pre-production

The early stages

Artist Became the Story

Twilight Angel Concept development

Koskinas tells a war story

As we plan where, when and how to launch the Twilight Angel, I am mindful of how this whole thing began, a year and a half ago.

After we had firmly committed to do “something” based on James’ war stories, we convened in my studio to work on the concept. Sitting around the coffee table James would read a bit or tell an anecdote from memory.

Kayla comforting Koskinas

Twilight Angel script team

There was so much love and grief, so much power in his voice as he told these stories. We knew that this was to be a big part of our narrative. As James emoted the terrible beauty of the the relationships and events from that time, my dog Kayla would come over to comfort him. She didn’t want him to be sad.

The Artist's Story

The Artist’s Story

We came to feet that our movie’s story should be about the Artist, and how his past shaped his work and his process. We knew there was energy there. The ghosts were a powerful force compelling him to work. And we also knew that there must be some transformation, some way that our character reversed the spiral and claimed his own power.

war graphic

The war in the art

We dug deeper into our character’s painting. His war would turn inward and become enacted on the canvas. Like a graphic novel’s pages superimposed on each other he would paint the stories they commanded, yet now each became a self-portrait.

Koskinas and dog

a love story

As we worked Kayla stayed very close, helping James hold this deep place he was exploring within his Artist-self. The story flowed out, the Artist recreating himself, reframing his history.

Our story would be this process – a love story!

Kayla approved.

Testing the Script

The new script came quickly, I basically got myself out of the way and wrote furiously for a hard week and allowed it happen. This is how I had written my play. The characters started to speak and I followed. It was natural and felt right so I went with it. Plus I had a deadline. I had to read it to a select group, ten or so who had seen my play and had heard my readings around town for the last two years.

Koskinas-Witham at reading

Koskinas and Witham at reading, February 5, 2013

Julie, John and I decided to have the reading right on the set, the painter’s studio, John would film the reading and the reactions to it. We could gauge immediately how our audience would feel about it. Our Greek chorus so to speak. Julie and Linda Leslie brought food, wine, and one of of the essentials; Julie’s brownies – we have, Julie and I, literally scores of art shows, music events, play productions, readings, many times accompanied by those brownies.
I get nervous before any live performance. Even though I was reading from the script I was still unnerved. God knows you don’t want to be flat and just read it, you have to lean into it and the more you enjoy it, the better the performance. “Be embodied,” my old mantra from the monologue days.

Koskinas at reading of The Twilight Angel script

Koskinas at reading of The Twilight Angel script

I think it went well, I read a bit too fast to start and then slowed down following the natural cadence of the writing, and my voice. That’s the key for me, to allow my voice to find its own unique cadence of delivering the lines. The natural drawl.

 

Audience discussion at reading of The Twilight Angel script

Audience discussion at reading of The Twilight Angel script

At the end there was a lively discussion about the paradoxes of life, a main theme in the script, how beauty and horror are held in the same hand, how war affects us generationally, and how art saves us.

Discussion of the art of The Twilight Angel with patrons

Discussion of the art of The Twilight Angel with patrons

The brownies were consumed. A couple of hours later, I think the team had a pretty good feeling we were on to something great. We had crossed a bridge and now we had another one to cross. Namely shooting the thing.

Now is the Time to Go for It

I’ve been a huge fan of James’ work since first meeting him a few years ago.  He is an amazingly powerful and creative storyteller in all the manifestations of his art: his paintings and sculpture, the one-man play, and his readings. I’ve always felt a personal connection to his work and to him as an artist and performer.

A year or so ago when I started filming sessions for Santa Fe Salon Files which featured James – and Executive Producer, Julie Schumer – we also started tossing around the concept of working together on something more dramatically narrative. This past summer James decided to do a feature film based in-part on some of the stories from his one man play. As the concept has developed, it has become a much broader, richer tale.

I am very, very excited to have been asked to participate in the production, to film and edit the piece and lend my other expertise. I’ve been professionally involved in so many aspects of production – for over 30 years – that I feel like I fit this compact, efficient team quite well. I feel like I’ve been becoming prepared to make this film, in this way, all my life.

It has been said that a paradigm-shift has happened regarding companies that make money off of enabling independent filmmakers. We are right NOW on the cusp of the time when the power to have something produced is less in the hands of corporate distributors and middlemen and more in the hands of the creators themselves.

What has enabled this transformation is two-fold: crowd-funding platforms and digital distribution through video-on-demand services and digital downloads.

These Do-it-Yourself techniques are allowing independent creators like us to break out of a restrictive, sluggish corporate system that can interfere with some productions being both original and good.

It is wonderful for me personally to feel like I can contribute a wide range of creative juice into the process of rendering this unique story for our audience. I hope you will be interested enough to support us in some way, so that you too are involved in making this happen.

In addition to your patronage through Indiegogo, you can be a part of this by talking about the project with your friends and forwarding interesting updates to your networks on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.

We will be posting regular updates here on our blog, Indiegogo campaign page and Twitter. You can start being a part of this by following our Twitter feed or “Liking” the project on Facebook, so that you get the updates too. And, if you see fit to forward any of those to your contacts and friends, that will be a huge help in getting the word out and helping people who may be interested in the film to know about it and seek out a download or go see it at a festival.

Making the Movie

James Koskinas

A new language to learn, thank god I have a master in Austin Texan John Witham, thirty odd years behind the camera and a performance artist to boot, an ex rock-and-roller. I’ve been hankering to get back on stage or performing again after my one man play a few years back.

JW is careful, methodical, professional. He balances my headstrong urges to rush in and shoot from the hip, it works with me being an action painter yet not in a long, detailed, arduous process like making a movie. And it’s not a short film either. We’re going for a full length feature. Daunting. But we’ve got stories, plenty of them, a backlog from the ones that didn’t make my one man play,” Even If the Mountains Burn.” Grist for the mill.

JGK-angel

James, “shoot this part here.”

A film is like a giant moving painting with words. Oh, we’ll use my paintings as characters. In fact, JW has been lobbying for them from the beginning, and now I’ve moved away from the original movie idea which was to use most of my Vietnam stories again. I’m allowing the paintings to start telling their own stories, they are, in fact, how I ended up doing the play in the first place. That will be revealed in the film.

Every time I think something doesn’t really matter it comes back to show me that nothing is wasted. In art especially, there are no wrong turns or dead ends. So the new project is  up to date. JW says, it’s who I am now. The war stuff will inevitably reappear but I’m  thinking it may reveal all new stories. If you saw the play, this is another chapter, and if you didn’t you can catch part of it here on YouTube.

John Witham

Anyway this is whole new exploration of seeing that old character. Ways to show the experience I may never have thought about… a fresh take on it. The film is a mystery too – which the play wasn’t  In a strange way the war is an old friend, an old acquaintance at least. At this point I’m over the trauma of it, I went through that when I did my play. I think it will be more powerful. I’ve changed, written a lot since then, my artistic voice seems stronger, clearer. I’ve taken writing workshops with local author Robert Mayer,  lots of my own writing, out and about doing readings. Keeping it fresh.

Speaking of movies -how does one even start such a notion? …something so vast, so detailed and structured. Well the damn Texan got me into it really, he and all those people I kept seeing in the produce section at Trader Joe’s that kept asking, “when is the next play?” Carrots never tasted the same again. It wasn’t absolutely planned. I’d call it kismet. A slow dripping kismet, it snuck up on me.

JW is a quiet, still-waters-run-deep kind of a guy, humble, self effacing, but he’s got these iron arms. I was impressed with that. Quiet but substantial. He kept appearing in my life, here and there, around town, at parties, at readings, at Counter Culture, quiet but substantial. “I think we should work together, it will make us better men,” he kept repeating, quietly again. This sounds like a movie itself. Two gunfighters. Lets rob a bank, run a herd of cattle to California. Two wild guys that love samurai swords, that love to drive fast.

alive

 

Hell, if you asked me straight up, let’s make a movie, let’s invest time and money in a potential public disaster, risk something so big, risk it all and trust in our own experiences, our own creativity, just what we’ve got now, whatever we’ve got inside us now, even if it’s 25 cents worth, I’d have said no.

But  here we are, I’m writing a new dialogue, a new script, we’re filming my paintings,  filming and recording stories, setting up lights, building our first sets and deciding on our first attack. I‘m not scared, but I will be.

Ironically, that’s when I’m most alive.