Saturday, September 15, 2012

SplatterFest Short Film in the Can!

I recently had the pleasure of creating and working with an all-female production for a short film competition called "SplatterFest Weekend of Mayhem". I wrote and produced "Occupational Hazard" alongside my good film buddy Julie Sellers, and I directed a wonderful group of girls. It's something I'm proud of already, and I think the girls all are, too. 

Our short film will screen on October 2nd, 2012 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Mason Road in Katy, Texas (West side of Houston). Please come and support us and check out more info about the whole SplatterFest shindig at Tickets are on sale, and announcements about guests are posted there, as well. Anthony Michael Hall (the Breakfast Club, Edward Scissorhands, Dead Zone) is going to be present this year! 

Enjoy - and not safe for work or the kids - because of bloody gore. 

Monday, July 9, 2012


So, I really want to beat my mom at armwrestling. Truly. She and I had a good bout at the last tournament, and it felt good to think, "Hmm...I might be good at this, too!" But - If I can be honest with you - I am much more interested in making a movie about her than beating her at armwrestling. The time I've spent on the film, and NOT on my upper body strength (although I DID get a gym membership), for the past month shows right where my priorities are.

This is where the funny little paradox occurs. My mom and I are different and similar, at the same time. We are together in this. However, each of us have to reach our separate goals for it to be successful. You see, I spend at least as much time on my "craft" as she spends working out and preparing for her sport. I'd rather the film come out looking great than for me to win at armwrestling. She'd rather armwrestle than worry about what looks good on camera.

Essentially, by going forward with this project we are holding each other accountable to reaching our own goals. We made a pact: If she's going to armwrestle, I'm going to make a movie about her. If I'm going to make a movie about her, she's going to armwrestle. We are simultaneously supporting each others dreams, by doing the best that we can on something we absolutely love doing.

Trippy?'s neat how life ends up this way sometimes. Onward to Saturday, the next armwrestling tournament and shooting day! Although, keep in mind, I never said I wouldn't armwrestle again. I just said I haven't been practicing...

(Don't forget to check out the preview video and give us a "like".

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Round One: Mother vs. Daughter?

So, my mom has begun her attempted comeback. She's making contacts with old teammates. The ball is rolling. Footage has started piling up. Why do I feel like things aren't really even started yet? Well, it could have something to do with the fact that I was coaxed into armwrestling her...and proved to be quite the formidable opponent. This could get weird!

The first tournament she attended was on June 9th at Lucky's Pub, hosted by the Houston Armwrestling Association. Unfortunately, the only women competing that day would be my mom and I, and one very sweet, attractive, nurse in a weight class below us. Her name is Courtney Erdmann and she's actually a Texas state champ. She easily took down me AND my mom. Yep, that was quick. (We got an interview and pointers afterwards with her, too. One of the many cool people we met that day.)

The third match was Michele Branscum vs. Courtney Sandifer. Everyone around the table started out giggling and making jokes as we "gripped up". Then the referee said, "Go!"...

My mom and I were locked in the middle of the table for what seemed like forever! The crowd got louder as we went on. I laughed and strained and said, "Oh my GOD!" at least once. About two minutes in, my mom fouled - her elbow went off the table. (You get 2 fouls before you're disqualified.) Wow. I told her I wouldn't LET her win, but I didn't know I'd give her that much trouble. After a 60 second break, we grip up and start again. She started wearing me down and about a minute later, she pinned my wrist down and beat me.

Like the dork that I am, I'm still reflecting on it almost 2 weeks later. I'll save the good stuff for the camera, but I CAN tell you that my mom called me this week - on speaker phone at her sister's house, cousins gathered 'round - and challenged me.

 "I heard you were starting to work out now? Are your gonna try to beat me?"
"Well, yes, mother, I am."
"Okay, then. Let's do this."

Please enjoy our pre-production trailer video. Leave us a comment and "like" us on Facebook, too.  And, don't forget to give props and check out the band NEEDTOBREATHE (on Jay Leno tonight! 6/21/12). Song used by permission, and we are very gratefull!
Not available on mobile - because of syndication/licensing agreements. Get on a computer and watch it! - Courtney

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

So, My Mom is an Armwrestler...

A World Champion Armwrestler.  No, I’m not kidding. Yes, my real mom…in real life. 

