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.

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