Letter from the Executive Director
Provincetown has been snowy and cold, but PFS has been bringing the heat! In February, we closed out our most successful auction in PFS’ 23-year history, raising over $76,000. We could not have done it without all the generously donated items (and experiences!) and for all the bidders that took our auction raise higher than we could have imagined. We are so very grateful to everyone that participated and for all your support. This event was the culmination of creativity and countless hours put in by our board and staff, the incredible marketing campaign spearheaded by our own Ellen Birmingham, and a social media tour de force by Julie Rockett. We have set the stage for sustainability having launched 2021 in this way.
We now look to put our efforts into launching a robust Membership Drive, to expand our family of Uncommon Birds both far and wide. Our team is building out our Virtual Cinema through our Water’s Edge Plus programming, and we will be launching a variety of new membership benefits over the coming months. Please stay tuned and we hope you will all consider either becoming a member if you are not currently one, or gifting a membership if you are.
Planning and programming for the 2021 PIFF Hybrid Film Festival is also underway, and will take place June 16-25th. In order to create a safe and robust hybrid film festival for 2021, the Provincetown Film Festival will offer expanded dates, expanded audience participation and greater opportunity for engagement, in accordance with State and Town Covid-19 guidelines. In our 23rd year, the Festival will highlight our long-standing tradition of showcasing top-tier new films from around the world while continuing to prioritize supporting first-time filmmakers, women filmmakers, and diverse filmmakers from underrepresented communities. There will be nights at the drive-in, outdoor screenings at the Mary Heaton Vorse house and other outdoor venues. More details will follow in the coming months.
In the meantime, stay warm and stay uncommon.
Member in the News
by Tracy Pease
We are proud to welcome Mike Syers to the board of the Provincetown Film Society (PFS).
Mike is a documentary filmmaker & photographer and has been a PFS supporter and an attendee of the Provincetown International Film Festival (PIFF) since its inception. Mike’s first film BECAUSE YOU’RE HERE, a documentary short about Kenneth Lonergan the Provincetown Town Crier, received the 2018 PIFF Best New England Short Award.
Mike recently retired as a Partner at Ernst & Young after leading their NY & Boston commercial real estate & hospitality advisory practice. He currently serves on the Board of Governors & the Executive Committee of CREFC, the trade association for the commercial real estate finance industry in the US.
As a PFS card carrying member, Mike has attended the Women’s Media Summit, participated in a PFS strategic session in New York with a team of professionals to move the development process forward, and has supported many important PFS initiatives around developing diverse voices in film. During Mike’s career he lead many initiatives and helped form several organizations that focus on Corporate Americas role in creating a more inclusive LGBTQ+ workplace. He co-founded EY’s LGBTQ+ group in the Americas and worked on LGBTQ+ rights projects with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Out Leadership, the Obama administration, Clinton Global Initiative and the United Nations.
Mike is known by some as the Provincetown Swim4Life photographer and also serves on the board of The Provincetown Community Compact which is a community building & philanthropic organization supporting the cultural well being of Provincetown, its people, and the natural environment of the Lower Cape.
Looking for your film-loving flock? Become a member of the Provincetown Film Society! Join at any level and reap all the cinema-tastic rewards! Feature your news in our newsletter, discounts, and more!
ASH CHRISTIAN SHORTS FILMMAKING PROGRAM – DEADLINE EXTENDED
The deadline to apply for The Ash Christian Shorts Filmmaking Program has been extended! The program offers new and emerging LGBTQ filmmakers aged 16-20 the chance to work with a team of mentors and professionals to make a short film of their own. To apply, simply submit a short film script or script treatment that addresses the themes of “not fitting in, standing out, being yourself”. The shorts will screen at the 2021 Provincetown Film Festival. Application fee waivers are available to those facing financial burden. For any further inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
BUNDLE UP AND HOST A BUNCH OF WATCH PARTIES THIS MONTH
Women’s History Month Watch Party: A sampling of noteworthy films that highlight the changemakers in modern political history.
ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY directed by Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés (2020)
An impressive examination of the long history of voter suppression in the US produced in part by Stacy Abrams, a powerful force in current American politics. The film interweaves personal experiences with activism and historical insight to provide a compelling look into the barriers to voting while debunking the myth of pervasive voter fraud.
CHISOLM: 72: UNBOUGHT & UNBOSSED directed by Shola Lynch (2016)
Pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm is the subject of this lauded documentary. The nation’s first African-American congresswoman, the passionate Chisholm launches a campaign for the United States presidency in the 1972 election, and wins an impressive amount of support, given the era and the still-prevailing prejudices of many voters. The film takes a close look at her presidential run, providing interviews with Chisholm and the dedicated individuals who worked on her groundbreaking campaign.
HILLARY directed by Nanette Burstein (2020)
If you think you know everything about the First Lady Hillary Clinton, this four-part documentary series is an insightful and powerful exploration of Clinton’s life and legacy. A divisive political figure, a successful lawyer in her own right, and possibly the world’s most famous wronged wife, Clinton gives her own account of how she got to where she is today.
KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE directed by Rachel Lears (2018)
A young bartender in the Bronx (the unstoppable Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia (Paula Jean Swearengin), Amy Vilela, a single mother from Las Vegas, and Cori Bush, a registered nurse in Missouri build a movement of insurgent candidates to challenge powerful incumbents in Congress. While three of the young heroes lost their races, Ocasio-Cortez’s race went on to become the most shocking political upsets in recent American history.
POLITICAL ANIMALS directed by Jonah Markowitz (2016)
Political Animals is a powerful, award winning documentary about four openly gay California lawmakers — all women — who took the fight for equality from the streets into the halls of government laying the groundwork for marriage equality and social justice.
RBG directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen (2018)
An intimate portrait of an unlikely rock star: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers explore how her early legal battles changed the world for women.
This month, in honor of Deaf History Month, we also recommend the excellent THE SOUND OF METAL directed by Darius Marder (2020). An evocative look at the experiences of the deaf community brought to life by Riz Ahmed’s passionate performance.
March 31 is also International Transgender Day of Visibility, celebrated to bring awareness to transgender people and their identities as well as recognize those who helped fight for rights for transgender people. A few films worth revisiting are PFS’s Fellow Filmmaker Jennie Livingston’s PARIS IS BURNING (1990), a documentary about ball culture in the 80’s and the inspiration to the fabulous series POSE; BOYS DON’T CRY directed by Kimberly Peirce in 1993. A devastating and unflinching account based on the real-life story of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was tragically murdered by acquaintances who discovered his gender identity, the film is also a beautiful love story, underscoring the power of love in even the darkest times. Naturally, we can’t omit PIFF 2018 Filmmaker on the Edge Honoree Sean Baker’s film TANGERINE (2015), the story of a transgender sex worker who learns that her pimp/boyfriend has been cheating on her.
Waters Edge Cinema
Waters Virtual Cinema delivers a wide variety of exclusive new films every week. Enjoy art house movies at home with your flock.
Member Discounts now available at Waters Edge Virtual Cinema!
Make our home your own and rent Waters Edge Cinema with your flock. Add a custom marquee message for that special someone!
Please allow 7 days advanced notice for reservation dates. Waters Edge Cinema COVID-19 policies must be adhered to at all times.
Provincetown Film Festival 2021
Save the Date for the 2021 Provincetown Film Festival!!
Ten days of unflinching cinema, June 16-25, 2021.
Submissions have now closed for this year. Thank you to all who entered!
EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT! Buy a 2021 PIFF All Access Streaming Pass for just $125 or $100 for PFS Members!
- A Streaming Pass provides streaming access to all virtual film screenings throughout the festival from Wednesday, June 16 – Friday, June 25, 2021 (U.S. Only)
- Enjoy feature-length narrative and documentary films, our shorts programs, and Q&A with filmmakers after select films.
