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Hooray for ’33’

No, not my age as I just flipped the calendar over to year 36. Instead it’s a heartfelt congratulations to the passionate, dedicated and, most-of-all, talented cast and crew of the short film of same name, as it has be awarded the prize of ‘Best Dramatic Short’ by the Oregon Independent Film Festival.

33 laurels

Responding to an ad on craigslist (sure, it’s a wasteland of scam artists and dead ends, but it has honestly led me to some of my interesting work) brought me into the company of Julie Sullivan and Charlie Vaughn, two industry veterans of diverse backgrounds. I say that as both have operated both in front of the camera and behind the scenes over the years and their savvy shown brightly as they maneuvered the intimate shoot days.

Serving as A.D. and Line Producer was a great experience as I learned a great deal about techniques for working with actors and how far people are willing to go to tell a good story. The screening is September 26, 2015 @ The Clinton Street Theater and you can peep the trailer below. Kelsey Tucker and Kellie Holway both turn in levity producing performances to counter the bottoming out of Julie’s character.

 

Recent Work: ‘Have Kids Will Travel’

I met October Moore and Canedy Knowles a little over 5 years ago when they were shooting a travel show pilot called ‘When in Rome’ through Limbo Films. The concept at the time was that these two wonderful actresses and real life best friends would travel the globe with a lens on things of interest to fashionable, cosmopolitan women like themselves.

As the staff editor and office manager at Limbo, I was always ecstatic to get out of the office, even if it was to do something I’m not particularly adept at, in this case: field audio. A furious one day shoot took our two camera crew to Portland nosh standbys like Voodoo Donuts and the food cart pods on 9th and Alder. The ladies peeped boots at Johnny Sole and had a Nau fashion show at The Lizard Lounge. Then came Stumptown Coffee followed by a cocktail lesson at Clyde Common. Along the way I learned a lot about my own city–ie: Stumptown is a nod to Portland’s rich logging history–gained insights into the variety and use of craft vermouth and just plain had a good time primarily because October, Canedy and the crew were just so much fun to be around. That’s no surprise when you learn that October, in addition to being an accomplished and sought after voice actor (seriously, I would listen to her read the phone book), possesses a laugh that can light up the cosmos. Canedy is a hilarious improv actor–with Chicago City Limits, which you should see if you’re in NYC–who makes regular turns on stage and screen. Her quick wit and whimsical sense of humor had me guessing whether the facts she was dropping were real or just elaborate cerebral constructs–seriously, whoever invented the OHSU tram must’ve been high at the time, right? It was over before we knew it and I took a new position shortly thereafter, so wasn’t on hand to see the edit take shape.

The Crew
October, Josh, Gary, Canedy and I wrapping things up at Ron Toms.

Everyone paid attention to their workaday lives for awhile and then real life started happening pretty damn quick. Fast forward to present day and everyone in the above picture either has a child on the way (woohoo Josh!), had a child of their own (the ladies and I) or, in Gary’s case, welcomed their first grandchild. I can speak from experience that such an event can distract you from doing many things you’re accustomed to–like sleeping through the night, exercising or going to the bathroom with any semblance of privacy–while certainly lowering your bandwidth to pursue passion projects like getting a travel show pilot off the ground.

That is if you’re a normal person with normal aspirations, but lucky for everyone this group is not that. After some retooling around their new parental status, October and Canedy jumped back in the pool and are producing ‘Have Kids Will Travel’, once again through Limbo Films. They shot over the course of 3 days in NYC focusing on the experience of world travel through the lens of mom’s with kids in tow. The fashion show in the previous version has been swapped for tips on how to pack practically for both mother and child. The food choices are all kid friendly. The drinks are traded for, well, nothing–these ladies are travelling with toddlers in a major city for crying out loud; everyone has their limit!

