Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Addovolt Explorations: (re)Purposeful

This month, we wanted to talk about places that started out as one thing but ended up as something else entirely.

The fascinating locations that we feature in this quick doc are mostly Windy City sites (The Chicago Cultural Center, Andersonville's Brown Elephant, The Essanay Building, The Ghost Church of Pilsen, and Wicker Park's Vitamin Vault) with one exception (the Traverse City Commons in Michigan).

Three narrators because why not?:  Nancy Quint (history buff and my mother!), co-director Jack Syron, and writer-director Derek Quint.

This month's edition of Addovolt Explorations, "(re)Purposeful", is a little bit longer than the usual quick docs but there was a lot of ground to cover (literally).  The video is HERE on YouTube.  Still photos from this project are below.

The other Addovolt Explorations are HERE.

co-director and narrator Jack Syron (and some random customers in the background) focusing on health at the Vitamin Vault

most CVS's don't have ornate ceilings or skylights but the Vitamin Vault CVS--a former bank--isn't a typical drug store

old-school drugstore artifacts displayed within the Vitamin Vault

Jack checking the milligrams

view of Pilsen's Ghost Church from 19th Street

the peak of the steeple showing modern reinforcements

a protective shield covers the crucifix; the building is more of an historic brick shell than anything else by this point

still holds up:  a view of the church from Peoria Street

The former Essanay movie studio is now a series of residences

terracotta embellishments framing the front entrance

historical plaque describing the building's history

a slot hatch on the side of the Essanay building (is this where silent movie actors would drop their headshots?  probably not)

the original use of this address on Clark Street is clear from the words above the top window

chipped murals on the walls behind shelves selling used books

director Derek Quint, oblivious to his surroundings

performance art:  ragged but still charming details within the main (former) auditorium space

Traverse City Commons was an expansive asylum that's been rehabbed for multiple current uses

one of the abandoned buildings in the back on the Traverse Commons complex tagged, appropriately, with "Cruel Summer" in pastel pink

American Gothic:  some structures at the Commons are still on the to-do list when it comes to repairs

 narrator Nancy Quint goes full-on Nancy Drew outside one of the abandoned houses at the Commons; the over-the-top "KEEP OUT" sign couldn't be more perfect

The Chicago Cultural Center used to be a (ridiculously lavish) library

intricate tilework on one of the main staircases

quotes from classic authors are in mosaics all over the building; this one reads:  "A good book is the precious life blood of a master spirit embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."--Milton

and last but not least:  the ceiling of the Preston Bradley Hall inside the Chicago Cultural Center

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Whoever did this, I love it.  And whoever added that wonky little Pac-Man eating the ice cream, I love that too.  ♡  This is a photo from a place where we were recently shooting at in Gary, IN.  Gary, IN is wonderful.

Sometimes people get weirded-out by what I do:

"Why make a film that has less than a million dollar budget?"

"Will it be at the movie theater?  If not, what's the point?"

"If you're not going to make a substantial amount of money from this project........why do it?"

The best thing that I can come up with makes a comparison that tends to be overused.  I read a quote somewhere about how everyone who works in some kind of creative field is constantly comparing their format to music.  We're all saying that we're like musicians even when we're not making music!

But that's fine.  It's a workable comparison because the askers understand when you use music-making as a metaphor for whatever it is that you do.  It's helpful and people get the gist of it.

So let's do it now.

There are the mainstream, big-time, fancy singers/bands/musicians who get played on Top 40 radio, have their songs blasting out of Chevy commercials during the Super Bowl, and sell out United Center.  I like a lot of those bands.  I have no problem with them.  Some of them are super-talented and they'll be around and loved for decades whereas different ones align perfectly with the zeitgeist at the moment, they'll make a fortune, and they'll be gone in a few years into wealthy retirement and "Do You Remember When?" trivia.  And that's okay too.  Some of the major players will stick around and some of them are only temporary for right now.  I have, and do, buy music from both types of super-acts.

