Friday, December 14, 2007

Citizen Kane and Apocalypse Now

I gathered up my birthday money and registered for a seminar on The Aesthetics of Editing. It is enlivening to get inspiration from new sources. I thought I was critically evaluating movies. But, now it seems I was only giving them a cursory glance. The good news is that beginning with the first wedding movie we edited, we've intuitively edited according to the five basic criteria for excellent editing. We just didn't know it.

How should a movie be judged? By the story and message? By the the art and style? By its influence on other movies?

I decided to go back and look at the Top 25 movies ever made with a more critical eye. But, which Top 25? Who says they are the Top 25? The American Film Institute has one of the most popular lists of the Top 100 Movies. But they are all produced by, well, Americans. Here is the AFI List of the Top 25 Movies. No surprises here. Movies we've all heard of and seen.

AFI Top 25
1. Citizen Kane (1941)*
2. Casablanca (1942)
3. The Godfather (1972)*
4. Gone With The Wind (1939)
5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)*
7. The Graduate (1967)
8. On The Waterfront (1954)
9. Schindler's List (1993)
10. Singin' In The Rain (1952)
11. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
12. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
13. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
14. Some Like It Hot (1959)*
15. Star Wars (1977)
16. All About Eve (1950)*
17. The African Queen (1951)
18. Psycho (1960)
19. Chinatown (1974)*
20. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
21. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
22. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)*
23. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
24. Raging Bull (1980)*
25. E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the Top 100 Maverick Movies broaden the horizon, but it's still an American horizon. Here are Rolling Stone's Top 25. The movies listed under the AFI with an asterisk were also in Rolling Stone's Top 25 list.

Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 25
2. Vertigo (1958)
3. The Searchers (1956)
8. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
9. Blue Velvet (1986)
10. Pulp Fiction (1994)
11. King Kong (1933)
12. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
13. Fargo (1996)
15. Do The Right Thing (1989)
16. Night of the Hunter (1955)
17. Sherlock, Jr (1924)
19. Nashville (1975)
21. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
22. Brazil (1985)
23. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
24. Badlands (1973)
25. Don't Look Now (1973)

Why not widen the list to include foreign films? But once again, whose list do you look at? The British Film Institute, the Online Film Community, winners at the Cannes Film Festival? It's hard to say, so here is an amalgam of all three. For a wonderfully complete list, check out the movie critic Roger Ebert's list.

Top 25 Foreign Films
Australian - Strictly Ballroom (1992)
British - The Third Man (1949)
Chinese - Curse of the Golden Flower (2006); Farewell My Concubine (1993); Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
French - 400 Blows (1959), Amelie (2001), Beauty and the Beast (1946), Breathless (1960), Earrings of Madame de... (1953), Rules of the Game (1939)
German - Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), M (1931), Nosferatu (1922), Run Lola Run (1998), Wings of Desire (1988)
Italian - The Bicycle Thief (1948); Amarcord (1974); Cinema Paradiso (1989); The Leopard (1963)
Japanese - Rashomon (1950), Ran (1985), Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
Russian - Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Swedish - Seventh Seal (1957)
Vietnamese - Scent of Green Papaya (1993)

Finally, here are some of my personal favorites not mentioned on any other list. Each is my favorite because the combination of artistry (acting and cinematography) and storytelling created an unforgettable impact the first time I saw it, which has stayed with me, and continues to effect me the same way every time I see it.

Jewel's Top 25 Not Previously Mentioned Films
A Christmas Carol (1951)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
Amadeus (1984)
Body Heat (1981)
Color Purple (1985)
Crash (2005)
Das Boot (1981)
Empire of the Sun (1987)
Excalibur (1981)
Gods Must be Crazy (1980)
Good Morning, Miss Dove (1955)
High and Low (1963)
Joy Luck Club (1993)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Legends of the Fall (1994)
Like Water for Chocolate (1992)
Lone Star (1996)
The Natural (1984)
Out of Africa (1985)
Scotland, PA (2001)
Seabiscuit (2003)
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Witness (1985)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Best Movies of 2007

So why do they always cram the releases of the best movies of the year into the last 14 days of the year? Yes of course - to be fresh in the minds of those who make Oscar nominations.

What are my criteria for Best Movie? First, it tells a compelling story, engages you and holds your interest. You never once look at your watch until the ending credits start to roll. It makes you care about characters whom you've never met. It entertains, informs, or moves you emotionally. It can change the way you live your life.

Second, the technical qualities of the film are excellent. And they do not call attention to themselves. At its best, the color palette conveys emotion (whether ethereal blue, parched desert or super-saturated warm tones). The soundtrack is richly layered with voices, sounds and music which subtly convey a mood. The images are ordered in an interesting way. The editing is tight - not one frame more than is needed to tell the story. The pace helps create the emotion whether you feel fidgety because time is hanging heavy or because you are breathlessly running from danger.

So, there are a big bunch of movies I want to see soon, and will update my Best Movies of 2007 list as we see them. So far...