- Films can be streamed once throughout the festival.
- Includes access to Conversations with Award Honorees
An email will immediately follow the purchase of your PASS, providing details about how to log in to browse and stream as many films as you like starting at 6:00pm June 16 until 11:59pm June 25, 2021.
The Launch | Mo Rocca
By Julie Rockett
I was twelve years old when I first saw a then 19-year-old Mo Rocca perform. He initially wore an enormous fat suit and then miraculously turned into a diva in a red dress with the tiniest waist in the role of Diane Foratwinkie. I was mesmerized. I remember looking at the playbill and thinking that his name couldn’t be real (who am I to judge?). But his name and performance stuck with me so it was no surprise to see him on The Daily Show and CBS Sunday Morning, although based on his earlier performances, I would have predicted that he would be in a live-action Godspell TV revival rather than the ‘news’.
My father and I have a wonderful ritual of listening to Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me and Mo’s own podcast Mobituaries. His quick wit and historical references are never lost on my Dad and listening to him laugh at Mo’s bon mots is a joy. I am so grateful for the opportunity to express this to the gracious Mo Rocca and discuss great films with him.
Julie Rockett: What films were you obsessed with as a kid?
Mo Rocca: There were three: The Wizard of Oz, the original King Kong from 1931, and Hitchcock’s The Birds. I remember The Birds being on Channel 5 a lot when I was a kid and it made a real impact upon me. I think all three were thrilling and also terrifying. I think the Wicked Witch of the West was so unbelievably scary, like pure evil on the level of Iago or Hitler, which is what I think really makes it work. I think there’s something dream-like quality to them. They all are things that could happen in a screwed up dream, like going to an island with a giant ape and dinosaurs.
JR: How did you end up seeing King Kong at such a young age?
MR: I feel like it was always on TV on Sundays. King Kong is one of those movies that if it’s on, to this day, I’m going to watch it. Its dialogue is spare, which I love, and it tells you the story through pictures.
JR: What documentaries do you love?
MR: I really liked The Mayor of Castro Street which was about Harvey Milk. I also loved the recording of the album of Sondheim’s Company.
JR: I love that one! Have you seen the Documentary Now! Satire of it? Paula Pell is amazing as Elaine Stritch!
MR: I need to see that. There’s another documentary, 51 Birch Street, that I found devastating. It’s about a marriage and a son discovering what was really happening in that marriage. It’s simply devastating.
JR: Did it just take a left turn?
MR: Basically, there were clues all along, and the documentary maker started by recording events around his parents 50th anniversary, which I think were intended just for personal use. He discovers the sacrifices his parents made to keep the family intact. It does take twists and turns and makes anyone reflect on their own parents’ marriage.
JR: When you were at the Hasty Pudding Club, did you have memorable moments with any of your honorees?
MR: My freshman year, we honored Lucille Ball and Steve Martin. Steve Martin was really hot at the time. He had just completed Roxanne and he had successfully transitioned from successful stand up to leading man. One of my cast mates asked him why he agreed to be Man of the Year and he replied, “I did it because I heard I would be honored alongside Lucille Ball.” I remember thinking in my 19-year-old mind that, “Lucille Ball is of my grandmother’s generation but Steve Martin is cool.” It was a realization for me that true talent transcends generations and honors each other. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense because Lucille Ball was a genius. But at the time it surprised that someone as cool as he would bow down to her. Nevertheless, it’s still really cool.
JR: What have you binged during quarantine?
MR: I thought It’s a Sin on HBO Max was so good. There are things you like that don’t stay with you and there are things you like that do stay with you. It’s hard to predict what stays with you. I think It’s a Sin is more likely to stay with a gay man so it’s not a shocker that it stayed with me. It’s also like, ‘Damn! That British acting training is something.’ There are performances that are so good that in a couple of cases, it’s hard for you to believe that they are not the actual people they are portraying. You have to remind yourself that they’re actors. I also found that Ted Lasso is a real tonic for the time. It’s hard to pull off something hopeful and buoyant without it turning saccharine, and it doesn’t do that. It’s really good.
