Thursday, August 18, 2011

Washington, Oregon, and Us - Day Eight

It's all over.

The last day has come to a conclusion and our trip has come to an end.

The day started with a trip to The Old Church, where we finally had a chance to step inside. The church is beautiful and is nearly 130 years old. We also saw the Simon Benson House, which is located right across the Portland State University. Simon Benson installed running drinking fountains all around Portland because the city didn't have available water decades ago. The fountains still remain and provides people with running water every single second of the day. We recreated an old photograph of two people drinking from the fountain. We were leaving the area when we saw a fire truck for the Portland Fire Department, so we took a picture with some of the firefighters.

We went back into Vancouver afterward and had lunch at Dolce Gelato. We also walked to the Esther Short Park after lunch and had some gelato on a beautiful sunny day. We later stopped by Swoon and Not too Shabby to pick up some few things and said goodbye to its owners, who we first met when we first came to the city.

We stopped by Fort Vancouver, where we saw the Ulysses S. Grant house. The whole area was beautiful and historic, and is an entire block known as Officer's Row, where houses stand from the time period. We later went to the Vancouver Public Library because the building looked and was amazing. We decided to open up a library card as a keepsake. We did the same with the Portland Public Library, but they didn't give us a card because we're from out of town. We stopped by the Academy, which is right beside the library, but the historic chapel inside was closed. We glimpsed inside through the cracks of the door, though.

The next stop for us a small park right on the Columbia River Gorge. We sat down by the peaceful water and enjoyed the fresh air. We had dinner reservations for 9pm, so we decided to head back to the hotel to change, rest and charge our camera. We made our way back into Vancouver for one last stop at the Salmon Creek Brewery & Pub. The owner of the place (who carries a bat behind the bar) was very nice to us the first time we went in. So, we went back to have a beer before dinner and to say goodbye. We took a picture with her and her bat, and she asked us to send the picture to her when we get back into Los Angeles.

We had dinner at Salty's on the Columbia River, a beautiful restaurant with gorgeous views. Mary surprised me with a mini pre-birthday celebration. We had an amazing dinner and desert to conclude our final evening in Washington and Oregon. The evening came to an end shortly thereafter. We were both exhausted and drained, but neither one of us wanted the trip to end. We had some memorable moments, some amazing times in both states, and some very interesting adventures. We embarked on journeys neither one of us had ever thought or dreamt of doing, but like all good things, everything comes to an end.

The owner of the Salmon Creek Brewery & Pub was sad to see us go. We were walking out of the place when she said to us, "Keep loving each other." That's exactly what we'll do, whether we're in Washington, Oregon, or any of the other 48 states.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Washington, Oregon, and Us - Day Seven

This was quite the busy day.

The morning began early with a drive down to Salem, Oregon's capitol. We met with William Michaelian, an author I have been in communication with, to discuss a short story of his which I am planning to adapt into a short film. The trip there was quite nice and much different than our previous drives. William Michaelian was kind enough to accept us into his lovely home and we had a pleasant meeting with him. I wish we could have stayed longer, but there was a long list of things to do. We left with a copy of one of his books, which he had signed for us.

The next stop of the day was the State Capitol, which was a wonder to see, considering Salem was the first state capitol we had been to in our lives. We climbed up to the Gold Man on the top of the building, which was a total of 121 steps. The view was lovely from up there. The building itself was quite interesting to see, especially the separate rooms for the House of Representatives and the Senate. We also took a brief stop at the Oregon State Hospital, which was used as a location for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

We drove back into Portland afterward to drop in on the Hat Museum. The tour of the museum was probably the most interesting part of our entire trip. The history, stories, and origins of hats and fashion was such an interesting thing to hear. We saw hats from all periods of times, including the early 1800s. The museum also had hats and memorabilia from films, including hats from Chicago and Gangs of New York and a teapot that was used in Casablanca. The entire place was rich with history and I only wish I owned some of their hats.

We had been planning on kayaking on the Columbia River Gorge today, so we looked up the address for the place we had to meet the instructor. I assumed the place would be near Vancouver and Portland, but it turned out to be in Hood River; all the way near Mount Hood, over an hour way. We were going to be late, so we drove as fast as possible all the way out there. We were less than 20 miles away when our fuel started running low and the gas light came on. We were 12 miles away from the nearest gas station and we feared the car would stop in the middle of nowhere. We fortunately made it to a gas station and the kayak school in time!

The kayak tour was the best part of our trip so far. We were each in a separate kayak and the entire experience was a little scary at first. We paddled into the river for about a mile and a half into the sunset. The views were spectacular, the fresh water river surrounding us, along with fresh air and green trees. We were hit by a rough wave that completely soaked us. We headed back in smooth water where we saw a beaver splashing its tail. I can't begin to describe how peaceful, beautiful and amazing the experience was.

We stopped by for something to eat at the Sixth Street Bistro and Loft and later headed back into Portland, where we checked into our new hotel near the airport. This is our first night sleeping in Oregon, but it's been quite the ride so far.

I hate to say this, but tomorrow is our last full day. I don't want this to end!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Washington, Oregon, and Us - Day Six

The day started early, with a trip away from the usual and a drive up to Mount Hood in Oregon.

We drove up to the Timberline Lodge, which was used for the exterior shots for Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The drive there was beautiful; the highway took us through several small towns and farms. We were surrounded by trees throughout the entire drive, and later had incredible views from high in the sky. I have to admit, it was amazing seeing the hotel that stood in for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. I had also heard about an ax that the front desk keeps, which is modeled after the ax used in the film. The ax has "Here's Johnny!" written over it, so we definitely had to take a picture. We also had lunch at the Blue Ox located in the hotel and later drove back down into Portland.

We passed by the Rose Garden and took several pictures, but need to go back to get some better shots. We also stopped by the Nike Factory Store, which is a popular spot for fans. We drove back to Vancouver afterward and pulled into a park by the Columbia River Gorge, which is also right beside our hotel. We sat on a park bench and enjoyed the sunset and gorgeous view of the river. This is an amazing place to have a run, picnic, or simply enjoy your time.

We're staying an extra two days, so we'll be checking out of our hotel tomorrow morning and moving into a hotel in Portland. There's a big day ahead of us tomorrow, but I won't say exactly what we're planning on doing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Washington, Oregon, and Us - Day Five

The day was very productive, more so than any other day so far on our trip.

The first stop for us was the Lan Su Chinese Gardens in Chinatown in Portland. The place was small and intimate, with waterfalls and separate rooms across the garden. The environment was nice and peaceful and a perfect example of how to create a garden. There were some ping pong tables by the lake, and before we left, we played a few games for fun. There was a bird that flew into the lake and grabbed a fish right before us, which was really amazing to witness.

We were feeling a little hungry and found that we were near Voodoo Doughnut, a really popular stop in Portland. The line was full and took nearly two hours, but it's just one of those spots that you have to visit because it's so famous. The variety of donuts they carry is amazing and they have some really absurd choices, including their famous Voodoo doll (which squirts blood, or jelly, when bit into), maple bacon (which, as you would imagine, has bacon on top), and donuts with cereal on them, such as Fruit Loops or Cap'n Crunch. The donuts were tasty and interesting to eat, which is always a good combination when it comes to food.

The Portland Japanese Garden was next for us, which is located near the International Rose Test Garden. The garden was much larger in comparison to the Lan Su Chinese Garden. There were some amazing spots with bridges, waterfalls, sand spots, and trees, of course. The Old Church, which is Portland's oldest church, was our next stop. The church is closed on Sundays (how ironic) so we'll be going back to step inside.

I had heard The Bite of Oregon was taking place this weekend, which is a festival offering music, food and drinks. We decided to stop by there to grab something to eat, which turned out to be real fun. We had some gyros followed by some authentic cannolis. The Bite of Oregon was taking place right beside the Columbia River Gorge, which is on the exact opposite side of our hotel in Vancouver. We made a quick stop to Mill Ends Park, which is the smallest park in the world. This was fun to see, because it's literally two feet in size. It's officially recognized as a park though, which makes it the world's smallest park.

We ended up visiting the Pioneer Courthouse Square afterward, which is known as Portland's living room. This is an amazing place with such beautiful space, where people come in and hang. It's a terrific place to hang out and have coffee and just relax in the city of Portland. We also took a trip down to their mall and went to Made in Oregon, a store dedicated to Oregon memorabilia. We came to our hotel afterward and only went back outside to get some quick food from Burgerville, a chain of burger joints only available in Washington and Oregon.

It's official. We're extending our trip by two more days!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Washington, Oregon, and Us - Day Four

The day began like all good days do... with ice cream and pie.

Who needs breakfast or lunch when you can stop by Ice Cream Renaissance for some ice cream and pie? We planned a trip over to Portland to visit the International Rose Test Garden, but along the way, we missed our turn and ended up seeing signs for Pittock Mansion. We were already planning on visiting Pittock Mansion, so we followed the signs and went up a beautiful path.

This was a true Oregon experience. We were surrounded by trees on narrow bend of road. The drive up was enchanting. We were in pure silence with fresh air all around us. We finally reached Pittock Mansion and took a quick stroll through their hiking trail in the forest. The trail is for people to hike through, walk through, and simply enjoy the wonderful view of Portland.

Pittock Mansion was breathtaking. The garden in front of the mansion has a beautiful view, where students had set themselves up and were painting. There were people having a picnic on the lawn as well as families enjoying their time together. The mansion belonged to Henry Pittock and has 22 rooms. The mansion was built so that each room had a beautiful view of the city of Portland. The place was filled with history with artifacts and pieces dating back to the late 1800s.

We drove back down into Portland and visited the International Rose Test Garden. Portland is the city of roses, so there's no way we could miss this garden. The place was beautiful with roses in all shapes, sizes and colors, including red, yellow, orange, white, grey, purple, and some colorful ones. The place was filled with a variety of people, but the garden was so peaceful. We decided to have lunch/dinner afterward and settled on Urban Fondue, a nice little spot that serves cheese and chocolate fondue, as well as a variety of food. The environment was warm and inviting, the food was excellent, and the cheese, in particular, was amazing.

We drove back into Vancouver in time for the Closing Ceremony of the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival. There was a special evening planned with awards and the ceremony was fun and entertaining. Jay Douplass' documentary, Kevin, went home with an award, as did the short documentary, Challenging Impossibility, which screened before his film. We stopped by Niche afterward, a cozy little spot right beside Kiggins Theatre, for cheese and wine.

The days are coming to an end, but we're considering staying a few extra days. I'm afraid we don't want to head back home anytime soon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Washington, Oregon, and Us - Day Three

The big day is finally here.

I came across several reviews for Tasty n Sons, a popular eatery in Portland. So, the day began with a trip down into Portland. The city is beautiful. It's much more like Los Angeles in the sense that it's a major city and a diverse population. The bridges and highways are amazing. There is an unbelievable two-story highway that connects over the city. In our drive, we felt like we were floating over some of these buildings, including the Rose Garden.

Tasty n Sons was a great little spot with fabulous food. I ordered the Monk's Carolina Cheesesteak and Mary ordered the Glazed Yams. I can't even begin to describe the taste, but the cheesesteak was full of grease, which is how you know you're eating a real cheesesteak sandwich. We also ordered the Chocolate Potato Doughnuts, which were so, so good. The best part of lunch was seeing the check; no sales tax! This was our first time seeing a receipt with no sales tax, so that was quite exciting. There were several shops on the street, including the official store for Lark Press. We bought several cards and gifts that are unique to Oregon from there. The city feels so artistic, inspired, and rich with inspiration.

The next step of the day was Powell's City of Books, which is the largest new and used bookstore in the world. It's a place to get lost in and there's no way that a day was enough. We immediately took a trip to the Film section, where we browsed around and explored. In front of the bookstore, as we were leaving, there were three street performers known as The Homeless People. They're trying to raise enough money to get back to California. Their music was unbelievable. I really wish they were selling CDs. I recorded one of their songs and we ended up taking a picture with them. We explored Portland from there on, stopping by random stores, including the Monticello Antique Marketplace, which felt like was in some obscure neighborhood away from the city.

We came back to our hotel afterward because Amorosa was screening at 7:30pm at the Space. The screening was great with a small and intimate crowd. There were two other filmmakers present with their films. The host of the evening moderated a small Q&A afterward and we had a chance to speak to her when the evening was over. The woman is formerly from California and she is now a real estate agent in Vancouver. We told her we would love to live here and she joked that she would find us a place.

We left the Space around 9:30pm to meet up with Jessica, one of the volunteers for the film festival who had invited us for drinks yesterday. Jessica and her cousin, Rachel, planned a pub crawl for this film festival, which takes people from pub to pub for drinks throughout the evening. We met up with them at Top Shelf, but they were on their way out to Dublin Down. So, we headed to Dublin Down and had a few drinks. We ended up chatting with Jessica, Rachel and another filmmaker who was in town from Boston. The evening went extremely well and it was really fun to be out in an unfamiliar town with such nice people. Jessica and Rachel were convincing us to move to Vancouver and said we would fit in perfectly.

That's something we are seriously considering.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Washington, Oregon, and Us - Day Two

The morning for us began around 9am.

The hotel we are staying in has a restaurant right beside the Columbia River Gorge, which is where we decided to have breakfast. The view of the wide river and calm water was absolutely amazing. The today consisted mostly of finding vintage and antique stores in Vancouver. There are several in town and I'm pretty sure we ended up finding them all.

I couldn't believe my eyes when we walked into some of these stores. The Old Town Antique Market is three floors and it's filled with original, vintage, unique, antique items. I love browsing through such items because I feel like I'm connecting with stories and a certain part of history. The items ranged from Mickey Mouse telephones to World War II memorabilia. I felt like buying the entire store and shipping everything back home. There were several stores we visited, including Not Too Shabby, The Cat's Pajamas and Swoon.

There were several stops along the way, including Ice Cream Renaissance. I had come across a review of this local ice cream shop while reading about Dolce Gelato, and after discovering we were shopping right beside the ice cream shop, we decided to pop in. I can't emphasize this enough, so you'll to believe me, but this was the best tasting strawberry ice cream, boysenberry pie and ice cream float we have ever had in our lives. The pie was so good and warm, I can already feel myself craving a slice when I'm back home.

There was one screening we were really looking forward to seeing tonight, which was Moving a Mountain, a film from an Armenian filmmaker. There were some technical difficulties with the film, however, and the film will be running on Sunday. We ended up seeing two other short films, Voices of Sculpture, a mediative film about the significance of art in our lives, as well as A Turn of the Blinds, a sweet and touching film about finding love. The hosts of the film festival invited us for drinks after the screening of our film tomorrow evening. The plan is to catch up with them at Brickhouse or Top Shelf, so we're looking forward to meeting and drinking with some new people from the town.

The next stop for us was Salmon Creek Brewery & Pub, where we had some beers at the bar along with tots and nachos. The owner of the place was such a kind and welcoming woman. The woman keeps a bat in back of the bar for customers who are stupid enough to ask for Bud. The evening wrapped up for us with a screening of Crazy, Stupid, Love. in Regal Cinemas 99. This was our first real film in an out-of-state theater, which was quite a fun experience.

The screening of Amorosa is tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Washington, Oregon, and Us - Day One

I have been looking forward to our trip to Washington and Oregon for months. I was extremely excited to discover that my short film, Amorosa, was an Official Selection at the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival.

The funny thing about this entire experience and trip was where the film festival is being held. The film festival is in Vancouver, Washington and that's confusing for two reasons. The first is that Vancouver is often associated with Canada, and the second is that Washington is often confused for Washington, D.C. There's also something else. Oregon is one of those states that you don't really think exists. I don't even know why. It's one of those states that you think is a myth. Oregon? Who lives in Oregon? It's all so strange and obscure when you think about life outside of the city you live in. I can confirm, however, that Oregon is a real place with real people. In fact, both states are beautiful in their own ways.

In the first day of our trip, we didn't spend much time in Portland. The runway for the airport lands right beside the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. The few minutes we enjoyed outside the airport was when we drove through some fields to hop onto the highway. The drive took us from Portland to Vancouver over the river and the views were spectacular.

In Vancouver, we enjoyed a nice lunch at Dolce Gelato. The city is so peaceful and quiet, beautiful and scenic. There are trees everywhere, green gardens and parks, and fresh air. In fact, we took a stroll through Esther Park afterward, surrounding ourselves in nature. This is a city I could see myself living in. The hotel we're staying in is on the Columbia River Gorge. It's walking distance from all the film festival theaters and screenings in Downtown Vancouver. There's really nothing more fun and intimate than that. The Opening Night of the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival was today. The red carpets were rolled out, and after we picked up our festival badges, we were on our way to the historic Kiggins Theatre.

The evening began with Challenging Impossibility, a short documentary on Sri Chinmoy, an Indian spirtuial teacher who took on weightlifting to inspire people. The film was entertaining, shedding light on an unfamiliar world of weightlifting. It's a documentary unlike any other I've really seen before. The film was quite heavy-handed in its structure, but it's fascinating subject matter almost made me overlook its imperfections. The film was followed by a shorter piece, Walking Through Mist. In this two-part film, which feels more like an installation in a museum, the filmmaker takes us on a journey through the Columbia River Gorge, in a beautiful and poetic manner. The film plays with our senses, as images transform every few seconds, changing and shaping our perceptions.

The centerpiece film of the evening was Jay Duplass' documentary, Kevin. The documentary focuses on Kevin Gant, a musician from Austin, Texas, who has been on quite a roller coaster of a life. The film was made on pretty much no budget, with the entire documentary being concerned with Kevin's fascinating character. Kevin is fast-talking, extremely interesting and smart person with more than musical talents. The film cleverly explores his life and shortcomings in an engaging approach. The opening night wrapped up with a short performance from Kevin Gant, as well as a Q&A with the filmmakers of all three films, including Jay Duplass. I also had the opportunity to speak with Jay Duplass after the screening, who is as cool as an independent filmmaker comes.

This is film festival is off to a great start. It's quite exciting to be so way from home, in a different town with different artists. I also discovered that there are two Armenian filmmakers participating in the festival. I'll be checking out their films over the next few days and will hopefully meet them as well.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


There are some things in life that you don't forget. I will never forget my first hands-on production experience.

I was on my way to Shervin Youssefian's house at 8:30am on a Sunday to work on a music video. I walked into his house and was greeted by his mother. I sat and waited in the kitchen with her as Shervin prepared his things.

I remember watching Shervin work during the production of the music video and thinking how easy he made everything look. Shervin handled the music video and a team of a dozen or so crew members with ease. The camera in his hands was smooth, every move calculated, and I remember feeling like I was where I belonged.

I knew Shervin through his short film, Color Blind (2002), which he had produced with his partner, Danny Simonzad. Color Blind is a film that made me realize the full potential of poetic cinema, and I was intimated to meet the masterminds behind the work. I told Shervin how eager I was to apply to film school, and he encouraged me to keep my passion for film alive, and offered me a position on his future projects and commercials.

I was working on applications for school and was extremely nervous. Shervin couldn't be bothered less, and when I finally asked him why he was so confident that I had nothing to worry about, he smiled and said, "You're exactly what the school is looking for."

I was accepted into the USC School of Cinematic Arts soon thereafter. I wasn’t able to work on a handful of projects Shervin needed me for because I was now busy with my own work. Shervin understood and supported me along my own journey when I produced my own short film, Amorosa (2010).

Shervin Youssefian has recently finished production of his first feature-length film, Crossroad (2012). The film centers on twelve strangers in a diner, who all come to realize that God plays a significant role in each of their lives. The film focuses on Michael, who sets up a meeting with the man responsible for murdering his wife and child. Michael’s plans are disrupted when the diner is robbed. The film explores the importance of faith, grace, and the role of God in our lives.

If nothing else, Shervin provides us all with hope. I’m sure he started this film with nothing more than a vision, and it's that vision of his that pushed the project into completion regardless of all the obstacles along his path.

I wanted nothing more than to work on this film. I know that one day, our paths will cross again. Crossroad is a film about fates colliding, bringing people together and uniting them for a greater good. In a sense, it’s a perfect metaphor for my own relationship with Shervin.

Shervin knows people, he understands our emotions, and he has a powerful way of exploring them. Color Blind proved that he could move an audience in extraordinary ways in a matter of minutes. Now, and with Crossroad, he has more than an hour to touch our hearts, enlighten us, and help us learn something along the way.

I’m looking forward to the journey.

Crossroad is currently in post-production and will be released in 2012.