the Music of LIMPING TOWARDS BABYLON

3 days to go in the LIMPING TOWARDS BABYLON kickstarter (Nov. 20)

Therefore, please, please spread the word to your friends directly and on social media.

So, today’s creative update is about the music in the video and what I envision for the film as a whole. So, exactly how did I meet a Grammy Award winning composer?

Grammy Award winning Partch Ensemble.  Alex Wand seated lower left

Grammy Award winning Partch Ensemble. Alex Wand seated lower left

Los Angeles has a reputation for being a shallow, glitzy, materialistic, non-intellectual place. And there are certainly are many examples where the truth of that is as good as gold. But equally true is that LA is a complex city, with veins and pockets of other under-appreciated precious metals and gems.

So on May 5, 2015, at the rather unlikely location of Western and 2nd Street, I went to see a concert of “micro-tuned” guitars at Monk’s Place – from the outside, it looks like a small warehouse amongst, fairly downscale retail shops, and inside, likewise, industrial with exposed brick walls and uncomfortable, plastic white chairs for seating.

  Monk's Space exterior


Monk’s Space exterior

It reminded me of the funky little venues I would go to in the East Village and Brooklyn when I lived in NYC.
Exactly, what is “micro-tuning”? As I understand it, it’s an alternate tuning system of in-between notes rather than the standard system used in Western music, and thus sometimes the notes sound unusual and interesting and sometimes, to my ears at least, flat and unpleasantly “out-of-tune”. So, most of the concert was interesting, but too alienating, and for over an hour, just an intellectual curiosity to me.

And then at the very end, Alex Wand came out with a large ensemble of musicians to perform his song cycle “The Great Hunt” using Carl Sandburg poems as lyrics.

Immediately it was a different experience. I was hearing something both tuneful AND unconventionally micro-tuned, with rhythms that sometimes were smooth and sometimes deliberately jerky and syncopated.

I literally felt the excitement coursing through my body and brain. It was new classical music with inflections of folk, blues and rock lurking in the background that suddenly thrusting forward. I was having the rare experience of a true musical discovery, where I wasn’t just hearing a new song, but a new sound… familiar yet utterly unfamiliar.

Alex Wand (right) composer of Sandburg song cycle at Monk's Place 5-5-15 photo by Erin Barnes

Alex Wand (right) composer of Sandburg song cycle at Monk’s Place 5-5-15 photo by Erin Barnes

(Here’s the link to Alex’s full piece performed at Monk’s Place https://youtu.be/cRzDB_KciHM)

And also, what I was hearing was so, so close to what I imagined the music major character, Marcus (played by Matt Mercer) in my script would be composing, In the screenplay, I have him performing Bach for Amandine, but also later composing a new classical concerto for marimba, violin and guitar, as a way of expressing his feelings for her.

  Matt Mercer as Marcus and Karen Sours as Amandine


Matt Mercer as Marcus and Karen Sours as Amandine

So after the Monk’s Space concert, I bee-lined over to Alex. My enthusiasm and praise must have made enough of a positive impact that when I invited him about a month and half later to sit in on the first full reading of the LIMPING TOWARDS BABYLON script, he not only came by on a Sunday summer afternoon but also was impressed enough by the actors and the script to get on board with the project.

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“Limping Towards Babylon” excerpt – Thomas discovers George has facets…

Here’s an excerpt from the “Limping Towards Babylon”. We shot this scene during the teaser video shoot, but I couldn’t fit it within the time constraints of the teaser.

Limping Towards Babylon excerpt – Thomas discover George has facets from Julius Galacki on Vimeo.

For more go to www.limpingtowardsbabylon.com

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“No man is an island…”

Two days ago, over 40 people, mostly Muslims, died in Beirut because of an ISIS suicide bomber … their lives: as important, as real, as human, as the people murdered in Paris last night. Two days ago, listening to the radio, I thought “that’s awful” and continued getting ready for work. Now last night, as I listened to NPR and watched CNN and absorbed exactly what happened in Paris, it impact me, to my shame, in a much more concrete way, as after all, I’ve been to France; I’ve been affected deeply by French literature, art, film, culture and food; and intellectually I am well aware, America wouldn’t exist as a country without French help. But that’s not good enough. I should have been more conscious about the Beirut attack 2 days ago too. These extremists, who actually don’t follow/honor the religion that they claim to kill in the name of, WANT to divide us into Us and Them. That’s the point of terror. So, I can’t help thinking right now of John Donne’s beautiful poem that we collectively don’t strike at the innocent in the name of revenge against the guilty: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

