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Director Sean Claffey Tackles Income Disparity and Other Economic Travesties Through his Doc “Americonned”

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At CraicFest 2023, director Sean Claffey debuted his powerful doc “Americonned.” It offers commentary by various political and sociological experts and an examination of ordinary citizens’ lives in order to address the impact that super-capitalists — the one percenters — have on the world at large and on America in particular.

Sean Claffey

According to “Americonned,” pernicious power junkies and the super rich suck the economic life out of the middle and working classes — while contributing little in return. The movie shows the struggles of American families to balance out the inequities through various means such as union organizing. With sympathy for middle-class workers, the film explores the outrageous attempt to color them as lazy. It addresses the notion that we must make sure workers are paid what they’re worth instead of being paid what’s minimally possible.

Sean with subjects

With more than 25 years in the film industry during which Claffey made features, industrial documentaries and commercials, he employs his experience to make a film which grapples with  compelling and controversial issues. As Claffey explains in the following Q&A, he is drawn to emotionally challenging projects and embraces the rigors of getting the story right, even under the most arduous circumstances.

Q: What made you crazy enough to make a movie like this?

SC: I come from an immigrant Irish family that landed here in extreme poverty. There was a path to the middle class that existed then. It was helped greatly by unions. As I see that path erode more and more, it’s really important that we fight back to keep it open. We need to keep people in the middle class from falling out of it. That’s what made this country so amazing. America used to be the number one [home for the] middle class in the world. Now we’re at number 12 and falling rapidly.

Q: When you make a movie like this, do you consider what kind of an audience you’re going after? Who do you think is the audience?

SC: We were really focused on getting our message out to everyone, not one political party or the other. We looked at it and could see that both political parties really contributed to this fall. Maybe one more than the other. Certainly, one is now moving into an authoritarian position. So we called up both parties and we showed where they failed the working and middle class in this country.

Q: When you planned this film, did you have an idea of how you were going to structure it and where you were going to go with it? Or did you just start shooting, figuring that you would tap into some lucky moments as we see in the film?

SC: We definitely had a structure. We wanted to interweave several families who were suffering with the activists who are carrying on the fight. The experts basically tell the tale of how we got here and how we might get out of it. It did take left and right turns and U turns, though. Stories that we thought would work out led to dead ends. Others that we didn’t know would be anything actually became some of the major points of the film.

Q: Was this planned before the 2020 election or during it? Did you decide to make it after?

SC: We came up with this idea in 2009. I had three companies in the film business and lost all of them. We definitely saw that banks got bailed out and people didn’t. So we started then, but had a false start and ran out of money. Making these things is very difficult. But we started again in earnest about three and a half years ago.

Q: Before the election, and before COVID, did you think that Trump was going to lose? Or was that a lucky break for you?

SC: When he was first running a year before we were doing this, a friend of mine, a producer, bet me that he was going to win. She’s from Italy. I was like, “No way. Absolutely not Not in a million years. From a native New Yorker: we know his shenanigans here.” Yet he won. I was hoping that he wouldn’t, but he did. Then by 2020, I was hoping again that he wouldn’t win. The reason we got Trump is because we let down swaths of this country. They’ve been trying over and over again to make it but can’t. When you try everything and still can’t pay the mortgage — you lose your house, you lose everything — you start to get this mindset. I’ve spoken to many of those people who want to burn it all down.

Q: One of the great lucky turns in this film is the situation with unionizing at Amazon. You had no idea how that was going to work out but it really did work out in your favor. At what point did you know, you wanted to try and follow it? At what point did you know, “Wow, we really hit a home run.”

SC: I met Chris Smalls who organized the Amazon labor union in Staten Island before he ever thought of unionizing. They protested. Basically [Amazon] was making employees work without masks. People were getting sick and dying, so he stood up, He was a supervisor there and people were getting sick in the building and passing out. They’d just move them aside and put a new person in their place. So he started a protest long before the union. They thought about making a union. I was like, “Oh, there’s a union thing going on in Bessemer. Let’s all drive down.” We drove down with his whole team and we’re in an Airbnb but the local union wouldn’t even meet with us. They snubbed us. When the team got snubbed, I was like, “Just start your own union.” I could see that it kind of clicked with them. But, I want to say right here, that I didn’t do it. They made the decision on their own. I might have been a spark but they worked like 300, almost 400 days straight –– seven days a week, three shifts. It was a huge effort.

