The Saint and the Sinner

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n. – John Milton, Paradise Lost

The world of demonology has been a fascinating one to explore. Fallen angels. Grace. Redemption. Madness. Despair.

When angels fall from grace, they become demons. Not only in Judeo-Christian mythos, but ancient Babylonian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Greco-Roman, Hindu and even ancient Arabic tales all embrace the concept of the fallen one as demon. It is universal.

One of the elements that led to the birth of TLAU was the desire to explore the aftermath of a fall from grace. This concept led to the creation of two characters: Father Buer – and Caim.

Father Buer  spends his days tending to the homeless in the streets of Los Angeles. In this world, however, his flock is cut, shall we say, from another cloth. Father Buer ministers to those who have fallen. He gives comfort and aid to demons.

…and this is where Caim, the fallen angel, comes in.

Falling from grace is both tragic and traumatic. Imagine the suffering of the fallen one, when s/he realizes what they have done – and at what cost. Life as an immortal, but on earth instead of heaven. Surrounded by mortals. Outliving them all one by one.

Surviving those you love is a particular form of torment, and for Caim, life as he now knows it is an eternity of anguish. It is enough to drive even the most stoic being mad – and that is precisely what happened to Caim. He wandered the streets, living in the hellish abyss that is Skid Row, amongst the socially untouchables, the insane. Until Father Buer found him.

For hundreds of years, the Church has had one in their midst who gives of self to tend to the fallen ones. A priest who helps to ease their suffering, and, for a few, helps them find their way back to grace. In the City of Angels, this priest is Father Buer. His mission is to restore Caim to grace. For, as he says, “We are all of us God’s creatures. All of us. Even you.”

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© 2011 They Live Among Us Movie

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Poverty and Creative Thinking

Poverty can be a good thing.

I have been reviewing the episodes. Placing them under various microscopes. Story. Character. Dialogue. Budget.

The last word has had my stomach turning cartwheels. Budget. Night shoots. VFX. SPFX. Can I do this – and do it well – for five grand?

In a word – no.

Granted, I will have some nifty effects… however, I realized that I needed to tone things down. Pull it back. Write it with what resources I have.

This decision has been a good one. Why? It’s forced me to write for character.

Character is what drives They Live Among Us. You’ve met Beth (now Lillith, her name, like her story, evolved), and, you’ll begin to meet the others. An angel in love with a prostitute. A youthful pop icon, who is thousands of years old. A park ranger in love with a ghost. A writer who yearns for adventure. A priest who tends to demons.

When you return to character, you return to what is essential. You cut out the fat that having money can bring. You can’t hide poor storytelling with eye-popping visuals, because you cannot afford them.

I’ve had to limit locations, because each set-up costs. By doing so, I’ve created a common ground for my characters – a shared space between them. They are strangers to one another, as are many in L.A., the countless tapestry of people weaving in and out of each others lives… connected yet apart.

These budget imposed limitations have opened up yet another portal into my gothic urban tale of the dark side of the City of Angels. I’ve been able to tap into the vast and rich history of Los Angeles. Present and past collide in startling twists and turns… and the result (I hope) is rich.

If I had ten or twenty or thirty thousand dollars to spend, I am not certain that these discoveries would have been made. For that I am most grateful

We are just over 20% of our funding for They Live Among Us. I am thrilled and eternally grateful to my beautiful backers… and am still seeking more. Consider joining our Kickstarter campaign. It will be the journey of a lifetime. I promise you.

 

Meet the Team – Gavin Hernandez

I’ve been working hard to create different supernatural characters than the roster of vampires, werewolves and zombies. The three form a magnificent triumvirate, that goes without saying; however, I felt that there were enough of these creatures in pop culture to generate an entire planet of the lupine and the undead. One of the three will wander its way into TLAU; however, I wanted a more unique addition to my roster.

I turned back to the readings of my youth, and thought of the creations of one particular master of the genre – H.P. Lovecraft.

It’s been years since I was terrified by the presence of Cthulu and others. My books are buried in storage. I needed some guidance.

