In April 2009, I, Mean Gene Kelton, was literally plucked off the street and offered a co-starring role in a full length independent motion picture called Marfa Red. I know it sounds more like a story that movies are made about but doesn’t really happen in real life. Well friends, the story I’m about to tell you proves that it does happen. Some people call it luck. But what is luck? I will expound more on that later. Without hesitation, I accepted the offer.
Since accepting the role, many people have asked numerous questions: how did I got a part in a movie, especially since I had never pursued a career as an actor? Have I ever acted before? What was it like being in a movie? Did I have any special training? Was special training required? Are you Marfa Red? Who is Marfa Red? What’s it like being a movie star? I hope I can answer all those questions to your satisfaction while telling you about my first great movie adventure: Marfa Red!
First of all, I’m not Marfa Red. I know it sounds like the name of the old west character, “Pecos Red” from old western lore. You’ll just have to see the movie for the name to make sense.
Secondly, I’m not a movie star. At least I don’t feel like a movie star and don’t consider myself a movie star. When I get the big house in Beverly Hills, then we’ll talk about being a movie star. In the meantime, I just happen to be a guy who had a co-starring role that turned out to be a very big part of the movie.
The following article is written from my point of view only. There were many great and wonderful people involved in the making of Marfa Red: directors, producers, camera people, writers, cast, crew, mechanics, technical people and of course… people who let us film on their property and so on. Each one has their own special and unique story of their participation in Marfa Red. I can only describe my own personal experienced from my own point of view. Without giving away the plot, I will try to share with you a look behind the scenes and my personal account of my first experience in the exciting world of the movie business. Hope you enjoy.
How It Happened
As the saying goes “you have to be in the right place at the right time.”
Well, I found that old saying to be true. I also found another old saying to be true: Luck (good luck) occurs when opportunity meets preparation. Well, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, with the right experience and credentials, when an opportunity presented itself – and I was prepared. For example: a great fisherman does not become a great fisherman by sitting around reading fish magazines and watching fishing shows. He (or she) has got to get up off the couch, make the sacrifice to acquire the necessary skills, go to where the fish are biting, then bait a hook, then drop it in the water. Then when opportunity meets preparation, big fish bites and you reap the glory of your efforts. And such is everyday life.
Name It! Claim It! Set You Goals!
It all started about three years ago (2006) when I made a promise to my band that I was going to get us all a part in a movie, either as a band in a bar scene or maybe just as extras. I knew it would look great on our resume and believed the notoriety might get us a few more better paying gigs. And who knows, we might even make a few bucks without having to commit to a day job. The guys in the band just shook their heads and laughed in disbelief and said I was crazy for having such big dreams.
I was already in the process of sending songs to various indie film producers for possible placement in film and TV. My wife Joni took it a step further by (baiting our hooks) posting some photos of me on various movie casting websites, with captions suggesting that the band and I were available to work as extras. We did not pursue anything that would require any speaking parts, serious study, training or a pretty-boy face. After all, there are so many good-looking, talented, experienced actors fighting to get in the movie biz we never thought they’d want our scraggly asses on the big screen other than to portray our butt-ugly selves.
Immediately after posting my photos I was bombarded with emails from every scam artist and con-man on the internet, with offers to make me a star for a substantial fee. My finger went numb from hitting the delete button.
One day in early April 2009, another offer popped up on my computer screen. I automatically went for my delete button like Wyatt Earp drawing his pistol at the OK Corral. But something about this particular offer caught my eye and I hesitated. The email did not ask for money or make any “pie-in-the-sky” promises.
The email said:
“My name is Roberto, Italian-born Houston resident filmmaker… I have shot several award-winning short films… While writing the character of the man I was just thinking of someone with your looks. I have been browsing the web… and could not find anyone that would fit the character. Finally, I found you… You are PERFECT for the role: a man of few words… who would rather sit alone in the middle of the desert playing his guitar… A man who is a lone soul… If you are interested, call me and we can meet for coffee and discuss it.”
I checked out Mr. Roberto Minervini on the web and he was truly the real deal. He was, as he said, an award winning director and was looking for someone to play an ex-convict named Jack Hayes in his upcoming movie Marfa Red. We met for coffee near downtown Houston and the rest is history. Thankfully, Roberto was not looking for a trained actor. He said he preferred to use “natural actors” (untrained) whenever possible. In other words, instead of looking for an actor to build a character, Roberto was looking for a character that could be an actor. After a short interview, Roberto assured me that the part was mine. I was on cloud nine! Me, an actor? I was actually going to be in a movie and not just as an extra, I was going to be one of the main characters! Wow!
Over the next few weeks, I met numerous times with Roberto and his cinematographer Diego Romero, who was flown in from Spain. We scouted locations in and around Baytown, Liberty and Chambers counties for filming various scenes in those areas. I learned a new industry term: Location Scout – a person who is hired by the movie company to find and secure locations, permits and permission to be on certain property for filming. Roberto and Diego loved the industrial character and scenery around Baytown. With it’s refineries, oil fields, and the old buildings along Texas Avenue, they called it “cinematically beautiful”.
Learning to Speak/Act
I have been on stage and behind a mic most of my life either as a professional singer/entertainer, a radio DJ, or a Master of Ceremonies. I have made hundreds of presentations and speeches to various organizations. Each situation called for me to speak articulately and be able to project my voice in order to command attention and be heard over a crowd or a crowded room. As “Jack Hayes” a man of few words… I had to learn to be just the opposite. “Tone it down” they said, because (1) the sensitive movie recording equipment can hear a gnat piss on cotton at a hundred yards. And (2) Jack Hayes was a low-talking, quiet man of few words and chip on his shoulder. We went over the script and they coached me on how certain voice tones, facial expressions, pauses in conversation and body language would look on camera.
Roberto Minervini is from Italy, but has lived in the USA for nearly a decade. He and his American/lawyer wife, Denise, wrote the script in near perfect English. I asked him if I could translate my character’s dialog to Texas slang. For example, my ex-convict character would never say, “I have to use the restroom.” He’d say (in a Texas accent), “I gotta take a piss!” Wanting the movie to be as authentic as possible, Roberto agreed that I should “Texify” the lingo where ever possible.
I studied the script to learn how to become my character the way I had heard professional actors describe in interviews. It did not take long for me to absorb the essence of the part. I realized that throughout my life, I had known men like Jack Hayes on construction jobs, in bands I played in and as patrons in bars where I have performed – and, even a few distant relatives. I was able to draw from my associations with those real life characters. I soon began to understand why actors become very protective of their characters. You actually become your character and feel protective of that person like you would a member of your own family – like a twin. I was truly becoming “Jack”! It was a new experience for me.