Best Movies of 2007
Atonement - Keira Knightley, James MacAvoy
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Eastern Promises - Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts
Great Debaters - Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker
Michael Clayton - George Clooney
Nanny Diaries - Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney
No Country for Old Men - Tommy Lee Jones
Rendition - Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon
Stardust - Michelle Pfeiffer, Clare Danes

Movies I Want to See
Away from Her
Diving Bell and Butterfly
Golden Compass - Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig
In the Shadow of the Moon
Kite Runner
Lives of Others
Love in the Time of Cholera
Lust, Caution

Christmas in San Francisco

Dear Diary,
When the end of wedding season comes and our colleagues in other categories return to their families and a normal life, we are just kicking it into high gear to deliver wedding movies by Christmas Eve, yet without sacrificing quality. But, let me take a short break and tell you what's new.

The holiday season started the day after Thanksgiving. Chris and Anna Williams (Anna, of McCall's Catering fame, invited us to attend a party at a 100,000 square foot Barrango showroom in South San Francisco showroom where fabulous Christmas displays are created ( I went with my friends Stacie Tamaki of The Flirty Guide ( and Edward Bellingeri (, a very talented floral and visual designer. We saw Morgan Doan of Events by Morgan, Neil Adams of Neil Adams Events, Isabella Boyer Sikaffy of Florabella, and so many more fun friends. But the 50' tall creations stole the show. They had dozens of animated creatures, beautifully restored carousel horses, 50' Christmas trees, and a winter wonderland of frozen delights.

Chuck and I went to see San Jose Repertory Theater's show This Wonderful Life. It is a one-man show interpreting It's a Wonderful Life. Yes, we wondered too, how one person could portray the scene where George and Mary fall into the high school swimming pool, or put their ears together to hear Sam Wainwright on the phone. But, amazingly, this guy played all the parts simultaneously and very believably. It definitely put us in a Christmas mood.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Proposal Planner

Deck the Halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la, la la la la la
'Tis the season
To make a proposal

Yes, we are coming into "high season" for gentlemen to go down on one knee. We've heard of so many wonderful proposals. The most successful were not the ones that cost the most, but the ones that were created with a lot of thought toward what the bride would cherish.

The first question is whether to ask her Father for permission. Would she find this sweet or outdated? If she is quite close to her family, it might be a nice touch to arrange for them to meet at the restaurant after the proposal. Our good friend Karen Miyanaga at the Ritz Carlton thought she was just going for a lovely Sunday brunch with her boyfriend. But he surprised her with an unforgettable question. What followed is something that she will never forget. He flew her parents from Japan to California to surprise her and share in the joy. We happened to be at the Ritz finishing up filming a morning-after brunch and saw her. I will never forget the joy in her face. It went so far beyond joy to a place for which I have no word. What a great way to start a marriage, with the utmost consideration.

We've heard of creative proposals which clearly had the bride in mind. Some have been simple - a Scrabble board with "Will You Marry Me" spelled out to a bride who loved to play Scrabble. Some have been elaborate vacations to a tropical paradise, or a trip to a restaurant that has become "our place".

I don't know why, but a large number of proposals do not go as originally planned. Our friend John planned to ask Stacie to marry him while vacationing in Quebec. The weather was rainy and blustery, but he plowed ahead with his plan and took her outside, set up a small camera and proposed anyway. It is hilarious to see, because you can't hear a word over the 30 mph winds! He created a short video with sub-titles, which makes it even funnier. Until you see Stacie's reaction. Then, you cry.

And if all else fails, there are proposal planners who can help you come up with an idea and plan it so it is perfect. There are some independent ones, some at luxury hotels and resorts. The skills required are similar to those required of wedding plannes, so that may be a route to go. Or, you can advertise on Do My Stuff to find a proposal planner.

And of course you'll need a ring. The proposal is something she will always treasure, remember and talk about - so make it a good one.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Fun and Flirty Wedding!

Chuck and I attended Stacie and John's wedding a few weeks ago and had a smashing good time. Stacie is the genius behind The Flirty Guide. In the Guide she advocates that every bride and groom should create a wedding that both suits them and uniquely caters to their guests. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money, it just has to be authentic. Everything she advocates, she did at her own wedding.

Stacie had an original Colleen Quen gown (a dear friend of Stacie's and one the most talented couturiers in the US). Stacie, being a talented seamstress herself, created a wonderful, colorful bustle of several kanzashi flowers (see photo), which honored her Japanese heritage. She also had a beautiful display of 1000 origami cranes forming the backdrop to their ceremony. Since Stacie loves origami, all of the gentlemen's boutonnieres were origami flowers, unique to each gentleman.

John was on the Apple team that brought you the iPhone. This theme was creatively integrated into the cake. The icing was simple, but three iPhones, trimmed with Swarovski crystals, were mounted on the front of the cake, each playing a different movie of Stacie and John's life together.

