Saturday, October 25, 2008

Filming Leavenworth

This is a journal of my trip for Panzram filming (October 16-18, 2008) focusing on Leavenworth Penitentiary which will fill in much of the second half of the film.

October 15, 2008

As I prepare to fly into St. Louis later in the night, I receive a call from Cindy Ashman who is the Executive Assistant at Leavenworth Penitentiary. Several weeks before I emailed Ms. Ashman and asked permission to film the exterior of the prison as well peckerwood hill, which is the prison cemetery where Carl Panzram is buried. Ms. Ashman’s First Reponse was: “Regarding your request, you take pictures of the facility from the public areas; however, you are not authorized to enter the institution's property.”

Of course I do not take no for an answer. Joel Goodman once commented on my research skills and compared me to a pit bull, stating that once I grab hold, I never let go. So I informed Ms. Ashman that I might walk onto the grassy area of the Prison to obtain closer shots of the exterior. She called me and left this message: LISTEN

No reason was given as to why I could not enter the facility. I am sure it will come as no surprise to other Americans that everyone I mentioned this occurrence to blamed the decision of Ms. Ashman on September 11 and the need for increased security. This is a blanket blame that is easily used as an excuse when certain privileges are not permitted in this country.

October 16, 2008

12:00 A.M. My birthday is today. When I arrive in St. Louis I pick up Dimas Estrada, who is working with me on this trip. We drive 4 hours to Lansing, Kansas, which is where we will have a couple of hours of sleep before waking up and filming. After we wake we drive directly to Leavenworth Penitentiary which is on Metropolitan Street in Leavenworth, Kansas. The exterior front of the prison is massive. Modeled after the U.S Capitol Building, the prison seems more like a regal king’s palace than a maximum security storage facility for the nations worst criminals. I stand across the street from the penitentiary and film the exterior. It was very frustrating as I had to wait for the busy street to clear before I could obtain a decent shot. Regardless, I filmed some nice shots. As I stand before the prison I realize that on this day of my birth, I am now the same age as Panzram was when he was executed at Leavenworth.
A truck pulls up. I am prepared to be accosted by the federal authorities. Surprisingly, the driver is Kenneth LaMaster, Leavenworth Penitentiary’s resident historian who has agreed to be interviewed for Panzram. He mentions that we can drive over to Fort Leavenworth and ask permission to film the disciplinary barracks which Panzram was incarcerated in after stealing items from an Army base he was stationed at. At the gates of Fort Leavenworth, I.D.’s must be shown, the car is searched and the hood is lifted for inspection. We follow Ken LaMaster into Fort Leavenworth. As we drive through the base, we approach the U.S.D.B which I recognize from historic photos. I am dismayed to see that construction is under way on the front of the prison. Looks like I will have to settle for historic photos of the U.S.D.B. We speak with several people at the base and are met by staff of the Fort Leavenworth Garrison Public Affairs Office who walk us over to the U.S.D.B. We approach the west wall of the U.S.D.B. which Panzram helped build in 1909 when he was incarcerated there. I film the wall as artfully as a forty foot wall can be filmed. While walking away from the wall, a truck pulls up and out steps an officer in Army fatigues. He asks us what we are doing and I tell him and point o the public affairs staff who are present. The officer walks over to them and scold them for not having their “badges” on them. He takes down their information. AS we leave the base, we pull into the 7-11 parking lot across the street and film the Fort Leavenworth sign. We then drive to the Missouri river and obtain shots of the wide river. We meet Ken LaMaster at the Leavenworth Public library, who were kind enough to let me interview Mr. LaMaster in their library. Ken is an encyclopedia of knowledge on Leavenworth Penitentiary, having authored a book on the prison and currently working on his next book focusing on Fort Leavenworth. Ken tells me about the Fallen Officers memorial inside Leavenworth Penitentiary which has a memorial to Warnke, the laundry room supervisor who Panzram murdered. The memorial is another location inside the Penitentiary which we cannot film. After interviewing Ken, Dimas and I drive to the prison to film at night. The lit prison is eerie and awesome at the same time.

