Monday, March 30, 2020

We Need to be Smarter in America

First of, let me say I hope everyone is doing well during this global pandemic. Leadership in something like this, something somewhat unprecedented for this generation, is always going to be difficult.

Some do better than others, some countires having a tough time of it than others. But being smart about it, learning, going to your best minds and information, will ALWAYS win out over the opposite end of the spectrum.

All the best to all of you and everyone, everywhere! Moving on...

First up, this just, after this blog went live, I did a Kelly Hughes podcast. Now also on Apple. It ended up being about the production of my new film, "Gumdrop", a short horror. He has others that are all actually pretty interesting. He has two, a podcast on cult figures and indie filmmaking. Our last podcast together was a fun with about one of our favorite actors, Steve Buscemi.

So, if you're looking for something different and especially if you're into indie filmmaking...well, there you go!

Also, if you're into ebooks, all my ebooks on Smashwords are free for the next couple of weeks in their sale, asked for by the authors because of the coronavirus situation. Many good authors on there besides myself are offering their books at a discount, or free.

Moving along now...

I graduated from Western Washington University in 1984 with my second degree, one in Psychology in the Awareness and Reasoning Division of that department. Realizing I could have gotten yet another degree, I went instead with just getting a minor in creative writing. That ended up going into fiction writing, screenplays and team scriptwriting (an amazing series of classes I was chosen for along with seven incredible other theatre department students, from our Playwriting 101 class).

Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA
I learned there that what I had been doing all my life and in college was pursuing life as an "intellectual". ALL that really means is that my focus in life was to exercise my mind in the most effective and efficient ways possible and seeking the best available information, updating it always.

Please bear with me, because this is not going to end up where you may think it is, from where it is starting. I'm trying to lay down a very important point. And you may find something useful unrelated to the primary reason for this blog today.

Once I found the label for what I was, I owned it. I was proud of it. And rightly so. As anyone like that should. Do you see football players going around hiding their chosen orientation or professional in life? No. Typically they are praised for it. Not always the same for those in the Arts or intellectual fields.

I've come to learn there isn't a lot of awareness and reasoning in America. Our current president Donald Trump is a case in point. But this is not a new thing. I was surprised while at my university, to discover just how much that was true in those outside of higher education. Also, just how many viewed an educated mind with suspicion. I was at times, stunned by it.

I knew that was true of my family as my parents, who weren't highly educated. I was the first to get a college degree. My mother had a sharp mind, but it was unfocused and to be sure she had some emotional issues.

Although a few after I graduated had great respect for someone with a higher education, I was very surprised at how many people (or any, as I saw it) outside that protected life at university, looked down on those who had a higher education and could think to an exceptional degree and depth.

And I literally have a degree in that.

After decades of considering all that, I began to say that "Ignorance, is noble."

We are all ignorant of something. Stupidity however has no nobility in itt. "Selective ignorance", as I understand stupidity, is not noble and should be seen as anathema. That seems to be a central tenet however of some political parties. Of the conservative GOP for one, or at least some of their more easily swayed, and apparently ignorant, believers. I tend to lean as many do, to a more enlightened party. Inclusive. Aware of exigencies in life, repercussions, and the future. These things do not seem to be of great consideration with Republicans. Here, now, profit does.

If you take offense to that, I suppose you may be one. That's fine. We're all people. Here, we're all Americans and that earns you something. By birth, or choice. I don't have anything against Republicans anymore than I'm not really a Democrat. I'm for the best idea, the best action, being better. I just don't see that much with Republicans. They can't seem to see the forest for the trees too often.

Look. I'm not offended by being called, ignorant. IF I am actually ignorant about something. I would then review to find if either they are the ignorant one and merely lashing out at me, ignorantly and immaturely (which I see a lot of anymore). Or I have to change my condition, my orientation, my view on whatever the topic at hand, is.

I don't have a problem when I met someone smarter than me, more educated. I actually find it kind of an honor to be allowed around them. Unless they are jerks about it, or just jerks period. Either way, I gleam from them whatever I can. And if they are decent people I offer them whatever I have to offer. I try to understand or learn the way they think. Is it better than mine? Cool! Awesome! Do they know things I don't? Even better.

Sometimes they already know most of what I know. Or they are so much smarter than me I can't really learn that much from them. It's another level beyond me. And that is also awesome. Because I met that person. Any action you have like that, betters you. But it's you doing the bettering.

I have some sayings I like. Even a village idiot has his story. Meaning you can learn from anyone. You can learn sitting in front of a blank wall. You can learn talking to your self. Try carrying on a debate or conversation with your self. Play both parts. I first tried that in junior high and was shocked to learn, I learned something.

Life is amazing, if you let it be. Be positive. Try to be around people better than you think you are. Don't let it increase your lack of self-esteem. Allow it to build it to reasonable and accurate levels. We have resources surrounding us daily. Most people don't' see or use most of them.

Can I think like a genius? Maybe not but then, good for them and I wish I could do what they can do. I sure as hell don't hold it against them, or feel bad because of them. It's a gift to meet a Van Gogh, an Einstein, an Aristotle, a Michio Kaku. But you don't have to meet a genius to be impressed or feel you've elevated yourself. It could be anyone, even people you know now.

I have repeatedly felt awed by my children, even when they were four years old. I learned from them. All it takes to self educate yourself is to start doing it. Pay attention, think of the connections, the relative issues and things involved with whatever you are thinking about. Stretch yourself. Expand your mind.

That's what that means. It's what being "Enlightened" is. When you eat an apple, you "see" the seeds inside, the store or tree you got it from. The box it was transported to the store in or perhaps the tree it came off half way around the planet.The people who picked it, the ground it grew in, the sun above it, that is the same sun now above you. And so on.

You don't have to see everything, you just have to try to. And when you hit a wall, find the next connection, the next associated route or pathway or thing, Strive, enhance, build, rebuild, add, synthesize, repeat. Alter. Combine. Invent.

When you are around a muscle builder, or a professional athlete, you may be able to learn knowledge from them, but you cannot gain their body and form through osmosis. The wondering things about thinking, how one things, methods or even tricks to increase brain horsepower...ANYONE can gain that through osmosis. That's how learning works. ,

Yet oddly enough, many people take a negative orientation to smarter people, the more educated.My grandmother had a lot to do with how I am today. She was self educated. Read the dictionary. Always said to try to be around people smarter than you, professionals.And I have, and I've been around a lot of them.

I would learn to end my ignorance. It's NOT that hard to do. Though apparently it is for some, for too many. For too many today, in this era of instant communication and a vast wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. It's a truly curious phenomenon. Apparently, on a daily basis we survey much, but only to a shallow degree.

I've discussed all this before. I used to say and to be proud of it, that I was an intellectual. I still ama and always will be, it's merely a definition I fit. Just as I am caucasian. Something I used to adamantly disagree with. "White"? Sure. Caucasian? No. My father was Irish, as were his parents, my grandparents, and so I am. I lean more to the Irish side of my heritage going back to my first months in high school

My mother was Czechoslovakian, as were her parents, and so I am. But :"Caucasian: means, from the Caucus Mountains, which are in eastern Europe. So one day I looked it up and to my surprise, yes indeed, I am Caucasian. The map dictated my reality. So I changed my long time orientation.And that is what an intellectual would do. So if you've done such a thing, you too many be an intellectual. However you have to live in that way, make that you life. Update.

What I see in the world around me today are people who retain their beliefs over and against realty. They would see the map and say, "I don't care, I'm not Caucasian!" They would rationalize around it so they could believe whatever it is they wish to believe.