One of my favorite Flirty Moments was when John and Stacie took the dance floor for their first dance. Neither particularly likes dancing, so as soon as they took 2 or 3 steps, another couple dressed as the bride and grom waltzed in from the sidelines and performed a steamy hot tango. Then, John and Stacie stepped back in at the very end for the final dip, and of course, the thunderous applause. It was fantastic! It didn't cost anything, yet it totally suited Stacie and John and entertained everyone who was there.

Oh, and the wedding took place on a Thursday because that was the day of the week that they first met. How romantic!

These were the outward expressions of their personalities as individuals and as a couple. But what really made this a wonderful wedding was the love and respect they have for each other -- the look on John's face when Stacie floated down the aisle, the truly heartfelt speech John delivered at the reception to honor his bride, the way Stacie lightly touched John's arm to reassure him she was there by his side. These are the moments we will cherish. We wish them a lifetime of happiness together.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Halloween Horror Stories

Once a year, around Halloween, I give myself permission to tell wedding-related horror stories that we've actually witnessed. These experiences always underscore the need to be well-advised when selecting wedding professionals, and to hire a professional. And it must be said that these are exceptions. Most of the people we know are extremely dedicated to giving good products and services to their brides. Many professionals give up family-time on weekends, work long hours, and give more than was asked or paid for.

Problem: Warning Sign #1. The makeup artist was 45 minutes late for the trial. But, in about an hour, she did a nice job, took a Polaroid and said that she would do the same hair and makeup on the wedding day. On the wedding day, the same makeup artist took 4 hours to do the hair and makeup of the bride (a warning sign if ever there was one).

At the end of the marathon session, the bride had dark circles ringing her eyes like a raccoon, and her hair that looked like rattails rather than ringlets. When she timidly asked the makeup person about it, the person exploded, "I'm an artist and I say it looks just fine. I have a more important bride to get to, so just get over yourself."

The makeup person had guaranteed there would be no other clients on the day. The bride had paid over $1000 for the privilege of being spoken to in such a disrespectful manner, and then was cursed out in a foreign language. The bride cried for an hour, then locked herself in the bathroom saying, "The wedding is off." It took compassion, resourcefulness and 3 hours to get the wedding back on track.

Solution: Bride re-did makeup and hair herself with some items from our emergency kit. The emergency kit contains 107 items. We rarely go to a wedding where at least one item isn't needed.

Problem: Ran out of food after 70% of the guests were fed. There was no Plan B.
Solution: No solution. People were hungry...and irritable.

Problem: The assistant photographer had holes in his pockets and lost several rolls of film. I picked up several rolls throughout the day and returned them to him, but he kept putting them in his holey pockets. As a result, large sections of the wedding day were missing.

Problem: Wait. It gets worse. The same bride and groom had paid for 2 senior photographers. After the ceremony, the prime photographer left, saying she had broken her camera. But she never returned. The assistant photographer left holding the bag (Mr. Holey-Pants) was mad as hell for the rest of the day - and didn't try to hide it.

When the bride respectfully requested a refund for the part of the wedding that was not covered due to the photographer's negligence and for services that were not rendered because there was only one photographer for most of the day, the prime photographer threatened to burn each and every negative if the bride brought the subject up again.

Solution: The bride opted not to take photographer to court, as she found the whole subject so distressing. She said over and over, "Thank heavens I had a great videographer, or I'd have nothing at all."

Problem: Lest you think we have it in for photographers (we don't - we love working with 99.99% of them). Here's a story that skewers both photographers and videographers.

Before filming a wedding at a cathedral for the first time, we sought permission and were able to observe a wedding at the cathedral the week before. Although we attend every rehearsal, this was a particularly complex ceremony at a particularly restrictive church. Boy did we get an eyeful.

The photo/video company had sent out two bozo's. They had safari vests on with the name and phone number of the photo/video company emblazoned on the back. I would not have been surprised if the name pulsed on and off like a marquee.

The church strictly forbids cameras in the center aisle. That's exactly where one of the video cameras was stationed. On a 6' tall tripod. On wheels. So the holy host of tripod/camera was rolled up and down the aisle continuously, with one creaky wheel. Once the tower arrived at the front of the aisle where it could block the maximum number of guests' views the bozo snapped down the brake, whipped out a still camera and started clicking away like the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun accompanied by a blinding flash every time.

But then there was a lull in the action as the clown spied the altar flowers which were in his way. So, in the middle of the holiest part of the ceremony, he clomped up the stairs to the altar and while almost tipping the arrangement oer, moved them out of the way so that all subsequent pictures were no longer symmetrical.

Solution: What can you say?

Problem: Friend of a friend said she'd make the cake. It never arrived.

Solution: Director of Catering scrambled and got a suitable cake on 4 hours' notice.

Problem: Friend said she'd make the invitations and have them addressed by 6 weeks before the wedding. The bride and groom arrived back from a trip to find nothing had been done.

