Jamie Klotz’s Diary II Director’s Cut | Full Film

 

Okay, I’ll own it. Jamie Klotz’s Diary II isn’t a particularly good movie. It always lacked the sort of freewheeling spirit of the first one. It’s more downbeat and feels smaller in scale, it has some pretty glaring technical issues, and the plot is neither funny or interesting enough to offset the other shortcomings.

Rather than break down the whole making-of day-by-day in the vein of past “Jamie Klotz’s Origins,” I’d just like to reflect briefly (briefly – ha!) overall on those shortcomings and why I decided to create a “Director’s Cut” that no one asked for.

A) Tone & Scope

Top: Actual shot from original JKD2. Bottom: From the Director’s Cut.

Of all the things to talk about, this is probably… well if not necessarily the most obvious, at least the easiest for me to talk about. From the moment JKD2 starts, it just looks visually dissimilar to the first one. The colors are flat, almost desaturated – forget color grading, there’s hardly any color at all. The entire film looks like the life was sucked out of it.

Well, I’ll be honest, that’s because I didn’t bother to grade it in the first place. After a bumpy production in which I struggled just to get people together to shoot (not a new problem, if you look into past blogs), post-production was practically non-existent. No fingers need to be pointed, I’ll take the fall on all of this – I failed as a director and as a leader. I failed to coordinate and I failed to inspire. I failed to set the proper tone in the script, on the set and on the production overall.

We began filming in earnest in April 2014, a little over 6 months from the premiere of the first Jamie Klotz movie, which was shot essentially in four days. We didn’t finish shooting JKD2 until August. We shot nothing in June and almost nothing between July and August.

Not in the original script, but Aspen still did a great job with this.

The entire scope of the film shifted as a result of scheduling, the weather, and my own limitations as a director. A “post-apocalyptic future” scene was hastily written the morning of a rainy shoot day. That “future” section took place in an unconvincing – but indoors! – civic center (complete with modern cars rolling by outside). The preceding scene, where Jamie and PJ first meet each other, was originally part of a subplot involving Jamie’s mom. That was scrapped and ultimately replaced with a scene at Cascade Springs – again, written mere days before the shoot for said scene. An entire cast member was replaced (the girl who played Rachel originally moved away mid-shoot).

Surprise extras!

The final scene involving The Man (in centrally located Centennial Park) despite being written as jokingly anti-climactic, looked visually uninteresting, and was still marred by passersby (one hilarious outtake has a group of school kids walking into the public restrooms behind Aspen and Yona’s clashed swords) and rapidly changing summer weather, with looming, dark cumulus clouds in the background of several shots which also contributed to horrible visual inconsistency in natural lighting.

 

Literally shot minutes apart

Even in early editing, something about the film felt “off.” Despite a plot that spanned across dimensions and time, the story felt small and constrained. My direction on set had been constrained as well – “stick to the script, this is a complex film” and “Let’s not move the camera so much, let’s keep it on the tripod.” Every smaller decision, whether a reaction to an uncontrolled variable like weather or a deliberate choice like camera movement, led to an overall sense of shrinking scope. JKD was a rollicking carefree adventure sprawled all over Hot Springs. JKD2 was a muted, precise sci-fi story, with specific plot points, locations and serviceable but not necessarily inspired visuals.

Jamie Klotz’s Diary II felt very unlike Jamie Klotz’s Diary, and at the time I couldn’t place my finger on why.

B) Technical Issues

Like I said, by the end of shooting, we were happy to be done… except that we weren’t.

Every project I work on is an experiment of some sort. Some experiments are better suited to disposable shorts that are low-stakes. JKD1 had a lot of experimental elements for me, particularly with special effects, to a varying degree of success. Some, like Sahera’s attack on Dorn, turned out great. Others, like Dr. Lawrence’s 2D transition effect, fell flat (pun absolutely intended!) But in all of those cases, I was never working with anything more than what I had throughout the whole film. I was never introducing something new each time we shot.

The audio in this whole scene sounds muffled because I was trying to mitigate the sound of rain on the metal roof

The first two days of filming JKD2 in April, I had a boom mic that we had plugged directly into our camera. To my dismay, I later learned it was only capturing mono audio, on the left channel. The rain on the metal roof on the civic center led to incomprehensible dialogue inside, and an entire animated sequence (similar to The Man’s Sahera story from JKD1) was scrapped due to incomplete narration that was missed on set. Dialogue replacement recordings did not happen at all due to my failure to properly coordinate and lead.

By our May shoots, I had brought in another camera to use, but one camera was shooting at 30fps and another at 24fps – a horror during editing that would leave some of the footage looking crisp and the rest jagged, or some looking smooth and the rest blurry.

In indoor locations, we had lights rigged up, but often the two lights we had wasn’t enough, so people’s faces were filled in on several shots with flashlights on iPhones. In July, I added a dedicated audio recorder for the boom mic – a recorder that was often set at levels way too low, which led to a need to boost the audio in post, which in turn would require extra clean-up to remove high level hiss or low level buzz. By our last day of filming, one light had stopped working and the other occasionally flickered (as seen in one shot of Isaiah in Jamie’s house.)

I kept adding new elements and equipment all throughout the shoot, not only to experiment with them, but also to continually improve the film – if the audio in one part of the film was in mono and muffled, at least it wouldn’t be in the rest of it! The end result, however, was nothing but inconsistency, across the board.

Actual shot from original JKD2. Note Brandon’s cut off shoe.

The film was left untouched on my hard drive from August until mid-December. There was just too much work to do to fix everything. Finally the weekend before Christmas I sat down and just worked at the film until it was in a “complete” state, at least watchable from beginning to end. I kept trying to work on pieces of it throughout the winter, even asking for Ryan Brewer’s guidance on how best to go about fixing a missing shot (ultimately I just cut around it to leave it out). When I finally rendered it out in March 2015 there were still incomplete visual effects (see Brandon’s disappearing toes when Jamie begins fading from existence the first time), the sound mix was rough, I had dropped the composer I had had lined up when my aspirations for the project were still high, and I could not be bothered to color grade it. I was just ready to premiere it to get the weight of the project off.

C) A Second Chance

After we premiered the film in May 2015, I directed all of my attention toward Never Been to Graceland, ready to put Jamie Klotz’s Diary behind me. I had announced it at the JKD1 premiere in 2013 and had been putting it off to try to get the script right. Graceland would be a feature length film and we did a Kickstarter that summer. Two problems. The Kickstarter flopped, and the script for Graceland at that time sucked. Thankfully some writer friends didn’t mince their words toward that end, but between that and JKD… talk about having my tail tucked between my legs. I sort of resolved that maybe I just had one movie in me, and that JKD1 was a lucky fluke – I couldn’t even argue that JKD2 was at least technically a “movie” in that that ran at 24fps and had sound – after all, the mixed frame rates left the movie looking choppy and the sound wasn’t particularly well-mixed!

I spent summer and autumn 2015 finally revisiting the teen heist movie idea from winter 2013 as “The Christmas Heist.”

I don’t know what it was about The Christmas Heist, but it flicked this switch in me. I suddenly felt like filming again, and I hadn’t even necessarily known up till then that I had sort of subconsciously put myself into a mindset of being “done” with movies.

The missing line “Kaitlyn? I am having some serious deja vu.” from this shot is barely audible in the original cut, which used the camera’s audio. In the Director’s Cut, I was thankfully about to find the boom mic’s track.

In the aftermath of the show, I found myself in a situation a lot like the one I’m in now, sort of unsure about where I want to go creatively, but very much energized. I found myself watching the Jamie Klotz Duology one evening, and after they were done, I realized the film wasn’t finished. The DVDs had all gone out to everyone in the cast, their families, my friends, it was up online… but it wasn’t done. It wasn’t as good as it could have been and no matter how good or bad the film was in the end, I wouldn’t be content with myself if I didn’t fix it, even if I was the only one who ever saw the final cut of the film.

I re-edited the film, not entirely from scratch, but several sequences were. I color graded the whole film and did as much as I could to at visually align it with the first JKD film. I adjusted settings to mitigate the frame rate issues, reworked the sound, including adding score to some scenes which had not had any before, as well as rescuing a line of dialogue that I had thought was lost, and I even added two new sequences, one “rewind” of the film when Jamie travels back into the past the first time and an audio hallucination that Jamie has toward the start of the third act that more explicitly ties story elements hinted at in JKD2 to the plot of the first film and the potential plot of JKD3 (which I still had not entirely ruled out but was admittedly increasingly less likely).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Despite no one else knowing about it or asking for it, I had to give JKD2 a second chance, for my own sake. At the Mini Film Fest that April, I did the first and only screening of the Director’s Cut, alongside the short “The Black Owl,” which had also been left unedited in the aftermath of JKD2. For over a year, no one else has seen this cut of the film. I toyed with putting it online a few times over the past year, but always decided against it. I don’t know what changed my mind now. Maybe that since Graceland and I Sent My Grandma Into The Past have gone well so far, I am comfortable with what this movie is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yes, it’s not a particularly good movie. I can recognize that. But it’s also not an awful movie now, either. It’s not like this is going to be the next viral movie for YouTubers to riff on. There are still moments and shots that I’m proud of, too many flashes of something promising underneath it, despite a flawed technical presentation and weak character development. And despite what this blog might read like, it’s not like we didn’t have fun making this film. In fact, I was able to put together almost an entire half hour (half the length of the movie!) of outtakes – not including the ones during the credit sequences! If you didn’t know any better watching that, you’d think it was the most fun shoot we ever did.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, in retrospect. And I absolutely did enjoy working with the cast and crew. Aspen certainly turned in a more nuanced performance of Jamie and Aryona owned the character of PJ. Daniel delivered in spades as The Man (as usual) and everyone else did the very best they could with the direction and script they were given, especially those who were not actors and did not originally intend on even being in the film (like Dustin and Jassmine).

Jamie Klotz’s Diary II is, if nothing else, a complex film. There was a lot I was trying to do and I think I may have overstretched my limitations at the time, narratively, technically and creatively. In many respects Jamie Klotz’s Diary II is merely a stepping stone in my creative progression as a filmmaker and storyteller. And knowing where the lessons its production taught me have led, I’m okay with that.

Jamie Klotz’s Origins 9: Post-Production

THE 5TH DAY/RESHOOTS

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.

vlcsnap-2015-12-28-17h50m59s265.png
In between takes, Isaiah demonstrates the “Kermit defense.”

EDITING

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.

Image1

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.

ART

Image3

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.

Image2
Sahera defeats the 9 wise men. Each of the 9 treasures used to free Sahera is supposed to represent one of the wise men.

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!

THE PREMIERE

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.

Image4.png

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?

 LESSONS LEARNED:

-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.

Celebrating the movie franchise that sparked creativity in me!

It’s October 21, 2015. If you haven’t already figured out by the countless Facebook posts and news articles, that’s the day to Marty McFly travels in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II.

Many people have fond memories of these movies and I’m not different. Back to the Future, along with Beverly Hills Cop, were the two movies not branded with Disney or Don Bluth that I watched over and over and over on VHS as a kid, the first two “adult” movies that I only only liked, but understood and appreciated in some way I couldn’t explain. While most jokes and cultural reference points of both the 50’s and the 80’s flew over my little munchkin head, I was thrilled by the idea of time travel; the concept of going back in time and changing things to how you wish they could be. And even moreso by the idea introduced in Part 2 and expanded upon in 3 of what was essentially the butterfly effect (though Doc never uses such a term.) I realized very early on that Back to the Future wasn’t a coming of age story for Marty, it was a coming of age story for Doc. Here was a man who dedicated his life to science and the invention of time travel to the brink of bankruptcy, to the point of helping terrorists, literally laying his life on the line, and learning to stop thinking about the past and the future but instead focus on the present. Fascinating stuff, even for a kid. Back to the Future Part 3 is far & away my favorite of the trilogy, but inevitably I just end up watching all three parts.

I could argue Back to the Future is the movie that inspired me to make movies, or at least write stories.

We had the first Back to the Future film on VHS, but I had to wait to record Parts 2 & 3 from TV before I could watch them on any sort of regular basis. But I very vividly remember being so enthralled with the first film that I sat down with a notebook and started writing a sort-of novelization of the first movie, from memory. I remember taking the notebook to Pizza Hut and proudly displaying my hundreds of words (probably poorly) depicting the first 20 minutes or so of the first Back to the Future film.

BTTF later bled into almost everything else creative I did. The Adventures in Hot Springs’ 7 day proposed themed-episodic structure would have allowed me to experiment with different genres I always wanted to try to film: Night in Hot Springs was suspense, Quest for the Lost Treasures (and later Jamie Klotz’s Diary 1) were the Indiana Jones-influenced adventure/treasure hunt films, 1001 Arabian Gumps was an homage to the Disney Renaissance, War of the Dandelions was a space opera on the ground, and Paradox was shades of Back to the Future through & through. (read: plagiarism)

Bttf.com was a constant web visit through my adolescence, the crappy TV recordings (with dubbed dialogue over the swear words) were replaced by the 2002 “Complete Trilogy” VHS boxed set with bonus features tacked onto the ends of the tapes, which I devoured, then those were in turn replaced with the DVD set, full of commentaries and extra making-of features. I remember reading a report talking about how Back to the Future’s script is one of the best scripts in movie history; not in the sense of quality or cultural value, though one could argue for that as well, but instead that no line or shot is wasted in moving the story forward. Every detail is paid off somewhere else later in the film.

In 2011, when the Back to the Future video game by Telltale came out (pre-their Walking Dead days) I was all in, buying them for PC as soon as I could and was thrilled by the story and world created within that game, what I consider Back to the Future part 4. That Christmas, two different gift buyers got me copies of the game, for Wii and PS3, and I played through both again, happily, and will again on PS4 with the new edition.

I didn’t mention it in the Origins blogs, but the original Jamie Klotz’s Diary script drafts included an element of time travel. The watch that Dr. Lawrence invents originally jumped time, not other dimensions. The movie would have opened with a flashback to the 1880’s and Jamie’s ancestor Jessica and Christoff Dorn’s ancestor, who was unnamed in all drafts, would have been introduced, as well as the idea of the treasures existing even then. There are still elements of this in Dr. Lawrence’s story he tells Kaitlyn & Jamie. Later, when Dorn slaps the watch on Jamie, rather than meeting the Man, she would have met her ancestor in the “old west” a la BTTF Part 3. These scenes were replaced (for the better IMO) with the Man’s scenes due to budget constraints.

Dr. Lawrence in the final movie still very obviously references Doc Brown, but that was as far as I thought the BTTF-Jamie Klotz connection would go…. until the cast asked to do another one. Of all the genres encompasses in the scripts for the Adventures in Hot Springs, time travel was always the one that fascinated me most, because of BTTF, and the influence of BTTF Part 2’s thick-with-exposition story specifically, on me led directly to Jamie Klotz’s Diary 2 and its story of altered timelines, past, present & future.

I’ve said before that if there were to be a Jamie Klotz’s Diary 3 (and there likely won’t be) it would have to be a western, in tribute to BTTF 3.

So long story short (too late), I’m thrilled to be celebrating Back to the Future Day before I leap in to my next big project, The Christmas Heist, which is also slightly inspired by 80’s teen movies like BTTF, and the many many many John Hughes films of the 80s.

Jamie Klotz’s Origins 7: Production Day 3

So the weather on May 24 and 25 had been really great! We couldn’t have asked for better filming weather. Sunny and summery, like a summer vacation should be. In fact, it got downright HOT! Sunday, May 26, however, the planned last day of our “72 Hour Project,” started out overcast and bitter cold. Now the cold is one thing, but the overcast is the real problem when it comes to filming… and especially if you’re filming the second half to a scene you shot on a sunny day two days earlier.

First thing in the morning was Aspen, Okoye, Deana & myself taking care of scenes inside Kaitlyn’s car, setting up the scene with Dr. Lawrence. From there, we headed out to my grandpa’s house and filmed the shots needed to intercut between the footage with Matt and Aspen from the first day. It was windy, it was dreary, bitter cold, and a tad depressing. We pressed on despite my worries whether any of this would even cut together well… the colors of the world were off – how can you match a cold and bleak morning with a warm, bright summer mid-day?

After finishing up only a half hour of footage at around 10:30, we took an early break and reconvened at around 1:00 at Garett’s house, set to be the stand in for Jamie’s home. The sun broke around through and then Bridgett showed up with wigs and makeup. Okoye had unfortunately had to leave, but with more people around, and especially ones as energetic and creative as Bridgett, Isaiah and Sam, we set out to film the establishing scenes of the film while the boys got all dolled up.

Five or six takes later and Aspen nailed the monologue... only to find out she was wearing the wrong costume!
Five or six takes later and Aspen nailed the monologue… only to find out she was wearing the wrong costume!

Most of it went by pretty quickly and accurately to the script – except Aspen struggled with the long-winded monologue about cats and socks; a quirky, Ferris Bueller-esque moment to be sure, but not an easy one to deliver. Then, just when we finally nailed it and went upstairs and filmed the shot where Jamie transitions from pajamas to normal clothing… I realized in horror that Jamie was supposed to be in her normal clothing in the monologue shot, and we had filmed it with her in her pajamas.

We quickly ran downstairs and did a couple more takes and then, finally, the boys were ready to make their grand debut. And boy did they.

They nailed the rewritten scene with their sweet “precious” comments, hair flicks and eye-batting. Nonstop laughter interrupted take after take, with me being the primary instigator. At one point, both Garett and I had to leave the house and just leave the camera rolling because their delivery was too funny, their costuming and makeup (courtesy the amazing Bridgett) too perfect.

The best moment? Garett’s parents returned home in the middle of a scene, and Garett’s dad mistakenly thought that Isaiah and Sam were actual girls – albeit incredibly ugly.

If there was a lesson to be learned, it was about economics – and not financial, but time. We shot nearly everything in order, and it took probably a third longer than it should have to run back and forth from shot to shot. But it didn’t matter. Everyone was in great spirits, and even though it was early afternoon, the day was only barely getting started.

P1280923
Aspen & Okoye between takes during the filming of the treasure hunt montage.

Bridgett headed out and the guys cleaned up and met the rest of us downtown, where we spent the afternoon and early evening filming the treasure hunting montage. Some of it we used in the final film, quite a bit of it we didn’t. The cast got more flexibility to play around and improvise, but the reality of the situation began to loom over me. We weren’t done. What was supposed to be completely done in three days had been held back by a delay in scheduling – missing cast members.

No Kaitlyn on the first day meant scenes we were to film that day were postponed until we had recast the part, and one of the most important scenes in the movie, the scene with The Man, had not been touched and would have to be cut down substantially from its original iteration in the script, which had included a moment with Sahera present – and an implication that The Man knew her from personal experience, not as a legend. Another scene that needed replaced/fixed was the scene that we couldn’t film on day one in which Jamie and Kaitlyn sneaked into Dorn’s hotel room and learn about the diary’s secret. Another last minute reconfiguring needed done.

Daniel catches up with the crew during filming.
Daniel catches up with the crew during filming.

Daniel called and was able to come down to Hot Springs to play The Man. He stopped by during the filming of the montage to see how things were coming along and we planned for an early morning shoot. The 72 hour movie would have to become a 96 hour movie, in spite of our best efforts. While I was frustrated at not meeting that goal, I was still optimistic. We had so much done.

With nearly 2 and a half hours in the can from day three, and one full, hopefully final, day planned, I edited together a Day Three reel, sent out a notice to everyone, and headed to bed.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM DAY THREE:

-Shoot economically if you can, not in order. You may think you’re helping by keeping continuity a little better, but even then you might completely screw it up.

-If the cast & crew are feeling a bit glum, bring in someone with a lot of energy and creativity, even if they aren’t in the scene.

-Don’t ask your crew to do sometoverschedulehing you wouldn’t. When Aspen and Sam had to get in the river – I saw the opportunity for a great middle of the stream shot, so I rolled up my pants legs, grabbed the tripod and went in myself. A risky move potentially, but worth it for the shot.

Jamie Klotz’s Diary 2 Locally produced sequel film set for May premiere

Sisters Aryona (left) and Aspen Watts (right) potray Jamie Klotz at different points in her life in the sequel to the 2013 adventure comedy.
Sisters Aryona (left) and Aspen Watts (right) potray Jamie Klotz at different points in her life in the sequel to the 2013 adventure comedy.

HOT SPRINGS, SD – The public is invited to attend the premiere of the independent, locally-produced feature film “The Extraordinary Secret of Jamie Klotz’s Diary” also known simply as Jamie Klotz’s Diary 2, on May 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm at the Mueller Civic Center at 801 S 6th St. in Hot Springs.

Jamie Klotz’s Diary 2 is a sequel to the original Jamie Klotz’s Diary movie that premiered in 2013, was written and directed by Hot Springs filmmaker Justin Gausman, and was filmed in and around the Hot Springs area with a cast of Black Hills-area actors, including leads Aspen Watts, Daniel Crossman, both of Rapid City, and Sam Martin, of Chadron, Ne.

In the film, the titular character returns home from her first year at college to discover that someone has not only stolen her diary (again) but also gone back in time and changed her life – meaning her lifelong friends are now strangers… and vice-versa. Jamie goes on an adventure through her own life, past, present and future, to save the friendships she holds dear.

“Thematically,” Gausman says, “if the first Jamie Klotz’s Diary could

"PJ" gives one of Jamie Klotz's famous monologues while the elder Jamie looks on, puzzled.
“PJ” gives one of Jamie Klotz’s famous monologues while the elder Jamie looks on, puzzled.

be summed up in one word as ‘fun,’ then the second film is definitely about ‘friendship.’ This one is just as much fun as the first one but there’s a slightly darker tone underneath about growing up and going away from your hometown and your childhood friends, coming back and seeing how things change. That’s something I think a lot of people can relate to, but of course it’s sort of taken to the extreme in this with the time travel adventure element.”

For anyone who may have missed the first movie, don’t worry. The first film, The Incredible Search for Jamie Klotz’s Diary, will be screening Saturday, May 16, 2015 at the Chop House Cinema in Lead, SD, as part of a “Local Filmmakers Night” event there and a matinee presentation of the first film will also be held at 4:30pm on May 29 at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs, prior to the premiere.

Admission to both the matinee and premiere is free, but donations will be accepted to help “kick start” the next film project by Gausman, Never Been to Graceland, a dramatic short film about fans of Elvis Presley traveling through South Dakota & Nebraska to find a mythical long-lost Presley film. The evening program will include a Q&A with the cast and crew and a brief presentation on Gausman’s future projects and recent collaborations.

Support is provided in part by the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hot Springs.

The cast also includes Okoye Zimiga, Isaiah Crossman, Garett Jack, Jassmine Epps, Dustin Aaberg and Aryona Watts. The film is appropriate for ages 10+.

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.

Jamie Klotz’s Origins 5: Production Day 1 or; How to Film a Movie with Nothing

After an ambitious pre-production process, we finally got underway with filming The Incredible Search for Jamie Klotz’s Diary on May 24, 2013.

The last time I had really “shot” any sort of narrative piece had been in 2009, working on Adventures in Hot Springs with Jesse Needham, and even though I had done documentary work and music video projects with Sailed to Break and Save the VA, I have to say I was nervous as to whether I could even pull this off. The shooting script was roughly 60 pages long and going by normal movie standards, that meant the movie would be an hour long – a feature film, something I’d dreamed about doing for years, but had never managed to do.

Our first morning's cast: Aspen, Alex & Garett
Our first morning’s cast: Aspen, Alex & Garett

Aspen, Garett, Deana and I met at Chautauqua Park bright and early at 8:00am on May 24, with Aspen bringing along Alex Phelps to play Jamie’s 12-year-old date for a cutaway gag.

Garett did the voice for the frog puppet for the other “bad date” joke and we waited patiently for our original Kaitlyn to join us before our first major scene needed filmed. As it turned out, she’d been called in to work and would be unavailable all day. My stomach dropped.

Of all the problems that plagued every project I’d done thus far, scheduling and people missing shooting was the one that was a cut to the jugular of almost everything.  I’d confirmed schedules again and again and again, but convincing a short-staffed employer to let a worker go at the last minute was an impossibility. I talked it over with Deana, and looked at the scenes that were scheduled for the day.

We could try to shoot the scene with Dr. Lawrence cleverly enough so that you never needed to see Kaitlyn and we could shoot shots with Kaitlyn in them later to intercut. After lunch, we would be joined by Bridgett and Michael for the build-up to the climactic battle between Jamie and Sahera… again, nothing with Kaitlyn we couldn’t shoot later. I decided we could make it work and continued to press forward, but I couldn’t help but worry.

As 10:00am rolled around, we headed out to my grandpa’s house on

Aspen gives the camera a face as the silliness ramps up with Matt.
Aspen gives the camera a face as the silliness ramps up with Matt.

Fall River Road just outside Hot Springs to meet Matt, who’d driven down from Rapid City and our real first test of filmmaking would be underway: it’s one thing to shoot a couple funny scenes, it’s another to plan a scene that will be shot on two different days and intercut later… on the fly.

Matt joined us and we began filming Dr. Lawrence’s scenes. We felt better as Matt’s positivity combined with the silliness of his character – the large glasses, the intentional campiness, and slight creepiness – made it so we couldn’t stop giggling. We got the silly out the way, tried to think of creative camera placements to avoid Image2showing where Kaitlyn would later be at, and pushed through Matt’s stupendously long-winded exposition dump about the diary and the treasures (a carryover of the expanded backstory from an earlier draft) and just before lunch, we filmed what I had scripted as the heart of the scene: Jamie watering the flowers that Dr. Lawrence can’t get to without getting an electric shock. The payoff to this would be Dr. Lawrence noticing her kindness and repaying it by tweaking the watch before handing it over to Dorn.

I had no idea how to handle the special effect of Dr. Lawrence going 2D, so I improvised. We had Matt make the poses and I just filmed the poses, followed by a blank “plate” of the background.

Screenshot of Matt filmed for one of the "2D" effects.
Screenshot of Matt filmed for one of the “2D” effects.

We broke for lunch around 2:00pm and everyone took a lunch as we waited for our villain, portrayed by Michael Minor, to arrive. As it turned out, Michael was delayed in his travel so he didn’t arrive until about 4:30pm. Because of the delay, and because we only had one day shooting with Matt and Michael, we rushed through the scene in which Dorn was supposed was to confront Dr. Lawrence and fill in a little plot of why Dorn himself was looking for the treasure.

Because we rushed it, some alternate angles were missed and we never got Michael saying some of his most important lines onscreen, just Matt’s reaction. However, I didn’t realize this until well after filming was complete.

Bridgett, our most amazing actress who would be playing the

Matt and Bridgett pose for a quick pick before Matt wrapped and headed home.
Matt and Bridgett pose for a quick pick before Matt wrapped and headed home.

sorceress Sahera, arrived as we were shooting that scene and we snapped off a couple pics before we headed back into town and sent Matt back home, his scenes having been completed.

At 5:00pm, running way later than I had expected and having cut an entire scene (set at a hotel where Jamie and Kaitlyn would sneak into Dorn’s room and overhear his evil plans) due to delayed and missing cast members, we met up with Aspen at Chautauqua Park and filmed part of a scene where Dorn steals Jamie’s collected treasures and sends her into another dimension. As the ending of a chase scene that we had yet to choreograph around the location, I put Aspen in a place where I figured she would have just finished beating up Isaiah’s character and had her turn around to find herself face to face with Michael. I made a mental note of how we would need to film the rest of the scene later to get her to that spot.

A deleted alternate angle of Dorn stealing Jamie's satchel.
A deleted alternate angle of Dorn stealing Jamie’s satchel.

While the shots didn’t take long at all, the herding of actors and crew actually burnt up quite a bit of time between locations. We left Chautauqua around a quarter to six, picked up Sam Martin along the way, who wanted to observe, and by the time we arrived at Cold Brook and got back into the walk-in area it was already nearly 6:00pm. I was grateful for the long late spring day that let us film later in the day, but I was in full panic mode that we wouldn’t get everything shot with Michael that was needed before he left, and then that was compounded as we encountered a diamondback rattlesnake just a short ways off the walk-in trail.

While it was easy to avoid and wasn’t aggressive at all, it triggered a realization to me that I hadn’t in my life thought of before: I am responsible for the people on my set, and especially these kids. I am entrusted with their safety and well-being. Suddenly the project, which up till then had felt like an extension of the silly Adventures in Hot Springs videos I’d done years earlier, felt significantly different.

I set up several shots, again knowing they’d be intercut with shots of

Yet another effects shot I filmed without really having an idea of how it would be executed.
Yet another effects shot I filmed without really having an idea of how it would be executed.

Kaitlyn and Dorn’s two lackeys. The final shot of the day was the shot of Michael and Bridgett as Sahera throws Dorn off into the distance. Again, I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to pull off this shot. We had Bridgett pretend to throw Michael and he basically ran backwards until he was out of the shot. It looked really silly and I was so worried and distracted that we wrapped the day and I completely forgot to film all of the scenes with Dorn talking on the phone with Ryan & Eric.

We wrapped around 6:20pm and sent everyone home… and rather than going home and collapsing, I immediately unloaded all the video and began not only watching, but editing. I wanted to see what shots looked good, what didn’t. Whether this whole thing would work at all or not.

nightonepostAround 8:00pm, I uploaded the first daily “reel” for the cast & crew to watch, and at 9:30pm, I sent out a suggested schedule for the next day, then promptly crashed, exhausted but exhilarated.

 

LESSONS LEARNED FROM DAY ONE:

-Be ready to think on your feet. And not just about the normal stuff like camera placement, cast, or making sure you have everything with you. Be flexible enough to completely change your approach to shooting a scene and meet it as a challenge.

-Have someone around who can make the best of a bad scenario or has a great sense of humor, but can still be serious when you need.

-Make sure your actors have memorized their lines, or in the worst case scenario have at least read the script and have a passing knowledge of a gist of something close to the written line. Nothing worse than struggling longer than needed for an unprepared actor. But the burden for their lack of preparation is on you as a director, not something to blame them for.

-Plan shots, especially effects shots, ahead of time. We didn’t storyboard JKD but it worked to our advantage since so much changed on the day of, dropping scenes left and right, but there were certain scenes that it would have helped on.

-Along with that last thought, planning or at least keeping track of coverage will help you make sure you don’t miss anything you might need later on during post.

-People are slow movers, especially when they are socializing. If you’ve got a lot of locations to get to but not a lot of time, set ground rules in advance or designate tasks so that people are using time judiciously.

-Don’t put your actors or crew in danger. No story is worth it.

-If you can, watch dailies to get a feel for what’s working and what’s not. You’d be surprised what even minor things you can pick up on to apply on the next day’s shoot.

Jamie Klotz’s Origins 4: Pre-Production or; Planning a Movie with Nothing

The Incredible Search for Jamie Klotz’s Diary was, as I’ve stated before, a title that had been in my head for nearly a decade prior to actually completing it. But after discussing the origins of the story in previous blogs, I’d like to zero in on the few months leading up to the filming and the days of to discuss how the whole thing actually came to fruition.

In February 2013, after having spent an entire year compiling footage and completing one major firstpostproject that I was very proud of that continues to be left essentially unreleased, I was creatively frustrated after a year of being really productive. I decided to focus my frustrations on a quick, fun project just to prove to myself that I could even make a movie and that my shorts and projects up till then hadn’t just been workshops and flukes. On February 17, I invited several of my closest creatively-minded friends and several young people I had just recently met through Southern Hills Community Theatre to a Facebook event called “The 72 Hour Movie Project” and said, hey, let’s shoot for three days in May and see what happens. It might suck, it might be entertaining… but at least the process will have been fun.

theplotawakensThe original plan was to improvise the entire movie over the course of those three days. In discussing story ideas in advance, within two days of starting to organize the shoot, it became rapidly clear that this was a horrible, awful idea. So, with the ideas for locations, wacky supporting characters, from friends and collaborators streaming in story-wise, I started formulating a basic outline.

The Characters, as described during story development

Image1Jamie Klotz: “Jamie Klotz is your average teenage girl. And by average I mean she falls into absolutely none of your typical cliques.”

“A quirky dork.”

“She carries around a bag and when things get tough she pulls out some odd looking hats and is like ‘lets get our thinking caps on ladies.'”

Dorn:Maybe the villain could be someone who knows the secrets in the diary and is trying to find it O_o”

“Perhaps the diary is one of a pair that are both needed to decipher each other and that the villain holds the second

Kaitlyn: Jamie’s “best friend/sidekick/reluctant partner-Image17in-awesomeness.”

Brandon: “Maybe a boy who is a friend who secretly likes her and that’s why he is so persistent in helping her?”

“A hopelessly romantic young man who writes Jamie terrible love songs.”

Dr. Lawrence: “a Museum guide who later turns into a mad scientist like a Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hide transformation.”

Other characters that ended up being cut: Jamie’s mom, the ghost of a teenage girl, a museum docent, a thief who thinks he’s a pirate, a crazy old hobo, two bumbling undercover cops (later became Ryan & Eric – sort of), and Jessica Klotz, Jamie’s wild-eyed old west outlaw ancestor.

The location of Jamie's confrontation with Sahera.
The location scouting photo of Jamie’s confrontation with Sahera.

Locations

Suggestions were also taken for possible filming locations and one day of scouting was done by myself and my buddy Jesse (who had played Gump in the Adventures in Hot Springs). Jesse showed me a stunning location north of Cold Brook Reservoir, just minutes north of Hot Springs and I immediately wrote it in as the location of the final confrontation between Jamie and a supernatural sorceress named Sahera.

In this outtake of an unused shot from the movie, we see Ryan & Eric watching Jamie & Kaitlyn from afar, while showcasing the downtown Hot Springs area.

As location suggestions rolled in from participating collaborators and cast members, it was clear from the get-go that one of the most important characters of the movie was Hot Springs itself, a town that lends itself beautifully to the camera. From attractions like the Pioneer Museum, Southern Hills Golf Course and Evans Plunge to the distinct sandstone buildings, murals and sculptures downtown to more obscure locations like Chautauqua Park, I wanted to make sure the film showed Hot Springs’ best side.

Story Counts

903049_10151424493003585_524760918_oFrom mid-February to mid-March 2013, I worked daily on hashing out the details of the script based on my basic premise and everyone else’s suggestions into the first draft of a script. The first outline was typed, the first draft was handwritten and completed on March 26 and I didn’t let anyone read it – I knew there were fundamental issues with the plot. So I called in Daniel Crossman for a story development session and we reworked nearly all the characters, their motivations and simplified the story we had, which had included scenes that would be time and resource intensive, let alone the fact that they weren’t important to the real story about Jamie and her diary; they were setting up a backstory to explain the diary and its origins: a backstory that didn’t need to be shown for the story to work. The amount of ideas and reworking Daniel & I did together more than sufficed for a co-writer credit for someone who truly was “The Man.”

chickensuit
It was an interesting meeting.

One of the original ideas for Jamie Klotz’s Diary included making it a 6 part webseries that would be bookended during each episode with Jamie stopping time and talking directly to the camera, and filming a number of vlogs in advance of the release of the main movie itself to establish the character.

logodate
One thing that stayed the same almost until shooting was a different spelling of Jamie’s name. Ultimately we reverted to the original “Jamie.”

Another involved solving riddles and puzzles before being able to find the “treasures,” a la adventure movies like National Treasure. This was simplified and discarded in early April to go straight to the treasures (coincidentally aligning it more with the earlier Quest for the Lost Treasures.) This would allow us to go to more locations quicker and add in some visual jokes instead of stopping to explain the significance of a location or a clue.

