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A Dream Memory for the Grand-Niece


Our niece Linden is homeschooling her children since the shelter-at-home order took hold in her state, just as it has done for millions of families all over the planet.

She sent an email request for family to help her with a homeschool story project with her oldest daughter Lyra:

First grader Lyra was working on family stories before regular class let out for the year, and we decided to continue that learning. Her plan is to compile any family stories she receives into a book, complete with her own illustrations, and then a personal essay/reflections about the stories she compiled. We are happy to share digital copies of the completed assignment.  

This is the story I sent.  It is one that has stayed with me all my life, profoundly influencing my understanding of memory:


Danny’s Memory Story

Memory can be a strange thing.  When I was your age, I would tell grown-ups my “favorite” nightmare.  I didn’t remember most of my dreams but this one I remembered very well.  I remembered it took place at a birthday party next door that my big brother and I attended when he was 8 and I was 3.  Many children were in the yard.  In the back there was a big white tower.  A girl climbed up the tower and poured a bucket of water into it.  Then silly little red cartoon devils climbed up out of the tower, angry that water had been poured on them.  One of the cartoon devils took a stick and poked my brother with it above his left eyebrow.  He started crying.  I was very upset.  And then I woke up.  That was the dream story I would tell for several years.

Until one day my brother heard me tell the story and told me that it wasn’t a dream.  It had really happened!  We were at a party next door.  But there was no big tower.  There were no cartoon devils.  Some older boys on the other side of the garden wall were playing with fire, and a girl poured a bucket of water over the wall to stop them.  One of the boys came over the wall and poked my brother with a stick.  It hurt him.  I remember him crying.  The cut above his eye.  How upset I was.  And since I was only 3, the wall seemed very high and the angry older boys seemed very scary.  So much so that over time I thought of the wall as a big tower and the boys as silly little red devils like the ones I’d seen in a cartoon on TV.  Which were things so strange that I figured that this couldn’t have really happened, this must have been a dream.  Just a nightmare that I remembered very well.

But then my brother reminded me of the truth.  And the “dream” parts of the memory faded.  No more big tower.  No little red cartoon devils.  I remembered again the garden wall and the angry older boy as they had really been.  It is one of the few things I still remember from when I was only 3 years old, and the one memory from that age I recall with the most details.


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The TELL-TALE VEGAS / NYC / MOSCOW TRIFECTA that was – and then wasn’t


“It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little film festivals don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”


Thanks for Nothing, COVID 19


I was supposed to watch “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” in a Moscow movie theater today, in fact precisely while I’m typing this, “sheltering in place” this Saturday morning New York time, which is early evening Moscow time.

I was looking forward to seeing my film with subtitles in the Cyrillic alphabet, and hearing my answers in the Q&A translated into mellifluously guttural Russian.  But for now I will have to make do with this screenshot from the festival program.

Russian Horror - Screen Shot 2020-03-28 at 9.14.43 AM

I was looking forward to posting a little blog piece about how my short film was skipping from Las Vegas to New York City to Moscow in just eight days.  Instead I am now writing how it once was going to hit that trifecta, before a certain world-wide pandemic got in the way.  I know, in the scheme of things, my little festival disappointments don’t amount to much more than, well, see Bogart above, but let me just quickly recount what woulda been and how it drip by airborn drip turned into an ain’t gonna be.

Reels of the Dead screenshot

Last weekend “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was scheduled to screen in Las Vegas at the “Reel of the Dead” film festival, part of the “Day of the Dead” Horror convention.  A Friday evening screening was scheduled, and the festival director told me she planned to re-screen Tell-Tale during the closing night party late Saturday.

I would have loved to go to Vegas again and check out the horror convention – I imagine thousands of scarily costumed attendees on line for autographs from Linda Blair and Richard Dreyfuss – but Ed and I already had plane tickets to fly to Berlin and Moscow the following week, and logistically and economically it seemed too difficult.  However I have friends in Vegas whom I gave my convention/festival passes.  They were going to attend for me, take pictures, and report on how it all went for the blog.

Well, COVID 19 happened, and the festival has been postponed.  To June.  For now.

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Watch my Q&A after Wednesday’s Tell-Tale live-streaming


Yesterday evening NewFilmmakers NY hosted a Facebook live streaming of most of their Wednesday program originally scheduled to screen at the Anthology Theatre in New York City, and now postponed for sometime after the Coronavirus pandemic subsides.

The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” closed out the program.  As much as I would have preferred to experience the screening in a theatre, it was novel and fascinating to watch it on the Facebook live-streaming screen, while comments were being posted to the right and anytime someone clicked one of the like or heart or emoji buttons on the bottom the icon floated jauntily up the screen.

The live streaming of the film and all the virtual interaction on the site was a one time thing, not preserved for posterity.  But I did get Ed to video-record his laptop screen during my Q&A.

