Jul 07

Ally Polly

Ally Polly

An all day symposium preceded the evening showcase. Allison Polly Filmaka’s Head of Strategy/Brand Partnerships was on the opening panel. She spoke about the Filmaka community as a vast pool of talent ready to work with brands to create films. I was happy to hear that she is working hard to bring up the budgets and is determined to do so as our community of writer/directors becomes more appreciated and valued by brands and advertising agencies. Ally screened Filmaka’s Brett Wagner’s Direct TV winning entry “Crystal”. It looked great screened on the big screen and was well received.

The day continued to unfold with a series of panels ranging from discussions about the latest digital camera technologies, agency expectations of new directors and the musings of the incredible cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. I loved the way Caleb spoke of his work as an “art form”. He clearly treasures the nuances of filmmaking. He mused over the richness of shadows and hits of light. He recollected the talents of actors he worked with, and was so appreciative of his mentors. He was breathlessly inspiring.

Jun 07

Filmaka members Varda Hardy and Ian Allen Lim have been selected for SHOOT magazinesNew Directors Showcase.” They flew to New York to participate on a Panel with other up in coming directors and Varda tells us all about it!


New Directors Showcase Directors Ian Allen Lim, Oliver Power, Bill Bruce, Alex Beh, Varda Hardy and Lora Schulson, co-executive director of content production for Y & R New York

I noticed Filmaka’s Jason Haikara’s Facebook Posting announcing Shoot Magazine’s “New Director’s Showcase”. Filmaka member, Jonathan Newman had been selected to be showcased last year and good things came to him from this honor, so I paid attention to Jason’s posting. I submitted two of my projects “Race to the Sky” and “What Kind Of Planet Are We On?” just making SHOOTS’s deadline by the skin of my teeth.

Two weeks later, when checking my e-mail, I discovered a note from Roberta Griefer, publisher of SHOOT Magazine. When I read it, I actually gasped. Roberta was congratulating me on being selected for SHOOT’s New Director’s 8th Annual Showcase. Wow! “SHOOT” is a highly respected advertising/commercial production industry magazine and since I very much want to make commercials, I found this honor especially exciting!

I flew to New York for this event and was accompanied by LiveTribe Productions Executive Producer Karen Lavender and Producer Jamie Bullock both of whom play key roles in many of my projects including “What Kind Of Planet Are We On?” which was screened as part of this event. Kate Salvino representing Current Content Creation (whom I’ve recently signed with) also flew in from L.A.. Between the three of them, I was surrounded by smart & beautiful company.

…Stay Tuned for Part 2!

Feb 04

Varda Hardy tells us about her film making process for Rock for Equality:


Varda on set

The Rock For Equality Campaign

Craig Miller CEO and Founder of MZA Events (and founder of the AIDS WALK) came up with the idea of holding a national event addressing the issue of the Social Security System’s discrimination against elder Gay & Lesbian Americans. Most Americans receive the social security benefits of the higher earner when their life partner dies, but Gay & Lesbian Americans are denied these benefits (even though they must pay into the system just like everybody else!).

The Rock For Equality event
to be held in the spring of 2010 here in Los Angeles and in Washington DC, will both inform the public of this unfair Social Security policy and raise funds to change the law.

MZA Events hired me to create a suite of videos that would bring life & poignancy to what may be perceived as a rather “dull” issue: social security. Once I came on board, they informed me that the decision to move forward with the event hinged on the success of the videos. (That’s when I started grinding my teeth at night–just kidding!)

Craig and his team wanted a “viral” video, a compelling “elevator pitch” video, and the third video that would give the public a sense of the suffering that elder Gay & Lesbian Americans experience when their life partner dies and they are denied benefits which they paid into. I addition, I suggested they needed a fourth video, an animation that would give potential participants a “visual” of the Rock For Equality event which is very original and new to the public.

For the viral, I came up with the sci-fi idea which at the time felt so “out of the box” that I was nervous to pitch it. Luckily, the MZA Events team really got it. Karen Lavender and Jamie Bullock of LiveTribe Productions came on board to produce the videos. My friend, Taylor Negron co-write the sci-fi script with me. Jimmy Ahlander (also a director at LiveTribe Productions) created the animation, and a team of truly creative crew members including DP: Daron Keet, Art Director: Robert Fox & Make-up Artists: Maya Murakami & Dan Kaplan and editor John Irwin joined forces with me to create what emerged as “From Another Planet” and three other videos.

The “elevator video” and long form inspirational video feature real people who have suffered the inequities of social security discrimination. I wanted to give these videos a “heightened” but uncluttered visual quality so that no elements in the frame could distract from the subjects and their compelling stories and at the same time, I wanted to make them visually compelling to engage the viewer.

I hope you can check out the videos and let me know what you think. AND go to www.rockforequality.org to support equal rights for Gay & Lesbian Americans.

