Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Post-Mortem: "Final Hour" and the 48 Hour Film Festival


"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, Chuck Windham here with the final few paragraphs of tonight's blog post..."

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That's a photo taken during dress rehearsal for Final Hour, the play I've been bombarding you about for the past couple of months... well, we put in our 6 weeks of prep, and had our three shows!

From the day we cast the play (back at the tail end of June), I was in full Enjoyment Mode. I loved working with the cast. I told them from the outset that my focus was going to be on the journey to the stage that we all took together, not (necessarily) the final product that ended up on stage... and those first five weeks were thoroughly enjoyable... we played theater improv games, experimented with the text, had great times of discussion, etc...

But it ended up being a pretty tense final week leading up to our performance dates. There were technical details that were difficult and time-consuming to sort out - which caused my plans for the tech rehearsal and dress rehearsal to need modification on the fly - something I'm not very good at (it turns out, lol)... by the time we got the kinks and details worked out, it was time for opening night - and we still really hadn't had a solid complete run-through yet! Opening night ended up being the dress rehearsal that we really needed to have...

But the show was very well-received, and ultimately, I stressed out over nothing. The cast pulled through and delivered, and the crowd loved it (for the most part). Apparently, no one really knew what to expect from the evening, and were pleasantly surprised at what they saw.

The Saturday show was even better. We were able to make further adjustments based on notes and observations taken from the opening night performance, and it really showed on Saturday. Randy Davison (the lead) gave an outstanding performance, and the supporting cast (Megan Gunsorek, Bailey Shaine and Joe Hurley) were right there with him.

The Sunday show (our final performance) is where I really dropped the ball, as the director. We were riding high from the success of the Saturday performance, and so I decided against keeping the focus ratcheted up, and decided to ease into Sunday, assuming all would go well. I didn't take proper care to keep my cast in the zone before the show, and the performances suffered because of it. Again, my fault, not theirs. Lesson learned.

Overall, I'm really glad we did it. I loved the script and the cast, and the journey to the stage was just what I'd hoped it would be. Great fun and a learning experience. But honestly, I really wish we had been able to take an extra two weeks for additional preparation and polish. There were things about each of the characters that we didn't really have the proper time to explore, which I feel would have elevated the performances even further.

If we ever get a chance to stage it again, I'll know what to focus on!

Here are some more photos...






It was a fun, tense ride and I'm glad we took it. Many thanks to the Great Andrew Ian for making it all possible. Also many thanks to Lamplighter's Community Theater for letting us have access to the venue. We had between 50 and 60 people per night (the place seats 98, I believe). My first foray into professional theater was, I believe, I solid success.

NEXT.....

We also did our film for the 48 Hour Film Festival this past weekend!

So Ryan Etzel and I formed a film team called Operation Kino for this year's 48. Ryan had created a film for last year's event, and I contacted him after I saw it, and we connected, and after a series of meetings earlier in the year, decided we'd combine our efforts and make a team. So I brought on my Eldest Daughter as our Assistant Director/Make-up artist, and Middle Daughter as our Director of Photography, and Middle Daughter's Significant Other as our Sound Guy. We then assembled a strong team of actors, and met at my mother's house in Ramona to make a movie!

Ryan and I hammered out the script Friday night, Ryan made some revisions Saturday morning, and we all convened on the Ramona location late morning to begin.

All things considered, the day on set was fantastic. Our cast consisted of Kate Schott, Laine O'Connor, Megan Gunsorek, Andrew Kearns and Ruslan Khanaferov. They were all fantastic, and watching them work was a real treat. We got all of the footage we needed within the space of 8 hours. We then sent the cast home, packed the gear up and headed home to begin the post-production part of the weekend (read: editing).

Ryan busted his butt to get the film finished in time, but we were faced with a series of unforeseen challenges that limited what the final film could have been. It was a great script - but we had only 7 minutes tops to tell it... the film we wanted to tell really needed closer to ten. A lot of good, important content had to be left out in order to try and tell the story in seven. As a result, there were some issues with the final result which really couldn't have been avoided. HOWEVER! We learned what we needed to about our team and where we are strong, and where we need to focus, as far as improving things. So that, in and of itself, made the whole endeavor worth the effort.

We turned the film in (calling it Lost and Found), and it will screen with the rest of the films in Screening Group C on September 7th. But for our own benefit and education, we will be re-cutting the film, without reference to the running time limits, so that we can have a version of the film that works better. And THAT VERSION is the one I will post here for you to watch, whenever that is.

