Yes well, the current brilliant idea is to start releasing excerpts from the blog to build up to the release of the movie. Maybe a trailer this month also. Can it happen? Maybe a making of trailer too? DVD extras?

Episode 001 – That’s No Moon

Episode 002 – Swiss German Triple Threat (about meeting carmen, commitment, steve, looking for locations. visa problems)

Episode 003 – A Big Boat (it’s big and it’s in Canada! DOG goes fully international, let’s have a look and you can’t come in)

Episode 004 – Sex Offender (the wrangle at the border, FBI, notarized, foia return and scouting, cutting the deal)

Episode 005 – The Root of Evil (budget for the cast and crew, and terrible lawyer, gear galore, a alternative to P2, assembling the gear)

Episode 006 – A Crew is Born (introducing makeup, producer, director, gaffers and assistant directors. two mothers abandon their kids)

Episode 007 – Never Bring Cocaine to a Border Crossing (the launch, the horror, the split, arrival)

Episode 008 – Pin the Fun Meter (10 days of intense non stop problem solving) maybe 3 episodes?

Episode 009 – Decompress (off to grand canyon bald)

Episode 010 – Let’s post (and now, to make a movie)

This month August 2016 starts the slow release of a project started 11 years ago this September, Daughter of God. I reckon by now most of my friends and family think this movie is a myth, a hallucination. Even the cast and crew have long since given up asking. Perhaps because of my surly responses. Several people I wanted to invite to opening night have selfishly up and died.

The last thing anyone expects is absolute and total completion.

I have to admit enjoying a perverse pleasure from presenting myself as a perpetual poser and nutcase for the last decade, very useful for weeding out the unimaginative and painfully pragmatic. Those who truly love me have not been fooled… and they will be richly rewarded.

If I just rolled my baby out of the shed right now, all sparkly and gleaming, there could be a rash of fainting spells, apoplexy, governmental collapse, spontaneous pregnancies… so we’re going to take this slow and easy. Maybe you think I’m just stalling for time, that it’s still NOT totally DONE. Maybe you’d be right. Maybe you can just go pound sand.

So let’s begin with a story…

Chapter One – That’s no moon…

This month August 2016 starts the gentle release of a project started 11 years ago this September, Daughter of God. I reckon by now most of my friends and family think this movie is a myth, a hallucination. Even the cast and crew have long since given up asking. Several people I wanted to invite to opening night have selfishly up and died.

The last thing anyone expects is absolute and total completion.

I have enjoyed a perverse satisfaction presenting as a poser for the last decade, weeding out the unimaginative and painfully pragmatic. That’s over now. Those who truly love me have not been fooled… and they will be richly rewarded.

If I just rolled my baby out of the shed right now, all sparkly and gleaming, there could be a rash of fainting spells, apoplexy, governmental collapse, spontaneous pregnancies… so we’re going to take this slow and easy. Maybe you think I’m just stalling for time, that it’s still NOT totally DONE. Maybe you’d be right. Maybe you can just go pound sand.

So let’s begin with a story…

Chapter One – That’s no moon…

I arrived in Palm Springs on a big old jet plane. This is September, 2005. Back in those days I still flew in jets, before I realized what a nasty fuck you to planet Earth flying in jets was, I mean is. The spooky consequences of kerosene combustion in the lower stratosphere. Forget about the carbon footprint. Forget even about corn syrup junkies overflowing their cramped seats and pesky skyscrapers always getting in the way.

I didn’t make hotel reservations, just started calling around for vacancies when I hit the terminal. The Palm Court Inn was all pastel California cute and reasonably priced. The Palm Springs Short Film Festival. My first festival and attending as a filmmaker. Editor actually. Also continuity repair and soundtrack. What De Niro‘s character pulled off in Pulp Fiction. After months of triage, I had unexpectedly made Michael Aaron’s student project, Blind Date, watchable.  This narrative short had been subsequently accepted into the Short Fest’s film market. Although Micheal and I had fallen out since, I wanted to see what festivals were all about.

