A podcast about movie making and the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). A few totally naked truths about indy film, inspired by kidhood in the 70's. Wrapping production aboard the big boat in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
Hello, out there, Haloooo! Haloooo! echo, echo! I'm talking with you again. Yet another episode of Daughter of Godcast and the vagaries of movie making. Did you ever wonder how podcasting actually feels? Every week, I belly up to the microphone, and the camera too now and I imagine listeners. Here in my studio, no other humans or mega fauna nearby, staring into the black crystal cavern of a Canon lens. I'm just talking to myself over here, yet at the same time, I can feel myself talking to the whole world. Only crazy people talk to themselves, ESPECIALLY if they imagine crowds raptly attending, (crowd roars). Do this in front of a camera for money and maybe they'll give you an Oscar. We live in a sublime topsy turvy universe. Wonder is so available, so easy to allow.
These podcasts are about movie making, yet we're exploring topics that might not immediately recognized as strictly relevant. Tonight while doing dishes I reveled in some clarity. I am drafting a manifesto.
For sure these podcasts are supposed to be entertaining, fun to listen to and watch. Fun to make! They are also essay drafts, destined to be condensed down into an extended documentary which I'll release close behind Daughter of God. If you check the FAQ, a making of documentary is one of my deliverables in the gentle release, originally conceived as a DVD extra, whatever that looks like in distribution. These podcasts have helped to coalesce an exciting premise for the doc - my artist's manifesto. I've been involved in movie making for decades and while I'm totally unknown as a director, I feel poised to transform the medium.
I wanted to say throwing down the gauntlet, but that sounds like I am challenging adversaries, and I don't really give a shit what the rest of the industry is doing. A Daughter of God documentary would both sketch a map for myself of what's possible and energize a beacon that other's of my ilk can see. That's what I got doing the dishes tonight. Whoa, right?
At first I started generating all this movie making content because I wanted to inspire curiosity about the Daughter of God prior to screening, because I mean what's the point of a release without an audience? In episode 001, I mentioned that even the cast has kind of written the project off. Which was fine with me, because the project had to find it's own flowering, as do I. Now the bloom gets brighter and so worthy of sharing.
After my fictional vs real apocalypse quandry in 2009 from episode 012, I stopped working on Daughter of God, shifted gears and decided to make a documentary about artifacts of the future sustainable civilization. Every filmmaker has an unfinished project but only a truly exceptional filmmaker would dare have two.
So screw all that claptrap about building an audience. Yes, I'd love more discerning participants resonating with the crazy transmissions from the Crystal Lake stewardship center. To have a massive amount of people as excited to see my movie as I am to show them. The goal of building an audience doesn't inspire, but clarifying a really kick ass ILLUSTRATED vision of what's worth doing? Now we're talking.
Episode 013 Epilogue
After 13 weeks of podcasting, we're about to wrap primary production on the big boat. And now the story begins.
There were a couple of really fun episodes getting here. Episode 4.1 seems to be performing well, probably because Keanu Reeves made an appearance, and Episode 005 is also popular, where Eiji tells me about the cocaine he threw away in front of the US border security cameras. By the way, that never happened. I just made that up to make the episode more dramatic. This is especially true if you're a DEA agent and they haven't emptied the trash at the Landsdowne crossing in 11 years. Some things are more true than others. I don't own any guns either. Don't believe anything you hear so see in these podcasts. I am making this all up!
We've officially started to tell the story. Congratulations, you're almost done with the introduction.
Gerry is the defacto engineer for the big boat, a polymathic inventor conversant in a wide variety of disciplines from the maintenance of big diesels engines to software development. He has kept the boat's engines, generators and pumps in operation. He is unfortunately not well, perhaps from exposure to chemical warfare or weaponized plague. In spite of his illness, he's been concentrating on a unique project, and refuses to be thwarted as he nears completion. His cabin is packed with books on esoteric subjects, scavenged tech and gadgets of his own design. Christina needs access to one of his most rare and precious resources.
Refugees aboard the big boat tend to keep themselves to themselves, only coming together when the ship requires defense or relocation. This has not happened in almost a year as the aftermath of multiple catastrophes has mostly petered out. Immediate threats are rare and supply caches are still plentiful.
