The First 100: Where TCBCast Came From and Is Going

I know, I know. I first teased a write-up about TCBCast back in April 2018, promising to do it after finishing up “A Mammoth In Harmes Way” that spring. Well, better late than never, and just as we’re coming up on our 100th episode of the show.

TCBCast has its origins actually way before even Never Been to Graceland’s earliest drafts. Back in 2007, during the initial wave of internet reviewers like the Angry Video Game Nerd and Nostalgia Critic, I told Skeeter Bite vet Matt Luebeck (Dr. Lawrence from Jamie Klotz’s Diary/Mountain Dew Monster from Adventures in Hot Springs) that I should hop on the bandwagon and review all of Elvis’ movies, since that was the one topic and niche I knew enough about to do! Just one problem: I didn’t own all of Elvis’ movies. Plus, I was in the midst of hemming and hawing over getting The Week in Hot Springs made anyway, so the idea fell by the wayside, with me thinking: “well, it’s Elvis. Someone else is sure to do this, and I’ll enjoy watching it.”

No one did.

The original Blue Suede Reviews logo

By mid-2013, I had finally finished collecting all of Elvis’ films on DVD, with the final one being 1957’s “Loving You.” Over the years,as I started finding more and more films, I kept waiting for a series to pop up but never felt the pull to do it myself. I was uncomfortable putting myself out there. I very much felt that although I knew a lot, I didn’t know enough to be taken seriously, and didn’t have fully formed opinions to say something interesting about the topic at hand that a million better critics and fans had already said. But with how well Jamie Klotz’s Diary was turning out (for what it was), I finally started to think more seriously about doing the Elvis review series. I even created a logo for the show, calling it “Blue Suede Reviews,” and even filmed an introduction to the series. I felt awkward on camera, though, and not only never posted the intro, but also deleted the raw footage, setting the idea aside again.

By the end of 2013, I had started writing “Never Been to Graceland” in earnest, and used the scripts as a way of working through my feelings and opinions about Elvis’ career and legacy, as well as grappling with things going on in my personal life as well. Creatively energized by Christmas Heist at the end of 2015, I finally felt confident enough to try again, but this time in a video essay format, and moreso as a way of connecting with other Elvis fans who might enjoy “Graceland” if it ever got finished.

In the new format, I didn’t appear on camera and instead read from a script, which I felt more comfortable with. Reviewing Elvis’ films chronologically, I started with Love Me Tender, released the day before Elvis’ 81st birthday, and found a good rhythm, being able to produce an episode weekly, and even did a one-off episode to review the Elvis-themed episode of HBO’s “Vinyl”. My favorite of the entire run was the Jailhouse Rock review, where I took the film’s popularity to task over feeding an iconography that arguably hurt Elvis’ career more than helped. I pretty much gave Jailhouse Rock a bad review in many ways, and I finally felt like I had found a unique and interesting perspective.

But the series only made it as far as Flaming Star, in late May 2016. Flaming Star kept getting takedowns from FOX, blocking the video entirely, so I kept re-editing it and re-uploading the episode. This constant reworking ate into the normal schedule which could have been put towards continuing into Wild in the Country, Blue Hawaii and others. The last version of Flaming Star to be uploaded, in frustration, featured only still images from the film and still managed to get a content takedown just for bits of audio from the film. Finally, I gave up. I stubbornly refused to move forward unless Flaming Star was up and in the backlog. The series would be incomplete if it didn’t have crucial fans in the Elvis movie canon. Besides, Never Been to Graceland was going to be filmed that fall and I wasn’t going to have time to do the series and make the movie at the same time anyway.

In the meantime, I picked up the RCA Albums Collection box set and got inspired again to put some content out for the anniversary of Elvis’ passing. I did miss doing Blue Suede Reviews, but still didn’t want to budge on picking up the film reviews unless Flaming Star could get up. So I had a crazy idea to review all 60 albums in the set, off the cuff and on-camera, over the course of the 6 days leading up to August 16. I kept them under the banner of Blue Suede Reviews, but aside from getting sick toward the end of filming, all 61 albums got a review, plus at the end I did a recap, essentially asking myself “what did I learn from this experiment?”

I tell you all of this long, rambling backstory (about a long, rambling Elvis series) to get to this point: on that final recap video, one of the folks who watched me dig into all 60 CDs in the set, commented on the final video and left this very kind message, which I responded to.

Never Been to Graceland got filmed a month later, in September 2016, and eventually was released 11 months later on August 16, 2017, the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ passing. During the making of Never Been to Graceland, the original person cast as Michael, who dropped out and was replaced by Stephen Farruggia, was actually a huge Elvis fan. After our first conversation during auditions, we tossed around the idea of doing a podcast together at the insistence of Stephen & Bridgett, who were mutual friends, and had been trying to get us together in the same room to talk Elvis since they knew we’d hit it off well. But between his leaving Never Been to Graceland, over which there were genuinely no ill feelings held, and some creative disagreements (I felt the pod’s name should be “No Jumpsuit Zone” with the idea of leaving the pop culture expectations of who and what Elvis is at the door), the idea of two enthusiastic young Elvis fans doing a podcast together fizzled out.

Until…

I was browsing the /r/Elvis subreddit in mid-January 2018 and came across a 5-day-old thread about someone asking if there was a good Elvis discussion podcast and even throwing out there the idea that if anyone was interested in starting a show up, this person would be up for trying it. With Graceland being done, I was sort of creatively direction-less (I honestly had not expected to finish Never Been to Graceland as soon as we had, it was more of a 10-20 year goal rather than a 3-4 year achievement in my mind), so I took a shot in the dark. I wasn’t paying attention to usernames – if I had, I’d have seen this individual had the same handle as the person who’d commented on the final episode of the album reviews. To my surprise, he messaged back right away and said, let’s call each other and see if we hit it off and if it works, let’s try recording a discussion.

Our first phone discussion was nerve-racking – here was a mid-aged dad from Vancouver and a 29 year old guy from South Dakota – and we managed to find some common ground and common interests, including Elvis. So after that first conversation, we got Skype and a recording program figured out and gave it a whirl, dubbing our podcast TCBCast: An Unofficial Elvis Fan Podcast.

The first episode is almost entirely raw and unedited, except to add a handful of short samples of the songs discussed in our Songs of the Week segment, a section of the show we created to do a deep dive into the history behind a single song from Elvis’s catalogue each and every week, making sure that at the end of the day, every episode left listeners with an appreciation for the music and a desire to hear more. I think I listened to the episode about a dozen times before publishing it because I was so thrilled with how it turned out.

And then the hard work began. We decided to do a weekly show, recorded every Wednesday night and released roughly (depending on my work/theatre schedule) every following Tuesday. We began developing a format for the show, and came up with a list of topics we wanted to cover, ranging from album and movie reviews to discussing Elvis’ influences and contemporaries. The first 20 episodes of the show really solidified what TCBCast was going to be.

After two general discussions, we picked up the dropped thread of Blue Suede Reviews in assessing both films starring Elvis & films about Elvis. We discussed general fandom interest topics like the best Elvis books and websites. We lucked out that the start of our show came very near the release of HBO’s “The Searcher” which led to a lot of people finding our show – our review of the second part came with a heavy but interesting discussion featuring a student journalist who had written a negative review of the film and who had come unexpectedly under fire from many Elvis fans for what they viewed as an uninformed critique for voicing opinions commonly held among young people today about Elvis. That episode remains one of most downloaded, and is among my favorites.

But the one I remain most proud of was the full episode on the influence of Roy Hamilton’s music on Elvis, a subject that featured heavily in “Graceland.” Not only did we get to highlight this influence, but to our surprise, we learned that Roy Hamilton’s son, Roy Jr, who has been working tirelessly for decades to get his father’s accomplishments acknowledged by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, had heard the episode and commented on it to express his gratitude!

Over the course of 2018-2019, we expanded to include the regular guest co-host Ryan Droste, whom I had informally met on the For Elvis CD Collectors forum years earlier, and who hosted his own wrestling show, Top Rope Nation, and we’ve featured guests from many walks of life, including some young Elvis fans just learning about the man, some lifelong Elvis fans (including musician Jamie Kelley, who’d previously been gracious enough to allow me to use his song “Coming Back to You” during the end credits of “Graceland” when the music for the credits was unable to be completed just before the premiere), and in 2019 even did crossover shows with Jaime Kay, the host of The Jungle Room, another Elvis-related podcast that started up around the same time we did.

For nearly two years, we’ve produced a 1.5 to 2-hour show every week, with only occasional breaks (usually filled in my compilation episodes, which in the tradition of Elvis’ Golden Records compilations, feature past Song of the Week segments). And that’s on top of everything else like “SideQuests” and the other theatre shows, and, you know, getting engaged to Deana! Gurdip has, I’m proud to say, become one of my closest personal friends and someone I’m very honored to get to do this with every single week. I’ve been blown away looking at the analytics and emails we get from listeners that come from all over the world.

TCBCast is the culmination of an idea that started as long ago as some of the earliest Skeeter Bite projects, but it leaves me re-energized and excited every week. We’re no longer the only Elvis podcast on the block, but Gurdip & I are both proud that TCBCast is reliable and consistent, both in content and release schedule. We’ve made it to 100 episodes because we’ve got listeners that inspire us to always keep learning more about our topics, and because we keep each other accountable. When I’ve only had myself to answer to, like on Blue Suede Reviews, any one moment of frustration or hiccup could cause it to go off the rails. Gurdip, Ryan & I have a great working relationship and more importantly, good friendships that keep us wanting to continue to do the show. It’s a level of collaboration and artistic fulfillment I hadn’t found in any other medium – film, writing, theatre – so I’m just as excited for the next 100 episodes of TCBCast as I was for the first.

Skeeter Bite Scraps

In 2003, I wrote my first play that was performed in choir class. True to form, it was Elvis-inspired, and called “Viva Las Vegas 2.” Classmates performed, with me injecting Elvis songs in the flimsy plot. I had thought it had been lost (either on a tape I didn’t own, or recorded over) until I recently re-discovered it on an old VHS tape. And so that means 2018 marks 15 years since I first really started developing stories to tell, be they films, plays or short stories.

Over the past few years, I’ve been slowly going through, re-transferring old Hi-8 and miniDV tapes and even getting old hard drives repaired, full of raw footage.

I’ve uploaded videos of student life at my high school, re-edited & remastered many of the short films that were completed, and even pieced together short films that had only been partly shot, like Taterfied and The Big Play.

This video represents essentially everything else that’s left in the Skeeter Bite Productions video archives worth looking at. Short of uploading complete, unedited files, this both marks a celebration of everything that we’ve made the last 15 years and shows the progression in terms of quality and purpose.

There are partial scenes from unfinished shorts, raw test footage (some only seconds in length), outtakes & behind the scenes shots, alternate and unused scenes from otherwise finished projects… literally scraps.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you’ll see

-The first video I ever shot, of downtown Hot Springs
-Indiana Jones Fan Film: Test footage for an Indiana Jones fan film in 2005. I’m playing the Indy stand-in and you can hear Jesse and Matt behind the camera. These first few clips were recovered from an old Hi-8 tape.
-Wise Man on the Rock: This was the next short film we attempted to make, but it was mostly recorded over except these few seconds. Essentially, Jesse would have gone to seek out Matt, playing the titular Wise Man, for some sage advice. Later, this character was merged into the Mountain Dew Monster from A Day in Hot Springs, and in fact, in some versions of that film, Jim even says “That’s not the Mountain Dew Monster, that’s the old man on the rock!” This is sourced from the original digital transfer of the tape – the tape was subsequently recorded over again.
-Jesse & Matt playing pool: just the intro of this, though there’s probably a good 10 minutes of them playing on the tape.
-Daniel during MASH: Just a snippet of Daniel Crossman (who would later play “The Man” in Jamie Klotz’s Diary) during the HSHS Drama production of MASH in the fall of 2005. This snippet was actually played at the Jamie Klotz’s Diary premiere, and is from the original 2005 digital transfer of the MASH footage, which was uploaded alongside the rest of the HSHS Student Life footage from that year. The original footage was taped over.
-Taterfied Outtakes: just a short clip shot in the shop class room. Also from the original student life digital transfer.
-A Day in Hot Springs Outtakes: All of this footage here is sourced from the original May 2006 digital transfer. Only the third tape of footage was recovered in 2016. All shown here is from the first or second tape, but these show the progression of the Indiana Jones/adventure concept, and the “Peanut Butter Ninja,” a phrase which would show up against in Jamie Klotz’s Diary 2
-Paradox Unused Scenes: We reshot a substantial portion of this, so this variation showing Jesse & Jim’s “thinking rocks” (a predecessor to Jamie Klotz’s “thinking caps” scene) has never been seen before. This is sourced from the original 2006 tape transfer.
-Pocket Lint Outtakes: Just a random outtake from Pocket Lint. This footage was all taped over, so this is from the original tape transfer.
-Death and Gump Outtakes: This tape is one of the better-preserved ones from that period. Although the source miniDV tape was recorded over, before it had been taped over, I had made a full backup on Matt’s DVD recorder, which is the same process I used in 2017 when I backed up all the still-existing tapes. This footage comes from a 480p rip of that DVD.
-Unused Jesse & Jim Video: I had forgotten we’d filmed this until I rediscovered it transferring tapes in 2017. It had never been transferred & backed up before then.
-True Love Sunglasses Outtake: from a new transfer of the original miniDV tape. This same source was used for the remastered TLS, which included a new post-credits scene.
-Turtlesphere Q Test Footage: Another literal scrap. We intended on shooting a Dragonball Evolution spoof but only shot this. This was the same day we shot the “Taylor’s Bad Day” footage that was used in the new “movie” version of The Week in Hot Springs.
-The Frog Gump: Partial scenes from an incomplete short intended for the “Adventures in Hot Springs” webseries in 2009. The same frog puppet would be used in Jamie Klotz’s Diary and SideQuests. In the latter portion with Matt as the Genie of the Trashcan, I’m puppeteering with the intent to have Jesse dub the footage later with his voice. This footage is all from a 2017 miniDV transfer.
-Kazoo Hero Vocal Tracks: Recovered from a broken hard drive, these are the original raw vocal tracks recorded for Kazoo Hero in 2009, separated from the music. The video is from the remaster done in 2017 from a miniDV tape transfer.
-A Minute in the Park with Gump: Exactly what it says. It was the last thing I shot with Jesse. This marks the transition from tape transfers to digital video. Shot with the same camera used on Jamie Klotz’s Diary and in the same location as the park chase scene in the first JKD.
-Jamie Klotz’s Diary Deleted Sequence: We shot a bit of footage before the take starts, and then it continues with the edited sequence. This was to play into Dr. Lawrence’s “can’t even water the flowers at the end of the driveway” line, to signify a change of heart for him that would pay off at the end of the movie. We cut it after we shot Jamie & Kaitlyn just leaving after the conversation with Dr. Lawrence.
-Jamie Klotz’s Diary Footage: An outtake of the park “Rocky” gag, a rehearsal and alternate version of Jamie’s missing socks monologue at the start of the film (which was changed when we realized Jamie shouldn’t be in her pajamas during that scene), an outtake of the “Babycakes” scene
-Christmas Radio: A clip from a rehearsal and a small portion of the performance in December 2013.
-The Big Play Rehearsal: Taken from the same read-through that is used in the edited version of The Big Play, we actually read and walked through all first three episodes of The Big Play. This shows a scene from the third episode.
-Jamie Klotz’s Diary 2: an assortment of outtakes, alternate takes, a rehearsal, and a multi-angle of The Man in Dark Gray being pushed into Cascade Springs.
-The Black Owl: A shot of Black Owl and Chickadee running past the camera, meant to pay homage to Batman films with similar shots.
-The Christmas Heist: a handful of scenes from auditions and rehearsals for this Southern Hills Community Theatre show in 2015. I actually filmed every rehearsal for this show in full but the hard drive THAT footage is on has been crashed for almost a year and awaits recovery.
-SideQuests: Alternate takes from SideQuests. Incidentally, Zach Cox makes an offhand remark about not needing to cheat out as much since filming a short film is different from being on stage in a play.
-I Sent My Grandma…: The original ending featured Jordyn as Zoey delivering the closing speech entirely alone, as seen here in this rehearsal. Later, we changed it to have the whole cast deliver the lines most relevant to their character.
-Never Been to Graceland Alternate Narration: This deleted narration wasn’t featured on the DVD deleted scenes or online later. It was determined that the full freeze-frame-and-narration wasn’t necessary and only served to slow the film’s opening down.
-NB2G Improv Outtakes: Tyler Mathieson, as “Dan the Man” gave us multiple variations on what his character might yell when awakened during the final scene of the film. They’re compiled here.
-NB2G Deleted Scene w/Temp Music: Beyond the fact that we were never going to get the rights to Roy Hamilton’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” on our budget for the commercially-available version of the film, this scene was cut anyway to tighten the pace and story around Michael as the protagonist. This is the scene as it was in the first edit, with temp music included.
-Viva Las Vegas 2 Clips – Recovered from a VHS tape, from 2003. Fun fact: in the first cut of “Graceland”, that deleted scene literally does end with a transition to Elvis’ “Follow That Dream” over a travel montage that was also cut. That it also happened to be one of the songs I had in 2003’s skit “Viva Las Vegas 2” brings everything full circle nicely I think.

Never Been to Graceland: Deleted & Alternate Scenes

This week it’s been one year since Never Been to Graceland was released so each day we’ll be releasing a special piece of content, some of which was featured on the Never Been to Graceland DVD, some of which has never been seen before – enjoy!

Here are a handful of scenes that were cut from the final version of the film, including an entire subplot! Featuring music by Just Mirlyn – visit them at justmirlyn.com and check out their music on streaming services!

4 Years Ago Today

Four years ago today, I sat up late writing what would become the first outline of Never Been to Graceland.

The first outline was much zanier. Instead of a long-lost song, the MacGuffin was a long-lost Elvis film that had been canned under the orders of Colonel Parker. Michael, traveling cross-country to see the film “because he’s seen every Elvis movie and has to see the last one,” ran across a deluded fan who claimed to be the daughter of Elvis and Ann-Margret, a biker gang, a mega-rich collector of rock and roll memorabilia, and a duo of bumbling private investigators hired by AJ’s parents to find her when she stows away in the back of Michael’s truck (unbeknownst to him.) Oh, did I forget to mention? AJ, now a reporter, in the early drafts was a teenager on the run and in its earliest incarnations, “Graceland” attempted to blend the silliness of Willy Wonka and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World with echoes of the grounded, on-the-road cinematic sensibility of Terence Malick’s “Badlands”… all under the umbrella of a celebration of the phenomenon that is the fandom of Elvis Presley.

Four years ago today, I was still smack in the middle of editing The Incredible Search for Jamie Klotz’s Diary, trying desperately to prove that I could make a movie, period, let alone a good one or coherent one. I had announced Graceland at the premiere of Jamie Klotz’s Diary. It was my “end goal.” Knowing how long and how many failed projects it took before I got to Jamie Klotz, I have to confess I honestly don’t know if I ever thought I’d really actually make Graceland. If I was going to follow this dream, why not shoot as far as I could imagine?

My mistake.

A few days ago I sat down and watched Jamie Klotz’s Diary for the first time in about a year. Whenever I have a new project that’s about to be released, I always end up watching old projects to just reflect. I’d forgotten how funny that movie was, but also, too, how endearing its low-budget workarounds were. I still saw so many things I wish I could just back go in and fix – visual effects, camera moves, sound quirks. Then I switched over and watched Graceland one more time, looking for any possible reason to make any last minute changes or fixes. I couldn’t find one. It is literally as good as it is going to get.  Short of re-shooting, I couldn’t fix anything else… and I wouldn’t want to anyway.

So here I am, trying to savor every moment of this, because I don’t know when the next one will be, or if there WILL be a “next one.” I’ve got ideas, some of which I might even talk about at the premieres during the Q&A, but I’m not committed to anything. I’m going to spend a lot of time next week thanking people. I mean every word of it, and if I forget anyone, I’m incredibly sorry. This has been an amazing four years and it couldn’t have been done without help.

My only hope now is that it resonates with the right people.

I have a shelf at home on which I have every single one of Elvis’ movies, from Love Me Tender to Change of Habit, plus the documentaries, TV specials, and a good number of Elvis-related movies that don’t star the man himself; Well known stuff like Walk the Line and Elvis & Nixon alongside more obscure stuff like Lonely Street and Elvis Has Left the Building.

Now I’ve gotta make room on that shelf for Never Been to Graceland.

Never Been to Graceland Premieres

Exciting news! Never Been to Graceland, after 4 years of work, will finally premiere August 16-17 at the Hot Springs Theatre in Hot Springs, SD and August 18-19 at Seraphim Theatrical Entertainment in Rapid City, SD!

On August 16, it will also be available on Amazon through Amazon Video Direct, which is arguably even more exciting!

It is an understatement to say that after 4 years, I have a lot of mixed feelings about finally unleashing the film onto the world! I will have to write about them soon… Just wanted to get the word out!

Never Been to Graceland Trailer & IndieGoGo Campaign Launch

 

It’s here! One year of production, four years of development and 16 years of inspiration has led to this! Never Been to Graceland is almost complete!

We have officially launched an IndieGoGo to help facilitate pre-orders – check it out here and get your order in!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/never-been-to-graceland-short-film-music/x/703055