Saturday, November 19, 2011

Michael Gabel honored for his work on "A Modest Suggestion"

Congratulations are in order to Michael Gabel -- he was just honored by the PEER Awards for his performance in A Modest Suggestion!

I'm honored to have had the opportunity to work with Michael, and to witness his process first-hand.

Congrats, Michael, for a very well-deserved award!

-Arnon Z. Shorr
Director, Producer,
"A Modest Suggestion"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Discount on DVD for Blog Readers

Dear readers,

I want to take a moment to thank all of you for following our progress so closely, and for cheering us along as we brought this film through to completion.

As a token of gratitude, I'd like to offer you this discount on the DVD of "A Modest Suggestion" -- just type in the discount code: YTAUNN7H at the order page:

This offer will expire on 9/1/2011.

-Arnon Shorr
Director, "A Modest Suggestion"

"A Modest Suggestion" on DVD

On Friday, we officially announce the availability of "A Modest Suggestion" on DVD. This is an exciting time for any filmmaker, but for me, and for this film, it is especially important.

Since "A Modest Suggestion" represents a complex social commentary, it's not enough that it be entertaining. I do hope that its viewers find it entertaining, of course, but as a personal matter, I feel that its success is really rooted in how much it encourages conversation.

I grew up in a world that desperately needed conversation -- the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks of the early '90s were a sign of tremendous hope for me (I was still in grade school, still naiive, still faithful that the best of humanity would triumph over itself). It really looked like people were communicating, and that communication was moving us all forward.

Several years later, we all got a shocking reminder of just how poorly we were all communicating, when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Even as Jews, our dialog with ourselves had broken down so terribly that even one of the ten commandments was no longer inviolable. As we've learned over the years, the Palestinians are no less unified, with opposing factions grappling for control of the territories, and of the peace process itself.

The issue of communication is not just a matter for Jews to consider. It is required in (and missing from) all sorts of foreign relations, not to mention our own political system in the United States (remember the debt crisis?)

Though I am still deeply committed to the virtue of communication, it won't solve every problem. Most of "A Modest Suggestion" describes a failed communication, a kind of communication that unravels and becomes selfish, blind, short-sighted and destructive. Communication is difficult. It can require a lot of hard work, a lot of careful analysis. It can break down, sometimes catastrophically. All we can hope for is that new conversations will arise from the rubble of the old.

I urge you to see "A Modest Suggestion" this week. If you don't want to buy a copy (here:, you can rent a digital copy on

Don't see it alone. See it with friends. Talk about it. And if you have a moment, let me know what you've discussed. Leave a comment here, and I'll do my best to respond.

-Arnon Z. Shorr
Director, "A Modest Suggestion"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Understanding the Competition

Mark, Israel and I spent much of this past week-end taking in films and networking at the Maryland Film Festival. Mark, who recently launched the Mark Jaffee Film Fund, formally began his search for his next producing adventure at the fest.

Although we were all there for the same general reasons, my personal goal was to get a sense of the competition. What sorts of films made it in to the festival? What were their strengths? What were their weaknesses? Of course, at the back of my mind was the festival's surprising rejection of "A Modest Suggestion".

At the forefront of many critiques of "AMS" is the film's pace. It certainly isn't a racehorse, as far as films go, but is that really it? If there's one lesson I learned at the festival this year, it's that pace is not a factor, at least, not in this selection committee's eyes.

The festival included some particularly slow films, some of which had won high praise at other festivals around the world. These were narrative films, stories, and they were much longer than "AMS". One film, in particular, seemed to be cut exclusively of minute-long takes. In my most recent "Musing Pictures" blog post, I spent some time pondering some of my favorite long takes, using the del Toro film, "Chronos", as a springboard to thoughts on "Touch of Evil", "Rope" and other films. I love long takes when they're done well. At times, they can do more than a series of cuts to engage and energize an audience. Unfortunately, some of the slower films we saw didn't use long takes in that way. They seemed to invite contemplation, meditation and introspection. Unfortunately, they also inspired sleep. I don't think I've ever seen quite so many snoozing people in a movie theater.

So, why are films like that accepted to a film festival? (and yes, the back of my mind still nags, "why wasn't 'A Modest Suggestion' accepted?)

The conclusion I reached is a somewhat more nuanced version of "it's just dumb luck, kid. Get over it".

Every film that I saw at the festival had something - breathtaking cinematography, a unique viewpoint, unusual characters - that stood out in some way. Although some of the films did not speak to me at all, those stand-out elements must have spoken out to the festival's selection committee in some way. We all have our unusual interests. Long takes, for example. If I were a festival judge, I might vote to include a film with a particularly complex long take, whereas others might find fault in its narrative. The element of luck that plays in to the festival game is in how the selection jury's interests align with the film's particular quirks.