Solution: We called up our favorite stationer, and asked that she keep her shop open late, and to give a 24-hour turnaround to this desperate couple. The stationer stayed until 9 PM (closing hour was 6 PM) and delivered the perfectly addressed invitations within 4 days.

Problem: Flowers were delivered after the first 3 bridesmaids went down the aisle. Then the altar flowers went down the aisle, then the remaining bridesmaids, flower girls and bride.

Solution: What can you say? It becomes part of the memories of the day.

Event Planner
Problem: Arrived late, poured herself a mimosa, put her feet up and sipped that mimosa and 4 more. Was worse than having no event planner because people were waiting for her to give directions and cues which never came. Also, with an hour to go until the reception was to start, escort cards had not been put out and decor had not been put up.

Solution: All the event professionals scrambled to do the tasks the wedding planner should have been doing, for the sake of the bride. This took time away from what we all should have been doing, but was necessary for the wedding to go on. The wedding was not as smooth as it could have been, but this was invisible to the guests and not very noticeable to the bride.

Problem: Seven chairs had wet seat cushions from being left out in the rain the night before. When asked to replace them, was told every chair was being used in every ballroom in the hotel.

Solution: Wedding coordinator stepped in and within 5 minutes, dry chair cushions had replaced wet cushions.

A Magic Moment

We went to a Celebration of Life yesterday afternoon. Our friend, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, decided he wanted to be with his many friends and family before it was too late. All of us who were there shared a magical afternoon. His brother read a letter from our friend because he no longer has enough breath to speak. I wanted to take notes, but thought it would be too rude. What I remember touched me and changed me. I know the lessons I will take away with me.

First, at every event we film, I want to relax and have more peace in my heart. Even if the schedules on a wedding day are so tight you couldn't squeeze a toothpick in, I promise myself that I can still feel a greater calm. I want to prepare just as hard beforehand, but let go and really let the flow of the event guide me in an intuitive, not an analytical way.

When I took ikebana lessons (Japanese flower arrangement), you could always tell when someone was creating their arrangement analytically or intuitively. There was a real difference in the spirit you felt looking at the final arrangement. I was able to make that intuitive leap after 1-2 years. But, I've held on to the analytical side of filming because I felt it was supremely important to capture everything that was going on, since you don't know in advance which of the moments will be a critical moment. I am encouraged to make the leap and elevate my work to another level.

Second, I want to tell my husband Chuck I am proud of him more often than I do. As Presdent of the Bay Area Professional Assocaition, Chuck presented our friend with a beautifully framed card and the signatures of all the current members. Chuck even tracked down some people who were members years ago, but not now, from as far away as Florida. He gave a brief but perfect speech. Chuck really, really, really dislikes public speaking, but he did it for his friend. I was so proud of him.

Third, as soon as this wedding season is over, I want to reconnect with the friends we have neglected for the last five years, since we've been in business. It's hard to imagine how much time is required to film and edit, and run a business. It is more than 2 full-time jobs for each of us. It is the same for all the dedicated professionals we know in the wedding industry - florists, photographers, coordinators, caterers, cake bakers. But, our friend had been a videographer for over a decade, and 150 of his good friends and family filled a restaurant on very short notice. By example, without preaching, he let us know what was really important.

Fourth, I want to learn more about people because they will amaze you. We knew our friend had been jailed and tortured by a foreign government for standing up for his basic human rights. But we didn't know that when he moved to this country to give his family a better life, he pumped gas and delivered pizzas, without complaint, until he could get his business going to support them. He was a skilled professional, but humbly accepted humble jobs for the sake of his family. I never knew this about him.

Our friend is a great example of making every moment count and being grateful for what you have.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pacemakers and Hair Cuts

I can't believe it's been a month since my last post. Since then, I've learned about something amazing. It takes less time to insert a pacemaker than to have my hair cut. That's right. What an amazing device. Mom needed one, so she breezed right in and out in less than 1/2 hour. Like the old fashioned barber shop: 4 chairs, no waiting. Only in this case, 4 operating theaters, no waiting. Medical Science. Amazing. Mom and I are already back to our Sunday morning walks at almost the same speed and distance. Way to go Mom!

A Perfect Wedding Gift

We're editing a beautiful ceremony that took place at the Julia Morgan Ballroom. As an aside, Linda Hylen is one of the most fabulous Directors of Special Events in the city. She makes every event go smoothly, and is unfailingly helpful, cheerful, positive, energetic, resourceful and NICE.

Oh, but I've gotten off the topic. We are editing one of the most beautiful ceremonies we've ever witnessed. The officiant spoke as though he was reciting a fragrant poem or verse. The 350 guests were transfixed when he addressed the bride and groom.

"This perfect event raises us all up
From where we find ourselves on normal days.
We see things and feel things differently.
Within the hearts of those present
Are stirrings of heightened awareness and deeper perspective.
At this moment we look with greater gratitude
At our own relationships.
It's a time of renewal, of greater hope,
Of resolution for the future.
In your reflection,
We see ourselves more clearly.
So we thank you for your wedding gifts to us."

