Music Vids from MOG2

September 20, 2010

Due to recent requests, I have sought to find and make available the two 1995 music videos to support the 2006 release of Men of Gray II, Flight of the Ibis.

Unfortunately, I have only been able to locate bits and pieces of each of these two historic Trinidad & Tobago music videos, and only in a low quality VHS copy.  If if find better, I’ll post them.  Meanwhile, here are the snippets of these videos:

We created the music videos to promote the movie, as you can tell by the way they are cut together with scenes from Flight of the Ibis.

  • Love and Pain was written and performed by Tricia Lee Kelshall.
  • Winning Lane was written by Sean Bartholomew (also known as Adrian Bartholomew), and performed by Sean, Tricia, and David Rudder.
  • Both videos (and the movie) were directed by me, Ric Moxley.
  • Sean Bartholomew created the musical score for the movie.
  • David Rudder and Tricia Lee Kelshall were both in the movie.  David performed as himself in one scene and Tricia was a co-star and the female lead.

All three of these Trinidadian musicians are still active.   See recent news on Sean/Adrian here, here, and here.  See Tricia on youtube, performing Mindcircus, the hit single from the 2001 Way Out West – Intensify album, which reached #39 in the UK charts.  David Rudder’s Facebook fan page is a good way to stay abreast of his music and recent news, or from his official Web site http://www.davidmichaelrudder.com/.

Finally, here’s a nice picture of the three of them together, taken by Trinidadian photographer Mark Lyndersay behind the scenes during production of Winning Lane:



Calling Out to Trinbagonians with Local Geo-Eco-Knowledge

November 22, 2009

For an element of the MOG3 movie script, I plan to create a story thread that would have a foreign scientific team in the country studying the negative impact upon nature of some human activity. While the scientific expedition itself could be entirely fictional, I want to use examples of actual natural occurrences from Trinidad and Tobago: legitimate natural events or evidence that is assumed to be result of human activity.

Do any real-world examples come to mind?

Any natural evidence worth observing might work for the story. If you can provide me with examples from the country, I’d be most grateful.

Things that might work:

  • Something climate related
  • Changes in the soil
  • Erosion
  • Deforestation
  • Animal habitats that have been compromised, endangering species of mammals, insects, reptiles, fowl, etc.
  • Increased flooding
  • Air quality degeneration

You get the idea, right?

Whatever examples you provide should be current or very recent. And they should be observable (it’s a movie script, after all).

Please use the blog comment field to let me know if you have some real-world examples I could use to justify the presence of an international scientific trip to the country in the story.  If you haven’t any examples to offer, perhaps you know someone who does? If so, please forward them the link to this blog entry so that they may respond.

Many thanks!  🙂


Story Timeline Progresses

November 21, 2009

I gave up on the idea of using Microsoft Project to help me create a visual timeline of the story, as I originally described in this previous entry. Microsoft Project proved to be way too constricting for my purposes. While the visual timeline elements looked great, it was a pain to keep each entry (representing a single step in the story outline) simple to represent.

I briefly tried using Microsoft Word’s table features, but moving line items right or left was unwieldy, and the page size constraints kept getting in my way.

But one program excels…

As it turns out, Microsoft Excel is serving gracefully as the timeline foundation, giving me more control than using a Microsoft Word table, and giving me more flexibility than Project.

image

As you can (barely) see in this image, I’ve . . .

  1. formed each step in the story outline into a row item.
  2. broken down morning, afternoon, and night of each day into columns, grouped into days, and days into weeks.
  3. placed each step into its rightful place in time by dragging it horizontally, revealing the chronological flow of the story.

One example problem I’m trying to solve for:

I’ve got a group of American college students visiting the country on their Spring break, and I want to keep at least one of them central to the developing story. The problem I’m having is that the main storyline, which is interwoven with a major court preceding and an approaching political election, doesn’t fit within the weeklong length of the typical Spring break. So, how do I keep the visiting students involved in the plot?

