Monday, June 24, 2019

Research My Life - The Teenage Bodyguard Screenplay

This is odd.

I have searched for over five years now for a real person from my true crime screenplay, The Teenage Bodyguard. A pivotal character. I've searched over the years through my stuff for his last name. I was unsure of the spelling of his first name as he has one of those where the first letter can be one or the other letter.

The Teenage Bodyguard is a true crime biopic from my past about a time when I was 18 when a woman asked me to arm myself and protect her for a week until she could escape the local mafia in Tacoma, WA.

It's an interesting story I am not turning from a drama with thriller elements in it, into a full out thriller with the help of a producer in Hollywood. Today we are having a phone call to begin that process of rewriting and shortening the story into a very sellable and producible project.

This actually leaves me with the current form of my screenplay where one day I may be able to see it produced as the original drama and biopic that it is. Still, it got me to this point to be producing a film I wrote and I certainly have no complaints.

I had wanted to write it as a thriller originally, but I found too many issues from my wanting it to be as 100% accurate as possible. Knowing full well that pursuing a sale of it as a drama would cripple, or at least hamper my ability to sell it.

In the end right now, I would prefer to sell and see produced a film I wrote. I'm still building my name as a screenwriter and film producer. And we all have to start somewhere. As it is now I have just begun production on a film I am directing from my own screenplay titled, "Gumdrop". It is a short horror film based on a short story of my own ("Gumdrop City") published years ago, which was based on a highly disturbing true crime.


Then yesterday, after all this time, I found the correct spelling of his first name in an old HS yearbook. I then found his last name after searching on Classmates.com by putting in his first name and the name of every high school in Tacoma Washington, where I was born.

For all I knew he may even have attended school outside of Tacoma. He had been my best female friend's boyfriend through high school. In my sophomore yearbook, I found my friend's comments which took up half a page. I cannot now remember when we met, or how.

This boyfriend had already graduated. Not unusual at our high school. Many of my male friends were frustrated that most of the girls we wanted to date were already seeing guys out of high school, in college, or in the service. Mostly the Air Force as McChord AFB (and Ft. Lewis Military Training Base are both) is just outside of Tacoma. Both together now known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).

This affected my friends and I to the point that we all swore when we graduated high school we would never date a girl in high school as it was so unfair to guys still IN high school. And we didn't want to be, "those guys" who dated girls still in school. It was something that later affected me in another relationship that lasted through my college years and slightly beyond. But that, is another story.

He, let's call him, Tom (his name in the screenplay, as names have been changed to protect the guilty) was a drug dealer. He was my drug dealer, for a time. A big guy, older than us as I said. We had graduated in 1973. He, in 1970 as I have now discovered. But I wasn't even sure of that for a while.

And then, I hit on a name that was familiar. I've come to believe completely not, that it is him. I've been trying to remember his name for decades really, just for the heck of it. But as he has a pivotal role in my screenplay, it became more important to me for purposes of background for the story. And the curiosity to see what he's up to today.

I know it is him now because of the name of the author of a sci fi book I had read in high school. They had similar last names and this new name I've found fits that. Also, I found ONE photo of him on Facebook and I can see him from back then in his face now. Even though he is much older and a lot heavier now.

My point in bringing this up is this. When I found him on Facebook I reviewed his mostly secured page. But his posts are open. Friends aren't, most photos aren't. Is he paranoid? A holdover perhaps from his drug dealing days in the 70s?

Fears (still?) of the mafia who had been dismantled in the late 70s as detailed in my screenplay? I've heard recent rumors they are still active through the younger generation of those original members. Those original OG types being all dead now.

What I found so interesting is that he is a conservative now (is that where drug dealers go?). And apparently for a long time now. He is also a die-hard Trump supporter. Delusional as they do tend to be. I'm not surprised as I had discovered in researching my screenplay story, that he had used me to block the Tacoma mafia seeking a murder witness he was familiar with, by using me as a cut-out.

He may have rationalized I would be safe. Maybe.

I only realized what he had done once I women I took from where she was staying at his house, to a new location he knew nothing about. There she opened up to me. He hadn't wanted to know where she was going. That seemed very important to them both. And they made that weirdly clear to me.

In these recent times, I became upset with him when I realized it what he had done. I deluded myself into thinking we were friends as we had known one another for years. But it appears it was very one-sided. I was just, a customer. Knowing now that he is a full blown conservative nut, it makes sense.

The next time, a while later, after the week with that women, I looked him up. Probably, I was looking for some weed. But he and his roommate had both moved. Gone. I never saw them again. Well once. I did see him one more time. A year later at the Tacoma Mall. I was walking along and there he was, plain as day. I went up to him and said hi. He reacted oddly, almost a frightened look in his face. He was with a very beautiful, tiny woman holding a baby. His baby. It was his new wife.

We talked briefly, I caught his consternation. I assumed he didn't want me to blow his cover as a previous drug dealer. I assumed he had never told her about it. Now that I reflect back on it, I have to wonder if he was worried not that I might blow his cover, but that I might be pissed off, and blow him away entirely, with a gun. But I was happy to see him in my utter and sheer ignorance. Perhaps that too confused him.

But I'm a gentleman. I was gracious. I let him go and he hurried her away. I thought it odd she didn't get what was going on. But when we are fully ignorant of something like that, why should we notice anything odd? I watched them walk away that day in 1975, and never saw them again. Until Isaw his photo on Facebook.

Overall The Teenage Bodyguard is an interesting story, as is the screenplay I have written. It's not a documentary. It's a fictionalized account of a piece of my life.

One I hope and believe, we will be bringing to the screen in the next year or two. And that I have and will continue to make great strides to achieve.

Just as a caveat, beware researching your past. You never know what you might dredge up.

On the other hand, you may just find that you have a very good motion picture on your hands.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Creative Mind and Life

I have noticed something of late and I wanted to share that. Full disclosure, I had ADHD as a kid. ADD as an adult. I'm getting older, I turn sixty-four near the end of August. I was lucky. As a kid, I had lots of activities that taught me control and discipline.

Myself as a kid
It was torture to master. Years of practice. Years of pain and frustration. Years of delayed gratification. We all need some of that, some of us far more than others. Structure to be unstructured. Discipline to be undisciplined when the right times come upon us.

I noticed as I got older that I had better control over things. Far better than many. Not as much as some, to be sure. I had built good habits growing up. Or they had been built into me. Probably out of necessity so as not to kill me as an offspring.

It was a struggle to figure out, to learn, but in the end, I did figure it out. I found I had a certain way of thinking and that it was more productive to work with what I had rather than to work against it. As we are typically taught in school through K-12.

Once I realized that my life got easier. I also realized I had to hide it. To be perceived as the other kids. To fit in while not fitting on. So I had to work around things, had to work harder and faster than others. Reminds me of that comment on Ginger Rogers doing what Fred Astaire did, only backward, and faster. I'm not claiming to know the female experience in life as I'm male, but intellectually, I do get it.

I learned to make notes for myself. I learned to take responsibility. To not be a victim to my circumstances but to find a way to succeed despite them. I learned that if I had to do something I had to see it got done to completion and if that required extraordinary means, so be it. If I had to walk the extra mile from others, no one cared, as long as I got my responsibilities cared for.

I realized that I was very good at creating in going forward, not so much remembering and regurgitating. I was exceptional in synthesis, in synthesizing things. In taking from one concept and adapting it to many others.

I was very good at taking something and modifying it, making it far better. Eventually creating from scratch myself and then modifying that over time. As they say in the writing field, writing is rewriting. So it is in other fields. To create, you make something and modify it, over and over to perfection. To YOUR perfection.

As you modify you learn. When humans do anything, in doing it over and over they find the flaws and find the enhancements needed. Those who sse that, who apply that, find success. The other end of that is the business side of creativity which is hard for most artists and why so many fail.

My grandmother told me repeatedly, if you start a book, always finish it. I can today count on one or two hands, all the books I've started in my life and not finished. Probably on one hand.

Another side of this is perseverance. Those who give up fail, by definition. Don't be defined by your failure. As Thomas A. Edison said: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." I've heard so many who have "made it" who said it was luck. You do have to, as they used to say, "take a licking and keep on ticking." Persevere.

Being in the right place at the right time, making that happen, so that luck could happen to them. So it is luck, but it's also setting yourself up for luck to happen, rather than failure. They've also said that in their never giving up, while their friends had, who started when they did, some who were even better then they were at whatever their endeavors were, while they made it, the others didn't. Because they quit or couldn't take rejection after rejection.

A famous author once said about rejection in relation to writers, that you should collect your rejections as a positive thing. As a collection. Put them on your office wall where you see them every day. Collect more. Fill the wall. Fill another wall. Fill all your office walls. Then start to fill another wall in another room.

By the time you fill your wall, or your office, or another room, or your entire home, you will have a sale and then another. You have to acclimate yourself to so-called, failures. Because each failure is a success in learning, in moving past that failure to the next and so eventually to the success you want. Or another success you never saw coming. And be sure to see that when it arrives.

