Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My TIFF Time 2004-2014

It's TIFF time again and it's like Christmas in August when the Toronto Int'l Film Festival releases the final titles of films that will be screening at the annual event, as well as releasing the full film schedule.  A lot of speculation has been made this year about how the new rules for films that decide to screen at Telluride would have their TIFF scheduling affected. I must admit, the star wattage is slightly dimmer this year and there aren't, IMO, films that are saturated with the aroma of Oscar Bait this year, and that's good! The past few years in particular at TIFF have been a bit obnoxious with the bragging rights and all the major A-listers coming into town. There's no Michael Fassbender this year, and I'm perfectly fine with that. The man can't attend every year. So instead, I will be giddy in seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game. There's no Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie this year (them in town is close enough to media apocalypse as it is), or Werner Herzog with Queen of the Desert, but that's ok too.

Overall I was pretty impressed with the film list for TIFF's 39th year, and I will be arriving in Toronto early in the day on Thursday, September 4th, and leave very late afternoon on Wednesday, Sept 10th - giving me seven full days to see some great movies! But I have learned my lesson from the past two years. I have seen on average of 17 or 18 films, and that's a bit too much. I love the city of Toronto so much, and doing shopping, and participating in the people watching, and spending time meeting up with my TIFFy friends. So I want to lighten the load of films I'll be seeing so that I'm not in the dark all day. Did you know that the theaters are almost like an ice box and I have to wear a sweater or scarf to keep from freezing? It's been messing up my sinuses big time, and that's a buzz kill.

Below is my tentative schedule filled with obligatory Anglophile themed films, a gay themed film,  and a mandatory Gala viewing of a Cronenberg film. I'm waiting for my host Glenn's schedule to be unveiled so we can compare. I may piggyback off of  him if he selects something I overlooked, but I think I covered the bases of the films I really want to see. To note, I will miss out on Foxcatcher because I prefer to see Reese Witherspoon in Wild. So that's really the only major schedule conflict. I do appreciate TIFF spreading out the love of the films because there are some great titles I wanted to see that screen hours after I leave. I'm sure one day I will be able to attend TIFF from start to end, but right now, I'm a regular working girl on a budget. This September will be the first in four years that I did not have college stuff messing with my mojo. I will be a completely free woman and I'm so excited!

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game


The Clouds of Sils Maria - Princess of Wales @ 9:45pm (this will a long day because I have to hit the road at 4:15am to catch the train to Toronto - I may take a cat nap at my host's home)
See, just that quick I made a change. My body will knonk out around 11pm, so:

Sunshine Superman - Scotiabank - 7:00 pm


The Judge - Roy Thompson Hall (I hate this place but I have no choice) 12:30 pm
The Clouds of Sils Maria - Tiff Bell Lightbox - 9:30 am
The Drop - Wales - 6:00 pm
Night Crawler - Elgin - 9:00 pm


Ruth & Alex - Elgin - 10:30 am
The Riot Club - RTH - 9:30 pm
The Face of an Angel - Winter Garden - 8:00 pm


Do I Sound Gay? - Ryerson - 12:00 pm
The Riot Club - Elgin - 11:30 am
The Theory of Everything - Wales -  6:00 pm


The Equalizer - Ryerson - 12:00 pm
Mr. Turner - Elgin - 5:45 pm


Wild - Elgin - 11:30 am
The Imitation Game - Wales - 6:00 pm
Maps to the Stars - RTH - 9:30 pm


Mommy - TIFF Bell Lightbox - 12:00 pm

This year is particularly special because it's my 10th anniversary (2004-2014) of attending the film festival in Toronto and I remember the first time I went there and my confusion and awe about everything. I only saw two films because I was very, very poor back then and unsure about attending a film festival. But I got the hang of it and was bitten by the festival bug and was hooked. I have visited Toronto in September each year ever since as I will continue to do so for the next 10 years and beyond. Looks like Champagne is on the menu for my opening night dinner on the town!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Scenes from the New Apartment Neighborhood

This Saturday marks two whole weeks since I moved into my new apartment. After having AT&T come back out again and properly hook up my U-Verse Internet/phone service, I am now officially all set up in my  new place. Here are some pictures I took in the past week to show you the location of my apartment, and a walk on the property grounds and to a park that is next door. Yes, my new place is a marked improvement from whence I came from.

