Friday, April 25, 2008

PROJECT, Resurrected

I dug out the hard drive with the 1" master tape transfer of my first feature, PROJECT, made over 20 years ago as a junior & senior in high school. I drafted a bunch of my theater buddies and the woman who would become my wife, and we set about shooting a 70-minute supernatural thriller over summer vacation. High-end consumer video was a relative novelty in 1985, and we put a lot of effort into it. Director of Photography Mark Allen would go on to many many film and television credits, as would Scott Benton and Patrick Loungway. Lori Halloran would become a PBS producer, Konrad Aderer would become a professional actor & filmmaker, Jon Burnett and Mark Hughes (now Mezadourian) would go pro with acting and directing, Carole Honeychurch (as Anna, pictured) would write self-help books and be involved with comedy improv. Many of us would have families of our own, and diverse careers. Of course, three people featured on-screen would eventually die of cancer (Sam, Natasha and my dad). But it's a great snapshot in time. What our house looked like, the fashion... fun stuff.

The film would be the first project produced by Exposed Films (subsidiary of Pelican Productions), the company David Beach and I founded after high school. It would be my first public airing on television, and would be the first newspaper interview (Palo Alto Weekly). My dad invested the completion funds, a whopping $2200 in 1986 money, out of the total $3000 production budget.

So I dusted off the transfer and began to clean it up. Corrected a few shots in terms of color or brightness, trimmed off some bad edits, shortened an unnecessarily long sequence, and replaced a bunch of unlicensed music with stuff I found on cassette by the composer of the original score (Mark Allen's older brother, Sean). The opening credits were grainy and full of video drop-outs, so I replaced them with new ones. The end credits were wildly ignorant of what jobs people actually did, so I fixed them too. Of course, the video shows two decades of wear, and the fact that the master survived the fire of 2006 in its plastic industrial shell case could not have helped any. And there was no sound design to speak of (and Dolby surround what?). But while there are obvious faults with a film made by a handful of teens in the mid '80s, what's remarkable is how many good shots, good moments and good ideas there are. We were ambitious little shits, for sure.

I had planned to put together a 20th anniversary DVD for as many of the cast and crew as I could track down, but the fire delayed it. Two years late isn't too bad, I guess.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Parade of Perfection

By no means do I mean me by that. I refer to the seemingly endless parade of perfect souls the Universe puts in front of me. Creative, thoughtful, wonderful human beings. Human beings that I know are going to be important in my life, or I in theirs. It's really cool to be attuned to that again. My "celestial radar" has returned.

I went to visit the tae kwon do studio of a friend of Producer Dan's. She's a real dynamo - went to the same acting school as Trish & Dan, degree in television production, was Janine Turner's stunt double on Northern Exposure, has run Lee's Martial Arts Academy in West Seattle for decades (a place I've passed on the order of thousands of times). She's offered the use of some of her studio space for auditions and shoots, and I was there to check it out. Nowhere else in Seattle could we find 3000sf of easily dressable open studio space for the price.

Heard from the top secret actress regarding the top secret short, and we've set up a production meeting when she's here for Emerald City in a couple weeks, planning out every detail face to face with Dan, rather than trying to cram the shoot in there as well (and we're way behind deadline for the SAG paperwork anyway). I told her about Duo and about the OA series, and she asked about an audition. Well duh. I would totally cast her in the OA series.

The RADZ book got a big thumbs up from Mark Bruno, one of the originators of the project. Just waiting on the index and we can get to press.

My stepdad just had lap band surgery. He is okay, but they kept him an extra day until he met all of the criteria for release.

12 days and counting to the big four-oh, which I'm gonna start calling "the big four-oh-my-god".

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I talked to Randy last night, my closest bro for 28 years (and former producer & band manager), and we talked about And Tears Fell. I explained that, although I was meeting some cool people in the process of rebuilding the project, the band itself was really a time capsule, and I hadn't been able to really put my finger on what was keeping me anchored to it, although now I understand. Although I wrote the majority of the material, it cannot be denied that And Tears Fell was named by, and personified by, Sam. I think maybe there was a subconscious guilt reflex, keeping me tied to something that would forever be associated with Sam, to keep being creative in her memory. But then I realized: 1) I've done a lot of creating already in her memory, and think I've done her proud; 2) I don't want to be tied to that identity, especially since it includes a creative partnership with someone who is no longer alive, and honestly, that would be pretty unhealthy; 3) Time for the new. New songs, new music, new art, new relationships, new life.

It's just time.

