After So Many Days: A 365 Day Journey With Musicians Jim Hanft & Samantha Yonack


By: Amanda Guarragi

After So Many Days is a documentary that will take you on tour, with a newly married singer/songwriter duo, Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack. They decided to embark on a tour, to play one show a day, every day, for a year. It is a concept that not many people have even come close to attempting, but they wanted to see how everything would play out. Jim and Samantha’s love of music, their creativity and determination sent them on a journey that changed them forever.

The film has been an official selection at more than 30 film festivals worldwide and has just been released today, along with a companion album “Songs from After So Many Days”. It is incredibly candid, as they film each other and their experiences, travelling to different cities and performing for everyone. Samantha felt really grateful for this experience and how interacting with their audience has been affected by the pandemic, “At a time where we can’t tour and we can’t physically be there in front of people, we’re hoping that this film can do that in place of us doing that. So it’s kind of touring for us at the moment which is nice.” The film festival circuit has been incredibly rewarding for both Jim and Samantha, they truly appreciated sharing their music and their journey with the world.

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Jim and Samantha travelled to 14 different countries. There were so many beautiful moments and it was lovely to see the reception to their music on a global scale. One moment that popped into Jim’s head, was when they performed at a memory care facility. “We went in there and we learned a couple of songs, some old timey songs, to kind of bring some of that musical spirit in there.” It has been said that people who suffer from Alzheimer’s are able to piece some memories together through music because a memory can be tied to a song, which at some point in their lives evoked an emotion. “Seeing some people who were kind of suffering, hearing the music, light up and start to dance, that was really moving.” Something as simple as playing a song, triggers a memory, and that is what makes music so incredible.

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

The beauty of this documentary is that it is a 2-in-1 tour for the audience. Not only do you have a front row seat to their show but the behind the scenes of their day-to-day process. An entire year of travelling, performing and meeting new people, is definitely exciting but it can also be exhausting. It is such a well rounded piece. You really get to know Jim and Samantha so well. Their personalities fill the screen and their passion for their craft is truly inspiring.

After So Many Days is a wonderful documentary because it takes the viewer into a space where creativity and art is a necessity. This film speaks to creative minds and the hearts of determined individuals who want to pursue their dream. Jim and Samantha’s journey will uplift anyone who has been struggling with their process. The power of music demands to be felt in this documentary and it’s a great feeling.

The Jack of All Trades: An Interview with Filmmaker Jack Settipane


By: Amanda Guarragi

Jack Settipane is an actor and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He has been acting since the age of 4 and has been producing many short films, as well as writing his own. Jack made his first short film at the age of 11 and is constantly looking for new people to work with. He has a large following on Instagram and is very influential on social media platforms.

Settipane is currently on the festival circuit with his short film Tick, which has won a couple of awards this season. Jack shot the film completely by himself and he had control over every take, “It was really unique to not have anyone else on set. There was no pressure, no rush, which allowed me to have complete creative control.” Settipane read a script based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, reworked it, modernized it and changed the ending for the concept of Tick.

Settipane also got involved working on the film Last Call starring John Malkovich and directed by Steven Bernstein. The film had struggled to find its footing and it did not get finished until 6 years after it was shot. “I shared some out of the box approaches with Steven, which led to him asking me to take the helm as producer. I worked day and night for a year to find solutions the many financial and legal predicaments the film was in and to also find a distributor” Last Call should be released in 2021.

Social media seems to play such a huge part in everyone’s lives and Settipane utilizes his wide reach on each platform to find unique influencers that are also filmmakers. He has worked with many influencers internationally in order to create some wonderful short films. It’s rare to find people who blew up in social media but are really down to Earth people and are phenomenal human beings. Gilbert Sosa, Tavo Betancourt, and Nashua Aguilar stand out as those rare individuals.” Settipane believes that networking through human interaction is much easier than networking over social media.

When asked about his upcoming projects, Settipane is currently working with a 16 year old, named Felix Lavelle from Australia. “He made a short film that we ended up picking up and we are aiming to take it through the festival circuit.” Settipane also has a couple of pilots in the works and is ramping up his acting resume. His first love was acting and he would love to get back into it.

Oscars Postponed to April 2021


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Since the beginning of this pandemic, the Entertainment Industry has been in constant motion and have been changing dates, for majority of the films slated for 2020. Earlier today, the Television Academy announced, that the ‘Creative Arts Emmys’ will go virtual, the annual Governor’s Balls that follow those shows and the Primetime Emmys will be canceled for the first time in history. Since the Emmys and the Oscars telecasts are both on ABC, negotiations had to be made for the Academy Awards as well.

The Academy tweeted out an information card with the changed date for the Oscars telecast, as well as a change in the eligibility dates for films that could meet the standard guidelines.

