2014 Year-in-Review

If each year since I started this blog had a tagline, they might go something like, “2008: The Year I Started a Grown-Up Job After Graduating From College” or “2010: The Year I Moved to Chicago” or even “2012: The Year of The Ear Surgeries.”

What would 2014 be? The year all of Chicago’s crazies/misogynists descended upon me at once? The year of my breakup? Or would it be the year I said yes? This is how I choose to look back on this year.

I wrote 18 blog posts in 2013. This is my 54th for 2014. I wrote more this year than possibly any other, save the year I was a full-time reporter. I also traveled more in 2014 than ever before, from California to Vegas to Portland to Salt Lake City to home.

It was a good year. I couldn’t see how it could possibly turn out to be so when it started, but it absolutely was. I started out this year feeling like someone’s ex-girlfriend. I’m wrapping it up with such a solid sense of self, and a clearer understanding of who I am and what I want for my life. For me, 2010 was a similar year of growth, when I made a life-saving recovery thanks to grief counseling, and ended it with the decision to hit re-set by moving to Chicago. This year was less dramatic, but just as eye-opening and productive and soul-feeding.

I spent the first half of 2014 in complete upheaval: breaking up with my live-in boyfriend; spending the first three months of the year unsure if I was going to get hired for a new job I was in the running for; and moving out of my apartment of more than two years to a new neighborhood with a roommate I didn’t know.

The rest of 2014 was spent smoothing things out, leveling them: I am no longer in a co-dependent relationship in which I feel shitty half the time; I love my job; and I live in a much better apartment with an awesome lady who makes me tea and buys me chocolate when I’m sad. The second half of 2014 was spent writing, whether it was an episode of a webseries, freelance articles, blog posts, or a travel series. It was at the start of the second half that I felt the undeniable need to go to Portland alone and experience that city and new place.

I said yes to lots and lots of things. I like myself a whole lot better than I did 12 months ago. So, as I’ve done since 2008, I present to you the inane; the important; the things I deemed worthy of blogging about this year.

January: My ex-boyfriend moved out of the apartment we shared. Was asked to be a contributor for the Addison Recorder. Got an email from an HR department about a marketing job I’d applied for. Enjoyed the company of Mango, a foster kitty that had been left in my custody.

February: Had a rough, cold winter and drove to the suburbs in a snowstorm for a job interview. Spontaneously decided to flee the polar vortex(es) and fly to San Diego to see Eileen and Tim.

March: Debated whether or not to re-sign my lease on an expensive one-bedroom that used to be paid for by two people. The day before my 28th birthday I heard I was hired for the new job, but signed my lease knowing I was going to need to break it in the summer to find somewhere cheaper.

April: A month of goodbyes: Said goodbye to Groupon, and hello to my current company. Said goodbye to Sarah and Evan, who moved to Salt Lake City and Seattle, respectively. Ran a 5K with Jaimi — my first in two years, her first one ever.

May: Said another goodbye, to Mango the cat. Ran another 5K, this time with Travis. Got horribly sick just before Memorial Day weekend, but recovered in time to go on an illuminating bike ride to Evanston with Becca.

June: Rode my bike everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. Made plans to move in with Adele in Albany Park. Was unfortunately assaulted by a cyclist in Lincoln Square just before moving. Began writing in earnest for the Addison Recorder. Ran my first 8K.

July: Went to Ohio for Fourth of July weekend. Threw myself a moving-out party. Wrote an episode of a webseries. Had a meltdown after procrastinating packing for weeks. Packed. Said goodbye to my home of 2+ years and cried a lot. Decided to visit Portland by myself in the fall.

August: Settled into the new apartment and was surprised by how much better I felt just by getting out of the old place. Got really into using Twitter. Tallied up my miles and realized I’d ridden more than 200 over June, July, and August.

September: Bought myself a tiny blue record player and held its importance close. Finally read at a live lit event, sharing an essay about moving out of the old place and away from the memories it was built from. Went to Vegas for work and began to feel mounting excitement for Portland. Ran my best 5K yet, this time by myself.

