Archive for May, 2011

  • Documentary Blog #17 – Overall costs and why I’m asking for $.

    As many of you know I have been asking (repeatedly) for money to be donated to this project.  And, I can openly admit that it has been hard to raise additional funds for this project.  A friend of mine warned me that it would be difficult to raise funds for this project because most of society doesn't find anything remotely related to senior citizens to be "sexy."  At first, I thought he was wrong and I was going to prove him wrong.  After several attempts to raise money and failing I am starting to see that he is right about it.  I guess this topic isn't as appealing to the masses as I had thought and must seen more as a niche project even though this topic is one that will affect ALL of us.  This confounds me. Recently, I have been really trying to promote my donation page on Kickstarter.com in an effort to raise money to tell this entire story of Senior Hunger and Ageism in America.  With any documentary, one needs money for travel, production, post production, food, etc.  So, I want to share the cost of a trip I am trying to make to Washington, DC just to show how the costs break down and why getting additional funds is so important.  Please understand that really good documentaries FIND the story and don't just TELL the story.  That's the difference between a news program and a documentary.  Most news programs just tell the story, travel to a city and are gone the next day.  With a documentary it's important to stay in an area, talk with the people, discover what's happening and determine what is the best story to share with the viewer.  You can't do that with a phone call or an email.  One has to immerse his/her self into that area or situation to find the story. That said, I just want to show what the breakdown of costs will be for a videographer and me to travel from Los Angeles (me) and Indianapolis (videopgrapher) to Washington, DC for a three day interview with the Administration on Aging and the United States Department of Agriculture.  We will not use a rental car or have parking and gas costs.  But we will have other expenses like taxis and subway tickets.  Here is the breakdown of costs and this is just a snapshot for going to 1 of 6 cities in my overall film:
    • Videographer Day Rate: $500/day x 3 days = $1,500
    • Roundtrip Airfare for Seth to DC = $330.10
    • Roundtrip Airfare for videographer to DC = $246.30
    • Hotel in DC (3 nights) = $1.267.51
    • Per diem for Videographer: $50/day x 3 = $150
    • Taxi to/from airport, baggage fees for all gear, subway tickets, food for Seth = $400
    • Total Cost = $3,893.91
    The money I am scheduled to get from Kickstarter.com (as of today) is $2,671.00 (minus 5% fee from Amazon - about $131.00).  That leaves a difference of $1,400 that I need to come up with to actually get to DC and I have no idea where I am going to get those additional funds.  These costs listed above are minimal  and I am working very lightly.  Most documentaries/film productions have much larger crews than just two people (as I am using here).  So I am already working as efficiently and frugally as possible.  Also, please keep in mind that I have given up my photography business until this documentary is made, therefore, I have no income and have already spent around $3000 of my own money on this project. Lastly, I am wearing many, many hats to make this documentary.  I am the producer, director, editor, audio engineer, photographer, on-camera guide, voice-over and researcher.  I don't have a production staff working on this with me and need all the help I can get.  Those of you reading this blog - if you know anyone who can help then please pass along my website, email address and kickstarter.com page (as of today there are only 10 days left to donate). I just don't want this great documentary fall short in sharing this incredibly important message because of a lack of funding.  PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN! Kickstarter.com - http://kck.st/hof7M7 Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #16 – Back in LA and then leaving for a month

    Once back in LA I had to start digesting everything I just saw and learned in Marin County and how I was going to incorporate it into the overall story.  Honestly, I think I will worry about that once all the footage is collected.  I know I got some great interviews and stories in Marin and now have to focus on the what’s next.  And, since I am making a documentary about seniors I can’t leave out the great state of Florida.  I had been researching several organizations in Florida over the last month or so but hadn’t picked a location or organization.  Then my wife informed me that she was going to Orlando for a conference and asked if I wanted to tag along.  Since no organization had really grabbed my attention thus far I thought I might as well start researching Orlando and I am certainly glad I did.
    Condominium Los Angeles

    Back home in LA

    In my first look at Orlando I came across an organization called “Seniors First.”  They have been serving seniors in Florida for around 46 years and once I started looking at everything they provide I knew I had to have them as part of the story.  You know, every documentary has a “shining star” or at least one area of hope.  In a lot of docs I have seen there is always one great example of someone doing something right and I knew I had found it in Seniors First.  Now, I just had to talk with them and convince them to let me come down and film them for the documentary.  This can be harder than you think.
    Seniors First, Orlando Florida, Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, Disneyworld

    Seniors First in Orlando, FL

    Don’t get me wrong, Victor with Meals on Wheels in Marin County is doing some wonderful things but is limited by his budget and services and a government that doesn’t seem as if it wants to support his efforts.  But with Seniors First they really have a tremendous amount of services and would be the ideal addition to the documentary.  Also, please understand there is a considerable amount of research involved and I just didn’t read their web page and get all “gaga’ over them.  I am paraphrasing and condensing this blog in order to make it short but thorough and keep you informed without boring you with the minutiae of my everyday acts and thoughts.  Unless you really want to know all the explicit details then I can start including them.  Like now, for instance, I have to pee! 🙂
    Owsley County Kentucky, Booneville, Poorest Place in America, Town, Appalachia

    Owsley County, Kentucky - The poorest place in America

    Anyway, I am still working on securing my additional trip to the poorest place in America.  As I said before, since we were at one of the wealthiest areas in the country I then have to go to the poorest and see how the stories are similar or different.  That place is Booneville, Kentucky and I have already made a couple of contacts there as well.  So, once I talk with Seniors First then I should be able to make the trip to Orlando and Booneville before coming back to LA and seeing where I have the money to venture off to next.   Tomorrow – Costs are adding up and why I am asking for $ donations!

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  • Documentary Blog #15 – I forgot to mention…

    This documentary is filled with emotion.  On my second day in Marin County we went to take some food to a man we couldn't visit the previous day.  His name is Paul Fellow and we interviewed him about his situation and his need for food.  His story is so moving that it actually made me cry on camera.  And, if you really know me you know that I don't cry very often.  I think my wife has only seen me cry once in our 5+ years together.  I just don't get that emotional to the point where I cry but this man's story and his complete and utter selflessness brought me to tears and made me  evaluate my thoughts and perceptions about what it means to be elderly and in need.
    Senior Citizens, Marin County, Suffering, Hunger, Meals on Wheels

    I wish we all had the strength and fortitude of this man, Paul Fillow.

    Like someone said in a comment in an earlier blog, one cannot embark on a journey such as this without having it affect them in a variety of ways.  You know, all I can do is listen and document what I have seen and how it has affected me.  I hope that when this documentary is complete and shown in a variety of festivals and other broadcast outlets it will have the same impact on the people viewing it as it has on me thus far.  Who knows what other revelations I will discover about this hunger situation and myself while on this journey.  However, all I can worry about is what I can do to make this world a better place.  With that, I leave you with these wonderful words from the great Winston Churchill,  "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
    Winston Churchill, Great Saying, Quote about Life

    The great Winston Churchill

    See you tomorrow. 

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  • Documentary Blog #14 – My birthday and loud, heavy music

    Today is Saturday and it’s my birthday.  Lisa flew up from LA last night and we stayed at the Hilton near Union Square in SF.  I love this hotel and area.  I just love San Francisco and don’t know how anyone can’t love this city.  Everything about it is historic, scenic, beautiful and romantic.  We woke up that morning and decided to check out the streets so we went for a walk around O’Farrell Street and somehow ended up at Neiman-Marcus.  Of course we went shopping and dined at the famous Rotunda Restaurant inside the store.  In case you are wondering, yes, I was very aware of how fortunate I am to be eating at such a great restaurant with every bite of that food.  I couldn’t help but think about all of the people I have seen and met over the last couple of days and how something as simple as food (something many of us take for granted) is a luxury to some people.  Then Lisa and I made our way back out to the streets to find a wonderful little cupcake store along the walk.  If any of you know my wife then you know we cannot pass up the opportunity for her to stop and get cake (in any form).
    Rotunda restaurant at Neiman-Marcus in San Francisco, Seth Hancock, Photographer, Lunch

    Me sitting at the Rotunda restaurant at Neiman-Marcus in San Francisco.

    Rotunda Restaurant in San Francisco.

    A really bad iPhone picture of my wife, Lisa, at the Rotunda Restaurant in San Francisco.

