Transilvania Frumoasa

Little movie keeps going …

“Hello Ingrid. Thank you so much for allowing us to share your beautiful film. All enjoyed and had a poignant discussion after the film. We shared your quotes with the audience and also showed the film twice before we discussed it. The international film festival here in Carson City NV looks forward to more of Goat Lips Productions !!  Please keep in touch if you have time. Best regards. Linda”
TF Poster


It’s the end of February! I always like telling you when we are. We are in the year 2018, approaching March in a whirlwind of events, of ups and downs …

I’m sharing a little bit of good news. “Transilvania Frumoasa” was featured at the Carson City International Film Festival. The letter above came from the director of the festival. Being appreciated never gets old. (Thank you to everyone who’s joined this prestigious group, my mailing list so you could watch the film.)

You can watch this short documentary, a simple love poem for my birth place, here: https://vimeo.com/ingridserbanfilms/transilvaniafrumoasa with the password myplace

“Transilvania Frumoasa” (Transylvania the Beautiful) is my first short documentary, made on an Iphone 5. I wanted to say that it was a simpler time back then, seeing that I am now in post production with two feature length documentaries, living by myself in Paris, gearing up to write my next project (the most challenging yet!) … but that time back then, wasn’t simple either. I remember the edit. I had nasty flu, I couldn’t even stand, I was under a crazy deadline … I recorded about 50 takes of the narration. It’s not that long ago but it feels like another lifetime.

I’m keeping this letter short because if I start, it may get really long! All I’m going to say is that this is the most challenging time I have ever experienced, that I’m looking for that space between the “either” and the “or” and that I am experimenting with a new thing: being alone. What a strange challenge. I am grateful for it and for all the film work as well. I am doing what I love with a refining fire blazing around me.


TwelveConsultingChicagoEnd of January, I flew to Chicago to play a show with Forest for these fine people at Twelve Consulting.
They do so much good work in their community.
Jill started the company and her husband Josh joined in.
I am inspired.


What’s next …

  • In 2 days I’m leaving Paris for Oaxaca (via San Francisco for one night. I get to see Forest and smell some redwoods. Ahhh. I can’t wait.)
  • After 5 days of Oaxaca, where I’m doing a rough-cut screening of the Egypt film I will return to San Fran for 10 whole days!
  • Mid March, back to my solo existence in Paris for about 3 more months to finish editing the Egypt film AND the vampire/strigoi documentary.

PS. RIP Ana Misin, the lady on the left on the movie poster.

love,

Ingrid


 

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from the road

After sunshine must come rain.
September 1st rolled in in style, here in Lugano, Switzerland. Yesterday was hot and humid as every summer day we’ve had since we arrived. Then evening came.
A flash of light and a rolling thunder made way for a carousing tempest that raged all night.
Nothing like a storm at the edge of a lake. It feels like a divine dance marked by loud clapping and deep belly laughter. Fiesta, forever!

We have been here in the south of Switzerland for the past 6 weeks, editing the feature documentary we filmed in Egypt this summer. I am very happy with the editor we have on our team. He’s most certainly in the realm of wishes come true when it comes to a working relationship. On top of that, his fiancee has been a real ray of sunshine as we delve in the depths of the footage to find the story.
Forest has been making so many amazing meals for the whole house and jumping in the lake any chance he gets.
We’ve all been living in the same house with rolling guests. My parents came by for a weekend, my friend Caroline from SF for another, Deepa for a day and Tarek our exec has been mostly here but out at times too.
So the core group, consisting of Pierre our editor, Amy, Forest and myself has been holding down the fort.


 

Film Festival Screening

“All Sales Final” is screening at Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema Festival on September 8th @ 10PM.
BAREBOTTLE BREWING COMPANY
1525 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco CA


Concert in Berkeley

Forest Sun and I, joined by the amazing musician and producer Gawain Matthews will be playing a private show for Rosecrest Concerts on Saturday, 9/9

GawainForestIngrid


Paris next …

After just 8 days in the Bay Area, we’re off to Paris for the fall to spend six more weeks on the edit!
At first I felt sad not to come home but then I thought … Paris … the fall … making the movie better …
Although we have been home less than 2 months this year, I am looking forward to being in Paris and polishing this film.
And then, we’ll come home in November. …. and I hopefully and willfully get to finish my vampire film as well.
To sum up the state of my heart and mind, “help and thank you.”