Q&A Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 11.38.56 PMThere were some technical difficulties with the Q&A, resulting in me being the only director NewFimmaker NY’s program director Brandon Ruckdashel was able to interview; although, as you will see in the video below there was a bit of a sound snafu (mostly in my own ears) at the beginning of our Q&A.

You’ll see me talking about the process of recording the score and filming on set.  You’ll also – drum roll – see me announce that I’m working on a companion piece to Tell-Tale.  You’ll have to watch the Q&A video to find out what it is.

Or wait for the inevitable blog post about it. 😉


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GRAND CANYON – Long Walk along the South Rim



Day Two at the Grand Canyon (South Rim)


The day after we drove along the Desert View Drive, and a lovely sunset at the trailer park we were staying, we returned to spend a full day walking along the rim trails of the Grand Canyon South Rim.




We started east of Mather Point and over the course of the day wandered west all the way to Hermits Rest.

GC - south rim map











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TTH Postcard front

NF 3

The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was scheduled to receive its New York City screening premiere next Wednesday, March 25, at the Anthology Theater , sponsored by New Filmmakers NY.

Well, we lately hit a little snag in the form of a global pandemic (Covid-a-thunk-it?!), and New Flimmakers NY has had to postpone their brick-and-mortar-audience-in-close-quarters screenings in the Anthology theater.  Again, the screenings are postponed, not cancelled.




But the March 25 screening will still take place, as a live-screening on New Filmmakers NY’s Facebook page!

(Click Here to go to NewFilmmakers NY’s Facebook Page)


NewFilmmakers NY sent out the schedule for tonight’s Facebook Livestream.


“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” is still scheduled to begin streaming at 7:45pm, followed by a Q&A.  I recommend tuning in early to be sure not to miss it, and also to watch the other programmed shorts:



Adrienne Gruben LILY (2019, 26 minutes, digital)*


Elia Sahlman BUT MOM! IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD (2019, 9 minutes, digital)*

Alexandra Neuman OVA (2019, 16 minutes, digital)*

Julian Karian ALONE (2019, 19 minutes, digital)*

Greti Claggett STORMCHASER (2019, 28 minutes, digital)*


Danny Ashkenasi THE TELL-TALE HEART- a musicabre (2019, 38 minutes, digital)*

A musical adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic horror story. A man is so disturbed by an old man’s “vulture eye” he resolves to murder and dismember him. But the murderer is driven to madness and confession by the incessant beating of victim’s heart under the floor boards.



I will participate in a live-stream Q&A, so stick around for that too!


tell-tale-heart banner FINAL



Ed and I were planning to host a reception with baked goods after the screening at the Anthology, alongside our seven foot Tell-Tale Banner, which I brought back from the London International Filmmaker’s Festival (blog post on that still forthcoming).

But times call for an adjustment.


Yet Social Distancing really means physical distancing.  We can still be social and share the Tell-Tale experience for one evening via Facebook’s live streaming.


No baked goods, but still lots of Poe and cellos.


and music, madness, murder!




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No First Grade Operas – for now

1-2 Song 1 Screen Shot 2020-03-16 at 9.43.48 AM


Thanks for nothing, COVID19


On Friday I received the following email from one of the first grade teachers at the Brooklyn Children’s School:


Dear Danny,
The first grade operas have to be postponed. The DOE and our school have cancelled all performances and trips. We don’t know when we can reschedule yet, we are living in the right now and we will give you more information when we have it.


Class 1-1, 1-2, 1-3


This week the first graders in three classes were to perform the three original operas they started writing last October and rehearsing since January.  Their own classrooms were to be turned into theaters, with painted backdrops and props and costumes, while they perform a 15-20 minute opera with 6 original songs each for an audience of their parents and family.

There was the problem.  30-50 family members crammed into a classroom to watch 25 children perform.  On Friday the Department of Education decided all school performances and trips would be cancelled to help contain the COVID19 outbreak, just like it was decided that all Broadway theaters – or any theater with more than 500 seats – would be closing in New York City.

Those were simpler times… At least before last night we thought the children would still be going to school, even if for the time being no adults would be invited to attend performances:


Dear Danny,

I think we will be able to have our performance but it will be later. How much later I simply don’t know. We will rehearse in class like we always do but many families have pulled their children out of school and this gets in the way. We will adapt. It’s best to save rehearsal times with you for when we are actually close to the performance date and we will know more later. We will keep the kids ready and we will work on sets etc.

We will talk when we have more info,


The first teams


I also suggested a workaround should public school performances be cancelled for the rest of the year:

If it turns out performances are cancelled for the rest of the school year, well, hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, we should know with enough time to use those hours in first grade some other way.   Probably perform just for the other first grade classes, and video tape for the parents.