In real life, I’m a fairly easy going guy who does attract much attention unless I have a guitar in my hand. But while still in character as Jack, I could walk in any public place and people would get out of the way. Everybody that is except the real-life “Jacks” who sized me up like any other outlaw who just stepped through the swinging doors of their saloon. I had to be careful ’cause they didn’t know I was an actor. I could have got my ass kicked in a couple of places.
Burying A Dead Deer
In the process of becoming protective of Jack’s character traits, there was a scene that I disagreed with and brought it to Roberto’s attention. That’s when I also began to understand why some actors are labeled “hard to deal with”. Was I becoming one of those? The scene I disagreed with was where Jack’s car hits a deer as he and his passenger, Ana, are driving in West Texas. Jack then buries the deer using a tire tool to dig a hole.
Roberto and I were discussing the scene over lunch at The Baytown Cafe in old Baytown when I explained to him, “no one buries a dead deer in Texas. Once you hit a deer, you try to get away from it because if it isn’t dead, it can hurt you. Then, you check for damage to your vehicle. A real outdoorsman may try to take the deer home or butcher it on the spot. Most people call 911 and/or just drive off and leave it.”
I explained that his desire to be authentic would be null and void and people would laugh and walk out of the movie theater if Jack tries to bury a deer because “it don’t happen in real life in Texas.”
Roberto still insisted that Jack should bury the deer. “I will make it a spiritual thing for the woman,” he said, “she will insist that Jack bury the deer because she believes it will bring bad luck just to leave it.”
Even though Roberto had created my character, I had now assumed the identity of “Jack”, and strange forces were taking over my thoughts and in defense of Jack, I replied, “Jack don’t give a shit about the woman’s religion. He’d tell her to bury it her own damn self! He would not bury a dead deer in the hard ground or in the blazing heat of West Texas under any circumstances! It’s not authentic, and it’s not believable. But – it’s your movie and we’ll do it any way you say.”
Sitting at the table next to us were five middle-age white guys who appeared to be construction contractors who probably worked at the nearby Exxon refinery. I told Roberto, “Follow me. We’re gonna do a survey.”
I stepped to the next table, interrupted the men’s lunch and explained that my friend was from Italy and asked them if they would help us settle a bet. I asked, “if any one of you guys hit a deer while traveling down the highway, would you take time to bury the deer?”
“FUCK NO!” came the unified response and explosion of laughter! They all started spouting off at once and Roberto and I were bombarded with comments like: “You don’t bury no fuckin’ deer in Texas boy!”… “If there’s anything left of it, you butcher the son-of-a-bitch!”… “You better hope your damn truck ain’t fucked up!”… “Better hope the sum-bitch don’t come through yer windshield, it’ll kill ya! If it’s still alive, it’ll stomp the shit outa ya and still kill ya!”… “Nobody buries a fuckin’ deer in Texas, boy, ‘less you trying to hid it from the Game Warden!” (Laughter all around).
Roberto looked at me with a surprised look and said, “they say what you say.”
“I rest my case,” I replied.
Weight & Wardrobe
Knowing that a camera will add ten to fifteen pounds, for the next month, I ate raw vegetables and drank green tea. I dropped from 176 pounds to 164 in a month. My goal was 160. Didn’t quite make it.
Denise, Joni and myself, went shopping for Jack’s wardrobe. We hit every resale shop in Houston looking for just the right look. It was difficult to draw the line between the where the Mean Gene look stops, and the Jack look starts. For continuity, I would have to wear the same clothes everyday of shooting. We got away from the Mean Gene cowboy/biker look and went straight for trailer park white trash.
Wardrobe hunting, script reading, rehearsals, location scouting and so on was all very exciting, but the music business has taught me to never count on anything – because things can change even at the very last minute. Right up to the day we started filming, I was always concerned that the phone would ring and I’d lose the part to someone else.
When an article appeared in The Houston Press announcing my participation in the Marfa Red, I figured I had it in the bag. I set aside the entire month of July and the first two weeks of August to film the movie. Soon after Roberto and I were interviewed by Jane Lee at the Baytown Sun newspaper, which solidified my role. Jane Lee wrote a great article about the project.
Meeting The Cast And Crew
On Sunday, July 5th, I attended a social get-together in downtown Houston where the cast, crew and staff all met each other for the first time.
It was there that I met the people I’d be working with, riding with, eating with, bunking with, and running from the cops with for the next month.
I also met the other three main actors. Pericles Mejia (pronounced “Para-kleez), a very debonair and suave Hispanic gentleman in his mid-sixties from the Dominican Republic. He was to play Arturo, an art gallery owner in Marfa, Texas. He had an accent like Ricardo Montalban. What a cool guy! He was like a Hispanic James Bond.
English playwright/director and veteran Shakespearean actor Alan Lyddiard, also about 60, was flown in from England to play the part of Harold, a slightly confused, down and out artist/writer who somehow got stranded in Fredericksburg, Texas some 20 years before.
The real movie star in Marfa Red is Soledad St. Hilaire, a sixty-ish Hispanic lady in from California who has appeared in over 50 major Hollywood movies and worked with many major actors and directors. She was to play the part of Ana, a lady suffering from the final stages of terminal cancer. I knew I was in the presence of greatness. She was a true star in every sense.
The filming of Marfa Red started a few days later with the first scenes filmed in and around Houston, Pasadena and Baytown.
I Could Get Used To This!
On Tuesday, July 7, I arrived at Dr. Carolyn Johnston’s office in Baytown to watch Soledad’s first scenes being filmed with Lawrence “Larry” Young, a Houston actor, playing the part as her doctor. I was immediately ushered into a conference room that had been set up as a hospitality room for the movie crew. The PA’s (production assistants), Sara and Jordan provided me with a seat and made sure I had plenty of food, bottled water or sodas. I was not used to being catered to like this.
Later, on location for an outdoor scene in Chambers County, it started to rain. The crew asked if they could put their gear in my van. Without hesitation, I opened the back doors and the crew handed me the gear while I placed things inside.
From out of nowhere Pericles spoke out in his wonderful Richardo Montalban accent, “wha-tar djou-wing?”
“Loadin’ gear,” I replied.
“You muzz let dese crew do dee werk! You, Sir, are ak-tor! Djou du not werk! Djou act!” he said raising one arm into the air like a bull fighter.
Hey! I been workin’ and loadin’ band gear all my life. This is nothin’. I’m not used to sittin’ ’round watchin’ somebody else work.”
“Preee-cizz-lee (precisely)! Dhat eezzz why djou will make a ga-rreat Jock (Jack)! Now, geet out-tove de wey ‘n let dese men load da ban (van).”
It was hard for me to get used to not doing anything whenever I would see the crew moving gear – but from then on, I had to get used to the fact that my only job was – saying my lines – not physical labor.
