Zelda, Almost Home

Jun 27, 2017 by

My favorite shot in the short film, “Zelda, Almost Home.” The tunnel leading to Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Alabama.

The premise for the short film Zelda, Almost Home became quite simple: Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1900, lived a wild and tumultuous life with the author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom she met in 1918. What if she came back today as a ghost?

The inspiration to shoot Zelda, Almost Home came from watching Vincent Laforet’s Reverie on YouTube. You’ll also notice there’s a hat tip to Damien Chazelle and his film La La Land— Zelda walks in front of a mural. Simon Cade from DSLR Guide has been a big influence and coach as well. (This is my first short film. I’m 51 years old.)

Come to find out, there are ample stories around Montgomery already to suggest the premise for this film is dead on. The halls of Baldwin Middle School are full of stories alleging apparitions of Zelda. As I talked with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Executive Director Sara Powell last Friday, she had two more accounts, recent ones, as the museum prepares to open upstairs rooms as a bed and breakfast.

So as you read and watch the film, please know, it is grounded in much less fantasy as you might first suspect.

The Making of Zelda, Almost Home

One of the first things any viewer will note is the music, Almost Home, composed by Moby and used with permission from his website, MobyGratis.com. He offers free use of his material provided it’s used for purposes like this—non-commercial and creative expression.

The film is shot entirely in Montgomery, Alabama, June 22-25, 2017. And that is part of my commentary for shooting this, there are almost no films about Montgomery that are actually SHOT in Montgomery.

It is all shot with a Canon D60, part with a Nifty Fifty lens and part with an 18-135 mm. The camera for the most part is mounted on a Neewer Image Stabilizer. Shots from the car the camera was mounted on a tripod.

Shot List

The intersection of Zelda and Fitzgerald, Montgomery

The street sign at the corner of Zelda and Fitzgerald in Montgomery, Alabama.

The opening shot is designed to give homage to Montgomery for honoring Scott and Zelda, while also having our Zelda set the scene that she was full of life when she lived here. It is not hard to imagine the real Zelda spinning around her street sign with glee.

Five minutes after we left the scene, I drove back through and someone had called Montgomery Police to investigate what we were doing. A patrol car was sitting where I’d been parked and was using the lights of the car to light up the street sign.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Felder Avenue

The house on Felder is now a museum. They have a fascinating collection of Fitzgerald memorabilia and are open very day of the week except Monday for tours. And they are in the process of opening an upstairs suite as a bed and breakfast so those seeking inspiration for their writing or filmmaking can soon stay in the same rooms as the Fitzgeralds for nine months back in the 1920s. This is said to be the longest the two lived anywhere together. And it was the last place they ever lived as a family.

Winter Place, Goldthwaite and Mildred

It is often said that Scott and Zelda met at the Montgomery Country Club. But lore now suggests in fact that they met at Winter Place on Goldthwaite. Part of the tale goes is that Zelda’s daddy, Judge Anthony D. Sayre, who lived four blocks away, would not have approved of her being at Winter Place so saying they met at the country club was much more proper.

The McBryde-Screws-Tyson House, Mildred

Christian Lowry, the owner of the house, tells the tale that Zelda was friends with the girls who lived there at the time. He says Zelda used a ring she’d been given by Scott to carve their initials in a second story window. Mr. Winter, who owned Winter Place across the street, is said to have had a thing for Ms. Zelda when she was younger and so as an admirer, when McBryde-Screws-Tyson lie vacant, he sent men into the home to extract with window pane Zelda carved initials into.

The McBride-Screws-Tyson House in Montgomery, Alabama.

It is hoped, that since Mr. Winter was something of a pack rat, that as Winter Place goes through renovation, the original piece of glass will be found and hopefully returned to its rightful window.

But this is the sentimental importance of this shot in the film.

*I have been spelling McBryde with an I instead of Y. That’s now corrected on June 30, 2017 though I can’t change it in the YouTube post.

The Train Shed

There are stories about Zelda and the train shed in Montgomery. It was the prime way in and out of town for Zelda and Scott. But it is also said that she dressed down one day and walked around with a tin can seeking donations. News of this, of course, stirred Judge Sayre. Which is probably what it was meant to do.

The Riverfront Tunnel 

The Riverfront Tunnel has changed over the years. Only recent efforts by the city to bring night life back downtown have led to the amazing lighting in the tunnel. The colored lights and the depth of the shot make this one of my favorite scenes in the film. I thought about going back and having Zelda walk perfectly framed up the lighted tunnel but then it’d be too staged and too fashioned, something the true Zelda would not allow.

Tallapoosa Street

This is one of the apex locations in downtown Montgomery, connecting with Commerce Street, critical to the city’s past and present.

The Alley

Over the past 15 years, the Alley has really come to life as an attraction in Montgomery, and wherever there was a party in this town, well, it’d attract Zelda.

Tallapoosa and Commerce Statue of Hank Williams

The Hank Williams Statue is now the gateway into the Riverfront Park area of the downtown area.

