#2018 Year End Update #2018Milestones

Wow, 2018 was quite a year for Spinning Goat Productions and its director, Chris Mason.

From Chris:

In January 2018, after a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about the future, I decided to apply to Temple University to hopefully, finally finish my undergraduate degree in Anthropology (Visual/Media). I had worked very hard to build a film and social service career in Pittsburgh, but I was not making inroads nor gaining any recognition, which anyone needs to stay inspired and confident.

I was accepted to Temple in February 2018, and I wept tears of joy at finally having a chance to make something of myself, for being “accepted” somewhere, and to have hope that I could find a way to turn my passion and vocation into a career that I can be proud of. And, I’ll admit it, to feel better about myself. I think we always want to put our best face forward in these social media times, but it has not always been easy for me (and for others) who want to create art and influence for change. And often doing it while being under-paid, under-appreciated, tackling bills and debt, unstable housing, and past and present abuse and trauma.

Once I managed to complete my relocation to Philadelphia in July 2018 (no small feat, even for an oldster like me, lol), I was filled with hope and terror all at once.  There were days I felt so free and full of possibility, while on other days I was racked with anxiety and fear that I had gambled everything on this move and entry back into school, with $25,000 more added to my debts:What if it didn’t work out? What if I fail? What if…? It was hard to shake the feelings of insecurity and worthlessness that often plagued me in Pittsburgh. But over the last 4+ months, I have discovered that Philly is the exact right place for me to be, to create a future for myself while unpacking and resolving the past.

Philly is a large city (6th largest in the US), and has both its challenges and triumphs, but the vibe I get here is one of encouragement, with a right mix of sincerity and attitude, lol.  Despite inequities that persist here, as is the case in most cities in the US, I’m impressed by the desire that many Philadelphians have to improve things for other people and the search for ways through without solely focusing on barriers. You will likely receive support, not apathy, for wanting to find a way to solve problems facing your community and for wanting to create something new. Philadelphia is culturally diverse, and I’m inspired by the many organizations and community members who offer arts, educational and cross-cultural programs here.  I have found the right place to figure out how best to combine my skills and talents, my 25+ years (gulp!) of experience, and my desire to help other people learn more about the world beyond their own, to recognize the potential in themselves and others, and to dismantle stereotypes based on ignorance and fear. For real. 😉

Right now, I’m not really sure what my future will exactly look like.  I’ve had some surprises this first semester, like acing my first Arabic language class and realizing that while I love making films, I also have other strong skills that I hope to utilize.

And that it is not all that easy to figure out who you really are and what you are meant to do. I acknowledge that I am a bit lucky, but I also remember how much work I’ve done to make myself more…my self! Not to get too philosophical. 🙂 But truly, it is like I am finding a way back to my self, to the self that has always been there, but had gotten sidetracked by other people’s views and pressure, social dramas, insecurities, and getting lost in alcohol and abuse. I’ve spent the past 7 years working on resolving feelings of shame and worthlessness.  I’m almost there. 🙂

I’m almost at a 4.0 for the Fall semester (waiting on one more grade), and that makes me super proud! I have some scholarships to apply for for summer study and for my last year 2019-20, so this not only lets me know that I have what it takes, but demonstrates that to others. Who have money to give away. 😉 😉 😉

But it gives me confidence to stay on my path, searching for the best way forward.  And I want to thank my friends who have given me support that I cannot get from family, and to those who helped donate to my student loan issue in fall 2017, without which I would not have been able to afford to go to Temple anyway!

I am filled with gratitude and look forward to whatever 2019 brings! And I hope to post a few more films and other art projects next year, and provide updates on past ones.

But in the meantime, I plan to enjoy the heck out of winter break!

Image result for yippee



Up Next for Spinning Goat Productions & Chris!

Hello Everyone,

I am still basking in the positive response (and thunderous applause) we got at the premiere screening of Improvising the Divine: the Music of Tom Moran documentary.  The theater at Pittsburgh Filmmakers was packed (we had to bring in a few extra chairs to accommodate everyone!) It was a testament to Tom Moran’s unique talent, spirit, and generosity, and a touching farewell for me. I will be entering the film into a few film festivals once I get situated after my move to Philadelphia.  I will update you all on any progress with festivals and if/when the film will be available to view online.