Q: There’s always a challenge in making a documentary. There’s an enormous amount of competition and, certainly, a lot of films that deal with left-of-center issues. I don’t even like the term left and right or progressive. Progress is not about standing still. Everything else is either standing still or going backwards. You have the challenge of convincing people that this is an initiative that concerns them without rubbing them the wrong way. Maybe it doesn’t address the issues the way people think they should be addressed. How did you know that you want to continue this?

SC: I was going to finish this film no matter what. COVID hit and it got really hard to make this film. We went around, risked our lives in the beginning of COVID not knowing what the outcome could have been. So the movie was getting made to the point where I was like, “If nobody picks it up, I will put it on YouTube.” Now, of course, you need to recoup your money; otherwise you’ll go broke. But yeah — nothing was going to stop us from finishing the film.

Q: Now that you’ve finished, what’s been the response? People seem to be getting attracted but you still want to get it into the biggest festival. What happened there?

SC: The big festivals just flat out turned us down. You know, we take on Amazon in a negative way — it becomes the villain standing in for many other corporations. But you go around to the festivals and it’s the Amazon documentary award, right? So do you think we even have a shot at that? Whether it’s on purpose, or is subconscious or there subliminally. But we got very lucky and have gotten limited theatrical distribution. We’re going to be in New York, DC, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. There’s additional theaters that are asking us right now as we speak, for New Hampshire and Florida. After that, we’re going to be streaming on many different platforms.

Q: You’ve been getting good responses at festivals. The crowds come up to you. What do people want to do? Are they ready to finance the next film?

SC: We’ve gotten great responses interestingly enough, from both sides of the aisle — conservatives as well as liberals and everything in between. Everyone knows something is wrong and we really expose it and dig down into the history. Once people see through it, you can’t unsee it. There’s a meticulous way it’s being done. We expose that completely. Everyone wants the same thing — to have a house, a good job, and have their children do better than they’re doing. The division is on purpose. But we’re talking about somebody in a dress that’s drinking a beer that they don’t even like — that’s becoming a divisive thing. When so much money is being stolen from the middle class, it’s all done on purpose. They pull it off — the think tanks — they think about it and push it out there. The talking points go out every Sunday night or Monday morning and you just hear it. They regurgitate stuff just to divide us against our own economic best interests. And they’ve been doing it for a while. They’re really, really good at it.

Q: Do you think it’s part of your Irish experience or Irish tradition that you make a film like this and support the causes it supports?

SC: I’ve always been a little rebellious. I don’t have a problem standing up against powerful people for things my family has been doing for probably a lot longer than I even know, hundreds and hundreds of years. I grew up with that instilled in me: if something’s not right, we need to stand up to it, no matter what. Because if we don’t, then everyone else suffers.

Q: You grew up here in New York? Have you been back to Ireland? Have you tapped into a lot of your Irish community?

SC: I grew up in New York my whole life. I have definitely been to Ireland a bunch of times. I have family there. I’m part of that Irish American community and this year I got to help lead the parade as a New York City aide to the Grand Marshal. It’s been an epic year for me personally.

Q: What county are you from?

SC: My family is from mainly Donegal but also the Midlands.

Q: You’ve built up some new bonds with different people. You’ve continued with your relationships with the Amazon people. What new relationships were built for you?

SC: Finding the experts was challenging. But once we started getting a few of them, like Nick Hanna, they were amazing. He’s a billionaire but he’s fighting for the middle class. He’s really aligned on the whole thing. Once we got him, it was much easier to get the rest of them like Kurt Anderson and Jake Packer. We knew that we had to get the interview. So we hopped in my car, filled it up with camera gear and looked at the weather report. We have to get over the Rockies but there’s a massive storm coming in Brooklyn. We drove 70 hours straight, only stopping to fill up for fuel and to eat, usually done at the same time. And we made it. We hit the Rockies just as snow started falling. Snow everywhere but we were able to get to Seattle where he was and it really started the journey [of the film.] We drove 3,400 miles across the country traveling through 23 states. We really got a sense of people that are suffering and what’s actually on the ground. I don’t think I quite understood that just being a New Yorker.

Q: Was this the biggest challenge you’ve had in your life?

