RTU Work Pals

Behind the Scenes at RTU
Work Pals

The filmmaking professionals who help a shoestring labor of love like Rock That Uke reach fruition could fill the extras call sheet of a Cecil B. DeMille movie. Below are just a few special representatives of the many people who gave us their time, talents, and resources either for free or at cut-rate prices.

Frank Döring
Sean, Frank and Bill in OaklandFrank, Bill and Sean in San Francisco
The tall, dark, handsome guy (the one with the German accent) with Sean and Bill in the pictures above is our friend Frank Döring. Frank is the talented photographer responsible for the exquisite black and white portraits of Rock That Uke artists that you see play across the screen during the documentary's closing credits. They're often used in press coverage of RTU, and in the summer of '04, an arty European publication, Adrenalin Magazine, ran a spread of them with accompanying text.

When we first met him, Frank was a college philosophy professor who had recently "left the academy" to pursue his passion for large-format black-and-white photography. In that way, Metaphysics' loss became Ukuleledom's gain. (Not the first time we've said that, probably not the last.) In chatting with Frank about our project, he became intrigued by it and asked to go along with us on an interview, maybe take some pictures. From there, he was hooked. Or...roped, actually. Well, we forget.

But in addition to documenting most of our interview subjects through his own skilled lens, Frank also pitched in with lighting, gaffing, gripping, driving, and interstate highway cartographic analyses (and in this last function, it was good for Sean to have someone to talk to). Beyond that, Frank was a frequent sounding board for ideas and an endless source of encouragement.

Once the interviews were done, and it was just Sean and Bill working on the project again, Sean would occasionally try to do impressions of Frank to keep the magic alive. But somehow he just sounded like Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes. Entertaining in its own right, but hardly an adequate Frank. There's a Frank page in the "Behind the Scenes" section that leads you to his website and the RTU portraits.

Sean and Sue in OaklandSean, Bill and Sue in Oakland

This strawberry blonde, gap-toothed gal in uptown black is our friend Susan Faulkner. Sue helped us repeatedly during the making of RTU. We love Sue. Like Sean, Sue graduated from the Stanford Documentary Film program, where she and Sean first became friends. When our travels with RTU led us to the San Francisco where Sue lived at the time, she let the three of us--Sean, Frank, and Bill--sleep on her apartment floor for a week. During that trip, she also acted as second camera during a raucous, feedbackful concert put on by Beth Allen and Pamela Schulting, the punk goddesses we mere mortals call Pineapple Princess. Sue became a PP fan thereafter, and continued to attend their concerts even after we departed.

Sometime later, when Carmaig de Forest appeared on our radar and we knew we had to interview him, Bill flew back out to San Francisco, where Carmaig was living then, and once again found himself given shelter by Sue. Sue femmed the camera during Carmaig's interview on that trip, with her pal Rita Rotti on sound and lights, as well as during a concert Carmaig gave at Café du Nord.

And if all this wasn't enough, still later, when actress Holly Hunter agreed to voice the narration of the documentary and a special trip was made to New York City to do the ADR at Sync Sound--Sue, who by then had moved to the Big Apple to seek her fortune, assisted us yet again.

We love Sue. And, yes, fellas!--she's available!

Dan O. with a big board and a big Carmaig at ZaentzDan and Sean at Juan's

This is Dan Olmsted, who did RTU's final sound mix at the Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley, CA. In budget film and video production, sound is as critical to the final product as the visuals. And though we won't go so far as to say it's more important, we think it's true that audiences will forgive flawed visuals before they'll forgive poor sound. And yet, time and again, the sound equipment gets short shrift during production: filmmakers will lay out money for a good camera and then rely on various second-hand loaner and rental mikes that give a veritable Whitman Sampler of distorted field audio, in which the contents rarely contain caramel and there seem to be way too many with jelly. Budget filmmakers do this all the time, and, RTU is proud to say, we followed in the footsteps of those who came before us.