Opportunity knocks only once, they say. Be sure to answer when it knocks. Truth is, opportunity knocks in our lives many times. But we often never ever hear the knock because we're looking for a knock at another door. Or listening for a knock when it is a doorbell or a whistle from outside our windows.
My High School Graduation Photo
My sister suggested when I entered high school (and that was the year after she had graduated so we missed one another), that I should write notes and put them in my jeans pocket, the pocket with my keys in them. She said it had worked for her. And I knew she was smart. After some months I found that some days, I would have a pocket full of small pieces of paper with notes on them.

When I was leaving school at the end of the day I would reach for my keys, in 12th grade, it was my car keys to drive home (even better) and I would feel the notes, read them, refresh my memory on what was to come.

Or if it was for the next day, leave it in my pocket for tomorrow morning to refresh again my memory and then try to remember to, remember. Or to keep checking my pocket throughout the day. It got to be a habit as the day went on to just touch my pocket, to feel if there were notes in there. I would remember (maybe) what the note(s) said (which actually helped my memory) or when I couldn't remember, pull them out and review them. Which also helped my memory.

My confidence grew. I made it a point to show up for things on time or a few minutes early. I came to be known as punctual. Also, dependable. A teacher pointed out one day the difference between most kids who sit in the front or back of a class.

I started putting myself on the front line, in the front row. I found I could pay more attention, get more involved. I became more interested. I had always felt I didn't want to engage (a holdover I think from my lower grade school experiences. I found ways to trick myself to, or to force myself, putting myself into positions where I had to learn or to become involved. At first, I hated it. But I persevered and eventually got to relish the interactions.

All this led to a change in how I was perceived by others. For two reasons. My strong desire to be trusted and dependable, and those pocket notes. For a while later on, it became my watch with an alarm. But there were times, without a supporting pocket note, that the alarm would go off and I would have absolutely no idea why. Nowadays, of course, I have my smartphone and calendar app along with other apps for support.

My reason for bringing this all up though really has to do with creativity. Something I studied at university. My major being psychology, one of my classes actually was titled, Creativity. And it wasn't an easy class. I quickly realized that shot name classes were hard and classes with longer names were easier.

I've noticed something for some time now about my creative pursuits. I'm very good at them. I can produce a lot, much if not most being of very high quality. But not always. And, why not?

What I have noticed first, is a change in myself as I age. When I was younger, I had massive amounts of energy. In fact, I seldom got a full night's sleep in high school. I would lie awake most of the night until four or five in the morning. Then fall asleep and wake exhausted to my alarm clock.

I had a night job at a drive-in theater snack bar. I became the snack-bar manager for the last couple of years there. I went to school during the day, then to work in the evening, then home and bed. I learned to get my homework done at school during the day.

Sometimes working in one class on homework for another class. Teachers weren't stupid and they'd rail against kids doing that. So you had to be smart about it. And you still had to pay attention to the class you were in. But I seemed to be good at multitasking and it kept my mind from wandering (ADD again).

But at night, I was usually running at a high rate of speed by the time my head I hit the pillow.

Still, I had the energy to spare when I was young. In fact, being ADHD/ADD I had far too much energy most of the time. I just had to learn to use that to my advantage and not disadvantage.

What I've noticed as I've aged though is that decrease in energy. Obviously. I'm getting older. Regular workouts become ever more important as we age. It's not just that I could be in better shape though.

There is another and well-known component involved. I asked my doctor at a checkup some years ago about changes I'd noticed. I seemed to feel things more deeply. Emotionally. I'm more affected by things than I ever used to be. He said that was really quite normal (normal, there's a concept).

Obviously, as you age you gain experience and so you feel things more deeply, he said.

OK, that made sense. Then I noticed that my creativity seemed to become more problematic. That is, I've always been able to produce quality on demand. I still can, to be sure. Years as a technical writer do that, just as Isaac Asimov had claimed in his first autobiography, In Memory, Yet Green. A book that affected me deeply when it came on the market years ago. But for pure creativity and comfort, I've noticed a change.

Example. in 2016 I sold my house of sixteen years and moved to a rental in another town, Bremerton, WA. I went where the best deal possible was at the time. I had to. I wasn't rich and I was going to retire and live off of my retirement at too young of an age. Because I could.

I was retiring, young at sixty-one I was tired of on call and IT work and wanted to finally take the time and effort (and could) to explore my creative pursuits. Writing fiction, screenplay, become proficient in film production, perhaps shoot my own films from my own writings. And so I am now doing all this and making progress.

I expected to live there a year or two and look around, find where I really want to live after having sold the house, and then move to a more long term situation. I was also retiring from twenty years in IT. Which I did. One month after moving.

Now, if you talk to a realtor, they will tell you that buying (or selling) a house is like dealing with the death of a loved one over the course of that year. There is actually a numeric scale of how much stress you should have in a year that gives you a kind of guide by which to know if you are heading into taking on too much, if not headed into more serious issues.

Friends told me when I retired that it takes people anywhere from six months to two years to recover from retiring. It is a massive changed after all and I had not only sold a house I had moved into with my wife and children, but was now a house I was to move out from without that wife and kids now full grown. And I was retiring. All that in one year was a lot. Apparently.

Yet, I figured, "I'm tough, I can handle it." Maybe a month or two to reorient and I should be good. Several months of partying and doing whatever I wanted and having drinks nearly every day if not more, one day I realized that I wasn't slowing down. It was over six months later that I realized, I was finally getting over that previous summer's house sale and move.

Two years now after selling my house and moving, I moved again.

In the interim, I had to deal with family member situations, my dog of fifteen years dying and within a month, my mother dying. There was more family drama overall going on than I want to go into here but suffice it to say, it took a lot out of me. Now that I look back I think over this last move, even though it was only from one rental house to another and only a mile away at that, it really was more intense and compromising than the move two years previous.

Once again I am trying to get back onto my creative feet and needless to say, it's been difficult. Though to be fair now, there were issues with this move too. I had volunteered to help refurbish the new rental house so I could move in earlier without paying rent for the partial first month.

The guy moving out had three large dogs, hadn't paid rent in several months and seldom on time when he did and he took questionable care of the house and yard. It was a mess. We had to rip out all the wall to wall carpet and replace them and paint the entire inside as well as clean and remove things left by the previous renter. Unused to 10-12 hour days of physical labor and during some very hot summer days, I was pretty beat when finally I moved in.

Because the carpets were put in a week after I moved in all my things were downstairs except for a bed we had to move to have the carpets installed. So I'd been delayed in getting all fully "moved in". It took a while to get my writing desk in place or a working...workspace.

It was a little frustrating. My youngest child (mid-20s) was having problems finding a place and so had moved into the previous house and about a week into the new house before moving to a new location, and suffered the interim condition of the house along with me.

My real point in bringing this all up is... I find when I go through mental duress, and working for a month requiring oneself to ignore the pain and exhaustion of remodeling in sweltering heat at my age, is a mental thing too. I find that it compromises my creative endeavors.

I find I need a period of decompression, if you will. Of relaxation and perhaps, of healing. I can fight it, or I can give it its space, which I did as I happened to still to have that luxury. Lucky me, to be sure.

I have struggled to do what creative things I could. My hardest work is writing. Alone, blindly and boldly creating, if you will. I've done some events and other physical things where I could do something creative. I've worked on and been in a few local small indie horror film projects for instance. Attended some Cons. But my goal has been writing, creating, and film production as in filming and editing my own works.

Here's my mental image of what I'm dealing with.

It's like my mind is a vast and finite cacophony of (as in a murder of crows) eggshells, all arranged in a massive solid structure. Each next to and stacked upon another. When I go through these periods of, shall we say, challenge? Some of these get crushed. So I need time once the difficulties are over, for these things to heal back up. Or be replaced. Whatever works.

If the structure is somewhat crushed I cannot traverse the creative routes. Like trying to wind through a maze in a forest, where there is too much overgrowth and too many downed trees. IF however, I take the time to clean up that part of it, to allow things to heal and grow back, then I'm back to normal and not untypically, even better.

It's just that I find now that it is easier for this structure to get crushed than ever before. Though now that I think about it, there were times in mid-life when I had trouble being creative and I gave that up to laziness. When in hindsight I can now see it was daily stress and just many of life's compromises.

It is frustrating now though because I now have what I've worked toward for some years and I'm unable to be that creative or productive. Still again, my point in bringing this all up is that I know it will pass and I only have to work with myself in order to get back on track and... I will.

I have for one, made an appointment for the first time with a top rated consultant on a screenplay of mine that has been consistently getting high reviews (THE TEENAGE BODYGUARD). I have high hopes for it, as do others. But also I need to be writing every day for a full day at a time and I'm not. Still again, I know it will come... and eventually, I'll get to where I'm headed.

