San Francisco Bay Area’s Filmmaking History And How It Helped Beat Thomas Edison’s Monopoly Over Motion Pictures

Charlie Chaplin  in "The Tramp"

Charlie Chaplin in “The Tramp”

San Francisco bay area has a rich history of filmmaking going back to the late 19th when Eadweard Muybridge demonstrated the moving picture of a horse to Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University. In the early 20th the bay area was home to the Silent Film industry and Niles Canyon near Fremont was home to Essanay Studios that hired Charlie Chaplin and made “The Tramp” in this area.

Here is an article I wrote for Open magazine in 2009 about Niles Canyon and the silent film industry  and how the west coast won the war against Thomas Edison’s monopoly of the film. And 100 years later filmmaking is back in the bay area in a new way – think online streaming and Netflix.

THE LARGE white letters spelt ‘N-I-L-E-S’ reminded me of that other famous sign: ‘H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D.’ I often wondered about the startling similarities between these two signs, both perched on hillsides, and if there were any deeper connections. I finally gave in to curiosity and took a detour to venture into a street that looked straight out of an old western. Niles Boulevard, the main street, had mostly antique stores on one side and a railway track on the other. And way above the track was the sign I’d come to know so well. My eyes caught the Charlie Chaplin figures on the lamp posts. Why Chaplin? Intrigued, I drove on, looking for clues, and found my answer. The sign read: Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.’ It wasn’t open. Continue reading


Video: Lawrence Kasdan on Star Wars, George Lucas and Writing


Meet Lawrence Kasdan – writer, director and producer. He co-wrote the screenplay for George Lucas’s “Star Wars” trilogy, He worked with JJ Abrams on the latest Star Wars film “The Force Awakens,” that releases in December 2015.

Kasdan was honored with a Maverick Spirit Award at the recent Cinequest Film Festival, which is where I got an opportunity to interview him  about his long association with George Lucas, and his writing and the influence of his professor Kenneth Thorpe Rowe, who taught at University of Michigan. Why did Kasdan want to study with Prof. Rowe?  It was because of Arthur Miller. You see Miller was a student of Prof. Rowe and Kasdan was a fan of Miller’s writings.  So, we talked about Rowe, who is the author of two seminal books, “Write That Play,” and “A Theatre In Your Head.”

Besides his writings, Kasdan has directed and produced films such as “The Big Chill,” “Grand Canyon,” “Body Heat,” and “Accidental Tourist.”

Podcast: Academy Award Winner Resul Pokutty on Designing Sound For “Margarita With A Straw”

Academy Award Winner Resul Pookutty

Resul Pookutty

How is sound designed for a film? Ever wondered about it? We did and spoke with Academy Award winner Resul Pookutty to find out how he and his team worked on Shonali Bose’sMargarita With A Straw.” Pookutty won an Oscar for his work in Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“Margarita With A Straw,” is about a differently abled person’s journey of discovering her sexuality. Bose is a “natural filmmaker” and works on sound far more than the picture Pookutty says.

“Margarita With A Straw,” is set in New Delhi, India and Manhattan, New York.  “A Million Dollar Baby,” is the film Pookutty mentioned as a reference film to Bose, since the film grows quieter as it progresses. The whole idea of designing sound for a film is to create one sound says Pokutty. For “Margarita With A Sound,” Pookutty worked on the texture of the sounds that compliments the visual and storyline of the film.

The moment you say that “Sound is beautiful,” then “I have failed,” points out Pookutty. Why does he say that? Tune in to find out as Poukutty takes you behind the scenes and shares how they create sound for a feature film.

LISTEN: Resul Pookutty on Creating Sound for “Margarita With a Straw”

This is Part-2 of our conversation. You can listen to Part-1 of our conversation with Pokutty.

Related Posts: Video Interview with Shonali Bose on making “Margarita With A Straw”

Photo credit: Resul Pookutty

Send Money Via Facebook Messenger



Facebook unveiled a new feature today that lets you send and receive money through Facebook messenger.”It is easy and free,” is how the the Menlo Park-based company described this new feature that will be available to users in the US in the coming months. Facebook introduced Messenger in 2011 that is used by millions of people around the world.

So, here is how it works. You first set up an account linking your debit card to your Facebook account. So, when you get a message from your friend about a concert ticket that costs you $20 it will now be easy to pay for it without leaving your messenger chat window. You will see a dollar sign on your messenger that you click and add your debit card number and send it to your friend, who then clicks and receives the money on their debit card that is linked to their Facebook account. The entire transaction takes place in your chat window at no cost. Continue reading

San Francisco’s Pinterest Raises $367 Million at $11 Billion Valuation



San Francisco-based Pinterest, a visual bookmarking company has raised $367 million at a valuation of $11 billion according to the Wall Street Journal. This is Series G round reports the Financial Times on the company’s latest round of funding.  In 2004 Pinterest raised $200 million at a valuation of $5 billion per  NYT DealBook.

The company is not done with its fund raising according to this SEC filing. Apparently it plans to raise another $200 million in the next few weeks.