The officiant put into words what Chuck and I sometimes feel at weddings, both when we are filming and when we are guests. Family and friends are being given an opportunity to 'touch the heavens' when they are in the presence of two people who are willing to sacrifice for each other, to commit to each other and promise to love each other. It feels like a gently guiding hand which compels 350 people to act and feel as one, in the same way that a flock of birds can swoop then soar with grace.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Anatomy of a Hora

We just finished editing a hora to end and horas. Our sweet bride Nissa and her handsome groom Tom and their 300 guests at the Julia Morgan Ballroom were out on the dance floor for 40 minutes dancing the horah and other exuberant dances. With three cameras, we captured 120 minutes of sheer joy. Here's the 3-minute PC version and here's the MAC version of the movie trailer that captures the joy. Joel Nelson was the band leader and MC. We've never seen a better entertainer who made sure 100s of guests flooded the dance floor and STAYED there!

It is so amazing when guests come together as though they share one mind with everyone else in the room. As graceful as a flock of swallows soaring in the sky, or a school of dolphins cutting through the water with their streamlined bodies. And no one wanted it to end! Only the dinner bell could interrupt the dancing.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

Do you ever feel life is like a river and if you can let go and just float, you'll drift to where you should be? Yesterday Chuck and I had that sort of experience. We visited a dear friend who is dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. He never shows an ounce of self-pity. He is grateful just to hear the birds sing. After we'd spent some time chatting and laughing, we got up to leave.

Our friend asked us to stay and see some of his friends come over and sing. We demurred. He insisted. He won. We went away and came back a few hours later. We were in for an unexpected treat.

A good friend of his brought 6 of her friends, all clad in traditional Russian garb. They are part of the group called Kedry. They started singing folk songs that were from 200 to 2000 years old. Each singer came from a different part of Russian. The two Olgas, Irina, Tatiana, Natalya were from Moscow, St. Petersburg, the Ukraine, the Upper Volga, and Siberia. I never thought about it before, but Russia's people are as diverse and Americans.

The ladies sang a cappella. The songs had a similar harmony and rhythm to African folk songs. And the acoustics in the living room had an odd way of absorbing some frequencies and projecting others. So, 100% of the sound was coming at you from the front, but only 70% of the sound was coming at you from behind. Very surrealistic.

Then, a strange thing happened. I looked at Irina, a petite blonde blue-eyed pixie and saw my grandmother! They could have been sisters. But of course, Irina was younger than I ever knew my grandmother to be. I was transfixed. She looked like her, she talked like her, she had the same mannerisms. It was uncanny. I was overcome with emotion. I hadn't seen my dear, dear Grandma in many, many, many years.

I used to ride my bike over to see her on Saturday mornings when we lived in New York City. I'd knock at her door, she'd answer and always say, "Oh what a surprise! Come on in darling, and have some cookies that just came out of the oven." It was our little joke. She pretended that she wasn't expecting me, and I'd pretend right along with her. Then, we'd sit down and she'd ask how my week went. Sometimes I brought a friend with me. I vividly remember her house smelled like mothballs and she had lace doilies on the armrests and headrests of all the chairs in the living room.

I've only recently come to realize just how precious those Saturday mornings were. I really wish I could have just one more Saturday morning with Grandma or at least I wish I had a little movie of just one of our Saturday mornings together. Sigh.

Then, I'd jump on my bike and pedal home. Eventually my parents put a stop to my visits because I was taking the Long Island Expressway to get to Grandma's place. There was no way I could get there by surface roads. But it was so sweet while it lasted.

If we hadn't been visiting our friend, we never would have seen the singers and I wouldn't have taken a little trip down memory lane. Being 3rd generation, Russian was certainly never spoken in my parents' house. But I felt a deep connection to the songs the singers sang, and the melodies, and the beat. Several times, we all got up to dance, while the singers sang lively songs.

Following the dancing, our friend had arranged to have a feast of homemade strudel, fruits, nuts, candies, cheeses and assorted meats spread out before us like a banquet. What a gracious host. What a thoughtful man. Even though he is confined to bed or a wheelchair and breathes through a tube, he still thinks of others' comfort. What a guy!

What makes a person who they are? Is it their physical beauty? Or is it the personality inside? Our friend has been ravaged by a savage disease and yet he is still who he always was. He is still loyal, responsible, caring, funny, poetic, compassionate, loving, honest, and many more things.

Our friend is so brave, so honorable, so inspiring. He considers himself to be lucky - yes lucky! - to have lived the life he has and to love and be loved by three wonderful sons. Rather than a somber memorial, he's planning a wild and crazy celebration very soon, while he's still here to enjoy it.

