Cairo, Egypt

Hello my dear friends,

Yes, Forest and I are in Cairo, Egypt! We are safe and happy creating a fantastic documentary film.
3 days of meeting many wonderful people, finalizing our local crew and Egyptian cast, quite a task in itself. To remind you, we are bringing Americans and their families on a free trip to Egypt so that they can experience this place for themselves, creating a feature documentary around it.

Every single person we met here has been an absolute delight (minus one … more on that later). This is my very first time in Egypt and first time directing such a large crew and cast. Talk about going from 0 to 60 in a few seconds.
The gratitude that I feel for this project, Egypt and the people I’m working with is propelling me forward at a dizzying speed.

The reason why we’re here now is to arrange for the big trip later this summer, part of which includes location scouting. Yesterday we went to the pyramids, which brings me to the “minus one” person.


There is a bit of a fiasco at the gates to the pyramids because they closed at 4pm due to Ramadan. As a result of a flurry of loudly spoken Arabic words exchanged by our people and the gate keepers we end up in horse-drawn buggies going to somewhere outside the pyramids for a “nice view.” The ride is intense and beautiful. We are going through the suburb of Giza, a colorful and dense region populated by many smiling faces, horses and camels.

We start climbing the desert hills. Our driver and horse have a good working relationship, the horse is allowed to rest when he needs to. It is quite beautiful, they way the understand each other without words or the violent whip. I can’t say the same for the other driver. He is cruel and ruthless and he breaks his whip on the horse’s haunch. We get to our vista point I am in tears. I want to free the horse, tend to his bloody cuts and send his oppressor as far away as possible. But I cannot. The torturer is a young man. He knows how I feel and I don’t know if that makes him prouder of his power or gives him a second thought about his actions.

The view of the pyramids is stunning and impressive. The sacred and the suffering seem to have a lot in common, don’t they? I don’t have it in me to get a smiling photo of myself in front of the pyramids. I just stand there and let it all mix in with the strong wind that wipes my tears.


When our American travelers arrive, they will not be taking the horse and buggies to the pyramids.

There’s loads more to share with you but I’ve already written a lot so I’ll close here, but not before I share with you our latest music video, below. Hope you find inspiration and joy in it. I know we do. 🙂

Sending you much love and a warm embrace from the Egyptian sun.

Now Or Never

Forest Sun’s new single, “Now or Never” with Gawain Mathews and Kyle Caprista.

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It’s a wrap

I am writing you from my cousin’s house in Georgia. We arrived in the USA 3 days ago, a little tattered, me with an ear infection and Forest exhausted from the 10-day trip all over Romania right before we got on the plane. Driving over there is a real battle, especially when the car brakes down in the middle of your journey. It was crazy!

As I look back on Romania, my heart is filled with gratitude for all that it had to hold. We had incredible experiences, frustrating times and difficult journeys. Looking into the vampire/strigoi stories was much like pulling the curtain and peering into the darkness of our human souls. I am not only referring to the belief in “evil” but also to our capacity to exclude and demonize others for simply being different.
At times, we may need supernatural language to interpret someone’s cruel and unusual actions. Lots of thoughts …

From my investigations and filming, it’s difficult to conclude on whether there are such things as supernatural creatures and powers. There’s enough evidence to prove both sides. I look forward to editing the film and sharing it with you.

On to new adventures … a new movie!

As we were wrapping up filming our vampire/strigoi film in Romania, a dear friend of ours recommended us for an unusual project. A Swiss entrepreneur wants to take six American families on a free vacation to Egypt. He has no political affiliation or religious agenda. He simply wants to offer this trip to people who are concerned about our country’s and the world’s safety when it comes to Muslims and show them the Egyptian culture. There’s a saying: “If we can have a war of words then we can avoid a real war.”

Where do I fit in? I was asked to be the director of the film. Can you believe it? Me, lil’ ol’ me. Forest is producing.
As a filmmaker I am thrilled to be directing another feature film!
As a human, my heart is eager to contribute towards acts of kindness and understanding.

We’re in the process of casting right now so if you know someone who’d like to come on the trip, let me know. I would love to get someone from Chicago.

Thank you for reading.

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Ingrid

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Last film of 2016

dsc00491One of the Romanian customs says that you can and should wish everyone a happy new year during the month of January. Today is the last day. Happy New Year!

I know it’s been a tumultuous end of the year and an even more divisive new year. I still hold true that stories bind us together and remind us of our own common ground and humanity.

With Forest helping, I’ve been working on the big film, the vampire documentary. Three weeks left in Romania. I find myself flirting with the feeling of panic. Did I do a good enough job so far? Will I finish capturing everything that this film needs? Is it even going to make sense?
This feeling is ever available during the creative process. I try to see it as a friend and an opportunity to trust and move forward.

Part of the reason for my making a different short film for every month of this year is to repeatedly face all of feelings of the creative process and linger not in their embraces.

Movement is key.

Can you believe I did it? The challenge is completed. 12 short films in a year! Done! That feels good.

Start thinking about your favorite 4 films that I made this year. I’ll polish them and then … we can submit them to festivals and beyond!