    Later that night Frank and I were to meet up at the location of Victor’s band’s performance.  His band, The Midnight Bombers, were scheduled to go on at… anyone care to take a guess?  That’s right, midnight!   We got the cameras ready and in position to see this man in action and listen to his band.  I had no idea what I was in for but our cameras were ready to go and I had my still camera securely around my neck to capture any and all moments of the band playing.  We were at a recording studio that was conducting their “soft opening.”  A soft opening is before the “Grand Opening” so that any kinks can get worked out before the studio opens to the public.  It was a nice, large space that was almost warehouse-like with great recording space for large, professional bands or the single artist just wanting to lay down some tracks.  It was a really cool space. After hearing three other bands perform before The Midnight Bombers, I was anxious to hear them perform.  Finally it was their time and they took the stage.  They were all dressed in black and the guitarist started to strum some chords and play long, sustained notes.  Occasionally the guitarist, bassist and drummer (Victor) would crescendo to a punched hit and then go back into the chords and single, sustained note.  This was all done in a build up for the performance. It was a cool opening.  By the way, the Midnight Bombers had the largest crowd of any band there that night.  That was impressive.
    Midnight Bombers Thrash Metal Band, San Fransisco, Victor Buick Drums

    The Midnight Bombers performing. Victor playing drums.

    The lead singer took the stage and they started playing some of the loudest, fastest and heaviest music I have ever heard.  And, not to my surprise, it was good, damn good.  I had a variety of conversations with Victor over the last couple of days and music was a big part of those conversations so I knew he truly cared for and was passionate about music (along with feeding those seniors).  So, not only were they loud, fast and heavy but the music was tight!  Super tight.
    Victor rockin' out at their great show at the studio

    Victor rockin' out at their great show at the studio

    The Bombers in Black and White, Thrash Metal, San Fransisco, Live music

    The Bombers in Black and White

      The following day Frank and I loaded up the car and went back to LA making certain we got some great scenic shots along the way. Check out The Midnight Bombers here - http://midnightbombers.com/

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  • Documentary Blog #13 – Marin County Day #2

    Fortunately day two started off a lot less hectic than the first full day in Marin County.  While I was shown eye-opening realities I am still trying to come to grips with my thoughts, perceptions and judgments about this whole experience.  It’s a lot to digest.  I am, in the great words of every idiotic businessperson walking this earth, having a major paradigm shift.  I am not incapable of modifying my schema and have recently done so with my views on religion (but that’s another story for a completely different blog and time) but I am always taking the existential view on life and constantly wondering, “why are we here?” and “what’s life all about?” so that’s not new to me.  However, I have never really thought about seniors and hunger and dignity and poverty and medication.  I have never known what it’s like to go hungry or to not have anyone around for human interaction.  I don’t sit alone all day trying to find something to do or reaching out for someone/anyone to share in conversation.  But yesterday I met several people whose life is filled with these experiences.  It’s completely new and I am experiencing a bit of sensory and emotional overload.  With that experience under my belt I believe I can handle whatever Victor has in store for us today.
    Lonely old man, Marin County, Meals on Wheels, Dementia,

    This was a great man I met on Day #1 in Marin County. Suffering from Dementia, Meals on Wheels provides regular check ups and delivers food to this lonely man.

    Spending Day #2 in San Francisco and Marin County We started by going to his offices and watching his staff put together the food to be delivered.  We didn’t get to see that experience yesterday as his car was already loaded when he picked us up at the hotel.  While watching Victor and his staff work feverishly but efficiently to get the lunches put together, I noticed a huge pile of bread.  These were loaves of French, Ciabatta, Wheat, Rye and Semolina just to name a few.  And, these were whole loaves completely in tact and still as beautiful as if they were sitting in the racks at the store.   I asked Victor about the bread and he informed me that all of those loaves were from Panera Bread and were going to be thrown out.  He has an agreement with Panera to receive their bread for his distribution.  I thought that was great and started to wonder how many other restaurants willingly give their “throw away” products to organizations like his.  He told me that the bread is still “good” and his clients love it. We then did an impromptu photo shoot (as seen in the previous blog post) and went into San Francisco to meet his father who runs the Meals on Wheels program there.  After that we went to lunch in Marin County and met a fascinating man named Greg Chidlaw.  Greg is one of Victor’s other big supporters and helps to throw a fundraising party for Meals on Wheels of Marin County.  The lunch was at this great little Italian place called “il Davide” and I had the Calamari Salad (which was absolutely wonderful).  We sat around for about an hour after lunch and talked with Greg and Victor about the challenges and issues facing a program like Meals on Wheels in Marin.  That again was another incredible learning session.  After lunch we went back to Victor’s office to conduct our on-camera interview for the documentary.
    Italian Restaurant, Il Davide, Marin County

