Monday, April 30, 2012

Improv Nation at Shadowland!

Denny Dillon's IMPROV NATION an eight member company of players, will be performing at Shadowland in Ellenville, May 5th at 8pm.  Denny, Jason, David and Davis all appear in RACING DAYLIGHT (now on SHOWTIME), Sophia produced the film, I wrote and directed it.  That leaves Mikhail Horowitz  and Lori Wilner to round out our dynamic company. 

Here are some great photos taken by Barbara Smiley when we were at the Rhinebeck High school last year.

Hope to see you at Shadowland!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Favorite Photos:

Showtime adds more dates every day!

These are some of my favorite photos from the film taken by Dion Ogust and Jamie Midgely:

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I get a lot of crap emails on the film's website.  But, once in a while, sandwiched between the VAT lottery winnings that I'm lucky enough to receive hundreds of a day, and the missives from the kind people who want to share millions of inherited, found, rescued funds with me if only I'll give them my bank account numbers, the penis enlargers and the fat burners, the fake FBI, and the others phishing, I actually do get some correspondence that is really about the film.

Today's was from a new film site GIGAPLEX who are streaming RACING DAYLIGHT now.  Thanks, Manu, for alerting us to Gigaplex, and for picking up our film!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition (A Full Cast Production) | [Neil Gaiman]

I received an email  from Karen Dziekonski of Harper Audio, Executive Producer of Neil Gaiman's 10th Anniversary Audio book AMERICAN GODS.  She says that the recording was nominated for Audio Book of the Year by the Audie committee!   And also that she gave birth to a daughter in December!!  Welcome, Stella Catherine!!!

Many of you know, because you were kind enough to vote for me, that I won several small parts in the full cast recording of the audiobook, directed by Paula Parker.  AMERICAN GODS is a romp through this New World, with the gods of old on the brink of war with the new.  If you're looking to be transported to another world, one that strongly resembles our own, (but on peyote), where the roads might lead you anywhere, this might be the listen for you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In loving memory of - Jason Michael Martin

I met Jason Martin when we decided to make RACING DAYLIGHT for no money.  The first thing Sophia did was convene a brain trust.  We met with our cinematographer Stephen M Harris, Kale Kaposhilin of Evolving Media and Jason Martin, the guy in the black leather jacket -- so cool.  Patient and knowledgable artists all.

When we had our film in the can it was Jason Martin who did the color correct, with Stephen alongside.  It was Jason Martin I went to with a box of antique photographs from the Stone Ridge Library, a few minutes of wild cello improvisation by Tomas Ulrich (to a piece of music by our composer Sarah Plant) and a quirky idea for a title sequence.  Jason took the germ of that idea and made magic.  He understood what I wanted that opening to do, and he made it happen.

When SHOWTIME came knocking, asking us for an HD-cam master, it was Jason who delivered it, twice!

Shortly after we wrapped principal photography, back in 2006, a couple of Bard alums, who worked on our crew, asked me if I would act in a low budget short, THE ESCAPISTS, which Andrew Gori was shooting in Tivoli.  I arrived knowing no one well.  But when I got on the set, who had the camera in his hand?  Jason Martin!  I knew we were in good stead.

You never knew where you were going to run into Jason, but if it had something to do with being creative in the moving image medium, he was likely to be ensconced.  I made a book trailer with another talented filmmaker Constant van Hoeven, because my daughter was in it wearing a nun's costume.  I played her evil aunt, and yes, it was Jason Martin who shot the most incredible footage on a skateboard and a Cannon SLR.

And because we knew Jason, we met Anne Barliant, who cobbled together hours of footage into a wonderful behind the scenes film, which made us look like we knew what we were doing!

I'm proud to have known Jason.   I am grateful to have known Jason.  He touched my life and made it better.  I'll miss your artistry, your work ethic, your sense of humor. You made it possible for a fifty year old woman to become a first time director.  Thank you.   I'll miss you, Jason....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blog reviews

These are some of my favorite blog reviews of Racing Daylight (running on SHOWTIME now!) for differing reasons.  Mostly, I'm glad these folks took the time to write.