I thought of a person that I knew who was well acquainted with the Lovecraftian tales, and contacted someone near and dear to him with a question. Gavin Hernandez is his name, and within hours, I was forwarded this reply:

“Well, a shoggoth (big tentacley thing with extra mouths and eyes and such) could probably dwell in one of the deeper tunnels, but the most likely would be a ghoul, which is a sort of canine humanoid monster that eats corpses that usually live in crypts and cemeteries. As far as ones that could pass as human…one of the Elder Gods, Nyarlathotep, the embodiment of chaos, usually takes the form of a pharaoh-like man, then the Mi-go, alien creatures with absurdly advanced tech, can masquerade with some success as rather sickly humans, but not so well in public. The best bet for that would be a Deep One-human hybrid, a la The Shadow Over Innsmouth. They are half-human half-fish humanoids, and for the first few years of their lives they appear human with a few off characteristics, only becoming full monster after several decades. They can speak fluently in whatever native tongue is nearest, and can easily pass for full human. My personal favorite would probably have to be the Mi-Go, as they aren’t hostile or evil, just very different-but they manage to still be chilling. They bear us no ill will, and have actually shown much interest in humanity. They can speak human languages, but can’t be photographed, as they are composed of rapidly vibrating particles. Also, they’re fungi. So that’s nice. Also, if she’s wondering if there are any ones that could both live in a subway and pass for human…Well, one of the characters in a story was a human painter who befriended a pack of ghouls and eventually became one. Also, cats in his stories (admittedly in a dream-land) are able to fly to and from the moon in a single bound. They’re magic.”

I laughed in wonder and delight. I knew that I had found the ultimate researcher and consultant. I asked him if I might add him to the team; he graciously agreed.

So, please welcome Gavin Hernandez. Wonderful human, compassionate soul, and master of all things Lovecraft.

Oh. Yes. Did I mention that Gavin is 15?

Episode One – Lillith

Meet Lillith. This is how I imagine her at a younger age; fresh and innocent, hails from the Midwest. An all-American girl… with a dark and terrible secret.

In my inaugural blog, I talked about how “Lillith” helped to launch “They Live Among Us.” This episode began as a ten-minute stage play, called “Boy Meets Girl,” one of those ditties we pound out when we’re procastinating preparing for the “real work” at hand – for me, a feature screenplay.

BMG was about a sad-sack, Craig, who, on a sunny day, falls in love with a girl, only to discover that she is a bipolar psychopath. It was a breezy little piece. A few weeks ago, I was prompted to adapt it to an animated film – which I did… and that action began the story fermentation process. It percolated deep within my brain.

Prior to the TLAU Kickstarter campaign launch, I rewrote it, to examine if it could have a more supernatural bent – and it did. I was pleased with it; I worked the other pieces, built and launched my campaign, while engaging in the rewrite process. Rewrite, refine… you know the drill.

As I was working on Episode Two, “Fall from Grace,” I became keenly aware of the monetary limitations I had placed on this project. I’ve begun to obsess over locations – and night shoots. Night shoots are expensive, and money for the project is in short supply, even at 100% funding (although Kickstarter assures me that I am allowed to exceed my goal *wishfulthoughts*).

I wanted to shy away from the iconic endless-summer-rodeo-drive-venice-beach-healthnut L.A., and move it back to a more stylized form, a modernesque Raymond Chandler gothic film-noir look at the City of Angels. Those secrets that lurk in the shadows. The outsiders who avoid the limelight. Those who live – unknown – among us. The beast within us all, and the eternal struggle of good versus evil.

Suddenly, the perfect sunny day that opens “Lillith” did not ring true. Something else did not either – the story was told from the boy’s perspective. Lillith is the outsider; she is the one who fights the eternal torture of being who and what she is… I needed to fix this – and fast.

I decided to set it at night – but at a party. Indoors. They are young, so a shabster’s pad will do.

I also rewrote it from Lillith’s POV. And, in doing so, I took a sketch character and – I hope – turned into a fully-dimensional being. Albeit, not a human one, but one as filled with confusion, torment, the anguish as any lonely young woman. The desire for acceptance. The need for love. The despair of isolation. The shame of what she is. It’s all there, in one who lives among us. Her name is Lillith. Say hello to her – if you dare.

