Claims Department

claims department #13
christopher j. garciaeditor christopher j. garciawriter christopher j. garcialayout photos and art from steve sprinkles locs to garcia@computerhistory.org or 1401 n. shoreline blvd. mountain view ca 94043
This is the latest issue of Claims Department and the first one to really deal with the filmmaking that I do. I love making movies, and I’m working on another one, but sometimes it’s an incredibly difficult process. This is the making of the first film that I ever produced and the weekends it took to make the beast. The Drop of the Idea Cinequest: 2004. I was hanging out with Steve Sprinkles, Jason Schachat and Justin Torres, among others. We met a trio of women, Sarah Brown, Kate Kelton and Patrice. They had a film called Eden’s Wake and it was very well received. We were just a batch of regulars and had been partying and having a good time messin’ around and goin’ out for dinner. I was sweet on Miss Kelton, and we had a great time hangin’ out. One day, we were sittin’ around and talkin’ and Steve has this idea. He want’s to do a movie about a guy who is magnetic to women. He pitches it to us and when he says “I wanna make a movie about a guy

who is magnetic to women” he leans over and sticks to Kate like she was a magnet. Now that’s a great pitch. At that point, we all started working and pitching ideas back and forth. It was what all good group think should be. We came up with ideas and the group all seemed to know when terrible ideas were thrown around and then moving on. It was scary psychic comedic connection! We followed that up by seeing a film that I really wanted to see because it was one of the few Science Fiction films on the sched and I seldom miss SciFi at Cinequest. I’m glad I did go to see it too. The Movie Able Edwards is a strange film. It’s a damn good film too. It has all the elements you want, most notably a character you can love or hate enough to make you go through the whole story. We went through the rest of the festival making little plans for the film. It quickly become obvious that Kate was going to be our girl, though she was completely wrong for the romantic lead. She was perfect for the girl who the lead guy, we called him Ben, wants but can’t have. We went about casting the other roles and came up with my Bud Steve for our lead. Steve and I went to college and he’s a hell of an actor and I love the guy. He read the script and thought that it was OK, but he wanted to take a pass at it. Since we had funding from the company that Steve

worked for (since they were going to use it on their DVD authoring software) and when I mentioned that we could pay him, he jumped at it, not because he needed the money, but because as an actor, being able to say that you got paid means that you’re another step up. He took some work on the script and the stuff that he came up with was pretty good. We didn’t incorporate all of it, but we used one of two jokes. Casting the romantic female lead was challenging, and Genevieve, the girl I was dating, had an idea of a girl she wanted to audition. We figured that it was worth a shot, so we auditioned her. While we were auditioning folks, I was reading my book. It was a recent release and I was loving it. The Book You’ve probably heard of Harry Potter. The fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, had been released about two days before the interviews. I had managed to make it almost all the way through. The funny thing is I got caught up in Harry Potter when I saw the first movie. The even stranger thing is that Harry Potter is a masterfully plotted story mixed in with embracable characters, powerful settings and possibly the most thoroughly disguised Deus Ex Machina in all of literature: Harry Potter. Harry never wins out of superiority or overcoming some obstacle through growth. No, he wins because he’s Harry Potter. I half-expect him to rip open his shirt and yell “I’m Harry Potter, Motherfucker!” in true Shaft fashion. Alas, never happens. It’s maddening if you’re a deconstructor, but you never notice it if you’re just a regular reader like myself. The story here was simple enough: Harry has to deal with a new Overseer who is tough as nails and has it out for Harry. Dolores Umbridge is her name and I found her to be the most real and interesting character in the entire series (well, except for Hagrid). She’s desperate to deny the fact that Voldemort, the Dark Lord himself, has returned. For an author who admits that

she’s a storyteller, it’s a character with more depth than you’ll see from most writers of her kind. You can map Umbridge’s motivation to recent events beautifully. I was just finishing it up between the auditions (and one of the best people was a Trans-gendered Porn Star!) and then Rissy Smith-Goshin came in. She was Gen’s friend and I’d never met her. Small, cute and funny. She immediately noticed what I was reading. “You haven’t finished it yet?” she said, far too excited. “It’s the best book ever! No, better than that! Best thing ever made.” She had enthusiasm, that’s for sure. She auditioned for us and was pretty good. She had a moment of pure revelation that was quite entertaining in the text. “Oh, I’m supposed to LIKE this guy!” she said. Naivite like that you just can’t buy. We cast her and that was that. We started working on the piece, with me trying to gather up staff and money and Steve working with the actors. I got us a couple of mice to use and made sure we had the Computer History Museum to shoot in. This all went great and we were four days away from shooting and that led us to a minor problem. We lost our funding.

