Myths in the Making

As a storyteller my mind often grasps upon small ideas and builds worlds around them, weaving tales out of whatever twigs and straw might be laying around. This is especially applicable when it comes to raising my son, as his little mind is like a sponge and it is my job to ensure that his inner world is richly populated with history, song, color, and story. When he was first born I would often speak to him, as most parents do, in baby-talk, with a variety of nonsense words. One that I used more often than most was ‘aki-pati’, and he responded to it with smiles and grabbing my finger most of the time. One day my lady asked me what it meant, and challenged me to tell the story behind the word. What you see below is a rough draft of the story that fell from the tip of my tongue, one day to be polished and added to a growing stack of stories I will be telling him when he is older to help shape him as a compassionate and courageous human being.

“AKI-PATI AND THE SHARK GOD”

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Aki-Pati was a young man who lived on a remote island in the center of a vast ocean. The waters around the island had been over-fished by the villagers of his small community, and a giant shark begun terrorizing the villagers and driving away all the rest of the sea life. The people were not only starving, but trapped on the island, for when they tried to flee in their boats the shark would attack. Aki-Pati was a brave young boy, and had looked into the shark’s eyes during one of the attacks, barely surviving as the great beast shattered their oars and nearly sank the boat. He began to have dreams about a deep wind that blew from the ocean up to the top of the mountain, pushing him along as it drove him from the coast inland. Eventually he’d had enough and one night followed the wind in his waking life through a dangerous climb to the top of the mountain. When he reached the peak the wind told him about the shark god Kaiku, and that the god was blinded by rage at the villagers for taking so much from the ocean without regard, and so was punishing them for their disrespect. The deep wind told Aki-Pati that he could calm Kaiku’s rage by making him swallow a lava rock taken from the ancient volcano on mountaintop. The boy was afraid, yet knew that if he did nothing the village would remained trapped and starve, so he did as the wind instructed. Aki-Pati descended the mountain and went alone into the ocean, his path lit by the full moon in a cloudless sky. He made the difficult swim through the surf with a lava rock in his hand and a sharp knife in the other. He cut himself three times across his chest and the swirling blood offering brought Kaiku up from the depths, his teeth glinting in the moonlight as he came. Aki-Pati dove down to meet the god and when Kaiku opened his great maw Aki-Pati plunged his hand into the shark’s mouth, making it swallow the stone. Aki-Pati’s arm was taken as the shark closed its jaws and disappeared into the dark depths. The boy struggled to remain awake as he swam to shore, and as he did the deep wind called out to the villagers to rescue him and bring bindings for his wounds. When the sun rose Kaiku’s rage had ceased, his deadly fin no longer seen lurking in the crashing waves of the surf. The fish began to return to the waters, and the great shark allowed the people harvest them once again. Aki-Pati had risked his life and sacrificed his arm to save the villagers, ease the god’s rage, and restore balance to the sea. Long after Aki-Pati had lived his life and passed on to the next world, young boys and girls who were ready to make the transition into adulthood had to wait in silence by the sea until they heard the elders beat the drums, and then would climb the mountain. Once they reached the peak the elders would tattoo a ring of shark tooth marks around their left arm, just above the elbow, to remind them the cost of taking too much from the world, and to listen when the deep wind blows.

Fable: A Cinematic Sucker Punch

WARNING: This post is meant to be entertaining. I hope you can laugh along with me.

As the director, a producer, a contributing writer, and overall core storyteller of the film I am duty-bound to take responsibility for the final product. Actors lacking good direction, a confusing script, shoddy post-production, all of these are on my shoulders. As a filmmaker I have been through some bad reviews in my time, and no film of mine has been so vilified as Fable, and no film so deserving of it as Fable.

The reviewer, Derek the Bard, made a scathing-yet-hilarious video review for his web-series “Chasing the Muse” about a year ago, and recently shared it with me. He got in touch and wanted to create a second review after reading my book “As Above So Below: And Other Unborn Cinema”, where I delve into the making of Fable in several chapters appropriately titled “Anatomy of a Trainwreck”. Using the book and some of our discussions he created a second, equally brutal and equally entertaining review, which I would like to share. 

He is merciless, and you’ll be holding your sides laughing as much as you’ll be covering your mouth in shock at the film-ripping he puts on my movie, but after this review you’ll be loving to hate Fable: Teeth of Beasts along with the rest of us.

