October 21st, 2009 @ 3am.
I had just got the call from Orlando, that Dad had died. He had succumbed to the coma that he had been in for nearly 2.5 months, and after much wondering if he was going to live or not, God made the final call and my Dad left this place.
In the days and months leading up to that, we had seen him in a coma, unresponsive, and quite literally a small resemblance of what he used to be. I remembered his glazed eyes, and the color of that room, the towels in his hands. The small signs of life we could see, the responses of either himself or nerve clusters twitching and reacting.
Before my father fell into a coma, that morning of, we spoke on the phone. I had just won best cinematography for a project I shot in one day, and was able to beat out several television DP’s who were entered in the same category for the short films we had all shot outside of our regular jobs. At the time, I was still photo assisting, and even PA’ing to make ends meet, and I was able to be a Cinematographer on one little project. That project beat out much more expensive projects with DP’s who were moonlighting from major network crime dramas. My dad was so happy.
If you come from a family of doctors and nurses and lawyers, the natural inclination is to continue in the family business. And there was a huge shift towards that in my world. It equated to “Success” and “Stability.” But that was good, but not for me. Choosing this route of Photography/Cinematography always went up against the idea of stability, and it took awhile for my father to be okay with it. He didn’t want me to struggle and go hungry being the artist he and my mom both already were. They had given up arts, to be a doctor and get out of the Philippines and start a new life in America.
The level of intelligence and wisdom and artistic talent from both my parents, analytical and creative is the reason, I’m a hybrid of all these gifts. I get my writing and analytical skills from dad, and my painting, and imagination, from my mother.
So when my dad heard that finally the general public was agreeing with what he already knew about me, he relaxed that I wasn’t going to starve. He was able to let me go, and stop worrying about me making it.
A few hours later, he fell, and subsequently so did the hospital visits, and prayers, and many old friends and family paying last respects, and then in October the 21st day at 3am in the morning, he left us.
My brother and I were talking last night, knowing what today was going to be, and we were recounting, who we are now, 3 years after he has gone, and how charged it is we are now, because we as sons envision the approval of our Father, that we are doing what is right. And I told my brother, that I have never felt more right about what it was that I was doing. My brother lives in NY now, and is studying medicine, and he also felt the same. We began speaking as if Dad was there, and what he would think, and how we wished he could have met the people in our lives now, and the places that we were going with our vocational skills.
I told my brother of some of the new people in my life, and how I could see signs, that this cloak of Love from someplace else has enlightened me in so many ways. I see it on people I meet, and experiences I have, and specific people who remind me that God is very real, and alive. When you get punched in the stomach by life, and then when you are down, get kicked by your old friends, ones that professed to be something, and turned out to be nothing, your Faith has difficulty believing.
From great tragedy brings great triumph, and I know personally I’ve had the shit kicked out of me for such a long time. I can only wonder what this is warming up to, and how all these experiences are going to develop me, and what it is I’m going to do with all this. I have a resting comfort, that Dad sees what I’m doing, and He’s loving it. Whether it is real or imagined, it is the driving force behind what it is that I’m doing. Its the classic tale of a Son trying to get approval from his Father, and that could be playing out as I type this. That’s what sociologists, psychologists, and anyone else who wants to desensitize the emotional situation because it can hedge their emotions against their own fathers.
But I already got the Approval, in fact I get continued Affirmation in even the voices of people in my life(you know who you are.)
“You are doing exactly what you ought to be doing, and I Love it.”
This Polaroid was shot by my mother, I was afraid of monsters for Halloween, so my parents would buy me the tamest costume and even then I couldnt’ bring myself to wear the Bear mask. So I went just like what you see. I learned photography from my mom’s Polaroid camera, and my dad’s Canon AE-1 and the SX-70 is the camera she was using here. I shoot, blog and develop film for this blog and my whole life, and my parents were the originals, I’m just a reflection of them with some sizzle of newer techniques, and content. When dad died, I was able to purchase cameras I had always dreamed of with the insurance money, and I did, for therapy, what so many of us photographers do when we lose a Parent, we shoot, everyone around us. Because we realize how quickly everything can go away. Fistfulloffilm is a passion project of cherishing the people around me, and never taking for granted the life we’ve been given, and the Love we share amongst us.
Dad, its been a hard three years, lots of changes, but I still have Faith. In the midst of all this, I still believe. My perspectives dwindled at one point, but I see now, more clearly, the reasons why it played out the way it did. We, are more inspired and more fervent versions of the kids you used to raise. And it was you dying, that gave us a perspective on how to Live. The Great Hope is back, and we are going to live like that. Thank You Dad for the comfort, we miss you.