Some film festivals are known for having a certain 'character'. Other fests seem to have a different 'character' every year, depending on who's selecting the films. One year, a festival's lineup may include lots of gay/lesbian themed films. Another year, and the lineup features strong female leads. It's not necessarily a conscious decision, but a reflection of the selection committee's preferences, biases, and interests.

From the films I saw at MFF, I'd say the selection committee leaned towards films with great pictures, with characters whose moral center was blurry. Audio quality seemed less of an issue than the clarity or uniqueness of the picture. Narrative resolution seemed less important than the complexity of the journey.

Since most film festivals don't provide any feedback on the film when they reject it, this is really the first obscure insight I have in to the reception "A Modest Suggestion" has been receiving, and it gives me much hope.

"AMS" is a snarky, cynical satire, with characters that are not characters, but a group that caricatures the anti-Semitic mindset. It's wordy, intellectual, silly, and very dark. Getting it in to film festivals will require that enough people on the juries or selection committees be interested in this unusual sort of film.

Although it's disheartening to think that luck plays such a major role (rather than quality or significance), it leaves me with some hope for the film. Sure, it has its problems, but films with similar problems (or worse problems) have been accepted to some of the biggest festivals in the world. Here's to hoping the film falls in to the hands of a snarky, cynical festival judge who likes intellectual, wordy satires.

-Arnon Shorr

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Every Film has its First Audience

Last week, we screened "A Modest Suggestion" to an audience of roughly 200 of the Baltimore area's business, community and religious leaders at the wonderful Charles Theatre. It was thrilling to see the film on such a large screen, and to hear such a large crowd react to the waves of humor and gravity that we've worked so hard to create.

I didn't want to spend very much time 'lecturing' to the assembled crowd, so when I did get up to speak after the film, my message was brief: You Matter!

Here's the basic idea: since this is such a small (dare I say, "modest") film, each one of you can impact its growth and advancement very dramatically.

Since the screening, quite a few people have come up to me and asked how they can help us spread word about it. Here are a few notes on different ways you can help. Some may involve a bit more work, others may be a little easier, but they're all important!

First, some web suggestions:

The most popular search engine in the world, Google, loves blogs. When a blog includes a link to a web page, that in itself raises that web page's profile dramatically on search engines. So, if you've got a blog, write about and link to A Modest Suggestion.

Email people about the film. Tell your friends to visit the website, If you're on facebook, "like" the facebook page.

Did you know we have a video trailer of the film? Watch it here: -- don't forget to give it a "thumbs up!"

YouTube has a "share" feature, which allows you to share the video in various ways, including on twitter, youtube, facebook, email, etc. Feel free to embed the video in your blog, too!

Mention the film on twitter, or if you're on facebook, use "@amodestsuggestion" to mention the film in your status updates.

Leave comments on the Facebook page, or if you're more ambitious, find film discussion forums and leave notes about "A Modest Suggestion". One fantastic way to help the film gain prestige at this very early stage is to find it on the Internet Movie Database or Give it a ten-star rating and leave a review! Here's the film's IMDB page.

And finally,

Talk, Talk, Talk!
Tell people about the film. Tell them what you think about it. Discuss its messages and themes. It's a film loaded with controversial ideas and challenging assertions, so use it to start a conversation. Who gets to define "being Jewish?" Can there be a legitimate anti-Semitism? Do we know who we are, anyway?

If you have other ideas for helping to spread word about the film, please let us know -- leave us a comment here or get in touch with us via email.

We're still being considered by over a dozen film festivals at the moment. Any hint of 'buzz' that those festivals receive will only help our chances of getting accepted and screening to a much larger audience.

I'm looking forward to seeing this film's star continue to rise. I know that when that happens, it's due to a very large extent to your help in these crucial, early days.

-Arnon Shorr
Director, "A Modest Suggestion"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Wave of Submissions

We've been busy behind the scenes at Modest Films, preparing and submitting "A Modest Suggestion" to a slew of film festivals and competitions.

It's an anxious period, the long wait before the first festival says "you're in!" We've already heard a couple of rejections, and they're tough, but the bigger picture is still very exciting.

Last week, I felt a strange kinship with a new batch of filmmakers. I had submitted films to festivals before, but this was the first time I had ever put a full-length film in the mail. Putting the addresses on the envelopes, I couldn't help but smile at what even this menial task represented. I've finally joined the ranks of feature-film directors.

I think this sense will be complete once the film is accepted somewhere, or screened for an audience of people who don't know me. But I feel as though I'm almost there. After all, the movie's ready!

We're hosting a private screening of the film next week to an audience of community and business leaders. The folks in the crowd, by and large, are movers-and-shakers in Baltimore. It's a bit of an intimidating demographic for a sneak preview, but an important one, nonetheless. I'm eager to see how they all respond when the end credits start to roll.

Either way, the film is out there, now. We submitted to a couple of fests in England, one in Germany, several in California, New York, Massachusetts, and even Oklahoma. I've never been to Oklahoma...

-Arnon Shorr
Director, "A Modest Suggestion"