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Don has been working as an actor on a movie for the last five months. When that wrapped last week, we were on the hunt for the next acting gig.
We found a great project and put together a submission. And he was invited to make a video audition.
Now…it was late Friday when the notification came through. Deadline is 4pm Monday.
And we have to create this whole self-tape video audition from scratch.
If it was a matter of getting the sides, recording the vid on a phone, and uploading, that would be easy. But in this case, he had to choose a character, perform its sides, put together two improvs, edit all the segments into one vid, and then upload. That is gonna take some time.
Part of our equipment is at his house. Part of the equipment is at my house. He came by Saturday morning to pick up equipment, in case he got enough of the planning done in order to work Saturday night.
On the last movie he worked for, they shaved his moustache. I am like—can we go take some quick pics. Out the door we go. And the memory card wasn’t in the camera. I had less than 30 minutes before I had to leave for work. Needless to say…rushed photography didn’t give me too many good pics. But we got the one below.
Don mentioned trying to film at a bar that one of our friends owns. But I kinda freaked out. We are on such a tight deadline. And all the computer equipment is at my house, and who knows how this will go or what we will need. I said I wanted to work at my house. Could we meet 10am Sunday? He said that was fine.
All I can think about is – the limitations of my house. Small rooms. Bad lighting. Angles. Once we get vids, how much batch conversion am I gonna have to do? What output settings will work for the finished upload?
Don and I had a phone conversation somewhere in the middle of this rushed madness, and I asked what his plans were? He was working on the issues of…what character(s) to audition for? What monologue? How to play the monologue/set it up/perform it/sell it/nail that punchline.
And me…being on the technical side of this equation – since I am only the director of photography and editor…totally forgot what it is to prepare an acting performance.
Don has to do ALLLLLL the thinking on this one. He has to pick his improv monologues, write the lines, set the timing, get the props, rehearse it, revise it, ACT IT…and all in less than 48 hours.
I am exhausted even thinking about doing that amount of work in such a short turnaround.
5:30 am Sunday. I am wide awake, still computing angles, worrying about lighting, worrying about the computer settings for my responsibilities on this gig.
7:45 am Sunday. The power goes out!
We are on a deadline. Hopefully the power will come on soon. The wind is low. Could we possibly compensate by filming outdoors? At least I won’t have to worry about the lighting in my house!
So, I text Don, who texts back: “Crap!”
He gathers equipment and comes to my house.
And…luck was on our side…the power came back on before 10.
I had set up my music room to use as a possible studio. I go to hunting for my lighting rig. Can’t find it. I don’t remember seeing it for awhile. Don is already on his way. When he gets here, I ask if he happens to have our lighting rig at his place. Oh yeah…he does. Too late now!
I ask what is the plan?!?!?!
He likes to joke with me. There is a place when you are working at the top of your highest level of mental function – concentration is complete. And he can say words to me – things that have nothing to do with the project at hand – and I have no room for any outside distractions. He would say something like, “A bomb could go off next to Amanda, and she wouldn’t notice.”
But this time, the tables were turned. I was setting up camera and microphone and adjusting settings. And I said something to him, and he was all…”Shut up and let me think!” I had to chuckle.
We ended up turning my living room into a pseudo pub!
And it is showtime!
Every single take, he is a different character. He played six, count ’em, SIX characters in this audition. I have watched this man act in real life for the last couple of decades. He will tell a story and “become” that person in the story. Then he can switch it off, and go to a different tangent.
His acting talent floors me.
And here we are – doing this on camera – trying to get him a role in someone else’s movie. With less than 48 hours notice, he created six characters, figured out their motivations, speech patterns, timing, beats, and HE SOLD THEM ALL!
Then it is time to do my work.
I get the footage into the computer and into the editing software. And I start putting it together. And I realize I misjudged the sound. The video was reasonably okay – considering our location constraints and limited time. And you have to make a bunch of technical decisions very quickly.
And I misjudged the sound. But you can still hear Don, and my mistake didn’t detract from his acting. I told him what I had done. (And I am pretty sure neither of us has the energy, nor internal fortitude to shoot this again.) We sure enough don’t have the time to work this another day. I ask him if he is okay with going ahead and using this footage, even with my sound mistake. And he said yes.
I edit as quickly as I can. At this point – when we know we are not going to shoot it again, I said that if he needed to leave, it was okay with me. I knew he had a ton of work to do in his personal job. (To the extent that I had asked, “Do you have time to do acting right now?” Short answer – yes he did.)
He stayed with me through the first render. Again, there are so many technical settings, and you try one thing, then try another.
I said I was going to tweak it and render it again.