But last night Mayor Bill de Blasio announced all schools will be closed until at least April 20.  Just 3 days before the first scheduled performances of operas the children have worked on since October, all has come to a stop.

Maybe, if school does resume after April 20, we will be able to pick up the pieces and conclude the first grade opera project (and my only just commenced work on the Kindergarten Operas, and my work with Pre-K); but who knows?  We are in in uncharted territory.


So, for today, let me share at least one song from each first grade opera.  If the operas are never performed, I will … not finish that sentence, yet; let’s be optimistic and assume that the children will get to share their operas with their families eventually.

Every song and story I share here has been written and composed by the first graders themselves.


Class 1-1’s opera involves four characters stuck in a dungeon, including a baby dragon and a tiger.  The tiger sings a poignant song about how it once was a cute pet, before growing too big and too scary and then being put in the dungeon:

1-1 song 2

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PIIFF - banner

PIIFF - Best Actor



I received this email Sunday:


Congratulations! We are happy to announce that your film THE TELL-TALE HEART – A MUSICABRE was a WINNER in our Quarterly Festival’s latest edition in the following categories BEST ACTOR and is now automatically nominated for our Annual Competition.

WINNER Certificate is attached! Time to celebrate with the crew, cast, and friends.



Luma Oquendo – Festival Manager

PIIFF - Certificate of Achievement - 2qrt 2020 - JPEG. BEST ACTOR


Notice something about the certificate?

No?  Look again.

It took me a while to see it too…

They made the certificate out to Edward Elder.

But since he does, in addition to coproducing “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” play a part in the film, maybe they did mean him, not me?  Maybe it wasn’t a mistake?

Even though Edward’s role in the film is a small one, and the camera doesn’t even ever show his face.

I asked the festival in neutral terms whether the Best Actor award is intended for the lead performer of a film, because in our case that actor is, well, me.

They sent me a corrected certificate.  Sorry, Ed.


PIFF - Certificate of Achievement rev - 2qrt 2020 - JPEG. BEST ACTOR


PIIFF - execs

Luma Oquendo, Festival Manager & Mariano Cabaco, Program Director  – PIIFF


Found out two days later that “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” also received an honorable mention for Original Score:


PIIFF hon men


The Jury: Claudia Vašekova, actress; Mimi & Ben , art directors;

Steve Reverand, producer; Petar Mrjden, sound designer; Diego Fandos, screenwriter

PIIFF - logo yellow

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Grand Canyon South Rim – Day One


Our first approach to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim (see the North Rim post here) was from the East.

Even before one enters the East Entrance of the Grand Canyon, one gets an appetizer view courtesy of the Little Colorado River Gorge.







As we drove on towards the East Entrance, we could still see how the Little Colorado Gorge cut through the landscape.




The East Entrance takes you down the Desert View Drive.  Today’s post will feature its views.  Here a map:

GC10-Desert View Drive Map


The Desert View Watchtower:





Video panorama at the foot of the Watchtower:






The Little Colorado River Gorge from a distance:



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BFFF logoBFFF title


The Berlin Flash Film Festival announced their awards for November.


The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was given an “Outstanding Achievement Award”.




BFFF_Outstanding Achievement_Color


Having been born and raised in Berlin, I feel this recognition from a festival in my old hometown with a particular sentimental joy.

You’ll have to ask the Berlin Flash Film Festival why it is they announced their November awards in March…


BFFF long

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Reels of the Dead screenshot


3/14 – Update – Convid19 postpones the Reels of the Dead festival


Received this email from Las Vegas:


“Hello all,


Until this morning we were still optimistically planning our event next weekend in Las Vegas.  With the recent developments of the COVID-19 spread and as a precautionary measure, the decision was made today to postpone the convention until June 19-20, 2020.


Your selection for the Las Vegas lineup and the schedule remains unchanged, just moved to these new dates.  As the situation is fluid, we will continue to monitor developments locally, regionally, and nationally.  If the need arises to change our dates once again, I will reach out to you.”



The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” has been selected for the Reels of the Dead Film Festival during the Days of the Dead show in Las Vegas on March 20-22, 2020.

The Reels of the Dead is a film festival running as part of a horror fan convention at the Plaza Hotel and Casino just off the Fremont Street Experience (which I documented in my “Las Vegas Strip Tease” post) .


Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 5.39.02 PM


Looks like horror legends like Linda Blair and Danny Trejo and the cast of “Hellbound – Hellraiser 2” will be attending.

Plus Richard Dreyfuss and Barry Bostwick and David Naughton, representing “Jaws” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “An American Werewolf in London” respectively.

Among other splatterific attractions.


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And you can watch my 38 minute Edgar Allan Poe movie musical too.

So if you are a horror fan and can get to Las Vegas in three weeks … there is a heart under the floor boards beating excitedly for you!



