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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Doeville Under the Stars

It was a perfect night in every way... except our movie star was missing.  

On September 20th, we screened the "fine cut" of DOEVILLE, a 97-min work in progress cut of the film for a crowd of about 100 people at Gail Rose's Deauville Farm.  The screening was followed by a delicious dinner catered by Shaffers out of Woodstock, Virginia.  It featured a gorgeous salad from Gail's garden, sustainably raised, barbecued chicken, a squash casserole that was positively to die for, and the best mac n' cheese in the Shenandoah.  Dessert included a berry cobbler and smores around the campfire.  Wine was from the nearby Cave Ridge Vineyard.  Neighbors Robert and Jackie contributed a keg of beer.
In the weeks leading up to the screening, Gail and many friends worked like trojans to clean up and restore the deer barn interior and exterior.  Rats had chewed the electrical cables up to the barn, so those were replace by next door neighbor, Robert, and Gail's NY friend, Eric.  Robert & Jackie moved round bails of hay out of the deer barn.  Rocky, Jerry, and a crew of friends cleaned up seven foot tall weeds in the forest and deer pasture, filled in gopher holes and moved downed branches and stumps aside.  Robert mowed the "perfect acre" and organized it as a parking lot, allowing guests to drive there via his and Jackie's property.  Jerry & Adam made a path to the barn, and lined it with lights.   Jerry also built wooden benches and a special fire pit.  Robert built and suspended a special shelf from the roof of the deer barn to accommodate the projector, and received delivery of the screening equipment.  Tables, chairs, wildflower arrangements and candles finished off the scene.  A popcorn machine was contributed by the caterer.   Everything was ready.  Perfect.

But about a week prior to the screening, Gail suffered two silent heart attacks.  Four days after the second attack, she had experienced sleepless nights and was having trouble breathing, so finally consented to go to the hospital.  Adam rushed her to Mt. Jackson hospital, and from there she was moved to Winchester.  5 days later, she was released.  Although they checked for a blockage, none was found, and the doctor declared her heart attacks a mystery.

Though her absence was heart-breaking for me and all of the folks who'd worked so hard to plan the screening, Gail insisted the show must go on.
Adam made a short, poignant speech explaining Gail's absence and I said a few words just prior to starting the film.  Then, munching on popcorn and sipping wine and beer, the audience of Indiegogo crowd-funding contributors, friends, and family loved all 97 minutes of DOEVILLE, laughing and crying in all the right places.
Immediately following the screening, Adam phoned Gail at the hospital and held up the phone
to the crowd -- they yelled "we love you Gail."  And then he put the phone to the microphone, and she responded, just so thrilled that everyone enjoyed the film.  The next day, I brought footage of the screening shot by my friend Birgit to the hospital to share with Gail.  It wasn't as good as having her there, but at least she got to enjoy a bit of the fun.

Next steps for the film -- cutting 2.5 minutes to get it to a final length of 95 minutes.  Fundraising for final post production -- sound editing, sound mix and color grading.  Output to a digital cinema package.  Film festival submissions.  And testing the waters for international distribution at Wildscreen Film Festival starting this Sunday!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

_MG_3476 - 2010-12-28 at 13-03-48
The Potential for Camouflage Boggles the Mind


We've had merely a dusting of snow here in Falls Church so far this winter.   No doubt there's more around the corner for us.  Out at Bryce I hear it is cold and icy, and last time I called Gail, she was huddled in her kitchen warming her frozen fingers on a cup of hot 'joe.'

2012 was a dramatic year at Deauville Fallow Deer Farm.  Blueberry, the much loved, slave-driving chicken, passed away.  Gail's beloved deer moved to Wisconsin to live with a herd of reindeer, a few whitetails, and a farmer who spends most of his time dressed as Santa Claus.  Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

In their wake, four Bourbon Red Turkeys (seeking adoption) sauntered into Gail's heart and home.  They took up residence with the "baby" chickens (who thought that a pack of godzillas had landed).  One hen, in particular, caught everyone's eye.  She "flew the coop" with increasing frequency, finally making daily forays into the deer pasture that eventually turned into overnight jaunts until --thanks to a hungry raccoon-- she finally met her maker.  But she died happy, no doubt, inspired by her most recent adventure.   To avoid any more casualties (and because it was her plan anyway) Gail finally opened the gate from chicken yard to deer pasture and let turkeys and chickens have their way with it. They might not be "dancing deer" but the little fluff balls are fun for Gail to watch from her kitchen window... just as she once enjoyed her lovely deer.

Soon after the deer left, Gail planted a gigantic field of pumpkins in the main pasture on the right side of the farm.  By September, there were pumpkins galore.  And in October, Gail hosted a Halloween bash for her 65th birthday. The farm was dressed to the nines in ghosts and ghouls thanks to a lot of hard work and creativity by Gail, Adam and Jerry.   A wacky pack of bizarrely clad friends turned up and to enjoy the fantastic food and drink, and to celebrate our dear friend Gail.  

My last visit of the year found Gail very concerned again about the turkeys.  The younger tom (whose name is "Tom") had reached maturity and started to fight with the older tom, whose name is "Jake."  When a chicken got caught in the crossfire, Gail decided it was time for young Tom to leave.  She'd found a home for him and his new owners came and collected him.  Peace has returned to Deauville.

What a year!

Monday, December 31, 2012

I suppose it is fitting that I start the blog up again just before the year ends. My previous posting was the second day of this year... this one is the last day of 2012.

I'm happy to report editing of DOEVILLE is well-underway, but alas, the film will take all of 2013 to complete, and that is if all goes well with fundraising. January will be a busy month for me as I prep for my crowd-funding campaign on Indegogo.

Stay tuned... on January 1, we'll be starting the 31 day countdown for the campaign that will begin Feb 1 and run for 31 days through March 3.   Don't worry, I'll be telling you all a lot more about this in the coming days.

And I will need everyone's help so that this wonderful celebration of our friend Gail can finally see the light of day.

Happy New Year everyone.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year

Gail was in very good spirits today.  It's January 1, 2012, and she believes it is going to be a good year.  Me, too.   I think that 2012 is the year that we will gradually see a transformation from Deauville being a deer farm, to Deauville being an organic vegetable, fruit and egg farm.   And it will also be the year that the film ceases to be something only in our imagination and takes shape into a final product.

Gail Rose and her Fallow Deer
The news out of Deauville today is that the deer paddock on the left side of the farm is now closed to their gentle hooves and nibbling mouths.  The fence in the back of that paddock has become untenable.  We walked the whole fence line -- as Gail always does after a storm -- on December 28th.  Gail, my brother Tony, Aidan, Dylan and I.  There had been big winds in the valley the day before and Gail was worried that a tree might have come down.  This is a constant concern for her.  "As a deer farmer, wind is my biggest enemy, " she commented, with a considerable note of worry.  Fortunately, we found no trees down -- only the remnants of past wind damage.   But nonetheless, all was not well along the fence line.

The first problem we discovered was that the dogs had tunneled under two sections of the fence, gaining access to the deer late at night.  Gail thought they had actually been leaving the farm somehow and running out onto the county road.  But no, they were crawling under the tall deer fences and chasing the herd around.  One spot Gail had already blocked with tree limbs and rocks.  But Aidan discovered a second.  "Sam did it" Gail said confidently.  "Look how strong she is."  She had yanked wires to the side with her mouth and then lifted a central section so that they could tunnel underneath.  Amazing.

You can imagine that Sam and Cinder have gazed at those deer for years, wishing they could somehow get at them.  And they finally did, much to Gail's dismay.   For these dogs it was likely a moment of nirvana -- a taste of their wild heritage -- but it was also a highly illegal activity on the deer farm.  So we blocked up the second hole.  Gail said in future the pups would be on leash for their last pee of the evening.

The second problem we discovered was more significant.  Erosion on the back flank of the farm had covered a section of fence maybe 80 feet long with enough soil that the fence now stands only 3 feet high in places.  Gail shook her head when she saw how bad it's gotten, saying "Thank God the deer haven't discovered this spot since they could just about walk over it."  She bravely added that it was the next "big job" ahead.  I couldn't imagine what she could do about it, but she explained that she'd run a new length of fence along that section.

And for now, we would herd the deer over to the central and right hand paddocks, and then close the gates to this section.  I thought to myself, "No problem -- I've herded cattle before," and headed confidently out above where they stood.  But Gail quickly called to me to slow down.  "The deer will panic" Gail cautioned us. "We have to go very slowly." I saw how they seem just one step away from bolting at the sight of the humans doing something unusual.  Following Gail's lead, we'd take a few steps then wait.  Finally, in jerky, stilted, fits and starts the herd moved the way we wanted, seeking their escape into the central paddock and off to the far right side of the farm. 

So today when I arrived again with my brother, intent on filming an update interview with Gail, she said, "Well that's it.  That side of the farm will not see deer again."  I realize it's an important step toward phasing out the deer, but there's still about 60 does and their fawns, and so I worried about the coming snows and freezing temperatures.   In winter, the deer have taken to seeking refuge in the barn and will no longer have access to it.  But Gail of course already had a plan for that.  She will open the right side of the barn to them since it could be accessed from the central paddock.  She said it will take about 3 weeks for them to grow accustomed to the new arrangement, but "they're smart and they'll figure it out."

And meanwhile, in a spot where the deer used to wander freely, there's a new pumpkin patch taking form in Gail's imagination.  Far back in a lovely corner of the farm that few visitors have ever seen, she has one "perfect acre" of cleared land left from a previous farmer.  All the rock has been painstakingly removed to the edges of this open acre in the forest, and the land used to be used for corn.  So this is Deauville's future pumpkin patch.

And so begins the transformation of Gail's farm....