Movie special effects pioneer Doug Trumbull and TamPro to combine forces? Looks like it. For a short while, anyway. And my mind is totally blown! Those who've known me awhile have likely suspected something was awry - and now I can confirm the suspicions. But I also can assure you that my current state is not unwarranted, nor is it considered life-threatening. In fact, it is totally awesome. Dr. Ea$y got wind of this and wanted to know every li'l t'ing, so I told him:
One morning last week my phone rang. I tend to screen all my calls lately as I am inundated with requests from all over the country for surveys of one sort or another, offers to purchase solar panels or heat-seeking windows and the like, and the current, especially annoying spate of requests for political dollars seems unending. However, as this particular caller's number registered as local, I picked up.
“Hello, David? This is Doug Trumbull. You may not know me but I am in the motion picture business.”
A moment's silence whilst my brain fast-framed through several possible responses I could make as I tried to remember why that name rang a distant bell: Yeah, sure, and I'm Porky Pig now go away! Or: Not interested, I ain't buying any movies today, go away! Or: Hello! YOU are lucky caller number nine, you're ON THE AIR!
And then I remembered. Mr. Trumbull is one of the best-known gurus of movie special effects. Anyone who's ever been to a movie since 2001: Space Odyssey, including all the Star Wars and Back to the Future films, Silent Running, Close Encounters, Alien, Blade Runner, Avatar among them - or if they have ever experienced a ride at a Disney or MGM theme park, or attended an iMax theatre has experienced his work. He's a freeking genius and, tired and dismayed with Hollywood hucksterism, he relocated his studio from LA to the Berkshires some 20 years ago.
And now he's on the phone wanting to speak to moi. About what, exactly?
I elected a more reasonable, prudent response: “Hey, there! What can I do for you?”
He got right to it. Mr. Trumbull told me that he'd attended one of my performances with my trio last summer at the Gedney Underground and that he'd been extremely impressed. He'd been thinking about that show off and on since that night and concluded that we would be “perfect” for a film project he was developing.
My synapses began to crackle.
He went on to describe how he has been developing a new and different way for movies to be made and viewed and already has shot some demos and shown them to prospective investors who are scrambling to get involved. But, he wishes to take this idea further, to demonstrate that these new techniques can be used to go beyond just the making of movies. He believes that sporting events, theatre and music events can benefit from his new modality and that's where I come into the picture, as it were.
Doug wants to shoot a music video of a small, intimate concert featuring my trio. We would do so in his studio with multiple, cutting-edge sound and video equipment on a set built specifically for our use.
Synapses starting to smoulder.
He then invited me up to his studio to see the space, experience the short films he's already make to demonstrate his ideas and to discuss further how we might collaborate in this venture.
The next day, Claudia and I went to MAGI studio. Doug and his wife, Julia, (along with 23 miniature donkeys!, myriad chickens, two fat dogs and a couple of grand children) met us at his office. The office space was commodious but cluttered with evidence that a genius worked here. We were impressed by the many framed movie posters of his work and the awards tucked away here and there amongst books, camera parts and other objets d'art. We sat and conversed more about his vision and ideas for this project, and then we walked over to the production studio where the pod lives.
Smell something? Frying synapses, perhaps?
The pod is an eliptical structure approximately 40 feet around by 20 feet high that houses stadium seating for 70, a giant, concave screen and enough high-tech video and sound gear to move the heavens and earth. Yup, we were deep inside a Geek Orgasmatron. Doug explained to us how everything worked and I minimally processed what I could. I was gob-smacked by what I'd seen already. And then the lights went down, the sound came up – and ba-BOOM! The seats shook and we were staring through the guiding sights of a space craft hurtling thru the universe at warp speed...all in 3-D. The actor's voice-over explained that he was a photographer and amateur UFO hunter and he was convinced he could lure alien spacecraft right to his remote desert camper by releasing a low level nuclear explosion he'd been developing for a long while. But the government was set on shutting him down and had sent several FBI-type agents out to do just that. Our hero needs to enact his experiment before he gets busted. The tension builds. Lots more Geek-speak voice-over ensued as wild spatial outer space effects unfolded all around us at laser speed. Our hero detonates his controlled miniature nuclear device and voila! - all hell breaks loose as the sound pressure levels in the pod increase and alien craft begin to clutter the radar and dramatically zip and zoom within our hero's telescope sites and everywhere else within our peripheral vision. The bumbling, miffed FBI agents crash into the Hero's geek-outfitted camper only to find him missing and the nuclear device gone. https://youtu.be/wd6_oz7KBWk
The 12 minute film ended and the credits roll. Claudia and I are weeping. Neither of us are geeks (or are not aware of it anyway), nor are we fans of sci-fi outer space films, movies with Big Bangs, hundred story tidal waves, sheets of fire or glimpses of Armageddon et al. But, by gawd, this little film sucked us in, made us suspend our cynical skepticism and for a short while we actually joined the hero in his quest and we believed everything we saw! I was exhausted.
Synaptic overload achieved.
My inner cynic and skeptic is fully aroused. What's this got anything to do with an eclectic trio of aging Berkshire musicians? Why us? So I asked him directly, “Why do you want us? With all your LA and Nashville connections, surely you could have found much better players. And certainly way better looking!” His response floored me: “I'm not a musician at all, but I know what I like. I like interesting, unusual and different and that's how I felt about you guys after I saw you last summer at Gedney Farm. You left quite an impression and I've been thinking about this project for quite a while now. I think you'll be perfect for it.”
Hey, who am I to argue with a guru?
Mr. Trumbull is confident he can sell this sort of 'pod-cast' to investors and movie goers. But he wants to go beyond the current Hi-Def music presentations of operas, ballets and theatre that are becoming popular in movie houses today. He believes his techniques will allow audiences to be next to and with the performers, on-stage, back-stage, anywhere in fact – up close and personal. He believes his pod technology, which is modular and quite portable and can be erected to seat from 20 to 400, could be used in myriad ways and will deliver a movie experience like no other. He wants to create and film a small music project that will demonstrate this ability to investors and more potential, new markets.
I played last night at Gedney Farm again. Doug and Julia Trumbull came to the show. He brought a small camera and recorder and documented the performance “for more ideas we can use in the future”.
All synaptic circuits fully blown. System shut down in effect.
David Reed & TrioTraumatica (Sam Earnshaw & Mark Tuomenoksa) will attend a tech meeting next week and will begin shooting right after that. I'll keep you posted.