But in the interim, again, I loved the experience. Working with my daughters was amazing. I'll remember it forever.

Here are some photos!

Our Cast: Megan, Kate, Ruslan, Laine, Ryan's arm, and just off the photo to the right, Andrew!

Ryan filming Kate in the blazing heat - a shot we ultimately couldn't use...

Andrew playing with weapons, while Megan looks wistful...

Some of my grandfather's WW2-era items we used as props in the film.

Ryan Etzel: Fearless Director

Andrew Kearns: Fantastic, endlessly-amusing actor.

Andrew conquered the back yard as well!

Ruslan and Kate working on the ending scene, with our 2-camera set-up in play...

Katie and Jon, enjoying their time on set. (I'm photobombing in the mirror...)

Again, I loved the experience, and I look forward to the next film we get to make together. We're working on new ideas already...

Now that the play and the 48 are behind me, I can re-focus on BTI-related filming, and finishing up the Momentum script with Rob Dey. Plus, the Christmas play at Mt. Zion looms!

Maybe we'll do a Christmas film instead...

All that to say, these are great (though busy) days! Can't wait to see what comes next!

Take care, y'all.

Dave the Dave

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why Yes, My Mind is Like a Beehive! Thanks For Noticing!


Behold, the calm before the storm... or maybe its the clam... I don't know... Bah, I shouldn't have mentioned the clam... that's so shellfish of me...

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen...

As I write this, we're less than a week away from opening night on Final Hour, the play I'm staging with the Great Andrew Ian, and a wonderful cast. Am I nervous? Hard to say... it comes and goes, you know? Some days I think there's nothing I couldn't do... other days? Hide me under the bed, lol...

My focus with my cast has always been on the journey to the stage, rather than the final product... not that I don't care how the final product comes out, I do. I want it to be awesome, of course. But beyond that, my hope the whole time has been that we gel, as a group of artists, and enjoy the ride together, learning and having fun, so that we can take from the journey things that will help us out in future productions. Sounds hipsterish, I know (especially the part where I said "my cast", lol... how pretentious)... but nevertheless, it's what I feel. It's pretty remarkable what we've been able to put together in these 6 weeks between the first rehearsal and the opening performance. I'm proud of these people; I've certainly pushed them...

Anyways, if you're reading this in San Diego and I haven't talked to you in person about the details, you can get the info at my resurrected website Wagnervana. I brought it back and made it my main site for info on the play (and will switch it whenever a new play is in the works). Check it out, and come see us this next weekend in La Mesa! Tickets are cheap!

WAGNERVANA WEBSITE.

The rest of what has kept me occupied remains the same as the previous post in June. Ryan E. and I are officially a team for the 48 Hour Film Festival, all registered and entered and stuff. Our team name is Operation Kino (a reference that the Tarantino fans among you will recognize). We have some great equipment, an eager crew, a couple of great locations, and access to some strong acting talent. It's an ideal situation, actually, since we're on no one's radar... we may just sneak into the theater with our film and "blow it up", you know? lol... or not.. depends on the genre we pull... but Ryan is a strong writer (a strong film maker all the way around, actually...). Between the two of us, we should be able to generate a strong script. We'll see!

Still finishing up work on the Momentum script (which has been renamed, actually, but I won't say the new title yet!). I love it. Once I get on the other side of the play and the 48, we'll focus on it in full. Would love to share info with you on it now... but I can't. Soon!

BTI is still set to kick into high gear throughout Sept and Oct. Lots of great news on that front as well, which will have to wait to be relayed to you as well. Here's some new artwork, though, which I love... and a recent (partial) cast photo...



The way my black T-shirt is hanging forward, it makes it look like I've put on 50 lbs, lol... I'm not chubby, it's just the shirt... I'm actually in good shape...

I've had to bump production on my short film Head Hunter into next year.

Other stuff percolating in the background which I may unload on you soonish. Check back for updates!

I hope you're all doing well.

Come see Final Hour!

Adios for now,

Dave the Borderline-Frazzled

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Raft of Updates - These Are "The Good Days."


Hello there...

June has passed by and I haven't been in here once... of course, that's mainly because I'm super busy! I shall avoid lamenting my absence, and instead update you on all the crazy things I've been doing...