Consequently… you can shoot yourself in the cinema-face with the purchase of Fable from Amazon by visiting the “Tragedy” section of this blog, and you can check out the Unborn Cinema book in print or ebook Right Here

Enjoy the review!

http://blip.tv/chasingthemuse/fable-teeth-of-beasts-better-off-read-6586686

Hero Cult

A dark adventure story that may one day be a film. 

In a savage world of warring kingdoms and primeval forests two ex-heroes struggle with their dark past as a demigod of chaos hatches a daring plot to unleash the apocalyptic battle of Ragnarok in order to return the ancient magic of the mythica to a gray land long purged of terror and wonder.

Read the whole script HERE. 

Antiheroes and the Hard Six

SPOILER ALERT: Walking Dead Season 3, Man on Fire, Voodoo Cowboys, and 300

 

Classically a ‘hero’ is a dead man, venerated because of wide fame, the compounding of great deeds, a particularly epic death, or some combination therein. I’ve always thought of myself as a fan of the ‘antihero’, that being someone who fills the role of the protagonist, though exemplifies more villainous qualities than traditionally heroic ones. Recently I have been watching the zombie drama series ‘The Walking Dead’ and like most fans I really liked Daryl Dixon, and I had a soft-spot for his older brother Merle Dixon, because those guys were rough around the edges and reminded me a bit of growing up in the south. 

In the final episodes of Season 3 of the Walking Dead there is a scene where Merle has left one group of survivors and joined another, only to find that he doesn’t fit in there either.  His final act is to launch a one man assault against a vastly superior force, and dies in the process. I found myself deeply moved by the character’s arc, and that after several seasons of him being a somewhat reviled character he has his moment of heroism. Upon watching this I started to think about the classical definition of heroes, and thinking back to other heroes I’ve felt a connection with who went out in a similar fashion. 

As I sift through the list I begin to see a pattern, in which I find a particular interest in characters who  lay everything on the line for one perfect moment. It brought me back to Battlestar Galactica, where Captain Adama talks about how “sometimes you just have to roll the hard six”. Its a gambling phrase, about beating the dreadful odds against and coming out with a victory. When I apply that hard six idea with heroes, I start to see some interesting beliefs that I apparently hold to in my own fictional works. 

In the comic & film ‘300’ King Leonidas brings his Spartan warriors out into the open, instead of retreating into the hot gates where he can still fight, so that he can lure Xerxes within range of a well-thrown spear. When the trap is sprung all of the Spartans are killed, and though Leonidas wounds Xerxes, he fails to roll the hard six. Leonidas dies, but in such a heroic way his story is inspirational regardless of his failure. 

In the Walking Dead Merle Dixon leads a horde of zombies into an ambush laid by the Governor, and under cover of the zombie attack Merle manages to shoot down eight of the Governor’s men before he is killed. For a brief moment Merle has the Governor in his sights, and fires, only to hit a man who crosses in front of the Governor at the last moment. Merle dies, having also failed to roll the hard six, but damn what a way to go. 

In Man on Fire John Creasy is waging a war on the drug cartels in Mexico City, and is severely wounded early in the film. He fights his way through the film, all the while struggling with the increasingly debilitating wound. Somewhere deep down you as a viewer know he’s not going to survive, and you are ok with that, because he is too, so long as he can “do this one last thing”, which is save the little girl. Ultimately he rolls the hard six, and successfully trades his life for the little girl, managing to die before his captors can do anything worse. 

In my own film Voodoo Cowboys, a spell-slinger named Doctor John barely survives a battle with shaman-sorcerer Duvalier in which his comrades (Shaner and Reese) were killed. In order to gain the power with which to defeat Duvalier the slinger must make a magical bargain with a bloodthirsty god, exchanging his own vital life energy for the god’s favor in battle. Doctor John faces off high noon style with Duvalier and kills the shaman, then pays the price for his chance to roll the hard six and dies himself as he walks towards the setting sun. 

In the third Star Wars film Darth Vader sees his son being tortured to death by Emperor Palpatine, and decides to intervene. After years of serving as the dark champion for the Empire Darth Vader chooses to abandon his duties and attack the Emperor, though doing so would surely mean his death. Vader fights through the deadly lighting coming from the Emperor and manages to kill Palpatine before succumbing to his own wounds. Then, to top it off, he survives long enough to tell his son “you were right about me”, and that there was some good still left in him, before dying. To me that sounds like the gold standard of hitting the hard six. 