October: Flew to Portland by myself Oct. 1. Fell in love with a part of the country I was unfamiliar with and biked everywhere I went for four days. Took a bus to visit Evan in Seattle. Read at two more live lit shows. Starting making lists for NewsCastic. Began to imagine myself living in Portland.

November: Climbed all the steps of the Sears Tower with Jaimi, Becca, and Jodi. Felt the heavy weight of my mom being gone for seven years. Had an essay published on Hello Giggles. Saw the final version of the webseries episode I wrote. Flew to SLC to see Sarah with Stef for a very fun Friendsgiving.

December: Had a really effing terrible cab experience. Signed up for a January stand-up comedy class taught by a live lit woman I admire and respect. Took up roller derby. Got bangs! Went home for Christmas and was gifted the skates I needed for game play. Flew home thinking about what I want to get out of 2015 and began making some plans.

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One of Us

This is an essay I wrote for a live lit event. The theme was “musical guilty pleasures.”

Cover of Joan Osborne's "Relish"

Joan Osborne’s “Relish” (image via)

It is 1996. I am in the 5th grade, and so is my best friend Nicole. Nicole lives up the road from me and rides my school bus, and we have almost nothing in common. Even at age 11, she has much more of a rebellious streak than I do, and her mom isn’t around much. I, however, am the daughter of two librarians who always know where I am, and my idea of a rebellion at this point in life is trading a whole grain natural peanut butter and sugar-free jelly sandwich at lunch for a Little Debby Zebra Cake — if anyone would have been willing to make such a trade at my school.

It’s almost the end of the school year, and we are beyond excited. It’s been announced that there’s going to be a talent show at the elementary school’s spring fling, and we are going to perform. Neither of us can sing, but we love singing anyway, and we’re pretty sure we have just the right amount of heart to pull this thing off. We believe whole-heartedly in Disney movie endings.

Nicole and I are very different people, but we both know what we’re going to perform: We are completely enthralled and obsessed with Joan Osborne’s “One of Us,” a song whose artist will later be known as a strange one-hit wonder. But we don’t know that yet. All we know now, at age 11, is that this song speaks to us, on a deeply profound and important level.

We listen to it all the time. We try to record it off the radio with a tape deck, because it’s the mid-90s and that’s how we listen to our favorite songs. Neither of our moms wants to waste money on more band’s cassette tapes we will inevitably play on loop until they want to tear their hair out. This does pose the immediate problem of having a copy of the song for us to play at the talent show. I find what I see at the time as a creative solution, after many failed attempts at taping it from the radio at the very beginning.

We live in rural, southeastern Ohio, and my family’s house is just up the hill from one of several country bars along State Route 564. Weirdly, I’m allowed to go down there by myself on Saturday mornings to play video games and buy candy bars, armed with a coin purse full of quarters. This morning, however, those quarters are otherwise spoken for. I bring down my portable cassette player and park myself in front of the bar’s juke box, which contains a copy of Joan Osborne’s 1995 album, “Relish.” I play “One of Us” on the machine and hit record. I do this at least three or four times at 10 a.m. in this empty dive, where the woman behind the bar must surely wonder what the hell I am doing. She does not ask.

Satisfied, I back walk up the hill to my house.

I listen to this song over and over and over. I can’t then put into words what draws me into it so much, but as an adult I can supply a theory: This song asks some big questions and is pretty much a highly-diluted version of Christianity. It makes God a person. I mean, what if God WAS just a stranger on the bus, you guys? Just think about that.

I live and breathe this song. I play the lyrics out in my mind like a movie, and think about deceased grandparents and wonder where they are now. I hold the tape player close to me and find myself trying to picture God’s face. I don’t know yet that my life will later be filled with lots of bigger questions and conflicting feelings about organized religion and the meaning of faith. I don’t yet know that my mom will get cancer and die and that I will be really unhappy with God over that. “Good” and “evil” are still black and white to me at age 11, and God personified is a comforting thought.

