Thursday, December 6, 2012


Hey there Crushers !

So thus far we have seen a project from a mere idea to a film that's in the can.

Now we get the privilege of putting the pieces together...and we're going to do it in a month!

We have an editor on board and a composer waiting in the wings :)

So our actual film is just one component of our INDIE CRUSH PROJECT.

Truly we are beginning a new phase, and this is where YOU come in. 

Lisa Cholodenko is our first indie crush, and you can read more about her in our last post titled " It's A Wrap!

Since our mission was not just to create our own work, but to give back to those who have paved the way, we want to know just how Lisa's work has inspired YOU.

We are looking for your responses to the following questions: 

1) When did you discover Lisa's work? 

2) What's the specific moment from her work that inspired you? 

3) What would you want to say to her if given the chance? 

We are going to choose FIVE PASSIONATE CRUSHERS to interview more in depth for our blog, but more importantly for a CRUSH VIDEO to send to Lisa!

You can post your thoughts directly to this blog at the bottom of this post!

We are so ready for other crushers to come out of the closet and share their love!

Mel & Ash

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's a Wrap!

On Halloween this year we were absolutely wearing costumes and running around playing characters. 

We shot LIFE'S A PAPER PICNIC  at the truly stunning El Matador Beach just off the PCH in Malibu. 

We (Ash & Melissa) are FINALLY writing a joint blog again together, as in, in the same room! Magic! 

Now that we are in the throws of passionate post production, we believe this is an appropriate time to reflect on our process in addition to why we really chose Lisa for our first "Film Crush" to begin with. 

Filming on the beach…

What a gift. 

Director bare foot kneeling in the sand. 

Intimate team of "collabs" that all wanted to be there. 

We felt totally pro--an amazing accomplishment considering our genesis was a tweet. 

Speaking of that tweet, we really want to tell you what is really so special about Lisa. 

Expect part biography, part impression, part reviews, but mostly respect. 


LISA CHOLODENKO grew up in the San Fernando Valley in a Jewish family.  Though initially Lisa had no ambitions of becoming a filmmaker, she changed her mind by her mid-twenties. After working as an assistant editor on Boyz 'N the Hood (1991) and Used People (1992), Cholodenko enrolled in Columbia University's graduate film program in 1992. Mentored by Milos Forman, Cholodenko made two highly regarded short films, Souvenir and Dinner Party. After earning her M.F.A., Cholodenko served as an assistant editor on Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995) while working on the screenplay for her first feature, High Art. 

Lisa is a prime example of "write what you know," and HIGH ART was born from her firsthand observations of the 1990s New York art world.  High Art centers on a reclusive photographer-turned-junkie and the aspiring young art magazine editor who becomes infatuated with her, and it was a major cult success within the LGBT community. 

What we found profoundly attractive about HIGH ART was the combination of its intimacy, authenticity, voyeurism, and daring subjects. High Art earned raves for the performances and a Sundance Film Festival prize for Cholodenko's astute, complex screenplay. 

Cholodenko's second feature, Laurel Canyon (2002), took years of development, and precipitated her move back to the west coast. LAUREL CANYON was inspired by the Joni Mitchell album "Ladies of the Canyon," and not surprisingly, Joni reappeared again in THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, her third and highly regarded feature.  The Kids are Alright won a Golden Globe for Best Picture and was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture.  The Kids are Alright was again largely written from experience, as Lisa and her partner (musician/composer) Wendy Melvoin used an anonymous sperm donor to conceive a child.  However, whereas High Art and Laurel Canyon were written solely by Lisa, we love the fact that she collaborated with a partner of different strengths, Stuart Blumberg, to create a film that ultimately exposed Lisa's work to an even broader audience.

Prior to filming Laurel Canyon and The Kids are Alright, Lisa found success directing episodes of acclaimed TV series including NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street and HBO's Six Feet Under.  Her interested in the darker reaches of character psychology offered her these opportunities and added to her vivd stamp on filmmaking.  This character exploration was another huge factor of what drew us to her work.

Additionally, music and scoring play a huge role in Lisa's films by distinctly illuminating Lisa's characters' psychological journeys. Lisa's love for and use of music is another way we seek to pay homage to her work.  As we move forward with post-production, we intend Paper Picnic to have an original score.

Lisa's thoughts...

