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March 24, 2016

LINDA CHORNEY: Music, Passion and her film, ‘The Opening Act’ A Review bY Calvin Schwartz 3-24-16 | Grammy

Filed under: November 2009 — Tags: , , , , — earthood @ 11:04 am

LINDA CHORNEY: Music, Passion and her film, ‘The Opening Act’  A Review  bY Calvin Schwartz  3-24-16

 

 

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Linda Chorney

Linda Chorney

 

The refreshing documentary, The Opening Act, shoots from the hip. There is never a lull or lapse.  Linda asked me in a Sally Field childlike enthusiasm and innocence, “You really liked it?”  Chorney, although secure with her musical ability, was not so sure if she had any business being in the film business. After viewing The Opening Act, she does.  I answered, “Yes, it was a purist form of frenetic Linda.” “What’s frenetic?” she asked. “Frenetic Linda means frenzied but in a good way. You are non-stop energy and spontaneity.” She creates a special microscope of a film dedicated to creative people like herself. Her energy coming to life in the film is purposefully, obviously for the armies of future musicians coming up; they should all see this film. She explains, “This is about independent musicians. You are not alone. It’s to show the ‘non-musician’ world how much time, money, pulling favors and groveling goes into the process and hopefully acts as a cheap therapy session for musicians.”

 

 

Linda on an Asian tour

Linda on an Asian tour

Variety & Linda & the Grammy's

Variety & Linda & the Grammy‘s

 

Since I watched the film a day before we talked, I was replete with emotional recall. I told Linda, “The film gives the audience a great picture of what life is like in the music business. It isn’t all Adele. It’s not really just about you.”

She dug my description, and continued, “Yeah, a lot of people were expecting this film to be about my story – ya know, the Grammy thing. That’s coming later, in a feature film with a bigger budget. But I thought this message was important and timely, as the music business has drastically shifted, causing musicians to be paid fractions of pennies, rather than dollars for their recordings.”

 

 

with Linda Chorney after an interview a few years ago

with Linda Chorney after an interview a few years ago

on the set of Opening Act

on the set of Opening Act

 

Linda Chorney is a muse of sorts; a force inspiring thought and creativity.  I know firsthand.

It seemed like old times; sitting down and chatting with her for this interview. It seems like only yesterday when Scott Fadynich, her husband, invited me to hear her sing at Olde Freehold Day. That was August, 2011. Scott saw my posts on Facebook and thought I was a quirky writer/blogger, so he reached out. He is always promoting Linda. It was also my second month as a journalist. A few months later, I did my very first journalistic interview with Linda in Sea Bright, overlooking a river with Jersey seagulls flying overhead. Perhaps the birds were harbingers. Linda’s interview that day helped to launch my new career. And now, five years later, there’s a full circle here.  And no treatise or interview with Linda should proceed without mentioning the fact she made history for being the first Independent artist to be nominated for Best Americana Album Grammy; after playing in bars for 30 years.

I told Linda right from the start of our interview that I wanted not only to share my adjectives about ‘The Opening Act,’ but it was quintessential to my thought process to highlight the unexpurgated Linda with my readers. Yes, I suppose a bit out of the ‘Private Parts’ school; people always want to hear what she has to say. I’d gladly go down the quirky question brick road. But taking a page from her book; I’m going to digress, egress, progress and jump into her movie and glittering, unique personality that radiates from Arizona to Jersey.

 

Linda at book release party

Linda at book release party

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Singer Linda Chorney arrives at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 12: Singer Linda Chorney arrives at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

 

The film moved basically frenetically. (There’s that word again) Honesty was mirrored in a roller coaster of her emotions; you felt her depression worrying about weight gain or the long hard road for the film’s financial success. The fact she wore no make-up in many shots was a special effect in itself. She wanted it to be natural and real as possible. “I did everything including the editing. I had to cut out 37 minutes.  It was a challenge. I didn’t want it to be boring. I shot most of it myself, asides to the camera, “selfie-style”. I hoped there was a certain charm to that.”

There was. The film is charming; a perfect adjective to describe Linda’s labor of love. She also did the sound, color correction; and, of course, the music. She actually calls herself “Jackass of all Trades.”

I asked about the title of the film, The Opening Act. “The original title was actually ‘Why Bother?’  In this new millennium of streaming, hardly anyone buys albums anymore. Musicians are losing money recording these days, hence, at some point they have to ask themselves, well, at least I do, over and over again while bashing my head against the wall – why bother?” She reached out to her cousin Robin Russin, a successful screenplay writer and filmmaker in Hollywood, who also helped edit her book, “Who the F**K is Linda Chorney”, and asked him to screen the film before she released it. Expecting him to “rip her a new ahole”, she was pleasantly surprised when he called her with a rave review. There was just one thing; the title. “It has a negative connotation, and I found the film to quite frankly be inspiring. How about calling it “The Opening Act?”

 

 

 

 

after reviewing a music gig along the Jersey shore

after reviewing a music gig along the Jersey shore

at Sea Bright Pizza

at Sea Bright Pizza

While watching the film, you feel like you are right there in the passenger seat, as she recruits friends, family, and strangers to do a new wacky music video. In typical Linda panache, this wonderful song (full of messages, but in diversionary Chorney style) is called ‘The Cantina’ which describes inane Arizona laws where you can carry a gun but can’t drink a beer in public risking arrest. Her ‘embraceable you’ personality and spontaneity invites a local mariachi band, Mariachi Sol Azteca, to partake in the insanity. They are very entertaining.

