A podcast about movie making and the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Editorial - Deeper through 2006.
Welcome to the Daughter of Godcast, here we are cozy together at last! we could be halfway through the story of the making of Daughter of God or maybe just 1/3 of the way. We're a ways, that's for sure, episode 016, and there's still so much to tell, you lucky people. Of course, I am the luckiest of all, since all I'm required to do is ramble on, while you might have to be doing dishes or changing diapers while your listening, unless you're watching me too in which case, hi! Let's see if we can blow through 2006.
Episode 016 Deeper
2006 was a eventful year. I'd been living in Brooklyn for two years and had a pretty sweet groove going. A great place to live, creative friends and had started my first featurette, although I initially thought I was making a short. Of the many friends that have croaked while I've been making DOG, the first one died in 2006.
I kept a trickle of cash and beaucoup inspiration flowing documenting live performance, I co-hosted dance parties and music jams at the United Gardens, repeatedly struck out romantically and went way beyond the Daughter of God rough cut, as I gradually found answers to why I wanted to make movies.
The rough cut
A rough cut is an assembly of shots roughly corresponding to the screenplay, with perhaps some placeholder media, like music. The June 2006 rough cut starts with simple music I whipped up and opening shots of Gerry, Christina and the big boat. Christina boards the boat, walks down the passage and climbs the stairs to her cabin. Uncle Joe shows up, he and Christina talk, then he's gone. Christina changes, sped up footage with some cross fades and more placeholder music. Now she's in the hall, entering Gerry's cabin, they talk, scene ends, roll credits.
Entering this version into festivals was a sort of mad celebration, having completed a working edit just one month after shooting, which was pretty quick. Another milestone passed. With a rough cut already complete, what could possibly stop me?
duhn duhn duhn!
There was a problem. The rough cut ran 20 minutes, twice as long as I had anticipated. Longish movies have a tougher time getting into festivals, because they have to be be better than 2-3 shorter movies. So basically, there was no hope. Well, maybe a little hope.
After mailing off the DVDs, I forgot about festivals and just kept going. By the time the last rejection showed up, I was working on a very different movie.
I provided documentation services to dancers and performers. Marion Ramirez had hooked me up in her community, but now she was long gone, traveling the world with her new love Jung Woong Kim and learning Korean. My network expanded as I documented more shows. Dana Hash, Philipa Kaye, Laura Peterson, Kara Tatlebaum, Elise Knudson, Jody Sperling, Zoe Klein, Mare Hieronimus, Debra Wanner, Antonio Ramos, Gerald Cassel, Bill Young, Alexandra Beller, Amy Larimer, Rebecca Stenn, Emily Faulkner, Kelly Hayes, Patricia Weiss, Christine Suarez - a who's who of the early 21 century NYC indy dance scene. Kind of a tiny pond in hindsight, but back then I felt plugged into an fascinating scene that complemented and reinforced my own aspirations.
Not only did I get the chance to quietly fall in love over and over with these gorgeous people and their power, I also was scheming on how I might one day dance professionally myself. Another desire buried in the deep Dan Kelly treasure vault.
Let's not move too quickly past the falling in love part. I had crushes on several of my clients, but I kept running head-on into my own self loathing, even as I was pulling off the impossible with DOG and stretching way beyond my prior incarnations. I just didn't feel worthy and so couldn't get with the women I most wanted to sparkle with. An ongoing tragic comic theme of my New York experience.
As a performance documenter, I gave the dance community my presence at prices they could afford, with technical support and heaps of patience as needed. Although I could have made way more money doing other kinds of production in NYC, I loved being around dance, so I was well compensated.
Money was always tight for my clients and helping audiences to find them wasn't often their priority. Making the work and performing were. Which makes sense, artists want to art. Yet the audiences were tiny in relation to the miracles unfolding on stage. That left an impression on me.
How can a wider world discover us unless our work persists, flows out across the net to find our allies? I constantly advocated for more and better documentation, and when confronted with genius I was super generous with my gear and time, because I wanted to help that suffuse the world.
I was mildly frustrated documenting dance, I felt many of my clients could have gone so much farther sharing their presence with the world, yet this was totally projection. I wanted to fly farther, higher.
If I ever caught a whiff of desperation, a miasma of lack, a sense of struggle for no good reason while working with these talented and adventurous people, that was certainly my own hunger to be, do and have way more. The frustration was not knowing I could, any time.
Daughter of God quelled the frustration. Now I was channeling my energy into audacious action on my own behalf. Practice what you preach, Mr Artist.
