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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Off the Grid

I find myself reflecting as the Pennsylvania countryside whizzes by my rain-splattered window seat. There is a zen-like comfort in riding the train. My town of departure, Altoona, PA, is a long-since burnt out town, hanging onto prosperity with a lucky mix of geography, strip mall construction, and a lush PSU branch campus. Leaving the town on a train isn't so bad, the railroads built Altoona, and have since left their skeletal fingers on every facet of the area. Trains are the only thing the area does well (Along with the trafficking of heroin and meth-amphetamines, if one is to believe the local papers). I fortunately live a few towns west in the extended Pittsburgh suburbs, and have little daily encounters with trains or drugs. Before I get too whimsical, I should introduce myself. I'm the RED DOORS online/street man, known round these parts as Michael B.

Soon I'll be on the ground in New York City, rushing between premiere screenings, poster-hangings, group meetings, and zany street promotions, cleverly designed to not result in any of us going to jail. I even find myself getting ahead of schedule, thinking about flying to LA for West Coast screenings, and plotting DVD strategies for the coming months (#1 on Amazon? Anybody?).

The RED DOORS machine has been pumping full-steam for some time and has been one of the more incredible creative undertakings I've born witness to in my life. For two years now I've been in the background of this process, watching every decision and making minor contributions when possible, often in awe of the energy level and
commitment of those steering the ship. Being landlocked in Western/Central PA, there were not many digital editing opportunities for me to pursue. I finally figured I'd be better off paying someone (a school, a person, anyone!) for an amazing editing project than staying at home and working on public access commercials for a house fitting business. The Edit Center lets students learn the craft on actual film. Someone shot it and it could be a product someday! How evermore exciting than a tutorial disc! I met Georgia & Co. at The Edit Center in NY during my final year of college. I poured through the RED DOORS script during my first week in NY. No friends nearby, no distractions, just a heavily revised stack of pages to keep me company. To my surprise, the raw footage we later saw at the Center matched many of my brain's visuals for the script. The visual sensibilities displayed echoed my own imaginings of the script. I knew I wanted to stay close to kindred film spirits. From that point on, I've been in the fold, handing out buttons and fortune cookies to Tribeca-goers, annoying celebs at CineVegas, and furiously plugging the film from my well-worn iBook at home amongst the PA trees.

Name a webishly-sounding verb: podcasting, myspacing, posting, demoing, coding, converting, cross-promoing. I've done it, many times with little or no prior experience for the given task. As with any independent art excursion, little compensation has come my way (or to anyone involved). Why would a human eat, sleep, and techno-regurgitate a project of which he bore no creative part of it's birth? I've been asking myself this question for the past few months, and think I finally understand the answer. Forget the compelling back-story of Mia, Georgia, & Jane's decision to shun the corporate life in pursuit of an even more challenging sector. Forget about the fortuitous casting, the tempered pacing, and the deep cinematography of the finished product. Forget about the raw footage equaling my own take on the material. I'm able to rest easily because of what people tell us after seeing the film. I've seen the broadest possible collection of people come up to the producers after a given screening and offer them their heartfelt thanks. Elderly Jewish men thank Georgia for accurately portraying the uncertainty of retirement. Go-getters applaud the depiction of eldest sister Sam, the driven corporate drone. Women of all creed and color appreciate the character of May-Li, the loving mother who just isn't sure how to let go and allow her family the space needed to grow. Middle sister Julie's plight will be familiar to anyone who has broken the norm and sought acceptance, while youngest Katie is embroiled in first love and the search for identity. Every audience member finds themselves embedded in this film.

The power of film is certainly best realized when one sees its effect on another. It has lead me to believe that though we lead separate lives, rich with cultural traditions and differing goals for ourselves and our families, the power of a darkened theater bonds us, allowing that brief and fleeting moment where we all silently acknowledge our needs for life, love, and change.

Who wouldn't want to help share that experience with as many people as possible?

Thanks to everyone involved for allowing me to do exactly that.

-Michael B

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