That problem is what initially alerted me to the timeline challenges.  Drawing up a physical timeline, like the snippet shown above, is helping me to reveal any other time-related plot problems and, I hope, helping me to solve them as well.

Though initially daunting…

I’m finding that this particular time problem isn’t insurmountable. It kept me awake at night for a time, until I finally laid out the story onto this timeline, which made it easy to brainstorm my options, and make a visual check of the effects of initiating such options.

Toward solving the weeklong student break, for example, I’ve mulled over several possible solutions as:

  • Create a weather-related event back home (a freak snowstorm, perhaps, big enough to close airports) that prevents the students from returning at the end of the week, or causes extended school closings.
  • Have an injurious event happen to one or several of the students, requiring hospitalization locally, thus forcing a trip extension.
  • Extend the political events of the main story timeline, such that some of the visiting students (or at least the primary student, who ends up romantically involved with one of the Caribbean characters) return to the island at the end of the school year, reengaging with the storyline at the key moment.
  • Change the motive for the students being in the country from a Spring vacation to being on a student exchange program or college-funded research project, which eliminates the one-week-norm problem. 

So far, this last idea is my favorite solution for a couple reasons:

  1. It’s highly plausible—no stretch for the audience to buy into.
  2. It opens up some excellent opportunities for visual and cultural variety in the story.  For example, let’s say I make it an archeological exploration instead of a Spring break trip; then, we have a wonderful excuse to explore Trinidad’s La Brea tar pits and the pitch lake. Or perhaps it’s a sociological thesis expedition, in which case we can weave some of the indigenous Amerindian Arawak tribal remnants and practices into the story, or the fascinating intermixing of Christian and pagan customs, which are practiced in certain regions of the country, or the Canboulay festival practices, including violent stick fighting and hypnotic drumming. Or, if I make it an ecological expedition, there’s limitless location opportunities open to us, given Trinidad & Tobago’s extraordinarily diverse ecosystem (swamps, rain forests, plains, coastal regions, coral reefs, and more).

Suddenly, with the help of the story timeline and the brainstorming that it evoked, what initially looked like an insurmountable story obstacle has become an enriching new story element.

Although I’m not fully decided which solution to invoke, I know I will sleep easily tonight, confident that the story will be stronger as a result of this exercise.


A Cacophony of Culture?

October 9, 2009

Right. I get that music design is normally a postproduction thing. Primarily.

Unless you’re shooting a musical.

And, no — this movie definitely won’t be a musical.

However, one lasting impression from my four times in the country of Trinidad and Tobago (once for two months, once for nearly 10 months) is the omnipresent role of music there. Even in the very atmosphere itself, really.

Must be something in the soil

It seems that music not only reflects but defines the people of Trinidad and Tobago. If you’ve traveled the country much, you know what I mean. The music is everywhere and anywhere in Trinidad and Tobago – where ever people gather (in crowds of one or more). image

And so, for a movie that we plan to shoot in such a music-centric land such as Trinidad & Tobago, I feel it’s important that the movie’s music design begins now, influencing even the structuring of the screenplay.

Whether I’m thinking as a writer or as a director, I feel it’s important to consider the rhythm and volume of a culture into which the movie will be set. And in the land of Trinidad and Tobago, the volume is up, the rhythms overlap, and the music styles often clash. Beautifully!

I guess you could call it…

A cacophony of culture

… because the mishmash of music you hear on the streets is an honest reflection of the Trinbagonian people: diverse, divergent, overlapping, and surprisingly harmonious.

In that sense, while the near-constant amplified dissonance of so many concurrent and competing sounds can seem a bit discordant or dissonant, it really is as natural and harmonious as can be, when you consider the culture.

I wonder sometimes…

How aware or unaware is the average Trinbagonian of either the volume or the concurrency of the music? If you’ve lived that way from birth, do you notice it? or is it like breathing: a thing that happens at a subconscious level?