Her name is Michele. She’s somewhere over 50, a grandmother, recently separated and lives in rural North Louisiana. She’s feminine, smart, and very silly. She is known as “the Coke Lady”, because she’s worked for the local Coca-cola distributor for about 15 years. She’s also a 1999 World Champion arm wrestler, and going back into the sport after a 12-year hiatus.

A few weeks ago, on the bittersweet birthday of my late niece, I called to check on her. Surprisingly, she was in the middle of coloring her hair, and she announced she was going to start training to arm wrestle again. I couldn’t believe the crazy change of direction that day, for both of us. I was immediately compelled, by common sense and my filmmaker boyfriend, to find a camera.

My mom is modest. She’s also forgiving – to a fault. She’s imperfect and yes, even gets on my nerves sometimes. But, she’s incredibly strong and I can’t think of a better metaphor for what she’s taught me in life than to do exactly what she’s doing now. Defeated? Then get back up and keep going. Reach a goal…or completely fail to reach one?  Then make a new one and keep going. The important thing is to see the light at the end of the tunnel and KEEP GOING.

My mom’s story has been in my “filmmaker” consciousness for a while now. Now, there’s not really an option. I HAVE to do this. I plan to make a feature length documentary that follows her through the summer as she trains and participates in tournaments. It will also tell the story of how she got into this whole thing to start with. Her first tournament is on June 9th, in Houston, TX. The National Championships are in August. Maybe we’ll even get to follow her across the globe for another World Championship run later in the year.

So, my Mom is an arm wrestler. I’m going to make a movie about her. And, I need some help. I’m hoping to raise the first $2500 for the movie before her first tournament (June 9, 2012). This would help pay for food, gas, legal fees for paperwork and production insurance, equipment and a couple of key crew.

Any money given will go straight to Pine Heart Productions as a donation, and in return you will get a “Special Thanks” in the credits of the film and on the website. We’ll take anything from $10 to $250. (If you are interested in giving more than that, please email me.) Use the link at the top, right of the page to donate easily through Paypal (it's very secure). Donate in someone else's honor if you'd like. Just send me a message with details.

I will personally consider every dollar a vote of confidence. However, spreading the word for us will not be underestimated. Thanks for reading about this project, and I hope to uplift you with good news in the near future!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I heart Networking

You've heard the phrase, “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know." Well, I like to think it’s really a little of both. However, this week I am shunning the pro-education side (kidding...kinda), and reflecting on the impact that professional networking has had on me and will have on my future. It would be naïve of me to think that I can get to where I want to be by doing everything alone; with all the books and college degrees around me I can stand. We need people, people. We just have to embrace it.

To start my work week, I had the privilege of attending a very organized “business networking” meeting. This particular group requires membership and has very methodical ways of making introductions and referrals. It reminded me of all the leadership trainings and professional workshops I had attended years ago in college, and as a board member for a state-wide non-profit organization.  Name tags. Structure. Hand shakes. Coffee. Business cards. Bagels. It was pretty laid back for a group of its type though. I enjoyed it.

On the other hand, I also network constantly by interacting with others in the “film community” through local events and especially social media. (AKA – I’m a raging facebookaholic. I admit it.) Whether you enjoy the many positive and negative facets of facebookdom or not, it’s part of our culture. Unfortunately, we still have issues with the “professional” and “personal” realms that sometimes clash online. Dilemmas abound: To add or not to add those colleagues at your new job. To post my real thoughts on someone’s offensive rant or not. To quietly block and curse through a bitten tongue…you get the picture. says that a network (as a noun) is: a “supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” So, in its basic form, “networking” is being part of a “supportive system”. That means I should try to be supportive, and seek out others who do the same. We all hold hands and share information, and then pat each other on the back. Boom. Done. Easy? Not really.

Networking doesn’t have to be some aggressive way of throwing your business card at strangers foreheads. And, it doesn’t have to be some big moronic circle jerk (pardon my language). Being part of a supportive network, and expecting it to help you in your own endeavors, requires us all to act professionally, with tact, and treat others with some modicum of respect when interacting with them – whether they are functioning in a role above or below your own in the hierarchy of an organization AND whether you are in a volunteer role or paid. Just because you’re an “artist” or working for free or deferred pay doesn’t give you an excuse to completely ignore a colleague when they are trying to contact you about a project, or skip out on doing paperwork and making contracts. It also doesn’t give you some “free pass” to be a douchebag to others, whether on the clock, on lunch break or online – you can actually say whatever you want, but PEOPLE NOTICE these things and the smart ones will NOT refer others to you.

