This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

“People want to see documentaries, but there’s a disconnect between that desire and the exhibitors out there...We’re not asking for charity. This could be on the 15th screen of a multiplex that would otherwise have the sixth showing of the new Harry Potter movie.

~Documentary Filmmaker, Michael Moore

Monday, February 25, 2008

Filmmaking-- Rising To The Occasion...

In the aftermath of last night's 80th Academy Awards, many filmmakers, stars, and fashions will be showered with attention. Others who woke up with a golden statuette on their pillow this morning are not necessarily stars or A-listers ~ in fact, you may not even recognize them. For the good or the bad, most documentary filmmakers fall into this group...

This past week, I had the privilege to attend the IDA (International Documentary Association) Academy Award Documentary Nominee Program and reception as well as Docuday. Seeing the programs, meeting some of the filmmakers, and hearing them speak so passionately about their films gave me newfound appreciation for documentary filmmaking. At the reception, filmmakers were allowed to speak about the stories behind their films—the struggles and dangers they faced in getting their films made as well as the indelible impact the experience had on them personally. These are the stories we don’t get to hear in 40-second Oscar acceptance speeches.

Sometimes in creative ventures, we wonder how (and if ) we’re making a difference. How does art contribute to humanity? Can a film open our eyes to worlds we’ve never seen? Can it be both thought-provoking and powerful enough to instigate social change? The answers to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes.” And no one knows that more intimately than the documentary filmmaker.

I urge everyone to give documentaries a second look-- a viewing chance. The nominated documentaries are each educational, thought-provoking, and extraordinary in their own way. They certainly deserve more recognition, as do documentary films, in general.


No End In Sight --The first film of its kind to chronicle the reasons behind Iraq’s descent into guerrilla war, warlord rule, criminality, and anarchy. (Charles Ferguson / Audrey Mars)

Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience—Explores the first-hand accounts of American soldiers through their own words. (Richard E. Robbins / The Documentary Group)

Sicko – Profiles ordinary Americans whose lives have been disrupted, shattered, or in some cases, ended by health care catastrophe. (Michael Moore / Meghan O’Hara)

Taxi To The Dark Side* -- begins with the death of an Afghan taxi driver from injuries inflicted by US soldiers. From there, the film is an unflinching look at the Bush administration’s policy on torture. (Alex Gibney / Eva Orner)

War/Dance – tells the story of three Ugandan children whose family have been torn apart by civil war. When they are invited to compete in a music and dance festival, it gives them an opportunity to regain part of their childhood. (Amanda Nix Fine / Sean Fine)


Freeheld* -- follows the battle of Laurel Hester, a dying police officer who fights to transfer her pension to her domestic partner. (Cynthia Wade / Vanessa Roth)

La Corona (The Crown) – follows four inmates competing for the crown in an annual beauty pageant of the Women’s penitentiary in Bogota, Colombia. (Amanda Micheli / Isabel Vega)
Salim Baba –tells the story of Salim Muhammed, a father who lives in North Kolkata, India with his wife and five children. Since the age of ten, he has made a living screening discarded film scraps for the kids in his surrounding neighborhood using a hand-cranked projector that he inherited from his father. ( Tim Sternberg / Francisco Bello)

Sari’s Mother – follows the struggle of an Iraqui mother who is trying to help her 10-year-old son, Sari, who is dying of AIDS. ( James Longley)

Filmmakers of all genres must rise to the occasion and produce films that contribute to our culture, force us to question our own humanity, and challenge us and our established beliefs. Documentary filmmakers know this. Through getting to know IDA, I’ve learned that documentary filmmakers are family-- supportive of each other and passionate about making films that truly matter.

If others in the entertainment industry could follow their lead, we’d be all better off.

* - denotes Academy Award winner

Copyright © 2008 KLiedle
This post also appears as a full-length article in the Los Angeles Edition of Broowaha

Film Poster: Taxi To The Dark Side (X-Ray Productions)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Dolphin In A Deep Blue Sea of Hollywood Sharks

The other day
I got a call from a woman who was following up after sending a submission (photo/resume) seeking talent manager representation for her 9-year-old daughter.
(Note to actors: I highly recommend following up. We’re busy with a lot of other things so even if we’ve expressed interest in you, via your submission, chances are we haven’t actually had the occasion to call you and set-up a meeting ~ even though we’ve meant to do so.