I think for an alternative band in the late '80s-early '90s, we made some good records and had some fun, and the Requiem album I just released is exactly that. A requiem for an endeavor whose time, like the singer, has passed. Randy echoed my sentiments, and admitted he'd had a tough time trying to figure out how to tell me.

So does that mean I will stop playing music? Hardly. If anything, it releases the baggage that I've been carrying around with all the ATF stencils on it. Now I can write new material as well as rearranging old stuff without worrying about being "true" to the old sound or trying to make something fit a certain genre. I can collaborate as I see fit, without worrying about "well, Chris played this bass line, and Sam sang the bridge like this..." Doesn't matter. And Tears Fell lasted, in essence, from 1988 to 2008. There are four CDs of old material and the Requiem CD available. And that's all she wrote.

Time to close the door on that one, so that other doors can be opened. Thanks for talking me through the process, Randy. And thanks to RM for helping illustrate the point I'd been avoiding.

Moving on...

Monday, April 21, 2008


So I met with the second vocalist to answer the Craigslist ad for And Tears Fell today. She borrowed my Ovation acoustic and played some originals, gave me a demo CD. Great voice, great songs, and adorable. One of the covers is the 1971 John Prine song "Angel from Montgomery". Not having had a lot of exposure to the wide spectrum of country music, I'd never heard the song before.

So imagine my surprise when we put in Into the Wild tonight, and in the middle of the film, Kristen Stewart and Emile Hirsch perform a duet of "Angel from Montgomery".

Slightly bizarre. But it certainly wouldn't be the first time I'd received a message through music. Unfortunately, I don't really know what the message is, except maybe "pay attention - there will be a quiz later."

* * *

I finished the layout on the RADZ book today. Sending it off to our editor, Jason. As soon as we have the index done, it's outta here! Huzzah!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I don't know what's going on. For the last week or so, I haven't been able to sleep past about 4AM, regardless of when I go to bed. It has all the signs of a creative surge, a cycle of little sleep but extreme productivity. And yet, I don't feel more productive or creative, nor do I feel the vocational stress I usually feel during these cycles. I actually feel more serene and sure of my trajectory than I have in ages.

I canceled my gym membership. After almost three years, I realized that aside from a couple periods of daily training, I wasn't using it enough to be cost effective. I've been doing more and more walking, stretching and isometrics at home, and now have a huge yard to maintain. We'll see how well it works this summer, and if I find that I'm just not getting enough cardio, I'll re-up.

Got word from Heath: The Ballad of Mary Jo and Elliot's Wake were not submitted to STIFF, so that leaves Heath and Mark out this year (except for the credits they got on Ordinary Angels). So we're down to only four films in the festival, two of them from D Constructed. I'm cool with that.

The kids and I did our movie night on Thursday this week, so I had Trish and Dan and Mark (who ran lights for Deathtrap) over for a little film noir fest on Friday. The Maltese Falcon and The Dark Corner (with a young Lucille Ball as the blond and gorgeous girl Friday). I had a blast, chowing down on pizza and drinking beer and wine with film geek friends.

Saturday the weather gods could not come to a consensus, so it was warm and sunny, then overcast, then rained, then mushy hail, then cold and sunny, then (I shit you not) it snowed. Big honkin' flakes of snow, which of course didn't end up sticking because it's almost May - didn't you get the memo?? JD came over for lunch and a movie since his wife is across the Pond visiting family and he didn't want to just hole up with the cats and World of Warcraft. Then I met up with Hans and Ron in City of Heroes for awhile. It was just that kind of day.

Today is coffee with Ron, then an OA series meeting with Trish and Dan, then prepping kids for school on Monday. And hopefully getting a nap in there sometime. JD and I joked about getting older and naps being awesome. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that in another couple weeks I'll be 40. I think a certain level of disbelief might be due to the fact that so much of my thirties was taken away from me - through grief and tragedy and recovery. Meh. I don't want to sound whiny. Just stating a fact: much of my thirties was rushed, hushed, suppressed or ignored. And there's a certain melancholy at not having a partner to share in the birthday milestone. But that's a whole other tangent, and I feel like I've rambled enough this morning.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

STIFF Competition

Ha ha. STIFF Competition. I made a funny.