I went to workshops and panels, made copious notes, saw tons of short films, hung out with groovy kids. There’s that stale joke about the dad in the modern art museum who says, hey, my 5 year old could paint that. That was me. Hey, I could make that movie. More to the point, I can make a better movie than that one, or that one… Holy shit, I want to make movies.

Now this seems like an odd epiphany at the age of 42. I’d been making movies my entire life. My brother was shooting stop action of me and the neighbor kids when I was in grade school. In high school, my best friend Chris and I shot a short science fiction epic for an Astronomy extra credit on Super 8, that was before the Mormons got him. My buddies Bob and Mark and I recorded endless hours of Andy Warhol style video dinners in our young 20s, I shot scads of 16mm with my hot film student girl friend Barbara Jo in my late 20s. In my 30s I edited and did a little freelance production for Richard Brauer, when I wasn’t selling Macintosh computers or coding games. I remember sitting with Rich in his truck in the early 1990s, driving to a job. Rich came out of the closet with his plan for cranking out B horror features, and I was kinda judgemental. “OMG Rich, is that REALLY your dream?” Like I knew what someone else’s dream should be. And he’s since had a lot of fun making them. He’s Northern Michigan’s Ed Wood, and I say that with respect. Ed Wood was amazing. Hey, Ernest Borgnine was Rich’s Bela Lugosi! The parallels are uncanny, tho I’ve never seen Rich in cashmere.

Yeah, so film, movies. I’d been making money on the periphery of the media universe for three decades, tinkering with gear, trying this and that. All that time I lacked something – gumption or self confidence. I felt brilliant and destined for great things, but deciding to be great was a fuzzy notion I was perpetually groping towards. That’s the kindest way to say it. Also, my freelance lifestyle budget doing media in Northern Michigan at the inception of the internet? Not exactly abundant. Of course, that’s just a factor, not a valid get out jail free card. Money isn’t the essential ingredient in the recipe for bliss, just like you don’t need eggs or even wheat to make kick ass pancakes.

Back to Palm Springs. Here I was Forty Fucking Two, the ultimate answer to life the universe and everything and what the hell? These people are making movies, I am as cool as they are, I want to make movies, too. I felt a bit pissed. Something clicked. Finally.

On the second or third night I wrote the script Misdirection in one sitting, which starts with a cryptic scene between a young woman and her dead uncle and then swerves into various diverse vignettes in the same world. Now, perhaps one should not decide to shoot the first script that the universe offers. I wanted to write at least 5 scripts and then decide which one to shoot. I developed Misdirection’s first scene into the screenplay for Daughter of God. 10 pages, so 10 minutes of movie. Doable for my first short. However, the main character Christina seemed impossible to cast – a mystical, mkultra-ed ingenue. I started working on the other 4 scripts. Then I met Carmen Althaus.

Episode 002

 

Intro

So hello and welcome Episode 002 of the Daughter of Godcast podcast.

Lots of people have helped out whether or not they realized they were helping. Aside from poking fun at celebrities, the mention of a first and last name recognizes a person who made an important contribution to the DOG project, and my life. Full appreciation for their excellence may require more than the current episode.

Episode 001 introduced Michael Aaron’s first film, Blind Date. I don’t know where Michael is now or what he’s up to, been a long time since we’ve spoken. But if it weren’t for Michael, DOG might never have happened and I might still be wasting my time doing things I almost like.

A quick aside here. I met Michael at the NYC Final Cut Pro User’s group. He had just finished up at the New York Film Academy and was having trouble posting his first film. He was looking for an editor.

I can vividly remember watching his rough cut. A disaster! There were so many mistakes, so many problems… and yet I was getting more and more excited. Could I fix this? Was it possible? He certainly didn’t have the budget for major remediation. There was a bit of genius, could it be brought forward? Could I make this movie work?

I called him and told him I’d fix it for a flat $400. He’d have to wait a month or two. I learned so much, and Blind Date was accepted into a slew of festivals. One of which, I attended.

So where ever you are Michael, thanks.

Swiss German Triple Threat

After 15 years living mostly in Michigan, how did I come to be sitting next to a gorgeous / goofy Swiss German triple threat in Manhattan, NYC, way off off Broadway?

