Rebecca Boyd

Exploring the universe, one frame at a time.

Beaufort International Film Festival

Posted Sunday, December 13th, 2015
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In Spite of It All has made the finals in the Beaufort International Film Festival Screenplay Competition!

More festival news

Posted Monday, September 14th, 2015
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In Spite of It All was just named an Austin Film Festival Second Rounder!


The handwritten note at the bottom of the notification letter says:  “p.s. The reader loved your concept, saying “There’s nothing like this coming out of Hollywood right now!”

So, we’re three for three as far as 2015 contest advancements go…

  1. Nashville Film Festival finals
  2. Nicholl Fellowship quarterfinals
  3. Austin Film Festival Second Round

Also, NFF just recently sent along some laurels.  Woo!


In Spite of It All update

Posted Sunday, August 23rd, 2015
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The 2015 Nicholl Fellowship comments on In Spite of It All have come in!

    • “lively dialogue that sparkles with wit”
    • “a thoroughly enjoyable, charming love story just brimming with Irish wit and sass”
    • “the most playful and lighthearted Civil War story I’ve ever read”
    • “a sweet, well-crafted romance, with a totally unique setup”
    • “a compelling and believable romance that feels fun and sincere”
    • “a very sweet concept for a love story”
    • “alternately funny and horrifying, all while not feeling overdone”
    • “countless great one-liners and exchange that keep the tone afloat”
    • “well crafted and fascinating”
    • “succeeds in making history feel personal”
    • “There’s something magical about the interplay between the characters set in the period and location of the story.”

I don’t know what to say other than:  !!!!!!!!!!

Well, yes I do.  I know to say Thank You.  It is so exciting for me to see my work appreciated by an audience of experts.  Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Nicholl readers.

I think now I’ll go jump up and down some more.

2015 Nicholl Fellowship Competition

Posted Saturday, July 18th, 2015
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This was a great way to start my day!

Dear Rebecca,

Congratulations!  You have advanced to the Quarterfinal Round of the 2015 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.  By doing so, yours is one of only 375 entries to escape the First Round.

With 7,442 scripts entered, the initial round was extremely competitive and made the selection of quarterfinalists a difficult task. [...]

If you aren’t familiar with the Nicholl Fellowship, it’s a competitive fellowship awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to “identify and encourage talented new screenwriters.”  If you’re not sure where you’ve heard of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences before, it’s the organization that does the Oscars.  It’s the “I’d like to thank The Academy” Academy.

I’ve entered the competition twice before.  The first year, my script got two positive reads but didn’t advance past the first round.  The second year, it was in the top 10%.  This year, it’s in the quarterfinals, which means it’s somewhere in the top 5%.  The next notification (semi-final qualifications) comes around September 1.  I’ll also get to see the comments from the Nicholl readers around that time, which I’m really looking forward to.  (Famous last words? ;) )

Nashville Film Festival

Posted Friday, March 13th, 2015
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In Spite of It All has made the finals in the Nashville Film Festival. Woohoo!

Students in the News

Posted Saturday, February 14th, 2015
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Three of my students – Megan Brooks, John Phillips, and William Campbell – have won awards for video editing from the USC Moving Image Research Collections!

Check ‘em out here and here.

Look! Freelance work that isn’t bound by a non-disclosure agreement!

Posted Friday, October 31st, 2014
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Most of my freelance video production work is corporate training videos, which I’m contractually obligated not to share. Trade secrets and whatnot. But recently I did a commercial for Action Transmission and Total Car Care Service in Columbia, SC. I met lots of nice people during the shoot. If you live in Columbia, you should check them out!

I’d like to thank The Academy!

Posted Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
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Seriously, the folks who run the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship Competition could not be more professional, encouraging, or classy. They answer emails quickly and courteously; their Facebook page is full of helpful updates without being overwhelming; and, they manage the expectations of competitors (“What if my entry hasn’t been confirmed yet?”, “Help!  I can’t get the application to load!”, “When will quarterfinalists be announced?”, etc.) with refreshing aplomb. These people have seriously got their act together.

A particularly helpful innovation in the contest this year is that they have begun to provide feedback on certain scripts.  My script In Spite of It All finished in the Top 10%, so I was one of the lucky writers to receive feedback.  I’m really pumped about it, so I’ve shared most of it below.  (I’ve redacted a couple of sentences that contained plot details that I’d rather people didn’t know prior to reading the script.)

This is an absolutely charming and enchanting script. It is almost a comedy in genre, so witty and light-hearted. But, at its core the romance is what flows from almost every scene, bringing the union of FIONA and JOSEPH together.

What could have been a staunch drama about a young woman tending to a wounded soldier in Nashville during the Civil War is lovingly turned into a clever, dare I say, romantic comedy (from the Civil War?) about the relationship between the Irish nurse and her patient [plot detail redacted here].  There is something very familiar about this script, I’m not sure if I’ve read it before but it was a great joy to read. [Hmmm... Maybe this person also read for the Blue Cat competition?]  A smile has been plastered on my face throughout most scenes, as the dialogue is both intelligent, funny and endearing.

