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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery 2017: Thanks, Rochester!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

I love doing the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Rochester, New York!

From our beginning, Rochester has been one of the most active participants in the film festival, with lots of excellent entries every year. That’s due to the tireless work of some fantastic Rochesterians: Deb Ross (of KidsOutAndAbout.com), Carol White Llewellyn (of Rochester Community Media) and many others. Beginning last year, we have worked to bring annual screenings to Rochester too, at the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman Museum.

Last year’s screening was a blast! I co-hosted it with Newbery-winning author Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard). Linda Sue was a fantastic co-host (and boy could she sing!) but our schedules didn’t mesh this year. Never fear! Rochester is chockablock with fantastic children’s authors (maybe that’s why their annual Teen Book Festival does so well), and I was lucky enough to score YA author Charles Benoit (Snow Job, Cold Calls) as my co-host this year.

Charles is a saxophone player in a band and a natural showman, so I knew he’d slay the opening skit. He did! Check out the video, above! And our young volunteer Jacyn did a great job too with her role. Thanks, Jacyn and Charles! Here we are after the show:

For the second year in a row, we also got to hear the dulcet tones of Rochester’s own children’s troubadour Mr. Loops, who beguiled the audience with his guitar as they filed in to the theater, and did a great Newbery-themed song in the middle of the show. Thanks, Mr. Loops!

I have many more people to thank, but before we get to that, let’s check out some of the great movies I got from Rochester this year. (Oh, and let me also acknowledge that I was in Rochester during a record-breaking snowstorm that stranded me in a hotel next to the airport for two-and-a-half days, living on takeout pizza and coffee, kind of like a really low-stakes version of The Shining.)

On to Rochester’s videos! Here is Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Newbery Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street, as adapted by Roberto Clemente School #8 with The Animation Workshop at Animatus Studio and Children’s Film Festival:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery blog, this was some “elaborate, accomplished, and assured animation . . . I love the choice to combine the drawn figures and photographic heads . . . Masterful!”

Here’s another take on Last Stop on Market Street, this time by Eian Sinclair (who last year did an amazing Claymation of Firefly Hollow):

So says the 90-Second Newbery blog: “The clay figures were impressive, full of intimate character and detail, and animated with lifelike subtlety (the toe-tapping during the music, the wriggling of the dog, the little smile on the guitar player when people clap for him)!”

Next up is Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl by Dr. Martin Luther King School No. 9:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “Even though it’s a bit longer than 90 seconds, this movie made every second count . . . I like how the movie showed every step of how Astrid and Nicole first become friends, all the way from its beginning with the squirrel-touch and the nightmare-fantasy of foaming at the mouth from rabies! I also appreciated how this movie mixes up its shots: closeups, mid-shots, and insert shots–that variety makes it much more of a pleasure to watch . . . Great movie!”

We got a bunch of great movies from a moviemaking summer camp run by Rochester Community Media TV and Writers and Books. This first one is of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One And Only Ivan—but instead of a silverback gorilla, with a dinosaur:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “Great movie! I liked the switcheroo of having Ivan not be a gorilla, but rather a dinosaur. The costumes were all fun and resourceful–I liked the dinosaur costume of Ivan, but I liked the elephant costumes even better (complete with long trunks)! I like the goofy-corny wordplay (“Leonardo di-no-Vinci”!) . . . Well done!”

Next up by Rochester Community TV and Writers and Books summer camp is Richard & Florence Atwater 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins . . . here, done SPY STYLE:

The 90-Second Newbery blog judges say, “A brilliant concept—that the penguins of Mr. Popper’s Penguins are not regular penguins, but rather expert spies with a mission of their own! The goofy premise was set up swiftly and expertly in the first few seconds—you clearly set up the correct expectations for the movie right away. The acting was engaging and fun, especially Mr. Popper’s (I like the look of mild panic on his face when he insists to his wife, “I did not order this!”).”

The camp also adapted Lois Lowry’s 1990 Medal Winner Number the Stars:

The judges at the 90-Second Newbery blog wrote, “Spooky, goofy idea to reinvent Number the Stars in a Ghostbusters style. Impressive Ghostbusters uniforms—I like how the Ghostbusters are reframed as the villains in this movie (indeed, Nazis!), and the ghosts are the protagonists!”

Next up is an adaptation of Katherine Paterson’s 1979 Honor Book Great Gilly Hopkins:

The judges at the 90-Second Newbery blog said, “I like the twist in this movie: instead of being sent to a foster home, Gilly Hopkins is sent to live in a black-leather-jacket-wearing gang . . . Lots of fun weird energy in this one, the use of green screen and establishing shots was resourceful and not overdone.”

Thank you for all those great entries, Rochester!

And thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped make this Rochester trip happen: once again to super-organizers Deb Ross and Carol White Llewellyn, my co-host Charles Benoit and guest troubadour Mr. Loops and volunteer Jacyn. I want to thank our official partners at the George Eastman Museum, KidsOutAndAbout.Com, Writers and Books, and Rochester Community TV. And thanks also to our Platinum sponsor, Delta Airlines; our Gold sponsor, the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library; and our Silver sponsors, Animatus Studio / Animation Workshop, and Cheshire Audio/Visual.

Thanks also to Beth Puckett, who hosted me for an author visit at Johanna Perrin Middle School, and Kim Rouleau, who hosted me for an author visit at Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women. Thanks to Stephanie Squicciarini for letting me and Charles present at the Teen Book Festival fundraiser, thanks to Xandi DiMatteo and Kathy Wolf for inviting me to speak at the Rochester Central Library, and thanks to Xandi for taking me out to eat, and thanks to Deb Ross and her family for not only feeding me, but putting me up at her house for a few days, and paying for the hotel! I will not forget your generosity!

But thanks especially to all the young movie-makers who made this film festival possible, and also their parents, teachers, and facilitators who helped them out!

Also thanks to Arthur Bond and Amy Holland! I hung out with them (and their friends Jonathan and Matt) and I sat in on Arthur Bond’s radio show “Show of Prague,” in which he plays mostly prog rock and acts like he’s from Prague. I pretend to be his estranged cousin, Volgak Prazak. Afterward I sat in on their friend Lauren’s SE/EA Beats show. It made me nostalgic for when I was a DJ…

OK, this post has gone on long enough! Here’s the closing montage of the 2017 Rochester 90-Second Newbery…

UPDATE: Want to watch the whole Rochester 90-Second Newbery show, from the opening bit to the end, including all the movies? You can do so here.

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Episode 3 of the Secrets of Story Podcast: Laika and the Blue Mouse!

Hoo boy, do I have egg on my face! I totally forgot to post this back in January!

Some background. My friend Matt Bird and I started a podcast a few months ago called The Secrets of Story. In it, we try to figure out between us what makes a good story tick. What are the pro moves that great novelists and screenwriters do? What are the cringe-making mistakes that writers should avoid? Our podcast aims to get to the bottom of it!

But wait! What authority do Matt and I have to host such a podcast?

Well, Matt is the author of the excellent screenwriting/novel-writing advice book The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers (which you should go out and buy). It’s based on his storytelling advice blog Secrets of Story, of which I’m a longtime fan and sometime contributor. It’s a great blog! I’ve been reading it for years!

Okay, those are Matt’s credentials. But what right do I have to co-host this podcast? Well . . . Matt invited me. That’s about it. That’s enough, right? And I’m interested in understanding what makes for good stories. The Order of Odd-Fish came out years ago, but for one reason or another (including marvelous Lucy and Ingrid and starting the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival), although I’ve written plenty since then, I haven’t published anything. So starting this podcast is kind of like a therapy for me. Maybe, through talking over storytelling issues with Matt, I can figure out how to move forward?!

Speaking of moving forward… Here is Episode 3 of that very podcast. The problem is, we posted it on January 13, but I’m not blogging about it until now… a full 2+ months later! What gives?

The answer is pretty mundane. I just forgot. The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening season was cranking up just around then, and I was overwhelmed, and I missed blogging about it.

Which is a shame, because this is a great episode! Some background: in an earlier episode, Matt initiated what he hoped would be a recurring feature, in which he or I “give away” story ideas. Matt’s idea was about Laika, the first dog in space, who was shot up there by the Russians in 1957, and who presumably died up there. Matt’s story said, what if, instead of Laika dying in space in the Sputnik-2 as we all thought, she was scooped up by aliens? And what if those aliens are constantly watching all the planets with intelligent life, and the first time any planet sends a living organism into space, those aliens whisk away the organism (in this case, Laika) in order to test them, to see if that planet is worthy to be included in the Galactic Empire—and if they fail the test, the planet is destroyed? And so then Laika is put in the odd position of fighting for the life of the planet that only hours ago callously flung her up into space to die?

I liked this idea. So I did something to surprise Matt. In the next episode, I was supposed to show up with my own idea to “give away.” But instead, I wrote a 75-page script based on Matt’s idea! True, I did write the script in only 3 days, so it ain’t perfect, but I thought it was a fun exercise. You can download the script here if you’re interested. It puts a kind of Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Rick and Morty spin on Matt’s idea.

Or you can listen to the above podcast! I got together with my niece and nephew Freya and Theo, and together we performed the script, which is called “Laika and the Blue Mouse.” In the above podcast, Matt and I listen to the recording of Freya’s, Theo’s, and my performance, and every once in a while Matt breaks in to give some critique of the script.

