Jamie Klotz’s Origins 6: Production Day 2

May 25, 2013.


Aspen, Isaiah, Sam, Garett, Deana and I were out at Butler Park and had already started shooting the tail end of the chase scene that would begin at the local public library when we got the  bad news: our Kaitlyn was having to drop the project. Work conflicted again and I could not possibly compromise – we were already going to have to backtrack a lot of what we’d already shot to put Kaitlyn back in, not to mention having completely cut one major scene which I had no idea yet how to rework.

Okoye reads over her lines before her first scene as Kaitlyn.
Okoye reads over her lines before her first scene as Kaitlyn.

Thankfully, our original Kaitlyn, Okoye, was back in town and so our other cast members went off to rouse her from her slumber and drag her out to Chautauqua Park, where we immediately started filming the first half of the prior day’s scene where Jamie’s treasures are stolen.

Funnily, we shot the payoff to the soccer ball joke, where Sam throws a ball at Kaitlyn and it comes back and hits him, before the setup, in which she kicks a ball that hits him in the head. Fun fact: the shot used in the movie in which Okoye kicks the ball and hits Sam is the sole take. Not because it was great (it was) but because the ball actually bounced off Sam’s head… and onto the camera – and me. Ow.

With Okoye in tow, we blazed through the two action/chase scenes in the morning and I started to feel much more positively about the way the project was going. Sure, there were things I knew could have been done better, but it had a direction, and for the first time since starting, I really started to think we might actually make this work, but I knew there was always the possibility that things could still go wrong.

The first scene I had completely edited together was the chase scene filmed on Day 2. The joke with Sam getting tended to was improvised on the day of.

We took lunch break at around a quarter to one and met back up at the Hot Springs Public Library, which was normally closed for Memorial Day weekend, but the head librarian, Cindy Messenger, made a special case just for us and opened it up for us to film. I cannot stress the gratitude I have for her. The library is a beautiful log and stone building, often referred to as “ski lodge” in style.

Finally, Garett, who had been tagging along with us since we started

In an alternate shot, we see a little more closely the "look" Brandon gives Jamie that Kaitlyn references later.
In an alternate shot, we see a little more closely the admiring “look” Brandon gives Jamie that Kaitlyn references later.

filming, was able to step into his role as Brandon, who’d changed in the script from an admiring songwriter in an earlier draft to a more laid back bookish kid with a slight crush. The best part about the afternoon shoot was everything stuck to the script. I wasn’t worrying about who wasn’t present, wasn’t limited to half-scenes and didn’t have to work around effects shots. And because of this, we shot really efficiently… except one shot.

This shot came back to haunt me unexpectedly.
This shot came back to haunt me unexpectedly in post. Well not THIS shot, but the take immediately following this.

This shot. I wanted a better angle for the scene when Jamie gets the treasure out of the historical exhibit, and so I quickly ran around to the outside of the room and called action. With a pane of glass between the actors and the camera. You do the math.

After filming the beginning of the “training montage” scene outside the library (allowing Cindy to leave), we went to the Fall River Pioneer Museum and shot a brief section of the “treasure hunt” scene which was supposed to be a Legend of Zelda reference, then it was time to meet back up with Bridgett and finish filming the climactic battle scene.

While the original plan was to spread the fight out and end it closer to totally real abandoned mine on that location, tying into Dr. Lawrence’s story, we opted to contain it to the more central flat plain. The biggest problem that day was that I had completely

In this deleted shot, Sahera would have deflected the shots from Eric's gun.
In this deleted shot, Sahera would have deflected the shots from Eric’s gun.

forgotten my tripod after arriving and hadn’t bothered to go retrieve it, or send someone to. Everything was handheld, for better or worse. On the one hand, some shots that should have been stabilized were wobbly, but on the other hand, I got creative with certain shots that I don’t know I would have necessarily done had I brought the sticks.

Bridgett turned in a perfectly evil performance and choreographed the minor sword combat undertaken by Sahera and Jamie, and Aspen scared us by delivering a blood-curling scream and we ended the day with the good guys beating the bad guy with nachos. At worst at this point, we had an awesome looking climax and a fairly fleshed out middle section. Now we just needed to flesh out the beginning.

Alternate angle of the sword fight between Jamie and Sahera
Alternate angle of the sword fight between Jamie and Sahera

The script had called for Ryan and Eric to come to Jamie’s house disguised as salesmen – frozen food salesman specifically. The problem was, our contacts with possible leads on either a giant parrot or giant chicken costume fell through. So on the way back to our cars at Cold Brook, we started listing off other potential disguises, but only found one that everyone could find funny: makeup sales ladies. And Bridgett, only confirming her awesomeness, volunteered to do the boys’ makeup and hair!

daythreescheduleI came home and did the same as the night before: I watched the dailies, edited a reel, posted a schedule, and did the math on how much we had filmed. The total for May 25? Four Hours worth of footage. I was thrilled and, after quickly rewriting the frozen food sales scene to makeup ladies and rewriting the hotel scene to be set in another location and without Dorn present, I went to bed in a much better mood than the night before.

