More Harry Potter Magic at Frostburg State (Video)

Frostburg State University’s Children’s Literature Centre has a trifecta of major community events for children.

I’ve covered Pirate’s Ahoy in the summer, Storybook Holiday in December and in February, it’s Harry Potter Book Night.

This year was the first time I had the chance to cover the Harry Potter event and it’s taught me to really come ready to shoot out of the gate next year. Unlike the other events, Harry Potter Book Night only lasts a few hours but Everything.Is.Happening.At.Once.

So for next time, while I’ll lose some ambience behind the people being interviewed, the interviews have to be done after the event because I missed a few areas I wanted b-roll from. Still, the students do a tremendous job telling the story of Harry Potter Book Night in their own words.

The first video is a fun story on exchange student Harry Buchan playing Harry Potter. The guy is from England and is a huge fan. It doesn’t get any better than this! (Our News and Media intern Melani Finney provides the voice for my script.)

The second video tells what the night is about and what it entails through the words of graduate student Chenoa Zais from the CLC:

The Importance of Inclusion

Sometimes people forget to tell you something really important because they assume you know.

I’ve had that happen a lot in newsroom from the person in the cubicle next to me or maybe from across the room. On a large campus, sometimes that happens, too.

I fortunately was recommended a student for a video I produced at FSU for a voiceover because I requested an international voice.

She did an amazing job and after she finished recording in the studio, she asked the radio director if his station plays student music albums. Oh, yes.

We glanced at her songs online and she had music videos. And she told us more. The biggest nugget among her talents was that she acted in a Disney Latino version of “High School Musical.”

Her name is Sofia Agüero Petros. She’s from Argentina and wanted to study abroad in the U.S. She found Frostburg State and she loves her semester spent here. This is her story:

Continue reading The Importance of Inclusion

James Woods Gives Me Direction

Maybe he thought I was a student based on the camera I was using, but James Woods politely took pity on me.

At Patch, we were armed with with these Sony CyberShot cameras that fit in your pocket and can take passible video. The audio is acceptable if it’s quiet and your subject is three feet away.

Woods was nice enough to give me some playful direction of where he should sit, where I should stand and where the camera should be.

Just an all-around nice dude.

James Woods Visits Ringling College

Actor James Woods stopped at Ringling College of Art and Design to work with students and be shown how Sarasota could be a good place to do business in the future.

Sarasota, actor James Woods knows where you’re at.

That probably would have been scary given some of his roles such as the gangster Max in “Once Upon A Time in America,” but the James Woods is impressed with what’s developing at the and the region is starting to blip on the Hollywood radar.

“Hollywood better worry about whether they’re on Tampa Bay’s radar because in fact, when you go to areas outside of the usual media centers — L.A. and New York — you realize there’s action here, there’s something going on,” Woods told Patch in a one-on-one interview (see video above).

The 64-year-old actor, Emmy Award winner and two-time Academy Award nominee stopped at the college on Monday and Tuesday to interact with film and gaming students to give them feedback and critiques.

“The level of sophistication was surprising to me on the work,” Woods said. “These guys are like professionals.”

Just a little more than a year old, the school’s digital filmmaking program was named one of the top 25 film programs in the world by trade publication Hollywood Reporter . The college is being aggressive on keeping that distinction and developing talent by bringing in world class actors, directors and cinematographers to visit Ringling and interact with students.

Continue reading James Woods Gives Me Direction

Making Art Exhibits Relatable

When I wrote about famous pieces of artwork on display at The Ringling in Sarasota, Fla., I knew I had to make it accessible.

I’m not a fine art critic. And I didn’t want to make a trip to museum sound like a country club affair.

So, I rely on the sources leading the exhibit to tell me about the art in their words, why it’s important and make a connection with today, and pop culture references help.

The first piece compares Veronese’s process to celebrity chefs. The second piece focuses on why The Ringling hosting a Peter Paul Rubens exhibit is significant.

Paolo Veronese Exhibit Shows How Renaissance Artist Is Like A Celebrity Chef

Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice opens Friday at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
Paolo Veronese Exhibit Shows How Renaissance Artist Is Like A Celebrity Chef

Paolo Veronese is like the Gordon Ramsay of Renaissance artists but without the attitude.

Imagine Veronese getting an order placed, then calling out instructions to his staff to get to work, much like a celebrity chef making sure his well trained culinary team can execute a menu to perfection and being able to show off in the process.

“A Renaissance artist workshop is a bit like a fancy restaurant run by a celebrity chef,” said Frederick Ilchman, Curator of Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston during a walk-through of a new Veronese exhibit that opens Friday at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. “…Paolo Veronese was supervising a hell of activity, and he had family members and a bunch of his assistance following his recipes. The point is that when you go to a fancy restaurant, it’s not like the chef is actually cooking for you, but guaranteeing that chef’s style.”