To an outsider just visiting the country, it can be initially jarring to the senses. Overwhelming!

I recall feeling psychologically exhausted the first time I spent more than 30 minutes on the streets of downtown Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. I couldn’t wait to escape to the aural insulation of an air-conditioned car, windows up, driving AWAY from the hullabaloo.

But then … you adjust.

Just as I adjusted to working in the (initially) suffocating humidity, I adjusted also to the musical cavalcade. I came to appreciate, and even look forward to, the signature chorus of sounds and music that, like the rooster’s crow, signified the dawning of a new day. And which, unlike the cock’s crow, continued until after nightfall.  🙂

Oh, and I should mention: there were real rooster cock-a-doodle-doos mixed in to the daybreak chorus of sounds too. And the screeching of wild parrots flying over the hills. Morning in Trinidad.

I think it’s the weather too.

With the perpetually warm, tropical climate, the windows in Trinidad & Tobago are almost always open in homes, businesses, and cars. Which makes for this fascinating undulation of overlapping sounds as you walk or drive down the road.

I don’t suppose then that you would experience the aural mishmash in an equally musically-oriented country that has a cooler climate; the music would be more contained by the closed windows and doors.

But, no, it’s more than that.

It’s not just that the windows are open. Because you don’t get a comparable musical kaleidoscope effect in the cities of the hotter regions of the US. Not even close.

Part of what creates the Trinbagonian musical cacophony then has to do with the way that most Trinbagonians…

Embrace the climate

At least compared to Americans in the southern USA.

Now, I’m sure part of this open-air environment is about economics — not as many people in Trinidad and Tobago can afford air conditioning as in the US — but it also has to do with the strange tendency of most of us Americans to

(A) simultaneously seek out and settle in to the country’s hottest climates, and yet;

(B) spend so little time letting that climate anywhere near our bodies: living in air-conditioned homes, driving to work and the store in air-conditioned cars, and then working, dining, and shopping in air-conditioned businesses.

By not embracing our climate, Americans are more culturally cut off from the people around us than in an open-windowed, open-doored culture like Trinidad and Tobago.

But it’s more than that, too.

It’s also the melting pot effect.

Indeed, the US was once a great melting pot, as we often call ourselves even today. But we are a lot more homogenous now compared to many other societies. And certainly compared to Trinidad and Tobago.

And that’s my point with this whole music thing — how the ever-present musical mishmash is a perfectly natural reflection of Trinbagonian culture, which is a true melting pot of French, Spanish, British, African, Indian, and island peoples (did I miss any?).

But here’s the thing; even as each culture’s unique flavors, accents, dress, attitudes, and music have influenced one another, the unique cultures of each have not become so diluted as to loose their distinctness. So you get diversity harmoniously.

And that, you see, is why I describe the musical melting pot of the Trinbagonian culture as a beautiful cacophony — as clashing without clashing, if you embrace the sound as being a reflection of the people whose past 50 years, with a couple of notable exceptions (1990 comes to mind), generally accept and even take pride in their cultural diversity.

So, while Men of Gray III, The Midnight Robber is not a musical per se, I am purposely structuring the screenplay to…

Reflect the musical rhythm of the culture

My intention is to infuse the scenes with the music you would hear if you were in such a modern-day Trinbagonian moment, and to use that music to tell the story as much as the dialogue or images of the scene.

Sometimes, this infusion means envisioning a specific song that’s appropriate for the mood and the moment.

Sometimes, it’s more about the type of music that would be playing in a certain neighborhood or a certain type of occasion that the movie will portray.

Sometimes, it’s about the volume or the degree of musical cacophony in a scene or sequence: whether it’s subtly underscoring a character’s emotion or overpowering the dialogue, causing people to yell, for instance.

But, ultimately, it’s about building a movie that respects and realistically portrays the country’s culture, so that it will entertain and be embraced by Trinbagonians at least as much as it will the rest of the world. With its music as a natural and interwoven thread of this story, i think we can do that.


