Shooting The Short

I just finished filming a “short”, (an under 30 minute film).

What a challenge.  The worst of it was seeing me from all angles.  Ugh! I thought I looked ginormous.

Because I did the camera set up and would have to run and take my place, I saw,  a view of my backside, way too often.  I felt like the girl in the new film, Brittany Runs a Marathon . Not huge, but she thought so. Help! fix me!!!

Still in the editing “room” ( my son’s iMac), it (the caliber of the film) appears to be less than I’d hoped for. I don’t know why I thought I could turn out a Steven Spielberg or Tarantino my first time out but… Seriously, no I knew better, but one can only  hope… hehe.  It was my first film wearing all hats. It was so much harder than I expected than when you have a pro film crew.  My camera of choice was my iPhone mounted on a Moza Mini MI Gimbal stabilizer and a standard tripod. The Moza Mini has features I thought would be great for a one man show, but for some reason, I was doing good to get it to “stabilize”.  I watched several YouTube videos to learn it’s application, then discovered that it worked best on my son’s iPhone 6 than it did on my iPhone 7Plus.  On his phone, he was able to get it to follow the subject.  The only downside is that when we used the clapper, after setting it to our subject, it got confused and the camera decided to follow the clapper instead. So, that obviously wasn’t working, so for expediency sake, we called out the scenes and takes.

My son was instrumental in figuring some of it out, but since he didn’t have time to really work the bugs out, we did what we could.

Afterglow 4

Any professional reading this is probably saying to him/herself, humorously of course, “Idiots”.  I’m not ashamed.  Everyone has to start somewhere. (If anyone reading this knows what I may have done wrong, please tell me.)

To say the least it was a bit rough going. Then as an added bonus, my phone’s storage filled up and we lost a good deal of footage that we had to re-shoot.   Sometimes, it was at the cost of losing an exceptional take.  After that and before resuming, we of course, transferred what we had to the iMac editing program.  We are using Final Cut Pro. I have friends in the business who have all the skills, but I was determined to do this on my own, so I didn’t call them. I may rethink that in the future.  After all, why have friends in the business you can’t call?  Plus, they have all the good pro equipment, not a measly iPhone.  I know films have been shot using various phone camera’s, that’s why I wanted to try it.  Plus, I figured, it would be less gear for me to haul up to SLC, where most of it was shot.   Other obstacles were weather. The weather did not cooperate, as we got thunderstorms and high winds, which made shooting trialsome. What’s more, they were not in the forecast when I looked. I did check.

Then there were the microphones.  I didn’t have booms, but I got some lavalieres for clearer sound, but didn’t remember to use them until the end.  Duh.  I’m not sure they made that big of a difference when I used them for close in dialogue.  My actor daughter, in GA, said she had a small mic and boom for iPhone, which she used for audition tapes, but we didn’t find it until the last day. I wasn’t gonna start all over for that.  Most of the sound was decent anyway.

My crew was made up of family, who all had day jobs.  That was tough. The “actors were also family plus my actor daughter’s boyfriend.  We used his law office as one of our sets. He stood in for my daughter who had a full schedule as an RN and couldn’t do the part I’d written for her.  Here we grownups are goofing off.

Afterglow 1

My little grand daughter and grandson were absolutely amazing.   When I directed my grand daughter to play dead, she did.  She is only 7 and no matter how I shook and called out to her she kept in character and didn’t break, lying there all distorted like a wet noodle. Of course, that was on the second take, because on the first take, she did get the giggles, until I clarified her part. When I yelled “cut” and praised her, she was exhilarated and I was so proud.

.Afterglow 2

Something I need to say on this account.  When you talk to a child, especially one on an autistic spectrum, remember to tell them it is only pretend.  When I first arrived, I made the mistake of telling her we were making a movie and she would die.  The first couple of days after my arrival, she stayed clear of me and was terribly moody. Generally, this little bit of sunshine is all over me, so I suspected something was up. Then it dawned on me why, so we had “the talk”. She was great after that.

It brought back memories of my daughter, Tina, at age 4.  My husband had decided he wanted to adopt her.  At the time, we were unable to locate her birth father and I knew those two had bonded beautifully and he’d been a part of her life since she was two. When we asked her how she felt about that, she sounded very agreeable. Two weeks later,  she broke down and cried and told us she didn’t want to be adopted.  She cried and said she adamantly told us she didn’t want to live with anyone else but us.  We cried with her and tearfully explained to her what we meant and reassured her she was going nowhere else to live, but would stay with us forever. How could we be so stupid?  What’s worse is she stewed about it internally for two weeks!!

