Saturday, April 19, 2014

48-hour film project comes out gold

Sacramento may not have a wealth of big budget Hollywood films being produced by it does have its share of films being produced as part of a film challenge. After several years of deciding I'm too busy and/or unskilled to contribute, I showed up at the cast and crew call for the Sacramento International Film Festival's 48-hour film challenge and offered to write something for somebody.

I hooked up with Matt Gilliam, who liked my idea of putting a modern twist on the children's classic "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." With Pam Finney's help, we began assembling our cast and crew and refining the script. Matt, Pam, Greg Marker and Gwen Conklin each made contributions to the script.

The 7-minute film is one of more than a dozen that will screen April 26 the opening night of the Sacramento International Film Festival. The show starts at 12:30 p.m. at the Crocker Art Gallery.

Here is a look at how it came together:

And a look at a trailer:

I even wrote the lyrics for a song to accompany the movie. A buddy from high school took my words and ran with it producing this pretty cool song.

Sacramento Film Challenges
Sponsor organization: Sacramento International Film Festival
Important dates: 7 p.m. today – cast and crew call at the Studio Center, 915 Fee Drive; April 4 - challenge starts; April 26 - films screened
Sponsor organization: Access Sacramento
Important dates: April 11 – script deadline; May 28 – cast and crew call; Oct. 5 – films screened
Sponsor organization: Sacramento Horror Film Festival
Important date: May 3 – films due
Name: “Sac Music Seen” / 10x10 Filmmaker Challenge
Sponsor organization: Sacramento Film and Music Festival
Important dates: April 4 – music submissions due; July 20 – videos due

Read more here:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Account supports ruthless depiction of "Big" John Misterly

Carol Doda
As a journalist solidly into my second decade at the craft, it only made sense that I’d lean on a true story to easy my way into screenwriting.
Writing a historical fiction is like journalism, except you get to color in the details, I figured.

After taking my first weekend screenwriting class three years ago, in February (2014) completed my first feature length script. I’m a admittedly a little stir crazy as I share my baby seeking refinement.
It’s hard to tell how long the road before me is. It’s next to impossible for a Hollywood outsider to sell their script. It’s hard enough to get it read. Should I try to secure the money to produce it myself, it means many long night juggling my play job and by newspaper job.

So it was with mixed feelings I scheduled a meeting with former Sacramento County Undersheriff Larry Stamm, someone with intimate knowledge of my subject matter and whose recollections might force a major rewrite.

“Pink,” my screenplay about the 1969 trial over all-nude dancing at the Pink Pussy Kat beer bar in Orangevale, started as a small project. My 2011 screenwriting class at Access Sacramento encouraged people to write a 10-page script for submission into it “Place Called Sacramento Film Festival.” Without a better idea, I turned to the newspaper archives about this intriguing trial. Using the newspaper stories as my guild post, I constructed a story to fill the middle, imagining the dialogue and what happened around the court dates.

I submitted the script. It was rejected.

My explanation at the time was it was too sexy for the “family friendly” contest. That may be true, but it was also true there was little character depth to the 10-minute version. Undoubtedly, that’s a tough bar for any 10-minute film. Without the constraints of a 10-minute requirement, the script  quickly  grew to 17 pages as I added by everything it was missing before.

Pink wasn’t a full-time obsession. I wrote and produced my short zombie comedy “Dance Step of Death” in 2012 and stayed busy with my other projects, including performing improv.
New project and ideas would manifest, but I kept returning to “Pink.” I interviewed two of the reporters who covered the trial and it grew to 27 pages. At 27 pages, the characters were really starting to take shape. I showed it to a few people, three of which urged me to develop it to feature length.

At feature length, it has the potential to make money. As as short, there is no even remote chance of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, getting the movie made as a full-length movie is dramatically more complicated than my happy little short.

I pressed on.
As I went along, I found myself struggling over the facts. The trial became a national story after the judge Earl Warren Jr. ruled the jury needed to see the dance to determine whether it violated community standards and included testimony from the famous San Francisco stripper Carol Doda. Despite its notoriety at the time, very little exists about it in accessible online archives. That fact is worth noting in this age where it often seems anything worth knowing has a wikipedia entry.

I found a few newspaper clippings, one radio story, and a reference to it in Doda’s wikipedia page, but there was little else. I couldn’t find the two stars of the drama -- Susanna Haines and Sheila Brandenson. The district attorney that handled it was dead, as was the the club’s owner Leonard Glancy.

In the absence of the gritty details, as the script grew from 27 pages to its current 116 page feature length form it was clear I needed to make some choices. The way I figured it, make a compelling story even it that means condensing a timeline, inventing a backstory and making a villain.

That villain is Sheriff John Misterly.