    Il Davide Restaurant in Marin County

    Victor’s interview and government waste Now, I won’t share everything we talked about so I can save something for the movie but I will leave you with this interesting yet sad information.  Victor operates his program with a $520k/year budget.  He feeds 330 people, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year and has more than 200 people on the waiting list.  The average cost of a meal is around $6.  And, we have to factor in gas, overhead, staff, insurance, etc. (i.e. all the costs of doing business).  So let’s do the math just based on meals – 330 meals per day x $6 per meal x 5 days per week x 52 weeks per year = $514, 800.  Again, we haven’t even taken into account gas, insurance, staff and overhead (or maintenance to vehicles).  As you can see he is clearly in need of extra money/funds to continue his service.  You would think the county of Marin would be supportive and help considering the vast wealth of the area.  That, sadly enough, isn’t the case.  In fact, he struggles to get the county to help or provide additional funds.  Ironically, the county of Marin conducted a recent study of whether it would be more beneficial for children to ride their bikes to school instead of riding the bus.  Umm, I can tell you that riding their bikes would be friendlier to the environment, cut costs of gas, insurance and maintenance for the buses and provide exercise for the children (in case you were wondering, the weather is almost perfect everyday of the year in that area so this is something that could be done for the entire school year).  The cost of this “no-brainer” study… $175,000.00!   That’s one third of Victor’s budget and the county is talking about reducing his funds next year.  That’s right kids… government is really working for you and is extremely efficient. Tomorrow is my birthday and I am spending it with my wife while seeing Victor’s band in action.  Finally I get to see the thrash metal drummer side of this gentle giant.

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  • Documentary Blog #12 – Marin County Day #1

    Having lived in Northern California before moving to Los Angeles, I am familiar with Marin County.  Although most of my experience with Marin County consists of stopping at some area for lunch at In-N-Out Burger, going to Muir Woods, driving through to get to San Francisco and stopping just short of the Golden Gate Bridge (on the north side) and just off Sausalito to photograph the great view of SF from the Marin County side.  So, I don’t really have a lot of experience with Marin County save for what I just mentioned.  I was looking forward to seeing what Victor could share with me and learning as much as I could about Marin County.
    View of the Golden Gate from Marin County and Sausaliton

    View of the Golden Gate from Marin County and Sausaliton

    He came by to get us in the morning and his car was already loaded with food schedule to be delivered that day.  Imagine if you can three adult men, all well over 200 lbs. getting into a 4 door Prius hatchback while carrying loads of video equipment and trying to maneuver around enough food to feed 35 people that day.  Needless to say, it was cramped and crowded for me sitting in the back right behind Victor while he drove.  I am already claustrophobic and being in the situation just added to my uneasiness.  I am trying to conduct a documentary on a topic that I really haven’t ever thought about or really cared for and now have to sit, completely squashed up against a car door and hundreds of pounds of food.  This should go well…
    B-Roll Footage Marin County, Catholic Church, Fountain, Marin County

    Here's Frank Nolan getting a shot of some fountain at a Catholic School. You can see the small car filled with food behind Frank.

