Danny Looks into the Lens

A Pit & Pendulum On-Set Tidbit

We were shooting a moment where I am mostly in profile. So, before each take, Jason Chua, the cinematographer, would ask “Danny, could you look into the lens?” to get me to squarely face the camera so he could make sure the focus was correct before we called action.

By the third take and the third time I heard “Danny, could you look into the lens?” I turned to face the camera and gave it my best Dwayne The Rock Johnson smolder.

It got a laugh in the midst of a grueling day on set shooting yet more of Poe inspired horrors.

I’ve just spent two weeks pouring through all the footage of our 10 day shoot. Lots and lots of hours of many many takes of me enduring one or another of the several circles of hell Poe invented for the hero/victim of his fiendish short story. Or one or another of the horrors I imposed upon myself (director torturing the actor) on top of Poe’s infernal inspirations.

This moment caught by the camera before we called action during the 7th day of shooting reminds me that it actually also was fun …

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Hi Danny! 

We hope this finds you well!

Congratulations! You won Best Actor in the 2020 Denali Film Festival!

Please visit the laurel center for your winner laurel! 

It was an honor to feature your work! Please be in touch and keep us updated on your future projects as well as the success of Tell-Tale Heart!


Kim and Darrell

Kimberly Braun and Darrell Johnston

Directors of the Denali Film Festival

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A Thank You from Hair We Share

Dear Danny,

On behalf of the staff and the board of directors of Hair We Share we want to thank you for joining our “Track Your Ponytail” program. It means so much to us and the person who will receive your ponytails. They are great. Would you please share your story on your FB page and tag #myhairstory and #HairWeShare. This will bring such awareness to our mission.

We know there are many charities for you to donate to and we are honored you have chosen Hair We Share.  We will be processing your ponytail and as soon as it is finished into a wig, we will provide you with that information. This can take as long as 6-9 months or longer now due to the pandemic but be assured we are on top of it all the way. I have enclosed a certificate for you and we hope you will print it.

Thank you so much,

Dean Riskin

Co-Founder Hair We Share




Step by step video documentation of the cutting, buzzing and shaving process to be published later.

As well as the picture of the wig made from my hair, when I receive it from Hair We Share.

Stay tuned.

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plays at the DENALI FILM FESTIVAL July 15-18

streaming on-line

Alaska’s Denali Film Festival (click here to go there) had accepted my short film musical Edgar Allan Poe adaptation “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” into their 2020 Film Festival, which got postponed because of Covid 19.

Now they are combining both their 2020 and 2021 festivals, today through July 18, with live events in Alaska as well as the ability to stream every film in both festival programs from anywhere with internet through the purchase of a $24 all-access ticket.

From the 2020 and 2021 festival trailers one can see that the Denali Film Festival features a lot of amazing nature photography in both documentary and narrative films.

But they also include some quirky exceptions to that general rule, like my very in-doorsy and dark horror chamber piece. When I asked the festival directors Kim and Darrell about that last year, they just said “We both really enjoy your work! We sang ‘true, nervous, very very dreadfully nervous’ most days the last month.”  Which warmed the cockles of my heart – the one in my chest, not the one I hid under the floorboards…

Here is a screenshot of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” as featured in the Denali Film Festival 2020 trailer:

And Tell-Tale’s blurb in the festival program (watch the Tell-Tale trailer here):

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EVOCATION XXVIII – for Ed’s 62nd Birthday

Today is Ed’s birthday.

And like every year since our first together, I will present him with a viola/piano duet I composed. They are all called Evocations.

This year it’s Evocation XXVIII.

Ed will probably blanche at the double stops, but I will assure him they are all played with one open string, so no awkward fingering required. (Never mind that one triple stop in measure 20, the one tricky exception to this rule …)

Ed might also at first hesitate at the many crunchy close major and minor second harmonies he must play. The viola melody is closely making its way around and about drone tones which shift from string to string as the piece progresses and digresses. But only at the very end is the lowest string, the C string, played openly.

Below is audio of Evocation XXVIII as played by the computer. All the notes can be heard, and the quality is pretty good, considering it is computer tones… but as always with the computer, that human touch is lacking.

And I have a hunch this Evocation, more willful and mysterious than its recent predecessors, especially requires that human touch …

Listen to the computer instruments’ straight-laced intoning here:

Below you can follow along with the score (which, I just noticed, somehow lost the measure lines on the far right sides when reformatted as a pdf – computer being bizarre…)

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Thank You to the Crew of “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”

Charlotte Purser, Sami Eddy, Jimmy McCoy, Katie Conway, Han Jang Houston
Mariana Soares da Silva
Ja’rel Ivory
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(More about all that to be posted soon … )

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P&P – Today the Hair Gets Shorn!

Today I cut my hair. All of it. Off. Beard too. I’ll be completely clean shaven and bald.

This has been in the works for over a year.

I got the closest hair cut of my life July 2019, and have let those follicles grow ever since, and when I realized that I would be going from long hair to bald for the sake on my new film “The Pit and the pendulum – a musicabre“, I knew I would just let it keep growing until we were in production. The longer the hair the greater the contrast to the bald version of me, and that would suit the film.

You can see the progression of me from short to long here, and a recent shot of my hair at its longest here, and, well, now here, in this post.

Yesterday we did a shot that required lots of hairspray. I washed out my hair on set. These selfies I took whole blowing my hair dry. I thought, let’s give my Veronica Lakers one last public hurrah. After all, this is these hairs’ last evening on Earth. Tomorrow they get tied into pony tales and snipped off, then put into ziplock baggies to be sent to a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients. What’s left of the hairs on my scalp will get shaven clean. As will my face.

