Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

While we comemmorate our country’s freedoms, thanks to the courage and selflessness of countless patriots, I am celebrating by producing an Independent film,  working as an Independent contractor, and (for better or worse) becoming Independent from my “day job”…You know, that “real” job to which we artists feel we must dedicate ourselves, in order to support our career?  The separation was involuntary, but fortunately, it gave me the flexibility to pursue various projects I would otherwise have had to decline.

I haven’t gotten much flying in lately (gotta watch the pennies and nickels for a while), but I am keeping up-to-date on my AOPA and Flying e-Newsletters, AV8RDan’s blog, and flying approaches in a variety of conditions to different airports in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X.  My concentration lately, thanks to a recent article in AOPA’s Pilot Magazine, is Mountain Flying.  Unfortunately, I have had to defer requests for donated flights from Animal Rescue Flights (ARF) and Pilots ‘n’ Paws, but look forward to participating again as soon as I can.

The 48 Hour Film Project was, again, a blast!  There is something inspiring about working with a group of creative minds to write, develop, shoot and edit a short in that period of time.  Resourcefulness is key.  On a regular shoot, if something goes wrong, you can always re-shoot another day.  With the 48HFP, you have to improvise your way through the process.

Our challenge:  Develop a story about used car salesman Peter DuPree, using a disposable camera and the line, “What did you do that for?”  Our genre was “Romance.”  We kicked around a few ideas beforehand (if we get “Horror,” we could do this, or if we get “Suspense,” we could do that).  We weren’t sure what we would have done if we had drawn “Romance,” so it is only natural, according to the Law of Murphy, we would be awarded that genre.

After the kick-off event Friday evening, we left it to our writers to put together a story, and the whole team met later that night for a read-through.  Early Saturday morning, we began shooting.  The largest obstacle for us (well, for all the teams, for that matter), was the rain.  A word about the Florida climate:  typically, you can set your watch to the timing of the afternoon thunder showers, which only last an hour or two.  This rain started early in the day, and persisted until after dark.

Most of our scenes, fortunately, were indoors, and we ran outside whenever the weather permitted, to get the exterior shots.  Like most teams, we edited the work on the fly, so our team isn’t forced to complete the work after all the footage is shot.  That worked to our advantage in more ways than one:  The boom microphone we were using had a loose connection, and we discovered the first scene we shot had absolutely no audio!  Of course, it was an exterior shot, and with the weather as it was, we could not re-shoot for the rest of the day.

We tried coming up with an alternate (interior) scene we could use to get the necessary dialogue.  We had a tough time determining not only the scene, but also obtaining a location at the last minute.  We decided to shoot at the same tennis courts where we were that morning, but this time, as is often the case after Florida rain showers, we were serenaded by thousands of frogs (which was apparrent on the final version of the film) !  Then again, all the teams were affected by the weather, and it was fun to watch the screenings to see how each coped with, or incorporated, the rain.

Last month, I mentioned another shoot that was slated for the same weekend as the 48 Hour Film Project.  When I returned from my grandmother’s funeral, an email was awaiting, advising me it was rescheduled for the following week.  Great, time to breathe!  The project was in St. Mark’s Conservation Area in Florida’s panhandle, so I set out the night before and stayed at a nearby hotel.

The morning of the shoot, a Water Safety PSA for the State of Florida, I made sure to “slather on” the sunscreen (SPF 30).  I usually put a thin layer on, which typically lasts 1/2 day for me, no problem, but with the amount of time we would be spending on the water, I took a little extra precaution.  Note to self:  When filming a water scene, especially since you’re the comic “fool” character, purchase a small tube of zinc oxide, just for effect.

As I arrived on set, I was asked if I brought any blush.  I have a limited array of cosmetics, including blush, but did not bring it this day.  Second note to self:  bring everything!  You never know what will be needed.  They wanted to use the blush to simulate a sunburn.  By the end of the day, however, after hours of splashing and sweating, a full lobster-esque natural sunburn was quite evident!

