Summer is Here!

Happy Summer, everybody!  Enjoy your barbecues, fireworks and friends, and be sure to commemorate the true reason for this patriotic holiday.  Be proud to display your American flag — it is a symbol of your home and your heritage…not that of politicians, lobbyists nor pundits.  You can disagree with the personnel who currently hold various offices and still love this great country.  God Bless the USA!
Who went to the Jacksonville Jazz Festival this year?  Layla and I did, and we had an amazing time — 2010 could possibly have been the best jazz festival ever for Northeast Florida.  The layout of the stages within walking distance of each other throughout downtown was much more convenient and created a much more exciting atmosphere than in previous years, when you had to drive or take a trolley from one distant venue to another.  There was plenty of activity between concerts, and lots of room to grow.  Eventually, they could grow large enough to consider placing events again at the gorgeous Ritz Theatre and beautiful Metropolitan Park.
I certainly hope, if they continue to make this a “Memorial Day” event, that they can extend the event into Monday, possibly with a Hemming Plaza concert by the US Navy Jazz Band, which continues as a parade people can follow to the Veterans Memorial Wall, followed by a solemn service and possibly fireworks over the Baseball Grounds, Municipal Stadium and/or Metropolitan Park.  I know the city is trying very hard to make downtown an active place.  If they can continue to throw parties like this (or make it viable for other entities to do the same), Downtown Jacksonville could be abuzz with activity year-round!
After much discussion, the State of Florida has launched a new Financial Incentive Program for film, television, commercial, music video, independent and new media productions.  I know what you’re thinking:  “You need a financial incentive to work in such an awesome location?”  Well…since innovations in art and technology have allowed practically any location to double for nearly any other, more states are discovering the untapped potential of films being produced in their area.  So, in order to compete with other areas who are courting productions away from Florida, California and New York with financial incentives of their own, in is necessary to offer similar, if not better credits, so that the other benefits of filming in The Sunshine State will win more jobs for local talent and crew, more tax revenue for the state, and more business for companies in many industries.  Submissions just started this month.  Let’s get back to work, Florida!
Most of my attention for the past several months has been preparing for the biggest role of my life: becoming a father.  I was even included during this year’s “Father’s Day” celebration with the family, which we celebrated in tandem with my sister’s birthday last month.  I have been studying as much as I can about this new responsibility, and Layla and I have been attending natural childbirth classes and keeping doctor appointments regularly, while also shopping for furniture, paint and other accessories for the nursery.  We went with a “Planes and Trains” theme, which includes the prerequisite decals on the walls (and ceiling) along with a faux finish treatment for clouds (and aerobatic smoke!).  Blankets, quilts, pillows and clothing received at recent baby showers matched the theme and color palette surprisingly well.
We have yet to decide on a pediatrician.  Two were highly recommended to us…both of which happen to be on the other side of town, but receive such glowing reviews that, supposedly, some people drive from Tampa for their child care.  Though it would be convenient to have a doctor closer to home, we’re finding it difficult to schedule a time to meet with prospective providers.  We still have a little time left, and we are confident that the ultimate decision will be the right one.
In May, I participated in a training exercise for the National Guard in Wyoming, playing an Iraqi villager.  As soon as I returned home, I received a similar request from the management at Northeast Florida Regional Airport (formerly St. Augustine / St. Johns County Airport).  Airports must regularly conduct safety drills to validate their emergency management program, which includes communication and coordination with local authorities and rescue facilities.  I, along with about thirty others, played victims of an airliner crash.  The scenario played out over the radio for several minutes, until a jet aircraft flew overhead, signaling the start of the “incident.”
The fuselage we passengers were strapped into filled with (simulated) smoke, which was disorienting enough WITHOUT the bad smell, scratchy throat and burning lungs.  Time does go by very slowly during instances like this.  What took several minutes before I was “rescued” seemed much longer, while I waited, disabled by a major “injury” preventing me from evacuating from the aircraft myself.  Many fire stations responded to this drill, and even with a sufficient number of firefighters, most were severely exhausted half-way through the exercise.  You see and hear about the heroic efforts of these men and women who seem to have unlimited strength and stamina, but when the victims number in the dozens, it is something different entirely.
It was great to see, from participating in an event like this, everything that is involved in a coordinated response to an emergency.  You think you have an idea about procedures that would take place in an actual rescue operation, but to see it in a live, practical application — there are so many minute details, any one of which could mean the difference between life and death.  It is also wonderful to know that, even though aviation disasters are extremely rare, that there are dedicated individuals to make a positive outcome.
