We Did It!

WE DID IT! Happy New Year to all! May 2012 be YOUR year. We set a lofty goal yesterday – to reach $2000.00 in funding for TLAU Episodes 4 – 6, and we not only succeeded, we exceeded! That’s a great way to ring in the New Year!

Let’s give a giant cheer and a shout out to our first wave of 2012 TLAU backers (in alphabetical order):

Gary Anderson

Katie and Matt Armistead

Reed Boyer

Marneen Lynne Fields

James Gale

Sandra de Helen

Christine Koehler

Marilyn Lower

Liza Martz

Pattie Mulderig

Katia Nizic

Liz Ross

Seth Ruffer

Paul Singleton

Don Shirey

Seth Ruffer

Thanks to each and everyone of you, WE MADE GOAL!

We’ve still got quite a road ahead of us… but we are definitely off to a start.

Next goal? We need to double this amount by Thursday, January 5. Can we do it? YES! With your help.

Here’s a couple of ideas for you – throw a TLAU fundraiser! Are you a great cook or chef? Have a fundraising soiree! Do you frequent a local restaurant or pub? Talk to the owners and see if they will host a fundraising night, donating 30% of sales to TLAU. Are you involved in theatre? Have a staged reading of plays, and donate the proceeds… the possibilities are endless!

Check back later today, when we’ll be announcing our first TLAU Contest! Oh, is it a goody!

Remember, it takes a village to produce a film, and we’re so happy to have you as members of our tribe. So let’s make goal, and have some Bloody. Sexy. Fun!

xo

anne

Episode Three: Let’s Do Lunch

In Episode Three, Beth gets the chance of a life time when Alex arranges for her to audition for an A-list power broker, and Ted, a lonely park ranger, comes to the aid of an ethereal young woman on top of the Hollywood sign.

With Justin Baker, Jessica Nicole Webb, Erik Kowalski, Allen Marsh, Marcia French, David Stanford and Kendra Munger.

Original score by Brent Heflin McHenry.

“A Story Forever” courtesy Mike Peralta.

To learn more about the legend of Peg Enstwistle, click here.

Winds of Change

I’m viewing the final cut of Episode Three, Let’s Do Lunch. The launch was delayed by Santa Ana winds, which roared through L.A. like one of King Lear’s storms, downing trees and triggering massive power outages some of which are just now being resolved.

It’s an odd feeling, watching something that you have crafted, come to life. I created this world… and yet, I find myself worried for those who live in it.

I want to tell Jimmy to go easy; to savor this time with Beth, for there may not be another. I want to hold Alex’s hand and lead him out of his dark state. His deal with the devil may prove to be too much for him.

I long to stand with Peg, all alone, in the dark, and help her to find her way out of that horrible place… and I wish that I could give Ted comfort. I want to ease his pain, the unbearable isolation of being all alone…

…instead I plunge headfirst into pages, into new chapters of these character’s lives. I walk the lonely streets with Caim. I know the depth of pain that resides within his heart. I watch Serafina as she returns to the only life she knows, as she once again dances to the beat of her tortured tango with Rocco. I’ve been away from my characters during this final push-through to post, and I long for them to wrap me in an embrace.

 

The Torments of Love

“But that afternoon he asked himself, with his infinite capacity for illusion, if such pitiless indifference might not be a subterfuge for hiding the torments of love.” 
~ Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

It is a bitter moment when we learn the hard truth of life, that the course of love never runs smooth.

The world of They Live Among Us is peppered with supernatural beings – who suffer from painfully human problems.

Episode Two, Fall From Grace, introduces the central story thread that will bind all of the characters together – the story of the star-crossed lovers, Caim and Serafina.

The story is emotionally evocative; the images painfully raw. We follow Caim, seemingly indifferent to the world around him, as he wanders through the mean streets of Los Angeles. And then, his countenance changes. Shock washes across his face as he discovers Serafina in her present incarnation, hardened by life on the streets, clad in disturbingly provocative attire, frail, like a rag doll.