That seems apparent and rampant in the Republican party of Donald Trump today. Trump isn't presidential material and they believe he is. Many were climate change deniers, then climate change by human means deniers. See how that progresses and rationalized as they find necessary?

Friends finally warned me years ago to stop saying I was an "intellectual". I rally was surprised by it. I was proud of it. I had worked really, really hard in college at it. I had earned the title, not even considering I had simply led me life like that since childhood. How would you like to be a football player with all the bangs and bruises and workouts and games only to be told you are being looked down on for it. It's a shock to the system. Violence is rewarded. Intellectuality, like sexuality in many cases, is not.

It's why historically we have seen so much violence in films but not sex to the same degree. And why there are more war films than films about intellectuals and artists.

That the basis of my entire life was taken wrong...I was shocked, frankly. I thought everyone should be an intellectual, at least to some degree. Doesn't that just make sense? But that was not the case and some are proud of being just the opposite.

So I stopped using that world. I saw it as merely saying, I'm into sports, or into movies and so I was cinephile. What's the big deal? Yet, some, too many, were offended by it? Weird. Right?

Look at it as a bodybuilder who exercises their body with all the same oriented at their physical form and health. It's no different, only for the mind. I wasn't elitist about it, I wasn't being superior, or lording over others with it. It was just my orientation and seemed to be the best way for me to exist.

But then, people do look down on bodybuilders, I guess and some on sports types, there there are a lot of sports types in this country. Following sports teams. Betting on games. Fantasy Football leagues. But I came to realize that in just exercising one's mind among others, they took it as lording over them. In sharing knowledge, it was seen as being superior, even when going to great lengths to avoid that.

I was very proud of what I had learned. NOT that I WAS learned. But that I had had, had taken, the opportunity to learn and achieve the level I had. And it took me four years in the USAF to get college paid for so I could get a four year degree in eight years, essentially. It was hard, and long work. To be sure the military work was physically demanding for me in my career field. I earned my position in life! As much as or more so than many.

I had believed it was a human being's highest goal, to be as smart and educated as possible. So pushing the limits with the most accurate, cutting edge info/knowledge made even more sense. Right? To achieve, Wisdom. Intellect combined with experience and knowledge. I worked hard at that, and for that.

Late nights at the library, studying not partying, talking to my professors after classes. Even getting to know them outside of school. Finally being told by my department advisor, my main professor that I was in the top 10% of the top 10% of all psychology students nationwide.

Something to be proud of, right/ Although, I found I had to hide that, keep it to myself. I honestly cannot remember if he said 2% or 10%. It feels like he said 2 but it seems like he might have said 10. So, best to err on the side of discretion and not eqo. Now, consider by comparison, if I were Donald Trump. Then I would have said the top 1%.. Or more accurately, "the number one student!" And then gone on more about it.

Then after I gradated, it did me little good in finding a job. Though eventually it paid off rather well.

After receiving my university degree, I discovered in public there was a trend against education. Maybe it had always been there, but I was now acutely aware of it. I heard terms, I now realize from conservatives, people I was not aware of yet back then, who "joked" about things that don't exist. Like how college graduates are "college stupid". An obvious contradiction in terms and oxymoron.

Here now, today,decades later, we hear things spoken aloud, like, "Fake News". A natural extension of all that animosity toward knowledge. And ever more so, those who actually buy wholeheartedly into it, and believe it, with a degree of glee, some of them.

They now have a US president in Donald Trump, a failed TV reality star and businessman, a self proclaimed "King of debt" (a warning sign for one who wishes to be POTUS, President of the United States), who perpetuates that mindset. A man who relies on it, who avoids responsibilities and honesty through it, in order to free himself up to achieve even further power, while diluting our democracy all for the purposes of more wealth and autonomy to fo even further. This does not bode well for the future of the presidency in America.

There is even an entire news network in Fox News who are dedicated to it. Russia has also pushed it. They developed the covert paradigm of REAL fake news as disinformation. Using their word for it, dezinformatsiya. Which took the UK to teach American intelligence agencies about during WWII. We're new to it. But eventually it seeped into our right wing political party and they have now made it mainstream. Much to our, all of our, detriment.

Donald Trump supports it. As does the conservative right-wing. Their, "MSM", Fox News, their mainstream media, their Trump State TV, also supports it. Fox News has become the American version of Russian Pravda newspaper, or Sputnik or RT (Russian TV), all State branches of the Russian government, the Kremlin, all run remotely by Vladimir Putin.

In dealing with Russia over the years, their criminality has seeped into America. The Soviet Union was massively corrupt. Russia today is also. They have fake democracy. Putin is situating himself as President for life now. The Russian government, their intelligence services, the Russian mafia and crime syndicates, are all dynamically joined. But America remains ignorant of it all. Even while our intelligence agencies try to warn us. And our POTUS denies it, trusts Putin over our own intelligence people.

There is really no way to avoid it. Trump has had massive dealings with Russian in business, in enriching himself.

But his supporters are incapable of seeing it. The harden themselves against believing it.

It's amazing really. Truly amazing.

We have a subculture who have bought into this old Chinese belief during their "Cultural Revolution" that had set THEM back 50 years. They murdered their intellectuals, their scientists, their doctors.

The Chinese Comrades looked down on their educated because most of them were not. And because it served the purpose of their new Communist Party. When all it really serviced was those in power. The ignorant are far easier to manipulate. To control. To abuse.

And here we are today, in America. We elevate not the old, not the wise, but the young. We elevate not the intellectual but in many cases the very dumbest among us. Those who know how to pander, to divide, to separate and weaken for their own strength.

And so we see...Donald Trump as POTUS. Finally now, during a global pandemic everyone is beginning to see his weakness, his ignorance and how he has gathered his power. Trump's lies now, kill. And it is becoming quite clear to all.

To be sure, we need to be "America Strong".But strong should no longer also mean dumb. Or uneducated. Selectively ignorant. Stupid.

We now need no longer to be, "America the Stupid".

Because in the end? All our lives depend upon it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Rapping, My Short Horror Film Released

We just got notified, My first narrative, eight-minute short B/W horror film, "The Rapping", was not selected by its last film festival that it was submitted to.

We can now lay "The Rapping" rest. Sort of. If any film is ever truly laid to rest. And this one, actually lives on...

It was selected twice, in the, Once a Week Online Film Festival where you can now see its trailer, and selected and shown in, The Midnight Film Festival, in New York.

Brief parts of it have now been used as background in my current film -"Gumdrop", a short horror.

Thanks again to lead actor, Nikolas Hayes, for working on it with me, it was a good time and I learned a lot from it. 🙂 And it led to my current film.

So...on to..."Gumdrop", a short horror (trailer), and its run on the film festival circuit! 

March 31, 2020, is next up for it...if it is open or they are judging yet, or still. I already had one film festival cancel in Tennesse, Far Out Film Fest, due to the pandemic and their recent tornado. All the best to them and their state.

Since "The Rapping' is finished with the film festival circuit, I can now display it on my Youtube channel... in full. 

It's just a trifle and was only ever supposed to be one. It was only meant to prove I could complete a film, use the film equipment and editing software, and is basically a one-trick pony. 

But still, it is kind of fun. And we got a kick out of doing it. 

It is also very effective in, Gumdrop! I hope you get a kick out of it too. For what it's worth.

A brief aside and a shout out to another director:

Just for fun, after I Tweeted out about The Rapping today, I received a link to this video, "The Amulet of Fear" from the filmmaker, Andrea Ricca

I enjoyed it so much. In part for the first few minutes that freaked me out a little because it was like we both had the same script but shot it in our own different ways.

Only I used a guy. And the director Ricca has the same first name as my "Gumdrop", a short horror, music composer, Andrea Fioravanti! Both, Italian obviously.