In the fall of 2003, I cleared out of the family cottage I’d been squatting off and on since 1986 and left Michigan, a pariah. A few months earlier, during a visit to my parent’s house just down the road, my father took my aside and said,  “You’re making life miserable for your mother and I.” His brother Jack, usually a joke cracking Irish leprechaun, had been overtly hostile for the last half year.

Jack was especially bothered by the signs I’d posted, for instance “Happy War”.  Also, me being one of the Traverse Eight.

The previous March, 30 or so activists blocked an Army convoy departing from Traverse City to support Shock and Awe in Iraq. Eight were arrested, including me. The action was carefully planned, supported by scads of citizens and backed by a crack team of pro bono lawyers. The objective  was to offer an alternative narrative about the war with a robustly publicized show trial. Here’s Mother Jones timeline of the Iraq war.

Angry “patriots”, crazy felony charges by the prosecutor, ongoing TV coverage, articles and editorials in the regional newspapers. I’m guessing my conservative dad caught hell at his Rotary meetings and probably at church.  I can only imagine.

Eventually, the prosecutor caved and the eight of us agreed to pay a small fine for the equivalent of a parking ticket.

However, my family didn’t see it as a win. So away, away. I blew out of Michigan with the autumn leaves, my 3 cats in a Toyota Tundra pickup pulling a trailer full of original watercolors and prints. That winter I trekked between juried art shows in the Sunshine state during the worst art show season ever recorded in human history. Did I mention I paint?

Utterly discouraged with peddling paintings, and having lost my cat Peanut to alligators in Bonita Springs, Florida, I decided to take a break and spend Christmas 2003 in the Big Apple, NYC.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn. Three months before getting arrested for laying under army trucks, I had marched for peace in Washington, DC with my sparkling French comrade Claire Hallereau. She and her husband Fabrice Covelli had just split up, and Fabrice had moved in with Marion Ramirez, a dancer in his contact improv group. At that time, I was better friends with Claire than Fabrice but I didn’t want to seem to be choosing sides. I visited Fabrice and Marion in their new apartment in Prospect Heights. “Art shows suck,” I told them, “I’d move to NYC if I could find an awesome space.” The upstairs apartment is available.” Fabrice replied. “Let’s go see.” Newly renovated, cross ventilation, cats ok, 20 minutes by subway from midtown Manhattan and the Art Students League. Whoa, the nod from the cosmos. Lease signed starting January 2004.

I’ve always had an affinity for dance and Marion was hooked into a vast network of performers. That first year in NYC my main gig was offering dirt cheap freelance video documentation to artists, dancers and actors for their reels and web sites. Choreographer Laurence Schroeder became a great friend and she booked me to do a multi-camera production for her theater collaboration Fata Morgana, right after my return from Palm Springs Short Fest. It’s late September 2005, I’ve realized that I want to make my own movies, I’ve written my first script and decided the lead character Christina would be near impossible to cast.

Daughter of God unfolds in a mostly post apocalyptic world. The refugee Christina is in her early 20s, and she survived multiple civilization crashing catastrophes by mapping the childhood fantasies she improvised with her eccentric uncle onto her adult experience. She deflects trauma by interpreting events as extensions of the wild adventures they imagined together when she was a kid. The influence of this odd internal world results in eerily auspicious choices in a bleak and sometimes horrific reality.

The swiss german Carmen Althaus, was one Fata Morgana’s principals, an actor who could also sing and dance, or in musical theater parlance, a triple threat. After the performance, we were getting acquainted at a bar near the performance venue. Carmen was in her 30s, but she presented as a woman 10 years younger, with a sort of delightfully feisty incoherence. She was all sharp nordic angles and gangly grace wrapped around an absurd and slightly simmering creative angst. She had a delicious euro accent and a ready if slightly maniacal laugh.

Carmen WAS Christina. She could just be mostly herself and pull off Christina no problem. Was she interested in the part? Yes. Casting conundrum solved.

So much for those other scripts. Daughter of God was in the house.