We memorize the words and get ready for the talent show. We decide Joan Osborn’s vocal range is just in line with each of ours, and we wonder why we are not famous musicians yet. We practice and practice and make up a dance to go with the song even though we both know ultimately we will never perform it in public. But we feel ready.

It’s the big night of the talent show. We see our peers perform before us and we judge them silently to distract ourselves from our nerves. A girl who is a perfectionist and source of constant irritation for me in my classes sings a beautiful rendition of Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me.” I seethe at her success and also feel pangs of envy over the fact that I didn’t think of doing that song first. We watch two boys in our class cover a Green Day song and years later I will have crushes on both of them because my type of man will be partially defined by this performance.

Finally it’s our turn.

At this point I need to mention that “One of Us” is a five-minute song. Years later I will come to know that any halfway-decent karaoke stand-by should not surpass the four-minute mark, with the exception of certain 80s classics and even then, only with a very forgiving audience. But we are 11, and we are not thinking of how long those five minutes are going to feel for us or for anyone watching.

We get on stage, and stand too far away from the mics because we are terrified. The AV person hits play, and a static-y, second-hand recording of “One of Us” begins to play. It is now dawning on me that we probably should have told at least one of our parents about this talent show because someone would have likely stepped in and told us that using a recording of a recording was a bad idea. But it’s too late for that now. We both very quietly sing, “What if God was one of us…?” and look out at our peers in our half-full school cafeteria.

The song seems to go on forever but mercifully, it ends. We stand in silence as the final notes fade out, and the audience stares at us. We stare back, and then someone politely claps. The rest of the audience kicks in, and we jolt back into action and scurry off stage.

It is awful, but somehow we are running high from our achievement, or from our own daring. We hug each other and laugh backstage.

To this day I am unclear as to why none of our parents were there, or at the very least my mom, but it doesn’t matter. We got through it, and we shared our message with the world. Tonight I leave you with that same message:

What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus, just trying to make his way home?

Think about that.

Travel Series: Seattle, Day Two (Then Home)

This is day five, and the final installment, of my series about my trip to Portland and Seattle. Start with day one here.

Monday, Oct. 6

The fish guys at Pike Place Market.

The fish guys at Pike Place Market.

I woke up before my alarm on Monday morning, momentarily confused about where I was. Slowly I remembered I was in Seattle, and specifically in Evan’s apartment, and I got up to get ready for the day. I was flying home on a 2 p.m. flight, but I had until noon to see more of Seattle.

Evan and I left his place with my stuff and got on a bus to go downtown. He took me to his office, where we stowed my luggage, before walking to get coffee and see Pike Place. It was pretty early for a Monday, just after 8 a.m., and a lot of the vendors were still getting set up. We did walk into the original Starbucks, just to see it, and I saw giant bouquets of beautiful flowers I’d never seen before, for $5 each. I remembered a co-worker had told me a story of a friend who’d gotten married in Seattle and was able to get all of her wedding flowers at the market for something like $75. If I hadn’t been about to get on an airplane, I’d have been tempted to buy some for myself. We got some amazing cheese curds from a friendly vendor and continued to walk around the area.

The view from the public space on the 17th floor.

The view from the public space on the 17th floor.

Evan took me to a really neat feature of Seattle: In this one building downtown, anyone can access the 17th floor and enjoy a beautiful public space, overlooking the city and Puget Sound, complete with picnic tables and a landscaped patio. It was stunning.

“This really is a beautiful city,” I said to Evan, and he smiled.

I’d made plans the night before to meet up with my high school friend Jesse before his class at noon. He commutes from Lacey to Seattle five days a week for school, where he’s getting his masters in Middle East studies. He’s learning Hebrew and told us about his recent trip to Israel, and also about his wedding from this past June. It was very surreal to see a friend I only ever see in Ohio in a city I’d never been to before, and it was nice to catch up. The three of us ate breakfast together at a French bistro Evan liked, and it was delicious food in a cute atmosphere.

Jesse left for class, and Evan took me back to his office to get my bags. He walked with me to the train stop and waited with me on the platform until the train heading to SEA-TAC arrived. I hugged him goodbye and got on to head home. I was sad to go, but also relieved I had my passport and a way to get back to Chicago. It had been great to see Seattle with a guide, and especially one so excited to be in the city in which he lives.

I left Seattle feeling happy, thankful, and full of amazing food.

Ohio, in Four Parts

A couple days before I left for Ohio, I worried about where I’d sleep the night I hit town. I knew I wouldn’t see Columbus until 11 or later, since I was leaving right after work from the suburbs, and I didn’t want to make my aunt and uncle wait up for me especially if I ran late due to traffic. Tuesday night I realized I could call in a favor with my high school friend Randy, who lives near OSU’s campus and who’d stayed in Chicago with me a couple weekends ago with our friend Shawn on their way across the country.  He said by all means, come stay, so I crashed on his couch Thursday night.

The next morning we went to get breakfast at Tim Horton’s (!) before we separately drove down to southeastern Ohio – me to Pleasant City to see Owen and Jamie, and him to Caldwell to stay at his dad’s house for the long weekend. It felt silly for us to make the same ~90-minute drive in our own cars, but I needed mine all weekend and couldn’t leave it in Columbus.

Pleasant City

I missed my nieces so much – I was supposed to see them over Memorial Day weekend, but I got sick a couple days before my trip and had to stay in Chicago. I ran up to their front door and my older niece gave me the biggest hug.

tea_partyMy dad and stepmom had brought a giant picnic lunch for us all, and I was happy to see my mom’s brother Alan had made the drive down from Cleveland to see us all. We played badminton and corn hole (because, southeastern Ohio, of course) and watched my two nieces run around in matching July Fourth-themed outfits.

My older niece insisted we have a tea party, so Jamie set out cookies and milk while my niece carefully served us. She beamed at me the entire time, and I couldn’t help but beam back.

My nieces are already so clearly different, even though they are so little. My older almost seems to speak for the younger, who seems content playing on her own quietly while staying out of trouble. They are both so smart and interesting, and I loved getting to be around them. I stayed with them that night, after giving out a summer’s worth of birthday gifts, since Owen’s was July 1 and my older niece’s was June 17. We went for a walk on a paved trail near a neighboring town and my brother talked about his plans to start running again. Everyone at the picnic was incredulous, but seemingly impressed, that I’d managed to run an 8K two weeks prior.

After the girls went to bed the three adults in the house watched the Lego movie, which I unabashedly enjoyed. I crashed on their couch and Jamie made us all breakfast Saturday morning.

Dover

grandpa-meI spent day two of my Ohio vacation splitting time between family and friends, leaving Owen and Jamie’s for our grandfather’s house in Dover. Grandpa had hoped to drive down on the Fourth of July to join our picnic, but he hadn’t slept well the night before and had to cancel. Talking to him in person works best, as the phone can be hard for him to hear me (I talk too fast and my laughter interrupts him). I decided to go see him Saturday for lunch.

We drove to a place he likes in the neighboring town, New Philadelphia, but it was closed. We settled on Dover’s Bob Evans and ordered right away. While we waited for our food, we talked about traveling. I love listening to him talk about all the places he’s been, in the U.S. and abroad, and I try so hard to remember the small details of the things he liked best in case I get to go see them for myself someday, so I can tell him about it.

At some point while we waited he brought up politics, which made me cringe, because it’s the one thing we can’t make the other see eye-to-eye on, and I know arguing with him will only upset him. My dad and his two brothers deal with this dissonance in a variety of ways, and mine is to smile, nod my most non-committal nod, and delicately try to change the subject.

I was just about to excuse myself for the bathroom when he changed the subject himself:

“Let me ask you,” he said. “Have you been out to see your mother’s grave lately?”