My apt is on the top floor end unit. Perfect.

That's my blue car, and the lake peeking through the trees.

A path on the South side of my building.

Which leads to a broader view of Ford Lake.

It's like a recreation park.

A path to a park next to my apartment community.

This path reminds me of walks in Killarney Nat'l Park (Ireland).

The 'beach' of Ford Lake. Can't swim, too many boats.

Boat launch. 
This is my new neighborhood. Much quieter and calmer than a busy intersection in the middle of a city. This is just a 15 minute drive away from the old apartment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Totally Different Neighborhoods

Just to give you an idea of how much I'm going to enjoy living in my new apartment because of the decrease in street noise level, check out the differences in the neighborhoods.

Light rush hour traffic at intersection of old apartment.

Sometimes traffic is horrific at this very moment. Worse on weekends.
This view is from my apartment building at the intersection of Huron Parkway and Washtenaw Ave. When I step outside of my apartment, and walk for 35 sections down the driveway, the images above is what I see. And this moment captured a lighter traffic moment. Sometimes traffic is so bad, it's difficult for me to make a left turn out of my complex. God forbid there's an accident. I have been living here since 2004 and the noise can be so deafening at times that I really wanted to move, but circumstances didn't allow it (underemployed, or busy with Grad school). The local fire department is half a mile down the road and the sirens rival that of the streets of Manhattan, I shit you not. Don't get me started on winter time snow plowing on the streets and for the commercial businesses at 3 am! The constant sound of horns blowing and pedestrian traffic. Everything is within walking distance, but there's a price I've had to pay - peace and quiet.

No rush hour traffic during rush hour time at new apartment.
And this image above is my view from my new apartment. I'm actually standing in the parking lot in front of my building's doorway. I love the trees, but even from my third floor apartment, the trees block a lot of the lake view. But that's ok, I can see a peak of it, and still enjoy the benefits of it by going outside and walking about. I'll be able to really enjoy some nice sleep ins at my new home. Come October when the leaves start to fall, I'll see the lake full frontal from my bedroom window.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I'm Moving to a New Apartment!

Ford Lake rowers (credit)
One day in the near future, I hope to post an article about making an even bigger move to California, but for now, a move from Ann Arbor, to next door city neighbor, Ypsilanti will have to do. If you're familiar with this area, Ypsi (its short name) gets a bad rap in the afterglow of the self-prescribed fantabulous Ann Arbor. But like a lot of cities that border a well-known liberal college town with a world-renowned university, the not so great things about the border city is highlighted mostly in the local news.

I love Ann Arbor, but as I whined about in an earlier post this spring, after living in the same apartment for 10 years, my rent renewal increased significantly, with no upgrades or services added on to said rent. Although I renewed my job search and I'm looking for jobs that may have me commuting up to 40 minutes one way, I still wanted to be close to Ann Arbor, but not live there. So Ypsi was the best choice. I found an excellent community that has undergone new management in the past several years, and they have cleaned up all the riff-raff and it's a great place. I am moving from a 750sq one bedroom apt (period, that's it), to a 950sq two bedroom apt with a balcony and lake view, swimming pool, tennis court, and work out room. And I'm still paying $30 LESS a month.

However, because Ypsi is no Ann Arbor, unfortunately my State Farm renters and auto insurance will increase a bit. I'm in the nicer section of Ypsi, so that helps as well. The homes nearby are very large and average in price of over $250K.

To give you an idea about the rivalry between Ann Arbor and Ypsi, here is what one person wrote at a forum a few years back in response to why is there disrespect towards Ypsi from some people:

I've lived in the Ypsilanti community for over 30 years with no problems. Sure; there are parts of the city and township where I would not live, but nearly every town/city has these. And the undesirable parts can be immediately identified by visual observation only.

Ypsilanti haters tend to fall into one of three categories:

  1. Have never lived here
  2. Haven't lived in Ypsilanti for over a decade and are still boasting to all their old neighbors regarding their new town
  3. Only lived in student housing while enrolled at EMU and are still angry they weren't accepted at U of M.

Well, I think she summed it up perfectly.

