Our final magnificent stop of the Great American West Tour Ed and I took the summer of 2019 was Monument Valley on Navajo land right at the border of southeastern Utah and northeastern Arizona.

Certainly saved one of the best for last.

The first view one gets of Monument Valley from the terrace of the visitor’s center:

If you have ever watched a Western, or even generally enjoyed a regular diet of movies, you probably recognize these iconic formations.

Monument Valley has been made famous by Hollywood Westerns as well as helped make these Westerns epic and iconic, as this excellent video illustrates.

West Mitten Butte

Merrick Butte

The three big Buttes, West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick, are the most iconic, most photographed attractions of Monument Valley, no doubt. But there is far more to see and marvel at, and in the course of one long lovely day Ed and I got to quite a lot of it which I will share here.

In the morning we drove along the Monument Valley Loop Drive that visitors may take on their own in a regular car.

Beyond that route, to the south, one needs to hire a guide in a jeep to explore. We would do that in the afternoon.

So first, the Loop Drive. Here’s Merrick Butte’s southern facade, as seen from the road.

West Mitten Butte

Elephant Butte

Three Sisters

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Maybe I should just say thank you and not ask awkward, pedantic questions?

This past Friday I received this notification email regarding my short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“:

Dear Danny,

Your film submission has been chosen for the American Filmatic Arts Awards Selection.

 If you have received this email, your project has been OFFICIALLY SELECTED  &
 Award WINNER in one or more categories.

We believe your project is a strong addition to the American Filmatic Arts Awards selection and are pleased to be awarding it. 

Our 2020 selection was very competitive and we obviously see that your project is one of the greatest among all submitted.

Your film has been awarded amongst over 1.200 projects.  We undoubtedly believe it is a great success!



That’s wonderful news of course, tinged with a bit of sadness that, because of Covid, there would be no ceremony, no event of any kind. As this festival is based in Brooklyn, it would have been a really convenient event to attend and meet fellow local filmmakers.

So today, Monday, as promised, the website posted the winner’s list, including this section for short films:

So, “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” receives the award for Best Short Musical Adaptation Story.

There’s a tongue twister, say that three times fast: Best Short Musical Adaptation Story Best Short Musical Adaptation Story Best Short Musical Adaptation Story…

If that is the award, it would be unprecedented as a category in my festival experience. But maybe there is an ampersand missing? Maybe the award is for Best Short Musical & Adaptation Story? Or Musical Short & Story Adaptation? Or am I just greedily hoping for two awards when I should just count my blessing with the one?

Technically, if one is to follow syntax strictly, the award is for the story upon which the adaptation that led to the musical short is based. That award would go to Edgar Allan Poe, as he wrote the story, not me. Uh oh, am I about to reason myself out of an award?

The American Filmatic Arts Awards has an official list of their awards categories. Musical and/or Adaptation are not listed there as regular awards. That suggests these were especially added this year. However one reads the award designation for “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”, one thing is clear: American Filmatic Arts Awards created a new category (or two?) to recognize the work, and that is a special honor I do feel sincerely, regardless of my humorous musings here.

I decided to send an email to American Filmatic Arts Awards, and ask them, right after first thanking them gratefully, to clarify the category designation(s). After all, I would like to make sure I make no error when I register the award on IMDb.

I’ll update this post when I receive my answer.

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Canyon de Chelly

The most famous feature of Canyon de Chelly is Spider Rock, a 750 feet (229 m) tall sandstone spire. So I will start this blog post with it, even though it is not the first thing visitors entering Canyon de Chelly encounter.

Canyon de Chelly, part of the Navajo Nation, is located in the Four Corners region of Eastern Arizona.

The name Chelly is a Spanish borrowing for the Navajo word Tséyiʼ, which means canyon.

So … Canyon de Chelly technically is the Canyon of Canyon…

The Navajo inhabited Canyon de Chelly when US forces invaded in the early 19th century. Many bloody events ensued, but the Navajo held out, aided by the fact that the narrow western entrance into the canyon made it easily defensible.

But in 1863 Kit Carson’s troops found their way in from the East, massacred many and destroyed Navajo dwellings and crops. After that the Najavo were exiled from Canyon de Chelly.

Today Canyon de Chelly is part of the Navajo Nation.

The tour map above shows that the Spider Rock Overlook lies at the end of the southern rim road. There are many magnificent overlooks as well as a two hour hike into the canyon one can take as a regular visitor on the way to Spider Rock. And then there are views from the northern rim road too. I will share images from those stops as well.

Starting with a video taken at the first southern rim stop, Tseyi overlook:

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Watch (and vote for) “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” for Free this Weekend via the Los Angeles Television, Script and Film Festival

This Saturday and Sunday, or more precisely from midnight EST Friday night through midnight PST Monday morning, LATVSFF is hosting free access to a whole batch of interesting international films, including my own short film musical Edgar Allan Poe adaptation “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“.

Starting midnight EST you can GO HERE TO WATCH.