On one of these, I, yes, took to the comments section and we had a pretty healthy exchange.   Me, wondering why the blogger wouldn't focus on the films he did like, as opposed to the bracingly bad ones.  Ouch!  To each his ...

I hope you enjoy.  I have. After all, we're just racing daylight.

 This one from: post-Punk Cinema Club

 If NPR ever decided to start making movies, Racing Daylight would probably be their first box office smash. (Or flop, actually.) Because Racing Daylight - a tweedy, low-fi look at a small, East Coast town's past and present - is very, very NPR. And it stars David Strathairn! You can't get more charmingly "this American life" than that. Cape Cod ho! Sadie (Melissa Leo) lives a dead-end life on Sesame Street whatever street she lives on in Cedarsville, New York. Death and life are a bit blurred here in Cedarsville, since Sadie's been receiving spectral visitations from Civil War vets. When not seeing ghosts, she tends to her catatonic grandmother (Le Clanche du Rand) and pines mutely after the dashing handyman (and adorably nerdy Civil War freak), Henry (David Strathairn, looking pretty dashing indeed!). The ghosts meanwhile creep in and take over Sadie's life, flinging her back to the high romance of Cedarsville during the Civil War, when she - now named Anna - was pining much more vocally for the dashing soldier, Harry (David Strathairn, now with facial hair and even more dashing!), and her young, slightly dodgy "killer inside me" husband, Edmund (Jason Downs). Filmed on a shoestring budget, with costumes and props seemingly from the Dollar Store, Racing Daylight has some moments which are adorable and quirky and charming, and many other moments which are scrape-out-your-eyeballs awful. Relatedly, the tone swings wildly around - is it a Gothic horror-romance? Is it a whimsical What's Eating Gilbert Grape?-ish look at the weird and wonderful of American's forgotten poor? Is it a David Strathairn/Civil War broad comedy gush fest? Any of these options would have been great. Unfortunately, Racing Daylight has shrieking violins in one moment and dueling banjos the next. It has some very good acting - such as David Strathairn's pitch perfect weirdness as Henry the Nerd, with his "Do you like facts?" non sequiturs - and some very bad acting - such as Melissa Leo going a bit too broad on the coy girlishness of Sadie-infatuated. The writing is rough. And, overall, everyone is very, very earnest - which earns some points, at least. Hey, we wouldn't mind sitting in a classroom or a museum and watching this while someone explained the threading work in Union uniforms. Hey, so we're earnest Civil War buffs too - sue us! But should YOU watch it? ("Wait, wait, don't tell me!" we hear you cry.) Well... if, like us, you get your kicks from American history and, especially, facts, then yes. There just aren't enough Civil War movies out there, and it's always nice to see a smart Union uniform. Be warned, though, this is not by any measure a "good" movie. It's clunky, clumsy, awkwardly filmed and very cheap. If you want fancy, polished filmwork on the era, go for Glory (to cry), Gettysburg (to learn, and then cry), Cold Mountain (OK, we haven't actually seen this one) or Shenandoah (to Jimmy Stewart). If you don't need to focus on the Civil War, but instead would just appreciate a handheld tour through history with David Strathairn, preferably in a state of romantic poverty, then you can watch any number of excellent John Sayles films - Limbo (Alaska!), Matewan (West Virginia!), Eight Men Out (daaaa Bears!). If you don't have any of those at hand, this will do. Oh yeah, and if you like Tom Waits' experimental industrial music with saws and banjos and other hard-to-identify instruments, you can watch this. The intro music is crazy! <=== and what is that cover about?! 

Racing Daylight races heart beat from Bellonline

Guest Author - Lorna London Sloukji

"I always knew I would end up insane," says Sadie Stokes, one of the protagonists in Nicole Quinn's Racing Daylight.

A story that encompasses ghosts, murder, passion, and love, Racing Daylight unfolds three stories, told from three different perspectives.

