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This fall has been jam-packed with opportunities for Nebraska filmmakers!

I saw some really great work hit the big screen thanks to the Omaha Film Festival’s 48-hour Film Challenge, the Prairie Lights Film Festival and the Film Streams Local Filmmakers Showcase (I wasn’t able to make it to the White Light City Film Festival because of the overlap with PLFF).

As a volunteer for the Omaha Film Festival, I’m a proud supporter and cheerleader for all things film in the region.

With that disclosed, I have no other significant credentials for what I’m about to write in this post. I haven’t made a film. I haven’t written a film. I actually just wrote my first short film screenplay – it’s 4 pages. I hope to make it this summer.  I come from a TV news background with time spent producing digital content in both small and large TV markets.

All that aside, I have every right to say I have a big issue with something I’ve observed at these recent filmmaking events.

There are not enough women.

At the Omaha Film Festival 48-hour Film Challenge, I saw a handful of ladies at the kick-off and registration party.  Out of 21 completed short films, four listed a woman as the director.

  • Ben’s Last Day | Directed by Gabrielle Push (Student Category)
  • Unfortunately Fortunate | Directed by Kari Spangler and Kayleen Serfass
  • Wizard Quest – The Questing | Directed by Emma Korengel (Student Category)
  • Acorn of Peace | Magie McCombs

At the Prairie Lights Film Festival, 39 films, ranging from feature length to short, were screened. Six of them had female directors.

  • Waxing | Lexi Bass
  • Food Junkie | Christina Marie Leonard
  • Kiss a Fella | Dorothy Booraem
  • Handle With Care | Colleen Kenney
  • Taking Lena Home | Alexandra Grant
  • I Dream of an Omaha Where | Mele Mason

Only one of the 12 pieces of work showing as part of the 2016 FilmStreams Local Filmmakers Showcase was directed by a woman (two women, actually).

  • Over the Bridge | Maria Lavelle and Sarah Kocher

The organizers of these events do a great job selecting quality work to put up on the big screen. It’s a big task to accomplish and they deserve our thanks for supporting the local filmmaking community.

I am highlighting this issue (which is part of an industry-wide problem, really. Just look at the infographic below!) because I’d like to do something about it. I have sat through too many local filmmaker Q&As filled entirely with men. While I have seen women in many different roles, from acting to writing, I just think there’s more we can do.

If I was financially wealthy, I would offer a grant to help women fund their projects and pay for festival entry fees. But I’m not.

What I am rich in is support and encouragement.  Female filmmakers of the city of Omaha and state of Nebraska, we must band together.

Let’s collaborate. Let’s share resources.  Let’s create some great works of art.  If this sounds like something you’re interested in, let me know!  I’ve started a group called Midwest Female Filmmakers where we can start getting to know each other and develop opportunities to get together.

New York Film Academy takes a look at gender inequality in film
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The Omaha Film Festival is this coming week – March 10-15 at the Marcus Village Pointe theater.  You might be considering going.  That is the first step toward an experience that if you truly love movies you should have.

So you go to the website to get more details like how much it costs and when films are showing

  • Single tickets to a film: $8
  • All Films Pass: $60
  • All Access Pass: $90

Here are 10 reasons why the Omaha Film Festival is worth $90 for an All Access Pass:

1. 97 films – This year’s festival is showing 97 films.  That means you are paying .93 cents per film alone.  A darn good bargain.

2. Parties – There are nightly parties throughout the festival that you will get into for free with an All Access Pass. Just look at all the free food opportunities!

  • Tuesday: Funny Bone (right across from the theater) – Free food from Hartland BBQ!
  • Wednesday: Bravo (still in Village Pointe) – Free appetizers from Bravo!
  • Thursday: Stokes Grill and Bar (13615 California St.) – Free appetizers from Stokes!
  • Friday: Julio’s West (2820 S 123rd Ct.) – Free taco bar
  • Saturday: Omaha Film Festival OFFice (2626 Harney St.) – Free food from Dante’s Pizza!
  • Sunday: Storz Trophy Room (345 Riverfront Drive – Free appetizers and beer samples from Storz!

