"Grace is… You dance as you walk through life. If you don't dance, you cannot aspire. You do not lift up from this earth." – Mimi Weddell
Actress-Model-Mother-Independent Thinker-Free Spirit Mimi Weddell is extraordinary by anyone's account. A striking beauty who speaks with authority and passion on any number of topics, Mimi, cigarette holder in hand, strikes a pose the moment the camera is on her. The Grande Dame instinctually finds her light and begins to put on a show.
And what a show! 93 years old and moving with an intensity most 20-year-olds only dream about, Mimi conquers the world on a daily basis thanks to her wit, grace, and her mantra -- "Rise Above It" -- the phrase written on the walls and even the kitchen floor of the New York City apartment she shares with her daughter, son, son-in-law, and until recently, grandson. "Rise Above It" will become a new catch phrase when audiences young and old meet and fall in love with the unsinkable Miss Weddell.
Hats Off is Jyll Johnstone's third film. Her first, Martha and Ethel, premiered at Sundance in 1994 and was subsequently presented at film festivals including Toronto, San Francisco (Grand Prize), Hamptons (Best Documentary), Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong and others. It is the story of two women of disparate background (Martha, 4 feet 8 inches high and refugee of Nazi Germany, and Ethel, 6 foot 1 inches tall and native of South Carolina) whose life path led them to two social pedigreed families in post World War II New York, where they found employment and a home as nannies for two growing broods of children. Martha and Ethel garnered Ms. Johnstone a Directors Guild nomination and the film has been distributed by Sony Picture Classics.
Throwing Curves, Ms. Johnstone's second film, is the story of famed ceramicist and industrial designer Eva Zeisel. The film follows Ms. Zeisel from her birth in Hungary in 1906 through her career in many of the 20th century's hot spots of design, including Berlin in the '20s, Russia in the '30s and New York in the '50s. The film interweaves her design work with her dramatic life story, including imprisonment in the Soviet Union, escape from Nazi Germany and setting up a new life as an immigrant in post-war New York City. The film explores as well the delicate tension that arises for Ms. Zeisel between the responsibilites of motherhood and her pioneering career in the industrial arts.
The filming of Hats Off began in 1996 and was completed in the summer of 2007.
Ms. Johnstone was born and raised in Manhattan, attended Bard College, and graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. Before moving to northern California in 1992, she had been an actress in New York. She is the mother of two children, and manages Canobie Films, Inc., producer of documentaries on contemporary social issues.
As Jyll's filmmaking partner and husband, Michael co-produced Hats Off, Martha and Ethel, and Throwing Curves.
"My job is to work on the budget, move us through the post process," says Michael. "Jyll handles all the creative and manages the post details -- the mechanics, the polish and look."
"Our goal is to make films that we would like to see," Michael adds. "Not formulaic films or anything a studio would necessarily make, but small stories about interesting people and characters so that when an audience sees them -- they're moved, they feel the work has added value to their lives. The film is not really 'thought out' as much as 'felt through'; more instinctual than rational."
Jyll Johnstone & Michael Arlen Davis
Kate Stilley Steiner
Frankie Spellman and Stevie Buzzell
Jamie Mc Ewen
Consulting Executive Producer
J. Edward Shugrue
Michael C. Donaldson
Michael Arlen Davis