YOUR BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT FILMS NOT COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU...This blog is dedicated to promoting the art of independent filmmaking. The films profiled here are conceived and created outside the studio system and are brought to you, the public, without the aid of a major distributor. Though they might experience a limited theatrical release, they will largely be available to wider audiences through outlets like Netflix, YouTube or by direct purchase.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



It's horseshit.  I mean, one night you're having a beer with your scene partner and the next morning he's slashing your tires so you don't make it to the Hot Pockets audition...I'm just sayin' that real people don't last five minutes in this town, so watch your back.

This line from PUNCHING THE CLOWN, the quietly uproarious indie comedy from writer/director Gregori Viens, perfectly illustrates this funny portrayal of entertainment industry culture.  Populated largely by Hollywood hopefuls and wannabe's, the LA scene pulses with the sort of angst-ridden undercurrent that arises in most resource-scarce environments; in this case, hoards of aspiring writers, directors, musicians and actors whose numbers far exceed any available opportunities for breakout success.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New PODCASTS page and December teaser!

After weeks of procrastination, (okay, actually I've been busy rounding up and interviewing the director of my next feature) I have finally gotten around to posting the podcast of my interview with CALIFORNIA IS A PLACE co-writer/director Zack Canepari.

Monday, November 7, 2011

CALIFORNIA IS A PLACE written and directed by Drea Cooper and Zack Canepari

OK, I admit it.  I have this thing against California.  I'd have to say it started in earnest about 14 years ago when I moved out to Colorado from the East Coast.  I got extremely pissed off as a young person trying to make it as an onslaught of, I assumed, fed-up Californians began fleeing their state en masse and spreading out across the West.  It seems they were able to take advantage of over-inflated real estate values and sell their homes for a hefty profit...which meant they could sweep into states like Colorado, where housing was relatively cheap, and buy up property without batting an eyelash.

Couple that with a barrage of news stories in recent years featuring everything from mudslides to wildfires;  homophobic legislation; budget crises; unemployed octo-moms and philandering ex-governers, and it would appear to the uninitiated that California is a veritable grab-bag of everything ailing modern society.

But life reaffirms that beauty lies within even the severest of tragedies.  So in 2009, at the height of what we now call The Great Recession, filmmaker Drea Cooper teamed up with photographer Zack Canepari to document the truth behind the stories.  Their efforts have manifested in a series of stunning web vignettes portraying the lives of various California citizens amidst the tumult of modern day life.

In their own unique way, Cooper and Canepari capture the essence of human struggle in a style that recognizes the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.

My first exposure to this project was a few weeks ago at the newly revived Crested Butte Film Festival.  A short film called SCRAPERTOWN preceded the feature I had gone to see... a little 5-minute vignette so powerful in both story and visuals it overwhelmed the film that followed.

For five minutes the audience, nestled in the peace and quiet of the Colorado mountains, was transported to a world most of us neither know nor fully understand.  There, in the heart of Oakland, one young man has turned a hobby into a movement to change the lives of young people caught in a world of violence and despair.

It's hard to describe how moving this journey was.  Canepari frames his subjects in such a way that their essence resonates off of the screen.  His photographic style integrates seamlessly into his video work, a challenge he says he never necessarily dreamed of taking on.

The experience was made even more poignant by the fact that the film's protagonist, Baby Champ, was there in person to introduce the piece and answer our many questions afterwards.  The whole thing embodied one of the magical moments in life where - if you're a cynic like me - your faith in humanity is at least temporarily restored.

But I'll let you find that out for yourself...just click right here.

And I must say, having made my way through most of the videos that currently make up the CALIFORNIA IS A PLACE series, each one brought me a little closer to realizing that California - just like any other place on earth - encompasses the same beauty, horror, wonder and strife inherent to any corner of the world where human beings reside.




El Rey
Honey Pie
Big Vinny

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teaser for next month's film

It appears that my invisible equipment-busting forcefield must be dwindling, as it seems my pre-recording of next month's interview - with writer/director/photographer Zack Campenari of the web-based series CALIFORNIA IS A PLACE - was successful!  

Monday, October 24, 2011

EULOGY MAKER written and directed by Leslie Langee

Greetings film fans and welcome to my first official post as the creator of the Off the Grid Film Club!  I hope you will continue to follow me on my journey to find the up-and-coming directors honing their craft without the support of a major Hollywood studio.

In my first profile I am featuring Austin-based writer/director Leslie Langee, a fine example of independent spirit.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Help a filmmaker!

Hi again!

Many thanks to filmmaker Leslie Langee for a great show yesterday!  Unfortunately, for those of you who might have missed it, our equipment failed us and we were unable to record the show to convert to podcast.  

Wanted to let you all know of a project my friend Mike Dion, Executive Producer of the film RIDE THE DIVIDE that ReelTime presented at the Avalon last year, is working on.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

After months of hesitation, I am finally launching into this project full-force.  Am praying I find enough filmmakers who are willing to play along (and readers, too, of course!)

I am kicking off this project by profiling Austin-based actor and writer/director Leslie Langee and her short film EULOGY MAKER, which is making the rounds at film festivals earning awards along the way.

I will be interviewing Leslie live on the air this coming Tuesday, Oct. 11th from 12:30-1:00 MST during my "Off the Grid Films" radio show.  To listen, tune in to 88.1 FM on the dial or stream it live at  If you can't make the show, don't worry...I'll be posting a podcast of it as soon as time (and my kids' frenetic activities!) will permit.

