Making movies!

These days, I’m working hard and discovered I’m really into collaboration.  It reminds me more of my theatre days.  Putting on a show, working together….  I’m enjoying it much more than the loneliness of writing…and I think the discussion and accountability makes me a better filmmaker.

Andrew Droz Palermo ( and I are working together on Rich Hill, USA (this is our working title).  We are heading off to Rich Hill tomorrow morning – we look forward to spending a day in the Youth Development Center, and a day at the elementary school.  We’re going on a ride-along with the one patrolman in town who works part-time, and visiting the folks who run a family orchard, which faces an uncertain future.  We also are going to spend a few mornings with our uncle, who tends to his cows and is the best storyteller I know – and walking in our grandparents’ garden, where the irises are just starting to come out.

Richard Ross ( and I are working together on Keep Me Safe (also a working title) – a film on juvenile justice in America.  Richard is an amazing photographer – I’m more of the chatty one, trying to cram in as much detail and story and “issue” as I can.  I’m waiting to hear back from Judge Nash’s office about how much access we are granted to film in the juvenile camps and facilities here in LA.  I should know today – but I imagine this process will be fairly protracted.   Meanwhile, I look forward to sitting down with advocates and legislatures in Missouri in April and visiting some of the juvenile facilities there.

I’m on my own on the “David project” (untitled), although I hope Andrew will continue to work with me when it makes sense.  Over the years, I’ve a hard time tracking David, my adoptive father, down.  Ministers work when most of us are on vacation - holidays like Christmas are their crunch-time.  Also, because he’s an “interim” minister, the guy that works for a year or two between settled ministries, he moves constantly.  30 places in 30 years: New York City; Boise, ID; Taunton, MA; Rochester, NY; Houston, TX; Atlanta, GA; Ann Arbor, MI; Washington, D.C., I could go on and on.  Historically, he’d not only change his address but his cell phone number every time.  Apparently, he thought the older church set might be confused and question his commitment if he didn’t have a local number - but honestly, with his resistance to e-mail, it was impossible to track him down.  He was like someone in the witness protection program, always one step ahead of you.  

But about a year or so ago, David got a San Francisco cell phone that he’s kept.  He’s getting better with e-mail.  And last summer, to top it all, he joined Facebook.  So even though he’s never in the same place for very long - there’s now a way to find him and communicate with him, albeit long distance.  And I am finally going to get some footage of him in church.  This year, he’s in St. Louis, Missouri – which makes it convenient.  So I’m dragging the kids with me for Easter and capturing him in the pulpit.  I know already that this project will take me awhile.  It already has.  I intentionally started interviewing him three years ago.  Years of conversations – fits and miss-starts.  And what I think it may be about today, won’t be what it’s about tomorrow.  He and I have a complicated relationship, that doesn’t seem to get any easier with age.

I saw two documentaries in the past few days that really resonated – “October Country” and “Following Sean.”  Neither film is in any way upbeat.  They are both about cycles – imperceptible, seemingly unavoidable, unbreakable cycles.  If mom chose a bad man, we will choose a bad man, and our daughter will, too.  “Following Sean” is also about growing up, in whatever way we want to assume that responsibility ….

Charlotte, my oldest, is giving me the stink-eye a lot.  She wishes I made “real” movies and not documentaries.  I’ve never shown her “Be Good, Smile Pretty.”  I think I need to wait until she’s at least 10.  I wonder about her and the cycle she might inherit.  I hope she will be strong, independent and happy – happy in life and happy with herself, because I think those might be two separate things.  As a parent myself, I appreciate the complexities that my own parents faced much more now.