Characters are well fleshed-out; Not only are Fiona and Joseph interesting and have a wonderful rapport, but so are KATE and BARNEY, her parents who brought her over from Ireland during the famine and have been worried about this great beauty ever since. [plot details redacted here]  This is a really nice small script. There is a little action, a lot of humor, some history and a great romance. What more could an audience want?

So, yeah.  This totally made my day.  Thanks, Team Nicholl!

The Things You Discover While Googling Yourself

Posted Saturday, July 26th, 2014
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I’m not sure if it’s students Googling me before the semester starts, if A Size 18 In Sequins has gone viral, or if it has something to do with making the top 10% in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship Competition, but my IMDB ranking has suddenly gone up over three million places this week.


Here’s a nice little write up about the McKissick Museum exhibition of the Juvenile Arbitration work I was involved with during the summers of 2010 and 2011.  Major props to Dr. Olga Ivashkevich for spearheading the workshops!

Here’s one of the videos that the teenagers participating in the program produced:


Juvenile Arbitration Drug Use Infomercial from Rebecca Boyd on Vimeo.

In Spite of It All

Posted Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
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I suspect that most families have stories that are told over and over again, year after year, at holiday dinners.  When I was a kid, we heard about great great grandpa Boyd every Christmas.  How he came over from Ireland.  How he fought for the Union during the Civil War.  How he married the Confederate nurse who tended his wounds after the Battle of Stones River.  How her Irish Catholic family could never have approved of him, given that he was from the “wrong” part of Ireland (Northern), the “wrong” side of the war (Union) and the “wrong” religious tradition (Presbyterian).  The picture of him at right hung on the wall in my grandparents’ house.  His story was part of the mental furniture of my upbringing, but not something I was ever particularly interested in.  Until…

One night early in 2012, I was sitting on my couch watching Who Do You Think You Are?, and I began to think about family history in a way that I hadn’t before.  I went on and set the goal of getting all the family lines I could traced back to “the old country”, wherever that happened to be for each particular branch of the family.  But mostly I was interested in tracing the Boyd line back to Scotland, as I’ve been fixated on Scottish things for years – the accents, the misty landscapes, the standing stones, the men in kilts – and I knew that Boyds originally came from there before spreading to Ireland and the Americas and everywhere else.  

What I found, though, when I started poking around, was that great great grandpa Boyd arrived in New York at the age of 10 without his parents. That’s a detail that we never heard at the Christmas dinner table.  I don’t think anybody knew.  And after nearly two years of research, I still don’t know why his parents were not on the ship with him.  There are a number of possibilities, of course.  Was he an orphan?  Did his parents come to America first and then send for him once they had a life established here?  I don’t know.  And I may not ever know.  There don’t seem to be any records.  So, not only did I fail to trace the family back to Scotland, I couldn’t even get them back beyond the port of Belfast in 1850.

Coming up empty handed on the line I was most interested in, however, sent me looking closer at lines I would have otherwise overlooked.  And, in doing that, I learned a huge amount about great great grandma Boyd’s family.  Or…  Well…  No, I didn’t.  But I learned a lot about Irish Catholic potato famine immigrants in general.  And, wow.  Potato famine immigrants had it bad.

Economic inequality was staggering in Ireland at the time of the famine.  Irish estates were typically owned by British Protestants (among them, some Boyds), and Catholics were largely tenant farmers.  The rents kept rising, and the Catholics just barely squeezed out a living on potatoes.  When the potato blight struck, they had nothing.  They didn’t own their land, they couldn’t pay their rent, and they had no food.  Mind you, there actually were plenty of other crops being produced in Ireland at that time, but they were being shipped out by the land owners to be sold elsewhere in Europe.  The saying you’ll encounter over and over again as you read about the Great Famine is “God brought the blight, but the English brought the famine.”

So, evicted Irish Catholics piled onto crowded, rat and flea infested ships and sailed for America.  Those who were still alive when they got here (30% died in the crossing) were greeted with signs in business windows saying “No Irish Need Apply”; and, in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, Americans would pay more to hire a donkey than to hire an Irishman.  The Irish took the hardest, lowest paying, most dangerous jobs there were.  They built our railroads.  They fought our Civil War.  They lived in the worst neighborhoods.  They endured mistrust and prejudice and sometimes outright violence at the hands of Americans.  And yet, they survived.

So, I was inspired.  And I began writing.  The result is In Spite of It All, which was described by the BlueCat Screenplay Competition as “particularly interesting in its exploration of the fragmented Irish identity”  and “rich with extraordinary detail and references to great Hollywood epics.”

It also made the finals in the 2015 Nashville Film Festival and the quarterfinals in the 2015 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship Competition!  Here’s a smattering of the feedback it received from Nicholl readers:

    • “lively dialogue that sparkles with wit”
    • “a thoroughly enjoyable, charming love story just brimming with Irish wit and sass”
    • “the most playful and lighthearted Civil War story I’ve ever read”
    • “a sweet, well-crafted romance, with a totally unique setup”
    • “a compelling and believable romance that feels fun and sincere”
    • “a very sweet concept for a love story”
    • “alternately funny and horrifying, all while not feeling overdone”
    • “countless great one-liners and exchange that keep the tone afloat”
    • “well crafted and fascinating”
    • “succeeds in making history feel personal”
    • “There’s something magical about the interplay between the characters set in the period and location of the story.”