Which is why the post-production industry has people like Dan, who come in and clean things up--not to fix the flaws, but to play with them so that the flaws are less noticeable and distracting and the overall parade of edited sound bytes flows with a seamless, aural patina of professionalism. It's not a purely technical thing, despite all the equipment--it's an art. And Dan O. is an artist.

We met Dan through RTU featured artist Carmaig de Forest, long before we realized that in addition to playing lead guitar in Carmaig's DeathGrooveLoveParty band, Dan was also a professional sound mixer. When the time came to do our mix, Dan got us an amazing deal at the Saul Zaentz Center, one of the top post production sound places around. There is no other way to say this: Dan is a just plain sweet guy with a boyish bounce to his step and an eager, unselfish "Hey!--Let's put on a show!" enthusiasm that belies his very serious skills as a sound mixer. For buget filmmakers, it's all too easy for a post production mixer to be solely a technician, and a haughty one at that--uncommunicative, feeling undo authority because...well, you're a charity case and, you know, they control that big board.

Not Dan.

Dan's an artist.

Sean, Charles and Riccardo at 3 Street in San Francisco

Charles and Riccardo are the president and technical director, respectively, of 3 Street, a San Francisco-based visual communication company. They do video productions--commercials, corporate instructionals and presentations, television shows, dvds. Sean worked with 3 Street when he lived in the Bay Area, and during the sometimes trying post-production phase of ROCK THAT UKE, when we were transferring the documentary from our desktop computer to a professional Beta SP tape so that it could be sound mixed, Charles and Riccardo went above and beyond for us, with Riccardo putting in long work days to help solve our computer glitches, and Charles opening 3 Street's doors to us, allowing us not just to set up shop there, bringing in our entire computer system, but providing a safe haven for us as we darted hither and yon to various post-production facilities to do the sound mix and then synch up the sound mix with the visuals and create a final master.

There are some very good, very generous people involved in the world of film and video production, without whose assistance , the budget filmmaker doesn't stand a chance. Charles and Riccardo at 3 Street are two of them.

Corn Nuts, the Official Snack Food of RTU

Yes, that's right--Corn Nuts. We don't remember exactly when we started referring to Corn Nuts as "The Official Snack Food of Rock That Uke," and it wasn't really our official snack food, because no relationship of corporate sponsorship existed. But there's no question about it: we ate a helluva a lot of Corn Nuts during our road trips and they became an important support tool during RTU's production, not so much because of their nutritional value, which is negligible, but because they are a perfect tedium abater--equally entertaining in both their corporeality and in the concept of them. It's not just that they endlessly entertain by causing cranial vibrations from the act of chewing them. Once you're full--it's just a funny thing to say: Corn Nuts. Is it a food? An anatomical part? Or is it Hillbilly slang for either the kind of guys who attacked Ned Beatty in Deliverance or the thing they "got a bad case of" in the days following their attack on Ned Beatty?

Like so many of our more valuable production connections, this one came from Sean. On the first leg of their very first road trip together, Bill mocked Sean's choice of snack as typical of his curiously Spartan-in-a-junky-sort-of-way culinary tastes (at their first meeting together to discuss RTU, Bill had a burger; Sean had a cup of miso and a beer). On the way back, however, Bill decided to try some, and, upon feeling the vibrations in his cranium, was hooked. Not long after, when Frank started joining us on our trips, he, too Winky and Seanderided the Corn Nuts initially. But soon--even Frank's refined European palate succumbed to the charms of the vibration-inducing edible nuggets. Though as an interesting aside, for some reason, Corn Nuts didn't sound as funny when Frank said it.

A big thrill came in the summer of 2004, during the Don't Knock the Rock Film and Video Festival screening in Hollywood. In addition to getting to see such ukulele stars as King Kukulele, Larry D, The Haoles, and Uke Til U Puke, we had a very special celeb visit from none other than retired Corn Nuts promotional mascot Winky the Crow. Winky was as genuine and unpretentious as a one-eyed has-been felt doll could be in that cynical glitz-sodden town, and sat down with us for an evening of dinner and drinks. Luckily, a camera was on hand!