This wasn’t shared with the group, but somewhere between April and May, I completely lost it and started rethinking the whole project, worrying that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I even reconceptualized the whole project as an interactive “choose your own story” movie which would branch off at points during the adventure – a logistical nightmare for something supposed to be filmed in three days. With the help of my girlfriend Deana and a massive dose of common sense, I chucked that idea and we focused in on a final draft.

IMG_1140On May 18, just a mere week before shooting, I locked in the final draft of the script, which we still had pegged to shoot for 3 days, May 24-26.

CAST: Casting was, for the most part, fairly easy. Daniel, Bridgett, Michael and Matt I’d known since high school, Aspen and Okoye I had met through the Community Theatre, Isaiah was Daniel’s younger brother and brought Sam and Garett along with. Simplifying the script also mean simplifying the cast, so keeping it to a grand total of 10 (including Alex, the kid brought in the day of to play Jamie’s “pony ride” date) and keeping to the three-day plan made coordinating schedules a breeze.

Coincidentally, at one point, Okoye had thought she was going to be unavailable for the shoot, so we had another girl who had been in the community theatre’s first production planned to play Kaitlyn, even at our sole script read-through on May 23! At the last minute the following day, she went AWOL due to her new job and we shot as much as we could without Kaitlyn… but without knowing whether we’d even HAVE a Kaitlyn. The next day, the other girl confirmed she’d have to drop out of the project but Okoye was back in town so she got roped back in.

But I’ll save more about those stories in the next few columns covering production….

LESSONS LEARNED FROM PRE-PRODUCTION:

-If you’re frustrated with the way other things in your life are going, do something you have complete control over.

-Don’t ever plan to improvise. Always back yourself up, even with a loose outline of dialogue to have structure to fall back on.

-Budget: Jamie Klotz’s Diary didn’t really have a budget. We begged and borrowed, paid for special props, water and snack foods to keep the cast hydrated and happy. Sometimes you have the fortunate of investing a ton of money in a project. Sometimes you just gotta roll with what you have.

-Writing a story based on suggestions from a bunch of people is really fun, but also totally maddening and disappointing because good ideas have to get thrown by the wayside to make the story work.

-Know your limits, budget-wise, time-wise and energy-wise.

-Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong and start over (or rethink it if you can’t just scrap it and go again)

-Schedule everyone ahead of time and confirm their participation. Confirm it again. Confirm it again. Confirm it again. And always expect them not to be able to show and have a contingency plan.

-If you can, do a read-through with your cast of the whole script, from beginning to end. It not only helps your cast find their character better and improve interactions, but it gives you a chance to get a feel for the pacing of the entire project in a different way than reading it to yourself does.

JAMIE KLOTZ’S ORIGINS, PART 3

THE WEEK IN HOT SPRINGS

Following Gump’s prior antics in “A Day in Hot Springs” and the partially completed “Quest for the Lost Treasures,” we had scripted five other “days,” which could be released on *cough*MySpace*cough* as webseries episodes. Because of a large number of issues in production, the extent to which each was completed varied highly, and though fewer elements from these were later reused in Jamie Klotz’s Diary, the ones that were carried over were significant.

1001 ARABIAN GUMPS

The third “day in Hot Springs” was, essentially, a beat for beat rip-off of the classic Disney film, Aladdin, with Gump filling the Aladdin role, except the villain introduced was an annoying short pipsqueak known as “Half-Pint.” Complete with two musical numbers, almost none of this script was filmed as it was one of the last scripts of the seven days written (it was also the least connected to the other episodes, plotwise.)

However, in 2009, Gump and Matt (Dr. Lawrence in Jamie Klotz’s Diary) did film one scene that we adapted from the original script into a single short where Jesse meets the Genie of the Trash Can.

Sahera's costume was directed to be Arabian-influenced as a callback to one Week in Hot Springs script.
Sahera’s costume was directed to be Arabian-influenced as a callback to one Week in Hot Springs script.

Another element from this script that sort-of led to inspiration in JKD was the incorporation of an Arabian theme in the design of Sahera’s costume by Bridgett Hill. But, with this script having never been filmed, it wasn’t much of a reference. It just looked cool.

Visit http://www.seraphimtheatricalentertainment.com/ to learn more about Bridgett’s current endeavors!

PARADOX

The fourth day in Hot Springs script, however, heavily influenced Jamie Klotz’s Diary II in very specific ways. I’ll try not to spoil the plot of JKD2, but Paradox saw Jesse having his car, The Gumpmobile, stolen, leading to a montage scene (see the last column for video comparisons on that scene.) After finding the car, (it having been stolen and destroyed by Half-Pint) Gump is gifted a kitchen timer by his girlfriend that coincidentally doubles as a time machine.

The Men in Dark Gray are introduced in Paradox.
The Men in Dark Gray are introduced in Paradox.

Sensing some time-travelly antics, two secret agents show up to capture the offender, and Jesse escapes to a prior episode and brings a past version of himself to the current episode to help.  These agents were known as “The Men in Dark Gray.” Though they were cast, nothing was actually filmed with these characters, but in Jamie Klotz’s Diary II, we learn that in Jamie’s alternate timeline, Eric the FBI Agent has been promoted to inter-dimensional duty as one of the Men in Dark Gray, and has powers of his own.

The Man in Dark Gray threatens Jamie and Ryan, demanding the diary.
The Man in Dark Gray threatens Jamie and Ryan, demanding the diary.

Jamie Klotz’s Diary II originally also called for multiple MIDG, but scheduling limited the number to one, played by Sam Martin, with the power to multiply himself.

Another element from Paradox that later influenced Jamie Klotz’s Diary II in a minor way was the script-only distinction between Future Jesse and Past Jesse.

Jesse of the present day (right) brings
Jesse of the present day (right) brings “PJ” (left) up to speed.
“PJ” ruminates on what to ask of her future self.

Throughout Paradox and War of the Dandelions (the final day in Hot Springs), the Jesse from the past is referenced to as “PJ.” Whilst originally not even mentioned in the script, halfway through shooting JKD2 the original scene of Jamie travelling into her past was rewritten to take her into her future, and an exchange about what the two Jamies should call each other was added to the script in an homage to the other “PJ” and also establishing the playful attitude of the Jamies toward each other.

ADVENTURES IN HOT SPRINGS

Only one element from any of the other episodes of the Week in Hot Springs carried over to Jamie Klotz’s Diary. That element was filmed once but was unfortunately taped over before it was transferred to dgital, so only a few frames exist from that shoot. Coincidentally, it’s a twist that, if revealed, actually would ruin the plot of JKD2, so I will wait until the movie is out to reveal that part!

Art by Jesse Needham
Art by Jesse Needham

Anyway, after what seemed like an utter, abysmal failure in my attempt to be something like a filmmaker, I finally gave up on the Week in Hot Springs project in late 2007, around the time my grandmother passed away and moved on to another project, entitled Shards of the Transient Diamond.

This project was different from The Week in Hot Springs in that Jesse would portray a young man gifted a piece of the titular diamond and be joined by an assassin sent to protect him from a crime syndicate set on retrieving the magic diamond. While minor in its influence on Jamie Klotz’s Diary, Daniel Crossman (The Man) would have played a loner figure who talks to his pet turtle Greg, who talks back, but only to him. The complete “diamond” prop and the puppet turtle purchased for this film (the script of which has long been lost) both were reused and appear in Jamie Klotz’s Diary’s treasure-hunting scene.

After stumbling around that failed project for another year, we decided to revisit the Week in Hot Springs characters in 2009, but with a micro-webseries of sketches. Numerous short scripts (and some advice given to me by a pro filmmaker taken to heart) led to the filming of videos like Kazoo Hero, MilkGump Blues, and the adapted scene from 1001 Arabian Gumps.

One of these sketches was partially filmed and would have frogfeatured Gump being turned into a frog, going through the stages of grief, trying everything he can think of to try to be turned back, including attempting to date several girls in accordance with the classic fairy tale “The Frog Prince.” He eventually learns to accept his fate, only to be rescued and returned to human form by the end. Scenes filmed include one with Matt returning as the magic Genie and one where “The Frog Gump” prays to God, who responds “If I help you out, you’re never going to learn anything. The frog puppet purchased for this sketch is reused for a gag in Jamie Klotz’s Diary wherein Kaitlyn sets her friend up on a blind date with someone with the online persona “Fr0gPrince.”

IN REFLECTION

At the time we started doing The Week in Hot Springs, I was between the ages of 17-19, roughly the same age as the young cast that I eventually worked with on Jamie Klotz’s Diary and its sequel. When the vision I had fell through, I was absolutely devastated. I did not see the value in what I had done. I left the video we had shot unedited on my hard drive and started on another big project that ended up not even going beyond a half-complete script.

One of the four remaining shots from my earliest film project ever - Indiana Jake and the Viking's Sacred Staff
One of the four remaining shots from my earliest film project ever – Indiana Jake and the Viking’s Sacred Staff

I have to confess that one of my biggest inspirations from as early as 2003 when I sat at the family computer and wrote over 100 pages of script, printing them out on the crappy little printer below the desk and eventually filmed four or five minutes of a Hi-8 video with “Indiana Jake and The Viking’s Sacred Staff” was this independent film made almost a decade earlier by a bunch of high school kids. I found it online and just went nuts. Their creativity and passion inspired something within me. If they could pull something like this off, why couldn’t I?

Every step from Indiana Jake to Gibbers to Shards of the Transient Diamond felt like a failure on a deeply personal level. I have a list that has remained with me since August 1, 2007, just before I started on Shards, on which I typed the title of every idea for a feature or short. At the time I created it, it was excruciating because I considered nearly all of them failures that never got beyond a script, some not even beyond a title and outline. The list wasn’t in any sort of chronological order, but some of them I had been thinking of for over 3 years already. The beginning of the list goes like this:

“Dukes of Fall River” (A Dukes of Hazzard Fan Film)
“Star Wars Fan Film” (I didn’t include any details on what this would have been)
“Long Black Limousine” (A short based on the Elvis song)
“Gibbers: The Movie – original” (based on the original script)
“Gibbers: The Movie – revisions” (based on a revised script)
“Gibbers: The Movie – rethought” (I once thought of scrapping the whole thing and starting over with a new script)
In search of Jamie Klutz’s Diary

The original 2007 list, which hasn’t been added to or taken away from since being created, goes on from there for another 54 ideas, including the Week in Hot Springs. I periodically looked at that list time and again for years, reminding myself of things I hadn’t done, as a sort of twisted motivator to keep trying, but never really grasping what it meant other than perhaps guilting myself into it. And every time I looked at it, I saw that title “In Search of Jamie Klutz’s Diary.”

Only a few seconds of
Only a few seconds of “Taterfied” still exist on tape.

Now, looking back, having brought that one single line to life, not once, but TWICE, I understand that every title on that list, whether they came to completion like A Day in Hot Springs, or only partway, like, say Taterfied, which was a road movie taking cues from “Red Green,” each page of script, and every second of video taught me something useful and helped me develop skills needed to succeed in some meaningful way.

The advice I was given by that filmmaker between Shards and Adventures in Hot Springs was that I ought to focus on shorts instead of features. There’s more flexibility and less risk. You can experiment without fearing the outcome. You can move on from failures quicker.

There’s a reason Jamie Klotz’s Diary means so much to me. Because that movie and its sequel represent the final trial of that advice. The incorporation of so many elements from the “failed” projects is my own private little “fuck yeah, I did this!” They’re not perfect films by any means whatsoever (I’d argue not much good at all.) But to me, they’re proof that I’m learning and developing. And every project from here on out, whether a success or failure, good or bad, is another lesson. I’d rather get better at failing than not try at all.

That film that inspired me, by the way, was Indiana Jed, by Michael & Marc Linn. Marc was the one who gave me the advice, and this past year I worked for a couple days on their upcoming film project as a PA. It wasn’t much and I am pretty sure I wasn’t impressive as a PA but it was an honor and a privilege as far as I was concerned.