    We got Victor mic’ed up and loaded up the car with our gear (somehow) and were off to feed the hungry of Marin County.  While driving around I started learning more and more about the county.  I was surprised to see how many people are actually going hungry in this county considering the vast amount of wealth here.  Marin is the 16th wealthiest county in the country but would be listed considerably higher in the rankings if it were more populous.  I say this because as we were driving around and I was noticing all the grand, beautiful homes with great gardens surrounding the properties, breathtaking views of the bay and air that is more pure than most cities to which I have traveled.  It is a remarkable and magnificent area.  I started to wonder how anyone in this area could go hungry considering most of these homes are worth well over one million dollars.  So, like all good documentarians, I asked Victor how could anyone go hungry while living here?  This area is loaded with wealth and these homes are wonderful.  It was here that I really started to understand the plight of a lot of seniors and learned what is happening to a lot of seniors.  Victor explained it this way (and I’m paraphrasing)… He informed me that a lot of seniors in this area have lived here their entire lives and when they bought these homes 30-40 years ago and none of them were worth that price then.  Obviously they have increased their value over the years and these people don’t want to leave their homes, therefore, they have become house rich.  They are still paying property taxes, utilities and other bills while trying to afford their medications and food.  And, most of these people don’t want to leave their homes because it’s all they have left in this life.  I started thinking too about what I would do in that situation.  It’s easy for me to just sit back and question their decisions and life and make snap judgments about these seniors.  But since I have never been in their situations I cannot completely comment.  I know a lot of readers would just say, “Why don’t they sell their home and move into a smaller place like an apartment or nursing home?”  Believe me, I know you’re asking these questions because I thought the same thing.  But if all I had in this world was my home then you can believe I would stay. As we continued to drive around Marin County we kept delivering food over and over and over and over and over again.  He and his staff deliver 330 meals each day and there is a waiting list of more than 200 people just in Marin County.  Each time I was amazed at how many people Victor delivered food to, where they lived and the fact they needed food.  It was a great interview (I am saving the majority of what we talked about for the documentary because it’s pretty in depth) and I couldn’t believe how many people are going hungry in this country.  It once again confirmed my belief that if hunger can happen in Marin County in can happen anywhere.  By the time we had finished delivering food I was exhausted.  This is hard work and I am amazed at the commitment and knowledge Victor has.  More importantly, I was amazed at the relationship Victor has with his clients (people receiving food).  He really cares about these people and knows many of his clients’ interactions with other human beings takes place when he delivers the food.  That’s just sad to me and I hope that never becomes my life; I love people too much.  But the one question that kept playing repeatedly in my head during that day was this, “With so much wealth then why are the people going hungry in this county?”
    People love supporting Victor Buick and Marin County Meals on Wheels

    Victor Buick with one of Marin County's Meals on Wheels biggest supporters. If you can't tell she and Victor have a very close and caring friendship.

    More tomorrow about what Victor is doing to try to get funds and I think you would be surprised to learn about his operating budget (or lack thereof). Seth  

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  • Documentary Blog #11 – Meeting Victor and changing attitudes

    On a Wednesday morning my videographer for this part of the documentary, Frank Nolan, and I jumped in the car and made the six hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco/Marin County.  We had our hotel in Marin County booked and wanted to get into Marin in time to meet Victor, grab some food and get some sleep before three action-filled days of filming and learning with Victor Buick.  Along the drive I learned a lot about Frank, his wife, their son and his background in Australia.  Frank is also a musician (as am I) so we talked a lot about music, bands, songs, albums and concerts along the drive.   It actually made the trip go significantly faster.
    Victor Buick of Marin Meals on Wheels

    Victor Buick of Marin County Meals on Wheels

    We got into the SF area a little earlier than expected so we had to time to get some great B-Roll shots of SF and the Golden Gate Bridge before meeting up with Victor at the hotel later.  Victor told me he couldn’t meet up with us until around 7:30pm or so and he could not stay for dinner.  So, we have about 1.5 hours to get some footage so I pulled off HWY 101 just before the Golden Gate (on the SF side) and drove down by the Presidio to get some time lapse and scenic shots of the Golden Gate, barges passing through the channel and Alcatraz.  We spent about an hour down in the area getting some great footage that I know will make the final theatrical release. We then got into the car and made our way to the hotel, checked in and waited to meet Victor.  I remember Frank asking what Victor looked like and I informed Frank that I couldn’t tell him that because I had yet to meet him (however, thoughts of what I thought he looked like based on my previous judgment were running through my mind and made me laugh as to how much of an idiot I was in judging Victor). VIDEO B-ROLL CLIPS OF THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE Time Lapse Fast Time Lapse Slow Meeting Victor at the Hotel Frank and I walk outside to meet up with Victor.  We see this little white Prius (or something like that) pull up and someone started to get out.  I was not prepared for what I was about to see.  A man came up to me and said, “Are you Seth?”  Clearly I could tell it was Victor but the booming, deep voice.  I answered, “Yes,” and then we shook hands and talked for a bit.  Another side note – As many of you know me, you know I am not a small man, never have been nor ever will be.  I am 6’3” tall with very broad shoulders and weigh (currently) 237 lbs. so not many people dwarf me.  However, Victor dwarfs me.  Victor stands about 6’4” and weighs (I’m guessing) around 265 lbs.  He frame is that of an offensive lineman from college or professional football teams with formidable facial features in his cheeks and chin.  He looks like on of those guys in the movies who don’t flinch a muscle when hit with a folding chair.  He is a big man but not someone I would call fat.  His shoulders are much more broad than mine and while standing next to him I look thin!  He also has dark, dark hair that is pulled back into a nice ponytail.  It’s a cool looking ponytail and not one that looks like a lot of the white trash ponytail the thugs in my high school use to sport.
    Victor Buick Meals on Wheels

    Victor Buick standing in the hall of his Meals on Wheels organization

    After the “official” meeting Victor asked us to help him get something of the car that he had brought for us.  It was a large white cooler filled with water, soda, beer and snacks.  Once again, this man, unknowingly, made me feel like a complete idiot about what I thought of who he could be and what he is all about.  I think subconsciously my judgments of Victor are more about me projecting my thoughts of this documentary and seniors than anything else.  Remember, I didn’t care about this topic and my commitment to this documentary was/is part of me trying to figure out why I never cared.  It’s hard for me at this time to wrap my head around the thought that anyone around the same age or younger than me can really care about this matter of senior hunger and be so completely selfless and, well, a really good, caring person.  But, that’s exactly who Victor Buick is.  I cannot believe how sincere, genuine, warm and caring this man is and how he is treating Frank and me.  I look forward to seeing what makes this man tick.  Yes, I spent some time on the phone with Victor prior to coming to Marin Co. but that was to understand what is happening in this part of the country.  And, not knowing him or his genuine concern and care our conversations were little more than me listening to him explain his anger and frustration.  Frankly, he came across as “angry and frustrated” but now I am starting to see a gentle man who is passionate about that in which he believes, is adamant about his position, is intelligent and articulate and cares deeply about what he does and the people whose lives he helps.  I started to see a lot of myself in Victor.
    Victor Buick - Life-Saver, Thrash Metal Drummer

    Victor Buick - Life-Saver, Thrash Metal Drummer!

    I am looking forward to riding along and feeding the masses of hungry seniors in Marin Co. tomorrow. Day #1 recap tomorrow.

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  • Documentary Blog #10 – Heading to San Francisco

    Golden Gate Bridge at Night

    Golden Gate Bridge at Night

    After working with and interviewing Carla Laemmle, I wanted to stay in California for a bit as to not completely exhaust my travel budget.  I know I want to get out to other parts of the country to tell the story so I started looking around other parts of California to see what I could get before leaving LA.  While conducting my research I learned about a guy in the San Francisco area who is a punk rock/thrash metal drummer by night and a meal deliverer by day.  More importantly, I learned he was young guy in his early 30s.  This intrigued me on a couple of levels.  One, how does a punk rock/thrash metal drummer get involved in meal delivery and, two, how is it that someone in his early 30s is caring about elderly and seniors.  Of course I had to learn more about this guy.

    Working past my own shortcomings I picked up the phone and decided to call this guy.  His name is Victor Buick (yes, that’s his real name).  Initially, I was a little curious about this guy and many thoughts (judgments, I’m ashamed to admit) started racing around my head about who this person is and what he’s all about.  I started picturing what this guy would look or sound like, how serious could he be about being a thrash metal drummer or taking care of senior citizens and how intelligent he could or could not be.  Again, I apologize for making these judgments about a person who I know nothing about, have never met or with whom I have never had a conversation.  Yet, my idiotic, small-minded approach and thoughts were still getting the best of me.  (As a side note, I am working with a Life Coach to remedy this mental road block I have put upon myself and thusly enslaving me to my own prison of thoughts and judgments about people based on names, professions, education levels, living conditions and looks.  I know this is deplorable, reprehensible behavior and I am consciously working to remedy this behavior.)  Back to the story… I called Victor and was surprised to hear this deep, resounding, intimidating voice answer on the other end.  Immediately all my previous thoughts/judgments about this man were starting to become shattered.  He was articulate, friendly, knowledgeable and warm.  I was completely thrown off by what I was hearing on the other end of the line.  His voice also sent a shock wave, a warning if you will, through my body that if I piss this man off then not only will I have no chance of interviewing him but that he might take out his frustrations, anger or emotions on my head rather than the drum skins.  But, then again I was making my own judgments about a man I have never met or seen.  So, I decided to turn my brain off and just LISTEN to this man talk. Taking the time to just "Listen" I learned how passionate he is about both drumming and feeding the seniors.  I also learned that he operates out of Marin County, California and not San Francisco.  His family is extremely active in San Francisco but he runs the Meals on Wheels program in Marin County.  Marin County is the area just north of SF across the Golden Gate Bridge.  It is home to Sausalito, Tiburon and other REALLY, REALLY wealthy cities in America.  In fact, I learned that Marin County is one of the wealthiest counties in America (and from what I have found that it is the wealthiest county – per capita - in the country).  My conversation with Victor was one of the most informative, friendly and inspiring conversations I have had regarding this documentary.  Although his voice was still so deep and powerful that I had to remind myself to keep my brain turned off or this man (based on the tenor of his voice) could pummel me rendering my brain inoperative…permanently.
    San Fransisco, Marin County, Golden Gate Bridge

    The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County

    We wrapped up the conversation by exchanging email addresses and with a commitment to talking more about this project.  I informed him that I wanted to come to Marin and interview him, ride around with him and see his band play.  He told me that his organization had been burned in interviews before so he would have get it approved by the board but he would get back with me and let me know their thoughts.  He didn’t think it would be a problem considering what I was producing and creating with the documentary but he had to get approval.
    Fog and Mount Tamapais at Sunset in Marin County

    Fog and Mount Tamapais at Sunset in Marin County

    Two weeks passed and I finally heard back from Victor.  I was informed we had approval to shoot and we set the dates for the ride along, interview and band performance.  I was excited about this opportunity and looking forward to meeting the man I had wrongly stereotyped and categorized.  And, more importantly, my conversation with Victor created a direction for the documentary.  When he mentioned something about Marin County being one of the wealthiest it got me thinking about what hunger in seniors must be like in the poorest places in America.  Before I received Victor’s confirmation email I had begun researching poor areas in America as to juxtapose two areas of the country and show hunger is not defined by geography or money.  So, thank you Victor. Moral The moral of this story is this kids… Don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t be an overly judgmental, myopic, categorizing douche bag like me.  The Life Coach lessons are already paying off! My time with Victor is tomorrow.    

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  • Documentary Blog #9 – Carla Laemmle – Silent Screen Star, Hungry Senior

    Carla Laemmle Dancer Headshot

    One of Carla Laemmle's many headshots

    My first big interview/contact for the documentary is a former silent film star, Carla Laemmle.  She is the niece of Universal Studios founder, Carl Laemmle and got her big break in Hollywood as a dancer in the original version of the 1929 “Phantom of the Opera.”  She also had a speaking role in the 1931 original version of the movie “Dracula” featuring screen icon Bella Lugosi.  One would think that a former actress with ties to Universal Studios would not have to go hungry.  However, her uncle sold Universal Studios in the 1930s because of the financial effects of the Great Depression.  So, the studios have not been in the family for more than 70 years.  I have to admit I was a little, ok, make that a lot, nervous about meeting and interviewing her.  I have interviewed a lot of celebrities/actors/actresses in my previous life and that wasn’t the issue.  I had never interviewed someone who was 101 years old.  I didn’t know how her cognitive functioning would be, if she would be able to hear me or if she would remember everything I wanted to know about that has occurred during the course of her life.  Yes, I stereotyped her and thought of everything that could possibly go wrong.  But, as a producer/director I had to think about these things and come up with a “Plan B.”  But that still doesn’t excuse the fact that I was guilty of generalizing about senior citizens.
    Carla Laemmle Dancer Photograph

    Carla was an incredibly accomplished dancer throughout her life.