JR: Is there something about It’s a Sin that keeps it on your mind and resonates with you?
MR: Part of what I found so compelling is that I came of age at a time when AIDS was known and terrifying. I think that for a lot of people around my age, you can’t help but contemplate the math and think, ‘if I had been born five years earlier, would I still be alive?’ I turned twelve in 1981, when the series starts and when people didn’t know much about it, but were terrified of it. The characters in the series are roughly only five years older than me and it is such a starkly different situation for them.
JR: We honored Larry Kramer a few years ago and he was so frail but he was such a force of nature and lately I’ve really loved hearing about his friendship with Fauci. That people could hear each other. That Fauci could get past the insults and still say, ‘you know you got a point there. Your evidence is solid.’ And Kramer could say, ‘You’re a son of a bitch but you’re my friend.’ It’s a discourse that’s sorely lacking in these times…
JR: If you were to program a series of musicals in Provincetown, what would you pick?
MR: That’s a tough question, because you don’t want to pick something that everyone’s seen.
JR: Yes, but you want to make sure you have sing-a-long moments from the popular ones like The Muppet Movie.
MR: I once did a story on the A Christmas Carol and went to the Dickens’ Christmas Carol Museum in London for it. They said that they think that the best version is the Muppet Christmas Carol and they didn’t say that ironically. Let’s see… I like The Harvey Girls. When Doris Day died, I looked at Calamity Jane again and that has a bunch of great numbers, although that might be more suited for Women’s Week. Little Shop of Horrors is also a great one. Rick Moranis and Steve Martin are outstanding.
JR: Finally, are there any movies you love that are not necessarily well-known or well-regarded?
MR: I loved the film Earthquake. I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than it and its all-star cast of Ava Gardener and Charlton Heston. I looked at TV Guide as a teenager and saw that it had only 2.5 stars and I felt wounded. The other one that was terribly reviewed was The Champ with Ricky Schroeder and John Voight. I think it’s considered dreck but I cried my eyes out watching it… along with Black Stallion.
JR: Thank you for your time. I hope you get to program some musicals here in the future!
Provincetown Film Society
With Julie Rockett
As we plan #PIFF2021, my hopes and plans for this summer change weekly. Sometimes, I feel like normality is around the corner and sometimes I feel like it’s a world away. When the latter feeling takes over, I found a couple of shows that have lifted that heavy mood. One is Desus & Mero, a show that literally has me laughing out loud. I miss listening to funny friends banter and this is a wonderful substitute for the real thing.
My other recommendation is WandaVision. Let me first state that I’m not a huge fan of live action superhero productions, but I love this show. It’s like Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking with a cape. Don’t let a paucity of Marvel movie knowledge stop you from watching this. I’ve found there’s always a kind helpful nerd around to fill in the details.
When my niece was about six years old, she told me that when she’s feeling down she types the word ‘puppies’ into YouTube to feel better. My recommendation to you if you’re feeling isolated and blue is to type ‘Jamie Denbo’ into YouTube. As soon as you do, you’ll realize that this is the woman that has repeatedly had you in stitches in The Heat, Orange is the New Black, Spy, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She created the iconic character Beverly Ginsburg, a character who’s as familiar as she is nuts, and hosted the hysterical Ronna & Beverly podcast and show for many years. Last year her own series American Princess (based on her experience working at Renaissance Fairs) debuted on Lifetime. She is now hard at work on two upcoming series. Despite that, she had me hysterically laughing over how much better the North Shore is than the South Shore and she introduced me to my new favorite drinking game, “Drink every time an r gets dropped in a Boston movie.”
Julie Rockett: What are you working on now?