Polaroid SX-70, Instant Film, 116mm @ 8.0(shot by Mom)
The Right Stuff
The attributes on what it takes to make a movie are lost on most people. Its this nebulous world where you really cannot understand until your knee deep in the shit that it takes to make it work. And if you made it that far, then you’re a lifer. Nothing else compares in our modern day society. Nothing parallels, slaving away for about 14 hours a day, months on end, for a 2 hour movie you may or may not watch.
I tried multiple times for my ex-wife to come to set and try and have her understand exactly what it was I did, but often times an outsider will often leave inside of an hour if they are not understanding of the process. Its typical of rejecting or poking fun of something you have no understanding about. I’ve spent years in the trenches, and I find myself doing the work, regardless of the pay. I was recently driving to set two nights ago, on free job, even though I had my own job the next day a few hours later, and I found myself working for free.
The idea that finding what it is that you love to do, and doing it, and you never work a day has some validity to it. In this process I’ve kept an awareness, a sense of human purpose, and ability to see the fruits of it either tangible or internal.
It starts with a group of people who share the same intuition, and passion. Who, side by side, can’t think of any other place they would rather be than right there on that movie set.
I’m the Cinematographer of the group, and for those of you who don’t know, its the guy taking notes from the Director, and making it happen with his right hand man (the gaffer), and together we create the look and movement of what the camera sees. And it is a gas. The way I use to describe it is this idea that you formulate in your mind as you read a book, on how it would look like from chapter to chapter, how you envision the characters to be, and how you see the action taking place, that’s what its like. Only we take a step further and start creating the tangible from the imagined.
Personally I can root all this back to GiJoe/Star Wars action figures. The diorama of the saga between Cobra Commander and Duke and the Joes, utilizing shoe boxes, fishing line, gasoline mixed with soap, and perhaps a fort made from sand and twigs, is the precursor to Free Standing sets, Wire Harnesses, Demo Crews, and some Art Direction. Being a Cinematographer has allowed me to light and photograph according to the mood and feel and where it is in the timeline. Remember sometimes you would get at eye level with your toys, and pantomime their bodies in sync with the dialogues you created from your 7 year old self? What I do, is that “eye level” part, only instead of just resting my chin on the floor next to the bumper of one of those plastic vehicles, now I use a 15-30lb Motion Picture camera on 600lb steel cart.
But unlike photography, you can’t do this alone. It is a dance between, sound sensitivity, dolly speed, focus points, electric power, solar power, exposure, composition, line delivery, actors blocking, weather continuity, visual continuity, camera configuration, and time. And after all those hurdles, the Director has to approve it. And even though you may harness lighting in the bottle 3-4 times out of the multiple takes one might do, of those 3 takes, one would be selected, and of that one selection, what would be utilized would be 30% if that.
So you might ask, who would want to work on such a thing? Well have you seen the Goonies? Have you seen Armageddon? Raiders of the Lost Ark? Have you ever quoted an Adam Sandler movie? Have you ever said: ”There is No Spoon.” Have you found parallels of your own life, in a film that resonated with you? Did you see parallels in whatever your Faith believes? Have you transformed your own life due to inspiration from an idea you had seen depicted on screen? Did you cry in “Up?” Did you identify with Jean Val Jean? Do you quote obscure Star Wars lines while working on the house? Do you dance like Napoleon Dynamite to Jamiroquai? Do You Dream in Technicolor? Do you get submerged in Hitchcock Films?
Well, if you said yes to those things, it was guys like my guys here in this photograph, that brought all those ideas and dreams and inspirations to your Theater or DVR box. And even though we are all just trying to make it, it cannot be denied that we have the Right Stuff to do exactly what our predecessors did. We were getting a bite to eat before the public screening and I took this shot on the Leica. The poignant nature of this photograph is touching seeing as though we are responsible for so much more on a movie set, and to be just here relaxing, away from the fanfare, and the stress. Because aside from being talented at what you do, you’ve got to like each other a whole lot for 14 hours everyday.
“We’re your Huckleberry, that’s just Our Game.”
Leica M6 35mm Summicron @ 2.8, Agfa Retro 80
“I fight for Aslan because he is not Safe, but because he is Good.”
This girl is beautiful as you can tell, and she’s cool, intelligent, and confident. She’s got opinions, and she’s got ambition, neither is a fault. But above all she is a Mom who never gave up on her career, and in doing so, is leading a charge that she is teaching her children, that the dreams we have in life are important to us. They define us. That things aren’t going to be provided for us like we were kids. I admire working single moms who are passionate about what makes them tick, and what makes their kids do the same. And that just because you have kids, doesn’t mean your dreams or what defines you ends.
