Saltwater— The Movie
Jim Van Buskirk
Award-winning independent filmmaker and Potrero Hill resident Lise Swenson was recently the center of a love fest. Last month, her feature film, Saltwater — a collaboration between City College of San Francisco’s Cinema Department and Goodwill San Francisco — was feted at an unprepossessing space on the first block of 11th Street
At the event, Goodwill’s ‘As-Is’ shop was transformed into a party space, featuring a DJ, food and wine, and a pop up shop offering a selection of dresses, T-shirts and jewelry. Cast, crew and community members attended the celebration, while mannequins displayed costumes from the film. Since one of the movie’s characters is a packrat, much material was needed for props and set decoration, which led Swenson to Goodwill.
At the party, Goodwill’s brand director, Tim Murray, spoke about the nonprofit’s social enterprise model, and its interest in helping create a film that revolves around the stories embedded in possessions and memories. Swenson explained how the collaboration occurred: she had a script, Goodwill had treasures, City College had aspiring filmmakers. Together they figured out how to make a low budget, high production value film.
Participants in Goodwill’s job training programs played key production roles. The primary crew was culled from City College, lead by industry professionals. “Saltwater is at its heart a celebration of community, a commitment to on-set skill training and an honoring of our planet’s stewardship; all of which come under the guises of a powerful story about learning to let go of the people and things we love,” said Swenson, who gave shout-outs to many of the team members, including the film’s composer, Joan Jeanrenaud, formerly of Kronos Quartet, and a Rhode Island and 18th Street resident.
The film’s plot, which Swenson confirmed was loosely autobiographical, involves a young San Francisco woman named Jenny, who identifies as ‘half Jewish,’ planning her wedding. In search of her grandmother’s wedding dress, Jenny travels to the Salton Sea. Amid the brutal ecological disaster of the sea and mounds of family debris, she reconnects with her eccentric aunt and begins to uncover a murky family history. As she starts to see the beauty of the neglected oasis and its inhabitants, she realizes her life is not what she thought it was. When secrets emerge, she must make hard choices about her future to be free from the past. Swenson has worked on her signature film for seven years.
The film, set in 2013, takes place over a few weeks and includes several flashbacks. Among the short scenes silently screened during the event were shots from McKinley Square, a bicycle ride down the Hill and across the 18th Street Bridge, Therapy boutique on Valencia, and some interiors filmed in Swenson’s flat. Two previously unreleased rough-cut scenes, which Swenson emphasized hadn’t yet been color-corrected or sound mixed, were also shown.
The next few months will see fundraising parties, rough-cut screenings and more post-production work for an eventual release next year.
For more information: www.saltwaterthemovie.com; a six-minute trailer is available at: http://vimeo.com/71592076.
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