He has a picture on the wall of himself, after he ascended Mount Damavand, one of the world's tallest mountains. He did it before the illness appeared. Maybe he had a premonition. I dunno. But I'm glad he did it. Here's a man with no regrets. Our only regret is that we didn't spend more time with him.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Word For Word

I took my Mom to see a bit of theater on Sunday. What was unusual was that every word from the book was spoken. It's called word for word or W4W. This is great for anyone who loves to read because you can hear the way the author uses language and hear the interior thoughts of each character. Mom's sometimes hard to please, but she loved it!

The play, The Magic Barrel, was about a fellow who is desperate to find a wife, but is terrified of women. He calls for the matchmaker who shamelessly exaggerates the attributes of all the ladies he introduces to the poor fellow. The play ends ambiguously with another "match". If you're an optimist, as I am, you hope it works out.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Videography vs Photography

We ran across a refreshing conversation among brides about wedding videography in the Boston Globe's message board. We concur with most of the posts. But we feel that still images captured from video, even from HD which is what we exclusively use, are not suitable for enlargement beyond 4" x 6". Maybe one day, but not quite yet.

Video More Than Photography
Message #11283.1

Hi All,

I just got back from a visit to my friend in Calif. We watched her wedding video which was amazing! She went with a high-end videographer, which cost them $5,000! Here's the thing, she only spent $1000 on her photographer. she said it's not uncommon there for couples to put more money into their videos than their photos.

My FI and I are much more into video than photos. I know most couples spend more on their photos, but is there any reason not to spend more on the video? We can't afford the high end on both.

Message #11283.2 in response to #11283.1

Why not. It's your money. We may do the same. My family has always been more into video. As I watch videographer demos, I think there's a big difference in quality between the $1000 videos and the more expensive ones.

Message #11283.3 in response to #11283.2

Also, her videographer was able to give her some photo stills from the video. They looked pretty good!

Message #11283.4 in response to #11283.3

We're looking to see if we can get a photographer for just 3 hours to cover the ceremony, cocktails, formals, intros, and first dance.

i've seen stills from videos. The good thing is that you can capture the exact moment, but I don't think the resolution is a good as a professional still camera.

Message #11283.5 in response to #11283.4

Were the stills you saw from an HD video?

Message #11283.6 in response to #11283.5

I don't think so. It was 3 years ago. But, if stills from HD video are of photo quality, that would be huge!
Then your videographer could supply both your video and your photos! :)

Message #11283.7 in response to #11283.6

My Aunt and Uncle had a video of their wedding in 1988. I was the flower girl. it's the most precious thing our family has. My Dad's dad died 2 months after the wedding. In the video he's talking about how much he loves his family. You really can't put a price on that

Message #11283.8 in response to #11283.7

Wow! How lucky you are to have that. And how great it was that the videographer used the sound of voices. Those are the videos I like best!

Message #11283.9 in response to #11283.8

Also, I think that some people look better on video than in photos. My friend hates her wedding pictures. it's because she has this weird expression every time she poses. But she looks great on her video. she can't blame the photographer, because the pictures are technically fine.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wedding Webcast

Every now and again we like to tell the world what we've been up to. This week we put out a press release about a wedding we filmed recently. We love talking about our passion - making movies - but we are always a bit uncomfortable talking about ourselves. In this case, we overcame our discomfort to write a news piece in the hope that a bride somewhere will read about the possibility of webcasting and solve the problem of how to take the sting out of dear relatives who cannot make it to the wedding.


Savadelis Films may have made history by successfully webcasting a bride's outdoor wedding ceremony to her mother's hospital room 2500 miles away using full-motion video. But best of all, they made a Mother and daughter very happy.

Just days before Pam and Phil's wedding, Pam's Mother Sue shattered not just her leg, but also her dream of watching her daughter walk down the aisle. Pam and Sue were heartbroken. Pam frantically searched for a way to get her Mother to the wedding. But given the nature of the break, there was no way her Mother could travel. Sometimes, though, a miracle can happen in a way you never expected.

When the couple's wedding videographers, Chuck and Jewel Savadelis of Savadelis Films learned of Pam and Phil's predicament just 48 hours before the wedding, they vowed to do whatever it took to broadcast Pam and Phil's wedding ceremony live over the internet. Magically, the pieces started to fall into place.

On Friday, as Pam and her bridesmaids drove to the spa for a day of relaxation, Savadelis Films contacted the head of technology at the hospital in Ohio where Pam's Mother was receiving care. The hospital was able to provide a computer from which Sue could view the live webcast of the wedding. Then Savadelis Films called on Event by Wire to provide the streaming technology to webcast the ceremony live from a California winery to an Ohio hospital. Although slated to play in an annual golf tournament, Dan Grumley, owner of Event by Wire, committed to forego the tournament to personally oversee that the broadcast went flawlessly.

Ten minutes before the wedding, just as Pam and her bridesmaids were ready to walk down the aisle, the internet broadcast went live. Sue, dressed in the pale pink chiffon dress she had chosen, and adorned with a corsage, saw guests gathering under a stand of stately redwood trees on a brilliantly sunny day at a private winery near San Francisco. Then she saw a sight she'd been praying to see: her daughter floating down the aisle on her father's arm. Sue saw her husband gently kiss Pam's cheek as he presented her hand to Phil.