So, the big move to Philly is happening in just a few days. I am very excited, nervous, and super ready to take the next steps to keep creating art that educates and uplifts.  I am looking forward to figuring out where next to take my talents and education to benefit people, and attempt to remove the barriers that continue to be put up and reinforced by those in power.  I hope to contribute as much as I take away from my studies in the field of Visual Anthropology at Temple University.  I may even get a chance to study in India next summer!

It’s kind of a new feeling for me to be on the verge of possible success and growth in this way, and I am proud of myself for never giving up even when it seemed there was no clear path to achieving my goals. Going forward, I hope to connect with more women filmmakers and anthropologists and focus more directly on the issues and barriers women face, but also on the ways they are persevering and carving out their own spaces in this often violent world.

I will be on a short hiatus while I get situated in Philly, but will be back to update you about Tom’s documentary and any other interesting projects I’m working on and learning about.

Thank you all for your support over the last 6 years.  Without it, I may not have gotten this far. I’m also extremely grateful to Pittsburgh Filmmakers School and my documentary instructor, Will Zavala, and Community College of Allegheny County, where I took my first anthropology classes as part of my 2-year degree.

May you all find a way to your dreams and goals, and keep envisioning a better world.  It may be dark right now, but always let light in, and we will get there.

Chris Mason

Founder and Director

Spinning Goat Productions


Improvising the Divine documentary premiere was a success!

On 7/7/18, 60 people packed the theater at Pittsburgh Filmmakers to see the premiere of Improvising the Divine: the Music of Tom Moran, and it was well received! A memorable experience for the audience, Tom and me. 4+ years of hard work, without a crew, without money paid off big time with all of the accolades we received after the film.

The next step is to submit to film festivals, and eventually make it available to watch online. Updates to come!

As a special treat, Tom Moran played a set on electric sitar after the screening.  I had always wanted to do video projection during one of Tom’s live shows, so I put together a video to play during Tom’s last improvised piece.  We did not rehearse this – we just let art take its course.  And it paid off.  Watch the video of the performance here:

ONE WEEK: Improvising the Divine Documentary Screening on July 7, 2018

From Chris:



Only 1 week to go and then I can finally share this wonderful film about the one-and-only Tom Moran.  His music, art and creativity inspired this project from start to finish.

As an added bonus, he’s going to play a set on electric sitar, and during the final song, I’ll be projecting a special artsy video.  It’ll be an experience, for sure!

And it’s FREE.

When: July 7, 2018, 6:30-9 pm

Where: Pittsburgh Filmmakers, 477 Melwood Ave, 15213

Free parking

Bus routes 71A, 71C, 54, 82, 77, 93

Food and drinks from 6:30-7, film 7-8, Q & A 8-8:15, music 8:15-8:45…

Hosted by Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Documentary Salon program directed by Will Zavala

FB invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/240816926474051/

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1XxDQQHjCs


NEWS: Spinning Goat is on the move to Philly

Hello! I thought I should post the big news!

I was accepted into Temple University’s Anthropology BA program, in the Visual Anthropology track, starting this Fall 2018! I’m entering as a junior, so in Spring 2020 I’ll graduate, and then I may enter their 4-year PhD program.  I’m very excited to combine all my prior knowledge and experiences with focused study and guidance, and create and collaborate on projects in a university environment.  I look forward to getting to know Philly a little better (warts and all), and seeing where this next big step takes me into the future.

My focus will remain on documentary video, with a focus on musical expression and social issues.  My desire is to contribute to the rich field of Visual Anthropology, while creating public programs for youth and adults to use/refine their use of media as empowered expression and cultural preservation. I’m also taking on the challenge of learning Arabic!

Make sure you check out my last film screening at Pittsburgh Filmmakers on Saturday, July 7, 2018 – a farewell to both my time in Pittsburgh and to my beloved Pittsburgh Filmmakers School, which is closing at the end of summer.

I’ll keep everyone updated on this site with any new cool stuff I’m up to, filmmaking and otherwise.  See you in August, Philly!