Because it's all a matter of time and allowing myself to take the time I need, to properly heal up and then step bravely into a new stage of my life.

But for now, I feel kind of broken.

Like my fragile list of daily habits has been broken. Floating, drifting, rudderless. I just need to rebuild my list with a new set of habits. Or the same exact list as I had before, which can be frustrating. When you get used to that happening in your life, that urge to rebuild that which shouldn't have been broken becomes more challenging. First world problems, I know.

Taking the time to live the new life, to get used to it, to assimilate it, the list will come, eventually. If I need it faster, then I need to do it intellectually, pedantically. to know that the rest of me will eventually catch up, organically.

It is in not understanding that, where some people go wrong. They become irate, unsociable, irrational. When all you need to do is relax, be patient, and work towards a positive outcome. As best and quickly as you can. No stress, just effort.

No. It's not all wonderful. But it doesn't have to be a big difficult life event either.

You just have to let yourself... Live.

I wrote the above during the third quarter of 2018.

At this point so much has happened. I have produced my first short horror film. I'm about to start shooting my second, more than twice the length of that first eight minutes short. I'm now working with a Hollywood producer on my screenplay, The Teenage Bodyguard. This week I'm shooting an interview of me to hopefully be included in a horror documentary from the UK on horror writers and filmmakers. And I now qualify ss both.

It took me a while but I'm finally in a good place to explore the creativity I had always wanted to explore over most of my life. Those skills and things I've gone through over a lifetime have paid off and I'm seeing hope for a new career. I've met many new and interesting people. I see a path up now.

It hasn't been easy, it hasn't been quick. Not by a long shot. But those who persevere, who set themselves up to be in those places where luck CAN happen for them and others they have surrounded themselves with, who hone their skills and creativity, who take the time to make themselves indispensable to others who can help them...they are the ones who have a chance.

They are the ones who made their opportunities. And when that knock comes, will hear it. Even if it is a whistle.

And I'm just getting started...

Monday, June 10, 2019

Seven Books Worth Reading Plus One...Plus

I don't usually go in for these posting on demand things on Facebook, however...mostly seems a pain for people to do that too you. Once in a while, one comes about that I feel I can get behind, however. This was one of those. The idea is, choose a book you love, share it and say nothing. Share only seven books, one on each succeeding day.

It was a little frustrating, however. So I thought I'd alleviate some of that through a blog about these books and my reasoning in choosing them. Yes, perhaps this goes against the idea of the effort on Facebook, but I just wanted to explain where I couldn't on Facebook, to give a little background in the hope it might be interesting.

There were obvious books I skipped because so many know of them. A few seeped in below. Like, Dune, perhaps because it was so deeply affecting to me (see below). Others were also deeply affecting but did not get mentioned. Like The Hobbit, or Lord of the Rings, because so very many others also felt those books so deeply. I just felt it went without saying and the time and space could be better used with other books, less familiar to the public.

Here is what I chose and finally...why:


Day 1
Friend and actress; Jennifer True asked friend and filmmaker\director Kelly Hughes and he asked me to post covers of seven books that I love with no explanation, no reviews, etc. With each day, I'm also supposed to nominate more people.

I choose artist Marvin HayesAristotle's Works

When I was in fifth grade I was only allowed at our new house we'd just moved into, to go to the library on my bicycle. I was a bother as a child, not unlike my own son. Curious, investigative, always into...something. It was a wise decision. And I did go, only to the library when I asked. I discovered very interesting things. I'd always been fascinated by the written word. Sick of waiting for someone to read me the Sunday comics in the newspaper, until after everyone else finished reading the paper on Sunday mornings, I strove to learn to read young and never stopped.

On my first time at my new library, I discovered the "Adult" section. Not what you might think but definitely more interesting than the kid's section. It was directly before the door into the library, past the "old" ladies at the front desk, clearly in the open. I sat on the floor and started going through books, occasionally sneaking a glance at the front desk, amazed they let me unbidden at the adult section.

On that first time, I found a very old book by some guy named Aristotle. Single name. Starts with an "A". Had to be something, right? I started reading there on the floor. Something touched me. So I checked the book out. And they LET me! It was a fascinating dive into logic and ethics by the Master.

I knew I was onto something one day when I mentioned something relevant in the living room to my parents, a quote from Aristotle. By then, having looked up who he was in our family encyclopedia, which I also loved to peruse, I knew he was someone important, all throughout history.

My stepfather, who didn't much like me anyway, snapped at me that what I had said was stupid. I heard that a lot from him. I responded I wasn't sure that was right. He asked what would make me say that. Very carefully, a little scared, I said that he was a well thought of thinker all throughout history and many held him in the highest esteem.

He asked me, like who? I was surprised 1) he never heard of Aristotle as I kept running across him; 2) he didn't know people referenced Aristotle a lot and; 3) my response to him that, just about every educated and well-known person in history through highly of Aristotle. And that, shut him up. Thankfully.

From that exposure to Aristotle at such a young age, his way of thinking deeply affected me. All throughout my life.


Day 2
I choose, Nikolas HayesSlaughter-House Five,


Day 3
I choose, friend and fellow author Kurt GiambastianiThe Year the Cloud Fell


Day 4
 I choose, friend and photographer Erwin Verweij Something Wicked This Way Comes



Day 5
I choose, author Mark BaranowskiThe Star Thrower


Day 6
I choose, author Mark David GersonDune


Day 7
 I choose, author Stephen KingThe Books of Blood

Epilogue
I'm going to add one more book. Not just as pure self-promotion but as an honest comment about a book I wrote myself. I wrote it as I do all my stories to write something I've not seen before. At least in some way. I wrote my book, Death of heaven to show something I've not seen before.


I do not like to have to explain its format but for some, it may not have the depth it actually has. I wrote it to exemplify that "Heaven" (that is, heaven) never existed except in our minds, our mythologies, our religions. But even lies can and do have a base in fact. And that is the effort put forth in this horror / sci fi book.

We had a reason, as constructed in the book, to think there are Gods, to think there is an afterlife (maybe there is, but is there in the "Matrix" or is it another thing altogether?). And no, I do not use the Matrix as a foundation but something entirely different.

The Universe is not just as big as it is for us in the ways we conceive of. But in many ways, in many layers, in many dimensions. I tried to write a book that expands on that, expands our thinking, and offers some disturbing concepts and images to stretch concepts even further.

I based this book on Andrew, a novella about a five year traumatized boy who grows up into great things beyond that of any other human being throughout history. Andrew is a standalone ebook and the final story in my first book, a collection of my older and original short horror and sci fi fiction titled, Anthology of Evil. By the way, I have a sequel to this Anthology of Evil II but I have been busy and have not yet found a new publisher for it.

Death of heaven (see link for more) in my mind is the better book. But one leads into the other.

IF you want a book like you've not read before, give it a try. So far people seem to like it. It just hasn't had the marketing and attention it needs. See, m focus has been on film production. I've been focusing for years on screenplays and one of my favorites, the true crime biopic, The Teenage Bodyguard is now in talks with an active producer and we're building a plan for its production.

This past weekend Kelly Hughes hanging with the awesome Alison ArngrimMeeting actors Warren and Elif at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre in North Hollywood with Alison and Robert. — with Alison Arngrim and Robert Schoonover.
This week's blog isn't about film production but it's been my primary focus of late. So for an update...along with Kelly Hughes over at his Lucky Charm Studio, friend and fellow filmmaker and founder of the Gorst Underground Film Festival in its second annual event this fall where I have been and I am again judging films.

I hope to get one of my own in there this year or next. Kelly just produced his documentary Hush, Hush Nellie Oleson currently making the round of film festivals. And a music video collaboration with the Italian band Postvorta with the same, We're Nothing. I'm also in his book, Are You A Good Witch, with a shot of Alison Arngrim ("Nellie" from Little House on the Prarie), who "murdered" me in one of Kelly's films.

I'm currently in pre-production on shooting my own short horror film, Gumdrop based on a previous short story of mine, Gumdrop City. A true crime story. After I'm done with the Bodyguard project I'll move over to a horror comedy I wrote that did well in screenplay contests, Gray and Lover The Hearth Tales Incident. It is one that could easily lend itself to a franchise.

Getting back to the seven books, they are all great books. I don't put mine up there in the same category. But I've certainly given it a worthy effort.

I'll just leave you here with these reviews by reviewers. Make up your own mind:

From author and reviewer Michael Brookes:
"The book starts well and has a Books of Blood vibe, which really works well. It's in these tales that the author's writing ability shines. He demonstrates a lovely turn of phrase and some of the writing is almost poetic in its beauty."

From British Book Reviewer Lynn Worton:
"JZ Murdock has written a horror story that had me completely transfixed! I'm intrigued as to what he is working on next! Although horror is not one my favorite genres, I recommend this book to those who do love it."

