Biscuit the Mole

Automotively Challenged (Part II)

The night of the break down, Ryan emailed his friend Trevor who manages the local repo lot. Trevor arranged to have the Jeep towed back to Saginaw by 10am the following morning. He charged me $20 for freezing his driver’s nuts off. Fair deal.

Ryan called, waking me up from amnesia dreams in which I drove all over the country care free. He said to get ready so we could go to the lot and get the full report. It was a safe bet though that I would need a new car. I got dressed and then made a preliminary call to my credit union. They told me they could take the car loan application over the phone, but I would still need to come in the next day with a check stub showing proof of employment. I told them “Thanks, that’s all I need for now.” and quickly hung up.

This credit union had processed loans on my last three cars. I thought they would be thrilled to have me back. “Mr. Gast, it’s an honor to give you our money. In fact if you apply today we’ll throw in free gas for a year and a Pepperidge Farm gift box.” Which would be awesome because I love cheese and crackers. But no, they want me to have a job. How unreasonable is that?

Ryan showed up and took me over to the lot. We went to see the resident mechanic Lowell who was running an engine on a vehicle with most of the garage doors shut. We made our way through a cloud of carbon monoxide to Lowell. Ryan then suggested opening another door before we all died. Lowell agreed it was probably a good idea.

I asked Lowell for the verdict on my Jeep. He confirmed Ryan’s first assessment. A piston ring blew and wiped out the whole engine. Game over. Ryan asked if he could put in a cheap motor so we could resell it for something. Lowell looked up the engine and placed a call to a dealer. He was told they only had one and it would be close to two grand. Lowell said he would call elsewhere and the dealer said “Good luck.” Not too encouraging.

We went over to see Trevor and I paid him the $20. He said he could sell me a SUV off the lot for about $10,000. I told him about my financing woes and asked if I could just put a new engine in the Jeep. His exact reply was “You’d be putting money in a dead horse.” At 200,000 miles it was only a matter of time before the transmission and back end dropped out, sinking me another $7000 into it. At this point the walls of the office began to close in on me.

The rest of that day is fuzzy. Once I told Ryan he still needed to get gas. He asked if I remembered when we stopped at the gas station in Carrolton twenty minutes earlier. It became clear at that point that I wasn’t accomplishing anything and raised the white flag. Take me home.

The next day I awoke with a new sense of determination. I went through my credit folders and found a letter from a bank to my LLC. They were offering $100,000 in equipment lease credit, but I never followed up for lack of need. I called them and spoke to a man named Roman. He asked me a few questions about my business and I responded with my well practiced generic answers. He looked up my LLC on Dunn and Bradstreet, saw the 80 Paydex score and said I was approved for the $100K. The clouds parted and the sun began to shine.

That is until the next day, when Roman emailed to inform me that the credit department was declining my application. An explanation would be in the mail. Haven’t received the letter yet, but I imagine it will be something along the lines of a company policy against financing deadbeats.

And now I face a world without money for wheels.
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sparkler s

January 15th Detroit Film Meetings

From an email to the Mid-Michigan Filmmakers group:

All,
I will attempt to summarize Thursday, but I apoligize now for being brief and factually questionable. My main focus when I attend these meetings or even training seminars is to network before and afterwards. I tend to only hear every 15th word or so during the meeting and am also the worst note taker I know. All that being said, here is what I have.

The morning meeting was held by the Michigan Film Office (http://www.michigan.gov/filmoffice). It was standing room only by the time I got there. The Film Council had no microphones and it was almost impossible to hear speakers from the back of the room. The few highlights:

* Tick Tock Studios (http://www.tictockstudios.com/) outlined the educational programs they are rolling out in Grand Rapids. They will be 40 hour classes starting with the basics of working on the set, followed by advanced classes focused on specific departments. They are partnering with local schools to facilitate this. (I would love to see something similar here with Delta or SVSU, so hopefully Tick Tock grows beyond the west side of the state soon.)