SC: Biggest long-term challenge? When we started filming, we filmed a few people in New York but then my mom passed away right in the beginning. I was like, “Well, I’m either going to go into depression or we’re going to finish this thing.” We drove up to Seattle and dedicated it to her and a couple of other people we lost during the filming. We ran out of money a bunch of times, burned up the credit cards multiple times and I almost missed my mortgage payment. It was intense with some really low lows. But it’s getting out there. So it was well worth it.

Q: Have you always meant to be a filmmaker or were there other things? Or did you just fall into this?

SC: I started out in theater behind the scenes, as a technical director, set design. Then I switched over to film and got to work with some really great directors like Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers and many, many others. I worked with some really bad directors, as well. Then I started doing TV pilots and whatever.

Q: This type of film is really a calling — to expose injustice and shine a light on problems like this. Is this what makes you tick? Once you make a film like this though, does it mean that you’re either going to go further mad or you’re going to change the course of the world?

SC: I think you have a little of both. I have an idea for the next one. It’s going to be about democracy and if you have a tool right now or whatever you can do [to maintain it]. The authoritarians are on the rise if we don’t stop them. And we can’t wait for someone else to do it because no one’s going to do it. It’s got to be all of us.

Q: You’ve done the festivals and met some people. What is the best or most interesting experience you’ve had as a result of touring the festival circuit?

SC: Having a full house, watching them cry, get angry, have hope and stand up and applaud. That made me think that it was all worthwhile.

Q: What was the most interesting question you’ve had so far?

SC: People don’t really comprehend that this was all done on purpose — it was planned. I’m talking about the financial organizations [extraction of money] from the middle class. They’re looked upon by a few tens of thousands of people as just something to extract from. Audiences are blown away by that. They want to know more about how we all let this happen and how do we not know about this.

Q: It risks making them and you cynical, because capitalism isn’t going away. Can we fix capitalism?

SC: The most important thing is democracy. We get confused with capitalism and democracy and when these are just economic systems. I think there should be a blending of them. If just extreme examples — if there’s a depression, there should be more socialism. If there’s a natural disaster, then we should turn the socialism up. If it’s boom times, you raise taxes. There needs to be this constant balance. But most importantly, it needs to be a democracy for the path to the middle class that’s maintained. It will change with technology if we don’t make it more fair. We talk about this in the film. Curt Anderson says, if we don’t make it fairer now, with AI and robotics which is slated to take place, about 46 to 47% of all American jobs are at high risk. We’re talking about doctors, accountants, radiologists. I mean, this is like the white collar thing. What happened with NAFTA to the blue collar [workers] — it’s still happening now. The CEO of IBM said that he’s going to get rid of every single human job he can this year.

Q: They can’t get rid of film journalists. I’m sure of that anyhow. On that note, how do you envision things moving forward for you and for the future of America?

SC: About half of Americans between 18 and 65 medium wage is $10.35 an hour. That’s insane. With most places in the country, you have to drive to work. How do you afford a car, rent and food on $10.35 an hour? You can’t even buy a burrito. It’s insane. The price of eggs is more than that. I’m going to keep fighting and exposing injustice wherever I can. And for America, we’re at a turning point, we may swing authoritarian or fascist with these high levels of income inequality.

[This award-winning documentary opens theatrically in New York (Cinema Village), Los Angeles (Laemmle Monica Film Center) and major cities this June with a VOD release in the US and Canada on major platforms to follow. Not Rated/ 96 Minutes/ Feature Documentary/ USA]

Social Media/Website:
https://americonned.com

@AmericonnedDoc
#americonneddoc

Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

YOUNG’S 12 — (via Ultimate Classic Rock) Since he began making records in the 60’s, Neil Young has seldom let a year or two pass between albums. Even as the last LP by Buffalo Springfield was being prepped for release, the Canadian singer-songwriter was making his self-titled solo debut, which came out just a few months later.

Young has never been reluctant to follow his creative muse, even if he’s in the middle of another project. More than one time during his career he’s shelved a project just to move on to something else. Sometimes – as in the case of Homegrown and Chrome Dreams – those records would be released at a later (sometimes much later) date; in other instances, we’re still waiting.