These are generally dark tales, with grim endings and hard choices, and I do love them so. One of my friends told me, after reading several of my stories, that I seem to kill all of the protagonists by the end of the story, and now perhaps I am beginning to understand why he was right. At the end of it all the way I see it is that whatever a person is, it’s that act of making the attempt to roll a hard six that makes you a hero, and the outcome, whatever it is, isn’t your concern, because you’ll most likely be dead anyway. 

First World Problems

Warning… this post gets a little preachy… but fear not… we will return to our regularly scheduled Argo geek blog shortly…

 

Like any other American I sometimes get stressed about money, my physique, the opinions of others, and the state of my nation & the world. What I don’t do is worry about being the victim of ethnic cleansing, being put up on legal charges for blasphemy, or being starved out of my village by men with guns. My problems are First World, and I wanted to write a post today in thanks of that fact, because I know that this freedom didn’t come for free. 

I enjoyed the life of a nomadic filmmaker for roughly five years, and it was glorious. I moved from city to city, bouncing from project to project as I followed a haphazard path through the film industry. I never really had any money of my own, yet I never lacked for food, shelter, adventure, and companionship. Through it all I worked hard, earning my stripes and paying my dues in the trenches of the independent film world. I didn’t have much to show for my labors, perpetually broke and holding half-finished films in my hands, and there was always the allure of going back to that desk job. For me it was the choice between being a white-collar office drone or a vagabond artist. When I look at the state of affairs in many other nations of this world I realize that while I was worrying about where to go next or how I was going to get there others cannot stand up long enough under the weight of their grinding poverty or political oppression to even consider such a choice. I live in a country where someone can decide to be an artist, and I can make films or write books or make music about whatever I want without fear of censorship or interference as long as I don’t hurt or exploit anyone in the process. First World Problems. 

These days I’ve shifted from nomadic bachelor to family man. I work for the military roughly 4 months out of the year, then spend the rest of the year working on my films, books, and being a stay-at-home dad. My biggest concerns day to day are things like running out of laundry detergent, forgetting to put out the recycling, or changing out the diaper bin. When I worry about money its not a question of whether or not I can provide food, clothing, and shelter for my family, its more like picking 3 day shipping on an Amazon purchase instead of overnight, or whether to take a vacation now or later when there’s a bit more cash on hand. First World Problems. 

For me a big creative outlet is cooking, and I like to experiment about ninety percent of the time. Unlike other art forms, like filmmaking for instance, cooking allows one to have an idea, prepare the ingredients, add the heat, and serve the meal all in one burst of energy. I enjoy going to the grocery store without a plan and just buying a cart full of assorted ingredients that I’ll find combinations for later. I don’t worry about the money most of the time, and the few times when I do its more a question of variety instead of quantity. Not once in my life have I ever worried about where my next meal is coming from or if it will be enough. My biggest concern when it comes to food is the variety of what I consume, not the quantity, because there is always enough. First World Problems. 

Right now the United States of America is a First World Nation, and for that I am thankful. Though it is important to acknowledge that not everyone in America experiences this country as a First World Nation. There are many here who struggle with financial problems that are dramatically more dire than being able to afford hobbies or vacations, and their education/employment situations are dire to the point that my own dilemmas seem silly to be stressed about. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, my only point is that most of us are truly enjoying the Good Life, and we should be thankful for it. My lady and I are starting a non-profit soon, in the spirit of putting our money where our mouths are. Which brings me to my real point (I know I’ve meandered, bear with me)…. being thankful is literally the least you can do. Being thankful is our biggest First World Problem, because to be thankful you’ve got to be looking at the other guy and realizing how good you’ve got it by comparison.

Turn that thankfulness into First World Action, because its the job of the folks who’ve got it good to pay it forward. We don’t all have to go become full-time activists or start feeling guilty for the success we’ve achieved. Just give a little back. Maybe volunteer one day a month. Donate some of your luxury cash to a charity, or fund non-commercial science (we all need to know more about hippos, and those researchers need that sweet grant money). Whether we realize it or not having First World Problems is a blessing, and we earn it by helping others, however we can. 

Bubble Boy

I was reading the Wild Hunt post today and the following quote really resonated with me: 

“The Pagan and polytheist corners of the internet foster conversations that require so much context as to be nearly unintelligible to outsiders.”