From WILDSound Writing Festival First Chapter review said:
"The story itself is very strong, lulling the reader into a false sense of security as two young boys hunt for treasure, before ultimately morphing into a violent and sometimes disturbing tale of horror. This is done with such swiftness that it takes the reader completely by surprise, which only enhances the effect."

Check out Death of heaven!

Sláinte! Cheers!

Monday, June 3, 2019

To AI or Not and Yes, I Do Talk To My Alexa

Indeed. I do. I have two. One in the living room I call Echo. I called it Alexa until I got my second to avoid confusion if one heard me addressing the other (that was weird), and I tried Computer but Echo is shorter. The one in the bedroom I call, Alexa. You have three name choices sadly, one voice, one accent. The name Echo is kind of weird.

But this talking to an inanimate object isn't something new for me. Years ago I was with a somewhat new friend and after we were together a few hours she said, "You spent a lot of time alone as a child, didn't you." Indeed, I did. I had to find ways to entertain myself. It wasn't great back then many times when I wished I had a friend. But it gave me a lot of imagination and creativity and it's paid off in a way that is neverending.

IF you can talk to yourself and learn something, you can talk to a "smart speaker" and learn. Or exponentially more so, with an "AI".

First wave Internet AI
I also dabbled in AI in the late 80s. Used to talk to ELIZA on the internet through its various incarnations and versions:

"ELIZA's key method of operation (copied by chatbot designers ever since) involves the recognition of clue words or phrases in the input, and the output of corresponding pre-prepared or pre-programmed responses that can move the conversation forward in an apparently meaningful way (e.g. by responding to any input that contains the word 'MOTHER' with 'TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR FAMILY').[9] Thus an illusion of understanding is generated, even though the processing involved has been merely superficial. ELIZA showed that such an illusion is surprisingly easy to generate, because human judges are so ready to give the benefit of the doubt when conversational responses are capable of being interpreted as "intelligent".-Wikipedia

I also talked to my dog. I talked at times to the air walking down the street. Or to a wall. You are you, talking to you, to be sure. But you CAN learn things. Once I discovered that it opened many doors and windows for me. When I was a kid someone heard me talking to myself. Really, I was just bored and muttering aloud what I was thinking.

Still, they said, "You can't learn anything if you talk to yourself." I thought, really? I wonder. So I actually tried it.

Why? I'm not nuts, actually. When I was a kid, I had to learn to play chess alone because no one was interested. Surely not as much as I wanted to play it. I've blogged about this before, how I did it and all. It took time but I learned to take both sides, try not to know, or use info on what the "other" side was thinking. And so I applied this to talking to myself as if I were two people with two orientations. Basically just picking an orientation and then taking the devil's advocate POV. And just go at it.

That first time I tried that I was stunned. Because I realized, I actually did learn something from it. that person was wrong. You CAN learn something by talking to oneself. Now understand, you CAN. But you also, can NOT. After all, it depends on what you are doing, what your goal is and how you go about it.

Years ago I read something a famous philosopher who said that it doesn't even take two people to have a valid and productive discussion. So I tried it. And again, I learned from it.

It's important that we ask questions. But it's also important when we don't. Not when you can work out the answer yourself anyway. If that is the case, in asking a question that you can actually answer yourself simply by accessing long term memory, or by analyzing the concept at hand, then you're just wasting another's time by asking them for the answer. It's lazy.

Now you could say, "But what if I just want to hear another's perspective, what answer(s) they came up with. That's valid too. But, you have to first know what YOU think the answer is before you ask another. Otherwise, you rob yourself of the exercise and weaken your own mind. But answering the question first yourself it's like doing pushups. IF you always ask someone else to exercise for you, how does that make you stronger? People don't always think about that. That in doing, you are enhancing.

Now that is different from another concept I believe in. "Being lazy." For that concept is different. I tend to go about my life in what I see (perhaps somewhat humorously) as being lazy. I've gotten some interesting comments in the past from coworkers and even a spouse on this. They would say that I never seem like I'm busy, or that I don't seem to work that hard and yet, as they claimed (and it was true) I always seemed to get a lot of work done. In many cases in multiples of what others were doing in the same or similar efforts. To be sure many times I was doing twice or more the workload of others in my department or area, or team.

I came to realize that was because of a few things. I was told in twelfth grade that I need to get my anxiety levels down because of my childhood and family life being stressful for me. Mostly because of my step-father, family dynamics and our parent's relationship. I had to learn to be relaxed, not be a Type A personality, not be a perfectionist as I was. So I studied that. Found Asian philosophies I had first learned in martial arts in grade school. Found Buddhism, and TM and all kinds of information. This being in the early 70s. Eventually, I turned into that person people found difficult to understand in how relaxed I usually was.

There was another reason for that. I started being "on call" in the late 1970s in the USAF. We were on call for nuclear war (I worked at a SAC base supporting B-52s and nuclear weapons). I found that morally and ethically difficult to deal with back then. I found it stressful. It was hard to get through but I did well. I received commendations for my work, a Good Conduct medal and other benefits.

When I got out, years later I worked in IT at Unversity of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Later, I was in IT at various places like UW West Technologies and then eventually retired from a large health insurance company.

When I first got to that last company, there was a day when things were going very wrong at work. Some system broke or something, I don't ever remember. But I do remember one woman coming up to be and asking me how I could be so calm when everyone was freaking out so much and we were in such a dire situation.

I thought about it and my mind shot back through my past and I asked her, "Is anyone dying?" She got an odd look on her face and said, "No. Why?" Then I told her about my USAF and Hospital jobs. I explained to her that since we weren't about to go to nuclear war, since no patients would actually die because of a mistake I made in IT, this? Was a cake walk. I couldn't be happier here. Right now. We'll fix it. It will be OK. Then we'll address the next "dire issue" when it arises. I think that actually calmed HER down some too.

Getting back to what I was saying before, I discovered in 10th grade in high school that I kept asking questions. Discovered it, not so much. It was blatantly pointed out to me one day in class. The teacher at some point, though I was being a bit of a smart ass, politely asked me if I was just asking to be asking. I thought about it and said, "No, I seriously want to know these answers." The teacher was a pretty great teacher.

They said, "Okay then, if you really want answers, talk to me after class. Because now we're taking up everyone's time for you to get your answers. And some of those answers, if you just have patience, you'll learn in the course of our classroom time today. And what you don't, you may just find out if you allow yourself to think about it, to discover the answers by yourself. For yourself."

Okay, seemed fair. So I shut up. And they were correct. Over the next fifteen minutes or so, I did discover all the answers to my questions from what I heard in class, from our interaction with the class, and from my own deductions. I could indeed, think.

Pretty damn cool! Again doors and windows into intellect were being opened for me.

What I did discover in the future, in college, however, was that if I did ask questions in class, many times they were the same questions others had. I could see it in some of the student's faces when I'd asked a "stupid" question. I could see in turning back and looking over my classmates, a look of appreciation and relief someone else asked the question.

Some of these classes and professors were very high level and very intimidating to put yourself out there on the line, to perhaps been seen as ignorant. I felt that way my first month or so of college but eventually got over it and got brave enough, once I got into the swing of things. to take the risks.

As I'd learn so much and when you asked the question, you could direct the next question perhaps into a more interesting question and answers than others in the class might delay knowledge, dragging the class into areas uninteresting or banal. IF I controlled the next question, we had a better chance, as I discovered, of going into deeper and more complex issues.

I also realized I had a responsibility, to the class, and to the professor. It only took my abusing this situation once or twice in the beginning, to have a professor, as my high school teacher had done, to intellectually swat me down like a fly. The professors didn't suffer fools. And I did my best not to be a fool. And it paid off immensely.

Some students didn't want to ask questions because of that. It could at times, be brutal. Some wanted to ask but didn't care as long as their question got asked and answered and I felt the same. As long as anyone asked my question, great!

Eventually, I started to realize that I was asking questions others weren't even thinking of and they were happy to hear them (and in some cases felt relieved, these were difficult, but challenging classes as I said). Then after class somestimes, they'd come up to me and thank me for taking the chance of asking, or we'd continue the conversation between the two, or three or four of us and all learn even more. Sometimes leading us tot he professors office for more questions. That was also something I discovered was invaluable. A professor's office time. It is a benefit many did not avail themselves of.

I know those things as I said because we were all friendly after and out of class and everyone had the same orientation: To Learn. It didn't matter who or how we got answers, as long as we were absorbing as much knowledge as we could. I felt the same when someone else took the lead, or if I was having an off day and wasn't tracking that well that day. It's not about ego. It's about answers and exploring topics, especially ones I found fascinating. Something I found I could manage somewhat in the classes I chose to take.

It was an exhilarating environment, being at university. One that hurt not having it after graduation. Few jobs are ever like that. Few have that kind of drive and fascination toward the Truth or the group motivation, that thirst for knowledge.

The university environment can be intoxicating. It's a protected environment. Contrary to common belief, it's not about grades but learning. Though not all see it that way. You could see them striving for straight A's and not necessarily learning all that much.