For a second, I almost wished he’d gone on more about Obama.

“No,” I said, hesitating. “I haven’t gone in a few years. I don’t get much comfort from it.”

“We’ll go after lunch,” he said. Decision made.

I hoped he’d forget and end up driving us straight home, but when we passed his street I knew there was no getting out of it.

mom-graveI’d been to see my mother’s grave twice since her inurnment service in March of 2008, when family and friends, including Brittany and Adam, came to Dover that spring when the ground thawed. That was when, on what would have been her 55th birthday, her urn could be buried in the place that had marked her life and her death for the last six months.

Later that year, a Columbus friend made the long drive with me there, and after I sat at her graveside and felt nothing, we turned around and went home. Three years later, in the fall of 2011, I took Kevin there so he could see it, and I hadn’t been there since.

Grandpa pulled up the car in front of his wife’s grave, my grandmother’s, which sits five or so away from my mom’s. He stayed in the car and I could tell he was trying to give me some privacy. I stepped out of his car’s passenger side and walked to my mom’s headstone, which also bears my dad’s name – with no date of death, of course, but jarring to see all the same.

I stood there awkwardly for a moment, feeling my grandfather’s eyes on my back, and eventually sat down in the grass a few feet in front of it.

“I know you’re not here,” I said flatly. I paused, then added quietly, “I miss you.”

I  didn’t know what else to do, so I took a photo of the headstone, even though it felt oddly invasive. I stood up and walked away, before stopping at my grandmother’s grave. Grandpa still sat in his car, window down.

“I always liked her epitaph,” I said to him from his own grave.

grandma-epitaphHer stone, which also has my grandfather’s name, says over hers: “My journey’s trinkets will be words.” It was a line from a poem she wrote a year or two after being diagnosed with cancer, but eight or nine years before she actually died. It was called “Epitaph Me.” She was a reporter and writer as well. I never knew her, as she died in June of 1991. It always sounded like she and I would have had a lot to talk about, the way my Uncle Brian and I always do when we see each other.

“Is it strange to see your own name on a gravestone?” I asked my grandpa as we drove away.

“A little,” he admitted. “But I’ve already got my epitaph picked out: ‘Pull my finger.’”

I told my grandfather I loved him before I left, and he didn’t say it back, but he said it to me the next day over the phone without prompting, which was possibly a first. Our family has never been big on “I love you” but I wanted him to hear it that day, even if it felt a little strange.

Caldwell

I left my grandfather’s house and headed to Caldwell, my hometown but no longer my home base, since my dad sold the house I grew up in last fall and moved to the town where my stepmom owns a home. Most of it looked more or less than same as it did at Christmas, as it did last year, as it did when I was in college and in high school.

It’s comforting.

That said, parts of it really have changed, especially during the workweek. The oil and gas industry took off two or three years ago in that area. A third hotel is in talks for the small, formerly one-motel town, and a brand-new Days Inn opened just this past spring, on State Route 821 by the old, now-shuttered DANA plant.

noble-cty-courthouse

The Noble County Courthouse

I’m told parking on the town square, which centers around the Noble County Courthouse, is much harder to come by these days, with developers and oil and gas reps staking out property claims in county records each day. Growing up, the biggest employers in the county were the plant and the prison, the latter of which was built in the 90s and brought state jobs to a rural area. When the prison came, so did a handful of chain fast food places, including the Arby’s, where I got my first job in high school, and where Brittany worked while putting herself through her first college degree.

Now everyone is trying to get in on the oil and gas boom, before it busts. The third hotel in question is a point of outrage for locals, as it will sit within feet of one of Noble County’s two elementary schools. Brittany and Adam’s daughter will start kindergarten there in the fall.

Randy drove me out to see the Days Inn, all shiny and new. He told me he’d heard several TVs had been walked right out of the place before it opened, to my surprise. It stands out, next to the ages-old armory and the old plant.

