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A podcast about movie making and the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Editorial – the rough cut flops at first wave festivals.
Episode 015 of the Daughter of Godcast, Dan Kelly here again with you, here in the lovely Artist house, Inc. studio in beautiful Beulah, Michigan. Want to shout out to our listeners around the world in Nigeria, China, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, France, Puerto Rico and the Russian Federation, as well as Traverse City and Ann Arbor Michigan. I see you out there listening and I thank you so much.
Today’s word is polymath, or “many learnings” from the latin. I’d prefer, “many likes” which would be polyphile, I suppose. I could make that word up, but it would wreck havoc with my SEO, or search engine optimization. That’s a blast from the right now, because along with weekly episodes of Daughter of Godcast, I’m teaching myself how to make dog.movie more findable in the world, via the poly prescient Google.
Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn 2006, post big boat. I made all manner of optimistic and confident predictions about how quickly I could cut the project. I had accomplished the toughest part, assembling people, places and ideas worthy of documenting, and captured 85-90% of what I set out to get. I should have enough to complete the core project. A couple or at most a few months of staring at screens, the rapture of editorial, should make up for the other 10-15%. First, a vacation.
Returning from Canada and getting Melonie back on a plane to Michigan, I retooled for camping and jumped on a plane myself to Arizona to meet my brothers and nephew for a few days descending into the Grand Canyon along the South Bass Trail.
During the flight, a super fat guy was next to me, aggressively overflowing into my seat. He seemed to be asserting his right to be really BIG, and we didn’t speak more than a few words to each other. I’m pretty open to diversity, but the dude was a stifling, arrogant, inescapable onslaught of meat and heat, somehow even more nightmarish in his navy blue tent-like business suit. This was probably the most stressful flight I’ve ever taken, so much so that in my eagerness to get out of the plane and away from the man mountain, I left my laptop behind. Fortunately, the airline was able to sort this out, and the laptop was back in my hands a few days later.
After we came out of the canyon, I rented a car and drove to Vegas to catch up with my excellent friend Susan Fisk, who’d moved there from Michigan a few years prior. She tried to help me see Vegas from a friendly perspective, but I’d attended too many SIGGRAPHS and SIGCHI conferences to ever accept Vegas as anything but an energy squandering, water wasting environmental disaster. I encouraged her to get out of there, then drove back to my brother and sister’s in Flagstaff and caught a plane back to Brooklyn.
Why did the fat guy freak me out so much? Why am I so down on Vegas?
Intensity might be resonance. The big guy embodied the excess inherent in consumption and the horrific waste of resources we Americans countenance. The endless quest for satisfaction in the manipulation of external trivia. Indulgence way beyond requirements and the suffering thus triggered.
I think more to the point, man mountain reminded me of me, of my own overflowing arrogance. Here was a man out of control in a fundamental way, he cannot easily fit in, constantly at odds with convention. Being this bulky is not ok in the prominent culture, he must feel friction. He’s not at ease and so, he’s angry. I can relate.
There’s plenty of “evolved” reasons to feel compassion – he might have been sexually abused, or perhaps he’s got a genetic disorder, he’s jangled in a way that’s not his fault… and a sink hole opens up at my feet – I’m trying to find some reason not to blame him, to not judge him. How could he live like this? Maybe he didn’t choose. The premise that he’s fucked up is total jackal thinking, (see Marshall Rosenberg).
I want to cut him some slack because then *I* can feel less imposed upon, I can experience some relief even as I’m squashed and constricted. I can defuse my resentment for the penny pinching airlines constantly shrinking their seats.
About 3 hours of being forced to look in the mirror. Jeff Gibbs helped me to let go of jet flying, but I think the fat man got me ready to hear Jeff’s rationale. I didn’t ever want to be stuck next to an angry obese guy again. In other words, I didn’t want to be stuck next to a fun house reflection of my own shadows. In other words, throw some light on the shadows, jet planes and fat guys are trivia.
