Hello, I am a multimedia art form

DaVinci is dead.“Remember when you asked me to find the unified field theory of your career?” asked Kit Fergus as he folded the ironing board back into the wall.

Though I couldn’t recall making any such request, I figured this was Kit’s means of backdating his efforts to imbue them with a greater sense of premeditation. This, for Kit, was the difference between a whim and a plan and constituted what he called “quality career management” and “the best 10 percent you will ever spend.”

“You, you’re a producer, I mean you’ve got your head in everything – you write, you make movies, you’re probably a song and dance man – though I never want to see it. In short, you’re my favorite client.”

“I’m your only client,” I reminded.

“But you’re like five in one. You’re what we call in the industry a ‘Renaissance man,’ which is just a fancy way of saying ‘jack of all trades,’” he elaborated, then added archly, “Which is showbiz jargon for ‘amateur.’”

“I’ve been a professional for over a decade, Kit.”

“I know that, you know that, but out there, all they see is a dude with a lot of hyphens on his business card. And a hyphen is really just a minus that moonlights.”

Though I disagreed with Kit’s take on my favorite punctuation mark, I was curious as to where he was going.

“I tried to find a better word for you, but the only one I could come up with is ‘polymath,’ which sounds like a dude with too many wives,” Kit concluded. “Then I was thinking, it’s almost like you have multiple personalities. In a good way. And you’re in media. Add it up. You’re a multimedia art form.”

“You mean multimedia artist?” I had the chutzpah to ask Kit as he prowled around the kitchenette that had recently become his office.

“No – art form,” he said and jabbed my lapel with a finger for emphasis.

“How can I be an art form?” I asked, incredulous. “How can anybody?”

“How can you not these days?” Kit retorted, flouncing a recently acquired rhetorical device. Though I could see the seam in every patch of wool he pulled over my eyes, I knew that Kit’s borg-like sense of purpose meant resistance was futile.

“Listen, Dead,” he began.

“Daed,” I corrected.

“Dada, whatever, if Duchamp can point at a pissoir and call it art, who’s to say I couldn’t point at you and do the same?”

“You calling me a pissoir?”

“I’m calling you art.”

“And what’s a pissoir anyhow?”

“It’s French for multimedia art form,” he said rifling through some pages, one of which he extracted and slammed to the desktop that lay between us like a coffin. “This is a press release I’ve been working on for you.”

I glanced at the typewritten page. It only took me a moment to realize it was photocopied boilerplate with blank spaces where I presumed my name would later be inserted.

“This is our official announcement. We’re going multinational, which is better than national seeing as you’re multimedia and not just media,” Kit explained. “The people like symmetry like that.”

“What does a multimedia art form do?”

“What doesn’t it do?” he said pursing lips over tented fingers.

“Specifically,” I elaborated.

“Specifically, a multimedia art form doesn’t do in-store appearances without the fee upfront a cut of the day’s sales. Other than that, it’s blue skies, baby.”

I am a Film Festival Survivor

Daedalus Howell and Irina Pantaeva -- photo by Ryan Lely.My name is Daedalus Howell and I’m a film festival survivor. At least that’s what I’ve been able to glean from the footage our faithful video entourage acquired (lensed by auteur-provocateur Brodie Giles, flanked by a garrison of accomplices), which I’ve used to reconstruct the following events:

Day One: Missed all the sneak previews, downed a case of wine at the fest’s opening reception, made French toast for the Contessa, Giles, ace shooter Ryan “Flash” Lely and I have no recollection of any of it. E-mail me if you have any details or if we need to “talk.”

Day Two: I had begged the Contessa to smother me with a pillow, which seemed the only way to abate the hangover I had acquired the night(mare) before. She declined. She didn’t want to waste the effort she had put into making sure I had a life. I cribbed my riposte straight from “Lawrence of Arabia”: by both saving and killing me, she would both be the giver and taker of life, in short, a god. She mulled this momentarily, but we agreed there was only room for one god-complex in our relationship. Furthermore, my hangover wasn’t anything a little Gloria Ferrer couldn’t fix, which flowed like a fountain at the girl and the fig shindig later that afternoon. There, I re-acquainted myself with industry pals up from Low-Cal and was located by my assistant Ms. Stranzl, who dutifully collected business cards so that I wouldn’t obstruct the silhouette of my coat with padded pockets. Then, abetted by chum and collaborator Jerry Rapp, we began shooting doc footage of supermodel Irina Pantaeva that quickly devolved into an improv comedy with bits shot at Sonoma Museum of Visual Arts’ Goya opening (it ends two days later in mortal combat between the rangy runway veteran toppling a mad Liverpudlian actor named Lenny – his mate Mick, the Ollie to his Stan, watched dolefully as his partner was trounced by the Siberian sylph.

