Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Human War Movie: Last Days

My last night in Ohio Avenue was spent on the floor just like I began 44 days ago.

James and I spent the whole day yesterday cleaning. He rocked a shitload of dishes. I was on chachkie duty.

We filmed the potato guns firing in Cortland at Keith McAleer's house. This is one of his sweet puppies with James Roehl. I am pretty sure both were sleeping as I took this picture. I would like to join them when I get on the plane in a couple hours.

Tom and I are pretty ragged in this photo. All I remember is that it was a cold day to stand out in the snow shooting potatoes.

Tom and I constructed a mini-set for JIMMY'S POTATO GUN ASSEMBLY VIDEO. I laid out a bunch of random things on the table, including cereal, spoon, saw, hammer, PVC piping, jigsaw, stapler, and a deck of cards. It looks like Tom added donuts to the mix as well. I see a sprinkled one in the picture above.

Lizzie helped me paint the backdrop for JIMMY VISION. It is probably one of my favorite pieces that I got to do.

(Lizzie did the Campbell's soup can. There was no way I could draw that well.)

Keith McAleer and Thomas Henwood check out his performance on the EX1.

Our last day of principal photography was filled with little rubies here and there. Jared Greene offered the first jewel by pointing out how light readings were identified on the monitor.

Eugene was a little grease monkey! He really put the Chevy Celebrity back into shape. I couldn't help but laugh as he pulled out a tube from the engine and said, "Um...I'm pretty sure this is supposed to be attached to something."

He was right. By the time I got to see under the hood later in the day, I was more than impressed by the sheer number of zip ties that had been amassed to hold the various degenerating tubes and instruments in place.

"Looks like Frankenstein," I said.

"Yup," James agreed. "Car of Frankenstein."

Joanie Walkoff holds up the tee shirt that Lizzie painted. Talk about amazing? I can't wait for Lizzie to give me my tattoo when I come back to Youngstown for the premiere. I think I'll get all my tattoos from her from now on.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Press for Film and Wrapping Principal Photography

We made Sunday's cover in The Vindicator! Elise Franco wrote a great article. They included five of Geoff Hauschild's amazing photos.

We are now busy cleaning up. We will be back in town in March to shoot some B-roll of the city. I'll put updates here as things move along in the editing room and with distribution.

Stan Boney will be interviewing Noah Cicero about his book and the film on ABC's WYTV channel 33 on Tuesday night.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Days 18-21: Chevy Celebrity Coughs Blood

Uncle Pooch helps us contemplate how badly the Chevy is doing.

"You either got a bad battery or alternator," he nodded to me.

"Yeah," I agreed.

"You probably got a lot more things wrong in this pile a heap too."


"Well, we might as well get a battery off that Mac in the back. Just make sure you get it back to me."

"That's nice of you, Pooch."

" want some more?" Pooch holds out a pouch of Redman.

"Okay," I say.

"You ain't getting dizzy yet."

"It's starting to get to me."

Pooch smiles and puts the pouch in his back pocket. I follow two steps behind him.

The Chevy Celebrity stalled nine times on the way to our location in Cortland. At one point, Todd Maki simply rolled down the backroads in reverse because I had to pop the car into drive without stopping to get the thing going.

I have a video of this Matrix-like maneuver. Apparently, they filmed me behind the wheel as well. I was even given a tuba soundtrack with the jokesters put-put-putting the car's sad state in an A cappella fashion: "Bum ba bum Ba bum Ba Bum..."

After the sixth stall on the highway, Todd expressed all our sentiments.

An organic POV of the machine in action. I will have the EUROSPORT insignia forever tattooed in my mind, as I repeatedly tried to honk the horn that did not work on this dinosaur of automobiles.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Days 14-18: Filming at the Oaks and Plaza Donuts

We shot at Plaza Donuts on Belmont today. Here is some of the team: TJ Hellmuth (DP), Thomas Henwood (Co-Director), Kene Holliday (ELIJAH), yours truly, and James Roehl (MARK SWIFT).

Kene gave James some good advice about acting: "Take care of your body and it'll treat you well."

Yesterday we finished up at the Royal Oaks bar. Here is a shot of Joanie Wolkoff (KENDRA) and James Roehl (MARK) hamming it up between takes.

It was definitely a long three days. I heard people talking about how pale I looked. The third week of a production is probably not the best time to do interviews, but I took my funny mustache and pale frame in front of cameras for The Vindicator and 21 WMFJ.

Noah Cicero did much better in the interviews and you can watch out for him on a couple other stations throughout the week.

I finally got to direct a bit more at the Oaks. Since I've been needed on the producer side of things for a majority of locations, it is definitely a treat when Tom and I can switch roles and rock out. That was literally the case when we went through the Open Mic sequence at Crapiokie.