So my advice, is when you work with little ones, please be sure they totally understand what is going on.  As I said, once Ally understood, she was great and did her part.

My 9 year old grandson, on the other hand, took to the whole thing like a pro.

Afterglow 3

When we got done shooting a scene, he wanted to see what it looked like, then he would say, “No, no, let’s do that again”.  “I (him) need to be doing …” this or that or put the camera here or there. He already has plans to do his own YouTube videos.  I think he’ll do well. These kids are so clever.

All in all, we had to do more retakes for me,  than anyone else. Acting is something I haven’t done in a long time and I couldn’t believe how stilted I’d become.

You may ask why I did this. Two reasons.

One: I have a friend in the business, who a couple of years ago, told me, the best way to test out my writing, is to film it, so I did. My friend was so spot on correct.  I’ve got a long way to go yet and seeing what I crafted on video was eye opening.  It really taught me a great deal. I found myself re-writing so much of what I’d originally written for something that would sound more natural, more believable.  You can see the scribbles on my script!  Is that normal?thumbnail_IMG_4216

Two: I need a reel, both for myself as an actor and as a writer. I have friends that are always wanting me to submit for parts and I have nothing. I thought I’d aged out, but from what they say, older women parts are being created and well, we could all work together.  Ya think?  They might think otherwise after seeing this. lol

Finally we will need music. Oyvey!

In the end, I’ve decided to ask my friend if I can hang out with his film crew and see how they do get the shots I so sorrily attempted to do.

As film viewers and armchair critics, it’s not as easy as you’d think. Trust me.

Oh yeah, while I was there we did the SLC FanX Com.  Here’s some pictures from that.

Ah yes and for ally’s birthday I did a repeat of my Grandma Tala, which the kids absolutely loved.

The Difference in Boys

I’ve talked at great length about my girls, their tats and other things, but surprisingly said little about my boys.

At the Strawberry Festival in Glenwood Springs

I was extremely more connected to my girls, I will admit that. I got to wondering why that was.

Perhaps it is the fact that boys are just different. As boys they of course have different needs, different from me and different from each other. As any parent can attest, all children are unique. I had mostly sisters and I was the eldest and always in charge. I never really understood my brothers much, plus the youngest two were young enough to be my children, the youngest is only 5 months older than my oldest daughter.  So I didn’t have a great deal of experience with boys.

Party in the Park

Perhaps it was the fact too that I had the luxury of being a stay at home mom with my girls, whereas when the boys father and I divorced they were still young and I had to go to work. It’s not ideal, but that’s how it was.

I remember how much I’d struggled to support them. There was no child support because we had joint custody. His custodial obligation was to maintain insurances and pay for any medical. At least I didn’t have to worry about that.  We lived a block away from one another “for the kids” sake and my home was the one closest to the bus stop so they managed to be at my house more than their dads.

My eldest, Ry, was the most affected by the divorce. He was totally devastated and embarrassed. He had always been so proud that of all his classmates, we were one of only a couple of parents not divorced and he liked that. He was only seven then when he became aware of the difference and he would be nine or ten when we divorced. Even though it was I who left, he didn’t forgive his dad for not being man enough to keep me. We all lost.

It wasn’t until he joined the Marines that he learned to forgive and let me be a part of his life again. God Bless the Marines.

Oh, I did things with him, took him on camping trips, track meets, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing and school functions but it wasn’t enough. There was still this enormous emotional chasm. But I didn’t give up. I bulldozed myself into his life. I did all the things a dad should do with his boys because that’s how I am and his father didn’t.  That was the only leverage I had. Thank goodness I was such an outdoorsy person.  He was outgoing and popular but after a time, he separated himself from his closest friends.

Track meet


Now Ian is a total opposite.

He is not sporty or terribly coordinated. He was also very shy. So shy, he couldn’t even talk on the phone! Terrified if anyone spoke to him.  I know, you’d never guess that by the above pictures.  He spent most of his time hiding behind my “skirt”, afraid of his own shadow. He’s also ADD and fortunately not ADHD. Bright but inattentive or so it would appear. I don’t think a complete diagnosis was ever made clear, but he was delayed developmentally. Today I’m inclined to think it may have been a form Asperger’s.

Ry had a fourth grade teacher that I thought should have retired long ago. She didn’t make over him like all his previous teachers had, so he liked her the least.  Ian was to get her the following year. We dreaded it.

It was she that identified he had a problem. I knew about dyslexia and other learning disabilities and had been around children with ADHD but this was different.  She suggested we have him tested.  She said he couldn’t sit still for a minute, homework was a chore and half the time it appeared he wasn’t paying attention, yet he was learning.  He tested grade 15 in reading, spelling and comprehension but double entendre’s escaped him. He was unable to get jokes yet was extremely intuitive. Science tested out at about grade 8. He was at grade 4 in math which was at grade level and grade 2 in physical abilities. In second grade, his teacher said his delayed motor skills were affecting his learning, but we didn’t know what to do about it. His father was not into any sport other than cycling which he did rarely and that was only because his dad’s business was bicycles. This new teacher loved him though and he bonded with her and at years end they both cried the last day of school. I’m guessing he challenged her and made teaching interesting rather than mundane. That’s the teacher you want for your special needs child.

After that, we kept getting pressure to medicate, which I was totally against. Ritalin was relatively new on the market and I didn’t want my son to be a guinea pig. As it is, they did find years later many young people succumbed to it’s negative effects including drug addiction*. “the government classifies the psychoactive drug (Ritalin) with cocaine and morphine because it is highly addictive.”**

Ian and I bonded more for the same reason his teacher had, his needs demanded more. I was also closer to Ian in many other ways as well. He was extremely affectionate and we liked the same things. Both boys have amazing voices but only Ian seemed to like singing. I like singing. We connected further when I told my acting coach how shy he was and she suggested letting her help.

With acting Hollywood coach Molli Benson
Climbing a mountain near Ouray

She started out running lines with him in the back of the room. Eventually they worked their way to the front.  Not all at once of course, but a little at a time.  He was 12. Eventually, he got so good that after playing a scene from Moonstruck where he was Nicholas Cage, she yelled at the rest of the men in her class and said,

“That is how it’s done! This kid at 14 convinced me he wanted to take me to bed and, I know he didn’t mean it.”  Everyone was silent. But, that’s acting and he was darn good at it.

On the left playing opposite him is Nick Wechsler from the show “Revenge” when both were just kids. Nick is about four years older.

Both boys could be quite funny. Ry more than Ian but it was rare they were funny together.

A photo I told them was a do over
so, they hammed it up

Once Ian was singled out as “different”, Ry pulled away from his brother and even became his arch enemy adding insult to injury by parroting his peers, which only brought Ian and I even closer together.  This he regretted later.   Kids called Ian “dummy” even though he was smarter than they were and  the popular kids especially picked on him. To make their life easier we sent them to different schools. Ry could do his sports in public school and Ian would go to a private school for awhile. There he actually fit in and found friends. He could do his artsy things and not have to worry about being compared to his brother. It took a load off Ry as well. I don’t think he meant to be mean, he didn’t know or understand his brother’s special needs, but then neither did we. Today they are fine.

To be fair Ry had begun to have his own issues to contend with. His deciduous teeth had not fallen out on their own and his adult teeth were crowding in on top. Some refer to it as “popcorn teeth”. It was one more nail on the coffin for him. By ten he began the process of tooth extractions and years of orthodontia and the once gorgeous, confident kid felt like a freak. Add the physical pain that went with it and his inability to eat comfortably, he withdrew from his friends and hooked up with a neighbor kid from the wrong side of the tracks. His home life was a revolving door for drinking, drugs and who knows what else, so the company his mom kept left much to be desired.  But, his friend liked to fish, so they went fishing all the time.

Fishing on the Mesa

I felt like I never saw him, but it kept him busy and it gave him so much joy plus he was good at it. The “kid” was basically a good kid and he was always polite, so I figured maybe being around us could help him but I still sensed trouble, not right away but eventually. Because of that I kept my mom radar up and was always on alert. As signs were realized, my greatest fear was affirmed. Drugs. Mostly, but not just pot. For all my intent, it was a friend of ours who actually spotted it first.

We then put him on notice. No more friend. Drug tests would be at random intervals and he wouldn’t know when.  At first he balked and angrily fought me on it and yes I hit him well, slapped him. I was in a rage, frustrated and devastated but not certain at what or at whom. I had always vowed I would never do anything out of anger, yet anger did get the best of me. When I saw Nick’c mom from “Fear The Walking Dead” go after her druggy son, I understood. The emotions are complex, I felt helpless but mostly I felt so guilty. I’d let him down with the divorce and I felt guilty about Ian. I think too that out of all that his parents suddenly unite against him. He eventually acquiesced. In truth, I think he was actually relieved. I felt so sorry for him. So many things had gone wrong – his teeth, the friends he no longer had, a brother he didn’t understand, his broken family and he’s lost and perhaps afraid. Everything that could be wrong in his life, was and he was overwhelmed.

