Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hao Wu, The Road to Fame - Robinson Film Center, Union College, & Ritz Theatre

From Filmmaker Hao Wu of The Road to Fame:

The first leg of my Southern Circuit tour was intense; two flights each day, and one to two hours of driving to get to most screening venues. Exhausting, but what a trip! As an immigrant who had lived in six American cities over fifteen years, I had never stepped foot in the south. Not that I didn't want to - kids of my generation grew up in China reading Gone With The Wind, but somehow I never managed to. Now I'm able to have a fast and furious immersion of southern hospitality, all thanks to South Arts.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping my The Road to Fame is bringing a little China to the south. Most of the audience members have never been to China. So naturally, I was apprehensive about how the audiences would receive such a subtitled film from a faraway land.

Surprisingly, however, many came up to me after the screenings, saying the characters in the film didn't feel foreign to them. At the Robinson Film Center and Union College, students completely identified with the dreams, the anxieties over potential failures, and the pressure from family and society that the Chinese students experienced in the film. Those with ambitions in the arts felt the resonance the strongest.

Meanwhile, older audiences tended to be more interested in what China is like and how it is changing. At the Ritz Theater in Sheffield, AL, several audience members had visited China a long time ago, and it was eye opening for me even to learn about the country they knew that had been erased by recent developments. After the screening, they queried me about the one-child policy, the performance arts industry in China, and what I thought where China is going. It was extremely rewarding for a filmmaker to be able to move audiences with a universal story, and to act as a cultural ambassador for his home country at the same time.

All three screening venues so far - Robinson Film Center in Shreveport, LA, Union College in Barbourville, KY, and the Ritz Theater in Sheffield, AL - are beautiful. No hustle and bustle of the big city or the local multiplex. Stepping inside them was like being transported back in time, when film watching was once cozy and communal. My hosts - Meghan Hochstetler in Shreveport, Diana Mills at Union College and Jim Berryman in Sheffield - lavished their attention and care, for which I'm immensely grateful. I'm eagerly looking forward to the second leg of screenings in North Carolina and Georgia, and will report back soon.

Monday, November 17, 2014

On the Road with Michael Glover and Robyn Rosenkrantz from Go with Le Flo

From Michael Glover (writer, director, musician) and Robyn Rosenkrantz (producer, musician) from Go with Le Flo:

We’re so grateful to have shared our new film Go with Le Flo and our Bright Blue Gorilla music on the Southern Circuit tour. Our film was shot in Berlin and is a German & French romantic comedy with English subtitles.  Right before we landed in Atlanta, we had a great 3 month tour doing concerts and screenings all around Europe. We were curious to see how the film would play in the South.  Some of the audiences had never seen a Foreign film. The audiences were enthusiastic and many left very inspired. Here’s what happened…

 - Robyn and Michael

November 5, 2014
Clemson University
Clemson, SC

Before we drove from Atlanta, GA to our first show at Clemson University in South Carolina, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to try some Southern food! We stopped off at the Flying Biscuit and got our fill of the creamiest grits we’d ever had. We had a great vegetarian breakfast of fried green tomatoes, veggie sausage, eggs, whole wheat biscuits with apple-cranberry butter and super tender collard greens. We don’t get this type of food in Los Angeles!

Great restaurant in Atlanta, GA

Michael and Robyn enjoying the Southern Food!

Eggs, Veggie Sausage, Fried Green Tomatoes, and the creamiest grits ever!

We stopped off at the South Carolina Welcome center and were inspired by the beautiful fall leaves.

Beautiful Fall leaves in South Carolina

Before the show, Amy Monaghan, a professor from Clemson University met us for a Mexican Dinner to welcome us. Then we headed over to the nice auditorium.  It was an interesting mix of film studies, language, and geography students. They all stayed for the Q&A and asked some great questions. One of the students wrote an amazing Go with Le Flo review on IMDB! We spoke with one young student after the show who had dreams to become a producer. She was very inspired and had tons of questions. We really enjoy sharing the wealth of knowledge we’ve picked up along the way. Our motto is to just dive in and create, learn by doing. No matter how many mistakes you make, if you just keep going and don’t give up, your movies are going to get better and better.

Clemson University has some history!