As the couple approached the minister Phil whispered to Pam, "You are so beautiful. You take my breath away." As Pam spoke her vows to love Phil in joy and in sorrow, he wiped her tear away. Then they exchanged rings and kissed. Sue saw and heard it all. At the moment that it was happening. From 2500 miles away.

Afterwards, Pam said, "I truly felt like my Mom was there in the crowd of family and friends who surrounded us. Knowing that she was watching freed me from worrying about her, and allowed me to fully experience all the joy of our wedding day." Pam's Mother put it more simply: "It felt like I was there. I really was there, sharing every moment with my children."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

First-Class Wedding Professionals

99.99% of the people we meet in the wedding industry are talented, caring, diligent, principled folks. Here are a few we met in or who we have recently worked with who stood out:

Event Designers

Jubilee Lau
Jubilee Lau Events

Maxine Andrew
Instead of You

Kristi Amoroso
Kristi Amoroso Special Events

Stephanie Beer
Covenant Coordinating

Jean Marks
Jean Marks Weddings

Duncan Reyes
Duncan Reyes Event By Design

Marie Rios
Creative Occasions


Rolando Mafnas
Alex's Catering

Elaine Bell
Elaine Bell Catering

Audrey Hardy
Paula Le Duc Catering

Tom Henderson
Thomas John Events

Floral Designers

Arianna Nichol
Robert Fountain Design

Nicole Sillapere

Edward Bellingeri
Edward B Design

Anthony Levy
Julie's Flowers


Jon Retsky
Got Light?

Youngsong Martin
Wildflower Linens


Melissa Bagley

Darcy Padilla

Lisa Crawford

Wendy Maclaurin Richardson


Pavan Kochar
Alia Designs

Sabrina Moyel
Hello Lucky!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Missing In Action

Time flies. I can't believe the last time I posted anything was in January, 7 months ago. During the winter we were editing weddings from last year. Then, the wedding season zoomed into high gear. I popped my head out of the gopher hole, and now it's August. I'll try to catch up over the next several weeks by telling you the places I've seen and the people I've met.

I've seen a few new venues worthy of your consideration. The first grouping are all on the contemporary, modern, maybe even on the edgy side in a few cases. I'll start with edgy first.

Dog Patch Studios
A hip, modern open and light space in San Francisco which you can transform into anything you please. Got-Light did a fantastic job of lighting each space on several different floors in a different way.

Hotel Vitale
Candace Palec, a very charming lady, oversees weddings at the chic, contemporary venue which has several levels of rooftop terraces which overlook the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, with a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge. A creative idea that Candace has pioneered is offering substantial hors d'ouevres rather than a sit-down dinner so that guests can continuously mingle.

Carneros Inn
Brooke Baglietto is simply one of the nicest people in the wedding industry. A recent bride herself, she completely understands a bride's mindset, and her desires. The Carneros Inn in Napa has a relaxing, elegant simplicity. Imagine sheer white curtains fluttering in the breeze under the portico which looks out onto a large grassy lawn. The infinity pool reflects the beautiful mountins and vineyards which form a perfect backdrop. And the apple orchard is a charming place for the ceremony.

Natural, Wine Country Feeling

The next two venues each have a unique feeling. Sometimes these things are hard to articulate, but you "know it when you see it".

Bear Flag Farm
Tina is such a nice person and this working farm is quite unique. Your caterer can harvest fruits from the trees and vegetables from the earth on the 25-acre farm in the morning, and prepare and serve a tasty meal by evening. Two of our favorite caterers work closely with Tina: Rolando Mafnas at Alex's Catering and Jennifer Bowman at Elaine Bell Catering. If you are looking for an organic, earthy feeling to the wedding (though there's nothing to stop you from hanging chandeliers in the trees), then Bear Flag Farm may be for you. They only do about 12 weddings a year, so check it out sooner rather than later.

Nicholson Ranch
Sarah Roach does an outstanding job of making you feel right at home. This working winery has a distinctly Tuscan feeling to it. Everyone at the Ranch is relaxed, and makes you feel warmly welcomed. This winery also only hosts 12 weddings per year and books up quickly.

Old World Charming Wine Country

Right in the middle of wine country, there are several large stone buildings that make for grand weddings. You can rent three, but the fourth I must tell you about anyway.

Ledson Winery
Gina Batti the Director of Hospitality (such an appropriate title) has the charm and grace befitting such a splendid venue. Ledson Castle is an imposing structure in Kenwood, just north of Sonoma. And yet, since it was a family's home for a time, it has a warm feeling.

Jacuzzi Vineyards
Yes, there really is a Mr. Jacuzzi. He invented water well pumps and eventually the Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath. The Jacuzzi family just finished building a lovely Italianate villa with a large fountain in the central courtyard. Chris Merino and Jennifer Alvarez who also run events at Cline Cellars across the street, are simply delightful ladies to work with.