All this productivity and activity can lead to periods of inconsistency, as you’ll see in the below list of the 12 Worst Neil Young Albums. One era in particular stands out: the ’80s (spoiler: Six successive albums during the decade make the list). But LPs from the ’60s, ’70s, ’90s and the ’00s are here, too.When you’re as prolific as Young, they can’t all be After the Gold Rush and Harvest. Even when the records didn’t reach his usual standards, most of them still found new ways to continue on the restless path he started in the mid-’60s. From synth-pop and traditional country to ’50 rock ‘n’ roll and horn-spotted soul, Young’s instincts rarely took him to expected destinations.

Are You Passionate?’ (2002)

Young’s 24th album was supposed to be another Crazy Horse collaboration, Toast, which didn’t get released until 2022. Instead, he pivoted to a record with Booker T. & the MG’s that was billed as a soul album and included Young’s response to 9/11, “Let’s Roll.” One of the shelved Crazy Horse tracks is included, and it concludes with a nine-minute jam. Scant direction and thin songs sink Are You Passionate?

‘Peace Trail’ (2016)

Young’s 36th studio LP was sandwiched between a live album with Promise of the Real and a solo archival release recorded in 1976. Both are preferable to this quickly assembled record made with drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell. Its political points are similar to the ones he’d been supporting since the ’60s, but now with a technological lean (there’s even some Auto-Tune on a track). Instantly disposable.

‘Storytone’ (2014)

The second of two albums released by Young in 2014 (the first was the solo acoustic A Letter Home), Storytone featured big band and orchestral backings to songs inspired by a new romance with actress Daryl Hannah. Forgettable and uncertain – swing and classical don’t mix all that well – the album arrived during a period of prolific activity. An equally unmemorable stripped-down version of the album was released at the same time.

‘Old Ways’ (1985)

Young’s country album Old Ways was first proposed after 1983’s Trans, the synth-based LP he delivered to Geffen. The label balked and insisted on a rock album instead; they got the 1950s throwback Everybody’s Rockin’. Young returned to his country album in 1985, enlisting Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and fiddle and pedal steel musicians. Another unremarkable genre detour during Young’s most dour decade.

‘Everybody’s Rockin” (1983)

Young’s second Geffen LP was as baffling as the first. But where Trans moved forward, Everybody’s Rockin’ was a throwback to 1950s rockabilly, complete with a retro look (pompadour, face-dominating sideburns) and name (Neil and the Shocking Pinks). Four songs were covers; an original (“Wonderin'”) dated to 1970. It runs less than 25 minutes. Geffen soon sued Young for making deliberately uncommercial records.

‘Landing on Water’ (1986)

Three genre-specific albums left Young at odds with Geffen Records in the mid-’80s to the point where the label sued him for making records that didn’t sound like Neil Young records. Landing on Water was his return (albeit once again stitched together from years-old sessions) to fuss-free rock music. Good luck finding a memorable song, though. Even Young has referred to Landing on Water as a “piece of crap.”

‘Broken Arrow’ (1996)

After 1989’s career-reviving Freedom, Neil Young had an admirable run in the first half of the ’90s. Then Broken Arrow arrived. Shaken by the death of longtime producer David Briggs, Young and Crazy Horse falteringly recorded the LP over a month, often with no guidance or direction (the first three songs each run more than seven minutes and are little more than aimless jams). An unsteady new era was around the corner.

‘This Note’s for You’ (1988)

After a contentious five-album run with Geffen, Young returned to Reprise for his 16th LP. But he still wasn’t ready to discard the ’80s explorations that marked the decade. The flimsy This Note’s for You, co-credited to the Bluenotes (a horn-based group with other ties to Young’s past), dipped into jump blues music while adhering to a slim conceptual thread about commercialism. At least it contained a minor hit in the title track.

‘Life’ (1987)

Neil Young made five albums with Geffen in the ’80s, none of them particularly good. But at least most of them have some sort of identifiable tag: synth-pop, rockabilly, country. Life has nothing to single it out. Mostly recorded live with overdubs added later, the Crazy Horse collaboration ended Young’s controversial relationship with Geffen on a sour, but expected, note. Maybe the most easily dismissed LP in his entire catalog.