At any rate, a reminder never hurts. Unfortunately for this woman, we don’t represent children.

However, since I know how hard this business is, I like to be ONE of the few genuinely nice people that they encounter on the creative, yet difficult path they’ve chosen to take. I like to think of myself as one of the few dolphins in an ocean full of Hollywood sharks. And believe me, there are many.

I’m especially nice to screenwriters that call to pitch their writing. Heck, I work for a talent manager… and I hesitate to admit that I’ve made the occasional phone call from our offices in which I’ve resorted to pitching one of our clients’ (aka one of my) screenplays. I know that I'm not the only one who has done this, by the way... With this approach, I might get a little further along on the telephone trail…like the time that I pitched my (client’s) screenplay to Goldie Hawn’s assistant. However, the reality is that, from one assistant to another, we’ve all got our own goals… so I can tell you, that it doesn’t get any easier no matter where you're at on the ladder of success. The difficulties just change form. What you've got to do is just keep on climbing.

My advice for today? Stick with it-- as long as you can hold out. Miracles and oddities of every sort do happen… and they happen most often, here in Hollywood.

Copyright © 2008 KLiedle
*Photo credit: fotolen/flickr

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Final Draft is in... La Dolce Vita!!! The Strike Is OVER!


After a 100-days (and many overdraft checks written by unemployed writers and crew members,) the WGA WRITER'S STRIKE IS OFFICIALLY OVER!!!!!

I'm gonna do a cartwheel now... after I'm done blogging. YEAH!!

Plus, YES...Virginia, there will be an Academy Awards ~ an 80th celebration at that!

(Yo, Grammys... the WGA gave you a waiver and all, but at 50, the Academy Awards have still got you waaaay beat!)

New York Times Feed~ The Writer's Strike:

Hollywood's writers made it official, ending their bitterly
fought strike at the 100-day mark by an overwhelming margin.
Of 3,775 writers who cast ballots, 92.5 percent voted in
favor of ending the strike.

Read More:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Movies: It's All About Locations (Er, Incentives...)

MovieMaker Magazine
2008 Power List of Best Places (To Make Movies)

Here's the "Top Ten" (based on a variety of criteria):

1) Austin, TX

2) Albuquerque, NM

3) Shreveport, LA

4) New York, NY

5) Philadelphia, PA

6) Wilmington, NC

7) Seattle, WA

8) Portland, OR

9) Baltimore, MD

10) Memphis, TN

Hmm... Look. They must've made a mistake. Los Angeles was omitted.

Yeah, right. That, there's no mistake--Mister. Can anyone except for Michael Bay and perhaps J.J. Abrams afford to shoot in L.A. anymore? (No, it doesn't count if you're "stealing locations", fashioning the Hollywood sign into your shot via Photoshop, or if you're using your parents' old video camera and uploading to Youtube as I write...)

I've written about New Mexico before with my praises for their Green Filmmaking Program.
I don't even know that much about New Mexico, but I do know that New Mexico's smart. They're not ho-humming and waiting around to see how they might be able to entice a movie to their fine state. They are out there doing things and building things (studios, people) and recruiting and educating local film crews. They're like China-- slowly rising like a golden serpent from the sea to become the next superpower of filmmaking. We're so mesmerized, that we don't have a chance to react.

Heads up, Nebraska. Pencils down, California.
Don't let other states pass you up! Don't let other countries lure production (me) away! Get that legislation going and pass incentives so that you can be just as competitive. I really want you to succeed ~ because frankly, I want to succeed without years going by and without greenbacks flying off my back before I even have a chance to change them into Euros...

Also see my previous article Green Filmmaking And Studio Worm Farms

Copyright © 2008 Kendra Liedle

Valentine Cynics: How To Deal...

I'm a rare, female boycotter of Valentine's Day. The flowers, the singing teddy bears, Russell Stover candies, heart-shaped cookies, those horrendous conversation hearts...what's a cynic to do?

