Award/Festival News

Capital City Film Festival

Saturday was the final festival screening of our feature About a Donkey. It was our 10th festival (though 15th public screening) and thankfully a solid way to end our run! I honestly hadn’t heard of CCFF before 2018. I came across them on Moviemaker’s 25 Coolest Film Festivals list, then saw their reviews on FilmFreeway were good, and then their photos looked … well, cool! That and a low submission fee made it worth giving a shot; and I’m so glad I did. The festival itself is fairly small (they expanded this year from just 4 days to 11 days), and seems to have no major funding, so they aren’t able to offer the perks I’ve experienced at other festivals (like filmmaker swag and free accommodations), but they stand out in other ways. For one thing, the programming director and staff are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. They were truly excited to meet Kelsey & me and had such wonderful things to say about our film. Multiple staff members throughout the weekend kept emphasizing how much they loved our movie and the charming world we created with characters they wanted more of. One programmer said that films can sometimes end on such a depressing note, which can be a lot in our current political climate; so it was such a pleasure to watch our film that left him feeling so good. The needed optimism of our story was a frequent comment throughout the weekend, and it was really lovely to hear. The other thing that made the festival standout is how incredibly inclusive it is. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a festival that wasn’t a specifically LGBTQ and/or women-focused festival that was so intentionally inclusive in its programming. I also love that it’s not something they necessarily market or make noise about, they just commit to it in all that they program. Some of my favorite examples of this beyond the films, they had local musicians perform after hours that were overtly intersectionally feminist and they had an interactive, experimental exhibit that was inspired by Black feminist critical theory, as well as a panel devoted to discussing trauma and sexual assault specifically through the lens and voices of women of color.

As for our our actual time there, we unfortunately were only able to be there for a few days and didn’t get to see as much as we would’ve liked; but we enjoyed what we did get to experience. Lansing isn’t the hippest of communities on first glance. Despite having the MSU campus there, it feels a lot like the farm town it apparently is. But there’s a ton of diversity within the community, and a real appreciation for the arts, as witnessed by the turnouts and conversations had at the festival.

Our screening was on Saturday at 5pm in a hot tub warehouse that had been converted into a cool art exhibit and screening space. The sound and picture were solid, and all seats were nearly full with 45 locals in attendance. The film got a lot of laughs and sweet comments afterwards. One woman told us how much she loved the multi-generational approach and only wished that Annie, the pregnant sister, had delivered by the end so that there could’ve been 4 generations of women onscreen at once. And another woman raved about how much the film touched her and that she appreciated our portrayal of how animals can change lives; she told us about how rescuing her dog saved her life after her husband’s death. Overall, it was a sweet way to end our festival run. We’re now excited to start reaching viewers online!

-Christina

Local Vegan Treat:

  • For Crepe’s Sake has vegan batter as an option! Their sweet sauces (chocolate, caramel, cinnamon butter) aren’t vegan, but maple syrup with strawberries & bananas was a go-to for me.

Catch the film next at:

  • I’ll be putting out a blog post about this further, but we’ll be on Vimeo on Demand and VHX on May 7th, with later releases on Amazon Prime and Seed&Spark. Our Vimeo on Demand is already available for pre-order, and we’d love it if you helped spread the word about that as we get closer to officially being available to public!

Thanks for following the run of this film! I hope my recaps have been interesting & informative. And thanks for making it all possible if you were a Seed&Spark supporter who started it all!

Queens World Film Festival Recap

Queens World Film Festival is my favorite festival. Not just because it happens in my community of Queens. But also because, now in its 9th year, I can honestly say it’s one of the most well-run, supportive and lovingly programmed festivals out there. I travel the country attending festivals regularly, for my own work and my job with Seed&Spark, and Queens World is truly top notch. Katha and Don (the lovely festival directors) curate content that reflects the diverse voices and stories in Queens (and thus from around the world), and they make it a point to get the local community involved through a variety of events surrounding the screenings. They have so much heart and integrity; it's clear that they care about every film and filmmaker that's part of the festival. Don shows such thoughtful nuance in his programming and Katha makes every filmmaker feel seen and appreciated. Their welcoming and encouraging energy is contagious. Being part of the festival really feels like being part of a movement, not just showing up for a screening.