Finally and I believe it was God’s intervention, but he met a classmate at school that brought it all together. They started lifting weights and Ry started going to church with the boys family.  All Ry ever talked about was how this couple had married young and were still married and what an amazing family they were. More guilt. We didn’t exist for him. I remained guarded and I was jealous but I would swallow my pride because at least he wasn’t on drugs.

My heart couldn’t have been more broken. I wanted him to feel that way about us. I wanted us to be a family.

I knew he wanted to go to college but I couldn’t afford to send him to school and his dad said he couldn’t afford it either. Rys grades were good, but not good enough for scholarships although they might have been had he not gotten waylay-ed. His friend, the young fishing friend joined the army and Ry races home one day and announces he’d joined the Marines.

Interestingly, I believe all that history made Ry a better Marine. He wanted to do something that was punishing yet redeeming. At least that was how I saw it. When he completed his training, he came out forgiving and loving his family more than I could have hoped for. He said, the Marines taught him that family comes first. He still loves his surrogate family but he now included us in his world.

Ry was not a big guy so he had to fight to get and stay in. His DI’s told me at his graduation that they had not expected him to make it, but he did where others had failed. They said he had inspired them and everyone else in his platoon. I could not have been more proud. I remembered his track coach saying the same thing. “Not the best but certainly the most enduring.” His drill instructors bestowed upon him their own globe and anchor, the highest honor a recruit could receive from his superior officers. He was applauded for his tenacity and determination.


Because he had scored so high on the aptitude tests, they singled him out for embassy duty. In the meantime the Iraqi war had begun and we thought he’d have to go. For sure they would send him to Iraq. Surprisingly they didn’t.

At one point he said he was unsure he’d make the cut because of the drug incident.  After several interviews and psychiatric evals they asked the big D question. His saving grace was that he didn’t lie.  We all worried and waited. Finally, he got word. They told him normally that would have prevented him from being accepted as a candidate but they appreciated more than anything his honesty. They had conferred with his DI’s and other superior officers he’d worked with and came back with his acceptance. Next step was off to Quantico for the CIA training all MSG’s must pass.  His training was grueling but he made it. They outfitted them all with variations of the same wardrobe, looking pretty much like clones. Boy did he look handsome though. They ran more background checks  but now of the entire family before his selection was complete.

Ironically, my brother, who also works on high security clearance projects was due for his series of background checks. So our family and friends were hit with simultaneous  scrutiny. Our closest neighbor approached us one day and teasingly asked us, “What in the hell have you all been into?!” This is one occasion where they do check. No worries, we’re good.  We cleared them all. He would later get pulled from his post in Kiev to secure the grounds and guard the president for the NATO summit. What an honor!

Ry is now out of the military. With the GI bill, he was able to graduate college and is now a father of three, two of his own and a foster child they will be adopting. He also has a child recently diagnosed with mild autism, smart like Ian but with learning issues.  He is three and Ry loves him to death. Fortunately, he married to a young lady who is a teacher that just happens to specialize in children with special needs. I think now too, Ry not only because he is older and wiser and remembering his own shortcomings dealing with his brother,  he will no doubt redeem himself with his son. Until the adoption is formalized, I cannot include a family picture as foster children are protected by HIPPA.

Ian as Joseph

Over the years Ian has bounced around living with various family members.  His dad, sister and us and for a brief time attempted to live on his own but failed at it miserably. When he came to live with us for awhile, he and I did dramas at church. Our church loved hearing him sing so he was frequently asked to perform and occasionally we’d sing duets together. Despite his trepidation, he always came through magnificently.   At 33, he is now finally on his own for the first time in his life.  He is attending Full Sail University off and on and still has difficulty staying on task but he’s doing better.  He was studying gaming and digital animation but may reevaluate his major in that. It’s the learning that challenges him the most. He has an on and off again girl friend who seems to be extremely patient with him and seems to be motivating him to find his niche. His mind still wanders but he’s exploring art and finding he does it well. Even so, he’s an awesome young man. They both are and I love them immensely.

Ryan doing the Lewa Marathon while stationed in Nairobi, competing with barefoot Kenyans. The group picture is Ry with a Peace Corp group he met and with fellow Marines that also love to run. He also got to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro while stationed there which is 19,340 feet high. He says it was grueling and at times wasn’t sure he’d get to the top, but he did. Of course.

High School Graduation

Ian and I at High School graduation and a before and after moving out on his own and getting fit. The last being Ian today.





Detours – Part one (Pictures are in!!)