Which of course brings us right into this moment and Daughter of Godcast. This episode may not be my best work, my opus. I am striking a balance between doing my best work and giving my allies a chance to find me. I am not building an audience anymore, neither am I scribbling in a closet, keeping my failures (and victories) private. I heard Carrie Fisher talking on NPRs Fresh Air about how she overshares, and I'm guessing that's a practice for her, of being present and courageous.
I am being as me as I can be and letting you see. More rhymes. I do think about you coming along, about us blossoming together. Brother and sister flowers. Triffids.
With the ubiquity of smartphones, the latest generation of NYC dancers is likely way more savvy about outreach and persistence, I hope so. Dance is a powerful practice for waking up. Dance is a force that gives us meaning, to contraphrase Chris Hedges. There's that re-purposing meme again.
This was the golden age of the United Gardens. My railroad apartment was not unlike Jimmy Stewart's in Hitchcock's Rear Window, sans my own Grace Kelly. I was on the top floor of a 3 story house with Trevor in the house adjacent and Fabrice in my house a floor below. The three of us co-rented the apartment below Trevor. Our rear windows looked out over two long narrow back yards, the United Gardens. Between the three of us and Phil our awesome landlord, we threw all sorts of parties, dances and music jams.
So along with DOG editorial, parties, music jams, dance documentation, and Tai Chi, I also found time to shave off my eyebrows, bleach my hair blonde, meet Garrett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam, learn to lock pick, record a theme song for Daughter of God, reconnect very briefly with my ex-wife and the girl friend who saved my life after my ex-wife, host all manner of visitors, shoot post-apocalyptic exposition footage in upstate New York, drive to Michigan, and almost fall in love a few times.
Lusting after dancers notwithstanding, certainly a rough year for romance.
After coming back from Canada, I briefly dated a someone but she started acting erratic and then told me she was pregnant, which didn't make sense. The home test came up negative and she confessed to making the whole thing up to get more attention.
Although we weren't lovers after that, I did get a lot of alternately accusatory and apologetic emails, and then a few months later another employee at the restaurant she worked at reported her to the INS for overstaying her visa. She was picked up, interned in New Jersey for two months and then deported. She's still a friend via the internets, which I'm glad for. Because we're all in this together. The whole mysterious pregnancy and deportation sequence was not a little disconcerting - coming so soon after shooting my story about divine pregnancies and the loss of my leading man thanks to beta border guards.
I also heard briefly from my x-wife, we'd divorced in 2000. Having only talked a few times since, I was pleased to get a mildly chatty email from her which I replied to with lots of swell pictures and then... nothing.
In mid August of 2006, My Toe Socks collaborator Lauren Di Scipio dropped in out of the blue for 30 minutes. She looked tan and fit. She was on her way elsewhere after visiting her parents in Connecticut. That's like stopping by Ann Arbor from Detroit for you Michiganders.
I don't really remember who else I longed for that year, but I spent a few hours one evening taking care of a barfing girl in my bathroom, and that might have been the romantic pinnacle of 2006.
I still keep in touch with a few of my NYC friends, but many tight bonds faded or fiercely imploded before I left for good in 2010. NYC is a much more volatile environment for friendships than Beulah, Michigan, or perhaps I was a much more volatile friend back then.
The recent presidential election def trimmed my extended family still further, Yew Norkers really freaked out at the results! If you've been following the podcast, you know I'm not a fan of Trumpy, but c'mon, saddle up. You'd rather the wild roller coaster be flat? Mixing metaphors again, sorry. There was much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth by my peeps in the 5 buroughs after Manhattan's iconic clown beat the pant suited gal. I had NYC people tell me it was my fault because I lived in Michigan!
How often do I have to post this Robot Chicken snippet? Fear itself, that's what's being sold and sold hard in the USA. Don't buy it, folks.
Here's the Signals from a Nearby Now take on the Russian hacking. 17 intelligence agencies are going to have a tough time showing the evidence. The Ruskies didn't just liberate snarky Dem emails.
count via electronics
if running private code
any script kiddie could hack
more vulnerable than windows
who're black hats
ruskies or uskies?
In the universe next door, the Ruskies were able to hack American vote counting machines because those machines are utterly insecure on purpose, and if that was public knowledge then the American people might realize that this is not the first time they've had a government selected for them. The only difference this time around was that a foreign power did the selecting. A sly move by the Russians. America gets the clown President, hand picked because he was the only opponent who could make Hillary look good in comparison. Trumpy will most certainly fuck up American projection of power big time, and the only way he can be stopped (short of a civil war) is by revealing that voting has been a sham for years, which the man don't dare do. A perfect crime.