It’s fun! But it’s over two hours! So listener beware. And full disclosure, it’s not my best writing. But I thought it would be a fun experiment to crank something out quickly and then put it through the wringer of Matt’s critique. I think we all surprised ourselves and learned something. Anyway, go listen to it (even though I’m posting it months late!).

And if you want to listen in on the lively debate about the script, with lots of great advice from the commenters, check out the comments section in this post on Matt’s blog.

90-Second Newbery 2017: Thanks, New York!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

This past weekend Keir Graff (author of The Matchstick Castle) and I co-hosted back-to-back screenings of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library. We had great crowds at both venues! This year we got much more participation than usual from the New York area. Above is a collage of screenshots of some of the movies we received from New York this year.

A video of the opening musical skit exists, but unfortunately the sound quality wasn’t as crisp as it was for the Minneapolis screening. If you want to see a good version of the opening skit, check out the Minneapolis version here, starring me, Keir, and this year’s Newbery Medal winner Kelly Barnhill.

The opening skit was all about how odd it is that so many animals die in Newbery-winning books. As the skit goes on, Keir and I come upon a “Newbery-matic 7000” contraption that produces Newbery-winning manuscripts, but at a price: a live animal must be sacrificed! And so we end up murdering the pet of a child in the audience. In Minneapolis, that child was played by a girl named Hadley; in New York, the part was played by one of our filmmakers, Violet.

Violet did a fantastic job, and on super-short notice! This isn’t Violet’s first year involved with the 90-Second Newbery, either. Last year, Violet and her partner-in-crime Ocean adapted Carl Hiaasen’s 2003 Honor Book Hoot with stop-motion Legos; this year, they made an adaptation of Tomie dePaola’s 2000 Honor Book 26 Fairmount Avenue, entirely with stop-motion Playmobil figures:

The 90-Second Newbery website said of this video, “an accomplished and impressive feat of stop-motion animation . . . So much detail and love went into this! It’s fantastic!”

It was great fun to show off movies from other 90-Second Newbery veterans too, like Jillian and Joseph Parrino. Check out Jillian’s submission this year, an adaptation of Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl in the style of Hamilton:

As the judges said at the 90-Second Newbery website, “Flat-brilliant . . . the songs were cleverly shortened and edited to make a smooth flow. It’s a smart concept that fits with unexpected serendipity with the source material.”

Jillian’s brother Joseph made a first-rate video too, of Marion Dane Bauer’s 1987 Honor Book On My Honor . . . with a cast entirely of fruit! You can check it out here, along with the judges’ praise! Both movies killed at the screening!

Here are Keir and I with Jillian and Joseph after the show. I look forward to getting their movies every year!

I can’t include every movie that we featured on Saturday and Sunday in this post, or the post would go on forever. But I did want to draw attention to this strange and original adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan by Milo and Levi of the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. It’s done entirely with sampled clips from all over the Internet:

A new way to do 90-Second Newberys! The judges said this one is “original, goofy, and entertaining… original and extremely enjoyable!”

There are a lot more great entries where those came from! Click on these below to see other local entries featured at the screenings at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library:

The War That Saved My Life by Brooklyn Friends School
Frog and Toad Together by Jada and Tatayana of the Brooklyn Public Library
Last Stop on Market Street by the Clarendon branch of the Brooklyn Public Library
Last Stop on Market Street by the Cortelyou branch of the Brooklyn Public Library
Charlotte’s Web by the Bedford Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library
When You Reach Me by Kenzie and Hannah of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
El Deafo by Emi and Mamie of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Courage of Sarah Noble by Celia and Sarah, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by the Gravesend branch of the Brooklyn Public Library
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Mohana of New York, NY (not available online yet)

After the show, we invited just the filmmakers onstage. Here are Keir and I with some of the young filmmakers who came to the New York Public Library screening:

And here we are with some of the moviemakers who made it to the Brooklyn screening:

It takes a lot of people working together to put on these shows. At the New York Public Library, thanks to to Tali Stolzenberg-Myers, Aisha Ahmad-Post, Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, Emily Nichols, and Emily Krell… as well as the folks at the Andreas Dracopolous Endowment for Young Audiences. Thanks also to Paquita Campoverde, Brandon Graham, and everyone at the Brooklyn Public Library who helped out. Thanks to the Crosswicks Foundation and Penguin Young Readers. Thanks to my co-host Keir Graff, and of course thanks to all the young filmmakers and the teachers, family, and facilitators who help them make these great movies!

To wrap up, here’s the closing montage we played at the New York Public Library:

And the closing montage at the Brooklyn Public Library:

See you next year, New York!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.