Outside of Clemson University Auditorium

November 9, 2014
Winder Cultural Arts Center
Winder, GA

Our second show was at Winder Cultural Arts center. We drove some lovely back roads to get there and really enjoyed seeing the farms, Baptist churches with their inspiring quotes (Get Rich Quick…Count Your Blessings!) and wooden houses with their big front porches. Don Wildsmith and Christopher Childs gave us a super warm welcome with real Southern hospitality. The local press ran a half page story with photos, which is always nice. The auditorium was lovely and had a vintage feel to it. They also do lots of theater there, so the stage was perfect for our Bright Blue Gorilla concert before the film. Christopher, being a filmmaker himself, asked intelligent questions as he led the Q&A, he had done his homework, which made it really inspiring for us. The audience had a great sense of humor and were laughing freely during our music set and super loud during the Go with Le Flo screening. We always watch our films with the audiences and the Winder audience had us laughing out loud, even though we've see our film 100 times! Afterwards they had some great brownies and punch, which made for a cozy atmosphere to mingle with the audience. We had our CDs and DVDs with us and also some French Lavender from the real Le Flo store in Berlin, and many kind audience members took some home.

Winder made a nice Go with Le Flo poster

Go with Le Flo pre-show test

Go with Le Flo pre-show test looking good!

We found it!

Bright Blue Gorilla movies and music storefront at Winder Cultural Center

Bright Blue Gorilla on the wonderful Winder stage

Q & A with Christoper Childs

The wonderful Winder staff

November 11, 2014
Morris Museum of Art
Augusta, GA

There was a beautiful entry hall at the Morris Museum of Art right next to the screening room, made us feel like we were in a movie, which was the perfect atmosphere for our concert and screening. We set up a table in the screening room with our Bright Blue Gorilla CDs, DVDs and French Lavender from the real Le Flo store in Berlin. Before we even started our show, a super friendly film professor from the local college came up to our table and bought some French Lavender. Nice way to start off the night! He brought a few of his film students. The rest of the audience were locals. The audience sang along during our concert, which made us feel very welcome. One of our songs, “Napoleon’s Coat” is about a guy who works in a museum, so we had fun singing that one! There were around 27 people, all laughing and enjoying Go with Le Flo. They asked great questions and our Le Flo lavender was just about sold out!

November 13, 2014
Wallace State Community College
Hanceville, AL

Our last concert and screening was at the beautiful brand new auditorium on the campus of Wallace State Community College. It reminded us of the lovely concert halls in Europe. When we walked in we noticed two big Go with Le Flo posters and some really nice fliers. It’s always great when a venue does promo. Kristen Holmes was a great host and made sure we had everything we needed. They had some yummy snacks for the audience and very refreshing lemon water, which hit the spot after our 3 1/2 hour drive. The acoustics were perfect for our unplugged concert. The audience was made up of students and the local community. It was a joy to hear them laughing loudly. One of the students noticed we watched Go with Le Flo with them and she really liked that and found it inspiring. The audience asked great questions as usual and hung out after, made us feel very welcome. They liked that we made family friendly comedies and many hugged us goodbye!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kathy McCabe and Freda Kelly, Good Ol' Freda - Oxford College

From Filmmaker Kathy McCabe of Good Ol' Freda:

Our first Southern Circuit Tour screening was at Oxford College at Emory University, and we were blessed with a pack house of interested students and a few of their elders. It was so cool to see that Beatles music is affecting new generations. One student referred to herself as a 'third generation Beatles fan.'

We had one of our best Q&A sessions ever with lots of interesting questions from the audience. Freda met so many people after the screening, posted for photos, signed DVDs, and kept answering questions.

We're very grateful to everyone at South Arts and Oxford College for making us feel so welcome.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

November's Films and Filmmakers

We kick off November with three new films showing on the Circuit. We welcome Good Ol' Freda, Go with Le Flo, and The Road to Fame. Read on for more about these films and check out the entire lineup for the 2014-2015 Southern Circuit Film Schedule.

Kathy McCabe is an award-winning photographer and Beatles expert with widespread experience in the music industry. She has worked as a publicist and manager, a music video and album producer, and also a recording studio manager. She was the publicist and marketer for Pelada, and initiated and engineered the production of Good Ol’ Freda.

Freda Kelly was just a teenager when she was asked to work for a local band hoping to make it big. Though she had no concept of how far they would go, Freda had faith in The Beatles from the beginning, and The Beatles had faith in her. For 11 years, Freda remained a staple of the band because of her unfaltering loyalty and dedication. As the Beatles’ devoted secretary, Freda was there as history unfolded; she was witness to the evolution – advances and setbacks, breakthroughs and challenges – of the greatest band in history. In Good Ol’ Freda, Kelly tells her stories for the first time in 50 years. One of few documentaries with the support of the living Beatles and featuring original Beatles music, the film offers an insider perspective on the beloved band that changed the world of music.