Now, I am grateful to the fat guy. Time traveling back to myself on that airplane, clearing space to breath and stretch out. Witness energetic editorial – new insights inserted into old memories transform the now.
From: danny kelly <anything@ Subject: on the plane from AZ Date: May 3, 2006 at 4:47:57 PM EDT To: Ann Loeding <aboatgrrl@ Cc: danny kelly <anything@ I am flying on a big airplane right now and will be arriving back in NYC tonight. Robert is coming into the hood thursday and is giving me a ride back to his place to pick up the honda. I'd like to begin working on the edit very soon (next week?). would like to clear up some financials first. Thought it might be a good idea to figure out who we'd like to thank in the credits before we got to far away from the project. also maybe you and I could debrief with an eye toward what we did right and otherwise. kisses! d
Making movies was the optimal path to follow as an artist, because I didn’t have to give any of myself up, quite the opposite – all of my interests and affinities are required for making movies. Making movies is also the most outrageous undertaking I can imagine.
And as I’ve been hinting for a few episodes, I’ve learned very recently that Daughter of God has been a sort of preparation for an even brighter blooming into my affinities, a significant upgrade of my already robust imagination.
Of my many likes, the process of assembling and remixing blobs of picture and sound or editorial got me to my first film festival, which then inspired me to start my first featurette. We prefaced Daughter of God’s making by preparing for and getting on the big boat, to acquire the core footage. So far, we’ve made the movie twice, according to Hitchcock. Now the third making, the one I’ve been most looking forward to – editorial, begins.
I had the sense that the movie was pretty much in the bag, because now I was in my element, editing was my forte. No pesky actors or crew needed, locations… oh wait. Lawyers. Did I mention lawyers? That’s a morass, we’ll gently side step lawyers for now.
Through the month of May I kept cash flowing by documenting dance performance around the city, worked my member shifts at the Park Slope Food Coop, practiced Tai Chi on the weekends, and I slammed together a working edit for DOG. By June, a bare bones pre-release screener was ready, and I sent this to the first wave of film festivals.
From: danny kelly <anything@ Subject: hey Date: June 5, 2006 at 7:27:49 PM EDT To: Steven Zilliax <szilliax@ Cc: danny kelly <anything@ Yo Steve! are you still on the planet? I want to send you money and a final contract. I've finished a rough cut and have started firing it off to festivals. I've got to clear the legal issues real quick. PLEASE get in touch! tried leaving cell messages... D
Steve Zilliax had been deported, but his stuff was still scattered around the city. I retrieved all of Steve’s clothes and personal gear from his friends’ apartments, including a bicycle, tennis racket and $920 in cash. I shipped everything except the bike and racket to his parents in Canada.
From: Dan Kelly <nomad@ Subject: boxes launched Date: July 18, 2006 at 11:33:20 AM EDT To: Steven Zilliax <szilliax@ Cc: Dan Kelly <nomad@ Steveez cross your fingers, six boxes launched today from church street station. I counted $920 in cash in that wad you left. The shipping was $146, so i also mailed you a check for $744 in a separate envelope. Could be two weeks for the boxes? Waiting to hear from claire about the lawyer. love and love dan
The racket and the bike gathered dust in my narrow hallway, biding their time. Everything has a destiny.
I scouted immgration lawyers for Steve to see if we could reverse his defacto deportation. I would’ve helped fund the process, but his inquiries weren’t promising.
Speaking of lawyers, my entertainment lawyer was proving to be problematic. Let’s call him Mel Tormey. At first I just thought he was thorough, but after a month or two I realized Mel was a serious pain in the ass. He went into excruciating detail about trivia either because he was total anal, to pad out his billing, or both. One of his predilections was commenting on emails in CAPS, and issuing dire warnings about failure to anticipate every possible eventuality. He did move the project forward, but time I wasted replying to his CAPITALIZED emails and excessive fees made the price for Mel’s help dear.
