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Every filmmaker wants the film they have labored over with love, sweat, blood, and tears to have an audience. It is particularly touching when an audience eagerly awaits to see it.
Our deepest thanks to Max Bouchard, Alliance Française Silicon Valley, Stefan and the The Palo Independent Film Group, and our friends and supporters for selling out our first paid screening.
Liz and I will see you there, if not at this screening then others that are now coming together.
We are very pleased to announce that Alliance Française Silicon Valley will present Mandorla, as part of their Cinéma du Mois, at The Aquarius theater in Palo Alto, California, on February 25 at 7PM. Seating is limited and TICKETS (this is our first paid screening!) are expected to sell out shortly!
We will be there with AFSCV's Max Bouchard for Q&A, along with our composer and music supervisor Robert Rich. A reception will follow.
This will launch Mandorla's theatrical release tour. More dates and theaters will be announced shortly. Very exciting to finally project Mandorla on the big screen and meet audiences in person!
Liz and I met Max Bouchard of Alliance Française at a Cinéma du Mois screening last fall and invited him to a private viewing of Mandorla (more on that in the back-back-story). Max loved the main character’s transitions between the inner and outer worlds, and how the film illustrates the challenges of life and work in today’s Silicon Valley. These challenges lead Ernesto to confront the timeless questions of life, identity, and meaning in the old city of Lyon, France.
The special screening mentioned above came about in a special way. Upon returning to the US after a moving screening to cast, crew, family, and friends in Lyon (previous blog), a neighbor wanted to make such a screening happen here at home in California. I mentioned that booking a theater was no small expense but the good neighbor was determined and stated that their goal was "getting the neighborhood to get together and rally around our efforts and to create community support." Liz and I were very touched by this, and still are.
We made the arrangements and the screening filled up immediately.
The night of the screening was, for me personally, a "It's a Wonderful Life" moment.
More developments ahead to share! Stay in touch!
The sun has been on the horizon for six hours. Six more to go. We are somewhere over Greenland surfing an endless sunset back to California. Mandorla’s first screening in Europe came together at Studio 24 in Lyon a few days earlier, and it was very well received. What lingers now, in the stillness above the arctic circle, are the years and major life-changes it took to make it, and meeting the audience that is now emerging.
I arrived in Lyon four years ago not knowing anyone in person and with little money to turn the script, which I had quit my day-job for to write, into a film. What I did have was a firm belief that Mandorla wanted to be made here.
On my first day in Lyon I met Vincent Villuis and Sandrine Gryson of Ultimae Records. Robert Rich, our composer, had kindly introduced us by email. They readily embraced the project and without issue gave me a production office, a room in their home, and a place at their table. I was very touched by this, and still am.
Liz arrived to help as executive producer and art director and stayed with her cousin, Veronique. Her niece, Eva Ray, a talented young student at an acting school in Lyon, had already posted our call for cast and crew. Interest grew quickly under the banner of an “American Film Production” and Alain Blazquez, a noted and very talented actor in France, came on board for a lead role that I knew he was perfect for. Samuel Levy-Micolini became our production sound mixer and also brought us Alice Lockwood, a super well-organized script supervisor who I promptly promoted to first assistant director.
Within two weeks of arriving we had our cast, crew, locations, and gear, which coupled vintage anamorphic lenses with DSLR cameras for the first time. Our camera test video, with Alice in front of the camera, produced an epic look and was an overnight sensation on Vimeo and later featured on the EOSHD blog. After a week of rehearsals, we rolled. No permits. Lyon was live and our crew was cool and professional, orchestrated by Alice and our young Corsican production manager, Olivier Mas Rohart-Santini.
Suffice it to say that Mandorla’s production in Lyon unfolded in a series of miracles which, thankfully, we managed to capture on camera. As director, cinematographer, and lead actor by necessity, I had to collaborate with what the “Universe” was offering, which was often magical. I used the SunSeeker app to track the arc of the sun, our sole source of lighting, and plan the production around it. The actors stayed in character no matter where we were and the camera operators, Ludovic Cileo and Rémy Cizeron did whatever it took to get a shot while Sam and his team captured sound. Throughout, Liz helped me make it all happen.
Production ran for an intensive three weeks and was both exhilarating and exhausting. We always took one hour for lunch because in France this is sacred. Nevertheless, I lost a pound a day (even with good lunches) and never felt more alive. I left knowing we had the Lyon portion of the film “in the can” and the footage looked amazing.
Returning to California to shoot the rest of the film had its own challenges, personal and professional. After some major life adjustments, which, for me, informed and underscored the importance of the film and achieving one’s dream, the U.S. production came together with a great cast and crew.
Robert Rich generously offered us any music from his 30 albums, and Ultimae Records (Sandrine and Vince), the largest ambient record label in Europe, offered their extensive catalog as well. Other music artists came on board such as Michael Stearns, Radio Citizen, Andrew Souter, David Hughes, Zinovia, and God is an Astronaut. The result is we were able to curate an amazing soundtrack for Mandorla that feels as if it were composed for the film.
After key visual effects came together with Jordan Freda & Co. it was time for sound, one of my favorite parts of the film and storytelling process. Our mix at Skywalker Sound was very special, thanks to Randy Thom (his essay “Designing A Movie For Sound” is a must read), Shaun Farley, Zach Martin, Jon Null, Josh Lowden and team. Living and working a week at Skwalker Ranch, seeing the film come to life in the serenity of Lucas Valley, among sound legends like Randy Thom, Walter Murch, and Ben Burtt was in itself a dream come true for me.
