A podcast about movie making and the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Apocalyptic laughter beyond loss or gain.
Welcome and hello planet Earth, this is episode 018 of the Daughter of Godcast and i am still Dan Kelly, writer director with stories from the making of the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, 11 years in the making and by the end of this episode we'll have covered roughly two years, leaving just 9 to go. I trust your having as much fun as me, even if your having only half as much fun as I am, you're having a lot of fun. Because I having way lots of fun!
Last week, just before I was ready to record episode 017, I accidentally saved over most of what I had scripted. I tried brute forcing my way through a rewrite, but that wasn't feeling fun. In finding my way back to fun, I was given a story to tell instead, the wise woman. I didn't have this story before the episode went south, so did I experience a loss or a gain?
If you break your leg and discover a whole new level of self sufficiency and confidence, is that a loss or gain? Anastasia, who read us excerpts from Ursula K. Le Guin's introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness in Episode 017 recently had this very experience. Maybe we'll be seeing and hearing more from her.
The variability of loss or gain seems to depend entirely on creative participation. Wanna make anything feel like a big win? Decide. There's libraries of self help books that say much the same. Summing up my acid days in the east village, reality is whatever you believe. Here's an addendum, believing on purpose or by default. If I am going a little to fast, feel free to ask questions anytime.
Every episode I seem to be telling you this podcast is actually something other than what I said it was the episode before, or the episode before that. It's a model airplane, it's organic french fries, it's a pack of lies, it's your grandmothers kiss. It's all people everywhere.
Well, all the above AND we've made / are making a movie here, you can count on that. Each episode has at least a little something about movie making and specifically making the Daughter of God.
We're ready to revisit the start of 2007, which feels resonant, as we are about to begin another new year, 2017. I'm steadily radiating, in spite of bites defying propriety, technical vexations and aesthetic compromises. 18 weeks feels mildly shocking, yet here we are, again.
You are listening to me tell stories of the making of Daughter of God, AND maybe just as intriguing, you're listening to me groping in the dark - learning how to podcast, how to establish a sustainable production schedule and still have a life AND figuring out why I am podcasting.
I am also hearing back from you, the royal you that is, all you all. Friends old and new calling and writing to prod and encourage, and that's super fun. No one has yet told me to shut the fuck up, though I'm sure a few people have sampled my ramblings and moved on.
This podcast is made possible by a generous grant from the universe, with additional support provided by the cosmos, the spooky tribe of energy allies, gorgeous Gaia herself and you who listen, contributing your time and attention, translating the pops and burrs and squeaks of my voice into beauty upon your canvas of cognition.
You are responsible for this podcast. Without you, Daughter of Godcast is just binary patterns on whirling hard drives, hidden away in the secret server farms, tended by men and women we'll never meet. Mystery upon mystery makes our connection possible. You, me and mystery.
Episode 018, Apocalypse, Excelsior!
This episode is already mostly introduction, so without further eloquence, let's wade into the middle of 2007.
Ndong dropped a working version of FUDIP on January 4 and then continued to tweak and enhance the mix in the months ahead. The opening theme set an episodic comedy tone, and put me in the mind that DOG could be a pilot for a series. There were a few variations of the main theme, and a derivative for the changing sequence and credits.
I was having trouble with the dialogue audio. Fan noise in some takes and low-ish volume. I tried various techniques for bringing up the speech while minimizing background noise - consulting with mix professionals, equalization, noise canceling software - but wasn't having much luck. By April I was seriously considering ADR.
ADR or Automatic Dialog Replacement involves getting the actors back and re-recording their dialog in a sound studio. The actor watches and listens to a loop of their original performance and then repeats that performance exactly, so that the new audio recording matches the original. This usually proceeds line by line, a rather exacting process.
Steve couldn't enter the USA for another 9 years. I would have to go to him. Currently he was living in Vancouver, BC on Canada's west coast, 3000 miles away. His parents lived in Sudbury in Northern Ontario, a days drive from either Michigan or NYC.
Finding an ADR equipped studio in Sudbury seemed a stretch, and I would have to do Carmen eventually too. That meant jury rigging my own portable ADR setup.
After some back and forth via email, Steve scheduled a Sudbury visit for August. I started talking to Carmen about perhaps flying to Switzerland to do ADR with her after that.
Speaking of audio, our jam group had become even more of a thing. We had performed at the Dakar restaurant and taken on a name, WAY or What About You. We needed a name because we were participating in Make Music New York, a day of free, live music all over the city on summer solstice.