Usually that’s a deathblow to a production. Funding gets yanked, you take time off to regroup and find more or you scrap the production. We didn’t have that option. We’d only have one shot at Kate Kelton since she was coming in to visit LA that weekend. We could either stop production and waste the money that we spent flying her out, or we could do it on our own dime. Y’all know what we chose. I fronted a lot of the dough, about 500 bucks from a monthly take at the time of about 1400 a month. I never have any savings, so this put my ability to pay rent in a bit of danger, but I managed...barely. I took a day to tell people about the problem and what we’d be doing about it. I gave a call to my man Steve who was going to be playing Ben. He pulled out. He said that he thought the script was weak and the only reason he said yes was that there was pay. I wasn’t caught offgaurd by him saying it, I wasn’t completely convinced the short worked as it was, but I thought that he’d go through with it because he was a pal of ours. He was great in the read through, got along well with our actors and was funny. The fact that he was pulling out hurt me personally, but I understood. I quickly went lookin’ for someone new, but none of my people had any time or would have been 1/2 as good. Sprinkles took the news very personally, but he had a friend who worked in a theatre and she could probably be the one who would be able to get someone on short notice. Steve’s friend Anna was the last best hope. Sprinkles said that if he had to, he’d play the lead, since there was no way to get a good replacement on such short notice. I didn’t like the idea, since I thought it would split his attention. We worried until Steve

got a call. Anna had a guy. His name was John Chapman, and when Steve saw a tape of him, he thought he’d be good. I went along since I thought the film needed to have a different lead from the director. The day of the shoot came and I was sitting in the parking lot of the museum at 6am, waiting for everyone to show up. The second person to show, after my good buddy Joker who would be serving as our main production assistant, was John Chapman. Chapman looked the part from the second he walked out of his car. He came to my car and we chatted. “Have you read the script?” I asked him. “No, and by the way the grammar went, I don’t think anyone else did either” he said. Yeah, we were gonna get along just fine. Everyone was there by 7:30 and we started setting up. By 10 we had managed to shoot a couple of scenes and I had managed to dress a small room at the Computer History Museum to look like a wacky laboratory. It looked great, but now was the time when things would get tricky. We had written a bit where there were two mice playing in the cages. Technically, introducing vermin into the museum voided the insurance, though since no one ever found out, it didn’t really matter. The shoot went well, except that our actress, the lovely Kate Kelton, was having a hard time. She was good, but she wasn’t spectacular. Steve came up with a great idea. She asked Kate to act like she knew her daughter was being molested and there was nothing she could do about it. Now, you must remember that this was a light-hearted comedy scene where she was supposed to mock our hero and then turn him on when she was leaving the room. The idea worked perfectly as she was so

deadly serious and effected that it made the shot. That sort of thing they don’t teach you in directing school. The rest of the day went well. No majour blow-ups, no big problems. We finished our day and went home. I gave Evelyn the mice as a present and she loved them. The second moring started and the shoot went slowly, but it was still working. We cranked out the five scenes we needed with Kate, shot in Downtown San Jose and finished with enough time to spare that we went and got dinner. When I got home, I noticed that one of the mice, the one we called Peanut, had an eye infection. We looked up all the possible cures, but she died before we could make any of them happen. Evelyn was quite upset, but the white mouse we used, Marshmellow, lived a long and happy life, finally passing away on New Year’s Eve 2006 after more than two and a half years as a part of the Nelson-Collonge-Garcia familylike unit. We took a week off and I did some location scouting. We needed a bus station and there was one that was very photogenic in San Jose. I looked around and I was very pleased with the amount of light, the parking and a lot of good areas for other shooting as well. I took a lot of photos and a few videos and it all looked good. We gathered

