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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

LOST tonight was awesome!

Tonight's episode is titled "Tricia Tanaka is Dead". We finally got to see the strike from the meteorite (or was it an asteroid?) that destroyed the Mr. Clucks that Hurley used to work at. A somewhat lighter episode tonight (but then the Hurley-centric ones usually are) than the past few. Cheech Marin was pretty good as Hurley's father. Loved the whole plot about finding the van and then trying to get it going. Those frantic seconds with Hurley and Charlie behind the wheel were nuts. And we even got to see Vincent the dog again! All in all, just plain fun tonight... until the last few seconds where it looks like things are about to ramp-up bigtime.

Next week: word is that we get introduced to another DHARMA installation (possibly The Flame) and will finally get to see Eyepatch Man up close. The promo for it at the tail end of tonight's looked pretty good. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy watching this episode a few more times.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Schrodinger's Bedroom, my entry in the upcoming Fox reality show On The Lot, presented it's one-thousandth viewing earlier today. Not bad considering it's been online a little over a week now.

Something worth blogging about at 2 in the morning

Well, that's one prayer, at least, that I know got answered wonderfully.

It's enough to give me hope for a few others now...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

So James Cameron is saying that he's in possession of Jesus Christ's coffin...

...and that on Monday he'll unveil the DNA evidence to prove it.

They can't even figure out who's the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby, so how exactly did Cameron pull this off, exactly?

Read the weird story of the Israeli coffins here. My prediction: we will barely remember this a year from now. I mean, almost a year ago it was the "Gospel of Judas" thing and how many people really took that seriously?

In the past 48 hours...

I have learned many things, but this one now comes most readily to mind:

It's not just a song: some of God's greatest gifts really are unanswered prayers.

Be thankful that it really is Him, and not us, who is in charge of our circumstances. I don't even want to wonder what it would be like if we were the ones running things.

Secretive "Christian leaders" pimping Jesus for votes again

Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and a few other "Christian leaders" are trying to decide who to support for President in 2008. And their meetings are hush-hush.

First of all, who the hell decided that these guys are supposed to be "Christian leaders"? Secondly, their "leadership" sure hasn't helped America much in the past several years, has it?

And third, why are they shying away from public knowledge of their activities? If what they are doing is really honorable before the sight of God, then they should have nothing to hide from other people.

Falwell, Dobson, Robertson, and the rest of these charlatans... they want you to give your vote to the Republicans a lot more than they want you to give your heart to Jesus. And some people wonder why as a Christian I'm so fed-up with how so many of my faith have turned into such cheap whores.

I still can't believe that I almost went to work for Mr. "Hey fathers you should show your penises to your little boys" Dobson.

Duct-tape and tranquilizers: NASA's procedures for the crazy in space

Have you ever wondered what would happen if some guy up there on the International Space Station... just came totally unglued? I imagine the isolation and lack of alcohol has turned the ISS into something of an Overlook Hotel in near-Earth orbit.

Well, just in case an astronaut or cosmonaut up there goes bonkers, it turns out that NASA is prepared for the contingency. Here's the story...

Duct-Tape, Tranquilizers Part Of NASA's Plan For Mentally Unstable Astronauts In SpacePOSTED: 2:06 pm EST February 23, 2007

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- What would happen if an astronaut came unglued in space and, say, destroyed the ship's oxygen system or tried to open the hatch and kill everyone aboard?

That was the question on some minds after the apparent breakdown of Lisa Nowak, arrested in Orlando this month on charges she tried to kidnap and kill a woman she regarded as her rival for another astronaut's affections.

It turns out NASA has a detailed set of written procedures for dealing with a suicidal or psychotic astronaut in space. The documents, obtained this week by The Associated Press, say the astronaut's crewmates should bind his wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him down with a bungee cord and inject him with tranquilizers if necessary.

"Talk with the patient while you are restraining him," the instructions say. "Explain what you are doing, and that you are using a restraint to ensure that he is safe."

The instructions do not spell out what happens after that. But NASA spokesman James Hartsfield said the space agency, a flight surgeon on the ground and the commander in space would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to abort the flight, in the case of the shuttle, or send the unhinged astronaut home, if the episode took place on the international space station.

The crew members might have to rely in large part on brute strength to subdue an out-of-control astronaut, since there are no weapons on the space station or the shuttle. A gun would be out of the question; a bullet could pierce a spaceship and could kill everyone. There are no stun guns on hand either.

"NASA has determined that there is no need for weapons at the space station," Hartsfield said.

NASA and its Russian counterpart drew up the checklist for the space station in 2001. Hartsfield said NASA has a nearly identical set of procedures for the shuttle, but he would not provide a copy Friday, saying its release had not yet been cleared by the space agency's lawyers.

The space-station checklist is part of a 1,051-page document that contains instructions for dealing with every possible medical situation in space, including removing a tooth. Handling behavioral emergencies takes up five pages.

The military has a similar protocol for restraining or confining violent, mentally unstable crew members who pose a threat to themselves or others in nuclear submarines or other dangerous settings.

Although Nowak performed her duties with aplomb during a short visit to the space station via the shuttle last July, and was not scheduled to fly again, her arrest has led NASA to review its psychological screening process.

A mentally unstable astronaut could cause all kinds of havoc that could endanger the three crew members aboard the space station or the six or seven who typically fly aboard the shuttle.

Space station medical kits contain tranquilizers and anti-depression, anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medications. Shuttle medical kits have anti-psychotic medication but not antidepressants, since they take several weeks to be effective and shuttle flights last less than two weeks.

The checklist says say astronauts who crack up can be restrained and then offered oral Haldol, an anti-psychotic drug used to treat agitation and mania, and Valium. If the astronaut won't cooperate, the drugs can be forcibly given with a shot to the arm. Crew members are instructed to stay with the tied-up astronaut to monitor vital signs.

Space station astronauts talk weekly via long-distance hook-up to a flight surgeon and every two weeks to a psychologist, so any psychiatric disorder would probably be detected before it became so serious that the astronaut had to be brought home, Hartsfield said.

No NASA astronaut at the space station has been treated in orbit with anti-psychotic or antidepressant medications, and no NASA shuttle crew member has required anti-psychotic medications, Hartsfield said...

There's much more at the above link. Definitely something that might keep you awake at night from pondering the possibilities...

President Bush "doesn't give a damn" says Republican congressman

An absolutely scalding indictment against President Bush by U.S. House member Dana Rohrabacher is up on WorldNetDaily today...
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., denounced President Bush for his refusal to intervene in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to deny the bond requests of imprisoned former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, pending their appeal.

Rohrabacher, in a statement, spared no words in laying the blame on the White House for not freeing Ramos and Compean on bond:

"Acquiescing to the insistence of the White House, the court has decided to treat Ramos and Compean worse than they would common criminals, which is consistent with the way the Bush administration has handled these two border agents from the beginning," Rohrabacher said. "To suggest that this underscores President Bush's mean-spirited and vindictive nature is an understatement."

Rohrabacher said the "lives of Ramos and Compean are obviously at risk, and the president not only doesn't care about securing our southern border, he doesn't give a damn about those who protect it."

Y'know, sometimes I wonder how in the years following World War II, what kind of guilt was felt by those who willingly elected Hitler.

And then I wonder what kind of guilt, if any, is going to be felt by those who willingly elected George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 in the years to come, when we finally see what this vile and evil man has done to this country.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Happy Birthday to Jenna's blog!

Our dear friend Jenna Olwin posts that her blog is one year old today! So happy birthday to "A Light Inside" :-)

Speaking of Jenna Olwin: yes, that is her in the photo that Gary is holding at the end of Schrodinger's Bedroom. Jenna wrote a little about her cinematic debut a few days ago, too. It's something of a pattern with me: this is my second movie with dialogue, and both of them have multiple references to people that I know from real life. From the moment I started writing the script, I knew that I had to work Jenna in somehow... and that pic of her holding the dog from her Myspace page was begging to be used somehow.

Anyhoo, congrats on making it a whole year with blogging, Jenna :-)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ten years ago tonight...

..."Weird" Ed, Johnny Yow (see Johnny, I mentioned you again on my blog!) and myself had dinner at Blue Ribbon Diner in Burlington (I had a hamburger and a whole pile of those delicious Blue Ribbon french fries). Then we went to the West End Cinema and saw The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition, which had just come out that day.

This may have been my favorite of the Special Editions. But then again, The Empire Strikes Back is probably my favorite chapter of the entire Star Wars saga. It's been playing on HBO a lot in the past several days (along with A New Hope). Everything about it makes this the perfect Star Wars movie in my mind.

You know what was one of the more fun things about seeing the Special Edition of Empire? A week or so earlier I went with some friends at Elon to see A New Hope Special Edition (again). There was this girl that I'd never met before and she went with us and she had never seen a Star Wars movie before, ever. As we were leaving the theater that night somebody said something about "the relationship" between Luke and Leia and this girl is like "what do you mean?" She didn't know. And "that thing" about Luke and Vader? This girl had absolutely never heard about that before! Well this same girl was going in to see The Empire Strikes Back that night and I made a mental note of where she was sitting. And when "that moment" - you know what I'm talking about - came, she literally gasped out loud "WHAT?!?"

That's the moment where the whole thing gets completely overturned and the cards go flying and the game you think you've been watching... ain't that game at all. Oh sure, The Empire Strikes Back is dark from the beginning, but there's always still this sense of wide-eyed innocent wonder that you first get when you saw the first Star Wars movie. And then Han and crew get captured and you're like "okay, they're gonna get out of this I just know it". And then Han gets frozen in carbonite. And then Darth Vader and Luke have their fight and Luke loses his hand. Right up to that moment there's still a little ember of hope burning that this is still going to wind up okay...

...and then with five little words, Vader totally destroys everything you have come to know and love and expect out of Star Wars. This little fantasy world so much like Oz crumbles and turns to ash and you're left sitting there wondering: "Okay, what just happened here?"

From that point on, the Star Wars saga was definitely something darker and more malevolent. Which I think it had to be, to make the point of ultimate redemption that we see in Return of the Jedi that much more powerful. But still... it packed a wallop when I saw The Empire Strikes Back as a six-year old in 1980 and it was just as overwhelming to see it as a 22-year old in 1997.

The final 30 minutes or so of The Empire Strikes Back may be the most wonderfully orchestrated bit of cinematic storytelling in movie history. That whole last bit is like opera or even silent movies: John Williams' score practically tells that entire length of story. The last little bit of Empire also includes my most very favorite Star Wars moment of them all: those harrowing seconds as Artoo is trying to open the door to let Leia and Lando and Chewie escape to the Falcon, then how Artoo stays behind to turn on the smoke so that the Stormtroopers will be disoriented... and then how you see Artoo going as fast as those little wheels of his can take him to the Falcon. That scene along with the music to it... just awesome.

Well, there's more that I could probably say, but I'd be here all night if I attempted it. Happy 10th Birthday to The Empire Strikes Back Special Edition: it helped re-ignite a light that hasn't gone down yet.

An early draft of the SCHRODINGER'S BEDROOM script

Last night on my blog at TheLot.com (how many blogs can one man have, I wonder), I posted an earlier draft of the script for Schrodinger's Bedroom. It seemed like a neat thing to do, to publish the original plan for the movie and then compare that to the eventual final product. Quite a few things had to be cut between this and the sixth draft, which was the one we filmed from. A lot of the underlying science background, and a few double entendres that I was especially proud of, had to be removed so that the running time could be made to fit within 5 minutes (the maximum allowed by the rules of On The Lot).

Here's an example of the original script:


Of course not. Humane society would be all over our butts if we endangered any animals. So we use people.

All set for this afternoon’s run Delia.

Thanks Tyler. Gary, where you are standing is the first ever attempt to prove Schroedinger’s Cat. But instead of atomic particle decay we use something much more unpredictable: human psychology. When we first started eighteen months ago we got negligible results from a subject locked in a walk-in closet. Then we got grant money and were able to afford a bathroom. That yielded some surprising finds: we are almost finally ready to say that ANYTHING could be going on inside the bathroom when someone is using it. And then, we decided to get REALLY bold… Gary, meet Ned and Maria.

NED and MARIA enter scene


Glad to meet you.

Ned and Maria are newlyweds: only been married three months. They’ve graciously volunteered to be the subjects in this afternoon’s experiment.


Gary unconsciously takes off his jacket

It’s warm in here.

Yeah, it needs to be. We do everything we can to excite everything, quantum or otherwise. This bedroom is completely enclosed. Ned and Maria will go inside and they close the door. Our instruments will then begin to detect any quantum fluctuations that emanate from the room.

So the moment these two lovebirds go to the bedroom… anything and everything happens behind the door at the same time?

You got it.

No, not yet… my brain is still trying to wrap itself around it.

Well, we’d better go. Want to watch… or rather, NOT watch?

Sure, why not.

Gary doesn’t realize that he’s left his jacket lying on the bed
Click here for the complete text of the second draft for Schrodinger's Bedroom.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Remember the telescreens in 1984?

If this is true, I wonder how long it will be before leaving the battery out of your cellphone for an inordinate amount of time becomes noted as suspicious behavior...

THE FORCE UNLEASHED: New Star Wars multimedia thingy headed this way

Same thing happened while I was working on Schrodinger's Bedroom that happened during my school board campaign: I got so focused on the task at hand that I missed other stuff. Fun stuff, even. This has been big news for the last week or so but I'm just now hearing about it. Sounds like this is gonna be something kewl...

Way back in the pre-prequels halcyon days of 1996, Lucasfilm did something called Shadows of the Empire. It was a year-long, ummmm... geez I don't know how to describe it. It was basically a Star Wars movie that was marketed like a Star Wars movie, with action figures and other toys and books and posters and video games and all that... without an actual movie. The entire storyline was told through the merchandising. It was pretty innovative and quite a neat addition to the Star Wars canon. There was even a soundtrack CD for the thing: I still get goosebumps every time I think about the "Xizor's Theme" track from it.

Well, 2007 is the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Star Wars saga and Lucasfilm is doing something like this again. It's called Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It takes place during the period between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. The core element of this is going to be a videogame called... wait for it... The Force Unleashed (that's the official website for it by the way). But there will also be books - like an official novelization - and toys and the Force knows what else. The storyline centers on Darth Vader having an apprentice of his own. George Lucas himself is said to be the mastermind behind this latest fully-canon addition to the saga.

How gnarly is this thing gonna be? Check out this action figure of Darth Vader from the upcoming The Force Unleashed toy line that was shown at the recent Toy Fair 2007 expo (this pic and others courtesy of Rebelscum.com):

Geez louise... and you thought Vader was pretty torn up before. Vader looks like he survived an encounter with the wood chipper from Fargo. Neither Obi-Wan or Luke ever did anything that bad to him (talking post-Anakin 'course)... so what did happen to him? That settles it: I'm in with this The Force Unleashed thing whatever it is. Between this and Halo 3, that's plenty enough good reason to get an Xbox 360 sometime this year.

For more about The Force Unleashed, check out this handy compilation article at Wookieepedia.

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE third trailer hits the 'net

This is something that I've thought about saying for quite awhile now: it's now past time for The Simpsons to be retired. I can't remember the last time I went to the trouble of tuning in on a Sunday night for a new episode, when it used to be that it was one of the highlights of my week. The last recent episode that I can remember that I genuinely laughed at was the one where Bart and Homer converted to Catholicism.

So there: The Simpsons isn't as funny as it used to be.

But I'll be darned if I didn't say that this trailer didn't make me laugh quite a few times.

Who knows: maybe its creators have just been saving the good stuff for this and The Simpsons Movie will represent a turnaround for the show...
Mr. Burns has two buttons behind his desk. I have but one: press down on it here for the third trailer for The Simpsons Movie.

Complete list of school board campaign posts

This is something I'd meant to do awhile back, then some real-life things kept me from devoting the time really needed to compile this together. I said way back when that I was going to be blogging about my school board campaign so that if others ever found this blog and if they were considering running for office, that I would do my best to describe what it's like to go through this process. Instead of forcing someone to wade through all those posts looking for the campaign ones, I've made them all available here, going in chronological order from top to bottom. And I might have missed some in the flurry of posts that happened between the campaign's inception and now: if I find any, those will get added to the following list...
August 4th, 2006: ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm now a candidate for public office
My first notice to the public that I was a candidate. I posted this the day after I filed to run. The idea had been going through my head for about a month and a half up to this point. By the way, the whole thing started when Richard Moore - I'm pretty sure he meant this in jest - suggested on live TV that I should run for school board on his weekly Political Soup show. I was working in the control room at the station right behind the set when he said that. A lot of people have told me since then that they were pretty impressed at how serious and how far I took the campaign after that.

August 7th, 2006: First press release about my run for school board
In all my years of writing and getting published, I had never written a press release. This was my very first. It was suggested to me that in my campaign I should "play up" my youth because that would be a considerable asset to have, given that I'm in the same age bracket as a lot of the parents of children in the county schools. I think I made the mistake of playing that up too much in this press release... but hey, first time out the gate you can't be expected to do everything right, eh?

August 9th, 2006: My campaign now has a website!
I worked for about two days straight to get this up and running early in the campaign. Then my friend Ed Woody "tweaked" it a little bit more. Here you can see the first "knight chesspiece" logo that I used, before adopting the one that Ed found that was used on all my campaign literature.

August 11th, 2006: Report on my campaign: I am NOT a committee!
The first thing I legally had to do after filing the paperwork to run was establish a campaign committee and name a treasurer... even though the "committee" was myself and I was my own treasurer. It was also required that I give my campaign a unique name. And so the Knight for School Board 2006 Committee was born.

August 21st, 2006: Campaign issues: The theory of "Intelligent Design"
This was an issue that I'd posted on the campaign website when it first went up, but then I withdrew it a few weeks later. The reason was that I'd realized that people would probably be more interested in where I stood on more local issues than the "big" ones. Looking back I should have done that more... and I'll definitely do that if I run next time. This was initially going to be the first in a series of posts about my stance on a wide range of subjects, but this turned out to be the only one I managed to post.

August 24th, 2006: Making a contribution to the Knight for School Board 2006 campaign
That's basically what this post is: soliciting contributions. A little more of the legal requirements for running a campaign is illustrated here.

August 27th, 2006: Campaign website gets new look
The debut of the new knight chesspiece logo, the one that would be used throughout the rest of the campaign, in addition to improving the website a good bit.

September 16th, 2006: "Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs..."
This was the first post dealing with the campaign that I had made in a few weeks. During that time I had gone to a few public meetings, met with people and handed out cards at football games, and was working on some creative stuff behind the scenes. It took me about five days to really settle on the final design of my sign... and I'm really quite
proud at how it turned out.

September 17th, 2006: Celebrating Constitution Day
Fellow school board member Eric Smith had a rally on this Sunday afternoon for his campaign and those of a few other political candidates and I got to attend. It was here that I gave my very first political "stump speech"... standing on a real stump I might add!

September 29th, 2006: My yard signs have arrived!
I was so happy to get my yard signs that I had to post a picture of what the final product looked like. I also posted a photo of the bumper sticker that I made up for my car (one wound up on Mom's car too, but the back bumper on Lisa's car absolutely can't accommodate a sticker 'cuz of all these molded indentations in it).

October 1st, 2006: TV ads from other school board candidates
Eric Smith and Richard Moore both had commercials running on the TV station at this point, and I made links to where they were at on the Internet. And for the first time I make public mention here of working on my own commercial. Who would have thought that before this election was over, all three of us would wind up in the pages of The New York Times and several other newspapers because of our ads?

October 3rd, 2006: 23 hours = 1 minute
This should have been the first indication to everyone that there was going to be something very, very unusual about my first campaign commercial.

October 6th, 2006: School Board Campaign Commercial #1
A grand total of 45 hours went into producing this one minute of footage. It was posted on the web a few hours after the commercial first started running on WGSR. Station general manager Charles Roark made this ad the topic of discussion during the 5:30 call-in segment and it made the telephone lines "light up like a Christmas tree". News host Mark Childrey continued the conversation about it well toward the 7 o'clock hour after making it the first item in that evening's news. A few days before I promised advertising rep Debbie Moore that this commercial was going to be "mind-blowing". Going by the reaction it evoked that evening and the next few days, it looks like it definitely was that :-)

October 11th, 2006: News & Record article on those wacky school board commercials
And with Lex Alexander's write-up about the ads that Eric, Richard and myself had produced, the press was starting to have a lot of interest in this school board race. There would be a lot more media exposure before this was all said and done...

October 12th, 2006: "What if you don't win?" And some thoughts about the commercial...
Partly a response to some people who thought I wasn't "being serious enough" by running the commercial. And partly it's me articulating here some thoughts I'd had as a candidate about winning or not winning an election. A somewhat long essay.

October 18th, 2006: Just finished the second commercial
Letting people know that a second commercial was on its way.

October 18th, 2006: The second campaign commercial
The first post from this date was really pretty late at night. This is from the following afternoon. Once again I put it on the web a short while after the station started airing it. This is the one that I was accused of "folding like a cheap accordion" regarding the first commercial. The truth of it is, I'd always intended for the second commercial to be a lot more serious. But the reaction to the first commercial sort of demanded that I made note of that.

October 24th, 2006: TONIGHT: Candidates Forum: Round 1
The first time that the school board candidates (most of them anyway) came together for a public forum. Of the two forums that were held, this one was easily my favorite. It's a lot easier to connect to the people you're speaking to when you can actually see them as opposed to it being televised. Over a month and a half later and I'm still feling proud at how this one went.

October 24th, 2006: Snapshots from the field: putting out signs
Posted a short while after the first forum report. A photo of me putting up one of the many yard signs from my campaign.

October 25th, 2006: News articles about last night's canidates forum
A collection of links to the stories that the newspapers around here had about the forum the previous night.

October 25th, 2006: TONIGHT: Candidates Forum: Round 2
The live televised forum. The first part of the post was written before the forum, and I addressed some concerns here The second part is the report of what happened that night, filed after I got back home.

October 26th, 2006: Because I'm feeling so good after coming out of two candidates forums...
What does a candidate for school board do to celebrate two good public appearances? Here's how I commemmorated the occasion :-)

October 27th, 2006: Watch the school board candidates forum online
Links to where you can watch almost the entire forum, in Windows Media format (special thanks to Richard Moore).

October 30th, 2006: Straight-ticket voting: A truly wasted vote
This is something I've believed since long before I ever entered a political race. But the matter gained a lot more weight when I thought about it as a candidate. Not a post about "the campaign" per se, but it's the personal observation of a candidate, so I'm including it here.

October 30th, 2006: Campaign Commercial the Third
The third and final TV commercial, again appearing on YouTube shortly after it started airing on WGSR Star 39 that night. This is the one that a lot of people described as "beautiful" and "one of the most unique political ads ever made".

November 1st, 2006: The Campaign: Public Disclosure of Finances
It would soon be a matter of public record, so I published how much in contributions my campaign took in and how much was expended. Again, I did this mostly because it would probably be of interest to anyone who might want to know what it's like to run for office and manage your own political campaign.

November 2nd, 2006: I made THE NEW YORK TIMES!
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would someday be looking at my picture in The New York Times. That first commercial attracted a lot of media attention: the News & Record, then WXII Channel 12 in Winston-Salem ran my commercial on the 6 o'clock news (and I heard that Fox 8, the Fox affiliate may have done the same thing). Then this happens. The mention in The New York Times kicked off a four-day long spree where a lot of newspapers picked up the story about my campaign... and the infamous "Death Star blew up the schoolhouse" commercial.

November 3rd, 2006: "Okay, we'll go."
The final thing I do so far as active campaigning went in my first-ever run for public office.

November 3rd, 2006: Sneak peek at this Sunday's newspaper ad
What my half-page ad - that ran a few days later in the Reidsville and Eden newspapers - looked like.

November 4th, 2006: Video: Three candidates talk about making THE NEW YORK TIMES
YouTube-hosted video of a segment from the previous night's newscast on the Reidsville TV station where Eric Smith, Richard Moore and myself talked on live TV about our getting mentioned in The New York Times. This is a nice video that underscores how upbeat and positive this entire race had really turned out to be (well, of course this was before the events that took place a few nights on the day before the election, but that shouldn't detract from how people in this race had been really nice with each other).

November 4th, 2006: NEWS & OBSERVER article mentions the "lightsaber" commercial
Now the Raleigh newspaper gets into the act. I didn't get to see the actual hardcopy until about a week later but they put a pretty good-sized color pic of me wielding the lightsaber right on the front page... just like the News & Record and The Reidsville Review did.

November 5th, 2006: THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER is calling me a Jedi
That's the two biggest newspapers in North Carolina that have done stories about my campaign and the "Star Wars" commercial. By this point I've resigned myself to the fact that the image of me with the lightsaber will be THE defining visual of my political career for as long as I live... but I supposed there's a lot worse things to get caught doing, right? :-)

November 5th, 2006: What should I do on Election Night?
Whimsical contemplation of how exactly I should spend the evening as the results roll in...

November 6th, 2006: How the GOP pimps gay marriage for votes
Definitely NOT a post about the campaign per se, but at the end of this post I do reiterate something here that I promised a long time ago I would do if I ever ran for office. And I think I wound up holding myself to that in this campaign.

NOVEMBER 7th, 2006

For November 7th and 8th, the postings on this blog were done in a "live action" format. I started in the early morning hours of Election Day when we were finishing-up putting out signs at the precincts and did it like this until just before I went to bed on Wednesday night. The following several posts, as well as I was able to do it, are very much a running commentary about what happens in the life of a candidate for public office when Election Day finally comes...

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 1:51 AM EST

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 4:42 AM EST

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 6:47 AM EST

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 7:18 AM EST

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 8:12 AM EST

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 9:01 AM EST

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 10:27 AM EST
With photos!

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 12:35 PM EST
Another photo!

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 5:32 PM EST
Returning from the final round of poll appearances. This is also the first mention on this blog about something amiss - and illegal - involving another candidate. I would wind up involved with this matter for at least a month following the election.

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 7:02 PM EST
An example of some of the behind-the-scenes humor that came out of this campaign, and another pic of my lovely wife :-)

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 8:15 PM EST
By this time the polls had been closed for 45 minutes. This is the first report from the absentee and early voting.

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 8:22 PM EST
Still waiting for some word from the polls.

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 8:46 PM EST
The first results from the polls start trickling in.

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 9:11 PM EST
The moment when I literally staggered: it was reported that well over two thousand votes had been cast in my favor.

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 9:30 PM - FINAL RESULTS
The final tally from the polls. I didn't win a seat... but with 4,584 votes I couldn't help but feel awfully proud. And I still do :-)

November 7th, 2006: ELECTION DAY: 11:06 PM EST - What I'm feeling right now
Here I attempted to recap what had been one of the biggest days of my life. It was a completely ineffable experience... but I did my best to share what I was feeling about it all.

November 8th, 2006: ELECTION - THE DAY AFTER: 11:42 AM EST
What happens to a guy who didn't win an election on the day after Election Day? Find out here! :-)

November 8th, 2006: ELECTION - THE DAY AFTER: 2:34 PM EST
Election Day 2006 was considered "historic" by some. I hadn't thought at all about what was going on in the House and Senate races... and after running my own campaign and the experiences that it brought, I'm hard-pressed to believe that I'm going to see the big national races as having the same kind of importance that I used to give them. For what it's worth though, here's where I offered up my own two cents about what else was going on during this election.

November 8th, 2006: ELECTION - THE DAY AFTER: 8:33 PM EST
There was something that three months earlier I said I would do do if I won a seat. Even though that didn't happen, I was still on an unbelievable high after getting so many votes! So I went ahead with my plan anyway... :-)

November 8th, 2006: ELECTION - THE DAY AFTER: 9:07 PM EST
Yeah still feeling good about coming in 8th place out of 16 candidates (which was pretty good all things considered). So even though I didn't win the election, I didn't mind getting Lost tonight...

November 8th, 2006: ELECTION - THE DAY AFTER: 10:04 PM EST
Made just minutes after Jack sliced into Ben/Henry's kidney sac. Kate now has roughly an hour to make her escape. What would happen next on Lost? We wouldn't find out until February! Yes, life is finally starting to return to normal in the Knight household!

November 8th, 2006: ELECTION - THE DAY AFTER: 11:11 PM EST
Election Day/post-election "live coverage" wraps up.

January 10th, 2007: Closing out the books
I close out the Knight for School Board 2006 campaign committee.
It had been a long three months, and I'll always be thankful for God giving me the opportunity to experience this. It definitely changed my life for the better. And if you are reading this and you think you're being led to run for office in some capacity too, I hope that the preceding list of posts will be of help in your consideration.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Surprise performer Clay Aiken wows the crowd at Winter Jam in Greensboro

Last night Lisa and I went to the Greensboro event for the Winter Jam 2007 Tour Spectacular. It's a Christian concert thingy, and we went to the one last year too and had a good time. Tony Nolan and Britt Nicole warmed up the crowd before the main gig started. Then Sanctus Real opened up the show. They were followed by NewSong and then Hawk Nelson (who every time I hear the name of this band I think of Bruce Willis' 1991 bomb Hudson Hawk for some reason). Then followed about a 15 minute break before Steven Curtis Chapman took the stage.

Well, Chapman rocked the crowd, as he's apt to do. And about 2/3rds of the way through his set he did something that had been joked about once or twice already by the performers, but I don't think anybody took them seriously. But, it happened: Clay Aiken walked onstage and started singing! Yes, the Clay Aiken! How they kept that one under wraps - and in Greensboro of all places - I've no idea. Anyway the crowd was already having a great time but bringing Aiken out just intensified the electricity of the place. Rounding out the night was Jeremy Camp, which was the first time I'd ever heard him perform (I've probably heard all the others at least twice before) but I liked him a lot.