RSA Tower Fountain on Dexter Avenue

David Bronner has built a series of buildings throughout Montgomery over the past 40 years. The fountain this Zelda is playing along wasn’t here when Zelda was, but like the real Zelda, my character couldn’t resist the temptation to play. And she really wanted to get into the water like the real one would have done, too.

Catoma Street view of Troy State

Troy State wasn’t located here back in the day, but is an important part of the downtown scene, connected to the Davis Theatre and across the street from the Jefferson Hotel where Scott and Zelda are said to have stayed, as well as being near the Rosa Parks Museum, which I believe back in the day was also the Empire Theatre, one of the first air conditioned places in the hot of the South.

Sunny Paulk Civil Rights Mural, Lee and Montgomery Streets

Hat tip to La La Land and having Emma Stone walk past the You Are The Star Mural. Montgomery has a beautiful Civil Rights Mural here and we just had to include it. Zelda was gone before all of that came to be and so it was fitting for her to just walk past.

Oakwood Cemetery, Plot 28, graves of Minnie and Judge Anthony D Sayre

The Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama where the parents of Zelda Fitzgerald rest in peace.

There is a memorial plaque for Scott and Zelda, their daughter Scottie Smith, and Zelda’s parents, Minnie and Anthony D. Sayre in Oakwood Cemetery. When we arrived for shooting, the sunset was alive with color and emotion.

The first shot is Zelda mourning over the plaque. She then runs her hands over the stone above her father’s tomb. Out of love and emotion, the Zelda character in the film lies down on the stone above Minnie and puts her hand on Minnie’s name. By then it was too late to see, but the poignancy of should not be lost. Zelda would dearly miss her Momma for many reasons all of us would.

Old Alabama Supreme Court Building, Dexter Avenue

Justice Sayre served on the Alabama Supreme Court from 1909 to 1931. Zelda would visit this place and miss her daddy.

Zelda visiting the Old Alabama Supreme Court Building on Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama.

The Alabama Capitol

The Capitol is just a stone’s throw from the Old Supreme Court Building.

Chris’ Hotdogs, Dexter Avenue

Chris’s Hotdogs is 100 years old this year. I don’t know if Zelda ever went there to eat before she left town, but the odds are pretty good that she would have. They have served every sitting Alabama governor since they opened. It makes sense the lead Flapper Girl would have been a customer, too.

Court Street Fountain

Many a girl like Zelda has climbed the fence at the fountain to wade into its waters looking down Commerce Street toward the Alabama Riverfront and up Dexter Avenue toward the Capitol.

Sunroom window, The Fitzgerald Museum

The sunroom at the museum would hold special value to Zelda. Scottie, their daughter, wrote about its importance during the Christmas the family spent in the home. As a ghost looking back, she would totally take time to look into this room and remember the gem of joy they experienced there as a family for one of the few times ever.

The Museum at night, Felder Avenue

Day or night, the museum is a treasure of Montgomery.

My Own Zelda Ghost Story

So, the night before we began shooting, while walking up the drive to the museum, a white and tan cat came running out of nowhere and up to me. I am allergic to cats and don’t care for them. This one, as I was standing in the drive looking at shots, avoided my Zelda actor, (Angie Tatum Weed) and began curling around my legs. I finally said, “Hey Zelda!” and the cat stopped.

 

 

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Mesquite Summer Sizzle

Jun 11, 2017 by

Mesquite Summer Sizzle

Today in Mesquite, Texas, the city held their Summer Sizzle event in Paschall Park. The day wrapped up with a spectacular fireworks display.

To shoot the event, I parked my car at Mesquite’s Hodges Park and walked along the Butterfly Trail, which I walk daily during sunlight hours. To get a prime spot for shooting, I went up along the alley behind Paula Drive homes. At the end of the alley, I befriended Mark Almond and his family and set up two tripods, one for my Canon D60 and the other for my Canon XA10.

At 9 p.m. the show began.

Here is what I shot, combining the synced video from the two cameras. In Premier Pro I added a Lumetri Color (SL Blue Day4Nite (Canon 5d)) filter on the XA10’s video as it included way too much light–I didn’t realize the camera worked so very well in low-light. The D60 I purposely had stopped down so it wouldn’t over expose. I also upped it’s frame rate to 60 fps so there would be no progressive layering or bracketing in the playback.

I’d also used gaffer’s tape to fix my Handy 2 external mic to the XA10’s tripod. I’m happy and not with the audio because it picked up scared dogs at the beginning and then someone kept resetting their car alarm during the show, only for it to be set off again by recurring explosions.

All in all, I’m pleased with the output. I hope you enjoy it, too.

 

 

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Drawing Art for My Novel Writing

Jun 10, 2017 by

Novel Writing With Pictures

I have 51 days left to finish revising my novel writing for The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club and to turn it in to SMU’s The Writer’s Path program.

I have spent time each of the past few days with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil in Adobe Sketch and in Notes drawing out scenes and characters of my book. Why would I devote time to drawing when I’m in a writing medium?