* Tony Wenson from the Film Office addressed the rumors of studios being built in Michigan. He basically repeated what he said last year. Anything you hear now, even in the press, is just a rumor. However, there are "serious parties" interested right now. There are several factors that go into building a studio, but he optimistically hopes to have something concrete to report in two to three months. He stated that Michigan is very serious about getting them built as it will lead to year round employment.

* Gran Torino: Everyone is praying it gets several Academy nominations/awards so Michigan can toot its horn. Janet Lockwood said they only thing she didn't like about the movie is that it showed the blight of Detroit and asked if there was any way to put a positive spin on that. (I mentally kicked her in the knee at that point.)

The second meeting was held that evening by the Michigan Production Alliance (http://www.mpami.org/). The MPA "strives to promote and enhance the community of Michigan media professionals, both union and non-union, by providing resources such as crew and equipment contacts, seminars, workshops and various other industry related support" (quoted from their website). They backed this statement up that night with a very informative seminar on Location Scouting/Managing. They brought in three very experienced Location Mangers from both Commercial and Feature Film Work to discuss everything required for the position. I learned there is a great deal more than just finding a location with the right look. You need to know what it looks like at all hours of the day, what it looks like from reverse, what day the garbage man picks up, what is the air traffic like, etc. They definitely were able to demonstrate the extrodinary work that goes into locating and managing locations for any project.

The MPA has several more training seminars coming up, starting with a PA Boot Camp at Madonna University in early February. I will be the first to tell you working as a PA requires the skills of a doorknob, but I am still considering attending. There is always something you can learn and more importantly as I mentioned earlier, these are phenomonal networking opportunities. I am not saying you need to join the MPA, but definitely tag their website and keep an eye on what they have coming up.

I'll end with a belated Happy New Year to the group! Let's rock and roll in 2009 :)

Steve
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tasty elliot

Automotively Challenged

There are a few problems with my car. The leather is ripped on the passenger seat. The steering wheel is out of alignment. The driver's side tire seems to have a slow leak. Aside from that though, it's a solid vehicle. A solid, massive, heavy paperweight. It can take you from Point A to Point A. 0 to 0 in 60 seconds. Farfignogo. Jeep Cherokant. It's a dead car.

I spent all of Thursday in Detroit, networking with the film community and other Southfield business owners. I forced myself to talk to strangers and tackled scary Detroit rush hour traffic without a map. It was all way out of my comfort zone but a complete rush. I was finally out in the world, taking a real step towards starting a new life. My Jeep however decided that it had seen enough of this world.

On my way home, Ryan called informing me we were going to Shamrock's in Flint. I was wiped out but still high on the day's accomplishments, so I agreed. I dropped my car off at the Taco Bell in Montrose and he picked me up. Two bars and several dollars later we returned and started the journey home.

Ryan said he would follow me, but after thirty seconds of doing the speed limit he changed his mind. He passed me and called my cell intent on telling me to follow and assure me that he would do all the talking if we were pulled over. That's when it happened.

There was knocking sound from the engine. Then a flash of flames followed by a plume of smoke from under the hood. I should have been panicked or shocked, but all I felt was resigned. The Jeep had endured the endless commute to Midland and five summers of DJ trailer hauling. I knew this day was coming.

I eased over to the side of the road and reported to Ryan what had happened. He said to sit tight as he just had to get some water in Birch Run and then he would be back to get me. "YOU COME GET ME NOW!!" I replied calmly.

Ryan was kind enough to scrap plans for water and found the closest turn around. He asked how much I had to drink. You mean aside from the four Crown and Sevens and third of a bottle of Moet? Not much really. He then asked if my hazard lights were on. It hit me then what a potentially bad situation I was in. I turned the hazards off immediately.

Ryan told me to get in the passenger seat which I did. If a cop found me before Ryan, my completely sober girlfriend walked up the road to get help. I decided to reopen a dialogue with Baby Jesus, praying for Ryan to get there first. BJ came through as Ryan finally made it back. He had to drive almost back to Flint to loop around, but still took less than 15 minutes. I've never appreciated his leadfoot more.

It didn't even bother me when he came in too hot and slammed into the back of my car. Ironically there wasn't a scratch on the Jeep, but my trailer hitch did about $500 in damage to his bumper cover. It was just a rough night for all involved.

