Friday, December 30, 2011

World Premiere: Rotterdam

That's right. We have a world premiere. Now, Forager has been invited to screen at International Film Festival Rotterdam. They're saying the official lineup won't be released until January 19th (about a week before the festival starts). In the meantime, though, they sent me this snazzy little piece of artwork to share:
Tigers are very cool animals. And speaking of artwork, we're working finalizing on our official poster design (courtesy of Yen Tan and  OTTO IS THE ONE), revamping our website, and ramping up the publicity machine (including a nice shout-out in the Austin Chronicle's Film Flam column by Kimberley Jones).

Ah, yes. And we're also busily working to finish the film. Sound editor/designer Jeremy Fleishman is in town from Pittsburgh and crashing at Team Fungi HQ, getting us ready for our mix at Soundcrafter.

And producer/co-director Julia Halperin is headed back to Poland next week. Why you ask? Because we've joined forces with who have come on-board as a co-producer to help us finish the film. They saw our cut at Gotham-In-Progress last month and wanted to work with us on color correction and mastering at their facilities in Warsaw. The little mushroom movie is now officially an international co-production.

Lots more news to come. Lots more work left to do.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Poland and Post-Poland...

Obviously, I didn't post anything during our trip to Wroclaw. Our accommodations were absolutely top-notch--including wireless access in our hotel room, so that's not an excuse. We were just kept really busy the whole time we were there for the "Gotham in Progress" European sales and distribution market.

This was the first iteration of GiP, which was a sidebar event at The American Film Festival, which is itself a subsidiary festival of New Horizons. And it's a truly impressive organization. Incredibly well-organized by some genuinely lovely people. They're developing an amazing infrastructure and audience for independent films in Poland.

We arrived a couple days early to get over jetlag and see a bit of the city (and also to celebrate my birthday). It was too late in the year for mushrooms, but we did walk through a lovely botanical garden that was just settling in for a long winter.

Our first day we did this print interview (our responses were translated to Polish by the interviewer) with a local film news website, and then this video interview with the largest newspaper in Poland. 

The market itself was two full days of screenings--seven full-length features and four 30-minute excerpts. The audience was comprised of an assortment of European producers, sales agent reps (including Goldcrest and Wild Bunch), regional distributors, and festival programmers (including Berlinale and Cannes Critic's Week). 

There were some really great films shown in the market. Julia and I were particularly taken with Stones in the Sun directed by Patricia Benoit and produced by Karin Chien and Ben Howe.

Our film was the last feature of the first day--we were nervous that the audience might be exhausted after already watching three previous features and an excerpt. But Now, Forager played very well and people seemed to enjoy it. We had lots of great chats with our fellow filmmakers and different industry reps afterwards--some really smart, passionate, and friendly people. It was a huge relief.

We also met Todd Solondz and had some interesting talks with him. He was there for a retrospective of his work at the American Film Festival. Really engaging guy--and he even told us that he'd heard good things about our film. Who knew that the mushroom buzz would reach that far?

So, to make a long story short--we were awarded a prize (Special Jury Recognition) and with that comes $20K in titling and credits from Alvernia Studios in Warsaw. Pretty sweet.

We also took meetings with several sales reps, distributors, and producers who liked the film and want to work with us (possibly on our next film, Lumberjunkies). Plus the reps from Cannes and Berlin both liked the movie and want to present it to their programming committees. 

Since getting back to Austin, it's been non-stop action. Sending out screeners, answering emails, and trying to understand the nuances of international film business. It's complicated--and very different than how things are done in the US. We're having to learn a whole lot really fast. But these are problems for which we're extremely thankful. 

And we're especially thankful to Adeline, Ula, and Jan for inviting Now, Forager to "Gotham in Progress" (which will be getting a new name next year) and for being such gracious hosts. We appreciate all your support and kindness and we look forward to coming back to Poland soon.

And yesterday we received some more very good news, but we have to hold off a bit longer before we can share it. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Five days left to donate at United States Artists! We reset our minimum goal to qualify for additional matching funds from Artists 2 Artists. We need to raise at least another $800 to secure funding by November 15th.

