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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The Haley Buggin’ Guitar Riff Ditty

Jun 9, 2017 by

The Haley Buggin’ Guitar Riff Ditty

Guitar riffs. We hear them and they earworm their way into our consciousness and then burrow in for a long stay.

Last night about 8 p.m. I downloaded an app to tune my guitars and one for my mandolin. I never got to the mandolin.

Haley Buggin’, a little ditty I made thanks to The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. https://youtu.be/7zgmMeP-coE

I tuned the guitar and then started a progression of the chords E A D, but thumping them and muting them like U2’s Edge would do, and then hammering the neck notes like Eddie Van Halen or Pete Townsend would do.

The result, I thumbed out a progression that I then recorded and sent to my daughter Haley calling it “Haley Buggin’.” You see, over the past couple of years, Haley has from time-to-time sent me tracks she’s recorded seeking input and support. I’ve been encouraging but probably not nearly enough. This was the first time I’ve ever sent her one. I sent her a track about 40 seconds long. Then I recorded a second one. These are the only two times in my life I’ve ever played this progression in this manner and almost 12 hours later, I’m not sure if I picked up the guitar I’d find it again without the aid of the audio recordings. If I’d not taped them, they’d be lost.

After finishing the second version, I liked it at playback and immediately came to the iMac and opened Garageband.

After a few tests, I found some backing drums and maracas to add. I also played with the reverb setting for the guitar track and violla, I had something that sounds like it was recorded in a studio. After moving it over to iTunes, I then fired up Premiere Pro, pulled the audio into Audition to make a .wav file, and then copied the twins’ graduation video. I created a new sequence, called it Haley Buggin, and began to cut individual pics of Reagan out.

Now it’s important to explain that I have nothing against Reagan. It’s just that the first thing that came to mind when I named this piece of music is Haley Buggin’. Since she was born, I’ve called her Haley Bug, and juking on a guitar, well, it just SCREAMED the obvious title. I love Reagan and Chandler, my two other daughters equally.

I then found some video of Haley jukin with her guitar and she starts talking and moving her head in time to the accents of the music. I added a music credit across the black, and then I dropped in the “This is Sick” video clip of her netting potting. Loaded that to YouTube and then on to FB.

Haley says she wants the tune as a ringtone. I can do that.

The amazing part is that in 1.75 hours I took something that didn’t exist before and loaded it to YouTube as a semi-finished, finished product for all the world to use as an earworm.

My guitars haven’t been out of their cases in years. And when they come out, they play a riff I’ve never heard before and in a way I’ve not ever really played, either.

THE ARTIST’S WAY WEEK 7

I am presently in Week 7 of 13 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. This book is transforming my life in measured and magical ways. Godly ways.

Pulli out the guitar and the first thing my fingers do is knock out a catchy, bouncy riff. That’s magical and wonderful and that’s The Artist’s Way.

God and Julia Cameron helped get my mind to a place where it could free that song into existence. There is no other way to describe it.

So here’s the video of Haley Buggin’. I hope you like it. I hope the tune infects you and you’re stuck walking around with it. Dance in your car with it. Add it to your walking track. (I did 9,000 steps yesterday.) Make it a ringtone.

And if you don’t like it, well, that’s okay, too. I freed it from non-existence to make my soul happy and to release it as an artist seeking to make a contribution to the world of music, sound and video. And I made the piece the way I did out of love for one of my children. That’s the happiest, most healthy part of all of this. This one paragraph.

The point is, share this wonderful creation that God has given us. Serendipity-style.

And then pick up your own copy of The Artist’s Way and see what God does in your world.

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I’m Under A Writing Deadline

Jun 5, 2017 by

I’m Under A Writing Deadline

So what does that mean? Naturally, my mind is trying to find everything it can to NOT write. And I have 56 days to meet a writing deadline.

My kitchen is clean. My sock drawer indexed in a way that would make Sherlock Holmes envious. My Scrivener file is full of sub-folders. And I keep rehashing my Resurrection, Supreme Ordeal and fighting with myself about how to actually re-write my Call to Action.

Why is this?

The Quest for Perfection

In Chapter Seven of The Artist’s Way this week, I’m dealing with PERFECTION. Or my mental quest to put out something that is as close to perfection as humanly, or me-ily possible.

I’m on a writing deadline and doing all I can to NOT do what I should be doing.

“The perfectionist is never satisfied,” says Ms. Cameron. “Midway through the project the perfectionist decides to read it all over, outline it, see where it’s going. And where is it going? Nowhere, very fast.”

I’m trying to break out of this syndrome. In a video on the CREATIVE app today for Apple TV, the screenplay writer teaching the class said to “Imagine your harshest critic sitting here on your shoulder. Most like, if you’re fortunate, it’s your mother. Pick a place she would love to be on a vacation to, and send her there for the time being.” Get her off your shoulder, is what he said.

So yeah, I get that. Mom probably isn’t alone perching on my shoulder. I know I have several critics who I need to send packing.

And not just until I finish this draft.

The Artist’s Way

Julia Cameron’s book, done right, a chapter a week, is altering my creativity. She is healing my heart. She’d argue more so that it is ME who is healing my own heart. And she’s right.