Ryan turned my ignition and listened briefly to the engine. "Yep, you swallowed a valve. The engine's shot." There was no time to mourn though as we had to quickly exit the scene. I scrambled to get the valuables out of the car, but it was dark. I left behind one leather glove, one rollerblade wrist guard, a book of stamps, a brand new bottle of Zyrtec, and several CD's. I'm sure there are more items that I don't miss yet but will soon.

A car is just a thing. An object with no emotions. I've had several and I've never thought of myself as attached or connected to them. Yet leaving my car abandoned on the side of the road was a horrible feeling. All alone. Out in the coldest night of the year. I'm sorry man!!!

It could have been worse though. I drove it all over Southfield earlier that day. If it had popped in the middle of Detroit traffic, it would have been a very very bad scene. Instead it managed to hold out till the roads were clear and Ryan was close by. I am truly grateful for this. I thank my car for going the distance, putting in mile after brutal mile. You will be missed.

And now I face a world without wheels.
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dj icon

We've got Spirit, yes we do

“SAGINAW!!!” shouted Ryan.

“SPIRIT!!!” blasted the crowd. The Dow Event center was rocking as Ryan filled the arena with energy. It was the best we possibly could have hoped for. It was also nothing short of a complete clusterfuck.

Ryan had been telling me about this job for months. Somehow he had convinced the promotional director to let him conduct a dance contest on the ice. I imagine this idea was conceived after several Crown and Sevens. This is when Ryan’s mouth either propels him to greatness or gets him in trouble. Often both.

He was smart enough to realize if he simply walked on the ice and did a dance contest, the fans would not know who he was or care what he was doing. He needed a big introduction and a grand entrance. He envisioned a blacked out arena with laser lights as a video played introducing him like Kid Rock. Impressively, the Spirit saw his point and agreed to give him complete control. In theory. Kind of like the weather man giving you permission to control a hurricane.

Ryan needed to someone to run the music while he was on the ice, so I volunteered. The day of the game I went down to the center and waited for him in the lobby. There I saw Maxine from Toastmasters. Apparently she supports a women’s hockey team and was there to run a raffle during the game. She asked what I was doing and I proudly told her I was going to help Ryan run the “halftime” show. Maxine gave me a bit of a strange look but was too nice to tell me hockey had two period breaks, not halftime. Yes I am a hockeytard.

Ryan retrieved me and showed me the thirty page script that been handed to him. He had been planning the event since August but just now learned that he would be responsible for every single announcement of the game. Fortunately the anxiety this caused was short lived. The sound booth operator, Romero, grabbed the script and threw it in the trash. He said their announcer would handle that, so all Ryan had to worry about was his show. That was the plan anyway.

We ran a rehearsal without any glitches. Ryan tested his microphone out on the ice along with music playing. Everything sounded great. Then he ran the intro video he and a friend had put together. Gold letters flashed across a purple screen accompanied by a robotic voice telling fans to get on their feet and make some noise. The volume was a little low, so Romero ordered the booth to crank it up. It rocked. There was nothing more that could be done, so Ryan smiled at me and said, “Whatever happens, happens.” And happen it did.

The first thing that happened was the computer in the sound booth crashed just minutes before the game. A panicked booth assistant told Ryan he would need to play a different song every time the puck was not in play. Hey no problem, the clock never stops for hockey right? Ryan and I had watched maybe three games between us ever and were a bit surprised how many times the whistle blew. In five minutes we had wiped out a good twenty songs. Each only played for a couple seconds, but once you used it, you had to move on. Ryan is Captain Multitasker though and I think it helped get him into the flow of the night.

Before we knew it the first period was over and it was time to kick off the show. Unfortunately it was not the Kid Rock intro Ryan had dreamed of. The Dow has gymnasium lights that can’t be shut on and off quickly. Everything stayed lit making the laser lights worthless. The video played but at a fraction of the volume from rehearsal so no one could hear it. Ryan was also told at the last minute that his headset microphone was causing feedback and he would have to use the house microphone.

