Finding a Character

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(Also posted at Kickstarter as a project update)

Most of the people I write about in ESPERANZA FARM are composites of people I’ve met at some point in my life. A few are completely made up to fit a particular story-telling need while others are closer to their real life persona.

Reinaldo, a next door neighbor and confidant of the young protagonist, fits the latter group:

Reinaldo Garsa, who had lived in the United States for many years, was saying that an attack by the United States on Cuba could come any minute. People believed him when he said that the plane that flew low above the fields earlier that afternoon was an American spy plane. Reinaldo should have known, they said, because he had fought as a Sergeant in the American Army during the Korean War.

“Reinaldo” was my real-life neighbor. I remember the content of our frequent conversations, his very strong opinions about the Cuban government and other matters. I could also recall his descriptions of New York from the time in the forties and fifties when he made the city his home. His love of baseball is still fresh in my memory. But because I had not seen him in approximately forty years, his physical features were lost to me. It’s odd how one can remember almost all about a person from one’s past, except their face. That was until very recently, when I discovered the photo that accompanies this update.

Suddenly, “Reinaldo” came back to life and I realized, at the same time, where his love of baseball probably came from: he managed one of the baseball teams that traveled my province, Pinar del Rio, delighting Sunday fans. This was a detail I did not know about the character or about the person.

I’m considering slipping that detail — about him being a manager — into the final revision of the manuscript. It would add depth and context to the character. I also know it would please the person I knew.

“Reinaldo” is the man on the far right. Looking at the photograph, I concluded that he came to the ballpark straight from work. He was in such a hurry to get to the game that he didn’t have time to change. “Let’s get this damn ceremonial first pitch over,” I can imagine him thinking, “let’s play ball.”

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Filming a Promo Video

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When preparing to upload my project at Kickstarter, I wrote, rewrote and polished the script for my promotional video. When I was satisfied, I did three takes using my Canon Elura 80, tripod and remote. I wasn’t happy with any of the shoots for different reasons: lighting was problematic, the sound was poor — the E-80 doesn’t have jack for an exterior mic — or my delivery just plain stunk. The one shoot that had the most promise, done outside with spring foliage in the background, I had to discard. I realized later that my dog Celeste had been in the frame, walking around the rear part of our yard, looking for squirrels to chase.

Turns out I’m not an actor nor a filmmaker, but I understand the importance of a promotional piece. So I was committed to getting it done. The biggest issue for me was memorizing the script. Index cards didn’t help. Yelling: “Line!” didn’t help either. Short term memory was not cooperating. So this is how I got around this problem:

I rigged up a “poor-man’s teleprompter.” I copied the script into an iMovie title, the one where the words roll up a la Star Wars. I then placed the laptop by the camera and with two remotes — one for the camera and the other for the computer — I could manage the speed of the script while turning the camera off when needed. Here’s the set-up:

and this is where I sat, opposite my camera:

I decided to go black and white for a couple of reasons. First, the lighting was not optimal and the color version was not complementary. Second, because ESPERANZA FARM is a historical novel, the black and white of the video adds a document quality that I preferred.

So there you have it. If you’re filming your own promo, I hope this makes it a bit easier. If you need more details on my “prompter,” drop me a line and I’ll be happy to give you the “specs” : )