Nov 05: Oxford College of Emory University, Oxford, GA
Nov 06: Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts, Auburn University, Auburn, AL
Nov 08: Creative City Collaborative, Pompano Beach, FL
Nov 10: East Tennessee State University, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, Johnson City, TN
Nov 12: Indie Memphis, Memphis, TN
Nov 13: Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC

In 1990, Producer Robyn Rosenkrantz and Director Michael Glover quit their L.A. jobs, sold everything (except their guitars), and bought one-way tickets to Europe. After landing a deal with Virgin Records, they launched their own company, began making CDs and touring the world. After appearing in the Matthew Broderick/Alec Baldwin film The Last Shot, Glover and Rosenkrantz began writing, directing and producing their own features. Five feature films, eleven CDs and over 3,000 live performances to date, the happily married BBG is still going strong, charming audiences around the world with their music and movies!

Go with Le Flo is a family-friendly, romantic comedy about finding love and taking chances. Florian owns Le Flo, a French delicatessen in Berlin that specializes in salami. When he meets Camille, the daughter of a famous French director, Florian falls in love. He wants to ask Camille to marry him, but it’s complicated. Meanwhile, Jenny, who's German and owns a bakery down the street, is in love with Florian. With German and French subtitles, Go with Le Flo explores what true love is, with plenty of twists and turns (some on a Vespa), and lots of salami!

Nov 05: Clemson University, Clemson, SC
Nov 09: Winder Cultural Arts Center, Winder, GA
Nov 11: Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA
Nov 13: Wallace State Community College, Hanceville, AL

The Road to Fame is director Hau Wu’s second film.  He received funding from The Ford Foundation and JustFilms and was co-produced by BBC, VPRO, CNEX, DR, Center for Asian American Media and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Trained as a molecular biologist, Wu previously worked in Silicon Valley for Alibaba and in China for Yahoo. He previously served as the China Country Manager for TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel website. Wu holds a Master of Science degree from Brandeis University, and an MBA degree with High Distinction from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He is currently a fellow at the New America Foundation. His writing has appeared on,, Marketplace Radio and China Daily.

In The Road to Fame, China's top drama academy stages the American musical Fame - China’s first official collaboration with Broadway - as the graduation showcase for its senior class. During the eight-month rehearsal, five students compete for roles, struggle with pressure from family and authority, and prepare to graduate into China’s questionable entertainment industry. They must confront complex social realities and their own anxieties, and, in the process of staging Fame, negotiate their own definitions of and paths to success in today’s China.

Nov 13: Robinson Film Center, Shreveport, LA
Nov 14: Union College, Barbourville, KY
Nov 15: The Tennessee Valley Art Association/Ritz Theatre, Sheffield, AL
Nov 18: Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC
Nov 20: Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, Madison, GA
Nov 21: City of Hapeville, Hapeville, GA

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marta Cunningham, Valentine Road - ETSU, Emory, & Auburn University

From Filmmaker Marta Cunningham of Valentine Road:

Southern Circuit Tour Part 2

Back to Atlanta, and then I jumped onto a quick flight to Johnson City to discuss filmmaking with students at East Tennessee State University, and a screening of Valentine Road. The drive in from the airport was beautiful. Watching the beginning of Fall come in with all the various colors of the autumn leaves changing was stunning. No more 90 degree weather; Fall had come to Tennessee. The Carnegie Hotel across the street from the University was straight out of a play or a movie from the 30s, like The Grand Hotel. Everything was beautifully done in period style. Even though the actual building was only 14 years old, the beautiful antiques, style, and design were not.

 The next morning I spoke with undergraduate students majoring in Radio, Television and Film. They were incredibly open and inquisitive. Vulnerable but not shy. We spoke about how technology has changed the game and it was no longer a necessity to have expensive cameras to shoot your film, or to spend thousands of dollars to end up in New York or LA. I have been traveling with the film for almost two years now. While visiting the many festival around the world, I have been lucky enough to meet many different filmmakers from all over, and the new trend is staying put. Telling stories about where you're from and developing a community of artist at home has been incredible to watch grow. One of the questions I posed to the students was, "Does your dream involve being extremely rich beyond your wildest dreams and hanging out with movie stars, or do you want to be an independent filmmakers and  tell stories?" I was very honest with them about the realities of being a filmmaker, and working anything you can get to pay the bills while pursuing your dreams. Luckily, they seemed unfazed and excited about the opportunity of not having to move to one of the coasts in order to pursue their passion. I left intrigued with where this class will end up.

