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A while back, Kevin Ott from the Writers Guild Foundation asked me to do a guest write-up on their blog.  I was to write about one of the top 101 screenplays from the WGA's member voted list.  I chose "Thelma and Louise" as I had never seen the film and am a big Ridley Scott fan.  It got posted about two week ago now and I am happy to re-post it here.  I hope I can get the chance to do another one soon. 

You can find the post HERE

 
 
This past weekend, I traveled down to San Diego for "Jantastic" presented by the San Diego Derby Dolls.  It was there to direct the webcast over the two-day tournament. The last time I was there was in June for the "Battle on the Bank" tournament.

It was so great to work with a well-run and professional operation like the Derby Dolls and with such great people like Isabelle Ringer and Amber Alert! It was also nice to see a lot of familiar faces from roller derby community from players to announcers.
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Me in the production booth, switching. Photo by: Amber Alert!
PictureTunnel vision. Photo by: Me
I'd like to thank my camera ops, announcers, and the SDDD staff for putting on a great production. I'd also like to thank all the skaters from all around the country that displayed great talent and incredible skill throughout the entire weekend. Also, congratulations to the "My Little Ponies" team that claimed 1st place.

I hope the games will be available online soon, until then, enjoy the championship  game that I directed from the BOTB tournament in June of 2014. The bout is between the Los Angeles Derby Dolls Ri-ettes and the Arizona Derby Dames Hot Shots.


 
 
During the first weekend of January, I was invited to join the Minnesota based GSI (Ghost Stories Inc.) on their paranormal investigation of LA locations tied to the Sharon Tate tragedy of 1969. The group is in the process of making a documentary, and LA was one of many stops on their list of locations. The group is made up of children's authors and artists, and contains both skeptics and believers. I have always been interested in the supernatural and a big fan of 'reality' ghost shows, so I was excited to participate. 

I met the group at a house they rented in Hollywood.  I knew one of their members prior to my arrival.  That was artist, Scott Spinks. Scott and I met a couple years ago and he has done some artwork for a handful of my projects. I was relived when I found the rest of the group to be as friendly as he.

While at the house, it was neat to see the group assemble their ghost hunting gear in preparation for the investigation. Everyone was excited to tell me how it all worked, from the temperature gun that uses a laser, to the spirit box that scans radio waves for 'voices.' I found it all to be very cool gear. After getting all the tools and personnel assembled, we hopped in the big white Scooby-Doo-esque cargo van, and I was ready to have my skepticism shattered.
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The GSI crew in the big van. Zoinks!
PictureThe house by: David Oman
Our first stop was the 'Oman House' located in the Benedict Canyon area of Beverly Hills. The 'Oman House' is located about 200ft (maybe more) from the front gates of the property where the Tate murder happened, and its owner, David Oman, has reported paranormal activity since the house was built in 2002. The original Tate house was torn down in the 1990s and a new mansion was built in its place. When I got all that information, my skepticism spiked pretty high, as I thought the 'Oman House' was a little far away to receive hauntings, but I was willing to keep an open mind.

We met David, who was a welcoming and friendly fellow, and he gave us a tour of the house. He had great enthusiasm as explained to us what kind of activity he and others had experienced over the years. This included: apparitions of ghostly figures, disembodied voices, knocked over action figures, and nausea. After the tour, we left to go to dinner at the famous, El Coyote restaurant to wait for true nightfall. The GSI team told me they do their investigations from about 10pm to 3am.

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El Coyote. Photo via: FreindsEat.com
Besides having some of the best food in LA, El Coyote was the last place Sharon Tate and her friends had eaten before their untimely end.  It creeped me out a little, knowing that we were going to eat at the same location as Tate before our investigation, but it didn't ruin my appetite for a delicious beef burrito and heaps of chips and salsa! Mmmmm...

After dinner, we hightailed it back to the house to set up the equipment. The tech experts from GSI set up small security cameras at certain points of the house where reported activity was high. The rest of us got the camcorders and sound equipment powered up. Once everyone was ready to go, they hit the lights and began their investigation.
PictureMonitor with cameras.
The group as a whole was nine people deep including myself, so we broke into two smaller groups. My group went downstairs to conduct and EVP session. EVP is short for 'Electric Voice Phenomenon.' The phenomenon happens when an audio recorder picks up a voice, inaudible by the human ear. I didn't really talk as I was the one holding the camcorder but the people in my group ask things like: "Are you here?" "What's your name?" and "Can you tap twice on the wall?"

During this session, others reported a chill in the air, but I didn't feel much of anything.  Since we didn't have time to listen back to the recording, I can't say if a spirit talked back to us.

We did this in several locations of the house and pretty much had the same results. I really didn't get any weird feelings or hear anything. There was a moment where everyone thought they heard music and a man and woman talking, but I chalked that up to the pair of fish aquariums in the room that were running at different speeds.

When we regrouped in the kitchen area around 2am is when the first (and only) strange thing happened that would divide the collectives' opinion on paranormal evidence.  

