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Film Producer Dyan Machan

We Are Upstate NY With Executive Film Producer Dyan Machan

We are Upstate NY with film producer Dyan Machan as part of our ongoing interview series celebrating the 23rd year of The Woodstock Film Festival.  Dyan is an award-winning writer and newly-minted filmmaker/executive producer of Symphony No.3 Planet Earth, a visually rich, 50-minute film that is an ode to Mother Earth (Gaia in Greek) borrowed from a Greek hymn by Homer written 3,000 years ago.

The film was created to sync with a recorded performance of Symphony No. 3 Planet Earth by renowned Dutch composer Johan de Meij. Sung by a choir in the original language, the verse asks us to honor the planet that takes care of us. A symbolic Gaia, cast as a dancer, becomes the film’s protagonist and narrator. She dances the story of our past and present with a glimpse of a possible future. Let’s learn more about Dyan Machan, her first film to be entered into The Woodstock Film Festival.

Dyan in a hat
INSIDE+OUT: Where are you originally from and what is your connection to the Hudson Valley?

Dyan Machan: I’m from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.  After college, I migrated to New York City and discovered the Hudson Valley as a paradisiacal antidote to The Big Apple that could bite at times.

What inspired you to choose a career in the film business and what was your journey?

I dreamed of being a film mogul with an army of people competing to carry my bags. More sincerely, I do not consider myself an actual filmmaker nor compare myself to the dedicated and talented individuals who make it a career.  I’m more of a poseur, faker, or at best, a dabbler, and a hack.  The bulk of my career was spent in business journalism. While it had good moments, I wondered whether there might be something more soul-nourishing than writing love notes to the rich and mighty.

Your film Cine – Symphony Planet Earth is showing at this year’s festival. Tell us about that.

First, Cine-Symphony Planet Earth has a clunky name for a reason.  The emphasis is on the music, a soaring, goosebump-creating, contemporary-classical symphony written by my husband, Dutch composer and maestro Johan de Meij. I would say the same of the music if I wasn’t married to him. Unlike most films, we started with the so-called score and created a visual dimension, Koyaanisqatsi– style for those who remember the Philip Glass-scored, experimental 1982 film that also had no dialogue. The term “cinema-symphony,” was created by Hudson Valley’s own Jon Bowermaster, the filmmaker and environmental crusader.  So Cine-Symphony Planet Earth was first designated solely for concert halls to be shown behind live orchestras. It debuted in Switzerland.

When the pandemic hit, we decided to make an entirely new version with a soundtrack for theaters. It’s called Planet Earth because Symphony No. 3 Planet Earth is the music’s formal name that is written in the style of composer Gustav Holst who wrote “The Planets.” For some reason, Holst’s score left out Earth. So Johan picks it up here. Also notable, the film tells the entire history of Earth -–past, present and future via the enchanting dancer/actress Mikayla Scaife who plays Gaia, the goddess of the earth in Greek mythology.  The symphony features a female choir singing words from the original Greek hymn compelling us to treasure mother earth from a poem attributed to Homer. Three thousand years ago, this poet got it.  In any event, it’s not a depressing film. It has a happy ending and viewers can speculate whether it’s fictional or not.

What was the most rewarding and the most challenging aspect of this project?

The most rewarding moment was being honored by The Woodstock Film Festival. It’s hard to pick among the challenges. One was spending a portion of our budget on an awful dude before we found Jed Parker, our gifted director, and editor. I also had the idea that we could crowdsource video content from around the world by asking amateur videographers to send smartphone videos that could be stitched together. Most of it was lousy. That also cost us time.

What is one question you’re constantly asked or the biggest misconception about what you do?

No one asks me anything. I feel left out. I’m hoping for a massive misconception that I can dismantle and enlighten everyone.

Can you put your finger on what makes a producer a great producer?

Generous friends. Otherwise, my cat Leonard could be a producer.

Film Producer Dyan Machan in italy
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?

A dance film set to my husband’s cello concerto called “Casanova”. It’s a Casanova story with a twist because it focuses on his women. They become the heroines. Casanova is more or less a tool to explore the strength of female bonds and the journey of these women to own their own sexuality. By doing so, they tap into the sacred feminine power ala the gospel of “Mama Gena,” an author who contends that a woman’s sensual awareness is vital for her spiritual, intellectual and emotional health.

Apropos to this theme, it’s being cast, filmed, and directed in the ancient hilltop villages of Lazio, Italy that personify sensual beauty themselves. I was recently there and what we have so far is visually captivating and smoking hot. The working title is Casanova al Contrario and we immodestly believe it’s going to make waves. There won’t be anything like it.

All filmmakers can say this. Yet our way of putting the music first and using dance and movement instead of dialogue make our films distinct. This time around we’ve amped up the cinematic quality.  Plus we film our dancers in some of Italy’s most gorgeous settings– Roman ruins and the achingly beautiful frescoed room of a medieval castle. So, we have high hopes.

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About Dyan Machan

Dyan Machan is a contributing editor at Barron’s and a writer of CEO Spotlight, which features leaders of widely held public companies. In 2012, Machan won a National Headliner Award from The Press Club for her column Smart Ideas as well as a Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Prior to Barron’s, Machan was a senior writer at Smart Money magazine, a contributor to SmartMoney.com, and a columnist for Smart Ideas since 2006. Before Smart Money Machan was a senior editor at Forbes for more than a decade. At Forbes, she developed a successful column called The Forbes Lunch that invited readers to share lunch with a mover and shaker of the moment. In 1999 while at Forbes, Machan won Business Journalist of the Year (Global Awards for Business Journalism). Prior to Forbes, Machan was an associate editor at Financial World magazine. She graduated cum laude from Kent State University School of Journalism. “Planet Earth” is her first film production project.

Follow Dyan Machan:  Website | Instagram | Facebook

 

2022 Woodstock Film Festival
The 23rd Annual Woodstock Film Festival

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About the Woodstock Film Festival
Founded in 2000, the Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that nurtures and supports emerging and established filmmakers, sharing their creative voices through an annual festival and year-round programming to promote culture, diversity, community, educational opportunities and economic growth. WFF provides innovative mentoring and inspired educational programs benefitting filmmakers, students and diverse audiences while serving as a powerful cultural and economic engine for New York’s Hudson Valley and beyond. Such efforts have consistently resulted in the festival being hailed as one of the top regional film festivals worldwide. The Woodstock Film Festival is an Oscar®-qualifying festival in the short film categories – Live Action Short Film, Animated Short Film, and Documentary Short Film.

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