I’ve written many recaps about QWFF because this was my 5th year with a film at the festival (though my first with a feature). I'll keep this one short because I’ve already said so much and because it’s a little different from my usual festival experiences where I show up in a city for that specific event and spend all my time engaging with the festival. QWFF is 11 days long, and this year screened over 200 films. I don’t get to experience it as much as I’d like every year because my daily life is still going on around me. That said, I always attend opening & closing night. And this year I was able to spend 4 of the 11 days at the festival, getting to meet new filmmakers and see & support a few local friends with their films also in the festival. I can confidently say that the lineups are consistently compelling and well-organized. The Q&A hosts did a great job this year in particular of having specific questions for each film, as well as encouraging questions from the audience. And many screenings were packed. It’s really one of the only NYC festivals (other than the top tier ones like Tribeca and NYFF) that get actual audience attendance of not just the screening filmmakers.

As for our About a Donkey screening, we had a solid slot at 5:30pm on a Sunday. Our theater sat 68 people and it was completely sold out. Mostly friends, family and early supporters of the film were there, but also some other filmmakers of the festival and a couple strangers from the local community filled the room. The film looked and sounded spectacular, truly it was maybe out best screening in terms of quality; and it got a lot of laughs and wonderful reactions. Many comments after complimented the ensemble and the hopeful message of the film. One woman in particular thanked us for the non-stereotypical portrayal of struggling with depression, and another highlighted how wonderful it was to see women of different generations onscreen with fully-realized personalities and story-arcs (because it’s still such a rarity in mainstream movies, unfortunately). We also got a great review out of the screening on Unseen Films.

Our Q&A was fun, with a lot of great questions. Watch it below.

And to my surprise and great honor, the festival awarded me the Lois Weber Pioneer Award for leadership . I was genuinely not expecting it and got a little emotional as I gave a probably awkward speech. (See below)

Thanks again to Katha, Don, and the entire Queens World team! I hope to be back again next year with a new project. <3

-Christina

P.S. If you don’t know who Lois Weber is, fix that here. Also, if anyone has video of Katha’s introduction for the award, I’d love to see it. Her words were really lovely and I feel like I didn’t fully process the end of what she said after my name came onscreen.

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Cambria Film Festival Recap

We premiered About a Donkey in California over the weekend in Cambria as part of the Cambria Film Festival. I flew into LA the weekend before to work out of the Seed&Spark office for a few days before heading to Cambria. It was nice getting to see my coworkers in person (I hadn’t been back to LA since September 2017!).

Alexandra Clayton (who plays Annie in the film) was kind enough to drive the full 4 hours to Cambria on Thursday. I have to say, truly the best part of the festival for me was getting to catch up and spend time with Alexandra all weekend, who moved to LA right after we wrapped production on the film back in April 2017. The opening reception was that evening, where Katherine Wessling (who plays Ann in the film) met us. I was so glad she happened to be in California that week and could join us. She always makes any experience more enjoyable with her warmth and humor. It was a nice night where the local community welcomed the filmmakers with great food & wine.

With About a Donkey, since it’s such a small indie without any names or industry connections, our mission has largely been to reach regular people who would never see our film if not for the festival in their small town. So our strategy with submissions has largely been about targeting smaller festivals that appear to get good local attendance. We’ve also targeted festivals in areas we’d personally like to visit and/or areas where the election data implies a conservative leaning audience. We’ve largely been trying to reach people who wouldn’t typically seek out inclusive content, in order to hopefully spread a bit of empathy and engage in conversations about acceptance and inclusion. Cambria being in California near the beach, the choice to submit fell more into the “area to visit” qualifier. That said, it is a retirement community, so we felt our inter-generational story could really resonate, and that we may find some locals still a bit behind the progressive times whose minds we could open a bit with our #loveislove story.

