Book Talk: Prohibition in DC

It’s hard to imagine but booze was once outlawed in DC. The Prohibition era is the subject of a fascinating new book by local author Garret Peck.

He’s an excellent speaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of the city. I wrote an article for the Pink Line Project about his book talk, where he shared what life was like when Washington was “dry.”

Friday Photo: The Polaroid Retrospective II

The Polaroid Retrospective II

Think the Polaroid is dead?

New media doesn’t replace old media; it complements it. While millions of people are snapping photos with iPhones, a select few carry on with the cameras your grandparents once employed.

The results can be seen at The Polaroid Retrospective II show at the Lamont Gallery. Running until the end of April, this is a fascinating exhibit that demonstrates the artistic possibilities of low-fi cameras. The little square photos which line the brick walls of this gallery aren’t perfect, their not crisp, they don’t have the slick sheen of digital photography – and that makes them all the more charming and personal.

Update: check out my article on this great show.

How to Market Your Movie: Tips from Allied Integrated Marketing

The March DC Film Salon offered tips from Allied Integrated Marketing on promoting your independent movie or documentary. The salon is a free monthly networking opportunity for film and video professionals.

The meetup began at six, allowing filmmakers plenty of time to mingle before the presentation started at 7. There were about forty people at the super-hip Gibson Guitar Room, one of my favorite venues in DC. Located near the Verizon Center, it’s a beautiful space complete with a piano and scores of electric guitars.

After showing a “sizzle reel” (a flashy intro movie about their agency), Ivory Zorich and Gloria Jones from Allied Integrated Marketing shared their expertise on how to bring a film the attention it deserves. Allied Integrated Marketing is a marketing agency that specializes in the entertainment industry. They have offices around the country, including a small one in DC.

Ivory and Gloria shared examples of how they promoted the films that they represented. Their talk held some interesting tips for anyone promoting a product:

  • All marketing is local these days. Even in Washington, newspapers want to see a local angle. You can’t just have a story about a movie – you have to tie it to the local community somehow. For example, if one of the stars is from the area.
  • Secondary press partners are key. These are smaller publications like the City Paper that are easier to pitch too.
  • Use niche marketing. For example, with the film Sin Nombre, they targeted Latino audiences. Milk was aimed at the LGBT community.
  • Tastemaker screenings are another useful marketing tactic. These are preview screenings for “tastemakers” in the community, i.e., influential people who love movies.
  • Partnerships. If you have a documentary about AIDS, then you should partner with AIDS organizations to get the word out.
  • New media. They mentioned Brightest Young Things as a “hipster” site to reach out to. (I am not hip – I find BYT to be unfathomable.)

One question I had was, “How do you measure results?” That’s difficult to do, according to Ivory and Gloria. It’s hard to tell if a movie’s success comes from PR or something else. I think that’s part of the reason why the field can be so frustrating to people – if I bought Google Ads, I can track how they’re performing. But how do you measure schmoozing tastemakers?

Still, these are all excellent ideas for getting the word out about your movie, or your product. The most important thing is to think about your movie from the perspective of the audience, and tailor your efforts accordingly.

 

New Article on Silent Code Features

Check out my latest article for the Pink Line Project on local filmmakers – this time I look at Silent Code Features. This local production company is helmed by Anthony Greene, a screenwriter I’ve known for a couple years now. He writes very punchy, topical scripts.

Out of the four films by Silent Code that I saw at a special screening on March 12, the one that I liked best was “The Favor.” Greene handles controversial material with a deft touch. It’s also a very funny film.

Party Report: DCist Exposed Photography Show

party sceneLast night was opening night for DCist Exposed, a gallery exhibit of some of the most interesting photos from around the Washington region. Read my FAQ to learn more about this interesting show which, by the way, runs until March 27 at Long View Gallery.

After hanging out there for a couple of hours, drinking beer and talking to photogs, what did I learn?

  • Long View is almost too cool to be in DC. It’s enormous, sparse and separated by historic Blagden Alley by just a glass garage-style door. Last year, it played host to the opening party of DC Week too. One drawback: only two little bathrooms in the back, not ideal for large crowds served beer.
  • I cannot tell the difference between the various varieties of Yeungling that they served last night.
  • Giving the photogs and DCist staff name tags was an excellent idea. You could easily spot the show’s participants.
  • From Samer Farha, one of the show judges, learned that Mpix was a good place for prints and Apex in Virginia was a great place for framing. We both agreed: insanely expensive to print at home.
  • Brian Mosley informed me that you don’t have to go too early down to the Mall on July 4th to get a shot like this. I find this hard to believe.
  • Art lovers bought photos on opening night, including this classic shot of a stunned-looking Mayor Fenty. The photographers don’t know who buys their pics.
  • Selling tickets in advance was a brilliant idea. No fire marshals and there was plenty of room for everyone.
  • Heather Goss, who started DCist Exposed, has about five different jobs. But not to worry, she’s apparently a machine.
  • People liked my line in the FAQ I wrote for the Pink Line Project about the DCist commentators being a “riotous crew of misfits.” That’s me literary background.