Ryan went the edge of the rink with his dance contestants, most of whom were six years old. He had specifically asked for all ages, especially middle schoolers, but was instead delivered a throng of kneebiters. He would have been screwed if one of his friend’s daughters along with her friends hadn’t showed at the last second. Surrounded by kids he asked the staff if they should go on the ice first, or if he should be Mother Goose.

The staff rolled carpet on to the rink and Ryan went to center ice followed by his mini-minions. He quickly explained the rules of the dance contest, went over the moves required to perform the Cupid Shuffle, then told me to hit the music. What came out of the speakers was a distorted mess. The kids attempted to follow Ryan in the dance but he quickly told me to cut the music. The fans stared at him with glazed eyes. He announced they would bring back the dance finalists in the second break and quickly retreated off the ice. The first contest was in short, a complete disaster.

On the bright side there was still two thirds of a game to go and things got better from there. Romero got the computer working and took over music duty for the rest of the night. Then the staff turned the camera on Ryan during a stop in play. He had nothing to lose and wound himself up to maximum Ryanness. “Ok we’re going to try something new,” he said over the microphone, “When I say Saginaw, you say Spirit. SAGINAW,”

“Spirit” meekly replied about a third of the fans. I think the rest were too stunned. But there was no turning back now and Ryan went for it balls out, “SAGINAW” he blasted.

“Spirit!” cried out more fans. “SAGINAW” Ryan cried out giving it everything he had.

“SPIRIT!!!” roared all the fans. The ice had finally been broken. Game on.

The second period break came and Ryan’s video played again. This time Romero made sure it played with volume and also corrected the distortion issues we had earlier. Ryan was instructed to start the second dance contest right away. He ignored those instructions, opting instead to get each side of the arena competing against each other for the loudest “SPIRIT”. The staff freaked out and told me to get the show on the road. I shrugged and apologized as there was no way to communicate with him when he was out on the ice.

Eventually Ryan started the dance contest, going with the simplest possible, The Twist. It worked great and the kids had a blast. So did the fans. They cheered for the winner, and the whole arena was rocking. This time Ryan walked off the ice a hero.

Ryan continued to get on camera and work up the crowd for the last period. He only tripped up once when the staff asked him to sing “Let’s go Spirit.”. Ryan has a multitude of talents. Singing is not one of them. He bombed miserably but quickly recovered with the old DJ standby “MAKE SOME NOISE!!!”.

The Spirit ended up losing the game, but Ryan had won hands down. The staff reported that the team owners who had originally opposed hiring him were ecstatic. By morning the Spirit had been flooded with emails inquiring about Ryan. His website which normally get five hits on a good day had over two hundred and fifty hits. Despite all the glitches and catastrophe Ryan had shown what a true entertainer can do for a live event. And if he has his way, Saginaw hockey is about to get a lot more interesting.
droid christmas

Going postal

Post office guy correctly guesstimated my package would cost one dollar to mail.

POST OFFICE GUY: That must make me half psychic. Not sure what the other half is.
POST OFFICE GIRL: Psychotic.
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darth tater

What's in a name?

I envision a day when the screen fades to black on my first feature film. The audience leaps to their feet applauding, spilling their popcorn and Milk Duds everywhere. Their cheers are deafening as they weep with joy right up to the end credit: "A SG Entertainment Film"...

"So that's what you're calling your company?" my girlfriend asked. It caught me a little off guard. Of course I was calling it SG Entertainment. I had used it as my mobile DJ company name for seven years. This was just the natural progression. SG Entertainment for all your wedding, prom, and epic sci-fi action feature film needs. Won't even need to change the brochure that much.

"It's just kind of...you know.." she said.

"Boring?" I said.

"Yeah." she answered. She wanted to know why I couldn't do something cute or funny or cool. It didn't have to be fancy, just original. She cited Mutant Enemy's infamous "Grr Arrgh" monster as an example. This was a sneaky tactic on her part. She knows that the Geek Pledge requires me to worship all things Joss Whedon. Beyond that though, she still had a point. Even a stone cold Buffy basher would smile when they see that little guy lurch across the screen.