The first story shown is Sadie's, a lonely woman living in the country who takes care of her sick grandmother. Played by Melissa Leo, Sadie's life becomes saturated with colour and adventure when she sees a man in her mirror that calls the name "Anna". Sadie then begins to act out as her ancestor, Anna exemplifying characteristics of boldness, much more different than her original personality.

We learn that Sadie and Anna both want Henry, played by David Strathairn, the farm's handyman who "Anna" mistakes for Harry, her lover.

We also see the love and mystery story unfold through Henry's perspectives. Played by David Strathairn, Henry's storytelling unravels his relationship with Anna, leading to another man in Anna's life, which then results in yet another perspective. Edmund's story discloses even more information, as viewers learn more about Anna, the two men in her life, and what happened to her to cause such inner turmoil.

Award-winning writer and theatre director, Nicole Quinn makes her feature film directorial debut with Racing Daylight, a story rich with plot and character development.

Reviews for Racing Daylight have commended its narrative structure, performances, and overall presentation.

"Excellent work!" says director, Seret Scott. "Every element (cast, crew, designers, editors, writer-director) everybody was completely on-board in making (this) moving, frightening, visually stunning film."

Writer and director, Nicole Quinn endured many hardships including losing loved ones. She wrote Racing Daylight amidst all the rapid changes in her life, declaring this screenplay as "a map through the then unknown land of grief."

Is this another chick flick? Another love story with complex characters? If you enjoy symbolism, question your haunting past, or wonder about the transcendence of time, then Racing Daylight is simply a great film full of colourful characters, astounding performances, and a solid screenplay.
"If you don’t mind that some things in life are not readily explainable, then this may well be a journey you’d like to take," says Quinn.

Racing Daylight released on DVD December 23, 2008.


Sometimes there's nothing like areally bad movie to make you appreciate the good ones. Even mediocre fare can look surprisingly competent, once you've subjected yourself to films as poorly conceived and executed asRACING DAYLIGHT) or so thoroughly second-, third- and fourth-hand like THE GENE GENERATION.

I rented Racing Daylight on the basis of its cast, which includesMelissa Leo, below (nominated for an Oscar this year for her work in Frozen River), and

David Strathairn (above). I've loved Ms Leo's work since I first encountered it in an off-Broadway theatre more than 20 years ago, and I have never seen her give a bad performance. Until now. I can only credit the film's writer/director Nicole Quinn for what must have been her help in obtaining from Ms Leo acting that is overwrought, phony and foolish. I simply cannot believe that this actress made these "choices" completely on her own. That she plays two roles in the film only adds to the discomfort-level viewers are likely to feel. Mr. Strathairn, from whom I also have never seen anything less than sterling work, is a bit luckier. Halfway (or so) through the film he gets to switch into an ironic, "Let's look at the camera and sort of 'address' the viewer" mode, which he does very well, and this goes quite a distance toward redeeming his work.

Finally, it is Ms. Quinn's idea of conflating a murder mystery with a ghost story with a romance with a time-travel tale -- without the skills to tackle even a single one of these properly -- that leaves everything and everyone in the lurch. This was Quinn's first attempt as writer/director/producer. The good news is that she can only move up from here. Watching the "making of" sections on the DVD's Special Features was interesting, if a little sad: Hearing all these performers go on and on in such sincere fashion about the filmmaking and acting process. Actors, bless, 'em, must give their all and get into the swing of things by feeling, or maybe pretending, that their particular role is something wonderful and worthy of their special skills. The cast does so in spades in this "making-of" featurette. Included, among many other talented folk are Giancarlo Esposito,Denny Dillon and Jason Downs (shown above), all of whom play dual-roles to half-effect. (The photographs above are by Dion Ogust.)

nico said...
ouch! thanks for taking the time to watch.