Please write back and tell me how you are.
I always enjoy hearing from you.

Ingrid

PS. To help with the Hurricane Harvey relief I donated to MusiCares. If you’re moved to find out more info about them, you can do so HERE. I am not officially affiliated with MusiCares but I support the work that they do.

For regular updates, join my MAILING LIST.

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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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

To watch this film and the other 2016 monthly films, join my mailing list http://bit.ly/IngridsList

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.

PPS. If you’d like to keep up with my weekly video updates, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. http://bit.ly/VampireFilmVideoUpdates

Strigoi on Kickstarter

I’m early in sending you this month’s film. It’s only the 15th!

I love September 15th. It used to be the first day of school in Romania; the smell of new books, the routine, friends and the feeling of the unknown waiting for me to discover it.
Since I’ve been out of school, I’ve wanted to do something momentous on September 15th. Here I am, doing it. Finally!

With lots of preparation and hard work, I have launched a Kickstarter campaign for my first feature film. The tag line is …

With nothing but a camera and the belief that she will go unharmed, a filmmaker returns to her roots in search of real vampires.

It’s really happening. I am returning to my homeland in search for “Strigoi, The Real Vampires of Transylvania.”

The video I made for the Kickstarter campaign will be my monthly film for September. (I have a mind to make another film this month if I get the chance. So much to do. I have to get ready to speak on a panel at Tallgrass Film Festival next month, I’m helping Forest with his radio campaign for his new album release and I have to still find someone to sublet our place while we’re gone. Oh, and also drawing a vampire goat.)

I would love it if you would check out and share the campaign.
http://bit.ly/StrigoiFilm

I created a twitter account for the film @StrigoiFilm The account’s birthday is September 13th, 1896. Having fun with the details.

kickstarter_logo_light_lrg

love,

Ingrid

CineWomen Interview

Strange, funny, surreal: the playful aesthetics and irony in All Sales Final is a distinctive mark of Ingrid Serban’s filmmaking style. The absurd story of Samuel A. Dillon is rendered in clear, precise images, echoing the oldest forms of cinema. We are pleased to present Ingrid Serban for this year’s CinéWomen Edition. Ingrid, how did you get into filmmaking?

It’s truly an honor to be selected by CinéWomen and I am happy to share a bit of my creative and filmmaking journey with you.

The short answer to this question is this: I had an idea for a story and the irresistible impetus to give it life. I grabbed my IPhone, a tripod and a few brave friends and in seven hours and five locations, we created “All Sales Final.” The longer version of this answer involves a trip back in time to a small town in Romania where I was living with my grandparents. I was about five years old and my grandmother, who was a big fan of Indian cinema, took me to see a three-hour flick at the only film house in town. I was enchanted and didn’t mind the lack of ventilation, the uncomfortable chairs or the sweltering heat of the summer. The colors were brilliant. The music was intoxicating. I decided then that cinema was magic and that I was going to be a part of it somehow.

You have studied piano and voice at the Sigismund Toduta Lycee in Cluj-Napoca. What is the influence of your musical background on your filmmaking style?

When I was about two years old, I knew I wanted to be a pianist. For the next four years, I would pretend to play on my grandmother’s kitchen table and dream of the day when I would touch a real piano. That desire became reality when I was accepted into the prestigious Sigismund Toduta Lycee and my parents had finally saved enough money to buy an old grand piano. We lived on the eighth floor of a communist block building so you can imagine the effort it took to transport it to the top. I was practically dancing around the eight heavily sweating men who were painstakingly dragging it up the one hundred and thirty six steps.

That hundred-year-old piano moved into my room joining the existing sparse décor of a small couch and a bookshelf and became my closest friend, confidante and creative partner. One of my favorite games was making up stories and scoring them as I went. To me filmmaking has a musical rhythm to it, a sort of breath that transports the viewer into a waltz of images, a minuet of stories. Every story is like a song and every song is like a story.

– Improvisation is a fundamental aspect of your art practice aiming less for the traditional and all-round success of a film than at giving each shot a certain emotional quality. Can you tell something about your creative process?

This is a truly wonderful question that captures the essence of what I attempt to create with my storytelling. In improvising I follow my inner compass to uncover what may already be there. I am a miner seeking the treasures already in existence, the gems within and without.

– We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for All Sales Final?

