Elma Cremin

Co-Founder at Followthethread
A long-time fixture of New York’s glittering social scene, Miami’s jai lai courts, and the interstate highway system’s “big rigs,” Elma Cremin has spent her life absorbing all things pop culture.Movies, cult tv shows, documentaries, art, fashion—you cut her and she’ll bleed out in the colors of an Andy Warhol Brillo Pad box. Finally, after years of working inside the system with such networks as Sundance, Trio, Fuse TV and Ovation, she went “ghost protocol” and co-founded FollowTheThread in order to work outside the petty restraints of the industry and share her remarkable knowledge.

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Nina Simone has been hailed as High Priestess of Soul — her love and passion, her fight for freedom and empowerment, are embodied in her vast body of work. There are more than 40 original albums in the Nina Simone library.

Simone’s 1964 song “Mississippi Goddam” was her response to the Alabama church bombing and the Mississippi murder of Medgar Evers. The song was banned throughout the South – for profanity, they said – but became a civil rights activist anthem.

In the song, she sings, “You keep on sayin’ Go slow! Go slow! … But (it) bring more tragedy, do it slow”

Prophetic. It’s appalling that today, 50 years on, that rallying cry remains as urgent as ever.

North Carolina GODDAM!!



Liz Garbus, who is no stranger to biopics, directs this film using archival footage and a minimum of third party talking heads. She charts the rise of Nina Simone from a Jim Crow childhood to Julliard, her defining role in the Civil Rights Movement, on to her arrival at Carnegie Hall, and finally her self-imposed exile in the South of France.

In 1962, Simone befriended the ceiling-busting playwright Lorraine Hansberry (“A Raisin in the Sun”). The two struck up an impassioned dialogue about the Civil Rights Movement.

“We never talked about men or clothes,” Simone wrote in her memoir decades later. “It was always Marx, Lenin and revolution—real girls’ talk.” The killing of Medgar Evers and the four girls in Birmingham became catalysts for the transformation of Nina’s career.

That career was not a stroll in a sunny park. She summed it up in her memoir: “My father used to say to me, ‘One day, I promise you you’ll will see the world. You’ll go to far distant places… Along the way, you’ll have joy and you’ll have your pain.’ I’ve experienced some of that.”


lady-sings-the-blues LADY SINGS THE BLUES (1972) 

Nina Simone’s music was largely influenced by Billie Holiday. This Motown-produced film, based on Holiday’s celebrated memoir, stars Diana Ross as the jazz legend and chronicles her hard-knock beginnings, remarkable career and the personal demons that led to her tragic demise.

Holiday said her father Clarence Holiday was denied treatment for a fatal lung disorder because of prejudice and that singing “Strange Fruit” reminded her of the incident. “It reminds me of how Pop died, but I have to keep singing it, not only because people ask for it, but because twenty years after Pop died the things that killed him are still happening in the South.”

Her battle with drugs, arrests and a ban from performing cabaret in NYC are dramatized in this film along with her triumphant return to Carnegie Hall and subsequent death at 44 years.


SELMA - 2014 FILM STILL - Background left to right: Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash, Omar Dorsey as James Orange, Colman Domingo as Ralph Abernathy, David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr., Andr¾© Holland as Andrew Young, Corey Reynolds as Rev. C.T. Vivian, and Lorraine Toussaint as Amelia Boynton - Photo Credit: Atsushi Nishijima   © MMXIV Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

SELMA (2014) 

The release of Selma last year commemorated the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The marchers were beaten back brutally the first time the tried to cross the Selma bridge, but came back a second time and triumphantly marched on to the state capital

Nina performed the song “Mississippi Goddam” in front of 40,000 people at end of the march with other black activists including Sammy Davis Jr., James Baldwin and Harry Belafonte.

The campaign attracted national attention and played a part in convincing Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1965. In his speech, President Johnson affirmed his support for the goals of the civil rights movement: “We will not delay or we will not hesitate, or we will not turn aside until Americans of every race and color and origin in this country have the same rights as all others to share in the progress of democracy.”