I knew some things about Misterly. It’s well documented he set out and succeeded in running the biker groups out of the county. The phrase most often associated with Misterly was “son-of-a-bitch.” While I didn’t have the specific facts, like whether he personally threatened people, it seemed in keeping with what I did know. I typed and slept on things, then typed some more. Scene by scene things fell into place, until I was happen. I sat on it a week to make sure I didn’t wake up with a new scene that had to be inserted.
On Feb. 15 I declared my script done, minus the scores of rewrites that lay in store. I set out getting the script proofread and started polishing.

Then without warning Sacramento Historical Society Member Dave Reingold contacted me about my script. He too had an interest in this bit of history for a project he working on about the history of Burlesque. The chapter on the Pink Pussy Kat trial is a big of an addendum to his work. Among his gifts was contact information for Larry Stamm, who was a detective during the Pink Pussy Kat’ legal entanglement.
It was then with excitement and trepidation that I arranged to meet Stamm. Would new information force me into a major rewrite? This effort was already my longest sustained writing project and I’m admittedly dieing for the fame and fortune that comes with a hit movie.

I’m happy to report that John Misterly in real life is just as bullying as in my based on real events fiction.
Stamm explained that just as “Big John” ran off the biker gangs, he was dead set on getting the adult clubs out of his community as well.
Stamm said officers were under standing order to make their presence felt at the adult establishments when there wasn’t something else pressing to be done. That included asking to see their alcohol license, checking patron’s ids, checking for code violations and giving people leaving a sobriety test.

“It was a time where people who were in the money saw an opportunity to come to cowboy town Sacramento and turn it into a big city,” said Stamm, of the influence of San Francisco culture and proliferation of adult clubs in the county.
Stamm didn’t have all the answers, while he was a detective and said he’d been there 10 to 20 times, he was not on the unit tasked with shutting it and the others down. I asked whether there was any history between Big John and Leonard Glancy, the owner.

“If there was any conversation, it was Misterly telling him to get the hell out of our community,” Stamm said.

He did nice colorful details that do come with working for the man. He mentioned it practice of chewing on cigars, his driving a big black Chrysler, and his Martini lunches.
But more than the details he offered a better understanding of Big John’s motivation and drive. I went away knowing the more fine tuning of the character is in store, but thanks to Stamm Big John will be richer fuller, more contextualized villain.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When did we stop building things? Here is my Burning Man boombike.

Ed Fletcher boombike adds a car stereo and LED lights to his mountain bike

Here's a closer look at the speakers, deck and battery.

Burning man is for builders

The most many people know about Burning Man is that there’s lots of sex and drugs. While that’s true, it barely scratches the surface on what Burning Man is about.
I used an Altolids box as the control panel
One lesser known gems of Burning Man is that is a collection of doers, dreamers and problem solvers. Given the inhospitable nature of the Black Rock desert where it’s held, concurring your environment is the first obstacle. The second and just as important challenge is to do your part add something to the community artistically or recreationally.

This year, I decided that my bike needed more illumination and a sound system.
Illumination is important because there are no streetlights and hard to keep a crew of bikes together with so many blinky dots in the night.
I saw some people cruising around Sacramento with sound systems and wanted it build my own.
I’d assembled a 12-volt camp sound system before. Mainly by assembling a second-hand car stereo setup, adding extra speakers and hooking it to car battery.
This time around I started more or less from scratch and built my own speaker boxes, wired an on/off switch control panel, and put the setup together.
The pole is made from an LED strip light
wrapped around an inner core plastic pole
within an larger plastic pole. 
From doing the wiring to cutting the speaker boxes, there were many times where I wondered whether I'd bitten off more than I can chew. I took more time to home depot and my local hardware store than it should have, but I kept finding solutions and refining the project. At least once I turned to facebook to crowdsource an answer to a question that troubled me.
But I have to say it was pretty fun. When did we stop building things and just become consumers? Some where along the line someone suggested I just buy a boom box. No where is the fun in that.
I’m pretty proud of it already. On my first test ride I got my first offer to buy it. I think I’ll keep this one.    


Monday, February 18, 2013

Who is ready for the collapse of society?

For a brief period, peaking around Christmas, I was a full-blown "prepper." 

"Prepper" is what people preparing for a collapse civilized society following a massive natural or man-made disaster call themselves. In short, you store food, learn to protect it and learn how to get along without electricity. It was the last part that appeals to the Boy Scout in me. It's scary to think about how much we depend on societal systems, electricity, plumbing, water, WiFi, telephone.

I started by watching episode after episode of Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic Channel. That show taught me several things: everyone should have a "bugout bag," a short-notice survival bag; real preppers have enough money to buy and hide a steel "bugout shelter on their property;" wives placate their crazy husbands; and the television experts never think anyone is prepared enough.