By month's end, I'll be all set up in my new apartment and I'm excited about updating my blogs while looking out on the beauty of Ford Lake.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Experience as an Extra on Batman vs Superman Set

Clay Enos/Warner Bros

When I saw Man of Steel in the theater last summer, Henry Cavill immediately became my favorite actor to play Superman. Along with giving it a near perfect grade review, the movie joined an elite club of select blockbuster films that was in my opinion, an artistic and entertaining film achievement. So when I learned early last fall that the brilliant Zack Synder decided to film the next Superman movie in Detroit, I KNEW I just had to be a part of it! And my dream came true in May of this year.

With the release of these two images in the past 48 hours, and tons of leaked information about the filming process found all over the internet, I figured it was safe for me to at least share with fellow fans and my regular readers, my experience as an extra... um, I mean, Atmosphere Artist, on the set of Batman vs. Superman in my home state of Michigan. I have been down on Michigan recently, especially after the horrible winter we recently experienced, but I couldn't be more proud and feel more lucky to be living here right now to be part of film history. Yes, history! Never has the two most iconic super heroes ever been in a film together: Batman and Superman. And for me to be a part of this is just unbelievable and a very proud feeling.

Allow me to preface that I signed a confidentiality agreement and I will not reveal plot details or details about the set. I'm just going to write about my experience working on the set for a couple of days in a chronological order.

The Email

Some of you have read my report about the crazy casting call on April 27th for a 'Warner Bros' motion picture to be filmed in Michigan this summer. Like duh, we know what it is, but we'll go with the flow. About 8,000 people showed up. I was the 716th person in line. Thankfully for me, I was only in line for almost two hours, then I went on with my life with my fingers crossed that I would be chosen as an extra. A few weeks went by when I received an email on May 17 titled 'Warner Bros Opportunity N/DP Female'. From my understanding, this email was the first or second call out to pre-selected applicants. In other emails from extras casting company, they would send out an email blast to all who attended the casting call asking people to reply back if they were available on X day, and fit a list of physical descriptions. In my N/DP Female email, it went out to a very narrow group of people that the director specifically selected. Yes, Zack Snyder chose me from a sea of Midwestern and Canadian faces!

The Fitting

In the email, they stated that they would like to book me for four days (May 28-June 2) and asked me to reply back if I'm interested. This was on a Saturday, so I replied back asking if I could give my decision on Monday because I needed to request that time off from my boss. So then I texted my boss, on that day, asking if I could have the time off. She replied back within the hour with the OK! I then emailed the casting company and told them that I am available. They then set me up with an appointment to come in that Wednesday for a fitting. I live in Ann Arbor, and the fitting was in Pontiac, an hours drive away, during work hours. Hmmm. However as fate would hook me up again, a follow up email asked me to come in on Tuesday, May 20th for a fitting, the same day my boss would be out of the office. So I had no work place drama to deal with to take time off to go to a fitting. I left work at 2:30pm that day.

I arrived at the studio in Pontiac packed like I was going on a business trip. I had to bring several changes of business suits/dresses, and shoes to create several looks. Apparently like most people, my professional business attire was too dark - lots of blacks and navy blues. I was informed that the director wanted something more lively and brighter, Fall time colors. So I had to try on several of their outfits and have my picture taken like a model. It was a very fast paced but professional environment. At the fitting, that's where I had to sign all the paperwork and confidentiality forms, etc. And just as I was finishing up, a woman with a camera came to me and said, 'Mind if I take your picture for your Daily Planet ID'?

My role is a Newspaper Staff at the DAILY PLANET!

I still get goose bumps at the knowledge that I was part of a group of 1% of all the extras who applied to work on this film, to be a reporter at The Daily Planet. I'm a writer, a blogger, I just received my Master's in Communication and media studies, and I played a non-descript female reporter staff of The Daily Planet!

So when she asked me that, it was the first time anyone made any mention of exactly what kind of role I would have. So I did everything in my power to keep my fangirl composure in check and not grin too widely on the photo, but inside I was screaming.  The fitting only lasted an hour and they decided to dress me up in one of their dresses and several cardigans and some high heel shoes. After that, the countdown til May 28th, the first day on the set, began.