First off, I have my cast set for FINAL HOUR, which is the play that the Great Andrew Ian and I are producing here in San Diego, for Lamplighter's Community Theater in La Mesa..

Here, check out a version of the poster art I've been tinkering with...


I'm trying different variations and different artwork... You're the first people to see it so far! You can't get tickets yet, which is why I haven't blasted this across Facebook yet... I don't want people to go to the Lamplighter's website until we're at least showing up on their calendar, and you can buy a ticket!

I love my cast. I'm super pleased with the rest of the people involved... I can't wait for rehearsals to start in earnest, right after 4th of July. We had our initial cast meeting and table read last weekend. I was all giddy!

Next update: Momentum

The full script is almost finished (the first draft, anyway), and there are things afoot that I probably shouldn't mention at this point (at least until I confer with the illustrious Rob Dey to see what I should and shouldn't talk about online), but I can say that I *may* have some exciting news to share about this project soon...

Next update: BTI

Filming continues on Beyond the Impact, and every new batch of footage gets better than the last... Jeff's plans are evolving and expanding in ways that will surprise many people, I guarantee it... I'm still going to the combat training classes each week - I'm probably in better shape now than I have been in my entire life. Just had Boxing and Conditioning classes today after work... I will sleep well tonight, I know... Anyways, I know BTI will be worth the wait. Trust me, it would be unwise to rush this... we need to get it right.

Next update: the 48 Hour Film Festival

So my good friend Ryan E. and I are assembling a film team, with an eye toward making short films and feature films locally. Part of that process is to set our sights on participating in the 48 Hour Film Festival in August. This past Sunday (after the table read for Final Hour) a couple of the actors stayed with us for an extra couple of hours, while we shot a short script that Ryan had written, which he is editing this week, as a test to see what we can accomplish with the tools and people we have at hand... the idea being that we can then find out where our weaknesses are and shore them up (if needed) over the next few weeks.

Megan, Jon, Katie and Ryan, on set last weekend...

My Eldest and Middle Daughters are part of the film team, as well as Katie's significant other Jon A. Katie is our Director of Photography, Chris is our Assistant Director and Jon is our sound guy. I can't tell you how happy I am that my sweeties want to participate. We'll make it a family business! Plus, we've secured a fabulous location to shoot the 48 at, and I've got WAAAY too many actors and actresses that want to work with us on it... Ryan wants to keep it smallish this time around, so it will be hard to decide who to use and who to save for other film projects we want to do next...

Next Update: Head Hunter

Actually, the hope is to use the team we're creating to film my first short film Head Hunter in the Fall sometime. I already have my cast set, and the script is ready to rock. When we get closer, I'll give y'all more info.

There are other things coming, including our next play (called Best Dressed Guest, in October), the Christmas play at Mt. Zion, and a potentially huge and exciting screenwriting project that I can't talk about yet. So wow... everything is firing on all cylinders for me, as far as entertainment stuff. It's very humbling. I feel ridiculously blessed. I want to hold it all in an open hand before God... hey, He gives, He takes away, right? I want to enjoy it all while it's here, but be ready for whatever He wants to do...

All that to say, these are The Good Days...

Here, watch this video of Bo Burnham, from his latest show Make Happy (on Netflix at the moment)... it has a little bit of language in it here and there, but try to ignore it if that bothers you... I don't want to spoil it for you, just watch it. Trust me, it goes from irreverent to powerful in a beautiful way...



Man, I must have watched that a hundred times... the full show has some cool stuff, but that ending - as well as the song he plays backstage after this segment here - is almost staggering to me. The honesty. I love it. I want to emulate that, with the stuff I do...

One thing I've been doing very little of lately is novel reading... my fiction intake has tapered off dramatically. I hope I'm not losing the reading bug! I still have like 400 more unread books in my digital library, and about 50 others I want to read again!

OK, I guess that's all for now. I hope you're all doing great. I'm riding high, it's a great feeling. I'd love to know y'all are riding high as well...

Adios for now,

Dave, from the Clouds

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before....


Well, hello there!

Just thought I'd pop in here and drop an update into the quiet ether here in my bloggy blog. If I lay it in here softly enough, no one will ever know I was here! I'm so sneaky like that!

First things first - the dates have been set for my first play, called "Final Hour". It's the story of a talk radio host who gets a piece of staggering personal news right before going on the air for the final hour of his Friday night show - and how he processes the blow while also doing his job. It will be performed three times, at the Lamplighters Theater in La Mesa, on August 12, 13 and 14. Beginning the casting process as we speak - when I get the cast set, I'll let you all know.