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courtesy of @TheAcademy on Twitter

 

First on the list of ‘Key 93rd Oscars Dates’ is the Awards Eligibility. So from January 1st, 2020 – February 28th, 2021 films released during that period, will have a fair opportunity to possibly get a nomination. Seems fair right? Well, extending the eligibility date, means that the films that came out earlier this year such as, The Invisible Man, Emma, The Way Back, The High Note, Capone and Da 5 Bloods will have a more difficult time campaigning because of their release date. The cut off is around November 20th, so films that are released past that date, would normally, never make the cut. So The Academy, is tacking on 3 extra months of content in that time frame.

Second on the list is the Shortlist Announcement on February 9th, 2021. This means that there will be a very long list of possible nominees, that will be condensed in to each category, eventually becoming official nominees. This also means that the campaigning will be very different for the rest of the year. Films that came out earlier this year, should not be forgotten and the hype for each of those films, needs to be mentioned, time and time again, closer to that date. The films that I listed above, by the time next year comes, will definitely be considered a long shot because now all the postponed films have been crammed into those months.

Third on the list is the Nominations Announcement on March 15th, 2021. Every year, the Oscar Nominations day is filled with plenty of snubs and actors nominated in the wrong category. It is always a messy day because films that should have been recognized, usually don’t make the cut and they are almost always, independent films (Honey Boy and Uncut Gems)  that fly under the radar. This day is going to be much different than previous years because of the extension and the bias towards films that were released on streaming platforms or VOD.

Fourth on the list is the Oscar Sunday telecast, now being held on April 25th, 2021. This is a massive jump from the regular February/March timeslot. It is so deep in the year, that it may cause issues for other award ceremonies that come before it. What does this mean for the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards and the SAG Awards? How do they fit into the calendar that well all know so well? The BAFTAs have already changed their date to April 11th, 2021 but the rest of the pre-Oscars telecasts have not released a statement.

Lastly, the long awaited Academy Museum will officially open on April 30th, 2021. When it opens, the Museum will be the premier institution dedicated to the arts and science of movies. The Academy Museum will offer exhibitions and programs highlighting the world of cinema. They will also present year round calendar of screenings, film series, members programs, panel discussions and family programs. Programs will include retrospectives and thematic series that present the artistic and cultural contributions from filmmakers all over the world.

Many of us have already made a shortlist of the best films that could possibly be nominated, for Oscars in 2021. There are definitely more films to add but in this article How The 2021 Oscars Will Look, If It Doesn’t Get Postponed, I go into detail and breakdown the possible nominations list for the films that are eligible. There are plenty more films to watch, so it is time to start writing down the list of possible Oscar contenders because it is going to be a very long season.

Hot Docs 2020 Selection: Love & Stuff Interview with Judith Helfand


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Love & Stuff  is a deeply personal documentary on motherhood and the cycle of life. Peabody Award winning filmmaker Judith Helfand, documented her terminally ill mother’s final moments, at home-hospice before she passed. In this feature, Helfand continues the story that she began two decades ago, with Healthy Baby Girl (Sundance, Peabody 1997) through these films, Helfand adds emotional layers, by openly discussing her own traumas, addressing grief by using dark humour and reflecting on the power of family.

Judith and her mother, just wanted more time to spend with each other. Time is something so valuable and we often take it for granted. “There’s so many things that she probably wanted to tell me, that she couldn’t find the language for, it’s really hard to say, here is my life long lesson, here’s what I want you to know before I die, here’s what I think you need to know.” said Helfand about having discussions with her late mother. Watching a loved one pass away is extremely difficult and emotional. How do we even calculate time? We tend to get whisked away into our busy lives and forget what it is like to spend time with our loved ones. Then for some reason, we ask for more time when we know it’s too late.

It is something that I’ve often questioned about elders, all they want to do is pass down their knowledge and experiences before they leave us. Why do they feel the need to do this at the end of their life? Do we only start listening when they are about to pass because we did not think of paying attention to the stories before?

“They want to give you advice, the stuff that you never wanted to listen to, they were probably right about. They want to keep this connection possible and if they never had a chance to do that, whether they were working too hard or your relationship was on the rocks or something like that, I think that they want the time and the space to be able to try and fix that before they die.” – Judith Helfand 

That is the most wonderful thing about Love & Stuff it takes these conversations about death and turns them into life lessons, so others can understand how to approach the end of their loved ones life. It is a cathartic piece, not only for Helfand but for everyone that worked on the film. It presented a safe space for everyone who had lost someone. “I mean it just started out as a way, for me to not be alone with what I knew. What could be a very private universal moment and by private I mean, I’m not letting others into our life, and into this moment, and into our space, into our home and into our hospice, but I did the opposite.” Helfand wanted everyone to be present for her mother’s passing, in order to give them time to say goodbye.