I have loved writing the script, but now I’m ready for it to be a movie.  Are you game?  If so, shoot me an email (see “Contact” on the right side of the page), and let’s talk.

University of South Carolina Environment and Sustainability Program

Posted Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
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Interested in our planet? Want a Masters or Bachelors degree? Check out this promo video I made for the University of South Carolina’s Environment and Sustainability Program!

SCDCTA Awards Banquet

Posted Friday, February 24th, 2012
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I was the official photographer of the South Carolina Dressage and Combined Training Association year end awards banquet.  Check out the photos on Facebook!  Larger versions are available for purchase, both digitally and in print.  Contact me (rebecca at wisemare dot com) for details.


Saying Goodbye To The Boy Potter

Posted Sunday, July 17th, 2011
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Before I begin, let me assure you, Dear Reader, that I’ve done my best not to include any significant spoilers in this post.  The most spoiler-y mentions you’ll find below are things like “[character name here]‘s big moment with [character name here].” I suspect that only those who have neither read the Deathly Hallows book nor seen the movies, and are interested in preserving their Deathly Hallows virginity until the last possible moment, will want to turn away.  I invite others to read on. 



One of my less popular, but nonetheless strongly held, beliefs about media is that in the case of a story that has been told in both book and movie form, you should see the movie first. I realize that this is heresy to a lot of people; probably to a lot of people I greatly respect. But my reasoning is that movie adaptations are almost always at least a little bit of a disappointment relative to their literary counterparts, and that by choosing to read the book first, you are very likely cheating yourself out of full enjoyment of the movie.  (Exception: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.)

There are at least two reasons that movies are usually somewhat less awesome than the books they come from:

1.)  Authors who don’t anticipate that their books will eventually be made into movies often don’t write books that are well suited to adaptation. (Case in point, oddly, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which makes Jackson’s films all the more of a triumph.)

2.)  People who enjoy reading often have excellent imaginations.  Not only does that make it likely that a film rendering, which is constrained by physical, technological, budgetary, and temporal limitations, will be less awesome than one unconstrained by anything but the depth of a person’s imagination, but it also makes it likely that any two readers of the same source material will go off on wildly different tangents in their separate imaginations.  So, a devoted book fan can find him/herself sitting in a theater and thinking, indignantly, “That’s not how it happened!”, even if s/he has just witnessed a marvel of modern filmmaking.

Now, the boy Potter.

For the Harry Potter series, I broke my own rule.  I did see the first two movies before reading any of the books, but from that point I read ahead.  Waiting for the movies would have meant waiting years, and I just couldn’t do it.  But, indeed, I was disappointed with the third movie, which, until the arrival of Deathly Hallows Part 2, was widely believed to be the best of the series.  I was indignant about a wide variety of omissions, but most especially the identities of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.  I could, of course, still see that it was a good movie, but I greatly missed things that were left out.  Likewise, I was so looking forward to the fifth movie, and the Weasley twins’ triumphant moment in it, but when it came and went, I was underwhelmed.  “That’s not how it happened,” I thought.  And since I adore Weasleys the most of all, that moment was a particular let down.

(On the other hand, the end of the fifth movie was outstanding and cemented forever my fanhood of David Yates and Slawomir Idziak. I just wish that Fred and George’s moment had been grander.)

While there were a few moments in the Deathly Hallows Part 2 that left me slightly underwhelmed, overall I think it comes the closest any of the movies have come to matching the greatness of the books.  I would say that it’s nearly as good as the book.  In fact, I’d say that about both Deathly Hallows movies.  And this is as it should be.  Together, DH1 and DH2 are a fitting and beautiful end to the Harry Potter movie series.

There were really only two moments in DH2 when I found myself thinking “That’s not how it happened.”  The first was Molly’s moment.  I’ll refrain from saying anything more.  If you’ve read the book, you know.  If you haven’t, I won’t spoil it.  The second was the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort.  Where were the people?  I found it a strange departure from the book that Harry and Voldemort were alone in that moment.  It was beautiful and cinematic, but… Where were the people?  I mean, it works, I guess, but… where were the people?

Really, though, that’s it in terms of my list of personal qualms with the movie.  And there was a lot about the film to celebrate.  When DH1 came out, I joked that they ought to have called it Harry Potter and the Mystical British Landscapes, and DH2 is just as beautiful.  It’s also a great film for everyone’s favorite ‘swirl of tartan’, Professor McGonagall.  And for the kids.  The kids have never acted better.  I thought every one of them was really fantastic, from Harry’s penultimate moments with Voldemort, to Neville’s big moment, to Seamus giddily taking on the mantle of demolitions expert.  Every one of them, brilliant.  And I’d be remiss if I used the word brilliant in this post without also tying it to Alan Rickman.  Although I’ve always appreciated his performances, I’ve never been a particular Snape fangirl, in either the books or the movies.  But, oh man.  Somebody give this man an Oscar.

And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, go today.  Because the mischief has been managed.