So, what the hell is my point and what about talking to my Alexa, or an AI (or myself)?

My point is, it's all about what you make it about. What you want to get out of anything. What you can get out of even the banalest situations or the dumbest question, or the most boring person.

IF you direct the path you are on, you can learn, and sometimes, the amazing happens, and they learn something.

You can learn from talking to a wall, literally. And you can learn talking to an AI.

Am I polite to my AI? (OK, Alexa sadly, certainly ISN'T an AI, but you will sooner than you think, be talking to one, or many). So yes, I talk to my dog like it's human and do not expect it to be. As well I talk to my smart speaker, or an AI as if it were a human. We are creatures of habit and I'd not like to think that my being succinct or rude to an AI or smart speaker or pet, could make me more than way to other people. Especially, people, I see once in my life and move on.

What I do, do, is understand it is NOT human (yet?). I do not get emotionally involved with the inanimate. Maybe one day we can and will. IF one gets to anthropology an inanimate, a process, one is setting oneself up for some serious emotional or psychological issues.

IF your AI (or smart speaker) breaks, should you feel as you would if your favorite pet, or a loved one dies? Well, you can feel bad to be sure as it breaks connections in one's mind. But keep it reasonable. And many times we may be able to run a backup into a new device and reclaim exactly what was lost. In that case, was it the device, or the intellectual property you built with it over time that is most important?

That may not always be the case. One day we may be able to get back a loved one who is merely a copy and no, that is not the same as the original.

And yet, that too may one day becomes a moot point.

Humanity is on a path into the future and a journey. And it is about to get interesting, very interesting indeed.



Monday, May 27, 2019

Judging the Gorst Underground Film Festival - The GUFF

First off, I would like to address that today is Memorial Day 2019. In these trying times when wrong is sold as seemingly right and confusion is the rule of the day, we need to reflect on who we are and who we want to be. Part of that we celebrate today, in how we remember the fallen, those who protected us and died in our service.


"On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed." History.com

But part of that is also in how we treat the living who return, broken and hopeful, and what our orientation is and should be in going into the future.

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” – Charles de Gaulle

Now, on to the Film Festival:

I was a judge in a local indie "underground" film festival. The first annual 2018 Gorst Underground Film Festival (GUFF). We're gearing up now for the 2nd annual 2019 version in a few months on September 7, 2019. I was only one of a few judges so regarding my voting. Some I rated highly were also rated highly by other judges and the winner I chose actually won overall. While a few I had liked and rated highly didn't get rated quite as highly by some other judges. Just how it goes.


Our judging wasn't made public or shared with the filmmakers. It can be problematic. To be sure. But I thought I would share some of my notes on some of the films I watched.

Like it or not, here it is. I will admit as the films flew past, I realized I'd started my ratings rather high as the quality of the submitted films was higher than I had expected. I was pleased to discover that. Judging is a learned behavior. With time and experience.

I'm sure I'll get better at it. As a long time screenwriter and a newly minted narrative filmmaker (I'm working now on my second film), I do have some insight from years of growing up loving cinema in the classical sense, and through my college cinema classes as well as through perfecting my own screenwriting and filmmaking skills.

About that. You do the best you can as a judge, using your experience and orientation in life and trying to be enlightened, not of a limited scope. You try to be neutral, academic a fan, a viewer.

I believe in being an advocate for the festival filmmakers. One judge may see things differently, may have more or less understanding about a film they watch. Or may be more or less educated about life, the world or cinema. But that is part of the package you have to accept in entering any film festival.

It's also why there is not usually just one judge and uses an overall average to decide a generally well-accepted film as the winner. Ratings are 1-10.

First up?

Beloved Beast - Director: Jonathan Holbrook

There is a lot to digest in Beloved Beast by filmmaker Jonathan Holbrook who mostly pulled it off. For a film pushing three hours in length one really needs to bring it. I think this could have worked very well instead as a three-episode miniseries in Twin Peaks fashion. Though perhaps it wouldn't have worked so well simply as a 90-minute film, though perhaps one with a sequel. Then, however, I'd have considered making it a trilogy and writing, or picking up some cutting room floor footage and putting it back into the project.

The film seemed to me to be unmistakably from the Lynchian universe of bizarre scenes and characters as well as uncomfortable moments being extended longer than is well, comfortable. Some scenes, though well-executed could have been shorter; though this could be argued as the director's divergence from Lynch.

While Lynch is succinct, Holbrook leans into the indulgent. Other reviews have noted Tarantino in the beginning, but I noticed a shift, so this seemed to me to be far more inside Lynch than Quentin.

What Lynch does is nearly impossible to reproduce. He's a master at it. To attempt it is audacious. Still, to approach it is commendable. Die-hard Lynch fans will certainly appreciate moments in this film as remarkable, though perhaps, too far between. The usual suspect with a long film. After all, the less one speaks the more genius may (seem to) appear.

On the other hand, if you don't like Lynch (or for that matter, Tarkovsky), perhaps watch another film. At times the film misses the mark in going beyond or even not quite far enough. If Lynch's works were an unwavering strand of titanium, Beloved Beast is the vibrating thread striving to be nearby it.

While one is unwavering and solid the other vibrates at times either too far or too near to its goal. Though how often and for how long is for the viewer to decide. I found the intermittent narration about the "Rabbit King" unnecessary, pulling the viewer out of the scene. At times even diluting the scene's crafted effect.

Other times it nailed it. Though the dialog at times can be too spot on. That too is very Lynchian. Still, the subtext here could be better executed in support of the underlying structure. As well, motifs and subplots could be better tied in, especially for a work of this length. As could the pathways or "roads" between characters. Something Lynch is adept at if not auteur.

All that being said, I found myself intrigued by the film at times. There are moments where the Grand Guignol, perhaps needing its moment, stepped outside itself into a wry piece of humor. More than once I had had to cringe or laugh out loud at something obviously planned that way. Overall it was a fairly well-executed film that needed restraint in the editing bay.

"A story can be both concrete and abstract, or a concrete story can hold abstractions. And Abstractions are things that really can't be said so well with words." - David Lynch

Man In Camo - Director: Ethan Minsker

A well produced and interesting documentary on a creative, rather fascinating art community builder. One of my most favorite docs that I've seen of late. Ethan Minsker is a force to meet if you ever get the chance. He actually flew in from New York, this native of Washington DC. Check out his other films and books, too. His documentary was creative as expected. I didn't think it was too long as someone said in the Q&A afterward.

It was in a way a tour de force of documentary filmmaking and I highly recommend it. His documentary actually won the festival.

Missed Connections Anthology -  Directors: Pamela Falkenberg, Jack Cochran 

A familiar topic shown in an interesting and entertaining light.

1/2 - Director: Raffaele Salvaggiola

Some beautiful shots in this film with some very decent cinematography and an interesting, well acted and properly directed story. A film no doubt by a lover of cinema for lovers of cinema with inherent references to some classic films and auteur directors.

Path of Egress - Director:  Vincent F. Baran

An audacious effort, if the filmmakers brought up some of its problematic issues to the level of other better-produced parts, they might have a winner. Audio / ADR levels/soundtrack, some editing issues, and a few other things needed better execution. Not to say there was a problem with the music soundtrack which was pretty good.

In the end, they followed my own belief in no matter what, give it a good ending and it pulls people up to a better consideration overall of your project. While a not so good ending can make a better film seem worse than it is. In the end, an entertaining crime flick with some decent humor, intense scenes, and some interesting elements.

Refuse

Hard to know what to say on this one. Kudos for finishing! Keep making films? I'm not sure where this filmmaker is headed, but somewhere I think. As for this piece..."Refuse" as a noun refers to food waste, scraps, or garbage. As a verb, refuse means to reject. As a double entendre, we have a film which exhibits and supports both of these definitions.

In the protagonist's refusal to help, he does so anyway but is denied, or refused. In asking for help in order to help, he is refused any attention. In standing at the bridge he seems to refuse to be affected by the beautiful scenery.

In breaking the fourth wall, he refuses to play the part of actor for that of the interactor. This didn't quite work for me, or others I spoke with about it. But if this is what the filmmaker was proposing then he may be evolving into something after producing more of these and gaining skills in doing so.

And so in the end, we as audience would also gain. A curious piece to be sure.

Search Engines - Director: Russell Brown

The film, Search Engines, isn't my usual cup of tea. But I laughed out loud several times watching this. Likable characters, well acted, this was just a sweet little message movie that walks the fine line of bashing one over the head with a message, and it's up to the viewer to decide if they maintained their balance or fell off. For me? Well, I kind of liked it.

Single Palm Tree - Director: Puthiyavan Rasiah

Rating, seven on execution, ten on message. I've seen other such films over the years from those disenfranchised as in Ireland, Syria, Lebanon and places in Africa and elsewhere. A noble endeavor. The world is finally hearing the truth about abuse by governments worldwide toward subsets of their citizens, typically minorities disliked for ridiculous reasons such as religion, caste, or simply socioeconomic status. And the world finally but slowly reacting.

