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Geoffrey Gould
Reports from the set/s...

Jon Rothell USC Grad Student Film
To Steel A Kiss

Friday, September 03, 2004
Submission accepted
A day or two earlier I'd submitted myself for the USC student film project To Steel A Kiss and soon received a call from writer/director Jonathon Rothell for an audition down at USC. I met with Jonathan and some of his staff, producer Yoshi Atsumi and actress Megan Stueck (who would be playing [my daughter] Julie), and we did the sequence twice, each differently.
The storyline is a young, somewhat insecure teen, who is going out on her first date. Her main concern is that she has braces on her teeth. We first had me do it as with the script, that her father comes across Against her going out. Then we shot it as though he was far more supportive.
Jonathon indicated the film project's greatest expense will be a dog and an animal wrangler. His script calls mostly for a dachhund, but he does want a small dog of some sort.

Saturday September 11, 2004
One of the reasons I so enjoy doing student films is the raw passion they have for their project. I have tons of respect for this, and feel quite honoured to assist in having the directors' vision on the screen as s/he see it.
Jonathan contacted me and offered me the role of the father. Most likely unintentionally, he began his message as though he was turning me down (as though having chosen another actor for the role): "We really liked your audition..."
This opener invariably sounds like a Significant Other walking in quietly and saying, "We need to talk..."
Jonathon stayed in touch with me, informing me about speaking with animal trainers. Just as I was heading in to see my third student film Pelha Naach, Jonathon paged me. He had previously managed to reschedule my shooting date for Sunday September 12th, but couldn't manage to arrange both dog and wrangler on the same day that weekend, so it got re-rescheduled back to the original Saturday the 25th shooting date.

Monday, September 20, 2004
Dog Stars: Siriusly...
Jonathon contacted me that he'd found the type of dog(s) for which he was seeking. One was Sylvester, which Jonathon described as a Cairn Terrier. When I saw the photo I realized he was quite a mix, but no pure Cairn (one of my all-time favourite breeds, what with
Terry aka Toto and all).
Meanwhile, the second choice was Sydney, whose familiarity I equated at first with thinking I was recognizing a cute mixed breed pooch. Turned out he's the dog that was featured in Dude Where's My Car?, the comedy on which I worked in 2000.
Jonathon and I concurred that Sylvester had a lot of comical character, but he's been warned Sylvester can be "a pain to work with." I never expected a Diva Dog.
I pointed out Sydney would still be a good in-joke Irony Factor choice (what with Dude...), as well as (my having looked over the Paws For Effect site's dog directory), that their dog Linus was a near clone for my second dog, Lady.

Saturday, September 25, 2004
Jonathon had emailed the revised script (with its new title) and notified me of my 11:00am calltime for Saturday.
Around 10:30am, I showed up at his apartment, a few blocks north of the Shrine Auditorium. The inside of the li'l homey apartment house was great, with double sets of stairs in the large open interior almost "courtyard" of sorts. They were filming a sequence with Megan at a vanity mirror, with Sylvester watching from the bed. Stuck to the side of the vanity mirror was a photograph of the smiling actor who would be Mickey Mello playing Stinky, complete in t-shirt reading "Stinky."
being an Actual Location, lacking the Controlled Environment such as having been a built set on a soundstage it was still small enough to be underfoot, so I went to stay out of the way I headed to the kitchen for some munchies. Among the carrot sticks and such I was able to find some roasted peanuts. Suddenly there was a bark, far louder than I would have expected from Sylvester being down the hall, and I hadn't heard any approach of dog nails clicking on the kitchen floor. I casually glanced about and saw there were two dog carriers on the floor. One of them was occupied... by Sydney!
We quickly introduced each other (such as we could), and as unobtrusively as possible I went back to watch the filming progress.
I was introduced to Paws For Effect dog wrangler Patrick Tarpey, a "former" actor who now works with these splendid animals. Between camera set-ups, Megan and I spoke with him at length during the day.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Patrick did a lot of stage work such as playing McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but really enjoying playing Lucien in the Boy's Next Door. Patrick told us about being co-creator and performer of The Stupendous Twins, a Vaudevillian styled comedy group, as well as how for some years he was the Village Idoit character at the very Tuxedo New York Renaissance Faire at Sterling Forest (the local [for me back east] Ren Faire which each summer I'd never miss).
Sylvester and I technically worked together, in that a shot of him barking at Stinky has the dog at my feet. Patrick was rather surprised Sylvester (who was also called sly and even Slimy), was being so cooperative. One concern was the snarl behaviour. Many dogs have to be Forced to do so, and they tend to get way depressed and UnWorkable the rest of the day. Patrick side-ran this by having Sylvester elongate his bark, giving the impression of a snarl, while actually only being the beginnings of a pre-bark.
After lunch Mickey Mello arrived, driven all the way out from Bakersfield with his very pleasant mother Lisa.
There was a distinctive difference between Mickey and Michael Beardsley, though they easily could play brothers or relations. I'm five foot seven, and Michael Beardsley is a good half or full head taller than I. I was a bit surprised that Mickey was (well, is) a good half or full head shorter than I.
It probably won't look like this in this short, as we were both filmed separately and never in the same shot. It's probably something one could deduce, as Megan is an inch or two shorter than I.
Sylvester's filmwork was already complete, so reaction coverage of Mickey was on his own: there's no dog to which he's reacting. He does react to me, as I do to him with my own at-the-door close-ups. He stood there, Just Outside Of Camera Range, doing what he'd do for his angled shots to be filmed later.
We then filmed Megan as Julie going to leave with Mickey as Stinky (and my stopping her and adjusting her posture and such).
Over lunch, Megan had been playing Jon's roommate's X-Box, apparently one of the earliest games. At the time I had never played an X-Box or PlayStation and such, though I've done my share of video games. She was getting stuck at one point, and offered me the controls, giving me a quick rundown as to what buttons did what. She [her character] had been hitting these explosive mines. As the character had to get by them in water, I wondered if the character could jump while in the water, and I tried. That was the key; and I successfully navigated through them (eventually: certainly not the first few dozen times all the way through), I was surprised I did as well as I did, for a first time. But I did go on to further levels, and once "I'd" gotten outside, they were ready for my "meanwhile back at home" shot.
Megan was done; I was filmed in the kitchen with a tall, rather limp houseplant, tying it in place, to indicate the father's predilection towards posture (the shot is not in the finished film). Then I was done.
Jon indicated he would let me know of any screenings and/or film festivals, et al. One concern he has is that, USC "owns" the finished film. Sure, Jon wrote it and filmed it and such, and Jon paid massively high tuition as part of using USC equipment, but "USC owns it." USC decides whether it can be submitted to a film festival. Fortunately USC almost always permits its students to submit their work to various film festivals.

SUnday, October 24, 2004
USC filmmakers kick @ss!
Friday I had received a call from Jon Rothell that To Steel A Kiss was not only complete but being screened that Sunday afternoon at USC. He strongly urged me to get there by 4:30pm if I wanted to get a seat for the 5pm screening as he expected them "to be packing'em in." To me that said to be there by 3:30pm, which would be my intention anyway.
I did arrive early, and once the auditorium was opened I procured a good seat. One of Jon's instuctors recognized me from the dailies and congratulated me, indicating she enjoyed the short a lot, particularly Jon's ambitious use of writing [the] dog into it.
Megan arrived and sat with me: Mickey Mello was unavailable. Jon and Yoshi arrived but stayed to the back. The evening was split into several blocks of films. Ours was in the early program block: as the MTA's hardcopy schedule implied its #200 bus did not run later, I had to leave early (between program blocks), which was sad as I really do enjoy watching student films. I later learned to use which indicates bus route times the hardcopy schedules do not reflect.
At any rate, To Steel A Kiss was very good and understandably, was very well received.
Afterwards (between program blocks), was a wine and cheese type gathering, and Jon indicated getting to me the DVD as soon as possible, but indicated they still had Yoshi's project on which they were working.

Saturday, December 11, 2004
Run In
I had completed another USC audition and realizing at home I needed bread (and knowing where to USC is the local grocery store), while shopping there Jon and I came across each other.
Jon indicated he'd get the To Steel A Kiss DVD to me by mail as soon as he could.

Friday, December 24, 2004
Along with various errands, I stopped by my rental box and found the DVD for To Steel A Kiss (along with a very nice thank you card). I liked the cover art, "but" when I emailed Jon to thank him, I let him know if he intends to use the then-current keep-case cover information, he can update it instead of listing my "big credit" as Garfield the Movie, he could/should list Be Careful What You Wish For for Amazon Theatre at

Thursday, February 03, 2005
In service again
Jon had been in contact with me about helping out with an in-class cinematography project. Essentially it would entail "recreating" a scene from a film. Jon chose the atmospheric The City of Lost Children, a dark "fairy tale" film of which I had only vaguely heard.
The cinematographer instructor was John P. Tarver who (among other impressive colourful projects), did the lights for the weird Embrace of the Vampire (in which Alysa Milano's then all-new breast implants were first proudly displayed...).
Jon indicated they'd probably be ready for me "around 4:30pm." Buses were a little uncooperative that day, and I got there around 3:50pm, and they were pretty much already ready for me. John provided me with a green surgical outfit, as close as he could get to the outfit worn by the actor whose action I'd be mimicking. All I was to do was to walk forward as the camera pulls back, and look curiously at a welder's mask.
In the original film, it was a deep sea diver helmet, but Jon couldn't get one that was rentably affordable. Jon showed me the clip a few times; we did three or four takes, and that was that. I know there are no guarantees Jon can get me a copy of the footage, but he indicated he'll do his best (clearly he couldn't as he didn't). That and his then intent to use me in future projects is good enough for me.

Saturday, September 12, 2005
An emailed update
Jon sent me the following:
The footage we shot last week looked really good. The lights, the colors, the camera movements were really nice and it was the first time I ever got to watch footage I've directed on an answer print instead of just a film-to-video transfer, so it was a real treat.
Anyhow, thanks again for coming in and being a part of the process. Everybody seemed to like you and I handed out your resume to classmates. Maybe it will lead to future projects. And I'll keep you posted as to whether I'm going to shoot the color film project which I'd mentioned I'd like to have you in as the lead.

Based on results (or at least he never got back to me), he didn't.

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