‘Trans’ (1982)

After more than two dozen years with Reprise Records, Neil Young jumped to the flourishing Geffen label for his 12th album. Nobody expected his first record under the new contract to be a futuristic new-wave LP made with synths and a vocoder altering Young’s voice – especially the label. Young has said he made Trans to communicate with his son, who had cerebral palsy. A year later Geffen filed a lawsuit.

‘American Stars ‘n Bars’ (1977)

Neil Young’s catalog is scattered with albums stitched together from various session sources. For his eighth LP, he collected nine songs recorded over a two-and-a-half-year period, starting in 1974. The results were mixed. The stripped-back country rock made with Crazy Horse on Side One has little connection to the plugged-in fury of “Like a Hurricane,” a mid-decade highlight, and the solo acoustic “Will to Love.” Aimless.

‘Neil Young’ (1968)

Young’s solo debut isn’t terrible, it’s just a letdown after the buzz he generated with Buffalo Springfield. Only a handful of songs (including “The Loner,” fleshed out onstage over the years) make an impression; the rest finds the still-growing singer-songwriter tentatively stepping away from his former band while occasionally tethered to their era-identified folk rock. Better things were to come.

SHORT TAKES — On Wednesday’s Today Show, Carson Daly revealed his first concert ever was Ziggy Marley. And as he and a friend took their seats, it seemed to Daly as if smoke rose from the stage. Daly’s friend said it was happy smoke

Leah McSweeney

I never heard of Leah McSweeney (another Bravo Housewife), but Tuesday she filed a lawsuit against Andy Cohen. More lurid details for sure. Is Andy this year’s Harvey? I’ll tell you, between Cohen, Puffy and the gals … it’s a huge, huge mess and heads will definitely roll at NBC/Comcast. Stay tuned … Yankee-Bernie Williams is at the Carlyle?

I haven’t heard his music, but this reminds me of Knick-Earl Monroe years back introducing his Pretty Pearl Records. I honestly don’t even remember the artists, but the project came and went pretty quick … Debbie Gibson on the 80’s Cruise with Wang Chung; Escape Club; English Beat; Soft Cell; Air Supply; Ray Parker; Animotion; and Tommy Tutone. Check it out here: https://the80scruise.com/lineup/

Richard Lewis photo by Stephen Sorokoff

So sad about Richard Lewis. He used to be a very, very frequent companion to me back in the day at Lorelei on West 58th street. He was always so funny and sweet. A true companion for the naughty 90’s. He’ll be much missed …

Kjersti Long

Zach Martin interviews 17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long on his NEW HD radio today …  Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals at the Patchogue Theater on April 26 and SONY Hall on May 17th … Happy BDay Zach Lloyd; Mitch Ryder; Roy Trakin; and Judy Libow!

Debbie Gibson

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Jacqueline Boyd; Nancy Harrison; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Jim Kerr; Debbie Gibson; Heather Moore; Roger Friedman; Mark Bego; Melinda Newman; Joe Lynch; Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Amanda Naylor; Tolouse Bean; Howard Jones; Mark Alpert; Donald Johnson Kyla Nicole; Angela Tarantino;n Barry Fisch; and SADIE!

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Broadway

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

THE NEW OUTLAWS — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Willie Nelson has announced the lineup and dates for his 2024 Outlaw Music Festival Tour.

In addition to headlining sets by the 90-year-old country legend and recent Rock & roll Hall of Fame inductee, this year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour will include performances by Bob Dylan each day throughout its 25-date run.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will also play on select dates, alternating appearances with John Mellencamp.

Nelson’s Outlaw Tour debuted in 2016 and has since featured Sheryl Crow, Van Morrison, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young and ZZ Top.

“This year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour promises to be the biggest and best yet with this lineup of legendary artists,” Nelson said in a press statement announcing the shows. “I am thrilled to get back on the road again with my family and friends playing the music we love for the fans we love.”

Brittney Spencer, Celisse and Southern Avenue will also perform at this year’s Outlaw Music Tour Festival. Billy Strings will join the tour for one concert at Washington’s The Gorge. You can see the tour’s complete run dates and lineups below.

General public ticket sales start on March 1 at 10 a.m. local time. Citi card members have access to presale tickets starting Tuesday at 10 a.m. local time until Thursday at 10 p.m. local time. More information can be found at the tour’s website.

SHORT TAKES — Boy, that Andy Cohen news sure disappeared quickly. I guess Brandi Glanville’s lawyers were right when they said NBC/COMCAST was making too much money from Cohen, to dismiss him. Sure, Andy apologized, but that was it …

Joe Manganiello is hosting the new Deal Or No Deal Island. With one of the worst haircuts, I’ve ever seen, he was on Monday’s Today Show -3rd hour- with Jenna and Hoda assisting him. There were so many rules in the intro, I was immediately thrown. All these game shows seem to be the thing these days – cheap to produce; easy to write; and B and C actors are certainly available …

Jenny Boyd

Jenny Boyd – sister to Patti and married twice to Mick Fleetwood – has a new autobiography out, Jennifer Juniper. Here’s a great piece from Spin on it: https://www.spin.com/2024/02/60s-muse-turned-psychologist-jenny-boyd-explores-rocks-greatest-icons/

Patti Boyd-Harrison

Not to be outdone, sister Patti Boyd-Harrison has an exhibit with Christie’s in London. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHBWT_HKDJ8 … Markos Papadatos has a great new interview with John Oates in Digital Journal, but strangely, nothing about his ongoing dispute with Daryl Hall. Methinks it was more of a PR-move to quickly extinguish any and all reference to it, as it just dragged their legacy (Hall & Oates) down … way down. Take a read: https://www.digitaljournal.com/entertainment/john-oates-talks-about-his-new-music-and-his-tour/article?fbclid=IwAR0T42cxA0lJtXRJZ0db1D0mNakjsjVUJYmerGNzTMXdPNotaHrmuPoPmFI … One more trailer for Kevin Costner’s epic Horizon. Pundit Roger Friedman quipped the Indians don’t look too happy in this one. To be honest, I see much of Yellowstone in the trailer. And, Danny Huston who was in the series is in the movie too. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYsReoZMj1k … As of this writing, subway crime in NYC up 22% from this time last year! Reminds me of the 70’s here these days … Big, big layoffs at both Atlantic and Warner’s. The later about 600 employees. To me, they got rid of all the people who knew exactly what to do and when to do it. Sad for sure … SIGHTINGS: PR-pasha David Salidor at Brooklyn’s Table 87

Mike Scott

And, one of the greatest forgotten about bands is Mike Scott and The Waterboys. Just tremendous and timeless music. Check this article out from The Guardian:https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/27/how-we-made-waterboys-the-whole-of-the-moon-mike-scott… RIP McCanna “Mac” Anthony Sinise.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Gene Cornish; Steve Walter; Jane Blunkell; Markos Papadatos; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Anthony Noto; Anthony Pomes; Kent & Laura Denmark; James Edstrom; Alec Baldwin; Lee Jeske; Andrew Tobin; Jewel Smithee; David and Delia Jones; and ZIGGY!

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Cabaret

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World 

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photo credit Conor Weiss

Who comes to mind when you see that phrase—Catherine Zeta-Jones, perhaps, or certainly Grace Kelly?  Most would concede the title belongs to one glorious, gracious and violet-eyed lady – Elizabeth Taylor.   

Elizabeth (ET from hereon in) was known for her films, jewelry and various husbands, but there was much more to that woman. The perfect person to let us in on the side we never saw is Ann Talman, who played her daughter in The Little Foxes on Broadway. Chosen for her uncanny resemblance to ET as a young girl, they remained close friends until ET’s death in 2011. Through song and story, Ann paints a portrait we never would have imagined—the prankster, surrogate mother, the fashion advisor funny-face maker and more. When consulting with her about what to wear to an awards gala, ET arranged for a private fashion show at Saks and then added “Do you want to borrow any of my jewelry?”.  Now that’s a friend to have! 

The evening began with Ann singing “The Shadow of your Smile” from The Sandpiper, a film that starred ET and Richard Burton against a backdrop of ET holding a sandpiper. In the film, the bird is a metaphor for broken-winged people, and Ann shyly admits that she had been a sandpiper. Ann was 22 when they met, and she explained how ET took on the surrogate mother role and gave her the support and counsel she needed. When Ann talks about pajama parties and drinking Soave Bollo, one imagines two sisters sharing secrets and giggling. (I can’t imagine ET in PJs, can you?)  Nevertheless … 

As if the offer of shared baubles was not indication enough of ET’s generous nature, Ann gave a brief history of ET’s involvement with AMFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) as well as her own foundation.  

This show was powerful, yet delicate, informative without being gossipy, funny while evoking a tear or two. It was lovingly put together with superb direction by Lina Koutrakos with Alex Rybeck as music director. The songs flowed so naturally that it might have been easy to not recognize the skill that went into their selection.   

Ann’s ability to mimic ET’s breathy voice as well as her sincerity, added to the charm and verisimilitude of the event. It was such a loving tribute, with little touches, like purple Mardi Gras beads, a printed program and cupcakes with lavender frosting for all in celebration ET’s birthday this week.   

The evening ended with a reprise of the first song. Thank you, Ann, for giving us a clearer picture of the shadow behind that most alluring smile. 

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Film

Best 5 American Film Schools

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In the pulsating world of cinema, aspiring filmmakers seek education and mentorship to carve their path in an industry that thrives on creativity and innovation. Choosing the right film school is pivotal in this journey, as it can provide the necessary skills, network, and knowledge to navigate the dynamic landscape of filmmaking. In this article, we will explore five distinguished American film schools renowned for their exceptional programs, state-of-the-art facilities, and contributions to the film industry. From the bustling streets of Los Angeles to the vibrant culture of New York, each institution on this list has played a significant role in shaping the next generation of cinematic storytellers. As students embark on this transformative educational journey, seeking additional support, such as the option to buy a coursework, can provide valuable assistance in managing academic responsibilities alongside their creative pursuits.

  1. University of Southern California (USC) – School of Cinematic Arts: Located in the Heart of Hollywood

The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts stands as an iconic institution synonymous with excellence in film education. With its prime location in the heart of Hollywood, USC offers aspiring filmmakers unparalleled access to industry professionals, studios, and the vibrant filmmaking community. The school boasts an impressive roster of alumni who have left an indelible mark on the industry, from George Lucas to Steven Spielberg. USC’s programs cover various aspects of filmmaking, including production, screenwriting, and animation. The hands-on approach, coupled with cutting-edge technology and world-class faculty, ensures students receive a comprehensive education that prepares them for the multifaceted challenges of the film industry.

  1. New York University (NYU) – Tisch School of the Arts: East Coast Hub of Creativity

Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts stands as a beacon for aspiring filmmakers on the East Coast. Renowned for its diverse programs in film and television, Tisch provides students with a dynamic and creative environment. The faculty comprises industry professionals and accomplished filmmakers who guide students through an immersive curriculum covering every aspect of film production. The school’s location offers students unique opportunities to engage with the vibrant arts and culture scene of New York City. NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts is not only a training ground for technical skills but also a hub that fosters creativity and encourages students to find their unique voice in the world of cinema. For those seeking guidance in the academic aspects of their film studies, you can find valuable resources here.  This site can offer valuable insights into crafting well-researched and articulate essays, complementing the practical skills gained in a creative filmmaking environment.

  1. American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory: Crafting Masters of the Cinematic Craft

The American Film Institute Conservatory, located in Los Angeles, is renowned for its commitment to cultivating masters of the cinematic craft. AFI’s Conservatory program focuses on hands-on learning, providing students with the opportunity to work on real film sets and collaborate with industry professionals. The program’s intensity ensures that graduates emerge not only with technical proficiency but also a deep understanding of storytelling and the filmmaking process. AFI has consistently produced award-winning filmmakers, and its emphasis on crafting auteurs has earned it a distinguished place among the top film schools in the United States.

  1. UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television: Bridging Tradition and Innovation

The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television stands as a testament to the marriage of tradition and innovation. Situated in the vibrant city of Los Angeles, the school offers comprehensive programs in film, television, and digital media. UCLA’s film school emphasizes both the art and business of filmmaking, ensuring that students are equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry. The faculty comprises seasoned professionals who bring a wealth of industry experience to the classroom. UCLA’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment further enhances the educational experience, preparing students for success in the global landscape of film and television.

  1. Columbia University School of the Arts – Film Program: Where Intellectual Rigor Meets Artistic Exploration

Columbia University’s School of the Arts Film Program distinguishes itself as a place where intellectual rigor meets artistic exploration. Situated in the cultural melting pot of New York City, the program encourages students to engage deeply with the theoretical and historical aspects of film in addition to honing their practical skills. Columbia’s approach is interdisciplinary, allowing students to draw inspiration from various artistic disciplines. The program’s emphasis on critical thinking and creative expression sets it apart, producing graduates who not only excel in their technical proficiency but also contribute thoughtfully to the intellectual discourse within the world of cinema.