This has to stop, to be sure. Sadly, the world has also gone more autocratic, xenophobic and nationalistic. You could tell Single Palm Tree was a labor of love, social responsibility, or both. It is a film whose message far outweighs its capability in execution.

As there are three codirectors it would appear the directing is qualitatively inconsistent for obvious reasons. Subtitles are at times more problematic than usual for subtitles for basic issues of mechanics (that is, unneeded spaces in words). Which in my experience are nearly always lacking in transliteration, to begin with.

 Some of the actors seem not to be actors and I'd even go so far as to say the casting is for some almost up to community theater standards while others are quite good. Overall some of the production is well executed but most are simply inconsistent. Cinematography sadly fails at times, while at other times, is quite beautiful

The Witches of Dumpling Farm - Director: Martin J Pickering

A nice effort, interesting if a bit uneven film but with some truly scary moments making it worth the effort. Just when you think it's done surprising you, it hits you again. Don't worry about the logic of it all in the first half, just let it happen.

Once the action gets going, they gain their stride. If the Pickering brothers keep on this direction they will be a force to reckon with. You almost wonder a few times...are these guys Sam Raimi's cousins across the pond?

So! Those are just a few of the 43 submissions we had received. The festival itself was a great time and I highly recommend showing up for this year's festival. It is in a rustic location just outside Port Orchard and Bremerton, WA, in Gorst.

For this 2019 season, we already have 48 submissions! I'm currently working on my own film, Gumdrop Sampson, based as a prequel to my short true-crime horror story, Gumdrop City. Obviously, I won't be allowed to judge my own film.

Kelly Hughes, local horror indie director and all around friendly raconteur may also have something in this festival which he started and runs. His new music video with Italian band Postvorta's song, "We're Nothing" is something to experience and has been making the rounds at festivals this year. Kelly also has a new documentary "Hush, Hush, Nellie Oleson!"

From a write up on Kelly's documentary: "After shooting a low-budget horror film, director Kelly Hughes gets a chance to work with his childhood idol Alison Arngrim, the actress who played the scheming Nellie Oleson on TV's Little House on the Prairie. But fitting Arngrim into the finished product becomes an exercise in futility as Hughes shoots increasingly absurd (and gory) scenes with Arngrim that don't have much to do with the original plot. Featuring extensive interviews with the cast and vivid film clips, Hush...Hush, Nellie Oleson! is a love letter to low-budget filmmakers and the former child stars who enable them."

There you have it. Judging is not the easiest thing in the world to do. You have to sit and evaluate, judge and select a lot of films and some are way too long, while others are way too short. It's a rewarding experience to do especially if you are submitting your own works.

Some judges admittedly don't have a clue what they are doing while others are far too critical. It is that just right spot you have to attain and maintain through the course of a season's judging one has to try to find. Which is why you never submit to only one festival and why you select your festivals with care, choosing those most reasonable for your project and what you're trying to achieve.

That being said if you are a filmmaker and you have finished a project, submit! And congratulations because it is a labor of love and effort unlike anything I've experienced elsewhere in my life.

One more thing to filmmakers, believe in yourself and believe in your project. Here is a video that exemplifies what I'm talking about from Filmmaking Stuff.

Now. Got out and be brilliant. Show us! We WANT you to succeed!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Legal Assassinations?

I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't legalize Presidential assassinations. IF we EVER have a president for longer than two four year terms and thus the agent of American realignment reaping a medal as well as financial rewards. I would suggest a military coup, but that never seems to go well and is unquestionably illegal.

Let me just mention we don't assassinate leaders of foreign counties. Though with some like JFK apparently, we do domestically. Allegedly. Regarding foreign leaders, the thought is that if we do it to them, they'd do it to us, so...stalemate. It's hard enough as it is for the Secret Service to protect the standing POTUS from not anymore our own domestic nuts, but actually decent people wishing to have a decent president once (or ever) again.

I do not believe in capital punishment, murder by State or otherwise, typically Although I will agree that there are some who have no useful potential for humanity and should be put down like a dog and with prejudice.

No, I'm not talking about the charlatan and criminal "First Citizen" Donald Trump, but rather some serial killers. And there's really only a few like that. There are allegedly around 300 serial murderers active in America at any one time. Even Charles Mason does not qualify in my book. He's just a nutcase.

You really have no idea what's out there. Yet, Trump is giving us an insight into one foe we never knew about and now wish we still didn't, but ...we need to.

IF Trump lasts longer than a single term, which he shouldn't, but if he lasts longer than two terms as POTUS, which again he shouldn't, however IF enough of America still delusionally and ignorantly, and stupidly somehow allows someone like Trump more than the legal maximum of two presidential terms, merely in order to keep us from being the banana republican Trump so dearly wants us to be and desires for us in order to allow him dictator (or king) status along with his childish dictatorial pleasures of near Godhood, he will then have to be removed from office, literally... by any means possible.

Hopefully, this will not become an issue. But IF we did that, we'd definitely need to act. China just made their own president "king" for life. Which I'm told he can still be removed if he acts up. But doing such a thing, elevating a personality cult in such a way, is ludicrous at the head of any nation.

Look, personality cults, and nationalism are to be avoided at all costs.

Now I'm NOT calling for this now. I'm facing and responding to a potential dire reality in our near future. One that needs to be addressed so we avoid this necessity hopefully by Congressional decrees and legally passed laws.

Simply retiring someone like Trump, someone with that kind of money, Klout, power, will not be enough. Like the Mafia boss who rules from within his lifetime prison sentence, better for America and this planet if he is eliminated.

Potentially I suppose, Trump could go to a CIA black site. Forever. It's really what he deserves.

Look at our prime and best example in all this. Vladimir Putin. How's getting rid of him working out for Russia? He keeps coming back like a bad case of National (international) herpes!

Could you IMAGINE nineteen years of a Donald Trump? Those poor people in Russia? And Putin is far more functional than Trump. But also a far more functional criminal and essentially, murderer.

We do not WANT that in America (though you could argue Trump is our version). It is anathema to our existence, to our foundation, to the desires of the Founding Fathers' intentions in making America. Our "Great Experiment" is being seriously tested and I hope NOT, failing.

Anyway, assassination in that contest is not criminal under those circumstances. It's more like State sanctioned murder which we have now and politely call it, capital punishment. We also have State sanctioned murder in war, we just don't call it that because it makes people feel bad, citizens won't support murder much, and it makes the soldiers in the field feel bad.

Even though they frequently know quite well they are murderers and come home with PTS from it. Aside from all the other reasonable reasons they end up with that perfectly natural and normal response to trauma. Unless it gets pushed over the type and does become a permanent disorder.

Anyway, THAT would be patriotic. Not nationalistic. And would need to be passed... legally, by Congressional demand. More than eight years of the holding presidential office? It goes instantly to the SEALs perhaps, to end that reign. Or I suppose Russian would be perfectly happy to poison the guy with polonium. They, Putin, do love their radioactive poisons.

But, this is not a Constitutional crisis. We have a Constitution for that purpose. This is a moral crisis where Trump supporters simply cannot see past their hand on a ballot and so, they will be the death of us. If we are not prudent and productive for the welfare of all. Including them.

Now, let's see how long this lasts online.

This is an idea we could franchise.

To Russia with good old boy and faux Republican himself, Vlady Putin.

And maybe elsewhere. Assad comes to mind. Some guy in Saudi Arabia comes to mind. I'm sure we won't run out of candidates.

Citizens finally freeing themselves from some real rat bastards!

Or, we can just get back to facing reality, believing in things like science and facts, put away our childish things like religions and bigotry and racism and abusing others for our own satiation, and act like modern adult Americans.

It's all really up to you. All of you. All of US.

Monday, May 13, 2019

National Confusion

There is a lot in our nation we have confusion over. People are frequently arguing on the same side of an issue. Ignorance, improper education, confused politics, lying politicians, special interests, Russian and other intrusions...it goes on and on. People grab their ideology and hang on for dear life.

Better to hang onto truth and reality, adjusting your ideology as you go. Except that is not what religion teaches. Especially those, especially on the right, who choose to make their religious beliefs, so unreasonably a part of all of our national politics. They teach absolutes and the "untouchable" power of a "God's Word" and all that. Cutting one off from critical thinking.

Then, we hear how education is bad for theology. Good grief.


ANYONE who tells you knowledge is bad, that to learn is bad, to seek clarity and understand history, to find assimilation acclimation is anything but a good thing, is misleading you. If your "God" or religious leaders are telling you things like that...biblically speaking? End them. Or at least, be done with them. I have also discovered that in general, any belief system that claims to have ALL the answers, has logically in some way got to be defective, divisive and disingenuous.

In a word, it is a Lie. Not the Truth, as they claim.