You will come to appreciate her fortitude by working in 102-degree heat and many sleepless nights, as she creates. She is a perfectionist. And although you will laugh through her winging it style and journey, you may also shed a tear.

I am a movie snob; totally appreciate the art of making a movie. Movies helped change my life. I’ve walked out of movies that didn’t meet my expectations or wasted my time. So in critiquing movies, I must call it as I see it no matter what. There is my need of walking away from a film with knowledge and intestinal lining feelings; emotion. I remember the scene of her waiting to hear if she’d be opening for the Beach Boys. It was weeks. She was down and said, “People have important things to do and you’re not one of them, so get over it.” This sustained her. For me a riveting quote. Linda Chorney made a good film.

 

 

from the film, local mariachi band, Mariachi Sol Azteca

from the film, local mariachi band, Mariachi Sol Azteca

on the set of Opening Act

on the set of Opening Act

 

Not to give away the plot, but she did open for the Beach Boys. I asked how it felt.  She chuckled first, “It was awesome although I don’t know if Mike Love knew he was standing on top of my Mom’s ashes.” Her mother’s death was that recent. A typical Linda thing to do. “My mother was a HUGE influence on my music. Everybody’s parents; all they want for their kids is happiness and success. I’m sure parents of musicians, who supporting their kids learning an instrument, or any of the arts, will relate to the film.”

I told her it was quirky question time. “Be Linda.”  Q1 – What makes you cry? “Mostly tears of joy for beautiful things. Nature. When I see real family love. Friggin’ strangers in an airport greeting each other with hugs – like grandparents hugging their grandchildren. Waterworks. Then there are the sad ones; sometimes when I drove home from my gigs in smoky bars. I’d think why am I here?  When am I going to get my break? Then I did or so I thought. The backlash from the Grammy nomination made me shed a tear. Then I look at problems in the world. I make fun of myself. “Oh, poor Linda got nominated for a Grammy, wah wah. Shut the fuck up! Your life is good.”

 

 

Linda's Book

Linda’s Book

 

 

Q2 – Is there a philosophy by which you live? She was quick to answer, “Keep it real.”  Q3 – Is there a best time in your life? “When I am creating.” Q4 – Is there a worst time? “When I am standing still, not creating.” Linda is often awake at night. “Everything keeps me up. My brain.” Q5 – Strongest childhood memory?  “Piano Lessons, listening to great music and dancing with my family, lots of Beatles, being bribed through quiet contests in the car, and rewarded with Chinese food every Sunday…I always lost.” Q6 – I wondered if there was a big misconception about her. “My honesty is misconstrued for being blunt or rude.” Q7 – fill in the blank. “Before I leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I _____________.” Also a quick response, “Make the movie about my book.” (She is currently working on the screenplay, and might do a little shooting while on the Jersey Shore in April.)

Of course I asked about her fondest memory of the Jersey Shore. I knew her answer. I’ve been there with her and Scott a few times. “Sea Bright Pizza!” She continues, “And that will be the first thing I eat when I get back for the film fest. Wanna meet us for a slice of eggplant?”

There are interviews and interviews. I’ve done my share. Musically speaking of course, my time spent with Linda Chorney for this interview was rare, precious and beautiful. I can’t wait for Saturday, April 9th for the premiere of “The Opening Act” at the Asbury Park Music in Film Festival at the Salt Theater at noon.  She will do a little talk, a little singing and Q&A. Yes, it seems like old times having her and Scott back by the Atlantic Ocean making music and sharing passions.

Film, Festival Tickets are available at http://apmff.com/schedule-tickets/

 

“Opening Act” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZypajZ6_sA

 

Linda Chorney website:  http://www.lindachorney.com

 

Calvin Schwartz  website:  vichywater.net

Facebook:  Cal Schwartz    and  Calvin Schwartz-Cerebral Writer

February 22, 2016

A Conversation with ROBERT COZMO CONSULMAGNO, USMC, World Ranked Jiu Jitsu Fighter, PTSD & Bipolar Advocate & HIS MISSION to END STIGMA OF BIPOLAR bY Calvin Schwartz 2-22-16

 A Conversation with ROBERT COZMO CONSULMAGNO,  USMC, World Ranked Jiu Jitsu Fighter, PTSD & Bipolar Advocate & HIS MISSION to END STIGMA OF BIPOLAR            bY Calvin Schwartz   2-22-16

 

Robert Cozmo Consulmagno, champion

Robert Cozmo Consulmagno, champion

 

I constantly marvel at the exigencies and mysteries of the universe. Just the other day, Einstein was proven correct again; scientists detected gravitational waves from the violent merger (not Wall Street but perhaps some parallel) of two black holes in deep space. My excitement comes from how the universe and synchronicity bring special people into my life.  There has to be a reason. Sometimes I think it’s the involvement of a special Saint. Last summer, on a warm humid night, I got a call from my friend Mike Marino, one of the funniest comedians in the country, also known as New Jersey’s Bad Boy of Comedy. He invited me to come to Rumson, where his brother Paul Marino and his band were performing.  I’d meet several of Mike’s Jersey City (roots) friends from the old neighborhood. The invitation appealed to me. I love roots, colorful people and anything Mike.