The Entire Internet Is Raging Against Final Cut X

Posted Sunday, June 26th, 2011
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…but I’d like to take a moment to rage against iMovie instead. I haven’t tried FInal Cut X yet, and – based on the reviews it’s getting – I’m not likely to. I have been forced to wrestle with iMovie lately, though, and it hasn’t been pretty.

I actually began my video editing career in iMovie. The year was 2004, the place – Charlottesville, VA. I was a fourth year Astronomy major at the University of Virginia. The Astronomy department had been trying for the last few semesters to get undergraduates to make senior thesis movies instead of writing senior thesis papers or doing senior thesis experiments. (Astrophysics majors, on the other hand, were still required to do research projects.)

I jumped at the opportunity to do a video instead of a paper or experiment, and the movie I made became the first undergraduate film ever to be approved by the faculty for screening to the public. Despite that, I’m embarrassed by it in hindsight. I don’t even feel particularly confident in calling it a movie. It’s more like the love child of a movie and a Power Point presentation. (And not even in an Al Gore kind of way. (Although, to be clear, I liked An Inconvenient Truth. Not knockin’ it.))

Anyway, the point is: I made that first film… er… video… er… videopoint… in iMovie. I bought my first Mac after I got tired of being kicked out of the public labs at night, and taught myself how to use it. It was simple and intuitive.

Oh, how things have changed.

Fast forward through a few years of youthful career meanderings, and I’ve now spent four years using both Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro in professional and academic settings. A fellow grad student used to say that I was a Final Cut Wizard, and I quickly developed a reputation amongst my undergraduate students as The Person To Ask about editing. In saying this, I don’t mean aggrandize myself, but rather to illustrate that I’ve spent the last several years amassing a respectable amount of know how about non-linear editing.

And that makes it very irritating that I’ve had so much trouble with iMovie lately. Not only do I, of course, long for the features that are missing from the new iMovie altogether – keyframing, for example, which was included, in a very rudimentary way, in the old version of iMovie I used at UVa – but I’m also really irked by the lack of basic functionalities.

For example: There is no way to save your project in the current version of iMovie.

No, I’m not smoking crack. No, it doesn’t make any sense at all. No, I don’t blame you for not believing me. So, here, let me show you:

See? The Save and Save As options are not just grayed out. They’re not there at all. If you’re thinking, as I did, “Surely there’s another way”, here’s what the Help files have to say on the matter:


Now, look.  I know that iMovie is a consumer level product.  I know that the good people at Apple are trying to make it easy for parents to make movies of their kids’ soccer games.  But not having a Save option?  Who makes a program without a Save option?

I guess if the mystical Autosave feature WORKED, then there wouldn’t be a problem.  But it doesn’t.  Every time I’ve reopened my project, some of my changes from the last session (always to text items) have been lost.

The same thing has repeatedly happened to a friend and colleague who is working on the same project with me.  We are each using our own laptops – mine a MacBook Pro, hers a MacBook, and both running the latest versions of both iMovie and Snow Leopard – and we are both losing changes to text items between sessions.

I also find the non-proportional Timeline enraging.  And the different functionalities you get when the clip is outlined by a thin yellow line versus a thick yellow line.  And the inability to layer clips on top of one another.  And the inability to share files from one computer to another.  And the fact that the damn thing crashes.   (An Apple program!  That crashes!  WTF?!)  And… and… there’s just so much I hate about this program!

But, unfortunately, it’s what we’ve got to work with.  We’re teaching adolescents video production and editing.  We only have four 3 hour sessions in which to do it.  And only about 1 and a half of those sessions will be available for editing.  There’s no way we can possibly teach them Final Cut or Premiere in that amount of time.  (Although, after all the nonsense I’ve endured with iMovie lately,  I can’t say I haven’t been tempted to try.)

Anyway, if you’re still with me after all that ranting, here’s why I’m using iMovie in the first place. It’s my mockup of what we’ll be doing with the Juvenile Arbitration kids later this summer.  The kids will be choosing and writing their own stories and doing their own photography and editing.  I just did a run through on my kitchen table to see what problems we were likely to encounter.  Most of them, as you might have gathered, are in the editing.  But, on the photography side, it also proved very tricky to keep the dolls standing up.  Ultimately, I put them in empty glass jars…  jam jars, pickle jars, mason jars, etc. … and resolved not to shoot them below the waist.  One of my colleagues has now procured some dedicated doll stands, though.  So that will make things easier.

Anyway, here it is:  Barbie Fights Back.


Quintynne Hill Farm Horse Show

Posted Friday, June 17th, 2011
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Last weekend I shot video at the dressage and combined training show at Quintynne Hill Farm. It was a beautiful day, although very hot in the afternoon, and I met some great people. I’ve posted a few videos on Youtube.

Here’s Karen Hatfield and Striker, last ride of the day, in an arena that had become quite dusty in the afternoon sun. I kind of like the image of a white horse, emerging from the clouded landscape. There’s something almost mystical about it.

Another sight you don’t see every day: a lady riding sidesaddle. This is Helen Dellacroce, riding Smoke.