And it got me to thinking about my filmmaking choices over the last several years, and how this was a consistent criticism that I received in the past, and yet praised for it in recent times. On older films, key among them Voodoo Cowboys, I struggled to create a film that engaged the subject matter I wanted to deal with (vodoun and zombie apocalypse) in a very detailed and (other than the zombies) realistic way. If it wasn’t for my cinematographer Leo Smith constantly asking what I thought were silly questions (they weren’t) I would have forged ahead with a 60-70 page script that required the viewer to do all of the heavy lifting with regards to prior knowledge of voodoo religion & hoodoo sorcery. Thanks to Leo the script ended up being about 120 pages once I’d explained at least the basic concepts, and yet when the film was finished there were still so many vodoun pre-requisites of understanding for the audience that many people only barely scratched the surface of the story, and as a result viewers rejected the film as just another bad movie. 

Today I am enjoying a very different, in fact opposite, reaction from general viewers. The film Ember Days is a complex soup of myths ranging from Fallen Angels & Nephilim, to Greek Gods, to the Faerie Courts, all of them interwoven and in conflict. This was a 45 page script, with very little in the way of exposition about who these mythic entities were, and only marginal exposition about what their motivations were, and yet the general audience for the film not only understands the story but loves it. 

The difference between the two films is that I tried to present Voodoo Cowboys to a broad ‘over-culture’ audience, and with Ember Days we specifically presented it as “by pagans for pagans”.  Reading the above blog post really hammered home the realization that my problem with Voodoo Cowboys was presenting the film outside of the pagan bubble, and the success of Ember Days has been due in a large part to presenting it within the bubble. 

What this seems to imply for me as a filmmaker is that when I have a story to tell, it is part of my job to determine whether or not it belongs inside or outside the bubble. And I agree with the author of the Wild Hunt post, in that I’m not sure what the bubble means for us pagan folk going forward, though for now I am rather happy to have identity and success within it. 

Pulp Occult Detectives

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I don’t normally approve of the “compile & repackage public domain works” approach to publishing. Seriously, how many more HP Lovecraft compilations do we really need? It makes me think of these kinds of books as the literary version of those cheap 50 film DVD packs you can buy at Wal-Mart. However, every now and then my snarky attitudes are thrown a curve ball, and projects like “Pulp Occult Detectives” comes around. These books are all $0.99 on Amazon Kindle and I have to say, I’m excited and happy about having purchased all of them. Yes I know, I was taken in by the flashy and awesome artwork displayed above… (even that is cheap knock off style, because for each volume they just change the color of the same ding-dang image, cheap bastards)… but I had to! The authors they were compiling & re-packaging aren’t the usual suspects (HP and Robert E. Howard for example), and after some wikipedia research I admit that I was hooked, so picked them up. Granted, its easy to sell me pulp fiction, I’m a sucker for it (raised on Conan & Cthulhu), but I think this is one of those instances where the cheap knock-off publishing tactic has actually done some good. 

Check them out on Amazon

Obsessed. With. Zombies.

I love zombies.

As kids we got the wits scared out of us, in the most fun way, by the Night of the Living Dead. Even as a kid, it was shocking in a very primal way to see essentially “people as monsters”, because let’s face it the makeup in those first few Romero films were some eye-shadow and tatty clothes. Something was triggered deep in the recesses of our minds, a fascination with “surviving the night” as it were, and like many children do we started playing out our own scenarios. Seeing the dark 80’s comedy Return of the Living Dead set in concrete our love of zombies, and instead of playing GI Joe, Civil War, or Cowboys & Indians we started playing our own zombie survival games.

They are the perfect enemy. They look like people, so that plays into our natural fear of mobs. They are a somewhat unstoppable force of nature, so we get that natural disaster vibe going. They are (often) cannibals, and we really don’t like getting eaten. And their bites will turn victims into zombies, so there’s some epidemiology there too, with a smattering of disease/plague fear. Also its socially sanctioned murder, since zombies are basically just people. All great backdrops for exploring the human drama, which is at the core of all the “good” zombie movies and books.

Zombies really are the cheapest monsters to have in a film, other than extremely clever ways of portraying ghosts, so needless to say zombie films have been around for a long time, and they aren’t going to go away. Granted, while zombies are the cheapest monsters, and thus a metric ton of movies both at the low budget and hollywood level have been made, they are pretty tough to actually do “right”. I used to work at a low budget horror dvd distribution company, and trust me, everyone with a cheap camera and a few friends has made a trashy zombie movie, myself included. Most of them suck, especially because the zombies suck (it takes a real actor to portray a truly badass zombie, contrary to popular indie filmmaker belief), but even then I just can’t not watch them. Obsessed. With. Zombies. They may pass from the limelight from time to time, but like the relentless shambling hordes they portray, zombie films will just keep coming. Same for books and especially video games. I have certainly played my part in contributing to the ever-expanding glut of zombie media. To date I’ve made two of my own crappy zombie films (Johnny Sunshine: Maximum Violence and Voodoo Cowboys) and written three short zombie novels, two under my own name (Relentless and Gladiators vs Zombies) and one under my Edward Teach pseudonym (Zombie Jesus). I’ve got four more zombie writing projects in various stages of completion. Obviously I’m both a creator in the genre and also one of its most rabid fans.

