Just returned from a super-productive trip to LA!
I went to screen Putty Hill at AFI Fest and UCLA, where they also screened my first film, Hamilton (2006), on 16mm. Both screenings were fantastic. If you’re wondering about AFI, hospitality was outstanding and the program was strong. For the second year (thanks to their corporate sponsor, Audi) all tickets were free, which meant many of the screenings, including ours, were sold out.
This was only my second time in Los Angeles and I took the opportunity to connect with as many friends and industry folk as I could. I met with managers from Caliber and Brillstein Entertainment Partners, producers from Rough House and FilmNation (Juliana Cardarelli and I used to skip school and hang out by the docks). It was great to see my friend and lawyer, Kim Jaime, who represents me and who’s done all legal on Hamilton and Putty Hill, and another high school friend, Debbi Berlin, now a distributor with Palisades. Add to that list filmmakers Aza Jacobs, Monte Hellman (maker of great movies and perfect margaritas), Eugene Kotlyarenko, and Brendan McFadden. For bonus points, I even reunited with a homeboy from junior high school, Chad Fisher (see pic below, far right).
Amy Belk, my co-writer on I Used To Be Darker, and I sat down with Ilyse McKimmie and Cullen Conly of the Sundance Institute. It was great to discuss the script we just submitted. Whether or not it’s accepted into the January Labs, their feedback was invaluable.
We had our share of good food (Phillipe’s The Original, El Siete Mares, Delilah Bakery, Umami) and some Only In Hollywood thrills. I was star struck eating lunch next to Parker Posey. Amy got giddy riding an elevator barefoot with Gael Garcia Bernal. It’s awesome and bizarre to enter a space in which everyone is making films or aspiring to make films. In all my years living in Baltimore, I’ve never once entered a coffee shop and seen someone else writing a screenplay. When we sat down in coffee shops in LA to write, everyone around us was doing the same.
Across the board, I left LA with lots of ideas – just affirmation that collaboration is key. In particular, the managers I spoke to offered great advice and encouragement, pushing me to think about how I envision my career and the best way to move forward. I aspire to speak candidly, with transparency, especially when it comes to movies, and both meetings were no-bullshit.
At the same time, I met many young filmmakers at UCLA who seemed inspired by Putty Hill, its ideology and aesthetic. As my producer Steve Holmgren says, “Don’t forget: small movies.” And he’s right. I think I’ll write one for Casey Affleck.