So, yeah. Welcome to my first film site! Gotta be honest, I seriously doubt you exist (no offense). I think if we establish a commitment of brutal honesty right from the start, you'll be less likely to be disappointed if/when this whole thing falls apart. If you somehow stumbled across this site, I assume you are either a high school facebook friend or estranged family member. Either way, thanks for stopping by!
I think I'm getting ahead of myself. Or as my wife Allison calls it, I'm "Sam Beckett-ing" again. I don't have the heart to remind her Quantum Leap's Sam Beckett actually got behind himself. It's friggin' adorable, so who am I to correct her?
I'm Wylie, and I don't know what I'm doing. I'm going to try it anyway. I'm basically just some guy who makes his living mostly by doing corporate training videos. You know the ones where the woman in HR is touched inappropriately by her CEO, then we magically get to see the exact same situation play out but she isn't totally violated by some old creep abusing his power? Yup, my artistic contribution to the world until now has mostly consisted of rubbing rich men's noses in their own shit to inspire basic levels of human empathy.
So what the hell are we doin' here? Hopefully we're making a movie! Hopefully a legit one. It's based on a true story my mother used to tell me about a pretty incredible thing that happened to my Grandfather during WWII. Making an independent film is something I've always wanted to do, but frankly I've always been too chickenshit to do it. Not quite sure how I'm going to fund it yet, will probably give crowdsourcing a shot. I know I'm putting the cart before the horse by building a website before securing funding, but I look at it as publicly guilting myself into finishing the thing. "If you build it they will come" and all that.
So why make a film now? Assuming you're still reading, actually exist, and truly want to know, the answer is panic. I'm rapidly approaching 40, and Allison recently gave birth to our second daughter, Zephina (aka Zephy/Zeffster/Zephy-Zoo/Zephina Ballerina). Never in my life have I been so simultaneously overjoyed with happiness, and filled with, I dunno, existential ennui? (thanks thesaurus)
I feel the grip of fatherhood closing tighter, and the opportunity to make the "project for me" slipping away. I'm ready to accept it, but not without a Hail Mary pass first.
Oof. Just read that back, I sound like a dick. Let me be clear, being a dad is literally EVERYTHING to me. All my hopes, fears, joy, regrets, dreams and bliss are forever intertwined with these two amazing nuggets from space, and I wouldn't change a damn thing.
I'd like to introduce you to my first daughter, Skye (aka Skeezy/Skye Walker/Skye La Bella/ Skeeby Deeby). This kid is from another planet, swear to God. I'll be letting you get to know her and my family through these blog entries. If/when the film ramps up production, I'll shift focus.
I just took the girls to their favorite place on this planet. Skye still has a weird phobia of going down the slide into Alice's tunnel. I told her it was okay if she didn't want to, but maybe I should've encouraged her to be brave and do it anyway. I never really had anyone encourage me like that growing up. I really can't judge her, there are things in Fairyland that creep me out, too!
Wait a sec....Allison's an English teacher, does she think I'm "Samuel Becketting" myself? I should go read a book. He wrote Godot, right?
Hope you'll continue with me on this cinematic journey, the wait will be worth it! (I hope)
Good news/bad news. Let's get the bad out of the way first. We didn't reach our fundraising goal of $5,000, unfortunately, but we're still moving forward with production! A sincere thanks to the three of you who contributed. The $75 dollars will go towards web hosting fees.
We're obviously going to have to scale back production quite a bit. My original plan of a twenty minute short will probably end up closer to five. I look at this as a challenge to my skills as a writer and director. Maybe I'll end up with a leaner, tighter story without the fat. I think if we shoot guerilla style in The Presidio we can pull it off in a day. If we get in trouble we can always pull the ol', "It's a student film" card.
On to the good news. We've cast our lead role of Wes! Meet Sam! He was Allison's TA last year before she got pregnant, and he's always wanted to get into film. He has about as much experience as an actor as I do as a director, but he seems like a good dude.
Okay, he has NO experience on camera, but he's got a connection in a local WWII re-enactment group, and they've got a Jeep! (Hooray production value). My crew is looking pretty scrappy at this point, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. They're mostly people I met on the set of a short I directed for some kind of web series (I think). It was a zombie comedy (Zombidy?) about a high school science teacher who comes back from the dead to torment his students. I think it turned out pretty well, but I thought it was kinda fucked up that it was based on a real person, apparently.
Gotta go! Taking the girls to visit grandma in the hospital. She's asked me to sneak in a pack of menthols (again), and at this point I don't see why she shouldn't be able to enjoy her small pleasures. Does that make me an accessory? ...Probably.
I've been cleaning my hard drive to make room for the film. I keep coming across clips like this. I seem to constantly have one foot out the door. I think I might be missing out on something really important, but with mom's mounting hospital bills I'm not sure how to balance all of this.
Hopefully my next update will be from set, see you then!
My mom died last week. I haven't said anything about it publicly because I'm still processing the fact that she's gone, and our relationship was...difficult?
You know what? Fuck it, I promised you brutal honesty from the beginning. I have spoken publicly, a year ago, when she was first diagnosed. I've never been good at speaking my mind to anyone face to face, especially her. I don't consider myself an "artist" by any means, more like a gun for hire, but I do understand that catharsis can come from burying your truth within the things you create.
