My Film Selected To Tallgrass Film Festival 2014

30 Sep

I am happy to announce my short film, “From Wichita With Love,” has been selected to screen at the 2014 Tallgrass Film Festival.  The screening will be the film’s world premiere and I invite anyone in the Wichita area to come to the Noon screening on October 19th to see what all the hubbub was back in June when we competed in the “Down To The Wire 24 Hour Film Race.”  My fearless team and I tackled a daunting task, competing in a 24 hour film race using film (not video) as our medium.  The film received “Honorable Mention” in the race’s showcase and will screen before a live audience for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks among 5 other films that competed.

From Wichita With Love Poster

20140621_172339After the festival I will speak more about the film, the process, the race, the festival, and the insanity of shooting on film in a 24 hour film race.  Til then, I have to thank Wade Davis and Kate Van Steenhuyse for producing this with me and pushing me to create something different.  A very special thanks to Chris DeVries who starred in the film alongside Wade Davis, two of my most favorite people who brought me to my knees with laughter and delivered amazing performances in what is my favorite film I’ve made to date.  Thank you to Cindy Hand for helping more than she realizes and going outside her comfort zone to create something artistic.  Thank you to Jim Siebert for calling me out on this idea and giving me the encouragement to try.  Thank you to Jonathan Dennill for staying up til the wee hours of the morning with Wade and I as we completed the post production and gave fantastic advice and outside perspective.  Thank you to David Thompson for his patience, his car, and his willingness to take on a non-speaking role last-minute.  Very special thanks to Conan Fugit for volunteering his time in weeks of planning and very late night to conduct a last-minute telecine to digital for submission.  Thanks to Nick Brown and the entire staff at Moler’s Camera for working with me in planning and tech to make sure this was all physically possible.  Thank you to Melissa Gerlach and her dog Mocha, Tamara Winfrey and Myra DeGrandmont for watching my children, and everyone who made the film happen.  Thank you to Tallgrass Film Festival, Creative Rush, my fellow DTTW Film Racers, the Tallgrass selection committee, and anyone who chuckled when they saw this film.  Last, and dearly important, thank you to Luna…our cat.  She hates doing anything but she put up with all of us filming her and keeping her up way past her bedtime.  She’s a sweet old cat and despite the fact that she pee’d in my file cabinet in 2004 I must remember that at 17 years of cat-age, I’m lucky for every day my wife Kate and I get to spend with her and she will be forever immortalized in this dorky 3 1/2 minute film with her spot-on performance as “Steve.”

20140621_210737In all honesty, this film stirred my tanks and reminded me what I like to make as a filmmaker and artist.  It reminded me why I do what I do.  It reminded me that just because video is easier it doesn’t mean its the best option.  It also introduced me to new friends and turned good friends into best friends.  What more can you ask for in life than to make something fun with people you love?  So come join us on Sunday October 19th for the world premiere of “From Wichita With Love.”  Hopefully, it will make you laugh.  We had a lot of fun making it.  Tickets $10.

"From Wichita With Love" being rinsed after being developed by hand.

“From Wichita With Love” being rinsed after being developed by hand.

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1956 Sunset Coral Thunderbird

24 Sep

20140918_143811For the past few days I have had the good fortune of driving a convertible 1956 Ford Thunderbird complete with whitewall tires, continental kit, rear wheel well skirts, over-sized steering wheel, and those iconic tail fins.  If that weren’t enough to draw your attention…throw in the fact that it is the rare color of Sunset Coral Pink.  Amazing…one of those insanely rare colors to come out of the 50’s on cars like the two-toned Fairlane, Galaxie, and Mercury.  Having the entire T-Bird wrapped in the color…its a show-stopper to say the least.  So much so that it has been almost dangerous to drive around Wichita thanks to all the gawkers.  In the past few days I have…

  • Had a car list completely into my lane while staring at me
  • Had a truck almost rear-end the car in front watching me in the rear-view
  • Had a truck jump the curb while staring so hard they forgot to turn
  • Had a van stop mid intersection blocking traffic to stare
  • Had a mom let go of her stroller which bonked into a wall (took picture)
  • Had a car intentionally box me in to slow me down to get a better look
  • Had a creepy car follow me for 10 minutes trying to find out where we lived
  • Had a guy flip me off and yell at me for not taking him for a ride

Aside from these experiences I have had a car directly on my front or rear bumper swerving to take a picture everywhere I go.  So…I have been the guy speeding past and switching lanes to get away and try and have some space.  I know…boo hoo poor me, I have to drive an awesome antique car.  Trust me, its fun getting waved to by everyone and talking to people wherever I park.  That’s the fun stuff.  However, having people almost run me off the road or smash into each other while gawking or taking a picture?  Not cool.  The jumping the curb one was my favorite because the guy was so full-on jaw-dropped as he turned left at the intersection of Douglas and Washington that when he jumped the curb I saw his jaw bob up and down.  Full slack-jaw.  Luckily no one was walking on the curb or they would have gotten a Dodge Ram surprise.  The car behind him wasn’t a fan and gave him the horn and finger.  That’s the other thing I’ve seen/heard alot the past few days.  Horns and fingers by people getting cut off by the gawkers.  I get honks and waves…the gawkers…not so much.

20140923_092535My boys are in love with it so I of course installed a car seat for slow cruising.  Dodge (1) loves all the old fashioned knobs and buttons while Max (3) just thinks its cool that it has no roof and is pink.  I like both.  Max has begged me to go fast but I refuse to with as much insanity as I’ve experienced on the roads of Wichita the past week.  So we just cruise the side streets together pointing out cool things to see and waving to all the joggers and bikers who are moving at a similar pace.  Max is beside himself with sadness that the “Pink T-Bird” is getting shipped back home to New York and has announced that his favorite color is now pink…and gold…and also red…but mostly gold…and oh yeah, pink.  Dodge just likes spending time with his Dada and I’ll take it any way I can get it.  “T-Bird” is his newest word.

20140923_092525The best driving has been at night when the air is cool, the sun is down, and there are less cars on the road.  Cruising.  Driving just to drive.  I’ll go under a street light and suddenly people see its Sunset Coral Pink and it gets their attention.  I drop the accelerator and clear some space…reminding them that I’m not selling Mary Kay products and it is in fact a sports car.  It takes me back to when my wife Kate and I were first dating and we’d cruise Route 9N along Lake George, NY and park somewhere to stare at the stars.  It is impossible to drive this car without your right arm around the passenger seat side of the bench or your left resting on the door.  Its a car made for snuggling and I am going to miss my sunset cruises with the boys…driving around College Hill Park, the Eastborough Duck Pond, and of course the Douglas drag.  I’ve never heard Max talk so much and it has been awesome bonding time.  Dodge is learning new words every day and he sits with me in the car and asks so many questions…its awesome.  I can’t wait to take them for rides this summer when we’re back in New York, I also can’t wait to ride with Kate and no boys.

Like I said, boo hoo poor me.  I’m jaded, I grew up around antique cars.  They were always in the family or being worked on.  One of the cars I learned to drive on was my grandfather’s 1949 Willy’s Army Jeep.  I’ll never forget my dad drawing a chalk line on the pavement at the town beach parking lot and making me put the car in first and drive up the hill without rolling backwards over the line.  Everyone should learn to drive stick.  One time my wife and I drove to town in the convertible 1951 Willy’s Jeepster…3 on the column and fire engine red.  Awesome car.  We parked out front and went inside.  When we came out a college kid was sitting inside goofing off while his buddies took pictures of him.  When I confronted him he got pissed off that I was on his case about it.  Apparently, he felt that since it was a convertible it was okay to get inside.  It would only be breaking and entering if it had a roof.  Seriously?

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So, if you see a cool old car driving down the street give a honk and a wave (just a wave is fine) and move on.  Don’t go smashing into things with your jaw on the floor and your eyes out the sockets.  If you want a closer look keep in mind there may be small children inside and the driver may be trying to enjoy a little cruise so appreciate the car from a safe distance.  If you have questions you want to ask the driver, wait til you are both stopped at an intersection instead of trying to flag us down while we are driving.  Otherwise, buy a ticket to a car show and ask as many questions as you like there.  Want a ride?  No.  Who says, “Sure! Jump on in stranger!”  Want to take a picture with it?  Okay, but please don’t lean on it, touch it, or get inside it.  Last, please don’t follow us around creepily as we drive around with our children…we have phones and wrote down your license plate.

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Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips: PART 3

22 Sep

Okay, so maybe this site has been slightly derailed by my love and pursuit of Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips…but this story is deserving of a 3rd chapter. As my constant readers know I have a love for Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips but (alas) I have not been able to find them in Wichita since moving here almost 5 years ago. I did what I always do and took up my pen. I wrote to my grocer, my convenience store, Walmart, Target, various retailers, and of course…Frito Lay. While I was so happy to have my local grocer, Dillon’s, reply to me (read here)…there was no greater feeling than receiving the enclosed letter from Leryn Stephenson of Frito Lay which fantastically says, “I understand.” It is rare to get a brand to respond so rapidly let alone so appropriately. My letter to Lay’s was intentionally over-the-top comedic in hopes of getting someone’s attention. It appears to have worked and the response is my favorite letter I have ever received from a brand along with two delicious bags of Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips.