I love notebooks. They hold my dreams, fantasies, stories and those empty pages that always beckon me to be fill them with more. On the morning I wrote “All Sales Final” I woke up thinking about a dream I just had about a hopeless man who didn’t want to live any more and was too scared to end his own life. I thought about several things: the traumatic reality of suicide, the hopelessness that so many of us live with, lack of connection with one another and the effect of love and nature on our psyches. I grabbed a notebook and jotted down these thoughts and the idea of an Elimination Agency whose sole purpose is to eliminate hopeless people. The rest was a matter of assembling the puzzle. Casting is so important for any film and I feel very lucky to have worked with the actors who did an amazing job bringing this tragic comedy to life. Thank you Nathan Benjamin Johnson, Alisa Rose, Lucy, Finn and Dawn Shalhoup and my husband, Forest Sun who not only had a featured role but also co-produced the film.

– The film’s strength lies in its plot. It’s a beautifully told story that succeeds in asking important questions about the weaknesses of our human condition. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?

Storytelling opens a window into one’s soul and the world around, or as Shakespeare once said, “… to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature.”

My chief hope is that in some small way, this film, aside from being entertaining, would remind us who we are and inspire us to live more fully. Hearing film festival audiences laugh out loud has been a true delight. As the opening quote of the film says “Sometimes, to find hope, it is enough to gaze into the face of a single flower.” It takes just one action to set a whole world in motion.

– Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?

There’s an absolute giddiness when I create. I cherish that special moment when my creation exists nowhere else but in my own mind. Then come the notebook, pen and the outpouring of images into words. I write as if I am following a scent, or a secret path I have just discovered. When I create, I feel more like myself than any other time. It’s as if I am walking the path towards my own soul, to a place of pure bliss and play. I am five years old again and I believe in magic.

– Can you tell us something about the sound score?

I love talking about the music of “All Sales Final.” It was pure joy from the very beginning to the end.

Unbeknownst to him, Wynton Marsalis sparked the collaboration that created the score of “All Sales Final.” I had recently reconnected with a dear friend and former band mate, Scott Steiner, who invited us to Wynton’s show at the San Francisco Jazz Center. Sitting in the theater waiting for the show to start, it occurred to me that Scott is a film sound designer. I told him about the project and a week later we were in the studio. As I watched the film on the screen and played an improvised score on the beautiful grand piano I was reminded of my childhood stories and my dear old piano. As C. G. Jung beautifully states, “the creative mind plays with the objects it loves. ”

– All Sales Final contains a clear reference to the silent era. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?

Growing up, I didn’t watch a lot of television. There was a Russian cartoon about a rabbit and a cigarette-smoking wolf, some Laurel and Hardy skits and a few Charlie Chaplin films, all of which no doubt left an imprint on my creativity. In silent film, I appreciate the tight embrace of comedy and tragedy, the highly expressive emotional moments, and the speed at which everything happens; just a little faster than life, like a heartbeat rushing to catch up.

Everything influences my creative output. Rather than ascribing to individual people’s styles, I am more of a collector of moments. As in a pool, I gather sensations, sounds, images, ideas and then I let them churn and swirl and meet each other. When the time is right, something pops up for me to grab and create anew.

There are so many filmmakers I admire. Wes Anderson creates a world of magical realism filled with delightful and quirky characters. Guillermo del Toro takes dark dreams and makes them beautiful and grand. Quentin Tarantino is bold, brilliant and epic. Matthew Vaughn is a giant of storytelling who brings powerful myths to the screen in a breathtaking way. Francis Ford Coppola is a poet of the soul. Peter Bogdanovich is a master of both comedy and drama and a friend and mentor to me when I lived in Los Angeles. Peter showed me how to organize a story with sticky notes on a wall and we watched all of Cary Grant’s films together.

I am truly inspired by the talented independent filmmakers working today whom I’m proud to call friends: Richie Adams, Phillip Thomas, Marsha Baxter, Luis Bordonada, Tom and Sandi Anton, Marco Antonio Martinez, Alejandro Montoya Marin to name a few.

My choice in creating “All Sales Final” as a silent movie was deliberate. This being my first film I felt that my own filmmaking endeavor should begin like cinema itself; silent with a simple piano score.

– Thanks for sharing your time, Ingrid, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What’s next for Ingrid Serban? Have you a particular film in mind?

Thank you again for speaking with me and asking these thoughtful questions.