 

 

Cozmo winning medal at Boston Championship

Cozmo winning medal at Boston Championship

 

At a table in the rear were Mike Marino, John Freda, (a former boxer) Joe Weber, Bob Mattis and Cozmo. From a short distance, Cozmo looked fiercely ripped and intense; you could tell he worked out or something akin. I sat next and within an hour, knew he was a special guy with a personal history that they easily make powerful dramatic movies about.  Saying goodbye, I sensed a fast friendship forming. There was so much inside Cozmo that I wanted to learn about.  I sensed the ticking.

Slow forward a few months. Cozmo and I stayed in touch via Facebook, Twitter and a cell phone. I learned from all his videos, television interviews and print material as well as in his own voice, his incredible painful journey from a tumultuous childhood through the Marines, into PTSD, bipolar diagnosis and a world Jiu Jitsu ranking. He fights so well; productively channels all that strife and internal energy.  I’ve been watching Cozmo solely undertake a massive public relations program through social media to bring awareness to bipolar disease.  Quite impressively, he enlisted multi Emmy award winning  documentary film maker Glenn Holsten (OC 87 Recovery Diaries) to do a short video on Cozmo’s life roots in Jersey City called “Crazy Cozmo” — Veteran Marine With PTSD & Bipolar Disorder.”  This needs to be seen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMdOk8EgXtc

 

taking a Jersey stoop break during interview

taking a Jersey stoop break during interview

during filming of NJ Discover video with hosts Tara-Jean Vitale & Calvin

during filming of NJ Discover video with hosts Tara-Jean Vitale & Calvin

Cozmo corralled a few high profile friends on social media also personally dealing with bipolar; Mauro Ranallo (WWE) and Carrie Fisher (yes, ‘Star Wars’). He is one of the most unrelenting, eloquent and sensitive people I’ve ever met. He swept me up into his energy field (to end the stigma of bipolar) and moved NJ Discover and me to do a short profile video interview at our studio. Cozmo is riveting in life and on camera. Before anything else here, please go watch this NJ Discover video. Take 7 minutes and a few seconds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jo960SxQOSY

After the release of this video, Cozmo intensified his campaign to end the stigma of bipolar. He asked if I could do a follow-up article to our video. This was his life’s mission. I wanted to be there for him. But as a writer, my effectiveness has always been my personal involvement and commitment to a subject. Bipolar was ostensibly not in my life. It would be hard for me to dig into my intestinal lining. Then an epiphany arrived on a cumulous cloud that simultaneously covered a Middlesex County cemetery; it was a realization that a dear special unique cousin is buried (two years ago) nearby. An hour before they buried him, his son, my second cousin, told me that my cousin was bipolar. It hit me like a mallet on my cranial soft spot now hardened. The world was crystal clear and strangely painful because I never knew in the six decades we were living cousins that he suffered from bi polar. And then Cozmo’s life mission to end the stigma of bipolar really hit me hard.

 

Cozmo during NJ Discover video in studio

Cozmo during NJ Discover video in studi

last summer with the guys meeting Cozmo with Mike Marino, John Freda, Bob Mattis, Joe Weber

last summer with the guys meeting Cozmo with Mike Marino, John Freda, Bob Mattis, Joe Weber

 

Everything made sense now. The stigma of bipolar hugely affected the relationship I had with my cousin. There were times of unpredictability and erratic unexplained behavior. I was hurt, dismayed and pulled away from the cousin I loved so much; sometimes for a decade. My cousin was me. I was him. To be just like him, I changed my whole life career path. He was older and wiser and I had to do anything to be close to him. The stories I could tell. Not now.  Then a few years ago, I got a call he was passing. We hadn’t seen each other in years; more unexplained behavior on his part. I visited him for the last time. It was strained and awkward but I made him laugh. I was empty, sad and never could figure him out. I loved my cousin but he always pushed away. Now I know and understand. He was bipolar and it was a stigma so he could never confide in me.  I am so grateful to Cozmo for getting me to think, feel and grasp his life’s mission; to end the stigma of bipolar. I remember when Michael Corleone touched the hand of his father Don Vito (The Godfather) in the hospital and said, “I’m with you now pop.”  And I said to Cozmo when I realized all this, “I’m with you now Cozmo.”  If only there was no stigma, and I knew all about my cousin, what wonderful life moments we could‘ve shared with transparent understanding.  I’ve taken a lot of time to develop all this stuff lining my stomach with emotion; it’s to help Cozmo’s cause.

A few weeks ago, snow was flurrying around, Cozmo came and sat around my kitchen table and we talked his mission, emotions and deep feelings. It’s my job now to harvest those words. It’s not going to be a bumpy night but a fascinating look into an intense tough guy and where this mental stuff came from.

