29 November 2015

It's ALIVE!! or "Motion Portrait Funtime Playness"

Two posts in one day! What's this world coming to?!?

There was a trend (that didn't last long, I might mention) on Instagram where artists were using the app Motion Portrait to 'animate' their drawings. I downloaded them and came up with these fun bits:

and this:

It was fun. I had an idea that you could animate some scenes in a sort of DIY cartoon using this app. I might as an experiment, but for right now it's nothing more than a novelty. An addictive novelty, though.

Ideas are ethereal

Ideas are ethereal. They’re out there. You may be lucky enough to catch it; when you do, it’s your obligation to do something with it. If not, it goes back out into the ether and someone else will catch it sooner or later.

A couple of years ago I had an idea about a near future where the human race was stretching into the solar system. People mostly lived in habitats on the moon, Mars, the asteroid belt and the Jovian moons. I even started a web comic titled “Tales of the Lost Skies” using this very blog’s name.

Tales of the Lost Skies, January 2014

I also had a few stories that I wanted to integrate into it:
Mushroom Moonshine
Ceres Gambit

But, I lost interest. I didn’t develop it, and it slipped out of my fingers.

Today, I watched the online premiere of Syfy’s show “The Expanse”. I loved it. They did a better job with the story as well as the revenue to truly make it an enjoyable show. And, it made me realize that I let that idea slip back into the ether- whether it was even mine to begin with. I make no claim on what they created- it’s just a similar idea and we’re all products of remixes.

My point here is that Ideas are meaningless if they aren’t implemented with passion. My motivation for TOTLS was lukewarm at best. But it made me realize that I need to develop something new and follow through with it so I can claim it as my own.

Check out “The Expanse” on syfy.com or wait for the premiere next month- it’s a fantastic show and I can’t wait to see where it goes!

21 November 2015

Life goes on

Well, although we're not to Thanksgiving yet, I wanted to give a retrospective on 2015... it's been a wild ride.

Every year a "theme" presents itself that puts a stamp on it.

In 2011, it was Money- I had spent nearly the entire year chasing a client to pay me for some christmas illustrations I had done for them. Egos clashed and ethics were questioned. I was finally paid (in installments, no less), but the amount of effort it took to get what was owed to me was ridiculous.

2012 was about Career. I love my day job; we have a fantastic team and a solid strategy, but that wasn't the case three years ago. I was dealing with a few characters that made my year there less than ideal, and I dreaded going to work. I was also in a state of trying to decide what to do with my life- I needed direction.

2013 was about Family. It really tore me apart when I lost my dad in January of that year. Although I was his only son, we were polar opposites. He wanted the best for me, but he also tried to relive his youth through me by attempting to get me into boxing and martial arts. His love of movies rubbed off on me. He was often proud of my artwork, but we never really had much in terms of conversation. He had his faults, we never really "clicked" as father and son, but I respect the man and often wonder how he would handle tough situations I find myself in.

2014 was about Health. After I was hospitalized, I meditated on how my health was headed down a dark path. I needed to take care of myself. Two failed attempts at working with some great (but poorly fitted) personal trainers, and then letting it go, I realized again with many older family members health failing that I needed to be proactive. I now have an amazing fitness trainer, and I'm on my way to the lifestyle I had in my 20s.

2015 has been about Illusions. I've had many. One, in particular, was shattered after 10 years of friendship. It's a long story, and a little too personal to share here, but its been a long hard road and now I know that sometimes people's sincerity isn't as real as you had hoped. I guess, what I'm saying, is NEVER take anyone at face value—It's been a problem I've ran into time and time again throughout my life. People will use you, be it innocently or malevolently, people are not interested in you unless you have something to offer them in return. It's fair, I guess... but sometimes you don't get anything in return other than confusion and pain. So, this large illusion has been shattered. I'm better for learning it and surviving, but it's been very hard to come to terms with.

The other illusion is about belief. Faith, upbringing, and "truths" you are educated with are all subjective by those who have control over you. You become hardwired, and frankly that's what's causing so much ruckus across the world. I'm not getting into any sort of religious thing here, but I've decided to take a more critical thinking sort of approach to life- sort of anti-empirical; there is no "truth", just points of view. And, is there really a truth anyway? Can things really exist without being observed? They just are, but have no consciousness or form? Take a drawing- it is just graphite or ink splayed on a paper... but it's our perception that makes it representative of something- and there needs to be an experience to make it "real" in someone's head. That last part is magic... but sometimes magic can be bad.

SO, because of some major personal rewiring, I've been away as I've sorted things out. I've experimented with game design (which had gotten me into graphic design in the first place) and studied sailing (which making it a lifestyle is some ways off). As always, I come back full-circle to what I am: an artist. I am drawing again... the one thing that gives me peace.

In the end, whether you learn to survive it or not, life goes on, and all you can do is pick yourself up and start over. The trick is to learn from those mistakes and challenges, and try to do better next time.

16 August 2015

Dusting off the art supplies...

More shifting around. I had thought to retire this blog since my interests skewed into celluloid filmmaking. I loved playing around with the cameras, but the costs involved finally caught up to me. It was unsustainable, as hobbies go (though, aren't most hobbies?).

I have been drawing quite a bit, though. Here are a couple of quick sketches:

I have a couple of small projects- one is to mock up a book cover for author David P. King, and the other is in development.

I really don't have much to say right now other than I'm busy drawing!

More to come.

19 June 2015

48HFP SLC 2015 - 8mm - and a switch PDQ

It has been a severely busy week. I am now just sitting down and going through emails, FB posts, and blogs that I follow... Aside from work and all it's craziness, we shot a fun short film this weekend. The 48HFP came and went, and we premiered on Tuesday, June 16th. It went well, and I was inspired by some of the films shown. We drew “romance” and the name of our film is “The Gee Stop”… I’ll post it as soon as we get the all-clear. Big thank you to Rich Bonaduce, Valeri Merrell, Hailey Nebeker, Geoff Richards, and Albert Huerta! We had a blast!

Film studies goes on- I finally managed to order 4 rolls of Fomopan B&W Regular 8mm film. I should get it on Monday. I plan on practicing on my trusty little Revere 88… the process is similar to how I have to load and unload 16mm spools. I also picked up a really clean Super 8/Regular 8 projector from the thrift store for $20. It runs great and now I’ll be able to watch my films (even though the super 8 is all negative, I can still shoot it on camera and invert the colors on the computer).

I want to shoot a mini-doc about how to shoot with Regular 8mm using the Revere 88. I think showing examples of the film in action is a good way to really get some viewer momentum to my endeavors.

I have been planning on retiring Lost Skies… it’s ran its course and it’s served me well. I’ll keep the domain but everything is going to my new brand. I plan to launch the new site/brand at the end of the summer.

11 June 2015

Countdown to the 48

Another Thrift Store Find: $5 Kodak Brownie!

It's been a long time since I've done the 48 Hour Film Project. Five years, as a matter of fact. I'm excited for it- nice to look forward to something and know I'll have a finished short at the end of this weekend. It's hard though- a true marathon and a lot of work. I made sure I did some house chores today when I got home from work because tomorrow I'm pretty much out.