Downtown Community Television Center in Chinatown offers workshops on all things media, and over the summer of 2006 I attended a legal workshop hosted by the incomparable attorney, Innes Smolansky. I fired Mel and hired Innes Her experience and expertise with indy distribution is extensive, and she had a sultry Polish accent. As of today Daughter of God has yet to be distributed, and Innes doesn’t really feel like she’s contributed all that much over the last 11 years, but just knowing she’s on retainer feels like money in the bank.
Entering film festivals was a rather audacious move, the editorial was hardly started. I gambled that at least a couple of juries would see the project’s potential, the screener was a work in progress. I wanted to feed the juggernaut momentum with a pre-emptive strike on the festival circuit. If the long shot paid off and Daughter of God got accepted anywhere, I’d have to go into total overdrive to actually get the movie festival ready.
I picked a few Oscar qualifying festivals and others that felt tasty, SF Shorts: San Francisco International Festival, AFI FEST, Global Peace Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, Atlantic Film Fest, Sacramento International Film and Music Festival, Independent Television Festival, Terror Film Festival.
I then started editorial from scratch with a more methodical approach.
7/15/06 blog (editorial) now i am thinking about logging, about how to do it. if I try to log every line, every nuance, by god i’ll be here forever. what i need is to select the high lights, the parts that really work well. what would those be? strong performances, clear and articulate audio, striking visuals. what we need to be doing is selecting the best stuff, not logging every moment. that really means watching and listening intently. I’ve already made some choices, like dark hall vs light hall. it’s perfectly fine to see her in the hall and then cut to a dark interior, that automatically deselects the bright door shots. choices like that, is this or that better? it means going through and analyzing what’s going on, what our options are. for instance, there are major branches where i’ve created options to work with, either this way or that. sometimes three or four options. so what this logging is all about is documenting the branches, the variety of coverage and how each possibility might jive with the rest of the material. so we watch for options. we can also situate ourselves someplace shady and quiet, the backyard comes to mind with that long extension cord which has not yet been brought in. i need to account for those and the rest of my extension cords as part of my kit.
Thinking about Gerry and Joe
In July I attended my second Hackers on Planet Earth conference (HOPE Number 6), where I purchased two sets of lock picking tools. A week or two after, my high school buddies and I rented a place near Deep Creek Lake in Maryland and I brought an assortment of padlocks and showed their kids how to use the tools. Next to the house was a secure storage shed off limits to renters. I had it open in about 10 minutes, like magic. We checked out the owners’ water toys and shiny ATV, and then locked the shed up again.
My experience writing code and HOPE conferences influenced Gerry’s character. He’s a hacker and a maker who’s been repeatedly crushed but insists on rebounding, he feels he’s been targeted by unseen enemies, and this makes him resilient. He does not know why he is a threat or to whom, but he has decided to find out. They have given him a reason to live.
7/22/06 Gerry Monolog i will not be neutralized. ha, go ahead unseen adversary, you know that the most you can do is toss stumbling blocks in my path, but i am coming for you, i am standing for my earth family, and whatever your about, whatever you are, matters not. i am coming on and coming on strong. keep me lonely if you can, you’ve tried to sicken me, but couldn’t make it stick. you might jam my channels, i’ll find others. damaged, broken, crushed, i keep rising up. watch me recover. you might steal my will, i will grow another. you might erase my memory, my family and the gods stand ready to remind me. my mind is everywhere. i am the universe.
The character of Uncle Joe was inspired by Jon Ronson’s book, Men Who Stare at Goats, which was later made into a silly movie with George Clooney. Ronson’s book documents some weird and tragic stories about unconventional military explorations and black ops of the US fedgov. Weirdly, Deep Creek Lake was where some of the nasty stuff purportedly went down, like the use of LSD as a CIA interrogation aid and the murder of a government chemist who was uneasy with this research.
July of 2006, there I was on Deep Creek Lake, teaching my nephews and nieces practical espionage, picking locks to see what the landlords were hiding. Spooky.
