I’ve wrestled with the idea of talking about myself in this blog, and the various projects that will occupy my mind during its creation. Initially, I set out to create a repository of my articles and reviews, both traditionally published and not, as they apply to the local “Arts” scene in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico.
It’s hard to stay completely objective, however, when one writes not as an outsider, but as a card-carrying member of that collective.
It also raises a very valid question: Can one objectively cover the arts and be a part of it at the same time? It’s a conundrum I’ve pondered for the past three decades.
Usually, just when I’ve decided I know the answer, somebody throws me a curve ball and I find myself waffling back and forth again. Since I make my living working for the system, it makes sense that the types of articles I write would involve the arts.
My day job, however, has never been how I define my life. Many define their lives that way, but not me. My life is far and away different from cubicles, meetings and regular deadlines, though adapting to that atmosphere has become almost second nature, these days. No, my life usually involves some sort of artistic endeavor and collaborations with the talented people I come across through my work. It’s something of a symbiotic relationship.
Point of fact is, I’ve got a lot going on at any given time. Sometimes it’s providing graphic design and/or marketing support for local theatre troupes or non-profit Arts organizations. Sometimes it’s writing press releases or articles to help promote a musical act. Sometimes it’s doing photo shoots for friends who are putting together their “books” or “reels.” Sometimes, it’s writing short stories and sending them out, like carrier pigeons, to various editors or publishing companies.
Sometimes, like now, it’s all about filmmaking.
Though I have become very adept at multi-tasking over the years, when I am actually burrowing down into the gristle and sinew of a project, it tends to color my perspective. In other words, I find it hard not to write about what I’m doing, or going through, because it’s what I’m thinking about most at the moment. The reviews and articles are still being written and processed, but the other stuff… that’s not going away any time soon. It will find its expression somewhere. Why not here?
You see, I have spent the better part of this dwindling weekend feverishly working on a project that has come to be called the Frat Pack series. It all started with The Baking Dead, which was very well received and led everybody involved to clamor for more. It doesn’t take much. I respond to clamoring with an almost Pavlovian zeal. I think it’s thirty-plus years of conditioning as a media whore. But I digress.
Here’s the deal. When I initially realized that the short film experience, which came to be known as The Baking Dead, was actually going to be a reality, the process of its creation was already well underway. It was a whirlwind in which I wrote the script on a Saturday night, polished it on Sunday, presented to the boys who run LC52 on Tuesday, drafted up a shot list on Wednesday, completed casting on Thursday and shot it on the following Saturday. All while holding down a full-time day job.
Yes, as hard as it is to believe, one week was all it took to create that beast. It took a bit longer to edit, but by then logistical work was completed. The process was over before I knew it and I realized, afterwards, that I had not documented it. Probably because I didn’t even realize it WAS a process until we were already up to our nipples in light speed pre-production.
It really happened just like that and there were many moments when we just weren’t sure it was actually going to culminate in anything even remotely approximating a short film. We were all acknowledging our parts in the process, we were all on the same page in terms of shooting schedules, the LC52 boys had the equipment to make it happen and the actors were all on-board and committed to giving up their weekend to do this thing. Despite all that, there was a very surreal undertone to the experience.
Hell, I can remember having a conversation with my partner Donny, who played Sammy in the production, as we were driving to the “set” that second Saturday morning in early March.
“So, this is really going to happen,” he said, nursing his 1972 VW Bug up the hill to our destination.
“Yeah, looks like,” I replied pragmatically, trying to inhale as little as possible the pungent fumes the overworked engine was pumping into the cabin as the car struggled uphill.
“It just feels weird,” he said. “We’re going to make a movie.”
“That’s the plan.”
“I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.”
“Yeah, me too, but whether or not anything actually comes of it, I think we should just enjoy the experience.”
“Are you kidding,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m gonna have a blast!”
“Then we’re half way there…”
I really believed that. Still do. Taking things too seriously has never really worked for me. I admit to being a control freak and more than a little high-strung, not to mention anal retentive. Still, I figured out a long time ago that if I decided early on not to let myself get ground down by the minutia of the moment, I could actually enjoy the process that much more and, usually, the end result was much better for it.
Even so, there’s something to be said for proper planning, organization and documentation. I told myself back then that if and when I found myself involved in a filmmaking process again, I would do my damnedest to ensure it was properly documented; if for no other reason than to look back on it and assess my sanity. Or lack of same.