"...Those (stories) that have juicy kind of complicated emotional characters and really kind of dig into psychological states and shifting psychological states." 
"Maybe nobody's had a real angle of a story. I think that just putting lesbians out there and saying look it's a lesbian is not interesting. I think the majority of the issues in the film are really universal and I think that's why this film can break through." 
"I don't feel like my films are about gender they are about identity - but a different slant on identity." 
"I found it wildly exciting to see a film that was so personal that was expressed so singularly particularly Jane Campion's film SWEETIE. I don't know how Sweetie holds up over time but I know the way she ended that film was so outside the box. She took on an idea that I just couldn't believe someone would be allowed to express and it was really riveting to me and made me want to make films. " 
Our take on Lisa's themes...
We noticed some common themes and elements in Lisa's films that we aimed to incorporate in our screenplay/film:
1. Lisa's camera angles are careful to illuminate intimacy in relationships.
2. Filming takes place from the POV of the inner consciousness of the main subject.
3. Substances tend to influence her characters' journeys.  Whether Heroin in High Art, Marijuana and Alcohol in Laurel Canyon, or Wine in The Kids are Alright, drugs and alcohol play a role.  
4. The city/environment brings out each character's lifestyle and plays a character in her films.  
5. Sexuality.
6. Life is messy. 
Ultimately, we chose Lisa because her work exemplifies the exact caliber of work we want to be a part of: Bold, Intimate, Sexy, Intelligent, Immediate, Authentic, Classy, Original, Complex, Human.  We are honored to call Lisa our #1 Crush!
With Love & Gratitude,
Ash & Melissa

Jonathan Chase, Ruben O'Malley, Melissa Center, Ash Archambeau on location


Friday, November 2, 2012

It's Coming to Fruition!

It has been a while since Ash and I have documented our progress for Life's a Paper Picnic, and as you can imagine, much has occurred!

Here goes:

After an amazing location scout to Leo Carillo Beach in Malibu, our fearless director, Ruben O'Malley,  visited the permit office to inquire about shooting there.  What we discovered was the following:

1. In order to shoot at Leo Carillo Beach without getting kicked off or out, we would need a permit.
2. A permit might cost us $800
3. A student project costs us $0


Cut to: Find film student...STAT.

Ash and I reached out to a select group of film students who we knew and respected.  We awaited responses and time started to tick.  As we got closer to our initial shoot date we knew we had to push it back 1 week.  This involved re-coordinating travel plans and clearing schedule of our co-star, the charming, dashing, Jonathan Chase.  You see, Jonathan is a BUSY working actor!  He so generously offered to join our project provided that we could work around his work.  Understandably so--we've all got bills to pay!

Once we pushed back our shoot and took a deep breath, we got confirmation from a student DP who was recommended to us.


However...we wouldn't be able to file for insurance in time, as his school would take a few days to process our request.

As we put one foot in front of the other, Ruben visited the permit office once again to see how we might move forward.  The news he received was that despite our initial application, Leo Carillo Beach was no longer available.  (Insert sad face here)  HOWEVER, the folks at the office recommended he check out El Matador Beach, a STATE run beach with much less strict/much less expensive permit requirements.  Plus, it was avail on our requested date.


Ruben went on a location scout to El Matador and reported its magnificence to Ash and I.  Everything was going swimmingly....


Ruben got a message from the office on a Friday that his permit had not gone through.  We were planning on shooting Wednesday.  By the time Ruben received the message, it was too late to call.



I suggested we think of a plan B.  I would be traveling back to LA in a week, which left the following Wednesday free.  Ruben and Ash were also avail.  Jonathan would be finishing his tv shoot the day prior, so it looked good.

Cut to: JK!  There was a mistake from the permit office.  We were clear to shoot on our first choice date.


Cut to: We have no confirmation from our makeup girl.


Cut to: We have no makeup girl.


Cut to:  This Wednesday.  Ash and I meet at Ruben's apt at 6 am to do our own makeup.  We drive to our location where Jonathan, our DP Matt, and our sound guy Caleb await us.  It is now 7:45 am.  We have 1 hour tops to shoot Jonathan's scene before he has to run to the other side of the universe (Downtown LA) for a tv table read at 10:45 am.  Heart racing, palms sweating, SOMEHOW we manage to shoot Jonathan's footage in time for him to drive (probably in lots of traffic) to the other side of the universe and make it in time to his important job.

Once we sent Jonathan on his way, we had the rest of the day to make our film.  However, Ash had a last minute commercial audition at 6:15 pm.  Sheesh!

The day was spectacular.  Shooting at El Matador Beach with this amazing team felt like such a gift.  I'm confident we captured the heart of our film on Wednesday.

As the sun started to set, we realized the time.  It was approaching 6pm and Ash was supposed to be at her audition.