That’s pretty much this Venetian Renaissance painter in a nutshell. Though instead of yelling “fat cow” at his staff like Ramsay, Veronese would probably paint a cow, like in Rest on the Flight into Egypt, which is contained in The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art’s collection and is John Ringling’s first Old Master painting he acquired. Continue reading Making Art Exhibits Relatable

How To Write A Theater Review When A Script Is Full of Cussing

One of the many gems in Sarasota, Fla., is the Asolo Repertory Theatre where Tony Award winners direct new takes of classic and modern plays, partner with screenwriters and songwriters for creative adaptations and so much more.

The acting and everything else for that matter in “Glengarry Glenn Ross” was superb. But writing about it was a little tricky because I couldn’t really quote the best lines to make my points because there was so much god—- cussing!

So I decided to embrace the salty script and focus on that.

Continue reading How To Write A Theater Review When A Script Is Full of Cussing

What Happens When Camera Crews Come Where Amish Go To Get Away

When someone says “tell me about Sarasota,” they will focus on the sugar sand beaches, the great weather, breadth of cultural options, spring training, shopping and the hundreds of homeless.

Further down on the list is Pinecraft. Just outside of city limits, Pinecraft is where Amish and Mennonite go to snowbird. They call this the Amish Las Vegas. You can use a cell phone here, watch TV even, use electricity (try living without A/C in FLA) and some other comforts.

The village seemed to be bombarded with media and entertainment coverage in 2012-2013 and it was taking a toll on the residents. No other outlet was talking about these problems. Enjoy:

‘Breaking Amish’ Experience Leaves Bad Taste In Pinecraft

The TLC reality show filmed scenes for its second season in Sarasota’s Amish village.
By  March 6, 2013

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories on Sarasota’s Amish and Mennonite village Pinecraft dealing with an increased demand of television coverage.

Sarasota’s Amish village Pinecraft will be featured in the second season of TLC’s “Breaking Amish,” to the dismay of a few members of the community.

The show is controversial all around, with some members presenting themselves as just now going through their journey of leaving the Amish community, while some have been out for quite some time, according to published reports and members of the Pinecraft community who know one of the cast members.

In the first season, the cast was placed in the middle of New York City, left to discover the “English” world, getting tattoos, finding love in a hopeless place and doing plenty of drinking. The show received the highest ratings for any first-season series for TLC.

The second season is due air in May, but had filmed part of the season in Pinecraft on around Feb. 19. The press previews on E! and NBC tout that the second season “promises more drama,” and that is what a Sarasota-based location scout had apparently told a business owner in Pinecraft.
Continue reading What Happens When Camera Crews Come Where Amish Go To Get Away

Chatting with Aubrey Plaza about Muncie and Movies

Sometimes it felt like Sarasota, Fla., was a nice getaway for Hollywood stars.

Aubrey Plaza, most famous so far for “Parks and Recreation,” visited Ringling College of Art and Design. She didn’t disappoint for giving me plenty to write about.

She rode around in a golf cart, blowing a whistle, and telling people she was the new pope.

She talked to college students about working in the movie and TV biz.

And she talked to me about a piece of “Parks and Recreation” trivia that I had to write about. I graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Part of the show is based on Muncie, in a roundabout way, and the map in the opening credits of Pawnee, Ind., is Muncie upside down. She either wasn’t aware, didn’t care or was being kind.

Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza: Is Muncie Real?

Parks and Recreation actress wonders if Indiana towns mentioned in hit show are real.
Sarasota, FL
Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza: Is Muncie Real?

Reality and fantasy collide all the time in TV, but there’s something about when a hit show takes place in a town you’re familiar with that sets it apart.

That’s the case with NBC’s Parks and Recreation, which takes place in fictional Pawnee, Indiana, which is beside the also fictional Eagleton. But they reference real towns in the Hoosier state, and Pawnee is sort-of based on a real city in East Central Indiana: Muncie.

Thankfully Aubrey Plaza, who plays April Ludgate on the show was in Sarasota on Saturday to satisfy my curiosity.

Long ago during the first season, viewers astutely noticed that the map of Pawnee during the opening of the show is a map of Muncie flipped outside down. And the characters frequently make reference to goings-on in Muncie, too. The only reason I care is because I went to college in Muncie.

So, would it not be out of the ordinary for the show to film in Muncie, given that it did a great Indianapolis show (that city is real). And in another episode, the gang went to Washington, D.C. and met Vice President Joe Biden.

How about it, Aubrey?

“Wait. It’s a real place? Muncie?” Plaza said.