When I think of Valentine's Day, sometimes I think of beauty and roses and loving feelings sprawled out in their nakedness like a half-eaten box of chocolates. Within these thoughts, Valentine's Day is an idyllic occasion in a classically romantic film, preferably in French.

Usually when my dreams wander into Valentine-induced Candyland, I discover that I'm a florist or the proprietor of a widely successful, high-end greeting card company or that I've mastered the long-lost art of making balloon animals. I see dollar signs line up in my eyes like the winning the nickel slots. Then, I wake up- my heart pounding with the thoughts of further commercializing Valentine's Day for my own selfish, money-making contentment.

The truth is (the real truth): I hate Valentine's Day. If you are single in February of any given year, the world will not let you forget. Everywhere you turn, there are constant reminders of your pathetic singledom. If you are married or you are in a relationship of some kind, Valentine's Day easily becomes an obligatory annoyance, and an overly irritating one at that.

Valentine's Day also has a habit of making my mind wander to nagging reminders of my past and the ridiculousness of dating, especially in a place like Los Angeles. The memories float by in my head like some sort of surrealistic montage of romantic doom. Take the former naval officer that brought his incontinent canine with him on our first date. After thankfully dropping the diarrhea-scented dog off at his house, we went to dinner. There, over Spanish tapas, he accused me of being a lesbian. It turns out that his ego couldn't wrap itself around the fact that I was not falling head over heels for him. In his mind, there could only be one explanation for that. In turn, my brain couldn't wrap itself around his ego. It was so big and bulbous and throbbing, I thought it might explode.

Then, there was the time that I went to lunch with this director at a dinky corner cafe at the base of the Hollywood Hills. I was young, new to Los Angeles, and relatively naïve. Evidently my aura screamed "fresh blood" for anyone even remotely paying attention. He was the type that would discard the entire Los Angeles Times except for the Calendar section, which he would then study intently-- as though it were the text of the Rosetta Stone. I know this for a fact. After we'd entered the café, that was the very first thing he did.

By the time we'd placed our order and the Calendar section had lost all its usefulness, he proceeded to go on a thirty-minute monologue describing his latest film project while I sipped lemon water and secretly hoped my food would make this whole ordeal worthwhile. After I'd endured the most insidiously boring premise of a film, described shot-by-shot, he paused and took a deep breath. I almost had a chance to say something, to do him a favor and offer my honest comments on the film I hoped never truly germinated into full-fledged existence. However, after the passage of that one breath, he'd already gone on to describe the experiences of his recent trek through Malaysia and Cambodia. I almost didn't need to be there.

These are the thoughts and memories that cross my mind as I stand in line witnessing customers agonizing over boxes of chocolate. (Russell Stover or Whitman?) I can see this all-important decision weighing in on their brain cells as their annoying children push buttons that activate the horrendous, singing Elvis teddy bear for the umpteenth time.

Again, the truth is, I hate Valentine's Day. Every February, I look with dread as the candy hearts and teddy bears and flowers start parading down the aisles of every drugstore and card shop in town. Take a perfectly good cupcake and lop as much sugar-laden, trans fat-saturated frosting onto it as possible and there you have it: Valentine's Day.

Are we truly supposed to feel that chocolate equals love?

Do we say, "With this foil-wrapped chocolate, I thee wed?"

NO. To me, Valentine's Day is like a forced sentimental feeling in an otherwise good movie.

Is it possible to salvage a gruesomely commercialized and sugary holiday and actually have fun? What's a cynic to do? In candy heart moment of curiosity, I turn to Julie Ferman of Cupid's Coach (,) an online dating and matchmaking service. Julie lives and breathes Valentine's Day. It's her biggest and busiest time of the year to target the lonely hearts club of Angelenos.So I ask her: How can I change my opinions of Valentine's Day--opinions that are so firmly ingrained in my mind that I cannot remember ever being anything but a Valentine's cynic? Is there hope for someone like me? Can Valentine's Day actually be, God forbid, enjoyable?

"Valentine's Day is about giving and showing love," says Cupid Coach's Julie Ferman. "If we take the time to pause on that day (or any day) to drink in gratitude for those in our lives whom we love-- loved ones of all kinds -- it can only be a wonderful day.