thing and were completely ready to start editing. We also had a bunch of other ideas, one of which was The Last Woman on Earth. We started on that one right away and had filmed it before we had done much except the beginning of the computer graphics, whcih was pretty extensive considering that it was a ten minute short film. We worked on Last Woman and somewhere along the way I said to Steve that I thought Last Woman was the superior script. He did not take that well and stopped working on Chick Magnet for more the following Saturday to shoot. This shoot required Evelyn, then all of 5 years old, to walk the dog known as Leo past the main character’s shop scene. You know what they say about working with Kids and dogs? Well, it’s true, but there was a more pressing matter: John hadn’t shown up yet. We could shoot very little without John, mostly just kid and dog stuff that Steve hated. We did manage to get some in the can, but we were furiously trying to get John on the phone and absolutely couldn’t do it. After almost three hours, we managed to wake John up and about twenty minutes later he was out to us. He looked rough, but the moment we yelled ‘Action’, he was 100% greatness. We made up for time quickly. What we had said would take 6 hours took less than four, whcih is good since we were losing light. My dad showed up and did a walk-on part while also directing traffic. When we tried to shoot in the actual station, they ran us off and wouldn’t let us shoot there without a permit. As permits are expensive (and we would have had to have hired two full-pay cops for it) we figured out a way. We shot from a distance and very quickly and we managed to get what we needed. It was really quite amazing that we managed to do it. That was the shoot. We had everythan two months. It was very rough because we were getting close to the deadline for Cinequest. Steve couldn’t get motivated and seldom returned my calls. This is kinda understandable because I also threw my own life into turmoil by breaking up with Genevieve (Evelyn’s Mom) and that was keeping me busy by having to move and take care of a lot of things. I still watched Evelyn everyday (which I continue to do) and was taking care of Marshmellow (because I’d be damned if I was gonna let another of Evelyn’s pets die) and basically being me. Time was getting tight, so I called Steve and asked him to hurry it up. And I emailed him every day. And I called him every other day. And it worked. Within three days of the deadline, Steve handed me a version of the short. Now, it was flawed, I knew that, but it was fun. The Chick Magnet had a wonderful feel to it if you were a fan of silly science fiction. Steve had no faith in it, he thought it was worthless. He didn’t believe in it and neither did Jason, who co-wrote it. I instantly thought that we should send it around to conventions, and I got a ton of DVDs off to the various cons around the world. Now, if we’d gone the route of only film festivals, we’d maybe have played in a few in the US, maybe one or two internationally, but we’d

certainly not have gotten seen in Moscow, Australia, Austria, Germany, the Glasgow WorldCon, and about 30 cons around the US. It was a very smart way to go, but I also managed to get it into the Cinequest Film Festival. CInequest is the film festival where it all started and it was the one that I’ve always been associated with. I’ve been called the Cinequest Icon because I’m the guy that folks want to announce their films. That’s a werid phenomena that’s only done in film festivals. We have someone live thank the sponsors, give some special information and generally intro the film. I tend to make it into a comedy bit, sometimes being more entertaining than the film. We had been put in with a documentary called The Search for The Captain, which I hoped was going to be a doc about the reasons they stopped using Cap’n Crunch in commercials against the dreaded Soggies. Sadly, it was a doc about a statue dedicated to Thomas Fallon. He was the guy who raised the American flag over San Jose for the first time. The city of San Jose had been trying to get the statue in place for more than a decadebut had been blocked by various groups who were unhappy with the city celebrating this guy. Mostly, they were Mexican groups. Now, while I support those folks in many matters, this was not one of them. The doc was made by Erin McEnery, the daughter of former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery. I love that guy (and you might have been in McEnery Convention Center during the 2002 WorldCon) so I was glad we got to share teh bill with them.

