It truly started on December 12, 2011. I was living in Rapid City at the time and was not present at the first town hall, but I immediately felt like it was my duty to do something. I started a Facebook page, then called “Save Hot Springs” and started sharing it with people. When I moved back to Hot Springs the following month, I joined the public relations subcommittee of the Save the VA group and began documenting everything I could in photo and video. The Page began “Save the VA” and I quickly went to work uploading news, videos and important documents both there and on the Save the VA website.
I have been lucky to be privvy to moments quieter than these pictured here. Standing with Bob Nelson, Pat Russell, Don Ackerman, Amanda Campbell and Rich Gross the night before they left for DC. Sitting in meetings, quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) documenting discussions and plans and backup plans. But whether it’s those pensive moments or big ones with thunderous applause, like Amanda calling for Steve DiStasio’s resignation at the 2014 Field Hearing, it always feels like I’m living in a moment in history, even if only for Hot Springs. I hope my work will be useful to future generations of Hot Springs-ians in understanding what happened during these past five years and in the near future.
Today, November 30, 2016, just two weeks under five years from that first town hall, another town hall will be held, this time with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. Look at these photos, which show where we were then and later today, where we are now. Some of you today might realize there are only 9 photos here. Tonight, I will add one more representing the Town Hall with Secretary McDonald.
The Hot Springs VA is still here. We made them come to us. Today is a victory no matter what the outcome. Today is Hot Springs history.
It’s not about the town. It’s about the veterans.
November 30, 2016
Photos by Justin Gausman, William Ing and US Senate.
After a fast and fun four day shoot, editing was immediately begun on The Incredible Search for Jamie Klotz’s Diary. Spurred on by the creative energy generated from the shoot, a rough edit was assembled by the end of the week. Almost immediately it was clear that there were major holes in the film. Dorn’s half of phone conversations with “the boys” were still missing and were thus filled in with stand-in shots for timing purposes (with me as Dorn), several scenes had serious audio problems (the library scene behind the glass was unintelligible), and worst of all, the last third of the movie’s pacing was choppy and rushed, jumping straight from Jamie asking Brandon for help to the final confrontation.
It was jarring and felt like there was something missing. So on the next Wednesday, June 5, 2013, Aspen, Garett and I went out to not only patch in a few holes in the opening and closing narration scenes by Jamie, but also add a completely new scene to the movie that had not been in the script, but was perfectly in line with the spirit of the movie’s predecessors. A training montage.
It makes no sense plot-wise as to why they would go do this, but that was part of the fun of the joke. We filmed portions at the HSHS Football field, back at Garett’s house, Evans Plunge, and several other places around town.
A favorite addition to the montage was the junk food scene, one which Aspen to this day still gives me a hard time about. This outtake pretty much sums it up.
On the same “5th day,” we brought Isaiah back in to fix a continuity error I’d caught in editing: in the scene where Dorn steals the satchel from Jamie, Ryan is hit by Jamie with the bag and then it’s stolen from Jamie by Dorn. Problem: these two shots were filmed on separate days, but were from nearly the same angle, and where Isaiah’s character “fell” was obviously empty in the shot with Michael. So we added a quick shot of Isaiah moving out of the frame, supposedly retreating from battle to go assist Sam’s character catch Okoye. Yet another minor fix, but an important one.
By the first weekend after filming, Daniel had come in to record his lines for the Sahera Backstory scene, although no artwork was complete at that time. After the day of reshoots, most of June 2013 was spent tightening up what was already there, adding sound effects and learning how to roughly complete the visual effects of scenes like Dr. Lawrence going 2D and making Sahera throw Down out of frame at an unrealistic speed.
With mostly a lot of trial and error, by July 1, the fourth rough edit of Jamie Klotz’s Diary was complete. This edit still sits on my hard drive today and features a different opening song, very little color correction, rough visual effects (Dr. Lawrence is almost entirely transparent in his 2D form), Dorn’s half of the phone scenes are still missing and the credits have not been added. In spite of what was still missing, the movie was very much in watchable form.
A decision had also been made to axe the scene between Dorn & Lawrence because, in rushing the shoot that day to squeeze in as much with Michael as possible, I missed a couple crucial alternate angles and readings completely, rendering the scene mostly useless, in spite of it helping explain Dorn’s motivations and family connections to the diary and treasures. In order to fill that hole, dialogue would be added to Dorn’s (still unfilmed) telephone calls with “the boys” to clarify.
In late July, Aspen came in to dub the lines for the dreaded library shot as well as a couple new lines during Sahera’s backstory – which still had no artwork and we also shot the bonus end credits music number which would feature additional outtakes/cast dancing and would only be shown as part of the film during the premiere, which had been set for September 21.
On August 22, Michael finally made it back to Hot Springs and we added the crucial shots of him on the phone. Not the ideal scenarios compared to the scenes that had been scripted (in fact, Isaiah to this day has never met him despite their characters having a number of interactions on screen) but it was an exercise in creative compromise and working around limitations. On August 25, Okoye added her lines over the library shot and on September 5, an 8th draft rough cut had been assembled. Credits were added and the movie was essentially complete, save the artwork that was still missing. Enter Deana.
It’s no secret that Jamie Klotz’s Diary was in part inspired by The Legend of Zelda game series and, as scripted, the scene depicting Sahera’s backstory was always intended to be done in a style similar to the openings of A Link to the Past or The Wind Waker. However, I had no idea how it was done, or where to even start.
A week before the movie was set to premiere, I still had no idea how this scene was going to be done. My girlfriend Deana took a look at the game openings, almost immediately recognized the style I was looking for, and offered to create the prints necessary to finish the scene. I sketched out what I had in mind and she fleshed them out, creating the artwork, carving the blocks and, two days before the premiere, creating the prints themselves, which I scanned, composited & edited into the movie literally the night before the premiere.
She hasn’t gotten nearly enough credit or recognition for the amazing artwork she created, and unfortunately it’s buried till almost the 45 minute mark of the movie. But they’re really fantastic pieces of art that – even if the rest of the movie was blah – that scene was going to look great!
It was a turnaround of only four months between the first day of shooting and the release of The Incredible Search for Jamie Klotz’s Diary. When the premiere date hit, I was so nervous that I hid in the Mueller Center conference room as people entered the theater and made Aspen make the announcement that the program would be delayed 5-10 minutes to wait for the stragglers to come in.
Would they like it? Would they think it was funny? Would they get it? Was anybody even out there besides friends and family? I was just hopeful anybody would even show up, let alone like the movie. To me, I was still surprised that in spite of it feeling so thrown together, it felt cohesive. Worst of all was the discovery that the Mueller Center’s audio system was cutting out the left audio track. Due to the last-minute completion of the Sahera backstory scene, one of Daniel’s lines was accidentally hard-panned left. Without a real hard fix and completely incapable of re-rendering the whole thing, my quick fix was to load the isolated line as an mp3 on my cell phone and play it through one of the microphones as the movie was playing, cued at just the right moment.
Somehow, it all worked. I don’t know how, but it did. Even more surprising was how engaged the audience was. They were willing to give this slapdash, thrown together project of mine a chance, and during the Q&A, they asked so many great questions of the cast. I was feeling a lot of feelings, but mostly I was just grateful. It was completely unreal and I went home that night wondering it was all a dream.
The question on everyone’s mind, even asked during the Q&A, was: what’s next and would there be a sequel?
-Don’t be afraid to make cuts or additions based on the needs of the story and pacing.
-Your first edit will suck. Your second edit will suck more. Your fourth edit might be watchable, but it will suck. Be brutal. Keep tightening. Find a flow and go with it.
-Test all equipment, both on set and before you screen the final thing.
-Whether people like it or not, you did it. And that’s an accomplishment you can be proud of.
-Carry the lessons you learned into the next thing you do and make that next one even better.
Note: Originally Appeared in the Hot Springs Star, December 8, 2015
By John Taylor
HOT SPRINGS – “The Christmas Heist,” an original play written by Hot Spring native Justin Gausman, and produced by the Southern Hills Community Theatre, will be performed at Hot Springs Mueller Center, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10 to 12.
The play, Gausman says, takes place in a fictional Rocky Mountains community called Pine Springs, just a few days before Christmas in 1987.
That’s when a group of nerdy and outcast teens (Alex, Kenzie, Shawna and Robin) discover that the mayor of Pine Springs is plotting with a shady businessman to close their favorite hangout – a motel called Gus’s – to make way for a new shopping plaza, to be built along a new stretch of highway being constructed through town, they plan a protest.
Meanwhile, a bank robbery in the adjacent county has everyone on edge, looking for suspicious strangers.
Just such a stranger, Ben, strolls into Pine Springs – and Gus’s – when his car breaks down.
The kids protest plans go awry. However, suspecting Ben to be the bank robber, they decide to kidnap him and force him to help them break into city hall and steal back proof of the mayor’s plans.
Things get even more complicated when cheerleader Kelly (Alex has a crush on her) decides she wants to help them. She happens to be the mayor’s step-daughter.
“The Christmas Heist is a play filled to the brim with 1980s throwbacks, holiday spirit, a ton of humor, a little drama and a big heart,” Gausman says. “But it’s not at all autobiographical. It’s completely fiction.”
A couple of years ago, Gausman says, he was inspired by the video game, Grand Theft Auto 5, which had a bank robber character in it. He wondered what would happen if this bank robber got caught in a small town, what sort of trouble there would be. The result of his imaginary exploration is “The Christmas Heist.”
The 1980s throwbacks come from Gausman’s fascination with the 1980s.
“I just have an affinity for 80s culture.” He particularly likes the work of screenwriter, producer and filmmaker John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink) and Chris Columbus (Gremlins, The Goonies) he said.
“I was born the year after the play is set,” he said, noting that his parents were teenagers in the 1980s. His mother is a Hot Springs native, and she met his father at Chadron State College. From these roots, sprang Gausman’s enjoyment of the music and movies of 1980s.
“The Christmas Heist,” Gausman said, is the first full script he has written, and his first fully original script for Southern Hills Community Theatre.
He also wrote a play called “The Christmas Radio,” where the beginning and end of the play were of his creation, but the middle was Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Gausman has produced two feature-length films in the “Jamie Klotz’s Diary” series and is in pre-production— he’s looking for a location, financial resources, and a crew; but no cast yet – for a film entitled “Never Been to Graceland.”
Schooled in Hot Springs, and active in drama and theatre as a Bison, Gausman didn’t go to college, despite an offer to attend a private film school, due to extenuating circumstances in his private life. After living in Rapid City for a few years, he decided to come back to Hot Springs in 2012 and has been heavily involved in the community ever since with organizations, like Save the VA, the Cultural Development Organization, and others.
He credits Betsy Savage for getting him into community theatre. He recalled community plays when he was a child – Jack in the Beanstalk in particular.
Gausman says that he likes to write movie or play-length scripts as opposed to books or short stories because he enjoys the format, and readership of books and novels is way down.
“I’ve written some novellas in the past, but people don’t read these,” he says. “I don’t have the patience to go all the way with a book or do short stories. I found my niche in screenplays and scripts. A movie or a play takes about a hour and a half to two hours to enjoy.”
“I like the visual medium, and the reaction, the immediacy of it,” he said. “When a crowd laughs at your joke, or is silent during a dramatic moment… you can’t get that in a book or a movie.”
The Mueller Center doors and box office, to purchase tickets at the door, will open at 6:30 p.m., and “The Christmas Heist” begins at 7 p.m. each night. Tickets are $8 for adults; $6 for seniors (age 60-plus) and children under 12; and children under 6 get in free.
Southern Hills Community Theatre, a 501c3, is a fully-volunteer non-profit community theatre dedicated to presenting quality, live,family-friendly performances. For more information about the play and the group visit the website, http://www.shct.org.