The results are similarly stellar to the first: October and Canedy’s rapport and charisma leap off the screen as they straddle making the show simultaneously entertaining and insightful. And aiding that insight is where I came in this time. I swapped the mixer and cans (headphones to normal people) for a processor and keyboard, providing some animated maps of locations the ladies didn’t have time to visit but would also recommend. Rather than a simple 2D map with the address and cross streets, I wanted to take the newly free Google Earth Pro for a spin and give the map some context utilizing 3D perspective. Having recently been to New York for the first time myself, I thought it’d be nice to know what a given place might be next to that you can see from street level; think the Chrysler Building or Freedom Tower. This works to both orient the viewer and allow them to plan other stops around the recommendation before they’re wandering through midtown with their iPhone and Yelp trying to get their bearings. Admittedly, it also looks much cooler, something I took one step further by stylizing the maps to look like a blueprint (y’know cause this show is a blueprint for how to rock a trip the best possible way…I’ll show myself out). I complimented this with some informative icons that hearken back in style to the glory days of international travel, the 1960s. The first map highlights museums and parks, the 2nd some kid friendly restaurants that don’t sacrifice the adult enjoyment. Take a look at the finished product below:

In the end, it’s hard not to wish that every collaboration was as fun and fulfilling as these two projects have proven to be. I for one will certainly be crossing my fingers that the trip doesn’t end here.

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...

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.

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Since this is really the inaugural post in my live site, it might seem odd to title this post changes, but it’s pretty much been the word of my month so let me tell you why it’s appropriate.  After 3.5 years working at Transport, and for a variety of reasons, I’m venturing out into the freelance world.  I’m both nervous and excited for what this means both professionally and personally.

Professionally, I’ve already started doing some contract work for a local shop called Goat and Yeti and am editing a really fun documentary for a local filmmaker.  I will also be working in a cooperative environment with my friends at Limbo Films to continue to develop my skills as an editor, director and producer.

Personally, I am also happy to announce that this summer I will be producing and directing a short film, written by and starring my dear friend Caitlyn Larimore, called The River Bride.  I’m thrilled with the opportunity and we will have some big announcements to make about our project starting next week.  I also plan to use this platform to blog about the experience as it unfolds, so be sure to check back often for an opportunity to see me spew set lingo and watch as I slowly, but dramatically mentally unravel throughout the process.  Here’s a little tease of the film from some promotional photography we shot over the weekend:

Caitlyn, Queen of the Selfie
Caitlyn, Queen of the Selfie

Super Bowl Memories

As my beloved Seahawks sit on the verge of their second attempt at bringing home the Lombardi Trophy, I was reminded of a campaign I worked on for Dove Men+ Care back in 2010.

The ad was a video homepage-takeover of major sport sites (i.e. ESPN.com and FOXSPORTS.com) that featured a member of the winning team singing victoriously in the shower.  Given that we had no way of knowing who the winner would be, we had to be prepared for every eventuality and negotiate to shoot with a member of all four potential teams the week before the championship games.

The logistics of this compressed timeline were such that we had to build a working shower stall in Portland to be shipped and easily assembled in both practice cities with only a day’s lead time and one day in between shoots.  Since it wasn’t clear until two days before our shoot what the participating teams would be, we had to negotiate shipment of our over-sized set piece to the TBD location with an air freight company.  Once we learned the participating teams (Indianapolis and New Orleans), we scheduled our talent and shoots and readied the shipment for delivery.  Unfortunately, the specs of the plane required that the stall be shipped lying flat and the Art Department specifically labeled it to be transported vertically which (without confirming with anyone) the freight company took as the letter of law and left off their plane intended to get our set from Portland to Indianapolis the day before our shoot.  With our entire production team en route, I was left in Portland trying to figure out how to get a giant asset 2/3 of the way across the country in less that a day.

After an exhaustive search and talking to charter companies that were willing to do it for the low six-figures (more than half our overall production budget, mind you), by a stroke of luck I learned about what I’ve come to call FedEx Black Ops.  FEBO is essentially a concierge level service for large/time sensitive packages that defy description (for example my liaison there told me of shipping blue whale organs on ice), a surprisingly affordable solution under the circumstances, that would pick up our set from the other carrier and load it on a plane for what amounted to same day delivery.  They literally called me on the phone every step of the way to inform me of the progress, which was going smoothly until a winter storm in Indianapolis prevented inbound planes from landing.  The set then had to be sent to Cincinnati, loaded on a truck and driven in a blizzard to the set.  Though it arrived 6 hours later than scheduled and I wasn’t there to see it, I was told the driver looked exactly like Santa Claus and was received in kind, the crew applauding as he backed  into the loading dock.

I then edited two variation of the 7 second spot and distinct behind the scenes pieces for either outcome of the game.  As it happened, we lucked into having eventual Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees starring in his first national campaign, a fact that landed Brees on Oprah and garnered our spot wide national press.

The unedited BTS video can be seen here: