Monday, April 27, 2009

Miss Me?

Sorry I've been slackin', but hey, I'm on vacation! I am waaaaaaaaaay over in Sunny Seattle, been here for a week, got a couple days left. It really is sunny, too! Has been every day since I got here. I have always had Unusually Good Vacation Weather Karma. Out here visiting my friend Tobey. Went up in the Space Needle, ate at a great little place called How To Cook A Wolf, hung out at the Public Market down on the water, saw Carrie Fisher in her one-woman show, "Wishful Drinking" (she is my favorite author, if I have never mentioned that), saw a Mariner's game (nice park, but the Mariner's got their asses handed to them by the Devil Rays), sang "When Doves Cry" at a gay karaoke bar (Tobey sang "Brilliant Disguise" by The Boss), met loads of Tob's friends and drank relentlessly on all but two nights, but my FAVORITE thing we did was we went on a whale watching trip on Saturday and saw LOADS of whales. That was super-cool, and something I always wanted to do.

I have been checking in on the RSVP list for the Premiere on Sunday, have a little over 70 via Facebook, and close to another 100 via email, so it is going to be quite the party! Can't wait!

While I was out here I got an email from Steve Yeager. I've mentioned him before, he is a Baltimore filmmaker who made the award-winning documentary on John Waters, "Divine Trash". I took a class of Steve's at the Creative Alliance back in November. Anyway, he asked if I could AD (Assistant Director) for him this weekend when I get back, and of course I said yes! I like Steve and had told him recently if he needed a hand on anything to let me know. I was an extra for him a few months ago and it seems like he is a pretty laid-back director, plus he is well-connected within the community and one thing often leads to another. Plus, another screen credit for moi! Unfortunately, however, this means I can't attend the premiere screening of "The Mystery Date," on Saturday, a short that I worked on as Script Supervisor last March. I am bummed about that, there are some people who will be there that I'd like to see. But sometimes you just gotta make choices, ya know? But I am psyched to be working with Steve.

While out here in Seattle, we had a little screening of "Smalltimore" for Tobey and a few of his friends, since Tob can't make it to Charm City for the premiere. It was well-received, and a fun night, but his friend Jesse who screened it for us has a sick stereo system and I could hear where I've not done such a great job on the sound in some patches. Sound is SO. DAMN. HARD. But I don't have the $$$ to get it mastered. Grrr. I'll figure something out.

In other news, I may be losing my day job soon, but amazingly enough I am not all that stressed about it. In a perfect world, I won't lose it until I get a sizable chunk of my credit-card debt paid off, but this world ain't all that perfect. We'll see. If it does happen sooner than later, it will give me more time to work on the next script. I have written a four-page outline and have a good idea of what I want to do, but that is as far as I have gotten. Thought I'd get something done on it while I am out here, but Tobey has kept me busy having too much fun. Maybe on the plane home on Thursday!

I guess I am not worried about the job thing because (a) worrying won't change anything, and (b) my life always seems to work out the way it is supposed to. I sort of just trust the wind that carries me, and when I need to make something happen, I find a way to make it happen. I have friends that will make sure I never have to live in a cardboard box. Storage unit, maybe, but not a cardboard box! Nah, Mikey would never let that happen to me. I keep telling him, if only I could find a straight man that treats me as well as he does, I'd be set! Whenever I say this, he just rolls his eyes, shakes his head, and says, "NEVER gonna happen..."

I was in a store here today, flipping through some art prints, though unfortunately I can't remember the name of the artist. They were crude and colorful figurative drawings with very short vignettes written on them. One that particularly caught my eye seemed to precisely sum up what might be considered my own philosophy and why things that might throw other people into a panic or depression don't get to me so much:

"Everything changed when she realized that there was exactly enough time in this life to do all of the things that were very important to her."