Working with Cupid's Coach in the Los Angeles area, Julie knows that there are Valentine cynics out there, even romantic cynics. Julie says that people who hate Valentine's Day are "usually men who are afraid they'll get the wrong thing for her, they won't be able to 'win' with her....the best way for him to win with her is to ask her to provide some hints as to what would make her happy. And women should make it easy for a man to make her happy.

I agree with the concept of Valentine's Day, but it's still all a little lovey-dovey, schmaltzy to me ~ and I'm a girl, which apparently makes me an exception in this Candyland of love.

Even though I'm not looking at her, I can visualize Julie just shaking her head at me. In response, she tells me that "anyone who's become cynical about love has stopped exercising the love muscle."

Guess I better start working out...

It should not have to be complicated or overly forced though. To Julie, the easiest way to make this schmaltzy romanticism palatable for someone like me is to extend it beyond just the romantic and make it more about love and gratitude. The easiest way to do this, according to Julie, is to practice giving love, showing sincere appreciation, and offering thanks to those who have contributed to us.

One of her suggestions is to call three people who've enriched your life in some way and give them a sincere Thank You on Valentine's Day. She says that little gestures like that will enlarge even the cynic's heart. All in all, Julie advises all of us to make Valentine's Day low maintenance, throw in a few surprises, and even if it's just you (and yourself), plan something fun to do and open your heart to the possibility of love in all its many forms.

Maybe there is hope for someone like me...

(And for any fellow V-Day Cynics out there, I hope you enjoyed my heart-wrenching Valentine's rant...)

Copyright © 2008 Kendra Liedle
*Heart photo by Labels_30/flickr*

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Tale Of A "Not-So-Lost Weekend"

There are weekends when you do absolutely nothing. You get up Saturday morning, 10-ish, have coffee, and blitz-ada-bling-bling-ZLUP… it’s Sunday night, 10 p.m. You sense vague memories of Eggo blueberry waffles somewhere in your distant past-- maybe you had them for dinner, maybe that was lunch. Was it lunch? If it wasn’t, what did you have for lunch? Then again, maybe you’re not missing a meal at all. Maybe you had brunch today. You ponder the importance of this ridiculously inane question as you set your alarm for Monday morning. Then, suddenly you realize that, besides the waffle meal in question, you have absolutely no idea how you spent the weekend that is now ending. I’ve certainly had my share of these lost weekends.

This past weekend was not one of them. In fact, it only demonstrates how far flung my interests really are. It also shows that the film geek within me is in no danger of dissipating. What does a film geek really do? Well, Thursday, I started watching Fellini’s “8 1/2.” By Friday, I’d finished watching “8 1/2” the first time and had begun watching it a second time—with the full commentary (emphasizing Italian neo-realism with references to Fellini’s Playboy interview.)

Saturday, I’d decided to explore my interest in Hinduism with a trip to the Vedanta Society in Hollywood, a temple oddly tucked away underneath the 101 freeway where Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh used to worship-- back in the day. There, I purchased some kick-ass incense and felt divinity in everything I gazed upon for the rest of the day.

Still blissful, I went to the local library and got a book on the Fundamentals of Hinduism and a book called Getting Out: Your Guide To Leaving America. I fully admit that I have frequent expat daydreams of leaving the U.S.A. behind. That said, seeing a manual that outlines a plan of escape was vastly appealing. It’s a wealth of information suggesting that I just might need to renew this baby after the 3 week library mark.

Then, inexplicably, I rented the original Ghostbusters movie. All that self-imposed film theory and criticism of “8 1/2” made me think that Ghostbusters could be brain-puff fun. It was, for maybe the first 20 minutes. Then, it got lame and its irritatingly catchy theme song infiltrated my brain:

“If there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!

Nearly as annoying as the song, "Shout" the Ghostbusters theme intercepted my dreams and disturbed my REM sleep. Suddenly, the Monday morning alarm went off (never a good thing) but I was thankful that I remembered exactly what I’d done to lead up to this very Monday moment. Maybe it was the Sunday morning omelette that I had for brunch (yes, brunch) that made all the difference.

Copyright © 2008 Kendra Liedle