I also learned that scenes are more often than not, filmed out of sequence. Instead, they are filmed according to the time of day or night depending on the amount of outdoor light needed for a particular scene. Filming also depends on availability of permits, location clearances, weather conditions, traffic conditions, availability of actors and so on. You take what you can get, and do the best you can with what you have.
My First Scene
People ask me if I was nervous. Surprisingly not. I have been in front a camera many times in my life for many different reasons; I have appeared in cable TV commercials, music videos and have hosted my own Public Access music TV Show. So the camera itself did not bother me, it was just getting used to the distraction of a camera as big as a case of beer six inches from your face. You get used to it.
In my very first scene of my movie career, my character – Jack Hayes, fresh out of jail – rummages through a grocery store stealing and eating food off the shelves, and drinking beer straight out of the beer cooler. Why be nervous about that?
It was at least 100 degrees that July afternoon as we filmed a scene at a trailer park in Baytown where Jack goes to his Mother’s trailer to retrieve his hidden money and personal belongings. There was seven people in the tiny camp trailer: a cameraman, a camera assistant, a soundman, a soundman’s assistant, a director and two actors. With the front door open and the set lights on, it was at least 125 degrees in that little tin-can sauna! Our good friend DeLane Jones of La Porte, Texas did a fantastic job of playing Jack’s alcoholic mother.
At the end of the day, as the crew was wrapping up and stowing away gear, a neighbor pulled in the driveway and ran over one of the florescent light boxes, crushing it to pieces. A sign of things to come?
Terrorist? Who, me?
Roberto wanted to film Jack hitchhiking along a semi-rural highway with an industrial type of scenery in the background. I took the crew to a stretch of road near old Baytown with the Houston Ship Channel on one side and the Exxon Oil Refinery on the other. It was a “cinematically perfect” setting. As we started filming, we were suddenly surrounded by some sort of Exxon Refinery Anti-Terrorist Alert Security Team and the Baytown Police.
Apparently, Exxon did not appreciate us filming so close to their refinery. They demanded to see identification papers, driver’s licenses, etc. We explained that we were just making a movie that did not have anything to do with Exxon. They demanded to see the script. When I told the Commander I was Mean Gene Kelton from Baytown and would take full responsibility for bringing the crew to this location, she replied, “I know you! I’ve seen your band play!”
Upon hearing that I was in the music business, another member of the terrorist response team announced that he too had been in the music business as square dance caller. He immediately broke into a square dance call right there in the street. “Swang yer partner, do-ci-do, ’round the world and away we go… yeeee-hawww….!” We later joked about whether or not they let him carry a bullet in his shirt pocket. I’ll let you figure that one out.
The ice was broke and the tension was over. The law enforcers drove away content that we were not a threat to national security. Our soundman, Michael “Thor” Lengies, turned to me and said, “Man, if it weren’t for you, we’d all be in jail right now.”
On The Road
Within a couple of days, it was time to head out to West Texas. The Marfa Red wagon train was six cars long as we rolled west on I-10. A rented RV driven by Alan Hodson carried Roberto, his wife Denise, Co-Producer Grace Rodriguez (who was also in charge of all social media), and several members of the cast, crew, food, miscellaneous supplies and gear. The other vehicles also carried crew and gear. I insisted on driving my own van, because I had to be back in Houston to do a show with my band on Saturday, July 18. A lot of the gear was stowed in my van and PA Sara rode with me.
We all had walkie talkies. Judging from the chatter, you would have thought that we were six low-flying F-15s on a secret mission to strike a third world country. Each car was given a number according to our position in line, so that when our voices were heard, the other cars would know which car was we were. But things got crazy. It was hilarious!
“This is Marfa car Three, do you read me Marfa One? Over.”
“Marfa One. Copy. Over.”
“Marfa One, we need to take a pee break. Over.”
“Copy Marfa Three. Will advise on pee break. Over.”
“Marfa One, this is Marfa Five. From here it looks like Marfa Four is blowin’ smoke and might need oil and maybe some air in the right rear tire. Over.”
“Copy Marfa Three, I mean… Marfa Five. Marfa Four, did you copy smoke and rear tire? Over.”
“Uh… is that me? I mean like, yeah man… Roger that, Dude.”
“This is Marfa car One… Marfa Five… state your place in line first so we know who you are! Over!”
“Uh… yeah… OK Dude, this is Marfa Five, Man… and I hear you, Bro… anybody there? Hello?”
“Marfa Three to Marfa Two, Speed up. You’re lettin’ cars get in between us. Over.”
“Marfa One here, pee break next exit. Everybody stay together and move to the right hand lane. Prepare to exit. Over!”
…and that’s the way it went all the way to West Texas.
We arrived in Rocksprings around 9pm only to find that all the restaurants were closed and our rooms that had been promised to us at a small hotel had been given away to a birdwatching organization. Having been on the road with a band and responsible for other lives and appetites other than my own, I could sympathize with Roberto’s concerns for the cast and crew on our first night on the road.
With no place for nearly twenty people to stay, we drove another 25 miles out to the ranch where we were to shoot some scenes the next day. We turned off the blacktop road and drove down a narrow, dark, dirt road for about five miles. The white dust was so thick we could hardly see the taillights of the cars in front of us. Finally, we arrived at the ranch.
It was pitch dark at the ranch but that only made the billions of stars shining in the clear, moonless sky even more magnificent. You could almost touch them. The Milky Way looked like vanilla icing smeared across black velvet sprinkled with diamonds.
The PAs went about the task of building a large campfire to film an outdoor night scene while the camera and light crew prepared to shoot. From somewhere in the darkness, I heard the rhythmic and powerful sound of someone chopping wood with an ax with so much force I knew that whoever was doing it was no stranger to the task. It was Jeremiah Knupp, a young man about 30 years old. He and his photographer wife Holly were in from Virginia. Jeremiah turned out to be a real Daniel Boone and McGyver all rolled into one. He could chop wood, fix a car, repair technical equipment and get any job done and done right. Holly kept meticulous records and photographed each scene for continuity. The two of them were tough and were of true pioneer stock, the kind of folks who settled this country.
Soon, the fire was burning just right for the scene. We had been on the road since 10:30am. It was midnight and we had not eaten any dinner and had no place to sleep. Yet, we were about to film a scene. Wow! What a bunch of die hards! Just my kind of folks!
The lady who owned the ranch warned us about walking around and picking up sticks in the dark. “There are rattlesnakes here,” she said. “You should stay close to the fire and watch your step even in the daytime.”
After the scene, the crew, which consisted of men and women, all crashed in the one small bunkhouse. There was probably a dozen bunk beds in each of the two tiny bedrooms. Some slept in the RV.
Jeremiah and Holly, who proved to be tough survivalists, refused to sleep in the bunkhouse or the RV. Instead, they slept in a small tent they had brought with them. Didn’t they hear about the rattlesnakes?
We actors were put up in the main ranch house. It was a beautiful home that looked more like an Old West Museum. The owners did not use the house except for occasional vacations. The AC worked great and we all had our own room but the house did not have running water. That’s right! No running water! We had to walk down to the bunkhouse to shower. The PAs had to bring us several gallon jugs of water every morning to flush the toilets. It was a little inconvenient and somewhat embarrassing but what the hell… all part of a great adventure!
Soledad, being a Hollywood actress, was used to Hollywood sets where actors had their own trailers. She was not used to such a primitive situations without running water and having to wait in line for a community shower. For that matter…. none of us were, but she accepted the inconveniences with utmost grace and dignity. She was a real trooper.
The shoots during the daytime at the ranch were extremely hot. This was the first time I got a real good look at how everybody worked and how each job connected with the other. There was about twenty of us with the majority of the crew being under 30 years old. About four or five in were in their early to mi-thirties. Only Thor, Soledad, Pericles, Alan Lyddiard and myself were past fifty.
I was most impressed with the fact that everyone worked around the clock in the excruciating heat without a single complaint. No one tried to pawn their work load off on someone else. It was refreshing and inspiring to be in the company of so many young, spirited people who were actively involved in the process of pursuing their passion and making their dreams come true. If everyone on this planet worked with the same diligence and dedication to perfection as this young crew, the whole world would be a much better place.
After finishing scenes at the ranch, we drove to Del Rio on the Texas/Mexico border where I finally had cell service for the first time in several days. As our caravan then journeyed on toward Alpine in far West Texas, I called my wife to let her know I was alive and well.
Just west of Del Rio, we had to pass through a mandatory border check point where all vehicles are screened for illegal drugs and illegal aliens. Roberto had insisted that I allow one of the crew members to drive my van so I could be rested for my scenes. I was in the passenger seat and assistant soundman, Julian MacKenna, a likable kid about 22 years old, was driving as we entered the checkpoint. The other vehicles had already gone through without a problem when suddenly, one of those drug sniffing German Shepherds went ballistic and zeroed in on my van.
In a flash, we were surrounded by Border Patrol Officers who insisted we exit the vehicle. And they weren’t smiling! As soon as MacKenna and I were ushered away from the van and to a waiting area, the dog immediately quit barking. Rover climbed in the van but did not find anything. I noticed that the dog never made another sound as long as we were separated from the van.
I was interrogated by the Commanding Officer who repeatedly stated, “if you guys you have some marijuana for your own personal use, we don’t care. We’re after the big guys. You’ll save us all a lot of time if you just tell us what you have.”
I couldn’t believe he was actually insisting I confess to something I did not have. I don’t smoke dope and I don’t do drugs. Julian had told me earlier that he did not smoke either. We both knew that Roberto had a strict anti-drug and anti-alcohol policy so therefore I could not understand why the dog was hitting on my van. Looking past the check point, I could see that our caravan had pulled over and everybody was standing behind their cars watching us.
“Nothing!” I replied to the Commander. “I got nothing! I don’t do drugs! Not even prescription drugs! We are hauling movie gear and some things that belong to our crew. If somebody has something in their back pack or toolbox, I don’t know anything about it.” (I’m sure he has heard that before). Thank God, the dog did not find anything in the van and we were allowed to leave.
Climbing back in the van, the kid was so shook up he tried to start my van with his own personal car keys. “You have the wrong keys,” I said. He continued fumbling with his own keys and trying to shove the wrong key in the ignition. “YOU – HAVE – THE – WRONG – KEYS!” I said again very firmly. When he finally found the right key, his hands were shaking so bad that he could hardly put the key in the ignition. I was more pissed-off than shook up. The Border Patrol watched us suspiciously from behind their mirrored aviator sunglasses as we rolled away.
A our caravan got back on the road, Roberto called me on the walkie talkie and asked me why we were searched and was there anything we needed to talk about. I assured him everything was fine. He said, “good, because we still have another check point to go through.”
Later that same afternoon, we stopped to shoot a scene where Hwy 90 crosses the Pecos River. The heat was unbearable but the scenery was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, I could not appreciate the scenery because all I could think about was being searched and almost going to jail because somebody else chose to be stupid and put the entire movie project in jeopardy.
Roberto gave me permission to talk to the crew. I called the crew around and made a short speech saying that if anyone had anything stashed in their backpacks, suitcases or gear boxes in my van, please dispose of it discretely and no questions would be asked. If they didn’t (dispose of their goodies), we might not be so lucky at the next check point and they could sabotage Roberto’s entire project and we might all go to jail. I never heard another word about it.
Alpine and Marfa
There were no rooms in Marfa, so we all stayed in a small motel in Alpine, about 25 miles away, and drove back and forth to Marfa every day to shoot our scenes. I rode back and forth with a young assistant soundman about 25 years old named Chris Robleto. If they ever make a movie about my life, this kid will have to play me in my younger days.
One of the many things I learned about filming a movie is that it might take several hours for the crew to set up for a scene that will only take two minutes to film. Even filming as natural as we were, natural and artificial light had to be right. The set had to be “propped” with the right pictures on the wall, flower arrangements on the tables, burning candles and cigarettes had to be the same length for every scene. Care had to be taken as not to show reflections of the camera or crew in plate glass windows, auto glass, mirror reflections or wet surfaces.
While we actors waited to be called to do our scenes, we rehearsed our lines until we knew them back and forth. We exchanged life stories and got to know each other in the process. Pericles, Alan and Soledad treated me like family, coached me on my acting and advised me on the business of becoming a full-time, professional actor. While having lunch at the world famous Land Shark, a roach coach style food truck in Marfa, Pericles and Soledad took time to help me to translate one of my songs, “Tears On My Guitar” into Spanish. It sounds beautiful! It now sounds like somebody named Julio or Enrique should be singing it.
The city of Marfa is a small town but turned out to be a very eclectic, artsy little city complete with artists’ studios, art galleries, coffee shops, book stores and museums. Not at all what I expected to find in the middle of the desert. Apparently it is an oasis where artists come to paint their next masterpiece, writers come for the peaceful atmosphere so they can write their next bestseller, musicians come to compose and where other creative types like actors, new age thinkers, spiritual people and intergalactic aliens can find some peace among their equally free-thinking, artsy peers and privacy from the masses.
No one thought anything about another movie crew being in town. Big deal. It happens all the time. And… no one even raised an eyebrow when our Prop Car was driven through downtown in the middle of the afternoon with Julian Quiambao sitting on the hood of the car with a camera on his shoulder, and John Alcera sitting bobsled style behind him, holding on to him to keep him from falling in front of the moving car. It looked wild! Stunt driving 101. Wish I had gotten a photo.
One night, after a full day of filming in Marfa, the young guy driving the RV forgot that he needed at least ten feet of headroom to clear the top of the RV. Upon returning to the Alpine Motel, he drove under the overhanging carport at the front entrance and completely destroyed the roof mounted RV air conditioner as well as damaging the RV roof. The carport did not escape injury either. Within a couple of days, I never saw the driver or the RV again.
On of the main reasons we went to Marfa, Texas was to film scenes that included the world famous Marfa Lights. After all, the movie is called Marfa Red. I highly suggest that everyone google the Marfa Lights and read the history of this mysterious phenomenon. They have been called ghost lights and signals to UFOs.
It was midnight and pitch black as we arrived at the Marfa Lights viewing station. That did not stop our courageous crew, led by Jeremiah, from leaping over the guard rail and on to the pitch black, cactus covered desert floor to set up lights to film a scene. I just knew that someone was going to get bit by a rattlesnake that night.
Located right on the edge of Big Bend Country and across the Rio Grand River from Mexico, Presidio was 120 degrees every frickin’ day. The air was as hot as auto exhaust. A wall mounted thermometer read 100 degrees at 9pm when we walked out of the little restaurant next to our hotel.
Around midnight, we filmed my drunk driving scene. No rehearsal needed for this one. Been there, done that. I got to drive the prop car, a 1990 Crown Victoria. It’s the kind of car you’d buy a note lot for 50 bucks a week. It was the most beautiful piece of shit you ever saw. It was a perfect car for my character, Jack Hayes. The damn thing had a big gas sucking engine with a deep voice and ran like a bat outta hell! It was in dire need of a paint job. The copper/bronze color had faded to a dull, turd brown. The shocks were bad, it smoked, the vinyl roof was peeling off and it was covered with whiskey bumps. I loved that car! Jeremiah and Holly had driven the car from Houston all the way to Presidio in over 100+ degree heat with no AC! I told you they were tough!
I drove the prop car around Presidio in the middle of the night with five people in the car. Diego was on the passenger side front seat on his knees holding the camera on me. Roberto, Thor and assistant cameraman Julian Quiambao were in the back.
I was swerving all over the road singing senseless songs, screaming out the window and ad-libbing my dialogue. My previous experience as a former drunk driving kicked in. I was concerned that we’d get pulled over by the local cops who would not believe I was really sober and not think it was funny that we were “stunt driving” in their fair city. But somehow, we got through it without another encounter with the law.
Lost In The Desert
We had not only lost the damaged RV which Roberto sent back to Houston, but several members of the crew as well due to lack of transportation space. Pericles, who had finished all his scenes, went back to Houston in the RV. We were down to four vehicles, the prop car, my one-ton Dodge Ram cargo van and two little “soccer-mom” mini-vans that had to carry the remaining crew, three actors, supplies, food, water and gear.
I had been reminding Roberto throughout our entire trip that I had to leave early on Friday, July 17 in order to make the drive back to Houston to perform at a bike rally in Conroe on Saturday, July 18th.
For that reason, Friday morning, July 17, began with the intention of being a short day. We drove some 20 miles out of Presidio toward Big Bend National Park and turned off on a dirt road where a sign read, Big Bend Ranch Ranger Station: 27 miles. That meant 27 miles of partially maintained dirt road through raw, undeveloped desert as untouched as it was when only the Apache Indians lived there in the 1800s. In the two mini-vans, one old, delapidated Crown Vic and my Dodge Ram van, we “off-roaded” across the desert, through washed out gully’s and dried up creek beds.
Not one of us had any idea where we were going. Apparently, Roberto was looking for good background scenery on a road that had not been scouted. Five miles down the road, we stopped to shoot some driving scenes. It was around 10am and the heat was already unbearable. We then crawled at about 10mph on the rough terrain for another five miles. The furthur we traveled, the rougher the road became.
I was driving the Crown Vic which had about six inches of ground clearance. Every time we crossed a bumpy spot, soft gravel or a washed out creek bed, the bottom would drag the ground. I told Roberto that if he continued to push the old car down this road, we were going to rip off the oil pan or tear out the transmission. Then all we could do would be to leave the old car there to rot.
That’s when we discovered that Diego’s expensive light meter, which was no bigger than a pack of cigarettes, was missing. It must have been set on the rear of the car and fell off when we drove away from the previous filming location some five miles back.
John Alcera, was sent back to the previous location in my van to search for it. Jeremiah, Holly and Denise, were sent on ahead to scout the Ranger Station, still some 17 miles furthur down the road.
We decided to wait at the ten mile mark for everyone to return. There was no cell service and the walkie talkies were only good for about a mile. We were cut off from the outside world and from John and Denise’s vehicles as well.
While waiting for the other vehicles to return, Roberto and Diego walked around in the desert looking for a good spot to shoot a scene. I reminded them that there were rattlesnakes, scorpions, poisonous lizards and Javelina (wild hogs that will attack humans) in the area and we had no cell service if someone got hurt. They were too involved in their discussion about scenes and did not seem interested in my safety concerns.
A couple hours passed. Neither my van, nor the mini-van carrying Jeremiah, Holly and Denise had returned. John’s trip in my van should not have taken over 3o minutes. All our drinking water was my Dodge van! I remember thinking that we were all gonna die here, down this isolated road, in the desert of heat stroke, snake bite or lack of water just like in an old western movie. I could visualize the headlines: “MOVIE CREW MYSTERIOUSLY VANISHES IN DESERT WHILE FILMING MOVIE”!
About that time, a Texas Park Ranger pulled up and asked what were we doing down this road. Roberto explained our situation and reason for being there. The Ranger replied, “it maybe only 17 miles to the Ranger Station but that’s still over an hour and a half trip on this rough terrain, even in a good truck! It’s is too rough for regular street vehicles. You’ll tear ‘em for sure! Only dirt bikes, four-wheel drive and off-road vehicles can travel this road. We have to rescue people like you out here all the time!”
I asked the Ranger if he’d seen my white Dodge Ram van. “Nope, ain’t seen no white van,” came the Ranger’s final reply.
Knowing that there were hundreds of little cutoff roads in the desert and they all looked the same, it was obvious that John was lost in the desert – in my van – and he was carrying all the water! I knew he had plenty of food, water and a tank full of gas and would be OK and eventually find his way back. But in the meantime, what about us?
Roberto, on the other hand seemed to grow extremely upset and agitated. All the pressure of the moment was crashing down on him. We had been working 18 hours a day, seven days a week. We had lost the RV a few days before due to a crash which was going to cost him a lot of money. Diego’s expensive light meter was left on the road five miles back. We had no form of communication. No cell service. The walkie talkies were useless. John was lost in the desert in my van. We were stranded without any water and the rising heat that could easily cause heat stroke. We could not not leave our position for fear of missing the returning members of the crew. Denise’s mini-van was long over due from the Ranger Station. We had no way of knowing their location or condition!
I could hear the desperation in Roberto’s voice when he blurted, “what if they are broke down? What if they need our help? We’ve got no phones!” There was nothing we could do but wait. Fortunately, within the hour everyone returned. Roberto calmed down. The crew got a good drink, and all was well for the moment. We regrouped, crawled ten miles back to the paved highway then drove another thirty miles into into Big Bend Country.
Big Bend Country
We arrived in Big Bend Country in early afternoon. The scenery was beautiful. Majestic! The mountains were magnificent. The Rio Grand River looked like a tiny, shiny ribbon far below the winding mountain road we traveled. It took all afternoon to film several non-speaking scenes in the blazing sun and blistering 120 degree heat.
One scene called for Ana, Harold and Jack to go swimming in the Rio Grand River. My biggest concern was swimming in nasty, murky water that I figured included everything that got dumped in or flushed down the toilet all the way back to El Paso. I should have got myself a Tetanus shot after it was over. There was much debate about us all going swimming naked. You’ll just have to see the movie to find out.
Again, I was most impressed with our daring and courageous film crew. The bottom of the the river was soggy and slick as owl shit, but Diego placed the thirty thousand dollar camera on his shoulder and waded in up to his chest. He could have slipped or stepped in a drop-off at any moment, but several crew members had a firm hold on him and the camera. As nasty as the water was, it was still a refreshing escape from the agonizing heat.
We finished the river scene just as the sun was setting, and headed back to our hotel in Presidio – now nearly fifty miles away. I drove the old Crown Vic with Roberto and a couple of crew members riding with me. The old land barge handled like a low flying B-52 Bomber through the winding hills. Every time we hit a dip, the rear bumper would hit the pavement and throw sparks into the air. Yeeee-Haaaaw! Look out Duke Boys… here we come!
We arrived back in Presidio around 9pm exhausted from a long, hot day. I still had no choice but to load up and make the fourteen hour drive to my home in Baytown (thirty miles East of Houston) in order to get back in time to perform at the Space City Bike Fest in Conroe the very next night!
Is That Marfa Lights? No!… Cops!
It was decided that a member of the crew, a beautiful, young lady named Maidelys (pronounced my-dell-leez), who just happened to live in Baytown, would ride back with me. We left Presidio at 11pm and headed for our first stop at Fort Stockston on Interstate 10, a three hour drive to the north. Maidelys, poor little thing, was so tired from an exhausting day in the heat that she was out like a light before we left the Presidio city limits. She didn’t even wake up when we went through a border patrol checkpoint just south of Marfa. Thank God the border patrol did not give me any trouble this time.
We rolled into Marfa about midnight. Out of nowhere, flashing lights appeared behind me. Not the famous Marfa Lights but the Texas State Highway Patrol! I was being pulled over!
I woke Maidelys and pulled over. The officer asked me to step to the rear of the van where he asked for my driver’s licenses, proof of insurance and interrogated me about why I was coming through Marfa at midnight. I explained who we were, why we were there and so on. He opened the passenger side door to get a look at Maidelys.
He took one look at her, saw how young and innocent she looked, and turned a very suspicious eye toward me. He interrogated her as well. Our stories matched. Then he asked her if she went to high school in Baytown. “High School!” she retorted as if he had insulted by his question. “I’m twenty-four years old!” she snapped as she shoved her drivers licenses in the officer’s hand. Seeing that she was “of age”, he returned her driver’s licenses to her and let us go.
As we drove away, Maidelys seemed miffed that the officer had the nerve to ask if she was still in high school. “That’s ’cause you look 16,” I said. “I’m 56, you look 16, it’s midnight! What do you think was his first thought? Thank God you had your driver’s licenses or I’d be in jail right now!”
“Oh!” she replied with a somewhat surprised and slightly embarrassed look. “Look at it this way,” I said, “at least the guy was doing his job.” She agreed. Within a couple of minutes, she was fast asleep.
Ten on Ten
We reached I-10 around 2am. I had been awake for 20 hours and could no longer keep my eyes open. I pulled into a motel parking lot in Fort Stockton, backed into an empty parking space between two cars, let my seat back and dropped dead asleep.
The sound of a metal chain banging against a metal flag pole woke me from a sound sleep about an hour later. A raging wind was blowing a storm in across the desert with a magnificent lightning show. I was suddenly wide awake. The short nap had re-energized me. Maidelys was still fast asleep. The banging of the chain did not rouse her at all. With a ten hour drive still ahead of us, I hit I-10 with a vengeance and drove into the storm.
Around 4:30am we stopped for gas in Ozona. Maidelys offered to drive even though she had never driven anything as big as my one-ton cargo van. I told her, “it’s easy, just point and push.” Noticing her puzzled look at my abbreviated statement I said, “point it to the east and push on the gas pedal. Then all ya gotta do is keep it ‘tween the ditches.” At first, she seemed a little intimidated by the large vehicle, and wouldn’t go over fifty miles an hour. Semi-trucks were passing us like we were sitting still. The last thing I remember saying before I passed out was “either kick in the ass or get hit in the ass.”
When I woke up, it was daylight and she was doing 75 mph, and handling the van like a pro! I was really proud of her. From then on every time we stopped, she insisted on driving. She is one tough little gal!
At 12:30pm, thirteen and one-half hours after we left Presidio, I dropped Maidelys off at her house in Baytown. I went home, crashed and slept about four hours. Later that night, the band and I played the the Space City Bike Fest in Conroe, Texas.
Die Hards In The Movies! A Promise Kept!
The next day, Sunday, July 19th, was one of the proudest days of my life. It had been three years since I had promised my band that I was going to get us all a part in a movie. That promise was manifested that day when our drummer, Ted McCumber and bass player, Wolff DeLong were included in the scenes! Ted played a biker just hanging out at a BBQ while Wolff did a great job in his speaking role as my best friend. The scen was filmed at the auto storage lot of Sammy’s Towing in Baytown, Texas owned by my old friend, Sammy Mahan.
The day was made even more special because my two sons, Jamie and Sid as well as my grandson Conner, (Jamie’s son) were included in scenes with me. It was one of the best days of my professional life.
Other good friends in the scenes that day were some of my biker buddies Lonnie “Starman” Loehr, “Preacher” and Bucky “Two Notes” Bishop. Stacy “Butterfly” Davis did a fantastic job as Wolff’s girlfriend. She only had one line but she nailed it like a sledgehammer.
High In The Cane
The rest of the month was non-stop and hectic. The crew hit the road again and while traveling in south Texas, we passed hundreds of acres of cane fields. We pulled over and shot some scenes of Ana, Harold and Jack getting high on Ana’s morphine and wondering around lost and stoned through the cane. It was a powerful scene. I can’t wait to see how this scene looks on screen.
Off To See The Healer
One of Soledad’s scene’s called for her character, Ana, to visit a Faith Healer to try to heal her of cancer. In an an effort to be authentic, Roberto found a real, practicing Faith Healer in Edinburg near Brownsville.
Being that we would be again very near the Mexican border, I was concerned about the safety of our cast, crew, equipment and vehicles. At a pit stop, I called Jeremiah to the side and asked him if the Healer’s location had been scouted for safety purposes. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say he did not know.
I expressed my concerns about taking our crew into an un-scouted location. What kind of neighborhood would we be going to? What kind of people would we encounter? Will the Healer be in a strip-mall, an old church or a roadside building like a palm reader? Would we be going to Mexican ghetto where people lived in rusted out cars and cardboard shacks? Would there be Mexican gang-bangers lurking around with their eyes on the young women in our crew, vehicles and expensive movie gear? I felt that my concerns were legitimate after all, people get kidnapped along the Mexican border all the time. Soledad herself, was a well known Hollywood actress in the Hispanic community. Kidnappers, hearing that a Hollywood actress in their midst might think she was worth a lot of money.
Apparently, the Healer’s location had not been scouted and we were just going to show up out of the blue and take our chances. Jeremiah, did not seem affected by the possible dangers I described and looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was over reacting – but I have seen some serious shit go down in my life in the music business when the band and I had to fight our way out of a couple of “pasture parties”. Since the Healer’s area had not been scouted, there was plenty of reason for me to be concerned.
The next morning, Roberto said he was finished with Alan and me and we could leave early and head back to Houston. I chose to remain to watch the Healer scene being filmed. After making such a big deal about safety concerns, I’d feel like a chicken shit if I abandoned my friends and then something happened without me being there to help.
I told Soledad that if things got weird, jump in the van. I’ve got enough horses under the hood to plow our way out of anything.
After getting lost on the back roads and making numerous wrong turns, our caravan finally reached the Healer’s house. I was pleasantly relieved to see that the Healer’s home was in a very nice, semi-rural neighborhood on a paved road.
The Healer and his family lived in a very nice house inside a fenced area of about three acres . There were many smaller buildings scattered around the property that had been turned into shrines filled with candles, religious items and paintings of religious scenes. Apparently, these small buildings was where healing rituals were performed. The grounds were dotted with statues of Jesus, Mother Mary, and plastic dolls of dead Saints. Christmas lights and religious items hung from the many large shade trees like charms to ward off evil spirits.
Again, I was pleasantly relieved when the Healer and his family turned out to be wonderful, charming people who graciously invited us into their home for a meal of Menudo and hot coffee. I did not care much for the Menudo but the strong Mexican coffee was great!
The Healer was a Hispanic man about 70 years old who believed he was the reincarnation of another spiritual healer who lived back in the 1800’s. I was not a part of that scenes that day but stayed close to watch.
As the camera rolled, we were all fascinated as he fell into a deep trance and performed his healing ritual on Ana. Only trouble was… his trance was not act! Weird voices emitted from him. When Roberto yelled “cut”, the spirits, that had apparently taken over the Healer’s mind and body, refused to comply with the command and the Healer continued his ritual on Soledad. Soledad turned to one of the Healer’s assistants and asked, “doesn’t he know what cut means?” They told her that whenever he is in a trance, he can’t just snap out of it at will, but when he does, he will be exhausted for the rest of the day.
A few days later, we were filming some driving scenes on a country backroad near Fredericksburg when a local Sheriff’s Deputy pulled up behind us. I was driving, Soledad was on the passenger side and Alan was in the back. The raggedy old car and the way we were dressed made us all look like suspicious characters. He turned on his lights. I raced on until I reached the safety of our camera crew waiting for us beside the road about a quarter mile ahead. I figured I’d let Roberto get us out of trouble if need be. After all, I did not know if the old car was insured or properly registered.
Alan, being from England, did not know to stay in the car when getting pulled over. He opened the door to step out. “Stay in the the car!” yelled Soledad. “Why”, asked Alan. “Because this is Texas and he’ll shoot your ass!” she replied. Alan jumped back in and slammed the door.
We answered the usual questions from the officer. My answers seemed to satisfy him since we were parked where he could see the camera crew. At the end of the interview, he asked Alan, “Sir, is there any reason you were going to get out of the car?”
“I’m from England”, he said leaning into his strong English accent, “I didn’t know I was supposed to stay in the car.” With that answer, the officer bid us a good day and left. That was about the fifth time I had personally encountered the law on this project.
Speaking Of Cops
Earlier in this story, I said I was never nervous. Well, I was once. It was when we filmed a scene where Jack gets released from jail.
The scene was filmed in Richmond, Texas. Diego teased me for days with the usual jailhouse jokes saying in order to be authentic, I would be filmed in a cell with real inmates. The last thing I wanted was to be in a cell with other inmates, even trustees. Having been through the experience several times in real life, I was nearly petrified at the thought of having to do it again, even if it was for a movie. I had to put on a jailhouse jumpsuit, be handcuffed and locked in a cell by a guard as big as a house. I insisted that someone with the crew stay close to me at all times while wearing the jumpsuit around the jailhouse so that the other policemen would not confuse me with the real inmates. I was glad when that scene was over.
Jack Wants To Get Laid!
Throughout the filming of Marfa Red, I petitioned Roberto to write in a scene where Jack gets laid. “This is not that kind of movie,” he argued. I persisted. “You’ve got Jack drivin’ all over Texas and doing everything except the very first thing on a man’s mind after two years in jail! So how ’bout it? You want authenticity don’t you?”
Finally, he reluctantly agreed, but said it had to be more implied than an actual graphic scene. “No problem,” I said. “Just so the audience knows that Jack is a real man and does what real men do.”
Again I was looking out for my character.
So in order to relieve Jack of his pent-up sexual frustrations, we covertly filmed Jack entering an Asian massage parlor in Houston. What happened you may ask? You’ll just have to see the movie.
Are Those Real Tears?
In one scene, Harold and Jack are sitting in a small room sharing personal information about their lives. Although I was mostly ad-libbing my lines, Roberto wanted Jack to talk about his young son that he is not allowed to see. When the camera started rolling, memories of when my own sons were small and the times was when I was not allowed to see them suddenly flooded my brain. I had somehow unearthed the same old pain I felt twenty five years ago. My lips began to quiver and I felt tears welling up as if I was back in those desperate times. I was surprised to hear my own voice began to crack. I found myself trying to hold myself together and keep from really crying right there on camera. I could not believe that I had reached so deep in the well and awakened those painful feelings. That day I learned that this is what being a true actor is all about. Digging deep – into your own soul – and making it real.
When the scene was over, the room fell dead silent. Nobody said a word. I sat gritting my teeth and feeling spent. Finally a couple of the crew members patted me on the shoulder, smiled and said, “good job.”
Who knows, maybe I should have let the real tears flow. Michael Landon would have been proud.
Ay Caw Po-Weese
At most of the places where we showed up unexpectedly to film some impromptu scene that Roberto had just written, most people were very excited about the fact that a movie crew had suddenly landed in their midst like a UFO. People would gather and watch us from a distance with great curiosity. We were well received in most places, and most businesses were anxious to sign a release form giving us permission to film on their property – believing it was it was a chance to get their business in a movie.
When we were scouting for just the right pay phone for Jack to make a late night phone call, we checked out about a dozen pay phone locations in Baytown. At a convenience store, the Asian lady behind the counter, who could not understand nor speak English, became confused about our intentions. At first she said, “Yeah, yeah, is Okaaaay.”
But when a dozen of us climbed out of our vehicles and the crew pulled out the camera, she went frickin’ ballistic! She started screaming and yelling at the top of her lungs in her broken English/Asian accent, “Go-waaay! Go-waaay! No be heee-ah! Ay caw po-weese! Ay caw po-weese!” (Translation: “Go way. No be here. I call police). The store’s customers scattered, believing all hell was breaking loose. I thought I’d mess with the old gal a little and go in and buy a cold drink. But when I tried to enter the store, she blocked the door, held on to the door handle and continued screaming, “Go-waaay! Ay caw po-weese!”
The Pay Phone Scene
After two days (and nights) of searching for just the right location, we finally found a pay phone that fit the scene, and one where we did not get run off. But every time we started to film the scene, a low-rider car with a boom-boom sound system would pull up, and we’d have to wait. Then a train went by. Then all the folks in the beer joint across the street got wind that we were filming a movie, and stood on the corner heckling us all night.
Finally, the situation was right and we were ready. The scene called for Jack to be in a heated conversation with his ex-wife who refused to let him talk to his young son. Jack becomes furious and goes into a rage, with nothing but a pay phone take out his frustrations on. That’s a hell of a lot of acting for a novice actor! I was up to the challenge. Every time I thought about the scene, it upset me so much that I tried not to think about it, until time to do the scene for real.
It upset me because I had to once again reach into the well of my darkest experiences, and pull out old memories of when my first wife and I were fighting over my sons. She is the only woman in the world that ever had the natural ability to drive me into a blind rage with her razor sharp tongue. In fact, in those days she used to call me the Incredible Hulk because her relentless barrage of vicious insults would cause me to to kick doors off their hinges, smash my guitars against the walls and drive my truck through ditches like a bat out of hell.
That’s the way Jack had to be at the pay phone: in a maniacal rage! When Roberto called “ACTION”, I drank from the well and was immediately transported twenty five years back in time where once again – like in a dream sequence – I saw myself in one of the hundreds of screaming matches I had with my first wife over child support, visitation and custody. It was all too frickin’ real! Screaming into the phone, I swear I could still hear her voice on the other end driving me to the brink of frenzy. I literally went into a rage like I have not done in nearly three decades.
When the scene was over, I was sweating profusely, gasping for breath and my heart was about to jump out of my chest. My hands were trembling and once again I could feel tears welling up inside. I’m sure my blood pressure was sky high, and I don’t have blood pressure problems. Knowing I was deeply affected by the performance, Joni kept her distance until I calmed down. The crew also seemed to know it was not a good time to make small talk. I truly felt like I just had a fight with my first ex-wife!
I had no idea that playing a part could be so emotionally draining and physically exhausting. I learned that when you breath life into a character, and give that character your image, your voice, and the benefit of your memories and experiences, you become connected as if that character is your alter ego. No wonder actors get so protective of their character.
That’s A Wrap!
From start to finish, I logged over 4000 miles in 30 days traveling from the greater Houston area to Bownsville, Fredericksburg, Del Rio, Marfa, Alpine, Presidio, Big Bend Country and points in between.
Through the years, the city of Baytown has been the location for several movies. John Wayne filmed “The Hellfighters” in Baytown. Some scenes in Robo Cop II were filmed on Baytown’s world famous Texas Avenue. Before it was over, Marfa Red ended up filming at many Baytown locations including Rooster’s Restaurant, The Texas Billiard Parlor, Bay Oaks Harbor, The Baytown Cafe, Baytown RV Park, Sammy ’s Towing, The Quality Inn, Dr. Caroline Johnston’s office and various outdoor locations in old Baytown, Pelly and Evergreen Road. My house was drafted as a set when Roberto needed to shoot some kitchen scenes of Harold getting ready for his trek to Marfa. Our good friend, Celine Garrett just happened to be at my house that day and was cast as Harold’s landlady.
Throughout the experience, I was honored to work with some world class, internationally acclaimed actors who took me under their wing and taught me a few things about acting, as well as the business of acting.
I was equally honored to work with a world class crew: the young men and women who worked as cameramen, soundmen, production assistants, director’s assistants and so on… everybody busted ass! Most of them had already put themselves through an expensive film school to learn their trade. Everybody did their job and worked long, hard, hours in the the blazing west Texas July heat and never uttered a single discouraging word. I was impressed and inspired by one and all.
I would like say thank you to Director/Producer Roberto Minervini, and his lovely Assistant Producer/Writer wife, Denise; and all the members of the great cast and great crew for having the faith in my ability to become Jack and allowing me, a novice untrained actor, a fantastic opportunity to work with them in Marfa Red.
Though I never pursued a career as an actor, playing the part of Jack in Marfa Red was a dream come true. Like I said earlier, it did not happen by accident. Just like a fisherman does not catch a fish by accident, he prepares himself and his gear for his intended goal. We baited our hooks by posting songs and photos on the internet, and look what happened. Preparation crossed paths with opportunity. If there is a moral to this story it’s this: Never, never, never give up on your dreams. Do something everyday to prepare yourself for whatever it is you want in your life… and if you don’t find it … it will find you. trust me, it will happen.
Now that I have had a taste of the magic of the movie industry, I’m hooked! But in the meantime, until the next big movie adventure comes along, I’m ready to get back to playing music and rockin’ the Blues with Wolff and Ted! Please see our band schedule for Mean Gene Kelton & The Die Hards at meangenerocks.com, where you can also receive up-to-the-minute email updates by subscribing to our free weekly newsletter. Until then, I’ll see you on twitter, Facebook, my website… and on the road.
Keep on Rockin’.
Mean Gene Kelton