Shooting a Massacre

In any really good subject, one has only to probe deep enough to come to tears.

Edith Wharton

(1862 – 1937)

I’m not sure when it became a regular/daily thing for me to write these short columns. Well, at least that was the PLAN. All through the month of September, I think I wrote and posted five. When I first moved to North Carolina, writing two-to-three a day was not uncommon.

Now, I’m happy to construct two a week.

But the ideas are there. And when I don’t put the words down, I feel like a child hiding something.

This wonderful month of October, hopefully, will have me cranking out the stories in a fashion I find agreeable. August and September were hellacious months of moving, health problems, and other literary endeavors.

Very little time was spent thinking of a daily column to write. And, to be honest, OTHER THINGS NEEDED TO BE DONE! That was the funk that stuck the gears from moving. It seemed like ANY time I sat down at the laptop, I would stare at the wall, a piece of paper on my desk – almost anything. I was by no means “blocked.” I was stuck.

October, though… oh, I hope the words will come. I hope to be haunted with time and grit and conviction to GET THE WORD DOWN. It’s the month of Halloween, for goodness sake. My favorite holiday is a BB shot away from being here.

(A little heads up, all the columns this month must contain some kind of creepy or gory, supernatural, gothic, or flat-out family-friendly Halloween tributes.)

Invitation to a Story

Since moving into our new home, our trailer and former home has been converted into a money-making rental. Mostly couples and families will book a few days or weekends for a mini-vacation.

Not a bad little setup for anyone wanting to get away for a relaxing break in the country. All of it is run by my mother-in-law, Dawn.

“How would you like to be in a movie?”

I looked at my wife, Tara, not sure if I understood the question.

“What are you talking about? Why?”

She went on to explain some filmmakers were going to be using our trailer to shoot a scene for an upcoming Christian film. Being in a movie never occurred to me. I am, however, always looking for a story. Anything to write about with some spice… something different. Trust me: a movie being filmed in North Carolina, not far from my own front door, this was a story I wanted to write about.

Even if the experience turned out to be a bad one, at least I was going out to cover something.

A link was MESSAGED to me, sending me to a website (Milanote) where I could gain some knowledge about this project.

It was the film’s promo image that shifted the gears in my mind. Seeing the doom and harshness of the poster stirred a gut-punch switch into reconsidering my initial skepticism that a Christian-based film -all Christian-based films – are cookie-cutter, 2.0 versions of weak storytelling, poor acting performances, disgusting sentimentality, and feeble attempts at converting desperate and confused people.

It was that dismal and pleading visual of shackled hands through prison bars and a the side-shot of a man’s barely distinguishable features

Before heading to Hickory Christian Academy to cover the filming, my mother-in-law showed me some videos she had taken with her iPhone of a domestic violence scene. The scene that was shot in my former home. Filming of a violent, domestic altercation seemed surreal. It took place in the guest bedroom. Through “movie magic”, the bedroom was turned into a hellish, trashy disaster – a realistic representation of an American home bending and soon breaking from various instabilities and inadequacies.

The iPhone movie definitely caught me. My jaws snapped at the bait. Time to get grounded… focused… maybe some fun will come with this self-proclaimed assignment. What the hey, maybe something GOOD will come out of it.

A Concert Massacre

45 min. inside. The band is on take 5. With each take more dry ice stains the atmosphere in grey-white morphing ruin… soon-to-be ghosts join the rest of us “extras” standing around waiting to be told what to do. Multi-colored laser lights and schizophrenic strobes add joy, pulsing energy, and an inevitable sense of doom. This was the set. A darkened auditorium.

Key music.

Run track.

Action!

From the rear of the auditorium, watching dozens of extras clap their hands to the music, I tried to spot actor Daniel Benfield, our Lone Gunman, when the chaos erupted.

A loud noise.

Screaming.

I dropped my pen and notebook in surprise and awe as I saw the extras running to the other side of the auditorium. They were screaming, falling – even the cameraman fell, holding his bulky camera up in safety, capturing the madness that was passing – flailing their arms against imaginary rounds being fired at them.

CUT!

Mr. Daniel strolled around the auditorium set between takes, sporting dark-green workman’s coveralls, and a prop assault rifle dangling out of his right arm like a lethal, physical manifestation of his character’s rage.

I had to admit, at that moment, before the cameras started rolling on the next take, I thought: this is going to be a good movie!

This project displays the passion and dedication of a madman, an artist, and a visionary – and that is a compliment.

I have not even met the young director, not yet. However, I’m proud of him; happy for him. From what I have seen, the professionalism, energy, and impressive equipment pique my interest.

Executive Producer and actor, Rachel Carter, informed me Zaliagiris has been thinking about the story since the 9th grade.

“Jack has thought about this since the 9th grade […] this film is his senior project […] raw, redemptive, and real.”

I held my notebook, scribbling-down Ms. Carter’s words. She pointed a few people out to me, people involved in the film. There was Josh Snyder, lead singer of the band – their song “Feel It” was played over and over again. During each take.

In his Letter to Potential Investors, young Mr. Zack attempted he was inspired by the 2003 novel, Riven, written by acclaimed author Jerry B. Jenkins (it is, as a matter of fact, his 175th book).

A screening of the film will take place at the Hickory Bible Church; date TBD.

Now that I have seen a little of what this young director is up to, I’ll need to check out the final product. An interview, dammit, is also a must. How else could I cover such an odd coincidence of a story properly without one?

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