If I wasn't soon-to-be-unemployed, I would have bought it.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Thanks to Kyle Holtgren a.k.a. "David" for the design! LOVE the snowglobe!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Official Press Release:


An independent romantic comedy feature film
shot on location exclusively in Baltimore City

(Baltimore, April 20, 2009) -- Steel Corset Productions, LLC is premiering the new independent feature film “Smalltimore” on Sunday, May 3, 2009, at The Wind-Up Space, 12 West North Avenue.
Doors open 6:00pm, screening at 7:00pm, $7.00 cover, cash bar. "Smalltimore" will also be screening in Tamworth, UK, on June 9th, where it has been accepted to "The Heart Of England Film Festival."

Shot on location exclusively in Baltimore City, this ambitious romantic comedy features local legend Joyce J. Scott and National Public Radio host Al Letson, as well as a stellar ensemble cast starring local actors Cheryl Scungio, Orlando Gonzales, Kelly Coston, Johnny Benson, Will Lurie, Darik Bernard, Phil Calvert, Tiffany Ariany, Phil Amico, Tommy Divinti and Kyle Holtgren.

First-time Writer/Director/Producer/Editor Jeanie M. Clark offers her love letter to Baltimore with “Smalltimore,” highlighting local artists, musicians, sights and watering holes. The soundtrack features 37 original songs by 11 Baltimore artists.

"I've never seen a movie that portrays MY Baltimore," Ms. Clark says. "The art scene here is not underground whatsoever, Baltimore is just one big art scene! Most of the friends I have made here do one thing for a paycheck, and something else that better represents who they really are. The creative energy in this city is overwhelming, and it brought me back to the artist that I forgot I was."

Michelle Farrell of Absolute Independent Pictures is Director of Photography for “Smalltimore.” A Highlandtown native, Ms. Farrell has been cinematographer for over 10 feature films, various documentaries, and has worked for networks such as NBC, Sony, BET, A&E, Fox and many more. She has won several prestigious awards and
has written, produced and directed other award-winning projects, such as “Unraveling Michelle,” which is currently running the film festival circuit, and is in the distribution process.

Rebecca Clear Dean served as the Production Manager for “Smalltimore.” Mrs. Dean has more than 15 years of film, television and advertising production experience. Her producer credits include both multiple Emmy-winning PBS series “Adam Smith” and “Wall $treet Week With Louis Rukeyser,” PBS and A&E documentaries, live theater and overseas telecasts, and local ad production for nationwide distribution.

An all-female management team - led by a female writer/director/producer/editor — is
virtually unheard-of in the industry, particularly among Indies.

Principle photography of “Smalltimore” filmed August 1 through 14, in locations such as Mount Vernon Square, Federal Hill, Dougherty’s Pub, Dionysus Bar, Baltimore Theater Project, Fin Art Gallery in Fells Point, the Wind-Up Space, and several private homes in Hampden, Waverly and Mount Vernon. Local artists whose work is featured in the film include Joyce J. Scott, Ellen Burchenal, Linda DePalma, Oletha DeVane, Caren Shelley, Charles Lawrence, Jillian Jenkins, Allison Pasarew, Dr. Leslie King-Hammond—who currently has a major piece on display in the Reginald F. Lewis Museum—and Jeanie Clark herself. Jewelry has been provided by local artists Wayne Werner, Caren Shelley, and Anna Zep.

Local musicians starring in the movie are T.T. Tucker and the Bum Rush Band. The soundtrack is strictly comprised of all original music by Baltimore bands and solo artists, including T.T. Tucker AKA Tommy Divinti, Joyce J. Scott, The Remnants,Jen Swartout, Lawnchair, The Degenerettes, Reina Williams, Niki Lee, Lauren Young, Brynn McCoy, and Lazerbitch.

The overlapping stories in “Smalltimore” include gay and interracial romances. “I didn't have any particular race or ethnicity in mind for most of the characters when I wrote it," says Clark. "I just cast the best actors I could find, and it worked itself out - perfectly."