In the music world--more so than in the film world--there are respected spaces for indie bands, underground punk bands, smaller acts, genre experts, and foreign artists who resonate with certain kinds of bases but they're not going to sell out United Center or, maybe, even The Metro.  They're for small clubs and hipster bar venues and that's fine.  They aren't featured in Entertainment Weekly.  You won't find articles about them in Rolling Stone or NME (but you will find them on small, stranger blogs and sites and, yes, they'll be playing at a venue near you within the next few months or so).  But they don't get major funding and you won't see their ads in Target.  And that's okay.

In America, some of the goth bands that I love (that I buy music from and go to see their shows), for example, would never, ever in a million years get big $ chunks for a large, fancy tour with elaborate, mechanized sets, corporate advertising, some dancers, and some pyrotechnics too (which many of them wouldn't want anyway, but I digress.....).  No.  It's not going to happen.  The profit margin isn't there and the audience isn't big enough.  No one would want to invest in that because they're not stupid or financially suicidal.  Rather than stomp my feet or pout about that, I respect their realism.  The fallout would be tremendous.

Those smaller acts, however, will be playing their shows, recording albums, doing music videos, hustling to get their work mentioned, and getting write-up's here and there.  Some of them will go into debt creating their work and touring, some of them will break even ($), some of them will get little chunks of funding from random sources, and some of them may even make a decent amount of money doing what they do.  Not mansion money, mind you, but pay-the-rent, fund-the-next-album money with some leftovers to set aside in the bank.  Which isn't tragic.

Not all bands need to be selling out United Center.  Some of them make bizarre, challenging, experimental music that isn't for everyone.  I love pop music!.......but I'm also really, really glad that there are other bands around too--smaller bands--that offer other kinds of song flavors, themes, narratives, structures, and textures that aren't, and never will be, featured on iHeartRadio because their audience wouldn't strongly respond to certain kinds of music, they won't profit off of that kind of stuff, and that's understandable. 

Sometimes--every once in a while--small acts turn major because conditions arise, moments slide against each other just so, and things simply happen for various reasons.  Sometimes those acts that go from small-to-big stay on the larger end of the spectrum and sometimes they're only big for a moment and then get smallish again and that's that.  Which is fine too.  Some egos accept that arc, while other ones implode.  It depends.

We have to have our major act bands!  Yes, absolutely.  And we also need some indie rappers, punk bands, metal bands, and quirky synth musicians too.  Do you catch my drift?   

At heart, in my personal life, I'm a realist--not a fantasist--no matter what you may assume from the themes of my work.  I'm actually kind of a hardcore realist, come to mention it.

I'm an independent filmmaker, not a musician. 

I love going to the movie theaters in Chicago and I love watching movies at home too.  I'll go pay money to see the superhero films, the remakes, the bombs, the phenomenons, and the classics. Anything.  I'll pay to watch odd, small films online and then I'll go to the art house theaters to see films that I'll cherish forever as well as films that I'll end up hating too (that's the risk that you take!  Oh well.).

I'm the anti-snob because I'm culturally greedy and I want everything.  All of it.  I love and appreciate all kinds of things and people.  I'm extremely easy to entertain, I'm open-minded to a dangerous degree, and I don't get bored. 

My favorite favorite kinds of films are cult films.  "Rocky Horror",  Derek Jarman, Kenneth Anger, Mya Deren, Gaspar Noe, and "Wicker Man".  As a creator, that's the tradition that I follow, the road that I ride through, the path that I'm on that exists because of my artistic forefathers and mothers.  I'm lucky because my sensibilities--as a filmmaker--are generally affordable.  If I needed robot-dinosaur CGI, burning buildings, and exploding tanks to fulfill my story visions, I'd have some really big problems.  I'd be up Shit Creek since I don't have access to $50 million+ budgeting structures.  Fortunately, I like people, locations, costumes, and unorthodox scenarios.  I'll be okay (thank goodness!). 

There is an audience for cult films.  It may not be as big as the audience for "The Fast and the Furious" but, regardless, there is still an audience.

If I were a musician, I'd be making weird synth music that sometimes features really catchy hooks and other songs would be so out-there that people--even those from my small fan base--would be like "Ugh, why did he include that song on the album?".  I'd be an acquired taste working with a limited budget.  Just like I am now.

People can handle and appreciate indie bands and unusual music acts from unusual sources.  They can also handle and appreciate unusual films from unusual sources too.  There are spaces for everyone and all should be given room to work their crafts no matter what the results look like, sound like, and whatever the profit margins will (or won't) be.  The clarity that exists when it comes to understanding independent musicians and their motivations isn't quite there when it comes to understanding independent filmmakers and their motivations.  Hopefully I'm articulating my point well enough.

We have to have the Mains and we have to have the others too.  That's the healthy way.  Tons of others without Mains would create a collapse.  Only Mains, without others, would create stagnant genres.  Having both is the only way to go.  The rivers feed the lakes which connect to oceans which go into the earth, change their chemistries, and turn into streams which lead to rivers.  It's all part of the cycle and so are we.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"October" in November

Tara Smith as a sorceress in the "October Sketches" short film

There's a collection of short films that I have done/am doing/will do called Vault Projections.  I've done a few of them over the last 7-8 years and they're conceived to number out at 17.  I'll be working on them and adding to this particular series of shorts, bit by bit, among other film projects, throughout my life.  Some people would see this as slightly morbid but I think it's fun.

As a connective tissue shared by all of them, each film's narrative is centered on timelessness and mythology (which can be overt or roundabout).  That can mean fairy tale fluff or slanted variations on reality, in some measurement, to some degree.

All short films.

I was thinking about the short film that I collaborated on last year with author Ashley Sant--"October Sketches"--and how that project definitely fits within the Vault Projections framework, 100%, but I didn't realize it at first because the story in "October Sketches" is ultra simple, very minimalist.

Stories don't have to be convoluted in order to be impactful, memorable, or to make whatever their respective points are.  The themes (imagination, magic, etc.) of this short absolutely gel and contrast with the other films in this series.  Why didn't I realize this before?

"October Sketches" belongs in the Vault Projections--as film #4 out of 17--and that's where it's going to go.

13 more to do.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"Phantasmal" phantasmagoria

Over the next week and a half, I'll be popping the pieces of Pale Horseman's newest music video-- "Phantasmal Voice" a single from their latest album, The Forth Seal--into place (these things are all puzzles when it comes down to it).

Pale Horseman and co. are always fun and super-easy to work with (yes, their music is incredibly dark but these guys couldn't be nicer or more professional; always a pleasure to be around) and the actors--especially the leads, Remy Osborne and Courtney Beals--who've worked on this project have gone through quite a circus but were excellent sports when dealing with the crazy weather and challenging locations.  It wasn't the easiest shoot in the world but it all worked out.  I look forward to working with all these artists on forthcoming projects if I can recruit them!  But first things first:  finishing up the "Phantasmal Voice" music video.  I'll get into the nitty-gritty of the storyline and influences once the music video is released online later this month. 

As you'll see, it's a creepy-fun, retro-pulp, neo-postmodern, folktale-freakout horror show about love and money (and predatory demons and mayhem and mischief) that takes its main narrative cues from Charles Perrault's and Angela Carter's iterations of "Bluebeard" plus some heralds towards "Texas Chainsaw", "Hellraiser", "Nosferatu", "Soylent Green",.....and "Troll 2" (damn right!).

In the meantime, though, some stills:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

featured project

The featured project now is a set, actually.  Watch the Addovolt Explorations quick docs HERE

The newest one, a whirl through Union Ridge Cemetery, is just right for Halloween week!


Addovolt Explorations: Union Departures

A fast, informative spin through Chicago's oldest existing cemetery, narrated by Remy Osborne.

The "Union Departures" episode of Addovolt Explorations is right HERE on YouTube.

More Addovolt Explorations are HERE.

The Schillinger mausoleum in Union Ridge Cemetery, complete with cherub detail, dated to 1913.  The "Addovolt Explorations:  Union departures" quick doc was shot in the middle of a thunderstorm (why chose any other time?) so ignore the "orbs".  They're raindrops (at least we assume they are....).

Civil War veterans' graves and their cannon.

After having performed in a number of different Addovolt Productions, Remy Osborne takes on narration duties.  Thanks, Remy!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What's in a name?

"Addo" means "to add" (of course) in Latin. "Volt" refers to a unit of electromotive force in English.

"Addovolt" is just a word combo pulled out of the air that I smooshed together.  To me, it means "to add force" or "to add" voltage, electricity, life, etc., etc. you get the idea.

In truth, the name Addovolt Productions is really just a corny, obvious nod to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (because I love the classic horror books/movies/shows and I always have, even when I was a little kid).  But it works and Addovolt's been the name for a long time now.

Do some projects feel like out-of-control monsters of my own creation?  Without a doubt!

Friday, October 6, 2017

So Here's The Deal....

I was rethinking my vow to put out a new Addovolt Exploration quick doc every single month.

But, instead, we'll do them regularly between more extensive projects (i.e. the lengthier documentaries, music video commissions, films, etc.).  Because I don't want to rush through them and be automatically popping them out all the time like some kind of deranged PokΓ©mon monster.

But the Addovolt Explorations will be a usual thing, definitely. 

Sometimes there will be one once a month.  And then, at other times, it will be one every 2 months or 3 months depending on how the other projects are coming along. 

Because there are always other projects that are slurping up time, $, and production or pre-production (that can mean scripting, casting, settling permits, costume/prop construction, design stuff, etc., etc.).  Right now, for example, we're in the middle of shooting Pale Horseman's new music video which is a vast, bonkers, gothic fantasy-horror epic (we're into that sort of thing) and that needs full attention.......regardless, there will still be a fun, chilling Exploration coming up in a couple of weeks--an interesting piece of subject matter presented itself and sometimes I can't resist--so BONUS! for October 2017, that's nice.  But I can't do that all the fucking time.

Addovolt Explorations are just supplemental material bits between "fancy" projects.  That's all that they're meant to be....and so that I'm regularly engaged with editing material so that, when my editing software updates itself, it's not an alarming experience.  Just being honest!

So, instead, I'll modify that vow to say that I'll be doing updates on whatever's cookin' in the oven at least once a month.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Addovolt Explorations: Mystery Masks

You might be thinking of picking out a superhero outfit but maybe you're more of a "Cracked Marionette"........

A suspicious plentitude of imaginative options are in the Portage Park district of Chicago.

For some odd reason, this neighborhood has two of the best costume shops in existence only a few blocks away from each other.  Weird and wonderful at the same time.

Watch the "Mystery Masks" episode of Addovolt Explorations right HERE on YouTube.

More Addovolt Explorations are HERE.

Chicago Costume store on Montrose Ave is no joke.

Meet new friends at Fantasy Headquarters.

Which one would you prefer to see popping out from under your bed?

Turn Your Frown Upside Down:  filmmaker Derek Quint gets into the spirit of things.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

not exactly raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens

......but, despite that, they're still the Favorites.  I didn't really want to do a "Favorites" playlist on our YouTube channel but there's a kind of honesty to it. 

Some projects came out better than others.  Some projects people respond to more than different ones.  And that's fine.  It is what it is.

These are the projects that, I feel, best represent what we do.

Certain Addovolt films just didn't click with views even though I, myself, really hoped that they would so there's a couple that I included on the Favorites list that I'm hoping(....?....) will get a little bit of a retroactive bounce.  Or maybe not.

It'll be interesting to see which upcoming projects will be included on the Favorites list and which ones will just end up fading into the background.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

stuff to look at

We now have an Addovolt Tumblr rather than an Instagram account because I can post long videos up on Tumblr but I can't do that on Instagram.  And, considering that we do films, it makes more sense to focus on platforms that can play full videos (of course).  I kind of don't want to get into the Instagram game (even though friends and collaborators love it).  I love Instagram too but Tumblr makes more sense for what Addovolt does.

I'm going to have a legit website thingy up at the end of the year so I'm already working on that while working on the projects that are due to be online before mid-December.  Busy, busy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

exploring the Explorations

Sometimes there are 4, 6, or 9-month gaps between extensive projects.  This is because of preparation needs, other projects in the works, and $ (of course).

So, no, we don't pump out fancy, expensive or semi-expensive projects every few weeks (neither does any other boutique production company, big or little).  Nor would we want to for that matter.  I can't really imagine what that would be like.


I've noticed that when I go for months and months without shooting or editing material--which is rare but there have been a few years where that has been the case--processes can feel more difficult when jumping into extensive projects.  Like athletes, creative-types and technicians can get "rusty" (which isn't a good thing).

I also have a confession to make:  even though I'm a filmmaker, I'm not the most tech-y person in the world.  I love creating concepts, writing and directing films, working with actors and other artists, and I'm happy when these projects turn out as intended.

The technical shooting and editing parts of the equation are the aspects that I find the most challenging.  Gadgets intimidate me and I don't have that natural knack--or, honestly, either the passion--that other people, especially most filmmakers, have when it comes to being a whiz at the latest and greatest technologies and their various minutiae.  I just want the camera to shoot nicely and get the job done.  I don't want 2,000 different shooting mode choices.  Truly.  Let's just get the job done, not get overwhelmed by rabbit holes of button options and suboptions of questionable outcome/purpose, let's make sure that the actors are able to get home to their kids on time, and call it a day.  That, to me, would be perfect.

So, sometimes I need technical boot camps for myself so that, when I'm on set on a project with an actual (small) budget, and I have to make sure that we're staying within our allotted time and $ frameworks, I'm not getting tripped up by technical surprises ("surprise!  you accidentally pushed the wrong button and now the camera/shooting mode is fucked.  Enjoy!"), framing structures that vary from camera to camera, and precognitive editing plans that are forming either with or without my knowledge (because projects create themselves to some degree).  Plus, editing suites are constantly updating and sometimes I have no idea what's new with them until I'm actually in the thick of cutting a project (which is scary).  Basically, in order to be as up-to-task as possible, it's better to keep my "muscles warmed" regularly so to speak.

It's best to shoot little, silly documentaries here and there (with zero $ involved) so that when more extensive/challenging/"official" projects are happening, I can anticipate possible technical issues more effectively.  I'm guessing that you'll find this understandable.  I'm on my own here and I shoot my own material.  I would love to hire a cameraman for most projects but, because our projects involve mind-numbingly tight shooting schedules (and the acrobatics involved in getting everyone at the same space on the same day/time) and budgets, it's better for me to serve as my own cameraman.  For better or for worse, this works.  $, for us, is best angled at actors and location permits, makeup and costumes, etc.  Rarely are there more than 3 behind-the-scenes production people for us.  That's just how we roll.  Everything is minimal-team DIY.  Typically, it's just me shooting/clock-watching/sticking to the script and the actors doing their craft.  An indie film reality here.  Not glamorous.

Addovolt Explorations serve a few different purposes.  They allow me to keep in touch with my inner journalism nerd (he's in there, that's for sure.....), they give me an excuse to do some research/go to different places/engage with different people, to investigate new topics, to familiarize myself with whatever camera is being used, to get up-to-date on my editing software, and for me to stay technically versed on a constant basis.  Their flavor--in general--is sort of BBC, CNN, Vice, and 60's era "The Wonderful World of Disney" chopped together in a blender and tossed out of a window.

Addovolt Explorations are simply shooting, writing, research, and editing drills (to be blunt).  But sometimes the outcome is a lot of fun and they can be used to promote the works of others.  And some of the subjects will be boring to a lot of people (that's life).  I do them more for myself than for anyone else.

I'm not going to sweat about the view counts or anything like that.  If people watch them, cool.  If certain additions get ignored, then that's how it goes.  Oh well.  Addovolt Explorations cost nothing to make and they're good technical exercises.  Despite the easy-does-it, chilled-out approach to these little docs, I hope that you get something out them like I did.