However, on the 27th, I got an email around noon informing me that filming for the 28th was canceled and that I didn't need to report to the set. I was fine with that because the reality of the situation is that, hey, I'm a working professional. I had work to do, so I canceled PTO for Wednesday and went to work as usual. But deep down inside, I was hoping that would be the only canceled day, and luckily, it was as I received an email early in the day on the 28th asking me to confirm my arrival at 9am on the 29th. Woohoo! Yes, I'll be there. They also kindly reminded me that I must be committed to working the full day if need be which would be anywhere between 8 to 14 hours.

Work as an Atmosphere Artist

Thursday: I arrived promptly at the studio that Thursday morning. Upon checking in, I had to go to the costume department to change into my outfit. I was given my Daily Planet badge and I had to join 80 other people in a very large room with coffee, water, and delicious snacks. In a nutshell, as a group, we were informed about how the process of selection of extras would occur, and they asked us to be patient. One of the downsides of being an extra is that you have to wait around, this is an industry standard, so it was not unusual to sit for several hours and not be called onto the set. The casting team kindly informed us that if we're not selected, to please don't take it personally. The director is looking for a variety of people, and if we are fit for a particular scene, we'll be called in. Meanwhile, we just talked amongst each other and enjoyed the snacks. Some people are seasoned extras and they know the drill, so they were relaxed and just waited. Other people were getting restless, but there's nothing you can do about that, we'll all be called when it's our time.

Half the day goes by and I don't go on set yet, but I am able to go outside to get some fresh air. As I go back into the building, there's Henry Cavill standing right there by the doorway, talking to some crew people. He's right there. I just smile and walk into the building, and as I do that, Amy Adams is coming out while eating out of a small bag of popcorn. Looks like they both just got off the set from working with about two dozen extras. I know I'll get my chance, maybe after dinner. So at this point of the day, that was the most excitement I had - seeing Henry and Amy, because it confirmed why I was there in the first place, to work on this awesome film!

Laurence and Amy in Man of Steel
After dinner, I'm selected for a scene! At this point, all I can say is that the set looked like a bonafide newsroom office space, just remarkable, all the way down to the smallest detail, very impressive. I'm on the set with Henry, Amy, Laurence Fishburne, and Zack Synder. But like all the other extras, I'm remarkably calm. I have a job to do, I signed an agreement, it's an honor to be on the set and being paid to be there. I do as I'm instructed. Cut! Go back to the extras holding area. By now it's around 9pm, and that's about 11 hours on the set. My feet hurt a little, and I'm getting a little tired, but the excitement level is still very high. I'm called back on set. And it's funny how they do it. The casting people will come rushing into the room and say, 'I'll take you, um, you, you, and you!' Other times they'll come in and say, 'Everyone who was just on the set, go back now please'. And we would go. That's what happened for me at the end of the day Thursday. But this time, I walk near Henry during a scene, and then... Cut! End of the first day. After so many hours of waiting around, it was awesome to close it out with the last scene of the day with Henry Cavill.

Friday: I was used a lot this day, but it was mostly background people stuff - most likely not caught on camera. However, later in the day, I was used for another key role where I had to walk past Laurence/PerryWhite to get to the other side of the office. Amy/Lois Lane was in the scene too. We did about five takes of that. Later in the day, about 30 extras were used for a scene, and that was fun and I can't wait to see how that scene looks in the theater. Rebecca Buller/Jenny was on set for these scenes, so it was nice to see her. This was a long day as well and it finally came to a close just after midnight.

I could go on and on and write about what I observed between the takes, but again it's all proprietary information and tedious. All I know is that the cast and crew work very hard to create just these few scenes from the Daily Planet newsroom. Four days of filming for approximately 3 minutes in the movie. The primary cast were polite and professional, and Zack and his assistant director were very kind, funny, and professional as well.

I received an email on Saturday that I was not need for Monday, and a part of me was relieved because it was hard work and very long days. Plus, as a working person, I had a lot of work on my desk and I was happy that this opportunity turned out to be for two days instead of four. If I were called back later in the year, and if I'm available, I will consider it, but I don't think I will because the people who worked in the Daily Planet scenes should not be seen in other scenes of the film. So unless I'm one of 300 people running against a green screen, I don't think they will be needing my face again. In fact, I'm still receiving emails from the casting company as filming continues, looking for new extras. They wrote in one email that if you were part of the Daily Planet group, please decline this opportunity. So what I consider to be the best opportunity to be in this film has come and passed, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.