– Chris Mason, Director

FB event for the screening of Improvising the Divine: The Music of Tom Moran: https://www.facebook.com/events/240816926474051/


Press Release: Documentary about Tom Moran premiering in July 2018

June 5, 2018

Spinning Goat Productions
ATTN: Chris Mason


New documentary about Pittsburgh musician Tom Moran premiering in July

(Pittsburgh, PA) – A newly completed documentary feature about long-time Pittsburgh musician, Tom Moran, will make its Pittsburgh premiere at Pittsburgh Filmmakers on July 7, 2018. The film, produced by Spinning Goat Productions, will be presented at the Documentary Salon program directed by Will Zavala.

The 1-hour independent, zero-budget documentary will take viewers on a journey through Moran’s various musical incarnations during his career, starting with his American rock & blues background and as early pioneer in the Pittsburgh punk scene in the early 1980’s as a member of The Dark and The Five, who were also based in Boston in the mid-1980’s. In the mid-1990’s, after returning to Pittsburgh from Boston, Moran and his wife, Stephanie Vargo, formed the bluegrass band The Deliberate Strangers, who during their 13-year career gained local and national recognition in the bluegrass and alt-country communities. They traveled and performed at various festivals and joined the 2004 Outlaw Writer’s Tour with (in)famous West Virginia authors Chuck Kinder and Lee Maynard.

In the the mid-2000’s, Tom’s focus traveled across the ocean to the Middle East. Already a virtuoso player and builder of guitars, mandolins and banjos – as well as more off-kilter instruments made from cigar boxes and shed deer antlers – Moran turned his attention to the oud, a Middle Eastern stringed instrument in the lute family. With help from internet friends in Algeria, Egypt, Turkey and Syria, Moran learned how to build and play the oud, learning Middle Eastern music theory from experts and by following the careers of celebrated oud players like Hamza El Din.

The idea for the documentary arose in 2013 when the film’s director, Chris Mason, was studying Middle Eastern, North African, and East European dance, and as a new filmmaker would practice her craft by recording dance presentations in which Moran took part as musical performer and accompanist. Mason was intrigued by Moran’s performances of non-Western music and fusion pieces in Pittsburgh, and the atmosphere he created when he took the stage – whether in music venues like Club Cafe or in the cushioned seats at Dobrá Tea in Squirrel Hill – and his unique journey from punk to bluegrass to world music.

Previously, from 2013-2016, Mason and Moran collaborated on several experimental video pieces for exhibition at Art All Night and in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 2 Minute Film Festival. In 2014, after a somewhat improvised shoot on a sunny August afternoon outdoors at Homewood Cemetery, a 25-minute documentary was released online called Musicians in the Wild which featured interviews chronicling Moran’s musical journey and improvised guitar segments. After its release, they both agreed to expand on the documentary and include more performances, interviews, and artistic elements to create a more complete, if compact, overview of Moran’s musical past and present culminating in the 2018 documentary feature Improvising the Divine: the Music of Tom Moran.

Improvising the Divine: the Music of Tom Moran will debut at the Melwood Theater, 477 Melwood Ave, on July 7, 2018. Doors at 6:30 pm/Screening at 7 pm. The screening is free of charge and is followed by a live performance by Tom Moran on electric sitar, ending with an experimental video projection by Chris Mason. For more information, please visit www.spinninggoat.net.


Tom Moran has been playing stringed instruments since 1969. As a founding member of Pittsburgh’s punk rock scene, he was a member of The Dark and The Five, as well as alt-country pioneers, The Deliberate Strangers. Tom is also a luthier, building guitars, banjos, ouds, and other instruments. Tom currently concentrates his musical efforts composing and performing pieces inspired by his study of world music.

Chris Mason began her filmmaking career at Pittsburgh Filmmakers in the summer of 2012, and has independently directed and produced music documentaries, cultural profiles and experimental videos. She has a background in cultural anthropology, loves the “magic” produced when musicians create and perform, and music’s ability to bridge cultural and social barriers. She will study Visual Anthropology at Temple University starting in fall 2018.