So that's what we did last night. It was a great way to unwind and relax a good bit after the past few weeks of being consumed with making a film, and all the stuff that Lisa goes through during a routine week as a schoolteacher. Check the link I posted above: Winter Jam 2007 may be coming to your neck of the woods too sometime soon. Well worth checking out if it is :-)

Friday, February 16, 2007


I had no idea this was coming, this soon. For the past few days I'd actually wondered if it would be hosted on the On The Lot website at all, considering how they've been flooded with entries.

That and a few other things that I've heard about today has made it so that I'm feeling all the more floored right now, because this was something that I was in no way expecting to happen. But, here it is. And now everyone gets to see what it is that I've been working on for all this past month.

Ladies and gentlemen, KWerky Productions is proud to present its latest film, written and directed by Yours Truly...

A comedy about love, commitment, and quantum mechanics.

Click here to watch Schrodinger's Bedroom (and if you want to copy 'n paste it's at http://films.thelot.com/films/16382 ).

The only problem right now is that it was filmed and encoded at 16:9 aspect ratio and at the moment it's showing up at 2:3 ratio, but I e-mailed the good folks at On The Lot and hopefully this'll be fixed sometime soon.

But anyways, there it is: Schrodinger's Bedroom. Starring Dawn Swartz, Chris Otto, Selassie Amana, Doug Smith, Ed Woody, Olivia Woody, Tyler Richardson, Chad Austin, and Melody Hallman Daniel (and maybe one other cameo appearance). Click here for the film's page on the KWerky Productions website, where you'll find the complete list of cast and crew credits (which we didn't have time to put on this submission for On The Lot, what with the 5 minute time length and all).

And, well... hope you'll enjoy the show :-)

(And if you did enjoy it, and if you feel so led, I would sure appreciate your taking the time to cast a vote in the affirmative for it. Thank you :-)

Is digital filmmaking really "filmmaking"?

Yesterday on my blog at the On The Lot website, I posted this essay about digital filmmaking, and whether it should count as "real" filmmaking. I thought it would be a neat thing to share here too...
Is digital filmmaking really "filmmaking"?

From the moment we saw the On The Lot promo during American Idol and my wife said I should go for it, to when it was mailed off, was exactly 28 days. Now that my film (is it really a "film"? We'll get to that in just a sec) is finished and on its way, after a crazy hectic month of getting it together, I thought about putting this blog to some use by waxing philosophic on some things that have been pondered during my four-year old career as an independent filmmaker.

The first thing that I want to consider aloud is this: is digital filmmaking really "filmmaking"?

There are some who will argue – quite sincerely and even convincingly, I should note – that unless a movie is made with real film, that it's not really "filmmaking" at all. I've even heard some say that those who use the digital medium for their work are just "pretenders" in the trade. But is that right?

George Lucas has wholeheartedly adopted digital cinematography. Steven Spielberg has openly stated on numerous occasions that he will stick with film. Spielberg's argument is that real film has a look and "graininess" to it that's part of the movie magic, and digital can't adequately replicate that. Lucas’s zeal for digital filmmaking is in large part because it's made non-linear editing and use of special effects much easier and more powerful than it ever was doing it old-school (does Industrial Light and Magic even use an optical printer for effects anymore?).

I see a lot of good in both sides of this thing. I don't know if I could ever give up the ease and flexibility of digital. But I would also love to work with real film someday. But if that opportunity doesn't happen... could I still call myself a "filmmaker"? Could any of us, whose circumstances have limited us to using digital video?

Can it be said that modern books aren't really "written" because they were composed and edited in Microsoft Word? Is spaghetti not truly "cooked" because it came out of a can? Of course a plate of the best Chef Boyardee spaghetti probably won't compare to a main entrée at Emeril's Restaurant, but all the same: it's still spaghetti. And it's still going to be delicious (the Chef Boyardee is I know. I haven't managed to try out any of Emeril's joints yet but I'm looking forward to doing that sometime).

Digital filmmaking is in the realm of anyone's grasp. Figure that all you need is an inexpensive camcorder, a moderately powerful personal computer, your actors and props and locations of course, and lots of tape... which averages out to costing about five bucks for an hour of footage.

Now consider "film filmmaking". You're gonna need a camera 'course, which probably will cost you more than the digital variety. Consider that you're also going to need to factor in the cost of developing the film and then someplace to edit it together. Cast and other essentials shouldn't cost anymore than what they would for digital.

But then there is the film itself. Which can, ummmmm... run anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000, sometimes even $10,000, depending on what grade of film you use.

Did I also say that those are costs per minute of footage?

Already, from the outset, the mentality has changed when you do "real" filmmaking from what it would be if you were doing it digitally. When stuff costs really big money, your mindset alters drastically. The money becomes the most overbearing issue in regards to bringing your vision to life, instead of being able to focus on the vision itself. Only if you have something like major studio backing could you afford to fixate your attention on the story and the details of how to substantiate it, without the headache of worrying constantly about whether you'll be able to make ends meet enough to even pay for the filmstock to shoot it on.

Some will say that this exorbitant cost is a good thing. That it makes sure that only "the most serious-minded" will attempt the craft. I can see something to that. Recently I ran for school board where I live. You wouldn't believe the amount of hoops you have to jump through and the hurdles you have to clear just to get your name on the ballot, to say nothing about the laws you must adhere to while you're campaigning. It can be a major headache. Now, I believe that everyone should be actively encouraged to do something like that... but there should also be something in place that makes a person think about whether they really, absolutely truly want to attempt it to begin with. Otherwise that person is just wasting his or her own time and effort, and they're potentially going to waste the time of a lot of other people too. And more often than not, filmmaking does involve other people. As a filmmaker, I believe that the first two priorities should be to do right by your vision, but also to do right by the people who have trusted you with their valuable time enough to help make that vision come true.

The big problem this presents, though, is that there are a lot of serious-minded potential cinematographers out there who don't have ready access to huge piles of money and things like hunnerd-thousand dollar film cameras. Should they be completely shut out of doing something that they love, and possibly being appreciated for it, simply because they lack the funds to do it like "the big boys" can?

My wife and I watched Facing The Giants on DVD last week. It's a movie about the football team of a Christian high school. Facing The Giants was produced by a Baptist church in Albany, Georgia. It's budget was around $100,000. It wound up making $10 million at the box office.

I wanted to mention Facing The Giants particularly because I think this movie is an excellent example of something I've observed over the past few years: increasingly, we are seeing quality movies come out of places other than Hollywood. Facing The Giants was shot on high-definition digital video. If its creators had used real film, the cost would have been astronomical. But just think of it: a Baptist church, of all places, produced a movie that made a ten thousand percent profit. Digital filmmaking threw off the shackles and freed them to accomplish that. If it worked for them, it can work for anybody.

And if the major players involved in entertainment want the filmmaking industry to not only sustain itself, but thrive and grow, it's going to have to start casting a wider eye at what is going on out there in the hinterlands of America and the rest of the world. You've probably seen it too: over the past several years, receipts at the box office have been dropping. Is that because of piracy? No, I doubt it. More than likely, it's simply because the major filmmaking industry as we have come to know it has grown inward upon itself too much. Farmers do a thing called "crop rotation" where they'll use a field to plant beans one years, and then corn the next, and maybe wheat the next and the following year let the field sit on its own. That way, nutrients get returned to the field over time. Well what we're seeing happen in not just filmmaking, but even things like politics, is that the same crops keep getting sown in the field year after year after year... and it's come to the point where nothing new and fresh is being grown. The field is robbed of nutrient. Ever think about how many movies in the past few years have been remakes, or even remakes of remakes? Ever think about why politicians who in a sane world would never be trusted with power keep getting elected to office?