And we're just a few days away from our trip to Poland for Gotham in Progress. We still have a lot to do before we get on that plane, but we're excited to visit Wroclaw and meet the other filmmakers who are coming for both the market and the American Film Festival. Todd Solondz and Joe Swanberg are both supposed to be in attendance for career retrospective screenings. 

And I just did another interview--this time with The Dark Side of the Shroom blog. I was happy to include my recipe for Black & Blue Risotto, made with blewits (Clitocybe nuda) and black trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides) which figures into one of the scenes in the film.

I'll try to post some update from Poland, before and after our screening. Djiekuje!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Video Alert!

We've got a brand spanking new video up on our project page at United States Artists. And we pulled out all the stops--time lapse, dioramas, new footage, and...well, just take a look.

We're under 20 days remaining in our post-production campaign. Every dollar helps. And we've got some cool thank you gifts--t-shirts and bags featuring our popular woodcut morel logo, DVDs of the finished film, the Audubon mushroom guide for iPhones and iPads, and more.

Please donate if you can or help us spread the word. And thanks for your support!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Substantial news items abound!

Lots happening with Team Fungi these days. For every item we tick off the to-do list, we have to add three more. But lately it's the result of good things happening for Now, Forager

We've had a growing number of unsolicited requests for screeners from major festivals distribution/sales companies. We appreciate the interest and we're happy to know that we're starting to generate a little buzz. 

But the first substantial news item is that we're going to Poland! Now, Forager was one of seven features selected for the inaugural Gotham in Progress European sales market in Wroclaw, Poland next month. We are honored to be included. You you can read a little more about it from one of the jury members here

The second substantial news item is that I, your humble blogger and writer/co-director, have been named a finalist for a San Francisco Film Society Hearst Screenwriting Award for my script Lumberjunkies, which Julia and I are developing as our next project. 

The third substantial news item is that we have far surpassed our minimum fundraising goal at United States Artists. Thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous donor, our funding is now guaranteed. We're continuing to raise money for post-production through November 15th and we'll have a brand new video up on the site very soon. I'll post the link as soon as it goes live. Thanks so much again to all our donors.

And as an added bonus, another great press write-up, this one courtesy of MycoRant.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Interview with writer/co-director Jason Cortlund just posted the interview I did with "Mr. Fun Guy"

Many thanks to Toon and all your readers at Mushroom Palace for the support. 

Be sure to explore the whole website--it's really a cool and comprehensive look at all the different cultural intersections of fungi. From recipes, to foraging, to cultivation, to psychoactive properties. Good stuff!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vote for Now, Forager as indieWIRE's "Project of the Week"

On the heels of our Village Voice article and an upcoming interview that I did for, we are honored to be indieWIRE's "Project of the Day".

But that means we're also eligible for indieWIRE's "Project of Week". The winner gets a consultation with online distributor SnagFilms and consideration for "Project of the Month".

Thanks for your support and thanks to indieWIRE!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A week's worth of firsts

We had a great, Romesco sauce-fueled test screening at Austin Film Society last week as part of their esteemed Narratives-in-Progress series (our deep thanks to AFS for inviting us and to Bryan Poyser for moderating).

We also sent off our fine cut for our first festival submission on Saturday. You're savvy--you know which festival I'm talking about. We don't need to get into all that. Suffice to say, we're doing our best to get good festival premieres--both at home and abroad.

But my favorite news of the day is a great (surprise) write-up in the Village Voice. I think "...Alice Waters meets Kelly Reichardt" is a pretty good summary.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Trailer and United States Artists Campaign

A flurry of activity here at Now, Forager headquarters. First, we've launched a new fundraiser campaign to help us get to the finish line--mixing, mastering, color correcting etc.  Check out our project page and get a look at our brand new trailer. (Props to Kevin Hoetger and Kyle Crusham for their original trailer score.) Please donate if you can and help us spread the word.