Very soon after I finished “All Sales Final,” I had the worrying thought that maybe this was it, that maybe I just had the one story to tell.  I am happy to report that this has not been the case. More stories are lined up in various stages of production. We just finished shooting the pilot for “Death in North Beach” a murder mystery short series set in the historic section of San Francisco with the same name. I recently acted in a short film under the direction of the brilliant Cassie Jaye called “Who’s There?” set to join the festival circuit this fall. The San Francisco Film Society is supporting me in creating a feature documentary about vampires, “Strigoi, the Real Vampires of Transylvania.” I am also writing a short film to be shot in Japan as well as a short film trilogy set in 1980’s communist Romania.

If you’d like to stay in touch with me and find out about my upcoming projects, please do so either through my website http://www.ingridserban.com or on the social media platforms @ingridserban.

Murder in North Beach

Hello,

I hope this letter finds you well. Along with this month’s film I’ll give you a quick recap of the month.

I’ve been preparing some more for making our feature documentary about vampires. As it stands now, I’d like to go film it in the fall and winter in Romania.
I had a great meeting with 2 doc filmmakers I really admire whose latest film was featured by the New Yorker as part of their new film series on Amazon. Zach and Alyssa are super cool and knowledgeable and very generous with their expertise.

Last week, I was hired to go and direct/film a feature doc in the Santa Cruz mountains. That was crazy! I learned and sweated A LOT. I can tell you more about that later.


And now, to the business at hand, this month’s film: Murder in North Beach.
I love a good murder mystery. I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie, especially of her “Hercule Poirot” series, of AC Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” (I really like the 80’s British series with Jeremy Brett) and the Australian series “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” on Netflix.

Murder in North Beach by Ingrid Serban and Cassie Jaye

This film is only available to people on my mailing list. If you’d like to join, email me and I’ll add you and send you the password to watch this film.

How it all began:
One evening, I went over to my neighbor Kristie’s house. I was hanging out in her kitchen and just couldn’t get over the lighting in there. It was so perfect! I took a few photos that night and decided to do something there. A few days later, I woke up with an idea. I went to my desk and wrote it; a murder mystery short film to take place in my friend’s kitchen. You can imagine my excitement at this little wish come true. I wrote a part for myself in it too so the playfulness of this project just went up another notch. And it does’t stop there! As I’m writing and thinking about names for my characters, it’s very clear to me that the name of the victim should be Ms. Molinari.
A couple of days later I’m walking down the street and I happen to look up just in time to see Molinari’s Delicatessen in large letters on a wall. Chills and giddiness and meant-to-be-ness!

Murder in North Beach, short film

Long story short, I asked my dear friend Cassie Jaye to co-direct with me (she is my favorite director ever) and Evan Davies to be the cinematographer. Allie Larkin whom I love like a sister googled special effects makeup techniques and did a pro-job on Ms. Molinari’s neck as well as script supervised. Forest played the role of the detective, made lentil soup for everyone and is also the music supervisor.
I asked Kristie who’s kitchen we filmed in to play the leading role and the other neighbors to play either themselves or the dead body.
Scott Steiner recorded all the dialogue and lent us his house to shoot the murder scene in.
No one had acted before! It was crazy fun.

Murder in North Beach, a short film by Ingrid Serban and Cassie Jaye

Challenges we worked with:

Evan had pulled a muscle in his thigh and was in a lot of pain but  still carried a heavy camera with no easy rig AND pulled focus all by himself. He’s a super human!
Not having acting experience on a film set poses all kinds of challenges too. I love working with non-actors.

The craziest challenge of it all was that Kristie worked for … I still don’t know what it’s called, but some sort of place where they take dead people and “process” them for organ donations. Not pretty. Just as we started filming someone died in strange circumstances and Kristie had to do her job. Imagine shooting scenes in-between phone calls to mortuaries, a crazy boss yelling at her over the phone and a possible real ghost floating about. Kristie was a trooper!

Murder in North Beach, a short film by Ingrid Serban and Cassie Jaye

All that said, the production was really fun for us and the neighbors, Evan’s leg recovered and I would work again with these guys in a heart beat.
I would really like to re-write this story in a longer format, maybe a 20-minute episode. Or turn it into a series? What do you think?
It’s not perfect, but it’s a sketch of something we’d like to create later down the line.
I had a lot of fun acting. Hope to do that again soon. I’ll talk to the writer and see what she can do. 😉

Thank you SO much again for watching these films and giving me your feedback!
I think it’s time to think about festivals.
Which one is your favorite film so far?

love,
Ingrid

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