Luckily for us, Youngstown has an incredible talent pool. I don't think there was one bad performance in the bunch. We had a roller skater, some poetry, a freestyler (our own John Vinson), and a special guest appearance from the vocalist of Gil Mantera's Party Dream.

Richie is an amazing performer. I could even see him acting in films if he wanted. He is a natural.

Noah and Kene were two peas in a pod. It was good to see them laughing together outside Plaza Donuts.

Kene directed me before we started the day yesterday. "Get a picture of this for my wife," he told me. "Yeah," he continued. "Get in front of the car. Right there! Yes! Yes! Okay. Now you keep doing what you do. Spread that around. Okay! Ready? How does that look? Oh, you got the trees in there and everything! Look at that! That's what I'm talking about."

We had Kene move through the forests to represent his characters interest in natural scenery over a life with human beings. I watched Kene come alive in each take - even taking a tree branch as a prop and extending the branches through his fingers to check the blossoms like he had been living in the woods for his entire life. Kene is definitely an amazing talent. It was a pleasure to see him work and offer bits of wisdom throughout the day.

My favorite moment was when one war veteran at Plaza Donuts heard Kene's performance and told him he agreed with that character's thoughts on war.

"You know," the spectator said. "I fought in Vietnam and I agree with everything you're saying."

"Well," Kene replied with a knowing wink to me, "That's why we're making the movie."

Here is Richie from Gil Mantera's Party Dream letting loose in a spontaneous improv that ended with him asking the audience to embrace the future; "It's only two minutes from now!"

James Roehl has offered the world an incredible performance. I am very excited for his career and the work he will do with each subsequent film in his career.

"You're going to do fine," Kene agreed with me last night at dinner. "Yes, you are going to do very well."

"Thank you," James said in his natural humble way.

I looked at Tom. It was a proud moment. We had started this journey a year and a half ago. It had taken us hours and hours of work. Now with one actor's career being anointed by another, we could see one of the many proud moments of directing an independent film.

I could keep doing this my entire life.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Days 11-13: The Human War Gets Mustaches and Learns How to Kick Flip

We shot the skateboard scene today. Basically, JIMMY (Keith McAleer) explains how to make a potato gun to a riveted audience. Then thy rush off to make good on a "big explosion."

Everyone did a great job in the cold and still hitting their tricks. Joel (pictured above) didn't miss one kick flip all day.

To celebrate we sang Nirvana'a "Come As You Are" together lounge style.

I am pretty sure this is Kyle rocking the ramp.

TJ and Tom roll up handheld, while Tyree skates down to the ramp.

Stephen Andrew (ELLIS) has been helping us with behind-the-scenes footage, acting, and pretty much everything you could imagine. It is hard to imagine this film happening without him. It is also pretty "fortuitous" that he just happened to be our upstairs neighbor. I would have never guessed when I knocked on the door that I would find a poly-artists Van Gogh, or that I would have a friend for life.

The first time I met Jenna I think I scared her off by being gruff and generally disagreeable. Then we both found out that that was just a day in Neverland. Having been hired to do Make-up, Jenna has shelped in every capacity of this film. I am impressed by her energy, strength, and overall professionalism. I have no doubt she will accomplish anything she sets out to do. Hopefully, we will get to work on another film together in the future.

I was told to get picks of the actors in domestic bliss to put into picture frames on the set. Luckily, I managed to get some instant family moments because the actors were so agreeable and easy to direct.

"...Pretend you're nagging him about something..."

"Um...look at the TV. Don't look at the camera. Now put your hand on his knee. There. Okay. That looks good..."

To share in our family atmosphere on this film, Jarrid Green, head of our lighting crew, suggested we all have mustaches. Everyone looks pretty good with them. When we show up on location, most people don't notice until we say something about it.

The inspiration for my mostache was Inigo Montoya from THE PRINCESS BRIDE. When I saw Jarrid after shaving, my first words were, "You kill my father. Prepare to die."

I like the mustache. I think I could rock one for my whole life.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

THW Day 10: Filming in JIMMY'S ART STUDIO

We've had folks from all over the place come visit and go. Each leaves us a message and a bit of themselves into the film. Here is one from Elise (I hope Vassar is treating you well, Elise. You could always bail on finals and come back. ; )

Here is a shot of Jimmy's art studio from the monitor. I had the idea to paint the tire before shooting began. This is my favorite piece thus far. Originally, I wrote "Viva La..." and then I changed it to "Viva Ohio!" I think that fit the scene a bit better.

I really like this chair. It's completely covered with mice and text. I used a poem I wrote when I was 23. It works for the piece.

Viva Ohio!