3. Free t-shirt! Everyone loves a free t-shirt.

4. James Morrison –  Saturday’s panelist for “Tell your story” from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. and “Setting the Clock Back: Reflections on Nine Seasons of “24.”

Morrison plays Nick in “The Jazz Funeral,” which is showing on Friday, March 13 at 8:45 p.m.  You may recognize him from “24,” where he played Bill Buchanan.

He’s also done some side projects, including a documentary about the audition process for actors called “Showing Up: A Conversation about the Audition.” Watch the trailer.

Bonus trivia: According to the biography on his website, he is also a certified Hatha yoga teacher. 🙂

(Click here for his Twitter to tell him you’re looking forward to seeing him at OFF!)

5. David Fury – Saturday’s panelist for “Tell your story – From Buffy to Lost: Writing Television Genre Shows with David Fury” from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m.

Fury wrote and produced for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” He also wrote for “Lost” and “24.”

All great television shows!  Fury talks about writing for comedy and drama in a December article from the “Observer.

“The wonderful thing about ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’ was being able to bring humor into every situation and I loved, loved doing that. It was a bit like a comedy room,” he said.

(Click here for his Twitter to tell him you’re looking forward to seeing him at OFF!)

6. Ben Lane – Sunday’s panelist for “Writing for Animation – The ‘Art’ of Visual Storytelling” from noon to 1 p.m.

Lane is an animator for “The Simpsons.” (I may come dressed up as Marge Simpson for this!)

Lane has also worked on the upcoming Disney short “Frozen Forever,” a spin-off of the movie “Frozen.”

7.   Writer’s Theatre

The Writer’s Theatre showcases who else but the writer! Actors will read pages from eight feature finalists and five short finalists.

This is a real special moment for any writer as they see how performers take their words and turn them into characters for an audience to enjoy.

8. World Premier of “A Sort of Homecoming”

The Omaha Film Festival will be the world premiere for the feature “A Sort of Homecoming.”

A Sort of Homecoming tells the story of Amy (Michelle Clunie), a New York news producer who thought she left her high school experiences long in the past. She unexpectedly returns to Louisiana at the request of her high school debate coach (Kathleen Wilhoite). Their strained reunion brings back memories of her tumultuous senior year of high school.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

9. Nebraska

The Omaha Film Festival features a short film block of documentaries by Nebraska filmmakers on Wednesday, a short film block by Nebraska filmmakers on Friday, and another Nebraska short film block on Saturday!

Many of the filmmakers attend, along the actors and others who helped make those films possible!

10. The people

There will be volunteers, the festival’s organizers, the filmmakers, the writers, the actors, their parents, their friends and so many more people there that love and appreciate the big screen.  It’s a truly great atmosphere.  You’ll be standing in line and here next you “I’m here with my family to see my film I directed.”  Then you’ll turn and see the person with a huge smile on their face. You get to experience with that filmmaker seeing their work in front of an audience – and its a special experience!

(ADDED EDIT: I should disclose I’m a volunteer for the festival this year! Last year was my first experience of the festival and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I wrote about it here.)

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It’s been six months since my first Omaha Film Festival experience.

For five days between March 5 and March 9, 2014, I was immersed in movies and short films I otherwise would probably never have been aware of thanks to an awesome Groupon all films pass. I took notes, which I labeled, “My Omaha Film Festival journey,” with full intentions of writing a review for each film and an overview of the whole experience.  Alas, I never did.

But here we are now.

I’m excited for the film festival in 2015. There are a few reasons.  No. 1 – It will be the 10th year for the event. A milestone that says a lot for film in Omaha, Nebraska. No. 2 – I’ve been a part of some of the team meetings this year with some really awesome people.  2015 is going to be awesome.