To compliment my television tutorials I started reading Emergency by Neil Strauss. Strauss, a hot shot music writer, describes his growing concern about being ill-equip to deal with what may lay around the corner and his efforts rectify that. It's a digestible view into the preppers, survivalists and perpetual traveler movements.

My increasing awareness led my to a Army Surplus store to do a little Christmas shopping. I was also spending spare brainwaves thinking about: Where I'd go if Folsom Dam collapsed? How long would it take for the cavalry to come? Is my home in the flood area?

Katrina was a real scare for many people. Many within the movement point to it as evidence of the government's inability to tackle disasters and evidence of how quickly the looters will come for your food stockpile.

I since finished the book and eased up my on preps. Not because I'm ready, but in part because I have a little more faith in man than most of those people. Super Storm Sandy showed the depth of American's compassion and empathy. If one area of the country is threatened, there are plenty of people in a position to rush in to help... unless its a total economic collapse, then I'll meet you at Black Rock City.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Going back to Burning Man, unsure about pen

As spring approaches, I know at least one thing I'll be doing this summer. I'm going back to Burning Man. I'm convinced I can get it right.

I bought a ticket and the majority of the people I camped with last year are coming back, so that is all settled. The open question is whether I go as a journalist or just go as a mission in self discovery. (Truth: It's always a little of both).

Last year, I wrote a piece for The Root magazine on diversity at Burning Man. It's a fine piece and I'm happy I did it, but the technical issues that I had to be overcome to file without leaving the desert were pretty significant.

It basically took big chunks of two days to produce: one day interviewing, writing, shooting and editing pictures and one day trying to get a WiFi signal strong enough to send words and pictures out then having to go back to the WiFi to answer editing questions.

For the most part, Burning Man is a low tech environmental. They don't provide WiFi and phone signals are spotty at best. The WiFi that is there is provided by people just like me who do it to do it. Most take advantage of the lack of connectivity. It's one week where you can tell your boss that "no you won't be checking emails" while your away. It's amazing how much freer one's mind is when our real-world work lives, bills and pressures are told to take a vacation. We - myself included - make fun of people who walk around hoping to get one bar of phone signal so they can get a text message.

But the writer in me enjoyed trying to translate experiences into words. Burning Man is filled with so much going on it a writer's dream and nightmare. Part of me wants to explore other mediums. I'd love to get behind the mic at the Burning Man radio station. I started performing one-man improv shows with a megaphone and I've toyed with video.

Of my videos my 2011 is by far the most popular before the word "chick" is in the title.

If you have Burning Man stories ideas, I'd love to have them. Even better would be ideas for outlets that will pay me for those words.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blog neglected, but progress significant

Dearest blog,
The "Adventure Patrol" brace for a fight in "Dance Step of Death."

I’m sorry I’ve left you alone for so long. I started you in good faith. I started you as a place to share my thoughts and add my tiny mark on the collective conscious as filtered by the interwebs.

But I while neglected checking in, I’ve been working hard. More than anything you urged me to follow my dreams, scratch itches and try to be the badass motherfucker that started a student store in high school and in college moved his student paper to New Orleans to produce a Bayou Classic edition.

I’m happy to report that my short zombie film “Dance Step of Death” has been submitted to five film festivals and will shortly be available on the amazon marketplace for digital download. As you know that was the first film I produced. I also wrote it, not to be vain. We missed Sundance (we didn’t submit), but by any measure we’ve created a piece of art that will live in our collective universe.

Meanwhile, I’ve made some revisions on my script for “Pink.” That’s film I’m writing -- and hopefully producing -- about the 1969 strip club trial. No I’m not working on this to get my rocks off. It’s a really interesting piece of Sacramento history. And if I need to use a little tits and ass to get people into a theater to see a story about First Amendment and Freedom of Expression, I’ll do it. Besides its a nice little story that will actually warm you heart.

Yeah well, the next step is to set up a table read. I’m on it.

I’m also happy to report something I mentioned earlier on this blog, my wine case re-gifting site is under construction. Technically, its live on the Internet, but we’re still testing.  The idea - as you recall - is to launch a bunch of decorative wine cases out into the world, ask the recipients to show the case a good time, blog about it on our site, then pass it on to a new recipient/player.

I know, I have a long way to go, but I think its a great idea. The site looks nice so if I can find the right help, it gets a good launch and we properly harness social media, it could generate some real traffic and media attention.

Mainly I want to see what happens and launch something that will continue to evolve as it facilitates sharing and interconnectedness.

Oh and as you remember, I'll still doing improv. Yes, every Wednesday night at the Sacramento Comedy Spot. I'm getting better and, while not always technically perfect, its funny.

Now blog, my personal life is a mess, but it not that kind of blog.

Ever Forward
Ed Fletcher