That afternoon, I was back with another class watching a very talented director's documentary short on Mars 1. A well-done rough cut. The second time the class and I watched it together, I went through my notes with the director and the class, and discussed the story, pacing, and the length of a good short. I loved it. The class seemed excited as well. The director is passionate about her work and the craft of filmmaking, which is always great to witness.

The screening of Valentine Road that night was emotional. There were a lot of tears and anger about the state of our country, and the senselessness of the hate and violence that we discuss in the film. One woman who spoke to us shared her story, through tears, about living in Tennessee and coming out at 43 years old. She was destroyed by the hatred she witnessed in the film and vowed to make a difference in her community. She said it was difficult, because from her viewpoint, the LGBT community was not visible and she wanted more. I am hopeful that she is on a path to help change her community. Another young woman shared her story of her father and grandmother being homophobia, and growing up in a Baptist fundamentalist community. When she first came to ETSU, she didn't know how to act or what to say to someone who was in the LGBT community. However, over time she has learned to open up and become accepting, and is happy to say she now has gay and lesbian friends at school. She then went on to say she was going to buy the DVD on Amazon and show her family it on movie night! I told her to let me know how it goes. So inspired by our youth, really shaking it up!

Back to Atlanta Airport and off to Oxford, Georgia to meet with the students and professors of Emory for a screening, and a class of Gender and Violence. The lovely place they chose for me to stay in is in a picture-perfect town called Covington, and called the 12 Oaks Bed and Breakfast, after its namesake from Gone With The Wind, (a film I still have not seen). A few years ago, it was a house in foreclosure, completely rundown and in disarray. Now it's Scarlett's Tara. It really is unique and beautiful. The owner, Nicole, has put an incredible amount of love into each room. The screening of Valentine Road played to a packed house of Emory students, by far the most vocal, distraught, and active group yet. The Q&A lasted for over an hour, and then continued afterwards with a few students in the hallway until almost midnight. The students were a true embodiment of diversity - not just in ethnicity, but also in thought and in how they processed the film. I was truly impressed.  What a great opportunity to witness. I told them all that the kids in the film are now their age, and how they are the future and have the responsibility to help change the various ills in our society. They seemed to welcome it with open arms.

Next up, my last stop on this incredible tour, Auburn University in Alabama. When I drove up to the beautiful museum where Valentine Road will be screening this evening, I stumbled directly into a field of cotton across the parking lot. I was struck immediately by not only its proximity to this new beautiful Italian marble structure, but to the fact it is the first time I have ever seen a cotton field up close and personal. It’s a part of our legacy that some African Americans would like to forget. I took a moment as dusk was approaching to take pictures, and pay tribute to my own personal family sacrifices and the heritage of our ancestors. It felt very big just standing there by that cotton field, like an ending source of pain that has not been healed or discussed. A discussion our country has been avoiding for hundreds of years.

When I walked in the museum, I was so happy to see their new exhibition - Rembrandt and The Golden Age of Painting in Europe, which I toured while the film played. (I stopped watching my film over a year ago.) I also was lucky enough to witness the partial eclipse of the sun through a local star watcher's telescope he and his wife had set up. It was awe inspiring to say the least.

The documentary played to a full house and some of the students happened to also be film students at the University. The Q&A was very interesting. At the initial session, the students seemed overwhelmed and timid at first. I noticed that mostly the young men were asking the questions. Slowly, as they became more comfortable with idea of talking directly to the source, the questions became in-depth about filmmaking. After the session, a few of the female students said they cried during the entire film. I told them I understood and that it was one of the reasons I don't watch the film anymore. I always let the students know how well most of the youth in the film are doing at this point in their lives, since they relate to them on a very intimate level. I know it could have been something they witnessed, since they are a generation that grew up with school shootings. Sadly, it is an almost everyday occurrence in our nation.

Overall, the Southern Circuit Tour of Valentine Road has been a deeply impactful and successful event. I am so grateful to Teresa Hollingsworth, South Arts, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the professors and docents at all of the screenings who helped with the screenings, classes, and discussions that came out of their dedication to the arts.

Our youth are surprising us every day, and none more than the young men and women that I have met in my Southern Circuit Tour. Truly displaying unbelievable courage and commitment to the fight for equality for our all marginalized voices. I will be back!