I know we're ready. We have a small team- six people. Three AWESOME actors and equally AWESOME crew. We have equipment. We have some great, unique locations, and we have heart.

So- I will definitely post the short after it premieres on Tuesday night at Broadway Cinemas in downtown Salt Lake at 7pm!

I found another great thrift store find- a Kodak 8mm Brownie! It was only $5. It runs great, just needed a cleaning. The view finder is cracked so I'm a little worried about it breaking, but other than that it's in great condition. It feels like it's an aluminum sardine can- it's much lighter than my Reveres. It only shoots at 16 fps. If anything, it was a rescue. I couldn't bear leaving this little guy in the store. In any case, I'm developing one heck of a camera collection!

B&H Photo Video has their Fomapan Regular 8mm film back in stock. I'm waiting until next payday to get a worth while shipment. I think it will be enough to shoot a short short- and use the analog tape recorder for sound. All out old school!

I also discovered a place that has discontinued 16mm film stock for cheap! I'm definitely going to use my bonus money to buy some, perhaps enough for a feature film.

07 June 2015

Bell & Howell 240 EE (Electric Eye) 16mm Movie Camera

I’ve been looking at videos of footage captured by the Bell & Howell 240 16mm camera… and I am really excited to start using it for my cyberpunk short.

Here’s some of the better examples of BH240 footage that I could find:

I’ll be the first to say that great footage comes mostly from the cinematographer’s eye and camera skill. Still, Bell and Howell, which made the 240 for the amateur/hobbyist market back in the 50’s, created a solid piece of work.

This camera is Regular 16mm—not Super 16. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio and is noisy as hell while shooting film; don’t expect to get usable location sound while running this bad boy. It takes about 50 cranks on the wind-up motor to run the camera about 52 seconds at 24fps. It only carries 100ft spools, which gives you about 2m43s of film capture. Its heavy- it easily weighs more than 5 lbs. Personally I think the weight helps stabilize it. Reference sound can still be captured for ADR later (a common practice in Hollywood), and I rarely shoot takes longer than 30 seconds, anyway.

I love the fact that it’s a wind-up camera. No need for batteries to run the motor… ever! The permanent lens is the only thing that bothers me, but constraints add to creativity. Plus, there are telephoto and wide-angle lenses that were made specifically for the 240EE.

My particular camera is the “Electric Eye” model—which seem to pop up on internet auctions more frequently as opposed to the non-EE  removable lens models. It was made with a large light sensor that can automatically control the aperture. The two 4.5v mercury batteries that used to power this bad boy aren’t made anymore, though two alkaline batteries can be ordered but are a little expensive- cheapest around $9/battery (Exell A21PX 4.5V Alkaline Battery). That would be fine and dandy, but the settings only allow up to a 50 ASA speed film, which is the slowest common speed film you can find nowadays. That’s great for daytime outdoor shooting, but sticking to manual for faster speed film in low-light situations would not only prudent, but necessary. Luckily the batteries aren't required to run this camera- it's fully capable of being set manually. Frankly, had I had the money and found a nice non-EE model, I would have taken it over this for the simple fact of having the ability to swap out the c-mount lenses. I'm keeping my eyes open but it probably won't happen for a while.

I'm looking forward to shooting with my 240EE as soon as I can get the cyberpunk short written and produced. I'm going to push it's lowlight capability to the limit. More to come!

06 June 2015

Crazy Week Ahead!

My work is sending me and my friend Rich Bonaduce to Park City for two days to videotape a number of workshops, interviews, and b-roll... and photography... and whatever they need, really. Then we will be working with some incredible actors next weekend for the 48 Hour Film Project in Salt Lake City. I haven't done one for five years, so this will be interesting. The last time was with my friend Todd McGowan and we shot "97 Days".]

97 Days from Juan Maestas on Vimeo.

I am saving up some money to buy some film stock. I have Regular 8, Super 8, and 16mm cameras... I'm waiting for the Fomopan 2x8mm stock to come into BHphotovideo- they've been waiting for some for a while. I'm also planning on getting some Kodak Vision 3 50D, 200T, and 500T Super 8 film, and some Kodak Tri-X 16mm film. I'm waiting for my bonus so I can buy directly from Kodak- and buy enough to make the shipping worth it—that means at least a case ($600).

The Cyberpunk Short seems to be evolving in my head a little... but I've been more in bookworm mode lately trying to figure out all this film stuff.

Upward and onward!

01 June 2015

So far, so good.

I got the Bell & Howell 240ee in the mail today. This camera is nearly immaculate- it looks like it was hardly used. It purrs very nicely, and the glass looks very clean. The case is near mint as well.

Now I need to buy some film to test it. The frustrating part- I wish there was someplace local that I could buy 16mm film from. I'll probably order from BHphotovideo first, than order directly from Kodak later.

Summer came blazing in this year- after a very wet spring it's hard to get used to the warm weather.

29 May 2015

Obsessed, it seems.

Well... yeah. I am out of control.

The actual Bell & Howell 240ee that I ordered off Etsy for $40.
I bought yet another camera off of Etsy- a 16mm Bell & Howell 240 Electric Eye (from 1957). I went back and forth on getting this particular model, but I figured it was inexpensive ($40) and I didn't think I would be changing out lenses. It has a 20mm (which is like a 40mm on a 35mm camera) and a battery operated aperture... though you can still use it manually. It is not a reflex camera, but I am getting used to the fact of actually having to measure my subject with a measuring tape.  The other thing is that the seller told me this thing is virtually unused. He's convinced it sat in a closet for decades. That could be good or bad, but either way, I'm committed.

Another reason I bought it (silly as it is, but nerdy cool at the same time) is that this particular model (but not this particular camera) was used by Orson Welles when he filmed the documentary "The Land of Don Quixote" in 1962. Welles' camera went to auction and fetched $37,500. About $36,460 more than what I paid for mine. I could finance a feature for that kind of dough.

The more I got to thinking, the more it made sense to simply go the 16mm route. I can get a decent (though vintage) camera for under $100, and film for about $10 more than Super 8. Processing is actually cheaper at most labs- they're geared for 16mm, and there is simply more film stocks available for it. AND... it is much higher resolution than 8mm (of course), it looks 1000x better. You can also blow 16mm film comfortably up to 35mm. It just made sense.

So I will be shooting my cyberpunk short on the BH240. I am trying to decide on film stock. I do know I want to shoot it in color and at night, so I'm looking at 250D and 500T stocks.

I was on my way to my father-in-law's house for a big family dinner when I decided to stop at a local thrift store on the way home. I go at least three times a week looking for deals, and Thursday ended up being a Holy Grail moment:

A near mint condition, fully functional Canon Auto Zoom 518 for only $20. Yep. I couldn't believe it either. It came in the case. I'm severely mad at myself for losing the lens cap in my car- I can't find it. It did come with a cartridge- ektachrome 260. The lens is beautiful- and it's is clean with no signs of use- not a scratch or smudge.

So... yeah. I'm obsessed. But I love it, and I'm having fun. Now it's time to BUY SOME FILM and go out and shoot!!

20 May 2015

Pleased as Punch

Minolta XL401

Actual photo by the seller of the Argus/Cosina 708 I bought.

I got the Minolta XL401 as well as the Argus/Cosina 708 in the mail on the same day! I am pleased to report that both cameras are amazing- for different reasons.

The Minolta XL401 is fantastic. I want to shoot my first film short with this (noticed I said "film" then "short"? Yep- a short film made on FILM). While the highest frame rate is only 18fps, the 220 degree shutter and the f1.2 lens will make shooting at night possible- especially if I use Kodak Vision 500T film. I want to shoot in low available outdoor light at night. I think it has a unique look and it will suit the cyberpunk short perfectly.

The Argus/Cosina is also in great shape, it does shoot 24fps. I was a little worried about the auto exposure... it doesn't seem like it's working with a new Wein Cell Zinc photocell battery- but I am able to change the exposure manually. It's a little feisty, but it is possible. The difference in ergonomics is very apparent in the seven year difference between the two models. The Argus/Cosina is heavy- probably 5x heavier than the Minolta. The Minolta seems more available. Plus it has the Intervalometer- which is going to be fantastic for some special effects.

SO, now it's a matter of buying some more film stock. I'm trying to be smart about it. I need to practice- I'm seriously thinking about buying a case of 20 rolls directly from Kodak. It will be about $500. But the cameras are just shelf queens without film. I need to start getting something going!

15 May 2015

Rolling along

The Revere Ranger 8mm camera came today. It works perfectly, but smells musty. I believe it was stored in a very wet environment. I think it will dry out here in our Utah dry air, but still, not the most pleasant smell. The lens is also dirty- just waiting to find something good to clean it with.  Other than that it runs great.

The Bell & Howell Microstar Z XL came yesterday. It is in mint condition- looks like it has never been used or is dusty. And to be honest, this was probably a cheap camera back in the day. Very few controls- or indicators. The exposure is fully automatic. It has an auto/manual zoom that works when the film motor trigger is working. And the crazy part- it takes 4 AAA batteries! Also, it has a fast lens (which is what attracted me to it) at f1.2. I'm not sure how sharp of a focus I can get with it, but I think it would make a good backup/casual camera.

After one month, I have finally worked out a deal with that seller on Etsy. I am going to get a Minolta XL 401. I'm excited to get this camera. Sure, it only fires at 18fps, but it has a built in intervalometer for time lapse. That's crazy. Plus, it has a fast lens f1.2, and only takes two AA batteries. The Rokkar lenses are supposed to rival that of Canon, but we'll see. Honestly, I think it's a better option than it's direct competitor the Canon 518. The other thing I'm excited about is that it has split image focusing. Again, I hope it's a good camera. If not, I'm not going to go through this whole month long process again.

There's another camera I've been checking out and talking to another seller about. It runs but now I have to wait until payday to get it. Grrr. But all these cameras and no film? I need to get something going, and soon.

And the Minolta Autopak-8 that I JUST FIXED, busted. I think the shutter is stuck- it's not running, registering light or the battery check won't even budge. Yes, I did check the batteries with my multimeter and even put in fresh batteries- nothing. I don't know what happened. Probably because I was playing with it too much.

So, in a fit of despair I fired off and bought the other camera I was looking at on Etsy. It has to be the last one. I'm into all of this by about $350 and I know my wife isn't happy (but she's been tolerant). This last camera is an Argus/Cosina 708... it boasts 24fps and it looks pretty good. From what I've read about it it's a reliable camera- the vendor was nice enough to answer all my questions and even get a new battery compartment for it! I don't think I can afford to buy anything else- including film for a while. Dumb, dumb dumb. It's a crazy endeavor to go into... but I'm hooked.

13 May 2015

One Ring to Fix the Zoom

Minolta Autopak-8 K11

I was a little disappointed when I got my Minolta Autopak-8 k11 a couple of weeks ago. It worked, but marginally. Cosmetically it looked good, but there was a ring at the base of the lens that seemed to jam the auto zoom mechanism and the zoom lever was missing. It took a bit of brute strength to change the lens angle... which all but made the camera useless.

I got to fiddling with the dang thing yesterday. I popped the ring off with a small screwdriver and managed to re-mount it on the lens base correctly. It took care of the jam—now the auto zoom and zoom lever work freely and the camera functions exactly like it should. I shot some footage with it on some Kodak Tri-X. I'm waiting to expose the other roll with the BH Microstar Z I'm getting later this week, and then I'll send them in together and compare. Hopefully all will work great.

After fixing the zoom, I detailed it. The camera was dirty with finger smudges and some old grime. It's a solid piece of work- made out of metal. It's also heavy. I wish the f1.8 lens was faster- I really want to put it to work in some low light situations especially since it has a 24fps setting. It seems to be in good shape and I'm looking forward to using it as one of my main cameras.

11 May 2015

lo-fi mofo

Man, I've got to tell you... I'm having a hell of a time trying to find something decent when it comes to this old format. I've had nothing but problems with marginally working or broken cameras. On top of that, I still haven't seen the items from the Leicina seller. I even cut $50 off my order to accommodate him. It's frustrating. Luckily he's been patient with me, and he told me that he has a lot of cameras. I gave him a list of what I'm looking for, hopefully he has something!

I should be getting the Revere Ranger very soon. I almost cancelled the order, but luckily everything was in the order and if anything they're good, solid cameras. Whether or not I am ever able to shoot with anything is up in the air. I'm just waiting for BHphotovideo to get more Fomapan 8mm film.

It looks like it has never been used... fingers crossed!
I have been asking lots of questions with many of the Etsy sellers. I'm finding that most of which are severely marked up on that site. So, I did what so many people have done for over 15 years... I turned to Ebay. I bought a "buy it now" camera- a Bell and Howell Microstar Z camera for only $3.99 +$11.58 shipping and handling! AND the best part is that it looks brand new in the box!

Okay, okay, I know it could still be broken, but I had to take a chance. This is under $16 total- that's two lunches. It also does look minty. The thing that really sold me on it was the fact that it's got a f1.2 lens. It's still an 18fps camera, but something is better than nothing at this point. Especially since I still have some Tri-X film that is unopened.

I really want to shoot in low light. I have an idea for a technoir-analogpunk film. I want to shoot it in color in extreme low light- and that might include some Kodak Vision 500T.  I have been getting my cassette recorder ready, bought some audio cassette tapes from Walmart (yep, they STILL sell them from a brand called Onn). We're going to do this like it's 1999.

I'm amused by the fact that I'm excited about shooting with such lo-fi equipment. I could get a better image and sound from my iPhone... but so can everybody else!

09 May 2015


Kodak Automatic 8
It seems as if the replacement Leicina isn't panning out. I decided just to use my credit to get some smaller items that add up to what I spent to begin with. It's fine. I'll get a nice little Kodak Automatic 8 which looks to be in good condition and might come in handy. I'll also get some good d-mount lenses to use on the Revere 88 and Ranger, and a flash for my 35mm slr.

Yashica d-mount lenses
It's not a let down. I was also worried about the other Leicina especially when I had read that many people seem to have problems with them. They have beautiful glass, but can have a tendency not to be very sturdy.

In any case, and in the end, I want to try to get some filming done and I want better control of the image- the same sort of control I am used to with an SLR- exposure and focus. I also don't want to be relying on batteries. Crazy, right? But I love the idea of wind-up cameras. No worries about batteries dying. The trade off is limiting a shot to about 15-20 seconds at 24fps.

I've been thinking about sound for all of these future films. I had the notion of going all out and just using an old tape cassette but then I started thinking of the hassle when I am going to be dealing with a film camera. Then I thought about my old Zoom h4n- it's great, but bulky. I only need a scratch track... I downloaded a free Recorder app on my iPhone. I can just shoot wild sound with that. A bit of a cheat.

Maybe I'll just stick to using my old tape recorder. I like the idea of going all analog on the production end of it. Call it the artistic style of Analogpunk. heh.

I don't have cases for most of my cameras. The ones that I do have are old, smell like smoke, or have broken zippers. I'd love to keep things looking authentic- but sometimes newer cases are cheaper and provide more protection for the cameras. I'm going back and forth on this. Style vs. functionality.

I haven't found much in the realm of thrift store finds. Many of those bags stink. I had an idea of using shaving kit bags for the smaller cameras. And frankly, an $18 Walmart Camera bag might just have to do. Backpacks with some custom foam lining? Again, a punk attitude.

07 May 2015

Clockwork: Camera

Regular 8, Standard 8, Dual 8, 2x8mm... they're all the same thing. I'm not going to rehash Wikipedia's entry on Standard 8mm film- you can read about it there if you want to know exactly what it is.

There is a plethora of Super 8 cameras and stock out there. That's great- I love Super 8. In my experience, it's harder to find a functioning camera- there's so much that can go wrong and often times the little DC Micromotors bite the dust rather easily.

Enter Regular 8mm. Most of these were made between the 30s to mid 60s. That's 30 years of consumer dominance. Ebay and Etsy are a testament to that- you can find hundred, if not thousands of old spool loading, wind-up clockwork driven cast iron or aluminum cameras.

Many of them had d-mount lenses which allowed manual exposure but were mostly fixed focus. Some of the more deluxe models allowed focusing- which required using a measuring tape (or guesswork!) to the subject and a corresponding dialing of the lens. Personally, I prefer this method. I love reflex lenses, but unless it's a split diopter, it's still guesswork. Often times it's hard to keep your eye right on the image... and too much can go wrong.

My little Revere Model 88 is 70 years old. It STILL works well. The lens is a little scratched, and the focus might be a hair off... but with care it should last another 70 years.

I just bought the sister model to the 88- a Revere Ranger Model 80!

This one was on Etsy for $16 (plus another $15 for shipping). It's very similar to the 88 but is a bit more streamlined. I'm hoping the lens is in great shape... but regardless, I'll have fun with it. You can see the results of one in action from the Radical Dad's Recklessness music video.  Honestly- in my opinion, it's the flaws that make it organic and a highly desirable look... and certainly not computer generated by a plug-in.

I think many of the flaws you see here are from the telecine process- it looks like it was videotaped off the wall. Many examples of digitally scanned images seem to strip the strobing and add more detail and color saturation. As much as I like the above video, I'll probably strive to get a bit more of a cleaner look like this:

Expired Regular 8mm Film from lealar on Vimeo.
I'm looking forward to getting some new film into these cameras and to push my filmmaking into a new- and old- direction!

03 May 2015

Getting Set Up

ANOTHER thrift store find- this one I am extremely excited about! It's a Keystone Automatic 98 projector in near mint condition. It's a little dusty but it fired up like a charm. It even has the original take-up reel which stores on the bottom. And the best part? It was only $15.

This projector is for Regular 8mm film. That's fine as I have my trusty old Revere 88 and I'll soon be getting the replacement camera from the non-working Leicina Super I sent back. I'll be getting another Leicina, the 8sv.

It's a Regular 8mm, the only power functions are the motor. Focus and zoom are manual. Hopefully this will cut down on the amount of problems I found with the Super.

The thing that most excites me about this is the Leitz Wetzlar Leicina Vario 7.5-35 mm f/1.8 Wide Angle to Telephoto zoom lens. I'm counting on a sharp picture with this.

So, my only concern now is trying to find stock. There are a few places that sell it— though it feels like at a premium. It's a shame since there are so many Regular 8 cameras out there.

Why Regular 8 all of a sudden? No real particular reason. It will be helpful in learning on how to  change out rolls when I make the jump to 16mm. Plus, no one is really doing any projects with Regular 8mm. The only one I found on any sort of commercial level was this music video shot on a Revere Ranger 80. Other notable regular 8 footage is from lealar on vimeo. As a matter of fact, his footage is what made me seriously consider exploring it more.

On the Super 8 front, I should be getting my Kodak BW Tri-X film any day now. I'll be testing the Minolta with it, and perhaps the Argus, though I'm not too confident in that one. To be honest, I'm not severely confident with the Minolta, either. We'll see what happens.

The adventure continues...

30 April 2015

Making lemonade

I got the Minolta Autopak-8 K11 in the mail today, and I'm a little underwhelmed. The camera is in okay shape; it runs—which is a major plus considering all the lemons I've sampled lately. I think it's been dropped or bumped. The optics seem just a tad off—mostly noticeable in low-light areas, but it appears to be okay in daylight. The automatic zoom is busted (the motor whirrs, but I suspect the lens housing is bent), and it's missing the manual focus lever.

At this point, I need to start shooting film, otherwise my wife will shoot me for wasting money on junk! Thrift stores are always an option—but like I said: needle/haystack.

I've just purchased two cartridges of Kodak Tri-X Black & White Reversal super-8 film from BHphotovideo for $22/roll. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until Wednesday of next week to test some footage, and then it will take a week or so to process it. This is going to take some time, but it will be worth it.

In the meantime, I'm reacquainting myself with film itself. I dug out my trusty old Vivitar 35mm SLR camera. This sucker is old but still trustworthy. It has a k-mount lens with a 50mm f2.0 lens on it. I paid $10 this hefty metal bodied camera at the thrift store 22 years ago and it still works like a charm. Yesterday, I bought a four pack of Fuji 400 24 exposure film from Walmart for $12. It's a tad more than the 200 speed film which runs at $9 for a four-pack, but I really want to test some low light stuff.

In the end, Ithink that's why I'm a little disappointed in the Minolta. It doesn't perform nearly as well as the Leicina Super in terms of optics and low-light. If only the Leicina Super worked!!

Oh well. Tests soon. I'm continuing to write, and I even have a short in mind.

26 April 2015

Kissing Many Frogs

As I continue on my journey with super 8, and trying to acquire a decent camera to do the job, I am kissing more than my fair share of frogs.

Kodak Instamatic M12- identical to mine.
My dad’s old Kodak Instamatic M12 is busted. Has been for years. I keep it more for sentimental reasons, but obviously there’s not much I can do about that.

My trusty old Revere 8 Model 88. 75 years old and still works like a charm.
I dug out my old Revere Model 88 but remembered that it takes Regular 8 film… which is fine, but most stocks have been discontinued. The only one available through BH Photo Video, FOMA, is backordered until May. The price is reasonable, but trying to find a processor that a) handles black/white reversal film and b) won’t cost an arm and a leg makes it a little difficult.

Argus 804- mine is identical except it's missing back battery cap.
I first found an Argus 804 at a local thrift store for $20. When I first got it, the battery compartment was severely corroded, but I managed to clean it out with q-tips and white distilled vinegar and replace the contacts with tin foil... and it ran! I threw in the one test cartridge that I have and it chattered away like music. It’s missing a small battery cap for the exposure—it works but I don’t want to shoot film in it until I can get power to that exposure cell.

But despite early luck with the Argus, trying to find a super 8 camera in Utah thrift stores is the legendary equivalent to a needle in a haytack. Utah culture is known for their bargain and treasure hunting, and that makes for slim pickings. The classifieds are just as bad.

Bolex Reflex P1- identical to the one I looked at.
My first attempt at looking at a private seller was a Bolex Reflex P1. A regular 8 camera- it was beautiful, I ALMOST bought it until I discovered the wind up motor was busted. No sale.

Bolex H-16, identical to the one I looked at but with a different lens.
My second attempt was advertised as a Bolex Reflex H-16. It wasn’t a reflex, and although it worked it wasn’t well taken care of from the amount of dust on and in it. I couldn’t trust it, and besides I really wanted a reflex lens. No sale.

Minolta xl-400 (not the one I found, but identical)
My third attempt was a Minolta xl-400… but the seller has been hard to pin down and I’m not thrilled about the price for a camera that only shoots 18fps-especially with the run of luck I’ve been having. I figured I already have a low end 18fps camera with the Argus, so I decided to write this one off.

Leicina Super, mine- the picture is from the listing.
Then, because of my frustration, I decided to really take a gamble and get a Leicina Super (super 8) off of Etsy. I’ve read so many great things about Leicina- they’re made by Leitz after all! It came, and worked for thirty seconds. I really believe there are some wiring issues in there, and it won’t work correctly. I contacted the seller who will replace it with a Leicina 8sv (a regular 8 camera) which I am fine with- I love regular 8, and it will be better than the old Revere, but it puts a crimp in my future plans and it will probably only be regulated to the occasional hobby use. The lenses are beautiful (Leitz, after all) but again, I lost a little bit of money on this gamble. At least with the 8sv, the lenses are removable.

Bauer C3 with bag (Not mine, but identical)
Back to the classifieds: this time a Bauer C-3. Met the couple downtown at a campground. The lady had some beautiful minty looking cameras including a Kodak Brownie with the three-lens turret and a Montgomery Ward super 8! Those weren’t for sale, but the Bauer looked beautiful and the case looked brand new. They only wanted $20. I felt like it was a great deal. I took it home, put some batteries in it and… nothing. I KNEW I should have tested it. Then I noticed that there was a dent on the side of the lens, and that the optics were just off alignment that I realized this had been dropped and it was no good to them. Yes, it was a gamble that didn’t pay off. I can’t fault the couple, though. She looked like she may have needed some medical attention and they were probably just doing what they had to do. No point in going back after them. I’m chalking it up as another shelf piece/camera prop.

Minolta Autopak-8 K-11. Photo from the listing that I purchased!
Feeling dejected, most intelligently sane people would know to give up at this point. I’m neither; so now I’m attempting another Etsy buy. A Minolta Autopak-8 K-11. It has the variable frame rates, and only takes AA’s. The seller says it’s immaculate, and that the motor does indeed work. Fingers crossed. My run of luck has been bad, but I’m optimistic it will be fine. I am determined to make a go of this.

What have I learned from this? I should have simply saved my money and gotten a refurbished camera from Pro8mm. I took bad advice from forums saying that Pro8mm was too overpriced and you can get a better deal from an online auction. This might be true, but here’s the flip side to that: most sellers don’t know what they have. Sometimes you can find a treasure, more often you’ll find that it really is junk. Also, with something refurbished, it is tested and guaranteed. The down side to that is the initial cost. I think I’ve put in well over $300 into finding some sort of decent camera through thrift store/classifieds/auction finds. That’s $80 shy of their entry level camera… which only does 18fps and that’s what I don’t want. I want my 24fps, damn it! The next ones up from there are $800… but at that point you are getting what you need to get quality pictures. Regardless, I am definitely paying for my education.

All this has involved much research on buying film stock, processing, and telecining/scanning. I’ll talk about my findings in a future post.

It all comes down to this: I want to shoot film.

Yes, it’s a pain in the ass.

Yes, it’s hard to find equipment that works and won’t cost the month’s rent.

Yes, despite the film stock being available, you can’t find brand new, affordable super 8 cameras.

Yes, I’m aware that it could all go extinct in the next couple of years. I’ll always have my digital cameras.

But… I can’t ignore the organic, the artistic, magical feeling I get when I see this come together that no plug-in can truly emulate. Film is gorgeous, and it tugs at my soul.

18 April 2015

Buyer Beware

Revere Model 88 Double 8mm cameraRevere Model 88 Double 8mm camera

I've always loved film... and by film, I mean the actual physical medium of celluloid. I own a couple of Super 8mm cameras (a recently acquired Argus 804 which I've restored, and a Kodak Instamatic m12 that belonged to my dad, and an old Double 8mm Revere Model 88 pictured above). I haven't used them since I was a teenager. When I started creating movies, I had considered shooting film but the cost always seemed prohibitive.

Then I got to thinking- high end cameras quickly become obsolete within two years, and those that are new are trying to emulate film. The video-enthusiast would argue that "film stock is expensive; digital can reuse the same cards over and over". This is true, but the costs are far more hidden with video. How are you going to archive it? Lots of external drives. Drives fail. Multiple copies? Okay, but upkeep to transfer to the newest stable drive means additional costs. Keep it on the cloud? Power outage or worse- hacked servers, or your in a place with little service (I live out west- this is a bigger problem than in the east... though the power-grid is shaky out there- just scenarios that I've come to realize). In the end you may have plenty of backups, but ALL of those cost money... and require power to use. I guess the same goes for film- though you could power a projector running off a car battery if need be- or better yet, a solar panel!

That's not to say film can't be destroyed. It's very flammable. My concern is that the technology and support for a video production company is reliant on commercializing it. PLUS, while newer cameras can "emulate" film to get the holy grail of "the film look", why not just shoot on film? Achieving the film look requires a lot of forethought and work. Film forces you to think in a creative, crafty way; it's intuitive. Video, to me, is so technical and is simply not intuitive.

I like digital video. I cut my teeth on it. It was a great medium to experiment and keep me from going broke. It's also very versatile for commercial applications and capturing memorable situations. But I LOVE film. There's a certain inherent organic feel to the medium that video is desperately trying to emulate. Super 8mm is comparable to 720/1080 High Definition. 16mm is comparable to 3K, Super16 to 4k. 35mm to 8k... the best prosumer cameras are coming out with 4k sensors... and others are just barely getting to 8k.... but you're spending tens of thousands of dollars for those investments.

So yes, film stock is expensive up front. But it's MUCH cheaper in the long run... and it has proven archival capability of over 100 years.

Will I leave digital video? Hell no—I can't afford to. Will I shoot films on film? Hell yes—when I can afford the upfront costs.

How does this play out to the "Buyer Beware" title of this post? Trying to find a decent used film movie camera in the classifieds. I had discovered two Bolex cameras in the local classifieds- a Bolex P1 Double 8mm for $100 and a Bolex H16 Reflex for $300. I decided to give the P1 a go. When I checked it out, despite looking really clean and no noticeable wear, the spring motor was broken- so it couldn't be wound... basically that makes it a decoration piece. So I proceeded to go for the 16mm- with dreams of making a real 16mm film! The camera worked, but it was missing pieces, plus no case, and it was dusty. And it wasn't a Reflex camera. Reflex cameras have the viewer built into the camera with a prism that lets you see through the lens. This one had a separate viewfinder... and I rely on sight to shoot. I decided to pass on it. Needless to say I have been severely disappointed both times. I really wanted them to be in good condition because I want to shoot with something better than I have.

In the end, I felt bad saying "pass" to both sellers. There's disappointment on both ends, but that's what happens. I'm thankful I know a thing or two about this stuff.

Well, it looks like I'm going to buy some double 8mm film stock and shoot with my Revere (pictured above). I should get some sort of practice in before I commit to any larger projects with a larger format. And in the end, I will have fun doing it!

11 April 2015

Humble Pie

Being humbled is never easy.

It’s great to know that I write compelling stories, but it’s better to know I need to work on story structure, character arcs, and, well, putting a sentence together.

It’s the opportunity to look at my previous work with a more critical eye. It’s easy to become complacent in anything you do- whether it be writing, drawing, or keeping up the yard. We tend to look for the easy way out, and to look for things we find familiar. When the familiar draws us, we get stuck into patterns and years pass by without anything of value to show.

I am planning some major changes in my life... some pretty severe ones. As you know, I’m trying to get back into filmmaking, but talking and dreaming isn't enough. There are no excuses to NOT PICK UP THE CAMERA AND BEGIN SOMETHING.

I came across a few ideas online, and the one that really lit the long idle tinder was a site devoted to one-minute short films called Filminute. What can you do in a minute? Well, look at any commercial- they do it in thirty seconds. So, in the interest in not getting caught up in a large production and just the simple act of getting a move on, I’m going to do a series of one-minute shorts with as high production value as I can get out of them.

My near future plans include a couple of mini-shorts (1 to 3 minutes), the Salt Lake City 48 Hour Film Project competition in June, and a longer short film later in the summer. I do have a few feature film script ideas I’d like to explore and perhaps even begin pre-production this fall- it depends on which script pulls me in the most.

Upward and onward!

15 March 2015

Time to get busy

I was consistent there for a little while. Winter was a little hard for me- I came down with a nasty case of the flu and then had a few everyday-life sort of challenges I had to get through that required my time (my daytime job, mostly).

One of the things that had really struck me was finding out about a little film that made it to Sundance called Tangerine that was shot on the iPhone5. I've always been of the mind that it doesn't matter what tools you use to make your art, art is only great because of the artist; Tangerine is a fine example of that. There are many other films with a hardcore DIY cinema verite mentality that really busts through many people's expectations. Like Buzzard. It's funny for me to read comments about differing opinions between production purists and rebels- almost to a religious ferocity.

In the end, I realized that I have no excuses for not creating a film. I have the equipment. I have the know how. I have friends that are actors. I have excellent location opportunities and connections. AND I have scripts.

What's holding me back? Well, nothing, apparently.

Time to get busy.

26 January 2015

Writing Prompt #19: Unexpected Reunion

The GTO started sputtering when Jack was ten miles out from Bakersfield. At five miles, it died. After he pushed it to the side of the road he lit a cigarette and looked around. Up ahead he saw an old Vanagon. Curious, he grabbed his empty gas can and a short rubber hose, and started hiking.

No cars. Figures. Not that he’d want to deal with anyone right now. Probably for the best.

He checked the Vanagon doors. Locked. He pulled out his trusty sparkplug and shattered the driver’s side window- and quickly tried to force the stench of beer and sweat out of his nose. Great, some homeless guy’s shelter, he thought. He looked around, no keys, so he stripped the steering column and hotwired it. The Vanagon refused to turn over. Jack coughed a laugh—the idiot seized the engine. But, the battery worked and it looked like he had a decent amount of gas. He decided he’ll top off the gallon and bring the car back and finish tapping this thing.

Jack hates sucking out gas. He’s good at it, but the fumes take forever to leave your mouth. Not the best time to light up a cigarette either- seeing his buddy Toby lose his face is a lesson you never forget.

He filled up the can and then rifled quickly though the Van for anything else. Nothing worth taking. That was that, he headed back to his ride.

After going back and getting the GTO, he emptied the Van’s tank and took off towards Bakersfield. Not one living soul drove by.

The taste in Jack’s mouth was really bothering him, spitting didn’t help. As he drove up he saw an old truckstop diner. No one will bother him there, and maybe he can wash up, too. He pulled in and quickly strode inside catching a quick glimpse of who was in there- two old truckers, some dirty kid and a strung out stripper on the counter phone, and the cook in the back washing some dishes.

Oh good, some shower stalls that take two dollars to open. No point in trying to outsmart this. He reluctantly paid and took a fast shower. He shaved quickly, leaving a Van Dyke.

Ten minutes later the scene hadn’t changed. He walked to the back booth and a skinny waitress he hadn’t seen before stumbled up with a pot. Her fake eyelashes looked like spiders resting on her cheeks.
“Coffee?” She yawned.
“Yes, ma’am.” Jack replied.
“You from Texas?” She smiled.
“Louisiana. Baton Rouge.”
Just then the greasy young kid looked back at him. He looked straight back- to which the kid turned away.
“Long way from home. Get you anything to eat, sugah?”
“I could go for a burger and fries.”
“Comin’ right up.”

Jack pulled out his beaten copy of Louis L’amour’s Shalako. It passed the time and provides good cover. The waitress came back with his order.
“Here you go, doll.” She looked at the book, “Hey, I’ve seen that movie.”
“Yeah, it’s a good one.”
“Can I get you anything else.”
“Actually,” Jack pulled out a letter, “Can you tell me how to get to Sutton Street?”

The stripper, turned around and eyed him.
“Jack?” She asked.

Jack looked up and his heart jumped out of his chest. “April?”

Before he could get up, April had knocked over the waitress and came after him with a steak knife.

21 January 2015

Writing Prompt #18: Haystack Landing

Carver’s head throbbed as if an entire stampede had run over it. No more drinking. Ever. He then reached for his flask and finished off his Jim Beam.

As he sat up with a juicy belch, he rubbed his jaw and wiped the sleep from his eyes. The sheep called in the distance, and a few hens clucked around his feet. At least he landed in a haystack… but he had no clue where the haystack was. He looked around and spotted his motored bi-glider. P.B.'s not going to be happy, but everything seemed to be in order.

“’Bout time you woke up, Mister.” A young woman’s voice called behind him. Carver turned around to see blonde curls framing the most watery blue eyes he had ever seen. The rest of her weren’t bad, neither—except for the shotgun she pointed at him.

“Look, I’m sorry, Miss…?” No response. “I’m sorry, ma’am. If there’s any damage, I’ll pay for it.”
“Oh, you’ll pay! You’ll pay alright!” The woman screeched as she took aim and cocked the shotgun.

19 January 2015

Writing Prompt #17: Desert Dead

Lt. Montano wasn’t in the mood for games. Thirty-three hours of coffee and a gas station hot dog has barely been his fill. He would have give up his pension for a cot and two years of sleep. That wasn’t going to happen, not today at least. Good thing Oliver was driving out to the scene… maybe he could just rest his eyes for a minute.

“Lieutenant!” Oliver was standing outside the passenger door. Montano’s eyes snapped open and looked over at the rookie. “We’re here, sir.”

“Good.” He gets out and stretches, and puts on his sunglasses. The desert sun was especially bright today, only 7:30am and it would soon be soaring into triple digits. As he walked over, stepping over the scrub and a rattler that surprised him, he approached the crime scene. He ducked under the police tape and walked up to the victim’s half eaten corpse. He’d seen worse out here, but the fact that she was so young made his blood run cold.

The medical examiner pulled out the needle from the cavity by her liver. He jots down some notes on a clipboard, pushed up his glasses and stood up. Jates has been around since Montano’s dad was on the force, a permanent fixure, one of the best.

“Jates.” Montano steps up behind him.
“Lieutenant. She’s been dead about eight hours. I’m surprised the coyotes didn’t finish her off.”
“Probably the campers that spotted her. Any identification?”
Jates shook his head and starts cleaning up his kit.
“No. But she has the same carving on her chest”
Montano looked around and noticed the tire tracks that lead off back to the road.
“Oliver- get some plaster on these tracks… you know the drill.” He turned around to see Jates sitting on his kit, cleaning his glasses.
“This is the sixth one in as many days, Ramon.”

Montano puts his hat back on and headed back to the SUV.

17 January 2015

Writing Prompt #16: Double Double Cross

Ice-cold water woke me, allowing me the pleasure of feeling the axe that pierced my brain. Oh, it’s not an axe? Just where that bastard managed to have me hit the corner of the Goose’s radio when he rolled the plane, you say? That’s right… ouch. A musky blindfold blocked out most of what I could see, but I could feel my chest was strapped to a chair with a thick belt and wrists were bound behind my back. I was surprised that my legs weren’t secured, All in all, it felt like a hasty job.

Another bucket of the Himalaya’s finest ice cold spring hit me full on in the face. This time I shivered and was wide awake. “Where am I?!” I coughed. I started working at my bonds immediately.

A fist grabbed my hair and yanked my head back. It was Meang.
“You've become a thorn in my side, Yankee! I should have slit your throat when I had the chance!”
I coughed and spat. “If there’s mouthwash is in those crates, help yourself to it.”
I could see Meang’s silhouette raise a hand to backhand me when a bark came from behind him. He shuffled backwards to the wall. Still working at the ropes, I managed to loosen them a bit more.

Lithe fingers danced across my shoulders. A long leg came over and stradled my lap and luscious lips plunged down onto mine.

“Meang, I sure hope that wasn’t you.” I snorted.
The blinding overhead lamp light burnt my eyes as the blindfold was ripped from my head. She had locks of long blond hair, the tip of her tongue on her top lip twisted into a wicked smile, sultry eyes beckoning down on me.
“I should have known,” I huffed. “Grace Harlow. You and your cronies dealing arms now?”
She slapped me good across the kisser. Then she plunged another kiss, only to follow it up with another slap hard enough for me to see stars.
Grace squeezed my cheeks with one hand, and came in very close.
With a rhythmic beat, she tapped on my nose. “You. Cause. Me. So. Much. Trouble. Carver. It’s getting to be that a girl can’t have fun with you sniffing around.”
“Listen honey,” Time to turn on the ol’ charm, “I don’t care what you do with those peashooters. Just let me and my buddy go and we’ll gladly get out of your hair.”
“That won’t be necessary,” a gruff voice came out behind me. I turned and looked.
“Reggie!” I couldn’t believe my eyes! Then… I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Aww… Regg, tell me you aren’t in with this rabble.”
“Sorry, Carver.” Reggie hobbled on a crutch and sat down on a crate. “Business is still business.”
"Greed is greed." I countered.
Grace was still on my lap when my bonds fell. I grabbed her and threw her into a strangle hold.
“Untie me!”
“Reggie!” Grace coughed.
“I’ll brake her neck! I mean it!” I screamed.
Reggie and Meang laughed. He gestured for them to leave. Just as Reggie was out the door he turned.
“Go ahead. She’s given us what we need.”
“You!” Grace wheezed a grunt. With a blow of a kiss, Reggie closed the heavy steel door with a lock. With that, the crate Reggie was standing against fell open, and a sleeping Siberian Tiger began to stir.
I let Grace go.
“Untie me! Untie me!”
With a snap to attention, the Siberian looked up and glared at us with hungry eyes.

16 January 2015

Writing Prompt #15: Ceres Gambit

Sweat, spice, and cold damp rock assaulted Tula’a nose when she and her boss, Brock, stepped out of the Ravenclaw’s airlock. A low hum of voices came from below, Tula’a peered down over the walk way onto the merchants who swarmed like ants around ramshackle stands, desperately trying to hawk their wares. 
Brock pointed at them, “It’s mid-wake down in the Bazaar. Everybody’s scramblin’ to sell. More are scramblin’ to lift—so keep a feel on your belt items.”

The buzz and flashing colors of the Bazaar was dizzying.
 “You sure know how to pick them, Brock.” Tula’a gagged as she put her nose into the crook of her elbow.
“The juicy warrants are in maggot-holes like this one. I’m certain they passed this way.” Brock’s confidence waned, “But first thing’s first—let’s get to the dock master and see if Zeb’s ship is still here.”