 

Cozmo in the gym

Cozmo in the gym

on location during the interview

on location during the interview

“How and when does all this turmoil in your life begin?”  I knew some of the general background. Cozmo’s voice kicked up an octave. ” My biological father commited suicide by hanging himself. I’ve seen my first step father beat my mother. They were together for many years but never married but he also forced himself on her. He even threw a TV stand at his own mother; the product of a violent environment. I’ve seen him beat a guy over a parking spot. My first stepfather shot my second stepfather with a 22. Later the same day, he drove up to Mooanchie, New Jersey and killed himself inside of a Pontiac Bonneville with the same weapon. My first stepfather was the guy when my mother yelled, “Dad wants you,” I started crying. I didn’t know what was going to happen. That’s where my problems dealing with people and authority figures came from. That’s all I knew, how to survive.”

My wife, a former teacher, and preparer of lunch, asked, “What about school.” “I actually was a good student.” I wasn’t surprised about that. His eloquence and grasp are wonderful intellectual gifts.  “I was the guy that would hang out with the international students. I hate to say I felt pity but I wanted to protect them. My best friend was from Taiwan. We’d go to have lunch in a nearby cemetery to get away from the ghetto kids. He looked up to me. I was his protector. It made me feel better to help people.”

“I lived in this little cubicle. No one messed with me cause I knew who I was. Maybe that’s part of bipolar.” Cozmo talked about travelling the world. He loves castles; maybe that’s why he’s going to Prague in June.  Suddenly he was talking about cutting two people out of his life because of negativity and hypocrisy. And he recently wrote President Obama in the White House three times. Cozmo wants to sit down and enlist his help to end the stigma of bipolar. He reasoned that his second term is winding down and that he’d have more time now. Yes, if anyone can accomplish that, it’d be Cozmo; I’m a believer in him.  “I’m all about defying odds in life. I sent him a DVD with all my movies. Your NJ Discover interview was part of it too.”

 

Award winner

Award winner

Cozmo making headlines

Cozmo making headlines

I love his stream of consciousness thought process; rapid fire and bipolar fire; I wondered. Next Cozmo expounded on entering Guinness Records for the AB-Wheel and trying for a  world record, being ranked second in the world in Jiu Jitsu. That should impress the President.  It was shout out time for Cozmo’s sponsor, Scramble Martial Arts, “based in the UK, bringing me on board and sponsoring an old guy. They love my story trying to end the stigma.”

Scramble links as per Cozmo: www.scramblestuff.com         https://www.facebook.com/scramblers/

I asked Cozmo about his social media and growing friendship with WWE’s Mauro Ranallo and fellow bipolar personality. “I’m really excited to meet Mauro and do his podcast. If you think I have energy, he is unbelievable. His retweeting is a by-product of his mania. He is living his dream on overdrive. People’s twitter walls are bombarded.  He flies all over the country. Vince McMahon from WWE hired him.” Since Mauro was five years old, he wanted to work with WWE. Here is that one minute You Tube ‘Smackdown’ video of his joy and excitement of Mauro’s first match as per Cozmo.  Amazingly they met through twitter.  When they do the podcast together, Cozmo can’t wait to see the energy when two bipolar guys get together.  “He is spinning positive light, man.”

 Mauro Ranallo:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZlaq_NUTWU

 

Fight scene

Cozmo fight scene

 

It was just a matter of time before Cozmo talked about his great- grandfather Mickey Taylor, who was really Michael Consulmagno, but changed his name to the Irish version in order to get paid as a fighter. “Five foot five 200 pound Italian guy; 175 fights; only got knocked out once; and mauled Max Schmeling who knocked out Joe Louis. He beat Schmeling so bad, he was sent out of the camp. He died young; heart problems.”  It was a good segue to talk about racism and what his great-grandfather experienced being an Italian immigrant. “I get along with everyone but racism exists. My great-grandfather was feared in every boxing division. They ran away from him. But he had to hide his Italian heritage and blend in pretend Irish because of racism.”

“What about bipolar; Are there tell-tale signs?” “I’m not a doctor. But it’s erratic speech; going off on a tangent, trying to get so much out.” I thought to myself, how that was Cozmo but in a peculiar way, that seemed to endear him to me.  “I got fired by one company three times and brought back a fourth time.  They couldn’t deal with my antics. But I made them money. Maybe I have a little anger now because I’m fighting so hard.”

“No one talks about hyper sexuality and it’s hard for me to be with one woman.  And going way back in my memory, there was something you could call sexual abuse. I remember my grandfather touching me inappropriately. My uncle got wind of it and we never saw him again. And no one talks about debt and erratic spending. I’ve been in debt multiple times and got out. Funny everyone talks PTSD to me but not bipolar and I can control PTSD by controlling the triggers but not bipolar. I’m pushing so hard because my story is 100% legit.”  He thought for a moment then fired away trying to define his bipolar for me. “The sleeping disorder; I broke two cribs as a kid. When my step-father pushed me down the stairs, I was in a body cast and maybe that led to PTSD. When I’m in bed now, I have my head phones on and rock back and forth. Even after training, I still have energy. I don’t know if it’s the bipolar.”