Austin Film Society will also be hosting Julia and I to show our current cut as part of their Narratives-In-Progress series. Open to all AFS members, but since space is limited they want folks to register in advance on their website.

I've posted a series of production stills on our Facebook page and I crossed over to the darkside last week and even joined Twitter (@NowForager). "Like" us, "Follow" us--whatever the kids are doing these days. We're out there. I promise we won't abuse the privilege with non-essentials.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What is a food movie?

While we're hammering through all the in-points and out-points of post-production (which is kind of tedious and not especially report-worthy most days) I thought I'd post something a little different than the garden variety production diary entry.

As an exercise, I tried to put together a list of memorable food moments in cinema. I came up with ten scenes from nine films. And they’re mostly not from categorically defined “food movies”...

As I may have mentioned here before, I’m not a big fan of what usually gets termed a food movie. I do think it’s a genre (or sub-genre) unto itself, but without naming names, most of the standouts are sickeningly sweet, romantic, metaphoric messes that commit a cardinal sin, in my opinion—they get the cooking wrong. I suppose you could argue that most of these films are about the eating rather than sourcing, prepping, and cooking—since eating is a pretty common activity that most people enjoy.

But in American culture, cooking is having a pretty major renaissance. You can mention casually that you're into homemade charcuterie and suddenly be discussing the intricacies of caul fat and cold smoking with a total stranger.

(Maybe that's our new Now, Forager marketing campaign-- "By caul fat lovers. For caul fat lovers." Or maybe, "If you like rendering your own leaf lard, you'll love this film.")

And so, as a partial effort to help deconstruct and expand the genre, here's my incomplete list of memorable, influential, and/or traumatizing food scenes:

10) First Blood (1982) – Wood-roasted pork  Stallone made a food movie? No, but I do think that this film is a totally under-appreciated marvel. In the course of its 93 minutes, you watch 70s cinema turn into 80s cinema. Apocalypse Now bleeds into Red Dawn. The subsequently caricatured “Rambo superhero” franchise has little to do with the original's somewhat character-driven story. But I digress… There’s a little scene, after John Rambo has escaped the bigoted small town lawmen and found shelter in an abandoned mine shaft tucked into the woods of the Pacific Northwest. He fashions himself a spear and soon procures for his solo dining pleasure a haunch of wild pig, which he then roasts over an open fire. I grew up hunting feral pigs with my grandfather—and there’s no better taste on this earth than a wild spring sow that’s been feeding on acorns all winter. Rambo has an excellent sense for sourcing ingredients.

9) Story of a Cheat (1936) – Wild Mushrooms  Early French auteur Sacha Guitry uses wild mushrooms as the ultimate plot device. A boy is sent to bed without supper for stealing. Ironically, it’s on a night when his entire family is fatally poisoned by toxic mushrooms hastily gathered by another relative. Don’t worry, it’s a comedy. (Tip of the hat to my friend A.S. Hamrah for turning me on to this film.)

8) Cool Hand Luke (1967) “Get mad at them damn eggs!”   How many pickled eggs did Paul Newman actually have to eat for this sequence? By the look on his face, and the swell on his gut, I’d guess that he was employing The Method that day. A totally believable performance—but maybe that’s just because I don’t much care for hard boiled eggs.

7) Sid & Nancy (1986) Baked Beans  In the opening sequence, when Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten go to visit a dominatrix friend, she serves them up a lunch of cold baked beans. The two Sex Pistols proceed to shovel the ubiquitous English staple (mostly) into their gaping maws. They’re hungry and it gets the job done. What the fuck else do you need? It’s punk rock.

6) Saturday Night Fever (1977) – “Two. Gimme two…that’s good.”  Like First Blood, SNF is remembered more for its subsequent cultural impact than for what it really is—a great piece of underclass drama. The Tony Manero strut that opens the picture includes a detour to a slice joint. The pizzaiola behind the counter asks him if he wants two or three. Tony moderately chooses the deuce, and proceeds to stack them up and chomp away as he completes his walking tour of Bay Ridge. The disco clubs and paint stores are mostly gone--but until you can’t find a serviceable slice in Brooklyn, the borough of my dreams will never die.