Anyways, Skye's taking it surprisingly well. She's got her "Good Lights" to take care of her until she sees gramma again. Man I love that lil' lioness. So did Gramma.
My mom's not leaving much behind except bittersweet memories and her dad's antique bird whistle from the war. It was really special to her, she'd use it to call "across the bridge" to gramps after he died. If she's listening, maybe I'll give it a shot. Never too late for reconciliation, right?...Right?
Deborah Buckett, R.I.P.
Here's a song that was very important to my mom, Roter Mohn, by Rosita Serrano. It was the first song Grandpa Wes ever danced to with Grandma Sadie when they were stationed in Germany. This song saved my Grandpa's life. You'll see how if/when I ever get to film this damn movie.
Don't worry, this is still a behind the scenes blog and not my personal emotional dumping ground, right?...Right?
That's a wrap! We are officially done with principal photography of The Toll. Could it have gone better? Probably. Could it have possibly gone worse? I don't think so.
Where to start. Let's see, our one day descent into hell began with OUR LEAD ACTOR NOT SHOWING UP TO SET!! Thank you Sam, wherever you are, for reminding me that my ulcer is triggered by stress. My costumer Liz would also like to thank you for being approximately the same size as me, because guess who had to step up to play the lead? I haven't acted since my sophomore year production of Grease, and I'm sure when I look at today's footage that'll be obvious. Which leads to your big fat final bonus thank you from Liz, who was instantly promoted to director thanks to your disappearance. Liz, you did your best.
Shall I proceed? (Oh I shall) Our beloved extras (Sam's WWII re-enactment group) showed up to set, how should I put it? Drunk, they showed up drunk. Drunk and possibly stoned. Oh! Then there was our Nazi. Let us never speak of the Nazi again.
But hey! Jeep! Production value! Right?...Right?
At least I got to end the day with a creepy phone call from an old man who either wanted to sell me adult diapers, or possibly hire me to make a low budget porno about his life. Honestly couldn't tell.
I remember back in community college when I was first interested in filmmaking I would take that cool, detached attitude of, "Yeah, I just make shit, man." At some point that devolved into, "Yeah, I just. make. shit."
Who knows, maybe this thing can be saved in the edit. Next update will be from the editing bay (aka my kitchen table).
On a lighter note, at least lil' Zephy likes her dadddy's movies.
Took the girls to visit gramma today.
Skye met an angel.
Judging by the analytics on the traffic to this this website, I'm just screaming into the void here, so why not?
It's amazing how a quick Google search can ruin your day.
I'm an asshole, and at this point I'm not even sure I'm a good person. I had asked my editor to delete it from his drive, turns out he posted it online. Mom, if you can somehow hear this I'm so sorry. You didn't deserve that.
Okay, I feel slightly purged.
Skye just added a new creature to her ever expanding collection of Entities. This one's my personal favorite.
I think I'm ready to start editing The Toll. Wish me luck.
When people ask me about my father, I have to start by asking, "Which one?" The stepfather I was technically raised by, Jim, was a kind but altogether average human being. A public high school history teacher with a love of bad puns and a short temper, he could best be described as "present." Until he wasn't. He left me and my mom when I was 5, or was it 6? No, 3? That's how much of an impact he left on my psyche. My mom, on the other hand, is still imprinting on me today, a few years after her death.
The story of The Toll is the story of my mother. Just as the story of the making of The Toll is the story of my father, my REAL father, the one I didn't know existed until he inserted himself into my life with a kind of bizarre induction I had thought only happened in movies. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'll begin with my mom's story. During WWII, her father, Corporal Wesley Buckett, was a Signal Corp radio operator stationed at The Presidio in San Francisco. His wife, Sadie (my mom's mother) was a navy nurse. Weeks before the end of the war, her vessel was lost at sea, and everyone aboard was presumed dead. "But your Grandpa Wes wasn't having any of it!" Mom would tell me as she tucked me into my Back to the Future sheets in our cramped one room trailer. "Every single goddamn day, rain or shine," she'd say through puffs on her Marlboro Menthol, "He'd go out to them cannons along the coast with his radio and try to find her ship. Every. Single. Goddamn day."
"After a while, he decided that if he didn't find her by the time the war ended, he would end himself." Now she'd mime a finger pistol beneath her chin. "And he was ready to do it too! But on VE Day, the end of the war, as your gramps put the cold barrel of that .45 beneath his chin and was about to squeeze that trigger? The universe had other plans." Here she'd always pause, take a deep drag, and blow smoke towards the ceiling as if creating a portal for me to gaze into. "Because that's when Sumthin' Else happened..."
I know, fucking anticlimactic. But to tell you more would give away the film.
Post production of The Toll was funded by my father, the one I hinted at earlier. He taught me that the "Sumthin' Else" that happened to my grandpa after that moment was destined by a greater force, a kind of cosmic magic trick, and that if I wanted to know the secret, I'd need a backstage pass.
Some have called my father delusional, and prone to flights of fantasy. Frankly I can't blame them. See, my father was very skilled at steering people towards fantasy and some would say mass delusion. In the 60's he helped to establish a revolutionary New Age movement which thrived in San Francisco until 2012.
The story of how we met is the greatest Sumthin' Else that ever happened to me. It is a story that (like my mother's) is both true, and impossible.
I made another movie about it, I hope to share it with you sometime. In the meantime, here's a light snack.
-Wylie Buckett, ESQ.
CEO, Crystore Inc.