Thanks much,


Oct 05

poppiesRagbrai is so vast, how on earth do we capture it? To tackle this dilemma, I adopted a notion I have always embraced–every moment is like a piece of a hologram containing within it the whole–meant that, we could cover a “piece” of each key element and it would reflect the whole. With this approach, things started looking somewhat more manageable. We would choose those “pieces of the hologram” or in some cases, they would choose us.

blowfish-riderProducers Susie Gorrell and Talia Shakur-Rodriguez focused on narrowing down the list of riders. Steph Cambell, our head DP along with consultant Chris Blanch worked with me to narrow down sections of the 400 mile route that we would focus on based on beauty, clear passage, diversity of “look”, and unique interest (animals, barn, etc.). And I narrowed down what town elements and town people we would cover along with who we would cover to set the groundwork of the ride.

Here a list of the hologram pieces we collectively chose to focus on:

10 primary riders (5 of them where part of a team called Team Gnarley–we felt it was important to cover a team as well as individuals)
8 secondary secondary riders
20+ sections of road
9 various town “elements” including pie making, cement pouring, ballooning, light weight airplanes flyers, safety preparations, trains passing, hometown bands, etc.
5 or so towns’ spokes people
John Karras, co-founder Ragbrai
T.J. Juskiewicz, coordinator of Ragbrai
Unique & quirky people “catch as you can”
Vast Landscapes
Tiny moments: a bird flying by, an insect landing on a flower

I conferred with our head DP Stephen Cambell who is stationed in Florida and was shooting on a feature during our 0a2v3893prep. We determined that we would need and array of cameras strategically assigned. We would have three fully equipped camera units with camera crew, sound and a PA. We would have lipstick camera mounted on helmets, handle bars, and various other moving pieces. I thought it would be cool to give some of our subjects consumer cameras to document their own stories when we couldn’t be with them.

Our line producer Bernie Cassar struggled to bring all these pieces together within our budget, but I really felt this was the bare minimum we needed to get the kind of coverage we needed and Steve and I did our best to come up with cameras that would serve our needs and fit within the budget. We ended up with four different type of cameras all to be used for very distinct and specific purposes. The camera units would also be assigned distinct and specific purposes. And as it turned out, this was a fantastic strategy.

Aug 18

Filmaka asked Varda Hardy to write a blog about her experience shooting her upcoming feature documentary. Here’s her second entry:

Endless Roads

Endless Roads

By the time we actually started shooting, I had traversed the state of Iowa six times. And mostly along small country roads. The first time I traveled the state in a cushy bus like the ones that big bands tour in. Joining me was the production team, producers Talia Rodriguez-Shakur and Susan Gorrell, line producer Bernie Cassar and our music supervisor Mopreme Shakur. That journey had a real “magical mystery tour” feel to it. I was discovering Iowa for the first time. Some of the landscapes reminded me of French Countryside. And of course there were acres and acres of cornfields. Several weeks later, I scouted the state with key crew members in a traditional passenger van with a local Iowa PA, Joel, at the wheel.

The actual shoot took me across the state for the seventh time in less than eight weeks. That comes to about 3,150 miles. Scouting a whole state was an insanely fun challenge! My producers would have to drag me from edges of country roads where I was immersed in conversations with town folk whose curiosity was piqued by this wild haired woman dashing around taking still photos of their community buildings, churches, post offices and front porches. Of course, I would ask them about Ragbrai and they all had stories to tell. I was just soaking it all in.

In response to a Facebook post I put out there, a producer friend who had shot the Tour de France and other bike rides told me that I must use motorcycles to shoot the ride. He said I absolutely could not cover a bike tour without motorcycles. This was an absolute must. So I called my producers and asked for two motorcycles. That’s when I learned that we would not be allowed to use any motorized vehicles on the route

Uh, now what

(This is Jason from Filmaka again. If you would like to contribute to our blog, we would like to hear from you. Just e-mail us at info@filmaka.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.)

Aug 18

On The Road with Varda Hardy Pt 1: A New Blog Series

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This is Jason from Filmaka.   We have been a bit busy with the DIRECTV competition and have neglected our blog.   So, thanks to Varda Hardy, multiple winner of Filmaka competitions, for writing the blog entry below.  She recently landed a very exciting assignment but, rather than explaining it to you, here’s Varda – in her own words:

Three weeks ago, I returned from directing a feature documentary on the longest, largest, oldest bike tour in the world.  This annual tour (not a race) called RAGBRAI can include as many as 20,000 participants and spans the state of Iowa. Two months ago, I had never even heard of Ragbrai now I have over 120 hours of footage covering this year’s tour.

Mopreme Shakur our Music Supervisor

Mopreme Shakur our Music Supervisor

Although I’ve mostly directed scripted movies, I am always up for a challenge. I’m totally into bike riding, so when Monica Daniel, an editor I often work with, sent me an e-mail from a producer looking for a director who would be interested in directing a feature documentary about a bike tour, I decided to check it out.  I interviewed with producer Talia Rodriguez-Shakur and her husband Mopremeat the Urth Cafe on Main Street in Santa Monica. During our meeting, I mentioned quite randomly that I often ride my bike to the Urth Cafe. Talia’s eye’s lit up. Turns out the other two directors don’t ride bikes. Perhaps that off handed remark did not get me the job, but I think it cinched it.

To be continued . . .