But there was a problem: people were going to be protesting. Serious, hard core protestors were coming out with their signs and chants. I knew this would draw a big crowd, but we were fighting for our spotlight and I had an idea. We were going to hijack the protest. I told Steve about the protest and he agreed that we should do something to lighten the mood. The first thing we did was buy 106 bucks worth of placards and pens and took them to Steve’s room. We sat around making signs. The first on was ‘I am not a Chick!’. The next was ‘I am not a Magnet’ and from there we got silly. I used a black pen on a black board to spell out ‘Goth’ and then made one called ‘Free Mumia* *= with Every purchase’ That one got me in trouble. We had smartass signs and we were ready to use them! The Saturday of the screening came around and we were there an hour and a half early. We had gathered 20 or so folks we’d met during the first few days of the fest and we were out before the real protest. We set up with our signs and started yelling to the crowd. “Come and see what all the fuss is about: The Chick Magnet!” We were loud, marching around in front of the San Jose Rep theatre and we completely over-shadowed the real protest. Evelyn popped in and I handed her the sign that read I’m Cute and she had her picture taken for the paper. The San Jose Mercury even interviewed me and we were mentioned in a column the next day! It was a big win. The film went off with the crowd re-

Out of Context Moment! I just found out that I’m nominated for Best Fan Writer and Best Fanzine Hugos. I’m Freakin’ stunned. Return to the Main Stream of the Issue. The second showing was on Monday. We passed out a bunch more cards promoting ourselves and talked to a ton of filmmakers, and we knew we’d be drawing a big crowd. I got there about twenty minutes early and I noticed that the protestors had returned, but this time, they brought musicians. They had a real protest and most of them had tickets, which they didn’t have the last time. We sold teh place out completely. There were a few folks standing too. I did the intro and I could tell that this was going to be a tough crowd. No laughs for my A-list announcing material. The film started and three of the early laughs got no response. Then two more passed without audience reaction. And a few more. I came on screen and I got a decent pop, but that was it. We had completely flopped! Steve took it hard and immediately took off to start drinking. I stuck around and did the Q+A session after the film. It was a lot of fun when the hard core political folks started debating the merits of the doc and I got to make snide comments. Luckily, I had Tom McEnery on our side. He loved us and got the mic and said that we had done the film a great service by hijacking that first screening. I totally thought we should have done it again, but no. We let the reality have its day and we got messy, sloppy, nearly scary drunk that night. The rest of the fest was easy and we had the rest of it to play and have a good time. And we did. The film still showed a lot more places, and I went with it to a few cons, like NorWesCon, and we even managed to win Best Science Fiction Film from the Conestoga Film Festival (which would later reward Frank Wu’s Guidolon with Best in Festival) and Steve was so upset that this was the first of his films to win an award, but there it was.

ally well too. We had spld the place out and I was so proud that they laughed where they were supposed to, including at the moment of my brilliant performance as a mime who got run over by a giant rolling ball of women. It was wonderful. After the screening, I left with Evelyn and we hung around Gen’s house for a while. I got a bunch of congradulatory phone calls and after Gen got off work, I headed back to the festival. We partied late into the night. That night, they played an album I hadn’t heard in years- Statueman. The Music Statueman was fronted by my man Lon Lopez. Lon and I started working on a documentary after Cinequest, but I’d known him from High School and I always liked Statueman when I was in school. It’s hard to understand the music unless your in your twenties or lived through the 1990s Club scene. They were funky, and ska-like and just party fun. They did songs like The Chicken Dance and 1-2-3, a take-off on the song from Sesame Street. I went up to the owner of the Paragon bar and asked why they were playing music from a band that broke up ten years before. “They’re a great band and I just found the tape. I figured it was time these movie folks heard what good music was like.” I can’t argue with that.

We did The Last Woman on Earth the next year, but that’s a whole other story which has a lot of twists and turns and drama in ways you’d never expect. It’ll make for a good issue someday. Sadly, our man John Chapman made two more films with us and then went off to LA. Even worse, on New Year’s Eve 2006, he overdosed on a combo of various drugs including morphine. It was a tragic loss because he was the closest thing we had to a SuperStar.

Mailing Comments!

