Archive for August, 2009

For Immediate Release

Contact: Ethan Marten
James R. Johnson

Virginia Beach, VA, August 26, 2009 – The crew that brought you Tanners Point and the MTV top five finalist of the Pepsi Rock Band Video Contest, are at it again. Fresh off their three awards from last year’s festival, the producers from Two Peppers Productions were just informed their motion picture, “Dead Men,” shot on location in Virginia is an official selection of the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival (NYIIFVF).

“It took the talents of three Hampton Roads production companies to bring “Dead Men” to life,” says Producer Ethan Marten. The suspense thriller was executed by Screenwriter George Smith of Future Tense Productions. Smith brought on director Scott Hansen, who’d recently worked with Willie Nelson. “To produce, engineer and edit, Future Tense knew of only one production company to help keep our future secure,” Smith says, “Wade Harrington and James R. Johnson of Two Peppers Productions.”


“The energy of crafting a story for the screen from the chaos of pre-production is exhilarating,” says editor Wade Harrington of Two Peppers Productions. “Dead Men had a lively team of all star talent in front of and behind the cameras to pull it off.”

Do “Dead Men” tell tales good enough to bring back awards from New York? If Marten’s track record is any indication, this newest Pepper’s on a hot streak, his production companies have garnered five awards from his last three festivals. “Great story, great cast, great production value from the crew,” according to Johnson, “Dead Men has winner written all over it”

Work hits too close to home for funeral home attendant Doug when his fiancée uses his gun to kill herself on the graveyard shift. Unable to call the police for appearance of foul play, Doug turns to his coworkers Jay and Steve for help. But as complications arise and tensions escalate, Doug’s friends are forced to look death in the face and confront the possibility they may have more to fear from Doug than from the cops. “Dead Men” stars Maxx Hennard, Jay Gates and Frank Edwards.

The Dead Men shooting schedule began summer 2008 and will have its world premiere during the week long New York festival beginning October 22nd. Virginia Beach native, Jay Gates is a headlining comedian who offers up a terrific dramatic performance for “Dead Men”. Maxx Hennard, who is receiving thumbs up reviews for his work in Sorority Row (Summit Entertainment, September 11, 2009) and Dear John (Screen Gems, February 2010), turns in a great performance as the grieving fiancée.

Life doesn’t end there for “Dead Men”. Two Peppers is in negotiations with distributors for limited theatrical release and worldwide broadcast rights.

Charlie-DanielsWhen called a Yankee – it’s usually by a dear Southern friend – a term of endearment. So when I headed up to Pennsylvania to observe the Pocono 200 I felt a little like a fish out of water. My ride came by the condo to pick me up, and begin the journey. Up drove Charlie Daniels in his limited edition Midnight Black 2009, Hemi-powered Dodge Challenger. This muscle car paid beautiful homage to those from the late 60’s. Not quite as powerful as my Prius, but, you get the idea. Ethan-and-Charlie

Not every day you get chaffeured by a former Stock Car Champion. This was going to be a fun an interesting journey. Didn’t take long before we hit Shore Drive with the new (lowered) 35 mph. The Chevy was straining against the excessively low speeds. Up came the the satellite radio, and my immersion began. Classic Country and Outlaw Country filled the air. I heard more Elvis, Cash, Paycheck, Twitty, and even Minnie’s pearls of wisdom than in the last twenty years. Pocono-Monument

I learned the color of a John Deere tractor (a must – and, no, just green is wrong!), Spanish Moss, the difference between baby blue and Petty Blue, and many other necessary factoids for my survival. Know your math! Know 3 = Earnhardt, DALE. 14 = A. J Foyt. 43 = Richard Petty…. And, when talking about the Men in Black, down South we ain’t talking motion pictures, but Johnny Cash & Dale Earnhardt!

So when speeds were hit along the journey that might have helped us to a pole position, with the sunroof open, and Hank Williams, Jr. blaring, well, I guess I had arrived. Funny to become an honorary Southerner while heading back up North! Anyone from my NY childhood would have been hysterical if not incredulous.Ethan-in-the-Pit

Meeting the team was educational. Eddie D’Hondt, who heads his namesake team was spotting for his protoge driver Alli Owens; Jerry Pitts – crew chief. These guys had their gameface on all weekend. Easy to know why. Any small error with the car can cost the race or a life. Every inch of a vehicle going onto the track is calculated for speed and efficiency.