Episode 003 The Big Boat

Daughter of God was conceived to be ultra easy to produce – three characters, minimal props, simple sets. I envisioned doing the whole thing in two rooms, Christina’s place and Gerry’s place. With clever camera coverage, I could have shot the whole thing in my own narrow railroad apartment in Prospect Heights. The trickiest aspect was finding an actress who could play Christina, but with the advent of Carmen, this was no longer a problem. We were under way.

Except I wanted the project to be legal. I wanted to be able to sign contracts and have clear chain of title. Carmen was a citizen of Switzerland, her travel visa would not allow her to work in the USA. I made an application for an H2B visa, but was denied. In the South Street Seaport Strand, I picked up a used copy of Shooting Overeas, and realized I could sign a contract with Carmen if I shot my project out of the country. Canada was only 6 hours drive, I could hammer out the details with the Canadian labor board.

For whatever reason, once I found Carmen, I never reconsidered. The idea that I could find an American actress and shoot the project in my apartment either never occurred to me, or felt like retreat. There was a single mindedness that seemed almost unbalanced, looking back. I can admit to having a mild crush on Carmen, perhaps the spirit of the movie had begun to influence my judgement. Daughter of God was coming, and Carmen WAS Christina.

I’d moved to New York from Michigan once before, in 1995 to be closer to the woman who would eventually become my wife, then my x-wife. Besides leading up to a really audacious mistake, my 90s in New York City yielded another fabulous boon, Maho Sone. Maho was a fellow researcher at the Art Student’s League. She introduced me to her neighbors at that time, Claire and Fabrice and another rascal, Eiji Sumi, all of whom eventually became involved directly with Daughter of God.  Yet it was Maho herself who changed the entire course of the project, after she showed up to help with pre-production in late 2005.

I tasked her with finding a location in Canada. A small house or perhaps a couple of adjacent apartments that could be rented for a couple of weeks and close to the border so we wouldn’t have to travel too far. On the second or third day, she called me over to the laptop, “This might not make sense, but take a look.” In Kingston, Ontario, the 150 foot ice breaker Alexander Henry was being operated as a bed and breakfast.

Did this make sense? Why would the characters be living on a big boat? By even asking this question, I gave myself permission to reengage in the joys of world building.

My Palm Court Inn writing marathon resulted in a collection of pre and post apocalyptic vignettes. In distilling Daughter of God I had trimmed away superfluous post apocalyptic context, mostly to keep the production as svelte as possible.

Most cliche end of civilization scenarios posit no power plants to charge the grid, so no lights, no pumps for gasoline or water, no sewage treatment. Cities burned or drowned, riots, hordes of roaming scavengers and worse. Depicting all that convincingly is a lot of work.

Daughter of God was designed to have the characters’ interaction and dialogue imply their world, details and exposition would just be clutter. The characters inhabited an idea of ending, replete with mystery and awkward insinuations. Maybe they were ghosts.

With the prospect of shooting on a big boat, context came flooding back.`

The characters live on a big boat because big boats have independent infrastructure – power, plumbing and light. Big boats can pump fuel out of storage tanks. Big boats can relocate to safer shores. A shadow of bygone days could persist on a big boat.

Big boats also have plenty of cabins for crew and passengers, so finding two rooms for each character would be a easy.

Ann at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston, stewards of the Alexander Henry opined the window for a discount rental for the entire ship would be after the thaw and before the tourist season, say April. The final step before scheduling production was to scout the location. On March 22, 2006, I jumped in the Odyssey and headed to Canada.

At the border crossing in Landsdowne, I was refused entry. My FBI record tagged me as a sex offender.

Episode 004 Five to Ten in the Canadian slammer

I love Canada. I’ve partied with friends in swinging Toronto, attended the 1996 CHI conference in Vancouver, BC, and crossed the Peace Bridge countless times traveling between NYC and Michigan. As recently as January of 2006, I had driven up to Montreal with Laurence Schroeder and two other artists, Jung Woong and Valere for a long weekend of snowboarding.

For the last few months I’d been negotiating with Sonya De Mambro of the Canadian labor board to get work permits for the cast and crew. A piece of cake in contrast to the pointless hassle and denial by with US immigration for H2B visas.

