Tuesday, November 15, 2005

November 15, 2005

Well I have been remiss in blogging regularly. I think I just have been stymied about ways to get this documentary more widely screened, plus trying to get interest moving for the organization I founded, Friends of Film, Video and Arts Foundation, a National Heritage Foundation. Spearheading so much at this time may have just tired me. Plus the bizaree politics around me are draining too most days. It can be like fighting a fog.

Everything creative, new or innovative takes so much energy, and sometimes I just run out of it, which seems to have happened this past month or so. I thought my weeks in Canada would provide me a break from thinking, scheming and planning how to make things happen in the documentary/film world, but quite honestly, I did not get recharged the way I had hoped.

Sometimes I just wish I had a clear trade or profession, like being a plumber or a dentist. Then what I had to do each day would be obvious and fairly straightforward. But in independent filmmaking, it seems the ground shifts everyday. Right now the biggest shifting seems around marketing and distribution. There are some fine models being explored like how Robert Greenwald is distributing his documentary "Wal-Mart, the high cost of low price". I'll be hosting one of the over 7000 community screenings across the country this week. I think that is a great way to release one's work, and get the excitement and buzz going. And as a filmmaker, one is in charge of the distribution, in getting others on board, rather than waiting for a large distributor or cinema chain to say yea or nay. It seems the larger, business as usual models aren't in touch with what the viewer wants or needs. And either the system in place adapts or it becomes passe and is replaced by something that fits the here and now.

Funny how just the name of my documentary Why Get Married? is now starting to get me in touch with people I know from my past. Just a few days ago I got an email from a University friend I haven't seen since the late 70's. She'd been doing an internet search for a project she's writing, and found my website. The internet can make the world a more accessible place certainly. That call was a bright spot in my day for sure.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Santa Fe, New Mexico Premiere of Why Get Married?

September 6 Screening in Santa Fe

I am learning that each audience and each audience's reaction to this documentary is VERY different, and yet equally dynamic. After the Q and A of this screening, I did feel a bit churned up. Certainly the personal nature of some of the questions can be challenging, and I guess, for some reason that night I wasn't totally ready. The discussion was lively, and many long-time single women approached me to say seeing this documentary offered them comfort and some real "gems" to ponder. I guess we never know how our work will affect another.

The following day of the screening, I received this email:

"I was there last night and utterly enjoyed your film. RE: questions and answers section, I want to tell you how much I admired your courage and honesty in being both humorous, forthright about the deep waters of the personal aspect of the film for you, and not defensive about feedback. I do think you looked a little uncomfortable in your shots and that's okay. Some of your buddies seemed to leap to your defense when someone mentioned you looked uncomfortable. So what? the glory of being human is to reveal all facets. Good for you!!! I wish you all success.
Linda "

I have never considered myself courageous in wrestling with this title and project, yet I appreciate her words A LOT and am considering them. It just seemed important to explore this question.
And I WAS uncomfortable in my on-camera interview. Yet we used most of the shots for the voice over in which I speak of the pain of divorce, both my own and my parents. For me, that is painful. I figured my lack of comfort was candid, real and maybe even uncomfortable to watch. For me, it is fitting based on how divorce has felt to me. But it isn't a usual visual to choose I know.
I was resistant to being in this documentary, hoping I'd be able to have the story follow someone else. Yet as the edit deadline approached, it became clear I needed to insert myself as a way to help the 30 conversations hang together. Actually the number of times I tried not to carry on with this project after one set back or another, somehow it always came to the forefront again, begging to be finished.

And it isn't finished. This is just the beginning, as many audience members keep saying. My part of the Why Get Married? question feels finished for me. BUT there are a million voices and stories to hear, all around the world. And those are conversations I really want to have.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Churning with Ideas

August 10, 2005 Wednesday

The reality is that I have a lot of support and people interested in the "to be or not to be" married question. I just have to give people a structure so that they CAN help me, like participate in an ipod interview, host a gathering of potential sponsors, or donate us a good working DV/HD camera. Angels would be nice too.

