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


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