© 2011 Bullshed Productions

Day Two – It’s All in the Details

I had a fitful night of sleep last night; my brain was consumed with images of Los Angeles, and wondering how on earth I would be able to pull off my urban gothic vision for $5k? Am I delusional? Do I have a fever?

And then, I realized… it’s all in the details.

Episode One is two exteriors; however, they are in the day. There is some VFX involved, but I believe that under-cranking can readily take care of that.

Episode Three is three-four interiors and one exterior. The exterior is in the day.

It was Episode Two that had me stymied. It’s the most ambitious of the three – and most of it takes place at night. There lies the rub. Night shoots are not cheap, even with digital. I also had this vision of these sweeping shots of L.A. at night, from above and below, a Gotham  like look at Hollywood. Most of it occurring in alleys and streets; definitely not a running and gunning type of setup.

I was worried, truly worried. I am striving for high quality at low-cost. Like everyone else, I want for my work to excel.

Then, I realized that I could move most of Episode Two indoors. Two – three brief night exteriors. Perhaps fill in with great stock footage of L.A. at night… and keep the majority of the story inside. By doing so, I can lower the cost of the episode. I then realized that this choice also opened up a door within the story that was a little stuck. It solved a problem. It’s making the story better. More layered. More conflicted… and more tragic.

*****

I’ve added the option for digital downloads of “They Live Among Us” for my Kickstarter supporters; green is always better. I’ve also had a request for a one-page of the series from one of my contributors. How silly of me to not have created that. So, I’ll tweak Episode 2 to move it inside, and get to work on my one-sheet.

In the meantime, I’m meeting with some D.P.’s and looking for a designer for the logo/title. I know what I want… I’m just not as crafty with Photoshop as I am with Final Draft.

To all of you following this adventure, thank you for your support. If you wish, please contribute to my Kickstarter Campaign. Twenty-eight days to secure funding! I’m certain that they will go by in a flash.

My next few posts will be about the creation of the script. We’ll start with Episode One – “Beth.”

The Journey Begins

“It’s a place where they’ve taken the desert and turned it into their dreams. I’ve seen a lot of L.A. and I think it’s also a place of secrets: secret houses, secret lives, secret pleasures…”  L.A. Story

And, I might add, secret fears.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a a firm seeking short animated scripts. They wanted to know if I had anything available. I dusted off a little piece that was lying around and, on inspection, thought that it might serve their needs.

Of course, it did not – their projects are more politically-driven, and my short revolved around a young man who encounters a crazed beauty in a park.

At the same time, I was in the middle of production training, surrounded by an amazing group of women. We supported each other, we cheered one another on. It was most delicious. Writing is a very solitary craft; I was feeling very isolated.

You don’t get into the creative arts with a brain that is perfectly wired; we’re all a little out there… and with the outsider mentality can come abject loneliness. Add in a spoonful of insecurity, for they say you are only as good as your last project, and we find ourselves running marathons through this town, our hearts laden with the fear that someone will find us out.

What we don’t always realize, is that we all feel this way.

At the same time, I was struggling with my creative identity. I felt castrated as an artist. And then, I had a dream… I saw a fallen angel, and I realized he was in love with a prostitute.

I sought out my angel… and ended up in DTLA, walking through Skid Row.

I came home. I mulled this over. On my left, was Shakespeare. On my right were two scripts of mine, a short titled BOY MEETS GIRL, and a feature, titled LET’S DO LUNCH.

I thought. A lot. I wanted to tell snapshot stories of the lives of outsiders… and realized that the ultimate outsider is a supernatural being. And so, I typed FADE IN. Three days later, I had episodes 1-3 of THEY LIVE AMONG US.

This morning, I began my Kickstarter campaign, in order to raise funds for my project, which I hope to have completed by the end of the year. I’ll blog about the campaign, about the individual episodes (there are three this far, with a couple hanging out there if the first three go well), and, of course, about the micro-budget production process from concept to completion.

It’s an exciting time to be a filmmaker; we’re so much more empowered than in years past. I’m looking forward to sharing my adventure with you!