Where Andrea had a woman actor reading a horror book by Stephen King, I had my lead read a book I wrote, Death of heaven. Hey, why not, right?

I thought it was a very enjoyable short film! Glad I got to see it!
Thanks, Andrea!

Moving on...

Wishing you all, all the best in this current global trial and effort to get back to normal.
Stay safe!
Stay healthy!
Keep yourselves busy and entertained. 

Cheers! Sláinte!

Monday, March 23, 2020

IS Fake News the Problem? Not Really.

It occurs to me, who cries all the time about the MSM and Fake News? It's from the right, right? I don't seem to have that problem, fewer progressives seem to have that problem.
What's up?

Education? Ted Cruz went to Harvard. but a college education doesn't make you smart or aware or educated. I've met those types. Also, you can pick up an agenda, filters, limited considerations, closed minds. Sounds pretty conservative oriented.

What got me thinking about this just was, just, thinking about it. Wondering, how can conservatives have such a tough time getting accurate news from the MSM? Why does so much to them seem fake?

Well, they've been told to think that way. They have a news network hammering them about it. A POTUS who hammers them about it. Their culture buys into it. And they seek it out and call it out.

Problem that occurred to me was this. When I used to study international Sate covert activities, espionage, and how that world works, they don't have such a difficult time of it.

Honestly, if I was able to research spies and their lies and find the truth, you can't watch MSM and garner reality from it? REALLY? Look, our intelligence community does this on a daily basis almost without thinking. JUST think about how they must view all this whining about fake news. Not to mention the hard-working journalists who acutely do a good job, work so very hard to do so and then you simply lump them into, Fake News? That's just....embarrassing.

Why do conservatives? Or progressives who do for that matter.

DON'T watch a single news source dummy! Main Stream Media are Fake in your opinion, so you only watch Fox News? What? WHO does that? No, not watch Fox News, but finds something distasteful so locks themselves in an intellectual closest and ignores the rest of reality! Sure you should check the MSM for validity. Yes, they are wrong at times. Yes, they may even tell lies. Fox News doesn't?

Please. But you take the time, make the effort to see if it's true, or if your people are wrong. THAT'S what an educated person does. But they don't just cry FAKE NEWS unless they have a marked agenda. And that's what we have here with an entire political party following it. The left rebels against it, the right is offended and the Russians join in and voila! Polarized society and a breaking down of America.

Great job guys!

It appears to me to be a limitation on their parts. I like Rachel Maddow. She will set you up with a history of an issue, then tell you the issue, and you can see what's up and the surrounding issues. Yes, she can go a tad liberal at times. But I can see that clearly when she does it and she usually makes it clear. If you're paying attention.

Times like that, I note it and move on. But she's not fake news. Now, much of Fox News is fake. But conservatives don't see them as fake news. Why? Well, their culture, their president, and their belief system (cognitive dissonance).

The problem is that people don't pay attention, don't take the time to think, don't survey news, NEVER listen to one source. ALWAYS vet your info, it's not even that hard. SEE/HEAR when your sources go off track.

In researching covert ops that aren't available to the public, many of them are. By getting disparate sources, you can even when one source lies, uncover the truth.

It's not THAT hard, but it takes getting used to it. TO be sure it's easier and cathartic to yell, Fake News, move on, listen to YOUR pundits, and claim... KNOWLEDGE!

Uh-huh. Right pal.

My point? FAKE NEWS isn't the issue. People who scream fake news are. The facts are there. You just have to be able to recognize them, without cognitive dissonance, without buying into lies, especially when they so well and pleasantly fit YOUR agenda. Or when your leaders or pundits are telling you what to believe.

TRUST BUT VERIFY. There is NO need to be paranoid. But you have to put some effort into your assimilation of the facts and know facts from opinions, and lies.

And? When you find YOUR team is lying most of the time?

Stop being a Republican. Stop having a conservative mind. Those are generally speaking, closed off forms of thought, by definition, and by design.. Add in religion, it's like fuel to the fire. Conservatism is a form of government to limit things, not expand. To retard, not grow. By it's nature it is about austerity and isolationism, not wealth (for all, stop being so limited) and openness.

“In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls, but to build bridges," Pope Francis.
It's far more conducive to acquiring wealth and power, also. But in good ways, by being inclusive, where the strength is. 

Pope Francis also said: "In every religion there is always an integralist group that does not want to move ahead and lives from bitter memories, past conflicts, and seeks even more war and sows fear." @americamag

Same goes for political parties. And the one most closely resembling what he refers to here is the Republican party with their confused evangelical Christians. 

Open your mind. Learn. Expend effort. Survey information and news. Never use ONE news source. Talk or listen to your opponents. Pay attention to your pundits and heroes and question when they go off track.

Perhaps the current forms of progressiveness aren't perfect either. But they are in part a reaction to conservatism, which has led the way in many cases in pushing agendas out of fear and a dislike for change, a love of status quos. Which, status quos, require change even to maintain. So much of that is counter intuitive, which is frustrating to the conservative mind.

Overall, we just have to pay attention. And if we can't. Well, then Republican party is waiting with open arms, and you can go on whining disingenuously about Fake News with all your new friends.

Fake News is not the problem. We are. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

FREE - All My Ebooks Now FREE on Smashwords!

For those picking up my ebooks to read, Thanks . Enjoy! Been getting emails that they are getting downloaded. All of my ebooks on there are now temporarily FREE until April 20th because of the pandemic. Check it out and then check out their other authors, maybe one of your favorites. Get them while you can! 

From Smashwords to customers:

For one month only, thousands of Smashwords authors and publishers will provide readers deep discounts on ebooks. Discount levels include 30%-off, 60%-off, and FREE.

This sale is a direct result of several Smashwords authors who suggested it. These indie authors want to support readers around the world who face unprecededed anxiety, economic hardship and social isolation as the world community fights to stem the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

More than ever, these ebooks from indie authors and publishers offer readers unlimited hours of low-cost entertainment, distraction, comfort and knowledge during these trying times.

Smashwords is being hammered with downloads. Can't imagine why. But keep trying, they may be up and down with all the requests.

I was just wondering, as all my ebooks are free for a month, which is good (or bad, or bad good?) for pandemic reading?

So I surveyed my available titles. I have a complete other manuscript of new stories as yet unpublished which I've been wanting to get around to, but...not yet.


ANTHOLOGY OF EVIL - a collection of my older writings available in print on Amazon
In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear - Sci Fi / Horror
Gumdrop City - Horror / based on True Crime and my new film
Quantum History - Sci Fi / Humor at MIT
The London Mea Culpa Document - Lead into next story
The Mea Culpa Document - Medieval / Horror
Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer (To A Question He Knever Knew on the knight that the Knight lost all") - Medieval / Horror / Surreal - this comes later from another "Breaking on Cave Island"
Sarah - Horror / Surreal Alzheimer's on Twilight Zone
The Fall - short short Horror that led to an indie industry article written about my writings
Japheth, Ishvi and The Light - Horror / Zombies at a religious commune and ... God
Andrew - novella - Horror / Surreal / Sci Fi the story that led to the next book...