It's because The System is trying to sustain a hold on power on things, and it's sustained it for so long and so hard that the things have become stale, stagnant, and dilute of its potency. The Emperor Constantine had to steal from other monuments for decoration when he was building one to his own glory: the artisans of his day didn't have the skill that their ancestors had. Their own craftsmanship had become rotted and rank. And that's what is happening to our culture: not just our entertainment and our government, but just about everything across the board...

We... and I mean all of us... need new voices and new visions. And we need to encourage them to do whatever they can to bring those to the forefront of what is going on around us. I believe that there is always going to be a love and appreciation for film cinematography. But I also believe that there is a dire obligation to empower the vox populi to be able to engage in creative pursuits such as filmmaking, too. The creative impulse is out there, just waiting to be discovered: we just have to learn to feel for it.

Maybe we should drop the term "filmmaking" altogether. The Boy Scouts got it right years ago when they rolled out the Cinematography merit badge. "Cinematography" is much more encompassing and accurate. To me, that word means "visual storytelling", and isn't that what it is that we are aiming for, no matter what it is that we have to work with?

In the end, it doesn't matter if you are using a Panavision rig, a Canon GL-1, if you shoot it on Sony CineAlta high-def or even if it's with a 1970s-era Super 8 camera. What matters is this: if you have an idea for a story and you want to make a movie out of it, make the darned movie! It's the story that matters, not how you were forced by your situation to make that story happen.

The most important thing of it is, it's YOUR story. And you get to share it however you want to. Don't let anybody tell you that it's somehow "less than adequate" because of what you had to work with. You know better than that.

Make your movie, however you can. And be proud of it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Boston Red Sox and last night's LOST (and more about "Room 23")

I just finished watching last night's episode of Lost, titled "Flashes Before Your Eyes" for the third time (I watched it again from the DVR right after it finished airing too). Ooh-boy... and you thought last week's episode was something else. I like what one guy on Ain't It Cool said: "It's like Sam Beckett leaped into the Matrix as it reset itself!"

About that: I think the Oracle... ummm 'scuse me, Ms. Hawking, is wrong: things don't have to happen simply because of "destiny". There is always a choice and free will and things don't have to necessarily go according to the universe's plan. The evidence for that is all over the show: I'm thinking about how Desmond wound up being the guy getting hit with the bat instead of the bartender, but also think about how such a big deal has been made about the Boston Red Sox and how they'll "never win the World Series". That was a recurring thing for the first two seasons, like it was an irrevocable law of nature. And then Ben shows Jack the video (remember this story is still happening in late 2004) of the Red Sox winning it. So is the world going to end because Boston didn't "follow the script"?

That's one thing I love about this show: it makes you think about things like determinism versus free will.

Can't wait to watch this again, this time with Lisa (she hasn't seen it yet).

By the way, speaking of Lost, a lot of people are still talking about the "Room 23" scene from last week's episode and some of them have found something really interesting: play the scene backward with the audio turned up. You hear a woman's voice saying that "Only fools are enslaved by time and space". Lost Easter Eggs has the video and audio for you to check out yourself.

"Only fools are enslaved by time and space"... that sounds like a great a life motto as there ever was one :-P

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My short film is on its way

Last week I wrote here about the new short film that I was making to submit to the upcoming Fox show On The Lot. The reason I hadn't been very active in the past several days on here is 'cuz I was furiously trying to get the movie done and submitted, because applications (which includes a copy of the movie on either VHS or DVD) have to be postmarked by February 16th. To give you an idea about how much I've worked on this, I was up at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning and didn't stop laboring on it until 6 p.m. that night. It's been that way for the past several days now.

For the most part the movie was finished on Monday morning, but there were still a few things that bothered me about it that kept me from submitting just then. I went to the school board meeting later that night (which was the first time I'd gone outside for something other than film-related business in over a week), felt a little refreshed when I got home from it, spent the next few hours fixing 2 or 3 things, and went to bed. Yesterday morning I tried a couple more things to it but decided those weren't working. I then uploaded a copy to a server I have access to and let some friends take a look at it. They all thought it was good, in spite of a couple of rough edges.

There comes a point where you have to let go and let God take control of things. I could do no more to it. It was time to turn it loose and let come what may.

So late yesterday afternoon, I uploaded it to the On The Lot website with my account there. Then I had a quick dinner with Lisa and right after that headed out the door in the pouring rain toward Greensboro, to get my application and DVD FedEx-ed off. On the way I stopped by my parents' place and showed it to them: they thought it was really good, even though Dad admitted he didn't understand "that cat thing". But they both thought it was a nice piece of work.

Well, I got to the Kinko's on Battleground Avenue in Greensboro and I discovered something last night: FedEx doesn't deliver to P.O. boxes! The guy behind the counter suggested the post office at Four Seasons Town Centre. This was at 8:25 p.m., with the office closing along with the mall at 9. I high-tailed it to Four Seasons and managed to get to the post office fifteen minutes later. I was one of the last to get served before they closed for the night. So it's postmarked and on its way, with 3 days to spare. I got home at 10 (after going by the Borders bookstore further down High Point Road) and promptly crashed. Didn't wake up 'til 10:30 this morning, I was so drained from the past several days of working on this.

I don't know if it'll get hosted by the On The Lot website yet though. If it does, I'll post the link here so that you can watch it. If not, I'll probably have it on YouTube at some point in the next few months. Better not say anything more than that just yet: I'd rather this be a surprise :-)

"Thanksgiving With The Kranzes"

This is hands-down one of the most hilarious and downright brilliant short films that I've ever watched. Make sure you've seen Ron Howard's excellent movie Apollo 13 before taking a look at this. Remember Gene Kranz, the mission controller played by Ed Harris in the movie? Well, what would Thanksgiving at his house be like? Here is Thanksgiving With The Kranzes:

I have never understood Valentine's Day

If you love someone, you're supposed to show that person your love every day of the year, not just on one in the middle of February.

But if we must: Happy Valentine's Day :-)

"We now return you to our regularly scheduled blogging"

On January 25th I posted that I was going to be taking a break from blogging for awhile. It wasn't anything like my Lenten abstinence from blogging last year (although that's not too bad a thing to consider doing again this time either). It was because a number of things had come up in my life that demanded attention and I needed to focus on them before the blogging. There's been a few posts I've been able to squeeze in when time allowed (I just had to do something for the 10th anniversary of Star Wars Special Edition, incidentally the A New Hope one is running on HBO on the TV behind me) but otherwise, it's been nothing like my usual publishing frequency.

Well, as of last night I can finally get back in the saddle again and ride hard.

Thanks to a lot of people who helped out during this period, from coming so far to help with a project to something as simple as offering up some thoughts and prayers. In so many ways, I doubt that I could have gotten through the past month without them.

Okay well, now y'all know that I'm back working The Knight Shift. Expect stuff to start shipping out of the factory starting now...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

It's "that video" from this past week's LOST

Lisa and I watched this week's Lost episode, "Not in Portland", last night off the DVR. That's twice I've seen this episode so far, but I've lost count at how many times I've watched this scene. It's so... weird, even for Lost. And that's saying something!