The Sam Gilliam Project

Posted Monday, June 6th, 2011
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[Insert Obligatory Quip About Needing To Update The Blog More Often]

Posted Sunday, May 29th, 2011
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[follow with cliched (although true) excuse about having been busy recently]

I’m gearing up for another series of Juvenile Arbitration workshops.  I taught two series last summer, working in partnership with Dr. Olga Ivashkevich, who is an Art Education professor at the University of South Carolina.  We taught the kids, who are first time offenders referred by the Juvenile Justice system, how to use prosumer video cameras, lights, and microphones; and then the kids made infomercials on topics of their own choosing.  Here’s an example:

This summer, we’re teaming up again, and we’re going to be teaching stop motion animation, using Barbie dolls.  I was doing a test run moments ago, when the camera battery died.  I took it as a sign that it was time to update the blog.

When the battery is recharged, I’ll go back to my mockup, but honestly, I was shooting blindly.  Just taking pictures of different poses, hoping a story would come to me in the process.  So it’s probably good that I’ve sat down to do some stream of conscious blogging.  I tried to write a script before I started shooting, but – for the first time in a long time – I encountered really intractable writer’s block.

I’m tempted to copy one of the infomercials from last year, since this is just a test to see what problems I run into and how I might steer the students clear of them.  But that feels like cheating.  And, really, writer’s block is one of the problems the students might run into.  I think I will have the old ‘draw a character and a situation out of a hat’ solution standing at the ready when we actually do this, for those who are truly unable to think of something.

I’m sitting on my front porch as I type this.  It’s dark out, and there are bugs flying all around the porch light.

Oh.  Idea.  Suzie is typing up an angry email to Sally.  She hits Send and immediately regrets it.  Sally reads it and is devastated.  Except, do kids use email anymore?  Maybe Suzie should be texting.  (Bah!  I h8 txting.  But all the kidz r doin it.  lol fml)

In any case, the bugs around the porch light.  It’s beetle season.  I can’t remember by what measure, whether it’s number of individuals or number of species, but beetles apparently make up 25% of the life on this planet.  Whoa.

The insects are very cyclical here in South Carolina.  First come the flies, then come the wasps, then come the beetles, then the spiders, then the katydids.  Also, apparently this is a cicada year.  So there’s that to look forward to.

Truthfully, I find beetles kind of scary.  When I pick them out of the water trough, they cling to my finger.  The ones that fly tend to have crazed, unpredictable flight paths.  I don’t like the unpredictability.  I like bugs that allow me to give them a wide berth.  Spiders are usually great like that.

I hope I have some writing spiders on the front porch this year.  I’ve seen one or two tiny ones already in passing, but none have set up shop yet.  And I suspect that a huge percentage of the tiny ones get eaten by other creatures – lizards, birds, what-have-you. 

I’m quite fond of writing spiders.  They’re slow and pretty and not poisonous.  And they get enormous.  Every year so far at least one has set up a web on my front porch.  And every year I give her a name and greet her each day when I arrive home.  Here’s hoping I have that opportunity again this year.  They seem to settle down in June or July.

Zoe: July 2010

Anyway.  Angry texting.  Or cyberbullying, maybe.  I suppose I should try writing a little script along those lines.  And maybe I’ll post the result.  In fact, I’ll definitely post the result.  Once it’s good.

Thoughts On Documentaries and Docudramas

Posted Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
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I jumped on the Grey’s Anatomy bandwagon about 6 years late. Right now I’m working my way through Season 4 online and watching the new Season 7 episodes as they are broadcast. I’m a big fan of the show. Really, to be honest, I’m nursing a bit of a Grey’s Anatomy addiction. That said, this week’s faux documentary episode just didn’t work for me.

On a superficial level, I didn’t like it stylistically. The fast cuts, large depth of field, numerous onscreen titles, and shaky camera combined to create a rushed, jangling experience. It was like watching Grey’s Anatomy through the eyes of my Border Collie. But more importantly, it also represented a huge leap backwards in terms of the viewer’s level of intimacy with the characters. As a documentary filmmaker, I feel slightly sheepish admitting this. As a documentary filmmaker who is also an aspiring screenwriter, it gives me some interesting things to think about.

In a documentary, real or feigned, we see what the characters, camera operator, and editor allow us to see. In a narrative, we see what the editor, camera operator, and writer allow us to see. I’m oversimplifying, of course. It takes a village to make a movie, and I don’t mean to in any way diminish the efforts of the many, many people whose positions I have not listed here. The point is: in documentaries, the characters have a degree of control over what we see of them. They can, and usually do, choose to keep us at some distance. In a traditional, third person point of view narrative, however, we become a fly on the wall, and we can see everything (or nearly everything) that’s going on.

So, a ‘normal’ Grey’s Anatomy episode makes us feel like we know the characters in real life. (Or, that we are watching them through phenomenally well placed hidden cameras.) In truth, we actually know them much better than we know people in real life. We get in bed with them. We are in the bathroom stall with them while they’re taking a pregnancy test. We’re there in the supply closet while they’re having an emotional breakdown (and/or illicit tryst). Even when the characters are excluding their very best friends, we’re there; and we see them as they are, not as they would present themselves to us if they knew we were watching. By contrast, in a documentary, the characters usually do know that we’re watching, and we know that they know that we’re watching, and there are varying degrees of mutual suspicion on both sides of the camera.

