Story Telling 101

The best story tellers paint a picture in few words.  They illustrate the situation with vivid colors and active verbs.  They draw you in and capture your imagination.  They engage you with each and every fascinating detail.

The best movies do the same.  Every angle, every shot, every sound strengthens the story and allows the viewer to experience the highs and lows of the characters and follow the progression of the narrative to its final climax and resolution.

Matthew McConaughey as Coach Lengyel works his magic to rebuild a devastated football program.
Matthew McConaughey as Coach Lengyel works his magic to rebuild a devastated football program.

The 2006 film, We Are Marshall is a good example of a movie that takes you along for that ride.  In the final play of the pivotal football game, we sit on the edge of our collective seat to learn if the player will catch the ball and save the day for the team, the coach and the school.  But the film makers didn’t just set a camera in the bleachers and let the play run.  No.  They tell the story of the entire year in that one play.

The scene requires two minutes and 44 seconds, from the lineup over the football to the award of the team ball.  And in that short amount of time, editors place 104 different clips.  They tell the story from every angle.  They give you a close up, a wide shot, from under the ball on the line, from the stands.  The film makers take you back in time.  They return you to the game and they help you celebrate the win, moving you from anticipation, to grief, to celebration.

The best story-tellers can do that.  The best movies can do the same.  We Are Marshall is just such a movie.

A Whale of a Tale

My role: Frank the Pirate.

This has been a big week.  Last Friday I received an email from my friend, John.  He asked me if I would like to try out for a part in one of his movies.

The set-up for filming on Friday night at Frank’s place.

By Sunday, I was recording voice over work.  By Friday, I was setting up for the shoot of our first scene.  Today, I spent 8 hours dressed as a pirate and using all the “ARRRR’s”, “GRRRRR’s” and “Blimey’s” I could muster.  My throat is sore, my face itches from the beard and I am exhausted.  I could just fall asleep while I write this…

BUT, despite the fatigue and laryngitis, it was just a great experience. Above all, I had the privilege of working with Pam and John Gaither as they lead their summer interns in the Keynote video production process.

Frank on the big screen.
John, Frank, Missy & Pam.

Young men and women come from around the country to learn how to write a script, shoot a film and edit the final product.  It is challenging and hard work and I loved every minute of it.  The Gaither’s are a wonderful example of love in action and they provide amazing direction and support all along the way.  They serve as producers and mentors for the entire process.

We shot the final footage this afternoon.  My “co-star” Missy Shopshire, was great to work with and kicked my butt in the fight scene!  She joined the cast even later than my call but filled the role perfectly and was a great sport.

The crew is still hard at work on many aspects of the film.

And now the production team has less than two weeks to come up with a final edited version of the film, appropriately titled “Overboard”.  Look for it on VIMO and Transworld Squirrel Pictures in the coming months!

A Saturday With Family

Yesterday was one of those great days that make you happy to be alive.

I spent the morning with my youngest son, Ben and my 8 year old friend, Javi.  We ate breakfast together, picked up some shorts and a shirt for Ben, bought supplies for the garden and washed the car.  Nothing special but still a great time with young men who mean so much to me.

After returning Javi to his home and dropping Ben off at his friends’, my lovely wife and I made the trip to visit my mom and dad.  We spent the afternoon eating lunch, looking at their garden and playing Wii Frisbee Golf.  It was such a pleasant time.

One of the flowers that was considered but later rejected by the selection committee.

From Albany we drove in to Muncie to buy flowers with my wife’s family.  It’s been five years since the death of my nephew, Alex.  We’ve gathered together every spring to purchase flowers for his grave.  It’s become a family tradition that means something to us all.  We spend an hour evaluating daisies, grasses, petunias and more in an effort to pick the perfect mix.  But, in the words of my wise niece, Andrea, “Alex wouldn’t care what flowers you buy.”

We stopped at a local Mexican restaurant and had a pretty good meal and after celebrating Cinco De Mayo in fashion, we drove back home.  Though tired, we sat together on the couch and watched the movie, “Everything Must Go”.  It isn’t one of those feel-good movies that you often hope to find at the end of a long day but it is a fine example of Will Ferrel’s great acting ability.  We were both satisfied with the experience at the end of the two hours.

Over all, it was a long day with a lot of driving and running but it was good to be with family, laugh with parents and remember those we’ve loved and lost.


Life According to Hoosiers: An Awful Name

"I thought I already had the job."

In Coach Dale’s first encounter with his new co-workers, he gets off on a very wrong foot.  It is probably because his other foot is now in his mouth.  After being grilled by fellow teacher, Myra Fleener (played by Barbara Hershey), he makes a big mistake.  Rather than walking away (as we’ve discussed earlier), he opens his mouth and with his words he sets the stage for a rocky relationship from that point forward.

“If everyone is as nice as you, Country Hospitality is going to get an awful name.”

You’ve done it.  I’ve done it.  We’ve all opened our traps at one time or another and allowed that witty statement to escape our lips only to lead to hurt feelings and damaged relationships.

Today’s Hoosier lesson?  Keep your mouth shut whenever possible.

Life According to Hoosiers: “Gentlemen, its been real nice talkin’ to you. Good Night.”

Coach Norman Dale meets the men of Milan, Indiana for the first time.

Experience proves that many times people will offer their help, their opinion, even their friendship with the underlying agenda of directing your own actions.  Coach Dale, when confronted by the men in the town’s barbershop makes a wise decision.  Instead of outlining his coaching strategy, explaining his methods, accepting their direction or defending his own opinion, Norman Dale raises his hands, thanks the men and leaves the shop.

He sets a good example.  Too often we fight for our beliefs, make our stand, defend our rights.  What we should do, instead, is to politely walk away.

When co-workers gang up, when friends triangulate, when family manipulate, the best thing we can do is to stand up and walk away.

Never sacrifice your beliefs at the insistence of others, whether their methods are overt or covert.  “Thank you and good night.”

Life According to Hoosiers: Playing the Hand You’ve Been Dealt

Coach Norman Dale sizes up his new team.

Let’s see what kind of hand I’ve been dealt here.”

With those words, Coach Norman Dale begins to get to know his players and how best to play the game of basketball.

Every day we wake up, climb out of bed, and begin our day.  Many times we do this without ever evaluating the strengths and weaknesses we bring to the court.  Too often we forget our strengths and overlook our weaknesses.  Too many times we march into the field of play without considering how we should approach the game.

Before you lace up your shoes today, stop and consider what you bring to the court and how you can play to your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.

A Little Christmas Cheer: The Sound of Music

Now on Blu-ray, this 1965 family classic is a heart touching portrayal of the von Trapp family origins.  While it is not “technically” a Christmas movie (like the obvious Christmas movie, “Die Hard”) it is a perfect film for the holidays and I highly recommend it.

After its release, the movie appeared in theaters for five straight years.  It won an impressive five academy awards, breaking the record previously set by Gone with the Wind.

This movie captures my heart every time I watch it.  I love every part of this movie; from the opening scene on the mountain as Maria spins and sings, to the very last scene when the family crosses the Alps to escape Nazi leaders who, as you know, hated music of any kind.