In a world of entitlement and nepotism, many who do not have any clue who they are, or what their identity is, relegate themselves to the title of Mom, for the sake of it. Perhaps they are shell-shocked about the real world around them, the traffic, and the people who aren’t as nice as your Youth groups, and many who are naturally fearful capitulate to the “World,” and to find value in their own life, use the title of “Mom,” as a comfortable one who has no aspirations can hide, and falsely give that as a reason of humility and piety. And its accepted by the public in the same way a college student would claim that they are in school, and everyone would say: ”Good for you.” But if you have a college student in their 30’s who have no clue what they want to do in life, that do not have a vocational skill, that can’t build a career, then the once accolades of acceptance turn into accusations of shame.
I know C.S. (pictured here), and there is a passion for her art, her work, and I know her kids are half her, and they share it. Lately I’ve contemplated and seen this work out in real life, and I can’t help but respect a single mom who sacrificed for her kids, but didn’t forget her own passion and her own art, and stayed at home. I mean for crying out loud, do you think someone as cool as this should be saved for the interior of a building? She is living Art, and she exudes this life wherever she goes, whatever set she is on, or in everyday conversation. People are drawn to her, not just because of her beauty, or her ink, but because she is the real deal. She knows confidently who she is and doesn’t live in the pretext or molds of others.
I’ve had the pleasure to work with C.S. several times, and its amazing. Soon I will be unveiling a project both her and I collaborated on, that I’m really excited about. I know her kids love her greatly, and I’ve seen pictures of them emulating what she does for a living. They have a mom who loves the work that she does, and who doesn’t give up even if there is hardship. I can only ask the same of my own kids. Of myself. If everyone gave up when they had kids, what kind of example do you think that sets for a child? What kind of precedent?
Balancing Career, and Kids, often leaves no time for relationship, I know I’m definitely in that boat. But if I have friends who can see the same thing from the same perspective as me, that’s good enough. Because only an artist knows the struggle that we do for the sake of doing what is inside of us. Our desire to create, to pursue this path is so strong, and so undeniable, we cannot stop. No matter how you try and spin our art form into a passing fad, we cannot stop.
Its this same passion, that can drive our kids to be just like us. That gives comfort and pain all at the same time. Because we all want what everyone wants, but whatever that is, it doesn’t mean anything without freedom to create what it is we were born to do. So the choice is to live in a box of convention and compartmentalism of what is SAFE, or live outside that box that is a honest interpretation of you. It take guts to live outside of that safety.
I know what I’ve chosen, and its hurt, but its the only real path, and there are many naysayers and critics who will armchair quarterback in complete ignorance. Their blown steam will not phase C.S. or me, or anyone else like us. It has no authority, even if their infinitesimal mind perceives it to.
Thank you C.S. for being an inspiration to all of us.
North Hollywood, CA
Rolleiflex Baby Grey 4x4, 127 Crossbird 200, 65mm @ 5.6
The Last Cigarette
The door shut behind me as I had entered the room out of the hot la heat of the beach town. The frigid nature of the interior of this room, was heightened by how dark it was. A gramophone played Berlioz somewhere in the recess of the background. A slender shadow figured sat before me in silence outlined by her beautiful form in the ambient light of that room. As my eyes adjusted I could see next to her a glass of wine, a cigarette case, and a lighter. She sat relaxed in that tuxedo jacket that you would see in a Helmet Newton photograph. A sliver of her skin visible beyond it.
The room was motionless as I stood opposite her, and she sat in that chaise lounge never taking her eyes off me.
“You look bigger in your photographs,” she said, “but then again, I tend have higher than normal expectations.”
I knew why I was here, I just wasn’t expecting it to be as someone as beautiful as her. From behind her chaise, a large black mastiff appeared, it made no noise, sat at attention directly beside her. She began to caress his head. Even sitting, the Mastiff’s head was higher than her armrest, and she had to reach up to pet him.
“I don’t read the newspapers, I wouldn’t know,” I said coyly.
“More like the funnies you mean,” she smiled.
“What is it that you want from me? The screwup wasn’t my fault, you see? My neck was on the line same as everyone else’s, but if I had any—”
“—if you had any intention of selling us out, you would have, you two bit crook. But assigning blame is not why you are here, and it is certainly not why I am here.”
She picked up the cigarette case and lighter in one hand, and in the other she took the wine. As she stood, magically two sets of hands forced me to the ground infront of her. They were strong men, standing in the shadows behind me. My knees were already hurting from running from the police and other gang members that night, I squirmed.
“It will be over soon,” she said as she removed a cigarette from the case, double tapped the filter onto the hardshell of that metal, and lit the end.
It was now for the first time in that dimly lit room, I could see her face clearly. The angle of repose of her jawline, the highpoint of her cheeks that would make any Chinese girl jealous, and her eyes, not as dark, not as they were foreboding, but violent in their mystery. She stared cooly at me as the cigarette lit, one quip of signal smoke erupted from the tip, and the flame went out, replaced by the ember burn into the darkness.
