Tag Archives: filmmaker

Unadorned

Sometimes things just come together perfectly.  A year ago, in February, I brought together a group of six extremely talented young women to make a music video for a song on the about-to-be-released Matt Ryan record. Everything about “(I Just Died) Like An Aviator” rocked.  It’s one of my favorite shoots, one of my favorite videos. You can watch it here.

Then, last Wednesday, I read that Matt would soon be releasing an unadorned acoustic version of the same album.  He sent me a copy, and I immediately turned on the acoustic “Aviator” and before the song was over I knew what I had to do.

The texting began. I started with my Matt Ryan-impersonator Chloe Barczak as she would have to carry so much of the idea I had in my head.  She was in.  Then co-producer Charlotte Beatty to handle the organization.  And the first video’s guitarist Carina Begley, as the guitar was (except for a few piano notes at the very end) the lone instrument.  An acoustic version of the same team, so to speak.

Then I told Matt we were again making a music video of “Aviator.”  He never even asked what we were planning, and instead got American Songwriter Magazine to agree to premiere the video sight unseen.  He sent me the chords and even a video for Carina on how to play a few of the guitar parts.

By Friday of last week we had a schedule and a location.  The same location as the original video.  We all met at 8:45 AM on Sunday, loaded up my Jeep with almost all of my gear, and drove the two tenths of a mile to the home of Dean and Shellye.

As Carina got used to the feel of my Martin acoustic, Charlotte and Chloe helped me set up lights and camera.  By 10:30 we were filming, buzzing from a lot of Willoughby’s coffee, Coke-a-Cola, and salted-caramel Orangeside Donuts.

But this time around Chloe and Carina had their work cut out for them.  My concept was to present the video in one long take.  No cuts.  Just a perfect performance and some precise rack focusing. No sweat.

We worked on blocking the first half dozen times through, as Chloe worked on her emotional delivery.  She felt this version of the song was really sad.  Desperate.  Depressing even.  Both Charlotte and Carina agreed.  I was not about to argue.

We got the blocking just right, the lighting perfect.  And by the twelfth take I started noticing tears in Chloe’s eyes.  That was when I knew we had something special.  We knocked off one take after another, with barely a pause between, and she nailed it.  Take sixteen was fucking brilliant.  Take eighteen was perfect.  We did a few more.  I had a B-camera rolling just in case my impossible one-shot idea would not work.  And after the twenty-fourth take we wrapped.

I got home around 1:30 PM.  I copied the footage onto a drive as I put away the gear.  Then I started editing, going back and forth between takes 16, 18, 12 and 24…but ultimately the fucking brilliant won out.  It would be take 16.  I added titles, the slightest color correction, some film grain, and I exported the timeline.  By 4:30 PM I texted Matt, Chloe, Charlotte, and Carina a private viewing link for the video.

This is what Matt Ryan wrote to me after seeing it for the first time: “My god she’s killing me. I seriously have tears in my eyes.  I love it.  Breaks my heart.  It’s beautiful  Please tell them I love it.  Thank you for thinking to do this.”

His appreciation was appreciated.

Matt stripped down a beautiful song, and allowed us to do the same to the original video.  But this video is unadorned in other ways as well: void of ego, attitudes, rude people (unlike most of the rest of my past few weeks, hell, unlike most of the world we live in). It was just four people working together, all doing what they need to do, having fun doing it, turning a beautiful song in a visual work of art.

Thank you to Chloe, Charlotte, and Carina, my brilliant cohorts on this project. Thank you to Dean and Shellye for again letting us invade their home.  Thank you to Matt Ryan and American Songwriter for the blind trust.

And here it is:  American Songwriter Magazine

Sometimes things just come together perfectly.

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Filed under directing, film producing, film school, filmmaking, matthew ryan, music, music video, rock n roll, Uncategorized

Kilgore Trout (1995 – 2008) R.I.P.

A tumor the size of a grapefruit.  I saw it on the x-ray, filling the space between his liver, his spleen, and his stomach.  Perhaps encroaching on his lungs as well.  Suffocating Kilgore Trout  from the inside out.

At first we thought it was a reaction to Previcox.  A drug given to him just about four weeks ago to help with his hips.  He was having the worst time walking, this glorious pup who would jump, would bounce, like on a trampoline whenever he saw me. 