October 17, 2008

We drive to Claremore, Oklahoma and arrive at the J.M. Davis Gun Museum. We meet with the museum curator, Jason Schubert and his intern Caleb Mitchell. Even though I am against every form of violence including weapons, the museum is fascinating. In addition to the collection of over 14,0000 guns, the museum displays Nooses and hoods from executed criminals, knives and swords, music boxes, war posters and other weapons and memorabilia, including the skin of a 14 foot Anaconda!
As I begin Interviewing Jason on the noose, hood, and harness which hanged Panzram, we blow the power strip and all the production lights go out. Jason saves the day and brings another power box. We begin again. A green gel we are using for the backlight falls off of the light. We have to stop rolling again. Is this Panzram making his presence known? Jason does an amazing job and gives a great interview. As I film b-roll of the items, I cannot resist touching the noose and hood with my bare hands.

We wrap up filming and drive to Springfield, Missiouri.

I am sad to hear of the passing of Levi Stubbs, singer of the Four Tops and the voice of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, one of my favorite films.

October 18, 2008

Around noon we arrive at the office of Charles Dudley Martin, who is the owner of the handwritten manuscripts of Robert Stroud, The Birdman of Alcatraz. I interview Mr. Martin at length on Stroud and how he came to defend him and finally own the manuscripts of Looking Outward and Bobby. Mr. Martin offers to drive us through the Federal Hospital where Stroud was transferred after Alcatraz, eventually dying there. We drive by the ominous barred-windowed facility. Afterward I film the building’s sign. Dimas and I were warmly welcomed by Mr. Martin and his family and spend an enjoyable evening in Springfield.

All in all it was a great trip. Every one of the interviewees were cordial and informative which made up for the disappointment of not having access to film inside Leavenworth Penitentiary.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Is it possible for the film industry to stoop any lower?

Beverly Hills Chihuahua: #1 film. Need I Say more?

Shame on you Hollywood.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dreary Day :)

It is an overcast, dreary day in LA today with a slight drizzle. I like it. It only rains about three days a year here in LA so this is a welcome change.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Panzram Updates

The next few months will be a busy time as I will be fervently working on Panzram. In addition to recording the voices of Panzram and Lesser, I am traveling to Leavenworth Prison, Claremore, Oklahoma, and Springfield, Missouri where I will be filming interviews.

Since I really do not want to visit Blockbuster and rent Speed Racer or The Love Guru, I have been watching the Yokai Monsters, an Asian trilogy filled with samurai swordsmen and malicious monsters. The Fox Horror Classics Vol. 2 is also excellent. Vincent Price is my favorite actor and it is always nice to see him in a non-horror role.

Anyone following the Zodiac killer identity? The results should be interesting.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Very Scary

Really scary:

Texas town where teachers are armed

Friday, August 15, 2008

Trailer Park Boys

I want to tell everyone about Trailer Park Boys, a Canadian comedy TV series which I am currently addicted to. I discovered the series by renting Trailer Park Boys-The Movie (which is great). I then began my search to find the series and, unsurprisingly, I could not find any DVD's of the series in the film and TV capitol of the world, Los Angeles, CA. So I had to purchase the DVD's direct from the great land of Canada. The writing is great and the characters are endearing. I am a huge fan of the show and am now on season five.

The video games I am currently playing are: Turok and Bad Company.

My daytime work gig is taking up all my time and energy. I hope to bounce back and begin work on Panzram again soon.

I viewed The remakes of The Fly and The Fly II recently in preparation of seeing The Fly opera in LA this September. I really enjoyed the films, especially the Fly II and noticed that Darabont was involved and it makes so much sense why I enjoy it so much. The relationship between the young Seth and his dog is very touching. The make-up F/X on both films is amazing. The films prove that makeup was at it's height when CG came into being. The beginning of Hollywood's laziness which continues through today.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ringo Starr

It has been a busy week. The big news is that I have secured a voice artist for Carl Panzram, which will be announced soon. For the last several years I have heard the voice for Panzram being portrayed by this actor and I am thrilled that he as accepted the role.