That's why all the hub bub about the musty old Electoral College. If they can head him off there, then compromised voting machines can remain a state secret.
Securing proprietary code is nearly impossible, do you imagine a vote counting machine is less vulnerable than a Windows computer? and Microsoft is HUGE! In the utopian universe, voting is open source. Coming soon to Signals from a Nearby Now near you.
Odd that my alternate reality post apocalyptic science fiction podcast is starting to sound more and more like mainstream media. That can't be good.
Meanwhile back in 2006. On June 27 my artist friend Charly Hansen re-emerged into the non-physical, using cancer as his excuse for bolting before my movie was done. Of course he's responsible for the movie taking so long. He died and left me without any sense of urgency regarding completion. I wished I had sent him a copy of the rough cut a least, that would have been stellar.
But corny as it sounds, I know he's been pulling for the project ever since and has engineered not a few coups for Daughter of God from this advantageous perspective beyond duality. He and the rest of those fun loving dead people, rushing off to fullness so they could render all manner of spooky assistance. We'll recognize all their earth incarnations in a future episode.
There are now two reasons for this podcast. To revel in my evolving desire to make movies and to rough out a making of documentary that could release with Daughter of God, sort of the father to Daughter of God. Basically a blueprint for utopian earth stewardship in movie manifesto drag. If you read the transcriptions, you might see notes in [square brackets] that won't necessarily be included in the audio portion of the podcast. Those are to remind me what might be cool visual components later on.
We might be half way through the Daughter of Godcast. Let's say there's about 10 hours total of content, and if only 20% of that is compelling, that's two hours, easily a feature documentary. Maybe the working title could be the Why Movie, the legend of Shri Fugi Spilt. I'll probably grab that domain.
Enough future, golly. We still got to get through 2006!
After the rough cut was done I tried answering the question of how do I make Daughter of God? Gradually it became apparent that this question depended on a more existential question, why movie at all?
More questions than we may be ready to answer.
I didn't have a master plan, or all the answers. I knew I wanted to sketch out some more elements.
On May 22, 2006 while working on the rough cut, I wrote about encounters with a star faring civilization to explore the kinds of forces that could be influencing Daughter of God's characters. Perhaps this was a day dream or thought experiment by any of the three - Uncle Joe, Christina or Gerry.
If we send them down without wiping their memory they get caught, tortured and killed. you act differently when you know what we know, it’s like people who almost die, often times they don’t look at the world the same way, they become alive. they stand out in a crowd, they tend not to buy into bullshit. that’s like painting a target on their back.
you come up to our starship, you get a good look, you aren’t going to fit back into the little nook that you used to occupy down on earth. you can’t take your job or family back, not without elaborate preparations, cover stories, fabricated evidence, etc. – a thousand points of vulnerability. better if we just wipe your memory, then at least you have nothing to offer the interrogators and they just leave you be. your friends and family find you and help you assemble some kind of new life. we’ve got articles in all the estabz magazines about sudden memory loss, it’s acceptable. we know and they know there is no recovery protocol, what we erase is just gone, that’s all. so now make a choice, stay up here and work with us, or go back to what your were before.
The characters have transcended the mundane, they are enhanced and yet apparently nothing special. Even they don't know who or what they are, what happened to them. Again with the re-purposed weapons from episode 015.
Here's another character study from July 15, 2006 this applies to Gerry, who is a version of me.
we’ve all suffered, everyone struggles and is defeated, is hurt, crushed and broken. my lot is no worse than most, and a lot easier than many. not to down play my pain, certainly i’ve had a heapin helpin. what’s the point? the score you get after it’s all said and done is based on how well we bounced back from our trials, what one has been able to accomplish after getting creamed and ravaged and ridiculed. can you heal? what’s your rate of recovery? how big a hit can you take and stand back up? that’s what it’s about, rise up and recover, heal and learn the lesson, reintegrate, mutate and thrive!
so that’s what i’d like to exemplify. first, how to slide by destruction and second, how to come back after the smack. how to be calm and peaceful during chaos, how to groove in dicey circumstance, staying cool no matter how desperate the sitch, keeping a twinkle in the eye and a sly smirk on the lips if the shit hits the fan. certainly, avoid the convergence of flying shit and spinning fans, but if your caught by surprise, deal with elegance and aplomb.
