Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Heart My Lesbians

Why would I get up before the Sun on a Sunday, trek down to a sandy field on the bank of the East River, don a shirt 5 sizes too small and dance around a softball diamond? To shoot a comic video with friends, of course! Laura & Nicole, the dynamic duo who brought "His Name Is Cosmo" to the LGBT film festival circuit, have teamed up again to film an hysterical music video for Clay Drinko's single"I Heart My Lesbians."

"Cosmo..." screened with "The D Word" at the Long Island Gay & Lesbian Film Festival earlier this year and the fest's director asked us in the Q&A afterwards if there was a small lesbian filmmaking mafia (the "Muffia" as it were) in NYC. We laughed it off, but if you're hitting the queer festival circuit, the connections seem clear. The Muffia is as tangled-up as the dyke dating scene in Park Slope. An example of 6 Degrees of Dasha Snyder:

- Dasha Snyder (that's me) took an editing class at Dyke TV, taught by Erin Greenwell.
- Erin Greenwell edited "The D Word" and wrote/directed/produced "Mom" starring Julie Goldman.
- Julie Goldman (was also stared in "The D Word") is a writer for Mr. Murray Hill.
- Murray Hill has hosted "The Lesbian Overtones" (all lesbian, all a cappella, all the time) several times at his show.
- "The Lesbian Overtones" is made up of several illustrious voices, including it's founder's, Elizabeth Dahmen.
- Liz Dahmen has appeared in many queer shorts, including "Bar Talk (also starring Alix Olson who made "Left Lane" with Samantha Farinella)" "His Name is Cosmo," & "Mom" which brings us back to Erin Greenwell and Dyke TV, which leads to Jules Roskam who made "Transparent" and Sam Feder who made "Boy I Am" which were both shown at NewFest, where Dasha works and met Cherien Dabis who made "Little Black Boot" which was funded by Power-Up, etc...

So you can see how the connections pile up for the Muffia. No wonder they put me in the "Muffy" shirt for the shoot...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fear is just a lack of imagination

That really IS Melissa Etheridge jamming at MSG

Melissa Etheridge concerts, like the one last night at Madison Square Garden, are like primal scream therapy: cathartic, felt in the gut, deeply emotional, and in this performer's case, unabashedly sexual and spiritually uplifting. Hair still closely cropped after her bout with breast cancer treatment, "The Ridge" rocked the house with oldies, indignant anthems and joyful tributes. Thank you American Express Gold Card Events for the awesome seats!

For a brief moment, my sweetie and I thought we might get to actually meet the rock goddess as tag-alongs to Shelly Mars and Urvashi Vaid, also sitting in our section, but the opportunity vanished as quickly as it was proffered. We had mused on our way to the concert how we might get to meet with Melissa Etheridge and her wife Tammy Lynn Michaels, not just as fans, but to talk some business for "To Do:" - a script about a young lesbian with breast cancer with a plum role for Tammy in it! We laughed it off as an impossibility, but when the slim chance of success appeared, we both wondered at the coincidence of speaking that which you desire, and it's appearence in the realm of possibility. No more excuses: as Melissa said from the stage last night: "Fear is just a lack of imagination."

I'm a writer; I've got plenty of imagination to go around.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sing Along

Fred belts it out with a little moral & vocal support from me

My girlfriend kept asking me "What do you want for your birthday?" and I kept replying "A really good party." She was focussing on a physical present, and so was I, but of a different sort. Yesterday, after dozens of friends and family showed up to sing out and chow down at my Karaoke Birthday Bash (thanks to Karaoke Champ and Liz Dahmen), she got it.

I've been waiting for nearly my entire adult life to be healthy enough to grab the microphone and sing out strong, with the cheering from friends and family as the ultimate bonus. I got the hard-sell in LA to move out to the West Coast and capitalize on the momentum of the Lab and my script. Now that I'm finally able, it's time to make the move and work my brain to the max in pursuit of my writing career. It's oddly exhilerating and terrifying to contemplate the move, even if temporary. Didn't I just make fun of LA in The D Word...? Not to mention the logistics of apartments, pets and girlfriend. Oh yeah, and I've got a ton of spec scripts to write before I even get there and attempt to land an agent, get staffed on a show and raise funds for my next film. All minor technicalities...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jet Blue Made Me Green

So, like a savvy traveler, I hustled my girlfriend to the Long Beach Airport early, thus saving an extra day's worth of rental car charges and making an earlier flight back to NYC. Alas, as stated here before on this blog, no good deed goes unpunished.