“Yeah,” this reporter said, stunned in his chair.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know that,” Plaza said. “How about Bloomington?”

That’s real, too. Indiana University is located in Bloomington, and Ball State University in Muncie, where David Letterman attended.

Just like the map of Pawnee, my world was turned upside down.

You really can’t fault actors not being familiar with Midwestern geography of mid-sized cities. The writers write, and you act.

Writer Greg Levine actually researches this stuff. He told Wired.com that he checks in on small-town politics in both Muncie and Bloomington to figure out how Pawnee should operate.

One of the funniest exchanges in the show involved making fun of Muncie, too.

Tom Haverford, played by Aziz Ansari, rips Jerry Gergich (Jim O’Heir) for his vacation spot.

Tom: You went on vacation and you chose Muncie, Indiana?

Jerry: My wife and I have a timeshare.

Tom: In Muncie?

Leslie: Tom, Muncie is a lovely city.

But the Sherm’s Ice Cream in Muncie during the “Two Parties” episode where the guys went to Indy? Doesn’t exist, nor did that appear to be Muncie.

Just to double check to make sure I’m being fair, I asked her in the green room if she was kidding. Nope.

Her boyfriend and screenwriter Jeff Baena knew—even told me to Google Hudsucker Proxy to check if the movie was set in Muncie, too. Yup.

Also, a part of Close Encounters of the Third Kind took place there, and there was a reality show, probably my favorite ever, called Armed & Famous that shot there. It featured the likes of Wee Man, Erik Estrada, La Toya Jackson and others being Muncie cops and fighting crime. I wish it would return, but Aubrey would have to be less famous to be on the show.

Knowing that Muncie is indeed real, Plaza gave a “hopefully” in response to the real question—if Parks and Rec would shoot there.

You know what? I’ll accept that answer. For real.

Parks & Rec’s Aubrey Plaza ‘Blesses’ People On Golf Cart

Aubrey Plaza made a grand entrance on a Model T golf cart at Ringling College of Art & Design’s Avant-Garde fundraiser.

Parks & Rec's Aubrey Plaza 'Blesses' People On Golf Cart

Continue reading Chatting with Aubrey Plaza about Muncie and Movies

When Ben Folds Retweets You

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 7.45.05 PM
Ben Folds gave me a RT!

I honestly don’t remember how I stumbled upon this tidbit, but during the course of an interview with director Will Slocombe about his movie, it turns out there was a neat detail about Ben Folds. You’ll read about it below, but because the film’s world premiere was at the Sarasota Film Festival, it also meant that the song would be premiered there, too.

Ben also retweeted me, which means I geeked out because I’m a fan of his music. Saw him in concert when he stopped at Ball State and I was hooked since.

Because how Patch operated and this being a regional story, I was able to publish one version highlighting the song’s role in the movie to leverage clicks and another version that is more straightforward about the movie’s premiere.

Of note, after the festival, the title of the movie was changed to “Cold Turkey.”

New Ben Folds Song Premieres In ‘Pasadena’ At Sarasota Film Festival

Writer and director Will Slocombe discusses the journey of his movie “Pasadena” to its world premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival.

A Moving Hockey Doc: Lace Bite

‘Lace Bite’ Hockey Documentary Aims To Knock Out Cystic Fibrosis

“Lace Bite” documentary being shown at Sarasota Film Festival chronicles the longest hockey game ever played to raise funds to battle cystic fibrosis.

When ‘Blackfish’ Made a Splash at its Florida Debut

Before “Blackfish” was shown to national audiences in theaters and on CNN, I was fortunate enough to watch the Florida premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival.

The press row access also allowed me to talk to director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and some of the trainers featured in her movie.

‘Blackfish’ Makes A Splash At Sarasota Film Festival

Documentary on the life of killer whale Tilikum provokes questions about purpose of whale shows at SeaWorld.
Sarasota, FL

If there ever would be an audience to challenge whether they would go to SeaWorld Orlando ever again, it would be one in Florida just two hours away from the theme park.

A packed Van Wezel crowd screened the Sarasota Film Festival’s Opening Night film Blackfish on Friday night, with gasps, shock, even a few laughs, and a hearty applause.

The documentary is directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who used to take her twins to SeaWorld and after not feeling what the enthusiastic crowds felt, she questioned the purpose and history of these shows, focusing on the record and effect of one particular killer whale: Tilikum.

Tilikum weighs 12,000 pounds and he made national news for killing trainer Dawn Brancheau on Feb. 24, 2010, prompting an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which regulates safety in the workplace. The outcome dictated that the trainers couldn’t enter the water with the whales for shows.
Continue reading When ‘Blackfish’ Made a Splash at its Florida Debut