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An Excerpt from the opening scene of LIMPING TOWARDS BABYLON

8 days ( !! ) left for the Kickstarter campaign, i.e. Nov. 20, 2015 – go to www.limpingtowardsbabylon.com to pledge

.. so it’s time to go a little deeper into the script. I want you, my supporters, to get a better sense of “E”‘s character as well as the humor in the script.

The teaser video has just a tiny section of the opening scene where Adam interviews Thomas and Marcus for their suitability as roommates. Shortly after that, “E” interrupts the interview:

 Marcus (Matt Mercer) and Thomas (Josh Breslow) being interviewed by Adam

Marcus (Matt Mercer) and Thomas (Josh Breslow) being interviewed by Adam

”E” is really EILEEN SMITH, 23 or 24, in the grad Art and Architecture School, but she goes by “E” and signs her paintings / mixed media Combines as “E. Smythe”.

ADAM: Fine. I withdraw the question.

She speaks as she leans over Adam’s shoulder and starts reading his notes. Then, she turns the page, to read his earlier questions.

 Adam (T.W. Leshner) interviewing Marcus and Thomas

Adam (T.W. Leshner) interviewing Marcus and Thomas

“E”: You’re the two new roommates?

ADAM: “E”, please.

She puts her hand out to shake hands with Marcus and Thomas.

“E”: (To Adam) They look good. I don’t see any serious problems. (To Thomas) Sorry. I didn’t say…

ADAM: No, I haven’t said they’re… Will you please – (let me tell them…)

"E" (Miriam Korn) showing interest in Thomas (Josh Breslow) while Marcus (Matt Mercer)

“E” (Miriam Korn) showing interest in Thomas (Josh Breslow) while Marcus (Matt Mercer)


“E”: I’m “E”.

THOMAS: Thomas.

“E” nods to Marcus.

MARCUS: Marcus.

THOMAS: “E”? Uh, how do you spell that?

“E”: Just the letter. “E”.

THOMAS: Oh. So, like the poet: e.e. cummings?

“E”: No. Not like him. I capitalize my name….

*** **** ***

And finally, here’s a photo of Josh and Matt goofing on me during filming:

Yes, I clearly inspire fear and respect from my actors! LOL

Yes, I clearly inspire fear and respect from my actors! LOL

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Limping Towards Babylon – the Antagonist

We’re off to a great start on the LIMPING TOWARDS BABYLON Kickstarter campaign, but as statistically happens in all Kickstarter campaigns, there are mid-section doldrums where contributions slow way down.

So, I’d like to ask everyone to help get the momentum re-ignited by sharing this project on their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. pages, either with those handy “share” buttons on the front page, or by telling them to go to www.limpingtowardsbabylon.com

So, on to the post: an element of the story that I didn’t have time to explore in the teaser video was the character of the antagonist Professor Bligh, and yes, I’m deliberately referencing Captain Bligh from “Mutiny on the Bounty” in more ways than one with the character’s name.

I asked Adam J. Smith if he would take on this part both because he’s an excellent actor and he has a natural like-ability. It’s important that the professor also be charming, even when he’s being a jerk.

And to show off Adam’s range, here he is in a scene from the Pasadena Playhouse production of “Intimate Apparel”:
Adam J. Smith and Vanessa Williams in INTIMATE APPAREL at The Pasadena Playhouse.

(from LA Magazine’s review: “It doesn’t hurt the production that Ms. Williams is so simple and graceful as Esther, I could have watched her for hours. I didn’t say watch her act because her performance is so sublime and simple that I felt like I was not watching an actor, I was watching Esther. The same can be said of Mr. Smith. Their scenes together are so loaded with tension that in lesser hands would feel like a soap opera.”)

The scene below precedes the scene in the teaser video where the anthropology doctoral student and Teaching Assistant, Thomas (Josh Breslow), is drunk and is shouting up at the professor’s window about the theft of his dissertation title.