If LSD was ever deployed as a weapon, I suppose the military might still maintain a stockpile, but civilian use is likely way more common, either by the very adventurous, or metaphysically inclined. The weapon has been re-purposed, re-contextualized.
I remember as a lad, some party girl pals were looking for something to smoke marijuana out of. My friend found her dad’s old replica flintlock pistol. After wire brushing the powder residue out of the barrel and reaming out the flash hole with a paper clip, she piled some pot in the flashpan, put the barrel to her mouth and touching a lighter to the pan, sucked in. An improvised and very scary pipe.
The gun became something of a legend in her circle because first of all, it was super freaky to put a gun barrel into your mouth, and second she had taken a device that had only one purpose – to kill or injure another person – and seen it in a new way. Now the gun was for getting stoned, for fun. And seeing a lot more use than it ever had as a weapon.
The re-purposing of weapons has many famous precedents. The first manned rockets were basically modified ICBMs, NASA replaced nuclear payloads with people. Werner Von Braun was himself repurposed, from Nazi scientist overseeing the slave labor construction of V2 rockets to hero of NASA and architect of the Apollo missions to the moon. We can all re-purpose, we can see ourselves differently.
I told the V2 and ICBM story to a bunch of grad students I’d befriended at a computer conference in the 90s, complete with the cozy little re-purposing moral, when an older dude stood up from a nearby table, came over and introduced himself. He said he had worked high up at NASA on this mission and that mission, laying out his credentials and getting the stars in our eyes. He then singled me out for an intense lambasting. “NASA had no connection to the military,” and so forth. My new grad student friends visibly shrank back from me, I had been spreading poison. I was astounded to have been singled out for offering what I felt was a message of hope.
Looking back, that guy must have felt a lot of guilt, there must have been way more military overlap during his career than he could handle, hence his strong reaction. The lady doth protest too much.
Then there’s the theory Joe Cissel reminded me of, that the space program was a foil to get missile targeting super accurate, a weapons program hidden in plain sight.
Even so, there’s always an opportunity to flip the horror show. The masters of war might be hard at work, but we can subvert their efforts, every single time. Fun and creativity always win, cause you never want to give up. They are their own reward.
Which brings us to Uncle Joe, who shows up with glad tidings for Christina – that she is going to give birth to the Daughter of God. Who is Uncle Joe and what’s he all about? Is he an angel from heaven? Or a weapon? Perhaps he’s both, a re-purposed weapon.
Thinking about the characters is a huge part of editorial. Who they are, what they want.
What do I mean by story telling? Story telling is just another way of saying art – the facilitation of a complex, engaging and persistent experience. By persistance I mean memory. Movies are akin to paintings and music in that it’s a mediated experience shading to memory. Virtuosic experience, vivid memories.
Editorial assembles diverse media into a coherent whole. Much meaning and nuance is possible depending on how the bits are juxtaposed. Some choices are about what shots are technically excellent – performance, sound, focus, lighting – while others are based on how to convey something subtle / crucial. Imagine two chunks of adjacent footage, say a shot of Christina talking followed by a shot of Gerry reacting. Even with matched cameras, the choice of where to make the edit will either knit their conversation together or blow it to pieces. Editorial choices trash or deepen the story.
The version for the first wave of festivals was slightly more than a rough cut, not nearly close to being complete. I was mildly disappointed but not surprised when the festival rejections started showing up. Eventually rejections from all festivals, though the Terror Film Festival was nice enough to send a t-shirt, and here it is!
You’ve been listening to the Daughter of Godcast, produced behind enemy lines in the United States of America, where the resistance continues the epic adventure of bringing domestic democracy and justice for all. Thanks for tuning in, we’ve been talkin about he beginning of editorial for the featurette Daughter of God, the longest little movie that Innes Smolansky has almost ever worked for, and if she’s listening out there somewhere, we’d like to send her a big hug! We like to send you all a big hug! Who is we? Me and tigger!
