Dan Nadaner, now a professor of art and a successful artist, made the three-minute long Stripes in 1976 while doing an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. For the soundtrack, he wrote a ditty about the stripes that appear in various paintings by famous artists, and he asked me to play guitar and sing his lyrics in the way he imagined, a kind of slow-going country song. The film is somewhat rosy now, having lain in a canister for three decades before being transferred to digital format, but I still find it a most beautiful creation.
Bums At A Grave
Seeing Bums At A Grave again after twenty-five years was a fascinating walk down memory lane. We made the film in 1980 shortly after I moved to Sacramento—a two-day shoot in 105-degree heat in Grass Valley. Richard Simpson was the cinematographer and editor, Doug Peckham handled sound, Bob Smith produced, Patty Nolan was continuity person and assistant-to-everyone, Doug essayed an opening scene cameo, my brother Steve starred as Willy and I co-starred as Trevor.
To prove I had directing talent, I decided to make a short film with some of the money I’d been given for the movie rights to Inside Moves. This was long before digital anything. We shot the film in 16 millimeter, and Richard hand-edited the film.
Bums At A Grave screened at Filmex in Los Angeles for an audience of 1200 hardcore film buffs and movie biz folks. They loved the film, laughed uproariously at the Republican joke (Reagan our brand new president in 1980), and gave us a rousing ovation at the end. While we were in LA for the film festival, we screened the film for Laura Ziskin (lately the producer of the Spiderman movies) who had optioned my novel Forgotten Impulses and hired me to write the screenplay. Laura’s response to Bums At A Grave, to my everlasting delight was, “Your agents are missing the boat with you. They should be pushing you as a director.”
But life, as the poets say, intervened and I took another road.