My first impression of the Omaha Film Festival was made with the movie “Obvious Child” – the opening night film.  It has stuck with me to this day. It stars Jenny Slate, who I was already familiar with from my favorite show “Parks and Recreation.”  The film left me with a lot of thoughts.  It tackled a subject, abortion, that could have gone horribly wrong, but didn’t.  It also left me wondering, “where can I find a trombone shirt like Slate had in the opening?” The movie has since gone on to gain quite the buzz! (The Economist, Omaha World Herald, Buzzfeed)

The next film I saw gained my interest because my current employer was a broadcaster of rural and agricultural programing.  I opted to see the documentary “Growing Cities.” Omaha filmmakers Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette traveled the country over the course of 2.5 months, visiting local food operations in mostly urban settings.  It was pretty interesting and their passion has spilled over into Omaha with projects like the Benson Community Garden and Big Muddy Urban Farm.  The filmmakers were there to answer questions afterward, too.  That’s when I asked how urban farm projects financially support their operations.  That’s when one of them said (my notes don’t say who) it is one of the largest questions and biggest challenges.  Interesting look into a smaller portion of the agriculture industry, if you ask me.

That same night, I went on to see the short block of Nebraska documentaries (I was staying up late! – not really) It featured:

Dive in Fearlessly, directed by John Dowd
A Goldfish Documentary, directed by Steve Snell, Elizabeth Stehling
Master Debaters, directed by James Crotty
Tokimane, directed by John O’Keefe
Backstage Confidential, directed by Dave Weiss

“Dive in Fearlessly” is so Omaha – I LOVE it! You can watch it here. The goldfish documentary answered the question of how to transport a goldfish across the country – in case you’ve ever wondered. It was clever and resulted in a marketable invention. “Master Debaters” made me wish I’d done more in high school.  “Tokimane” was beautiful – watch the trailer. The name means something like, lets hold each other hand-in-hand. “Backstage Confidential” was about the business of rock and roll. In my notes I wrote, “the dirty side of concert shows.” I think I wrote that because the film showed footage of the aftermath of a Slipknot concert.  The concert hall was a disgusting mess.

The next film festival night I went to the third short block.  It was full of great stuff!!

The Bravest, the Boldest, directed by Moon Molson
The Other Sister, directed by Nicholas Bouier
I Do, directed by Patrick Rea
Afronauts, directed by Frances Bodomo
Pop Tarts, directed by Kendal Sinn (watch it on Vimeo)
Paper People, directed by Andrew Kightlinger (watch the trailer)
Good Conduct, directed by Patrick Rea
The Hero Pose, Micha Jakupcak

There was SO much emotion packed into this 91 minute block of eight films.  It was like a roller coaster. I loved all of them. I still want to know what the son said to the father in jail in “Good Conduct.” The audience also got to talk to some of the filmmakers for these films. The questions ranged from tech used to finding the funding for such projects. One filmmaker called it the most frustrating part.

The next ride of emotions was with the Nebraska dramas short film block right after that.

Sandbox Memories, directed by Travis Enck, Alexis Dvorak
Mens Rea, directed by Kreg Gilson
Black Lines, directed by Mike Johnson
Slipaway, directed by Kevin Burns (watch it on Vimeo)
For Worse, directed by Jake Rains
Listen, directed by Elias Ginsberg, Costen Bishop
The Pursuit of Happiness, directed by Aliza Brugger
Hedron, directed by Connor Huggett (watch the trailer)

Filmmakers were also taking questions afterward.  Isn’t that great?

Saturday of the film festival featured a Writer’s Theater.  It was a cool opportunity to hear six different short screenplays and portions of nine different feature screenplays read out loud with actors.  My starred note from the day says, “Readings really highlight the difference between dialogue and action driven scripts.” Ponder that for a moment. 🙂

And then, on top of compelling short films and interesting movies, there were seminars with Leslie Dixon and Steve Faber. “Have a damn premise and tell a story,” Dixon said, along with tips to keep people engaged and remembering to keep the reader turning the page.

And then, Steve Faber took the stage.

I apologize now for my bad spelling while tweeting. Faber made some enlightening comments about the future of financing films. He predicted the studio system would not exist in five years and independent film financiers were the future.