That following week, I auditioned for a feature film, a training video and a local commercial.  I also met with several teams participating in the 48 Hour Film Project, a competition where filmmakers attempt to write, shoot and edit a short film in under 48 hours.  Certain required elements are announced at the start time, to discourage any advance production.  The team I joined, “This is Not a Duck,” identified available resources and locations, which we toured prior to the event, so we would know where we were going, and also be familiar with the layout.
The elements were announced Friday at 7:30 PM.  Our team was assigned the genre:  drama.  All teams then learned they need to have a character Todd or Tina Daubert, a wine connoisseur; must use a lamp as a prop (not just set dressing); and the line, “I love a good challenge,” must be seen or heard at some point during the film.  We gathered for a quick team meeting at the Jacksonville Landing before getting some rest before our 4:00 AM call the following morning (we really wanted to make the most use of the time we had)!
Of course, nothing ever goes quite as planned, and that is what makes the 48 Hour Film Project so challenging and fun.  The most common question at the directors’ Q&A following each screening is usually, “What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?”  For us, we got kicked out of our first location, even though we had permission from the authority responsible for that location; however, on weekends, it is very difficult to contact such authorities, and we did not have time to wait until we heard back, nor negotiate with the invading party.
Fortunately, the second (and last) location was completely available, and we (and a few administrative personnel) were the only people on the property.  Some scenes took a little longer to film than anticipated, and around lunchtime our director (who did not sleep the night before, writing the script) took a nap.  The editors worked on the footage we had up until that point, and the rest of us ate, relaxed, cleaned up and prepared for what would likely be an accelerated shooting schedule that afternoon.  While filming seemed to be moving right along, a major conflict occurs when you have many artists, all of whom want to put in as much effort as possible for a quality product, faced with a hard deadline.
At some point, we have to admit, “This is good enough.”  Of course, that admission didn’t come until about 3:00 in the morning (yes, that’s 23 hours shooting), leaving the editors 16 hours to sleep, eat, and produce the completed entry.  We missed turning in our film on time, not because of the effort of the talent and crew, but from a computer glitch that interrupted the digital rendering in the final moments before the cut-off.  “Vintage” was screened and well-received the following Tuesday night, but was only eligible for the “Audience Favorite” award.  I’ll share it with you on as soon as I receive my copy.
Do you love your dog?  Is your dog your child (or second child…or third child) ?  Domino and Rufus are such a part of our family, we try to include them in everything we do.  We love going to sandwich shops, delis and cafes that have sidewalk seating, and love the fact that there are more retail locations that allow well-behaved, leashed pets (you know who you are, Ace Hardware in Julington Creek!).  We returned with “the kids” to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville for Jacksonville Suns’ “Bark in the Park” on a HOT June afternoon. arrived several innings late and were treated to a discounted admission price, which paid off, since that game went thirteen innings, when I could finally run the bases with those two (probably not smart, when these two fifty-pounders have the incentive to run much faster to catch up with all the other dogs rounding the bases!).  Another “Bark in the Park” is scheduled for Sunday, July 25th.  Also, I wanted to let you know that Mike’s Dog House, the dog rescue for whom I produced Save 2 Lives last summer, will be the featured rescue at Ernie Sims’ Third Annual Car Show in Tallahassee July 9th through 11th.  Please support both these great events!
Speaking of dogs…I also had the opportunity to audition as the host of an upcoming television series that focuses on pet-friendly businesses.  Due to server issues with my email provider and scheduling issues at the audition site, I missed the (shortened) call by just minutes.  I did have the opportunity to speak with the producer and hope to have another chance at that excellent production.  eMail problems seem to have been resolved.  I recently switched domain registrars (thank you,, had a candid discussion with my web host ( and look forward to continuous up-time moving forward!
This month, I will be working on a feature film by Rescue Productions titled Rescue Me.  I will play police officer Nick Portland.  This will be the second faith-based motion picture I have worked on in the past year.  This is a genre that seems to be growing very quickly right now, is increasing in popularity and demand, and becoming more “mainstream” every day.  Auditions were held at the end of June, and I have since attended a callback and table read.  The producers have a well-defined vision, professing, “This is not a movie…it is a movement!”  With the resources they have secured, this film will not be “your father’s Christian film” (you know, those poorly made flicks that focused only on message, and not nearly enough on production quality?), but more along the lines of recent successes like Fireproof and Amazing Grace.  Follow my progress through Twitter and this blog.
Everyone stay cool this summer, enjoy yourselves and have a Happy Independence Day!
Scott J. Smith
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