-making to get noticed, to get a waiver or a discount…

I feel like I’m in high school all over again trying to get noticed by the popular crowd. Trying to catch the eye of the kid I like. Strategizing how I’m going to lose my virginity. Do I just get it over with? Or do I wait for someone I love? And what will people think of me once I’ve done it?

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Festival news!

ACID TEST has been selected to play at the Literally Short Film Festival here in Houston as part of their Local & Fresh selection of Texas shorts. We are honored and excited to launch our festival season by premiering at a festival where we can celebrate with our family, friends, contributors, and community at large. The Festival Director and fellow filmmaker friend Lorís Simón Salum is a supporter of ACID TEST and I’m so pleased to be included in a festival that celebrates its Mexican roots since the mother character in ACID TEST is Mexican-American.

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Visual Storytelling

Making movies is telling a story through pictures, performances, words, and sounds. I began this journey into movie-making through visuals first when my father taught me how to develop photographs when I was in 1st grade. No, before that, I started ballet like many pre-schoolers and started learning about physical movement and performance timed to sound. Eventually, I began writing and falling in love with the written word. I would rewrite and rewrite letters to pen-pals until they were perfectly worded and that the words fell on the page in a visually interesting/impactful way. I began taking piano lessons.

But learning all these techniques does not give you story. For story you have to live. You have to understand, or at least seek understanding. You have to engage in relationships and the world around you, expand what you know and try to look through another’s eyes…It’s a never-ending quest to find story, to write story, to tell story because you are constantly learning and experiencing and framing…

Add to all that the variables of performance, location, crew, equipment, luck, and making movies becomes a miraculous feat when one is completed. A study in controlled chaos. You have to tell a story using the visuals you capture, supported by the sounds you captured and/or design.

So here is a story of how I started discovering my eye.

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We did it! ACID TEST funded!

ACID TEST got the green light on Seed&Spark meaning we received the funds raised in April to get us through post-production. More to come!

Thank you to everyone who contributed and followed, tweeted and posted. We couldn’t have done it without you!

And if you want to support ACID TEST but didn’t get a chance to during our Seed&Spark campaign, you can still make a tax-deductible donation through our fiscal sponsor SWAMP!

Jenny

New Music Video!

So proud and excited to share the news that the band Giant Kitty, featured in my short film ACID TEST, asked me to direct their music video for the title song of their debut album “This Stupid Stuff.” The song is about microaggressions in our language and actions today that perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices in our world. The lead singer came up with the concept, which I formalized and structured for shooting/editing purposes.

“The new video, directed by Jenny Waldo, is one of those combination concept and performance videos that’s a throwback to the ’80s, when music videos had their own dedicated television station and the politics of hate weren’t as overt as they are now. With the clever use of the most basic of props, sticky notes and a Sharpie, interwoven with footage of the band performing the tune on stage, ‘The Stupid Stuff’ exposes the absurdity of the politics of hate and fear and its reliance on stereotypes and labels to feed into the ignorance and prejudices that adversely influence your actions and interactions with others.”Examiner.com

Enjoy!

Book Review: Children of the Darkness

The-Children-of-Darkness-CoverOfficial description: But what are we without dreams? A thousand years ago the Darkness came–a time of violence and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with “temple magic,” eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything. Childhood friends, Orah and Nathaniel, have always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for more from life but unwilling to challenge the rigid status quo. When their friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his “teaching”—the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds the young to the Light—they barely recognize the broken and brooding man the boy has become. Then when Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel follows in a foolhardy attempt to save her. In the prisons of Temple City, they discover a terrible secret that launches the three on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in jeopardy. For hidden in the keep awaits a truth from the past that threatens the foundation of the Temple. If they reveal that truth, they might release the long-suppressed potential of their people, but they would also incur the Temple’s wrath as it is written: “If there comes among you a dreamer of dreams saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”

Review

David Litwack’s Children of the Darkness offers a lyrical, well-structured, and well-written dystopian story about the power of truth and lies. In the manner of stories like Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Hugh Howey’s Wool, the world has regressed to a  simpler time and simpler style of living without any technology and governed by their religion. At first, it’s hard to determine in what period of time the story takes place in and it’s fun and interesting how the author places clues here and there to let us know that we are far in the future from our normal reality.

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Why this project? Why now?

There’s a lot of work that goes into making a movie – short or long – and I know it’s a choice I make to do it, especially when it’s outside of my day job that keeps me and my children alive. Yes, I would love to be able to do this as my job full-time, but it’s also incredibly freeing to choose which projects to do and when. And no matter how much is going on at my day job, I am constantly, constantly, working on a creative project. I don’t see filmmaking or writing as “work” even though it’s hard. I don’t see it as work even though I know sometimes I’m sucking at it. To me it’s like breathing – it’s part of my autonomic system. It’s in my DNA.

The cover for my journal when I was 15

That knowledge was something I discovered when I dropped acid as a teenager and came home after a concert with hours more to go in my trip. All I wanted to do was write things down. I was a wildly moody teenager (or maybe that’s just being a teenager) and writing about the world and about what was going on in my head helped me survive from one day to the next. I truly believe that writing saved my life, and as it saved my life it became my life. So no matter what I’m doing, every day, I’m writing or reading or watching something that expands my knowledge of the world, of myself, of people, but mostly of storytelling. The goal changed as well from simply surviving to the next day to producing something for someone else to enjoy.

Recently, I wrote a short film about this moment in my childhood. ACID TEST will be in production at the end of January. So the question is: Why this project? Why now?

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Support Short Films! ACID TEST

We are producing the upcoming short film ACID TEST about a teenage girl who drops acid at a concert only to go home and confess to her parents what she’s done with four more hours to go in her “trip.” Set in 1992, the story is about teenage rebellion and parents’ unconditional love and was inspired by difficult personal experiences.

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To be or not to be…Casting

I’m currently casting for an upcoming short film that I’ve written and will direct. As a writer/director, I both love and hate the casting process. I love it because I get to try on different faces and voices and bodies to the characters and words I’ve had dancing around in my head; I hate it because I have to pass judgment on people based on face value. It always makes me think how hard it must be to be an actor, putting your face and your body out there for a quick judgment without knowing you or your abilities or your passions. I couldn’t do it, and so I admire everyone who is bold enough to throw in their hat, and I want to tell each and every one of you “Good luck!” and “I wish I could take all of you!”

At the same time, I see a number of ways that actors are shooting themselves in the foot with their submissions. Websites like Backstage.com or Actors Access allow you to submit more and more to peak a casting director’s interest, but MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER. So here are some things, obviously based on my own opinions and experience, that I would like to offer as food for thought when you submit:

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