From author and reviewer Michael Brookes: "The book [DEATH OF HEAVEN] starts well and has a Clive Barker, 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."
DEATH OF HEAVEN - epic horror sci fi with standalone stories in it you will understand when you read it. A complex and some have reviewed, a beautifully written book that is hard to describe: Available in print on Amazon
The Conqueror Worm - two 12-year-old boys dig up treasure
Rosebud -beware imposing your mind on your gf
Thirst Divine - terrifying entities from above can be erotic
Harbinger -be good, terrifying entities are watching from above
"Sweet Jane" - be careful who you marry. I wrote this after watching Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians one night back in the 90s when they played on SNL and being inspired.
Marking Time - avoid ghosts in Afghanistan, even if you're special forces. Originally written about my own childhood in the Civil Air Patrol in search and rescue, ported over to adulthood.
Going Home - runaway gets in the wrong car, classic story.
Vaughan’s Theorem - a scary serial murderer story and rather long.
The Mea Culpa Document of London - medieval witch hunter

ALSO other shorts:
EarVu - horror in the lab
Mr. Pakool's Spice - father and 2 young kids in the zombie apocalypse in the back winter woods of Oregon. Originally published in an anthology with other authors.
Expedition of the Arcturus - sci fi on earth's first trans-generational spaceship, originally published in magazine in their second edition ever.. A great hard sci fi mag for free reading.
Xibalba Unleashed - serial murder in a Mayan cave and university campus
Simon’s Beautiful Thought - short sci fi romance I wrote about a guy and his phone's AI, before most or all of the more famous stories like that.

NON FICTION (I have a degree in psychology, thus...)
On Psychology: With Illustration in Psychopathology via Synesthesia and Schizophrenia

Psycho-neurologically Approaching a Field Theory Understanding of Schizophrenia via Research of a Non-normative, Non-pathological Syndrome: Synesthesia, and the need for more information Title Case Recommendation

SO...jump over to Smashwords and look around. Wishing you all the best through this difficult time. But there are options to lose yourself for a time in some great books!

#ebooks #shortstories #smashwords #horror #scifi #sf #novels #free #freebe #freeebook #bookstagram #freebook #ebookgratis #ebooklovers #islamicpost #ebookbestseller #ebookfree #freeebooks #ebookpdf #ebooks #freebie #giveaway #couponcommunity #freestuff

Monday, March 16, 2020

Horror Author/Filmmaker's Perspective: COVID-19 Pandemic

Skip this if this kind of thing freaks you out. It freaks me out. IF ya don't wanna know, don't read it! But for the curious, scientific or medical interested among us...What Does the Coronavirus Do to the Body? That's kind of the focus of the topic here, but...not really. By the way, I've been updating the best info I can find, debunking stuff as I come across it, on my Facebook page.

UPDATE 3/20/20: Smashwords just started a sale between 3/20-4/20. So I have made all my writings on there free because of the pandemic, as I know many are now stuck at home climbing the walls. Enjoy! Also, you can listen to the Kelly Hughes podcast I'm on about my new film, "Gumdrop", a short horror (trailer). It's still going around film festivals until late 2020, so it is not yet available to view.

And please, everyone have at least 2 weeks of backstock of food at home through this. It may seem crazy to some, normally. But you may have noticed...this ain't normal. Don't go nuts. But go...

As the title of this blog indicates, it's really about how as a horror writer and filmmaker of the macabre would personally handle this kind of a dire life situation. How does someone with an overactive imagination, who exercises it professionally, deal with being in the midst of a global pandemic? Especially in getting older and being in an older, more susceptible cohort.

Meaning, it could be even more fear evoking. Though I've never been much of one for being frightened at much of anything. That, however, is something that took me a great deal of effort and work when I was younger. More on that, later.

For now, something you should be aware of, soap. A comment from The Guardian about this pandemic and protecting oneself.

They also said this:

America faces an epic choice...
... in the coming year, and the results will define the country for a generation. These are perilous times. Over the last three years, much of what the Guardian holds dear has been threatened – democracy, civility, truth. This US administration is establishing new norms of behaviour. Anger and cruelty disfigure public discourse and lying is commonplace. Truth is being chased away. But with your help we can continue to put it center stage.
Rampant disinformation, partisan news sources and social media's tsunami of fake news is no basis on which to inform the American public in 2020. The need for a robust, independent press has never been greater...

And so, this is about how I think, how I got here, and how I handle things. I'm lucky. I put in a lot of effort when I was a kid and as a young adult, to learn discipline, to face my fears (and I had plenty to contend with) and, how to remain functional while experiencing sheer terror. Or worse, how to be a first responder and tuck away my fears to act to help others.

I actually found that easier. To ignore fear. Because when you dedicate your situation to helping others, to protecting others, you are using a kind of mask. You are hiding yourself from yourself behind a mask of action, need and necessity. Your fears don't matter, don't exist, because you are doing a job saving others' lives.

So, yours don't matter. Other than to stay functional long enough to complete your mission. Whatever it is. I realized decades ago that I could be functional in dire situations, and then only afterward, I'd feel the response, physically, mentally, emotionally.

On the market now with Producer Robert Mitas attached
This is the same for acting as a bodyguard. Whenever I performed that function, it was like looking through a lens. "You"... don't exist. Only your mission. Your purpose. Your person to protect. That's your universe. It's why war zone video journalists get killed so easily as they are focused through their lens in order to get their shot. They forget they are a person and need to protect themselves.

It's about their mission, the photo, the video and that's about informing others, elsewhere. Yeah, it's a paycheck to be sure. But that's not the motivation in the moment. It's doing the job and "you" don't exist and therefore, neither do your fears. It's freeing in a way. It's also what's so addictive about it and why some are compelled to go back time and time again. Sometimes, until it's too late.

Like being a soldier in a warzone. It's not so much courage as it is, at least in my mind, from my experiences, about your team, so that you are hiding your fears from yourself and remaining functional and active... because of others.

Courage to me is acting in the face of nothing being in it for me and still risking my life. Which is kind of what heroes get medals for, where normally courage doesn't really come into it. Not in the moment, only in hindsight. I guess courage or those medals, involve far exceeding that kind of "normal", in that situation.

Which is already far above the norm for most people. It's hard to explain in a short amount of space and time, like here and now. I think that is all in part why so many "Heroes" who get medals downplay their actions and involvement, as it's confusing to them. "The other guy is a hero", they'll say. Or, "The dead guy I couldn't save is...not me." Of course, that can also have to do with survivor's guilt. Something I'm glad I've never had to deal with myself.

Moving on...

As I said, I've always had an overactive imagination. As a kid, it drove my mom (and my family, to be sure...and my teachers) a bit nuts. Dreams and nightmares were either awesome or terrifying but I loved them both. I've been a writer, and now filmmaker of the macabre, since the early 1980s.

I read sci-fi as a young kid and then horror. I read Edgar Allen Poe back in the 1960s and watched all those genre movies. I've been a fan of horror all my life (as well as A/A films and sci-fi...big time, etc.). My mother loved vampire films long before I was born. We'd watch old late night horror flicks together on TV. So I learned it young and from a parent. 

Until 1969, when the family saw "Night of the Living Dead" at the drive-in, in our station wagon. After that night mom would not allow that title to be spoken in her house. Not even ten years later.

During this pandemic, I think about Poe's, "The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy". The story, the movie. It's about a pandemic through a romantic or fantastical notion of it and in a rather poetic and obviously, "Poe-like" fashion.

Robert John Burke in "Thinner" (1996)
I think about "Thinner" by Stephen King. And other such tales. I found "Thinner" to be very disturbing as a film when it came out. I was as a kid, a bit short, chunky, not really overweight. Until I hit high school in tenth grade. I had a night job working nights at that drive-in theater. I was going all the time, I had trouble sleeping all through high school, I shot up a few inches and dropped a few pounds in tenth grade. So as a kid, being thinner was a thing for me. It was on my mind.

In eighth grade, I once tried my mother's "diet pills" from the kitchen cabinet where she kept them. I didn't like them very much but they did curb my appetite. Being a kid of ADHD, speed tended to not speed me up but slow me down. I had a strong desire to drop pounds or look thin for a long time. But I only tried one of those pills. They weren't pleasant. 