The point of this post is that I am enjoying the zombie genre being a mainstream thing right now. Being a kid in the 80’s and 90’s meant that “being a nerd” was grounds for schoolyard fist fights and ostracism, but now we have hipsters and nerds-as-the-cool-kids in our mainstream culture & media. The same is happening with zombies, where manufacturers of hardware and ammo are slapping bio-hazard symbols on their products and Wal-Mart sells cheap “zombie hunter” t-shirts (I bought one, its cheap and awesome), zombies are now kitsch and I’m loving it. The Walking Dead is of course an incredible show, and it tickles me that its so wildly successful now, where in years past there was no way the networks would put something that violent or visceral on television. Not only is it approved for television, it is easily the most successful show in television history, you can have a multi-screen viewing experience, watch a fancy talk show after the episode, and then the whole series in black & white reruns. These days you’re weird if you aren’t into a television show about freaking zombies! Weirdos are the ones who don’t like zombie media! How’s that for a slice of fried gold? Video games like Dead Island and Left 4 Dead are high end and super fun, which is a long way from the old board game I have called “Maul of America”. Will this time pass? Of course. The Walking Dead will either end gloriously in the next season, or it will drag on for season after season (because it makes money) until it sucks and then doesn’t make money any more. Eventually zombies will fall away from the mainstream and go back to their sub-culture roots, where they will wait patiently for the next media cycle. Its good to be a zombie fan right now, to be one of the cool kids who knows which Walking Dead character I most resemble, to have a zombie outbreak escape plan, and to have my own creative projects be mainstream for once.

Aim for the head.

The Day After and the Days To Come

Wikipedia defines the word “career” as a person’s journey through learning, work, and other aspects of life, while the Oxford Dictionary defines it similarly as the course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life).

I find that especially encouraging today, the idea that a career isn’t just your work, its also your life, the learning process… a journey unto the whole person. Taken from that perspective, I can say with resounding happiness that my Career as a Storyteller is going rather well. I have worked for many years to gain the experience, comrades, battle scars, and perspective that I enjoy today. The film Ember Days was released on DVD yesterday, and has been met with a strong positive response. The journey of that film is far from over, though I feel that yesterday was a powerful start. People believe in this movie, with all of its flaws and all of its awesomeness, the whole epic melodrama. I am moved by this, to see my tribe and my community support the film and the people who worked to make it happen. Success is about so much more than money, though for the first time in my career as a storyteller, there is money present in the mix. Though I take much personal fulfillment in the simple acts of working as an artisan storyteller, be it as an author or filmmaker, there is a tangible measure of progress in the packing & shipping of DVDs to people who cared enough about the project to pay for a copy. It emboldens me to dare to dream of the next community funded & created film project, a transformative journey story we are presently calling ‘Werewood’, and I find myself filled with confidence and renewed determination to keep carrying the fire that filled us all during the Ember Days.

Confessions from the Writer/Director

This is a re-post of a “filmmaker’s confessional” that is available on the Ember Days film site. I wanted to post it here for your reading pleasure. 

 

Ember Days: A “Pagan Epic” On The Cheap

In the summer of 2010, I was riding through the misty mountains of the Olympic Peninsula with SJ Tucker. We were on our way to explore the driftwood beaches of La Push. I was already overwhelmed with the beauty of the landscape, and then the song “Come Down”, by Ginger Doss, started playing through the speakers. I found myself daydreaming-in-cinema about a group of faeries called The Wild Hunt chasing a lone warrior through these primordial forests. Then as the song continued, I started to wonder why they would chase one of their own, and it came to me that he was possessed by the spirit of a fallen angel. The song finished and our adventure continued, but the daydream images stayed in my mind. The seeds of a story had been planted, and over the next several months I articulated the story as the shooting script for the film ‘Ember Days’. I then was fortunate enough to be offered $30,000 of private financing to create the film.

