Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Quote of the Day (Courtesy of Ray)

Today at work Ray got frustrated with his tape measure. He said, "This stupid thing. I'm going to burn it."

Ray then paused, thought for a second, and muttered to himself, "Will this burn?"

Monday, May 28, 2007


I don't mean to brag but I had the best weekend ever. I spent the whole time smiling and laughing. And my cheeks don't even hurt.

Friday, May 25, 2007

How to Tell If You're in Garrett, Indiana

A couple of days ago I went to the bank. As I got out of the car, I saw a rather large lady running (or waddling quickly) down the sidewalk screaming at the top of her lungs "GIVE ME BACK MY BABY!!!!!!!"

It wasn't unlike watching "Cops" live.

And that's how you know you're in Garrett, Indiana.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ashes Wednesday

This week has not been a fun work week. We have been siding a house this week and that's just not my favorite thing in the world to do. On top of that, we have been starting work an hour earlier each day but still stopping at the usual time, so on top of an already long work day I now get a work day that's an hour longer.

It's the middle of the week and it's starting to catch up with me. Today at work I was bored, cranky, tired, and hungry. By the time noon finally rolled around I was starving. Usually for lunch we'll run somewhere and grab a bite to eat but today the guy we were working for offered to cook us burgers. A nice enough gesture, but I just wanted to get away for a bit; I'm getting sick of being there and a few minutes elsewhere would have been a nice change.

He grilled Dad and I two burgers each and we all sat around his picnic table as we prepped our sandwiches. I had added all of the toppings to my burgers and just as I was about to put the bun on top a wind picked up.

On the table was an ashtray. And....you guessed it...I watched as hundreds of little ash particles flew directly onto my burgers; it looked like I went on a pepper rampage.

And that was the last straw in an already draining day. The first thought that came into my mind was (no lie), "So I guess I'm having cigarettes for lunch."

No one else saw happened and I accepted my fate without saying a word. That's right. That's the kind of state of mind I was in. I put the buns on top of my two sandwiches and ate my entire lunch.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hunting Fungus

This week Dad and I were eating lunch in a local dive and an old guy approached Dad and began to regale him with his tales of "mushroom hunting". Apparently people go out in the woods...and look for mushrooms. Why the word "hunting" is applied to it is beyond me. Perhaps it's an attempt to make it sound more exciting than it actually is? I don't know how common a practice this is, but I know more than a few people in Indiana who go out...."mushroom hunting."

As this man told us of his adventures and the many different kinds of mushrooms he discovered, I came upon the following revelation:

The only thing that can possibly be more boring than mushroom hunting is a conversation about mushroom hunting.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Production Update - "The Coffee Shop"

Last night I shot the principal photography on my new short film "The Coffee Shop" (the first in a series of short films collectively called "The Guys"). The film stars David Beaman and Matt Stine and also features the very bubbly Sarah Beaman.

This film follows two guys in a coffee shop as they ponder asking out the cute girl who works behind the counter. Needless to say it was written while I was at the coffee shop and since Sarah was working there at the time I decided to cast her as the object of the guys' affection. I originally began writing the part of Guy Who Wants To Ask Out Cute Girl But Is Too Shy with me in mind since that's pretty much the story of my life but then I realized I'm like 30 years older than Sarah and that'd just be weird. I then decided to cast David in my role and Matt in the role of his counterpart.

I was happy all of my first-picks were able to participate. Although none of them are actors they did a great job and I have to admit I was very impressed. They all got into it as soon as I started rolling film. They needed very little direction and their performance perfectly captured what this writer was going for.

About 99% of shooting is completed; I hope to get the remaining shots within a week or so. I will be in the editing room today (aka Brewdaily's Cafe) editing what I got last night and will then turn over a rough copy to musician extraordinaire Steve Bridgeman, who has agreed to provide the music. Those of you who are in the Pennsylvania area will surely be familiar with Steve's music. He is one of the best, highly skilled guitar players I have ever heard perform and after hearing some of his "Movie Theme" songs he had on his website for a bit, I knew I'd be a fool not to ask him to take part. Steve was more than game and I am really excited to have him on board!

Of course, I will keep you updated as things progress. When the final product is complete it will be posted on my YouTube page (stop by and add me as a friend if you haven't already).

And in case you're wondering, "The Failures of Ed" is still in production. Since I can pretty much film that any time I want, I had to bump a few things ahead of it on the shooting schedule before I leave town.

More to come...