Decades after that was a concern anymore, I saw that film, "Thinner". The idea that you find you are losing weight, and it's exhilarating, but then you keep losing weight, until , you begin to get concerned. Then worried, Then outright really hit home. 

What IF you lose weight, but it never stops? It's like that short story about a piece of skin or a hangnail that is bugging someone. And so they pull on it. It rips on up along their arm. Of course, you're sitting there wondering, why don't they just stop pulling at it? That idea of picking at something, anything, but it goes wrong. Horribly wrong. And you can't stop.

Echoes of parents warning you about things: "Don't cross your eyes, or they will stick that way. You'd need surgery. You know, that happened to Jerry Lewis once! And he needed surgery. He was lucky. They fixed him. They might not be able to fix you!" My mother actually told me that as a kid. I'm sure everyone has one of those things their parents told them as kids. It's basically lazy parenting. Or simply ignorant parenting. Or parents merely passing on ridiculous things they were told and perhaps, still believed. 

I'll give you a really nasty one. As kids, we were watching TV with the family. I got up, stepped over my younger brother, both of us having been stretched out on our deep blue long shag carpet, chins propped up on hands watching TV and too closely (that issue being yet another).

Mom exclaimed to me, "Don't step over your brother like that, or he could die!" I was annoyed. And perplexed. Did she really believe that? No one else said a word.

It was ridiculous. But, I stepped back over him to neutralize it and said, "OK?"

She said, "Well, I don't know if that fixes it or makes it worse."

I just shook my head and went on to the kitchen. Sadly, some years later he did die in 1975. Of liver cancer, weeks before he turned fifteen. And sadly, five years to the week of the first successful liver transplant.

Years after that I happened to bring up my mom's superstitions. I mentioned to her she had said that about stepping over my brother and she outright denied it. I told her she had been superstitious about other things, but again she denied it, too.

Fears. Where do they come from? Ridiculous fears. Especially fear of oneself.

But that's part of the trope. It's like being near a cliff or edge of a tall building and being innately frightened that you might decide to leap off it. The pulling at skin thing, has been done a few times in films. But the concept is usually, something small and innocuous begin to bug you and it ends up morphing into something massive and horrific. Who's responsible? You. 

That concept has been explored in horror and sci-fi for many years.

What if you wish to be younger, so you try something to make it happen. Then... success! But, it doesn't stop! Maybe you are young, wishing to be an adult. But then you don't stop aging?

The basis of horror, really. Getting what you want but it goes seriously awry, horribly wrong. That's also the concept behind the Genie, or Jinn, where you get three wishes. But be careful what you wish for. Genies, after all, are very literal, and like Leprechauns, mischievous, if not outright evil. The innocent as evil being another fun trope. Or terrifying one. 

Years ago, I got into studying the Spanish Flu pandemic and that led me to other pandemics. I then dove into the Middle Ages, the so called, "Dark Ages", and all the horrors therein. That eventually led to the Renaissance, the "Enlightenment".

Which eventually led me at university to write a short story about a Judge and Witch Hunter in, "The Mea Culpa Document of London", contained in my collection of my older short stories, "Anthology of Evil". That led to another and longer story as an extension of it in, "Vaughan's Theorem", contained in another book, "Death of heaven". A massively epic horror sci fi book.

It's interesting to note that about twenty (thirty?) years ago in my researching pandemics (this included surveying Scientific American type journals and some even more scientific journals of immunology).

I should mention that I've been reading Scientific American since the 1970s and it used to be much more than it is today. Bigger and in my mind, better. I loved its style of presenting material and research. It opens in a form anyone can understand, then goes deeper until finally it gets deep into the fine detail and even scientific data.

By the way, not sure who wrote this up, but ... my disclaimer
During that research on pandemics, I kept coming across comments in journals and books and interviews, that the world was overdue for a pandemic. At first, they were just comments that we were overdue. But over the years it was stated in ever more intense comments of futility, that we were "long overdue". Some seemed rather concerned in their interviews. The concern was palpable.

So, for it finally now to be hitting, in this year,  as I've been waiting for it for so long, for me at very least, it's a very curious feeling. As with things like climate change, where you start to think maybe it will never happen, until it this case, it has. It is in fact, surreal. 

I've always had a penchant for those wonderful jags of diving into research. When I went to university, I learned how to do it professionally and knowledgeably. Researching. I had really discovered something. I would delve deeply into it for a while until I satiated my interests and then, move on. That goes back with me to I think the fifth grade. And our local public library. 

My family had moved into a new house, a new location, and new schools. I was a mischievous kid myself so mom wouldn't let me go anywhere at first. For a while. But finally I got her to agree to let me go to the local library. It was about a mile away. So when I wasn't grounded, I'd talk my mom into letting me to go the library.

I rode there on my bicycle. It didn't take long to get there and the road there was pretty safe. And it was the 60s. So I started hanging out at the library, once I realized it was about the only place she'd let me go on my own. Just to get away from the house. For some peace and quiet and control over my own devices, away from the parents. Especially, my step-father. We never really got along. 

I discovered at the library how you could look things up. It was...amazing. I didn't know it was research, it was My mind sucked up knowledge like a sponge. The librarians were very nice to me and answered any questions. I think they were a little surprised that a kid in fifth grade was showing so much interest in a library.

On his own. Without being forced to be there by his parents. Or, just being brought in by parents, getting books and then...out of there. I would hang out there for hours. I was typically the only kid there most of the time, without a parent along with them. 

Then the greatest thing ever happened. I discovered the adult section! Wow!

I don't know what section it was really, probably just not the kid's section. But to me,it was... The Adult Section. With adult things. Adult concepts. 

Adult stuff. They talked about things in books I never heard about. Sex. Violence. Complex things way over my head. My grandmother, my intellectual mentor, had told me I should do as she did. Read a book for fun. Then for your next book, read a book you know is over your head.

You don't have to understand it, she said. You just have to get through it. And always finish a book you start. One of the best pieces of advice I've even been given. Because it moved into other areas of my life. Always finish what you start.

IF you keep doing that, reading over your level of understanding, always finishing the book...over time you will begin to understand what you are reading. I read a lot of books where I had little idea what I was reading. But she was right.

Eventually, I got it. I got it all. While others, friends and even older family members, and parents, didn't even know what I was talking about half of the time. So people started to think I was weird. Just because I said things that to them were, gibberish. Knowing it was knowledgeable stuff, it was confusing. Alternately, embolding and disappointing, or depressing. 

Understand, this was in the 1960s. My family was a blue-collar family. My stepfather had a high school education. Had been in the Coast Guard in WWII. As a musician and a typist/clerk. My birth father had been in the Navy in WWII. I'm not sure what his job was, but he was later a construction electrician most of his life.

My mother had a 9th-grade education. But she was pretty sharp, just generally unfocused and a bit flighty. I was the first in my nuclear family to get a university, or for that matter a college degree. Though my cousin, my mom's sister's daughter, got her university educated some years before me. She went from high school to college. I went from high school, kicked about a few years, then the USAF, then a year off, and only then I got around to college. 

Back to the library. When I walked into the library as a kid, if I went straight ahead, past the librarian check out area on the right by the front door, walking straight forward, I'd hit that area I called...the Adult Section. 

I'd sit there and go through all the books one after another and was AMAZED, in what I was reading. I'd sneak a glance to the Librarian behind the counter and the one wandering about doing things or helping people, but they never once said, "HEY kid, what are YOU doing in the adult section?!" Never nary a word. So I just kept reading, surveying all those books. 

Eventually, I discovered some guy named Aristotle. Who I gathered, lived a very long time ago. I read his writings and they affected me in both good and bad ways. It might have gone better had someone explained what he was saying, just to put it all into perspective. And how it should relate to me as a kid and a kid in the 20th century. My ethics got a bit rigid and became a high bar for many years for me. For both myself, my friends and my family. 

It didn't help that my grandmother once told me, in trying to help me understand life, that a true friend would give their life for you. As you would, for them. That's a pretty damn high bar for friendship. Especially for a kid. And being ADD (I was more ADHD as a young and probably rather annoying kid, and high energy to say the least, just as my own son eventually was)...and therefore I was also a bit OCD, Nothing extreme, just enough that it was useful. I'd latched onto good ideas and take them to their natural and not always reasonable conclusions. 

Yeah, I could be a bit annoying. But eventually, I mellowed out. With the help of friends. It got to where I didn't have a lot of friends for a while and I was kind of bummed about it. Until a friend explained that my standards of ethics for myself and certainly my friends, was simply too high. Unmanageable. He convinced me to relax a bit.

It took a while but I took in what he was saying and did my best. After a while, things did get better. But it wasn't an easy thing to do. Breaking a habit. Breaking with a long established belief in how the world should work. 

This was in my early 20s. Later in life, I learned some ways to view life that made things event better. To trust, but verify. Some people trust no one. Those poor people. It can so easily lead to paranoia. That was part of my problem.

IF the bar was so high, you'd find people generally untrustworthy. They'd always let you down. But if you simply give people the benefit of the doubt, keep a wary eye on them, just being aware of things, then you can relax and you'll find you have more friends.

Just now I'm getting over a nasty flu experience that has lasted over a month. Today as I write this it is Thursday, March 15, 2020. This flu began on February 9th. My lungs are still a bit sketchy, they've been somewhat inflamed, making them feel somewhat raw, or "weak". But they're now on the mend.  I got an inhaler from the doctor, which has helped a lot.

I'm feeling better each day. But then, the pandemic hits. Great. Just, great. I cannot even fathom going through this all again and in my cohort, having a potential for death. One report from China said that some survivors are seeing permanent diminished lung capacity. Again. Just...great. 

I'm also going to be 65 in August. So again, I'm in that cohort of greater concern (good times, right?). They say this coronavirus, COVID-19 is of concern for the elderly in general, especially people with compromised immune systems. I don't feel elderly yet, but anyone over 60 they say, should be concerned. In getting over one kind of flu, I really don't want another. Not one that could kill me. Not that any flu can't kill you anyway. 

The doctor told me I probably just had one of the three usual types of flu, A, B (the two worse versions) or C. Because I had a flu shot end of last November, he said I probably just had A or B and the flu shot decreased its severity.

I have to say, I'd hate to have had it at full strength. As it was, it was just nasty and very uncomfortable. But I had little fever and not much body ache. Just an overall nasty feeling and those miserable breathing difficulties. Going to sleep was lying awake for hours in several cases in trying to breathe without evoking coughing fits or just great discomfort.

Luckily I've always been pretty healthy, though allergies have always been a problem. Apparently, according to my mother, the day I was born I had some initial respiratory issues. Then as a kid I had annual bronchitis. I hated that. But it got me out of school each year for a week at a time.

So breathing issues have been at the forefront for me since birth. 

Still, I started martial arts in grade school and was always a physically active person. Researchers have said that lots of exercise in your youth and 20s really pays off in leaving you healthier in old age.

I spent the first half of my twenties in the USAF in a very labor-intensive position. where i was essentially doing the same as being in the gum and working out from two to four hours every morning. On some bad days, all day long. And when the hard part ended, I'd just go pack parachutes which also a bit of a physical job. All of which I eventually realized, would one day pay off when I got older. And here we are.

So now we have an actual pandemic. Yes, it could be massively worse. And it may become so. Here's hoping not.

My point in ALL this? I have a background that is perfect  for fantastic thinking. It could be even worse as I've not lived through Ebola or anything like that. It is good for imagining far worse than anything we will probably experience. For causing myself more problems than I need in imagining worse than we'll see. I could write something, or make a film about it. Flu and pandemic movies have certainly already been made, that topic explored.

Not to mention, the zombie apocalypse films. My own new film I'm just now sending out to film festival, "Gumdrop", a short about a serial killer. I wondered though if it would have been better as a pandemic horror film. Or, if perhaps instead, I ducked a bad idea at this time, in not having made that kind of film. 

Some of the pandemic film titles? There are multiples of these titles and some are remakes.

Contagion, for instance IMDB lists three). Outbreak, obviously. The Crazies. The Stand, by Stephen King. I Am Legend (or The Omega Man, or the original, The Last Man on Earth, originally by Richard Matheson). One even named, Flu from South Korea. The brilliant and classic, The Andromeda Strain (by ), Cabin Fever. about a government weaponized virus gone rogue. The fun, 10 Cloverfield Lane. Resident Evil. Quarantine, of course. Carriers. Pandorum. The Happening. Bird Flu

And so many more, some listed in: Vulture's, "The 58 Best Pandemic Movies to Binge in Quarantine." Ranker also has: "The Best Movies About Disease Outbreaks."

So, in having such a great background for creativity and imagination and dreaming up the worst possible things in life, how am I now handling all this. What is now for us, officially a pandemic? 

Doing fine really.

How is that possible? I donno. Maybe having visited all the very worst life can offer when it really comes to be? Reading all those stories, seeing all those movies? Maybe people like that are simply prepared for it?

Or maybe I have such a relaxed attitude since there is not much I can do about it. I'm pretty logical about things. I've been trained to be. I categorize things. Take things one step at a time, especially when they become overwhelming. Maybe also, martial arts discipline has something to do with it. I learned Asian philosophies at a young age and martial arts philosophies. Samurai accepted they were dead before going into battle or to fight a duel. That freed them from fear and they could then fight logically, clearly aware, functionally...bravely.

I've also had a lot of emergency services training beginning in junior high in search and rescue in the Civil Air Patrol. Even before I was in emergency services and flying planes as a twelve year old, I was in martial arts in Isshinryu Karate where we were taught how to kill instantly. But also how to respect life and never use what we knew, unless absolutely necessary. When there was no other option.

Our Sensei once told us he'd rather he found out we ran from a fight than to kill someone. "That is," he said, "if you have to fight, go all in. But if you could avoid killing someone I'd rather be called a coward myself, for saving another's life, than kill them and be seen as some kind of hero, or a killer." That shocked us as kids. We'd grown up watching a lot of war movies and that was our goal, to be a hero, to see battle. Our Sensei was an ex Marine Drill Instructor who learned Karate in Okinawa from the Founder. It was a lesson that stuck with us. 

Life is horrific enough as it is. Yes, I do write horror. I do make horror movies. But oddly enough, that as they say, for fun and profit. It's a fun scare, a roller coaster ride, experienced safely before a screen or from a book. It's not reality. But it's also a way to experience things before hand. A good pandemic or apocalypse film should not only scare for furn, or simply entertain, but also educate. 

What if a killer enters your home at night? Think about the solution before hand. Be prepared. Not just a Boy Scout motto. Here's some suggestions. Entertainment forms like books and films can show us what is wrong to do. A normal trope in horror films to let you yell at the screen, "What are you doing?!!" 

Who do I feel for? Those people who have avoided the horrors of reality. Or in entertainment media in books, films or games. Who are only now facing the considerations of a pandemic. Those who are stunned and unaware of what to do, what can happen, what this all means. That has GOT to be truly horrific for them. And to them? I offer my condolences. But in surviving this current mess, let that be your being made aware. Go forward and learn, get prepared for whatever is next. Because in this new world, there will be more coming. Rising seas, fires, and so on. 

