Our Leading Lady’s Lip

When a dog in Mexico ripped off the top lip of our leading lady a few months ago, it wasn’t pretty.

Jacki Arnold Rexford, my niece, plays the leading lady Harriet in our documentary film. I asked her on a whim to try dressing up and see if the camera work we would do around trains that day would also look realistic with a period actress. Jacki walked up while we were at the Railroad Museum that morning and took our breath away. She was perfect.

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Not only that, she is incredibly photogenic and has great presence in front of the camera. She is one of those classic actor/actress types (I directed a bunch of them when I headed up the dramatic productions at Covenant College) who is quite low key in real life, but when given the opportunity comes alive in a performance. (Conversely, the happy chatty types are usually not good at acting.)

Jacki graduated from Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan and moved here with her husband Caleb who works with Fancy Rhino video company. She is a homemaker in their East Lake fixer upper and one of her current of a multitude of talents and activities is fermenting and pickling whatever she can get her hands on.

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One of the shots of Jacki in the train car was so perfect, we used it for the key image and poster for the entire project. Her green eye matches the green background, and her prominent pouty lip adds intrigue to the title, “Harriet’s Secret.”

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Oh, yeah, the lip. So my beautiful niece and her husband Caleb take a quick jaunt to see a friend in Mexico about a month after we finished shooting. As they are eating, his dog comes under the table towards Jacki, somehow gets riled up and leaps up at her and bites her twice in the face. It all happened in a split second. There was blood and an obvious need to head to the emergency room immediately.

Waiting to heal.
Waiting to heal.

Caleb kept telling Jacki it was going to be fine. Meanwhile, Caleb’s friend was in the back seat holding the middle part of Jacki’s upper lip in a jar. He had found it on the ground right after the incident.

Thankfully, the plastic surgery industry in Mexico is pretty darn good. Apparently, a lot of Americans travel to Mexico for those operations. She spent a couple days in the hospital, the docs did their magic, and all I know to tell you is that today she looks exactly the same. She is as beautiful as she ever was. Thank God.

One of Caleb and Jacki's many fun pics and poses.
One of Caleb and Jacki’s many fun pics and poses.

You can see some of Jacki’s great acting in this trailer. I’m so glad to have her as part of the team and the cast.

P.S. 11 days to go. We had four new donors yesterday to reach $2,921. Help us reach $3,000 today! Give at the Kickstarter site here: http://kck.st/1jxKoL5


What’s the End Game?

Give to kickstarter campaign here: http://kck.st/1jxKoL5 or by check here: http://bit.ly/1hilP8u

So how will you distribute your film? What’s the end game?

I get that question a lot. Sure, it can be a little unnerving when the bottom line answer is, “I’m not really sure.” But I have confidence good things will happen.

As an author, I have never had a “publisher” publish one of my books. I have hundreds of rejection letters to prove I gave it a serious college try. So, my books have been self published. A few have done little, and a couple of them have done really well. One of them, “Old Money New South” about Chattanooga history, was the best selling book of all books at the local Barnes and Noble for one month. It was the best selling book of the year for a local downtown bookseller.
So, by intuition and experience, I know you can do the “build it and they will come” thing for creative media projects. I gave up long ago waiting for some atheist magnate in New York to give me permission to write or film something.

But, to answer the initial question: we will have a cool premiere of the movie in Chattanooga. Details to be announced. We will enter the film into several film festivals. I am confident we will get selected somewhere, although it may not be Cannes or Sundance. (I will try, though!)

We will put it on NetFlix. There is a way to do that, although it’s difficult to find just surfing around. If the project continues gaining traction and is well-received, we will submit it to various cable channels and see if one of them is interested in picking it up. If the general market has an interest (see my previous blog Sex sells), when we can sell it on the DVD market or on demand. Eventually, it will be available for everyone on YouTube.

One thing we have going for us is that the film is good. Each day of editing, I get excited about how it is all coming together. So, while being connected and having super duper marketing strategies are all important, they pale in comparison to having a first rate product. So I’m hopeful. See you at the box office.

12 days to go for the Kickstarter campaign. Please spread the word! Thanks.

Give to kickstarter campaign here: http://kck.st/1jxKoL5 or by check here: http://bit.ly/1hilP8u

Sex sells

Give to kickstarter campaign here: http://kck.st/1jxKoL5 or by check here: http://bit.ly/1hilP8u

I’ve decided to start blogging again as I make this film.

The first topic to choose was a no-brainer. My documentary deals a good bit with the topic of sex, and sex sells. It even sells blog posts.

“My great grandparents advocated for communism and free sex in the 1910s and 20s.” That’s the soundbite I use to describe this major documentary I am creating. It always works. Sex sells.
Percy and Harriet straw hat

Percy and Harriet espoused what they called “free love,” along with socialism and atheism, at the turn of the century, even though Harriet was a circumspect Christian from a strong religious family when she first met Percy on a train in 1893.

This was all way before the hippies’ sexual revolution of the 1960s. And the 60s wasn’t a gradual thing. The effort of the Progressives like my great grandparents died rather suddenly with the emergence of World War II. First, I’m guessing, because too much was at stake on a world level to be jacking around back home on moral issues. (Reminds me of the rugby team guys in South America whose plane crashed in the mountains for months. They said there were never any dirty jokes or swear words spoken—they needed God’s help too much.)

The second reason was the exposing of eugenics. Americans were dabbling in it, but the Nazis were deep into human breeding and gene selection, selecting males over females, lighter over darker, and all the things that come along with acting like God.

Margaret Sanger
Margaret Sanger

The Progressives, like Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, the largest performer of abortions in the world (and a buddy of my great grandparents), were deep into eugenics. “More children for the fit, less for the unfit” was on the masthead of Sanger’s birth control newsletter. I’m guessing that this association with eugenics was part of the reason the sexual views of the Progressives were also left behind for a “Father Knows Best” era until the 60s came along.
It’s pretty clear my great grandfather was running around with lots of young girls. He was a gynecologist in Hollywood, an abortionist (possibly handy on a personal level), and lived next door to the “Denishawn Dancers,” a world class dance troupe. These girls hung out all day at the house (and at night, too, I imagine), and their daughter ends up writing a lot about it in her journal decades later. That’s how we know all about it.

Percy flirts with a Denishawn Dancer (film footage).
Percy flirts with a Denishawn Dancer (film footage).

It’s pretty normal for a cad to run around with various women. But I regularly get asked, “Do you think your great grandmother was sleeping around?”

I have no way of knowing for sure, but I suspect she did not. Her quotes from the journal seem to espouse a kind of high minded “Free Love” that one should be open to for making the world more open. Did she experiment a little here and there? Don’t know. I would think probably a few times to fit in with her radical crowd. But her ultimate reaction to Percy’s philandering—extreme jealousy and depression—indicates to me that she never personally embraced the lifestyle.

Harriet watches from behind. (Film footage)
Harriet watches from behind. (Film footage)

How it all pans out is the point of the documentary, so I will leave a little bit unsaid to keep you on your seat. But one of the points, I think, is a reminder that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Think you or your parents are sexual progressives? Ummm . . . someone’s already been there, done that. And it’s a lot more complicated than you think.

Give to kickstarter campaign here: http://kck.st/1jxKoL5 or by check here: http://bit.ly/1hilP8u