Blood Red Shoes
by MerrySmith Filmworks
The Making of Blog, Part Two
Cast of Characters by Bradford D Smith
It’s not a stretch to say all involved in this project were characters in their own right. I’ll start with the Chief Character and the man that brought us all together to do something ninety percent of us had never imagined doing. Kendall Merry, the man with the dream, the knowledge and enough Stoli to convince us all it was not only possible, but it would be fun. He wasn’t wrong. In either case.
Kendall would be the director, the camera operator, the story board artist, the key grip, the gaffer, the production coordinator, and many other self-bestowed titles most of us had never heard of before that time and definitely lacked enough knowledge to refute. At one point, we all threatened to walk out when he insisted we call him His Excellency. For a couple days after that we did refer to him as El Duce, but we changed the pronunciation slightly as I remember.
I think you’re getting my drift. Kendall was the brains and glue behind the project and he possessed the skills to make it happen. Aside from his annoying habits of adhering to prompt schedules and running a professional set, it was the most fun any of us were currently having. The Stoli bribes helped.
Glow, Kendall’s then wife, was another critical component of our team. At the time, she worked in media services at the University of Alaska Juneau. Aside from her invaluable tech assistance, knowledge of video production, lighting and sound, of paramount importance was her possession of the keys to the media center. Our after hours and weekend access allowed us to use equipment that was way out of our slim to none budget. For example, the use of a seven-thousand-dollar camera crane was much appreciated.
At the time, my then wife, April was an office manager for a major labor union in Alaska headquartered in Juneau. Her film duties included Scribe, Script Supervisor, and Production Secretary. Her management skills and eye for detail made her perfect to be our continuity controller. Among other things but most importantly she would be in charge of keeping us on track and organized. I almost forgot but she was also the official shoe wrangler. Don’t scoff, it was a challenge.
I’ve mentioned how little I’d lent to the project at this stage. One dubious script and having nothing better to do. My qualifications were looking a tad pale in comparison to the rest of the team. Kendall must have sensed my misgivings as he quickly granted me a couple of important sounding titles. I Immediately felt better. Much, much later, I found out they basically both meant “guy who lifts or moves stuff.” I should have known; I mean who’s ever heard of a Best Grunt?
Taylor, our fifteen-year-old son, was in from the beginning and he too would have a few unverifiable titles and, like his dad, Best Grunt probably fit his qualifications the best.
At the time, Kendall owned the aforementioned 1973 VW camper van that we would convert into our mobile production vehicle. He also owned both a 1967 and a 1976 Beetle. Not long after, the 1997 New Beetle was on the market, Kendall and Glow bought one of those, too. Let’s say they were a VW family. Through the love of the Bug, or Bug love I call it, we met our next two victims/cast/crew, Liam and Mariah.
As it turns out, Liam was also inflicted with the Bug bug. Whether he noticed Kendall’s lawn ornaments or as he called them “classic cars” or whether he heard something on the little known but definitely real VW telegraph line, it was never made clear but nonetheless, Liam showed up at Kendall’s one day at the infancy of our project.
We were all sprawled across the driveway in the middle of one of our first production meetings. On a rare sunny day in Juneau, an old VW Bug chugged up and coughed its way to a stop. The man who eventually and leisurely removed himself from the rusted, aged conveyance casually sauntered up the driveway and introduced himself. Now imagine the person who drives a 1970 VW Bug in the mid 2000s in Juneau, Alaska, and I’m betting you’re imagining Liam. Medium height, long brown hair loosely gathered at the back, an epic beard before they were cool again, add sandals without socks, throw in some John Lennon spectacles and a ripped and greasy pair of jeans and you have one of the kindest most laid-back souls I’ve ever met
Although there was much discussion and ooing and aweing over Kendall’s lawn ornaments,( the reason for his visit as we learned by the time he left much, much later) he was fully invested in our film project. He had agreed to be at the next production meeting. It wasn’t until he was pulling away that we noticed his then girlfriend Mariah in the passenger seat. We would learn she was used to Liam getting lost in VW Nirvana and losing track of time. Her way of combatting the boredom of countless VW conversations was to stay in the car and listen the newly-available Sirius XM Radio. That, and the fact that her door didn’t open; I’m sure limiting her scooting across a gearshift was important.
I won’t say Liam, not mentioning that his girlfriend was in the car for the over three-hour visit, was rude. I prefer to say distracted. Liam brought Maria to our next production meeting and she not only ended up on the crew, she was recruited to play a role in the film: Street Hooker Number Two, I believe, was her title in the credits. Mariah was the pretty butterfly to Liam’s fuzzy and prickly caterpillar. Although shy and reserved, she owned her role as Street Hooker Number Two and was an invaluable help on every shoot. One of her most valuable assets was what we called Liam wrangling. It could be a challenge to focus his attention at times but we loved having him.
Liam would also end up as a character in the movie as well as being a general roustabout on our shoots. He played the drunken bum who attempts to attack Star, the protagonist of the second half of the movie. I’ll just say this. During that scene, Star made a little too much contact in Liam’s crotch area and the exclamation he utters after the kick was real.
There are many more characters to get to but you will have to wait for Part 3 of the Blood Red Shoes, The Making of Blog, Part Three, More Characters coming soon.