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From Wichita With Love

5 Feb

Today I released online my 2014 short film, “From Wichita With Love.”  The film was 1 of 31 submissions to the 2014 CreativeRush Down To The Wire 24 Hour Film Race. It received “Honorable Mention” at the Top 10 Showcase and was 1 of 6 films selected to the Tallgrass Film Festival where it was the audience favorite in its showcase.  The piece was shot entirely on black and white 8mm film, processed & developed by hand, then edited for post in under 21 hours.

The 24 hour film race started at 6:30 AM on Saturday June, 21st when teams were given 3 required elements for their films:

  • CHARACTER: Short-haired Cat Rancher
  • ACTION: Walk Like An Egyptian
  • LOCATION: 1 of 3 Wichita, KS Downtown Bridges

As well, each team was given 2 required elements for their film specifically. Ours were:

  • GENRE: Spy Film
  • PROP: 1970 Red Chevelle

The Chevelle was provided to us by title sponsor Blacktop Nationals. The film had to incorporate all of these five elements, be under 6 minutes, and was due 24 hours later at 7 AM the following morning.

I chose to take a major risk by shooting black and white film, not video. My process involved meeting with my team to discuss our genre and requirements and how that would work schedule-wise with shooting/processing film. I then wrote the monologue VO for the piece and edited the copy with my team. Next I translated the monologue into a screenplay and storyboard, we did a read-through, and went to our first location: The 1st Street Bridge.

I shot on an antique Sankyo ES-44XL Super 8 camera using Tri-X Reversal Black and White film. We shot 100 feet of film at 18 fps and wrapped principal shooting around 4 PM. Next I used a light-tight room to transfer the film by hand into a double 35mm still photography canister (minus the spools) and developed the rolls one at a time using a D-76 1:1 solution at 68 degrees. Instead of bleaching and reversing the film, I fixed (also 1:1) and stopped it (distilled water) to develop to negative. This decision was made to cut down on developing time due to the race, reduce possibilities for errors in the development process, and reduce the amount of stress placed on the actual film itself since it was being handled by hand and developed in a small canister. Following developing and rinsing we strung the film out to dry from the floorboards of the basement where I used a squeegie to remove excess water and a common blow dryer to dry the sprockets. The film was spooled and then transferred to HDV via telecine using a variable speed ELMO Super 8 projector and a Cannon Vixia HV30 capturing at 24 fps. The footage was then edited (still as a negative) to an assembly cut and then a working cut before being digitally processed to a positive when exporting to H.264 per the festival submission requirements. This means, we didn’t know what the final film looked like till it had been submitted!

The results are beautiful (in my opinion) consisting of powder blue emulsion errors, scratches, and grain that can’t be achieved through video filters. There are no digital filters, the film was left untouched to let it and all its imperfections stand alone. Post production wrapped at 3:55 AM; from Director’s meeting to digitized submission on flash drive in under 21 hours.

CREW
Ryan W. Gates (Director/DP/Executive Producer/Writer/Film Developer/Editor)
Wade Davis (Producer)
Kate Van Steenhuyse (Producer/Film Developer)
Jim Siebert (Lighting/Film Developer)
Conan Fugit (Film Technical Adviser/Telecine Operator)
Jonathan Dennill (Post Production Intern)

CAST
Luna (Steve)
Chris DeVries (The Rancher)
Ryan W. Gates (Voice of The Rancher)
Cindy Hand (Kathy)
Wade Davis (Standard Government Issue Cat)
David Thompson (El Gato Gordo)
Melissa Gerlach (New Girlfriend)

Special Thanks to Nick Brown, Moler’s Camera, Tamara Winfrey, Myra DeGrandmont, Tallgrass Film Festival, CreativeRUSH, Blacktop Nationals, CreativeRHINO, and The City of Wichita.