After some magical color grading at Color-a-Go-Go with Kent Pritchett and Kim Salyer, our film was at last ready to show.
Mandorla premiered at the 2015 Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. It was there in Dubuque, in the heart of the American heartland, that we first began to see Mandorla connect with audiences. After every screening, people came up to Liz and I and said they felt we had put their own life and challenges on the screen. They said they felt the conflict between their inner world of dreams and spirit and the harsh outer world of reality. To see your film connect with an audience is one of the most gratifying things a filmmaker can experience.
Mandorla went on to win Best San Francisco Film at the San Francisco film awards, and an award of merit at the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles. It was too late to be part of the ILLUMINATE Film Festival in Sedona, Arizona, but we were invited nonetheless to develop our next film in their inaugural incubator program, called Conscious Cinema Accelerator, which connected us with seasoned film industry professionals that were generous with their guidance.
In July we thought about screening the film for our cast, crew, friends, and family in Lyon, where it all started. We reached out to movie theaters in early August and were reminded that France is closed in August. Everybody’s on holiday.
It was difficult to find a modest-sized theater (80 seats or so) that was within our limited budget, but Alain Blazquez, our fearless actor, and others took up the challenge.
On the day we are to fly to France, Alain writes to say he reached out to Serge Tachon and Aurélie Malfroy-Camine at the Rhône-Alpes Studios and Film Commission. They were happy to provide Studio 24, which is a Hollywood-sized professional soundstage and theater with 450 seats(!!!). This was a large space to fill, but Liz and I hit the ground running, spreading the word to all cast, crew, friends, family, and fellow artists in the region to join us. And they did!
Pierre-Loïc Précausta and Camille Geoffray of Lumières-Numériques delivered our finished DCP (Digital Cinema Package) and people filled the theater. We told them that Mandorla was a personal journey within, and invited them to see for themselves. Afterward people came up and told us how they were touched by the story, and how they identified with it. Like Dubuque and elsewhere, this is our audience. If you are reading this maybe you are a part of it too?
Our plan now is to put together a limited tour in the US and Europe to screen Mandorla to audiences who want to see it. If you are interested, send us a note.
Mandorla will be released through digital channels (iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, and our own site) in March of 2016.
Stay in touch!
*Lyrics to "Time Stand Still" by Niel Peart, Rush.
All laurels to date, all the credits we could fit, and a touch of 16th century alchemy, which suits the old city of Lyon, St. Jean, awaiting across the Saône river. Credit goes to Liz for some nice touches of art direction here.
I've been looking for a place to bring it back. Here it is the final image placed in our poster.
Onward now to create final film files. Our friends at Lumieres Numeriques at the Rhone Alpes Studios in Lyon need them to create our long-awaited DCP (Digital Cinema Package) so we can project our film in digital theaters.
Yes, we some screenings coming up! More on that soon!
Creating a movie poster is actually as fun as you may think it would be. So, time flew by this week and it seems we got little else done. We decided to test the new poster design on some trusted "friends of the film" that have always given us their honest opinion. Here's what a couple of them had to say:
"I would say it tells the story well, in an abstract way. Overall - a good representation. I still think the original poster is more potent and more mysterious."
"I absolutely love it! The warm colors, the rich textures...honestly, it's so consistent with the cinematographic theme within the movie. Even the movement of the lines...it's all in synch with the Mandorla image and the movements of Ernesto's journey both upwards and inwards throughout the movie. In general, it definitely works as the "grabber" first sentence of any essay I'd want to read....or in this case, watch ;)"
What are your thoughts? Is this poster better than the last?
Send us a mail and let us know what YOU think!
This is a special moment. Any laurel from a film festival will help get a film noticed. Three suggests that a film is worthy of consideration.
We are now working to have screenings of Mandorla in the fall in France, the US, Canada, Brazil, Italy, England and will then prepare to release via digital channels.
Mandorla's new trailer has just been finished and is being well received! Have a look for yourself on Vimeo, YouTube, or right here (subtitles available in French and Spanish, use CC) and then send us a note and let us know what you think?
And now, saving the best for last, the big news.
PAUL ZAENTZ PRESENTS MANDORLA
Paul Zaentz produced, along side his uncle Saul, some of the most memorable and intelligent American and international cinema of our time: Amadeus, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, The English Patient, and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Some time ago, I gave Paul a copy of Mandorla to view when he had time. I didn't hear anything back for several months, which is understandable. Paul is a very busy fellow—developing an exciting new film project, tending many of The Zaentz Film Company's film properties, and, few people actually know this, the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, which they've owned since 1976. Yep. You read that right. The portal to Middle Earth resides in the shire of Berkeley!
A few weeks ago I received a message from Paul. He had just watched Mandorla and was moved by the film on a personal level. It was the same reaction we had from people who spoke to us after screenings at the Julien Dubuque International Film festival.
I told Paul our goal for Mandorla is for it to be seen by as many people as possible so that others may have the same experience. To help with that, and help Mandorla get the awareness and consideration it needs, I asked Paul if he would consider "presenting" the film. This is something rare among filmmakers, and something he has never done. Paul said he would be honored to have his name on the film. Without question, the honor is mine.
I shared this news with an email to a well-regarded film festival director and programmer. They wrote back (the same day) with congratulations and an invitation to submit the film for their consideration, and they waived the entry fee (also rare in filmmaking). Other festivals followed suit. Thank you, Paul.
The plan ahead, after fall festivals, is to release Mandorla in late October or November, so you too can see this film.
Meanwhile, stay with us, we have a lot more to share as we go!