I shouldn’t go any further without pointing out something obvious: it’s all fake. The people we are being so intimate with don’t even exist. But if they did exist – if Grey’s Anatomy were a reenactment of real people’s real lives – I think there’s a convincing argument to be made that we can get a more authentic representation through an ethically produced, reenacted narrative docudrama than through a documentary that shows events as they happen.

Ethically produced. That’s critical. Obviously, it’s entirely possible for a (village of) filmmaker(s) to create a ‘based on the true story’ narrative film that is nothing at all like the true story. And it’s equally possible for a documentary crew to create a “lying” documentary. (Sleazy political TV ads are a great example of this in miniature.) But, if we assume that a given set of narrative filmmakers and a given set of documentary filmmakers are equally committed to telling the truth, I think we have to consider that the narrative genre is sometimes better equipped to make an accurate representation.

This is because, as anyone who has lived a remotely interesting life can attest, the truth is complex. It’s complex in space, and it’s complex in time. And, although I often find myself talking about what a great medium documentary film is for communicating multiple dimensions of a given subject, there is no way that a camera, or even a fleet of cameras, can capture the entire truth of any story as it unfolds.

Of course, there’s also no way that a narrative crew can capture the entire truth of a story, either. Everything we make is a constructed representation, and no representation – documentary, narrative, or experimental – is perfect. That’s Filmmaking 101. But I think perhaps the reenacted docudrama can, under certain conditions, get closer to reality than the watch-as-it-happens documentary.

Consider the film Hotel Rwanda. (If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it NOW.) The real Paul Rusesabagina worked with the writers and the filmmakers to tell his story, and the result is a film that is visceral, emotionally gripping, and basically historically accurate. A film like Hotel Rwanda tells you a true story in a way that reflects not just the succession of events, not just the face that the character is comfortable presenting in the moment; but also the things going on inside the characters, the things that the characters only realized were relevant in hindsight, the things that the characters only become comfortable sharing after the passage of time, and the things that a cameraman (or group of cameramen) could not have captured without advance preparation.

All that said, I still choose to be a documentary filmmaker. The main reason I work in documentary is because I want to help people (including myself) understand each other and the world around them. And I do think documentary is a great medium in which to do that. After all, all film is a construction, and it is a huge ethical responsibility to represent people to the world. Jay Ruby actually says that because of this, the only way to make an ethical documentary is to make one that is reflexive. (That is, a documentary that refers to itself as a construction of human filmmakers, rather than as an objective carbon copy of reality.) Unfortunately, calling attention to the constructed nature of the film doesn’t generally work with the traditional narrative style. (I’m having trouble thinking of any examples of reflexive narrative films. Leave me some suggestions in the Comments.) So, in that regard, documentary is better able to ethically represent reality, even if narrative has a higher capacity for accurately representing reality. Hmmm. There’s an interesting tension there, I think.

All of this also calls to my mind the work of George Stoney. George Stoney is one of the rock stars of American documentary film and one of my personal heroes. Born in 1916 and still teaching at NYU today, Stoney began his filmmaking career making government documentaries in the 1940’s. His style is one of cooperative filmmaking; and in many of his early films, including the famous All My Babies, Stoney asked the people who were the subjects of his films to perform their own lives.  It’s a strategy that allows the filmmaker more control over the evolution of the story, while still allowing the characters to control the face they present to the world.

Of course, this approach also takes the writing and acting out of the hands of people who have spent their lives honing the arts of writing and acting. Would Paul Rusesabagina have played himself as well in Hotel Rwanda as Don Cheadle did? I don’t know. And that’s a whole other can of worms.

Anyway, I guess this is all just a very long-winded way of saying that Grey’s Anatomy has inspired me to try writing a docudrama while simultaneously making a documentary. Now, to find an appropriate story…


Posted Saturday, October 16th, 2010
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This afternoon I saw Secretariat: The Impossible True Story. I went into the theater skeptical and left pleasantly surprised.  I’ll probably buy it when it hits DVD, or at least Netflix it.

Before I jump into creative commentary, I do feel obliged to mention that, as a lifelong horse person, I am frequently appalled by horse-work in movies.  Someone’s always yanking the horse’s mouth, jabbing the horse in the ribs, or flopping around on its back like a 200 pound sack of potatoes.  Happily, I didn’t catch any of that in Secretariat.  (That’s not to say that I might not see something on a second viewing, of course, but nothing jumped out at me on this first run through.)  So that was nice.  Nothing ruins a movie for me like bad horsemanship.  (The trailers alone kept me from ever seeing The Mask of Zorro.)

In addition to the lack of offensive horse-work, though, there is a surprising amount to recommend this film.  I quite loved the Diane Lane character, Penny Chenery, having been mentored by several tough, classy, straight-shooting Virginia horse ladies like her in my own life.  I wasn’t expecting to love her, though.  Before seeing the film, I had written off the character based on the preview trailers, which presented her as a caricature Woman In A Man’s World (copyright Disney 1995).  Happily, that turned out to be a side effect of trailer editing, and I left the theater feeling like Ms. Chenery was someone I had known all my life.