Plenty of emails were passed hither and yon, with lists of potential band names and requests to pick favorites. "I like heavy cream kittens, what about you? I think blue widgets could be fun, what about you?" Eventually, What About You? was the obvious winner. We deployed a web site to share the music with each other and the world, which was mostly my thing. I was really into Open Sourcing and building the play it forward culture, which is kind of like pay it forward, except with art. I just invented that term for this podcast, but I had the idea in my head back then.
On June 21, WAY Live rocked the Prospect Heights Community Farm, just adjacent to the United Gardens. The WAYists included Claire, Fabrice, Ndong, Hailejaa, Eiji, Atsushi, Eleanor, Yvonne, Laurie, Trevor, Cecile, Arabella, Tyrone, James, Todd and occasionally Chuck, Nam and Matt.
Traveling to Kingston with Patrick (016) had provided some post apocalyptic establishing placeholders, but Ndong wasn't impressed. "Just looks like some post industrial age shit." Just what I need to hear
I gave myself permission to do what I guess I what I wanted to do all along. In the original script I had de-emphasized the post-apocalyptic context to keep things simple. Then Maho had found the big boat and brought back the context, and now Ndong was saying don't be coy, go ahead and fully embrace your inner apocalypse.
Daughter of God is supposed to be funny, but since it's about the apocalypse, then it must be dark humor, yeah? Cause how can a tragedy be funny?
Years ago, My friend Cynthia lost her baby in her last trimester. She still had to go through labor, and another friend Anita and I went with her and her husband Bob to the hospital. The hospital had a birthing center, set up to give a homey feeling. Anita and I were alone in the family space adjacent to the birthing room. We could hear Cyn crying and howling through the wall, not only from the pain of labor but also incredible loss. Anita and I sat there, stoically, uncomfortable and feeling very sorry for our friend. Then we heard Cynthia scream out, "I'm giving birth to a dead babaaaay!" Anita and I both turned to each other in total shock and then spontaneously, we started laughing. The only reaction possible. With so much pain and sorrow already extant, Cyn's shocking outcry teleported us beyond conditions and circumstance.
This is my likely my favorite memory with Anita, because we both transcended what we knew. Beyond what was acceptable and appropriate, to what was true. Unabashed, unhinged humor.
Could a post apocalyptic world could be beautiful, could there be wonder and delight, laughter? Even after a global catastrophe in which the better part of 7 billion humans were rubbed out, not to mention the collatoral damage to countless other species and ecosystems. Back then, I was very aware of the suicidal behavior of Americans, I knew lots of people who seemed to be perfectly at ease trashing the global life support system, not to mention their own health. I wanted to see past the inevitable outcome of silly choices to ultimate worthiness.
For instance. Imagine Earth rebounding. That could be lovely. Nature reclaiming the cities, a wild remediation of landfills and industrial sprawl. Tree roots tearing up acres of parking lots, moss munching the asphalt.
The survivors slowly rediscovering each other, face to face. Communities coming together, learning to live in accord with nature.
Other intriguing possibilities. Could keepers of the old paradigm be biding their time in armored bunkers? Did they have an inspired vision for renewal and reconstruction? And what if digital technology had achieved autonomy? Could there be a new category of life at large, wondering, asking the big questions?
I think Americans have a fascination with apocalypse because we all realize on some level that we've been fucking up big time for decades, making dicey choices and yet here we are - still. Eventually, there's gonna be a reckoning, right? How many times can a teenager drive the family's station wagon wasted?
Smoking, steaming wrecks, tangled and flipped, oil and blood mixing on the highway, we've seen several variations of that on the silver screen. But there's always people left after the meteor, the tsunami, the plague. Otherwise, where's the story? Most post apocalyptic scenarios seem to be redolent with retribution. "Bad humans! Look what you've done. You deserve a spanking."
Ndong's critique helped me realize Daughter of God's apocalyptic context required way more cultivation. He reminded me of what I already knew, that I wanted to tinker with the trope of global catastrophe. An intriguing insight was waiting, prepare to launch new expeditions.
I scheduled another trip to Ann's in upstate New York. Murray Schrotenboerg of Pike to Bike helped me get access to an abandoned section of the PA Turnpike, near Breezewood Pennsylvania, complete with tunnels. I scouted the turnpike on March 21 and then my nephew Patrick and I braved misty rainy weather from April 24-27. Later on the turnpike was one of the locations for the Road (2008) starring Vigo Mortgenson. There's a scene where Vigo is wrestling with a marauder in a ditch, Patrick is pretty sure he peed there.