Her lover Rocco approaches her. He is a like a wild animal, ready to spring upon his prey… and spring he does, his fury unleashes itself upon her. The fight is brutal. It is painful to see a person disassociate, to move so far away from being human; I am tempted to avert my gaze… but I do not.

Caim appears, and rescues his love. He is so gentle as he ministers to her wounds. What torment it is for him to find her fallen so low. He can no longer afford indifference; this time, he will not stand by and watch as she is destroyed yet…

…and yet, he is only half of this equation, for Serafina’s choice is the sum of the whole. She can stay with Caim, a complete stranger, who tells her that he only wishes to take care of her, or she can return to Rocco. The choice for her is not as simple as it seems, for Rocco’s love is the only kind she has known. What draws a woman to a man who drains the life from her, who resorts to verbal and physical assaults, who treats her as offal? Serafina is so far removed from being the Chosen One. She cannot even imagine the possibility of who she truly is – and who she can become. She may, however… if she is strong enough.

Six Degrees of Separation

“I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it extremely comforting that we’re so close. I also find it like Chinese water torture, that we’re so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection… I am bound, you are bound, to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.” – John Guare

Ouisa’s musings from John Guare’s extraordinary play, Six Degrees of Separation, perfectly articulate the journey that has been – and continues to be – the creation of They Live Among Us. There has been an odd synchronicity surrounding the project; glorious at times, at others, unsettling, as if unseen forces were at work.

I experienced two such incidents this week. In one, I was given the opportunity to bring to closure a traumatic incident from my past,
through the chance encounter of an old acquaintance.

I consider this a gift. A chance to heal. Bit by bit, one step at a time.

In the other incident, I sat dumbstruck as worlds collided within my pages.

I had written Episodes 4 – 6, and was executing a rewrite as I moved on towards 7 – 9. Episode 4 opens where 3 leaves off, with Peg and Ted in the Hollywood Hills. Peg was recounting the events leading up to her suicide: I was with… the worst sort of people. It was a party. They were… there were things done that night, terrible things. I remember I ran into the night. They chased after me, calling. I ran up to the sign… it was so very high, I thought if I could just climb up there, if I could just escape…

One of my rituals is to jog Lake Hollywood, then hike up the hills under Wolf’s Lair, eventually coming out onto Mulholland Drive at Castillo del Lago. Both structures are among my favorite in the City of Angels; the latter was once owned by doomed star Rudolph Valentino.

I wondered if it was possible for the party to have been there that night. I wondered who owned Castillo del Lago at that time; if, indeed the residents were the worst sort of people.

I decided to research the property. I skimmed through real estate listings and acquisition records. Then I stumbled across an article that almost brought me to my knees.

In 1932, the same year that poor Peg took her infamous swan dive into oblivion, Castillo del Lago was vacant. The residents of the nearby community of Beachwood Canyon would traverse the hills to the abode, using it as an impromptu community center. Countless parties were held there; some family affairs, others of a decidedly more debauched nature.

In the center of the article were the reminiscings of an old man, who was a boy during those parties. His sister attended many a midnight soiree at Castillo del Lago; he remembered being jealous of her adventures there, and how he dreamed of one day owning the estate.

His name was Milt. Milt Entwistle. Peg’s younger brother.

And so, the journey continues…

Moments of Grace

“I don’t believe in stories with happy endings; I believe in moments of grace.” ~ Todd Field, AMC Shoot Out

I’ve been thinking a great deal about this quote, as post enters its final stages for Episodes 1 – 3 of They Live Among Us.

Moments of grace. What the characters – supernatural and mortal – are seeking. What I – as a writer, a filmmaker, a human being – am seeking. Moments of grace.

