//Testimonial: Karen Sztajnberg

Testimonial: Karen Sztajnberg

Don’t Look East

My first feature as a screenwriter starts with a woman describing a sex act on the back of a motorcycle. My eight year old son accepts that he won’t be able to attend my screenings but whenever I come back from a film festival he rushes to ask if I won any “trophies”. Feels like he is trying to hitch a ride in the back of mommy’s glories without a helmet.

I missed taking my little ghost trick-or-treating this year.  Instead, I taught my students about the Kuleshov effect. I am aghast with how that simple device still informs not only great editing, but also my son’s emotional landscape. He falls, cut to my face contorted by anxiety: he cries desolately. He falls, cut to me checking my phone: he dusts himself off. The right juxtaposition can minimize meltdowns as I deny his hurt in favor of my Spotify repertoire. Hang the DJ, hang the DJ.

We watch Monty Python’s Greeks vs. Germans skit together. I struggle to explain Eureka to him. Eight year olds seem to be on the threshold, too young for wikipedia resourcefulness and too old for mommy as the oracle.

He sees my picture on a provincial Swedish newspaper from an artist’s residency I attended and brags about it. I believe more people in brownstone Brooklyn are now familiar with this article than in Sweden’s original circulation. I worry if that is sufficient credit to get me a hall pass out of the bake sale.

At the schoolyard, one mother asks me what I’m working on these days. I make the mistake of telling the truth: editing a documentary about a team of amputee soccer players from Liberia. Jolly conversation screeches to a halt. An incoming mother resuscitates chatter by pooling others about the best pilates class in the neighborhood. Arte/ZDF, you better take this project, it has cost me some serious social quarantine.

I cut together a promotional video about peer mediation for his school. The administrators are gushing with gratitude, saying it looks so professional, polished, and so on, while I know I am barely keeping continuity.  I compartmentalize my time even as I pitch my share to this community.  I have the diplomacy to forfeit a credit roll acknowledging my role in this production, as I worry about letting my greed for bonus points show. The truth is, I want my benevolence trophy as much as the next gal.

Having come back from a film festival in Romania in the world cup summer of 2014, I ask him if anything has changed in his plans of what he wants to be when he grows up. He tells me he wants to be Schweinsteiger now. I am Brazilian, I pale, I fade to black, I smash cut into self-loathing, I am never, ever setting foot in Bucharest again.

2018-11-12T09:32:03+00:00May, 2015|Post-Production Stories|