In our first trip to Kingston, Patrick and I had gotten shots of railroad cars belonging to a non-profit, the Catskill Mountain Railway. Ann and her train guy partner Gary thought the board of directors would have no problem signing a location agreement, but unfortunately they were a little spooked by the premise of our project. Ann lined up another railcar location in Pennslyvania.
I was also intrigued by the super spooky Staten Island Boat Graveyard. Ann knew the owners and opined that access would be difficult to secure and very expensive. I wrote to them and sure enough, they never replied.
For 5 days before my birthday on May 18, I solo camped on North Manitou Island on Lake Michigan, a working birthday. North Manitou was a lumber / farming community in the late 19th century and then a game preserve before the National Park System gobbled it up in 1970. There are plenty of tumble down cottages there and wide expanses of wild Lake Michigan beach I could use as VFX backplate for a massive derelict cruise ship. A beached cruise ship could represent the metaphor of consumer culture, run aground and quietly rusting away, forgotten.
My nephew Jonathan had been working with the open source 3D modeling application Blender and he was willing to help. We looked at commercially available 3D models but nothing really fit our criteria. By May 6 he had built the first version for testing. Here's a test render of the model getting attacked by aliens. Bonus!
I spent 5 days on North Manitou, experimenting with other post apocalyptic ideas and backplates. I had brought a stack of twenty dollar bills with me as props, and I tried weaving them into the grass and leaves of a sun dappled meadow, a sort of surreal suggestion of ruptured ATM or a crashed armored car. I left the bills there overnight and when I returned for the early morning light, they were covered with slugs! What could THIS be a metaphor for? Hard to say, but sublime.
Some Almonds are Harder to Skin than Others
I acquired enough intriguing shots on the island to make a mini-documentary, Some Almonds, about my fresh and raw response to a culture not only of consumption, but of endless war. Avenging 9/11 or whatever. No one was quite sure any more why we went to Iraq or why we were still there. Four years since I laid down under army reserve trucks.
The previous March I had joined a rowdy evening war protest that snaked through midtown. At Union Square this crazy street band came out of nowhere and led us west and north. We were eventually blocked by police barricades from proceeding further uptown. As I marched I blew my conch, a homage to my friend and venerable Yogaraj, Swami Bua.
Tao of Yoga
In 2006 Swamiji's apartment had been taken over by one of his daughters and her husband. In January I had invited him to move in with me at Prospect Heights, so he could reestablish consistent teaching and the fresh and raw diet which was one of the pillars of his longevity. We toured my apartment but he had declined, citing the two flights of stairs. I fell out of favor with his relatives after this.
In May of 2007, I had news that he had moved to Queens with his other daughter Premlata and her husband, Rajaram, a welcome change. They were all planning a trip to India in August. To join Swamiji in India would have been amazing, but there was a movie to finish. If only I had known the movie would take another 9 years! No regrets.
I persisted with Swamiji's yoga, and practiced Tai Chi with Master Ru and the South Street Seaport family on the weekends. I also ran in Prospect Park consistently and starting in May, extreme urban biking.
I had rolled Steve Zilliax's bike out of the hallway, had it tuned at the bike shop and bought Black Diamond climbing helmet. After a couple of months of flats, I upgraded to kevlar street tires. This was before the city became pedal friendly, just as bike lanes were grudingly beginning to appear. White ghost bikes still haunted local street corners, where bikers had been killed by cars.
I adopted a self reliant style of riding. No one could see me and if they did, they didn't care. I was fleet and flip, the only quarter I gave was to pedestrians. A freaking rush, I loved solving the dynamic geometry of pothole and intersection, swinging through rushing rivers of crushing steel, fully free.
My chronic lumbar / pelvic pain still flared up occasionally, but I just sort of blustered through. There just wasn't time to be disabled.
Selling and Buying
On October 10, 2006, (episode 016) I had met the inventor of the Steadicam, Garret Brown at the New York Cine & Digital Equipment Show and was inspired by his presentation. I had used my Glidecam on the big boat but realized it wasn't plug and play. When a two day Steadicam training was offered at Adorama on March 18-19 of 2007, I signed up.