I stopped by the local grocery store to get something for a picnic out at Wolf Run. I went in to get berries, but saw a meat and cheese tray that had a $3.99 sign above it. I laughed to myself because the same Hormel tray would be at least $9.99 at a Jewel in Chicago, so I grabbed it instead. At the check out I was surprised to learn it was actually $13.99, a large mark-up instead of a discount. I felt foolish for thinking that everything was cheaper in southeastern Ohio and paid it anyway, writing it off as an idiot tax.

Randy offered to drive me to the picnic since he was going too, and I separated the cheeses, ham, and pepperoni from their plastic bags and lined them up in sections next to the Ritz crackers out of their plastic sleeves. I forgot I’d done so later in the car and tilted the whole thing sideways, mixing it all together anyway.

“I hope this doesn’t offend the many vegetarians who I’m sure will be there,” I joked to Randy.

Randy, my one-time high school boyfriend, drives a new car he just got, and I laughed when I realized it was a standard car and not an automatic. He’d driven a standard all through high school and I kind of loved that a decade later that small detail hadn’t changed. He offered to let me drive, which I waved off.

“You tried to teach me in high school, remember?” I said. “We fish-tailed all over a gravel back road.”

We went to the wrong spot at first for the picnic, so I let him talk me into driving the less-than-a-mile journey to the right place. I stalled his car seven times and swore the entire time, as he laughed and somehow remained calm in the passenger seat, just as he had ten years earlier.

We didn’t stay more than a couple of hours because I needed to get to Brittany and Adam’s, so I rushed us back to town. From the passenger seat I realized I’d left the meat and cheese tray, which had barely been touched in favor of homemade burgers and potato salad.

“We can go back,” Randy offered, but I declined.

“Brittany wouldn’t eat it anyway, since she actually is a vegetarian,” I said.

Brittany decided to become a vegetarian at age 19 after PETA visited her Intro to Ethics class. All through high school I’d joked that she was a vegetarian in denial, since she never ate meat and swore she didn’t like it, so her decision years later was one that made sense to me.

I spent that night with Brittany and Adam and our friend Cindy, talking until 1 a.m. before realizing we were old and tired. We got breakfast in Cambridge in the morning and I headed back to Columbus from there.

Columbus

I can never spend as much time as I want in every place I want to in Ohio whenever I go home, so one aspect of my Ohio life always ends up getting neglected. This time, it was Columbus. I got to town around 2:30 Sunday afternoon and went to see my aunt and uncle’s new home for the first time. They’d sold their Clintonville house, the one I’d always known as their house, the first day it was on the market, for above-asking price. They scooped up a smaller, but big enough, house in a neighborhood closer to where I’d first lived when I moved to Columbus.

I visited with my uncle for a while, and then my aunt, and then drove to the ‘burbs to get dinner with a couple I know from college who’d graciously agreed to meet up with me on short notice. I felt tired after, as if the last three days of running around had suddenly caught up with me, so I went back to my family’s house. I got in a short video chat session with Sarah and Stef, as we’ve tried to do on Sunday nights since Sarah moved, and listened my middle cousin Brett talk about music with his 20-something friends. After they left, Brett played “In The Aeroplane Over the Sea” in its entirety for my aunt and uncle, who’d just purchased tickets for all three of my cousins to go see Neutral Milk Hotel in Columbus later this month.

spinellis

Spinelli’s Deli in Italian Village, Columbus.

I left Monday morning for home. I stopped at the deli that is by the old apartment I shared with Doug and Chandra, for the first four months that I lived in Columbus. I got the same breakfast sandwich I would treat myself to back when I was a broke reporter, one who was just feeling the thrill of living in a city for the first time, and the simple pleasure of even having a neighborhood deli to walk to in the morning. It was my Columbus version of Beans and Bagels, I guess, the coffee shop in my current neighborhood, where I still sometimes go on weekend mornings to get a variation of that same breakfast sandwich.