Last thing I’m going to say before I part the curtains and show you this month’s strigoi short film (my first of the suspense genre) is that the title of the film, this new Chinese year of the rooster and my starting this challenge right after last Chinese year is a coincidence. Or is it?

Sending you love and gratitude.
Write back when you can.

Ingrid

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PS. The photo above is from the village of Arghis. Over 600 years ago, Vlad Dracula himself was here, perhaps leaving his footsteps on this very road.

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Anuta

With 2016 waving goodbye and 2017 quickly approaching, here I am, running towards you with my latest offering; movie 11 of 12, “Anuta.”

I met Anuţa (pronounced Anutza) on the vampire search trail which took us north of Transyvania, in Maramures. I feel in love with her within the first 2 minutes of meeting her. As soon as she shared her love of singing, I asked her to sing for me. It became clear that she would be the subject of my December film.

Maybe it’s ego centric to see one’s life in the reflection of another but she made me think of what my life would have been like had my parents refused to let me go to music school.

I love this woman for the beauty of her soul, the delicate and mesmerizing sound of her voice and for the fact that she lives with ardor and an uncompromising sense of self. As she might wish she took a different path in life, my wish is that I may be as strong and graceful as she is.

And while I’m wishing, here’s a wish for you.
May 2017 bring you health, joy, strength and wonder.

I am grateful for you!

love,
Ingrid

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A Blue Christmas

Sending joy and gladness on this day of Christmas celebration.

I was going to wait and write you at the end of the month, as usual, when I send you that month’s film but the  falling snow made me think of sending you some love today. We really are having a white Christmas.

Forest and I recorded our version of Blue Christmas. With an accordion. We had a lot of fun making this video. Hope it brings a smile to your face as well.

I’ll talk to you soon! In less than a week when I send you movie #11 of my movie challenge. How this year has flown by!

So grateful for you!

PS. Our outfits above are the typical clothes people in the north or Romania wear during the holidays. This region is called Maramures and it is magical. I got quite a bit of footage up there for the vampire movie! I could tell you so much more but I’ll save it for another time. The only thing I want to say is that the women in Maramures are unapologetically powerful. I was moved to tears. More on that later. ….

forest-sun-ingrid-serban-blue-christmas

Blowing Candles

Sometimes I like to start my letters to you by stating the obvious. Just so that you can say, “I know, right?”

It’s the last day of November and I’m still in Romania chasing vampires.

For this month’s film, I had a couple of road blocks so I ended up creating something quite different than what I had in mind. My intention was to make a short film about a gravedigger philosopher. He agreed to it 2 weeks ago but kept having stuff come up. He was either on the barricades or in the trenches, as he put it, and I was to call him again the next day after 3 pm. Repeatedly. I even agreed to go to his 4 am church service where I was to learn how to never die. I’m not talking about the typical resurrection. It’s the other typical method: just don’t die at all.
I’m joking here a bit but in all seriousness he did have a compelling argument, which is why I wanted to tell you his story. I’m still planning on interviewing him for the big movie. Speaking of, I’m posting weekly video updates here. http://bit.ly/VampireFilmVideoUpdates

Instead of giving you serious and deep thoughts to ponder this month, I am offering you something much more useful. Have you ever had trouble blowing out candles? Then you will relate. If you are an expert, then you can watch this and feel good about, well, being an expert.

ingrid-serban-blowing-candles

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Sergiu

I am writing you all the way from Romania. It’s a chilly evening. We may get snow tonight. I can smell it in the air. Funny how I’ve been gone from here for almost 18 years but I can still recognize the smell of winter.

Today I walked to the market with my mom. We bought lots of flowers and candles. Tomorrow we go to the cemetery to remember my grandparents and great grandparents. There will be lots of light candles on the graves; to show them the way to us, for that one embrace a year. It’s my first iluminatie in many years.

It’s been non-stop for the past 8+ weeks. I launched the Kickstarter campaign for the feature documentary of vampires and thanks to you, we blew it out of the water. Then Forest and I played a live set at Pandora Radio in Oakland and immediately after went to Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, KS where we made so many new amazing friends and got very little sleep.
From there we flew straight to Romania and I began working on my October film.
Then we got sick with colds, then we traveled up the Carpathian Mountains to get footage for the big movie and now, we’re home so I can finish editing the short film, write to you and film the day of the dead today.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey. It’s so much more beautiful because I get to share it with you.

sergiu-cioban-ingrid-serban-film

I’ve always loved shepherds. As a child, I admired them fearfully from afar. Like bus drivers, shepherds were superhuman in my imagination. The kinds of guardians of life that are to be respected and not quite understood.

Making this film is a dream come true for me. Sergiu who was a poor outcast had the love for his sheep to propel him forward. I wanted to keep the film short so I couldn’t include all of the stories he told me. He once spent a whole bitter winter in a cave with his sheep so he could save them from the communist government. He used to steal into the village at night and get wine from my grandparents so he could make his polenta with it. That’s how he kept warm, he says.

A man who loves his sheep above all else.

Love,
Ingrid

PS. Sergiu asked me if I could print a 3ft x 3ft laminated copy of this photo of him. I said I would. 🙂

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