No time at the moment, but in the next day or two I'll post a few thoughts and comments on the film as well as a YouTube link for your viewing pleasure.  This is a sweet little short that is definitely worth the mere 5 minutes of your time it will eat up!

Monday, July 4, 2011


The next time you choose your evening viewing, don't just settle passively into your couch or recliner.  Decide to conquer Tour Divide, the world’s toughest mountain bike challenge, with the documentary RIDE THE DIVIDE.

RIDE THE DIVIDE draws from the talent of musicians and filmmakers throughout the intermountain west to document the physical and psychological demands of the nearly 2700-mile journey undertaken by Tour Divide’s intrepid participants.

The film focuses on the personal struggles and transformations of three principle characters who brave the treachery, isolation and exhilaration of the race for a multitude of reasons:  Mike, a 40-year-old family man – and also the film’s Executive Producer – who uses the challenge to chart a new course in life; Matthew, a leader in extreme endurance racing competing for the 5th time; and Mary, the first female competitor to attempt the 200,000 ft. vertical climb through the Rocky Mountains.

RIDE THE DIVIDE’s intimate portrayal of each character’s uniquely engaging story sets it apart from the typical “bike porn” to which many extreme sports documentary enthusiasts are accustomed.  Instead, RIDE THE DIVIDE draws viewers into an intense experience that quickly emerges as a metaphor for living life to the fullest.

As these bikers test the limits of human physical and emotional endurance, they continually find rejuvenation in the breathtaking landscapes and beauty of small town mountain culture that envelope them.  It is this lesson, too – learning to draw inspiration from our encounters with the people and places in our lives – that audiences inevitably take away from their viewing experience.

"It's kind of the Wild West," says star and Executive Producer Mike Dion. "It's purposely off the beaten path, and you're finding fantastic places, and the people that you're running into in some of these towns."

On the surface, it's a film about the toughest mountain-bike race in the world, but what really comes through, what's underlying, is the adventure and the journey in the Rocky Mountains.

The desolation and harsh terrain struck director Hunter Weeks as particularly worrisome as he undertook the difficult task of filming this stunning feat of athleticism.  Never was this more real than in New Mexico when, while waiting for a rider to enter the scene, a bear wandered into sight.

“I can load my stuff into the Jeep," he said. "As a cyclist doing that race, you're going to be a lot more vulnerable."
Weeks himself is certainly no stranger to life-altering adventure.  His previous film, 10 MPH, is a comical road trip documentary chronicling friend and fellow filmmaker Josh Caldwell as he takes off from Seattle on a Segway scooter which transports him – at a mere 10 miles per hour – all the way to Boston.

This spontaneous journey became the launching pad for an expanding foray into the world of independent filmmaking.  Since then, Weeks has completed work on the films 10 YARDS and this, his latest.

In his efforts to bypass more traditional forms of theatrical release and distribution, Weeks has become a maverick in independent film marketing and pr, creating a DIY guide for aspiring filmmakers based on his own success.

His revolutionary incorporation of social media platforms and online marketing have earned him speaking forums at such prestigious marketplaces as the Sundance and London Film Festivals.

RIDE THE DIVIDE is currently in high demand at venues across the country and is also available for viewing through Netflix or by purchase through Amazon or the film's official website, accessible by clicking on the film title above.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Immerse yourself in the immense beauty and treachery of the natural world in A LIFE ASCENDING, an emotional portrait of life as a mountain guide in the wake of life-altering tragedy.

Acclaimed ski mountaineer and mountain guide Rudi Beglinger spent his youth exploring the Swiss Alps he called home. After a 3-month outdoor excursion in Yosemite National Park in the late 70’s, he headed north into Canada and never looked back.

Nestled in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, Rudi fulfilled his dream of opening an outdoor school. His mountain hut now attracts visitors worldwide who come to experience the majesty of the Selkirk Mountains under his careful watch.

His wife, Nicoline, came to Rudi’s mountain school during a 2-week break from work. The two fell in love instantly and settled into an existence exposed to the dangers of the natural world but sheltered from those of civilization.

The life they share with their two daughters, a life filled with awe-inspiring landscapes, outdoor adventure and the close company of kindred spirits, forms the narrative for this intimate tale of the light and dark consequences of inhabiting space on the edge of the earth.

“So beautiful and emotional, about family and purpose.” - Writer David Weissman
“A cinematic spectacle.” - Elliot Kolek, Moving Pictures Magazine

A LIFE ASCENDING is a truly life-affirming cinematic experience. It bears witness to the healing power of the natural elements and the resilience of the human spirit to prevail through even the darkest hours.

Denver-born director Stephen Grynberg navigates this emotional terrain effortlessly amidst the grandeur of the film’s stunning visual backdrop.

Breathtaking cinematography and a dramatic original score add emotional impact to this story of a life lived in the shadow of ever-present danger.

A LIFE ASCENDING is Grynberg’s first feature-length documentary film in the wake of a series of successful short films and an acclaimed feature-length narrative.

Prior to life as a filmmaker, Grynberg test-drove careers as both a chemical engineer and television executive before attending the American Film Institute’s director’s program.

In addition to making films he teaches personal story writing and lives with his wife and 7-year old twins in Santa Monica.

A LIFE ASCENDING is currently touring the film festival circuit where it continues to garner awards. For more information, visit the film's official website by clicking on the title above.