Reels of the Dead off sel

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LIAFF pigeon d'or awards

UPDATE 2/25/20

Received notification that L’Age d’Or International Arthouse Film Festival has nominated“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” for their first annual Pigeon d’Or Award, in the following categories:

Short Film

Best Actor

Film Score.


From their email:

Warm Greetings from L’Age d’Or International Art-house Film Festival!
Now, the time has come to announce the NOMINEES of the most Prestigious PIGEON D’OR AWARDS 2020.
It is the platform that every filmmaker needs, in order to showcase and get recognitions for their film. The objective of LIAFF is to support risk-taking filmmakers from around the world, who put their heart and soul to tell a story. We welcome filmmakers who explore and develop new filmmaking conventions in their quest to realize their visions effectively on a limited budget.

This PIGEON D’OR AWARDS is much more than a trophy; it is a message that the spirit of independent film is still alive. This is the highest award a filmmaker can receive in his/ her lifetime. We are so happy to inform you, that in 2019 – 2020 we have received more than 3000 submissions from more than 140 countries across the globe. It gives us immense pleasure to inform you that you have been selected as a Nominee for this most Prestigious PIGEON D’OR AWARDS in 2020. This simply means that your film has achieved a huge step by making the cut amongst thousands of rejected entries and successfully entered into the race of Awards.

Congratulations once again for your remarkable achievement and wish you all the best for the Final Competition.


“This is the highest award a filmmaker can receive in his/ her lifetime”?  Someone tell Cannes or the Academy …  😉


Original Post from November 19, 2019:

LIAFF laurel


The L’Age d’Or International Arthouse Film Festival has given “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” three awards in October’s edition of their monthly selections.



LIAFF about

LIAFF comp

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Global horror short


The Global Film Festival Awards in Los Angeles just announced awards of Best Horror Short for “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” and a (runner-up) Honorable Mention Best Director award for me.

They even released this slick announcement video:



Global TT pic

Global cert film

Global cert dir

Global dir pic

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Isabel Allende’s Hosannas to the Quakers



I am in the middle of reading Isabel Allende’s new book “A Long Petal of the Sea”, about refugees from the Spanish Civil War brought to Chile through the efforts of the poet Pablo Neruda.

I came upon a passage about Quakers that I decided I just had to quote to my husband Ed, a Quaker to the Quaker manor born, when he comes home from work.  34 pages later there was another passage about Quakers.  I read them both out loud to Ed and now quote them here:


on page 70

Elizabeth took her to the home of an English Quaker couple she had worked with when they were on the Madrid front, offering food, clothing, and protection to child victims of the conflict.

“You can stay with them as long as necessary, Roser, at least until you give birth.  After that, we’ll see.  They’re really good people.  Quakers are always to be found where they’re most needed.  They’re saints; the only saints I respect.” 


and on page 114

This was the day of the departure, and the poet still needed a lot of money to pay for this immense transfer of migrants.  The Chilean government refused to contribute, arguing that it would be impossible to justify the expense to a hostile, divided public at home.  To everybody’s surprise, a small group of very formally dressed people suddenly appeared on the quay, volunteering to pay half of every passage.  When Roser saw the group in the distance, she handed Victor the baby and ran to greet them.  Among them were the Quakers who had taken her in.  They had come in the name of their community to fulfill the duty they had set for themselves ever since their origins in the seventeenth century: to serve mankind and promote peace.  Roser repeated to them what she had heard from Elizabeth, “You always appear when you’re most needed.”


I’m still reading the book, but suspect that now that the boat has left Europe for Chile, there will be no more passages about Quakers to quote.  But if there are, I will share those too.

Out of love and admiration for my Quaker husband and relatives.



Isabel Allende

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Maverick logo


Just found out that I’ve been nominated for Best Director by the Maverick Movie Awards!

Another laurel on the “Tell-Tale Heart” wall.

Maverick nom


And while I’m here, since yesterday was Valentine’s Day…

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WSTL Awards


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Is there a big old awards show airing tonight? Oscar who?


Well, you may not think it’s the same, and, well you’d be right, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m very happy for “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” to be receiving three Awards of Excellence from WSTL today:


For Loose Short (meaning a short longer than 15 minutes)

For Direction

For Original Score




Screen Shot 2020-02-09 at 6.49.29 PMScreen Shot 2020-02-09 at 6.49.19 PM

Screen Shot 2020-02-09 at 6.48.56 PM

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A Day Trip on Lake Powell to Rainbow Bridge




Lake Powell is a manmade lake, created by the Glen Canyon Dam at the Arizona side and mostly snaking deep into Southern Utah, filling the canyons carved out by the Colorado River.

To get to our boat trip we arrive at the marina by Page, Arizona, just north of the dam.







This is the part of the lake we travelled over three hours to get to Rainbow Bridge National Monument.








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