Update on Texas Rob

I thought I would take a moment to update tdaxp on my current status. I wish I posted more often, but such is the life of a busy filmmaker. For those of you that aren’t up to speed, I’m at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches TX. I recently graduated and have been shooting the summer feature, “Within Us”, for the last couple weeks. The script I wrote with Derek went through about 10 months of work, all for 26 days of shooting. The post-production phase will last about 4 months. Simply put, the film is about the horrors of mental illness and its effects on family. It’s also about flaws in the human condition; you may hate your father, but you really love your father.

The film is being shot on DVCAM, with a 3 CCD camera. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done at a fraction of the price it would be to shoot on actual film. The finished product will be on DVD all around east Texas, and we’ll be getting it into as many festivals as possible. Aside from being a co-writer, I’m also the Director of Photography, or DP. So I control the camera and lighting with regard to how the director wants the film to look. Derek is my co-writer, and also serves as Director and star. Brad Maule (General Hospital, 7th Heaven) has a supporting role in the film and says our set is one of the most professional he has ever been on… and he has been on a lot of sets. The footage is coming out great and we’re getting some impressive performances. This is the most ambitious undertaking SFA Film has ever tried. Derek and I are trying to change things here, and we’re having fun doing it. So all of this hard work ends up with me neglecting friends and family. 10 to 12 hour shoots, 6 days a week, doesn’t leave much time for anything unrelated to the film. I’m doing what I love to do, and hopefully I’ll be getting paid to do it eventually.

After the Rain in Sioux Falls

Lest one thing that Flandreau and Mitchell are the whole of South Dakota, yesterday explored our megalopolis: Sioux Falls. With a population around 120,000, it is no surprise that Sioux Falls holds a disproportionate influence on the state, and is both politically powerful and politically reviled in state politics. Specifically, we visited three famous Sioux Falls landmarks: The Falls of the Big Sioux, the Empire Mall, and the I-229/I-90 interchange.

(For those who have never visited South Dakota, I suggest reading more to see the interchange. I don’t think they have a similar thing in Chicago, or Tokyo, or Beijing.)

Falls Park is a beauty. Twenty years ago it is nearly unvisitable — a largely unpatrolled area next to the meatpacking plant inhabited by drunks, hobos, and vagrants. Now it has been restored to something more pleasing than either the tallgrass prairie or mill-industrial site it once was: a gorgeous park that one may visit any time of the year.

Like Splitrock Creek near the Palisades, the Falls of the Big Sioux split Sioux Falls Granite (actually, a form of red quartzite). Many of the older buildings are made of the granite, and the one can amble here and there on sturdy rock by the falls is enchanting.

There is a pedestrian bridge over the Big Sioux, and on the other side is the Falls Overlook Cafe. A former NSP plant, the Falls Overlook Cafe has been nicely refurbished to provide a happy resting spot if one wishes to linger.

The Big Sioux was flooded because of recent rains, but there were still sanctuaries of peace. Here, a family of ducks enjoy a calm day on the granite, watching the chaotic, aquatic avalanche before them.

Leaving the Park, the Horse Barn Arts Center is run by the Sioux Empire Arts Council. Used as a shed for machinery by the city for seventy years, and dating for fifty years before that, the Barn is now a lodge of studios for the more artsy-types. Sadly, it was closed during our visit. In the distance on the hill is the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

Philips to the Fall is a major, decades long project to connect the geographically near Downtown Sioux Falls with Falls Park. A series of industrial cites had retarded development, but now is fully operational. For those who do not wish to talk, a free “trolley” service also connects the two.

The meatpacking plant is still there! Morrell’s is part of South Dakota lore, once holding an extremely strong union that build some resentment in the state for the worker’s combination of low social status and high salary. Ultimately the Union went to far, was completely broken, and now a majority of the workers are immigrants (Mexicans, Ukrainians, etc.).

A view of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral the seat of the Dioscese of Sioux Falls (the Catholic Church of Eastern South Dakota). As most of the city exists int he city, the Cathedral (which is actually on normal-altitude ground) appears to be on a hill. It is visible through much of the city.

On the way out from Downtown Sioux Falls, the Old Courthouse Museum. The now old new county courthouse stands right next to it, as does the new new county courthouse that is currently in use — and often called “The Emerald City” for its extravagant construction. An early fan of Back to the Future, I was disappointed to learn that the clock does, indeed, work.

Formerly Piccadilly’s Circus, Gigglebees of a paradise for kids and a sort of purgatory for anyone old. Robots, loud blinking lights, and kinesthetic games litter the residence.

The busy intersection in Sioux Falls and probably the entire state, Louise Avenue on 41st street hosts the Empire Mall complex, the new Barnese & Noble Building, Walgreens, and a starbucks on its four corners.

The aforementioned Empire.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for, I229/I90, northbound.

In fairness Sioux Falls has pretty good interstates (partially due to crooked super-Senator Karl E. Mundt), and I229 simply becomes “Township Road” immediately after the Seattle-to-Boston I90 exit. Oddly there’s no way back on I90 east from this intersection once you turn around on the cattle grate…

… so one has to back-track a bit. Still… a pretty drive.