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.

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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.

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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.