Every Day Is a Holiday

documentary films

It was a busy June and has been an even busier July, but I wanted to share some notes from a conversation between Sheila Nevins and Geoffrey Gilmore. The discussion happened on April 25 as part of the Tribeca Film Festival.

Geoffrey noted that Sheila has been called the “Medici of TV” or the “Dominatrix of Docs.” She used to work at NY’s Channel 13 and has a theater background. She likes to see TV as theater, and says, “Curtains Up!” when she turns on the TV. Sheila mentioned that she gets bored easily, which she repeated in a recent article in the NYTimes called, “The Force Behind HBO’s Documentaries.”

HBO Documentary Film Stats:
Acquire – about 15%
Produce in-house – about 70%
Finishing funds – about 15%

Sheila said that if your film (she calls them “docus”) could be on free tv, HBO won’t take it. I would like to know if other people agree.

Here’s how HBO rates its programs in order of importance:
1 Movies
2 Series
3 HBO movies
4 Sports Docs
5 Fights
6 Docs

If you send your work to HBO, they should get back to you within four weeks. Sheila suggested contacting her associate, Lisa Heller, VP of Documentary Programming, at extension 5303.

Another fact about Sheila:
Sheila Nevins participates in a web site called Women on the Web . There are other high-powered women “of a certain age” who write for the site regularly, including Liz Smith, Whoopi Goldberg and Joan Ganz Cooney. Sheila said that the site is like a hobby, “like needlepoint.” I think (and hope) wowOwow will evolve, especially since I received an online questionnaire asking me what I liked about the site and if I would be ok with a wowOwow online store.

  • – I have been working with my composer, Samantha Sutton, on creating a score for the film. I am very excited by her work.
  • – As you can see, I have relaunched the film’s website. Many thanks to Jacqueline Yue and Doug McLellan for their time and effort. Please let me know what you think of the new site!
  • – I screened part of my work-in-progress at the FilmShop and received some valuable feedback.
  • – I attended a really great panel at Women Make Movies with Caroline Libresco and Debbie Zimmerman about the Sundance Film Festival. More in a separate post.
  • – I am working on grant proposals!
  • – I missed “Kevorkian,” the last film of Stranger Than Fiction’s spring series.

A secret diary. My father is celebrating his 65th year of freedom from a World War II prison-of-war camp.

Recently, I discovered a secret diary my father kept while he was a teenage prisoner-of-war in Japan. This film documents a story of triumph over adversity, showing major historical events through a deeply personal lens using interviews, rare archival footage, and my father’s wartime diary. Each chapter in this layered story begins with a quote from my father’s diary, visually rendered in his elegant penmanship. The film structure mirrors the old-fashioned television and radio “chapter plays.”

Like a real-life Zelig, my father was there: from purchasing opium in Malaysia, to sailing to Iran as a merchant seaman, to driving a tank over exploding kim chee vats in Korea. My father believed that since he survived the horrors that surrounded him as a POW, then every day held potential for joy, making every day a holiday.

Won’t you join us in this journey?

I ran into Alice Elliott at the Bedford Barrow Commerce Street Fair this weekend.  The BBC Block Associate event is the best street fair in New York City, and Alice is a great advocate for the Village and its residents.

Alice is the Academy Award nominated director of “The Collector of Bedford Street.”  Visit her production company web site, Welcome Change Productions, or her interesting filmmaker distribution company, New Day Films.

I received a grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.  The check arrived in the mail today!

Thanks to the LMCC and the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, I will be having a screening this year of the film.  Stay tuned for more.

The LMCC also organizes events at Governor’s Island and helps artists from various disciplines in the form of grants, artist workspaces, and more.

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