5) Babette’s Feast (1987) Bird Brains  Okay, this is maybe the crown jewel of the proper food movie genre. But you really have to invest time and patience with a very subtle period drama to get to the titular meal. And that anticipation is what makes the film masterful. It peaks for me when one of the dinner guests (the only sensualist at a table of Protestant ascetics) sucks the brains from the head of a whole quail baked in puff pastry, to the shock and secret delight of the others at table. That’s some juicy narrative pleasure.

4) Los Muertos (2004) – Honey  This stark, extremely observational drama from Argentine director Lisandro Alonso follows a man (non-actor Argentino Vargas) as he’s released from prison and makes his way up a river to find his daughter. Most scenes are made of a single shot that documents a step in the process. Eating is a regular act of self-sustainment along the way. In Alonso’s hands, food is simultaneously mundane and complex. At one point, the man stops his canoe along the river and ventures into the woods. He listens at a dead tree—then proceeds to dig out an arm-long section of loaded honey comb from a teeming mass of live bees, bare-handed. This is in one shot—no stunt doubles, no CGI bees, no fakery of any kind. The performer is actually doing this. And when he squeezes the honey out into his thick, leathery hand and laps it up, you taste it with him.

3) The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover (1989) - “…It’s a delicacy.”   This NC-17 Jacobean melodrama by Peter Greenaway came out when I was just finishing high school. I didn’t know what a Jacobean melodrama was, but it sounded too titillating to pass up. Sex? Cooking? Murder? Count me in. There’s so much to love about this movie—including a great performance from Helen Mirren. But the grotesque revenge climax—featuring one of the main characters roasted whole, a la haute cuisine—that left me queasy for a few days. The power of cinema had taken hold and permanently warped my tender sensibilities. For the better.

2) Tampopo (1985) – The Egg Dance   Another more literal example of a food movie, Tampopo is a fairly broad Japanese comedy about a woman trying to learn how to make the perfect bowl of ramen (from a cowboy truck-driver sensei). The main narrative is loosely held together with vignettes that play on different themes of food and eating. Two recurring characters are a gangster and his moll—who at one point pass a raw egg yolk back and forth—with just their mouths. It’s kind of like one of those stupid summer camp games, but only if you went to sexy Yakuza underworld summer camp.

1) Los Muertos (2004) – The Goat   I’m going back to my man Lisandro Alonso for numero uno. Describing the scene would ruin it. It’s one of the most visceral cinematic moments I’ve experienced in recent memory. Let me just say that this film probably doesn’t have a vegan fanclub on Facebook. But in all seriousness—if you eat meat, you should be able to deal with how it lands on your plate. And what happens in this scene is a helluva lot more humane and understandable than what occurs in volume everyday inside the average agri-business abattoir. See this film.

I'm sure there are many other scenes and films worthy of mention, but I thought these offered a nice range of options.

In other news, we're getting very near a fine cut and should have a few bits of good news to announce very shortly, as well as the release of our first official trailer (huzzah!).

For now, I've attached a somewhat appropriate production still from Now, Forager--striped bass butchery (performed by yours truly).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Connective Tissues and Egg Sandwiches

The first of June brought the last pickups that we'll need to shoot (hopefully). A skeleton version of our crew reunited for a few days to grab bits and pieces of things that we missed, had to cut for time during principal photography, or that we discovered we needed to fill a gap. There was really only one short scene that we decided to re-shoot. The rest were the equivalent of narrative tendons and ligaments for added support.

Day 1, we needed some additional pre-dawn footage for our opening woods sequence plus the never-ending collection of the 3Fs (flora, fauna, and fungi b-roll). Now, Forager's fearless Director of Photography Jon Nastasi was locked and loaded for a 4am call time. I think the promise of a truly outstanding egg sandwich at The Palisades Market on 9W was the real dealmaker--and it didn't disappoint.