Finally, a romantic comedy filmed completely in Baltimore, completely about Baltimore!
# # #

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

You Should Be Reading This Blog

This other blog. In ADDITION to mine, that is. If you read this blog regularly, then there is a new blog I think you would be very interested in:

This is a new experiment by a guy I know named Brent Rose. Brent was one of the actors with Bill Pullman's "Expedition 6" group that stayed with me for 3 weeks in the summer of 2006. Brent has been living in NYC since then.

I'll let you read his blog instead of me reiterating it in detail, but bare-bones basics, he has decided to create a new character once a week for 50 weeks, and make a short film of it. I think it is an incredible exercise as an actor, and as a director I am enjoying reading about his "process". It is also very ambitious in that so far the shorts have each been about 5 minutes long, which Brett has been editing himself. Since each short has involved multiple scenes/locations, that is a WHOLE lotta time! Creating a character, acting, shooting, editing... it is really impressive if you think about it.

Brent is in his third week, and I have been meaning to mention his blog on this blog from the beginning, but I have been busy. I liked the characters the first two weeks, it seemed light and fun, but this week, "Al Griffin Goes Outside," really blew me away. I am not being facetious when I say, I laughed, I cried. It was so well done, so touching, so believable... and all without a word of dialogue. If this is only week 3, I can't wait to see what comes next.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kyle Holtgren, as David

[Kyle Holtgren as David, in Minato Sushi Restaurant]

It has been awhile since I profiled any of my actors, and I really need to wrap this up before the big premiere at The Wind-Up Space on May 3rd! Finally, I am getting around to profiling Kyle Holtgren, who plays David. I think he was more excited about being profiled than any of the others, though everyone so far has seemed to enjoy their moment in the spotlight.

The character of David is based loosely on a friend of mine. The real David is one of those people who never stops smiling, but he smiles in such a way that you feel like he is going bring up a secret that you made the mistake of telling him, or, if you happen to be a cute guy, he might just grab your crotch.

I thought casting this part would be a lot of fun and people would be lining up for the chance to steal the show, even though it is a relatively small part. However, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, I was quite surprised to find the number of male actors who would much prefer playing a homicidal child-molester than a friendly, funny gay man. And since I had no part for a homicidal child-molester in this romantic comedy... I found myself with slim pickings among the actors willing to try out for the part of David.

Even after the second round of auditions and checking out over 100 actors at the Stonehenge auditions at the Creative Alliance, I was coming up empty. How could it be so hard to cast an outrageously funny, over-the-top gay man in Baltimore? In Mount Vernon, no less?

But there I was, my only options being a few guys who, god bless them, just seemed to me to be straight men playing a gay man as some straight men seem to see gay men - almost as a caricature.

Granted, in "Smalltimore," we don't delve very deeply into the character of David or his background. And in real life, my friend David is at once an open book and an enigma, and I know there are a million things I don't know about him. But he is still a person, not a cartoon character. He is still my friend, and even when he is trying to steal men away from me, it is really just his way of looking out for my best interests. There have been a few men in my past that it would have saved me a WHOLE lotta wasted time if I had introduced them to David right off the bat! But I digress...

So there I was, stuck, with production starting in less than 8 weeks. Kellie Stevens (who was dying to play the part of Angela, but had just taken a job that was moving her to Austin, Texas) suggested her friend Kyle, who I had met several times when we had all been at Dionysus for cocktails. Kyle, especially after a few libations, is hysterically funny in real life, and I could certainly picture him in the role. So, I rolled the dice and offered him the role without even auditioning him.

Kyle's first encounter with anything to do with "Smalltimore," was at the table read of the script with the entire cast, the bulk of whom had had to fight tooth and nail for their parts. They didn't know anything about the circumstances of Kyle's casting, but they did have the advantage of already having some amount of rapport with each other, as all of them had worked hard through the second round of auditions with each other, with the exceptions of Joyce Scott, and Tucker. I don't think anyone else noticed, but knowing Kyle a little bit at that point, I could tell he was very nervous, and I heard a little quiver in his voice more than once as we read the script aloud. He did a good job, though, and by the end of the read seemed more comfortable and extremely enthusiastic about the whole project.