Needless to say, I'm super excited about it. Granted, I've been producing plays locally at Mt. Zion Fellowship every year since the late nineties, so in a way, it's old hat. And yet, this will be the first time I produce a play that people will pay money to see. But I'm not worried - I'm confident that the material is strong, and I'm quite pleased with the lead actor, and I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on the cast (so to speak).

Nearing completion on "Momentum", my first feature screenplay. Can't wait to put a bow on that script... and begin the re-writes! Who knows if it will make it all the way into production... still, the process has been very enjoyable and rewarding. When it's done, I will leak it online for you all to read! (just kidding, Rob)...

We'll be filming this upcoming weekend for BTI. I know I keep saying this, but man, wait until you see the next segment of BTI... it's going to blow you away...

Majestic Cat approves...

Still assembling my team to film Head Hunter, which is the short film I'm hoping to direct in the early fall. I'll share more info on that when it makes sense to do so. In a way, I want to keep the film quiet until I release it, then hopefully catch everyone off-guard with how awesome it will be...

Still up in the air about whether to put together a crew for the 48 Hour Film Festival this year... I may co-lead a team with my friend Ryan... or just join someone else's team as an actor and/or writer... I have a lot on my plate (and more lined up, looking for plate space), so it might make sense to hold off leading a 48 Team until next summer...

All that, and my "idea file" is overflowing with ideas for plays, short films, features, series', radio shows, stand-up comedy bits and novels... I have a lot of avenues of creative expression operating at the moment - which is why my blog is suffering....

But at least there's this...

It's an episode of Marc Maron's podcast with Louis CK, where Louis discusses the creation of his internet web series called "Horace and Pete"... and I found the discussion deeply, almost overwhelmingly inspiring... It is a very long episode, and I don't really expect that you'll listen to the whole thing (or any of it, really)... but as I sink deeper into the mindset of film-making and storytelling, I find discussions like this endlessly fascinating...



There is some profanity in the interview. And honestly, I haven't seen Horace and Pete, and likely won't see it (because I don't find the content appealing), but the process of taking a show from concept to finish, and making your own rules up as you go, was awesome to me.

For those that want something a little more mainstream to enjoy, here is Groucho Marx on the Dick Cavet Show, back in the day...



That's another long video... almost and hour... still, worth a watch, I think!

Groucho was The Man.

So I finally saw another movie in the theater! The last film I saw was Hateful Eight, back on the last day of 2015... yesterday I went to see Captain America: Civil War, with wifey. It was as fantastic as I'd hoped it would be - I liked it a lot. They handled so many character so very well, it was a real joy. I loved how they handled Spiderman, and look forward to seeing more of that character in the future. Lots of great moments, and great lines of dialog... me likey.

On the book front, I finally finished my re-read of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy. I loved it again, this second time through... but honestly, I only re-read the series so that I could read the latest title that Sanderson released, called Secret History (cover shown), which is sort of an addendum to the Mistborn Trilogy, and answers some nagging questions left after the series was finished - mostly concerning Kelsier, and what happened to him after he died... I won't spoil the story, in case you want to read this title, but I will say that I found it oddly shallow and lacking... a bit of a disappointment.

But hey, at least I got to experience the original trilogy over again, which was nice. Sanderson is one of my favorite authors (Reckoners notwithstanding... bleh...).

Let's see, what else?

I went on a road trip for about a week, back to Albuquerque, to visit my always-interesting inlaws. The occasion was a high school graduation... as taxing as those ceremonies can be, I was shocked at how painless this one was... I was expecting several hours of uninspired speeches and endless names of no one that I knew (save one, of course), but they ran a tight show, and we were in an out - speeches, names and all - in about 45 minutes! Extremely efficient.

Had a great drive out there and back again (in my new car!) with my Eldest Daughter. She introduced me to a local band she's acquainted with, called After the Fall, and I love their music. The lead singer has a classic 80's rock voice (like I grew up with), and it's married to the more modern harder-rock sound, and I absolutely love it.

Here, check this song out... it's epic...



Love love love that song. Majestic Cat approves as well...

Lots of stuff on the horizon. I shall do my best to update more frequently. I hope you're all doing well...

Adios for now,

Dave, Living the Dream