Scroll down the page until you get here:

You can also vote for / leave a comment about “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” in the festival “Voting Machine” at the bottom of the webpage. Comments can be left during the festival screening time, Saturday and Sunday, and will be tallied to determine festival awards.

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Friday I attended the live Adam Lambert concert.

I missed out on his last concert appearance in New York because it sold out before I made it to the ticket website. But this time I got my ticket early. And this time it wasn’t going to “sell out”, since an unlimited audience could watch virtually from home while Adam Lambert and his band performed live before cameras.

Welcome to the rock concert in the era of Covid 19. The band members, all women by the way, were masked, as assumably were the few crew members required to record and transmit the performance.

There were some technical difficulties, at least for me in my location in Brooklyn, where unusually brisk arctic winds were being whipped up that day, messing with our internet connection. The concert for me started jarringly, in that my screen switched rather suddenly from the orange stand-by image to the middle of the first song, “Superpower”. Repeatedly during the concert my image froze and the sound died. Sometimes it would return, often I would have to refresh to get it back. I blame the unusual winds and my internet provider and a likely unstable cable they have not been able (or willing) to replace in all these years. It may be a problem only once a year or so, but it certainly was unfortunate that it was a problem at this very time.

The concert was performed and filmed to simulate a live performance but it lacked the audience. We the audience were hidden away in front of our screens in our homes all around the world. We could only be imagined by Lambert, and it showed. I’ve seen Adam Lambert performing live, in person and on a TV screen, and there is a spark that animates his eyes and expression in front of a crowd. That was lacking. His singing and musicianship was beautiful and impeccable, the songs sounded great, but a certain insouciance and thrill, a genuine give and take between performer and listener, was missing.

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The SOFIE Trophy

A big Fed Ex box got delivered today, and inside, carefully packaged, was our SOFIE Trophy, the award “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” won from The Short Film Awards last November.

It’s rather big and has weight. And shines impressively in the light.

“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” won for Outstanding Technical Work in a Short Film. This awards the director (me), the cinematographer (Jason Chua), the editor (Stolis Hadjicharalambous), the sound designer (Todd Maki), and the VFX/color artist (Austin Lepri).

Having a category awarding “Outstanding Technical Work” seems to be unique to The Short Film Awards. I love that this categorization made it possible for the award to officially honor so many particular collaborators.

Ed suggested I take some pictures that show how the trophy catches the sunlight…

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Continuing our August 2019 tour of the American West, after we left the grounds near the Petrified Forest Visitor Center, we drove on into the Petrified Forest National Park, a large national park in Eastern Arizona, with more petrified trees, and wide, wondrous scenery.

Those boulders strewn across the landscape are mostly petrified tree logs.

Looks like recently chopped wood, doesn’t it? It’s actually rocks, fossilized trees that lived 200 million years ago.

This petrified tree had become, over time and water erosion, a petrified tree bridge. Below it is cement that was poured decades ago to support it when it was feared it may collapse. Nowadays less unsightly means of support might be feasible, but it’s too late for that now.

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“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” recently received two more awards from FESTIVAL ANGAELICA and the Spotlight Film Awards; and has been announced as an official selection at the LATVSFF & Fixion Film Festivals

I’ll start with FESTIVAL ANGAELICA. As recently posted, my musical Edgar Allan Poe adaptation “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” was playing at that festival up until last week.

Well, the festival awards have been posted. And “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” received the Jury Award for Experimental Short.

Sweet. I like the results of that experiment.

I also received word that the Spotlight Film Awards highlighted “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” as a Bronze Award winner.

Hey, it gets me on the podium!

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Shifting Light

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Watch Tell-Tale for Free at Festival Angaelica thru Dec 30

It’s a Tell-Tale holiday surprise! Thru December 30 you can watch my musical short film adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” for free, along with a hundred other cinematic offerings, at Festival Angaelica.

To be precise, Angaelica is offering a 30 day free trial, which covers the length of the festival. Go here to learn more.

You will find “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” either listed alphabetically…

… or, once signed in, among the short films (20-45 min) section:

You will also be able to watch an interview festival director Vivien Martinez conducted with me. Lots of tidbits about Tell-Tale and its follow up “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”. Really going “into the weeds” of the filming process.

So this holiday season treat yourself to another helping of musical ghoulishness and more at festival Angaelica.

And be sure to leave a comment in Tell-Tale’s viewing section.

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If a tree falls in a forest 200 million years ago, can you hear it?

Well, no, you probably will not hear it.

But if the tree is carried away by flood waters, and quickly submerged in silt…

… it may not decay, but instead be fossilized.

Colorful rock preserving the shape and texture of the tree.

And then add millennia of tectonic shifts and climate change and erosion, and voila, you can now see that tree 200 million years after it fell, in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

No longer just any old tree. Now it’s a rock star.

Petrified Forest National Park visitor center
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A Tell-Tale Q&A and an Actor Panel

This August I participated in several Zoom sessions with the Art is Alive Film Festival.

I just received the recordings of two of them. First up is Art is Alive founder Cindy Mich interviewing me after a virtual screening of my short film Edgar Allan Poe adaptation “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” (which would go on to win the Judy Garland Award for musical score later in the festival).

Here are some topics we covered, and when in the recording you can find them:

0:24 – Why Poe not Shakespeare? – The Tell-Tale origin story.

3:18 – How did you create the performance?

6:00 – Where/How did you find your voice in this character?

8:25 – Contrasting this to adapting the companion piece “Pit and the Pendulum”. (PS: When I say P&P isn’t a first person monolog, I mean Tell-Tale reads like a spoken first person narrative, whereas P&P takes the guise of a written first person narrative).

11:00 – Talking about bringing the instruments to life on screen.

15:00 – Syncing the performance to the recording.

17:30 – Talking about getting the husband (Ed) involved.

20:30 – What is the driving force behind the film’s success? What makes it special?

23:30 – What’s with the facial hair?

24:15 – Talk about the awards.

25:45 – Where is the film going from here?

28:50 – Our Wisconsin connections.

30:55 – The Art is Alive awards.

33:00 – Adapting Poe’s text. Tell-Tale as a teaching tool.

35:15 – Jennifer joins us.

36:45 – Closing statements.

38:40 – Ed proves he exists.

The day before the Tell-Tale Q&A I had joined Cindy and Michael Gentile in an Actors Workshop Panel.

Below the video is the time guide to that discussion:

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It’s been a while since I have shared another post from our 2019 Great American Southwest Tour. You wouldn’t want to miss out on Monument Valley, now would you?

Well, we’ll get there, but we’re not there yet. There are still a few less famous but still spectacular locations on our way.

Next stop is a quick look at Meteor Crater on our way driving through Central Arizona.

Meteor Crater from above. No, I didn’t take this picture…

Meteor Crater, also known as Barringer Crater, was created 50 000 years ago by a nickel-iron meteorite about 160 feet (50 meters) across.

It lies in privately owned land, so is not protected as a National Monument. It has been declared a National Natural Landmark.

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In the village of Celoron, part of the town of Ellicott, on the western boundary of the city of Jamestown, in Chautauqua County, in the state of New York, United States, a statue was erected in honor of Lucille Ball, legendary comedienne and the main claim to fame for Celoron, population 1112 (according to the 2010 census).

The statue was commissioned by Mark and Jetta Wilson, who donated it to Lucille Ball’s birthplace in 2009.

For six years the statue stood quietly in the little park, without controversy.

But then in 2015, it became an internet meme, as “Scary Lucy”, attracting worldwide derision and condemnation.

Even its original sculptor, Dave Poulin, admitted it was “by far my most unsettling sculpture” and that he had wanted to redo it for several years before the controversy erupted.

Perhaps trying to capture Lucy’s Vitameatavegamin grimace sculpturally was a doomed proposition from the get go, no matter the skill of the artist.

“Scary Lucy” became such a bronze of contention that a commission was formed to replace it. Carolyn Palmer was chosen from 67 applicants to make “New Lucy”.

And if you turn your head westwards from Scary Lucy, there, not far off, stands New Lucy…

They didn’t remove the unloved statue. She still shares the park with her corrective.

After all, the controversy around the statues is perhaps more of a draw than anything else.

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The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” will stream this Sunday, December 6, as part of the London International Motion Picture Awards free screenings of their nominated official selections on Films On Go TV.

The L.I.M.P.A. will start showing films today. Each day’s streaming program starts at 12pm London time, as will the program this Sunday that includes “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”. By my math, you can expect my musical Edgar Allan Poe adaptation to air around 4:10pm London time, 11:10 am EST. (Click here to watch.)

Public viewing of all films as they stream these next two weeks very much looks to be free!

There also appears to be a public vote involved, so please do show “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” your support when you visit L.I.M.P.A.

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Back in the Studio

Some teasing glimpses into the next Poe Musicabre

Pre-production efforts for the follow-up to my short film musical adaptation of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” are in full gear. This week I am in the studio laying down vocal tracks for “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”. Yes, as previously announced and discussed, it’s another Edgar Allan Poe adaptation.

These first pics are from Tuesday, my first day recording. I am using the same studio, JahRockn, where I recorded my Tell-Tale vocals almost exactly two years ago. Today I go in for my fourth session. Even though “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre” will be shorter than “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”, I actually have to lay down far more vocal tracks than before. There are some important reasons for this, which distinguish the voice work here from its predecessor in dramatic ways, and require the extra time in the studio…

Chris and Aaron from JahRockn in the monitor

As with Tell-Tale, my vocals aren’t the first sounds recorded during pre-production. In August we recorded the instrumental tracks. And the old Tell-Tale music gang is back: Robin Hasenflug,  Scott Burns and Michael Gelfand playing the three cellos, again recorded and engineered by Todd Maki in Ohio. Above and below are some screen shots of my view of the proceedings hunched over my lap top with ear buds plugged in. Last time we did this, there was no need for masks and Covid tests ahead of time, of course.

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