I am a huge fan of the Beatles and it has been my goal to see one of the surviving members and last night I acquired tickets to the Ringo Starr show Aug. 2nd. at the Greek Theatre in LA. I can't wait.

Spent some time at Venice Beach here is a pic:
Looking forward to Hellboy 2 which I will try to see this weekend.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

First Rant

Right out of the gate, here is my first rant:

One of the frustrations in DVD distribution is the gatekeepers. These are the product buyers at all of the stores we shop at. They are the ones who determine, many times based on personal preferences, what products stock their shelves.

Lately, I have been receiving emails from people interested in my films stating that they cannot find my films on shelves at any stores. Well, now you know the reason why.

Every time I enter Amoeba Records in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard, I do not find the DVD's of H.H. Holmes or Albert Fish. I spoke with my distributor and stated that the buyer is "focused on new release product and doesn’t appreciate the money in evergreen product." So I thought I would visit Amoeba and speak with the buyer myself as I have been a shopper at Amoeba since I arrived in LA three years ago. I walked upstairs to the video department and asked Eric if the buyer was in. He seemed very unhappy and was not interested in anything other than being yet another gatekeeper. He told me that the buyer was probably not in today and without even listening to me further stated that the consignment desk for product is downstairs. I asked him about the DVD stock of Holmes and Fish. He then went to the computer and looked both titles up and state that they stopped stocking Holmes because it stopped selling. No further information was provided. How long of a time period did it stop selling for? A week? A month? A year? They seem to stock many other serial killer documentaries, by prominent labels and distributors by the way, that are always in stock and never seem to sell as I am positive I know Amoeba's serial killer documentary section better than they do as everytime I shop there I take a look at the section to observe if the HHH and AF DVD's are in stock as well as what else is selling.

So I went downstairs and took my brand new shrink wrapped DVD's of Albert Fish and H.H. Holmes to the counter where Amoeba buys used product from customers. I sold each of the DVD's to the counter for $5.00 each. I then went upstairs and informed Eric of what I just done and that now I can revisit the store and observe whether or not the product stuck on the shelf or sold. He then snottily told me that their modern computer technology tracks it and has already proven that it does not sell.

So every week I must take DVD's of HH Holmes and Albert Fish to the used DVD counter and sell them to Amoeba. This is the only way to get them to stock my product. How sad.

These are the trails and tribulations I deal with on a daily basis in addition to breaking my back making my films.

Recently, myspace deleted the Albert Fish film account for no rhyme or reason. I was not even notified by mysapce of the account deletion. After contacting them numerous times, I received the same stock answers such as: "The profile in question has been deleted. We do not keep records of removed profiles or images. If it was removed by myspace, it was because of a violation of our terms and conditions - which can include a number of issue (inappropriate images, spam, cyber bullying, underage use, etc). Please review our terms for further assistance." Of course this explains nothing since there are no inappropriate images on the page and I have never spammed anyone as I do not believe in it. Thank you for supporting independent film myspace.

One more!

I am really thinking about pulling my films from youtube based on the new ruling that youtube must had over all of it's user information to Viacom. Read here:

Now, there are many other sites to post videos on such as yahoo and aol.

I read the Daily Rotten news here: This sis a great source of news that you rarely see in the mass produced media outlets. Yes much is depressing, but hopefully some good can come from reading about these issues.

My new blog.

Greetings and welcome to my new blog.

I have been interested in sharing my views on film and updates on what is happening in regards to the films I have made so I decided that this would be the perfect outlet.

Be prepared for straight-forward, no nonsense talk. I also may not update this blog as often as I should due to other commitments I have made but I will post blogs as often as I can.

Many times my frustrations about the film industry fall on deaf ears, so this is a chance for me to post these thoughts and hopefully someone out there in cyberspace will read them.

Enjoy my thoughts and many rants!

John Borowski, filmmaker
Waterfront Productions
West Hollywood, CA