I drove home. When I stopped for gas somewhere in Indiana, I saw my brother had posted a copy of “Epitaph Me,” my grandmother’s poem, to my Facebook wall.

epitaph-me-poem

Even though I made good use of my time in Ohio, I didn’t see everyone I wanted to, or even get to let everyone I should have know that I’d be there. Sorry for that. I do hope to see you next time.

John Cunningham for mayor

Paid for by John Cunningham

Tonight we went to Weinland Park in Italian Village to shoot John Cunningham’s response ad, which we will air a week from tomorrow on our Facebook page and YouTube channel. It was a lot of fun and Bill did great as usual. He’s so funny and he really gets the character, even though John Cunningham is nothing like Bill. He ad-libbed a really funny bit at the end that I left in, with some text running over top of it advertising the show’s website. It’s done and edited but we aren’t airing it until Friday, after Aryeh’s first one hits Monday morning.

Aryeh purchased http://www.CandidateSeries.com just now, and Stacey’s been hard at work designing the site. I wrote some content last night and we should be pretty well on track with that before Oct. 1, our series premiere.

On Sunday, we’re filming Aryeh’s two campaign ads back to back at Owen and Jamie’s house, on their porch. I wrote the scripts last night and Aryeh made some small changes to them today. He seemed pretty happy with them. If his turn out like Bill’s did, we’ll have some pretty amazing promotional material to run before the show starts up.

Meanwhile, I’m taking the plunge and purchasing Final Cut Express tomorrow. As soon as that sucker comes in I’ll be shut up in my room editing on no sleep for days. I can’t wait!

Day 3 of filming for “The Candidate”

This means WAR

We filmed a guy willingly getting hit with a water balloon Thursday night. Steve, who is playing Matthew, was braced for it and took it like a champ. My brother got caught in the crossfire/aftermath but being the pro he is, he didn’t stop rolling despite the shock (or the droplets of water on the lens).

We had 11 people on set last night, and it was kind of crazy, including two extras, the talented Sean Eaton on Camera 2, our producer, assistant director, crew and actors. It started off on a frightening note when I realized I’d told Becca to be there at 7:45 instead of 7. Fortunately, we had a scene we could shoot while we waited for her and she got there as soon as she could. She was really nice about my mistake, too. We shot one interview scene in my office, a scene with Becca and Matt in Stacey’s office and the rest over on the other side of our building. The later scenes were the first ones actually in the campaign office. While Owen, Sean and Steve shot a quick scene outside before it got dark, everyone else teamed up and set up the office set in less than ten minutes. It was pretty impressive. The IKEA panel curtains we purchased last week seemed to suffice as a way to block off the long hallway we wanted to hide and Aryeh pointed out they could pass as window shades, merely covering a giant window in the office.

What the....?

The water balloon scene was tricky; we only had one chance to hit Steve with the balloon so it had to be good. To make things more complicated, it was dark by the time we got to that scene so we couldn’t show Steve entering the door as we’d planned. We worked around this by instead showing the office employees (Becca, Matt, extras Christine and Samantha) going nuts in all-out Nerf gun warfare before showing Steve step into the frame. So instead of him getting hit with the balloon the second he entered, he stood shocked for a few seconds watching the chaos and THEN getting pelted. I think the end result ended up being funnier than originally planned so it all worked out. Also we ended up having three cameras on Steve when the balloon hit. Action shot to the max.

I heart my actors

I love all the actors because they totally get their characters. I feel like the ones I wrote for this are more developed than ones I’ve written in the past and they seem more real. I am really happy with our casting and how everyone seems to be getting along.

Tomorrow the scariest scene of my life takes place, with every cast member on set and lots of craziness going on. It’s a good thing we now have three cameras, but we’re kind of going to need people behind them. Also, my dad will be there, yay! Hooray for the most supportive dad on the planet who randomly agreed to come to Columbus on a Monday night to be in a very silly production with me, my brother and our friends. It’s just like when we were kids, right?

