Take a Look!

November 29, 2010 § 3 Comments

Craig and I, as the geezer-rock duo, “Hot Tamale” were invited to Disney to play for America’s English teachers at their annual convention–and we wanted to wow them.

“I know,” Craig said.  “Let’s make a music video about reading!”  It was like the light-bulb moment from an old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland film when those spunky kids decided to put on a show to save the farm.

Craig wrote a song with a catchy powerhouse rhythm and we recorded it with the help of our friends Gordon Halleck and Chris Ash who provided studio expertise, tin can percussion, twangs, pops, and cartoon voices.

That took care of the music.

For the acting, dancing and all around reading-craziness Craig suggested we call on the kids of The Front Porch Library (the very local library my neighbors and I maintain for the kids of Seminole Manor).

I knew that for our kids this would be a chance to do a great group project and impress English teachers, something they don’t regularly do.  But I also knew that like all kids, ours could be shy and self conscious.  Jumping, dancing and goofing are not always spontaneous activities for kids.  Plus, stuff happening in their lives can make acting happy hard.

We sat down with the library kids to “brainstorm” images for the video.  In the group was a brother and sister who had recently lost their father.  I was particularly worried about the boy, who had become silent and subdued since the death.  As the ideas began to flow, he suddenly chimed in.  “How about if we put a kid holding a book way up in a tree, and then have a kid on the ground read the book through binoculars!”  His face lit up.  “What if we put everyone on the roof–all reading books?”

Enthusiasm was building.  “Wait—let’s have a running kid reading a book with a dog chasing him!”

The idea of including dogs in a reading video caught fire.  During the week before filming began, dogs were taught to read books and ride in bicycle baskets (while reading books).  And when bicycles were added the next logical suggestion was Michael.

Michael is always issuing invitations to free bike stunt shows at odd hours like 4:10 or 3:16.  I’ve caught the 3:16 show a couple of times and can attest to the fact that Michael is perhaps the premiere low-speed bike trick rider in this galaxy.  We filmed him doing the trick he calls “the peeing dog.”  To the normal routine, which features a raised leg, he added the flourish of holding a book in one hand.  Sadly, we got no useable footage of his trick, but Michael is also a contortionist.  You will see him balanced on his hands, about to turn the page with his toes.

We needed a few props.  Luckily, all our kids are proficient with markers and crayons.  We made props seated at the picnic table in the driveway in front of the library.  To simulate the “huge crowd” we took rubber gloves and drew faces on the fingertips.  In the film everyone crouched behind a curtain and wiggled their fingers, except A’Miracle who decided to pop up and grin.

To illustrate the lyric, “you can write your own book,” kids drew elaborate covers on blank books.  The pages remained blank but the dogs who read them didn’t object.

On the day of the shoot volunteers from Circle K International, a service organization at FSU, were there to help.  They quickly joined the cast.  Those bigger kids had no inhibitions whatsoever.

While my husband, Ray, shot  stills in the house, Craig shot video on the front lawn.  I served cupcakes.  When our video was done we showed it to our kids, who were immensely proud.  Even before we posted it online Michael was bragging that a million people had seen it.

Armed with the DVD, Ray, Craig and I headed for Disney.  Hot Tamale played for a Friday night reception.  I’d say we were a hit.  The English teachers formed a conga line and sashayed around the tables shaking their booties to “Mustang Sally.”

We didn’t present our video until Sunday morning.  When I tell the kids about it I will have to phrase it skillfully, “They loved it!” and hope that no one asks exactly how many English teachers were in the audience.  Although it was a featured session, the venue for the presentation was a shuttle ride away from the convention center, and our time slot was early.

We had hoped for a “huge crowd.”  We got about twenty warm, drowsy bodies, but our effort persists in the ethereal space of the internet, which hosts the hugest crowd of all.  Michael could yet be right about that million people.

And it perists in the memory of all who worked on it–except for maybe the dogs, who were probably just glad to go back to napping on the floor.

Please join that million-in-the-making and take a look at “Take a Look.”

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjaX0pA2CBY

Schooltube: http://www.schooltube.com/video/f7bd4008ef763139bfb9/take-a-look

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