Voice of Our Veterans – South Dakota State Veterans Home (Documentary; 52:10)

I’ve been working on this project for the past couple months and while the original plan was to intersperse Ken Burns-style documentary segments with the history of the State Veterans Home between each of the topics discussed by the residents of the State Home during the oral history sections, I was given a deadline and had to cut all of that and focus strictly on the interviews. The pacing is, of course, a little slow due to the nature of the interviews, but it was a great honor to meet these men who served their country.

Some of their stories had me rolling, some had me contemplating the purpose of war, but all were compelling. One gentleman, a WWII vet, came prepared with a pre-written biography and many off-the-cuff stories, many of which had to be left out unfortunately for time’s sake. I will probably release those later on as they are too good not to be put out.

Freedom Trail Expansion Pitch Video

City of Hot Springs Engineer Tracey Bastian is headed off to Pierre to give a pitch for a grant to get an expansion of the Freedom Trail in Hot Springs that would pick up at Evans Plunge and go to Chautauqua. He asked me to produce a video he could take to show the beauty and history of that area and so this is what he’s taken with him to show.

Filmmaker documents Save the VA Campaign – Hot Springs Star article

July 16, 2012 11:45 pm  • 

HOT SPRINGS – The announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs last December to close the Hot Springs VA created a sense of unity within the community of Hot Springs, likely never seen before.
Immediately following the VA’s announced plan, hundreds of community members came together to form committees, organize rallies and begin work to create a counterproposal to ensure the Hot Springs VA would continue to serve veterans in what has commonly been known as “The Veterans Town” for more than a century.

A key player in this united effort is 2007 Hot Springs High School graduate Justin Gausman, who is currently working on producing a full-length documentary about how his hometown has united to protect and save its 105-year-old VA Hospital.

Gausman first became involved with the Save the VA Campaign as a member of the Public Relations Committee after moving back to Hot Springs from Rapid City this past winter. Some of his early contributions to the effort were his creation of the campaign’s official Facebook page and subsequent documenting and filming of the “Veterans Welcome Home Ride” held on Feb. 25.

He said the idea for creating a full-length documentary of the town’s fight came about during an early PR Committee meeting when local writer Mary Goulet spoke of writing a book featuring testimonials from veterans who had been treated at the Hot Springs VA. Gausman said Goulet immediately supported his idea to also create a similar-based documentary.

Gausman, with the assistance of local photographer and videographer John Davis, began working on the film late this past winter, during the “Vets Ride” in February by producing segments that have already been shown publicly at various Save the VA events and on-line through YouTube.

Karen Meston, another active member of the Save the VA Campaign, said Gausman’s work thus far on the campaign has been instrumental in bringing the message to the masses.

“Justin’s documenting of the Save the VA efforts has been really beneficial to those people who have not been able to attend many of the events we have hosted,” she said. “His work on Facebook and through YouTube makes it available to so many more people. He has been a great to work with – when he says he is going to do something, he does it. He understands the mission, and that it’s all about The Veteran.”

Despite the importance of all his work to date, Gausman said his previously filmed segments represent only the beginning of what he has planned for his full-length documentary.

“I want to be able to capture the emotion of the community and the veterans that have been treated at the VA – the anger and the joy,” Gausman said. “It’s about how a community has come together; against all odds.”

“We’ve accomplished something here that you won’t find anywhere, including Washington D.C.,” he said. “People are working together on this now who before hadn’t even wanted to talk to one another.”

While he said he plans to take an objective look at the VA’s proposal, and that of the campaign’s counter-proposal, there’s no denying the sense of pride he feels for what his hometown of Hot Springs has accomplished thus far during the process.

“The town is up against a VA director who seemingly has made up his mind,” he added. “But I am going to look at this objectively. They came up with a plan that they thought would help our veterans. But it doesn’t. We have a better way.”

As Gausman has discovered, the production of a full-length documentary is no small task, and the funds to accomplish such an undertaking are vast.

This is why he has enrolled his film project with the website indiegogo.com, which according to the site itself, is “a crowdfunding platform where people who want to raise money can create fundraising campaigns to tell their story and get the word out.”

Much like the similar-based website Kickstarter.com, which recently assisted another local filmmaker Skye Ogilvie with her film ‘Drifter’, the website indiegogo.com matches up donors with worthwhile causes in a near endless list of categories from film, health, music, education and more.