 

Upon finishing the interview. Contemplation

Upon finishing the interview. Contemplation

 

Going off on a tangent, catching me by surprise, he mentioned his mother. “They used to call her the black widow. Two men committed suicide over her. When I tell this, it almost sounds like a fairytale and I’m making it up.”    Cozmo chuckled sardonically for a moment.  So I asked, “Did your mother try to protect you from all your abuse by your father and step-father?”  “By the time she settled in with the third guy, she went after me, telling me to get out. She wasn’t like that prior.” I shook my head in disbelief. So did my wife. Cozmo picked up on the head-shaking. “My mother’s brother was a real pimp; had the big hat with the feathers and purple outfit. He looked just like the Captain Morgan guy. He got one of the hookers pregnant and he died of heroin in California.”

Swirling around sensibilities, staring at a smiling Cozmo, I marveled at his calm adjustment to such trauma while he talked to us. I again thought what an amazing driven person, devoting his life for others, trying to end the stigma, but having endured so much. I thought about the universe; being grateful to have met Cozmo; a lot of things in perspective for me. I told him there is a movie waiting to be made.  I wanted to just keep talking, absorbing him; many lessons about life now knowing Robert Cozmo Consulmagno.  All the while we talked, my mind wandered erratically. I remembered to ask him about meds and bipolar. He was firm, emphatic. He took meds for a short period but got permission to stop; needed his mind and body to be clear, functioning and natural as best it could be. He does counseling a lot. A special human being was sitting next to me; a new friend for the long haul.  I’ve done my due diligence here, painting his picture and sharing the etiology of his dream to end the stigma of bipolar. Next was how to end this interview/article.

Here goes.  “One last question for you, Cozmo;  “before I leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I…..”” He took just a second to answer, gently smiling, “Until I am the face of PTSD and bipolar.”

COZMO CONTACT INFO AND PLEASE CONTACT HIM:

supercrazycozmo(Twitter)

Website  http://www.supercrazycozmo.com

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/supercrazycozmo

 

 

CALVIN SCHWARTZ CONTACT INFO:

Calvin Schwartz:  https://www.facebook.com/cal.schwartz.5             http://www.vichywater.net/

    Twitter:  @earthood    Instagram:  cal_schwartz    Linked In:  Calvin Schwartz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 24, 2015

A CHRISTMAS CAROL HOLIDAY QUIRKY BLOG 2015 bY Calvin Schwartz December 24th 2015 1:11pm

A CHRISTMAS CAROL HOLIDAY QUIRKY BLOG 2015  bY Calvin Schwartz   December 24th 2015 1:11pm   

 

 

a-christmas-carol

snow man

 

It’s always complicated for me writing a holiday blog; emotions run all over the place. Holiday movies fuel the energy of my creativity and wisp me around mostly Jersey memories.  A few minutes ago, I watched “Miracle on 34th Street” with Maureen O’Hara and child actress Natalie Wood. The movie was made in 1947. The black and white film depicted post war life in New York City perfectly. I said to my wife how much I loved and appreciated the writing of the movie. How perfect an ending to see ostensibly, Kris Kringle’s cane; it makes you believe in everything about the movie. A few years ago after watching “The Wizard of Oz,” for the 44th time, I realized it would’ve been a perfect ending if Dorothy was wearing the RUBY slippers back in Kansas after she woke up. Oh well; back to the holidays.

 

 

 

 

The Ghost of Christmas Present reveals to Scrooge two emaciated children, clinging to his robes, and names the boy as ‘Ignorance’ and the girl as ‘Want’.

The Ghost of Christmas Present reveals to Scrooge two emaciated children, clinging to his robes, and names the boy as ‘Ignorance’ and the girl as ‘Want’.

 

at the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County

at the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County

Right after I’m finished writing this blog, I’ll hop on my exercise bike and pedal full throttle for 90 minutes while watching “A Christmas Carol.” How I look forward to Christmas Eve and Alastair Sim as Scrooge.  Christmas has poignant meanings for me.  I celebrate Christmas in my own way. In my first novel, ‘Vichy Water,’ my main character, Elvin, goes to Power, Montana on Christmas Eve for Midnight Mass. Funny thing, it’s on my bucket list as well but that is a very long story. But there is an extant year- long meaning of Christmas for me; it involves awareness and proactivity with homelessness and hunger. This too is a long story.  Perhaps I can explain a bit with reference to one of my favorite movies(holiday and all year), ‘A Christmas Carol’ starring Alastair Sim from 1951.

 

 

 

 

 

on assignment with NJ Discover LIVE radio/TV co-host Tara-Jean Vitale at Tent City Lakewood where 100 homeless people lived.

on assignment with NJ Discover LIVE radio/TV co-host Tara-Jean Vitale at Tent City Lakewood where 100 homeless people lived.

 

There have been a number of actors playing Scrooge. For me it’s only Alastair Sim. The tech noir film ambiance lends itself perfectly to the time Charles Dickens wrote the novella in 1843. A few things about the movie still hold on to my soul. The Ghost of Christmas Present reveals to Scrooge two emaciated children, clinging to his robes, and names the boy as ‘Ignorance’ and the girl as ‘Want’. The spirit warns Scrooge, “Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”, dramatizing the book’s social message.

