Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Editing is underway

This isn't the most glamorous aspect of film making, but Kenny and I spent a few hours editing footage today. We have lots more to do this week, and for the rest of the summer.
The best part of working with Kenny is we're usually on the same page. I can use another movie or direction as an example, and he'll know exactly what I'm talking about. He's got so many great ideas of his own, too. What can I say? The man's a pro.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Is making this movie starting to get to me?

On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court made the historical decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide, my daughter’s Christian singing group performed its only Kansas concert of a seven-state tour.
Friday was the first time I’d seen her in two weeks. She was actually gone for both my birthday and Father’s Day, but that didn’t bother me. I was so ecstatic that she tried out for this group and made it. It’s been the experience of a lifetime, and I know she didn’t want the tour to end. (I know this because she told me on the way home. Ha. Their last concert was last night in Joplin, Mo.)
If you're reading this on a laptop, this video is a little sample from Friday night. It’s difficult to describe my emotions while I was taking it. It was such a happy day for millions of Americans – and I’m assuming it was particularly great for gay Christians who wish to be married in a church.
And it was such a happy atmosphere inside the church, even though I’m told many there were disappointed with that morning’s SCOTUS decision. The subject never came up, which was appropriate. It was clear from the prayer before the concert that the focus would be on simply praising God.
During the entire concert, I was fighting back tears. Totally unexpected. If someone wants to offer an explanation as to why, I would love to hear it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

How today's ruling affects our film

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide this morning, I thought it would be appropriate to share the new Facebook profile picture of Burt Humburg, the main character of "Out Here In Kansas." (Besides, it made me laugh.) The reaction on social media has been incredible. I haven't seen too many people decrying the decision yet.
But Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback isn't happy about the ruling, naturally. You can bet Pastor Joe Wright, the other central figure of our film, isn't either. The Kansas Marriage Amendment, which Wright and Terry Fox worked so hard to get passed by voters to make gay marriage illegal in 2005, is now void.
Well, it's void for now, anyway. If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's this is going to be a hot issue for years.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thoughts from the Doc Sunback Film Festival

Here are a few pictures I took from the inaugural Doc Sunback Film Festival, including the creators of "Franklin," picking up their award for Best Kansas Film.
I really meant to take more photos, but I guess I got so caught up in watching movies and meeting new friends that I forgot. My personal favorites were "Pokey Pokey" (a creepy animated short), "Franklin," ""Killshot," "Elevator," "The Unveiling," "Mount Lawrence" and "Politically Correct." I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. I had an all-access pass and I watched a lot of films.
Actually, the biggest thrill was probably visiting with the creator of "Politically Correct," a University of Kansas student named Savannah Rodgers. Her short was hilarious, as I somehow knew it would be, given the subject matter. I'm always inspired by meeting fellow filmmakers, and Savannah is a dynamo. We even talked about working together in the near future.
Finally, I really have to give it up for downtown Mulvane and the festival's organizers. They took great pride in their event, and I can't wait to return next year.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Happy to support this one

I'm spending the day at the inaugural Doc Sunback Film Festival, an event that includes an art crawl here in downtown Mulvane.
Well, of course I'm here. Kenny Linn, my editor for Out Here In Kansas, is one of the organizers (and Mulvane is his hometown). So is Sheri Kaufman-Marsh, another Mulvane staple who was kind enough to attend our First Friday event earlier this year in which we debuted our documentary's name and logo.
She was accompanied that night by my friend Shelly Steadman ... who happens to be the mayor of Mulvane. (I haven't seen Shelly yet, although she might be busy with her day job of being a forensic scientist. Yes, I am friends with a forensic scientist - and she owns a liquor store, too.)
Organizers are billing this as an international film festival, and they aren't just blowing smoke. Of the 100 films they're showing today and tomorrow, there are 28 countries and 10 American states represented. There have been some good ones so far, and it's been interesting and educational to see so many different approaches to filmmaking. And all these people started with a blank slate, with the movie only in their minds. I don't know about you, but I find that fascinating.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tasting success at Tallgrass

A huge congratulations to our editor, Kenny Linn, who was on the filmmaking team that won the Tallgrass Film Festival's "Down To The Wire" Showcase competition over the weekend.
Down To The Wire is intense. Teams have 24 hours to create and submit a short film, and there are many guidelines - including four elements that must be included (the use of a closet, for example, was on the list last weekend).
This year, there were 27 teams. Kenny was on Team 22, which submitted "Plenty of You to Go Around," produced and directed by Nick Brown. It was first place overall in the judges' awards, and also received awards for best cinematography and best actor (Mark D. Anderson).
Alas, Kenny hasn't had much time to celebrate. He's been watching films as a judge for the inaugural Doc Sunback Film Festival later this week.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My memorable exchange with a fellow Christian

I don't know how many times I've given the elevator speech for our documentary "Out Here In Kansas," but considering we starting shooting on it about a year ago, I'm guessing it's about 365.
I do know I've not had an encounter quite like the one I had when I was taking down a road barrier when we were tearing down our first set Saturday in Augusta. (You can see the photo gallery here.) A woman, maybe 70, approached me on the curb and asked what we were doing.
Me: We are making a documentary.
Her: Oh! What's it about?
Me: Well, it basically centers on the relationship between Christianity and homosexuality.
Her: Oh. Oh no. Well I'm a Christian. And I don't believe in gays. Are you a Christian?
Me: Yes ma'am, I sure am.
(At this point she insists on shaking my hand.)
Her: Well God bless you. Do you believe in gays?
Me: Yes ma'am, absolutely I do. They are real. I've seen them and talked to them myself.
Her: (Frowns.) That's not what I mean. The Bible has some things to say about gays. Do you go to church?
Me: Yes, in fact I grew up in First Baptist Church right up the street.
As I pointed in that direction, this woman realized she knew my parents, and thankfully the subject changed.
But the exchange left me with a sad feeling. She identified herself as a Christian, but the way she represented herself is exactly why many gay people are uncomfortable going to church.
So if you're a Christian, even if you believe the homosexual lifestyle is unacceptable, please be careful with your words. The Bible has something to say about a lot of things we don't understand, including women remaining silent and submissive. (I haven't heard anyone bring that one up lately.)
As I've said many times, the purpose of this movie is to tell Burt's story and to invoke a discussion. This woman could have a gay family member and not even know it. Because who would tell her?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Let's just say she was a savior

I didn't really know Dona Lancaster until a couple of months ago, when we were starting rehearsals for the journalist-performed Wichita Gridiron. Director Rick Bumgardner introduced her to the cast this way ...
"Dona," he said, "is God."
Dona was quick to tell everyone she is not God, and she was just there to help out however she could. She is a longtime fixture in the local theater scene, currently with Wichita Community Theater, and we became fast friends.
The more I thought about the shoot I wanted to do for the opening credits for "Out Here in Kansas," the more I realized I could really use a good acting coach on set. Yes, it's a documentary, but this particular scene was going to require some facial expressions and body language from Burt that were going to be hard for me to communicate. (You'll know what I mean when you see it.) And yes, I know what I wanted - but Dona was able to make Burt feel what I wanted. It was really pretty amazing. Don't let anyone fool you - acting is hard.
Bless her heart - Dona (pronounced DOAN-a, pictured here with Burt) not only came to help us out, she spent the entire day with us on set. And it was a long day, particularly for Burt, who was wearing a suit doing take after take in the 90-degree heat.
Burt hugged Dona when the day was over, and so did I. After going over the footage with Kenny later that evening, I wanted to hug her again. It just wouldn't have been as good without her.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

There's no place like home

It was not my plan to be shooting any of this movie in my hometown of Augusta, but it definitely should have been.
Let me back up for a minute. I've had this day - June 6 - circled on my calendar for weeks. Without getting too much into the technical aspects, we knew it would be difficult. But in the days and especially hours leading up to the shoot, we encountered one unforeseen challenge after another.
For one thing, we needed a truly traditional church front. Now, there are a few of those left ... but good luck being granted permission to use it for a movie set.
Then I remembered this stone church (that's Kenny and me standing in front of it). I walked by it nearly every day for four years on my way to Garfield Elementary as a kid. It was absolutely perfect, and the owners are wonderful people who supported our cause.
Once we closed this set, I asked a favor from the folks at the Augusta Historical Theater, and they came through for me too. Boy, did they.

Friday, June 5, 2015

This picture gives me joy

Here is our editor, Kenny Linn, geeking out over a camera stabilizer that just arrived from Memphis. When I carried the box to his door, he had the same sparkle in his eyes as kids do on Christmas morning.
Today we're getting prepared for a somewhat complicated shoot we're doing Saturday in Augusta, Kansas. I'm sure I'll have some good photos from that as well.