To Film a Family: You Have to Join It

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It’s 2009. I’ve got to tell you, we are running out of money. My corporate video business is on the wane. I save money buying cat food at Costco. Sirius XM and Netflix are cancelled. We consider moving downstairs and renting out above. “Do we really need two cars?”

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2009, Pinot: Sonoma Dreams. Accepted by Sonoma but nowhere else—a failure.

When it comes to entering my newly completed Pinot film into festivals, I’m cautious about spending the money. Sundance is around $100 and there’s almost zero chance you’ll get accepted. It’s like burning money.

Pinot: Sonoma Dreams is rejected by 86 festivals. Bang goes over $6,000. Only the Sonoma International Film Festival comes good, and while it was an excellent screening to a full house, that was it.

Reversal of Fortune

Tricia, my wife and co-producer on the Pinot disaster, has always been passionate about linen. She decides to make linen cushions and we sell them on a simple PayPal web site.

For herself, she makes a natural linen duvet cover and, after a stiff drink, plucks up courage and e-mails a photo to Remodelista, a homemaker blog. The next day, they publish and sales pour in. That is the start of our linen business.

2012 • Man at the Door

Three years later, there’s a knock at the door. The man, a local, wants linen sheets, pillowslips and, of course, the duvet cover. We chat. He tells me there is a tall ship being built by volunteers in nearby Sausalito. He knows Alan Olsen, the life force behind the project.

I drive to the construction site to meet Alan and discover there is no construction site; Alan is still negotiating with the local council. “Can I film the making of the ship?” Alan is agreeable—especially when I say I will volunteer my services and donate any profits.

2015 • We Built a Ship

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2015, We Built a Ship. Here we go again—entry time for 2016 festivals.

Episode one is finished and in 3D. These days I’m more selective with festival entries. Apart from one festival, there are no 3D, drone or virtual reality categories. Pity, you’d think they’d want bleeding edge stuff.

This week I’m making 3D DCPs, ready for the film festival rush in 2016. No news from Sundance, figures; I’ll phone Robert.

My New Family

Little did I know when I signed up as a ship volunteer that I’d be joining a family. Over the three years since I started shooting, I’ve made so many shipyard friends. I know all their names and backgrounds. They come to our BBQ parties with their kids. Richard, a shipwright, moves in downstairs and tells me when to come and shoot.

In July this year, I have heart bypass surgery. I am away from the shipyard for three months. When I feel strong enough, my daughter drives me there.

Nervous and a little shaky, I enter. A group of volunteers sees me and starts clapping. I am so touched, I burst into tears. I am reunited with my family. Richard gives me a big hug. I can’t wait to start shooting again.  

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