(watch the clip that now opens my website as proof…it’s 45 seconds that will make you smile.)

At first the drug did wonders, until he stopped eating, starting vomiting.  Side effects all, so many serious side effects.  How could this fucking killer pill be on the market? 

I am angry.  I am seething.  I know Previcox did not kill my dog, but it certainly didn’t help there in the end.  A shot of Pepcid did for a while.  But still the appetite nowhere near the vacuum cleaner-like enthusiasm with which he used to eat.  Less and less every day.  And the vomiting returned.  Bile, from his mostly empty stomach. 

More Pepcid.  But it didn’t seem to help this time.  Finally a trip to the vet.  You could see it in her face as she checked him stomach.  Perhaps we should get him x-rayed…now.  The normally busy hospital would take us NOW.

So I dropped my wife at home so she could tend to our other dog, and drove Kilgore down to Central Hospital in New Haven.  It was quick.  He sat by my feet afterwards as I waited on word.  The receptionist said the vet wanted to speak with me.  She gave me the news.  None of it good. 

How long does he have? I asked.  A few days, was the response.  Or perhaps to the beginning of next week.  (This was a Thursday.)  The x-ray technician showed me the tumor.  It was massive.  All encompassing.  There was nothing to do but make him comfortable during his last few days.

But a small meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken pulled from a breast was all he could manage.  A few strips of it really.  And a little water to follow.  That would be his last meal.  My dog who could eat anything and everything, from a full edition of the Sunday New York Times to financial magazines (he especially loved to “tear into” MONEY and KIPLINGER’S) to, well…anything he could find in the yard., gross or not. 

Whenever I put a 12-pack of beer away, he’d wait patiently, then snatch the empty box as I pulled out the last beer and put it into the fridge.  Then he’d play keep-away with it, or tug-of war.  Or he’d lie right down and start ripping it to confetti. He especially loved Rolling Rock boxes.

But he could eat anything and everything, always without repercussion.  Now, nothing…

He walked around on his own on Friday.  Venturing out into the yard, up on the couch with a little help.  He wagged his tail, but mostly slept a lot.

That night, Friday, what would be his last night (october 24), I slept on the couch with Mr. Trout.  Well, he slept on the couch.  I was mostly on the coffee table, but that was ok.  He rested his chin on my leg, I scratched him behind his ear.

My wife and I kept asking anyone we knew…how would we know when it was time to put him to rest?  Well, he told us.

Kilgore got up twice that night, went out into the yard, slowly, but surely.  But then came the morning.  Almost two days now without food or water.  And when it came time for him to go outside, he made it through the door, but had to lie down after only a few steps.  He couldn’t get up.  We knew…

We had already made an appointment at the vet for Saturday morning.  Originally for a check up to see if there was anything else we could do.  But now I needed to call them, and change the appointment until late in the day.  The last appointment of the day.

He couldn’t really walk, so I carried my friend out to my Jeep and laid him down in the back.  And, the three of us took his final ride.  My wife sat in the back with him, as I went into the vet office to make sure everything was ready.  Then I carried him in and laid him on the table. 

After a while the vet came in an asked if we were ready.  No, how could anyone ever be ready?  But I knew he was in pain, I knew he was so tired, and I certainly didn’t want that thing inside of him to burst.

He lay, as he always did at night, two paws straight out in front, his chin resting perfectly centered between them.  I squatted down so that I was nose-to-nose with my friend.  He never took his eyes off me as the doctor administered the drug that would put him to sleep.

When his eyes finally closed, I kissed his head. Something he so hated until a few weeks ago.  I’d always do it at night, and he rub at the top of his head with his paws as if I’d given him cooties, or something.  It was a ritual.  But he was wagging tail.  And in my heart I always believed he was perhaps embarrassed in front of the other dogs, like why was I kissing his head in public?

But this would be the last time I’d get to kiss the top of Kilgore’s head. 

Goodnight, my sweet prince, perhaps one day we’ll meet up on the other side.

(i.miss.you.)

(so.fucking.much.)

in his spot...

in his spot...

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Filed under best friends, dogs, filmmaking, friends with benefits, gorman bechard, indie, kilgore trout, labradors, labs, new haven, pets, puppy, puppy mills, time, writers, you are alone