From: Withoutabox Customer Service <customerservice@ Subject: Message from Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival Date: June 30, 2006 at 7:00:26 PM EDT To: Dan Kelly <anything@ Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival has sent you the message below regarding your submission of "Daughter of God" with the tracking number SVSFF-1046-2006. ------------------------------------------ Hi Dan - Thank you so much for sending us your short film. It was a very creative idea - and I especially liked the quirkiness of your female lead. Nevertheless, we will not be able to include your film in our program this year. We received over 130 films, and only have place for between 20-30 films. We hope that you will think of us again in the future, for any spiritually oriented film projects that you may embark upon. All the best, Claudio Ruben Co-Director SVSFF
From: info@ Subject: Daughter of God Date: August 5, 2006 at 9:22:55 PM EDT To: anything@ Dear Dan, The Global Peace Film Festival applauds your work to bring your creative talents to bear on this important subject matter. It is with great regret that Global Peace Film Festival cannot accommodate your film at this years festival. Global Peace Film Festival has only so many slots and too many worthy selections from which to choose. Global Peace Film Festival wishes you every success with this and your future projects and looks forward to the opportunity to review your work another day. With kind regards, The Programming Staff of Global Peace Film Festival
From: Mark Flindall <programming@ Subject: 26th Atlantic Film Festival Date: August 17, 2006 at 7:11:13 PM EDT To: <anything@ Dear Dan Kelly, Thank you for submitting Daughter of God for consideration in the 26th Atlantic Film Festival. The Festival received an incredible number of submissions this year. Our Selection Committees were faced with some very difficult decisions and, unfortunately, we are unable to screen your work this year. We thank you for your interest in the Festival and we wish you every success with your film. We look forward to receiving more from you in the future for Festival consideration. Sincerely, Lia Rinaldo Festival Director On behalf of the Selection Committee
From: TerrorFilmFest@ Subject: Terror Film Festival Date: September 19, 2006 at 9:10:41 PM EDT To: TerrorFilmFest@ Hey Everyone, The is a sucky way to end my day, but I felt obligated to do this personally. If you’re receiving this email, then sadly your film has not been selected by Terror Film Festival for 2006. My deepest regrets to all of you. I wish I could have selected your film, and I wish I was better at delivering unhappy news. But I guess there’s really no happy way to tell someone they weren’t selected. I can tell you this though, you all made some really good films. It’s just that after all is said and done, there’s only so many hours in a day. And the choices had to be made. And this was an awful choice for me. I didn’t like rejecting any of your films, and I won’t like it next year either. As a filmmaker, actor, and musician, I know what it’s like to get a “rejection notice”. I’ve gotten a ton of them. The only advice I can offer to you is to grab some good friends, go paint the town red, and then get up tomorrow and try again. Good luck to all of you and please feel free to submit again next year. I bow my head to all of you and I wish you all the best. And my regrets again for being the bringer of bad news. Thank you and keep of making films! Good Health & Talk Soon, Felix Diaz Terror Film Festival (Horror, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Thriller) October 17-20, 2006 Philadelphia, PA http://www.terrorfilmfestival.net/
From: danny kelly <anything@ Subject: Re: pal and ntsc Date: August 23, 2006 at 9:22:19 AM EDT To: Carmen Althaus <carmen.althaus@ Cc: danny kelly <anything@, Steven Zilliax <szilliax@> (snip) now looking like end of September for DOG final cut. What keeps me from passing DOG to you is the legal work. After 4 months I still don't have contracts for the cast and crew. my previous lawyer was a bad choice, he basically wasted my summer and billed me a lot. live and learn. I have replaced him with another lawyer who should be able to expedite the project. She is cool. I just shot an additional scene (remember the three secret endings?) and keep posting posting posting. It's a quirky and odd movie, I like it. I am really just cracking the surface of the post possibilities, teasing out the potential of the project. Want to go farther! Party this weekend. I have left myself the option of not showing DOG, it somehow doesn't seem right to debut it without you guys. What i might do is a sort of a focus group screening with forms for folks to fill out, what they liked etc. that might be more appropriate. I love you too! Dan