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Pinnacle of Awkward

I just returned from grabbing a bite to eat. While I was there I ran into Ralph, from the local hardware store. He's an older guy (I say "older" because I don't know how old he is...but I know he was in the service in WWII) who's really cool and funny and I enjoy talking with him. We talked mostly about old films and other light fare but soon our conversation took a turn down Serious Lane and he began telling me the story of his best friend passing away.

It was during this vulnerable time we were approached by a guy who I went to high school with. He was creepy back then and is really creepy now (perhaps it was his attempt to convert me to Communism a few years ago that turned me off to him. Or maybe the time he threatened my grandmother and my aunt. The point is, he's creepy). He approached our table and then just stood there as poor Ralph told me about the late-night call he received from his buddy's wife.

Bear in mind, I've been back in Indiana for just about a year now, and have seen this guy on a number of occasions. I looked up at him standing there watching us and suddenly found myself in this conversation:

CHUCK: Eddie?
ME: Yeah.
CHUCK: I wondered if that was you.
ME: It's me.
CHUCK: You probably don't even remember who I am.
ME: Sure I do, Chuck.
CHUCK: You look bigger. Have you grown?
ME: Not really.
CHUCK: Stand up.

I share a perplexed look with Ralph and then scoot my chair back and stand up.

ME: 5'11. Just like I've been for a while.
CHUCK: No. I think you've grown since high school.

I sit back down.

Awkward pause. Then,

ME: Must be all the steroids.

I smile. Ralph laughs. Chuck does not.

CHUCK: Do you take steroids?
ME: No, Chuck. I was just making a joke.
CHUCK: I took steroids in high school.

I remember that Chuck has always been scrawnier than even I.

ME: Really?
CHUCK: Yea. Did you?
ME: No, I can't say that I did.
CHUCK: You can't really tell, but I did.

Awkward pause followed by

Really awkward pause.

CHUCK: I took (Chuck names off several medical terms that I assume are steroids, but that I cannot remember now).
ME: Oh....yeah.....um....no, I never did that.

Chuck stands and looks at me and Ralph long enough to create another awkward pause and then just walks away.

I tell ya, as much as I am looking forward to Pennsylvania next month, it's gonna be hard to top awkwardness like that.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Safe Sex Talk

Today Dad and I were working at a house and the guy was telling us about a Sex Education class he went to last night. I spent the first part of his tale trying to figure out why he was attending such a class, since he's in his 60s (I know a lot of things have changed in the last 40 years, but as far as I know, the fundamentals of sex are pretty time-tested). It turns out it was part of his AA class. I still wasn't quite sure why they were teaching them about sex in an AA class, but that's not the point.

The point is the teacher was teaching the class how to put on a condom. Or, as he pronounced it, a pro-elastic. At first I thought he was saying "prophylactic" wrong on purpose to be silly, but it turns out he wasn't as he continued to tell us about the pro-elastic and how to wear a pro-elastic and the teacher was telling them all about pro-elastics and then she went on to display how to put on a pro-elastic.

We've worked for this guy quite a bit and he's not the kind of person who is always goofing up words so it threw me off even more than the "pro-elastic" when he announced she didn't use a banana or cucumber to demonstrate the proper way to put on a pro-elastic, but instead pulled out a real live plastic dodo! It was very hard not to burst out laughing.

This guy was sober and he wasn't even close to getting it right. So, if you happen to see an extinct bird wrapped in pro-elastic, get out of the way. There's a drunk man nearby who's feeling a bit randy.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"5 Minutes of Fame" - A (True) Short Story


Summer vacation. July. Indiana humidity. What's an 8-year-old to do?

On one such day, I decided that I needed my own television show. That's all there was to it. If there was anything I was missing in my life at the time, it was my own 30-minute chunk of airtime to entertain the masses. Simple as that.

Innocent youth is to be treasured. Today if you were to ask me how to get your own TV show, well sheesh, you're asking the wrong person. I guess you should probably get some head shots done, check into getting an agent, maybe take some acting classes and get involved in area theater. Network with others and pack up and move to New York or Los Angeles. If you're lucky you might cross paths with someone who can get you an appointment to go in and pitch your idea. Or perhaps you're able to slip in during pilot season and get lucky.

But when you're eight years old, the answers are much simpler than that.

I grabbed the TV Guide and thumbed to the first page. I don't know if it's still like this or not (who reads the TV Guide anymore?), but at the time when there were only 3 networks and a handful of local stations, they printed the mailing addresses for the local TV affiliates on the first page of "The Guide." I used this handy reference to get the address of the ABC affiliate in Fort Wayne.

I look back now and find it amusing that I didn't even bother with CBS or NBC. That's how much of a big deal this didn't seem to me. After all, ABC showed "The Muppet Show" every night at 7. Of course I'd choose them.

If I have one regret in my life, it's that I never made a copy of the letter I wrote to ABC (or, as is their slogan, 21-Alive!). I don't recall exactly what I told them or asked of them. I do recall letting them know I'd like to have my own show and it would be funny and zany and would include lots of pies-in-the-face (a necessary ingredient for any comedy to work!). I addressed the envelope, bummed a stamp from mom, and that was that.

Of course, I never bothered to tell mom and dad what I was up to. Why should I? They'll be fine. I was always asking mom for stamps so I could send in rebates from Cheerios boxes or to submit ideas to Dynamite Magazine, so my necessity for a stamp was never questioned.

Which is why my mom was really confused the following week when ABC called the house looking for Ed Placencia. It never even registered with her that they were looking for me, and not my dad (one of the joys of having the same name, as I would grow up to discover). I was in the living room playing with my Matchbox cars (will the Rickety Manure Truck be able to beat the black sports car in the World Championship Adventure Race?!) when the phone rang. It's all still very vivid to me.

Mom told whoever was on the phone that Dad was at work and then she became really confused. She kind of laughed and then told me that I had a phone call.

ME: Hello?

VOICE: Is this Ed Placencia?

ME: Yeah.

VOICE: This is Jim Likens from 21-Alive.

ME: Oh, hi.

(Note my total lack of excitement. It's not that I wasn't excited, really, but that I did not find it out of the ordinary that they would be returning my call. I wrote to them and asked for something. Why wouldn't they call back? Of course they would. So this is really no big deal.)

JIM LIKENS: I got your letter and we'd love to put you on TV.


JIM LIKENS: Unfortunately, we can't give you your own show, but I'd love to come and interview you and put you on the News.

ME: (a little bummed, but airtime is airtime) OK.

JIM LIKENS: Why don't you put a little something together, maybe five minutes, and we'll be over on Thursday afternoon at 2:00.

ME: All right.

And that was it. Pretty simple, huh?

I hung up the phone, and returned to the adventures of Black Sports Car Vs. Rickety Manure Truck. Mom, of course, was going nuts. "What did they want?" She asked, still trying to process the idea that the TV station just called me.

"I can't have my own TV show so they're going to put me on the news."

I don't know how long it took for Mom to get out of me what was actually going on and the media blitz was on. Mom called the local paper to let them know I was going to be on the news (if you didn't know I came from a small town, then that little move should let you know just how small it is).

In the meantime, I gathered my usual cast of characters I used in all of my neighborhood plays and productions. My little brother Ray and little sister Jaime. Naturally. I also needed Todd and Adam Sattison, brothers who lived across the street and whom Mom babysat in the summertime. They are always down to help (and if you saw Todd in my Terocus series then you know not a lot has changed). Finally I needed my good pal Dean Weimer. He would round out my cast and then we could start to rock and roll. Also, I would need a saxophone.

I decided for my TV debut I should go with something that was not only entertaining but also proven to entertain. There's an old saying, "Write what you know" and even before I had heard that adage I knew it to be true. Which is why I decided we would be singing a song from The Muppet Movie, "Can You Picture That" by Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

I would be playing the role of keyboardist Dr Teeth. Todd would be on lead guitar as Floyd. Jaime, of course, would be the bassist Janice and Dean would be stepping in as Zoot on sax (where in the world am I going to find a saxophone? I was pretty sure I didn't have one in my bedroom closet which is where I kept all of my props (or, as most kids call them, toys)). Ray would be Animal the drummer, and Adam would be conducting us as Scooter.

Using the photos on the back of my Muppet Movie record, I began building the set and placing each of us where we belonged. Animal goes in the back....Janice off to the left...Dr Teeth on this side and Floyd on the other...just like in the photo. Of course, we didn't have a piano or keyboard or organ for me to play. But we did have a bench that was in the shape of a semi-circle and the top was made of individual wooden slats which obviously looked like big piano keys. So now I had a keyboard. Todd had a toy electric guitar and my dad had a small acoustic guitar, so we were set in that section. I didn't have a drum for Ray, but I did have a huge plastic bucket to turn upside down. And drumsticks were easy...there was a tree in our backyard and sticks were always more than accessible.

Still, I didn't have a saxophone for Dean. But you know what? Not a problem. I had just the solution. I had a recorder. You know, the little annoying instrument every kid has in elementary school. Well, if you recall, a record came apart in three basic pieces: the mouthpiece, the main body, and the very end (or bell) where the noise came out. I simply popped the end off and duct taped it back on so it was bent up on an angle. Just like a saxophone.