Then you learn what a team sport racing is. The spotter calls the plays from the top of the track’s grandstand. This person is the eyes for the team. The crew chief is calling shots; calculating wear on tires and fuel efficiency. The pit crew is responsible for getting a car in and out, gassed, tires changed – all in seconds. Then, there is the driver! There must be smooth communication over the headsets between driver, spotter, and crew chief. It’s now you realize what a thinking man’s game racing at this level is!Charlie-and-Cliff

So when I was invited into the team meeting, it was quite an honor. Somewhere near the end of the meeting the responsibilities were being called out. Gas Runner, Right Front Tire Setter – Ethan Marten. Silence. Heads turning. Jerry made eye contact; “You all right with that?” I didn’t hesitate, quickly realizing the joke and the hazing. I didn’t do standup for ten years only to be heckled, and have slow reflexes. I shot back; “nobody runs gas faster or more efficiently, and as for tire setting, this ain’t my first time to the rodeo….” Jerry seemed pleased, “Good.”

The benediction ensued, and I started to realize from the startled and pale looks on my hosts faces that this was not a joke. When they came charging up to me after the meeting barking instructions I knew they were not this good a bunch of actors! The race, so to speak, was on.Race-Day

I ended up on line with an oversized red rider wagon with more oversized gas tanks. Though I had two escorts to make sure I didn’t screw this job up, at the crucial moments, I was alone and performed the job admirably (that’s what I was told, anyway!). “Car 19, two empties and a partial!” As I dropped off my charges for fill up at the Sunoco up drove beside me both Mark Martin and then Kurt Busch in his Blue Deuce (if the sponsor cares to lay some money on the Daniels – I’ll be happy to plug here 😉 Even I was impressed. The NASCAR practice for the following day’s race was taking place before the ARCA event.

Once filled, I hurried off to Pit 39. Once there I dropped off the tanks, and moved to where the rubber meets the track. Multiple sets of tires were laid out on the ground on one side of “the wall.” The Wall is a two foot barrier between the crew and where the crew jumps to work on the car. I would be remaining on the safer side of the wall! People with flame retardant suits would be jumping it later. Each tire was being carefully marked so it would end up in the correct position – RF and RB were on one side of the crew chief’s stand, and the left tires were on the other side. In a sport where each tenth of a second during a pit stop could cost the team position or even the race – no one wants to make any mistakes.

People are measuring the tires to the smallest degree for wear, and air pressure. The balancing act is non-stop. When people use the expression “burn rubber,” man, this is where it comes from. The smell of burning rubber, and gas was the incense of the track. The constant pounding, undulating vibrations of motors propelling cars at 200 mph were the OMS chanted by cars whirring past.

Burning Rubber? Tire setter? A thought crossed my mind – GLOVES! Oh yeh, the tires replaced come back steaming hot at 200 degrees. Always a good idea, and since they can weigh 75 pounds, it’s also a good idea to make sure you cover your arms when lugging a tire back over the wall.

The careful direction coming over the headsets comes from Eddie, he instructs Alli, reminds her of what was learned in practice, and coaches concentration. He will turn the direction over to Jerry before the first pit stop. They make their first calculations, and we should be prepared at any moment in case of emergency, but the first expected pit stop is calculated for a certain lap. The adrenalin is kicking in. Everyone is hyper alert as the cars start circling the track behind the pace car. Here comes a flag – one lap to go. some cars are still zig zagging to get their tires hot enough to stick to the track. The pace car pulls into the pits, and the flag comes flying down, and the cars come flying by!