Therefore I am open to parting with my beloved SG Entertainment for something more memorable. And because the general public is never wrong I will also open it up for voting. The five options will of course all be based on my cats:

* Pumpkin Productions (alternate: Fluffykins Features)

* Fangy Jack Films

* Big Bellied Babycat Pictures

* Biscuit n Gravy Productions

* Naughty Muffin Entertainment

Vote for your favorite or suggest something better so I can incorporate it and say it was my idea. I will of course compensate you with a speaking role in my next film (up to two words), front row seats to the premiere, a large popcorn and box of Milk Duds, and one free cat of your choice.
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Biscuit the Mole

Life after Cow

It has now been two and half weeks since I was laid off from the company I will refer to as Cow Chemical. They still owe me a sizeable severance check and are also paying for three years of health insurance, so I must continue to play nice. Not that it was a bad company to work for. Cow put food on my table for eight years and helped buy a video game or twenty. I just hated working there with the burning passion of a hundred suns, or something equally burny.

So now I am free. I wake up when I want, I go to bed when I want. I can go out on a Tuesday night. I can watch an entire season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in three days. I can play Fable 2 at 3pm or 3am. You'd think this would be a good thing but...hell yes, it's a good thing! It's freakin awesome! Instead of fighting material planners over chemical availability, I'm fighting forest trolls over buried treasure. I highly recommend everyone get laid off at some point.

There is the small issue of doing something with my life though. Ultimately I want to make movies and the industry is exploding in Michigan now. Unfortunately shipping 2 Ethyl Hexyl Acrylate to New Jersey has not done much to bolster my film resume. I did take an unpaid position as a Production Assistant (pronounced "CREW BITCH") early this month and did get valuable experience buying donuts, making photocopies and guarding bathrooms. I once guarded two bathrooms in one day. I think that is really going to stand out when I apply for another production.

The truth is I know I am never going to climb my way up from boom mic holder to director. I want to write and produce, so I just need to write and produce. A friend of mine has a short film he wants to shoot and he asked me to produce so the ball may start rolling soon. As far as writing goes...I'm writing now, does that count? No? Well then it's time to dust off my screenplay program and get to work. Just as soon as I finish Buffy Season Six of course.
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hippoheadboy

The Phews learn teamwork

Last night I paid a visit to Bro and the Phews. Phew #2 is only four months old but has grown to the size of a Labrador Retriever, with a similar vocabulary but fortunately less drool. Holding him in my lap has become quite a challenge, even with the benefit of steroids. I may need to market him on an infomercial: "Burn off your buns with the big baby workout!"

Phew #1 also refuses to let go of his Cars McQueen PJ's despite the long sleeves ending at his elbows. He is two years old, comes up to my waist and is on pace to be taller than me by January. Like my brother he got the tall genes in my family, but fortunately I am not bitter. Short people live longer anyway.

"Guess what Unca Steve!" he said. "We carved pumpkins!"

"Oh 'we' did?" asked worn out grumpy Bro slouched in the couch.

"Did you help carve the pumpkins?" Bro asked.

"No." replied Phew #1.

"Did you help pick out the pattern?" Bro asked.

"No." replied Phew #1.

"Did you even watch me carve the pumpkins?" Bro asked.

"No." replied Phew #1.

Obviously Bro was frustrated, but in that moment I could see Phew #1 fifteen years from now, captain of the varsity basketball team, taking credit for all of some poor nerd's work on a team science project.

It made me very happy.
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Arrr

Charlie

Charlie is quickly becoming one of my favorite customers. From email tennis -

ME: I am beginning to suspect you have a camera on me and wait till after I walk to the printer to send your next order!

CHARLIE: That's a nice tie you are wearing today.

ME: Hahaha! Haven't you heard of casual Fridays? Break out your best Hawaiian shirt!

CHARLIE: They don't let us do casual Fridays. Since moving from Milwaukee to Elkhorn, it's been ties every day. I had to go out and buy all new shirts too.

ME: Tragic. Ties cut off circulation to your head. Makes your hair fall out.

CHARLIE: You're the one with the hidden camera now.

ME: Just watching your back in case you get attacked by a rogue moose or something.

CHARLIE: That was the girl from the other department, not a rogue moose!
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