It appears an independent producer must have at least 4 projects moving at once. One is in development, and one in each stage of production, just so that when there is down time you move to the next, back and forth, and something is always being developed and something always being marketed and distributed. I look forward to the day I am not responsible for all phases of every project yet at this stage it is the only way.

August 9 , 2005 Tuesday

I keep spinning in circles. It seems I have so much I want to see happen for Why Get Married? from more documentaries, to a TV Series, and even traveling community screenings as part of Q and A sessions, music, food, even some improv led by talented director friends. None of these ideas are exclusive of one another. My brain just gets tired sometimes thinking through all the steps required, including the business and administration side.

BUT today feels more lively and inspiring. I have had some good chats with other filmmakers and producers in Albuquerque this past week. I am feeling more encouraged, both about fundraising efforts and broadcast possibilities. Still more scheming required and figuring out, but it is nice to feel buoyed by more hope than usual.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

My First Review!!

July 7, 2005

My first review for the documentary appeared today. How exciting. I went onto local writer Gene Grant's blog today and finally there was his review of Why Get Married? Naturally when Gene announced he was going to watch and review each short and feature that was part of the 40 hours worth of flicks of NM Filmmakers Week I figured there'd be some lag time between viewing and review. And now, here it is. (See Links for more information.)

“Why Get Married?” Come to Think of It…
Review by Gene Grant, Writer/Film guy/sometime producer

..why the hell DO we get married?! That’s the strength of this doc by Anne Stirling. It’s a wicked forehead slap. What the heck is our problem?

Backing up a second. I may have called some previous film the best attended of the week. I’d like to rescind that because THIS film was easily the best attended. There was a line down the street for Christ Sake, and the place was packed inside, including many of the doc participating couples/singles interviewed.

The many and complicated layers to this question was explored wonderfully through a series of interviews here in New Mexico and in Newfoundland, Stirling's place of birth. If there’s any commonality in this world, it’s pain. You really couldn’t tell much of a difference between the Newfies and us on what makes this whole thing so mysterious and difficult. I liked seeing that.

I think Stirling is on to something here. I’d dearly like to see KNME screen this, with a panel/audience (call in?) discussion of some sort following. This was really thought provoking. The best part for her is it has legs. She could dig into many little layers here forever.

Good way to end the night. And so goes Tuesday's screenings.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Successful First Screening! Albuquerque, NM

June 29, 2005

Last night was the first public screening of Why Get Married? I feel energized. The audience laughed in places I hadn't imagined would be funny yet it was great to hear. I guess you just can't always tell while you're editing what others will find funny. The Guild theatre in downtown Albuquerque seats 140 and it felt packed. A large audience changes how a film feels when viewing it. It was great.

I was nervous beforehand. I wasn't sure I was even going to attend. Although I am now used to seeing myself on the screen and sharing some of my marriage story, it still exposes one to public opinion. To people who don't know you, don't have to care about your story or how you feel, that is a personal risk.

But it seemed to me that the theme of Why Get Married? is universal, and no matter how I touched on this subject it also allows the viewers to connect with their own story, issues or concerns around marriage. And that is all I have wanted all along... for people to begin asking themselves Why Get Married? no matter the answer. Ruminate on the question to find your own answer.

I was warmed as I sat at the back of the dark theatre and heard people chuckle, and also the quiet of their listening. And the clapping. And the energy.

I am always touched when those interviewed in-front-of-the camera come to watch it again and bring their friends. That seems the biggest tribute of all really. As a documentarian it is important that I tell a story as true as I know how, and that I have been worthy of the trust bestowed on me. I don't see my point of view or my perspective as being THE only or the right one but I come to my own point of view when others share theirs with me. So my films will always be about that I imagine... listening to multiple points of views as I figure out my own.