Here’s where the movie’s theme gets relevant, timely and fascinating. “Want” is a powerful force. In 1843, people wanted and needed. Of course Scrooge asked, “Are there no work-houses?”  In 1980, there were 40 Food Pantries/Food Banks in America and today there are 40,000; a devastatingly incomprehensible example of want and need beyond most of our comprehension. A dollar donated to a food bank can buy three meals. Last week, this factoid about the low prices of gas was published and astonished me. Because of the low price of gas (fuel) America is saving $350 million a day. I played around with the numbers. If all of us took $1 of savings a week and donated to local food banks, can you imagine what a special Christmas season and all year for up to 50 million Americans who are hungry?

 

 

 

one of my favorite improv Christmas pixs. I got a chance to play a large red elf on Asbury Park Boardwalk

one of my favorite improv Christmas pixs. I got a chance to play a large red elf on Asbury Park Boardwalk

 

Continuing Charles Dickens’ theme of “WANT” in the movie ‘A Christmas Carol’, I bring to this blog the news about a report that NASA had some involvement in: “NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It’s Not Looking Good for Us.”  Look for yourself:

http://mic.com/articles/85541/nasa-study-concludes-when-civilization-will-end-and-it-s-not-looking-good-for-us#.VjOCwS6Mi

“It is an independent study by university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity.”  There are five risk factors for societal collapse (population, climate, water, agriculture and energy).  The report says that the sudden downfall of complicated societal structures can follow when these factors converge to form two important criteria. “The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth.” What does this all mean to me in this Holiday blog?  Dickens was enduringly smart. Want is the root of so many problems. The holidays should be a good time for all us Earth inhabitants to look at the less fortunate; a powerful message of the season.

As a journalist and human, nearly three years ago, I became involved with Tent City in Lakewood, New Jersey where 100 homeless humans lived in tents for up to 12 years because Ocean County had no provision for the homeless. Then two years ago, I became involved with the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, writing several articles about hunger and “want” and need. Then I went to an all-day event in Red Bank dealing with hunger. Then there’s Dickens in 1843 warning about ‘Want’ and I say to myself nothing has changed here on earth and in America since 1843. Want and Ignorance and Hunger not only exist but have grown in scope from 40 to 40,000.

 

 

Scrooge on Christmas Morning

Scrooge on Christmas Morning

 

On a more upbeat(after all it’s the holidays) extraction from the movie; the scene on Christmas morning when Scrooge wakes up and realizes he’s still alive and can change the course of his life by being a better, giving, and grateful human. The sheer joy and excitement of revelation propels Scrooge to stand on his head on a sofa which is priceless. Later on, I love what he says to Bob Cratchit, “I haven’t lost my senses, I’ve come to them.” Therefore I’ve added this scene to my bucket list.  Someday I’ll come to that moment of sheer joy and find reason to stand on my head; hopefully on a morning local television program. Scrooge and I are about the same age so if he can stand on his head so can I. If we could move in the right direction fighting hunger and homelessness, I’d stand on my head.

It’s the holidays which are full of dreams and wide-eyed children.  I’m wide eyed right now finishing this blog and wishing everyone the same thing Tiny Tim wished.

Have a Merry Happy Healthy Wondrous

Calvin Schwartz, writer, co –host NJ Discover Live, co-host, Rock on Radio with Danny Coleman and citizen of New Jersey , USA

CONTACT INFO:    njdiscover.com      vichywater.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cal.schwartz.5

Cerebral Writer:

https://www.facebook.com/Calvin-Schwartz-Cerebral-Writer258272024192114/?fref=ts

November 25, 2015

HAPPY HEALTHY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE November 25th 2015

Filed under: November 2009 — Tags: , , — earthood @ 1:42 pm

HAPPY HEALTHY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE

 

Laurel & Hardy in costume

Laurel & Hardy in costume

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Tomorrow morning at 9AM on Channel 11, Thanksgiving, I’ll keep up my SIX decade TRADITION of watching Laurel & Hardy in  1934’s “March of the Wooden Soldiers”  ( I switch to the parade during commercials) The last 27 or so years, I watched with my prodigal son Neil. We’ve discussed the brilliance of Ollie & Stannie using the Wooden soldiers to defend Toyland and the wonderful vegan & flexitarian(no eating  4-legged animals which I’ve done since 1975) themes of the movie as the three little pigs lived in houses (harmony) with the rest of Toyland’s residents.  Also present is the theme of homelessness as Bo Beep’s Mother (the old lady in a shoe with so many kids) was on the verge of being homeless.  There are other HUGELY provocative themes.  AND I just learned it’s NOT the tryptophan in the turkey which makes you sleepy after the meal. It’s the 4500 consumed calories  and wine (lots) which knock you out.  AND NEXT week, I start watching “A Christmas Carol’ with Alastair Sim. Also a lot of lessons for contemporary living.  HAVE A HAPPY !!

 

September 9, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: ON THE NEW JERSEY SET OF FILMING “WHO’S JENNA…..?” AND A CONVERSATION WITH DIRECTOR TOM BALDINGER bY Calvin Schwartz September 9th 2015

SPOTLIGHT: ON THE NEW JERSEY SET OF FILMING “WHO’S JENNA…..?”   AND A CONVERSATION WITH DIRECTOR TOM BALDINGER   bY Calvin Schwartz    September 9th 2015

 

The cast (serious) in the comedy scene 'Who's Jenna ...?

The cast (serious) in the comedy scene of ‘Who’s Jenna …?