I was happy to see that Cambria really delivered on what we hoped to get out of it. The festival as a whole had great local turnout for the screenings, where people were excited about the filmmakers in attendance and wanted to delve into the artistic intentions of the work; and as for the area being a place to visit, it definitely is! It’s beautiful. I hope to return to explore more of the coastline someday.

On Friday, we took a trip to the beach to see the amazing elephant seals before heading back to the festival (photos below). Our screening was at 2pm and we had 77 strangers in the 100 seat theater. I will say that I was disappointed with the sound quality, something I expected from hearing the films the night before. The main venue had one speaker behind the screen that kind of muffled the dialogue track. And if a film’s sound was in the slightest bit tinny (which ours is at times), that tinny quality was mega amplified with the muffle. So, I watched the film with mixed feelings. It was getting laughs and people seemed to be enjoying it for the most part, but some lines (in our dialogue-heavy film) were missed because of the muffled quality. That said, we got really nice feedback. A lot of people told us throughout the weekend that they loved the film and that it was so sweet and uplifting. A couple people said that they appreciated the positivity of the story. Many people recognized Alexandra throughout the weekend, jokingly asking her where the baby is (her character is pregnant in the film), and some spoke about the relatability of Katherine’s character and how impressive her performance was.


On Saturday, Katherine had to head back to LA for an event, so Alexandra and I explored the many quirky antique shops and watched a few films. One that we tried to watch the night before in the second venue had major sound issues. The dialogue track wouldn’t play at all, so they had to reschedule the screening. Thankfully, it played fine (though muffled) in the main venue, but it made me super nervous for our screening in the second venue Saturday night (and I just felt bad for the filmmakers, who had a lot of cast & crew in attendance for their first screening). Alexandra Kalinowski (AK), the film’s composer, drove up with her husband Spike for the Saturday night screening. They had moved to LA about 6 months ago, so it was so nice to grab dinner and catch up. The screening itself, thankfully, went mostly well in the second venue. The volume of our tracks were off, which was odd because it was the same file we screened in Montana 2 weeks ago (in a beautiful theater with great sound); so that was a bit disappointing again. But even so, people seemed to really enjoy the film. It got some big laughs. In the 80 seat space, we had 27 people in attendance, which wasn’t bad for an encore screening.

I’d like to shout-out my LA-based friends Allen Negrete, Alpha Faye, and their 2 friends for driving up just to see our film that night! It was the sweetest thing. I don’t think I expressed enough to them how much I appreciated that. It can be tough just getting friends to take a 40 minute train ride in NY to come see a film at a festival. Allen and Alpha are such kind and cool people. I’m so glad they were there, and hope to collaborate with them somehow someday, even though we’re on opposite sides of the country. They had really nice things to say about the film, as did a few of the locals in attendance. One of my favorites was from a woman who is a retired family counselor; she said she really appreciated the way we handled heavy subjects. She said it all felt touched upon in an accessible way because we were doing it with humor and heart. And she said the family dynamics felt really authentic. That was just wonderful to hear. After the screening, we all hung out at the only bar in town open past 9pm and had a great time catching up and getting to know each other.

Sunday, we grabbed breakfast and then AK had to head back to LA. Alexandra and I explored Hearst Castle a bit before I had to head to the airport (which a festival volunteer was kind enough to drive me to), and Alexandra and Katherine (who returned right as I was leaving) went to the awards ceremony at Hearst Castle. We didn’t win anything, but Katherine and Alexandra said they got more nice comments from people who told them they enjoyed the film, and a few even said it was their favorite of the features.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. Cambria is beautiful and charming. The festival is well-organized and offers great perks (like giving filmmakers a free hotel and doing airport runs), and the locals really come out for the screenings. They just need to get better sound equipment and a more knowledgeable projectionist, and they’ll be solid. Since this was only their second year, I think they can definitely take feedback and get better. It is lovely having a festival completely devoted to love, so I do hope they stick around.

-Christina

Local Vegan Treat:

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