nicole quinn
James van Maanen, said...
You're welcome, Nicole. And I mean it when I say that I look forward to watching your NEXT film. In fact, if you give me a heads-up, I'll even blog about it. I don't enjoy giving a bad review (which is why, mostly, I keep to the films I like). Over the years, one of the pleasure I've found in seeing a lot of movies is discovering a film I like from a director whose work I had not previously enjoyed. (You can't help wondering: is s/he getting better -- or am I?) Anyway. I'm impressed that you managed to gather up such as great cast for "Racing Daylight."
nico said...
thanks, but i think i'll stick to bloggers and reviewers who actually like my films. you say you don't like writing bad reviews.... no one's forcing you.
James van Maanen, said...
I can understand your reaction, Nicole. And I had should have mentioned in my earlier comment how very gracious was your original short response -- considering how bad my review was. You're right: No one is forcing anybody to write a bad (or a good) review. Maybe the impetus is the same for all of us: We want to communicate. Anyway, I will still watch your next film, if and when it arrives, which I'll hope to enjoy.
nico said...
my mother always said "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." and in movie review world that would be a lovely axiom. it is so difficult to get a movie made and then to get it distributed is even harder. the paid critics have been kinder. i wonder ... if what you want to do is communicate why you choose the negative? celebrate what you do like!

my next film SLAP AND TICKLE is set to shoot in june/july starring gloria rueben, linda powell, adam lefevre, melissa leo, and giancarlo esposito. vanguard will again distribute. i hope you do like it. but if you don't ... please think about the time and expense of all those who bled for the film before you blithely shoot missiles at it in an effort to communicate.
James van Maanen, said...
It would be interesting if all reviewers only tackled the films they liked, leaving all other movies un-reviewed (rather than saying anything negative). But then many moviemakers would be up in arms that their film wasn't reviewed -- or reviewed often enough -- and thus didn't find its audience.

One of my relatives also told me the "If you don't have anything nice to say..." chestnut, (I think it was Dorothy Parker who amended that to "If you don't have anything nice to say, come over here and sit next to me"), which can work well in certain situations. But how would adhering to that have helped us get rid of this past Bush administration? That's politics, not art, you say? Well, it's all important.

Still, any critic who has maintained a few shreds of humanity realizes that, yes, a whole lot of work went into the project by a whole lot of people, all of whom were probably doing the best they could. Which I think ought to make it more difficult for us to be really nasty in a review. But sometimes we slip. However, I don't know that all of us are "blithely shooting missiles." We try for some balance, even when were being negative.

In any case, thanks for the heads-up on SLAP AND TICKLE (love that title!), which I will look forward to seeing. Of course, I'll probably have to recuse myself from a review because now, I feel some personal connection to you and your work that I didn't have a few days ago. Thus it will be much more difficult for me to write a bad review. Which is why, I suppose, critics don't always have this kind of communication. But what the hell, it's interesting and I am learning something -- which at my age is always encouraging.

Career Character: In Praise of Melissa Leo

By Sheila O’Malley

Melissa Leo in "Racing Daylight"
I have often been known to say, “I could sooner play a black man then a grown-up lady.” You know, just like one of those ladies in an office, somebody’s wife or something. That feels like the most distant character in many ways. And why bother? There are plenty of girls who, that’s what they do.
– Melissa Leo, Interview with the AV Club, 2008
Life has etched a distinctive beauty upon Melissa Leo’s face. She doesn’t look like anybody else; she is a character actor of the old school, and proud of it. Perhaps, as the quote above reveals, the only part that would not interest her is a “lady in an office” or “somebody’s wife”. Leo brings something very unique to the table, a fearlessly weatherbeaten aspect that can look beautiful, in a faded but resilient way, like an old photograph from another time. Or it can be grittily unattractive, as befitting characters whose lives, often on the edge of ruin, have no place for vanity.