Well if you want to see it again or if you've never seen the show and are wondering what some people are talking about, here is the scene in Room 23, where Kate and Sawyer and Alex go to find Karl:

Anna Nicole and the crazy astronaut woman ZZZZZzzz...

Both stories are sad and tragic in their own ways.

But we do not need wall-to-wall coverage of these stories.

There are things going wrong in this world that demand our attention. Instead we continue to be captivated by the cult of the celebrity... to the detriment of ourselves and our children. Because I can think of literally dozens of news stories that in a sane world would warrant this kind of coverage. Instead it gets wasted on, pardon me for saying this, a hard-living woman who not too surprisingly died too young and another woman who drove 900 miles wearing a diaper to attempt to kill a rival.

Meanwhile the government continues to take away basic liberties, we are being taxed and spent out the wazoo, we are drowning in debt, part of our land is becoming a third-world nation because the borders are being overrun, people are dying every day in a war that only the most deluded seem able to find a rationale for...

We don't need any more Anna Nicole Smith coverage. We don't need any more Lisa Nowak coverage. Just like we didn't need 24 nonstop O.J. coverage over a decade ago. Let due process in both run their course. There's no need to make these two incidents more a spectacle than each already is.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Happy Birthday to John Williams!

John Williams, perhaps the most well-known composers of the modern age, the mind who did the music for the Star Wars movies and Indiana Jones and Jaws and Jurassic Park and the first few Harry Potter flicks and Schindler's List and Lord only knows how many other movies (and TV shows, and themes for Olympic games, etc.) is 75 years old today.

Here's saluting a great man on reaching an epic milestone. And here's to looking forward to many more wonderful film scores (I still believe he's going to do the music for Star Wars Episodes 7-9 someday). Thanks to Darth Larry for posting word about today's wonderful occasion!

"We're the Government... and You're Not"

This is one of the most dastardly devious things I've ever seen on YouTube...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Okay, tonight's LOST...

...was one of the best hours of television I've seen in a heap many moon.

I'm still wigged-out by that weird room that Alex's boyfriend was strapped down in: it was like the Lodovico Treatment from A Clockwork Orange on crack cocaine. Who is "Jacob"? On the screen it flashed something like "God loves you just as he loves Jacob": that's the second episode in a row that "Jacob" has been mentioned.

Just had a thought: was this "the room" that Mrs. Klugh threatened Walt with in the episode "Three Minutes"?

I'm gonna watch this one again tomorrow sometime. In the meantime, g'nite!

Behold "The Doomsday Machine" Special Edition

One of the first episodes of the original Star Trek that I saw (the very first was "The Enemy Within") was "The Doomsday Machine". I think that one easily ranks among my top three all-time favorite episodes of anything Star Trek. In case you've never seen it, "The Doomsday Machine" is basically Moby Dick in space: the Enterprise comes across another Starfleet vessel that barely survived an encounter with an ancient sentient war machine. The commander of this other Starfleet ship is obsessed to the point of madness with destroying the machine.

For the past few months the guys in charge of Star Trek (is that still Berman and Bragga?) have been broadcasting the original Star Trek series with the "special editions" treatment: remastered and with upgraded special effects. Well, this week "The Doomsday Machine" gets the treatment. What does it look like?

Here's a shot from the original version of the episode, showing the Enterprise and the doomsday machine...

And here is a shot from the remastered episode, showing the 2007 rendition of the doomsday machine...I've never seen classic Star Trek look this good. This is definitely one I'll be looking to record on the DVR! For more pics from this episode aim your phasers here.

LOST returns tonight!

In the final moments of the last episode of Lost, Jack had agreed to do the surgery on Ben. In the middle of the operation he turned the tables on his captors: Jack made an incision in Ben's kidney. He then demanded a radio to talk to Kate and then laid it all down: if the kidney doesn't get sewn up in one hour, Ben dies. Either Kate (and presumably Sawyer) get away to safety and radio that back to Jack, or the Others are going to have to find themselves another leader (which maybe Juliet wants anyway...).

I've been so wrapped-up in finishing my film that I totally forgot until while just talking to Mom on the phone that Lost returns tonight: the first episode since November 8th. It comes on at 10 p.m. EST (one hour later than usual, to give the American Idol juggernaut some leeway). I'll probably file a report here later, giving my reaction to the show.

FACING THE GIANTS: Finally a Christian movie that gets it

About a month ago my friend Chad did a review of a movie called Facing the Giants. It just came out on DVD this past week and a couple days ago it arrived at our place via Netflix. Well, I'm still busy putting my own movie together, but Monday night Lisa and I watched a good part of it and we finished up last night. So what did I think about Facing the Giants?

One word: "Wow!"

Yes! At last! To say that I am astounded would be undercutting it. And not just because this movie is the production of a Baptist church in Georgia but absolutely looks as if it had a multi-million dollar budget poured into it (I think they only spent about $100,000 on this)...

...No, what really impresses me about Facing the Giants is that this movie "gets it" so far as Christian filmmaking goes. Yes, it is very much a Christian movie. But it does something that is very rarely - actually I don't know if it's ever been done this successfully before - done with Christian cinema: Facing the Giants is entertaining in addition to its message, instead of trying to be entertaining because of its message.

That's probably going to rub some folks as being blasphemy: like I'm saying that Facing the Giants is putting worldly approval before righteousness before God. But there are two things that I would like to point out about Christian filmmaking in general. First, full-length features are supposed to be entertaining. Or if not "entertaining", at least still make you feel as if the time watching it was well spent. Too many Christians in the film industry try to make "the message" the whole reason why people should want to see their movies... when it doesn't work that way at all. And so we wind up getting turkeys like Left Behind (hilariously discussed in Rod Dreher's classic article for National Review called "Do Fake Boobs Go to Heaven?"). This is one medium where noble intent alone does not a good movie make. As it is, we get situations where the producers of a Christian movie have to practically beg people to come see their movies...

...Ummmm, guys: if you just make the story engaging and fun, people will want to come see it on their own anyway. Facing the Giants made more than $10 million when it came out in theaters (to limited distribution and with little promotion, I might add). That's a hundred-fold return on Sherwood Baptist's investment.

Second, as Christians we should feel compelled to give everything that we do our best effort. Or rather as Grant Taylor (played by Alex Kendrick) in Facing the Giants comes to realize: do your best so that you can give glory to God, not to yourself. And sometimes you have to push yourself and even go through some pain in order to do that. Striving for the goal that God has set for us is never supposed to be easy: God puts these things in our lives to build us up, not to win some prize. Winning is a secondary thing... but we are still supposed to run the race to win all the same, as the apostle Paul taught us to do.

What does that mean when it comes to Christian filmmaking? It means doing your darndest to make a good movie, and that means having something more than less-than-stellar production values. Yes, I know that most Christian filmmakers are faced with limited funds compared to the resources of a big studio, but if there's any way at all to squeeze in just a little more quality into a project, then the filmmaker should do so. But a lot of these Christian movies look as if they are products of the Ed Wood School of Filmmaking: fast and cheap and without care. Again, with these movies people are supposed to want to see it because of "the message", according to their producers. It's almost like those TV commercials for personal computers back in the early 80s: almost always the spokesperson would talk about all the productive things that a computer could do and then maybe, just maybe, they might be used for a little fun. Most Christian films are all business and no pleasure, and the producers will spend 90% of the budget on the serious and hardly anything on making the thing look good. Quite honestly, I think that's lazy filmmaking. Worse: it reflects horribly on Christians who are trying to do things for God's glory. If we can't give it our best for Him, what is the rest of the world - that we are trying to witness to - going to take away from that?