We decided due to the setting of the light and the need to get Ash to her audition, that it would be best to shoot our last segment the same day we're planning to shoot our 1 interior scene.  Totally feasible.

With terrible reception, somehow Ash managed to get through to the casting office, who informed her that auditions were going until 7:30pm.  Strange how late they were seeing people, but great for Ash's needs!

We gathered our equipment and props, hightailed it back to Ruben's apt, and sent Ash on her way to her appointment (in lots of traffic).  SOMEHOW, she managed to get to the audition just in the knick of time.


It was a crazy, long, intense day, but we did it.  Aside from the stressors of ensuring everyone could fulfill their outside responsibilities, day 1 couldn't have gone better.  Did I mention that at day's end I got a call from my agent with a 'straight to tape for producers' audition for a TV show?!


All in all, though our journey with this project is nowhere near complete, I know we are on course.  Magical things have happened since we decided to begin and will continue.  I'm sure of it.  In the meanwhile, here are some photos from our beautiful day at El Matador Beach.  Stay tuned for more updates soon...

Ruben O'Malley, Director

Our "Picnic"

El Matador Beach

Matt Dennie, DP

El Matador Beach

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Snowballing On The Beach

A massive growth spurt has occurred in our baby.  We're so proud/excited/ready to share/have new pictures.

We have a FANTASTIC director (and human!) leading the charge. With his expertise and major steam we've created a genuine snowballing effect with the evolution of our story.

Let's take it back a few weeks, shall we?

(Light snowfall) Melissa and I meet at the general store on Laurel Canyon to be inspired to really clean up our script (creating our third edit). We are completely inspired and enjoy vegan peanut butter carob cookies. We think everyone walking in the cafe-esque store front is unbelievably fascinating. We are left feeling full, though curious as to how our next step would play out-- Would we just hire a DP we knew and self direct? When would we location scout? All the technicals basically were completely up in the air. A genuine two man show.

(Snow storm) :(I'm switching tenses now for some reason...)  Melissa had a brilliant idea and as described in her post just reached out! (Not just-- she made it happen!) She got a BIG BITE. We had a potential director who happened to be a professional cinematographer as well. BONUS, he clearly expressed his love for Lisa and said his wife had worked with her on LAUREL CANYON. :) :) :)

(Snowed in!) We all met. It was a love affair. Ruben is his name and not only did we have a fantastic discussion of the script, characters, and ideas for shooting- he stepped up as Mister Producer and we all went location scouting the next day.

(We make a snow fort with all the snow we have) We found a beautiful spot on the beach that we again, all fell in love with.  After two washings and a two hose downs I'm still trying to get sand out of my Tom's. So worth it.

(We crunch on delicious snow cones)  Melissa and I met at TRAILS in Griffith Park to adjust our script after talking further with Ruben and seeing our location. What a beautiful afternoon under the trees. We discussed our main message now very clearly, and not only felt our script reflected Lisa, but us as well.

We are very excited about the message we are envisioning with this piece.

 (Roads are cleared and we are making snow balls for the big fight!) We've all been emailing like little bunnies (admittedly Ruben and Melissa took the major reigns coordinating people and information-- so grateful) and today we all met up again. (Everyone came to my house and I thrust upon them a Sunset Magazine recipe of roasted grapes and yummy snobby goat cheese...good gracious I love having company).  We went shot by shot. Chose our shoot dates for October 30th and 31st. Worked on nailing down our players. We will have two locations, three actors (including Melissa and I) and a skeleton crew.

 Less than 3 weeks ago Melissa and I were going to be producer, writer, director, actor, make up, hair, wardrobe, props, location scout, permit wrangler, etc. and NOW a strong leader is making it all a reality (plus people waiting in the wings enabling us to be ACTORS on a professional set). What a gift. Christmas has come way earlier than we expected AND we're on the beach enjoying it :)

Enjoy the view... :)

In anticipation of Christmas morning,

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Pursuit of Truth & Authenticity

I am committed to the pursuit of truth and authenticity in my work.  Isn't that what we strive for as artists?  I've also been putting a lot of thought into the types of people I want to collaborate with.  Isn't it so much better when you share artistic sensibilities and a common vision?

Though it is still early in the process of The Indie Crush Project, I am finding that when you put energy into something that rings true to who you are, those special people inevitably come into your world.

It goes without saying that my writing partner and co-star to be, Ash Archambeau and I, stumbled upon each other because of these commonalities.  If you haven't already, you can read about the fortuitous events that led to this collaboration here.  Well, in our joint pursuit of truth and authenticity, we have joined forces with another like-minded soul.  Again, the connection seemed effortless and inevitable!