And if you’re thinking “But, Becca, I’ve never been mentored by a classy, straight-shooting Virginia horsewoman” , well, I think you’ll probably still be able to relate to her.  In addition to being a horse person, she’s also a working mom, a grieving daughter, and – well, fine – a woman in a man’s world.  Also, honestly, it’s hard not to like Diane Lane’s characters.  I have been prepared to hate several of them over the years, but every time she wins me over completely.

Also wonderful in this film was John Malkovich in the role of French Canadian trainer Lucien Laurin.  He was weird enough to be delightful, normal enough to be believable.  And his costumes were a thing of beauty.  I find oddly dressed men incredibly endearing.  Actually, now that I think on it, all the costumes were strong in this film.    I left the theater with a distinct desire to wear long white gloves and a sparkly brooch to my next formal occasion.  (You may have to remind me, though:  my formal occasions are few and far between.)

And then there was the cinematography.  There were a few odd zooms here and there, and the hand-held, documentary-style pans at the end of the Belmont sequence were a bit jarring, but overall the film was a visual treat that made me quite homesick for Virginia horse country.  And the racing scenes were the best I have ever seen on film.  Never before have I known a movie to make so close an approximation to what it really feels like to ride a galloping horse.  It, I must admit, was a tremendous improvement over the racing scenes in my very favorite horse movie: Seabiscuit.  So, kudos to DP Dean Semler!

Really, my only problems with this movie are related to its narrative structure.  I need to see it again – and take notes as I watch – in order to make a detailed critique, but certainly a lot of the structural wonkiness stems from the fact that the real story of the real horse and his real humans isn’t really structured like a movie.  Too many climaxes and too many years to cover in the span of 2 hours.  My hunch is that it could be tightened up a bit with some tweaks to the writing and editing, but – again – I need to watch it a second time to be able to substantiate (or, hat in hand, retract) that claim.  Also, as long as I’m nit picking:  I really wish that they had left in (or, well, put in) the crowd noise underneath the music at the end.  Having the soundtrack go music-only there felt sterile to me.

But what do I know?  Go watch the movie.  See if you agree.

The Flock on Facebook

Posted Sunday, October 10th, 2010
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You can now find The Flock on Facebook! Check it out.

Juvenile Arbitration Infomericals

Posted Sunday, October 3rd, 2010
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This summer I spent my Saturday mornings teaching video production to adolescents in a local Juvenile Arbitration Program. The program is intended as an intervention for adolescent first time offenders, with the goal of helping them to stay out of the justice system in the future. We have been using video as a means of enabling the participants to represent themselves to the world, rather than simply accepting what others say about them or resorting to destructive forms of self expression.

In which I finally get around to explaining the domain name.

Posted Thursday, September 16th, 2010
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After three years of doing contract work for other people’s production companies, I’ve finally decided to start shooting horse shows on my own.  This means I’m one step closer to Wise Mare Productions being a real company.  Perhaps you’ve wondered, Dear Reader, why the address of this site is  Seems random, right?

Years ago, when I was grasping at straws trying to figure out what to do with my life, I thought I might start a photography business, shooting and selling fine art horse photography.  Looking back, it was a pretty ridiculous plan.  I didn’t even know what a DSLR was at the time, and I certainly didn’t own one.  (I did own a film SLR for astrophotography, but I didn’t know that that’s what it was called, and I was pretty clueless about how to use it for shooting anything other than stars.)  I had the eye of a photographer, but not the education.  And not the tools.  And not the business sense.

But it’s hard to know what you don’t know, and I did have the $14 it took to register the site, so – tada! – Wise Mare Photography was born.  I started a CafePress store (which, incomprehensibly, I named Pony Pics; yes, I was the queen of inconsistent branding) and sold, over the course of a couple of years, probably less than two hundred dollars worth of merchandise, mostly to friends and co-workers.  A couple of ladies in Michigan discovered me on CafePress Marketplace; and so I did get to experience the thrill of selling to strangers, but only a couple of times.  (The ladies in Michigan bought the image below, printed on T-shirts.)

I guess I still haven’t explained “Why ‘Wise Mare’?”, though.  I was horrified about a year ago to find out that someone thought I was the wise mare.  I nearly ditched the site at that point.  Please, rest assured, I am not so pretentious as to call myself Wise Mare.  No, the Wise Mare is the big horse in the picture above.  Cindi has been my friend for 18 years now.  The name Wise Mare is an homage to her.  Horse people have tended to grasp this intuitively.  We’ve all had a wise, life-altering horse in our lives.  It was only when a non-horse friend said to me a year or so ago ‘You’d be a wise mare to…’ that it occurred to me that the domain name needed any explanation.  And, as I’ve already said, I was really embarrassed.  Someday I will hire a graphic designer to make me a logo.  It will feature a little girl reaching up towards the nose of a big horse.  And it will be clear, I hope, that I’m not the horse.