Our flight hit a lot of turbulence. Now when I say turbulence, I mean the kind that makes you puke and think you're going to die. After circling JFK for 20+ minutes, we attempted to land in the middle of severe thunderstorms and succeeded only in terrifying the entire passenger population, having to break off the attempt and fly out of harms way; that'd be to Stewart Airforce Base in Newburgh, NY. After revisiting the meal that Jet Blue didn't serve us, I asked that we be let off the plane (and was supported by other beleagured passengers). I wasn't keen on taking flight in stormy weather any time soon. I thought: spend the night in upstate New York recuperating from the ordeal and take Amtrak to NYC in the morning, right? Not happening, as our incredibly-out-of-touch-bordering-on-rude crew informed me. (BTW - they were out-of-touch and rude before the whole "we're going down!" incident.) Stewart AFB was not equipped to de-plane passengers and there were more detoured planes touching down by the minute. So, what to do? Refuel and try to land back at JFK, apparently. Which is what we did.

Guess what? The gate where we arrived was just a trailer, so they bussed us to the Jet Blue terminal to retrieve our baggage - but there was an entire plane of queasy, tired, pissed-off folks and only one tiny bus making lots of trips. Strapping young men butted in front of women with children and the elderly. Everyone was so ready to get the hell outa' there.

Did I mention we flew into Queens, which was omninously dark due to electrical outages across the borough, thus making the AirTrain or subway an impossibility?

And who could forget the crying baby in front of our seat? The really bad "jokes" the head flight attendant kept telling over the loudspeaker, making us feel like prisoners in a maniacal comedy club? The airport ground crew member wearing a t-shirt depicting an suicide bomber's aftermath with the subtitle "You want to start a war?" Watching the trailer for Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" on the Direct TV at our seats - over and over and over again?

Bad travel day. Sit. Paw. BAD travel day.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Dasha & Kermit (the Frog, that is...on the Walk of Fame)
Dasha & Cousin (Steve, that Santa Barbara)

Profound thoughts on the end of the whole LA experience to come soon - when I get back to NYC.

Pool Away From Home

What started out as a small gathering of NYer's around a foreign object - a pool in LA - grew into a friend and filmmaker hang at the Standard. I feel like such a Yente, putting interesting folks together and then enjoying the frothy interaction. Much laughter, swimming and drinking was had by all.

And a shout-out to one of my mentor heroes, David Dean Botrell who won an Outie last night for "Available Men!"

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Celebrating friends

First the LGBT committee of the WGA held their "Video Fun House" panel, then we celebrated the final screening of "MOM" at the DGA. It was a small invasion of NYer's, led by MOM's auteur Erin Greenwell and her stars Julie Goldman & Emily Burton. We cheered wildly from the back row then chowed down at CPK afterwards. I can't wait to come back and celebrate with friends at future fests.

The "MOM"ers: Julie, Melineh, Emily, Erin & Erin's Mom

Who cut the cheese?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hearts and minds

mentors & fellows: Luther, David, C. Jay, Barry, Anne, Sam, Seb, Guin, Dasha, Isaac

I can't begin to describe how amazing the lab has been. At least not in the short time and space I have at the moment. Suffice it to say, it rocked. More later. Promise.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mentor heroes

Dasha lounges by the pool at Chateau Marmont

This is the life... Talking writing with brilliant, funny, working screenwriters - my mentor heroes - then getting advice from industry powerhouses, all in such an idyllic setting. I want to do this forever; Even when it's not this glamorous. I'm getting a glimpse into the world of possibilities, not just for my script, but for myself. This lab is permission to follow my passion. I didn't realize that's what I needed. The living examples of our mentors enables me to give myself permission to write; To really pursue writing. I want to be my own mentor hero.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Down to business..

Dasha, Isaac, Luther, Sam, Seb
The 2006 OutFest Screenwriters Lab Felllows at the Chateau Marmont Hotel.

Dasha Snyder, TO DO:
Isaac Webster, AMOS AND LOWELL
Luther M. Mace, ON THE LOW
Sebastien Gauthier, FUCKING PRESTON

We got down to business this morning; 5 mentors, 5 lab fellows, festival staff, special guests - all in an historic luxe bungalow (Yes, it is the Belushi Bungalow...) in the heart of Hollywood - all working towards the same goal of making good scripts great and screenwriters better. I wanted the sessions to go on for hours more. Can't wait for tomorrow morning...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The same old faces

A brief history of meeting Kimberly Yutani (OutFest & Fusion programmer) at film festivals around the world:

Sundance 2005 (w/Sarah Warn of

London 2005

Frameline 2005

OutFest 2005

Getting a little more intimate this year at OutFest 2006

Where will we meet next?

