Samurai Werewolves From the Rio Grande Valley

Tonight (Friday), I stopped at the HEB near my house (HEB is the supermarket chain which has a near monopoly on this city — it's rather freaky). In the check-out line this energetic young man with a buzz cut asked: “Didn't you used to live across the street from me?” He had this sort of generic latino frat boy look, and I didn't recognize him. Besides, other than the weeks (or was it months) I mooched off Pete and Lisa's good nature, I've only had one address in San Antonio. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “You still live there. The white pickup truck. I live in the green house next to Jerry. My name's Ross.” I gave him mine. We shook. I realized that I hardly ever saw him except at night, and then just as a shadowy form unloading his SUV, or, perhaps, having a cold one on his wide front porch.

Ross asked what was it about all those movies I was always making on the street. I knew what he was thinking by his unabashed leer, but rather than let him assume I was the porno king of E. Guenther, I set him straight. Well, I tried. It's hard to explain to people why you make short films, especially where money is rarely involved. I then mentioned Robin's film which had been partially shot on my block. I explained that it was a project hopeful of distribution. It was beginning to make more sense to him.

I explained that two friends would be making films on the street this summer. AJ Garces has some scene for a project planned for my block. And I discovered Wednesday that Dora Pena's feature, the Dream Healer, is quite probably going to be principally shot on my block.

When I asked if Ross would be willing for someone to use his house, he just grinned. “Fuck yeah! You only live once.” Perhaps he was back to thinking about porn. But, still, he seems a good connection.

Back on Wednesday I dropped by the G2E offices (home of media wizs Robb Garcia and his brother Ron Garcia). Dora Pena had a desk there which she was using to bring her feature into the production phase (in just a few weeks they'll be shooting) — Los Bros Garcia will be integral collaborators. Anyway, I dropped by because Dora, in here capacity as NALIP-SA's Chief Financial Officer (meaning, she lugs around the checkbook), was the one who would be reimbursing me for the Meet-the-Maker event I helped coordinated a couple weeks back. I handed over the receipts, and she wrote a check.

We chatted about various things, mostly film related.

Then I mentioned something about how I hated to get emails about productions with no names attached, just a phone number.

“If I get something forwarded to me from someone else in the film community with, you know, we need this piece of equipment or these types of actors or whatever, and the only info is a phone number, I'm not going to forward it.”

Dora waited, patiently, understanding I was still in mid-rant.

“For all I know,” I continued, “it could be some project being run by one of our local film assholes. And I don't want to put myself in the position of sending someone I know towards one of those situations.”

Dora nodded.

“Let me give you an example.” I leaned back in my chair. “Maybe two days ago, I got a call from my landlady. Seems someone wants to shoot on my block. In my house — well, me three-plex. I told her to get a name. Not some vague production company, but the name of the director or the producer. I cautioned her that she didn't want to get stuck with some irresponsible jerk bringing a nightmare down on her property.”

Dora folded her feet up into her swivelly office chair.

“So, um, where do you live?” she asked.

“King William. I'm across the street from Sandra Cisneros.”

She laughed.

“It was us! We want to shoot in that two-story house on the corner. But we also want to be able to shoot the exteriors of some other houses — with actors on the porches and things like that.”

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In some nearby parallel universe, I would have, at that point, removed a plastic-tipped White Owl cigar from it's cocoon of cellophane, lit an Ohio Blue-Tip off the stubble on the hard line of my jaw, and I would have fixed her with the cold blast of my gaze.

“Listen lady, ain't nothing film-related goes on in my neighborhood without my approval. I recall when Joe Dante was sniffing around town for his bio pic, Whitley Strieber, the Teen Years. He'd been in some sort of negotiations with neighbors two doors down because they have this kick-ass tree house. When I got wind, I raised hell, I did! Told that Hollywood hack I was the dealmaker on the 700 block of East Guenther — the goddamn dealmaker! He played me some chin music about a brace of studio lawyers kept on short leashes and just waiting to lunge on small fry like me. Little did he know, I'm pretty tight with the infamous El Picante. Rumor has it, this pinche badass keeps on retainer a squad of Samurai werewolves headquarters in the Rio Grande Valley.”

“Wow! So, what happened?”

“When's the last time you heard of Joe Dante?”

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The Josiah Youth Media Festival is moving along. Urban-15 has just installed their new nine foot movie screen. It has a little motor that makes it retract back into the ceiling. Very useful, because George and Cat want to make the space useful for all sorts of events.

I dropped by Urban-15 last night. I had been busy that day with Russ and Christy working on Melancholy (the movie) [and I want to hear that read as a terse voice-over: “put aside all sharp objects, and lock up your meds, because after the coming attractions, we will be viewing” — deep reverb — “Melancholy, the Movie!”]. George left a message on my voice mail that he'd be at the studio late watching the basketball game.

So, after Christy dropped me off at home sometime after ten, I got in my truck and drove to the old church where Urban-15 has its headquarters to be brought up to speed on the JYMF. I rang the bell. George answered it. We went downstairs.

There were two woman I didn't know sitting with Catherine in front of a back-projected large screen — a gigantic TV experience. They were cheering the Spurs, probably drinking, and helping themselves to loads of chips and dips.

I talked some with George and Catherine, but they seemed fairly involved with the TV action. I should point out that I am, in the words of John Waters, “A sports bigot.” I stood behind the women watching what I guess was a really close score with 7.5 seconds to go. Fifteen minutes later there was still 7 seconds to go. There was talk about piling into someone's truck and cruising downtown with a bullhorn and a box of firecrackers. It sounded kind of fun. But I was exhausted after a long day of shooting and, really, it was just some silly game ….

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Thursday. Another exhausting day shooting Melancholy.

We started off in Seguin. Russ knew he could cajole his friends Brooks and Barb to let us use their property. Russ already had his little hand-made boat, Ponga, stored there on the shore of the Guadalupe.

We were still doing the Eve and Despair sequences. Christy still wore the dark wig. And we were still working with Andrew. Also, we still had Martin to help us. At one point, Russ mused that it would be helpful to have someone out on the river other than our two actors — to wrangle the boat. Martin pointed to a little plastic kayak. “I can work one of those,” he said with authority. And so he could. He was a great help.

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The scenes of Russ' homebuilt boat drifting slowly across the fame with Eve and Despair facing each other and running through a sequence of ritualistic movements involving a length of red cloth was truly beautiful. The warm tones of the wooden boat contrasted cleanly against the green waters of the Guadalupe River.

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After the Seguin scene we headed back to Canyon Lake.

We were only able to shoot a very short scene with Christy and Andrew in a tree before a line of dark clouds came fast across the lake towards us. We arranged a couple more quick set-ups and called “cut.” We scurried about breaking down the equipment and moving everything up a steep, rough trail.

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The skies didn't look that they were going to settle down, so we called it a day and grabbed dinner at an Italian place near the lake.

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