Yeah, so there are some clueless people and some a-holes on almost every job. But, if you want to keep moving forward, finding people that share the same values as you and actually want to improve themselves and their work, you need to treat every “gig” like it is your own personal project. Do your best to follow through on your word. Keep the public negative, gossipy, whiny, juvenile, useless chatter to a minimum. Also, it helps to take responsibility for your mistakes, too, instead blaming other people. Defending yourself is fine, to a point. However, throwing people under busses is a very unprofessional thing for anyone to do, especially for a person in a leadership position. Apologize for mistakes, learn from them (which may mean steering clear of working with certain people again), and move on – and the best parts of your network will inevitably stay intact.

No, I’m not at the point where I’d call myself “successful” – or even half way there yet. But, I know I’m not going to get there by just sitting on my butt alone reading books about how to make movies. And, I don’t have the money to just pay my way through the crowd and hire all the folks who worked on Spielberg’s last movie. I’m going to have to make connections with people, and maintain the relationships I already have with others in my network who are a supportive, positive influence on me. Hopefully, I’ll serve the same function for the group around me, too.
Can we all hold hands and sing “Kumbayah” now?

Monday, April 30, 2012

I heart Metaphors

When I began pre-production on my first short film, I started thinking about what to call my budding (or pre-budding!) little production company. A lot of people use various interpretations of their names or where they live, and others use some object or term that has some kind of personal meaning behind it. For me, I went with something that reminded me of home and who I am at my core.

Like many people that live and work in the Houston area, I am a transplant. I grew up in North Louisiana, in the middle of the Kisatchie National Forest. Those gosh-darn pine trees were all around me. As a kid, we’d throw pine cones and poke each other with the pine needles. That was the extent of the fun though. You can’t climb them – they just go straight up. This was also the reason they were pitiful shade-makers. The sap dripped onto the top of my first car, and one big pine almost fell on our house during a bad storm. My step-grandpa would carve things out of pine to give as gifts, which, honestly, I rolled my eyes at as a teenager. When I moved away, those “good-for-nothin’” pine trees became a kind of symbol for the things I hated about living way out in the woods. Maybe they are good for burning and making paper, but that’s it. I ran away from the forest as fast as I could.

However, life has a funny way of bringing things full circle and teaching you lessons as an adult. (Wow, is that cliché or what?) Almost exactly one year before I shot my own first short film, suicide caused an emotional earthquake in my family. My step-mom, who had been married to my dad since I was a baby, decided to take her own life. I spent 9 days in a row glued to my dad’s side and with my two paternal brothers. It changed my life, in every sense of the term “change”. During the healing process, I started to appreciate the things that came from my step-mother that made me who I am. Those pine trees are right in the middle of it. I have a small heart-shaped wooden plaque she gave me when I was young, and when I ran across it while packing last year – it hit me.

My core, my heart is made of a material that is strong, but pliable. It is not stone, but it is not mush. I CAN withstand a lot, and I HAVE, but I have scars there as well. And that’s ok. I want Pine Heart Productions to be an extension of me, but an outlet for my colleagues as well. Don’t get me wrong, my products will not all be sappy, life-changing, dramatic, artsy movies and videos.  Some of them will just be silly! HUMOR is a big part of who I am (I get that more from my mom’s side), and how I’ve gotten by for so long without going *completely* crazy. But, I hope to always remember where I came from and how my past will help me get to where I’m going. As for my audience, I hope that others just enjoy the ride and learn a little more about themselves in the process. At the least, I just want to make you smile and think about things a tiny bit differently.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I am in the process of expanding my empire. Muahahaha! More info coming soon on my short film "Caroline's Masterpiece" and a new documentary project we just started. Check me out on Twitter @iheartpineheart and email Also, watch for comedy/horror film "The Haunted Trailer" staring Ron Jeremy due out at the end of the year. Twitter @hauntedtrailer Thanks for visiting!