Soon after it was time for rehearsals. I will be the first to say that for those with smaller roles, like Kyle, Tiffany, and Phil Amico, this sort of sucked. Because their scenes were scattered, and sometimes only with a line or three, they sometimes needed to be in rehearsals for a long day of nothingness, occasionally interrupted by 20 to 30 minutes of rehearsing a scene. This held especially true for Kyle. But he not only showed up, off-book and with a smile on his face, but even came on a day or two where I told him if he couldn't make it, he didn't have to, since he only had a few lines. He took it very seriously and really seemed to enjoy the interaction with the other actors whenever he had the chance.

Then, there was wardrobe... Kyle always looks good and I thought for sure I'd just be able to cherry-pick a few goodies from his own clothing. I went to his place one evening, and he had laid out a bunch of things for me to look at. I had never noticed it before but, for as outrageously funny as Kyle is, his taste in clothing is on the conservative side. Nothing too wild, nothing overtly sexy, things that look good on him, but largely in neutral colors, and some with logos so we couldn't use those. The part I thought that would be easiest to dress, and there was not one shirt in his wardrobe that I could use. Time for shopping!

The actors had all agreed to supply their own wardrobe, and if they didn't own the right stuff, we went shopping, and they paid for those clothes themselves. Welcome to the glamorous world of acting in low-budget indies! Those that I did go shopping with were very flexible and very patient, and Kyle was no exception. If memory serves, it was a Sunday, and we tried to hit the thrift stores I had scouted with Cheryl, Kelly, and Phil Calvert, but they were closed. So, we headed to Hampden, specifically, Mina's. Which is exactly where we should have started to begin with.

Now, though I was able to pay my ensemble cast a tiny bit each, it was really nothing more than what I call pain-in-the-ass money, and also it was on a sliding scale. So, since Kyle had a small part, it really wasn't much to speak of. I agreed to cover the cost of whatever wardrobe we picked out and deduct it from this future pay.

At Mina's, we found some very fun stuff which was exactly what I was looking for for David. A couple of graphic tees that if you look close during the movie, are pretty hysterical, or at least interesting. I loved the Joan of Arc tee so much that I went back later and bought one for myself. The outfit we threw together for the finale scene at first seemed absurd as I found one piece at a time, but once we put it all together, I have to say, I love, love, love this outfit. Kyle looks adorable in hats and should wear them much more often. And Kyle himself was ecstatic about the find of the day - a wide-collared polyester shirt with photos of birds screened all over it (seen in the scene in Minato, the above photo).

We found everything we needed right there at Mina's, and when they totaled up the 4 shirts, vest, and hat... at the end of the production I would then owe Kyle a whopping $30. I'll say again, he was a VERY good sport about the matter.

As he was, and is, about everything. He is one of the actors I remain in closest touch with, and he is constantly offering help with marketing, spreading the word to everyone he can, beating the drums about becoming a fan of the Facebook page, reading the blog, attending the premiere, etc. All very important, of course, but most importantly, I think he pulled off the character of David delightfully, and I SO hope that the real David can be at the screening to check out this very cute, very funny version of himself. In real life Kyle has a similarly devilish smile, the same harmless yet sinister twinkle in his eye, and he did a fantastic job of providing comic relief while portraying a believable character.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Comedy of Errors

[Tiffany Ariany as Angela, goofing around on the set]

Sorry about the break, just been busy, AND tired of sitting on my hindquarters (my ass actually HURTS from sitting so much). I drove up to Mikey's cabin last Friday, it is a 200-mile hike. The next day Mikey and I ran around scouting locations for a future project, and in the process logged another 200 miles. That Sunday, Mikey returned to NYC and I only put 140 miles on the car running around without him, then Monday drove 200 back to Baltimore - after an editing session of 9 hours straight from 9:00pm Sunday night to 6:00am Monday morning. That is a LOT of sitting.

