Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Music of "The Balcony" (Guest Post)

I've been a fan of author and screenwriter Aubrey Hansen for a long time, and her latest project, a short film, is quite unique. Its music angle especially intrigues me, becausewell, I'll let her tell you about it, and then you're likely to be intrigued, too.

Howdy folks!  My name is Aubrey Hansen, and I’m one of Jonathan’s weird writer friends.  I’m confiscating his blog today (with permission, of course) to ramble about the Kickstarter campaign for my short film “The Balcony.”

But of course one can’t just jump on a blog and start sprouting self-promotion about a Kickstarter.  No, first you’ve gotta say something interesting, make people think you’re a smart and talented and might actually write a halfway decent movie, and then you hit them with the Kickstarter.  So that’s what I’ll do.

Now when I borrow people’s blogs, I usually like to ask them what they want me to blather about.  I try to be courteous like that.  Not surprisingly, when I gave Jonathan a list of topic choices that included “music,” he chose music.  I probably could have guessed that and gone ahead and written a music-related post without asking, but I wanted to give him the formality of having a choice.  You know, like when they ask if anyone wants to volunteer in place of the chosen tributes for The Hunger Games.  They know no one wants to, but they give them the option for that one-in-a-million chance something out of the ordinary will happen and you’ll have a multi-million book franchise on your hands.

Anyway.  Since he didn’t give me permission to ramble about The Hunger Games (although I could do that too, if anyone’s interested), I’ll take it back to music.  Music was the inspiration for my short film “The Balcony,” but not in the traditional way music usually inspires me.  Music is often like a wind of thought; it carries traces of emotions, pictures, and words like a summer wind carries traces of fragrances from the flowers it has blown past.  These wifts of inspiration plant seeds which bloom into flowers of their own.

Not so with “The Balcony.”  Music didn’t just plant whispers of words in my head; music was the words.

You see, “The Balcony” is a silent film, but not in the traditional sense.  Traditional silent films are a compilation of footage with no audio, with a detached score layered on top.  This score might reflect the pacing of the film with queues and fluctuations in emotion, but it was still recorded separately.

With “The Balcony,” however, the music is being played by the actors themselves.  The story is about a flutist who is prepared to jump off the balcony of a concert hall, until a violinist comes on stage to practice.  After listening to the violinist’s lonely solo, the flutist tentatively decides to accompany him.  Even though the violinist cannot see the flutist in the shadows, he begins to play off of her lead.  As their instruments dance with each other, the music shifts to their emotions as though they are having a conversation, a conversation that is much more powerful without words.  Through the friendship of their music, they both receive hope.

When I originally came up with the idea for “The Balcony,” while watching a concert from the balcony seats, I knew I wanted to explore music in a deeper way.  I wanted to let the two actors converse only with their music to show their changing emotions in a much more subtle and artistic way than trite words ever could.

Even though I was very pleased with the finished script and knew it had a lot of potential, I also knew it would take a lot of resources to produce.  One of the big roadblocks to getting this film made would be the need for a custom violin-flute duet, written to match the pacing of the script.  That and, of course, talented musicians who could both play and act!

Because of this, I was surprised and delighted when my old producer Jordan Smith from Phantom Moose Films undertook the project.  He commissioned a talented composer, Rick Holets, who also did the score for my first film, to write the original duet.  Simply finding someone who is able and willing to write this special piece of music was a victory in and of itself.

But we still need your help.  Talented composers need to be paid, and Jordan has also committed to renting high-quality cameras to capture the emotions.  We have the materials to make a very beautiful and original film, but it requires funding, which is why I stole Jonathan’s blog to talk about the Kickstarter campaign!

Through the end of March we are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the film.  If you’re able to help an indie filmmaker’s dream become reality, even a $5 donation would be much appreciated (and will get you a free mp3 of that gorgeous original score).  Even if you can’t donate, please consider sharing the link so others can see it.  Thank you!

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.  Thank you for your time.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book Review: Wildings by Duff Hart-Davis

The Story: Wildings explores the strange and fascinating life of one of my favorite artists, Eileen Soper. Her wildlife art is some of the best ever created, reflecting her love for animals. She is most famous, however, for illustrating many popular books of her day. Wildings reveals how her eccentricities came to dominate her life and sometimes harm her, yet never took away her passion for art and animals.

My Thoughts: When I opened up this book, the many beautiful drawings and paintings it contains were immediately captivating, displaying many facets of Eileen Soper’s talent. The book is worth having just for the pictures. The story of her life, however, is also memorable, and even though the writing is fairly matter-of-fact, this book is still one of the best biographies I’ve read.

Eileen Soper’s life was both wonderful and sad. In some ways her life was as magical as a Disney fairy tale, for her artistic talent brought her international fame, she had a gift for befriending wild animals, and she lived on the edge of a large, one-of-a-kind garden for most of her life. Yet in other ways her life was a tragedy. Obsessiveness squelched some of the magic in her life, causing her to become reclusive and to hide away much great art from the world. In the end, the story of her life is both an inspiration and a cautionary tale. I recommend Wildings to anyone interested in unusual biographies or art.

Content Overview: A brief reference to mild, inadvertent innuendo from an innocent person.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Movie Review: The Haunted Palace

The Story: An evil man tries to summon horrifying monsters through sorcery, but the local villagers catch on to his plan and burn him at the stake. Many years later, a good-hearted relative of the evil man comes to claim his estate, but finds himself under attack by the evil spirit of the man who was burned. Can he escape the dark influence before it takes over his body?

My Thoughts: The Haunted Palace seems to have all the elements it needs to be a horror classic: A fairly unique premise; elaborate, atmospheric sets, including a spooky castle; monsters; a mix of Edgar Allan Poe’s title with H. P. Lovecraft’s plot ideas; and, of course, Vincent Price. How could it fail to be entertaining?

Unfortunately, the film manages to botch all the great elements it contains. In the same manner as another Roger Corman film, The Terror, a stunningly awful twist ending ruins all that went before it. Up until the last scene, however, The Haunted Palace is an excellent traditional horror film, so horror fans may still want to give it a look.

Content Overview: A small amount of mild foul language. An attempted rape and other implied sexual immorality. Mild violence and scariness.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

New Published Article: Aligning Priorities

My newest article, "Aligning Priorities," has just been published in the magazine Joyful Living! The article uses the unusual kudzu plant to illustrate a spiritual truth.

"Aligning Priorities" can be read on page 20 of the free digital edition of Joyful Living's Spring 2015 issue, which is available here: Joyful Living Digital Issues