Helfand’s mother, like every mother, wanted what was best for her daughter and it was revealed that Judith could not bear any children of her own. So the connectivity to motherhood, was the strongest part of this feature because at a time where Judith needed her mother, to guide her through the adoption process and in raising her daughter, she had passed away. “The thing that my mother wanted the most at the end of her life, was the thing my daughter wanted at the beginning of hers and that’s time. My mother just wanted time and my kid just wants to play, she just wants time.” Helfand believes that her daughters birth, was a gift from her mother after she passed and that full circle connectivity is the heart of Love & Stuff. 

This film helps viewers re-evaluate their own connection with their parents or loved ones. Helfand had 2 and a half years to prepare for her mother’s death and it was important to her, to find away to utilize that time. “I wanted to figure out how to keep her in my life and keep our conversation dynamic, even if it wasn’t current and present. It could be ongoing and I wanted to figure out how to be a mother, without having a mother and I felt like all that material was locked inside an archive, and I needed to get to it, as soon as I could.” This feature is incredibly emotional because of the raw, human connection the viewer has with Helfand, as she goes on this journey with her mother.

Helfand made a follow up video to Love & Stuff, called Absolutely No Spitting and it shows the journey of her, now 4 year – old daughter Theo taking a DNA test to discover her ancestry. What starts out as a factual journey, turns into a path of self discovery and acceptance for young Theo. The love shared between Helfand and Theo is very quirky and heartfelt. Helfand shared her own ancestry with Theo and she will continue to explore value in the people around her. She identifies her daughter’s Blackness and incorporates that into her Jewish ancestry.

 

 

‘Always” Short Film Interview with Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario


By: Amanda Guarragi

The 2nd Annual Desertscape International Film Festival in St. George, Utah is a festival that celebrates filmmakers around the globe. People are encouraged to submit their short films and student films to the festival. The festival normally runs from July 29th to August 1st. This year, the short film Always has been selected for the program. I spoke to the creators of the film, Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario ahead of the festival.

Always is a short film, based on real life experiences. It incorporates horror elements to cope with the illness of diabetes. There is an urgency in the storytelling because no one really discusses the struggle of living with diabetes. Its experimental use of painted images and rough editing, combined with the haunting score, make this a truly special film.

The importance of making this film for Zapiain comes from a very personal place. He wanted to address the struggles of those who live with diabetes in a very realistic way. “About three years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic, and how I handled the symptoms that surfaced out of the blue and out of control felt like a horror story. Out of control.” It is a film that shows the numbness and fatigue through painted images, that come to life in the depths of Alex’s (David Kurtz) mind.

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The sketches were placed in Alex’s apartment to show that he was an artist and his designs allowed him to explore his inner thoughts. It was a spur of the moment idea, right as they were about to begin shooting the film Del Rosario says, “Sam had this idea right before we are set to shoot. I got some paper out and started sketching immediately and I’m happy it all worked out.” Zapiain also wanted to use the sketches as a creative outlet for him to understand what was happening to his body, while trying to understand the symptoms of being diagnosed with diabetes.

The most challenging aspect of filming this piece for Zapiain was learning to accept and acknowledge the presence of a disease. “For quite some time it was the idea of it being behind me, and somewhat in a state of denial or disbelief. Creating the film meant I knew it was here to stay, and it would make a statement on my life.” Zapiain also thanked his producer Del Rosario for helping him recognize the story, writing it, and gathering such a wonderfully talented cast and crew. “In a way, the people behind the film were my therapy. They helped me accustom.” 

It was important for Del Rosario to take on a project that was so personal to a close friend of hers. “For me, as someone who is not diabetic, I decided to learn more about this condition because someone I care about has it. It was truly terrifying to learn about. I believe it is important to raise awareness about this condition and the symptoms others may be experiencing.” It was a project Del Rosario wanted to work on because there are millions of people in the world that are diabetic, with many of the not knowing they are, undiagnosed.

The focus on the horror elements also enhanced the storytelling. Zapiain wanted to incorporate his love for horror and he did this through the use of repetition, quick edits and stunning monochromatic sequences vs the scenes with insulin that were in colour,

“From a technical standpoint, it was a field day for us to play with shadows, and utilize the horror aspect, exaggerating hallways, dark rooms, silhouettes, etc. Colour meant the reality of the situation. Realizing these horrifying images are in the main character’s perspective, (black and white), and what actually exists in color.

There’s such richness in these tones and the lighting was also extremely effective to punch up certain textures. It is a beautifully shot film and there are certain images that will stay in my mind for a while.

The film feels like a journey in such a short period of time. The repetition, rough cuts and haunting (but stunning) images are all utilized to properly highlight the struggle of living with diabetes. Always is very well written and executed, it’s a personal story and everyone should watch it. To learn more about the struggles of living with diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association website.