If only Johnson’s words had been as prophetic as Simone’s.

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 MALCOLM X (1992)

Spike Lee’s epic Malcolm X covers the life of one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most controversial and misunderstood public figures. Denzel Washington does more than portray Malcolm X — he manages to bring him to life in a tour de force performance.

Nina Simone never met Malcolm X face-to-face, but she did hear him speak in Harlem more than once and knew his wife, Betty Shabaz — a neighbor in Mount Vernon, NY. According to the Amsterdam News on April 17th, 1965, after Malcolm was killed Simone performed at the Apollo theatre as part of a benefit to raise money for his family.

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In-the-Heat-of-the-Night-film IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967)

Norman Jewison directed this film based on John Ball’s novel with a screenplay by Stirling Silliphant.

The film was nominated for seven Oscars and won five. It spawned a Peabody Award-winning TV series starring Carroll O’Connor as the white police chief William Gillespie, and Howard Rollins as the African American police detective Virgil Tibbs.

In the film, Sidney Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, a detective who is mistakenly arrested for murder by a bigoted small town Mississipi police chief played by Rod Steiger

After it is revealed that Tibbs is a respected Philadelphia homicide detective, he stays on against his will to help the chief solve the murder. Grudgingly over the course of the investigation the two policemen slowly learn to respect one another.

Showtime has announced plans to resurrect the series, which will be set in the present day and tackle similar issues of race, class, justice and inequality with Tate Taylor (The Help; Get On Up) directing.

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freedom FREEDOM ON MY MIND (1994)

An absorbing Oscar-nominated documentary chronicling the complex and compelling history of the Mississippi voter registration struggles of 1961 to 1964, the interracial nature of the campaign, the tensions and conflicts, the fears and hopes.

The first black farmer who tried to register was fatally shot by a Mississippi state lawmaker. But by 1990, Mississippi had more elected black officials than any other state. The film features interviews and rare archival footage set against a soundtrack of blues and gospel songs.

Barred from political participation, Mississippi’s young black organizers created their own integrated party – the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). They recruited 1,000 mostly white students from around the country to come to Mississippi, bringing the eyes and conscience of the nation with them.

The students and the MFDP organizers put together a delegation of sharecroppers, maids, and day workers to challenge the all-white delegates in the 1964 Democratic National Convention.






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Can't decide what to watch?FollowTheThread.
Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
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Here at The Thread, we’re increasingly convinced that the only good parent is a crazy parent.

Debatable, we know…  But consider:

  1. If you survive childhood with a crazy parent, you already have big-time survival skills.
  2. You’re highly qualified to go into entertainment, psychiatry, or customer service.
  3. If you decide to become a novelist or filmmaker, you’ve got at least your first two projects in the bag.

This week we’re riffing off Maya Forbes’ feature directorial debut, Infinitely Polar Bear.

One of our editorial principles here at The Thread is to always try and cover our butt.  Before one of you point it out, we’ll acknowledge that our last two posts – Brian Wilson, Wolfpack — were also about people with crazy dads.

So… does everybody like stories about tortured children – or is it just us?




If only all crazy dads were Mark Ruffalo.  The world would be a kinder, gentler place.

We like Ruffalo a lot, whether he’s playing the sane, solid brother in Foxcatcher, or the charming sperm donor in The Kids Are All Right.  And we don’t hold Bruce Banner against him.

We attribute the fact that this is a comedy to the fact that he plays the dad and to the fact that even though this is Maya Forbes’ first feature, she’s not a Sundance kid straight out of film school.  She’s got solid credits as both writer and executive producer on things like The Larry Sanders Show, The Kennedys, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (had to mention it – a favorite around our house).

Together Ruffalo and Forbes pull off the balancing act, without pulling the punches.




squid and the whale

This image from Noah Baumbach’s autobiographical film has always resonated with us because it manages to capture, in a single image, the suffocating intimacy of domestic life gone askew.