I recommend this book for everyone. In 2014 I bought a copy and gave it to each of my three girls who never did anything with it. That’s not a criticism, because in 2014 I started reading it and thinking, I don’t have time to devote 13 weeks to this.

Three years later, that’s exactly what I am doing. I don’t peek into the coming week’s lesson. I review those of the past. I re-read my Basic Principles, and The Affirmations I need to hear. I also read An Artist’s Prayer every couple of days to help keep my mind fresh and healing.

Writing Deadline

I have a third of fourth draft I’m working to revise of my book, The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. A revision of it must be ready for submission to the head of The Writer’s Path Program at SMU on Aug. 1. The first 15 pages are going to be judged and determined whether or those those of us who submit should be selected to go to New York in November to meet with publishers and agents who work or represent the Big Five.

In the meantime, I’m struggling to not self-sabotage this effort. But it’s hard. I’m finding plenty of excuses to not write. I need to go for a walk. Three miles and an hour’s time. But while I’m walking I’m thinking about the book. And a dozen other things. The garbage needs to be taken out. The floors haven’t been vacuumed in several days. Oh gosh, there’s dust on this computer. Oh my, look, it’s about to thunderstorm. What’s being said that’s dumb on Twitter? How about Facebook? What did Simon Cade or Matt W post in their video feeds about filmmaking today? What’s Hazel Hays up to? What’s in my Mail inbox? Julia Cameron says I need to throw some old clothes out. What can I really do with this closet? Ah, yes, what am I going to eat for….

Chapter Seven

This week Julia Cameron affirms that my story is written. I just need to get it down on paper. Or into Scrivener so I can push it out of Word. I need to think of the writing process as being lowered down via a well into an sub-dermal layer of consciousness. She says writers, creatives, should not be trying to think things up. Then you’re reaching for something that’s out of reach. Visualize being lowered down into that river and the words are floating past. It’s my job to offer them rescue. To gather them into the boat and then put them in the right order onto my pages.

That is a much easier way to see writing. It seems to be working today. Today.

The teacher in the CREATIVE network on Apple TV says that we should schedule time on our calendar for writing and then adhere to the calendar.

I’m going to do a little of both. But it’s not easy. I keep trying to find a way to not sit here. To be elsewhere. And yet to retrain my brain to stay fastened to the chair.

I will say that the extracurricular things I am doing are not all bad. Yes, they are excuses, but they’re also allowing my brain to play. And Cameron also says that a playful mind is the most creative one of all.

I hope she’s right. There are only 56 days left until submission and I have 56 scenes in my work at present…..

And that’s how an extra blog post gets written, too…. 🙂

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The Artist’s Way, Week Four–No Reading

May 20, 2017 by

The Artist’s Way, Week Four–No Reading

Even before I reached Week Four of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, where she says to stop reading for a week, I had scaled back my time on Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook because the noise from the Petulant Left–largely haters of President Donald Trump, largely haters of anything that goes against Judeo-Christian principles of the past 2,500 years–has become too shrill to bother with.

One of my true friends sent me this picture of the sun setting in Mariposa, CA this past week. It’s just amazing.

And thanks for Julia Cameron, thanks to Rick Warren and The Daniel Plan, and God and myself, I’m doing a reset of my life regardless.

I am focusing my life on what’s most important–God, me and what I put into my body so that I might continue to serve him.

I just went through the worst year of my life. Surgeries from severe pain, opioids, doctor appoint after doctor appointment, and more and more pain.

To boot, the person I have been most in love with my entire life copped out on me, succumbed to the threats of her daughter and mother–they are the ones who decide who she’s in love with, not her–and a week before Christmas she walked out of my life. Boom, gone. She lied to her kids and mom for four years about me. Treating me like a mistress. Hiding my contact information in her phone under the graduate college she’s attending so in case I called and they were around, they’d see the school calling, not me.

Shame on her for lying to her family. Shame on me for letting her treat me like that. It won’t happen again.

Julia Cameron says in her book during this week of healing that we should stop reading. No books. No online stuff. Just to read the assignments in the book.

That led me to write a perfect iambic pentameter Shakespearean Sonnet Tuesday night expressing in very poignant terms how I feel about what my friend did. For now it’s folded over and put into the book. The temptation is there to record audio, then lace it with video of all the places we went in the past four years so that those who need to know she’s a balled-faced liar will finally know the truth as she parades around as some sort of super Christian. That’s not meant as judgmental. It’s just the truth.

But as importantly, I’ve stopped looking at the news feed on Facebook and the top hits on Twitter. Most of it is rage at the president. Hate.

I have no time or inclination to listen to that bull any longer. President Obama did a lot to wreck this country and Trump is trying to fix some of it. He’s also trying to make America safe and why the Petulant Left is in favor of leaving the country vulnerable to people who like to commit mass shootings or blow things up is beyond me. That’s not us, they say. Well, I’d rather be alive than have been shot or blown up by a terrorist, or have a family member or friend who was.

Such craziness.

I’m focusing on God. My healing. Eating healthier. Walking. Getting my life back on track. If you or your noise is set on being a distraction to that, I really don’t need/want/like you being in my life at all. So, like Julia Cameron talks about in her book, I am putting new, healthier boundaries in place. And walking every day with my Lord. Much closer than ever before.

And I like who I am becoming again.

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