So, this is where I find myself. Yesterday morning, I sent off the script for the second in the Frat Pack series to the principals: Production Designer, DP, Sound Engineer and the four actors involved. Which means the ball is rolling again. It almost snuck up on me. Again. That in and of itself is a story in need of documentation.
It goes like this. I’ve actually been entertaining several ideas for future excursions into the cinematic arena, most of them involving the three main characters of the FP series. In fact, I’ve already written two complete scripts and am preparing two more.
I mentioned this in passing to Britney, an actress friend of mine… okay, actually I told her that I had written a part with her in mind, which is admittedly, a very different approach, especially for an actress. She became very excited and within hours of talking to me, and without my knowledge, had turned down a role in a short film offered to her by another, more highly-placed filmmaker. That instantly put the project on the radar. People began to talk.
Now, understand I had put no more thought into the process than that. I hadn’t really talked to anybody except the actors to find out if they would be interested in revisiting and the filmmakers of LC52 to make sure that it was even an option. From there, I had started writing. I hadn’t really talked to anybody else about helping with the logistics of creating another film, properly this time. I hadn’t really considered the editing that would be necessary to bring what I had envisioned for the next script to life. I was just winging it.
It all came to a head last Friday night, at a birthday party thrown for Donny. Present were everybody who had been associated with The Baking Dead, along with a motley gaggle of creative types, many of whom had seen the film. Britney was also present and, as should have been expected, the most talked about subject bouncing around through the course of the evening was the “mysterious” script I had written for her.
By the end of the evening, all four actors – Donny, Eric, Ardy and Britney – had begged to see the script and the LC52 boys were asking when we would be working on the “next one.” Even better, two of our guests, very respected members of the filmmaking community and therefore WAY out of my league (or so I believed), asked if they could be involved. I accepted their offers eagerly and I now have an experienced production designer and one of the best sound engineers/editors in the city on board!
Suddenly, BLAMMO! I’m up (somewhat) early the next morning, making final edits on the script in question and sending it off into the ether for everybody to begin their respective preparations. Then, because I’m in that frame of mind, I find myself writing feverishly to finalize the next two scripts. Today, I sat my happy ass down and created the shot list for film number two, which is being prepared under the working title Blunt Offerings.
More writing followed today, along with an unexpected visit from another actress, a friend of Donny, who has offered to do hair and make-up for Britney during the shoot. Why? Just because she likes Donny and Britney and thus, wants to be involved.
It always seems to happen this way, though I’m not sure why. I try not to think about it overmuch. Once a ball is rolling, the elements just seem to fall into place. As I type this, I’ve got two of the three locations nailed down, costumes and props are being assembled and Donny is already working on the music. Not bad, considering on Friday it was nothing more than a nebulous idea to “do another film.”
Before this project actually begins in earnest, however, we have to finish edits on the two music videos we shot for my buddy Randy Granger, (who, incidentally, has agreed to make an appearance in a future installment). I made sure everybody understood that on Friday night. Once those projects are completed, we can begin the work of bringing Blunt Offerings to life. Which means meeting with my principals, scheduling a read-through and rehearsals for my actors, setting a shoot date and letting my production designer work her magic. I think we can get it all done within a month.
I feel a bit guilty about all this, which brings us right back around to my reason for waffling over whether or not to write this entry in the first place. It’s about me, you see, but it’s also about a process that I think might be interesting to those outside of the project. That’s my reasoning, but it seems to go against the very reason for this blog in the first place: to cover the Arts as they happen here in Southern New Mexico. Ironic, no?
Spending the entire weekend working on this film project means I didn’t get out to any of the many events taking place in our fair city. Not the chalk art festival downtown, not the Day of Dance celebrations, not the Open Stage poetry festival at the University, not the many different musical performances by friends and associates at different venues, not even the La Viña Spring Wine Festival.
No, instead I was knuckled down at my laptop, playing social pariah and turning flights of fancy into fodder for future filmmaking projects. Is that wrong?
Right or wrong, it IS what’s happening right now. It’s what I’m working on, so it will be a topic of interest to the part of me responsible for maintaining the blog; the guy with the glasses and the deadline fixation. As guilty as I feel for missing out on a full weekend of Arts-related enjoyment, my own fickle Muse will not be denied. Nor do I believe she should be.
Las Cruces will just have to forgive this roving reporter his creative sins of omission. Shouldn’t be a problem. There are always other assignments and deadlines, courtesy of the community newspaper for which I write. And there’s ALWAYS something going on here in the city of the crosses.
I’ll make up for it. I always do.