Oh yeah…did I mention that we set this up on my day off? And I got called in to work at my day job Sunday evening? DP (cinematography) and editing takes ALL of my brain. When that day is done, my brain is done. And now I have to switch gears, switch modes, and switch personalities and go to my day job!??!?! Can we spell E-X-H-A-U-S-T-I-O-N?
Just what we needed. More reasons to rush. More opportunities to make mistakes!
I did the third render. Decided to use it.
Got the confirmation. Texted Don that it was done!
And we made it 23 hours ahead of deadline!
Now we play the waiting game…
Does he get the gig?
Things are progressing on the post production of the movie.
A lot of the work involves us at a computer. Not a lot to blog about there, and that kind of work doesn’t seem to make for fun stories.
But…on occasion…you get to work with talented people who sure do make you smile.
Cowboy poet, Sam Wylie, entertained us with cowboy poetry. All along, I thought how neat it would be if we could include some of his poems in the movie.
I asked Sam, and he said yes, he’d participate. We arranged to meet at 10 am. At 9am, I am out on my porch, and the weather was nice and the wind was calm.
Then the wind hit. And a cold front. And lots of wind noise. We wanted to film outdoors, so we went to Carmen’s (the trail boss) horse barn, and used it to block the wind.
Sam (on the left, above) reads a poem, while Sonny Harrison (right) listens. Both of these men were drovers on the cattle drive.
Sonny gears up to read a poem.
We made it for an hour, working outdoors in that cold and wind. I didn’t want to stay out that long, but it was so much fun, working with these talented men, I kept asking them to do additional readings and additional locations.
We came back to my home recording studio, to record the cowboy poetry in some sort of controlled audio environment.
Sam Wylie reads his poetry in studio.
The whole session went well. It’ll be fun to see how all this comes together: video, audio, music, sound FX, voice over, poetry…the list goes on and on.
And that’s all she wrote!
The 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive was a huge success!
We loved being a part of this experience. As filmmakers, we tried to stay back and not influence the actions of the participants. We tried to capture the legitimate experience on camera.
The drovers embraced us. They treated us as “one of the family”. I think that – for all of us – this experience is one that enhances and enriches one’s life, in ways that cannot be imagined.
I know that I, personally, have been affected by this cattle drive in profound ways. I have made friendships. I didn’t expect that. As one drover said, “When you make a friend out here, you’ve made a friend for life.”
Things I learned:
- When you just know you have the perfect shot – don’t gloat or pat your own back or congratulate yourself too soon. Someone will come up and ruin your shot.
- People really, really like horses and cattle and cowboys and wagons. Hollywood may have determined that it is not worth the investment to make a western movie, anymore. I will tell you this: Hollywood is wrong. There is a HUGE market for people who like westerns.
- The tops of your ears can get sunburned! The first week, I wore my cowboy hat(s), which cover a lot more area. Therefore your ears are fine! This second week, the wind was up a lot more. I could not keep my cowboy hats on. I switched to a white ball cap – which I could scrunch down on my head. (Even at that – it still blew off more times than I could count.) And how many times did complete strangers go run after my hat? More times than I can count! Lesson learned: people have a lot more courtesy about chasing your hat – than about coming to stand in your shot/driving into your shot/talking during your shot.
- My movie partner, Don, carried me through this movie. I always knew he was an amazing actor. In that configuration – he is in front of the camera, and I am behind it. That works. But when we agreed to take on this project – it is two of us behind the camera(s). His innate talent at cinematography blew me away. The thing is – he does it automatically. He makes all these decisions and computations fast. And he gets the shot. (And when I have the occasional artistic complete and total meltdown – he has been the strong and stable one who carries me through it.)
- Filming this movie was four times more intense than I had anticipated.
- Fatigue has kicked my ass. It started in Oklahoma and it kicked it all the way to Wichita!
- If you have a low wind day (which is a miracle) someone will fly a drone and ruin your audio!
- If you ask a drover what they most liked about the cattle drive – the most common answer you’d get is: “I get to ride my horse!”
What is my takeaway from the experience?
For starters – how did the pioneers do this? How did the drovers on the Chisholm Trail do this?
How did they forge their way into territory with only their horse or only their horses and wagons? In the olden days, there were no grocery stores, nor convenience stores, nor motels, nor feed stores.
What gave a person enough courage to hitch up a wagon and travel to the great unknown?
If I want to go somewhere, I hop in a vehicle, I turn the key and I go. A lot of times, if I have to stop and open a garage door, I resent that level of “slow down”.
What happens when your main mode of travel is equine? If you have to saddle a horse before you go anywhere – that takes time. If you have to hitch a wagon – that takes time.
You always have to take care of your animals first. It doesn’t matter if you are thirsty or tired. You take care of your horse before you take care of yourself.