[As filmmakers who came up in Austin, it seemed unfathomable to go into production without breakfast tacos--the cheap, delicious, and substantial morning staple that fuels film crews of all sizes across the State of Texas. We soon were introduced to the Northeast regional equivalent: the egg sandwich. Typically, a humble Kaiser roll, bagel, or croissant with egg, cheese, and optional meat substance (Taylor ham anyone?). While it'll never supplant the breakfast taco in my heart (literally, figuratively), I've come to appreciate the form on its own terms. And the best part for feeding hungry crew-folk is that you can find a serviceable egg sandwich at obscenely early hours, just about anywhere in the region. From a corner bodega on Staten Island, to a 24-hour gas station in the Bronx, to a swanky little micro-bakery in the Hudson Valley. And you can't always tell from the decor when you're going to hit a truly brilliant iteration.]

Day 2 of pickups was a return to the woods of Putnam County for a few daytime and nighttime exteriors. Our sound guru Jeremy Fleishman returned from the comforts of Pittsburgh to join us. The highlight was that we grabbed a beautiful new opening shot for the film that we're all totally in love with. Half by design and half by happy accident. I can't wait to see it in the cut.

Day 3 started back in NJ with a trip to Newark's Iron Bound. Julia had the idea to add a brief scene in a neighborhood coffee house. We had been by Café Opção several times and loved the way it looked. The owners and staff were incredibly gracious to work with us and let us shoot in their gorgeous space. (A thousand thank yous!). After another short scene in the neighborhood outside our friend Amy Brown's apartment
(thanks Brownie!), we moved on to grab a quick shot back on Staten Island. Then we finished the day with some driving footage along the scenic NJ Turnpike.

Day 4 was a half-day in the sound studio (at MetroSonic in Brooklyn) recording voice-overs and ADR phone dialog.

That brings us pretty much up to date. We're moving into the fine cut, working on a trailer, and continuing with time-lapses.

Thanks to master producer Kit Bland for helping to wrangle all the moving parts and for hosting us in his lovely abode. And thanks again to our cast and crew, old and new, for making the necessary connections happen. Onward!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Open Flatlands of Post-Production

If this were a marathon (and it is, indeed, it is!) maybe we'd be at mile 16 give or take. Julia and I are on that unbearably long and lonely stretch of road--every day, it's just you and your footage. And the constant pounding of progress.

It's been awhile since I've posted an update. Not because things haven't been progressing. Quite the opposite. We've had a lot to get done in the first months of 2011, and only so many waking hours each day to fill. Blogging kind of fell off the list of priorities for awhile. But as Fast Eddie once said, "I'm back, baby."

We now have a rough cut. And we've been focused combing through it for the last few weeks. Watching...discussing...checking alternate takes. Et cetera. We've also had the benefit reviewing an alternate cut that was put together by students at The Edit Center in Manhattan--some really great ideas in there that we'll surely borrow from on our way to a fine cut.

The bountiful morel season around NY and NJ afforded me the chance to shoot some very pretty seasonal b-roll out in the woods. And I was most pleased to get to cook some of the delicious fresh black morels and ramps that I found for our stalwart producer, Kit Bland, and new friend Karin Chien.

I also helped prepare a mycophillic feast in Brooklyn with writer/director David Barker, photographer Barbara Ess, filmmaker/artist Nida Sinnokrot, and editor/filmmaker Rica Linders. Three kinds of morels (Morchella elata, Morchella esculenta, and Morchella semilibera) and all kinds of talk.

Next up in the process are pick-ups (just a few odds and ends that will help smooth out a few scenes--no major re-shoots, praise be to the mushroom gods) and some sound booth recording of voice-over. Then we're back in the edit suite for the rest of the summer. Hoo boy!

We'll be posting at least one official trailer in the coming weeks as well, as part of our next fundraising campaign. Stay tuned!

I've also started shooting a series of mushroom time-lapses for inclusion--here's one of the first tests: