Mini Zen Garden

A year of miniature landscapes in sand and stone.

Last Christmas’ favorite stocking stuffer gift was a Mini Zen Garden kit Ed got me. It came with a black sandbox, sand, five black mini stones, and a miniature wooden rake.

I have it placed by my bed on the small decorative table shaped like a piano which I acquired for a song at Housing Works last year.

I arranged my first Mini Zen Garden January 2nd. And posted a picture on Instagram. That started a little tradition, where every time I create a new garden arrangement, I post a picture or two of it on Instagram.

It’s been an extra stressful year for the nation, for the world, after a series of particularly stressful years. A little Zen now and then has been useful.

This week has felt even more oppressive in a series of ever more oppressive weeks. So I figured it’s a good time to post the photo series of all my Mini Zen Gardens to date.

January 2

January 5

January 8

An attempt at the Peace sign. And the one out-of-focus pic… is it a metaphor?

January 14

January 19

January 30

January would be the most prolific month of new garden designs, naturally, spurred on with the excitement of a new toy …

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FANtastic Horror Film Festival has nominated “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” in the category “Best Music”.

For more on this and San Diego’s local horror film festival overall, check out their Facebook Page. For more on “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”, start here.

actually, it’s The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre…

So, evidently there is a fan vote component to FANtastic Horror Film Festival’s awards.

You can go here to vote for “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” for Best Music:

Thank you!

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Physical (non-virtual) screenings in Long Island & Moscow

UPDATE – 10/18

New York Long Island Film Festival nominates

“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” for 6 awards

Best Thriller Short

Best Score Short

Best Cinematography Short

Best Sound Short

Best Editing Short

Best Effects Short

Already announced – Special Achievement Award:

Danny Ashkenasi (The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre)

Original Post:

For most of September and into October my musical Edgar Allan Poe adaptation “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” has been screening virtually in festivals located in Orlando, Rio de Janeiro, Wisconsin and New York State, festivals that presented their programs on-line because of the realities of Covid.

More festivals screening Tell-Tale on-line are coming our way, but today I want to talk about two festivals presenting Tell-Tale that are managing to go the traditional brick and mortar screening route: NYLIFF – the New York Long Island Film Festival (October 23-24) and DROP- the Russian Horror Film Festival (October 21-25).

New York State continues to be the state with probably the strictest Covid safety protocols in the Union, but NYLIFF has been determined to hold an in-person festival and not go virtual. It found a location where this can be accomplished October 23 & 24:

Loyal Order of Moose Lodge

1421883 South Broadway

Lindenhurst, New York  11757

“Seats will be placed 6 feet apart. Masks or face coverings will be required, but not while eating or drinking. Hand sanitizer will be made available.  High-touch areas will be wiped down and sanitized at intervals throughout the event.”

So the festival explains. This also means seats will be limited. Ticket prices are $10.00 per day or $15.00 if you purchase for both days.

I will be there for both days, including giving a Q&A after the Friday, October 23 6:30pm screening of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”:

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Tell-Tale Review in The Art is Alive Magazine

“What sounds like a recipe for disaster turns out to be an artistic delight.”

The Art is Alive Magazine has published a review of my short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“, written by Michael Haberfelner.

From the review:

I find this film riveting and remarkable because it has the master’s words set to music. Director/Composer/Actor Danny Ashkenasi sings Poe’s words into the camera during the entire duration of the picture.

What sounds like a recipe for disaster turns out to be an artistic delight. His avant-garde approach to both direction and music provides the audience with an electrifying and enchanting macabre motion picture.

By choosing to put himself as the center of attention instead of setting Poe’s words to pictures, he allowed for a marvelously moody accompaniment alongside his award-winning acting.

This project works so very well, and the exceptional editing* proved to provide the final point of perfection. Well done! 

*by Stolis Hadjicharalambous

For more from The Art is Alive Magazine, go here.

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A New “Witches” Production Premieres Tonight in Bavaria

The new production of “Hexen” (“Witches“), the two women musical I created with Peter Lund, that is premiering tonight in Theater Hof, in northern Bavaria, Germany, has at least two strong claims to being very special.

The foyer of Theater Hof where “Hexen” will be performed.

The first is that it is live theatre being produced in the age of Covid 19. With practically all theater shuttered around the globe since March because of the pandemic – Broadway and all other live theatricals and concerts in NYC remain closed for the foreseeable future – this production at this theater is one of the few exceptions; theater that could be produced and presented under strict safety guidelines.

Theater Hof has been able to do this in part by moving the production from their regular theater stage to the theater’s cavernous foyer, where audiences will be seated six feet apart at cafe tables. It also helps that Germany has done a far better job keeping Covid 19 under control than many other countries, esp. the USA.

It is very moving to me that with so much if not all theater on hold everywhere, it has been possible to present a production of “Hexen”.

The second extra special aspect of this production is that it is the first “Hexen” in German that includes the American ending of “Witches”.

There have been dozens of “Hexen” productions over the years in Germany (plus Austria and Finland), but all of them used the original ending, which is different from the English language version, which I produced twice in the United States. But this new German production will be the first to include the American ending, with two completely new songs never before heard in Germany. I believe these are two of the more unique and beautiful tunes I have composed.

Carolin Waltsgott and Julia Leinweber in Hexen
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New York State International Film Festival Presents

“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” September 25 – October 9

This Friday, my musical adaptation of the the Edgar Allan Poe classic, “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” will start screening on-line via the New York State International Film Festival.

Which means it will be playing in three festivals simultaneously!

At least for a day. Friday is the last day for the Orlando International Film Festival, which has been hosting “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” since September 15. And its residency at Rio de Janeiro’s Rock Horror Film Festival continues through this weekend.

That is some serious festival overlap!

NYIFF will take Tell-Tale’s September ubiquity (which began early in the month with the Art is Alive Film Festival) deep into October.

I will also be continuing my busy schedule of participating in on-line filmmaker panels with NYSIFF.

The scheduled dates and times for these are:

September 27th at 3:00 pm

October 1st at 7:00 pm

October 8th at 7:00 pm

For more info on those and their film schedule, visit the NYSIFF website.

So, if you haven’t yet seen “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” via the on-line festivals broadcasting from Wisconsin, Florida, or Brazil, maybe come see the musicabre closer to my own home….

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The Awards Speech That Would Have Been

And the PIIF Best Actor winner is … not me.

But hey, my acceptance video is cute, so let’s play it anyway!

As you might remember… who am I kidding, why would you remember, but I won a Best Actor award from the Prague International Indie Film Festival last March for my performance in “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“. They give out awards quarterly, and my acting win comes with a cute anecdote you can reread here.

Last night the festival put on its annual gala, where they handed out their best of the year awards. As a quarterly winner, I was in the running for the year end Best Actor award.

The awards presentations were live streamed. I didn’t win the award, but I did grab some screen shots:

This lovely Covid mask compliant lady (whose name wasn’t listed, so I can’t repeat it here) hosted most of the awards presentations.

A Czech actress (whose name also eluded me) announced the acting categories and winners.

Each nominee was represented with a 5 second silent clip from their film:

The 2020 award for Best Actor went to Elmaz Ikovic.

The folks at PIIF asked each nominee to send them a thank you video to play at the ceremony, should they win. Many but not everyone did, I could tell from watching the wins in other categories. I don’t know if Elmaz Ikovic did, because just after they announced his name, the livestream recording cut out for me. Talk about dramatic timing!

But I had made a thank you video, with Ed’s help, which I thought was kind of cute. So why let it go to waste? Here is the thank you video they would have played I had won the award:

Who knows, maybe if I had been a little less cute and a little more solemn for the occasion, I might have won?

(Just kidding. I’m sure the PIIF jury watched only the films and not the thank you clips while deliberating…)

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The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” receives three SOFIE Award nominations from The Short Film Awards

At 37 minutes, “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” falls within the 40 minute maximum length for short films as established by major film organizations like the Academy, Sundance, Cannes etc. But among the many many film festivals and awards bodies there is a variety of distinctions. The Short Film Awards honors “The Tell-Tale Heart – musicabre” as a long short film, others have called it a mid-length film, a featurette, even awarded it along with regular feature length films. And then there are also many festivals that have a 30 minute maximum cut off for short films and a 50 minute minimum for feature length films, and if your film falls in between, well, then you simply can’t apply.

This is an unusual category to be nominated in. I have not encountered it outside of The Short Film Awards. As far as I can tell, for every film they nominate in this category, they cite the director and producer. So I will highlight the cinematography of Jason Chua, the sound work of Todd Maki, the editing of Stolis Hadjicharalambous, and the VFX work of Austin Lepri.

Another unique category. Again it’s the director and producer cited, although I found one Outstanding Styling nominee on The Short Film Awards site that also named an actual “Stylist”. So here is where I highlight the costumes of Anthony Paul-Cavaretta and the production design of Nicholas Callais. Assistant Director Henry Borriello did my make-up, and I guess I was responsible for combing my hair, which was cut a few weeks before the shoot at Benny’s Barbershop in Park Slope.

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Daily On-line Screenings of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” at Rio de Janeiro’s Rock Horror Film Festival Sept 17 – 27

Full schedule of daily screening times below

I’ll take part in 6 (count ’em, six!) on-line film panels

Full schedule of the panels I’m part of below

(Click here to go to the Rock Horror Film Festival Homepage)

Up third in the quartet of September Festivals presenting my musical short film of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” on-line, Rock Horror Film Festival will be screening the “bizarre featurette” at a different time each day between September 17 and 27.

Like every other festival this year, Rock Horror Film Festival had to rethink their plans in the face of Covid 19. What was originally going to be a traditional in-person movie theater festival in Rio de Janeiro in August is now an on-line festival in September.

This has allowed them to put together an impressive program of films presented in alternating time blocks every day. So depending on the day, you could see my film afternoon, evening or midnight or dawn … I’ll post Tell-Tale’s complete screening schedule below.

Moreover the festival has put together a dizzying array of panel discussions. There are panels in English, in Portuguese and in Spanish. I am participating in six English language panel discussion, with filmmakers taking part from all over the planet. It should be exciting, fun and informative. I’ll post that schedule below too.

But first…

Rock Horror Film Festival asked the directors of selected films to send them a one-minute video message to share.

This is what I concocted with my cell phone:

You can also find the video on the Rock Horror directors’ intros video wall:

There you can watch my clip with Portuguese subtitles and the Rock Horror outro:

Be sure to stick around til the end…

Tell-Tale Screening Dates and Times:

Above is the program of six films, of which “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” makes the conclusion, that will be shown together at the following dates and times (noting that Rio is one hour ahead of NYC).

9/17 – 3pm EDT (4pm BRT)

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Tell-Tale at the Orlando International Film Festival

Another Chance to Watch “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”

The Orlando International Film Festival is the second of four film festivals this month to make my short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” available to the viewing public through an on-line portal.

To watch the musical adaptation of the classic Edgar Allan Poe gothic horror story, starting today through September 15, click on through to the Orlando International Film Festival homepage:

Then scroll down until you can click on “Virtual Festival” (the green button at bottom right):

Once there, scroll down to Shorts, then hover over the far right film, Ramona, so that the “Shorts – Horror/Suspense/Thriller/Mystery/Fantasy/Comedy” option appears:

Click on “Learn more” to get here, and scroll down the internal menu center right until you find “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” (it was the sixth one down when I tried):

Et voila! You can click to watch the trailer, as shown below, and order a ticket to watch. Or even give it as a gift. 🙂

You can also buy passes at various price and access levels to watch multiple festival films virtually at a discount – click on the “buy tickets” button on bottom of the homepage to explore your options.

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On my Zoom call with Indiedance’s Craig Bettendorf

While accepting two Tell-Tale awards from Indiedance!

So, no more being coy, enough with dropping hints or announcing I will be making an announcement, as I have now and then for many months, let’s just make it official:

There will be another Poe musicabre, a companion piece to “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“, another short film musical adaptation of a classic Edgar Allan Poe short story.

And this time it will be…

“The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”!

Indiedance Film Festival recorded a zoom interview with me during which I basically let the cat out of the bag (or out of the bricked up wall, if you prefer Poe inspired metaphors).

They just posted that interview on their vimeo wall, and since we spend almost as much time during the interview talking about my current efforts preparing for “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre” as we do talking about “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”, I figure the time has come to just go ahead and make the official announcement in conjunction with this blog post sharing the full interview video:

Indiedance utilized these zoom interviews as a way to announce a film’s award wins at their 2020 festival. Which means filmmakers knew going in their film had won something, but not what. Tell-Tale’s awards for Horror Short and Music Score are announced in the video above, but I also posted about it the day I’d originally found out.

So watch the video (or click back to that earlier post) to partake in that news, as well as more on the making of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”, on preparing “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”, plus my thanks to the Tell-Tale gang, including my dearly murdered husband, and the uncertainties of preparing to shoot an indie film in a Covid 19 world. Lots of fun and informative tidbits in a handful of minutes.

And I promise to be back with more news and anecdotes about both Poe musicabres, the one that is and the one to be…

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Diana Rigg and the 3rd Happy Song for Dark Times

I just learned that Diana Rigg passed. Rest in Peace, Diana Rigg.

Diana Rigg was probably my first childhood celebrity crush. I likely first loved Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins the way tots love their nannies, but I had my first boyhood heart flutterings for Diana Rigg in “The Avengers”.

That she and my mom could have been mistaken for sisters in those days probably contributed to my affections. But my mom didn’t wear leather cat suits and execute karate chops. Paging Doctor Freud.