After all this is over, maybe take another, more informed look a the horror genre.

It's not all just what many think it is. It does have a useful benefit in preparing one for possibilities we'd prefer to ignore. I really hope we never have to experience some of those things but we are right now, after all. At least you would be better prepared now. If not simply emotionally prepared, actually prepared in having some sense of how to protect yourself and in consideration of the reactions others can have toward or against you, in situations such as these.

"The Walking Dead" series on AMC network, was massively beneficial in that respect. You'd think up until the point of these horror films over the decades that people in an apocalypse would be helpful, supportive, compassionate. But what we've seen in these things are that people can be fearful, greedy, vengeful against you for no apparent reason. Bullies come out of the woodworks as this si their environment and some have been waiting all their lives for it. The Road Warrior films exemplified this going back into the 1980s. 

I do hope people will be more humane and caring toward one another though, during an apocalyptic event. But let's enter it with eyes wide open.

Trust, but verify. Appreciate your friends and loved ones. Or those who could and might be your friend in a serious if not dire situation. Just always, always... be aware of human nature and how things can change, with some people, with some personalities, on the drop of a dime.

Be safe out there. Ever more Interesting times are coming...

Monday, March 9, 2020

Film Production 101 - "Gumdrop", a short horror

My new film, "Gumdrop", a short horror, is finished! In the can! We began on this film back in the Spring of 2019. We shot through the summer and I started post-production early las Fall. As of March 5, 2020, after speaking with the film score composer, Andrea Fioravanti of the Italian band, Postvorta, we agreed... the film is ready to be locked and distributed. That begins with the film being submitted to film festivals. Which I have now started doing.

This past week I began researching film festivals to submit to. I had previously submitted my last film, "The Rapping" to film festivals. My first time doing that. It won the Weekly Online Film Festival, and was shown at New York's, Midnight Film Festival. Now pieces of it have ended up in this current film as a kind of background in what was a rather challenging audio flashback scene.

This past Saturday night was our monthly Slash Night horror film event at the Historic Roxy Theater in Bremerton, Washington. I was talking to the event founder Kelly Hughes (also founded the Gorst Underground Film Festival, September will be the third annual and now a three-day event). I've been helping Kelly on his films over the past few years and now on the GUFF and these Slash Night events.

We started the monthly Slash Night events to support the annual GUFF. But also to build a community of local filmmakers. To bring us all together. To educate ourselves together and to build a sense of cooperation and support. And it is working. The Darkow film crew is working with Kelly on a new short film project we are filming at the Roxy Theater. I'm helping with that, too.

Kelly saw my first assembly draft cut of "Gumdrop". I had inadvertently called it a first rough cut. He and our friend and cartoonist, Pat Moriarity, had come to my house in Bremerton to watch it. Both of them live just across the bay in Port Orchard.

They had some positive and negative things to say about the film at that point. I was a little surprised by their reaction. To be fair, Pat said he's not really a fan of horror movies, but he has taught storyboarding in college and as that professor's eye that is always positive and productive for students. But they both had some very valuable critiques.

I mention this viewing because that week after they saw my film, I researched some things and came to realize, I had not shown them my first draft cut of the film, but the first assembly cut. To vastly different things. And so they judged it upon that mistaken understanding. My fault, not theirs. I should have said they were watching the first assembly, or assembly cut,  not a first rough cut.

The first assembly, or assembly cut, is the editor's first cut of the entire movie. The editor strings together all of the usable footage and organizes it into a chronological sequence that corresponds with the film's script.

The assembly cut is also the first draft of the movie edit in which the director has the opportunity to see the movie for the first time. In filmmaking, the rough cut is the second of three stages of offline editing. The term originates from the early days of filmmaking when film stock was physically cut and reassembled, but is still used to describe projects that are recorded and edited digitally. - Wikipedia 

I also mention all this because, at this past weekend's Slash Night, Kelly said he saw just a bit of my submission to our GUFF on and he was very impressed with how much it changed from that first viewing he got many months ago. Since he last saw it with Pat, I have done fifty-four drafts of the film and added the film score and songs.

On that... I was very lucky to acquire musician Andrea Fioravanti from the awesome Italian band, Postvorta. No, really. Check them out! I laid down his soundtrack, we talked, he sent me another, I laid that down, I began to edit in the late stages of the film with the soundtrack in place and altered things accordingly and the film only got better.

It's hard to know what it takes to produce a film without doing it. In doing all stages of the film build process you really get a close-up view through painful and tedious work. 

I am not bragging, but this is the process one goes through. Of course on a bigger production where you have even one crew member, there are people to do these various things, all of which the director and producer may be intimately involved in throughout the process. 

I wrote the screenplay last Spring of 2019. It is based upon one of my older short stories, "Gumdrop City" and is a prequel to that story and an origin story of that main character. That story is a true crime story that I fictionalized and published in "Anthology of Evil", a collection of my first short horror stories.

It contains my first published work of science fiction, a short horror story ("In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear") and, my first novelette ("Andrew"). Andrew was eventually grown, along with another single page short story ("Perception") into my massive epic horror sci-fi book, "Death of heaven". 

I also later published "Gumdrop City" as a standalone ebook. Not yet as an audiobook, though I have a few. I first heard about this story at university in an abnormal psychology class. It was so disturbing I decided to write a short story to share that story with the world. OK then. Marketing crap out of the way, back to our story...

After finishing the screenplay, I chose and gathered the actors among friends, and actors, who I had worked with on Kelly's film projects in the past, and handed out the roles. We began principal photography where I was cameraman, sound tech, lighting tech/grip, cinematographer, craft services (food/drink for the actors and non-existent crewmembers), essentially, the crew.

Now let me mention something here. I've seen low budget, indie films where at the end you see in the credits:
  • Directed by: Alan Smithee
  • Edited by: Alan Smithee
  • Produced by: Alan Smithee
  • Cinematographer: Alan Smithee
  • Soundtrack by: Alan Smithee
  • Lighting by: Alan Smithee
  • Written by: Alan Smithee
  • Screenplay by: Alan Smithee
  • Childhood horrors by: Alan Smithee
Look. Do NOT do that! In my film "Gumdrop", at the end it simply says:

JZ Murdock

Or something like that. But, nice, brief, clean. Simple! Like me. OK? Don't purge the needs of your ego at that point. We get it. You're the MASTER. Well? You're probably not. Even the greatest of filmmakers are always learning.

Oh, by the way. Who's Alan Smithee? Surely, inquiring minds want to know. Well, too bad, this isn't about HIM!

Oh, and... THAT'S one of the thing I love about filmmaking.  So humble is good. And as my brother, seven years my senior once told me when I was in junior high, self-deprecating humor is good. If a bully picks on you, cuts you down..."Cut your self down first... more. But be funny. It robs bullies of their power and may turn them to your benefit."

Good advice. No. As it turned out? Great advice! Really great advice. It saved me from so many ass beatings, I lost count. And, made me many new friends. So thanks for that, Jon!

Anyway, as I had been saying earlier before my ADD lost track, got unfocused tangent (a woman once called me, "Mr. Tangent! But, that's a good thing!" She said. Okayyy, uh, thanks?) ...luckily for all of us, I was not an actor. Though when one actor dropped out playing a voiceover role on the day of the recording, I jumped in to sit opposite professional actor, Jennifer True for the audio flashback scene of the Sampson's character's child role and step-mother, and I played the visitor, Koloman.

We began shooting the film on set throughout the Summer of 2019. After that was over I began the editing post-production process in Fall of that year and finished, less than a week ago as I write this. 