Or perhaps even better in these modern times, simply get another religious leader. Or better still, quit religion altogether and join a more enlightened humanity.

The trouble with that is that some in that group of "enlightened" humanity, not only dumps religion but then believes nothing needs to be adhered to. Not all. That is the argument by religion against leaving religion.

"The atheist has no grounding and so can turn to the vilest of human pursuits." Nonsense. Fearmongering by the theistic. Never follow those who use fear as a precursor to adherence to their beliefs. We see this now in the current GOP, in Donald Trump their leader. FEAR! Fear, fear! Please, that only works on the immature. The ignorant. And so we hear Trump claim, "I love the uneducated!" Of course, he does. It makes his Grand Con even easier.

Alas, those who dump religion do still have a responsibility to themselves as well as to humanity. But cutting ties with restrictive religions (and the more restrictive the more this tends to happen)...people do tend to find they just want to have fun!


Here's the thing (not about religion, but my actual topic)...

Anyone who is asking for a socialist America is poorly educated in history. Anyone who thinks most people talking about socialism in a democracy are talking about socialism, are also poorly informed. If not poorly educated, then they are being disingenuous to trick people into continuing to follow their ill-advised way of thinking.

You are an American citizen by right if born here, or if naturalized. That means there is some responsibility of the Government to help you make it from birth to death. Unless you're Republican, then you THINK it means, well... I don't think they even know sometimes.

Let's take the current vast morass of nonsense about healthcare.

It really annoys me to see a healthcare plan that has listed a lifetime limit. Or, that's fine, IF the government then picks up the tab if you go over that limit. What is the alternative? Death? Nice.

Come on! I mean... Really?

Those who have plenty of money seem to love this limiting idea. Love pre-existing conditions disqualifying people. And that's fine, as long as someone/something is there to bridge that gap for citizens between pre-existing condition and death.

Look. It is our right to be a citizen. But there are responsibilities.

Republicans and the wealthy seem to miss that concept entirely. They believe the money they make is all theirs. Screw everyone else. That you should be able to make as much money as you can, regardless. But in a closed economic system on this planet, that is a destructive methodology.

And yet it's funny how, if they lose all their money, if they find themselves in that situation needing help, suddenly they change their tune. Government handouts THEN are just fine with them.


Hypocrites? Or just stupid? I'd say, Republican, uncompassionate, and ignorant. Not stupid, just hoping everyone else is stupid and has a short memory. Which time and again they are and do have.

A citizen pays their taxes, as they can and are required to do, by how much they make.

When they exceed that amount in something like healthcare, who then pays? The government should. Obviously. It's what government is there for. To protect and serve the people. Not to protect the wealthy and serve up the poor as a method of enhancing their wealth and ideals. This is a group thing. not a special, elitist group and screw the rest of the majority.

You're thinking about how communism has worked, pal. And Soviet-style socialism.

That is not the case, however. Instead, we allow people to go into debt, bankrupting them perhaps in some cases for the rest of their lives. We're even doing that to college students now in their government educational loans. Ruining their lives and their family's life. Possibly even killing them due to the stress. All when it can be avoided, by not giving those who have, all they can acquire.

Capitalism, need limits and controls. The free market system has failed time and gain. Because one COULD argue, it's impossible to allow it to work because immediately people in power and wealth skew it to their advantage. Because they can! Deregulation strangles the economy, the citizens, and the environment. In a kind of feedback loop. It's a type of pyramid scheme where those on top survive while all below them die off.

Rich people pay their taxes as required, and then have massive amounts of money they don't need to live. When you make so much money you can live in luxury and have so much money left over, some of that money needs to go into the public coffers.

There needs to be a limit to topping out just as there should be a limit to bottoming out.

Oh God, how conservatives and Republicans hate that idea.

But it is fair. Because you see, we live in a country. We all pay to be citizens. Or should be. The poor cannot pay as much as the wealthy, so they pay according to their designated schedule what they can so they can also still live and not be a burden on society. The masses make up in toto what the individual cannot. While the wealthy do not makeup in the individual or their small mass. Because they can get away with it because they control and make the rules. Because, they can.

Wealthy people pay their scheduled amount, but can be taxed at a higher rate because it really does not affect their baseline. Surely we shouldn't take all their money. They deserve luxury because of their position, But it's not like all those people have earned that position.

The mistaken belief that the wealthy deserve because they have achieved is a fantasy.

And the mistaken belief that the rest of us do not deserve anything because we haven't achieved is simply a fantasy in the other direction.

We are in the end, all in this together. We just all need never to forget that. And to stop this national confusion merely for the sake of making all the money it is possible to make and see where it is not only ludicrous to make more, but criminal and immoral.

Want to make America great? Do your part. And stop taking that part of what is really all the others'.

Dear hurting America...
To put this another way...America is waiting. America is hurting. America is bleeding.

America is in a state of Post Traumatic Shock.
Until we heal that, we're stuck with us.
Our childhood was traumatic,
Then the two world wars damaged us and the cold war insidiously damaged us low key and long term.
We rounded up Japenese and put them in internment, or concentration camps. We concentrated a single ace on race alone and locked them up. Americans were locked up.
We did that. And we never really heald from it. Prof is today in how we are treated asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.
The Korean war damaged us.
The Vietnam war damaged us.
Before we had a chance to heal 9/11.
Then more wars. And finally our longest ever.
We have PTS. it's not a disorder because it's a natural reaction to trauma.
It's worse when we did it to ourselves.
Once we heal from this, perhaps we will begin to act like mature adult human beings. Other older countries are and have.
We just seem to be getting worse.
Because we keep doing it to ourselves.
We have broken capitalism.
We have people seeing the opposite of reality can calling it good.
We have drug companies breaking the law, ripping us off in a healthcare system that is breaking us and yet we call it good.
How can it be different?
We have PTS.
We are broken.
We have private prisons and a broken prison system we DEMAND cannot be fixed. DAMN don't talk about, it is, like our laws, ad destructive as we can get away with and it's the only way it can be.
We have PTS.
We are broken.
When prisoners and victims have been brought together, at the victim's request, the alien, the animal, the demon, the monster is revealed and... it is just another person, themselves perhaps once damaged, perhaps now broken and sorrowful. Not just for getting caught, not just for being imprisoned, but truly sorry for perhaps a single moment, stopping being human and simply becoming a machine.
And let to regret it then forever.Why are there so many people in prison who could be more appropriately dealt with differently, productively and humanely?
We have PTS.
We are broken.
We can be proactive, but profit comes first.
We are broken.
We are broken.
We are broken.
And, we don't have to be. But it's up to us.
not those who do not wish no longer to be broken.
But we have put many of them in our highest offices in this country.
They are broken.
We no longer have to be.
There ARE better ways.
We ARE beginning to see that now.
We can get better.
There's just a lot of people who don't want that to happen.
It's up to us.

Monday, May 6, 2019

No Budget PreProduction on Indie Horror Short - Gumdrop Sampson

Hi. Ever made a movie? Not a home movie, but one you want others to see, others you don't know and will never meet? Putting yourself out there for comment. Making a statement. Sharing what you are thinking and showing how you think? Want to make a movie? Then stop listening to others who say you can't and just DO IT!

If you want to or are going to do it, this might be interesting. If you've done it, then this might just be sad, or hilarious. I know something about movies. Studied it some in college. I'm no practiced expert, but I've figured out a few things and I'm learning as I go. That's part of the fun of it.

I was with friend and local indie director Kelly Hughes when were at the Port Orchard Film Festival yesterday, to support the festival and see his music video collaboration "We're Nothing", entered in the Experimental Block of films, as I write this. From his website:

NEW COLLABORATION! To promote my docu-series Acting Up, I made a music video set to Postvorto's song We're Nothing. Postvorto is a post-metal band from Italy, and they have an intense sound that inspires me. The music video includes new footage I shot in Gorst and Sunnyslope, WA. One of the band's guitarists, Andrea Fioravanti, is also composing new music for me. I've heard several of his tracks already, and they are pretty amazing.

Kelly asked who he should introduce when we got (today) to Crypticon in SeaTac. We're spending the night, hitting panels on film production and Kelly's music video is also playing there. I'm obviously an author, blogger, aspiring screenwriter and now functionally, a filmmaker. I suggested that.

Kelly smiled and said, "Well, wannabe filmmaker."  I thought about that for a moment, a bit bummed out. But maybe he's right. Though, I would alter that slightly and say, "aspiring filmmaker". I have perhaps a few more projects to go, and maybe a feature-length film to go, in order to consider myself a full-fledged filmmaker.

To be sure I have earned the title filmmaker in having produced and documentary and a short. That's only fair to me. But, to be fair to more established filmmakers, I really should wait on that until I have a few more projects under my belt. Let's not jump the gun. Yes, you CAN call yourself a "filmmaker" after one project regardless the length. Or quality? Just Do it! But, strive to be more and really and proudly call yourself a filmmaker, once you have truly and fully earned. it.

