The band marches on

A few years ago, the band program at my high school was eliminated due to the district’s budget cuts. Noble County voters (or maybe southeastern Ohio voters in general) are somewhat notorious for voting down school levies. In grade school art classes, I remember decorating brown grocery bags as part of a class assignment, in an attempt to pass one levy; we were instructed to write “Please Vote Yes” on the bags and decorate them, and then they were handed out to Saturday morning shoppers at the two grocery stores in the county. Maybe it was a little unethical, but I think teachers felt they had to do everything they could to get the job done.

I graduated from Caldwell High School in 2004. I wasn’t in the band but about half of my friends were and I know it was really important to them. Some time after my class, yet another ballot initiative failed. And then three months later, another. The school board threatened a number of things, while time after time voters turned down crucial school levies. They condemned half of my high school; voters still said no. Finally programs had to be axed, and that is what happened to the band.

Our K-through-12 band program (which I suppose was really a 5th-grade-through-12 one, like most?) was taught by one person, a respected and much loved teacher affectionately called Mr. P. He was the special kind of teacher who really paid close attention to individual students and knew their strengths and weaknesses. He made sure each kid could contribute to the group and he did his job well. When the program was cut, so was Mr. P.

That fall, a spirit band was formed by would-be school band students. Active parents organized and supported them, and that year I attended a football game where a volunteer band played, of their own accord. I remember talking to one of the parents about the levy and what it had finally come to. I was inspired by the students, all younger than me, who stuck around. They loved band so much that they volunteered to be in one that would not get them a grade or a GPA boost or fill one of their empty school periods. They loved it more than I can imagine loving much of anything.

Halfway through the year, that damn levy finally passed and the band program was restored. By some miracle, they were able to tap Mr. P. for his job again and he returned to his position.

Years later, I’m writing a creative nonfiction piece about it. I start interviewing folks tomorrow. I remember thinking way back when I went to that football game how inspiring of a story the spirit band was, and that story went on to have a happier ending with the program’s restoration and Mr. P.’s return. It’s been a long time since I did a series of interviews I really, truly cared about.

I can’t wait.

Who knows what I’ll do with it, but I can’t help but try to write it. This isn’t a story about how arts programs are always the first to go and sports are the last, although I may touch on that. It’s about making lemonade when life cuts your favorite school program. Or something like that.

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Draft of budget for web series

This is the budget I submitted to Aryeh after working on it last night. If anyone has access to any of the materials, equipment or props listed, or would be interested in donating a snack or two for a filming day, you would be my hero.

Budget for The Candidate (Tentative Title)

Equipment:

  1. Monitor to have on set: free, if borrowed; or $70 on Tiger Direct, 14”. $133 on Amazon, 17”.
  2. Lighting equipment and panels; free, if I can find crew who already has equipment.

If not, get the following from Cord Camera or other retailer:

  • Collapsible reflectors, $28
  • White lighting umbrella, $39
  • Lighting, $140

Ghetto lighting options, as very last resort:

  • Flood lights; Home Depot/Lowe’s, $30 (if we get these, we will still need the lighting umbrella to soften these lights as they are haaarsh. Also they get really hot and can set things on fire if you aren’t vigilant.)
  • White sheets of poster board for reflectors
Subtotal: ~$300 max

Materials / Props:

  1. Lots of office supplies, including staplers, loose paper, paper clips, pens, inbox/outbox trays, etc.: Free, if borrowed. Allow $30 for incidentals.
  2. At least two clipboards: $8
  3. One giant campaign yard sign: $35 on VistaPrint
  4. Wooden posts for giant yard sign: $20
  5. Several smaller yard signs: 8 for $60 on VistaPrint
  6. A plain beer cozy: Target, less than $5
  7. Coffee mugs printed with character’s name on it: 2 for ~$20 on VistaPrint
  8. Office decor, like motivational posters: $50
  9. Water balloons and nerf guns: balloons, less than $5; nerf guns provided by producer
  10. Prop framed newspaper clippings: Free, provided by me
  11. Three small desks with chairs (depending on venue’s offerings): Free, if borrowed
  12. Prop laptops: Free, provided by actors or producer and director
  13. Prop glasses for character: less than $5
  14. Lunch boxes/bags with lunches: Free, provided by me
  15. First aid kit, gauze: less than $5
  16. Cell phones: free, provided by actors/crew
Subtotal: $250

Food and drink on set:

  1. Allocate $20 per day of filming, for 8 days of filming: $160
  2. Wrap party: $50

Subtotal: $210

Total: ~$740 max

We can go under budget with this sucker.