Frito Lay BoxWhen I came home from work last week to find a large box waiting for me care of Frito Lay, I knew exactly what it was: Chips! What I wasn’t expecting was the letter so clearly not a form response but an actual person taking the time to read my letter, respond honestly and acurately to it, quote from it, and shoot my own comedy right back at me. Leryn…you got it. This is what customer service is all about! It isn’t about online live chat sessions, customer complaint telephone lines, or Twitter help accounts…its about human connection; the ability to make a personal connection to a brand.

Here is Leryn Stephenson’s response letter to mine (Note: Personal information has been removed):

Leryn Stephenson Letter

Wow…just…wow.  I had hoped to get a response but to get one as hilariously awesome as this…wow.  As much as I loved Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips before…I love them even more now because of this.  This not only reinvigorates my love of these chips but also makes me fall in love with the brand and want to support them more because of the people they have working for them.  This is Customer Service, Branding, and Marketing 101.  If only more companies had people like Leryn working for them.  If only more companies encouraged their people to send responses like this.  Wow…just…wow.

With that said I am adding this post to the product review section of the site and giving Lay’s & PepsiCo two thumbs up, five stars, and my humble thanks.  When I write to all of you, my constant readers and those joining the discussion now, it is always my hope to simply be heard and hopefully bring a moment of laughter or insight to your day.  It was wonderful to be heard by Lay’s and thank you for the gracious gift of 2 bags to get me through til I find a long-term solution.  Tonight I’ll be snacking ferociously from the light blue bag with my boys, who have tasted this nectar of the Gods and now share in my love of tangy alkali fried potatoes, and we’ll be thinking of you Leryn Stephenson…and the simple gesture you made that brought some laughter and happiness to my family.  I hope my letter and this story brought laughter to your day as well.

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Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips: PART 2

8 Sep

dillons_logoOkay…so I know this post is ridiculous but it is near and dear to my heart so here we go!  As my constant readers know, I have been on a quest to find out why there are no Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips in Wichita, KS which you can read about HERE.  I contacted my local grocer, Walmart, local convenience stores, and of course…Lay’s.  So far I have received a generic response from QuikTrip and a personalized response from Dillon’s.  I wanted to share the response from Dillon’s because it is a lesson in A+ PR any business should practice.  Customer’s want a response when they contact a brand – this was one of the finer responses I have received:

Dear Ryan:

Thank you for contacting Dillon’s Customer Connect regarding Lay’s Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips. I appreciate the request to stock this item in your local store. There are many factors that determine which products are available to and sold in our stores– shelf space, product demand, supplier availability, and vendor contracts are a few. Special order forms are always available at the customer service desk as a courtesy to accommodate specific item requests.

I have shared your request with the store manager at our Central store as our office does not have access to inventory or ordering information. (I chose this store because it was the location you indicated in your email, if you would like to request this product at a different store, please let me know!) Your store manager has the ability to check inventory at other stores and can advise if the product can be stocked and/or special ordered.

Your second option would be to contact our Special Request Team who can see if they can order this item for a one time pickup at your store. This, however, cannot guarantee the product will be stocked in our stores as there are many factors that affect the availability. If you would like to make a special request please contact 1-855-345-5696.

I hope that you find this information helpful. My name is Sara and if I can be of further assistance, please simply respond to this email or call.

Thank you for shopping with us.

Sincerely,

Sara
Kroger Customer Connect 
The Kroger Family of Stores 

Having spent a week with Cox Communication’s “Help” department trying to get my phone to work and having the Royals game drop out twice during two different games…it was lovely to get some real customer service!  Seriously, don’t get COX cable…they are terrible.  I got very excited and was ready to call the Special Request Team when a co-worker posted on my Facebook timeline:

LaysSVChips

Walmart!  On the west side!  Of course the west side!  Now I have to see if I can get the east side location to carry them…though I have a thing about Walmart and try to do everything possible to avoid it thanks to years of spending hours there for business…though if they stocked them at the Walmart Neighborhood Market I would be fine with going there.

My co-worker brought them to work today and as I type to you…oh constant reader…my fingers are encrusted with sticky vinegar and salt as my roof burns ever so slightly from the greatest chip on the planet:  Lay’s Salt & Vinegar!  As well as I type, I realize that all this time I could have bought the chips from Amazon.  Either way…I feel like life is all that and a bag of chips today!

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Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips

3 Sep

8214271_origWhen I first moved back to Wichita, KS five years ago I was convinced my wife was messing with me when she told me she couldn’t find Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips at the grocery store.  It was impossible.  Dillon’s, the Death Star of grocery stores, had everything in their “Super Stores.”  Heck, if I can buy patio furniture and toothpicks…I should be able to get Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips too.  The next trip to the store my wife Kate and I went together and divided the list to save time.  “I’ll find the chips!”  I exclaimed, which was only appropriate seeing as I am the certified snacker in the family.  I huffed it over to the chip aisle and was shocked to find there were no Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips!  I snagged an employee and they pointed out the next aisle over.  An entire half an aisle dedicated solely to Lay’s Potato Chips!  Jackpot!  Kate had clearly done what I had done and only gone to the chip aisle and not looked for…hey…wait…there are no Salt & Vinegar Chips here!  I flagged down the employee and asked what the deal was.  “Maybe they were discontinued?”  He explained.  Then he offered me Cape Cop Chips or Pringles instead.

I think I cried.

Five long years later and I can tell you that Dillon’s does not carry Lay’s Salt & Vinegar, nor does Walmart, or Target, or QuickTrip, or any other place I’ve looked…and I’ve looked.  Co-workers claim to have seen them and bought them in stores but I am sure they got them in Kansas City, other towns, or the individual bags instead of the full-size.  If so, there is a salt & vinegar conspiracy going on and I want to know who’s behind it!!!  Labor Day Weekend was the final straw for me…my taste buds yearned for them so I tweeted a few retailers who replied with directions on how to contact their complaints departments.  I kindly obliged and urged Dillon’s (among others) to carry this fruit of the gods.  However, I felt the most energy should be focused on the source, so I wrote this letter to Frito-Lay:


 

To Whom It May Concern at FRITO-LAY NORTH AMERICA, INC.,

When I first moved back home to Wichita, Kansas five years ago I was convinced that your company had discontinued LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips due to the fact that I was unable to find them in any grocer or retailer throughout the Wichita area:  A sad proposition.  Upon traveling to Kansas City I was delighted to find the beloved chips on the shelves of a grocery store there and ceremoniously purchased what can only be referred to as “a boat-load” for my return to Kansas’s largest city.  Armed with the knowledge that my favorite chips in the world had not been discontinued, I set forth on an epic chip-quest to find them in Wichita.  Alas, my quest failed and instead of feasting on the tangy nectar of vinegar and salt clad potato chips…I was forced to swallow the fact that there were no LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips in Wichita, Kansas.

I have written letters to Dillon’s, QuikTrip, Walmart, Target, and other area retailers of chips.  In five years, I have yet to get LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips into Wichita.  I have been presented with other salt & vinegar options, but none of them suit my taste.  Must I be shunned to ingest detestable and harrowing options such as Cape Cod Potato Chips or the admissible Pringles when all I yearn for is to gormandize the contents of that light blue bag which haunts my dreams?

Snacking has become…spiritless.

You see, LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips has the perfect ratio of vinegar to salt.  Other charlatans veil their so-called chips in salt to besiege one’s tongue to eat more out of necessity, while LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips create a sense of longing to masticate more from the transcendence of flavor.  In layman’s terms:  Your chips burn the roof of my mouth from the vinegar and that’s the flavor I’m looking for because I associate it with a happy childhood.

As I’m sure you know Wichita was home to Pizza Hut under the PepsiCo brand from 1977-1997.  Being born in Wichita in 1979, LAY’S® was a part of my upbringing ‘til I left for college to pursue my dreams.  Now, a man of restaurateur ilk and persuasion, I have returned to Wichita with my culinary insight and sophisticated salt & vinegar chip palette.  These mountebanks being peddled to Wichita’s citizens is a wrongdoing of epic chip proportions and must be rectified forthwith before LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips become a forgotten memory in our nation’s heartland.

Please, I beseech you to bring LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips back to Wichita before their awesomeness is forgotten.  The last five years have taught me that once you pop…you can stop.  However, we can’t stop popping without your support.  Help me in the fight against poorly salted spuds and return peace to the taste buds of hundreds of thousands…or at least just me.

Your brother in alkali marinated fried potatoes,

Ryan W. Gates


 

Now…we wait.  If you want to join in my crusade of kindness to return Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips to Wichita, please let me know.  If you find them in Wichita, please let me know where.  If you are visiting Wichita, please bring some with you and share with me.

Potato Chips

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