Going conceptual with character and story informed the development of concrete deliverables, like the DVD case. Here's the elevator pitch from the interim DVD cover, which I rushed to the Terror Film Festival in July of 2006.
It's the end times, again!
Despite weaponized plague, natural catastrophe, environmental near collapse, improvised technological infrastructure and poor hygiene - love endures. Plucky survivors shelter in the landfill of western civilization; salvaging, tinkering, biding their time.
A visit from her dead uncle sends a young refugee on a mission of salvation, seduction... or something. She's going to give birth to the Daughter of God. If she can convince the awkward recluse down the hall to collaborate, it'll be twice the miracle.
The summary reveals the premise and leaves a lot to the imagination. Dead uncle, Daughter of God, awkward recluse, twice the miracle. Though just text, the summary provided a cognitive handle so I could better grab the simmering pot of editorial.
Looking at the rough cut TODAY, I feel a little embarrassed. Terrible placeholder music, low quality render, choppy edits, awkward pauses in the dialogue. No wonder the Festivals passed.
However, the rough cut was a milestone, proving that the project worked, creaky and ungainly, but functional.
Next, sketch in more context. We've got this big boat, three quirky characters, what's that all about?
Exposition of the post apocalyptic world
Epic CG shots of abandoned cities, flipped over army tanks, and broken bridges are cliche and break my suspension of disbelief. We might marvel at the artistry but it doesn't feel visceral, I am now totally jaded by cutting edge VFX. I had some epic CG ideas, but I wanted something more like cracks in paint on an old bench, beautiful if seen with the light and shadows just so, but otherwise perfectly invisible, innocuous. Monsters (2010), did a decent job of this, presenting scenes of aftermath almost as throw away detail, catching a glimpse of a ruined train at the bottom of a gorge, or the brief passing of a missile launcher trundling down a busy city street.
Another film that does the minimal masterfully is American Astronaut (2001) directed by and starring Cory McAbee. Samuel Curtis's spaceship is presented as a slide show of illustrations, and totally works! I found this amazing movie on Netflix around 2012, thanks to Eliza Forrest.
Here's my VFX principles from August 26, 2006
Approaching film like theater. you don’t have to show every special effect, just suggest. exciting when it’s suggested, hinted. erotic. we don’t have to parade the spaceship in front of the audience, just give them a taste, a glimpse. Was it real, i think i saw it.
Most of the apocalypse I wanted was within driving distance. Ann Loeding lived in Kingston New York with all manner of ruined industrial crap close by, even just up the street. Limestone kilns, crumbling mule barns, abandoned train cars, caves, derelict brick factories.
A few closing post apocalyptic shots would also feature Uncle Joe, raising questions about who or what he actually was. This would be 3/3 of the secret endings. 1/3 was the improvised scene with Gerry and Christina.
On September 18, 2006 my nephew Patrick and I drove up to stay with Ann, Gary and baby Ada Bee in Kingston and spend a few days of capturing random industrial decline.
Another element of post apocalyptic exposition was with radio broadcasts, heard at the start and during Christina's changing sequence. I did a bunch of the voices myself and also hired my friends Claire Hallereau and Arabella Clitandra for some goddess power.
Secret ending 2/3 was a scene with two Uncle Joe-like suit guys kibbitzing in an office. Taken together with the other secret Uncle Joe scene, this would cast Uncle Joe's visit to Christina into a new light, not so much of a twist as a reveal.
A friend from Tai Chi, Philip Silverstein was a commercial real estate broker and an actor. I asked him to find a Manhattan office location with a view. I hired Eiji-san (from Episode 005) and Phil to play the suit guys, and since they both spoke fluent Japanese, I had them ad lib the first few lines in Japanese for fun. Ndong, my Afrique cat music mix master came along to assist. We shot the scene on August 20.
Ndong and I had been working on a mix for the soundtrack, based on Another Fucked Up Day in Paradise, a song I wrote long ago and then revamped around 2000. FUDIP is the theme song of this podcast. I sang and played acoustic instruments and Ndong kicked it with great beats and bass. This was done in early December 2006. He also created several instrumental variations for elsewhere in the movie, like in Christina's changing sequence.
I found a speed ramping technique that transformed Christina's getting ready to talk to Gerry into a dance. Ndong's arrangement worked famously.