But all worth it. I have been so holed up in my cave, editing or doing other movie-related stuff, it was nice to see the light of day, trees, people, etc. And equally importantly I did get a lot done in that nine-hour session - the GAG REEL!

I think it must be everyone's favorite part of a movie. Don't you always hope that you get to see the clips of actors messing up while the credits roll? I don't care if it is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Actually, that makes it even more funny to see the behind-the-scenes.

I was afraid I wouldn't have much to work with. Because we were shooting with the P2 (digital) cards, we did have a limited amount of recording time per day, and there were a couple days where we used up almost every second. So, as soon as I yelled, "cut!" Michelle would turn off the camera to preserve space on the cards. Therefore, when we did have a screw-up, even a funny one, we didn't have the luxury of letting the camera roll to capture it.

Another lesson learned. On the pick-up day that Eric served as DP, we shot on MiniDV tapes, so we could fool around and keep the camera rolling no matter what. Tape is pretty cheap. However, downloading is a bigger pain with tape, as you download in real time (one hour of tape = one hour of downloading), whereas offloading the P2 digital cards is much faster, something like 1/6 of the time. Also the great thing about the cards is that every time you shut the camera off, it stores that bit as a separate clip. With tape, it is one continuous stream and you have to chop it up yourself in post-production. Some people still prefer doing it this way, but I well prefer working with the cards. SO much easier in my opinion.

Except that you can't just let the camera roll. I know (yet another) something I would do differently next time to alleviate that problem, though. There was one day where we were literally down to the last take because the cards were full. If we didn't get it right on that take, we would have had to have gone back and erased some earlier footage to get another take in. An easy solution would have been to have the hard drive on the set and had one of the Assistant Camera people offload what we had recorded so far onto the drive during lunch. That is definitely the way I will work it the next time.

But, turns out I had PLENTY to work with. Everybody screws up sometime, thank goodness! If it hadn't been so funny, I never would have stayed up until 6:00am working on it. I think it turned out really well. I am soooo ready to be done with editing, but I am glad I made myself do this. Sometimes in retrospect it is hard for me to remember how much fun production was, because I was so focused and wearing so many hats at the same time. I didn't have that much time to enjoy it while it was happening because I had to keep myself and everyone on track. But in the gag reel you can hear me laughing at every single screw-up, and it brought it all back to me that I did have fun, every single day, even the days that I wanted to kill someone (or myself).

The gag reel will run at the end of the movie, with the credits. NO ONE has seen it except me, and no one will before the premiere. So you better be there!

Sunday, May 3rd
at the Wind-Up Space
Doors 6:00pm
Screening 7:00pm
Cover $7
Cash bar

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bitter Pill/Better Solution

[Al Letson in "Smalltimore," playing himself: "The Voice of Reason".}

It was the worst of news, it was the best of news... brace yourself, I am going to rip the band-aid off quickly, and it is going to sting a bit: "Smalltimore," was not accepted at the Maryland Film Festival.

Dear Filmmaker,

Thank you for submitting your film for consideration in the 2009 Maryland Film Festival. Our screening committee members have given careful consideration to all submissions. Unfortunately, your work was not chosen to be a part of this year’s Maryland Film Festival.

Over the last few years, we have experienced a dramatic increase in submissions, due in part to our association with the Without a Box entry-facilitating web site. As a result, each year we also see an increasing number of films that we were fond of but simply could not find a place for in our schedule.

We recognize that many of the entries we are not accepting have had great success at other film festivals, or will go on to do so. Please do not let our decision impact the pride and enthusiasm you have for your work. We wish you every success in your filmmaking pursuits and hope that you will keep our festival in mind in the future.

Maryland Film Festival

I found this out on Monday, actually, but I didn't want to tell anyone about it until I had some good news to tell them as well. So I did create some good news, which I'll tell you about in a sec, but then I just still didn't feel like talking about it because, you know, nursing the bruised ego. Then I was going to write about it yesterday but I realized it was April Fool's Day, and I didn't want people to think it was a joke and get their hopes up that the opposite was true, so that is why I waited until today.