I am in awe of those men and women – one hundred and fifty years ago – who made this journey up the Chisholm Trail. For months, they worked hard, in brutal weather with no shelter. I don’t know about you – but if there is a storm coming, I find the nearest roof. Those old time trail riders – if there was hail, they’d put their saddles over their shoulders to protect themselves.
If the ground was wet and if there was no way to avoid the muck – they would sleep in a triangle configuration – resting one’s head on another’s knees or lower legs – in order to be able to sleep without having your head in the mud.
Each night of this 2017 cattle drive, I came home. I rested my head on my pillow. I slept in my soft, comfortable bed. Under my own roof. After eating food…a lot of which other people cooked! I did a lot of takeout. Cooking was too much work for the duration of this cattle drive. Every day I’d come home with my brain fried from the level of thinking that doing this gig entails.
The whole time I was coming home to my own bed each night (while driving or riding in a vehicle with the air conditioner on high), those drovers were out there – sleeping on the ground. They had no respite from the heat/wind/bugs.
They ate a lot better than the pioneers did. Those meals cooked over the fire looked wonderful!
But the level of work involved in preparing those meals was astounding!
These drovers taught me what fortitude is. I learned so much about history. I learned a lot about humanity on this drive.
My life is sooo much richer – for having had this experience!
At virtually every corner – observers, crowds, families and friends gathered to watch the cattle drive pass by.
It is such a joy to see the kids out and about – learning about history. Every single one of these drovers took the time to share, to teach, to interact. That’s why they did this.
This cattle drive was more than a ceremonial experience. It connected people.
It connected people.
People from all walks of life would come to see the cattle, the horses, the drovers and the wagons.
Many, many times, I’d film a parade in a town, and when I’d turn around, the people would have a look of awe on their faces.
Imagine the joy, of watching a child get to pet a horse for the first time.
From the past – to the present – to the future, friendships are born. Connections are established.
Joy is shared!
“You know what we get to do today…?”
5:30am out on the trail. Cowboys are awake. Bedrolls have been packed. Cooks have been up and working hard since 3:30am. French toast is on the grill. Two coffee pots keep getting a lot of action.
It’s truly dark. You can see the moon. You can see stars. How did the cowboys of old manage to function in the complete darkness? The fire provides a source of light.
But not much:
Cowboys bow their heads in prayer. A big breakfast is served to the drovers who won’t get to stop for lunch.
Lightning crackles in the west.
Then…all of a sudden, the darkness is a little less.
You can see objects. Walking around camp gets a little easier.
Breakfast is over. The chuckwagon gang is packing up. Cowboys are saddling horses. Those who have saddled first go off to round up the herd.
Chaps are strapped on. Picket lines come down.
Drovers get a snack for the noontime that they can eat in the saddle.
Cow camp is over. The cattle drive has moved on.
One cowboy comes up to another. He says, “You know what we get to do today…?”
“We get to cowboy!”
It is Day 4 of the Chisholm Trail Ceremonial Cattle Drive!
The 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle drive is under way!
Cowboys camped out under the stars last night, and first thing this morning – before daybreak – they had the cattle rounded up.
This was part of supper last night! Talk about skillet envy!
My acting partner, Don Krejsek got cast in a national commercial for Bushnell.
The ad is called “Yes, That’s Covered”.
He is at .06.
We have done a lot of work, together, for our own projects and whatnot. But for someone else to cast him out of dozens of applicants… Then to get hired for the shoot… Then to actually get edited IN the final project: That is Super Cool!
Way To Go!!!
I live for these…the beauty and majesty of the colors. An artist could not paint anything as imaginative as these skies.
And no two are alike. From one moment to the next, we will never see anything like this again. Each moment…a moment in time.
Thank goodness for the invention of the camera – to preserve these precious moments.
Cowboy of the plains
The mystique of the old west
Gone not forgotten
As a working actor, you get these gigs, and you show up and do your job, but you have no control. Lots and lots and lots of times, you are edited out of the final cut. That’s _fine_. I enjoy acting so much, and the experience of being on set is amazing.
So, being edited ‘out’ is to be expected.
But…what happens when you are edited ‘IN’?
It was super hot that day and, I got placed, in the direct sunlight, for hours. My prop was a fake newspaper, so in between takes, I’d hold it up to shade the sun from my head. I didn’t pass out, but one extra almost did.
So, guess what? The movie trailer gets released and I _got edited IN_ the movie trailer.
At .20 seconds, the car pulls a U-turn. I am sitting at an outdoor table, at a sidewalk cafe, in a light blue shirt. From the distance, and at youtube parameters, you can’t see that it’s me. But still, how cool it is to be edited IN.
This is sooo cool. I love my job!
Monday at 11:01AM – facebook page
Monday at 11:01AM – Twitter feed
This is my original blog post about the gig.
No release date has been posted yet, but when it is, I’ll post it here.
Get your popcorn ready! See ya at the movies!