Monday, July 10, 2006

A screenwriter on every corner

You know it's LA when the public computer terminals for rent advertise "Final Draft Pro" on every machine! There's a screenwriter on every corner... Should I try my hand at LA living, I'd increase that per capita scribe population beyond belief.

And I'm staying at the hippest hotel on the Sunset Strip (No, not the Chateau Marmont...). It's The Standard, where models read books in glass boxes at the front desk next to the lobby DJ. No kidding.

OK, so this is a shot of one of my actors, Michelle Wolff, and her sweetie after they took me out for some nice WeHo sushi. It only seems like I'm hanging out with cool people in cool places all the time, which I am, but I'm also working. 2 meetings and a lot of email and calls - more to come tomorrow, and the Lab on Weds...

Sunday, July 9, 2006

New York Jacuzzi

You're looking at a New York take-over of the most prime real estate at the OutFest Filmmaker Pool Party in the Hollywood Hills. Atop a gorgreous home on Mulholland Drive, a clutch of NYers's took the dive into the jacuzzi with a view of Universal Studios. This was my first function as a screenwriting lab fellow, bright pink credential around my neck to make it official.

Dasha & fellow Lesbian Overtone Laura

I'm sporting my bathing shirt (SPF 30+) from North Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia - where The D Word premiered last year. To bring home that cherished fact, I walked into the pool party and smack dab into the arms of Robyn Patterson, the brains behind "Straight Hike For The Butch Dyke." We met in Sydney and hung out again at Frameline last June, happily thrown together as our films made a nice match (2 parodies of current queer TV shows) - speaking of which, Jo Gell, filmmaker of "Candy Bar Presents Lesbian Pop Idol!", which was also coupled w/The D Word at festivals, sloshed out of the pool for a wet greeting. With New Zealand and London covered, it was without surprise that I ran into New Yorker after New Yorker after New Yorker.

Of course, being New Yorkers, we're used to things like walking and using public transportation. Unfortuantely, that means we occassionally do stupid human things like lock our car keys in the trunk. Last I saw Stephanie & Madeliene, it was puzzling over the convertable trunk on the side of the road as the police pulled-up - while they called AAA, the rental company and Chrysler dealerships to help them out of this non-car-culture mistake of tow-truck proportions.

I'm just thankful that I got GPS navigation on my rental car...

Friday, July 7, 2006

Notice Every Tree...

"Look at all the things you've done for me:
Opened up my eyes,
Taught me how to see,
Notice every tree -
Understand the light -
Concentrate on now."

Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George

My Aunt Elaine Hodges died on June 27 of breast cancer. She was an amazing lady, and I miss her terribly.

As a scientific illustrator at the Smithsonian for over 30 years, she squinted into a microscope, then painstakingly replicated what she saw with pen and paper - capturing every hair on the leg of a wasp. When I was a kid, my aunt & her job at the Museum of Natural History meant that my class, on field trip to D.C., got to have a glimpse behind the scenes of the great wonders of the Smithsonian. She and my uncle Ron, an entymologist, would shepherd us all to the "Oh My's!" - drawers full of brilliant specimens of moths and butterlfies from around the globe that the public never got to see. She insisted that looking at something was fine, but you really had to concentrate to SEE something in it's entirety to really appreciate it - be it a bee or person.

She gave me my first set of acrylics and brushes. Although I was frustrated that my renderings didn't look "right," she gently reminded me that I wasn't painting to discover new species, as her careful observations had done, but to express myself.

Every year my Aunt Elaine would draw a unique birthday card and write a long note for me and each of my cousins. Small works of art and love, every one of them. This year on my 36th Birthday, just days after her passing, I felt her absence of vision and caring most acutely.

That's my sister Judy, my Aunt Elaine in the middle with that Snyder smile and my Uncle Ron holding Abby, my then-brand-new niece. I was looking forward to Aunt Elaine teaching my nieces and nephew how to see as well...

I began writing "To Do:" (my latest screenplay about a young woman with terminal breast cancer) in part to deal with my aunt's recurrent illness, as well as my own experiences in the medical realm. It's my attempt to really see infirmity and love in their entirety. I'm painting what I see and feel with words, Aunt Elaine. I wish you could see & hear them, too.

