The River Bride: Synchronicity Part 3

This is the final installment in my series about how I came to direct The River Bride. Click for part 1 or part 2.

In the first two installments I detailed how, through some coincidence and good fortune, I came to know and work repeatedly with the two talented actors in The River Bride. We’ve also done some great work independently: JR has dedicated his career to children’s theater and is an accomplished stage and screen actor; Caitlyn wrote, shot, starred in and edited the hilarious web series DORKS while also pursuing her fruitful acting career; and I made a successful life as an editor in online video advertising. We’ve all been fortunate to do something we love and usually get paid for it and we’re grateful for that, but we also know we’re capable of much more.

Since our early projects together Caitlyn, JR and I have basically operated as three sovereign electrons, bouncing along our merry way, occasionally interacting, but overall lacking the positive charge that would once again bind us together. That charge came for me when Caitlyn sent an early draft of The River Bride. The thoughtful, heartfelt story, the awkward situations and hilarious dialogue, not to mention the apropos theme of taking a chance to live the life you want, all got my little electron charged, but it was a specific line in the script that brought it all together for me. In response to Gene’s ambivalence about his status as a writer, Amy says: “If you write and you want to write then you’re a writer. You should just say that.” My ambition as a storyteller has always been to direct films, but I’ve often taken more predictable professional opportunities on the fringe of this goal hoping that eventually the path would lead me back to where I truly want to be. Making The River Bride would be a clear and resounding declaration that I am what I say I am: a director. And even better I’d get to go on this making-our-own-way journey with two of the most gifted, fun-loving people on the planet. That’s synchronicity.

Hanging @ Paymaster Lounge

After I signed on to produce and direct, we started discussing how we could get the film made and, as if by magnetism, positive things started to collect around us. We found production support, had a camera and lights donated and put some excellent crew and post production talent in place which reinforced what we already felt: now is the time. So, we took our collection of creative atoms to the Kickstarter lab in hopes that the generosity, faith and support of our friends, family and strangers at large would be the catalyst to bringing this script to the screen.

We’ve taken a big leap putting this project out there in this manner, but are confident that our unique friendship, experience and talent serve as the perfect combination of elements to make something exciting and new. We now stand just $5000 short of our goal less than 3 days away from the completion of our fundraising experiment. It has been an exhilarating ride full of graciousness, humility and at least a little anxiety. If you’ve thought about claiming one of our awesome incentives and haven’t now is the time to help make this film a reality. If you’ve already shared our story or contributed to the campaign I offer you my sincere thanks for helping me and my partners in crime take a leap of faith to live the lives we want.  Cheers!

TRB: More to come...

A Mother’s Day Poem

Posted this to Facebook last night, but thought it should live here for posterity:

I see ya mama, laboring in the shadows
To put some fixins on the table. 
Keep on me bout my grades and 
Come to my games when you’re able. 

I hear ya mama, crying through the door
About some things I can’t understand.
It keeps me on my hustle
Strainin to be a stand up man. 

I feel ya mama grindin night and day
Hoping the investment brings some respite
A house, the furs, the cars: I can’t promise.
But your blood, sweat an tears?
I’ll never forget. 

To all the Moms out there, we see you, we respect you and we appreciate all the work you do that goes unrecognized. To my own mom, my hat is off and my head is bowed as I say thank you for working so damn hard.

The River Bride: Synchronicity pt. 2

This is the second in a two part series I’m writing about how I became involved in the short film The River BrideHere is pt. 1.

I first met JR Wickman in the basement of Nemo Design which was functioning as the interrogation room for my first music video.  JR came to me based upon a recommendation from Caitlyn who described him as ‘crazy talented’ and that wasn’t hyperbole. I’d scripted a scene to intro the music portion of the video and JR showed up with a written breakdown of how his lines would ascend ending in what he called ‘verbal castration’. To this day, that’s still one of my favorite terms. As we went through the takes, JR brought it time and again and reminded me fondly of Paul Giamatti.  I immediately tried to figure out how we’d work together again.

While we saw each other socially on occasion, that opportunity didn’t come until I was thrown into directing Limbo Film’s 48 Hour Film Festival entry in 2010.  For the uninitiated, the 48 Hr FF assigns you a character name and occupation, a line of dialogue and a genre all of which must be included in a film you script, shoot and edit in the course of two days.

To my initial dismay, we drew Fantasy as a genre.  Thankfully through a wonderful connection, we had access to Cinema 21, an old, dusty and wonderful independent theater in NW Portland, a location that inspired what became our film Projector.  

I already had a host of talented actors lined up on call, but my heart and mind settled on JR as the lead and he didn’t disappoint.  Working from a rough script, he seemed to preternaturally understand my direction and he and the other actors turned it into a showcase selection that those in attendance refer to as ‘the sad film’.  In a sea of films centered around dick jokes, I wear that title like a badge of honor and it’s a credit to the thoughtful performance JR and his co-star Brynn Baron give.  Also, it was a ridiculous amount of fun to make, and lifetime friendships were forged leading up, but definitely during, the wrap party.