A third point I could also make, even though it has nothing to do with Christian filmmaking per se, is this: Facing the Giants was shot on location in Georgia, with an almost entirely local crew and cast of actors. And it proves something I've been thinking for awhile now: that if you want to produce a top-quality movie, you don't have to go to Hollywood to get it made. The acting in Facing the Giants is as good as any coming out of Tinseltown... and the fact that these are ordinary people makes Facing the Giants all the more honest and convincing. You wanna make a film? Do your community a favor: put your friends and neighbors in it. Acting is easy, and the behind the scenes stuff isn't too hard either: give everyone a shot at being in the movies.

Well, I gotta get back to working on my own movie. But I just had to take a break long enough to recommend Facing the Giants and call attention to how this is one movie that is hitting on all the right cylinders. Many other Christian filmmakers would do well to learn from its example.

And, it's just a heckuva good movie. I'll probably be buying it for my own DVD collection soon.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Something beautiful

Brian Hodges - AKA Darth Larry - is not only a bigger Star Wars geek than me (is that possible?) but he's also an accomplished cello player. Here's a video of him rehearsing - along with his wife Betsi on piano - something called "Rachmaninoff Sonata" for a recital he gave a couple months ago...
Recital Warm-Up

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I like posting stuff like this, not only because it demonstrates the talents of good friends but also because it makes me look good when others see that I got the hookup with high-class cultured folks :-)

The KWerky family grows as it tries to get ON THE LOT! Report and pics from filming

For almost two weeks I've had to refrain from posting at my routine frequency. Some real-life things have been happening that demanded a lot of personal attention. It'll be at least another week or so before I'm probably going to be back at full posting strength, but for the first time I'm ready to "tip my hand" a bit on something that I've been working on.

It all started almost three weeks ago, during the season premiere of American Idol. During the first commercial break we saw a promo for the upcoming Fox show On The Lot. It's something like American Idol for filmmakers: everyone is invited to make a 5-minute short film and submit it. From all those thousands of entries, sixteen will be selected to compete on television. Those chosen will have to make one new film a week, with the viewing audience voting on who to keep returning in the ensuing weeks. The person who wins receives a $1 million filmmaking contract. The executive producers of this lil' venture are reality TV legend Mark Burnett and some guy named Spielberg...

We saw the promo and the first words out of Lisa's mouth were "Chris, you should try out for this."

Then the next day at least a half-dozen other people told me that I should take a stab at On The Lot, including the girl who worked on Lisa's teeth at the dentist office and my mother-in-law.

I'd actually heard of On The Lot last summer and had thought of trying to put something together for an entry, but then the school board race happened and everything that I would have liked to occupy myself with went straight out the window for more than three months. The deadline to submit a film is February 16th: just a month to conceive a story, write a script, do casting, find locations, shoot the thing, and then everything involved in post-production. Definitely a tall order even in the best of circumstances. But with all these people encouraging me to go for it, I've taken it as a sign that I should at least make the attempt, even if it doesn't get any further than the "auditioning" stage.

I spent the day after first seeing the promo trying to think of story ideas. Two of them kept coming to mind. The one that I thought was the more challenging to attempt is what I opted to use. By 4:30 the next morning the first draft of the script was finished. A few days after that I posted a casting call on Tarheelfilms.com (a terrific resource for North Carolina-based filmmaking and casting). I said in the ad that this was for an On The Lot entry. Before the next four days were out about 350 people had responded!

Well, I went through all of them, and it wasn't easy. Casting went on almost right up 'til principle photography. In the meantime I worked on a lot of other things involving production. Friday before last I did the first bit of filming at Cafe 99 in Reidsville. I then spent the next week lining everything up for principle photography the following Saturday.

That happened this past weekend. There are two very quick scenes that still need to be filmed but otherwise, we got all our shots in.

I can't begin to say how much fun we had! One of the most exciting aspects about filmmaking for me is meeting wonderful new people and getting to know them as we work together. Well, Saturday our little production family welcomed three new members: Selassie Amana, Chris Otto, and Dawn Swartz. My longtime friend and collaborator "Weird" Ed Woody, his wife Olivia (both members of the cast in this project) and their son Tristan arrived at our place Saturday morning. Then Doug Smith - a guy I used to work with - arrived. It wasn't long afterward that Selassie, Chris and Dawn got here (Chris also brought his girlfriend/secretary Abby, and my own lovely lil' "spousal overunit" Lisa was there too 'course :-) That was ten people in our living room total... and four of them (Chris, Abby, Dawn, and Lisa) were all graduates of University of Georgia! So the Uga wallpaper on our computer's desktop was naturally a big hit with the crowd.

We had a round of introductions and then "got down to business". I got up and told everyone a little about what KWerky Productions (the lil' outfit founded by Ed and me) is, what we've done before, what makes us unique, how we love to have fun, and how we work with only the best people that we can find. The newcomers were told how they were now joining a family... like the Mafia. And just as the Mafia, if they really wanted to be part of us then they should understand what it was that they were possibly getting into. At that point I told them that there was a video that they needed to see and that if they wanted to leave after that point, they could: "Nothing will be said," I told them. Without further ado I hit "play" on the DVD player and everyone watched the following...

Amazingly enough, nobody abandoned us after that. So I handed out the legal contracts to everyone that had been drawn up for this production (I might share the text of that at some point 'cuz more than one person described it as being "different"). I showed the thus-far completed footage, and then we had a few readings of the script. And after that, from about 11:20 a.m. until last night a little past 7, we spent the rest of the day filming.

Well, I could say more, but I'll let the pictures speak a little about what happened throughout the day on Saturday...

Dawn Swartz and Chris Otto on the set at Cafe 99 in Reidsville, North Carolina

Part of the set during filming at the Reidsville Family YMCA

Looking down the hallway on the set at Reidsville Family YMCA

The "class photo"
Front row: Tristan Stamper
Second row: Dawn Swartz, Selassie Amana, Chris Knight
Third row: Chris Otto, Tyler Richardson, Doug Smith, Olivia Woody, Ed Woody

After the film has been finished, I'm going to put together a reel containing the bloopers and some of the other things that happened during production. In the meantime, the submission deadline is next Friday (the 16th) and there's still two tiny scenes to shoot, plus everything that comes with post-production. But as much as wound up getting done in the past three weeks, I'm pretty confident that it will all be wrapped up in the next few days. Until then, expect me to still not be able to chime in on this blog as much as I usually do... but now y'all know more about what's up.

That's all for now. Oh yeah: way to go Colts! :-)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Two days later...

There'll be a more full report on this page in the next day or so, but I just wanted to go ahead and say that since yesterday morning this has been an awesome experience. Everything went well yesterday and a lot of new friendships were made. Especially thanks to Selassie, Chris, and Dawn, who I got to meet in person for the first time yesterday, and I pray it's sooner rather than later that we get to work together again.

There's gonna be more to come, including pictures and a video, coming real soon. In the meantime I'm sort of spending tonight both relaxing a bit and working some with what we got in yesterday (I'm rooting for the Colts in the Super Bowl but since there's gonna be only two movie commercials during the game - which is what I always like to watch for - I'm not really interested in watching much).

Friday, February 02, 2007

Twenty-four hours

If I can get through the next twenty-four hours alive and sane, I will be a happy man.

I'd thought about posting a picture of one of the many rolls of duct tape that were purchased today, but that might have been too cryptic.

More coming soon.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


The seventh and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be published on July 21st.

Mash down here for more.