We live in ungraceful times; we are culturally conditioned to judge a man not by his actions, but by the amount of money he makes. Profit is our deity; we feed off of the misery of others through war-profiteering, loan-shark banking and depriving the impoverished of healthcare. An infant dies in its mother’s arms because the truckload of grain that relief organizations sent to her camp was hijacked and resold for profit. Churches build towering gilt monoliths worth hundreds of millions of dollars – and these structures cast giant shadows on Skid Row. Victims of rape are murdered by their families, for their victimization is seen as an admission that they are the guilty ones. Children are bought and sold – traded like junk bonds – within the sex-trade industry.

We know this, of course. We hear it on the nightly news… but we refuse to listen. Instead of exploring the human crisis that is Darfur, we turn our attention towards the Jersey Shore. We do anything, everything to drown out this influx of data, for the shame and guilt that we would feel if we were to open our hearts and our minds to the human suffering that surrounds us would be more than the soul could bear.

It was not without trepidation that I began this project. I knew that I would be taken to very dark and painful places; and yet, I also knew that I would experience moments of grace… and that is pwhat I experience as I witness post: beings as they battle demons, literal and figurative, while strugglthe in the place that is the City of Angels… and seek moments of grace. Dark emotions and conflict lurk just beneath the surface; scenes are taut, whittled down to what is most primal and essential. A killer seeks true love. A priest ministers to demons. A lonely man loves a ghost. An angel yearns for a prostitute.

Moments of anguish… enveloped by moments of grace.

The Eye of the Beholder

Film is a fascinating medium to work in. First, you create a world, and those who walk within it, and then you work with cast and crew to achieve an articulation of your vision. Eventually, you make your way to the moment of truth – the rough cut.

I have spent the past few months wandering through the world of “They Live Among Us.” Night after night I have sat in a corner of the Paradise, or followed Caim on his sojourn through the mean streets. I have watched Lucian and Beliala rise, and I have shed tears for Peg – as well as for Ted’s heart-breaking dilemma.

This morning, once again, I watched Lillith. Through the lens.

A curious thing happens when you look at the world through a lens. Life is compressed. Distilled to its very essence. It is stripped of everything superfluous. It sees only the truth. It is omniscient. It is the eye of the beholder.

Looking at the footage, I was able to behold Lillith for all that she is. Beautiful. Fractured. Tormented by the demons within. She did not toy with Craig, as a cat does with its prey; instead, she genuinely wanted to be near him. Loneliness was the hunger that drove her to him – her need for love was great. Unfairly punished by the machinations of a patriarchal society. Expelled, cast forth, turned into a victim of her own desires.

And thus, Craig responded as any young man would; he pursued her. The hunt had commenced. His attraction to her was not false – how could it be ? He paid for her drinks, and he took her to a rooftop. The promise of the pleasures of her flesh danced in his head. He wooed her out of her shyness, and he reclined in anticipation of what was to come…

… and another moment of truth. Lillith’s dark nature took over. Her abandonment into carnality was not titillating; instead, it was tragic. I watched, mute, as Lillith lost herself in Craig. I watched as she fed on his pleasure, on his desire, on his life-force. Her eyes fluttered; she was sated… and then awareness came upon her. She moaned as she saw what she had done. Shame, disgust, guilt flew across her face; cumulus clouds of anguish. She scrambled away from him, hating herself a little bit more, as she has done every time that she has fed on a human.

Later, I saw her at Paradise again. Another night, another man. This one was named Terry – a social worker on Skid Row. At first I assumed that she would feed again, but now that I have witnessed all she experienced that night with Craig, I realize that to do so might destroy her. Each killing brings with it new trauma; another one could push her over the edge of reason. Terry is a kind man with a gentle way about him. She is desperate for contact. She whispers her mantra: “This time, everything will be alright.”

I wonder how long this budding romance will last, for I know that soon Lillith will meet another like her. One who feeds on the pleasure and pain of others. A predator who feeds on lust; he is unapologetic for his state. His appetite is huge. What will come of her, if she couples with him? Will she, like Lucian and Beliala, pass into darkness?