Also this month, Al Letson, a local poet, actor and playwright, premiered the “Jacksonville” episode of his radio program State of the Re:Union at WJCT studios.  It was quite a gala event:  many of his friends and local public radio supporters attended.  I had the privilege of performing with Al in Theatre Jacksonville’s Macbeth a few years ago.  This premiere included a couple multimedia presentations, as well as live interviews of personalities featured during his radio program.  To support his show, please visit:  www.StateOfTheReUnion.com

My wife also brought to my attention a local animal shelter facing serious financial distress.  She has a friend who was moving into an apartment complex that refused her beloved pet because it was a pit bull terrier.  Unfortunately, many companies (including insurance companies) unfairly discriminate against the breed because of irresponsible journalism and abusive practices by puppy mills and dog fighting organizations.  Most people today are above racial stereotypes, but have no problem applying generalizations to an entire breed of animal.

Mike’s Dog House specializes in rescuing adoptable pit bulls and mixes.  It is so great there are caring, rational people like Mike and Goldie at the dog house who give these gentle creatures a fair chance.  Their mission is to educate the public on rescuing adoptable dogs, as well as advocate for the breed.  It’s a wonderful organization, but it is difficult to fight the stigma bestowed upon the breed by the irrational and the misinformed.

While we were volunteering at Mike’s this past month, I took a few pictures and some video with my personal camcorder.  The following week, I took a look at it, not really thinking it was anything more than a “home movie,” and decided to edit it together for a nice web video the organization could use on their website.  I shared this thought on my Facebook and Twitter streams, and the project has evolved into something spectacular.

A local film and television producer contacted me and offered to shoot footage of the dogs and the facility in high-definition, as well as edit the entire project.  I was blown away.  The entire concept was just in my head, and now with an offer of help from someone else, this has all-of-a-sudden become a team venture.  Which means…I now had to get all of these ideas down on paper — easier said than done.

Writing a screenplay for a short film was a good practice in organizing thoughts.  The more I wrote, the more questions I had about various details of the project.  Considering every single shot beforehand gave you a better concept of the final product, and of course, made it much easier to communicate my ideas to others.  During this time, actors, musicians and a recording studio stepped forward to donate their time.

We begin shooting next week.  I have been sharing the progress on the development of this project through a Facebook Fan Page, which gained over 100 “fans” in its first week.  In addition to keeping the fans up-to-date on each step of the film-making process, my wife and I have also been sharing helpful information about animal shelters in general, as well as breed-specific pit bull rescues.  Be sure to read the article about the United Kennel Club’s designation “Super Dog” on the page:  www.facebook.com/Save2Lives

During the past couple weeks, I also made my way over to the Alhambra Dinner Theatre to audition for Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.”  Although I was not cast in the show, I felt very good about the audition, received some positive feedback, and look forward to participating in future Alhambra productions.  I also had the opportunity to meet Craig and Lisa Fincannon of Fincannon and Associates, Inc.  They met with a few hundred Florida actors during a seminar hosted by the Florida Theatrical Association in Orlando and discussed the state of film-making in the Southeast United States, and what they look for in an audition as casting directors.

I also attended an on-camera Auditioning for Film and Television workshop led by ARTIOS award-winning casting director, and author of The Organic Actor, Lori Wyman from Miami.  The information in the two-day seminar is invaluable and a must for any actor — where else can you get open and honest feedback about your performance from someone whose responsibility it is to present you to directors and producers of major film projects?

Since the workshop, while putting together the short film “Save 2 Lives,” I have been working feverishly on updating my acting resume and website.  You may have noticed some formatting changes recently.  Some more content, including video footage, will be added later this month.  I am also seeking additional representation in Central and South Florida, and possibly also Georgia.  The more I learn and practice my craft, the more I want to put it to use!

I realize these messages tend to be longer than other blogs out there.  I enjoy writing, and frankly, it takes about a month for me to pull my thoughts together, make it flow nicely, and ensure it reflects my personality and state of mind at the time of the writing.  For those of you who would like more frequent updates in 140 characters or less, you are more than welcome to follow my “Tweets” at www.Twitter.com/ScottJSmithcom

Scott J. Smith

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