Be sure to check out these great photos of the night from Vincent Gallegos. Can’t wait til next year!

Update: more great pics from DCist!

Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart starts off as a hilarious farce, an inventive look at the future gone wrong. All your paranoid fears about the Department of Homeland Security are well-represented as a bureaucratic error throws Lenny, the book’s narrator, into absurdist peril.

But the novel is much deeper than that. It’s not just a farce, it’s an honest and painful look at a nightmare vision of America. In this dystopia, our country is obsessed with sex and shopping, in hock to the Chinese and teetering on the edge of financial collapse (not too different from today).

The book steadily grows darker and darker as history unravels – we feel for the characters who are so clueless about the inevitable reckoning. And we feel for this country, all the values we hold dear – democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty – all imperiled by decades of folly.

That’s what this book is about – Lenny’s collapse into middle age is mirrored by the collapse of America. Ultimately, it’s a very upsetting book. You don’t want the country to end up this way. The book is dark and funny but it’s also a warning to us as a nation to get our act together. Otherwise, the future will be very cruel.

The Movie That Gets Washington: Broadcast News

broadcast newsThe Washington Post recently had an article about DC in the movies, highlighting director James L. Brooks for really getting Washington. From All the President’s Men to his latest, How Do You Know?, he displays an excellent understanding of the culture of the city.

We’re not like Chicago or LA or New York. The people here are different, with their own unique challenges and motivations. New Yorkers may think that, just like there are no good bagels in DC, there’s no real “there” in Washington. It’s a transient city, with no realness about it. (Or, as a friend of mine from NYC once said, there’s no “bounty” to it.)

There’s a grain of truth to that assessment – it is a transient city, drawing in and expelling different political classes with each election. But most DC residents don’t work on Capitol Hill. They somehow manage to function without being part of the political class. Continue reading “The Movie That Gets Washington: Broadcast News”

WikiLeaks and Shame by Salman Rushdie

shame coverA good chunk of the recently released WikiLeaks documents deal with the problem of a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the grip of radical Islam. Despite the billions of dollars in US aid they receive, they are unwilling to cut ties with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

One diplomatic cable on the New York Times site is called Will Extra Aid Persuade Pakistan to Cut Ties to Extremists? American diplomats discuss whether giving Islamabad more money will lead them to cut ties with the Taliban.

The author concludes:

There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups…

Islamic terrorist groups like the Taliban are key element of Pakistani security. They provide a hedge against India by securing Afghanistan and by causing problems for India in Kashmir. Continue reading “WikiLeaks and Shame by Salman Rushdie”

WikiLeaks and Absurdistan

absurdistan_coverOne of my favorite novels of the past few years is Absurdistan. This comic romp by Gary Shteyngart takes place in a degraded post-Soviet world, where all anyone cares about is making money. The book is narrated by Misha Vainberg who dreams of returning to New York, where he was a student. Though a Russian heir to a fortune, he considers himself a lost American, trapped in corrupt country.

To get back to the United States (and the love of his life), he travels to the Caucasus republic of Absurdistan. He hopes to get a visa there. Along the way he joins in epic bouts of drinking and conspicuous consumption, as the nouveau rich show off their wealth with huge bounties of caviar, vodka and prostitutes.

This is fiction, or so I always thought, the invention of a very funny writer. But then I read the WikiLeaks cable on the wild wedding in Dagestan, Russia. It’s like the world of Absurdistan come to life, featuring a rich cast of characters frolicking along the shores of the Caspian Sea. The cable even has the perfect blurb for the back of a paperback:

The lavish display and heavy drinking concealed the deadly serious North Caucasus politics of land, ethnicity, clan, and alliance.

Continue reading “WikiLeaks and Absurdistan”

Fall Fringe: What to See

scene from Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending

Check out the article I wrote for Pink Line on what to see at Fall Fringe. What’s great about Fall Fringe (which ends Nov 21) is that it’s only the best stuff from the Capital Fringe Festival. I saw a lot of theater, good and bad, as one of the official photographers for the festival over the summer.

I loved Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite (it’s brilliant and hilarious) but I have soft spot for accessible Shakespeare which is why Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending was my favorite show of the festival.

Bonus: see a slideshow of photos from the show.