The total amount of funding raised by the company until 2014 was $764 million. And with this new round of funding it has crossed $1billion in funding.

How does Pinterest, the world’s biggest discovery engine plan to raise revenue? In 2014 Ben Silberman, CEO of Pinterest told WSJ on how they plan to grow revenue for his company in this interview. In 2015 the company rolled out its “promoted pin” option as a way to generate revenue.

Pinterest was founded in 2010 by Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra. They currently have over 500 employees with offices in US, UK, Japan and Brazil.

American Fruits and Nuts in Bangalore

American fruits and nuts in Bangalore you ask? Yes, you can find California pistachios, Washington apples and Oregon pears from big grocery stores to the corner mom and pop shops.  According to one report  California almonds rank fifth in the list of American exports to India.

VIDEO: “Miss India America’s” Meera Simhan and Ravi Kapoor

Miss India America” had its world premiere at the recently concluded Cinequest film festival in Silicon Valley. This humorous film examines the notion of ambition and the lengths to which we go to achieve our dreams. The film and the cast members got standing ovation from the audience.

We spoke with Meera Simhan and Ravi Kapoor, the husband and wife team, who made “Miss India America.” We spoke about the film and had to ask a couple of  mandatory Bollywood questions. This is Kapoor’s directorial debut film. Kapoor and Simhan are that rare combination of of actor/producer/writer rolled into one.

Podcast: Robert Kenner on “Merchants of Doubt”

Robert Kenner

Robert Kenner

Award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner’s new documentary “Merchants of Doubt,” is inspired by the book by the same name by Naomi Orsekes and Eric Conway.

Kennar’s previous film is the award-winning “Food Inc.” that takes you behind the scenes of how the food industry operates. In this new film “Merchants of Doubt,” Kennar takes you behind the scene and shows you how the debate over tobacco and climate change are shaped and molded. What is the connection between the playbook of the tobacco industry and the climate change deniers?

“Merchants of Doubt” releases today in San Francisco and on March 20, 2015 in rest of the San Francisco bay area.

LISTEN: Robert Kennar on “Merchants of Doubt”

Photo credit: Sony Picture Classics

Video: Shonali Bose on “Margarita With A Straw”

ShonaliBose -KamlaShowShonali Bose’s “Margarita With A Straw,” is the centerpiece of this year’s Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)  Festival at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre on March 15, 2015.

We spoke to Bose about “Margarita With A Straw,” a coming-of-age film, which she describes as a deeply personal film. The story is about a differently abled person’s journey of love and accepting herself is how Bose describes the film.

The film premiered at The Toronto Film Festival in 2014, which is where Masashi Niwano, the program director of CAAM Fest saw it and was instantly drawn to it. Niwano spent quite a bit of time in trying to get this film to this year’s CAAM festival.

“Margarita With A Straw” opens in India in April 2015 and in US and Canada by the end of the year.

“Margarita With A Straw,” stars Kalki Koechlin, Revathi, Sayani Gupta, Kuljeet Singh, Hussain Dalal, Tenzin Dalha and Jacob Berger. Music is by Mikey McCleary. Sound is by Resul Pokutty.


Grace Lee’s Trains Her Lens on Food – The Center Piece in Asian-American Community in USA

Off The Menu

Off The Menu

Food is the centerpiece of many Asian-American communities in the USA.There is absolutely no question about that and I can vouch for it. What are we eating today is a daily conversation in my family, and we cook everyday. And there are many memories and stories woven around food in my family.

And food is the topic of conversation in thousands of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian communities and  restaurants in the USA. But, how is their American experience  changing and shaping the food in these Asian American communities? What happens when they “go off the menu”?  Ever wondered about it? Well, if you did you are on the same page as filmmaker Grace Lee, who trains her lens on food in Asian-American communities in the USA in “Off The Menu.”  The film is having its world premiere at this year’s CAAM Fest that starts today in San Francisco bay area.

I watched the film last night and was completely hooked to it. Lee’s film hit my own food memory library big time. As Lee points out in the film, while many second and third generation Asian-Americans may not speak the language, they are fluent in the language of food. Food is their medium and bond them to their cultural roots and heritage. They have very strong food memories that reflects the inner journeys of their families and societies.

Lee travels to Texas, New York, Wisconsin and Hawaii to trace the evolution and cultural bonds that people have forged in their communities. She weaves in a spiritual dimension to her culinary journey by visiting the Sikh Gurudwara in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She discovers the importance of food and the concept of “Langar” the community kitchen, which is the hub of the Gurudwara.

When she hits the road in Texas and New York she does a great job of tracking how food is evolving within these various Asian-American communities, and how they bring in local flavors into their traditional menu. Heard of Texas Sushi or Tamale Tofu?  Well, those are some of the new dishes born in Japanese and Chinese restaurant kitchens in Texas, and they are in turn shaping the American palate and the Asian American community. What does it mean to be an Asian American in US today is the bigger question that Lee explores in this fascinating film.

You can catch “Off The Menu” at the Castro Theatre on March 15, 2015.

Related Post: CAAMFest Celebrating Films, Food and Music in San Francisco Bay Area