We all listened to the song over and over again ("Can you picture...can you picture that") and could sing along while we pretended to play our buckets and benches and recorders. We were ready to go. In my head I imagined we looked just like the Muppets. In reality, we looked more like The Little Rascals who didn't realize how poor they actually were but could care less.

We lived in a cul de sac at the time and each house in the neighborhood had two or three children living there. They were all in attendance along with their most of their moms. The newspaper lady showed up and there was more buzz. Like a good host, mom served Kool-Aid. They watched as we put up our set on the back patio. Our instruments were in place. We had made a huge sign that said "CAN YOU PICTURE THAT" using some leftover wallpaper Dad donated and hung it behind us.

Soon the Channel 21 News van pulled into the driveway and a nervous hush fell over our yard. Are you kidding me, this was a big deal! None of us had ever been on the news or knew anyone who had and now all of that was about to change.

Jim Likens climbed out of the van along with his cameraman Rich Porter. They had a real TV camera! And one of those slates you write on and then slap shut when you yell "Action". These guys were professionals and they were in my yard!

Jim introduced himself and asked what we were going to do. I let him know we were going to sing a song. He put mics on Todd and me, something I totally didn't expect, I started the record and away we went. "Can you picture...can you picture that!" We sang along to the whole song and then Jim asked us to do it again. (Something else I never realized...music videos aren't shot all in one take. Who knew?)

He had us sing the song three or four more times. During one of the takes he stood in front of us and read my letter aloud. During another take he interviewed me while the rest of the gang played in the background. If you wonder when I knew I wanted to be a movie director, I can tell you the exact moment. Jim asked us to do the song again and we did, only this time, the energy was really low, and understandably so. My cast was getting bored. They were sick of the song, the novelty of the TV camera had worn off, and nothing exciting was happening.

We finished and Jim Likens asked if we'd do it one more time. It wasn't audible, but you could feel the gang as a whole inhale and let out a huge sigh. I was about to lose them. And that's when I stepped out from behind my bench and talked to my cast, my band, my fellow dreamers.

I had no idea what directors are supposed to say and I had never been in a locker room when the coach gives a pep talk to the team so I had nothing to work from; no sound bytes to steal.

"Ok, guys, I think this is the last time he's gonna have us do this so let's have fun. Let's pretend it's the first time we're doing it and really get into it. We're going to be on TV so when people see us they should know how much fun we're having."

Eat your heart out, Knute Rockne.

We filmed the last take and everyone really stepped up. We knocked it out of the park and I was so grateful to my pals who brought their game.

"Can you picture...can you picture that!!"

And that's when I knew what I really want to do is direct.

Jim Likens and Rich Porter left and our audience followed suit shortly after. The picture that ran in the paper the next day was Jim Likens kneeled in front of me, the microphone pointed at me and Rich Porter bent over getting the shot. In the foreground is The Band, looking on.

That night we all gathered in front of the TV to watch the 6:00 news. This took place long before VCRs were a household item, so we had to improvise. We all stood by the TV during the piece and Mom took our picture. Unfortunately, that's the only footage that survives of the segment. Years later I called the station's archives to get a copy and was told that they didn't keep any of the footage and it had all been disposed of long before.

As I look back, there is one moment that stands out among all the rest. A few hours after we had filmed our piece and everyone had left I found myself in the backyard. I was standing in the grass where I had been while being interviewed. I looked down and saw something bright yellow in the grass, about the size of a marshmallow. It was a piece of chalk; chalk that was used on the slate to write down info such as "Take 1, Scene 1". It is one of the few moments in my life I can truly call magical. I picked up the chalk and looked at it and felt like a kid in a fairy tale who just found a magic lamp.

I kept that piece of chalk for a long long time on my shelf. I would often look at it and just remember. Even though we had a number of photos that were taken on that day, it was almost like the chalk served as actual proof that day existed, it actually happened: I was on TV and got to live my dream of making people happy.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I Think I'm Dead

You know in the movies when people die but don't realize it because they're still walking around and can't figure out why people are ignoring them? And of course, no one looks or talks to them because they can't see dead people (unlike Haley Joel Osment)?

Today was one of those days because no less than four (4) times I was driving and right at the last possible second someone would pull out in front of me and make me slam on my brakes. At one point I believe I yelled "Am I dead or am I just driving a dead car?!"

Later on, though, a pretty girl smiled at me. So it turns out I'm not dead, just dreaming.