90 To Nothing
I should be working on songs right now, but instead I'm writing. Not that I haven't been working on songs for the past week now, because I have. It's just that this is a part of the transition, the way in which I gradually take off one of my hats and put on the other.
Just as a quick update, I've slowed down production on my new book for a few days in order to deal with a different type of wordplay. You see, where there was once output there is now input, a gradual absorption of lyrics and meter and rhythm. No, I have not crossed over into the realm of the aspiring poet, not entirely.
But I have joined the New Orleans-based band 90 To Nothing as their new lead singer!
It's been about eight years since I last took the role of a front man in a band, where I utilized my vocal abilities and what interpersonal skills I'd learned with an audience from being a singer on Bourbon Street for the better part of the six years prior to Hurricane Katrina. While it's true that I've become older and shorter of breath, I am still confident in my ability to sing! And as far as the interpersonal part goes, well, we'll see how the subtraction of alcohol since 2009 works with regard to my ability to connect with you the audience.
Of course I'm saying all this in jest, and I couldn't be more confident and thrilled to be a part of something like this now again in a city where it seems as though I'm truly picking up where I left off. I'd forgotten just how much of a network there was here, especially now that I realize that I've left some sort of mini legacy behind during my nine-year sabbatical. Where at once I used to reflect on how New Orleans must've treated mention of me as one would treat the mention of a person who'd passed away and thus had no hope of returning, now I understand that talk of me has mostly centered around the possibility of my returning to an identity and role that has already been established and is very much in place.
With new musical opportunities coming in, all of which I plan to consider and work on throughout the rest of this year, I have also been actively seeking out other opportunities to throw my music hat into the ring. On my wish list is to return to Bourbon Street as a vocalist. Although I started out down there as a bassist that eventually just sang, I have to say that at this point in my life I consider myself a much better contender to work alongside the amazing talent on that street as a singer, and a singer only.
And so I've slowed down the writing for the time being, and I do mean for the very-brief time being, so that I can give these new opportunities the time that they deserve. I've always claimed to be of these two halves, the music and the writing, and a man who does two things at once really doesn't do either of them well. So wish me luck as I jump from one side of the green grass to the other to digest some words, and then with any degree of luck, back again very soon to lay down some more of my own.
Go give the Facebook page a like at: https://www.facebook.com/90toNothing
The Tenth Round
According to FedEx tracking, as of yesterday morning my first full-manuscript request has arrived at the door of a potential literary agent. This is a big deal! Last week when I was scouring the Internet just to find out how best to format such a thing for delivery, the first few sentences of every post I read said that I should first congratulate myself, because this alone meant that I've made it through the slush pile and attracted the kind of attention that only a few attain.
It certainly is a glorious feeling sending something like a manuscript out in the mail, knowing that the physical pages themselves are being carried across country packed neatly in their own form-fitting, 8 ½ by 11 box. And even now I think about how great those pages are going to look when that box is opened to reveal all of my hard work. I told some friends of mine recently who seem to be quite optimistic about this new step in my writing career that for me this is comparable to opening a business or building a house, that having had no children of my own, these are the kids that I'm raising and sending through college.
Writing to me has always been a constant, a thing that I'm simply wired to do regardless of whether or not I reach any level of success, and so even the smallest of victories feel tremendous. Being home in New Orleans now for a little over two months, I find myself still hunting out the same old quiet places to write from my comparative youth, a habit of mine that only in retrospect did I realized I'd been doing for the better part of the past twenty years. I've done this everywhere I've lived, and it's consistencies like that one that make it easy to understand who I am at my core.
And so now as my fingertips gently brush the golden ring that I've been reaching for since the First Round of queries went out almost two years ago, never before have I felt so much in the game for real. Believe me when I say that email submissions and hard copy submissions are two different beasts. Right now with any degree of luck, the industry person who requested to see more of the rooms in this house that I've built is thumbing their way through the structure page by page and one square foot at a time, and it takes every bit of my writer's imagination not to think that they're hopefully enjoying all of the amenities that I've put into place for their visit.
It Only Took Twenty Years
I want to write about an experience that happened to me during my first month back here in New Orleans, a very full-circle experience that vindicated in some ways my second coming in this city. The experience turned out well for me, because it opened up a new avenue that I would never have thought possible just nine years ago in pre-Hollywood-South New Orleans. It in fact only took twenty years, but a few weeks ago, I was up on the silver screen.
When I was 15, I was rabid for the idea that I wanted to be a film director. Having been given access to a rented VHS video camera for a family vacation to Walt Disney World, my parents just went ahead and purchased the thing because quite frankly I wouldn't let it go after the week was up. That camera was the seed of obsession that saw me making videos that I entered into a student media festival at LSU throughout my four years in high school, and I won the damn thing all four years in a row.
But at some point this urge to make movies faded, and I always site the reason being that selfishly, the collaborative process at the time proved too much. I went to college and made a movie my freshman year, but then I was just done, off and running into the void that would eventually end up with my deciding that the written word would be my main mode of storytelling. In retrospect, I also believe that I would have given up long before Hollywood South and their glorious tax incentives would have ever come to town.
And now back to our story.
It all started during a random conversation with filmmaker John Beyer and actor Corey Stewart, both of whom participate in what is known as The 48 Hour Film Project every year, which they thought I could contribute something to this year in front of the camera. The 48 is an international competition where filmmakers are given a genre to work with, a line of dialogue that needs to be spoken, a character name and a prop that needs to be used and then are told to go out and make that movie in forty-eight hours. The New Orleans-based competition is moderated by an old Bourbon Street friend of mine, Pedro Lucero, and that fact alone should have told me that the universe was about to place me somewhere that I needed to be.
And so on the morning of July 19th, 2014, I was emailed a copy of the script for "Sis-Tours" that had been written overnight and then I was told where to go. I made coffee and grabbed some semblance of a wardrobe from my closet and headed out. When I arrived, the first thing that struck me was the silent efficiency of the set located in an office building that was given to us for the day, with crew members that scurried here and there setting up lighting and camera equipment and set decoration.
I got dressed and was then asked to go into makeup where among other things, the artist made sure that my bald head -- which I dubbed at the amusement of the crew as the "chrome dome" -- was dimmed-down enough as not to be too shiny for the camera. When this was done and after some waiting around, it was then time to do my first take, a voice-over line that I was told just to read. Being at least good at reading things, and knowing that I had the luxury of doing it with no memorization necessary, I nailed the inflection and made director John Beyer giggle.
So far so good.
But next was my first actual on-camera scene, a talking-head shot in which I had to deliver lines without reading them. I stumbled at first and then asked if I could do it again as a stifling hush filled the room that I didn't care to interpret at the time. And when I did it again and opened-up into character under the direction of John, the result was another break-up behind the camera and a restoration to my confidence.
The rest of the day went unbelievably well, and the collaborative experience of this very-ensemble piece -- which also featured Corey Stewart, Laura Flannery, Karen Gonzalez, Jamie Choina, Ed Hubert, Brian Bonhagen and Chris Fontana, and the behind-the-scenes work of Todd Schmidt, Laura Duval, Matt Bell, Alex Payne and Franz Wise -- was as gratifying as anything I can remember in recent years. The ease with which I navigated this environment made me nostalgic for my high school years, where all I wanted to do was make movies, an instinct that perhaps I should never have let grow dormant. The universe is funny that way.
With my part of the eight-hour shoot done, the crew was then off and running to the next location. I went home and officially began waiting for the opportunity to see the finished product. I also did quite a bit of writing that day, inspired by the creative atmosphere that I'd just left.
People in love with storytelling are my kind of people, as are film people, which I learned that day firsthand.
I'd now like to fast-forward to the night of Thursday, July 24th, 2014.
The entire team -- dubbed now "The Sullen Ducks" -- arrived at the National WWII Museum theatre in the Warehouse District of New Orleans for the second of the festival's four screenings. We all filed inside, and a bit of a reunion took place between myself and moderator Pedro Lucero. This recognition would in fact carry-over into the auditorium where as we all sat and they got ready to begin the screening, Pedro pointed me out in the second row and announced into a hot microphone, "And Ted Torres is here!"
That moment meant more to me than you know, Pedro, and I thank you.
And yes, there I was projected fifty-feet high for a few moments that will stay with me forever, strictly for the sake of punctuating how fast things can happen when one simply allows the universe to nudge them back into place.
And ... scene.