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes was able to get her board of directors to cut us a deal on the Alexander Henry 10 days for $5000. We’d found a friendly bed and breakfast close to the boat and a fantastic vegetarian restaurant, the Sleepless Goat to do our craft services.

Canada is awesome. Canada rocks.

I rolled up on the Canadian border and handed my passport to the agent. He asked me what my plans were in Canada. I proudly told him I was scouting a film location. He stared at screens and told me to pull over.  Oops.

I parked my car, and an customs officer started to inspect my vehicle. We chatted amicably, did I mention I love Canada? He found my SLR camera, extra merino wool long johns, organic celery and…

“Step back from the vehicle! What is this?”

The officer was brandishing a copy of ‘The Concealed Handgun Manual, How to Choose, Carry and Shoot a Gun in Self Defense by Chris Bird’ The National Phenomenon Second Edition. I had bought it on a whim years back and forgotten in one the random compartments in the back of the van.

“Sir, are you transporting any weapons in this vehicle?”

I thought fast. “No! Look, I’m a filmmaker, it’s for research. I buy lots of books for research. People have guns in movies.  I don’t own any guns. The most shooting I’ve ever done was plinking soup cans with my friend’s father’s 22.” I may not have said ALL that, I was just trying to sound sincere, which was tricky because I was sincere.

“Well, what was I supposed to think when I found this?” He sounded kind of apologetic. I love Canada. Inspection over. I entered the border control office and handed my passport to another agent behind the counter. She was rather attractive, I couldn’t help but notice as  she brought up my information, I wondered if perhaps there might be a way to ask her out.

“Were you ever convicted of a crime? She asked.

“Uh, no…” I stuttered, “Speeding tickets.”

“The United States FBI shares information with Canada and your record shows unresolved felony charges.”

I balked, felony charges?!

She turned her screen around on the counter so I could see. There was action with the Traverse 8, what the rabid prosecutor had patriotically felt were appropriate charges for laying down in front of tanker trucks – molesting workers and criminal trespass.

I told her they were from a civil disobedience opposition to the Iraq war, and that all the charges were essentially dropped.

She helpfully explained, “There are three boxes – the charges, the adjudication and the judgement.” The first box has your felony charges. The other two boxes are blank, so your record appears as if I hadn’t gone to trial, there has been no resolution. Molesting workers in Canada means sexually molesting workers. You can get 5 to 10 years in prison for that here.

As far as my pretty border agent knew, I could have forcefully entered an office building and had sex with a secretary at gunpoint, been arrested, jumped bail and was now fleeing to Canada. I doubted she was into bad boys.

“Look, this was a war protest. The prosecutor reduced the charges to blocking traffic, not even a misdemeanor.  I am planning to shoot a movie in Canada in April, I’ve gotten work permits from the labor board. What can I do?”

“Go to the jurisdiction where you were arrested and obtain a notarized copy of your complete records, then come back to this border location and we’ll fix your records here in Canada. We can’t do anything about your FBI records in the USA, but you’ll be able to enter our country.” She was sweet. I smiled and thanked her.

I turned around and headed back to Brooklyn, after a brusque exchange with the a US border agents as I re-entered America. I got on the phone to Traverse City Government Center and asked about my records. A typically friendly Michigan woman looked me up.

“Well, they look good here, everything is complete.”

“Why would my FBI records be incomplete?”

“I don’t know. We transmit everything to the FBI once the case is closed. Couldn’t of happened on our end, that’s just not how things work here.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

I requested a duplicate for immediate pickup, and called my painter friend Melonie Steffes in Honor Michigan, who was scheduled to join the crew as an Assisant Director. She drove to TC, grabbed the records, had them notarized and then dropped them off at fedex. With luck I’d only be a few days behind schedule.

I returned to Landsdowne and once again met with my attractive border officer. She seemed preoccupied, my triumphant return to Canada didn’t make an impression. She fixed the Canadian version of my FBI file, advised me to keep the notarized records with my passport just in case, and allowed me to enter her country.

The Alexander Henry was truly awesome. We’d sign th contracts on the first day of shooting, April 10.

 

 

 

Episode 004 Five to Ten in the Canadian slammer

 

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