 

Hooray for social media, networking and circles of commonality. For the last several years, Laura Madsen, publicist and innovative writer/blogger at  http://www.theladyinredblog.com/  and I have travelled in similar circles of commonality( as I call it). Our energies and passions emanate from Jersey life and the arts. If you’ve read my musings over the past few years, I’ve postulated that Jersey has become the pop culture capital of America and Laura is always at the epicenter. For verification of the postulate, just look at ‘The Soprano’s’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’, “Jersey Boy’s’, ‘Jersey Shore’, ‘Jersey Housewives’, ‘Garden State’, and ‘Jersey Girl’.  Laura and I never had the opportunity for the sharing of notes and synchronicities; we never met formally.

A few weeks ago, Laura contacted me via Facebook and asked if I’d like to cover the filming of a feature film, “Who’s Jenna…..?” which is a comedy  written by award winning producer, director Tom Baldinger from 624 Productions, LLC, a New Jersey based company. Laura hinted that the film title had something to do with an adult film star but that’s all she said. My response to her was immediate and decisive; “I’d love to hang around the set and do some absorbing and interviewing for NJ Discover.”

 

with publicist and writer/blogger Laura Madsen in front of film equipment truck in paved parking lot

with publicist and writer/blogger Laura Madsen in front of film equipment truck in paved parking lot

Director Tom Baldinger checking last take

Director Tom Baldinger checking last take

 

The next decision for me was where to surface for the best absorption opportunity. The filming was taking place at the Lakewood Country Club for an on-location golf scene or the following day at Verve Restaurant in Somerville.  I surmised that it’s best not to hang around a hot golf course as Jersey was in a heat wave, so I opted for the cool basement confines of Verve for the shooting of a dinner scene. And I’d get a chance to hang a bit with actor Garry Pastore; I’ve been a fan for years.

Time constraints of being on set and getting a few minutes to chat (at the break) with director Tom Baldinger made me formulate a direction I wanted to take with this coverage. I’m quick to admit that my experience of being on sets is somewhat limited although I was on set back in the 90’s with Meryl Streep, William Hurt and Renee Zellweger and wound up in the Christmas scene in ‘One True Thing.’ My focus for “Who’s Jenna….?”  was the art of detail and precision in the film making process.

 

 

 

In between takes with a cup of Dunkin Coffee.

In between takes with a cup of Dunkin Coffee.

actors Garry Pastore & Michael Tota in focus

actors Garry Pastore & Michael Tota in focus

Laura’s phone messaging last  Wednesday morning got me to Verve’s rear parking lot(on foot), through a rear kitchen door, down a steep stairway, through a narrow hallway to a basement dining room, filled with tables and patrons (all actors).  I never asked if this was an active part of the restaurant or just the basement set for a very funny scene. Seated at a large table, with cameras aimed, were actors Garry Pastore, Lenny Venito, Vic Dibitetto (also a very funny comedian whom I saw recently at Count Basie Theater at a Frank Sinatra Birthday Party), and Bill Sorvino, playing the lead role of Jonathan Burke. Next, Laura introduced me to the film director, Tom Baldinger; first and lasting impressions were that of an affable, intense, creative, focused force in the universe. It’s funny how fast you can “size” people. Waiters started bringing steaming plates of pasta, meat balls, chicken and foot long sausage in front of the seated actors; it was 10 AM.  Someone yelled, “Get the Dunkin Donuts coffee cup off the table.” Actor Michael Tota introduced himself. He and I have been part of central Jersey concentric circles; we never met live, but knew of each other.

Readers can go to the film website for more plot/story information. http://www.624-productions.com/#!whos-jenna/c6h0n

The basement area was relatively small; an additional eight tables or so had ‘diners’ (actors) to make for a perfectly realistic restaurant set; the table next had a woman and a young girl in the scene being filmed.  The small room size and 90 degree outdoor heat made the set challenging.  I watched the crew fill the four actors’ wine glasses half-way with grape juice.  The wine glasses would be an interesting focus for me; the exact level of the juice in the glass was maintained for the next 94 minutes (multiple takes) that I watched from the rear side behind the cameras where Laura and I were positioned. As they were ready to shoot the scene, I heard “Quiet on the set.”  I smiled. This was real.

 

the camera ready

the camera ready

the sausage in between takes.

in between takes.

 

I won’t give much away but the scene was hysterically funny as the four actors ate (pretended to eat as the sausage maintained its great length throughout), drank, conversed and laughed. I love watching eyes of the actors moving from person to person; just that small detail embraced me. Watching my friend Garry Pastore talk/act/move his eyes/laugh and then greet Michael Tota’s character when he walked over was  perfectly real. There was a poignant albeit funny story going on.  Director Tom Baldinger meticulously instructed Michael Tota how to grab himself while talking and then look at Vic Dibitetto’s character. It had to be the same grab in every take. The repartee with Lenny, Bill and Garry was priceless. I’d love to use their words the next time I go to my primary care physician and see how it’s received. I savored every minute of absorption.

Something else I noticed; about the crew; a special esprit de corps. They were a well-oiled machine, anticipating, performing, and functioning like the offensive backfield of a local college football team. They loved what they were doing and with whom; their director. I like to observe those elements. The body heat generated in the basement’s close quarters moved me to Main Street in Somerville for an hour until I caught up with director Tom Baldinger just before lunch.