Afterwards, I came home and retuned my Glidecam so that it flew so true. I was now acutely aware of it's limitations and dreamed of acquiring a real Steadicam, a Flyer for about $7k. I could then graduate to a new level of expertise and earning, in select commercial productions and / or moving more intimately in stage performance.
To this end, I started to liquidate equipment. On March 22 I posted my XL2, Glidecam, Explorer tripod, Fender PA and a Mac lap top on Craigslist. This would generate almost $5000, approaching the cost of a Flyer. By May I had sold the Glidecam, the Mac and the XL2.
A steady stream of new performance documentation clients were showing up including Clarinda Mac Low and Eun Jung Gonzales. I was discussing movie only collaborations with several of my established clients.
On January 14, I had reached out to Dana Hash, at the dance department of Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus with an idea for establishing a city wide dance archive.
From: danny kelly <anything@
Date: January 14, 2007 at 1:19:39 PM EST
To: Dana Hash <Dana.Hash@
(snip) you know i've got this giant archive of dance from the past three years. I've always thought it would be cool for dancers to be able to see more of the work that's going on around the city, or even more of what's gone down over the past decade. Imagine a huge database of performance on the web that dancers could freely contribute new work to, even work upcoming. of course there are lots company and personal web sites, but what if there was an attempt to create an open archive, would that be useful? lot's of artists would suddenly have a venue to find a wider audience, and a huge number of people would have access to dance. Think of the hookups with the city and tourism, with recruitment of new students to study in nyc, of collaborations among all the different academic institutions offering dance programs, of the theaters small and large, on and on. cha ching! technically it would require some web infrastructure, storage capacity and intern based facilitation, but i suspect most of the operations could be automated. Think of how cool it would be if LIU facilitated this project and the result was this huge boom in the appreciation and attendance of dance around the city, around the country for that matter.
I must say, this idea was brilliant, but didn't have legs with Dana and LIU. After switching my web provider to Bluehost later that year I had the horse power to establish my own proof of concept dance archive, in higher resolution than was offered by either Youtube or Vimeo at the time. I've had fantasies about re-establishing that archive lately, I'd guess I have 100s of hours.
Laura Peterson amped up our collaboration with her project, I Love Dan Flavin. In January 24, I shot a rehearsal and performance and then guided Laura to log and make selects, deciding which shots she liked most. We were attempting to get her to take over the offline edit so she could improve her documentation without breaking her budget. We were having so much fun together, building a workflow to support even more ambitious future projects.
Based on my work with Laura, Gerald Casel and others, I cut a demo reel in late May. The idea was to promote myself as the documenter of choice for the independent dance community. Eventually initiate bigger projects with more robustly resourced clients. If they existed. Ready to contribute to other Indy movie projects with decent budgets. If they existed.
DOG is (not) DONE
Looking back at the first half of 2007, I was on booming. A very productive 6 months. The finish date for Daughter of God stretched farther into the future but not for lack of inspired action, but because.
Carmen was anxious for an excerpt so she could land new roles but I was reluctant to release anything until the contracts were settled, and by March these were sent out.
Around this time I tested Daughter of God with a small gathering of mostly native French speakers and my friend Yvonne. The French people mostly didn't get it, but YV spontaneously guffawed at all the right parts. Bless her, I knew the project was on track.
I had actually scheduled a screening in February 17 for the DOG is DONE Chinese Lunar New Year party at the United Gardens, but my flight back from my Dad's birthday in episode 017 get screwed up, and I had to cancel. That was for the best, DOG wasn't really done anyway.
I was really starting to realize that I wanted this movie to be more. Just like the treatment of the apocalypse, there was more story to be discovered. I began to be less concerned with finishing fast, and more concerned with getting it right. Probably a big red flag.
You've been taking in the Daughter of Godcast, stories from the making of the quirky scifi featurette, Daughter of God with the quirky Writer Director, Dan Kelly, aka Shri Fugi Spilt, spelled Shri Fugi Spilt but pronounced in the original Essenian Shri Fuji like the Japanese mountain, and Split as in banana. We've just covered the first half of 2007, lots of movie and plenty of me too. Thanks for your cognition.
The apocalypse is often viewed from a dark place, people just barely surviving, not enough video games and bacon cheese burgers to go 'round. So many dead people, loved ones lost, parents, children, sister and brothers. What if we were totally wrong about death? What if the only reason death feels like loss is because we are out of tune with the universe? If we could feel what we are, everything we imagine to be problematic would be a blessing.