In pursuit of a director, I reached out to a network of actors, writers, directors, etc. I'm a part of called Squalor Los Angeles.  What Ash & I were seeking was a director who shared our respect for Lisa Cholodenko and understood her sensibilities.  I got 2 responses: One from a producer/composer who expressed interest in potentially scoring our film, and one from a filmmaker who primarily works as a D.P., but again, seemed interested.  After giving him a little background about our project and sending him to this blog, he was on board!  I spoke with him on the phone and we discussed the impetus for the project, our backgrounds, etc.  Before reading our script he was already enthusiastic about joining the team and being a part of this project.

"Too good to be true," I asked myself?  "What if he thinks our script is shit?" When all three of us met for the first time this afternoon at Commissary in West Hollywood, the answer proved to be "no"  it was/isn't too good to be true, and "no" he doesn't think our script is shit.  Kind, generous, engaged, & asking all the right questions about the script, the characters, the story we want to tell, and the lasting impact we seek to have on our audience, Ash & I couldn't believe another kindred spirit fell into our laps.

"Who is this mysterious director extraordinaire?"  You might be asking...Well, I'll leave you in suspense until the next blog post.  In the meanwhile, I can't believe how effortlessly Ash and Mystery Director Man have flowed into my world.  I guess there's something to this pursuit of truth & authenticity thing after all...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

If we were actually writing on paper....imagine.

It's been a bit of time since I posted, though on the flip side we have made some big writing strides!

Melissa and I have met five times and every time we seem to carve something that resembles 'Lisa' a bit more clearly.

Simply our process has been thus far:

Pre-Pro: watching, reading, learning, loving Lisa Cholodenko

1- Choosing a location, character ideas, themes, and stylistic elements that a) were Lisa enduced b) were accessible for us as actors and filmmakers

2- Character descriptions, creating a world, creating a log line, crafting a title.

3- Outlining the events of our story (our poor man's version of Celtx storyboarding-- I'd like to call it snap shots )

4-  Purging a first rough draft

5- Refining our story by streamlining the style and language-- really boiling down what we need.

Melissa was far better off the bat at writing subtext than I. I know what the subtext is, however my tendency is to want to write some of it too-- sometimes my brain still defaults to think in theatre where  action is written as word.  Working on that...Melissa snaps me back out of it. She's feisty when she writes ;)

This last go-round was our fifth visit which paled in culinary comparison to our previous meet up (over pumpkin, arugula, brazil nut, and sheep's cheese pizza mind you- yummmm I love cooking for nice people who appreciate food).

Our goal this last time around was to strip as much away as we could. One of our earliest notes about Lisa's style was the idea that life is messy-- and translating that idea through language was what we needed to focus on. Our writing was not to be messy, rather our writing had to reflect the immediate P.O.V. of characters who didn't necessarily know what to say eloquently through out. Ultimately we yet again were reminded that less is more in dialogue when it comes to visual storytelling.

We got about two-thirds of the way through before Melissa had to run to see THE MASTER and I ran to see LOOPER. I'm looking forward to our next writing sesh where we'll inevitably digress about actor shop talk, the films we've seen, and forever sharing strange coincidences that only make our partnership seem like a fateful gift.

Happy creating everyone.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

I guess I'm not nearly as optimistic as I thought!

This week, Ash & I got together at her lovely apartment, enjoyed a home cooked gourmet lunch, and pumped out our very first draft of "Life's a Paper Picnic!"  It is amazing how enjoyable writing can be when you have a collaborator who shares in taste, is open-minded and agenda-less.

What is interesting about writing with a partner, is that each has her own set of ideas and predispositions.  I have actually discovered writing tendencies & points of view that I didn't realize I had until working with Ash!  For example, though I consider myself a generally positive person, the story and character concepts I initially brought to the table had elements one might interpret as dark.  As we've conceived it together, our story involves two women sharing a deep connection that they don't anticipate.  It centers around a bride-to-be and her wedding designer who meet at the beach to make final decisions on the ceremony.  The fiancé is nowhere to be found.  Without giving too much away, over the course of the story, the bride and designer forge a bond.

What we had yet to decide, is how our story would end.  I initially envisioned a backlash from the protagonist, the bride, once her fiancé shows up at the beach.  I pictured the bride going back to her typical behavior, and possibly belittling the designer in front of her fiancé in an effort to compensate for the events that take place prior to his arrival.  What does that say about how I perceive human nature?!