I have my first tire in position, as instructed. Depending upon where Alley stops – I’ll reposition for the right angle so the tire man can grab it and have it on less than 3 seconds! Everyone immitates the sound of the lug nuts being put on “Vrr-Vrr, Vrr-Vrr-Vrr!” Here’s a little trick, the lug nuts are glued on already so they can just be quickly tightened. However, they can pop of the tire easily. I don’t want to be the one to have to hand over a tire, AND, a lug nut. That would create this sound, “Vrr-Vrr, Vrr-Vrr…..Vrr!” Oh no. That lost half-second will not come at my hands. This tire becomes “my tire.” No one comes near it. One of the crew begins to sit on my tire – a hazing of sorts. Uh-uh! Not having any of it. Beat it! My tire. Begrudging respect, and a smile.

No sound enters my head except the sound of the voice coming from the headset. “Here comes the lap,” the smooth voice over the headset cautions. The crew is to be ready and in position. For me, that’s do not have your feet anywhere near one of the hoses that will be dragged over the wall – unless I want to be dragged over with it. Someone on the wall that shouldn’t be is a penalty. Penalties cost laps. Laps cost races. Not only have people been dragged over having been tangled in hoses, (an embarrassment in and of itself) they have been killed on the other side of the wall. It is not a safe place even for professionals. This is serious business. An identifying flag drapes over Pit 39 so Ally know where to land, and she appears. People are jumping and body parts are moving at such a speed that time almost stands still. The car is jacked, and without thinking the tire almost turns itself to the correct position, is grabbed, “Vrr-Vrr, Vrr-Vrr-Vrr!” Within 20 seconds the car vanishes – is back on the track. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes….I am now aware beyond the pit. The crowd’s cheers, the motors, and clangs from all around return.

Alli hits the pits several more times, and 200 miles goes by faster than one could imagine. Though running as high as eighth position, a penalty for leaving the pit too fast costs a crucial lap. Still, she ends up in 23rd, ahead of 20 other drivers, and brings the car back in one piece. This has been a thrilling ride for all of us.

I receive a “good job.” Praise from Caesar!

They Shoot Hearses, Don’t They?

Monter’s Ball Director Richard Keel’s favorite surreal moment of the 48 Hour Film Project (in retrospect) comes when we go to start an actual hearse acquired specifically for a staged scene where said vehicle needs a jump start. (No spoilers before the premiere – that’s all your getting here.) We troupe over to where the hearse is parked; ready for its close up. We had been waiting for the hearse to arrive with great anticipation to get this crucial shot. Ironically, The hearse is now dead. Muerte. Pushing up spark plugs. The darn thing then needs an actual jump start in order that we can drive it to the location so it can look like it needs a jump start! It takes about 10 minutes to resuscitate the battery, and we dare not turn it off on location when it needs to look like it’s broken down. Aaaaand cut! Next stop, the premiere at Naro Expanded Cinema.
48-hour-film-project-0671Dead-Hearse According to Heir Director who “Won’t post the film yet, we’ll show our cast and crew first but here’s the music, uncut, set to cast dancing. The singers were amazing. Lyrics were written, one song composed and recorded, tracks laid down and mixed (Erik Watts is a hero) and then matched to film. Oh, yeah, in 48 hours. Singers had to nail lyrics and rythym and tune in minutes.” Enjoy.

48-hour-film-project-071Okay, deciding to participate in the 48 Hour Film Festival might sound crazy enough, but deciding the project conceived, written, shot, edited, looped, and delivered is also going to be a musical – that’s insane! Welcome to the world of Richard Keel and company. Apparently he and co-writer James Shearer had already been suffering from sleep deprivation when they hatched this plot. But, as they say in the movies; “This idea might just be crazy enough to work!”

An insanely good time was had by all, and cast and crew had a Monsters’ Ball working with each other.Hawaii-and-48-hour-film-project-0593

Hope all my best fiends, and ghoul-friends can come out to the Naro Cinema next Wednesday night at 7:00 to attend the screenings of all the short films, and vote for your favorites. It’ll be a blast and tickets are only $8.00 The winning team will go on to compete in the annual international competition. The Hampton Roads entries will all be screened Aug. 15 and the winning films will be announced and screened the following Saturday, Aug 18.48-hour-film-project-05548-hour-film-project-05148-hour-film-project-05348-hour-film-project-05648-hour-film-project-05848-hour-film-project-062A48-hour-film-project-074Hawaii-and-48-hour-film-project-081448-Hour-Group