Gerry's surprised and a little excited to see Christina at his cabin door. He's watched her from afar but has never approached her. At first he feels friendly but she seems to have a secret agenda and he becomes more suspicious as her visit progresses.
Christina comes to Gerry's cabin to ask for help, but how do you tell someone you're dead uncle just showed up... or why? She has a hard time getting Gerry to pay attention to her requests, because her made-up explanations aren't convincing. Can Christina find the key to unlocking Gerry's cooperation?
This is the dynamic of the adventure in Gerry's cabin.
In real life, Gerry's cabin belonged to the chief engineer when the Alexander Henry was in active service, and the cabin is about three times as spacious as Christina's seaman's cabin, which was likely shared by two crew members. Gerry's cabin also had a tiny kitchen and a separate bath with shower and toilet.
The larger cabin enabled more freedom of movement and diverse visual treatments of the two characters.
After Christina enters, Gerry sets up a sort of defensive perimeter at his worktable, while Christina sortes about the room, trying various exploits, first at his bed, then his closet. Finally, she ends up frustrated next to the kitchen, where she discovers a clue to her conundrum.
Problems. For Gerry's costume, Steve had found a thick wool overcoat that wouldn't have looked out of place next to a pack of sled dogs in the Yukon. This fabulous and totally implausible coat tended to crush the lavalier mic guards we built, eventually scratching against the microphone and causing noise. This caused a lot of consternation on set, and still more trouble in post.
During a particularly excellent performance, Carmen's radio transmitter was clearly visible taped to her inner thigh. So captivating was her delivery no one on set noticed either then or when reviewing the captures. Only weeks later in post did this become obvious. Another job for the visual effect supervisor.
A key close-up on Carmen had soft focus. Not enough to ruin the shot but distracting enough to be of concern. I was not using a large external monitor for focus and review, relying on the tiny built in screens and the focus assist functions. The capture windows in Final Cut Pro were also smallish, there were no utilities yet available to monitor video on an external laptop. Loosing this take would have compromised the editorial, but an unlikely hack in post resolved the issue.
There were the ubiquitous stacks of boxes in Gerry's cabin. Box labels would have to composited later. Since I already anticipated doing this job in post, I opted to add another compositing job to the list. Gerry's bathroom door was left open to show the bathroom detail, toilet, sink and so on. We then had to leave the bathroom vanity cabinet open, so the mirror wouldn't reflect the various production gear and crew in the room. This left a cabinet full of empty shelves, and rather than toss some random toiletries in there I imagined sticking bubbling beakers and flasks, suggesting Gerry was doing still more weird science in his bathroom.
There were about 8 camera compositions including closeups in Gerry's cabin. Matched cameras were utilized, one for Gerry and one for Christina. This made cutting between the two characters smooth and exciting.
We celebrated our last day of primary production with a bracing swim in the graving dock adjacent to the Alexander Henry. We paid our bills, thanked our supporting staff in Kingston, jumped in the vans and headed back to NYC. Mission accomplished.
Driving the Odyssey, with cast and crew crashed out in the back, I quietly shaved off the buzz cut I had effected to play Uncle Joe. It was a great gag to have everyone wake up later and find me bald, kind of like magic. Melonie took a snap of me back in Brooklyn wearing my best Pearl River Chinese department store clothes, looking like Kwai Chang Caine.
What does it mean to become more alive? Isn't life binary, you're either alive or dead? Supposedly, most of our body is not comprised of human DNA, we are symbiotic with all manner of tiny creatures, our metabolism is a collaboration. So even after your heart stops beating and your brain isn't sparkling anymore, your body is still teaming with life. We're just not doing jumping jacks, we're not talking to our family anymore, but the body is hardly dead.
Ok, so maybe what we mean by life is presence, how present we feel. Waking and sleeping, bored vs excited - different qualities of presence. More or less alive, maybe?
How alive can we be? What's the highest level of presence that can be sustained? Is our society structured to encourage presence? Would we encounter friction from our peers by becoming more here and more now?