Jamie Denbo: I am a recurring guest star on the new Annie Murphy (of Schitt’s Creek) series, Kevin Can F*#k Himself. Annie is amazing. The show is so cool and weird and bold and freaky. I hope people love it. I play a real Boston garbage bag.
I’m writing and producing on a show called Rebel starring Katey Sagal, Andy Garcia, and John Corbett. It was created by Krista Vernoff who runs Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a one-hour legal dramedy that’s inspired by present-day Erin Brockovich. So I’m busy, which is great, especially during a fucking pandemic.
I’ve transitioned more into writing and producing instead of performing which is awesome because it’s nice to be able to age gracefully off camera and not continually be told that I’m too old or too fat or too middle-aged.
JR: They say these things to your face?
JD: Yes. Yes. I was told that I was too old at age 43 to play the wife of a 57-year-old. Soooo, that was fun. But when you’re a writer/producer people don’t talk to you like you’re stupid. You usually get better parking. Because when you’re an actor and you’re not 1 through 5 on the call sheet, people underestimate your intelligence. Sometimes that’s deserved and sometimes it’s really not. So I’m happy to be in a better position now.
JR: You know I loved your scene on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
JD: That was such a life highlight for me. When Rachel Bloom tweeted that American Princess was the sister show to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, it’s like I could’ve been done, just packed it all in because it warmed me from the inside. I was the biggest Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fan. I try not to be such a dork about it but it was everything I loved in one place. It came at a time when we were trying to get the kids to watch TV with us. It became something we all bonded around.
JR: I bet the kids loved the song “Period Sex”.
JD: Guess what? My children learned about menstruation, abortion, UTIs, feminism, mental illness… and I know this sounds ridiculous but it opened up real conversations in our house and I feel like our kids have such a healthy relationship with these topics because they were presented with humor and authenticity. And through the lens of those characters, it was all accessible. It was an amazing experience for us as a family. We still listen to the music. The show’s casting was amazing, too. I’m forever grateful to the creators of it.
JR: Speaking of the creators, last year I spoke with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s co-creator, Aline Brosh McKenna. She said that she really liked working with mothers because they know how to use time efficiently.
JD: Oh, absolutely! The only people that should be running shows are women for that reason. Mothers are inherently better at effectively using time.
JR: What movie was formative for you?
JD: Private Benjamin. My series American Princess was described as Private Benjamin at the Renaissance Festival because, to me, there was nothing funnier or more relatable than a Jewish-American princess being yanked out of her comfort zone. This woman who had a very specific life laid out for her and a path she was supposed to follow and things did not turn out that way and then she makes a choice to end up in the army.
Another great thing that I learned about that film was how involved Goldie Hawn was as a producer. Here’s this slight, sexy blonde who I’m sure could have been underestimated many times and was just the dancer from Laugh-In but she was a total fucking powerhouse. This was a woman driving this story and it was her journey and it was super empowering and hilarious. It’s an amazing film!
JR: Do you have a favorite Boston film?
JD: Obviously, The Heat cuz I’m in it. Look, I am not made of stone. I root for any Boston movie where they get the accents right. People will be happy with Kevin Can F*#! Himself. They did a really good job and it wasn’t easy to do an entire series with the Boston twang… It’s hard because Boston is its own character in movies and it’s a special and unique thing. I often feel very protective of it. And I have great pride in seeing it up there.
JR: I couldn’t bring myself to see Manchester-By-The-Sea…
JD: Okay, as you get older, by virtue of being on this planet longer, you start to experience tragedy. Your friends and your circle… It’s inevitable and I find myself a lot less interested in the entertainment industry’s reflection of tragedy. That movie was very well done but I found it to be a two hour long test of emotional endurance.
One of the things I love about working on the show Rebel is that Erin Brockovich is someone who has made a career out of supporting the little guy to fight injustice. It is such a pleasure to work on. We’re fictionalizing a bit and making it really fucking fun. We have Katey Sagal in hot leather pants telling off horrible people.
JR: Is there anything you’re bingeing right now?
JD: Right now, all the British baking shows and I just binged I May Destroy You which I fucking loved. Michaela Coel is maybe the most watchable being I’ve ever seen. I want to stare at her face because every thought she has is so surprising but you realize it’s what you would have thought if you were in her soul at that moment. It is incredibly relatable. It’s a hopeful show and you feel her optimism and strength throughout the series. You somehow know that whatever happens, whatever she discovers about the sexual assault that she revisits throughout the series, you know she’s going to be okay. She displays a level of confidence and joy in her life that we should all aspire to. I found it to be such a healthy representation of moving through trauma and living your life while facing it and moving forward. What a graceful, beautiful message presented in a unique way.
JR: I imagine Michaela Coel would be a dream to collaborate with.
JD: She’s too cool. She would never talk to me.
JR: Oh please.
JD: Are you kidding? I wouldn’t talk to me if I was her. Please. But I would love to work with Sarah Silverman because it has been amazing to watch her evolution. From someone who relied on a tomboy, accessible sexuality to somebody who is much more soulful and aware that comedy is not evergreen. We don’t have to cancel comedy but we can keep looking at it and studying it and evolving it.
I would love to work with Patton Oswalt in any capacity. I think he’s a philosopher and one of the smartest living human beings on the planet. He’s someone else that isn’t afraid to evolve. He did certain bits from 10 years ago that are, honestly, offensive now. He shows that you can fix, morph, and grow and still put out an incredible amount of material.
JR: This reminds me of your amazing character, Beverly Ginsburg. I listened to your farewell show and was sad because I adored her and but I heard what you said about her racism and ignorance no longer being punchlines. It reminded me though of Sarah Silverman saying that she had befriended a former neo-nazi who as a 14-year-old was rejected by his family and friends but was embraced by this group of hateful people. Sarah said, ‘here’s the problem with cancel culture: we’re driving people into the arms of danger.’
JD: Yes, it’s taking the guy who writes, ‘All Lives Matter’ and instead of firing him, it’s talking to him and explaining to him what’s problematic and then welcoming him back. It’s not about driving him away. I agree with you 100% but with Beverly, one thing that I don’t think I made as clear as I wanted to in that last episode was that one of the tropes of the whole ‘white savior’ concept is that there’s a crazy, crazy racist. The white person that’s put there to be an absolute terror so the audience can sigh and say, ‘Oh thank god, I’m not that bad!’
One of the things that Archie Bunker and, if I can compare, one of the things about Bev is that she often makes people feel comfortable about their small amount of racism or assures them that they couldn’t possibly be racist because look at Bev, she’s insane. And I don’t want to do it right now or maybe ever. I said everything I needed to say. I had a lot of fun. I’m good saying goodbye.
JR: I just want to add that during the past administration, I had real difficulty with loving the sinner and hating the sin when it came to Trump supporters in my life. Beverly made me laugh and recognize that there’s still humor and heart there and that they weren’t worth writing off… that I still love those people that I absolutely disagree with. I guess I’m saying that she helped me and I appreciate it.
JD: Aww, that’s sweet. But it’s time to move forward. I still love Bev and I’ll always be grateful to her.
JR: I wanted to ask you about working with Paul Feig. First of all, I love the way he dresses…
JD: Ohh, just the best!
JR: He just seems like a great collaborator. I used to work with the Women In Comedy Festival and we gave him an honorary funny woman award.
JD: You know what it is about Paul? He’s the world’s greatest fan. He is just never afraid to fan out. If it’s funny, he loves it. There’s no female or male funny, there’s just funny with him. If Paul’s your fan, he’s your #1 fan. He’s a lovely human being who runs around in gorgeous suits and makes you feel good. I would love to work with him again. He’s a bubble of light.
JR: Like you!
JD: Oh my god. You’re so sweet! I’m so sorry but I have to go kayak. Don’t ask.
JR: Jamie, thank you so much for your time. Come visit us in Provincetown soon!