New music from the library

  • “Riot on an empty street,” Kings of Convenience
  • “Firecracker,” The Wailin’ Jennys
  • “One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Music From Kerouac’s Big Sur,” Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard
  • “Endless Highway,” The Music of The Band (covers)
  • “Acid Tongue,” Jenny Lewis (Lead singer of my current favorite band, Rilo Kiley)

The Wailin’ Jennys CD is definitely my favorite of this batch so far. I think my dad would like them, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if he already knows them. On the other hand, I really don’t like the Jenny Lewis CD like I thought I would.

Music on its way:

  • “Out of the Shadow,” Rogue Wave
  • “We Were Here,” Josh Radin
  • “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack

Open call for cast and crew

Cast and crew needed for political satire web series, filming August and September 2010.

OPEN CASTING CALL:

Seeking two actresses aged 21-30, one actress between 18-22 and one actress between 45-55.
Also seeking two actors aged 21-30 and two actors between 45-55.

AUDITIONS will be held Monday, Aug. 2 and Wednesday, Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Crimson Cup in Clintonville (North High Street).

Female roles:

  • ALICE, who is (possibly blonde) ambitious, hard working and competitive. Professional, somewhat cutthroat.
  • LAUREN, who is level-headed, charming, witty. Love interest of main character.
  • BRITTANY, who is a college student, very attractive.
  • JUDY, JOHN’s wife. Attractive, flirtatious. Interested in MATTHEW. A smaller role.

Male roles:

  • MATTHEW, main character and protagonist. Earnest, enthusiastic but at many points discouraged. Good looking, very charming, endearing.
  • DENNIS, the comic relief/goof. ALICE’s nemesis; messes around, but wants to have ALICE’s job for the power she has.
  • JOHN, a local man running for mayor. A smaller role, but the show centers around his office.
  • MR. PHILIPS, a village councilman and BRITTANY’s proud father. A smaller role.

CREW NEEDED:

  • 1 sound director with equipment. Please e-mail for more information.
  • 1 lighting coordinator, preferably with equipment. Please e-mail for more information.
  • 1 director of photography

PRODUCTION INFO:

Filming will take place over 2 weeks in the evenings in August and September. Please inform director or producer of any prior engagements during this time frame at your audition so a production schedule may be created around them.

This is an unpaid project but we hope you will be interested in creating a fun, entertaining final product with us. Refreshments will be provided on set daily.

Please email williams.meryl@gmail.com.

Going to the market

The most positive thing about Saturday night’s experience was that I kept thinking, this is going to make one interesting blog post.

My friend Stacey and I went to an event sponsored by a local radio station that night: WNCI’s Man Market. I realize how ridiculous that sounds, and I assure you it was, but it is still blog worthy.

At least we looked cute

I was telling Stacey about it last week and she suggested we go, and even if it was a total bust, it might be a fun people-watching opportunity. I had already kind of wanted to go, but didn’t want to admit it. I had an idea in my head of some perfect guy in Columbus thinking the event was a stupid, humiliating idea and that no self-respecting guy would subject himself to such treatment, but whose friends insisted on dragging him along. He’d be this good-looking-but-geeky guy who loves CD101 and only listens to WNCI on the way to work because it’s funnier than CD101’s morning show. Oh, and he’d have a lot of interesting things to say about “Inception” or something. Not that I got too specific. But yeah, this guy would almost back out of the Man Market at the last minute but ultimately go through with it, thinking what the heck? Maybe there will be a dorky girl there who’s obsessed with movies and indie music and can string together a coherent sentence. Naturally, this guy would have lower expectations of me than I would have of him in this scenario.

I met Stacey at Flannagan’s in Dublin for the event. We were handed a booklet containing brief surveys filled out by each guy who registered for Man Market, over 300 of them. The survey included inspired questions like “What’s your favorite type of lingerie?” and “Who is your dream celebrity date?” Any guy who answered the latter with Megan Fox or Angelina Jolie was a douche bag on principle in my book, so that made weeding people out easier. Eventually Stacey and I just started going by age and I eliminated anyone outside of the 23-27 range. Stacey had the sense to bring a pen, so we took the time to sit and mark down the number of any guy we thought sounded interesting, so we could just try to track down those guys, who were wearing their numbers on their shirts.