Her formal obit in the Washington Post can be found here (registration is free) and below:

Elaine R.S. Hodges; Illustrated Invertebrates for Smithsonian

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 7, 2006

Elaine R.S. Hodges, 69, who combined art with science in her meticulous drawings of insects and other organisms as a scientific illustrator at the National Museum of Natural History, died June 27 of breast cancer at her home in Eugene, Ore. She retired to Oregon 10 years ago after 31 years at the Smithsonian museum, where she became one of the country's leading figures in her exacting field.

Mrs. Hodges's illustrations of bees, moths, mosquitoes, fleas and other invertebrate animals were seldom seen by the vast numbers of visitors at the Smithsonian's museums on the Mall. Instead, they appeared primarily in scientific papers and books as part of the research of Smithsonian scientists.

She was a founder of a professional group, the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, and was the editor of the leading book on the topic, the "Guild Handbook of Scientific Illustration," first published in 1989 and revised in 2003.

"Elaine was one of the absolute masters in the field," said Pamela M. Henson, director of institutional history at the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

"She wrote the textbook on natural history illustration," said Robert K. Robbins, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum and Mrs. Hodges's former supervisor. "In that sense, she was a world figure."

The one time her work emerged from the pages of specialized journals came in 1996, when it was included in an exhibition at the Natural History Museum featuring 150 years of Smithsonian scientific illustrators, who have recorded the breadth of nature from plants and animals to geological formations.

Mrs. Hodges followed an artistic tradition that dates back to ancient Greece and early attempts to classify animals and depict medical ailments. Since then, artists have illustrated almost every branch of science.

Much of her work was done with the aid of a microscope, and she understood the limits of cameras and digital technology. Some subtleties, she knew, can be captured only by an artist's hand.

"Photographs simply cannot do it, because they are not accurate," she told the Eugene Register-Guard in 2000. "If you draw from a photograph, you can be sure you'll be in trouble with accuracy."

Peering through a microscope at her tiny specimens -- which were often damaged by the time they reached her -- Mrs. Hodges, who was left-handed, drew in pencil or ink. She sometimes painted with brushes dipped in carbon dust. Most scientific publications require black-and-white artwork, but she did execute some striking full-color images of bees.

"Many scientific illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful, but you cannot have artistic flourishes," said Henson, who co-curated the 1996 exhibition, "Eye on Science," with Mrs. Hodges. "It has to be real and accurate."

Elaine Rita Snyder was born in Washington on March 7, 1937, and was drawing before she was a year old. She took a summer course at the Corcoran Gallery of Art when she was about 10 but otherwise had little early training.

At a talent show at Coolidge High School, from which she graduated in 1954, Mrs. Hodges sang "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" from "Annie Get Your Gun," while making a sketch of a woman aiming a rifle at a man. She won first prize.

She attended the old Wilson Teachers College for a year, then studied at the Pratt Institute in New York. By 1963, with an early marriage behind her, she was back in Washington and found a job as a clerk at the Smithsonian. She ran into an acquaintance from Pratt who suggested that she take up scientific drawing.

She was an illustrator with the Museum of Natural History from 1965 to 1996, and during that time studied biology at the University of Maryland.

Her husband, former Agriculture Department entomologist Ronald W. Hodges, said one of her painstaking drawings could take up to 80 hours to complete. Each hair on a moth's legs, for instance, had to be drawn precisely to scale.

Through her artistry and the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, Mrs. Hodges became a prominent figure in her field. She spent years working on the "Guild Handbook of Scientific Illustration," enlisting the help of dozens of artists with the 575-page book.

She received many professional honors, including the Ranice W. Crosby Award for scientific communication, presented in May by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"One of the greatest gifts she gave was her mentorship to hundreds of illustrators around the world," said Gary P. Lees, chairman and director of the Department of Art as Applied to Medicine at Johns Hopkins. "In creating that, she opened a pathway for people to understand what illustrators do and helped the field grow as a profession."

Mrs. Hodges lived in College Park for many years and was president of the Prince George's County chapter of the League of Women Voters. In her free time, she painted portraits and abstract works and made quick sketches of musicians performing at concerts.

Her marriage to Irving Taylor ended in divorce.

In addition to her husband of 39 years, of Eugene, survivors include two sons from her first marriage, Steven Hodges of Santa Barbara, Calif., and Lawrence Hodges of Germantown; her father, Samuel Snyder of Frederick; a sister, Carolyn Snyder of Frederick; three brothers, Solomon Snyder of Baltimore, Irving Snyder of Bluemont, Va., and Joel Snyder of Takoma Park; and two grandchildren.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company