"21 Grams"
Leo did not have the pampering enjoyed by young “breakout” stars, the pretty young women who are pushed to the forefront in prestigious projects, who look adorable and desirable on red carpets. Leo’s ship is starting to come in, with two Oscar nominations under her belt (one for her performance in 2008’s Frozen River and the second for the Mass-accented juggernaut that is her portrayal of Alice Ward in this year’s The Fighter, for which she already scooped up a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe). But she has been doing excellent work for decades.
Leo has been very lucky as an actress: for over 26 years she has constantly worked on the stage, in feature films, shorts, student films and television. But luck can only play a small part in such a long and diverse career. There is a fierce act of will behind Leo’s kind of success. I get the sense that Leo would be equally happy doing regional theatre productions, spending the spring season as Nora Helmer in A Doll’s House followed by a comedic summer as Sybil in Private Lives, and on and on. She sometimes gives rather prickly answers to questions about her dedication (“are you always in character on-set?”), but it comes from a place where the work is and always has been paramount. Why else do it?

"Homicide: Life on the Street"
Her battles with NBC over her role as Kay Howard, the tough-as-nails homicide detective on Homicide are by now well-known. She wanted Kay to wear trousers, not the tight sweater-and-skirt ensembles so typical of female characters on such shows. She also asked that the script not “track” Kay’s personal or romantic life. A woman operating in an all-male environment has to do what she must to be perceived as “one of the guys”, a character emphasis upon which Leo strongly insisted. She was eventually let go from Homicide; Leo openly admits it was a missed opportunity on the network’s part to explore the realities of a woman in Kay’s situation. But no matter: Leo moved on.
She is known for lending support to short films and student films: if the script is good and someone asks her to be involved, she is likely to say yes. That was how Frozen River came about. Writer-director Courtney Hunt had written a short script about a woman smuggling illegal immigrants across the frozen St. Lawrence River in upstate New York, and had contacted Leo to play the lead. Leo was very impressed with the amount of research Hunt had done, and she clearly recognized that here was a good story that had not yet been told. The short was made, after a couple of years the financing came through to make the feature. It was a short, brutal shoot, with almost no amenities for the cast and crew. Leo’s agent hadn’t wanted her to take the job because they couldn’t give her a trailer.

"Frozen River"
But Leo seems to thrive on the challenge of discomfort, especially if it helps to immerse her in the world of the character. From the first closeup of Leo in Frozen River, huddled in her battered truck, smoking, teeth stained yellow, her face worn with desperation, we know that we are in the presence of something genuine, yet also a throwback to the American films of the 60s and 70s when someone like Donald Sutherland could be considered a leading man, and someone like Ellen Burstyn could be a leading lady. These were unglamorous individuals with unresolved issues and flaws, jagged edges exposed. Stephen Holden wrote in his New York Times review of Frozen River that Leo ”brings the same kind of gravity to the role that Patricia Neal did to Alma Brown in Hud 45 years ago. This weathered, redheaded actress makes you believe in her character’s resilience.”
“Resilience” is a word that comes up often in regard to Leo’s characters. I think of her scrubbing down the grille of her husband’s truck in 21 Grams, weeping because she knows that this time there will be no way out. The truck must be cleaned of all evidence, and her husband (Benicio Del Toro) has disappeared, and she’s the one left to do the dirty work.
Leo gives one of her most remarkable but unremarked performances in Racing Daylight (2007), written and directed by Nicole Quinn. Leo plays a dual role in a story where time bends back to meet itself. First she plays Sadie, a painfully shy woman who takes care of her sick grandmother and who lives primarily in a fantasy world, deeply and secretly in love with the family handyman (played beautifully and humorously by David Strathairn). Leo is first seen carefully plucking a hair out of her chin, peering anxiously at her reflection in the mirror, fear flickering at the edges of her eyes. There’s something in her mind that she can’t quite look at, or admit. She says in voiceover : “I always knew I’d go insane.”