Anyway, I did my first solo horse show shoot last weekend, and here’s one of the videos I shot.  I hope I’ll be able to do a lot more shows and clinics this fall and winter.  It’s kind of ridiculous that I haven’t been connecting the horsey side of myself with the video-making side of myself all along.

And, in completely unrelated news, I also helped shoot a music video for Lauren Hartley on Monday. (I was one of three camera operators.)  Lauren’s an emerging pop singer, and her manager was James Brown’s manager. Yes, the James Brown.  A really nice group of people, Lauren and her team.  Though I very much want a steady, full time job, in which I can use video to make some sort of positive difference in the world, I’ve been really blessed with the freelance work I’ve gotten since graduation.  I’ll post a link to Lauren’s video when it’s done.  It’ll be the first thing I’ve shot but not edited.  That’ll be interesting.

Demo Reel

Posted Friday, July 9th, 2010
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The Flock: Masters Thesis Version

Posted Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
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I’ve held off on posting this because I don’t feel like it’s truly finished, but after having taken a couple of months away from it I’ve decided to go ahead and share. Stay tuned for the Director’s Cut this fall!

Life: It Keeps Me Off the Streets

Posted Sunday, May 16th, 2010
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It was windy at graduation.

I thought that after graduation I’d have time to sit back and relax, but it hasn’t turned out that way. Instead, in the last three weeks I’ve been blessed with one freelance opportunity after another:

- horse show videography with Equis Productions
- an internal training video for Pure Fishing
- a wedding or two, and
- a social issue documentary involving juvenile arbitration

There are also a couple of other gigs on the horizon, which I don’t want to sabotage by talking about them before they’re firmed up.  But, in short, I’m staying busier than I anticipated being at this juncture.  Busy enough that I am, in fact, a little worried about not spending enough time scouring the internet for full time opportunities.

Ah, yes.  Full Time Opportunities.  At present, I’m eagerly awaiting news on several full time jobs (there’s one in particular that I’m extra excited about) and working on a couple of spec scripts to submit to the WB Writer’s Workshop, NBC Writers on the Verge, and the ABC/Disney TV Writing Fellowship. As kind as the freelance world has been to me so far, I really long for the stability of a full time position. But until I land that wonderful full time job, I’ve got my nose to the grindstone on every freelance opportunity I encounter.  So if you’ve got another one for me, please send it my way!

In tangentially related site management news: I’ve updated my bio, which now includes a link to a PDF of my resume.

Help Clean Up The Gulf Coast Oil Spill

Posted Thursday, May 6th, 2010
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I’ve just discovered a charity that takes donated hair, fur, and wool, and uses it to clean up oil spills. I’m sending horse hair, sheep wool, and my own hair. Here’s the info. I hope others will donate, too!

NB: I’m just passing this along to help the cause. The video below is not of my making.

A Size 18 in Sequins – update!

Posted Thursday, April 15th, 2010
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A Size 18 in Sequins had a fantastic opening on Wednesday night at the Indie Grits Film Festival! There are still a few tickets available for tomorrow night’s encore performance. Get ‘em here before they’re gone!

Also, check out A Size 18 in Sequins on and The State newspaper.

Thesis Defended!

Posted Monday, April 5th, 2010
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I have just successfully defended my Masters thesis project, The Flock: Tale of a Modern Fiber Cooperative! Stay tuned for a clip in the near future.

Finding George – TV spec pilot

Posted Friday, February 12th, 2010
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George Ogulu has been on the run for 53 years.  When he discovers he’s dying of a rare alien disease, he must decide what to do with a secret he can neither share freely nor allow to die with him.  Accompanied by his dog and pet bird, George crisscrosses the galaxy in search of someone who can handle the truth. The fate of innumerable worlds hangs in the balance.

Finding George was recently selected as a finalist in the international ATalentScout TV Writing Contest. The contest was capped at 1,000 entries, and Finding George placed within the top 18.



Update: 2/23/2010

Finding George has now made the finals in the SoCal Film Market Contest, too!




Finding George has now been reviewed by the WILDsound Feedback Festival.

Excerpts from WILDsound’s coverage:

“The opening chapter for this episodic program is indeed impressive.  The characters are interesting.  The concept is fresh.  And the storylines have the strength to survive in episodic format.”

“This proposed pilot for an ongoing series is intriguing and very well-written.  There is tragedy, comedy, and much science-fiction fantasy.”

“This is a very exciting science-fiction epic that makes for excellent drama and storyline.”

“[...] wisely written in descriptive language.  The writer has a keen sense of body language and incorporates plot exposition in a thorough manner.  The futuristic/sci-fi elements are certainly entertaining [...] And the co-habitation of alien and human civilization is fondly reminiscent of “Star Trek” and “Men in Black.”

“[...] clever in its subtlety.”

A Size 18 in Sequins

Posted Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
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Set in conservative Columbia, SC, A Size 18 in Sequins explores the life and community service of theater instructor and drag queen Pat Patterson.

Check out A Size 18 in Sequins on IMDB!

UPDATE: A Size 18 in Sequins has been accepted to the Indie Grits Film Festival! Come see us on the big screen: 8pm on Wednesday, April 14 and at 3pm on Friday, April 16. Hope to see you there.