Choosing the right film school is a crucial step in a filmmaker’s journey, shaping not only their technical abilities but also their creative voice and industry connections. The American film schools mentioned above stand as pillars of excellence, each offering a unique blend of resources, faculty, and opportunities. Whether on the West Coast or East Coast, these institutions provide a fertile ground for aspiring filmmakers to cultivate their skills and emerge ready to make a meaningful impact in the dynamic and competitive world of cinema.

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NYC Movie Travel Guide: Visiting Filming Locations of Famous Movies

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New York City has long been a favorite destination for movie lovers, thanks to its iconic skyline, bustling streets, and vibrant energy. If you’re a film buff looking to find more content related to the magic of the silver screen, then this NYC Movie Travel Guide is just for you. 

Take a journey to the filming locations of famous movies, walk in the footsteps of your favorite actors, and experience the city like never before. From classic blockbusters to indie gems, New York City has served as the backdrop for countless cinematic masterpieces. Get ready to explore the city’s most famous filming locations and walk in the footsteps of your favorite movie characters.

Times Square

Lights, camera, action! Start your movie adventure in the heart of Manhattan at Times Square. This iconic location has been featured in countless films, including “Spider-Man,” “The Avengers,” and “Midnight in Paris.” Take a stroll down the bustling streets and soak in the electrifying atmosphere.

Central Park

Step into the green oasis of Central Park, where many memorable movie scenes have been shot. From “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” to “When Harry Met Sally,” this sprawling park has provided the backdrop for countless romantic and adventurous moments on the big screen. Don’t forget to visit the famous Bethesda Terrace and Bow Bridge.

Empire State Building

Feel like you’re on top of the world at the Empire State Building. This iconic landmark has been featured in numerous films, including the classic “King Kong” and the romantic comedy “Sleepless in Seattle.” Take the elevator to the observation deck and enjoy breathtaking views of the city that never sleeps.

Brooklyn Bridge

Take a walk across the majestic Brooklyn Bridge, which has been featured in films like “Annie Hall” and “I Am Legend.” Marvel at the stunning views of the Manhattan skyline as you follow in the footsteps of your favorite movie characters. Don’t forget to snap a selfie with the bridge as your backdrop.

Grand Central Terminal

Step into the bustling Grand Central Terminal, a hub of transportation and a favorite filming location for many movies. From “North by Northwest” to “The Avengers,” this iconic train station has played a starring role in numerous films. Marvel at the celestial ceiling in the main concourse and imagine yourself in a movie scene.

Statue of Liberty

No visit to New York City is complete without a trip to the Statue of Liberty. This iconic symbol of freedom has been featured in films like “Ghostbusters II” and “X-Men.” Take a ferry ride to Liberty Island and get up close to Lady Liberty herself. Don’t forget to capture the moment on camera.

Coney Island

Experience the nostalgia of Coney Island, a beloved amusement park that has been featured in films like “The Warriors” and “Uptown Girls.” Take a ride on the iconic Cyclone roller coaster, indulge in Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this iconic New York City destination.

The High Line

Take a stroll along the elevated park known as the High Line, which has become a popular filming location in recent years. From “The Amazing Spider-Man” to “The Devil Wears Prada,” this unique urban park offers stunning views of the city and a glimpse into New York City’s industrial past.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Channel your inner art enthusiast at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a cultural landmark that has been featured in films like “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “When in Rome.” Explore the vast collection of art and immerse yourself in the beauty and history of this world-renowned museum.

Washington Square Park

End your movie-inspired journey at Washington Square Park, a vibrant gathering place that has been featured in films like “When Harry Met Sally” and “August Rush.” Sit on one of the park’s iconic benches, watch the street performers, and reflect on your cinematic adventure in the city that never fails to captivate.

New York City is a treasure trove of filming locations, offering movie lovers the opportunity to step into the world of their favorite films. From Times Square to Central Park, the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty, each location holds a piece of cinematic history. So grab your camera, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to embark on a movie-inspired adventure through the streets of the Big Apple.



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