For most people, $30,000 is a significant amount of money. You can do lots of things with 30K, but you might be surprised to learn how dramatically the power of that money changes when it is translated into a film production budget. (For example, 30K is basically the “toilet paper budget” of most Hollywood movies you’ve seen. Or, to think of it differently, the salary of a single crew member.) If I had made the attempt to shoot a small commercial, a music video, or perhaps a short film, employing only working professionals for the cast & crew, then the $30,000 would have been an appropriate budget. However, I wanted to make a feature film, and I wanted to make it without creative compromises (even if that meant that I’d have to make a great many technical & financial compromises). If I were to take the script to Hollywood and attempt to arrange financing through distribution & production companies, they would have rejected the project due to its complex story, presentation of a multi-layered reality, and the blending of myths from a variety of cultures. Hollywood wants “point A to point B” sorts of films, that are easy to understand in any language, and that are easy to sell through the use of buzz words, celebrity actors, and parroting existing film trends. If grindhouse action movies and teen sex comedies are IN this year, then don’t bother bringing anything that doesn’t fit perfectly into one of those two genres.

There are positive elements and negative ones when you strike out on your own to make a micro-budget film. I don’t mean “indie film” or “low budget”, since low budget films (according to the Screen Actors Guild) still have budgets ranging from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000. Most people who even attempt feature films with budgets under $250,000 (what Hollywood calls micro-budget) do not typically attempt to create myth-blending fantasy/action films like Ember Days, much less with only $30,000. They stay within the comfort zone of things like spoofs, or comedy, or single-location-thrillers. As such, I get that it was crazy for me to think that I could pull off this kind of movie on such a tremendously, laughably, abyssmally micro-budget. The truth of it is that I am a storyteller, and this was the story I needed to tell at that time, so I would have attempted to make this movie with two dollars, a flashlight, and a cellphone camera if that’s all that was available. Crazy or not, this movie was going to happen.

Enter Sherry Kirk. She was a retired non-commissioned officer (first sergeant) who had created an intentional community space called ‘Sidhehaven’ in the small town of Yelm, Washington. I had stayed there over the summer and fallen in love with the place, and we had talked at length about my filmmaking plans for Ember Days. Sherry was intrigued and offered the use of the property for the film. Let me just say it was the key reason we ever completed the shoot. The house is a 3bd/2ba building, with a cozy front porch, hot-tub, woodshop (we converted it into sleeping quarters w/cots for the more hardy cast & crew), and a canvas & wood dome dwelling called a yome. There are forests, train tracks, and even Mt. Rainier all within easy driving distance. It was perfect. Did I mention that it was called Sidhehaven? For those of you who don’t know the word ‘sidhe’ is another word for faerie, which is a big part of the Ember Days story, so I was feeling the touch of fate I think.

Because we did not have a professional grade budget for shooting a feature film, we had to do things very differently than most professional films, in fact we had to throw the “professional film” book out the window and invent our own filmmaking process. That’s what happens when you don’t have enough money to pay for a cool movie, you have to get creative and find other ways to get the story created. This film was made possible by the Washington community, primarily artists, pagans, and performers. The majority of our cast were non-professional actors who put their hearts & souls into the movie, and the few professional actors on the cast brought just as much heart to the project, as they certainly weren’t being paid professional wages. We had help from not only the local pagan & arts community, but also the Seattle Film Commission, the Thurston County Film Commission, and the City of Olympia for our locations (lots of love for the WA film commissions, who despite our tiny budget, treated us with enthusiasm and respect), and believe me we had some cool locations that we never could have afforded to just ‘rent’ on our own. This epic-on-the-cheap tells a story that spans from pristine forests to swanky condos to immaculate offices to gritty urban decay. By the gods, it even snowed on the exact shooting day in which the scene would have been made all the better for it.

Overall the experience on set was different than most ‘professional’ shoots, in that people were working on Ember Days for the love of the story and the love of making art. We crammed dozens of people into the house, the woodshop, into travel trailers, the yome, and some even stayed home and commuted to our set every day. Most people were unpaid volunteers on the project (I certainly was), and those few who were paid only received a pittance. On a professional set, everyone shows up for the paycheck. Even if they love their jobs, they’d walk off the project the first time a check bounced. On our film, people were there because they wanted to help create the story, to share in the glory of its telling, and see something truly unique enter the world.

Even though this film suffered some blows in technical quality due to its micro-micro budget (primarily audio), it is still extremely cool to know that we, as a community of people who just didn’t give a damn about the limitations, made it happen. Every single time you make a movie, you learn a tremendous amount of new stuff. And employing all I learned from the making this movie, my pagan epic on the cheap, I would totally, impossibly, do it again.