As mentioned earlier, they placed security cameras at different points in the house. One of said cameras was positioned on top a fish tank where a small collection of action figures was displayed. David Oman has reported that the action figures fall over due to the spirits. As an avid former action figure collector, I know that sometimes crapply made action figures fall over.

Anyway, while taking about supposed evidence gathered, GSI founder, Jessica Freeburg made way for the bathroom. While she was inside, we heard a shriek. She ran out of the bathroom reporting to us that the lights went off by themselves when she was washing up. She was visibly shaken by the incident even though a few of us blamed it on the light switch setting that had a fade to black option.   

Soon after she calmed down, Jessica made an off-hand comment about a spirit that she had supposedly been communicating with in the basement. She had wondered if it could have that spirit that hit the lights on her. It was at this moment that an action figure on the fish tank fell down and was captured by camera.

PictureFigure collection photo by: David Oman
Now, as mentioned, I used to collect many action figures and the fact of the matter is, some just fall down. Even so, it was the timing of the event that got nearly everyone spooked. I scoffed. David stood up the figure and not 5-minutes later, it fell again. Again, many were jostled. This time Scott went to reset the figure and while he was inspecting it, it fell again. He jumped, I laughed. With many in the group thoroughly shaken, and the 3am hour close at hand, everyone decided to call it a night. Just then, a large door on the balcony slammed to the floor. Many thought it was the spirit again, but Sean Spinks (Scott's brother and fellow skeptic) and I chalked it up to the wind outside.

Nothing much happened while we packed up and left. On the van ride back to the rental house, it seemed like not much that happened at the 'Oman House 'did anything to sway the skeptics into believers. They are still reviewing the audio recordings and video footage, so there may be a surprise yet to come.

PictureGSI members Natalie (L) & Jessica (R).
The next day we hit the road to go to the valley. They were on the hunt for the Spann Ranch. The ranch is place where the Manson Family called home. The ranch burned down in the 1990s and is now: one, hard to find and two, a pile of rubble.  We combed the woods and soon found the Manson Cave where the group took a family photo in the late 60s and after a long trek, found the land itself.  The land sits in a pretty picturesque piece of land. We got there just during sunset as well, so everything was getting a nice orange glow.

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The view from the former Spann Ranch.
One thing I noticed while there was a large cross in the distance on the top of a large hill. It belonged to a church that was adjacent and visible from the Spann Ranch location.  I mentioned to GSI member, Jay Asher, how the cross must have been put there as a statement to the location's frequent visitors. I think that statement is: "Good will always rise above."

They didn't do an investigation on the land. For the group, the point was just to get a bit of context to the key 'Oman House' investigation. On the walk back many reported getting a 'heavy feeling' while on the land. I didn't feel much of anything but an awe of some natural beauty. We plied in the van and prepared for dinner at Hollywood landmark, The Roosevelt Hotel, a reported paranormal location itself. At dinner, we discussed the weekend's 'evidence.'

Overall, the investigation failed to turn this skeptic into a believer, but it was successful in making me some great new friends.  Honestly, I found everyone on the GSI team to be friendly and super interesting. We also shared a ton of laughs and smiles. I am looking forward to their documentary and hope to ghost hunt with them again someday. Because like Fox Mulder in the "X-Files," "I want to believe."
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Fox's office. Photo via 20th Century Fox.
 
 
Picture8-bit Phoebe Hilton by Tim Gafney
The New Year is here and I am looking forward to a productive year. Another year means more growth for my transmedia project: "Geeky Pheebs." Over the past few weeks, I have been updating the website GeekyPheebs.com. The new updates included making the short film "An Ideal Man" available to watch, launching "Phoebe's Playhouse," a weekly character blog, and getting ad affiliates placed to hopefully generate some income for the project. We have much more in store for the project over the course of the next few months, including some promotion at MARSCON 2015 in early March.

In the hopes of sharpening my screenwriting skills, I have also joined a pair of elite writing groups that both kick off this month. Many of the professional screenwriters I have heard speak over the past year, have all stated how vital writing groups are in achieving 'next level' status.  

In addition to that, I've been invited to contribute articles for the Writers Guild Foundation's blog as well as my friend Sarah's new movie magazine (currently untitled). Both articles will be published in the next few weeks in their respective outlets.  [Expect to see both pieces re-posted here.]

As if all that won't keep me busy enough, on the weekend of Jan 16-18, I'll head down to San Diego to direct the webcast for the 'Jantastic Tournament' hosted by the San Diego Derby Dolls. It will be a weekend of hard hitting and exciting roller derby action from some of the nation's top skaters. I have been looking forward to this event for quite some time.

Finally, because I wanted to kick 2015 in to high gear early, I embarked on a high-octane adventure this past weekend when I joined GSI (Ghost Stories Inc.) on a ghost hunt of 'The Oman House.' 'The Oman House' is located in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles and is a mere 200ft from the site of the ghastly 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and her friends at the hands of the Manson Family. Since the construction of the house, the owner has reported paranormal activity and has invited many investigations. What did we find during our investigation? You'll just have to wait until I post my recap later next week.

Until then, a wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2015!