After a quick discussion with Ceres’ dock master, primed by a handful of rupees, they headed down to the quiet lower docks. They managed to find Zeb’s ship in the dark catacomb structure.
“Funny. The dock master forgot to mention the magnetic impound.” Tula’a noticed. She then rubbed her hand across the side of Zeb’s ship and looked at her palm. “Heh. Mold. This tub’s been sittin’ for a long while.”
“No doubt Zeb was down on his luck, but sitting that long is unusual for him.” Brock rubbed his jaw. Then something twitched out of the corner of his eye and he yanked out his blaster.
“Down!” Brock barked as he dove on Tula’a, pushing them both behind a crate. A blaster bolt sent a chunk of molten metal and sparks right where they were standing. Brock stuck his blaster up and fired blindly, only to hear footsteps running away. Brock jumped out and started trailing.
 “Stay here! This might not be Zeb!”
“Brock! Wait!”
Tula’a watched Brock disappear past the corridor. She then slumped back to the floor with a huff. Just as she pulled out her blaster to check the safety, she noticed a limp hand out from behind a crate.

Brock was in full gallop behind the interloper. He wasn’t going to let this deadbeat get the best of him. As he rounded the corner he tripped into a full stop, nearly knocking down a merchant that was carrying a stack of kitchen pots. He was back on the opposite end of the Bazaar. He strained to look over the sea of bobbing heads, but his quarry vanished.
“Tula’a’s right, this place reeks.” He muttered. He pulled back his sleeve and spoke into his wristcomm. “Tula’a? You there, chica?”
“Yep. Loud and clear. You get him?” Tula’a’s voice crackled through the tiny speaker.
“Lost him in the crowd.”
“I think you better come back here. I found something.”

Brock and Tula’a stood over Zeb’s body.
“Those don’t look like blast wounds.” Tula’a mused.
“They’re not. They’re bites.”
“Yeah,” Brock rubbed his jaw, “We interrupted feeding time.”

15 January 2015

Writing Prompt #14: Soul Toll

Warning: Strong Language
Tens of thousands of fans hopped in unison like the waves of a boiling ocean. The roar of their screams was deafening, the worship these four received would have made many kings and prophets writhe with jealousy.

The lights went low, and a lone spotlight shown down onto a lone figure. His voice was mesmerizing- an outstretched hand landed on the chorus, he knew he had them- his fans, his adoring fans. He could have any one of them, all he had to do was pick them out of the crowd.

His eyes brushed the crowd as he crooned with Izzy’s riff. The tempo fired up and he was whipping them up into a frenzy. Sweat and pheromones frothed at his orgiastic thumping and moaning- again, he looked out at the crowd, squealing girls, screaming guys. They were all in love with him. Except one. She stood there, staring with a dead look in her eyes.

He couldn’t blame her. Maybe he was too much. But her stare was a little unnerving.

He went across the stage but all he could do was see her out of the corner of his eye. He repeated a verse- Izzy and Groanman looked at each other and kept playing Izzy walked over to him to see what’s what.

He kept singing. Damn it. Why is she looking at him this way? It’s pissing him off.

Izzy’s guitar solo.

He walked over to security and told them to get rid of that girl.

“What girl, sir?”

“HER!” he pointed, but she was gone. Well, fucking good.

A wave of nausea overtook him and he barfed right on the security muscle. A few of the stage managers ran over, as well as his agent. He vomited again- this time it’s bloody. He looked down, chunks of something, sharp pain.

The stage hand carried him to his dressing room. He thanked the favor by punching him in the face when he stumbled in.

“Don’t fucking touch me! Leave me alone!”

He scrambled to the toilet and vomited again. It’s worse. His tooth fell out.

He ran some water in the sink. He looked in the mirror. It’s her.

When the news covered his death the next day, the band’s spokesman said that a lethal cocktail of alcohol and prescription medication was accidentally ingested on an empty stomach. When a reporter piped up asking of this had to do with the unseemly rumors of his role in the rape and murder of a young 15 year old girl last year in Omaha, they immediately shut down the press conference. In the back, the expressionless girl starred back at the band.

14 January 2015

Writing Prompt #13: Wrong Road

Jack’s lower back had been bothering him for the last hundred miles, and the car was getting low on gas. Luckily, Rowley’s Junction was just up ahead. He recalled there was an old mom-n-pop gas and market out here; of course it’s been twenty years since he’s taken this road.

And it was still there. Jack eased the old Pontiac GTO up to the pump. He looked around and saw three other cars. Busy day for the Junction Watering Hole.

Jack walked inside and saw a middle aged man at the checkout, a strung out young couple, and Old Man Terry himself at the register. Jack grabbed some jerky, beans, spam, rice, and a fountain drink. He scoped out the joint and spotted saw an old camera in the corner of the store. It looked like the old cctv type, you can’t see any details on those things. The only other “surveillance” device he had was one of those big dome shaped mirrors in the other corner. Jack instinctively brushed his elbow against his left side, checking if his Colt .45 was still under his denim jacket.
The young couple waited until the other guy left. They both glanced in Jack’s direction to see if he was done, which he wasn’t. They made the move to go up. Jack finished and followed.
Jack glanced and saw the handle of a snub .38 tucked in the waistline back of Buzz-cut's camo shorts, just peeking past the dingy wife-beater.
“Anything else for you folks?” Old man Terry asked.
“Pack of unfiltered 100s,” Buzz-cut said. His purple dyed girlfriend kept looking around, avoiding Jack’s eyes but trying to ascertain his profession. Jack mused at her paranoid side-glance.
Ol’ Terry rung it up and Buzz-cut handed him a crumpled twenty. Right then Jack choked back a strong inclination to grimace. Terry’s no slouch, and he—
“Got something else?” Terry pushed the twenty back after looking at it through the light. Jack mentally shook his head. Called it.
“Whadya mean?” Buzz-cut asked.
“The twenty- it’s fake. I need real tender.”
The girl piped up, “It’s real, asswipe.”
“Hey now, you can talk nice and pay me or you can get out of my store.”
“Call the cops then!” She said after she smiled at her beau. He snickered.
“Okay, I will.” Ol’ Terry picked up the phone and immediately the kids started stammering.
“I don’t want the cops to come. Come on Jeanine, let’s blow this joint.”
Jack was with Buzz-cut on that one. He’d pay for their damn stuff just to avoid that, but he realized that would bring unwanted attention to himself. Stay anonymous, stay quiet.
Jeanine began to shake with indecision, and Ol’ Terry gestured to Jack.
“Look, lemme check this gentleman out first, then we’ll figure it out.”

Jack put his items on the counter and ol’ Terry kept his attention on the kids as they paced back and forth, arguing what to do next. Jack glanced down and saw the very corner of a shotgun butt behind the counter.
 “Need gas?” He asked Jack, but kept his eyes on the delinquents.
“No thanks.”
“Alright.” It came to eight dollars.
Jack pulled out a one-dollar bill and handed it to Ol’ Terry, who was intensely watching the kids, rang it out and gave him change for a ten.
Jack piped up, “Sorry, I gave you a twenty.”
Ol’ Terry looked at Jack in surprise and quickly pulled out change for a twenty.
“Sorry about that, sir. You have a good day.”

Jack smiled a nod, and resisted the urge to run out. He fired up the old GTO, and took off. Just as he got to the onramp, he heard gunshots. Indifferent, he casually pulled out onto the highway.

“Guess I’ll get twelve dollars worth of gas in the next town.” He muttered as he looked at his gauge.