MOG3 Chicken Came BEFORE This Egg

September 17, 2009

Frankly, the politics of Trinidad & Tobago doesn’t get much coverage in the LA Times. So imagine my surprise when this little article from page eleventy-something in last Sunday’s LA Times caught my eye.

First, it surprised me because the US press in generalimage, and the West Coast of it in particular, doesn’t give Caribbean politics much play. Second, the Abu Bakr coup attempt at the heart of this story took place 19 years ago … but coincidentally was a topic in this MoG-blog post just a few days ago.

Third – the real kicker – this allegation against the prime minister is remarkably similar to one of the planned MOG3 story subplots!

Is that a bad thing?

No … and yes.

It’s a good thing in that this real-world story validates the potential reality of scenarios and characters we’ll be presenting in the Men of Gray III story – which includes fictional political elites who are “on the take” – supporting criminal operatives.

But this news out of Trinidad & Tobago closely resembles some of the fabricated drama that G. and I concocted for MOG3 back in December of 2008. So closely that, when this movie finally is made and released, it will look to many as though we got certain storyline ideas from the real-world drama that will be the unfolding  over the next few weeks or months: this investigation into Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s possible involvement with Yasin Abu Bakr.

So, for the record…

We crafted the storyline for Men of Gray III – The Midnight Robber long before the Patrick Manning allegations surfaced, and any similarities to his story are purely coincidental. Albeit mighty remarkable. 


More on Horace James

September 15, 2009

In this earlier post, I mentioned my enjoyment over finding five seconds of behind-the-scenes footage on Actor-Director-Producer-Mentor Horace James. In tribute to his influence with the original Men of Gray movie and its sequel Flight of the Ibis, here is more information and a few links for those who knew him or appreciated his work.

In Men of Gray II – Flight of the Ibis

In the sequel to Men of Gray, Horace was involved once again, but as an actor this time. Here’s a shot from Ibis, in which he portrayed a high-ranking government official, making deals with the country’s top drug lord Russo, played by Paul Tuerpe.

Image-0019

This was, I think, his last dramatic role. But it was hardly his first. You can get the full picture of his film acting credits (as well as his other roles as Writer, Producer, and Director) from his filmography on IMDB. It unfortunately doesn’t list his stage credits.

His life….

Horace James was honored by the National Drama Association (NDATT) in 1988 with the Cacique Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to drama.

To read more on his life story, here’s an enjoyable biographical article about Horace when he was 69 and one week shy of a heart surgery (not his first).

His death…

The aforementioned article includes a prophetic quote from Horace about his longevity; “If I could make 70, is all right. That is what you supposed to make: three score and ten.”

He indeed died at the age of 70.

For details on that, here’s a moving and informative obituary published upon his death in June, 2000. Not many of us can say this, but there’s even a song dedicated to him by Paul Keens-Douglas. You can hear a snippet at this link, or download the whole song.

Historical footnote

But not all of Horace James’ drama happened on stage or on camera; a Wikipedia article mentions Horace as one of the hostages in the July, 2000 Jamaat al Muslimeen coup attempt against the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Side note: I just barely missed the risk of also being a victim in that coup attempt, as the terrorists took over the TTT television station where I was stationed day and night until about 10 days before before the attack, editing Men of Gray.

I remember Horace as a Trinidadian Benjamin Franklin of sorts. He was charming, usually smiling, always influencing, and yet rarely in the fore. 

If anyone else has remembrances of Horace James they’d like to share, please do so.


I’m in Director Heaven!

September 11, 2009

I can’t believe it … I’m astounded, amazed, and overjoyed. You aren’t going to believe what I just found…

I’ve been going through a couple boxes of old family videos this week, finally getting around to transferring them from VHS to the computer and to DVDs (hopefully before they had begun to deteriorate!). I had not watched them in years and years.