It is not an easy pill to swallow, but after a few phone calls to certain friends, and a few beers, I managed to get it down. I can accept the rejection on my own behalf. "Smalltimore," is a fairly standard romantic comedy with no big stars in it, a hard sell at festivals that aren't looking for anything specific, and the Maryland Film Festival is one such festival. Other festivals I have submitted to are centric to female filmmakers, African-American (actors), Gay & Lesbian, original music, comedy, first-time filmmakers, etc... The MFF isn't looking for anything specific like that, it is a non-competitive festival - no juries, no prizes, no categories. So for me personally, it's okay, I can live with the decision, as being in the MFF would have given me another laurel to show off, but I didn't have a chance of winning any cash prizes and it probably would not help me to find a distributor for my film. But... it just would have been nice if my love letter to Baltimore were not... unrequited.

That stings a little bit, I won't lie. But after that initial disappointment, what really had me upset was to think that a single time slot could not be found for a movie that would have given so many local artists and musicians a boost. That, to me, is the part that really sucks and why I didn't want to talk about it (and still really don't, but I have to). That is the part that I don't get. And for the moment I can't say more than that or I will say things I will later regret, and as I have told you so many times, this is a very small town, so sometimes you should just keep your mouth shut so you don't burn any bridges. Hopefully I haven't done anything more than singe them a bit.

On to the good news. A few days before I found out about being rejected by the MFF, I started bracing myself for that possibility. What do I do if that happens? I didn't want to make all the people who worked so hard on the movie wait any longer to see the finished product. I came up with an idea, and within an hour of getting that unfortunate email, I set it into motion.

So, as unhappy as I was to tell you about the above news, I am equally happy to announce the first public screening of "Smalltimore," its World Premiere! That glorious event will take place on Sunday, May 3, at the Wind-Up Space. Of course I will be bombarding you with info on that soon, but the basics are, doors open at 6:00pm, movie at 7:00pm.

The Wind-Up Space is a very cool bar and multi-media space, with one large wall that is a movie screen. We filmed several scenes of the movie here. Russell DeoCampo, who owns the place, designed the space specifically to be flexible and conducive to art exhibits and performances of any kind. That is the spirit of Baltimore that I love so much and so it is very fitting that the first screening of "Smalltimore" will take place here. Plus, you can order up an icy cold Natty Boh to enjoy with the film! Can't do THAT at the MFF. And the price of admission will only be $7, less than most matinees.

I look at the whole thing as a blessing in disguise. Of course I am disappointed, being in the MFF would have given us some good press. But in the big picture, it may be better this way. I would not have received a dime from screening at the MFF, but this way I can use the movie to fundraise, so that I can afford to travel to the festivals that do accept the film. I am hoping to raise enough $$$ at this screening to cover my expenses to go to The Heart of England Festival in June, where, as you know, we have already been accepted.

So, big thanks to Russell for helping me to salvage the situation and give everyone something to look forward to. I promise it will be a great time. And thanks to the few friends I have shared this with so far who have, as always, provided me with their unwavering support. The first person I called was Al Letson (pictured above), because not only is he a dear friend and always calms me down when I am about to blow a gasket, but is one of my few friends who in this situation can speak from experience. He told me that this happens to him all the time, he receives rejections for theater festivals he should have been accepted to, to later find out that people not as talented got in because they knew someone. Coming from someone else, that might sound like sour grapes, but if you have seen any of Al's work, you know it is just the plain truth. I can't think of anyone I know who is more talented than Al.

During our conversation he talked about the possibility of me directing a screenplay he has already written, one we have talked about before. That was a very nice thing to hear, I would LOVE to direct something Al has written, that would be amazing!

Like I said, Al always straightens my head out and makes me feel better. As we were getting off the phone, he simply said, "They're assholes. I love you."

I'm not saying he's right. I'm just saying it made me feel better.