“Get up and write.” I have darkly underlined in my notes. Faber also advised against blurting out your idea for a projects. Idea theft is rampant he said.

“I think everyone in their own way love writing. It’s a way of saying I’m alive,” Faber said. He was so full of good little tips.  I get re-energized just reading over my notes!

The last day of the film festival started off with another block of short films.

Lay Over, directed by Jordan Hayes
Pillowcase, directed by David Lombroso
Emit, directed by JS MayankThe Immaculate Reception, directed by Charlotte Glynn (watch the trailer)
Mr. Invisible, directed by Greg Ash (watch the trailer)
Distance, directed by Aimee Long

My film festival experience was topped off with the special screening of “Trunk’D” and yet another opportunity to interact with the filmmaker!

To how these and how other films did in the awards, click here. After all that, I was excited for more and have been volunteering my expertise in social media with the great group that is responsible for those few days of joy.

So there’s only six months until we get to do it again!  Follow the Omaha Film Festival on Twitter and Facebook.

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Here’s the story of how a regular ol’ Friday got flipped, turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how it became the best day ever. (Please re-read previous sentence with the theme song to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air stuck in your head. You’re welcome.)

OK, maybe not the best day ever – but it’s pretty exciting get the email that says “Congratulations! You have been selected to attend the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) launch NASA Social on Nov. 16 & 18, 2013 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.”

This is something that has been in the works for me since moving to Florida in 2011. It was back then when I first learned of NASA socials and submitted my name for one but wasn’t picked.

What does being selected mean? Here are the details. Me and 149 other people will get an inside look at NASA and watch the launch from the Kennedy Space Center.

I’ve caught two rocket launches before. The most recent one was on Aug. 7 when a military satellite was sent into orbit on a Delta IV rocket WGS-6.

So what’s the first thing I do after confirming my intent to attend?  I Google search “What to know about NASA socials.”

Here’s are the top 5 things I found and hopefully it helps anyone else looking for the same answers!

1. Travelers should be flexible

One of the main things NASA made clear is that launching things into space isn’t easy and the launch schedule can change.  Those that have to travel (I don’t, thank goodness) should have flexible arrangements. Don’t forget you’re heading to Florida – pack some sunscreen! It’s November, though, so the temperatures should be nice.

2. Hashtag #NASAsocial

Get ready to meet and interact with fellow space enthusiasts online and in real life from all over!  Some of them will be going and some of them will live vicariously through the #NASAsocial hashtag.  Take some time to peruse through old posts. Its worth it!  I caught one person’s recap that mentioned Will Wheaton was at their social!

3. Countdown and blastoff

My search brought me to Rob Pegoraro, a tweetup participant in 2011 who posted about his experience with a nice description of what to expect. He gives a good reminder about something I’ve experienced covering launches from the newsroom in Central Florida – There’s a lot of waiting and anticipation as you watch the countdown clock! And when the launch finally goes off, make sure to experience it!

4. Planning

Here’s a good account of what to expect. The author gives a blow-by-blow description of his NASA social experience.  I’m thinking with all the picture taking, tweeting and various other technological activities, back up chargers will be necessary!

5. NASA is on to something here.

“Formerly called NASA Tweetup, NASA Social program includes both special in-person events and social media credentials for individuals who share the news in a significant way,” a description on the organization’s website said.

Numerous articles out there describe how awesome a job the NASA social media team is doing. Check them out and you’ll likely start thinking of how you can incorporate it into whatever you do for a living!

Let me know if you’re going, too!

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It’s long after the George Zimmerman trial. (But the man acquitted in the murder of Trayvon Martin is still making headlines – That’s to be expected. Remember Casey Anthony?)

Live tweets, live updates, recap stories, interactive chats – all staples of local and national media online coverage.

Who do you think did it best? What do you think worked? What was missing?

For me, the biggest asset was from the public information officer for the 18th Judicial Court (@PIOFLCourts18) providing updates on Twitter.

