Monday, October 28, 2013

Projects, The Sophia Ballou Collaboration

It was one of those warm autumn days back in October 2009. The crisp air was far more crisp in the shade of trees that dropped still leaves in a slight breeze. Somehow in the sun, there was a remembrance of summer who had not been forgotten and a dread of winter which was knocking at the gates of the mountains some miles to the west and considerably higher in elevation. It was an October day in 2009.

The day was a stew pot. I didn't exactly know it yet. Rather in October of 2009, Umbrella Factory Magazine was still several weeks before conception. I was teaching, much to dismay, at an “early college.” The very concept of the early college really turned me on in August, but by October, the reality of it was something less than disappointing. Perhaps that's life.

I'd wandered into Marlowe's for an afternoon refreshment. I ran into my old roommate Holly Miller. She was sitting at the bar with two friends. She introduced me to Corrie Vela. Although I had met Corrie a few times before, this was the day that the two of us really met, spoke and became acquainted.

On the TV the newscasters were busy upping ratings and selling more ad-space. For some reason, a child climbed into a high atmosphere, experimental balloon and had flown away from home. Disturbing as it was, why would anyone have such a balloon, and why would anyone put their child into it?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Yes You Can, part 3

In a way, I've grown old before my time. When this statement comes up in my mind or out through my lips or keystrokes, I then need to remind myself that I am, in fact, still a young man.

Before I go any further, let me preface this piece with this statement: I am a young man.

Some recent goings-on in my life have led me to these thoughts. Yes, the conversation a few weeks ago with Chris and Roxxi and Mark. And I have not forgotten Chris's story or how and why it should be written down. Overlay this with my current living situation and work situation and the added bonus that yes, this is what I'm doing, but not who I am.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Making of Deja Vu: Hera's Odyssey

Some time back in the recesses of my personal history, I worked schlepping coffee at a fashionable coffeehouse in the uptown neighborhood just east of downtown Denver.  The time, seeming long ago to me now, represented a rather odd time in my personal history.  We all have these.  We all have those times when plenty happens, and we know that plenty happens but nothing seems to remain in the personal repertoire after the time is over.

It was there that I found myself on a busy Saturday afternoon hustling lattes and bagels when I met the two driving forces behind Blue Whale Productions. They were about to make a film called Deja Vu: Hera's Odyssey It was early 2004.  I had met the writer/director Isabel and the leading actor Kimberly at a party a few days prior.  I knew they were in Denver from some place far away a strange and that they were scrambling to get the last minute items for their movie shoot.  When they came into the coffeehouse, I had no time to chat with them.  In fact, as I recall, I was trying to get they whatever it was they wanted so that they might get going and leave me to the line of coffee customers behind them.

Near the end of my shift, I spoke with them as they sat nervously sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes over mountains of paperwork.  "Anthony?" Isabel asked.  "Yeah?" I said.  "Do you want to be in my movie?" she asked.  I hesitated.  In the hesitation I just stared.  She began to pitch it to me in such a desperate way: "We'll play.  $100.  We'll feed you."  I was thinking this: hell yeah, I'd do it for ten bucks and a hamburger.

I got the gig.  Three lines.  Fifteen words.  Nothing too exciting.  The set was a dirty road somewhere outside of Carrizozo, New Mexico.  I was there three days.  I was treated well.  And this was my first experience with film, acting and filmmakers.  Film people get up very-very early in the morning and they go not stop until very-very late at night.  Carrizozo is a beautiful place and the the night sky in May is something beyond words.

But all of this took place ten years ago.  I was a very different person then.  And what I remember most about the whole thing now has very little to do with the film itself.  I left Denver with Xandy on a sunny morning.  We drove south on I-25 in his van.  Sometime in the afternoon we ran out of gas just north of Las Vegas, New Mexico.  Ever been to Las Vegas, New Mexico?  We hitchhiked in.  We got a can of gas. We hitchhiked out.  When the second car stopped, the driver was a priest.  Xandy said: "You ride in the front." Father Michael made small talk.  We told him what we were doing.  We were a couple of young dudes down from Denver driving toward the middle of somewhere deep New Mexico to be in a film.  He asked what the movie was about.  Xandy had to tell him because he had read the script in its entirety.  I had only read the three pages that applied to me.  In listening to Xandy's description I suddenly felt like I was part of something important.

The other thing I remember with fondness is that after I was done on set my first day, I went into town.  The town of Carrizozo has enough things in it to make it a proper town.  It has shops and a restaurant and a gas station.  It has a bar too.  And on this day, I drank the town of Carrizozo out of gin.  I thought this odd at the time, but not entirely out of the usual.  A few years later I would drink another town, Plainfield, Vermont, out of gin too.

This all happened in 2004.  In many ways, 2004 was before I gained my consciousness as a writer.  Yeah, sure, by 2004 I had been writing for a good number of years.  I had a few publications.  I had the experience of a few longer texts that I considered novels.  I had a few things going for me.  And in 2004 I was not without the means of doing what I was about to do.  And at this time I was not without the interest in film, filmmaking, acting, directing or writing.  It was just something that I was not yet exposed to.

Within five years of the Deja Vu: Hera's Odyssey endeavor, I did gain my consciousness as a writer.  I pursued some training.  And nearly five years to the day of my Carrizozo experience, I was on the set of another film: "Pastrami on Rye" in Denver, Colorado.  I did not act, nor did I direct that film, but I did write the screenplay.  Did it have anything to do with Deja Vu?  Maybe.  We all start somewhere.

I bring it up today because I was wandering through the web looking for Blue Whale Productions and Deja Vu: Hera's Odyssey recently.  It seems that they fell into obscurity.  And the most depressing part about all of that is, of course, the worse thing that can happen to any artist is the falling into obscurity.  I was able to find a few links to a few things.  2004, although not before digital time, was far enough back that there was not widespread use of digital markings like there is today.

Curiously, I found this youtube video.  That's me, in my favorite yellow t-shirt.  I show up again about minute 8:30.  It's a fun video someone made who felt a little nostalgic too.

I suppose the punchline to all of this, or the reason behind the why blog this is simply because this one Carrizozo experience really got me started in film work.

And for all of you out there who may want to try working in film, why wait?  These folks from Blue Whale Productions did it.  I know they saved money for a year, got all their friends to invest and just made it happen.  If they can do it, then you can do it.  I say this because there are so many more options available in 2013 than there were ten years ago when Blue Whale Productions got started.  Technology is better and more accessible.  Social media has increased marketing, fundraising and awareness.  The time has never been better.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Yes, You Can: Part 2

I've had about a week to think about my story-swapping-you-should-write-this conversation with Chris and Roxxi and Mark. I've come to a few conclusions.

I'm not altogether sure when or how I adopted the supportive attitude toward other writers, would-be writers or some day in the distance want to become writers. It may go all the way back to Vance Aandahl at Metro State. He was about as supportive as they come. Even if a student struggled to write three very terrible sentences during a directed writing workshop, Vance would find kind words to say about something. He would mention the highlights and how, should the student feel inclined to pursuit that particularly bad three sentence struggle, one could capitalize on the good. He was disarming, gentle and ultimately kind and loving. I think Vance understood that writing is not easy.

I may have adopted the supportive attitude during my brief reign in Tucson, Arizona. As many of you know from my series Waiting for Life in Tucson, Arizona I had a wonderful network there. My network, ultimately came down to one person, Juliana Spallhloz. She invited me to poetry circles, she served me endless cups of tea and glasses of beer as we discussed our words. She made me feel like my time writing was not lost time and that my words were the ultimate work of all mankind.

I may have adopted the supportive attitude during my time at Goddard College. As I look back on my graduate school experience, I realize now, just now, how very cool it was. We were all in this struggle together, but not a single pair of us shared the same struggle. Strange, really strange. Everyone said kind things, and most gave good advice.

But as I'm thinking about it now, my supportive attitude is vastly different from many of those who I've met along the way. Many I've met have been kind about what has already been written. Many have been supportive and offered criticism on how they think it should be rewritten. And others have just been plain kind.

I am none of these things. Rather, by supportive attitude I am a very specific sort of supportive. I don't think feelings really work into it. In a way I wish I had kind words to say about what others share with me. In a way I wish I could celebrate the holy process of writing and see inclusion. I wish I had the encouraging urgings as part of my repertoire.

But this is just not who I am. I'm a pull yourself by the bootstraps sort of supportive. I am get it going, because that's how it's going to get done sort of supportive. I am a just write it down because that's what you do, what you're supposed to do sort of supportive. I feel, and I really do feel that the rest of the population is not worthy of your worry, not worthy of your praise. I believe that when faced with it you have only two things to do: make love and make art. And, unfortunately, those who do not do this have less purpose on this world than Earthworms. Earthworms, at least, preform a function. Human beings who do not make love and make art are not leaving anything remotely worthwhile behind. Rather they are consuming resources and leaving waste in their wake. Unfortunately enough, that fucking to-go corporate coffee cup they drank out of this morning will still be present in the landfill long after their body has decayed.

I digress.

Make love. Make art. Write it all down. And know this, if today is your first day, whatever you write today you will find silly, trite and embarrassing 20 years from now. This does not lessen the importance of the act, your process or your purpose. I believe this: if you have to be chained to an institution, should it not be one of you're own invention.

I urge you to write a page today. Write one tomorrow. In a year you'll have 365 pages. And in twenty years you'll have 7,305 pages. Believe me, not all of them need to be any good.