Even though we finished the documentary in January and have been submitting it to film festivals in Canada and the USA, last night felt like the real "birth" of the documentary for me. Or maybe the public recognition that the baby is alive, well and ready to walk.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Independent Bride ++

June 8, 2005

I continued questioning myself and my discontent within my marriage, and what it was to be "wife" even after my divorce, looking for some solace. I found Susan Maushart's book "Wifework". It was illuminating for me. Finally I had words and context for what I had been experiencing. It was the first bit of peace I had felt during my quest to understand why I was so unhappy as a married woman. I had married a nice and good man. I was nice and good. Why didn't I feel like we had a nice and good marriage?

Once I decided to produce a documentary on Why Get Married? I found this Indie Bride site. I was surprised yet encouraged that such a site existed, for brides-to-be to contemplate the "real" deal, rather than the white fantasy. I was delighted to also discover an interview with author Maushart's on this site for brides- to -be. How great is that?

Quite honestly, I am not sure if I had read a book like Maushart's before deciding to marry if it would have helped me realize I was not the type who would flourish inside of marriage. I don't know. I certainly do believe we each learn a lot of good stuff when we are in a long-term, healthy relationship. I have come to realize it still is important for me to experience a healthy,caring, long-term relationship. I just doubt marriage will be part of the structure.

I imagine for many women who have financial independence the interest in a relationship for them is less about property, security, status, having children or even legal issues. Primarily they just want decent companionship and emotional connection with their mate.

My husband-to-be and I did talk about what we expected and wanted within and from the marriage. Since our early months of dating, we had talked of "co-creating" a relationship together that would meet our respective needs yet may not resemble any relationship we had had before, or perhaps even seen. Yet somewhere between walking up the aisle and walking back down the aisle, it seemed marital assumptions kicked in. Things like "this is what a wife or a husband does", or the outside world started pushing in their assumptions and decrees upon us.

Being raised by a single Mom, I am not aware of having had traditional views about marriage, what it should "look" like and the gender roles to be played. I just saw it as a deeper commitment, and a way to build more emotional closeness. Yet for me, the "institution" of marriage seemed to put our previously good relationship at odds. Weird, as we were both in our early 40's and statistically speaking, late marriages are supposed to have a higher rate of success, meaning lasting a lifetime.

So based on the statistics, assumptions and societal mixed messages I was receiving, I started a quest to uncover the answer to Why Get Married? I am still questing.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


June 1, 2005 Wednesday

I am becoming more and more intrigued with the same sex couple point of view to Why Get Married? In the United States there is a huge fight over whether two consenting adults have the right to marry, or whether marriage is to be defined as between a man and a woman. In Canada, marriage has been broadened in understanding and gays marry legally if they choose.

In both Canada and the U.S. divorce rates are rising. In some parts of the states it is almost 60%. I can't see how how a rising divorce rate says heterosexual marriages are succeeding. Something is changing.

Our culture is changing for sure, and the structure of marriage, the institution of marriage is slow to catch up. We still are "sold" or have unrealistic ideas and fantasies about marriage, relationship and happiness. I found that confusing.

The reality shows about bachelors, bachelorettes and weddings scare me. What does that tell our 18 year olds about marriage and relationship? That it is a game show? Probably.

Funny, now that women have more choices and freedoms than say in the 1960's, more are choosing to not marry, even if they choose to be in a long-term relationship or have children. Many say they don't want to be a "wife". Does "husband" have the same stigma I wonder?

Regarding choosing a fulfilling life, I guess each of us must "pioneer" what makes sense for ourselves individually, or as part of a couple. If someone wants to marry his/her beloved it should be a choice he/she has whether they exercise it or not .

June 2, 2005 Thursday

What is a successful marriage? Is it one that lasts until death (natural causes of course) do us part? Is it a success if it is mostly happy and when it ends it is amicable? Are we expecting too much from our spouse? Are we realistic in our expectations of marriage?

Maybe marriage is just something some of us choose in our life, some don't, some stay with one partner for 50 years, some have 7 marriages, and marriage means something different to each person in it. There is no universal, understood definition. It would be like saying there is one kind of politician, or lawyer, or pope, or way to run an organization. (Well we could say it, but it wouldn't be accurate.)