The making of this film in Michigan is such a coup for the local economy and I cannot wait to see the end result of this movie. I won't be surprised if I don't make it in the movie because there's so much editing that takes place. But I will be on the lookout for me in the newsroom, and I'll make sure to point myself out to you all if I spot me. But like I said, if I don't make it on the screen, I'm still honored to have been right there in the making of this blockbuster Warner Brothers film for 2016!

Thank you Zack Synder, Warner Brothers, and RealStyle for selecting me to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

- Simone Cromer, cinephile, movie reviewer, and avid blogger of FF and Theater of Zen

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Madonna's Daughter Lourdes is Going to The University of Michigan!

Madonna and her daughter Lourdes Ciccone Leon.
I still remember the day in February 1993 when I submitted my application to attend the University of Michigan. It was so last minute, that I had to call in sick for work, and drive 40 miles to Ann Arbor and complete the application in person. That was the final day to apply for the Fall semester that year. I had to write a four or five page essay on the spot and have all my transcripts and supporting paperwork with me, along with a money order for the application fee. Determination is my middle name. Two months later, I received the letter that I was accepted (which I still have). I graduated in 1996, and I've been proud of my Alma mater ever since. So that's why it has sparked such a huge amount of joy in me to learn that the daughter of Michigan native Madonna, Lourdes, has registered to attend the university this coming Fall, as reported by the Detroit Free Press.

Of all the schools Lourdes could have had selected, all throughout the country and the entire world, she selected U of M in Ann Arbor! Madonna was quoted in 2012 as saying that she wanted her daughter to go to U of M and mentioned how awesome Ann Arbor was. And so it came to be. Lourdes will be enrolled in the School of Music, Theater and Dance, the same program her mother was a student in back in the late 70's. I think in this day and age, Lourdes is going to go through the entire curriculum and graduate in 2018. Well done Madonna, with all your wealth and influence, you raised a daughter who is bright and ambitious enough to attend U of M. Congratulations and Go Blue Lourdes!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Vacation Time is Here!

I made it! Just a few more hours here at work and I'm off for the next five days! I'm going home to finish packing up, tidy up just a bit for the cat sitter, eat dinner, and relax. I have an 8:36am flight to LA, meaning I'll arrive 10:30am, probably a tad too early to check into my hotel, but that's ok, I'll drop off my small carry on, and just mosey on down to the beach. This is what I have done on my previous trips to LA/Venice Beach, but this time, things are a little different. I'm going there to assess the city as my future home, and I'm so damn excited about the prospect of living in California. But at the moment, I'm happy and lucky as hell to go there on holiday!

The past two weeks have been unusually busy, a good, but tiring way. All while I was busy, I had my eye on the prize: my vacation. Although I'm only going for 4 days, that's 4 days NOT in Michigan! Don't look at the glass half-empty. I've visited Venice Beach five previous times and I treat it like its a timeshare holiday. It's expensive staying in Venice Beach, but it's worth every penny.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Scenes from Opening Night of Cinetopia 2014 - Ann Arbor

The Michigan Theater
After missing out on The Cinetopia Film Festival during its first two years, I did my first of four volunteer shifts tonight as a Wayfinder. Here in Ann Arbor, there were three simultaneous film screenings at three different venues within a three block radius. At the Michigan Theater, the 7:30 showing was the film '1982', at the State Theater's 7:30 screening was 'The Skeleton Twins', and at the U of M Modern Languages Building at 7:00 was John Sayles' 'Go for Sisters'. My duty was to direct people to where to go for their movie and hand out programs and just be nice and answer questions. Some of the scenes immediately reminded me of my time at TIFF in Toronto, but on a much smaller micro scale.

It was fantastic to see so many people lined up. I over heard the disappointment of a handful of people who failed to be in line 15 minutes before the film started and they were not allowed into the screening because the theater was completely full, as in Sold Out. That's great news for Cinetopia, but not so much for the film goer. Friday night, I'll be an usher at the State Theater and then I'll try to catch Buzzard immediately afterwards, even if I have to stand through the film. It's my only chance during the festival to watch it.

Here are just a few images from tonight:

State Theater, down the street from Michigan.

A very long line at The State Theater.

A film festival volunteers wear a red Cinetopia shirt.

Very nice programs with full film schedule and film synopsis'.