48hr

 At this point our working relationship was cemented so the next time I had a project, I called JR.  I’d just been to see him perform in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at the wonderful, emerging Action Adventure Theater.  It was one of the best theater experiences of my life watching JR and his counterpart navigate the suffocating, awkward scenes throughout the play and I saw something new and wonderfully dark in his range.  He only hesitated slightly when I asked him to play a pedophile burning evidence of his crimes.  I shot numerous scenes for Still Here but JR was the only one who made my skin crawl in the process.  Also, we played with fire:

So, you’re probably asking yourself, where’s the synchronicity in all of this.  Well, Caitlyn and JR met during their first play in college and played opposite each other as husband and wife.  We’re making a film called The River Bride.  If Caitlyn’s car didn’t break down in Bend, I probably never would have cast her in my first music video and therefore wouldn’t have cast JR in what was his first music video as well.  My life would be missing two of the most talented people I know and though I probably would have worked with other actors, I doubt that many of them could delight me, creep me out or take a punch like JR.

You’re welcome.

 

The River Bride: Synchronicity pt. 1

This is part of a series I’m writing on how I came to be involved in the short film The River Bride.

My dad was an odd duck, even to those of us who knew him best.  He possessed an unequivocal vocabulary that he wielded like a fencing foil; it was targeted for effect, not an instrument of brute force.  He was also a big believer in God, sacred geometry and the power of dreams.  From those elements he embraced a philosophy embodied by a word, synchronicity, that he used to describe things that by whatever manner were happening simultaneously for the greater good.  I’ve never been one to buy into my stupid old man’s theories, but the more life that unfolds, the more I’m forced to realize that it was synchronicity that brought me to The River Bride and I’d like to share the details in order to illuminate why I believe that.

I first met Caitlyn Larimore on my first commercial shoot. She was cast as the actress in a spot for the Bend Film Festival and I was there on behalf of Limbo Films, doing what I always do: whatever it takes, but mostly lifting heavy things and moving them around.

Bend FF

It was a hurried day and we were on either side of the invisible curtain that separates cast and crew, so I didn’t talk to her in the course of the shoot, but at the wrap party among the various agency people and crew with long-standing relationships, I noticed Caitlyn sitting with her ear to a plastic cup away from the crowd. An odd scene to be sure especially in contrast to the glad handing going on around me.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“The warm soda is making the ice crack and pop and it sounds incredible.”

After a few minutes conversing, it came to light that this shoot was her first professional work outside of completing a theater degree and the only reason she was still there was that her car had broken down. We were both on our first shoot. Syncronicity. That also meant she was going to be forced to stay with the rest of us in a house that someone had generously donated to our Portland based crew. With a dozen crew and 4 bedrooms, some of us were going to literally end up outside, and I counted myself among them.

Following a sleepless night that saw half a dozen horn-blaring trains pass within a half mile, I was ready to pull my sleeping bag over my head and grab a few Zs. Then the sliding door opened and Caitlyn emerged with a cat that she was teasing with a piece of string.  I mumbled some pleas for decency and she responded by throwing the cat on my head. I was awake, to say the least, and our friendship was forged.

Having spent the next few weeks editing said spot, I became aware that not only was Caitlyn a charming and slightly weird person, but she was also a talented actress.  I was in the beginning stages of casting a music video and thought she’d fit the bill for a part.  She agreed to give it a go and ended up co-starring in my first music video.  After that, she asked me to help her shoot an entry for an Old Spice commercial competition, which I gladly accepted.

jeff_oldspice

It became readily apparent that we had a similar sensibility and that helped foster a relationship that found us helping each other out where we could.  Given her talents, Caitlyn’s star ascended higher than the Portland stratosphere could contain–Leverage and Tampax came calling–and she moved to L.A. to do commercials and, at least for awhile, joined Upright Citizens Brigade. I bring that up because I didn’t have the stomach for Los Angeles and am insanely jealous that she had any association with UCB, both rating her highly on my admiration index.

We kept in touch and talked whimsically about future collaborations from time to time, but nothing of note happened until Caitlyn sent me an early draft of The River Bride to provide notes on/proof read.  I was immediately taken with the story of struggling writer Gene and desperate and aimless Amy primarily because of the way the script balanced dark reality with humor. My favorite films tend towards black comedy, and though this isn’t that exactly, it grabbed me for similar reasons.  Synchronicity.

Throughout the revision process we found ourselves routinely on the same page, literally and figuratively, and as the script took shape I thought more and more about how I’d love to direct it. I’d been taking some time off from extra curricular projects in an effort to focus on my family, but was looking for a project, so when Caitlyn asked if I’d direct I jumped at the chance.  Timing and interest, well, you get the idea.

The River Bride Poster

We set things in motion from a preproduction standpoint almost immediately as we wanted to get it shot and edited in time for the upcoming festival season.  We discussed potential artwork for a poster and Caitlyn unknowingly sent me a link to a poster for Outsourced, the very film that I spent two days rotoscoping into the rearview mirror in the spot for Bend Film Festival.

Then, I lost my job. Initially this seemed like it would spell the end of my involvement, but as luck would have it, my inquiries for a recommendation from my Limbo Films, led to both a contract work position and an offer to help produce The River Bride. As the venerable Ted Theodore Logan said: “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”

So, here we are launching a crowd funding campaign to help make this thoughtful, funny script a set of frames strung together in a manner that you, our potential viewers, will see it come to life as a living, breathing thing.  All this because on our first commercial a car broke down, ice was broken and a cat was thrown. What’s the word for that again?