    I arrived at her house at 10am on the morning of our interview.  Someone from Sister Sam’s office (Darryl Twerdahl) was also meeting me there since they had helped in setting up the interview.  I had met Darryl before and really liked her so having her there was really comforting too.  I saw Darryl and she took my camera operator (Frank Nolan) and me into meet Carla.  When I first met her I was completely blown away, surprised and shocked to see how absolutely beautiful she is and how well she presented herself.  Of course she was “putting on the dog” since we were there to interview her but she looked great.  And, after talking with her for a couple of minutes I knew the interview would go swimmingly considering she was as sharp as a tack and could provide any and all answers to the myriad of questions I was going to ask her.
    Carla Laemmle Senior Hunger, Carla Laemmel Ballerina

    Carla Laemmle looking at a picture of her as a ballerina.

    As a documentarian, it’s my job to ask questions that are nice, not so nice and possibly offensive.  I have to ask all the questions people watching this documentary might possibly ask.  So, I gave her some parameters about the questions and told her I am going to ask a lot of questions and some of them might make her mad.  I asked her to just answer the questions as best as she could and if they make her mad then please don’t end the interview or walk away but just understand I have to ask a lot of questions.  I felt bad saying that to her because she is such an awesomely sweet lady but it’s something I say to every interviewee and my way of getting the truth.  She obliged and was willing to answer any and all questions as best as she can remember.  I absolutely LOVE her.
    Carla Laemmle Sitting at her house, Laemmle Theaters

    Carla Laemmle sitting outside her house and posing for an impromptu photo shoot with me.

    We stayed at her house for about 4 hours, which was 2 hours longer than expected.  But she wanted to talk with us and was open to share her life with me.  She showed us the boxes and boxes of fan mail she still receives, the photos she signs for her adoring fans and the various memorabilia from her life.  I cannot tell you all the things we talked about that day because I want you to watch the documentary once it’s completed! J  However, I will leave you with one thing that we discussed.  I asked Carla, “Why don’t you go to a nursing home instead of living by yourself?  At least you can have constant companionship and care, right?”  She responded as brilliantly and as insightfully as I could have hoped.  She responded to my question by saying, “Even though I am 101 years old I like living in my home.  I have lived here for more than 70 years and I still think I have a lot to offer this world.  I still think I can contribute something.” That was an absolutely wonderful response.  ‘Nuff said!
    Boxes of Fan Mail, Hollywood Star, Carla Laemmle

    Here are two boxes completely filled with fan mail and requests for autographs. At 101 years old, Carla Laemmle is still adored by people around the world.

    If you want to contribute to this documentary and help me finish it then please do so at my Kickstarter.com page - http://kck.st/hof7M7
    Carla Laemmle, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, Hollywood

    Carla Leammle reminiscing about her many, many roles and experiences in life

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  • Documentary Blog #8 – Photos coming, I promise.

    As a photographer you would expect that I would augment these blog posts with photos.  Well, you’re right.  I should have been doing that along the way.  But, since I am in research mode, I am not thinking about photos as much as I am thinking about research, learning, finding the story/voice of the film and the overall direction.  However, I can assure that with all of the subsequent blog entries there will be photos of what I have experienced, the people I have met and the places I am traveling. One person Sister Sam (see previous blog post) informed me of is named Carla Laemmle.  She is the niece of Universal Studios founder, Carl Laemmle, and was in the original “Phantom of the Opera” in 1929 and the original “Dracula” (starring Bella Lugosi) in 1931.  She is 101 years old and gets meals delivered to her on a daily basis.  We are trying to secure her interview right now.  So, if that happens then I will be getting photos of Carla and will include photos from this point forward. BLOG UPDATE:  SCORE!  Carla Laemmle agreed to be interviewed so I will be heading to her house within the next week to get her story.  I don’t know if it will make the documentary or what she will have to say but I cannot pass up this opportunity to interview her and see what she has to say, how she lives her life and why hunger is an issue for her. Check out the experience I had with her in the next blog post (Hint, MONDAY). 🙂

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