Some of these are very ancient ideas. The application of them to our individual experience is always unprecedented, a rip roaring adventure. No one has ever been you before, or me. So we get to make it up as we go.
I imagine younger people finding this podcast. Not that I have any special wisdom to impart, but what I was so appreciative of as a kid was finding out there were questions to ask, like the questions I'm asking here. I know this is an explicit adult-y movie making podcast, that's not an accident. I want there to be a barrier to entry, if you're put off by the swearing, terrific. All the sweeter for a kid to hear this, to access forbidden knowledge. To find out, "Whoa - this guy thinks thoughts as weird as me! Maybe I'm going to be ok, after all."
Which brings me to the theme song.
Wake up brother, we got nothing to do
Let's go outside
just me and you
and build a fort
We'll pack a lunch won't be home til after dark
After dinner we can sneak back out
your know that high school girl I been telling you about
well she get's undressed about quarter to nine
and we can watch her do it from the big old pine next door
she's got a room on the second floor
Melonie's griped this song felt totally smarmy - old dudes conspiring to spy on a high school girl undressing! This was super helpful, because yes, I'm an old-ish dude, but the song is sung from a kid's perspective. I thought the "build a fort" and "sneak back out" were giveaways, but she was right, there was some ambiguity. I added sound effects of kids playing to make the point a little sharper.
An adolescent kid from the post apocalyptic future, really just a reprise of my kidhood in the 1970s, when finding a moldering Playboy was a freaking coup! The biological imperative of needing to see what girl bodies looked like, so compelling.
One fine day, my best friend Tommy Sorge and I found a Playboy fluttering on the side of the road in our rural hamlet of Pound Ridge, NY. We might of been 8 or 9. Our reactions were the poles apart. I was in awe, reverent. He couldn't stop laughing, almost hysterical. I found his reaction unnerving, even a little annoying. Clearly he had disqualified himself for stewardship of this treasure, so I took possession.
Another time, I was riding my bike home from the town of Scotts Corners. I took my usual shortcut, up the driveway and through the backyard of a house that was perpetually empty. I don't know why, but no one lived there. Except this time. When I came flying into the back yard, I glanced over and saw a woman sunbathing on the patio. My response was instantaneous. I spun the banana seat Schwinn around silently and flew back down the way I'd come, peddling at top speed along the windy road and around to the forest that bordered the house's back yard. There I dropped my bike and crept up through the trees to the edge of the yard. Sure enough, there she was. Glorious. Radiant in the sun. TN. Totally Naked.
I drank this vision in for who knows how long, and then I had an idea. I was a sweet lad, kind hearted, generous to a fault. I faded back into the woods, grabbed my bike and sped home. I called my friends. In 20 minutes or so, a platoon of neighbor boys arrived, and we deployed to the forest. We crept or maybe more like crashed up to the edge and... she was gone. Or maybe she was there and heard us coming, I don't really recall. Certainly John Flynn who remembers everything from our childhood could set me straight or maybe Kurt Hedberg would remember. I am not sure Binky Vebber was there, I hope he wasn't. Can you believe I had a kid named Binky in my hood. Surreal.
I like to think she saw me come up her driveway and stayed there while I crept up to the woods edge. I like to imagine her smiling to herself that a precocious little guy had the nerve, that she wanted me to see her, appreciate her. She might have been my first love. I often ask her forgiveness that I brought all those dumb neighbor boys to share our moment, but that's clarity for you. Who knows what mysteries would have been revealed to me had I kept her for myself.
Nowadays, kids have access to the most outrageous and bizarre porn imaginable, and sexual norms have again shifted. No judgements, but Playboys and nude sunbathing seem pretty tame to me, in comparison.
MY dire warnings about explicit content in Daughter of Godcast and the theme song are artifice. In these wild times, I have endeavored to create a sense of the forbidden, the illicit. Perhaps someone, maybe a younger person can have a delicious taste of transgression by sneaking a listen to this podcast. If I've lost potential audience with these games, I take solace in the memory of the lovely older woman (mid 20s) woman who blew my mind, whether or not on purpose.