In the Wake of Sandy

I’ve just returned to my Madrid office after quite an eventful visit to New York. Aside from work, my motivation for traveling to NYC was to finally run the marathon there. This was a decade’s old goal–to run my first marathon in my hometown. Needless to say, I was not to fulfill this goal this year either: Hurricane Sandy descended upon the city, and changed my plans and the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.

After a week without electricity, and with intermittent access to a phone or internet connection, I finally did get back on track with other reasons for the trip–meetings with current and prospective clients; preparation and the presentation of a workshop at NYWIFT and, of course, visits with old friends. I was even able to take in a few films at the DOC NYC film festival.

I was glad to see the NYC premiere of Magic Camp by Judd Elrich (interestingly, also the filmmaker for Run for Your Life, the documentary about Fred Lebow, the man behind the NYC Marathon). Magic Camp is a charming and inspirational film about an annual summer camp organized on the Bryn Mawr campus in Pennsylvania, a place where awkward quirky kids can thrive and express their special talents. Not only did we get magic on the screen, in many ways, but even outside and in the theater and then at the after party a few blocks away–the film’s stars were all present, and performed their tricks and sleights of hand to an appreciative audience. I also saw Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, the disturbing and informative film on the cover ups in the Catholic church regarding sexual abuse by their priests. Yet again, I missed seeing 5 Broken Cameras which, given the current flare up on the Gaza Strip, might have afforded another useful and more intimate perspective on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

After an active weekend enjoying these films, I looked forward to giving the workshop at NYWIFT – a two-hour introduction to community engagement for filmmakers. Apparently, about 20 people had signed up and I was glad to have such a nice group to work with. In the end, 16 people showed. Their projects were diverse and interesting: from an examination of the US mental health system, to a post-Katrina short on the African American relationship to water, and a fun and provocative title, How to Lose Your Virginity, with a fanbase already in place through the filmmaker Therese’s already popular blog. I was also glad to have the presence of Allie Hoffman, from Picture Motion–she and her colleague, Kelly, spoke about their participation in the film Bully and, in general, about their work managing their clients’ digital presence. It was helpful and added another dimension, a certain legitimacy if you will, to have another outreach professional speak about her work. This allowed the other filmmakers to appreciate what and who is available to them to help them in their promotional journey. Refreshing, also, was to see how savvy everyone was about the use of social media–there were several examples of projects that already had a first round of funding through crowdfunding campaigns, and knowledgeable talk about the use of the different platforms. Other projects included a television or online series, films already on the festival circuit, and some works in progress. As always, it’s delightful and a privilege to have access to the creative person’s ideas and participate in some way, however small, to help them develop their work.

Back in the office, I move forward now with some of the projects we have in hand, look forward to others that may come in in the upcoming weeks, and reflect on the strange landscape and emotional turbulence that Sandy left in her wake.