2004 Retrospective – part 1

Where did 2004 go? You know, it was here one minute, gone the next. Asking myself this limp Cartlandesque question, I think it would be a good idea to write a list. And check it twice.


Jan 10th: Laura and I were married. Lots of my friends came out from the UK, plus my sister and her family and one of my cousins. It was great to see them all and it was a beautiful day. The service was lovely, with guitarist Jake Reichbart providing the musical accompaniment, plus Laura’s dad playing piano, Laura’s sister singing and a reading from my sister. Our wedding lunch at Weber’s was really good and staying at the Bell Tower Hotel was excellent. The best bit was probably the evening reception at Arbor Brewing. That, and Laura.

Right before the wedding, like three days before, Dolphin Movers–the UK shipping company–finally turned up with all my stuff from the UK. That’s all my stuff with the notable exception of my paintings. The only really irreplaceable things of real value and they’d lost them. I was unhappy. In the end, I had to file an insurance claim. The money came through–eventually–and I bought a set of lights. I could have bought a camera but the semi-pro models go out of date every six-nine months, so lights it was.

January was also the month when I ordered new spectacles. They didn’t make it in time for the wedding. In fact, I had to take them back three times because the Opticians made up a prescription which gave me headaches. Eventually they got it right and I have cool glasses. With clip-on shades. Dude.

Jan 13th, we went to the Auto Show in Detroit. Jan 14th, I sent in a job application for teaching at the UofM. Nothing ever came of this because, as I found out later, they gave the post to someone internal. However, I did get personal references sent from the UK, including ones from Peter Wilson-Leary at the Watford Observer and Mike Wright at BBC TV Training, which were both great. Those may yet come in useful.

On January 17th, or maybe it was the 18th, we decided we’d like to look at maybe buying a house. Perhaps. So on January 21st we met with Jonathan Boyd, a buyer’s agent, who took us around to look at property on Jan 23rd and 24th. Most were not right for us, a couple were ideal if some changes were made to either interior or exterior. We opted for exterior work as a preference and on January 25th, we made an offer on the Dexter house. One week after deciding to look around. It was that quick.


February 3rd was the first Cinema Slam that I ran at the Michigan Theater and we got a really good crowd. Russ Collins called to ask if I had a camera because he wanted to make a film about something. “Of course,” I said. The next day, I picked up a lighting kit “to try out” from Detroit Power and Light then spent several hours on the phone trying to find someone with a good camera.

Robin Brown, a friend of Geoff Glover’s from the UK, put me in touch with John Beavers, who had an XL1 and we went out shooting a tribute to Judy Dow Rumelhart for the Michigan the next week. Partway through, I picked up my work permit from the immigration people in downtown Detroit. This was timely although we wasted time and money getting it, I think, because the lawyer didn’t have the same information as the INS.

Laura and I went out for dinner at The Earle on Valentine’s Day. We also somehow got the property inspected, financing organized and various other things taken care of with regard to this house we’d found. We met two landscape architects and chose one to fix up the outside of the property. Oh, and we saw Rufus Wainwright, who I’d never heard of but Laura loves, at the Michigan.

The Judy Dow video was edited in a week and Russ loved it. They screened it at a special presentation at the Michigan on February 21st and that led to us meeting Russ’s wife, Deb, who was interested in getting videos made for Artrain USA, an exhibition in four vintage railcars which travel across the whole nation.

On February 23rd, I registered Ascalon Films as my trading name and opened a business bank account. Then I met up for a coffee with Shrihari Sathe, president of the U of M Film and Video Student Association. Shrihari had left a business card with Nancy Doyal at the Michigan and I thought it would be cool to build up a connection between the university and the theater.

The boys were off school that week, so we took a mini vacation at a hotel just north of Detroit. Heated pool in winter, computer games on the TV, dinner in the building… can’t go wrong. Well, they did by not heating the pool, giving us a broken PlayStation and getting the order badly wrong at dinner. Laura wrote a strongly worded letter to the management and complimentary hotel reservation coupons came back.

We drove back in time for our final walkthrough the new house with the property inspectors, then I met up with Russ, who recorded a voiceover for American Short Film for me, then Deb Polich to talk about those Artrain videos. Next day, we closed on the house deal, collected the keys and took the boys to watch a basketball game at the Crisler Arena. On Friday, we went out shopping for new appliances and bought a large fridge-freezer, a washing machine and a dryer.

Sometime around then, a large envelope arrived from Texas. I thought it was a film catalog at first, although it seemed a bit solid and bulky. No. Not a catalog. It was a plaque. The Car had been voted Best Short Film at the Texas Film Festival. A genuine award from real people. I was, and still am, thrilled.

Sunday, Russ and Deb invited us to an Oscar Party at the Michigan. Refreshments, beverages and the whole thing projected large in the screening room. It was a fine way to end a busy month–a February with an extra day. Fine indeed.


March. Yes. I had one of those landmark birthdays in March. We celebrated with an afternoon in the hot tubs at the spa and then dinner at the Common Grill in Chelsea. The rest of the month was just as full as February. We decorated the house, repainted the downstairs, took down and re-plastered two ceilings. I also went out and shot adverts for Custom Transit with John Ardussi.

Early in the month, I went along to a couple of editing workshops at the UofM thanks to now being on Shrihari’s mailing list. These were run by one of the film and video dept’s alumni, Zack Arnold, and I learned a whole heap of invaluable short cuts, insights and new techniques for Final Cut Pro.

We had cable installed and some house wiring projects done, including wiring up the whole house for internet. I got the contract to do the Artrain videos and shot a load of stuff for them, include a walk-through tour of the contemporary art exhibition, Native Views, with the native American curator, Joanne Bigfeather.

We went to a little of the Ann Arbor Film Festival and a lot of the East Lansing Film Festival, where The Car had been selected as Critic’s Choice in the local newspaper. We bought T-shirts and stayed for the Saturday night party. Next day the Hangover of Doom stalked me and I was asked to join a filmmakers’ panel at one of the sessions. I hope I made sense when they asked me stuff.

Before the month was out, Laura had helped me get T-shirts embroidered for Ascalon Films crew, I ran my second Cinema Slam and we went to a party at Lisa Luczek’s. The INS fingerprinted me, Current Magazine interview me and we were invited to Artrain’s gala opening where a native shaman blessed everyone with sacred herbs (including tobacco) and blessed the art works about to travel the continent.

On March 27th we moved out of Laura’s old apartment and into our new house. All of four or five blocks up the road. It took the best part of a day but we got it done. From decision to completion six weeks. Impulsive? Us? Surely not. And we had a living room with an orange wall.


I’m worn out. Aren’t you? I’ll write some more in a bit. And I’ll add some photos later.