After going through the booklet, Stacey had about two dozen prospects; I had seven. Finding any of these numbers was hard, because it was insanely packed and not all the guys were wearing their numbers prominently. Out of the guys I’d picked, there was one I was especially hoping to find: Mr. 297. He said his favorite kind of lingerie was a pair of sweat pants and a hoodie and his dream date was Tina Fey. Be still my heart. Every time Stacey and I walked around the place, I kept looking for that number, but to no avail. After a while I decided he, much like my imaginary ideal guy, must have decided against the whole Man Market thing after all. It only made me like this elusive person even more. Too good for the Man Market!

Stacey talked to a few of the guys on her list of numbers but didn’t really feel a connection with any of them. We knew ahead of time that the kind of guy who frequents Flannagan’s and did this kind of thing would probably not be our types, so we weren’t too disappointed.

We went back toward the dance floor at one point and suddenly, there he was: Number 297, standing there drinking a beer. I saw the number before anything else and turned excitedly to Stacey. “There he is, 297!” I said over the music. Then I turned back to get a better look. Number 297 was a giant. This is probably why he indicated in his survey that he found tall women intriguing. Despite my being 5’6”,  Stacey convinced me to go up to him. We followed him out of the indoors part of the bar and up the stairs. He and his friends stopped at the top of the stairs, and Stacey ended up making my move for me. We sat down and talked with him, the only guy we’d actually done so with all night.

Unfortunately, it turns out I’ve basically already dated Mr. 297 and his name was Brandon. This guy looked nothing like Brandon, but at some point when he was talking I realized they sure seemed to have a lot of the same interests. And after I made that comparison I couldn’t stop making it. This guy liked the same movies, voted for McCain and said some of the same conversational phrases Brandon did. And when he said he wasn’t all that into music, I knew for sure it was a lost cause. We made a polite exit because both Stacey and I were pretty much over it by then, and as we got up to leave, 297 invited us to look him up on Facebook.

Not to get too Carrie Bradshaw on you, but is telling someone to look you up on Facebook the new phone number exchange? Is it? I am so out of the loop.

Anyway, he was a nice guy, but I am not going to add him after all. Hopefully he wasn’t counting on it and waiting for me (or Stacey) to contact him. I am not even sure we told him our names, but his was listed in the booklet we had.

Stacey left around 11, but when I walked back to my car from hers, I realized I was completely stuck. Two ass hats parked in the entrance to the lot, blocking everyone in. I took pictures of their plate numbers on my phone and had the event coordinators read them over the mic, but they said the wrong makes of the cars. Besides, no one was listening at that point. Fortunately, after making some friends in the long line for the bathroom, when I went back out to my car, someone else had left, leaving an opening.

Overall, it was a weird experience. I felt pretty judgmental and I am aware that carries over into this post; but I guess those guys were putting themselves up for that to begin with. Here’s the list of questions the Man Market guys were asked last week:

  • Age:
  • Occupation:
  • Hobbies:
  • Favorite feature on a woman:
  • Favorite kind of lingerie:
  • Dream celebrity date:
  • Best sexual move:

Alternatively, here’s a list I could have actually gotten behind:

  • Are you employed? Please explain.
  • Are you nice to your mother?
  • What movie are you most embarrassed to admit to seeing in theaters?
  • What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?
  • How many dogs do you own?
  • What is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in your life?
  • Describe your last girlfriend. (If the first word that comes to your mind is “crazy,” and this word also describes all of your other exes, you need not apply.)
  • How many cups of coffee do you consider normal for a single day’s consumption?

Maybe I will host my own event, open to geeks, dorks and hipsters alike. Or maybe I’ll just try to meet someone the normal way.

Speaking of which, what is the normal way? How’d you meet your person?

Also, if you see these cars driving around Columbus, I very seriously considered keying them. Please give them the finger if they pass you going 90 on the interstate or something.

Silver Altima

Silver Jeep

How to make a web series in two months

…I did it once, I can do it again, right? Ugh. The script is going over well so far with the people who read it last night and today. I feel like I’m ready to start casting. But what a pain that was, and yet how lucky I was to have an apartment centrally located in the city of Columbus. I’m going to have to try to convince my work friend (Aryeh, the one who asked me to do this in the first place) to let me cast at his house or something, or else go to a coffeeshop. But coffeeshops can be so unpredictable; it might be loud and crowded, or it could be a slow night. We’ll see. I don’t want to have to hold more than two nights’ worth of auditions.

I kind of have someone from my improv circle in mind for the role of the candidate, but I don’t know if he actually does acting or enjoys it. I think I will maybe reach out to him. I also thought another one of those guys would be great for my comic relief-type character, Dennis, but I don’t think I know him well enough to ask him to do it.

I need to make a list of the equipment I wish I’d had when I made “Paper Cuts,” as well as a list of crew positions. It would be nice if I had a monitor on set so I could watch what was being filmed, and let a director of photography do the actual camera work. I used to think that was kind of a lame, hands-off approach for a director, but now I know it’s more important to see what’s really going on in the frame than to just get to be the person holding the camera. Plum St. Productions definitely taught me that. I’d also love to have some actual lighting equipment and someone who can ensure good sound quality. I’m not sure how many of these things are feasible, but I know they’d all lead to a better final product.

I learned from making “Beacon Alley” that if you keep everyone on task, you can get a surprising amount of material shot in a day. I would like to set up a production schedule once I’ve finalized the script, but I don’t see why casting can’t take place now. The characters aren’t going to be changing.

As I always did before, I’ll be randomly listing necessary venues / materials and relying on the kindness of readers, friends and family for assistance or suggestions. Our biggest need now is a venue to film most of our scenes, which take place in a campaign office. It has a main room and two smaller rooms off of it, one to the left and one to the right. It’s the room where the majority of the script takes place, and I have no idea if it exists.

I might post a list of characters on here soon. I like the characters I wrote, and I feel good about them. I really hope this project actually happens and my work friend isn’t just bored this week and will forget about it by Monday. I suppose even if he is, I can still go ahead and make it.

First draft complete

The first draft of the (now tentatively titled) Candidate is complete. Clocking in at 27 pages, it will hopefully be broken down into six webisodes. I’m pretty excited about the script. I just sent it off to some willing readers for comments and critiques.

Tonight I got to hang out with Christina and B.C. We watched the DVD I made them, went to get some Jeni’s ice cream and then played “Scene It” at which C beat the snot out of us. Driving home I realized those two, along with Jake and Abby, have made me realize it really is possible to hang out with a couple and not feel like a third wheel. Long time readers may remember this was a theory of mine as well as a great fear after Brandon and I broke up. I think it helped that I was, at different times, individually friends with each of these four people. But really, when it comes down to it, crisis mode is when we realize which of our friendships were made to last. And the ones that didn’t, it’s not necessarily a bad thing– it’s just not the dynamic the friendship was built on. So, thanks Jake, Abby, Christina and B.C. for being there for me and making sure I knew it. I almost lost Jake and Abby in my own world of self-doubt and pity but they weren’t ready to let me go that easy, thank goodness.

Now then, who wants to make a web series? Eh? Eh?

The Candidate

And now, a preview of the first few pages of my upcoming web series, “The Candidate”. My friend at work and I are plan to make this next month through September. I have 20 pages written so if you are willing to look it over for me, please e-mail me.

Pages 1-4 (click to enlarge):

A tip from Career Candy

I met up with my friend Candy tonight for coffee. As I’ve mentioned she is going to school for multimedia production and she told me about an awesome site: Media-Match.com. It lists TV and film gigs (some permanent, mostly project) all over the country. Unfortunately the only two Ohio listings are in Cleveland, and I’m not qualified to be a production assistant. But, if you were living in a bigger city like NYC, LA or Chicago you’d have a wide array of positions to apply for. From the looks of it I could actually use my Plum St. Productions credits toward getting hired onto a project, which kind of blows my mind.

It’s a paid service, but Candy said it has paid for itself already. She is currently a researcher for a court TV, “Judge Judy”-type show. She goes through Franklin County’s small claims reports and forwards on the more interesting-sounding ones to the producers. She says three of her findings have already been used on the show and she gets paid mileage as well as per hour. Not too shabby.

I don’t see any acting jobs on here, so I’m guessing that’s kept separate. But I really feel like I could be a PA for a project or a director’s assistant. Wouldn’t that make for some awesome writing material?