Aaaaanyway, "competition" isn't the word for what this year's STIFF is to me. Aside from Ordinary Angels, Dan Humphrey's Rectify and The Addict are both screening, Eddie Smith's Behind Closed Doors (produced by Dan Heinrich and starring FIVE actors from OA) is screening, and I heard tell that Heath Ward's The Ballad of Mary Jo is playing as well (but have not confirmed this yet with Heath). If so, that means a hat trick for Humphrey, DP Anthony Tackett and actors Eric Riedmann and Aaron Washington, and a foursome for Darlene Sellers. If Eddie Smith's other short, Man 2 Man*, is in the festival, that's a hat trick for actress Trish Loyd and a two-fer for actor Marcio Catalano (and a fourth for Aaron Washington). And I've just heard from Darlene that Mark Price's film Elliot's Wake is in the festival. That's at least SIX films by our little incestuous community of filmmakers. Excellent.

* Sorry, wasn't able to find an official site for Man 2 Man, and doing a search only brings up R&B groups and gay dating sites.

Now, I haven't confirmed whether Man 2 Man or Ballad of Mary Jo are screening. But even so, that's a healthy showing from the hometown crowd. There's some serious talent in this tight little industry, and it's about ready to burst out and soil the world in some good filmmaking. We used to talk with reverence about Sundance '93, when it was still a little independent festival and proved a fecund meeting ground for action directors Rodriguez and Tarantino when both Reservoir Dogs and El Mariachi screened. Who knows? In the years to come, maybe STIFF '08 will have some historical resonance as the nexus point of the new wave of Seattle indie cinema.

Or I could be completely full of shit. But it's fun to think about.

In any case, it'll be a good showing, and I'm looking forward to the films and the networking.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Three Years.

Three years ago, this was what our family looked like (the picture is older, but you get the point). There were four of us. There was balance. I had help. So did Sam. The two-years-plus prior to that had been filled with incalculable sadness, devastating disappointment, and brief glimpses of hope, all held together by dogged determination to thwart the odds and have Sam survive, but it was not to be.

Three years ago today, Sam took her last breath on Earth. Today, three years later, we still live in the house where she died. We share warmth and laughter and companionship in the very room where her life seeped away. And honestly, what more fitting tribute to such an avid hostess?

However, geography aside, what a huge difference three years makes. I look at that photo, taken on a visit to my dad & stepmom in Florida, and I don't recognize that man. I'm sure he was a good guy, a loving father and husband, but I feel so detached from that time and place, that era of my life, that I may as well be looking at another family. For that family is not the same.

There is still a sadness at the loss of what that picture represents - the whole temporal path that family trod together. But the feelings are no longer acute, no longer debilitating. They are distant, just as the memories associated with that photo are distant.

We are so very different now. Different, not just by the passing of three years, but by all of the experiences brought by those three years. We have proven that we can survive as a family unit (although it is by no means painless), we have proven we can withstand the loss of wife and mother, of father and grandfather, of house and home, and still come back with a pretty reckless smile. Reckless as in daring to smile when most would think we'd have so little to smile about.

But it's good, this "life" business. The business of living, and of living as if fully aware of the finite nature of life. With all of our mundane struggles, we persevere and come together as a family of three. Kind of a tripod design to this family now - more sturdy on uneven ground.

After weeks of pissing down cold rain and snow and hail, the morning broke sunny and warm today. Kayleigh and I watched Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, and followed it with Ang Lee's Sense & Sensibility. Kayleigh wove me a friendship bracelet, which I have been wearing all day. Later, as if heeding an unseen spousal imperative (and before I was fully aware of the date), I found myself mowing my gigantic back yard. Tyler's friend Miles went home shortly thereafter, and our family tripod wandered down to the grocery store with our canvas shopping bags and grabbed up some Fuji apples and fresh strawberries and organic bananas and pasta makings for dinner. All the windows are open, and the sound of birdsong and an occasional dog bark punctuates the otherwise still spring day.

And I ponder what a difference three years makes.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ordinary Angels Gets STIFFed

I just got the call. Ordinary Angels will be screening at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival (STIFF) this year. This is a big relief for me, as aside from the cast and crew screening and a poorly attended comic shop event, the film hasn't screened in the city in which it was made. It previewed in Portland and Indianapolis, premiered in Atlanta, and has run in Bay City and Colorado Springs. But the first rejection by the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) before the cut was finished seemed to be a bullet through the heart of hometown pride that just wouldn't dislodge.

Well, now it's been dislodged, and I will be there with an army of supporters to proudly screen OA alongside Dan Humphrey's Rectify.

Thanks, STIFF. You've made my week.