Sebastiani Vineyards
Sebastiani, another family whose roots run deep in the wine country, have a very beautiful stone building and a small casa for weddings right in the center of the town of Sonoma. Piper Andersen is the very sweet and soothing person who assists you with your wedding.

Next time, I'll post some notes on some lovely people I've met in the wedding industry.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Time Magazine Person of the Year

Tongue in cheek, we wrote a press release based on Time Magazine's most recent selection of "you" as the Person of the Year. They are referring to the millions of people who participate in social networking on places like MySpace, post their videos on YouTube, or put out more current information than the professional newsmakers in their individual blogs. So, enjoy!

San Francisco, CA -- January 16, 2007 -- Savadelis Films has been named Person of the Year for its participation in the new digital democracy. "Yes, we are one in a billion, of internet users that is, but we are no more deserving than the other 999 million users," said a modest Chuck Savadelis co-owner of Savadelis Films. "Time Magazine named all of us as Person of the Year for "seizing the reins of the global media", citing YouTube, Facebook and MySpace as the prime examples."

Savadelis Films has done their part to earn the moniker in 2006 by being the only wedding videographers tapped by two of the most prestigious wedding magazine websites to provide their wedding videos online.

Conde Nast's newly redesigned omnibus website,, features two Savadelis Films wedding videos at The website combines articles from Elegant Bride, Modern Bride and Brides Magazines along with original material, attracting well over 200,000 unique visitors a month. Theresa DiMasi, Editor in Chief of said, "A Savadelis Films wedding movie is an exquisite work of art that tells a story and deeply affects you. In fact, it is more accurate to call their métier wedding cinematography because their work looks just like a movie."

Grace Ormonde, Editor in Chief of Grace Ormonde Wedding Style Magazine, personally selected a Savadelis Films movie trailer as the first online Featured Wedding at to inaugurate her newly redesigned website which was launched on September 29, 2006. Ms. Ormonde said, "Savadelis Films is one of the premiere wedding cinematography companies for brides who want a wedding movie which is as stylish as every other aspect of their wedding. Their work is beautiful, tasteful and elegant. Stylish brides have discovered the Savadelises and are close to having a feeding frenzy over them."

Grace should know. She is the doyenne of the ultra chic wedding magazine that recommends the best professionals internationally. Grace Ormonde has a knack for discovering new talent, giving established wedding industry artisans a forum to express themselves, and inspiring them to take their creativity to a new level. Artists whom Grace has encouraged include wedding gown couturier Reem Acra; celebrity photographer Mike Colon; event designer Colin Cowie; caterer Paula Le Duc; and cake designer Sylvia Weinstock.

"We are delighted to be associated with visionaries such as Grace Ormonde and Theresa DiMasi who have long provided insightful and useful information to their readers in print, and now have grabbed hold of the future by offering videos and other interactive experiences on the internet to serve and enrich their brides." said Jewel Savadelis, the other half of Savadelis Films. "Perhaps they more than we deserve to be Person of the Year because of the way they are shaping the web in meaningful ways."

Monday, January 08, 2007

We Love Our Brides

There is nothing we like more than to hear that our clients are delighted with their wedding movies especially when the bride and groom are professional photographers who have a very artistic eye. We find it so difficult to explain BEFORE the wedding how much a couple will treasure their wedding movie AFTER the wedding (if you have a suggestion, let us know). It always seems so self-serving, even if it is so true. Before their wedding, Jenny & Mike weren't at all sure they wanted a wedding movie, but Jubilee Lau, a fabulous event planner, assured them that they would be sorry if they didn't have one. Today we received a lovely note from our sweet Jenny and Mike.

Dear Chuck and Jewel,

Thank you SO much for the amazing, amazing video! We have been traveling, so it was difficult to email, for which I apologize - we wanted to email you immediately and tell you how great it was. We absolutely LOVE it! Thank you so much for the multiple copies. The presentation boxes, the "extra" slideshow, the editing, we loved all of it. I felt almost voyeuristic watching the part of the wedding that occurred before I walked down the aisle - it was so amazing to be able to "see" the parts of our wedding that we missed. You guys have made me a firm believer in wedding videos. I can't believe how much work you put into our video. Thank you for everything, your thoughtfulness, your caring, and all that you did for us, before, during and after our wedding. You will both always be a part of one of the most special days of our lives.

Please stay in touch!
Jenny & Mike

Just to show how interrelated we all are...Samantha and Alvin were considering engaging us for their wedding but wanted to know more about us, from a bride's perspective. Jubilee, who was their event designer, gave Samantha Jenny's cell phone. Jenny was on her honeymoon in Tahiti at the time. But Jenny immediately called Samantha back and talked for quite some time about how much they enjoyed working with us and with Jubilee. Samantha and Alvin not only engaged us, but invited Jenny and Mike to their wedding in order to surprise us! Did I tell you...WE LOVE OUR BRIDES!!