I told Tom that I have a relatively undiscerning eye when it comes to matters of film making but I’m a HUGE movie fan going to back to 1939 vintage. Tom was engaging and thrilled to be chatting. Once I flipped on my reporter’s recorder, he started. “For me it’s very important that what’s said-dialogue is not just dialogue-there’s a purpose to why people say certain things. That’s why when I write my scripts, I try to be very careful with the words that are said. I try to make sure that the voices are separate from each other-that the characters are separate.  There is a voice in each one of them. When you are on set, everything has to have a place because I’ve seen tons of movies-big budget films; sometimes the detail is not there. For me there are a lot of people watching movies who will not like a movie because there is something wrong-a missing detail-or if dialogue doesn’t match up correctly-or characters not really synching together. That’s very important to me.”

 

action. cast & crew and director in discussion.

action. cast & crew and director in discussion.

interviewing Director Tom Baldinger.

interviewing Director Tom Baldinger.

I mentioned, “Translates down to your crew. I was watching them measure grape juice in a glass to make sure it was exact level.”  “It’s all about continuity. How many times have you seen a movie where the glass is half-full and in the next shot- it’s the same conversation- the glass is either empty or not there. I was watching a movie last night-‘Mission Impossible 3’ and saw where all the extras were and I have to give a lot of credit to J.J. Abrams. A lot of time you’ll see movies with extras. They are in the shot then they are not there. My crew; I have to be honest with you. The meticulous and tight atmosphere really comes from them because I think they see me as a visionary. I’ve built this and I’m not trying to sound egotistical but I’ve built this company and in some ways they look at me as their leader and so they are on the ride. They want-they feel this is going to be successful. They want to be on the same boat. I’ve always set goals and reached my goals. I think that’s why everybody on this crew wants to do everything perfectly because they want to take this next step into this industry.”

Taking it further I added, “I’ve watched a melding of you all there.” Tom said, “Yes.” “I was so impressed with the detail. When Michael comes over to Garry at the table, you tell him exactly what to grab and do.”  Tom added, “Yes, when we shoot the reverse, we need to see him grab himself and that action-when we’re in post, you see Vic’s reaction. It makes my editor’s job so much easier. And when you are sitting around the post, you are not saying we forgot that or look at that.”

The night before I heard interesting news about Apple and the film business; “Your work as an Indie film maker has an interesting future. Apple announced yesterday it may give money to Indies.” “I hope so. I heard a little about that. I work on Wall Street and I’ve been out of work mode for the last week or two. My father who actually works for Bloomberg said you have to check this out. When I get a moment, I’ll read about it; very interesting.”

I thought Apple wants to do what Netflix is doing. Tom was quick to comment. “That is where the market seems to be going; where the industry is going and I’m going to quote a famous actor hearing him talk about Indie films. Alec Baldwin was on Howard Stern show a few weeks ago. He was talking about how film has changed over past 20 or 30 years; that now big budget movies are all technical, special effects, CGI. Not that the big budget films don’t get into the story or content but they are more Marvel and super heroes. I love those movies and I’m there with the popcorn, but the Indie industry-that’s where you get down into characters, stories and dialogues and really get into it. What the Indie film industry has done-it has born the writer-director and sometimes that’s good-sometimes bad because studios say we only have $250,000 to spend. We can’t spend another $100,000 for a director, so let’s make the writer the director. That’s a bad choice but when you have a good script and a good writer who can be a director, studios need to take that into consideration. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime-all that stuff; it’s really starting to blow up. Quite frankly, ‘House of Cards;’ I said to my wife last year that they don’t have to win an Emmy; just being nominated, Netflix was doing cartwheels down the hallway because they knew all of a sudden they got something and now everybody else is trying to do it.”

 

with Tom before lunch and my trip on Route 287

with Tom before lunch and my trip on Route 287

 

I asked Tom about quality. “Quality is better. I mean we’re shooting with a red camera where some of those shows you see with bigger name people are shooting with the same equipment. We’re trying to bring high quality products with lower budgets and eventually, hopefully somebody like Apple will say I like your product and I want to put more money into it and give us an opportunity to do even more.”

Tom smiled, took a deep inhalation and was ready to go on talking. It was I who suggested that he eat lunch but that down the road a spell, he should come on NJ Discover Live Radio/TV show with the cast and Laura Madsen and continue our chat. After a firm hand-shake cementing the deal and a photo-op of course, I was on the road again, heading to Yurcak Field on Rutgers campus with NJ Discover broadcasting the television coverage of the Skye Blue FC Professional Women’s Soccer match against Kansas City. A bunch of questions suddenly popped into consciousness on Route 287 to ask Tom and the cast. It would wait until October 5th for NJ Discover’s Live Show with them. We move fast here in Central Jersey.

 

IMDB “Who’s Jenna…..”  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4317858/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

NJDiscover   http://www.njdiscover.com/wp1/

Calvin’s Blog:  http://www.vichywater.net/blog/

 

WATCH FOR OCTOBER 5th NJDISCOVER LIVE RADIO/TV SHOW  also featured on Long Branch Cablevision Channel 20 with Director, Cast of “Who’s Jenna………..?”

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