UPDATE: Not only are Dan Humphrey and I presenting a double-threat with OA and Rectify, but his other film, The Addict, is also screening. So that's a triple feature of actor Eric Riedmann! I say we make this Riedfest '08!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Plug for "Rectify"

If you are a regular here, you'll know I only hype things of which I am legitimately fond. I'm not a shill, except when it comes to promoting those projects I feel are truly worthwhile. Even then, I'm more a fan than a shill. So trust me when I say that Dan Humphrey's latest short film, Rectify, is an amazing, subtle, creepy piece of work with dynamite camera work by Oridnary Angels Director of Photography Anthony Tackett, an excellent performance by our own Afriel, Eric Riedmann, and a reveal that rivals M. Night Shyamalan.

Dan could really use your help getting Rectify into various festivals. It's off to an auspicious start with STIFF (the Seattle True Independent Film Festival), but obviously there are others he would like to submit to, and Dan has found a great way to raise the cash to cover entry fees. You can find details over on Dan's Rectify blog. I did it, and it's all of a minute's effort. And OurStage doesn't spam you. And you get to watch the film online for free. Help a brutha out.

* * *
In other news, the run of Deathtrap ended this last weekend with good-sized houses and a lot of positive buzz. I don't know how the final numbers came out, but I hope it was worthwhile for Twelfth Night. It was apparently well received, by the response we got. I thought the performances were good, and just kept getting better throughout the run. The closing matinee performance was the tightest, and the crowd twice that of a normal matinee. I got to pilot the first attempt at a two-week run for an off-season show (just like I got to pilot the first off-season show in 2006 with The Dining Room), so I guess Twelfth Night isn't sick of me yet. We also tried out a new print shop for our poster, postcard mailers and programs, as well as a poster placement service. And it's great having an actual staff member handling PR. It all seemed to work quite well.

In all honesty, I think my blocking was the weakest link in the production. Not to say the other elements of direction weren't there - some of my bits got laughs or whatnot. But I'm way more critical of my own work, and I found a real disconnect between the show we'd worked on for five or six weeks and the avid response of the crowd. Some of the younger Twelfth Nighters came on Sunday and were over the friggin' moon, slapping me high fives and saying things like, "bad ASS" and "you are the MAN". I think that means "good". Oh, kids these days and their colorful jargon.

Sam's folks and her brother came on Saturday night, our best crowd by far. And I added a dedication to Caleb's father in the program. For the final show, we had Sam Raimi level blood (or at least Brian DePalma level). It was cool. We struck the set in about two hours and went home, satisfied with having done a good show, and having done our community proud.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Thorough Observation and Destruction Device

Get Your Cyborg Name

Five Things

My friend Lisa tagged me with a five-facts meme, so here goes:

What I was doing 10 years ago - 1998
1. Celebrating my 30th birthday (May 6)
2. Cuddling with my 4yo son, my 1yo daughter, and my lovely wife
3. Heading up the Entertainment Group at Visual Dynamics, working in Pioneer Square
4. Doing the Mythos and ReNaction living history groups
5. Working on publishing our first RPG titles

Five things on my to-do list today
1. Pick up prop beverages for the Deathtrap show tonight
2. Get some more layout done on the RADZ RPG (done)
3. Stretches and isometrics
4. Shower (I'm still working in a T-shirt and plaid PJ pants)
5. Go supervise the show tonight

Snacks I enjoy
1. Jonagold apples
2. Blackberries (or anything with blackberries in it)
3. Strawberries
4. Triscuits and Tillamok pepper jack cheese (my downfall)
5. Celery with peanut butter

Things I would do if I were a billionaire
1. Pay off my home
2. Buy a family compound in the San Juans or on the Olympic Peninsula
3. Travel (a LOT)
4. Buy or build a theater facility in West Seattle, which can act as permanent quarters for Twelfth Night and other worthy dramatic & improv companies
5. Keep making movies, writing books, recording music - pretty much what I'm doing now, but more of it!

Five of my bad habits
1. Inconsistent housekeeping
2. Procrastination
3. Stay up too late
4. Lack of patience
5. Overbooking

Five places I have lived
1. Heidelberg, Germany
2. San Jose, CA
3. Santa Cruz, CA
4. Palo Alto, CA
5. Seattle, WA

Five jobs I've had...
1. Busing tables & working kitchen at a dinner theater
2. Dishwasher at a Christian summer camp
3. Usher at a movie theater
4. Actor in an anti-smoking campaign in the mid-1980s
5. Machine op & desktop publishing coordinator at Kinko's

Five people I tag
Andrew, Gavin, Beth, Dan and Lynnae

In the Name of Love

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One come he to justify
One man to overthrow

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach.
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

(nobody like you...)

Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love...

- U2, Pride (In the Name of Love)