In the Park
In the Park

I was thinking the other night while I was desperately trying to fall asleep but couldn’t, of all the distractions I have had in my life that have redirected my purpose.

My mind, racing at midnight, keeping me from falling asleep is one.  I told myself I needed a notepad by my nightstand so I could jot down all these ideas running through my head but no, even though I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t force myself to get up just in case I might be on the brink of dozing off.

Needless to say, the only idea, besides those for my screenplay, and those inspired by Badfish is to chronologically share the detours I’ve experienced in life. Truth be told, I could really right a book about them, but suffice it to say, it is barely a fleeting thought to do so.

I don’t know when the first of my detours started. but the first one I would say I had was the one my mom took for me.  She had left dad in San Diego and went back to Mexico. I don’t know what the reason was, perhaps she realized she didn’t love him or perhaps it was because he hit her. Dad was abusive on many levels, so hard telling. Unfortunately, while she was there in Mexico she discovered she was pregnant with me, so she did what she thought was the right thing and returned “home” to him. Had she stayed there, She and I would have had a different life altogether. So, I guess we detoured one another.

As a child, I was somewhat of a showman. I would sing and dance and perform for my parents friends.  One of these friends happened to be a couple who lived in Hollywood with lots of Hollywood connections, so I was sent to Hollywood as there protege’ and began my erudition for the screen.

Actually in retrospect, it seemed more of a pimping because they changed what I wore, how to wear makeup and paraded me down Sunset Strip Boulevard on the back of a new Corvette convertible, waving at whoever might notice me and I did as I was told relying on their advice. In those days Sunset Strip was nothing like it is today; it was more of a place for teens to go cruisin’. When we weren’t doing that I was auditioning in front of their director/producer friends.

I learned how to eat like a lady and how to stir the sugar in my tea without making an ungodly noise, clinking the glass with the spoon. I already had the yes ma’am and no sirs down since I was from the south and no southern child survives without that.

It was there I had my first teen age crush. Their neighbor’s son was home from college.  He was a fine Jewish boy attending med school. Boy did I have it bad, but he was probably 19 and I was only 15. He humored me but never took liberties.

They would later take me to visit another family who also had a good looking son that I went bowling with. We had the time of our life and he was just so easy to talk to. I understood why later when, at the end of the day, his parents explained to me how he was headed to seminary school to become a Catholic priest!!!

I still think of them both. Sigh!

Whether or not I would have had what it takes to make it in Hollywood I was never to discover. My parents got divorced and I ended up back home. My mother’s connection to this couple dropped off after that and I missed my chance, but as I’ve mention before, in those days it was not in vogue for a Hispanic girl to get work as anything but a maid, a hooker or some trash part. So perhaps it was just as well, I would never have made it as a maid. All this took place about the time Sally Field got the part in the Flying Nun and I remembered thinking how much I would have loved doing that.

A New Direction:

beauty pagent

Okay, so acting wasn’t going to happen, but Mother was not to be stopped, so after that any beauty contest or event that would show off her daughter was entered in.  I got yelled at a lot, was pushed and prodded and the whole experience was anything but pleasant. The contest on the right was for the Del Mar Fair’s Fairest of the Fair contest.  I got to wear the “lucky” number 13.  Needless to say, I didn’t win, but the girl that did deserved it.  My heart to say the least just wasn’t in it.

Because I was inclined to be quite the tomboy, mother took the next step to making a lady out of me. I was also sent to “charm” school where I learned to walk, talk, use makeup and dress like a lady. I learned to fence, which having a propensity for sports was my favorite class. To this day I can still walk briskly with a book on my head and not drop it.

 Bathing Suit Shot

I became a commodity. Even though what I wanted to do was act and sing, that was no longer a choice. I was good at it and I did great in high school drama but… that’s not the direction I would go.

Part of the modeling courses included giving us as much exposure as possible to get us accustomed to crowds and public displays. I did car shows, I was a trophy queen at drag races, subjected to nasty kisses from what I thought were old men and who had kids I went to school with!  Anything I could get into that would exploit my features, I was entered in.

The only thing I didn’t mind was modeling for expensive boutiques, there, I got to wear and display gorgeous outfits I could never afford In some cases, the owner would allow us to keep or purchase an item at a very discounted price with no strings attached. Because I was small, most runway jobs I got were for teen or preteen clothing. I didn’t care for that on many levels, for one I was neither of those things and I wanted to look like a woman; the other reason is that for some reason I found it extremely stressful and unorganized, not to mention the people involved were not as nice nor easy to be around.

So modeling was not for me and although I did go on to place in several beauty pageants, that too didn’t rock my world.

To be continued: