Blood Red Shoes
by MerrySmith Filmworks
The Making of the Blog by Bradford D Smith
In 1993, my then wife, April, and our two sons, John and Taylor, moved to the Seattle area from Homer, Alaska. It was my first time living in the south. After twelve years of city life, we moved to Juneau, Alaska, the place I was born, my oldest son, John, decided to stay in Seattle. I was two years old when my family moved to Atlin so most of my Juneau knowledge was from my parents and out of date by forty years. April and I could never break the continual draw of the North and we were happy to finally be returning.
My childhood friend, Kendall Merry, lived in Juneau then. He’d worked for the local TV station in advertising. He made commercials. Pretty much a one-man band, he wrote, directed, filmed, and often starred in them. After seventeen years, he’d recently been downsized. His years of telling stories in thirty seconds or less left him yearning to try a longer format. He wanted to make movies.
My work experience was in building and construction, mostly condos and commercial buildings. My writing experience was limited to a handful of crappy poems and a well-received eulogy (like who is going to tell you it’s crappy?). My film making experience consisted of being an avid fan of watching them.
For some crazy and possibly desperate reason, Kendall asked me to write a short movie script. I had absolutely no experience. But I quickly turned out a couple of short scripts. Both comedies as my connection to being the class clown was still fairly fresh. He wasn’t impressed and since I have absolutely no recollection of either scripts, I can understand why.
Kendall wanted to use film and he wanted to do something that would challenge him, technically and artistically, something that he could apply his vast experience to. He was and is a lover of film, something denied him in most of his career filled with video tape. A cheaper and easier to edit medium but less lush, less deep, less organic were words he used. I won’t go on pretending I fully understood him technically but I did understand his passion and desire and his enthusiasm was contagious. I suddenly wanted to be a filmmaker. Who knew where it would go?
It was quickly obvious that my more than dubious contribution to our new and exciting endeavor would be the writing. For sure, it was not to be the technology side of things. I had previously owned at least two wind-up Instamatic cameras in my entire lifetime — the kind you take the whole camera in to be developed. Although completely unqualified, I was determined to hold up my end, mostly because I really wanted to be included in something so unattainable and ridiculous as making films. I could hardly contain my ignorant enthusiasm.
I quickly returned with a better script, a more artistic endeavor and something that would stretch Kendall’s skill level and let him explore technically things he always yearned to try. He liked it and wanted to make it. I have to say it was a huge relief for me as I had, in the guise of providing an artistic challenge to him, created a pretty easy job for the writer, Me. My script had no dialogue or facial expressions, easy for me, very hard for him. I may have been harboring residual anger from the dismissal of my comedies. Much mayhem and high jinks ensued and much, much, later my hastily-contrived script would end up as our film called Blood Red Shoes.
Kendall wasn’t working, I wasn’t working, we were both in that age range where some men buy a red sports car and get their tips frosted.
With time on our hands and for both of us the first time in over twenty years, we’d found ourselves idle. We decided we would become filmmakers.
Kendall ordered a Russian-made, manually-wound, 16mm camera, originally produced by the Russian military for use in the Afghan war. It was battle tested and virtually indestructible. In fact, it was advertised to withstand being run over by a tank. At twenty seconds a wind, we had to be on our toes with our shots but dropping it wasn’t a concern
Kendall had some equipment but it was limited. We didn’t have a crew, a cast or a budget. But we had time for creativity, ingenuity and accommodating wives with jobs.
That neither of us could afford a red sports car and our tips where frosting naturally on their own was probably a good thing.
The next installment is here now: Part 2, Cast of Characters.