I let this thing drip into being. Tom didn't want me to paint on the other side, since I already did another painting for another scene on the other side, so I just dripped paint on the reverse and used paper towels as brushes to makes a piece in under five minutes. It's not much, but it's a whole lot something at the same time. Where is Che now?

I really like "Mammy, Mama." I think it says all the write things for a sex-obsessed teenager. I also like the Freudian undertones. It makes me feel like a rock star too. And, yes, you can plug this in and it shakes.

I painted over another painting for this one. I think it looks better than the other one that was there. But, at the same time, that other one was good too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


We shot the skateboarder scene last night. It was pretty funny. The kids are supposed to have learned how to shoot a potato gun from one of the main characters, and then they bomb him with a bunch later on. In order to get the shot, Tom and I had to run around with them all over the set.

The kids were great. I was especially impressed when Cole (age 11) helped us out by calling "Action!" on every other take.

Earlier in the day, we shot on the process trailer again. We got this fabulous light for JIMMY'S response to MARK's thought of protest. It was really beautiful.

James Roehl (MARK) posed for me, while we rushed off for a bathroom break in the middle of the day. I took this picture and all I could think was "James Dean" over and over in my head.

Here is Todd Mackie, our audio technician, trying to stay warm and get in on the action simultaneously.

TJ Hellmuth, our Director of Photography, sizes up the one shot of the driver. He has taught me so much about framing and light in this past week. I look forward to more talks about Iranian cinema, life in production, and how to "Get the photograph!" in the coming week.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Here we are driving through a parking lot with the process trailer. It was rigged out magnificently. I was huddled in the truck between TJ and Tom. We had a monitor in front of us, while the actors were in the picture car. Tom directed them with a walkie talkie. I got on there for a bit too. I had them do a freestyle and argue a bit. That's all I could think of doing. I got a bit burnt out by the end of the day. I'm going to have pace my mind like a long distance runner.

Keith McAleer (JIMMY) poses here with yours truly. We had to have little pow-wows like a boxer in a ring. At one point, James Roehler put on one of his freestyle records and we went at it to give the guy energy. Then we called out the actors names like they were entering a ring. It was pretty hip if you ask me. Hopefully, it gave them a boost. Who knows? Another idea. I kind of like it. The actor as boxer.

Tom Henwood really wanted to set dress JIMMY'S APT. He wanted me to paint everything. All I could come up with in five minutes for these statues was to cut a plastic cup with a knife and use our makeup artist's cotton balls to make pseudo headphones. I thought that was an interesting idea. I don't know if I executed it that well, but it was a good idea with limited tools and a five minute window.

I did the painting (above) last week. I came up with a mice and Osama the cat theme. Every once in a while I would throw in the World Trade Center or Atom bomb. I think it works for the set. Tom seems to like them a lot. He even wants to sell these pieces to help fund the film. That's not a bad idea. My uncle is opening a store in King of Prussia. I might put them in his gallery or sell them on eBay.

Another painting with the Osama and Mice theme. I joked that it was my version of "Mice and Men."

Keith started the process of filling the set with his books and random objects. Tom brought in several other elements. We all had a nice chat about how to create shadow, layers, and eliminate negative space to make an image more visually stimulating. Once Tom started discussing set dressing in analogous painting jargon, I could see how layering would add dimension and interest for the viewer.

Tom was worried about this sculpted head being copyrighted, so I flipped it around, put a hat on it, and drew a penis face.

On the Huck Finn paintings above it, I simply drew large penises and made them discuss sexual exploits. This seemed to match the exuberant and slightly addictive personality of JIMMY. I don't know if we will actually see these paintings in detail, but they are interesting for me. I like this idea of painting as a character in a film or book and not myself. It makes the leap into what is good or bad superfluous to what needs to be accomplished according to the needs of the character.

More Huck Finn tagging (above).

This was one of my first in Osama and Mice series. I had orginally drawn the gun, but a real one seemed like a good way to go when Keith brought one from his house. I had it nailed to the wall the instant I had a hammer and some free timer on my hands.

When Tom heard I nailed it to the wall, he freaked a bit. I told him not to worry though. We could spackle it up. We'll see if that's true.

John Vincent who is part of our lighting crew seemed taken aback when I took this photo. "I'm not used to that," he explained. "I'm more used to getting out of the way."

TJ, Jarrid, and Derek eye up the next shot.

Noah came to visit today. He mentioned that people might not believe that we are making a movie of his book, so I suggested getting a pic to prove it to the world. Here it is.

Tom Henwood Sr., Jarrid, and John Vincent were so proud of their rigging of the picture car on the process trailer, they were all about getting a pic in front of their handiwork. I snuck in simply because I was proud of them as well. The lighting we got was fantastic.

A solo pic of the dynamic duo at work.