It’s all part of the plan for the film. Why? What narrative purpose does it fulfill?

You’ll have to wait and see for that answer…

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Skiptown Playhouse Film Festival Awards

“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”


an incredible delightful distinction vs an insignificant dialectic dilemma

As Vincenzo CarubiaI, festival director of the Los Angeles based Skiptown Playhouse International Film Festival, elaborates in announcing the winners:

“It feels like it’s been a forever journey to get to this point. 

In November of 2019 we began receiving submissions for what was supposed to be our OCTOBER 2020 Festival and second annual one at that. Our festival finally took place from JUNE 24 – JUNE 30 2021 after a long postponement.

I know everyone is super eager for the results of this festival. Please know that the decisions were made by several judges involved and your projects were watched multiple times.

The decisions are NEVER EASY, but I need remind you that at the end of the day we thoroughly enjoyed all of your projects and there is a bit of magic and something special about every one of them. I’m honored to have had you included in this season as I spent a solid year and a half with this round of films.”


As you can see from the Skiptown festival 2020 winners page and the laurel above, “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was awarded Best Musical Performance.

Curiously, well, maybe only curious to me, the official certificate states the recognition is for “Best Musical Short”:

Now I’m not trying to be greedy here.

I don’t think I won two awards.

And I do think the officially intended nod is to the “musical performance”.

But this is one of those times where my tendency towards debating fine distinctions could get the better of me…

Instead, let’s try a distraction; here’s a look at part of the Skiptown Winner Wall (d’you see me?):

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P&P – And So It Begins

We have had two shooting days on “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre“. And I already have enough material for maybe four production diary posts, including one that will be quite the doozy! But I probably won’t have time to post any of these until I come up for air…

Meanwhile, as a taste, here is a glimpse of me in my main costume. A 17th century Spanish-style doublet, which was tailor made by costume designer Anthony Paul-Cavaretta, who was also responsible for dressing my first musical Poe short “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“.

I took this selfie just outside the Theater for the New City, where again we have converted one of their theater spaces into a film sound stage.

And if you look real closely, you may get a hint of one of the upcoming production diary blog posts that will be quite the doozy!

Stay tuned.

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Introducing the Pit and Pendulum Page

Next week we go into production for my Tell-Tale follow-up “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”. I hope to post some on-set diary entries; if I find time; we’ll see…

Either way more news on my next short musical film will be forthcoming, so the time has come to set up a designated Pit and Pendulum page here on Notes from a Composer.

Currently it includes links to previous articles about the project. Over time the page will surely grow, just like the Tell-Tale page has.

To go to the Pit and Pendulum page, click it on the black banner above, or click here.

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P&P – Intimations of the Horrors to Come

Next week “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”, the follow up to my first musical Edgar Allan Poe short film adaptation “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“, goes into production.

So now is a good time to share a little hint, some visual foreshadowings, of some of the horrors planned for this new film…

What you are looking at are test shots I took with my phone in my bathroom. They will serve as guides for some very particular shots we are planning for “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”.

Do you remember when I teased this picture of a face cast as a hint of what’s to come for P&P? Perhaps now you can deduce why we needed to make that face cast…

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ALASKA – Harvard Glacier

We visited Harvard Glacier. Which is just left of Yale Glacier. And up from Vassar Glacier, Bryn Mawr Glacier, Smith Glacier… in College Fjord, Alaska.

I’m not kidding. There is a College Fjord with about a half dozen glaciers named after ivy league schools, all part of Prince William Sound.

And from Whittier, Alaska, an hour or so from Anchorage, you can take a day trip cruise to those glaciers and more. Which we did, enjoying some grand views and spectacular glacier calvings and fun animal sightings.

The marina in Whittier.

The route we took was almost the same as the dotted line outlined here. We didn’t take the Barry arm, but instead went to the Blackstone and Beloit glaciers (to the left on this map).

The Billings glacier is one of the first we saw from the boat.

Ed being “the King of the World”. That allusion will come back to haunt us later…

A stiff chill wind blew on deck…

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ALASKA – High Times, Low Tide, and Wild Life in Turnagain Arm

Mountain Vistas, Sweeping Inlets, and Alaskan Animals

Turnagain Arm is a narrow branch of Cook Inlet, in the northwestern part of the Gulf of Alaska. It received its name when Captain Cook went down that way, sure he had found the Northwest Passage from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans. He was wrong, and had to turn back again.

Tides are extreme in Turnagain Arm. The day we touristed there it was mostly low tide.

Here are two maps to orient you to Turnagain Arm’s location just south of Anchorage.

Ed, to the right, and his sister Shonti.

A Dall Sheep on top of a mountain…

Zooming back from the Dall Sheep …

… zooming back …

… back to from where I took the pictures of the sheep.

Low Tide shimmering in Turnagain Arm

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It’s quite the weekend for dismembered hearts beating under floorboards! From the UK to OHIO!

If you are not in London tonight, where “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” is playing at the Romford Horror Independent Film Festival, but you happen to be in or near Cleveland instead…

You can take in yet another screening of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” this Sunday 1:40pm at the Horror Hotel Film Festival.

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Tell-Tale at Romford this Saturday

If you happen to be in or near London this weekend, you can see my award-winning short film musical Edgar Allan Poe adaptation (deep breath) “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” this Saturday at 9:30pm (London time) in an actual movie theater (take that, Covid!) as part of the Romford Horror Independent Film Festival in Romford just east of East Ham (deep breath) in London!

Click Here or Here for more info or tickets!

Where exactly is Romford, just how far east of East Ham?

Maybe these will help:

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