On the other hand, Ash, ETERNAL OPTIMIST, thought--wouldn't it be nice if the fiancé shows up and the bride takes the reigns, displays her newly found independence, and walks her husband through the details of their upcoming nuptials, as the designer looks on, content?  Life wrapped in a bow.

What we decided on together is a more realistic approach.  Life is neither wrapped in a bow nor cruel, but rather messy.  People can change for the better, but not overnight.  Lesson learned?  The eternal optimist and self-proclaimed realist must keep each other in check.

I look forward to our next writing session when we get to revisit, revise, and dig deeper into our story.  Maybe I'll discover something else about myself or the world through the process and share it with you.  Isn't that what creating art is all about?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Life's a Paper Picnic


We have come up with a story concept, logline and potential title for our first Indie Crush short film:

An overwhelmed bride and her magnetic wedding planner meet at the beach to plot the ceremony and ultimately realize that sometimes true intimacy happens when you don't plan for it.

Life's a Paper Picnic

Here's Einstein, our muse, as proof:

What do you think?


Ash & Melissa

Friday, September 7, 2012

Great Minds Think Alike

A few months ago I met Ash Archambeau.  Very briefly.  She had come to see the LANU (Northwestern U) Alumni showcase that I happened to be in.  We connected after the show, as it happened to be a really good show, and we briefly discussed her connection to Northwestern.  We had both been "Cherubs," high school seniors who spend the summer at NU being theatre nerds.  Whereas I ended up attending the university, however, she went to school in PA.  I think she gave me her card.

As responsible, social media inclined 'actorpreneurs' are bound to do, we found each other on Twitter.  Then, the seed was planted:  I favorited a tweet.

Ash had written something about Laurel Canyon and how brilliant Lisa Cholodenko is.  I happened to check in with Twitter to see it.  Being a HUGE admirer of Lisa's work, I clicked 'star.'  Ash responded.  The conversation went something like this:

Ash: "Yay!  Lisa is Rad! Let's interview her!  (I'm only half kidding.)"
Me: OK!

And so an idea was forged.

After Tweeting back and forth, we finally realized it made much more sense to e-mail each other.  We began to exchange ideas about what we'd want to ask Lisa and how we could even connect to her.  Then, Ash came up with an idea: Why don't we create a scene or series of scenes that we write together inspired by Lisa's work?  We both had camera equipment, so it wouldn't cost us anything to shoot it.  We could choose an outdoor location, like a park or a beach, keep the setting simple, and craft a story that included the elements that come up again and again in Lisa's films.


And so a project was forged.

We agreed to each come up with a story concept and share our ideas over a meeting in person (novel idea, huh?).

Which leads us to....

Last night we met face to face for the first time since our initial introduction in May.  We shared our story concepts, both of which had common elements and themes, and decided to start this blog.

We are excited to come together, collaborate and create.  We don't know how it will end up or if we'll even achieve our goal of connecting with Lisa, one of our favorite auters, but we are pleased to share our process and journey with you nonetheless.

Follow me @melissacenter
Fan me
Watch me

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It All Began...

It all began with a tweet.

Well really, it began began with an in person run in at the 2012 Northwestern Alumni Showcase on June 4th 2012 . I went to support a fantastic comedian Dava Krause and ended up meeting/watching other truly authentic artists.

I really thought Melissa was something awesome so I went and said hello to her after the show.

Then I tweeted this that night:
YES    so awesome seeing your collaboration on opening night!! I'm a big fan.

Thus began our initial interaction.

On June 6th I tweeted :
Saw Laurel Canyon. Thanks Lisa Cholodenko for crafting true complexity in all types of relationships.

To my surprise and delight Melissa favorited my tweet. Oh how my cyber ego grinned.

On June 10th the tweet fest continued:
PS  let's interview Lisa Cholodenko together! (I"m only half kidding....)

Well it has turned out that neither of us were kidding, because direct messages transgressed to full on emails, and finally into a few real time phone conversations.  Melissa and I decided to honor our love of Lisa Cholodenko by researching her work and creating our own film inspired by her genius.

Granted, our initial goal was to see if we could interview her, but here is where we are NOW.

TONIGHT, September 6th we met and decided to create a blog to document our process making something cool inspired by an artist (auteur is the fancy word for the type of artist such as Lisa Cholodenko we speak of) and MAYBE with this blog (and our future awesome short) we can get an opportunity to interview our first INDIE CRUSH.

Melissa and I are here to tell you we have a big juicy not-at-all discreet crush on Lisa Cholodenko.

AND after meeting tonight, I already feel a creative crush coming on for Melissa.

Stay tuned for the mad indie crush gossip.

Cheers to love!