She threw the cigarette case and lighter on the chair, and began taking sips of that wine. The bull mastiff stood taller than I did on my knees, and it had taken its place beside her infront of me. I looked up at it as it drew closer to my face. The two men who were still holding my shoulders and my whole body in place, didn’t allow me to back away from what became a growling monster, foaming at the mouth inches from me.
“Dexter, No!” she commanded.
Immediately the bear stopped growling, recessed back, and walked away.
She then knelt infront of me, and with her hand holding the cigarette/wine, and her free hand cradling the back of my head, she leaned in and kissed me. The aroma of perfume rose from somewhere on her body, and the scent of her sweetness mixed in with all that fire was an everlasting treat.
She finally released what seemed like days in that embrace, still eye to eye with me, and took a sip of wine. She then took one drag from the barely lit cigarette, and put it on my lips, I inhaled as it dangled with bent ash.
“Its time for you to take the night train to the Big Adios love.”
She stood up and began walking away.
It was at that moment, that I began wondering about her perfume, about where she had placed it earlier that day, was it sprayed on her arms, the statuesque neckline, that beautiful jaw, or somewhere beyond the lapels of that tuxedo jacket? Before my mind could fantasize any longer, it ran out of time, because it quickly got busy getting bashed in by the two crowbars from the two men behind me.
My last image was of the plunging neckline of that black silk of that jacket contrast with the softness of her skin, as she stood there sipping on that wine, the Berlioz continued to play as the room got even darker, the only light emitting from the barely smoked cigarette on the floor infront of me, but eventually even that got extinguished.
West Hollywood, CA
Polaroid 120B 127mm Yashica-Yashinon
Hello readers and subscribers, I’m back.
I’ve taken a hiatus to deal with some personal issues that have plagued me for the better part of two years now. In that time, I’ve shed quite a bit of fat in the sense of so called friends and so called ‘family.’ People who read this blog not for its content, and not for its author, but to fish for information.
But the real or imagined perception of others on the subject of myself, isn’t worth the pixelated low res, these images are made of.
I started this blog for a certain someone who always supported my work. In that time, it has evolved into an outlet for keeping my home row keys active, and all other keystrokes that branched from there.
The people I have cut away, have influenced and brainwashed weaker minds resulting in the essential divorce of my wife. It seems their motives although sheepish, have proven themselves to be more misguided than wolf.
How we got here to this point doesn’t matter, chances were taken, and trust was given, but in the end I was left empty-handed upon the bushels of olive branches I tried to send. Perhaps the doves couldn’t bear the weight of such a thing.
I find myself here, rebuilding, remembering, and reforming a mindset for peace. I have had rough starts, rough middles, and rough after middles in this life. Who hasn’t? The relative rule plays well here. So you can F I L L I N T H E B L A N K, of what your story is and how hard its been.
But the truth is, I’ve had it pretty damn hard. Betrayed by the people I called friends, and abandoned by the one I loved-Someday this will all hurt more than it does now. And in the great divide between perception and reality, somewhere there lies the truth of what is happening.
One physical action has kept my mind afloat in this process, it has grounded me, it has allowed me to concentrate on something exterior so that I didn’t live in the interior of my mind.
Photography. More specifically, THE PROCESS. Developing a way to process my own film in a lab in your kitchen, has allowed me an outlet for all this pain. In times past I would often physically exert myself on rowing machines, tracks, bicycles, and the like. I’d “bleed my mind” as a friend puts it, running till my joints were swollen, and the ipod was out of battery. The headphones were jacked from all the sweat that had trickled in. But that therapy was short lived.
So here I am, an artist, like most of you, misunderstood, like all of us, with a voice emboldened by the action of our wits. Stripped of so many conventions and history. Operating without a safety of net of caveats and addendums. A new beginning, as imperfect as the previous one. However it is honest this go around.
FistfullofFilm has always been exactly what it is, honest. There is little to no retouching, and often times the imperfection of Film translates plainly into who I am, imperfect. Art mirrors Life and then some.
So here my process, working its magic on Shi Ne, and on me. No stories abound that you haven’t heard already, but know she’s amazing as she looks on here. And please realize that I haven’t stopped shooting. I’ve been saving a collection of great images that I’ve shot during the hiatus, that I’m sharing here on F3 as many have dubbed it. I hope you enjoy the relaunch of the device that has been a safety valve for the rummaging in my brain. Please link, forward, and tell others. I appreciate the letters during the time of silence. I’ve escaped the straight jacket, but not without injury, time will tell if it will heal.
Its nice to be back.
North Hollywood, CA
Mamiya RZ67 110m @ 4 / Polaroid Back
Self Portrait in Wide Angle Mirror