December 19, 2006
she is changing, yes. let’s think about the story, about our aim and let that guide what movements. pick sexy things surely, pick awkward and sublime. this is the recipe for the dance of the new epic, the age of sustainability. she is trying on different personas, attempting to find what she is today. the primary ones i like are the earth muffin, the empire builder, the elegant ingenue, and the bride (her final choice) those are the ones that stand out. at the start she is the light carrier.it’s not even so much the personas as the TRANSITION between them that matters, it’s the in between places, emphasis on change. She must be the changes she’s seen, she is the movietone news. her costumes reflect what has crossed the world stage in her time, the earth muffins and hippies standing up for ideals, the armies marching and fighting in the streets, the wealthy and elegant in their fortress retreats, the magical child who somehow emerges, not by guile or force of arms, but by luck and mystery. like anastasia, helping hands along the way. so it’s selecting the most poignant of each persona, not a stereotype but the key plot points of their stories. the movements are the dance that illustrates their epic, to the tribe around the fire in one hundred years. she is making the dance that will be. and it’s always sexy, because to keep the story going there must be new actors entering the stage, so life must go on, babies – and the intrigue and mystery that brings them forth. welcome to earth, the traveling circus and epic battle. we are the entertainment planet, with great defeats and triumphs, the universe loves a story.
All hail, Innes Smolansky! Our new project attorney had finalized all the contracts and our legal status was finally getting cleared up. Mel Tormey had certainly squandered a lot of my time. Innes was more than competent, she was momentum.
Considering the question of why movie, here's what I wrote on November 16, 2006.
i resolve this day to tell a story that will serve the earth and the people who love earth
the corporations are instruments of tyranny. the self appointed rulers of earth have gone underground, they have left corporations to act in their interests, to be the targets of retribution, the focus of conflict. if a corporation is brought down and it’s directors jailed, the legal mechanisms recover the assets and it’s all recycled back into the portfolio. so even to act against the corporation is to miss the point, it’s what they were made for.
if an army tank is rolling down the street, throwing a bottle at it won’t do much, but hit the driver over the head with that bottle and the tank becomes neutral. see the man behind the curtain. mind you, a tank is a formidable weapon and can still do lots of damage, but the tank is not the enemy, [maybe] the driver is[n't] the enemy [either]. even the driver can be turned, it’s the ultimate owner of the driver and the tank. whoever deploys the force.
ownership is a fiction agreed upon by consensus. can ownership of land be established by killing whoever is living on it? did the indigenous people of turtle island even conceive of ownership? if we stole the land, then the metals and minerals we take from that land to build our cars and computers are stolen goods also. if a father abuses his biological child, shouldn’t that child escape and go to folks who will take proper care? if people do not care for the land, can they claim title to it?
ok so all this comes back to the owners. the owners hold title because they tell themselves and the world around them a very compelling story. but heavens, it’s just a story and that story isn’t a happy one for most. i resolve this day to tell a story that will serve the earth and the people who love earth. a lawn is not a meadow, a garden is not a forest, a swimming pool is not a pond. those who know this love the earth. what this means is that going nature's way is best, as long as there is stewardship and reverence, let folks live on the land. let there be cities, designed with presence so that forest can be untouched and fields unpaved. i tell the story.
and this on November 19, 2006.
becoming a master storyteller through robust living
tai chi is the physical expression of principles underlying all. what is effective, to feel. to become acutely aware of sensation. to pay attention to it, to explore it’s range and depth. to go deeper and feel the universe, every flutter of leaf, the thoughts and feelings of others, the slight torque of the trunk of an oak in the wind. what is happening inside, what i am inside, muscle bone and whelling up of emotion, the knowing in all it’s flavors. knowing inside, attentive to within the outside is also available. this feeling, deep, inside. i stay at home to train.
even movies are not frivolous, they are the ocean we choose to sail. emotion, story.
so if we train and open awareness, the principles become inate, the can inform everything we are. the movies we make transform, for they are living information. the tai chi shows the way, immersion in the water of being, it’s not ground of being, it’s the water of being, three dimensional waves, the peaks and troughs of information, nothing bubbling.
move me as thou wilt, goddess. i am your champion on earth.
So to translate, our apparent circumstances is a story we tell ourselves, whether we are oppressed or free and feeling is how new stories are possible. So easy!
You've been listening to the Daughter of Godcast, episode 016, an especially longer one, we're on the cusp of the pithy core of the story, by analogy we're wrapping up the first movie in the original Star Wars trilogy. The Empire is about to Strike Back. 2007-2011 were not looking so good for your podcaster. More heros die. The rebel base is a smoking ruin. The search begins for the lost Jedi paradise. Joseph Campbell wondered where the new myths would come from, little did he know he would become the new myth.