Then, much to my surprise…

Right in the middle of a family tape from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I discovered a treasure trove of video from the 1990 Men of Gray movie’s production that G. and I shot in Trinidad – stuff that we both assumed was no longer in existence!

First, a cool find, but not “director heaven” …

I found a TV interview for national television that we did during production. We were being interviewed on TTT (Trinidad & Tobago Television) — the country’s only imagestation at the time.

The show was called Community Dateline. I don’t recall the name of the show’s host, so please shout it out if you know.  

Being interviewed was me (Ric Moxley – as director, editor, and co-writer), the movie’s producer-writer-actor G. Anthony Joseph, and Corbi Hilburn, who DP’d the first half of the movie. image

There’s some fun stuff here, including a couple clips from the movie, behind the scenes stories, and more.

I may put some of this up on YouTube, so you can see it too.

Now, the part that puts me in director heaven:

What played on the tape after that interview was the real gold: several pieces of the raw footage (i.e., straight from the camera, outtakes and all) from the production. This is incredible.  We thought that the original footage was history – completely lost.  But there it is, in bits and pieces, unfortunately, but there it is. 

Sadly, some of it has been recorded over with family movie clips, like, “…And here we are in our new Sherman Oaks apartment with our newborn daughter” (who, by the way, just graduated high school this year, which really puts the historicity of this footage in perspective). But I never would have guessed that any of that raw footage would have survived.

One of the reasons I’m excited…

…is that, since the movie was mastered on 3/4 inch tape, and because all the editing was done during the pre-digital age (which means that even a master copy of the edited movie is a copy of a copy of a copy), any VHS copy I have of the edited movie suffers from some quality degeneration. So, to have come across segments of the original, unedited raw footage from production is a kind of goldmine for me.

I didn’t find enough of it in this discovery to ever re-cut the movie, which is what I would like to do someday. But there is some good material there, including behind the scenes pieces and (what we thought was) off-camera banter, plus some worthwhile things we shot but that didn’t make the final cut.

Among this raw footage discovery:

  • A lot of “B-role” material we shot while driving through the downtown Port-of-Spain city streets, capturing traffic, crowded sidewalks, police officers in action, famous landmark drive-bys, etc. – stuff I needed  for cutaways and montages, etc.
  • All the footage (takes and outtakes) from the Lavantille interior and exterior drug bust scene that we did with one of the Gopaul brothers (Dale, I think) and Julien.
  • Several day and night exterior and interior car scenes between the characters Joe Cameron and his partner Ivan.
  • In-progress police training at the St. James barracks, used for cutaways and transitions, shown here. 

Police recruit training at St. James barracks

  • A street drug deal scene, and Joe following a dealer on foot
  • Chaguaramas sunset driving shots (for following thug Louie to the home of big-time dealer Marcus, where Joe and Ivan bus’ up d place.

I think there’s about an hour’s worth of production footage altogether. Who knows? Maybe we’ll do something with all this someday. Like cut together a behind the scenes clip or two.

As a bonus, it turns out that we had in this treasure trove of once-lost footage…

About five seconds of Horace…

Horace James. Wow. God rest his soul. 

At the time (1990), Horace was the a head show producer at TTT and was instrumental in the success of this movie.  First, while he wasn’t directly a part of the crew, Horace was a mentor to me and G., teaching us about theimage business of doing business in Trinidad & Tobago, which is a bit of an art.  Second, he was a kindred spirit, feeling our pain and compassionately helping us through the trials and tribulations of making a movie. Third, he contributed pragmatically, being our primary liaison with the TV station, who sponsored much of the production and provided most of our production and post-production equipment.

Horace’s office, which is where I shot this tiny snippet of video, even became our production office during production.

Sadly, Horace James is no longer with us (nor is TTT). I sure do miss him. One of the good guys. And so, while It ain’t much, I’m glad to have uncovered the small bit of production office footage.