Josh Breslow as Thomas railing against academic theft

Josh Breslow as Thomas railing against academic theft


That drunken action by Thomas then unintentionally precipitates all of those kissing scenes (and eventually more) from the teaser video:

INT. ANTHROPOLOGY DEPARTMENT, PROFESSOR BLIGH’S OFFICE – LATE AFTERNOON

Thomas is packing his papers into his bag. Professor RICHARD BLIGH walks in carrying a box of books.

BLIGH: Oh, Thomas. Good, I caught you.

THOMAS: (Surprised) Professor Bligh. Uh, I just finished meeting all of the students. I’ll have their grades ready by tomor-

BLIGH: Good, good. I have something more important for you to do.

He places the box with a SOFT THUD on his desk.

BLIGH (CONT’D): Sit. Sit…. I just received the review copies of my new book. Here’s a list of my colleagues at other universities that I’d like you to send one to each. And, uh, ask them in so many words whether they’d write a blurb, which of course, I’d reciprocate, etcetera, etcetera, for their next book, etcetera.

Thomas opens the flaps of the box and takes out a book. It reads “Shamanism: Gift or Curse?”

BLIGH (CONT’D): Nice cover, isn’t it?

Thomas just stares at the book. Bligh’s voice is heard.

BLIGH (O.S.) (CONT’D): The photograph of the shaman in trance on his spirit journey adds a mystique.

Thomas continues staring – broiling inside.

THOMAS: Uh, huh.

BLIGH: (Sincere) Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to mention that I borrowed your title because it was so pithy. I didn’t think you’d mind…

THOMAS: (Lying) No, no. Of course not…

BLIGH: And after all, it’s just a dissertation title. Not an actual book title.

THOMAS: Of course, a title can’t be copyrighted… (He makes a weird little laugh sound.) …after all.

BLIGH: Well, you don’t have to do this now. First thing in the morning is fine….

(Scene continues…)

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Dialogue sample from Limping Towards Babylon

Here’s a dialogue sample of the script I’ve been working on intensely with a great group of actors. If you want to support it by watching the video, sharing it on your platforms or better yet, direct communication, just go www.limpingtowardsbabylon.com

Karen Sours and Josh Breslow in a scene from the teaser video

Karen Sours and Josh Breslow in a scene from the teaser video

AMANDINE
Ah. He meant “E”…. We are a crazy bunch of people in this house, no? So much love, all for the wrong people.

She laughs. He half-laughs to hide that he doesn’t like the truth of that.
Then, she pulls her chair right next to his, and puts her head on his shoulder.

AMANDINE (CONT’D)
Oh, Thomas. I am such a bitch.

He wants to put his arm around her, but instead picks up one of the students’ papers and tries to remain casual.

THOMAS
No, you’re not.

AMANDINE
But I am so dramatic!

THOMAS
That makes you interesting.

She takes her head off of his shoulder and looks him eye to eye.

AMANDINE
If I was your girlfriend, you would not say that.

She stands.

THOMAS
Oh… uh… I might.

AMANDINE
Ah! That’s why I love you Thomas Babcock.

Amandine’s accent makes her insert an extra half vowel into his name, sounding something like Toh-mas Bab-i-cock.

AMANDINE (CONT’D)
You lie to me so sweet.

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LIMPING TOWARDS BABYLON – rejection and resilience

So, I just read the coverage for my script LIMPING TOWARDS BABYLON. I had applied to Film Independent’s Screenwriter Lab. Film Independent logo I was not accepted and coverage was mixed, but overall was slightly more positive than negative.

I am going to make the supposition that I at least was strongly considered if not on the cusp. Here’s an example of push me-pull you critique (and let me say, he/she seemed to have given the script a close, careful read even if I don’t always agree with the conclusions): “The dialogue can be very smart in places, and the long conversations between characters — while often unnecessary — certainly have verve and a feel to them that holds our attention.”

Now, when I finished the script it was literally the day before the FIND deadline. I’ve made the script even stronger since then… still it’s a disappointment and only further convinces me, I just have to make it myself because I believe in this script.

And it’s not just that I consider the best thing I’ve ever written, I believe in its universality… of what it means to love in the wrong direction and also the zig zag steps toward maturity and becoming one’s own person.

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