At 9:47 p.m. on Saturday July 13, 2013, the PIO sent out a tweet: “We have a verdict.”

This tweet was sent directly to my cell phone because I turned on notifications and our newsroom was able to react quickly after a day of jury deliberations.

Other sources on Twitter were also valuable:

Trayvon Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump – @attorneycrump

George Zimmerman Legal case – @GZlegalCase

And various family who also provided updates.

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A night of song, laughter and story-telling.

Coolant leaks, ship shake technique and impressions of each other made the special evening with the cast of Star Trek the Next Generation at MegaCon in Orlando something to remember.

The Saturday, March 16 event is ingrained in my memory (even weeks later, my apologies in delaying with this post). Added a few photos here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.468219719917033.1073741825.363427490396257&type=1&l=cfeacdc59b

Things got started at 7 p.m. and time just flew by. Before I knew it, the panel was accepting final questions from people lined up for the special moment to address the people that came into their lives for so long aboard the starship Enterprise.

Will Wheaton, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, Patrick Stewart, John de Lancie, Levar Burton, Denise Crosby and Michael Dorn.

For me, and this might be because of my age, Will Wheaton was the star of the evening.

His answers and his reflection of how Star Trek had an impact on so many people was truly introspective and relatable.

Wheaton got things started on the right foot as he introduced himself by saying for 25 years, nine people in the world have loved him, been awesome to hang out with and — go to him for tech problems. (Isn’t that just the way it is? I know my dad called me his tech guru the moment we had a computer in the house!)

At one point he even left the stage to check on a sound issue!

An early question from the audience asked the actors what moment most affect them or their character.

Sirtis quickly answered “Face of the Enemy,” noting her disdain for wearing prosthetics.

Wheaton recalled the scene where it was Stewart and himself in a shuttle craft and it was a dialogue driven to which it was important he “carry [his] half of this weight.”

For Stewart, he referred to an early draft reading of a script and discussed the captain being a fan of detective stories and how this episode would show him “having fun.”

Spiner, who spent the evening cracking jokes, answered “very early on” in a scene with Denise. “Data wasn’t just going to be a stiff,” he said with the innuendo left to audience members that had seen the episode he was referring to — Look up “The Naked Now.”

The next question was to be expected — the funniest moment?

The best answer came from Dorn, who described a scene in the four lights episode where he and Stewart were running caves. The set was at Paramount where dirt was kept on hand for just such occasions. Well, apparently stray cats like that dirt, too.

And at some point after some takes done of them rolling on the ground and in that dirt, Stewart seemed upset. Dorn asked him what was wrong and Stewart said “I don’t know how I got here…I’m doing a lecture one minute and next I’m crawling around in cat doo doo.”

This question eventually led to the cast demonstrating “ship shake technique!”

On que from Patrick Stewart, everyone on stage shook in unison to a level 4 ship shake. It was AMAZING! And horribly interrupted by the moderator who, in an attempt to be funny, played the Harlem Shake over his microphone. It wasn’t funny and it totally killed the momentum.

But the fine people of Star Trek The Next Generation recovered nicely and really got the crowd going with imitations of each other.

Wheaton strode across the stage with a sort of sideways fast-paced walk in the style of Frakes. Burton rolled across the stage. Gates did a somersalt and landed splawed out. De Lancie stood up, snapped his fingers and stared at the audience. “Are they gone?” he asked to a roar of laughter from the audience.

Ever wondered who the cast thought could play them in a reboot? (Even thought there already is an awesome reboot, with the sequel set to premiere on May 17, but who’s paying attention to that, heh! It’s not an event already on my iCalendar…really…)

  • Stewart: James McAvoy
  • Frakes: (I can’t read my notes! Argh!)
  • Spiner: Daniel Day Lewis
  • Dorn: Blair Underwood, Common, Ludacris
  • Levar: Sammy Davis Jr., Mos Def,
  • Sirtis: Mila Kunis
  • McFadden: Jessica Chastain
  • Crosby: Radha Mitchell
  • De Lancie: Sacha Baron Cohen

Probably the most introspective question was “How does it feel to inspire a culture?”