Creative writing is NOT about putting down emotions on the paper. Not expressly. Creative writing IS about drawing word pictures with words. If you aren’t telling a story with word pictures, you’re locked into telling your readers how you or your character feels. And that’s BORING.

So I have been stepping back from the keyboard and spending more time focusing on what I could see if I was in the scene with my characters. Not how I feel, that I mad that Rose dumped Kirk for Billy Banks, or that Billy Banks is a bully, or Billy’s mom is pretty hot. Those things can be told by drawing word pictures that set the scene. How does a character move his/her face? How are they sitting? Are they biting their lip?

Little Laughing Whitefish Falls

The Little Laughing Whitefish Falls, KI Sawyer AFB. Art done by Donny Claxton for The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club.

A crucial piece of the work is Little Laughing Whitefish Falls. The problem is, there is no place outside the back gate of KI Sawyer AFB in 1977. There is a Laughing Whitefish Falls, which is a beautiful place, but there is no Chimney Rock and a lagoon where kids and alike can jump from four levels into the water. The highest height is called The Devil’s Ledge. It’s 55-feet above the water. But it doesn’t exist.

Now Chimney Rock exists. It’s in Lake Martin, Alabama. The Devil’s Ledge doesn’t exist either, but there’s a piece of rock that sits at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite in California that’s called The Devil’s Diving Board.

Blend all that together and you have a whole new fictional place to build some incredibly important scenes around in The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. I wind up using the lagoon from behind it, under it, down the face it, and from the four levels to jump.

So I decided if I’m going to write about it, I need to SEE what it looks like. The only real way to do that is to blend elements of each place into a piece of art. And this is where the drawing of the Little Laughing Whitefish Falls came from.

You might try doing this, too, in your own writing. It doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell piece of art. It just needs to have enough visual cues in it that will prompt you in your writing, to help you draw better, more convincing word pictures and leave the emotional dumps and figuring out to the imaginations of your readers. They’ll love you for it. They will.

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Donny Claxton Speaks At Central Texas Learning and Technology Summit

Oct 14, 2013 by

Donny Claxton Speaks At Central Texas Learning and Technology Summit 

Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, I had the privilege of presenting during the Austin and San Antonio Chapter ASTD conference entitled the Central Texas Learning and Technology Summit.

The focus was on mobile learning and the technologies that make it all work.

My presentation, after more than 20 months of use of iBooks Author and building eBooks as well, was about eBooks and Books For iPad: what one can do with them and how to make them.

A copy of my presentation is available for download from a public link on Dropbox. If you have an iPad, you’ll need to download the file first to your computer and then load it into iTunes before syncing it to your iPad.  (And of course, you must be running at least iOS 5.1 and have iBooks 3.)

Donny Claxton speaking in San Antonio during an ASTD conference on mobile learning.

Donny Claxton speaking in San Antonio during an ASTD conference on mobile learning.

Even I was amazed at some of the presentations and developments taking place in the world of mobile apps and technologies. It’s inspiring to see some things that we only could have dreamed about a few years ago are quickly coming to fruition and even are already behind the curve, even though they’re likely still very much ahead of most.

George Saltsman from Abilene Christian University, who helped lead us into the development of books for iPad also spoke about changes that are coming in the pedagogy of education, while Dr. Robbie Melton from the University of Tennessee’s Board Regents showed off some amazing new gadgets and apps that are changing the workforce around the world.

FROM MY PRESENTATION, you will see a discussion about many of the amazing widgets and products we’ve built for books for iPad and a healthy discussion about whether or not we should even continue to call these products “books.” Also discussed are some of the variations and differences in this emerging field of technology, like the difference between EPUB 2.0.1 and EPUB 3.0 and what those two things mean to someone trying to decide on an eReader or an author trying to figure out which platform they should be publishing their materials on.

After my presentation, I was flooded with requests for more information, business cards and LinkedIn requests.

If you have any questions about how to make an eBook in EPUB or an interactive book for the iPad using 3D animations, movies, interactive timelines, puzzles and more, please reach out and let me know.

 

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Premiere Pro CC Multi-Cam Monitor

Jun 25, 2013 by

Premiere Pro CC Multi-Cam Monitor

Premiere Pro CC Multi-Cam Monitor has been moved from WINDOW to Project Monitor.

Premiere Pro CC Multi-Cam Monitor has been moved from WINDOW to Project Monitor.

For those of you who might have switched over to Premiere Pro CC and be thinking you’re crazy when trying to switch over to Multi-Camera Monitor and it’s not there under window, well, it’s been moved. You have to go to the top right corner of the Project Monitor and click the drop down and then switch over. And it’s working funky at that. Doing a ` to get the MC Monitor to go full screen still leaves one of the cam views half cut off. It’s late, I know, so maybe I’m missing the obvious, but alas, this is a big change from CS6.

http://tv.adobe.com/watch/learn-premiere-pro-cc/using-multicam-mode-to-autosync-multiple-angles-or-takes/

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