The editing process is a beast. You have to select the shots to use out of all the raw video shot. That is when you discover if you actually have all the shots you needed. Or if any of the shots or audio aren't up to par. You notice continuity errors and issues and try to fix them in post. You have to match up the digitally recorded audio to the video. 

I also use an external mic on my camera (a Canon 80D DSLR) as an audio backup and it's paid off big time. Nothing worse than finding somehow the DR wasn't turned on or that the mic picked up the dialog in a weird fashion, or some other issue of placement or technical manufacture (such as having the audio pick up turned up too high, clipping the loudness end of the audio spectrum). 

What gave me the most trouble was the audio. As I inferred above, you always run into problems and you do your best to fix them in post, or you reshoot or re-record in ADR. 

"ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) in film is the process of re-recording audio in a more controlled and quieter setting, usually in a studio. It involves the re-recording of dialogue by the original actor after filming as a way to improve audio quality or reflect dialogue changes."

I had Tom Remick, the lead actor in the role of Sampson, come back and do a brief ADR for a scene of Sampson, in the beginning, looking at a plant. All he had to say was, "My poor little friend." I think there was one other short sentence but I don't remember just now what it was. I then had to match that up to him speaking the words on screen so it looks like he said that. Which means you have to match the cadence up in recording it, or perhaps speed it up or slow it down slightly in post. 

It's not for the faint of heart. Not for the tech doing the audio replacement, or for the actor. I have a lot more respect now for actors who come back to do ADR to themselves on screen. It's tedious, it's difficult and professionals earn their keep. As it is, what we did turn out well. But I'd prefer to avoid it in the future, though at times, it can be impossible to avoid. The more money involved in the production, the more important and necessary it can be. 

There are also issues of sound levels, compression, and separating out the audio of tracks for dialog, soundtrack, music, and sound effects. You have to hear the dialog over all other sounds, or not. It's a decision of the audience understanding the scene and story. When there is too much bass in the music, you have to lower it to understand the dialog, or add treble to the dialog. 

The video is similar. You have to control the color, the white light "temperature" (which hopefully you did on set using real or artificial lighting and camera controls. Matching up the video clips so there is a smooth transition. Shot and scene transitions have to be managed. Special audio and video effects have to be built, acquired and manipulated. Do you give sound to everything you see on screen, or not? Whatever supports the scene and story, of course. 

Do you use real sounds or fake? Foley sounds made up and applied. IF you use the sound of someone walking or being stabbed, it may not sound at all like the action. So you use shoes on a wood floor or stab a head of lettuce, or whatever makes the scene sound real. But you can't overdo it. 

Movie magic, I like to say. Make it seem real to the audience watching the film. And sometimes you go overboard, and it works! Sometimes it fails miserably. It's an artistic choice much of the time and requires a consideration of the format of the film, the story being told the orientation of the filmmaker and other elements. Which is why we take classes, read books, watch videos and best of all, learn from and work with filmmakers who are better and more educated than you are. The best you can access.

Once the film is "locked", the distribution begins. Actually, wise words are that it should begin, whenever possible, before you initially put pen to paper. But for many low budget, indie filmmakers, it's not so much an option and you're left with submitting to film festivals once the film is ready to go out. 

And that, is a whole other blog. 

I started taking a look at film festivals about a month ago, ramping up until the end of post-production. As of this time, I have submitted to about ten festivals around the world. Mostly good, solid local ones. So far one big on, the Austin Film Festival. Some international ones, I have two in Ireland (I'm half Irish born in Tacoma, Washington, and visited there for my birthday in 2015). I've been to Cork and Dublin, so I submitted to a film festival in each town. 

Andrea, our soundtrack composer lives in Italy. So I found a festival about two and a half hours from where he lives. He may not make it, the film may not get accepted, but at least I made the effort so that if he wished to, the film might get accepted and he could have the opportunity to show up and enjoy some of the attention I may get to receive. It's really only right to do it.

Festivals I've submitted to, after reviewing top ten lists of best festivals for in my case, indie horror films to submit to, and reviewing the festivals I came up with. Some of these gave me a waiver so no entry fee! I just asked. One even said to ask them if you are a local filmmaker. I got waivers in the Crypticon. Some of these I've entered before with "The Rapping". 
How many festivals should you submit to? Up to you, and how much money you have. Be sure to read the rules and about info to know what you're getting into. I entered one for "The Rapping" and was rightfully disqualified, as I had missed it was for student submissions only. Luckily, it was a free submission.

So for me, now, that's ten. I may enter the Port Townsend Film Festival up north of here. I love Port Townsend and it can draw big names. They also require DCP format, which is a bit of a pain, rather than the format my film is in now, MP4. My daughter was working up there several years ago and called me up to say, "Tom Cruz is walking down the street." So you never know who might see your film.

And that's about it. For now.

Much more later...

So, I know, I know, I should add in some inside jokes, some blooper reels, some brief and funny or weirdly bizarre asides, Maybe in the DVD extras?

Speaking of which. The film is now done. I got some DVD blanks and I've had some DVD covers for a few years which I had almost gotten rid of but now I'll use for this. I have to make up a graphic for the DVD covers. Hey, I'm getting there! Soon. This week even. I'm still not to 100% of my energy after a month of healing from that damn flu. No, not THAT damn flu. Just, the flu. But, it sucked.

Now I've shared Gumdrop with some close to me on Google Drive. My kids. My editor of "Death of heaven". Her husband is my friend, so they both get access to it and later I'll get them a DVD. In fact, I'm still thinking up who to offer it to.

Let's see. So far I've given offered it to Ilene and Kurt Giambastiani (this is in no particular order by the way). Did I say Ilene was once my editor until she had to go and start a new career as a small businessperson? By the way, I love Kurt's "Fallen Cloud" series of revisionist history. I know, sounds stupid but it's so amazing, well written and historically accurate... until he subverts it for fun and profit.

I said, my two kids. Who else?

Oh, Erwin. No, wait. Andrea in Italy (see above). Since he did, after all, do the soundtrack music. I mean, come on. Not to mention what Italy is going through now with this COVID-19 virus crap.

Oh, Erwin. Great photographer. I met him online in the 90s over a Clive Barker play he was producing. He sent me the music and years later, I sent that to Clive's archivists, Phil and Sarah. I met Clive a few times in person, and that's a story unto itself. But as far as meeting a celebrity doing me any good...not so much.

But then Erwin Verweij and I reconnected on Facebook years ago. And, he's awesome. But, he lives in Rotterdam, Netherlands and I live in Bremerton near Seattle, Washington. That being said, we both know we need to meet one of these days and have a very good whiskey and talk. He has my young self's dream job as a photographer. Long story. It has a bit to do with my older brother who was once a bit of a photographer.

Anyway, I'm now working on the DVDs for friends and whoever should get one of Gumdrop. I'm going to look into that this week and I'd like to include some DVD extras. There is definitely some entertaining stuff from our film shoots. Festivals get my film from what I uploaded on the Film Festival site.

And, end scene. It's been a long weekend. I've covered so much above, I hope something was informative or entertaining to you, or someone.

Enjoy your week/year. Stay safe, avoid the hype and nonsense and go out and be brilliant and be productive! Sláinte! Cheers!

Oh, that was something I'd meant to mention. Gumdrop ends with a word no one knows. It's actually a word that ends old Czech films. Like "Fin" in the |French cinema, I ended both "The Rapping", and, "Gumdrop", a short horror, with Sláinte.


I grew up watching in the 1960s in America on our local PBS channel. Because, the lead character in Gumdrop, that being, Sampson, is half Czech and half Irish.

Just like me.