I may add to this in the future as things progress if I find anything I left out. But following is the history and mindset I've had in building this project to production and preparing to shoot on set.

But that's not why you make films. As in being a writer, you produce because you have a need to produce. Because you enjoy it. You have a story to get out. Or you have a need to tell stories. Filmmaking, however, is not for the faint of heart. And then you put it out for others to see and you have to steel yourself for someone sooner or later shredding your work and your ego.

So do your best.

I started this by considering my next project, obviously. In 1993 I produced a documentary for public access cable TV at Viacom in Seattle. A studio up on Roosevelt Way Northeast. It was a comedy of errors like you wouldn't believe. I had moved out of Seattle and hard to return to work on the project, finished it, it "aired" twice in the PNW and that ended my work in production.

Until 2016. I got new equipment, I started writing. I came up with a viable project as a test after all these years and working with new equipment and produced "The Rapping". I have also been working with local indie horror director Kelly Hughes for a few years now.

Because I wanted to get on set and get a better understanding of what happens to my writings once it hits production. It's been fun, anxiety invoking (like when the police showed up wondering why a woman was screaming things like "Let me go!" "Why are you doing this to me!" That was actress Jennifer True. The cops couldn't have been nicer and said now that they knew we were shooting they'd be aware for the rest of the day.

art by Marvin Hayes
So, in choosing my next project I considered my original and recent reason for shooting films. To take some of my own published writings and turn them into live action. I decided the one with least special f/x could be Gumdrop City. I wrote about this before. Originally written in 1983, it was first published in an anthology in 2010. Then I put it in my own Anthology of Evil in 2012. And I wrote about this new film project in April.

But this is about the production now that it's been selected.

Preproduction.

I came up with the idea to not produce the story itself, but to do a prequel. How did this all begin? The story itself is based on a true crime story I heard about in college toward my psychology degree in a class on abnormal psychology. It affected the class so strongly I felt in walking out of that class I had to write about it. I'd never even known such things existed back then.

But to do the story itself would require some difficult scenes I didn't want to get into, I didn't even want to get into in the short story. Special effects I didn't want to do on a first full narrative film project with my limited money and resources. So I settled on a prequel. An origin story of sorts. I just let my imagination go after re-reading the original story.

And a vision emerged. I decided to go a bit more bizarre. What if this was bigger than the short story. What if this guy wasn't such a degenerate as he is in the short story? What if, he lived the prequel storyline and then severely degenerated between that and the short story? That freed me up in many ways. Creatively. Financially. Resources. And it made it more fun.

So I wrote some notes out, then wrote my first draft. Over the next couple of weeks, I worked on other things and kept going back, adding ideas, fleshing it out, honing it to imperfective perfection.

I started to think about who should act in it. I had wanted to do something with my voice actor who has read a couple of my stories as audiobooks, Tom Remick. Nicest guy ever, playing the part of a sick demented murderer. Sure, why not.

I started to consider other actors I know. Tom said his son might be interested, and his two young boys. Excellent. I needed around ten actors. Three are voiceovers and never seen. I know actors from my friend and director Kelly Hughes' stable of actors (he and I will be at Crypticon Seattle in SeaTac this weekend, by the way). I've acted with some of them, done f/x around them, pyrotechnics, etc. As it turned out I'll only need a few of them. I now have the production cast.

I continued honing the screenplay. I started picking up props. I started researching the f/x I will need and some of the food props. That all in itself was an experience and an education. Any idea how expensive a lot of gumdrops can be? Single color? Red? Maybe easier to make your own.

Marvin Hayes who did most of my ebook covers and my print book covers had some f/x suggestions. That was handy.

A production is a collaborative effort. In a low budget indie, or no budget indie, it can have much more of a family/community feel to it. People volunteer their skills or efforts out of a love, not payment, for what they want to do. Some who never dreamed of doing it find they're doing it and living a kind of dream. But they still have to be able to pull off whatever it is they are offering. They still have to show up on time and pull their schedule off or they're replaced.

Some directors can get gold out of even problematic actors. Kelly is like that. I've been told I'm quite good too at directing by actors. We'll see soon enough. I'm used to working with professionals in other careers. I'd expect no less in this one. Demand quality and it shows on screen. Let the production take over your production, or your actors or crew, and you lose the production. Set up an environment for productivity and creativity and keep things moving forward, and you'll all feel the joy of creating something special.

Rule #1 in a production... Preparation: a solid screenplay, actors, camera work, f/x, and sound makes life so much easier and sets you up for a much better end product. Especially pay attention to sound. Because it can so easily ruin a good project.

Rule #2 in a production...Finish the production. David Lynch took five years to finish Eraserhead. But he finished it.

OK. So, I hit the point where the screenplay was finished enough to send to the actors. A screenplay is finished when the film is shown. It's perpetually in a penultimate state as things change on the set when shooting.

At the same time, I was working out practicals. Number one, gumdrops. Purchasing them was too expensive and finding only red ones even more problematic. So I decided making my own was the cheapest. AND, it gave me a new scene where Sampson, the lead character, makes his own. That gave me more opportunity to add in some more creepy factor.

That meant I had to research the recipes. That led to ingredients. One was problematic and expensive. More research until I found one source that was best and purchased it online. It's here now and more than we will need.

I had an idea for an opening camera shot involving my Syrp Genie and equipment. I continued honing that complex shot in the screenplay. I finally got around to digging out the equipment.

Syrp Genie configuration for this opening/closing shot
By the way, I charge all my equipment batteries the first of every month on all my equipment, something an assistant would be assigned to do if I had a bigger crew...or a crew. I set up the configuration I would need and began to plot out the setup and execution of the shot. Which, as it turned out, wasn't practical.

So I had to work around that. Splitting up the programming (there is a cell phone app where you program the equipment) into two programmed shots. The Syrp equipment simply won't do the shot I wanted.

The plan was to start high and happy and shoot downward slightly, tracking to the right and lower to and sad, at the other end of the track. Uncovering and exposing the other side of a face. Then I could take that shot and split it up, using the first half in the opening and the second half at the end. It was a moving example of "the Comedy and Tragedy Masks" or just "the theater masks".


Preproduction is so important in so many ways. Having a good screenplay. Rehearsing at least some. You want the actors to understand what you want of them which relaxes them some. Trying out camera shots ahead of time. Testing f/x and recipes for things like blood. Lighting issues and setups. Locations and test shots. Etc.

I've learned not to send my screenplay out to too many or ask for too many comments on it (same with dailies or rushes if you have them) as a lot of times it simply muddies your thinking. If you find someone who really does understand how you think and can productively critique and add to the project, they are simply gold.

I'm deep into preproduction now.

At some point, you need to write up a list of shots, or a shooting script. Some don't do it at all, some get very technical about it. Find your bliss, what works best, what turns out the best product for you and go with it. Always considering to enhance or alter as you find what works better, or you are eventually able to evolve into. The mission, the project, the product, the film is what takes precedence, not you. Kick your ego to the curb and produce quality at all costs.

You also need a schedule for the production and consideration for what needs to be on set before anyone arrives. You can send a screenplay to a company and they will produce for you a shooting screenplay, or cost estimates or all kinds of things.

Or you can do it yourself (preferable). it can be as intricate or simple as you like. All that matters is that it is good enough to make your life easier and the project more productive and aid in enhancing the quality of the end product.

What day, what actors, when do the actors /crew need to be where. If you have any crew and I suggest you have some. I hear, certainly, on a larger crew/production, an AD is so important, an assistant director to take on your more mundane or difficult tasks freeing you up for the real directing on set issues.

What do you need for all of them? Food and drink, to be sure, always keep your actors happy and fed and happy to return. Costumes? Practicals? Props?

The list of who is shot when and in what scene. You may have an actor in scenes all through the production, but do they need to be there in chronological order or can their scenes all be shot on the same day and edited into place later?

Taking the screenplay from its format and order and timeline into when is most economical in many/all ways is imperative. Logistics are important and getting them right in preproduction is a life saver.

I have children in this project. So getting them in as early as possible, their scenes shot all in one day makes my life, and theirs, and their parents lives, easier.

Paperwork. Do you need shooting permits from the city, county, area? Or are you guerilla shooting, shot and run shots? Actor waivers/agreements. I know many don't bother with them on no budget films but it's so easy to do, I think it's worth it.

That alone makes the actors feel more respectable, more professional, more respected and sets a tone overall for the project. Not to mention it gives you and them, the reasonable protections you want later on if something unforeseen does come up.

Now with all these things under consideration, preproduction is a matter of going over them until you hit your desired level of perfection and costs. Which is where I am now.

Last Friday Tom and Amy came over and we did a run through on Amy's scene and it was so enlightening. Table reads, rehearsals, save so much time and can really add so much to tweaking the screenplay. Iron your issues out before you begin principle shooting.

Next up? Production?

Actually, just a lot more preproduction. I'll let you know how it turns out.

CheersSláinte!