I loved watching Diana Rigg and Patrick Magee in “The Avengers”. I avidly followed their wacky 1960s spy spoof adventures on German TV, where the show was called “Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone”, which has a fun ring in German, but translates literally rather awkwardly to “With Umbrella, Charm and Bowler Hat”.

Rigg was arguably the best Bond Girl in the most maligned Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. I saw it in a rerun theater when I was 12 and was stunned when she – spoiler alerts – marries Bond; and then was abjectly bummed out at her shocking death right before the end credits.

Avengers and Bond may be her most lasting claims to fame, but she has had a grand career on stage and screen. Her Medea on Broadway remains my favorite production of the Greek tragedy. And her formidable presence in “Game of Thrones” sublimely bookends her legend.

To console myself at her loss I will play – multiple times today, surely – another one of my Happy Songs for Dark Times, the Theme Song for The Avengers by the Laurie Johnson Orchestra, another one of those great 1960s big band grooves. It’s not quite as giddy as the Miss Marple Theme, another 1960s franchise theme that still unfailingly makes me happy (fond childhood memories obviously being a factor – those 1960s theme greats were ubiquitous growing up in 1970’s Germany), but boy is it suave, sexy and good fun, just like Diana Rigg and Patrick Magee in The Avengers.

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So last night I received the JUDY GARLAND AWARD

The Tell-Tale trailer being shown during the Zoom awards ceremony

I could say I’m over the moon…

… actually, I’m over the rainbow

Cindy Mich, holding up a trophy

Last night the Art is Alive Film Festival held its awards ceremony.

Just like the festival, it was a virtual affair. Cindy Mich, festival founder, convened a Zoom meeting which most of the nominees in all categories joined.

The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was nominated in two categories. The first being Best Special Interest Film, which Cindy described as including any film that didn’t fall into a traditional drama or comedy category. My gothic musical was joined by a documentary and an animated film, for example.

The second nomination was for Best Musical Score. This year, Cindy announced, that category would be named, in honor of one of her favorite performers, the Judy Garland Award.

If I was going to win one of these awards, I knew which one that should be… after all, I’m old enough to remember gay men referring to themselves as Friends of Dorothy.

(Do I need to explain that Judy Garland played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and that once was a seminal movie in young queer men’s developments? And Judy Garland was a major gay icon, so much so that her death is credited with helping spark the Stonewall riots? I don’t know if any of that still resonates with the younger generations.)

The Award for Best Special Interest Film was the first to be presented, which included a Zoom introduction and interview of each film’s nominees by Cindy, and the playing of their trailers.

You can see a screenshot of the Tell-Tale trailer above, as well as screenshots of a partial gallery views of the Zoom meeting (there were so many participants, their screens spread over two pages, but the two screengrabs are from the first page at various times during the evening).

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“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” wins two awards from Indiedance Film Festival 2020

Yesterday I was informed via a recorded zoom call that Indiedance film Festival 2020 awarded “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” with a Gold Award for Horror Short and a Silver Award for Music Score.

Indiedance will post the videos of their announcement and their interviews with all the winners including yours truly soon and I’ll link to that then. For now, here are some screen shots from their website:

Sweet! Kinda makes me feel like dancing!

(A look at the on-set monitor during the Tell-Tale shoot)

ALSO… just before posting this I got notice that the judges from Art is Alive Film Festival have nominated “The Tell-Tale-Heart – a musicabre” in two categories: Best Special Interest Film and Best Musical Soundtrack.

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Art is Alive Actor Workshop

Danny Ashkenasi

Thursday, Sep 3 – 6pm – 7pm CDT (7pm – 8pm EST)

Silverspot Cinema (Brookfield, WI) 320 Market Street, Brookfield, WI 53045

I will be taking part in an Actor Workshop with the actor Michael Gentile, moderated by Cindy Mich, founder of the Art is Alive Film Festival.

Michael and Cindy will be present in person in the Silverspot Cinema just outside Milwaukee. I will be patched in via the wonders of the internet.

Tickets may be purchased here.

Not sure if this panel discussion will be broadcast on-line, or if you need to be at the Silverspot Cinema to partake. For now it appears to be the latter. I’ll update this post when I know more.

According to plan, we will have a round table discussion on the following three areas:

Improv – The New Tool for Acting Improvements
Surviving the Struggle: Staying Employed and Engaged in 2020
Strengthening the Relationships Between Filmmakers and Fine Actors

But who knows, maybe I’ll also tell some juicy anecdote from the Tell-Tale set, like the day I murdered my husband… 😉

UPDATE: Panel has been done; it was fun. Cindy said she’ll send me a video of it; so I hope to share that on the blog in the future.

Michael Gentile
Cindy Mich

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