Day 2 of filming for “The Candidate”

I’m learning a new lesson with this project, and it is that delegating is very important for one’s sanity. Paul did a much better job with last night’s photo shoot than I would have, and his being there freed me up to help test the new light kit and assist Bill with wardrobe selections. It also gave me a few minutes to enjoy just being on set for a change. Tonight Aryeh helped me out with lighting and ran the clapper board while Stacey found time to finish an important part of our set design. Since I can’t be in three places at once, this was good news for me.

We finished our second night of filming, which means we are now 1/3 of the way through production. That was quick. We wrapped in under an hour tonight, which can happen I guess, if you don’t change the set, lights or frame. Oh, and if your actors have their lines down perfectly like our two did tonight. That made my life easier.

Steve, playing Matthew

Becca, playing Lauren

I’m a little concerned about the sound quality of tonight’s footage. There was a lot of white noise going on in my office so we’ll see if it’s enough to constitute a re-shoot. I hope not, because it will mean having to find a different office, but we’ll see. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tomorrow, the more complicated scenes begin, but we can handle it. My brother and I were discussing some of the shots tonight and I think we’ve got a decent plan of attack. I am so glad he is our director of photography. He’s going to be behind Camera 1 an I’ll be at the monitor with the headphones. Someone else will operate Camera 2 but needs to avoid a large part of the room as well as getting caught in Camera 1’s frame. Should be interesting.

Here we go…

Filming began this evening on “The Candidate.” It’s late, so I can’t say a whole lot about it. Just know that it was awesome, and we are 1/6 of the way through production. That is more than 0/6, and that is important. Everyone was awesome, the shots looked and sounded great and I feel awesome right now. One of the scenes was pretty complex and involved an unusually large prop, but our actor pulled it off perfectly and we got the shot. Pictures to come, but not until tomorrow night.

Speaking of tomorrow night, we’ve got our photo shoot with our candidate, played by Bill, my improv instructor from earlier this year. He is naturally hysterical and has the skills we felt we needed in someone to pull off this absurd character well. I am glad he is such a good sport and is willing to go through with my silly photo shoot ideas. I’ll likely post those tomorrow as well.

Day 2 of filming is Wednesday, but it’s just some simple interview segments that will be shot in a chair in my office, one by one. The heavy-duty stuff picks up Thursday, but my brother will be our DP that night (and the following week) and my friend Christine has volunteered to work crew. We still need someone to run Camera 2 (aka, my Flip Cam) but we’ll figure that out in due time.

Full cast at last

As of today, we have people committed to each role in “The Candidate”. Took long enough, sheesh. “Beacon Alley” and “Paper Cuts” spoiled me, I realize now. I am meeting with our Alice and Lauren actresses tomorrow at a coffeeshop near the photography supply store where Aryeh and I will be picking up equipment after work. He’s been in Chicago for the past few days but Stacey and I have been keeping things going with pre-production. I sent out a copy of the production schedule as well as wardrobe requirements to everyone and we got our VistaPrint materials ordered just in time.

Back when I was doing my other productions, I was only filming on weekends and maybe once during the week, but with this baby, we’ll be be shooting four nights in a row, twice. Previously, I was able to write epic blog posts like this one or this one, since I had time in between filming days. However, now that I only blog on weeknight evenings and that’s exactly when we’ll be filming, who knows? I’ll try my best because I love those posts and maybe someday they’ll be part of a book I’ll write about shoestring budget filmmaking for broke-ass college students or something. I don’t really need to sleep for two weeks, right? It was also nice having Brandon around to take all the awesome photos he did, but hopefully I’ll remember to ask someone to do that each night on set.

YouTube stripped a video I just posted of its audio and I’m pretty mad about it. I shot some footage of my dad’s friends and family annual softball game over the weekend and edited it tonight. I added a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song as the soundtrack and YouTube immediately deleted the audio track as a result. Whatever, YouTube. You and me, we used to be friends.