For some, marriage seems to be a committed, sacred practice. For others it is something to do in Las Vegas at 2a.m. for a lark. For some marriage is all about having a family. For others marriage represents a way to commit deeply to another person. And some already in love and committed only marry for the pension and other benefits. Not romantic but practical I suppose.

I guess I am just trying to look at what works about marriage versus creating a healthy relationship outside of it. What benefits can 2 partners have emotionally inside a marriage that they wouldn't be able to replicate outside of marriage? And vice versa?

Oh, I do have lots of questions which is why more Why Get Married? documentaries are in the works. I have so much curiousity about relationships and choices we make.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

WHY GET MARRIED? Let's talk.


May 24, 2005

I just found out that Why Get Married?, my first documentary, will be part of New Mexico Filmmakers Week at The Guild Theatre in downtown Albuquerque the last week of June. Yippee! Half of the doc was shot in Albuquerque so it is fun that more folks will get to see it, and maybe they'll recognize someone in it.

I have no idea of how it will be received or if it will take on a life of its' own. It is the weirdest process to "birth" a film. I guess it is different for every filmmaker. Laurence Z., the editor, and I worked tirelessly from mid-November to mid-January, in order to meet a Toronto Documentary Film Festival deadline in early 2005. And we completed it in time.

Sadly we didn't get accepted into the main festival but the documentary was part of a sidebar event called Doc Shop, along with 1,200 other productions, all listed in a catalogue for interested viewers to mosey through. I guess the title, Why Get Married? gets attention, so there has been some interest from distributors already. So we shall see where that leads.

I just want folks to see the documentary and get a chance to really consider all the various points of views and experiences presented. It is such a large question, so complicated, and each marriage or relationship or choice not to be married is as unique within it as the individuals themselves.

What I really like is that this question and quest seem ongoing and intriguing to most people. When I tell folks what I do and the name of this doc, it launches a whole discussion that I often don't need to do a thing to keep moving. EVERYONE has a great story that I could imagine making into a film. The tricky part is finding the money so I can just keep making various versions of Why Get Married?, illuminating varying points of view and life experiences.

May 25, 2005

I felt very blessed in producing this documentary. As I looked for some answers and clarity following my own divorce, I got the chance to sit down with couples, experts and singles to talk on a deeper level about a topic that intrigued me. Why get married if, as was my experience, it felt so alien? In this North American culture we are sent the message that marriage or being part of a couple equals happiness, yet for me that wasn't my experience. The growing divorce rate can't be reflecting happy couples can it? So do we have the illusion it will make us happy yet that has been a myth all along?

I liked what couples counselor Mark Ganas said in the documentary. He didn't believe marriage was necessary for fulfillment. He believed successful relationship was necessary for fulfillment. He went on to say, that care of self and care of other in a balanced way is part of successful relationship. Hearing that made me feel like a heard a strong truth for me. Marriage and its structure seemed to hurt the emotional and spiritual relationship I most wanted to co-create with my husband.

I still want to experience a long-term, loving relationship with a good man, yet for me, marriage seems an interference to that end rather than a support. And yet I did talk to others for whom marriage made the relationship work better for them than they could imagine without it. What works is all so personal. And for me, I wouldn't have known what would work or not work for me had I not been married, tried so hard to make it work, and end up on this other side of confusion, hurt and the desire to better understand why get married when my experience was so painful.

I guess I am reminded that one of my original intents in making this doc was to illuminate a question that must be relevant to many men and women at this time. And I figured, if I could take the time to make it, perhaps they'd take 54 minutes to watch it. The lively conversation that inevitable after watching, unless one is brain dead, might help one to understand something they hadn't before, consider something new, or just have an "a-ha" moment. I can't imagine anyone watching it and not being affected on some level.

For me then, it makes it a fine "baby" to have delivered. I am eager to see what happens as the conversation of Why Get Married? continues. Will it be slow sparks or a bright fire over time?