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!


 
 
This past Saturday marked the end of the LA Derby Dolls' 2014 season.  It culminated in a championship bout between the Tough Cookies and the Sirens.  The Tough Cookies survived the season with an untarnished record, even during the round-robin tournament, and they were the runaway favorite the walk away with the trophy at the end of the night.  But there's a reason they play the game, because on any given day, the underdog can come up the winner, and that was the case, as the Sirens pulled out a three-point victory in a nail-bitter of a finish.  The game should be published online sometime in the near future.  At the end of the bout, I mentioned to my production crew, "I guess we now know why Minnie's privates are private, because she makes champions."  I guess only a few RaD people will get that joke.

Before the game started, I found Sirens skater, RegulateHer to see if she would allow me to take a video portrait of her.  She's a veteran in the league and this bout would mark the end her career with the LADD.  I thought this would be a good reason to have her be a subject, it's good context for a thing like this.

Recently, I have been chipping my way through, "The Story of Film: An Odyssey" by Mark Cousins.  It's a fifteen-hour documentary that chronicles the history of film.  It is streaming on Netflix, and if you're a film buff, I highly recommend it.  It gets a lot of flack for excluding many films, but it's a documentary, not a book, so he obviously doesn't have the time to mention everything.  It really does a good job of balancing American/Hollywood film history with world cinema.  Really, check it out if you have time.

Anyway, in the documentary, Cousins brings up that Japanese director Yasujio Ozu was the first to use the foreground of the frame in film.  This was a technique later adopted by Orson Welles.  While I was watching, this foreground technique really stuck in my head.  His examples in the documentary really made me rethink how to utilize the foreground in my own work.  Long after viewing this foreground segment, I thought, 'this technique would be something cool to try out in a video portrait.' 

I kept that thought positioned in my front burner of my mind, and soon I realized that the banked track at the Doll Factory would be the ideal place to tryout the foreground video portrait.  Flash forward to early last week, and the fast approaching LADD Championship bout.  I figured the Championship bout would be a great opportunity to try the video portrait, because of the context. 

So, from that moment, I had the portrait image floating around in my mind of how it would look, framing-wise.  Then, when I found out it was RegulateHers' last bout, I knew I wanted to get her as a subject, as it would add another layer to the context.  Plus, given one of  RegulateHers' trademarks is her skull mask, I thought this would make the image even more striking.  I'm sure the mask is meant to intimidate, because RegulateHer is one of the nicest people rolling around the Doll Factory. 

Besides the context of the portrait, I wanted to visually communicate the mental state of mind of a player before a game.  There she is, in the middle of madness on the track, solitary, focused, trying to meditate on the task at hand.  In this moment, nothing on the outside is important, except, focusing on making sure she is ready to play.  I picture this is what is looks like in the mind of someone before they take the field or stage.
The shot looked pretty much the way I had it in my head.  In the foreground, skaters whipping by as they warm-up and in the background, they continue on.  My telephoto lens is only an f/4.5 so there is a bit more noise then I wanted, but to me, the framing was the most important part and it is 100% how I wanted it to look. 

I like to think that maybe it was this moment of meditation that helped RegulateHer focus on victory and help her team win the trophy.  But in reality, it was probably a season of hard work and well-executed team strategy.  Either way, congrats to RegulateHer and the Sirens for being the 2014 LA Derby Dolls Champions.
 
 
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I was just invited to participate in a ghost investigation!  It's with a group called, Ghost Stories Inc. (GSI) and they are led by author and filmmaker Jessica Freeburg, who extended me the invite. GSI is a group of authors and artists seeking inspiration through paranormal research.  They are currently in production of a documentary titled "After Life" about paranormal research. 

The group is coming to LA in January to investigate the home where the Manson Family murders took place.  I have always had an interested in the paranormal and I am excited to help out in this investigation.  I really don't know what to expect, but that is part of the fun.

I'll update you here on what it was like. I imagine it will be spooky.  Check out the video below for a teaser clip from the forthcoming "After Life."
 
 
I so rarely get to use my DSLR these days. I have been spending so much time to my writing efforts that my passion for photography has fallen a bit by the wayside. I do have an Instagram account and use my mobile phone's camera, but it's a poor substitute for the real deal. On Monday night of this week, I saw the 'super moon' in the sky. I rushed out to take a picture of it, but by the time I got all set up, it was a little too late.
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Monday night.
Last night I decided to plan ahead. I got the camera all ready, and waited. And waited. Then waited some more. The moon never came. So I called it a night and went inside. While I was waiting, I enjoyed the blueness of the sky, so I snapped a few pictures for fun. Blue is my favorite color, so I couldn't resist. When I was reviewing the images later, I liked how this one turned out.
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Tuesday night.
It was good feeling to have exercised my photography muscle the past two nights. With results like this, I may do it more often. I've never really done landscapes, but I'd like to get more practice.
 
 
Recently, I had a surprise visit from my friends Arika and Alan. They were on a day trip from Santa Barbara. We were going to meet up for dinner at one of the countless Korean BBQ places in the city.

They stopped by and I proposed that we do a quick video portrait. The sun was setting so we had to act fast. I like to think on my feet so I worked quickly to try to get set up.

The sun set a little faster than anticipated but we forged ahead. I was interested in doing a video portrait with one, a couple and two, non-actors.  

I almost wasn’t going to post this, but I didn’t want it to go to waste. Even though it didn’t turn out 100% the way I’d like, I figure it is a learning process and with each one I do the better they will become.

Also, the city skyline was enough not to just let this sit on a hard drive.  

 
 
A few months back, I came across what is called a video portrait. I was fascinated  by the concept and wanted to try it out. I had recently been reacquainted with my actress friend Tristin Lee Rupp from Minnesota at her birthday party in the Valley.

We had briefly chatted at the party and made plans to meet up for coffee to catchup properly. Realizing that coffee was a boring for a couple of young talented artists, I suggested that we meetup and try to do a video portrait. We met in the Griffith Park area and tried a few locations and takes before settling on the location I eventually went with.

After this, my battery died and we called it a day. I forgot all about until I was cleaning up my card. Always liking to finish what I start, I did some post, added music and finalized the project. After I completed it, I once again became interested in the concept. I hope to try more of these in the future.

What happens at around the :45 mark was an unintended but delightful surprise. I must say, sometimes I just get lucky. Props to Tristin for holding her composure. Also, congrats to Tristin for her guest star spot on the CBS show "Criminal Minds."
 
 
PicturePhoto by Marc Campos, stalkerazzi.f8@gmail.com
I spent last weekend (June 5-9) in classy San Diego to direct the webcast of 'Battle on the Bank VII' for the Los Angeles & San Diego Derby Dolls.

I had a fun time capturing the excitement of banked track roller derby and everything went off without a hitch (okay there were a couple, but had nothing to do with us. Promise.). The days were long and it really taxed my mind as I had to manage multiple cameras, a switcher, announcing talent and replay. I think I have a new threshold for mental toughness.

Overall, it feels good to play a part in capturing the early days in a sport that will only grow more and more popular as time passes. Those junior derby games were amazing. Plus, I got to meet a bunch of really cool people to add to my ever expanding roller derby network.  To watch the archived bouts from 'Battle on the Bank VII' please visit the San Diego Derby Dolls YouTube channel HERE