Gausman has set a modest campaign goal of $15,000, which he says is really a shoestring budget for what is needed to produce, film and edit a quality documentary. But he is determined to make it a reality, regardless of how much is raised.

“I have been working on this documentary for nearly eight months now and have invested hundreds of hours and dollars into it,” he said. “But I need a real kickstart so I can execute my ideas properly, which include travelling to areas in which others VA’s have closed, such as Grand Island, Neb., and Miles City, Mont., to get the stories from veterans and former staff impacted by those closures.”

Gausman said he is currently using a borrowed camera, so in addition to funds for travel, he also needs to upgrade and acquire equipment to complete the project.

Just a few days into his www.indiegogo.com/theveteranstown campaign last week, the website had helped Gausman raise $135 towards his goal.

The campaign is set to conclude on Aug. 7 so there is still plenty of time for those interested in supporting the film to log-on and contribute what they can to his efforts.

Officially announcing "The Veterans Town"

HOT SPRINGS – Skeeter Bite Productions is excited to officially announce the production of its first feature-length documentary, “The Veterans Town.”

In December 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs threatened the closure of the 105-year old VA Medical Facility & Domciliary in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The VA, and the community, has served America’s veterans since the Civil War, and has one of the highest and proven success rates for treatment due to its passionate staff and its beautiful environment located in the serene Black Hills of South Dakota. The community is so dedicated to serving veterans that it took on the moniker “the Veterans Town.”

When the VA announced their proposal to close the facility, the community united in a way no one expected: fervant Republicans and hard-wired Democrats were working side by side, Native Americans from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, (one of the poorest in the country, recently featured in the August 2012 issue of National Geographic) whose people have served valiantly in our military, were hand in hand with the cowboys & ranchers, descendents of the original white settlers of the Black Hills. It was an amazing show of unity that even politicians from Washington, D.C. were surprised by.
The Save the VA Campaign took a stance against the VA’s proposal and through the VA’s own fulfilled FOIA requests, revealed shoddy research and creative figures in the accounting of the VA’s proposal, and instead of countering the VA’s proposal directly, came up with a groundbreaking proposal of their own: the implementation of the Veteran Industry to make Hot Springs the center of the VA system, focusing on combatting PTSD, substance abuse treatment, and homelessness in veterans of both former and current wars.
Skeeter Bite Productions has been documenting the ongoing fight to Save and Expand the VA from day one, and now is ready to begin work on a feature-length documentary showcasing what communities can do when they stand together and making a call to action to protect veterans all across the country.
The film’s director, Justin Gausman, a Hot Springs native, said, “I am so passionate in my belief that telling this community’s unique story to the world will not only positively impact the Hot Springs VA, but will connect with the many men and women currently returning home from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operating Enduring Freedom with the wounds of battle, both physical and mental.

I have had the opportunity to speak with area veterans from every conflict from WWII to the War on Terror and wish to be able to capture the raw emotion of their stories to convey on screen as I share the story of Hot Springs’ fight for its VA.”

The documentary will invoke patriotism, an “across the aisle” sense of unity, and a sense of duty to those who served. Skeeter Bite Productions has pledged not to focus on partisan politics or touch on whether military conflicts are justified or not. It will only be a call to action to help end veteran homelessness, combat PTSD and substance abuse in veterans, and to help Save the Hot Springs VA and VA’s all over the nation.
To learn more about the Save the VA movement, visit www.theveteranstown.com or www.facebook.com/SaveHotSprings.



A Word From Justin About “A Day In Hot Springs” 5 Years On

This is a document about a place and a time; where young kids dream not of making money or getting famous, or even getting a good grade. A time when things were simpler; a place truly so unique they nearly take it for granted.

It was about having fun, making each other laugh; about totally ripping jokes off other people and not even doing it well; about in-jokes and snickers from behind the camera ruining takes; about being grounded, about falling in and out of love.

I feel extremely grateful that we created this. We can look back and unlike the other students, who stood in front of a camera and said “On the weekends I go do this,” we have a ninja battle, ducks, and strange encounters with Bigfoot-esque creatures who love Mountain Dew. We have memories tied to these scenes. Tater bitch-slapping Gump, Scott tumbling off an outhouse, Jim falling off the side of Gump’s car, Matt’s reluctance to waste a good Mt. Dew, Justin urging the then-shy Taylor to speak up, and Jake’s cluelessness about everything going on, yet still being willing to do anything asked of him…

No matter where we go or what we do, no matter where we end up, this remains to both show the world what true friendship is when it really counts, and more importantly, to remind us of a warm sunny day in May 2006 that we all spent together, without the day to day drama and monotony of life. And whenever life gets us down 5, 10, 20, or 50 years into the future, we can always go back to that day and relive it. Again and again.