Its something that seems hard to fathom for an average  person like me and Sirtis kind of correlated that thought.

“Didn’t have a concept of the hugeness,” she said, adding that being on Star Trek was like being asked to be in the Rolling Stones.

McFadden shared that she is struck by people that approach her and share that they’ve pursued a career in medicine, inspired by Dr. Crusher, her character. She also said she was frightened at first by the extremism of some fans and it took her a while to appreciate it.

Wheaton, in one of his gem answers of the night, asked the audience to raise their hand if they watched Star Trek with their parents, and followed it up by asking if they watch Start Trek now with their children. Making the point that basically, the show has bridged THREE generations!

“My phone is more powerful than computers that powered the enterprise.” Star Trek helped inspire engineers and designers to make the technology we are using now, Wheaton said.

Isn’t it amazing?  I know this panel was (along with the photo-op my boyfriend and I got with Patrick Stewart earlier in the day!)

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margie-fark

I’m a little behind the curve on reading this one, but that’s what happens when you buy super discounted books from the Orange County Public Library Friends of the Library bookstore.

This book was published in 2007. FARK began, as Drew Curtis writes, in 1999.

I sat down at the Relax Grill at Lake Eola with my boyfriend right after buying this book for a dollar and began what would be a few days of introspective thought on what it is I do for a living.

Curtis, blatantly puts it straight. News editors aren’t doing journalism, they’re doing whatever it takes to get a page view. Bleh.

On and on, Curtis writes about what “isn’t news” –  “unpaid placement masquerading as news,” the “out-of-context celebrity comment,” and “seasonal articles,” just to name a few chapters of the book.

After the first chapter, I kept a sheet of notebook paper as a bookmark to collect any revelations I had – and well, there was a big one.

What is news, if it’s not what’s going on in our daily/everyday lives?

In journalism school, wherever that happened to be for you (for me it was the University of Nebraska at Omaha), one of the first things they teach is News Values.

The ones I was able to remember off hand: Timeliness, proximity, conflict, prominence, strange/sex

The ones I had to look up: Frequency, Impact, human interest.

I argue that even when I worked at at FOX station and we had an American Idol viewer panel in our 10 o’clock newscast, that was news.

We are documenting what goes on in our daily lives. And for a lot of people, not everyone, American Idol is a concern worth hearing about. (This was back in 2008-2009, LOL)

The ballpark that has strange promotions to get people to attend, an example in the book, is worth covering, in my opinion. It should be covered because people should know what is going on in their community.

Curtis spent 200-plus pages talking about what isn’t news and making fun of it. The last chapter, called “Epilogue: What should Mass Media be doing instead?” was about 16 pages and I feel like Curtis side-stepped the question.

*Spoiler Alert*

He came to the conclusion that stories have a focus to draw people in and click on it. “Everyone claims to want real news, but no one really does. The great unwashed masses want the titillation Mass Media provides,” Curtis wrote.

Isn’t that the truth? I know with social media, particularly Twitter, I have 140 characters to find the one element that will make a reader say, “What?” and move the cursor over the link and physically push down on the link to my news station’s website. I have to be very convincing.

In a sub-heading called “The Future of Mass Media” (which I guess is really now?), Curtis gets it right:

“Local video is the one thing local TV can do better than anyone else. Local TV should be beefing up its Web site offerings…”

This, in the words of Chris Traeger on NBC’s Parks and Recreation “literally” made me go DUH!

I love raw video. I can remember the first time I put raw video on the website of the station I was working for. I was the weekend assignment editor at FOX 42 in Omaha. Santa was flown by helicopter to the children’s hospital and we had video of him arriving. It was super cute. I had to have the director run it through the board so the encoder could capture the video and  I could clip it in the CMS. What fun those days were!

Overall, the book was a great read and I honestly now consider with most any headline I write if FARK would make fun of it.

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