Day Three: Road shotgun with Spitzy on film fest bus doing dog-and-pony style “survival guide to Sonoma” while en route to St. Francis Winery and Vineyard. We reminded our audience that Sonoma can out-drink Hollywood any day of the week and later proved it. I openly suspected fest sommelier Christopher Sawyer of trying to drown me in wine. Giles says he’s keeping the tape for “leverage.” More French toast (I hear).

Day Four: Replica, the flick in which I starred helmed by my pal (and personal fest guest) Raymond Daigle, screened well at the Lounge, despite sounding like it was underwater. Bolstered by success, we tripped through the Lasseter tribute, went gonzo at the Gala and took the party home, where it burned until 5 a.m. Bob “Angus” Taylor and I tossed a guitar back and forth as Diva Donna, the Dame et al, reveled without a cause. Hittelman and Pantaeva staged a performance-art installation involving eye-pillows. We danced to the entire “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack and convulsed with laughter at the interpretive contortions of human pretzel Geoff Garner who, with Sawyer, perfected the art of “floor swimming.”

Day Five: Awoke, magically, without a hangover. Stranzl called to prep me for our next screening, which I otherwise would have missed. More success – we took the informal and impromptu “audience award” (hello, laurel leaves), then actually saw some films. At some point, I apparently scored a three-picture deal, the contract for which I found drafted on a cocktail napkin wadded in my coat pocket. Oddly, the only signature on it was my own, which was ringed in rouge from the bottom of a plastic tumbler of zin or possibly lipstick.

In the Desert, You Can?t Remember Your Name

Who you gonna call?Screenwriter Jerry Rapp just walked out of the desert.Again.This wasn?t the figurative Sahara of an intractable second act for this writer and producer, but literally the sandy wasteland that blows between the ersatz oases of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The purpose of Rapp?s latest trek was the production of ?Mojave Phone Booth,? the last of three independent films Rapp has written that form something of a series of desert-themed projects.

This latest sand-hued saga, co-written and directed by John Putch, plays Friday as one of over a hundred films featured in this year?s Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival. The film has already garnered ?best feature film? jury prizes from New York?s Story Brook Film Festival and Florida?s Del Rey Beach Film Festival.

?Mojave Phone Booth? intertwines downtrodden lives and loves at the fabled location of a lone pay-phone inside the Mojave National Preserve. The phone was fifteen miles from any visible civilization and became something of a Mecca to fans of telephony, inspiring journeys to the location, dozens of websites and phone calls to the booth itself.Pacific Bell removed the phone six years ago at the request of the National Park Service (it was dutifully recreated for the film, which stars Annabeth Gish, Steve Guttenberg, Missi Pyle and David Deluise, among others).

Though Rapp?s unabashed love for esoterica initially attracted him to the project, the lure of the desert had piqued his creative sensibility long ago and for a good reason.

?It?s cheap,? Rapp deadpanned as he took a sip of his ?Azhouli?s Revenge,? an admixture of chai and mocha with a dash of cayenne pepper and topped with whipped cream.He discovered the concoction in a popular cafe in San Francisco?s Mission District and, although the item it was removed from the menu months ago, Rapp still requests it from the wizened barista.

Now a full-time resident of San Francisco, Rapp keeps a writing studio in unincorporated rural SonomaCounty. He first acquainted himself with the Bay Area when his feature ?Sand Trap? played an earlier incarnation of the Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival. The ?desert noir? tale centering about a nebbish who battles for his life after his wife and best friend botch his murder, aired on HBO in the late 90s and has since seen a worldwide theatrical and video release. Rapp?s Moving Alan, a dark comedy starring Marley Shelton and Mark Pelligrino, finds feuding sisters reuniting to dispose of the body of an abusive husband in the Joshua Tree National Park.

Though Rapp has sold scripts to such studios as Imagine, Paramount and Universal, it has chiefly been his independent endeavors that have made it to the screen.

?I wrote several scripts before I started to realize that many of them involved a desert landscape, in some form or another. Perhaps not too surprisingly, these were the majority of the scripts that ended up getting made,? he said. ?Everyone from the financier to the producer, to the director to the cinematographer, to the grip to the star, has a different reaction to reading the scene heading, ?EXT.DESERT ? DAY.? One thing they share is that they are all going to be, at one point or another, extremely hot, or extremely cold.?

Rapp first encountered his de facto location as child when his family moved briefly to the CamelbackMountain region of Arizona. He has vivid recollections of chasing lizards, building rock forts and perhaps most telling, getting lost.

?I had no water.No food.I envisioned a whole scenario where my family never found me and I became part of a post-apocalyptic desert community, run entirely by talking dogs,? Rapp recalled. ?When I heard my mom calling my name it was back to reality.A couple of years later, thinking it was a wholesome family film, my mom took me to see ?A Boy and His Dog? where I had a transformative experience. I was taken back to the whole lost in the desert odyssey and the dots connected somehow. The makers of that film and I were sharing a zeitgeist, even though I didn’t have any idea what the word meant, and still, admittedly, have difficulty with it.?

He paused for a moment, then added, ?Probably because it?s in German.?

Rapp is the first to point out that setting films in the desert is not a novel notion but says interest in it as a location persists, in large part, for its ?natural art direction.?

?It?s a great place to get creative in real time. You?re chasing the light here and finding spontaneous shadow-play everywhere.A beetle crawls along a dune and suddenly you?ve got atmosphere,? he said. ?The desert is often ? but not always ? the perfect soundstage.And visually, a spindly Joshua Tree against the twilight horizon of a desert is much more interesting to me than a crowded street in New York.?

Likewise, Rapp suggests the interiority of a character can often be explored and represented with the arid locale.

?For me, and please pardon my French, the desert is a metaphor of the human landscape. When I think of what the interior of a tormented soul looks like, I envision a desert.Depending on how malnourished that soul is, the less vegetation, the less water ? the less beauty,? said Rapp. ?Deserts are a place of mystery and weirdness. Deserts are where UFOs abduct people, where bodies are buried, where nukes are tested, where Native Americans live, where gambling epicenters spring up overnight. It?s where things can be out of place and in perfect, harmonious at the same time ? depending on your grasp of the absurd.?

This includes, of course, phone booths. The inspiration for the famous phone?s screenplay was borne from several conversations between Rapp and its director.Both wanted to experiment with new forms of storytelling and as well as concentrate on character-driven material.

?Putch initially said something to the equivalent of, ?Let?s take my favorite actors and a couple of hi-definition cameras to Vegas and shoot what happens,?? explained Rapp. ?I envisioned a whole Cassavetes-style journey where we would workshop scenes and relationships on camera, day and night, in a whiskey and cigar fueled haze, using only available light and stolen sets. Then came those dreaded words, which I am ultimately grateful for ? ?We?ll need a great script.??

Rapp and Putch agreed that they wanted to follow the lives of characters seldom seen on screen ? ordinary people beset by their individual weaknesses.Faults that are in high relief in Las Vegas, Rapp notes, are put into serious perspective in the desert.However, the team had yet to find a unifying theme to connect the vignettes they were shaping in a way that was both meaningful and had yet to be seen on film.

?In our research of Vegas and outlying areas, John happened across the Mojave phone booth phenomenon.This forgotten facility was truly unique and I have since become fully enamored with its legend. We considered it as a setting for one of the vignettes, until I realized this was the framework we had been seeking.The common link between all our characters is how their lives intersect with this booth.Also, conveniently, the use of phone conversations as a narrative device proved a great way to convey inner thought, drive the exposition and play against image,? said Rapp.

Whenever Rapp and Putch found themselves facing story difficulties while shaping their script, Rapp invoked a technique he refers to as a ?subtext pass,? wherein one writes dialogue purely from the inner motivations of characters, ?without decoration, without judgment.?

?Essentially it?s writing from the id ? all the characters are saying exactly what?s on their minds.You end up laughing a lot while doing this.In the subsequent drafts, of course, you strive to make dialogue economical and finesse the intent, and adapt as many moments as possible to play out visually.?

Rapp remained with the project during production, often rewriting scenes on the fly (when not on set performing his cameo role as the Flower Guy).

?I think I was made an actor so I could fall under John’s rule of actors never making suggestions,? Rapp quipped. ?The truth is, that casting me meant one less person we had to shuttle out to the desert and put up.It was cheaper.?

When asked if Rapp plans to return to the desert, at least creatively, the screenwriter appears to choke up ? but then, this could be the cayenne in his drink. He composed himself and answered, brightly:

?Actually, there are several more desert scripts and notions in the wings, including the ?Mojave Phone Booth? pilot, which I?m very excited about.So, I guess I have no choice.It?s not such a terrible fate, though. I?ve experienced moments on this film which were totally sublime and out of this world. Like walking out into the pitch black Mojave at 3 a.m., into this twisted, parched terrain, and looking back upon the booth, emblazoned in our few lights. And hearing it ringing. I?ll never forget how eerie and mysterious that was.?

Rapp polished off the last of his beverage and mused, ?I mean, who in the world would be calling at that hour??

In the Desert, You Can’t Remember Your Name

Who you gonna call?Screenwriter Jerry Rapp just walked out of the desert. Again. This wasn’t the figurative Sahara of an intractable second act for this writer and producer, but literally the sandy wasteland that blows between the ersatz oases of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The purpose of Rapp’s latest trek was the production of “Mojave Phone Booth,” the last of three independent films Rapp has written that form something of a series of desert-themed projects.

This latest sand-hued saga, co-written and directed by John Putch, plays Friday as one of over a hundred films featured in this year’s Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival. The film has already garnered “best feature film” jury prizes from New York’s Story Brook Film Festival and Florida’s Del Rey Beach Film Festival.

“Mojave Phone Booth” intertwines downtrodden lives and loves at the fabled location of a lone pay-phone inside the Mojave National Preserve. The phone was fifteen miles from any visible civilization and became something of a Mecca to fans of telephony, inspiring journeys to the location, dozens of websites and phone calls to the booth itself. Pacific Bell removed the phone six years ago at the request of the National Park Service (it was dutifully recreated for the film, which stars Annabeth Gish, Steve Guttenberg, Missi Pyle and David Deluise, among others).

Though Rapp’s unabashed love for esoterica initially attracted him to the project, the lure of the desert had piqued his creative sensibility long ago and for a good reason.

“It’s cheap,” Rapp deadpanned as he took a sip of his “Azhouli’s Revenge,” an admixture of chai and mocha with a dash of cayenne pepper and topped with whipped cream. He discovered the concoction in a popular cafe in San Francisco’s Mission District and, although the item it was removed from the menu months ago, Rapp still requests it from the wizened barista.

Now a full-time resident of San Francisco, Rapp keeps a writing studio in unincorporated rural Sonoma County. He first acquainted himself with the Bay Area when his feature “Sand Trap” played an earlier incarnation of the Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival. The “desert noir” tale centering about a nebbish who battles for his life after his wife and best friend botch his murder, aired on HBO in the late 90s and has since seen a worldwide theatrical and video release. Rapp’s Moving Alan, a dark comedy starring Marley Shelton and Mark Pelligrino, finds feuding sisters reuniting to dispose of the body of an abusive husband in the Joshua Tree National Park.

Though Rapp has sold scripts to such studios as Imagine, Paramount and Universal, it has chiefly been his independent endeavors that have made it to the screen.

“I wrote several scripts before I started to realize that many of them involved a desert landscape, in some form or another. Perhaps not too surprisingly, these were the majority of the scripts that ended up getting made,” he said. “Everyone from the financier to the producer, to the director to the cinematographer, to the grip to the star, has a different reaction to reading the scene heading, ‘EXT. DESERT – DAY.’ One thing they share is that they are all going to be, at one point or another, extremely hot, or extremely cold.”

Rapp first encountered his de facto location as child when his family moved briefly to the Camelback Mountain region of Arizona. He has vivid recollections of chasing lizards, building rock forts and perhaps most telling, getting lost.

“I had no water. No food. I envisioned a whole scenario where my family never found me and I became part of a post-apocalyptic desert community, run entirely by talking dogs,” Rapp recalled. “When I heard my mom calling my name it was back to reality. A couple of years later, thinking it was a wholesome family film, my mom took me to see “A Boy and His Dog” where I had a transformative experience. I was taken back to the whole lost in the desert odyssey and the dots connected somehow. The makers of that film and I were sharing a zeitgeist, even though I didn’t have any idea what the word meant, and still, admittedly, have difficulty with it.”

He paused for a moment, then added, “Probably because it’s in German.”

Rapp is the first to point out that setting films in the desert is not a novel notion but says interest in it as a location persists, in large part, for its “natural art direction.”

“It’s a great place to get creative in real time. You’re chasing the light here and finding spontaneous shadow-play everywhere. A beetle crawls along a dune and suddenly you’ve got atmosphere,” he said. “The desert is often – but not always – the perfect soundstage. And visually, a spindly Joshua Tree against the twilight horizon of a desert is much more interesting to me than a crowded street in New York.”

Likewise, Rapp suggests the interiority of a character can often be explored and represented with the arid locale.

“For me, and please pardon my French, the desert is a metaphor of the human landscape. When I think of what the interior of a tormented soul looks like, I envision a desert. Depending on how malnourished that soul is, the less vegetation, the less water – the less beauty,” said Rapp. “Deserts are a place of mystery and weirdness. Deserts are where UFOs abduct people, where bodies are buried, where nukes are tested, where Native Americans live, where gambling epicenters spring up overnight. It’s where things can be out of place and in perfect, harmonious at the same time – depending on your grasp of the absurd.”

This includes, of course, phone booths. The inspiration for the famous phone’s screenplay was borne from several conversations between Rapp and its director. Both wanted to experiment with new forms of storytelling and as well as concentrate on character-driven material.

“Putch initially said something to the equivalent of, ‘Let’s take my favorite actors and a couple of hi-definition cameras to Vegas and shoot what happens,’” explained Rapp. “I envisioned a whole Cassavetes-style journey where we would workshop scenes and relationships on camera, day and night, in a whiskey and cigar fueled haze, using only available light and stolen sets. Then came those dreaded words, which I am ultimately grateful for – ‘We’ll need a great script.’”

Rapp and Putch agreed that they wanted to follow the lives of characters seldom seen on screen – ordinary people beset by their individual weaknesses. Faults that are in high relief in Las Vegas, Rapp notes, are put into serious perspective in the desert. However, the team had yet to find a unifying theme to connect the vignettes they were shaping in a way that was both meaningful and had yet to be seen on film.

“In our research of Vegas and outlying areas, John happened across the Mojave phone booth phenomenon. This forgotten facility was truly unique and I have since become fully enamored with its legend. We considered it as a setting for one of the vignettes, until I realized this was the framework we had been seeking. The common link between all our characters is how their lives intersect with this booth. Also, conveniently, the use of phone conversations as a narrative device proved a great way to convey inner thought, drive the exposition and play against image,” said Rapp.

Whenever Rapp and Putch found themselves facing story difficulties while shaping their script, Rapp invoked a technique he refers to as a “subtext pass,” wherein one writes dialogue purely from the inner motivations of characters, “without decoration, without judgment.”

“Essentially it’s writing from the id – all the characters are saying exactly what’s on their minds. You end up laughing a lot while doing this. In the subsequent drafts, of course, you strive to make dialogue economical and finesse the intent, and adapt as many moments as possible to play out visually.”

Rapp remained with the project during production, often rewriting scenes on the fly (when not on set performing his cameo role as the Flower Guy).

“I think I was made an actor so I could fall under John’s rule of actors never making suggestions,” Rapp quipped. “The truth is, that casting me meant one less person we had to shuttle out to the desert and put up. It was cheaper.”

When asked if Rapp plans to return to the desert, at least creatively, the screenwriter appears to choke up – but then, this could be the cayenne in his drink. He composed himself and answered, brightly:

“Actually, there are several more desert scripts and notions in the wings, including the ‘Mojave Phone Booth’ pilot, which I’m very excited about. So, I guess I have no choice. It’s not such a terrible fate, though. I’ve experienced moments on this film which were totally sublime and out of this world. Like walking out into the pitch black Mojave at 3 a.m., into this twisted, parched terrain, and looking back upon the booth, emblazoned in our few lights. And hearing it ringing. I’ll never forget how eerie and mysterious that was.”

Rapp polished off the last of his beverage and mused, “I mean, who in the world would be calling at that hour?”