"Racing Daylight"
Leo also plays Anna Stokes, Sadie’s Civil-War-era ancestor, whom the current-day Sadie obsesses over to the degree that she starts to believe she is Anna Stokes, much to the consternation of her gossipy neighbors. Strathairn, looking on as this strange inarticulate woman starts to unravel, turns to the camera at one point and says simply, “This chick is seriously twisted.”
The film is broken into three parts, where different characters come to the forefront in succession; we perceive how they all see one another (everyone plays dual roles), and we also perceive how claustrophobic and incestuous small-town life can be, especially a small town with such a long memory. The boundary between past and present is highly porous, and Sadie slips through. The first part, told from is Sadie’s point of view, is haunting in its portrayal of a woman who lives cocooned in her own unexpressed need, and her own sense that life has passed her by. Her fear of madness is real. Sadie peeks into mirrors cautiously, afraid of what she might find there. She tries to interact with others, but her loneliness and her need for human contact is so acute that it makes her odd, “too much to take”. She does her best to behave like a normal person, and her attempts at flirtation with Strathairn’s character are painful to watch. Sadie’s loneliness vibrates palpably on the surface of her skin, an ache that the whole world can see.
Leo has rarely revealed such vulnerability, such open need, as she does in Racing Daylight. When she touches herself, in unguarded moments, lost in her fantasies of the Civil War drama in the past, she becomes so aroused by the sensation that it leaves her breathless and helpless She lives in the world of other people’s stories. Can she ever star in her own, or is it too late?

"The Fighter"
It seems a far stretch for Leo to go from such a delicate turn in Racing Daylight to her portrayal of Alice Ward inDavid O’ Russell’s The Fighter, where she chomps the scenery, chews it up voraciously, and spits it out in big messy chunks. She smokes like a dragon, stalking around in her carefully-matched outfits and helmet of frosted tips, and her devotion to her family is confrontational and full of rage. Devotion like this is little more than an open threat: “Do not mess with my tribe.” Alice, as is often the case with matriarchs of dysfunctional families, seems to have backed the wrong son, throwing her considerable emotional support behind Dicky, the crack-addicted former boxer (Christian Bale), leaving Micky, the more stable and promising brother, out in the cold. Leo’s performance has been described almost universally as “over-the-top”, but I beg to differ. There are certain pubs in southern Rhode Island and south Boston filled with larger-than-life people like Alice. I recognized that woman immediately. She’s a gun moll without the gangster (and the gun), an even lower-rent Lilly Dillon from The Grifters, ruthless in her goals, and motivated by blood loyalty. Alice is followed around by a terrifying brood of dead-eyed daughters with spritzed bangs, who sit around aimlessly waiting to see what their mother will do, anticipating her battle cry so that they can follow suit. Leo’s performance is an attention-getter, for sure, loud and tough and funny, with big gestures and even bigger hair.
As Patricia Neal and Gena Rowlands had done before her, Leo has the capacity to crack open a character’s inner life like very few actresses working today. She is in this job for the mess, for the unresolved issues of her characters, and this has led her through an unconventional and unglamorous path.  Now that she’s flush with critical acclaim and Hollywood awards, she needs more than ever to keep taking risks and stay on the edge. Her characters have miniscule comfort zones; they are rarely settled, and never complacent. Life is too dangerous, too urgent, and watching Leo’s characters do what it takes to survive, in all its ugliness and brutality, is nothing less than a thrill.
At one point in Racing Daylight, David Strathairn’s character turns to the camera, and says of Leo’s complex and neurotic Sadie,
“She’s tuned into some other channel and ….. it’s very seductive.”
The same could be said for Melissa Leo.

Racing Daylight finds distribution home with Vanguard CinemaBy Ed Grant -- Video Business
VANGUARD CINEMA Street: Dec. 23 Prebook: Nov. 14
Unconventional chick flick toys with time-travel.
A clever variation on Akira Kuro-sawa’s Rashomon, this time-traveling romance presents three points of view on events in present and post-Civil War America. The film is smartly scripted by director Nicole Quinn, but its strongest suit is its cast. Academy Award ® Nominee Melissa Leo (Frozen River, Righteous Kill) plays the schizo lead character, a present-day woman who has hallucinations that she is her 1860s ancestor. The superb David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck) steals the picture as the man she loves in both eras, who solves her dilemma when he turns into a third-act narrator who explains most—but not all—of what we have seen.
Shelf Talk: Racing Daylight is hard to categorize, but it is most like memory and time-travel chick flicks The Lake House and The Notebook. Target female viewers looking for a slightly offbeat “timeless romance” with a comfortably happy conclusion.