Are the parents here crazy?  Not certifiably.  Maybe not even much more than “normal” divorcing parents.  But the whole experience is intensified by the fact that they are writers living in Brooklyn and therefore given to overthinking, overtalking and overdramatizing.  And by the fact that their children – as finely tuned and highly strung as the parents – begin to act out all the carefully repressed family angst.

Funny and agonizing by turns, the film is based on Baumbach’s own childhood, living artistic in Brooklyn with two writer parents as they divorced.

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The Shining

Early on after the release of The Shining, Stephen King thought that Kubrick had botched the adaptation of his novel by downplaying the supernatural elements and playing up the family dynamic.

Admittedly we haven’t read King’s novel (2015 beach read?) but we think that’s nuts.  For us it’s always been one of the most convincing supernatural films ever.

In the sense of blow-by-blow realism?  No, of course not.

But what we do find utterly compelling is the interplay between the Nicholson character’s alcoholic writer’s block and his son’s supernatural abilities.

We love the way the psychological and the psychic reinforce each other in an evil downward spiral.  Gyre, if you’re a Yeats fan.  If and when the psychic plane does indeed intersect the physical (call us nuts, but we believe it does) this is the way it does.

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The Great  Santini

In the original New York Times review, Vincent Canby wrote that Robert Duvall’s character “is as outrageous and as impossible as a man can be without being certified insane.”

That about sums it up.  The character is Bull Meecham, who calls himself “The Great Santini” — a fighter pilot in search of a war, a drunk and over-the-top disciplinarian, who treats his daughter and teen-age son like they are physical and psychic extensions of himself.  In other words, badly.  He rousts them out, musters them, issues them “direct orders” and generally deals with them as if they were boot camp recruits.

The result is a movie that is as over-the-top as the character himself.  Unforgettable, convincing – especially in the relationships — but not subtle or nuanced.  The movie was shot soon after Apocalypse Now, and Duvall is essentially playing the same character, this time in a family setting.

35 years on, even though both the movie and the character seem like period pieces, the family dynamics still ring true.  Like several of the others, this was based on an author’s own family – in this case novelist Pat Conroy, who also wrote “The Prince of Tides”.

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As we researched this week’s post about Dads, we kept coming back to Wes Anderson — Royal Tenenbaums, Steve Zissou (co-written with Baumbach), The Squid and the Whale (Anderson co-produced).

But Fantastic Mr. Fox is the only one of his father movies that we really love.  It’s one of the few movies that we actually watch again and again – and not just because the kids will watch it with us.

Frankly, we don’t really know why we like it so much.

So we’ll make it up.  Maybe it’s because Fantastic Mr. Fox suggests that the inherent conflicts of fatherhood (responsibility vs. fulfilling primal male destiny) can be resolved and everyone can live happily ever after.

Yes, it’s a Fairy Tale – a fairy tale by Roald Dahl, the giant (six-foot-six) genius who routinely manages to combine dark perversity and archetypal drives with child-friendly happy endings.

Which is also kind of a handy metaphor for transforming a troubled upbringing into art.  We don’t know what Dahl’s own childhood was like, but now we’re really curious.

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Enough with Dads and artistic fulfillment!

If your movie star mother was certifiably bonkers, you have the option of not just getting even but getting rich — and writing a tell-all memoir.

That’s what Joan Crawford’s daughter Christina did, and when director Frank Perry turned it into a movie, a cult classic was born.  If you don’t already know what this movie is about, it’s probably not for you, so don’t even bother.

But who would’ve suspected that Perry had it in him?  His previous films had been considerably more subtle – David and Lisa, The Swimmer, A Christmas Memory.  Maybe he got bored with all the nuances and decided to just let it rip.

The cult appeal of the film lies in the fact that it so reliably delivers its pleasures, no matter how many times you watch it.  It’s like a hooky pop song – you just can’t turn it off until you’ve heard the refrain: “No wire hangers…!!!”

Every small cable network has an ace in the hole – a movie you keep under perennial license to throw into primetime at the end of the quarter, when your ratings are sagging.  At A&E in the 90’s it was Rio Bravo.  For us at Ovation, Mommie Dearest was the one.

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