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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.

Email Exclamation Point Usage

19 Jan

Email-imageWhile I am not the most grammatically correct writer, I have respect for the English language and the nuances of its unique punctuation.  My style of writing is that of a first person storyteller, and I write like I talk.  This is done to envelop the reader (you) in the story.  My wife is an abstract painter, but she didn’t start that way.  She had to learn techniques and the “correct” way to paint before understanding why she was creating abstractions.  You learn the rules to understand why we break them.  Same goes for writing, I went to writing school to learn how not to write.  (You’re welcome Mom and Dad)  Many people write like they talk, and from reading emails these days…maybe more people need to learn how to talk first.  I can’t get over how much the exclamation point is overused, misused, and abused in email.  Not everything in email needs an exclamation point.  Not everything is “LOL!!!”  Not everything is being shouted.  Not everything is an interjection.

Let’s start with defining what an exclamation point is:

The exclamation mark or exclamation point is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence. Example: “Watch out!” Similarly, a bare exclamation mark (with nothing before or after) is often used in warning signs.

 

Seems pretty straight forward.  However, this definition goes out the window in email most likely to our old familiar friend and persistent pet peeve of mine: The Online Disinhibition Effect.  People say and do things online they would not do in person because they are lacking the face-to-face time required for true social contact.  While I have found this to be most prevalent in the comment sections of online sports articles, it shows its ugly head in everyday email through the overuse of the exclamation point.  Here is an example from a recent email conversation at work:

Me: When you get a moment, could you please send over the files from this morning’s meeting?

Them: OK!!!

Me: Are you okay?

Them: Yes!

Me: Okay, let me know if you need anything.

Them: OK!!!!!

Following this conversation I went to the person I was emailing with to see why they were shouting and if they were upset.  They were not.  From their perspective they were just replying casually.  From my perspective it seemed like the person was agitated.  This is classic.

When you add exclamation points to sentences…it makes them read differently!  Understand?!!!  That was an emphatic interrobang by the way.  Its a fun party word.  Look it up.  While you’re at it, make sure you’re not one of the people adding to the email exclamation point epidemic.  Type how you talk by talking out what you type, i.e. read your email aloud as you’ve written it and amend before sending.  If something really requires 3+ exclamation points, perhaps the phone would be a better option.

punctuation-marks-exclamation-mark

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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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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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Forgotten Birthday Prank

23 Jul

It is well-known that I am the prankster around the office…and beware the person that invokes my pranks.  However, it is I that got pranked this week with an amazingly executed classic:  The Forgotten Birthday.

EeyoreBalloonFor my boss Chris’s birthday I rigged his office chair with an airhorn.  My co-worker Karen we threw a fake party complete with streamers and crumbs since she took the day off.  Linda had her office so decked out with party favors she couldn’t get in the door.  For me…nothing.  Huh?  As a kid I dreaded my birthday because it was in July so I never got to have the cake party at school…I was part of that summer group where we all celebrated with one cake on a day near the end of school.  Sucked.  One summer I had a pool party with a handful of friends who were in town and it has remained in my memory since as epic!  As an adult, I have been out of town for my birthday almost every year, so I rarely partake in the office celebration of cake and ice cream around the conference table.  Til this year.

This year I was in town and Linda pulled me aside and said, “Ryan, you said if you were ever in town for your birthday you wanted one of those cookie cakes…is that still true?”  She remembered!  My heart swelled!  It was what all the cool kids with school-time birthdays got when we were kids and I always wanted one!  I nodded yes to Linda and the excitement grew, and grew, and grew til it was the Friday before my birthday.  Party time for sure!  Nothing.  No cookie cake.  No “Happy Birthday.”  Just, “Have a good weekend.”  So…I did.

My wife Kate and I played golf together on Saturday (my birthday) and she played fantastically.  It was extremely relaxing!  A new set of clubs had been the gift from my folks earlier in the year so it seemed fitting that they be used on the actual day…and I shot well.  Kate’s parents had got me a grill for Father’s Day / Birthday so after golf we grilled up chicken breasts, hot dogs for the kids, and corn on the cobb.  That night I got to rent a stupid action flick OnDemand and all seemed awesome.

Sunday I realized I got text messages from my mom, dad, and sister on my birthday…but no phone call.  I knew my sister was dead in the middle of a theater production and my folks were hosting guests so it made sense.  By the time Monday rolled around I was sure the office was going to throw me a party with cookie cake, my dad would call in to sing, and it would be fun.  Nope.  Nothing.  No one even asked me how my birthday went.  Down trodden and significantly older, I resigned to the fact that my office had forgotten about my birthday and my family wasn’t going to call.  I worked late, turned off the lights, and went home to cry in my beer.

Then, Tuesday I walked in the front door to this:

20140722_092424

20140722_092439

Yup…the ole Forgotten Birthday Prank.  The office folks NAILED IT!  They got me with the party favors over the door, the confetti everywhere, and I checked under the chair…yup…a valiant attempt at the airhorn under the chair.  I removed the airhorn before sitting and made sure to set it off next to Debbie, Karen and Dee’s office to make sure they were awake (better than coffee) since now I had to vacuum up my desk.  Later in the day my childish wish came true and the office assembled to eat cookie cake with me…which incidentally dyed everyone’s teeth dark blue thanks to the food coloring in the frosting…just like in middle school.

RyanCleans

They had lovely cards for me in which they poked fun as if they had forgotten my birthday and I got a 24 oz box of peanut butter M&M’s wrapped in three layers of wrapping paper to keep me busy while they all laughed at me.  They…got…me…good.  So ole Eeyore brightened up and had a good time at the party…and ate his cake too…cookie cake.

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