Feline Mewsings, I sing of thee! We love in marvelous times. That Brad Foster cover you’ve got is just another reason I’m picking Brad to win the Best Fan Artist Hugo this year. He’s really changed everything with the regular addition of computer coloring of his art. I’ve been lucky enough in The Drink Tank and John Purcell’s Askance cover is a sensational piece from Brad. Great stuff. I just rewatched Casino Royale and I thought that it was great. I love Bond and I’d say that it was right up there with From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. Lofgeornost, Phyrgenian for Bread, According to A Story in Herodotus, the First Word Spoken by Man..Wait...I might have Gotten that wrong! I’m no fan of Kipling. His writing has some level of excitement, but it seems like it was written with all the style of a buzzsaw. Maybe it’s just me. Here Comes The Road Warrior! You talk about my favourite director of all-time, Robert Altman, and his third best film, Nashville. That’s a big statement, I know, but I really think that Gosford Park and The Player are his two best. It’s hard to choose from his huge load of films. It was a great film, an amazing film that is the victim of some poor song writing. I love the ending.

It’s just the perfect way to end a film that was completed less than six months after Watergate. That table tells me that I’ve chosen well by living near San Francisco (Two Highs, two lows, two mediums) and not Seattle (one low and three mediums). Ah, Sweet Jane You know, I love Werner Herzog, I really do. Every time I’ve talked to him, he’s given me some sort of great thought to mull over. I heard him rant against TV at Cinequest one year. He recently admitted to being a fan of Arrested Development. I was shocked. Freaks is getting another DVD release next year with a new documentary and supposedly the upper-end version will be packaged with Gibtown, the documentary about Gibsonton, the Florida town where a lot of carny folk did their winters. Sadly, during my Dad’s time as a carny, he never went there. Who could forget the Forgotten Writers of Horror? The name Georgia Harriet Wood Pangborn is most familiar to me as it relates to her son Edgar, who wrote a lot of great stories in the 50s and 60s. I should look into her writings sometime. I seem to remember someone in The Everlasting Club writing about her in one disty.

On Aprops de Rein, I say! I didn’t notice that I didn’t put my name on the last ish. That happens to me sometimes. I was good to put a face with the zine title at CorFlu. It’s always good to meet the good folks of FAPA. I believe this is the current list of FAPAns I’ve met- SilverBob, R Twidner, Jack Speer, Jim Caughran, Gordon Eklund, Colin Hinz, Laurraine Tutihasi, Milt Stevens, Peggy Rae Sapienza (I think, I could be wrong...) and Eric Linsey (I think we chatted at WorldCon). A Different Drummer beats... Winston Churchill wrote a great piece of Alternate History where he wrote a speculation of the victorious South positing on what would have happened if the North had won. It’s a good read, though the anthology I had that featured it has long since disappeared in one of my all-to-frequent moves. Yet Another Science Fiction Adventure! As shameful as it seems, I’ve thrice missed mailings, all of them in 2006. Two in May (even though I’d printed the issues and sealed them in the mailing boxes, my Dad;s health prevented me from making even the easy trip to the post office) and one in July (The Everlasting Club). I always feel like I’m cheating if I’m not supplying stuff for the folks who signed up. It’s just a part of the MexiJewish guilt I was born with!

Once Again, it’s King Biscuit Time!!! Apparently John Purcell has the inside line on the Texan who made the purchase. I thought Rice’s library’s special collection division would be the one that would make the purchase, but that does not seem to be the case. I’d say that UC Riverside would be a good place for it, but even better would be Hofstra or Emerson, all of which have been looking into gaining a significant collection. Not looking hard enough to pay a lot of money for it, but they’d all love to have one. I can remember when I was still at Emerson they were talking about acquiring an AJ collection that would have included a lot of the stuff I recognised as SF-related. Mostly they were Rock and Punk zines. Of Members and Zines! December’s been a busy month for me in recent years. This year, as a simple example, I did the weird index that included all of my issues in all of the different zines that I do. I then did the article index for Science Fiction / San Francisco and then I did the finding aid for all of my zines in the little thing that I take around to the various cons that I go to. I say all this as a way of saying how much I appreciate the index you’ve provided...especially since it was done in Japan! OK, that’s this issue of Claims Department. I’m still reeling from hearing I’m a Hugo nominee and I’m planning on thinking about two weeks working on my issue of The Drink Tank that handicaps and lays odds on each of the contenders for the various categories. I didn’t expect that I’d have to put myself in that mix!