My motion picture acting debut

Twenty-four hours after performing in what promises to be first appearance in a real motion picture – unlike the Super 8 movies that Dad made of us during Christmas and birthdays in my youth – the headache has finally subsided, the mild nausea is gone and I’m applying heat to a stiff neck.

A re-enactment of my head banging scene from "Resurrection," taken by Kimberly Hoffman.

A re-enactment of my head banging scene from “Resurrection,” taken by Kimberly Hoffman.

I guess you could say that my acting debut (at least as far as the big screen is concerned) was a pain in the neck … and then some. But that would give perhaps the wrong impression of the entire experience. But for the aftereffects of pretending to slam my head against the wall of a downtown Franklin, Indiana, building on June 2, 2014, I thoroughly enjoyed the few hours I spent with cast and crew of Resurrection, a B horror movie that has been in the works for four years.

This was not exactly my first acting experience. I played the month of August in a play in fourth grade. I got to wear a softball glove and a baseball cap, which I thought was awesome. A year later, I was a man with big ears waiting at a bus stop in another school play. I also starred in two fantastically written, directed and acted Hoffman Christmas Movie series. I’m thinking HBO is going to pick that series up any year now. I also played Dr. Offenwrong in a church play once.

My experience in Resurrection was also not my first with a movie. I spent four days as a production assistant on “Road to Calgary,” which previewed the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, back in 1988. I think it was something that ended up being run as a series on TV. During a speed skating event in Milwaukee, I corralled some of the top female speed skaters in the world for interviews that the director conducted, among other minor duties. So, I got to see up close, the way a director worked with the talent, sound engineer, camera folks and the like.

But that was far behind the scenes. My head banging experience yesterday was right in front of the camera.

I got involved in Resurrection because I know the man directing things now, Bill Dever of Franklin. I’ve seen a couple of Bill’s recent movies: Gila! and Monster Cruise, which were shot in and near Franklin. Bill asked for people to help him out and I told him that if my schedule would cooperate, so would I. A couple of days later, I was emailed the script, along with a shooting schedule, listing which scenes would be shot on which days.

I also got a list of actors and their roles. Next to my name, it said “Crazy Man.” Oh, man, typecast in my very first film!

I looked through the script for the scenes that would be shot on the day I was there. Near the end of the schedule for June 2, I saw a part for a crazy man. He was to run up to Farm Girl all crazy and stuff. She was supposed to fire some shots toward him to scare him off. Then, he was to run off, crazily I assumed.

Seemed straightforward enough. And it seemed like something I could handle.

In the meantime, my mind raced with all sorts of questions. What should Crazy Man wear? Should Crazy Man have some sort of weird tic? Should Crazy Man be a hyper, just had five cups of coffee, crazy … or should he be more of a sullen, psychotic killer zombie-like crazy.

I asked Bill. He said “hyper, baby.”

Well, that settled that.

Then it was time to really dig deeply into this character. I really needed to know Crazy Man inside and out, his hopes, his dreams, his background. What was my motivation? How big of a trailer would I get and how much makeup would I have to wear. Oh, and would they make sure I only got the green M&Ms in my dressing room?

After reading a few bits of the script, I realized that Crazy Man would have about 10 seconds of screen time tops. So, I just decided to wing it … and/or do what Bill told me to do when I got there. Which worked out great, since by the time we got around to shooting my part, Bill had changed his mind regarding what he wanted me to do.

I got to Bill’s office about noon, since I didn’t have to be there in the morning. Later on, Mark Burchett, Bill’s assistant director, met me and took me to where the crew had been shooting. By the time we got there, it was time for lunch.

I got to meet four of the actors and two crew members during lunch, and everyone was very nice. I also got to ask Bill more about the movie since all I knew was the fact that I saw it on Internet Movie Data Base online and it said the movie was done in 2010. Bill told me that Resurrection had been shot with a different director, but that Bill wasn’t entirely happy with some of the scenes. So, he was reshooting some of it.

I still had to change clothes since I had gone to Bill’s office straight from work. I suggested a nice, plain white T-shirt and old jeans. That was perfect, Bill said. I changed in the restroom, and after lunch, our little troupe took off in a mini convoy looking for an appropriate spot to shoot a short scene. Bill said we’d shoot this one and then shoot me banging my head against a wall in downtown Franklin.

Here is a photo I took of the crew filming a scene from Resurrection:

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Bang my head against a wall? He wasn’t serious, right? That wasn’t part of the script that I read. Oh well, I thought, he must have changed his mind about something. Either that or he was kidding. I wasn’t really going to have to bang my head against a wall, would I?

Since I worked in Franklin for more than 10 years and know lots of people, I suppose I was bound to run into acquaintances when we got to the location. And sure enough, while waiting in a parking lot shortly after arriving downtown, a co-worker spotted our crew. He gave an inquisitive look before asking if this was some sort of gang activity.

As soon as Bill and the crew figured out where exactly we’d be shooting, Bill lined me up against the outside of a building and told me to practice banging my head against the wall. Having glanced at a few scenes in the script, I had come to the conclusion that something had happened to some of the townsfolk of Franklin and that I was one of the “infected.” Hence, the head banging episode.

It’s all for the sake of art, I reminded myself.

I asked him to hold my glasses, I stretched me arms out toward the building and flung my head dangerously close to the brick exterior. After a couple of practice tries, Bill asked if I could do it a little more violently, without of course actually coming into contact with the wall.

Having now gauged the distance required to make it look like I was hitting the wall, I pulled my head back and thrust it forward with more vigor. I did this a few times, wondering each time whether I would accidentally go too far and actually smack the wall. I didn’t, and the new, more enthusiastic head banging seemed to please the director.

At one point, in between head banging episodes, a man walked out of a door right next to where I was standing. He wore a tie and carried a briefcase. I said hello and he replied in kind. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking as he passed through our “set.”

Here is a photo I took of the crew getting ready to shoot the scene I was in:

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This scene involved a young couple walking down the street talking about what was going on in town. They come across the head banging fellow and move away from him.

As I waited for the other actors to get ready for the scene, a red truck stopped on the street right in front of me. A familiar voice called to me. I couldn’t see him, but I knew it was my friend, another guy named Bill. I walked out to him and explained what was going on. He is eager to see the movie when it’s done.

Back to my wall, it wasn’t long before I heard “action.” Hoping to be the best head banger ever, I attacked the wall with much enthusiasm. When I heard “cut,” I stopped, hoping we had nailed it in one take since I was starting to feel just a tad dizzy.

I was not so lucky.

With each take, I got just a little dizzier. Not so bad that I had issues walking or anything like that. Just felt like I had had a couple beers on an empty stomach.

We only did about three or four takes. Once, we had a car drive by and a loud wind blow, causing us to get bad audio. I’m pretty sure the head banging was consistently awesome, though.

And then, just after we got the take with everybody, I was asked to smack my head one more time for a close-up shot. Just me. Only me.

When I got home later, I noticed Bill had slated himself to play Head Banger later in the week. So, I figure that for one reason or another, he switched those parts. So I guess my role was actually Head Banger.

I wish I’d asked one of the actors who wasn’t in the scene to take a couple photos while they shot the head banging scene. I didn’t think of that until it was too late.

You’ll just have to see the movie, if you’re not too squeamish. I think by the time it comes out, I’ll have my head back to normal.

Wauwatosa memories from a reader

Below are excerpts from an email I received from a reader of “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher.” Many of you native Wauwatosans may recall the Pig Farm.
 
Hi Paul,
 
I very much enjoyed reading your book, in part because it lent perspective to some of my childhood activities in Tosa. In the mid ’70s (a friend) and I used to go junking and exploring back in the Pig Farm area and along the river. We made a couple trips, then one day he came back and said we better be armed if we go again, and cited some incident his family had told him about. Next trip we made with knives in our pockets, and whatever they had told him seemed to have him half expecting we were gonna use them. I’ll bet it was the Schumacher incident. Something like that would leave an impression that would resonate in longtime villagers’ memories for years.
 
My “turf” was typically north of that area, on the north side of Capitol Drive, Webster School neighborhood. But I remember encountering active yunkles and hobos in the parkway near us back in the 1960s and 1970s. 
 
I look forward to anything else you might produce with a relevant local history.
 
Bill Laste

Sterling North official announcement

 

Here is the announcement on the Sterling North Book and Film Festival website announcing my appearance there on Sept. 27.

For more information on the festival, which will be conducted in Edgerton, Wisconsin, click here.

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Tomah! Tomah!

There’s a new event planned for west central Wisconsin this spring at which folks will be able to purchase autographed copies of “Murder in Wauwatosa.”

The first Tomah Rotary Beer and Sausage Fest is scheduled for 2-6 p.m., Saturday, May 3, 2014 at the Tomah Recreation Park.

I was invited to attend and sell autographed copies of my book. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend due to a previous engagement. But the host said he’d be willing to promote and sell autographed books at the fest as long as I supply him with said books. So, that’s what we’re going to do.

Tomah is southeast of Eau Claire, east of La Crosse and northwest of Portage and Wisconsin Dells. 

If they run out of books, just send $20 to me at PO Box 2611, Columbus, IN 47203 and I’ll get you an autographed copy.

We’re back in the top 1%

It’s been a while, but “Murder in Wauwatosa” has jumped back into the top 1% of books ranked by Amazon’s author website. Of more than 8 million paperbacks listed on the site, “Murder in Wauwatosa” hit spot No. 62,660 on Feb. 12, 2014.

We’ve only finished a day ranked that high three other times since the book came out in July 2012:

38,028 on Sept. 23, 2012

40,637 on May 8, 2013

46,660 on Dec. 1, 2012

Thanks for all your support!

 

Scrapbook of the Book

For Christmas 2013, my wife spent endless hours making a scrapbook of my journey of getting a book published, then going around to all sorts of presentations, book signings, and whatnot. She sprinkled in inspirational quotes, author-type artwork and more. thought it was kind of cool, so I’ll share some of what’s in it.

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2013 in review (Thanks!)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A few photos – just for fun

My wife and I before going to see "Grease" at The Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, Indiana.

My wife and I before going to see “Grease” at The Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, Indiana.

 

A photo illustration by by high school classmate, Art Mellor, famed Milwaukee photographer.

A photo illustration by by high school classmate, Art Mellor, famed Milwaukee photographer.

At Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

At Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Here I am at my table at the Greenwood (Indiana) Public Library during its Local Author Fair on Nov. 9, 2013.

Here I am at my table at the Greenwood (Indiana) Public Library during its Local Author Fair on Nov. 9, 2013.

Here I am placing one of my "Murder in Wauwatosa" books in a Free Little Library on Warren Avenue in Wauwatosa this summer. These little libraries are so cool. People come by, pick up a book and leave one.

Here I am placing one of my “Murder in Wauwatosa” books in a Free Little Library on Warren Avenue in Wauwatosa this summer. These little libraries are so cool. People come by, pick up a book and leave one.

Advertising campaign

I’m starting an advertising campaign with Marcus Promotions, placing ads in some of its Footlights programs – the in-theater programs you get at plays and shows in and around Milwaukee. I’d like to thank Angie Mack for helping me get this campaign under way, and the Marcus Promotions design staff for its great work on these ads. 

Hopefully, we’ll be able to spread the word about Buddy Schumacher’s story around the Milwaukee area in the next few months. I believe the first Footlights we’re scheduled to run in is the “Groucho: A Life in Review,” the story of funny man Grouch Marx, at Next Act Theatre in Walker’s Point,  Nov. 14 to Dec. 8.

My wife and I love to attend live theater. There are so many great productions, something for everybody in the family. I encourage you to check out the huge variety of great shows you can see in the Milwaukee area by clicking right here!

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