Dailies

Dailies: (n) in the movie industry, a series of hastily printed shots from the previous day’s shooting

The true evaluation of the quality of an experience is based upon who you are with, not what you were doing or what happened.

I believe this with all my heart.

There are individuals that I wouldn’t mind being stranded with on a desert island, and there are other people that would make me feel cramped and uncomfortable if I joined them in a king’s palace.

For just about five years of my life, I had the pleasure of working in the independent film industry.

It ended up garnering thirteen low-budget flicks.

The pleasure of that experience is that I did it with my oldest son, who directed, and his magical muse of a wife, who shot and edited.

The screenplays I wrote for them were based upon my imagination. Unfortunately, they had to translate my dream life into reality without using much money or special effects.

They left early in the morning with a cast of characters who had agreed to join them on the mission based upon the words and their reputation. They reappeared in the evening, bedraggled but jubilant, with enough energy to put together some of the shots of the day—to intrigue this writer with their interpretation of the prose.

They were ingenious.

They cut corners but not significance.

They negotiated, requested, went to city council meetings to get permission to use football fields…

Well, these two remarkable people, Jon and Tracy, took what could have been a beleaguered, if not dangerous, project and made it magic.

I had fun standing back and watching them erupt with creativity.

I will never forget those late-night sessions, when Tracy drummed up dailies from the shoot and showed them to me—everything from puppets to bazookas to football uniforms to prisons to death scenes.

It was mind blowing.

They have gone on to do much more, but I will always hold those treasures in my heart.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if somewhere off in the cosmos God sits down after dark with some popcorn and watches our dailies.

 

Coal

Coal: (n) a combustible rock consisting of carbonized plant matter

For a season as a young man, I traveled with a gentleman who had a low-budget Las Vegas-type show, and performed at conventions, carnivals and county fairs.

One summer, we were scheduled in a West Virginia mining town for their city-wide carnival, fair and jubilee–all mixed into one. There was no motel in town, so the sponsor found homes for the entertainers to sleep overnight. Most people got to pair off–in other words, two to every house.

Except me.

I ended up driving about seven miles into the hills, and stayed with a family who had a shack that could have been a prop-double for Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

I was still dressed in my stage clothing and upon my arrival, the people stared at me like I had twelve heads. They offered me a meal of brown bread and beans with side-meat and molasses. It was delicious.

But they never stopped peering at me. I was just a kid, so I was really spooked.

I attempted communication. I tried to express interest in coal mining. The only thing I knew about coal was that when I was a boy, my dad had a coal furnace that warmed the loan company we owned. It was my job ever so often to go down and stoke the coal into the furnace. So I had picked up a piece or two and analyzed it. It’s quite an attractive rock. (You can understand that if it got the chance to hang around for several hundred thousand years–how it might become a diamond.)

So ridiculously, and clumsily, I might add–I shared my limited awareness, and even ventured calling it “bituminous” just to show off a bit.

The family had no toleration for my ignorance. Every question I asked was met with a two-word grunted answer. Usually, “Huh. Maybe.”

It was an uncomfortable evening–mainly because I was miserable and felt out-of-place with this common sort.

So imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning to buckwheat pancakes, scrapple and coffee. The mom of the house had also taken an old shirt, sewn up all the holes and presented it to me as a gift.

For you see, while I thought they were giving me a hard time–unwelcome in their home–they, on the other hand, were actually sitting over there, quietly trying to figure out some way to bless the stranger.

That afternoon during our performance, I wore the shirt they darned for me, and the family sat near the front, grinning from ear-to-ear.

It brought me to tears.

I realized that even though I was having a hard time making money, I did not have to live in an old shack and descend into a coal mine, risking my life, to eek out enough money for my beans.

 

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B Movie

B movie: (n) a low-budget movie

Dictionary B

I have written twenty feature-length screenplays.

Thirteen of them have been made into independent films.

Let me explain something: no one sets out to make a bad movie. No one wants their movie to slip to “Letter B” in the alphabet.

There are four things that determine the fate of a movie.

1. Since it is definitely over-written, as all scripts are, picking and choosing what to cut out is similar to deciding whether you’ll cut off your hand or your foot. Yet if one is infected, the amputation is certainly necessary.

2. Bad actors can turn good sentences into question marks.

3. Editing a movie is similar to using a hatchet to trim your fingernails. In other words, if you try to speed up, there will be some blood loss.

4. The public is picky. If you shoot for a particular emotion or feeling, that reaction may not be presently available in the audiences provided.

So many movies that planned on being A rated ended up sliding from their lofty goals, further confirming–perhaps without our knowledge or permission–whatever will B will B.

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Bazooka

Bazooka: (n) a short-range tubular rocket launcher used against tanks.Dictionary B

I wrote a contemplative movie entitled “The Drive.”

Some people would consider it anti-war but since I don’t really think there are “pro-war” options, let’s leave it with my original representation.

I will not get into the total storyline except to tell you there is an anguished father who decides to wreak revenge on the U.S. Government by trying to assassinate the President of the United States in St. Louis.

He chooses a bazooka as his weapon.

I would assume this is because he knows he’s not a very good shot and wanted a twelve-foot margin of error.

So when it came time to film the project, we were in the market to locate a bazooka. The first few people we asked thought we were referring to the comics from the 1960’s. Rather than contradict their perception, we just quietly hung up the phone.

We finally found a collector of WWII memorabilia who had a bazooka, even with its own case. Fortunately, he did not have the shells for it, so we had to figure out how to stuff firecrackers in the muzzle to make it appear that the long tube was threatening.

As I look back, I realize that finding a bazooka and simulating firing it in public was certainly a dispensation of the time. I can’t imagine how many government watch lists we would be placed on nowadays for even inquiring about such an object.

But we not only fired it, we had a street full of extras who ran away in horror and terror at the onslaught.

It was really quite pungent and effective for a low-budget film, but I must tell you–when the actor pulled that bazooka out of the case, which was in the trunk of his car, a chill went down my spine–one which is duplicated as I write this piece.

May we look forward to the day when “bazooka” will only be remembered as a wise-cracking bubblegum comic.

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