Turning 4 Years Old

26 Jan

birthday4Since about late August Max has asked almost every day when he will turn 4 years old.  “Is it today Dada?”  He asks in that sweet voice of his.  I reply, “No Max, today is Halloween.”  He nods in agreement, “Right Dada because my birthday is January 26 and today is Halloween which is…”  He leaves the sentence open-ended for me to finish, “October 31.”  “Right Dada…so January 26 is…?”  “3 months away.”  Max nods in agreement and starts counting on his fingers as if he’s calculating how much fuel Apollo 13 needed for a safe return trip to Earth…or as he calls it, “Urf.”

Thanksgiving came around and we again had to explain that his birthday was still 2 months away.  It was about this time that Max stopped referring to himself as a three-year old and starting calling himself “Almost 4.”  It reminded me of when my wife Kate and I moved to Wichita and would then travel.  People would ask where we were from and we’d reply, “Wichita, Kansas…but we just moved there from New York.”  It was our little qualifier (like Max’s) that the answer was more complicated than a single word.

Three?  No…oh no.  “Almost 4.”  “Almost Wichita.”

Max's Christmas Croup

Max spent Christmas in the E.R. with a bad case of croup that gave us all a scare.  Turned out a little steroids and some lollipops were all he needed to ask if his birthday was coming soon.  “Well Max,” I replied, “Today is Christmas and you have plenty of toys…I wouldn’t worry about presents for a while.”  Putting on his serious face he answered, “Well, Dada…today is December 25 and my birthday is January 26 so is next month January?”  It was a good question.  “Yes, next month is January.”  Max smiled.  “Almost 4.”

IMG_5124Since New Years it has been a daily part of our family routine to take Max to the calendar and show him how many days and/or weeks are left till his birthday.  He has asked his grandparents, his teachers, and even the servers when we dine out.  Turning 4 has consumed him.  Finally Kate and I asked, “Max what do you want to do for your birthday?”  There was no pregnant pause.  There was no air between our question and his answer.  Max had planned his fourth birthday down to the minute…and it was an exact repeat of his third birthday.  “I want to go to the airplane museum, play inside the airplane cockpits, eat cake and open presents in the big room, then we’ll go see the big airplanes inside, then we’ll go up to the control tower, and then we’ll go outside and race on the tarmac and the first one to touch the nose of the big airplane wins.”  This was very clear direction.  Kate replied, “Well, Max…that’s exactly what you did last year. Don’t you want to do something different?”  He did not.  Kate looked to me and shrugged.  I shrugged back.  Airplane museum ahoy!  Max was about to run off he turned and told us the 2 things he wanted different this year: (1) He wanted his friend Kellen to be there and (2) he wanted a “Dusty Crophopper Birthday Cake with pontoons (not wheels) when he’s painted red for Planes Fire and Rescue the movie.”  Kate and I nodded in amazement when Max added, “Strawberry…I want it to be strawberry inside.”  This was a three-year old kid (“Almost 4″) who knew what he wanted.

Birthday4_02We made the reservation at the Kansas Aviation Museum, Kate made the cake, I picked up snacks, and on Saturday Max orchestrated the repeat of last year’s birthday with a slight change of cake and a new friend.  His friend Edie showed up and I said, “Wow! Edie, you’ve gotten so tall! How old are you?”  Very matter-of-factly she replied, “Five and a half.”  That half was very important.  (“Almost 4″)  The kids had cake, played in the flight simulators, opened presents, and then Max said, “This is the part where we go to the control tower.”  So we went to the control tower.  The kids laughed and played while looking down at the planes on the tarmac as the adults marveled at the 360 degree views.  Then Max said, “This is the part where we go race on the tarmac!”  So we went down 4 flights of stairs to the tarmac where the kids ran back and forth racing while the adults mingled around a 747 with an open fuselage.  Then Max said, “This is when we go back inside to play!”  So we went back inside to play while one by one the guests said their goodbyes and went home till it was just family.  Then I said, “This is when we go home and take a nap!”  Turns out he forgot that part from last year.

Birthday4_04

 

Birthday4_01

Birthday4_03

Over the weekend Max played with his friends, was showered with affection from his grandparents, played with his little brother Dodge, and was adorned with love from Kate and I.  It was a fantastic birthday weekend…but today (Monday the 26th) is the actual day.  Max is enjoying snacks with his classmates right now that Kate made as they all sing him “Happy Birthday.”  Not too shabby.  For his birthday I got him two books, “The Gruffalo” and “The Gruffalo’s Child.”  They are his two favorite short films so I thought it would be fun to remind him that they were books first.

In hopes that someday this is all still out there online or in print…here is a birthday note to you Max:

Everyday you impress me and frustrate me.  The things that frustrate me are petty and my own issues to work through as a father.  The things that impress me are vast, seemingly more vast than what the normal four-year old comprehends.  You are sweet.  You are thoughtful and caring.  You think of others.  You are imaginative.  You are expressive.  You are so well spoken that I feel guilty when correcting you when you misuse past tenses in sentences, but I know you soak up this knowledge like a sponge.  You look like me…you look so much like me sometimes is scares me.  You wear your emotions on your sleeve (like me) which can sometimes lead to tantrums but more often than not is the birthplace of some of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard another human being say.  You are full of love.  You have so many questions and I love answering them…or trying to answer them.  You are growing into such an amazing little boy and as I celebrate your progress I can’t help but miss the past.  You were my little snuggly nugget…my “snugget.”  I remember the first time I held you, the first time you smiled, your first sounds, the first time you called me “Dada,” when you learned to do things on your own, and how much you have grown in just 4 years.  4 years!  Its happening so fast!  Yesterday you were crawling and today you gave me a high-five on your way out the door and said, “See you later dude!”  Thank you for being my son and teaching me how to be a dad.  Because of you I have found new perspective on life and discovered my place in the world.  Because of you I am able to be a father to your little brother Dodge and not repeat “mistakes” I may have made on you.  Because of you I feel a sense of accomplishment no matter what happens with my day, because if I get to be your and Dodge’s dad I know I’m doing something right.  Yesterday I tucked you both in to bed.  Per the current routine there was much snuggling, hugs, kisses, and your favorite: “Back scratchies!”  As I closed the door to your room (after ensuring there were no monsters under the bed) I spoke out load to myself and said, “I know I’m not perfect…but I think I’m pretty good at being a dad.”  That is thanks to you and Dodge making me feel loved, and me making sure you know how loved you are as well.  You’re my angel Max.  You’re my buddy.  You told me that even though I’m your Dada we could still be best friends…forever.  I agree.  I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine.  Happy Birthday sweetheart.  Only 365 days till you turn 5!  :)  Let’s slow down and enjoy 4, it only happens once.  I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

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My Sister and the Special Ketchup

8 Jan

1980 Gates WichitaAt about age 5, I went with my mother and sister to run some errands at a store in Wichita called Gessler’s.  I loved going to Gessler’s.  They had a massive candy section, toys, and all kinds of gadgets to explore.  Most important (this was a different time period) was that we had a house account, meaning I could load up on candy and toss it on the account.  Well…the lady at the counter would always shoot me a look and say, “Ryan Gates…would your mother approve of all this candy?!”  Then she’d work out what she thought my mother would approve of and send me on my way.  On this particular day my sister and mother were going as well so there was an outside chance that if I threw a temper tantrum in the front aisle I might be able to get a new toy to shut me up.  The game was afoot!

348sAlas, my mom had a plan.  She pulled up next door at Nu Way, a restaurant known for their crumbly old-fashioned burgers and root beer floats.  She dropped me and my sister Lindsey off and told us she would be back in half hour to pick us up.  She gave Lindsey (who was about 10) money, and put her in charge.  “Rooooooot beeeeeeer floooooat!”  I sounded off like a hungry fog horn.  Lindsey looked to Mom, Mom nodded, and off we went.  “Make sure he eats some real food too!”  My mother exclaimed as she walked into Gessler’s next door.

2011-09-22 18.59.26I sat at the counter and immediately began spinning on the stool as the waitress in a 50’s skirt walked up to us and asked how we were doing and called me “Shoog” or “Hon” or something of that nature.  I sounded, “I’ll have a rooooot beeeeeer flooooat!”  My feet dangled above the black and white checkerboard floor with anticipation and excitement!  “Anything for you Hon?”  The waitress asked my sister.  Lindsey ordered up a float of her own and two burgers…one for her and one for me.  I gave Lindsey the stink-eye.  “I don’t want a burger!”  I insisted.  Lindsey shot back at me in her best angsty pre-teen voice, “Mom said you have to eat real food so you have to eat a burger.”  I shot her a look.  She dead-panned me and chewed her gum.  I replied, “Fine!  Order it!  But I’m not going to eat it!”  Lindsey continued chewing her gum and very nonchalantly replied, “Fine…but then you won’t get to try the special ketchup.”

Special ketchup?  Wait…no one said anything about special ketchup!  I mean, I LOOOVE regular ketchup so special ketchup must be…well…special!  I must try this special ketchup!

“There’s no such thing as special ketchup!”  I exclaimed.  Lindsey looked surprised.  “Wait, are you telling me Mom has never let you have the special ketchup?”  All of a sudden my world was busted open…not only was there some kind of special ketchup in the world but my mother was keeping it from me!  “No I’ve never had the special ketchup!  Do they have it here?”  Lindsey smiled and leaned in closer, “Of course they do…every restaurant has special ketchup, you’re just too young to eat it.”  This angered me, “No I’m not!  I’m five!”  The waitress brought over our root beer floats, “Here you go kids, those burgers will be right up.”  Suddenly I didn’t care about the frothy amazingness in a frozen glass sitting before me with a mound of ice cream balancing on top.  “Where is the special ketchup?”  I asked Lindsey.  She pondered a minute as if to ask herself if I was ready to be brought into a secret society, then she reached into the condiment caddy and extracted the special ketchup.  It didn’t look so special.  I had seen it before in other restaurants and been told I wouldn’t like it…but no one had ever told me it was special ketchup.  It was red, like ketchup.  It came in a bottle like ketchup…but this bottle was much smaller than the ketchup bottle.  Much smaller.  Much, much smaller.  My eyes grew wide!

1-4“Why is it so small?”  I asked.  Lindsey replied without thinking, “Because it’s so good.”  She handed me the tiny glass bottle and I tried to sound out the words on the label.  “T.”  There was definitely a “T.”  “Tab…tab…tabsco…tabsco?”  My sister took the bottle from me, “Tabasco…and you are probably still too young to try it.”  The fish-hook was now embedded in my cheek.  “Let me try it!  Just a little!  Quick…before Mom gets back!”  At that moment in time two burgers were placed in front of us by our waitress…it was special ketchup time!  As soon as the waitress left Lindsey popped the top bun of my burger off and started pouring the special tabsco ketchup all over it.  She grinned to me, “If you are going to have special ketchup, you might as well have a bunch!”  This was sound logic and we mutually decided to empty a second bottle onto my burger.

After the fourth bottle I could no longer contain my excitement and needed to eat that burger!  “Here,” said Lindsey.  “Let me hold it for you.”  She held the burger up to my face.  Special tabsco ketchup oozed over every inch of the bun as she smiled and urged me to eat.  I went in for a taste and the burger was taken back.  “No.”  Lindsey said.  “You don’t taste special ketchup…you take as big a bite as you can!”  How could you argue with that?  I opened my mouth as far as it would go, possibly even unhinging my jaw, to make room for the pile of ground beef and special tabsco ketchup.  As I took the largest bite I could, I saw my sister’s smile turned slightly evil.

When my mother came to retrieve us I was in tears while clutching a large plastic cup of ice water which I would periodically sip through a straw.  The waitress was consoling me while Lindsey stared off into space with a look of glee as she devoured her burger.  The waitress informed my mother of what had happened while Lindsey strolled outside and climbed into the front seat of my mother’s car.  A few minutes later my mother and I came out with a new burger and a root beer float to go.  I opened the passenger door where Linz was sitting.  She motioned with her right thumb over her shoulder that the back seat was where I was going.  I climbed in and whimpered.  We drove home in silence.

Back home I ate my burger and drank my float as the fire in my mouth subsided.  Lindsey was sent to her room at the front of the hall.  I’m not sure the conversation that transpired between them but I think Lindsey won.  Soon after, I got my hands on one of her Barbie dolls and pulled the head off.  Lindsey gave me a wicked Indian burn, I decked her, and we were both sent to our rooms.  I pounded my fists on the floor in anger till I heard my sister’s voice…soft and distant.  “Rye?  Ry-boo?  You okay?”  Her voice was coming from the air vent in the floor, our main channel of communication when grounded.  “Yeah.”  I whimpered back.  “Check your door knob.”  Lindsey whispered.  I went to my door where a piece of string was looped around the knob and then went back down the hall to Lindsey’s door, on the bottom loop of the string sat a Crayola Crayon box, and there was Lindsey cranking the string like a cable car – sending the crayon box to my room.  This was our second form of communication when grounded.  The box arrived at my door knob.  I opened the lid and found a folded up piece of paper inside.  I unfolded the paper to reveal my sister’s epic apology:

“Sorry.”

I looked down the hall at my sister.  Lindsey smiled and shrugged.  I smiled back at her…and that was that.

Years later Lindsey shoved a kid to the ground that was bullying me.  In middle school she’d come over from the high school to have lunch with me.  When I got into a fight with a few kids after school she pinned the leader against his locker and asked if he wanted a fist sandwich.  She gave me my first beer.  She taught me how to sing.  She taught me how to be myself.  She taught me how to not get caught smoking.  She gave me my first CD in a world of tape decks…Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Violent Femmes.  She gave me her car.  She held my hand when she went in for surgery from Crohn’s Disease.  She was my first call when I got expelled from high school senior year.  She helped me get my first job in New York.  She gave me a place to crash anytime I needed it.  She made me the “Man of Honor” in her wedding.  She let me help take care of her baby, Jake, when he was a newborn and she needed someone to watch him while she went to work.  She called me when turmoil hit her life and I drove 8 hours through the night to be with her for a few hours before needing to drive 8 hours back to be at work.  She let me teach Jake (now 10) how to swim to the bottom of the lake and touch the rocks at 12 feet deep.

2014-04-21 13.54.42She is the best sister a guy could ask for.  She is an amazing aunt and a powerful example to my boys about the kind of people would should all strive to be.  She is an amazing wife to her husband David.  She is a phenomenal mother to her son Jake.  She is a wonderful daughter to our parents.  She is smart, she is gorgeous, and she is so talented it astounds me every time I see her on stage or on-screen.  She is my sister, and today is her birthday.  I’m in Wichita today and she is in New York…which bums me out.  However, I’ll be having lunch at Nu Way today and I will be sure to put tons of special ketchup on my burger.  I’ll sit on the same stool from 30 years ago.  I’ll have a rooooooot beeeeeer floooooat in her honor.  I’ll miss her…greatly.

I love you Lindsey.  Happy birthday darling.

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So Long 2014!

2 Jan

Its been a heck of a year filled with up and downs…as life should be.  So Long Freedom began 2014 with a post entitled “Parenting On A Plane,” a look at some of the rules we created for our then 2-year-old (Max) and ways to enforce them.  Max was on the verge of turning 3 and we had no idea that the “Terrible Threes” would put the “Terrible Twos” to shame.  Dodge was 10 months old and referred to as “The Octopus” because he grabbed everything within his reach…seemingly with a multitude of arms.  Time moved forward and the blog marched on.  I adjusted to being Midwestern, my sister got married and landed a role on NBC’s “The Blacklist,” Dodge began using baby sign language, one of my music videos won a few awards, and Max turned 3.  Max turned 3!  Wasn’t it yesterday I posted a sonogram photo of him on here as this journey began?  Dodge learned to walk just before his first birthday, I co-founded an arts organization with my wife and great friend, my beloved Wichita State Shockers went undefeated in the regular season, Max began throwing temper tantrums, and Kate and I instigated the “Good Behavior Chart.”  Max discovered the freedom of playing alone outside, Dodge ate dirt, I finally identified with Wichita as my home, my anxiety got substantially better, the boys took their first bike ride, we adopted and rescued an ornate box turtle, and we returned an ornate box turtle to the wild when we realized they are a terrible pet and it is against the law to “rescue” them.  Max rode a horse for the first time, Dodge started biting, Max got bit by Dodge a few times, Dodge started talking, Max started playing with Dodge by the pool, and Dodge learned that he doesn’t float.  Dodge switched to a forward facing car seat, Max got a booster seat for the car, we vacationed on Lake George, and Dodge learned again that he doesn’t float.  My dad’s best friend and surrogate uncle to me passed away…I love you Ali, thank you for reading with me in your final days on Earth – reminding me there are things bigger than my understanding of the world.  A few weeks later my grandma Dawn passed away…goodnight Grandma, I love you now and always and will always think of you when I have pancakes.  My pear tree had a bumper crop year, I hit my mid 30’s, Max and Dodge saw their first movie in a movie theater, the boys started roughhousing, Dodge started daycare, and Kate rediscovered what its like to not have 2 kids clinging to you all day long.  I made a hand-developed black & white Super 8mm film in under 24 hours as part of a film race which was selected to the Tallgrass Film Festival where it won the audience award for its showcase.  I lost Max in a crowd.  I found Max.  I cried.  I voted in the midterm elections, Harvester Arts found great success, and my 9-year-old nephew (Jake) humbled me when he wrote a Thanksgiving essay at school about how he was thankful for me, his Uncle Boo Boo.  Max got his first haircut in a salon, I lost my bacon, I got new bacon, and lest we forget from the Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips letters…don’t come between me and my food.

Max's Christmas Croup

Max’s Christmas Croup

…and that’s just what happened on this site.  Max got croup on Christmas, Uncle Mark brought out the best in our family over the holidays, and our best friends bought a house 4 blocks from our house…3 minute walk…amazing!  In 3 weeks Max turns 4 years old.  That little schmoop!  He’s turning 4!!!  Max is fully potty trained and sleeping in a twin bed…across the room is another twin bed where Dodge sleeps, and he’s started asking to use the potty on his own in the past few weeks.  Dodge turns 2 years old in 2 months.  My nephew turned 10!  There are 2 major milestone birthdays coming up in my family but that’s not my place to say…never discuss age and politics, right?  Yesterday the company I work for nearly tripled in size and I was humbled to be asked to move up in to a senior director position, something I have been working towards for the past few years.  Our cat is dying…not today, but probably this year.  Luna is 17 and time has simply caught up with her, Kate and I are doing everything we can to make her happy and comfortable.  Both boys will be in school, work schedules look to be insane, and 2015 is looking like the year our little family turns the corner and finds our own identity with each other.  Its been a great year…and 2015 has potential to be even better.  Through it all, the best moments of 2014 were the ones I’ve shared with my loved ones…the simple things.  Oddly, the highlight of the year was my grandmother Dawn’s passing.  Her passing was a relief because I know she was in pain and it eases my soul to know that pain is gone.  It simply was her time and she left behind a great legacy and a life too funny and complex to ever fit into a blog.  Her passing allowed me one last trip to Lake George where I was able to visit my favorite spot, feel the sun on my back one more time, feel the water on my toes, the air in my hair, and say goodbye.  Not just to her, but to the lake…which always feels like home, but Wichita IS my home.  I dove down deep in the water and retrieved a stone from under the Commission Island buoy.  It is mossy.  It is orange.  It is my little slice of home.  When I feel lonely or sad I hold this stone and I can remember EXACTLY how I felt that sunny day…Sunday, August 3rd…sun on my back, water on my toes, and wind in my hair.  It is the moment I will always think of when I look back on this year.  It is the nexus of all the events of the year.

So long 2014.

Me and Grandma, 1980.

Me and Grandma, 1980.

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Follow Up To Stolen UPS Package

18 Dec

All is right with the world…Oscar’s Smokehouse sent a new shipment of bacon, sausages, pancakes, and more after my first shipment (via UPS) was stolen off my porch!  For the full story, click HERE.

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