Friday, December 31, 2010

The beginning of the novel

One thing I will do in 2011 is continue with my latest fiction book, which as of this writing is approaching 100 pages in length. This is the opening, inevitably to be changed, of course, as I proceed...


A passerby traveling the road that descends into the village of Stonington on Deer Isle, Maine, at eleven o’clock on that cloudless morning of Friday, June 8, would have observed a scene that could properly have been described as peaceful and pretty.

Framed by a white steepled chapel to the left and the harbor and the emerald stepping-stone islands of Merchants Row beyond to the right, the cemetery with its carefully trimmed grass and abundance of weathered tombstones presented itself as picturesque in that old-fashioned New England way. The oaks and maples shimmered with fresh young leaves in a spring that last week had turned unseasonably warm, a delightful development, all agreed, after a winter that had continued stubbornly past Easter, when four inches of snow fell, ruining the egg hunt and sunrise services. Only the irregular mound of back-hoed earth beneath an old green tarp might have brought unpleasantness into the passerby’s mind.

A new grave had been dug. And there, next to it, was its designated occupant, about to be lowered in.

Measured by the numbers, the living who had joined the deceased in her final moments above ground were an unimpressive assembly. This was the assemblage: Fr. Bertrand Lombardi, the septuagenarian pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea, the island’s only Roman Catholic church; three part-time employees, the full staff, of Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Home; and 16 mourners, all but one of whom, a tall and handsome dark-haired man in his mid 20s, were middle-aged or elderly. The oldest was a wheelchair-bound man who was in the care of an aide and encased in an Afghan, despite the smothering humidity and the heat, 82 degrees and rising.

Given the numbers, a passerby might have assumed that the recently departed had been a person of no particular import, in the larger sense: a local who had passed a quiet existence, troubling no one outwardly and likely having made a meritorious contribution to the gene pool; or a native-born returned after decades from a more tax- and climate-friendly place (Florida, if one had to guess). The sort of ordinary person who had been the subject of an ordinary obituary with an ordinary outdated black-and-white head shot in the local weekly, The Ellsworth American. An obituary rich with “dearly” and “beloved” and other such flowery but superficial adjectives composed by a funeral-home director with tearful input from a family member with no desire for candor, let alone full disclosure, at this Most Difficult Time of Greatest Need.

And that assumption would have been correct: The deceased’s obituary had indeed appeared in The Ellsworth American, in yesterday’s edition. It offered little more than an age, a birthplace, names of relatives and a request that in lieu of flowers, donations in her name be made to Haven Home Nursing and Rehabilition Center, Burnt Cove, Deer Isle, ME, 04627.

In her 89 years, the existence of Maura O’Reilly Grey had been confirmed in published form only three times before. The first marked her wedding to Bill, the man in the Afghan and wheelchair, on August 23, 1947, in a Charlestown, Massachusetts, church: a two-paragraph story without photo that ran in the Boston Sunday Advertiser together with a dozen similar accounts of the latest post-war couples who had committed to their role in bringing forth the Baby Boom. The second was a story in the Bangor Daily News in July 1963 commemorating the tenth anniversary of Joyland, a small theme park noted for its mini-golf, batting cage, petting zoo, Tilt-A-Whirl and 25-cent lobster rolls that Maura and Bill had opened and owned: Ten Happy Years at Deer Isle’s ‘Family Destination,’ the headline read. At the time this cheery representation of Joyland had been published, Maura was five months pregnant with Jack, her only son, who stood today with Dylan, Jack’s only child and her only grandchild. Her third previous appearance in the paper concerned something terrible: her inclusion in the obituary of her daughter, who occupied the grave next to that into which she herself was about to be lowered. BRENDA O’REILLY GREY, February 1, 1948 - June 29, 1970, With the Angels Now, the small granite stone read.

Sweaty in his unaccustomed suit, the middle-age Jack Grey was endeavoring for a better shot of the priest’s incantation over his mother’s coffin: a costly zinc-lined, hermetically-sealed container that state law had required the undertaker to use, given the condition of the corpse.

Jack always sought perfection in his work, but the location of the grave and his proximity to it were conspiring to foil him. His ideal shot would have been the coffin framed by the grieving assemblage, with the harbor, islands and open Atlantic in the distance. Though a critic might legitimately have dismissed it as cheesy (the final journey, bread upon the waters, yadi-yadi-ya), it still would have carried some metaphorical heft, in Jack’s estimation. But the sun reflecting off the water created an overwhelming backlight that washed out the coffin, the heart of the shot –– and his camera, a Panasonic HDC-SDX1 Ultra-Compact Full HD Camcorder, was powerless to correct it. And while he could have finagled a decent representation with the magic of Final Cut, in principle he was opposed to such manipulations, holding them to be a form of unacceptable fakery, which had no place in his personal work (his professional work was another matter). Or so he had deceived himself into believing.

An additional complication was the fact that maneuvering for a superior angle would have caused further unmissable disturbance: through his holy farewell words for the mother, poor old Fr. Lombardi was belatedly processing what was unfolding with the son and he was rather concerned by the behavior. In the priest’s view, this was no Kodak moment. It was a view evidently shared by Jack’s son, Dylan, who seemed poised to angrily snatch the camera from his father. “Dad, what the fuck,” Dylan whispered.

Jack rolled a few seconds more, slid the camera back into his jacket pocket, and bowed his head. He’d deal with the shortcomings of the footage somehow, later.

This simple philosophy -- somehow, later -- had frequently characterized decisions in his life, with frequently poor results.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Claiborne Pell bio set for Fall 2011 release!


I have reached agreement with the prestigious University Press of New England to publish my biography of the late Senator Claiborne Pell, which I finished writing earlier this year after a year of work. The book will be on the publisher's Fall 2011 list, which means we can expect lots of attention starting in about September, quite possibly with a book launch in Newport, the senator's home.
I am delighted with publisher UPNE, a consortium of the Dartmouth College, Northeastern University, University of Vermont, University of New Hampshire and Brandeis University presses with a distinguished list of titles and a powerful marketing reach in the region and beyond (and partnerships with other publishers). The editorial board and marketing and sales people at UPNE are enthusiastically behind the book, which portends good things! More details as they emerge...

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Roger L. Miller, 1913 - 2002


My father, a good and gentle man, died eight years ago today. I still miss him.
This is the eulogy I delivered at his funeral. God speed, Dad!

Friday, December 3, 2010

As I transition back into book writing...

... this is the blog where I will periodically check in, though not too frequently. Franzen is right when he disconnects from the Internet while writing

Monday, October 25, 2010

Big-screen premiere of BEHIND THE HEDGEROW director's cut!


After a successful August premiere and month-long run at the Pickens, filmmakers David Bettencourt and G. Wayne Miller returned to the editing booth to add about five minutes of superb footage that premiere deadlines prevented. The result is the director's cut, which is included on the deluxe DVD (along with extensive bonus footage) -- and it will be shown at Newport's Jane Pickens Theater at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14, for the first time.

Participants will not only see the new cut -- they will each receive a DVD and, while supplies last, a movie poster, all for the price of admission. And, they will get to meet Miller, Bettencourt, associate producer Calvin Miller, and, possibly, members of the Slocum family and others in Newport Society.

For more information, visit the Jane Pickens site.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Festivals, DVDs soon to arrive.

After successful showings at the 2010 Rhode Island International Film Festival, in August, and just this month at the inaugural FLICKERS North Country Film Festival, we are looking at a select few additional festivals to show Hedgerow. We were asked to submit the film to Big Sky, one of the nation's premiere documentary fests, and we hop to be an official selection.
Meanwhile, the director's cut DVDs -- a longer version of the movie, with bonus footage -- should arrive from the manufacturer in less than two weeks. Order the DVD here!

Friday, October 1, 2010

HEDGEROW director's cut DVD on the way...

Having completed a successful month-long run at Newport’s Jane Pickens Theater, the critically acclaimed BEHIND THE HEDGEROW: Eileen Slocum and the Meaning of Newport Society is now headed to DVD –– with bonus footage of scenes and interviews not in the theatrical version.

“We made a movie of just under 60 minutes, which means that we left hours and hours of great material on the proverbial cutting-room floor. Now the best of that will be available to the viewing public,” said producer G. Wayne Miller.

Among the bonus features: footage of Yusha Auchincloss talking about growing up with his step-sister, Jackie Kennedy Onassis; Betty "Boop" Blake with more detail on her mother, who survived the sinking of The Titanic; and historian Michael Budd with more on the history of Newport's mansions.

The deluxe DVD will be available in late October, but preorders are being accepted now at the Hedgerow order page.

BEHIND THE HEDGEROW premiered in August 2010 as the opening-night feature of the 2010 FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film festival. It received four stars from The Providence Journal, and was called “shockingly refreshing and funny” by Newport Mercury, “daringly intimate” by Newport Patch, “fascinating” by NPR Morning Edition and “don’t miss” by Rhode Island Monthly.

BEHIND THE HEDGEROW, from Emmy-nominated filmmakers director David Bettencourt and Miller, is an unprecedented look inside the private world of Newport, Rhode Island, High Society –– a world whose roots lie in the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors.

BEHIND THE HEDGEROW is the second title from Eagle Peak Media, the production company founded in 2008 by Miller and Bettencourt. ON THE LAKE, EPM’s first title, premiered in February 2009 and has been broadcast in PBS markets across America It was nominated for an Emmy by the New England chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hedgerow sells out at Newport premiere, 9-day run starts Aug. 20








The August 14 Newport premiere turned out to be a success beyond what we had hoped. Nearly 400 people filled Salve Regina University's Bazarsky Auditorium and dozens who had hoped to buy last-minute tickets were turned away. Apologies to them -- but the good news is that the movie will have a nine-day run at the popular downtown Newport Jane Pickens Theater. The run begins 6 p.m. Friday, August 20, and continues through Sunday, August 29. For times and tickets, visit the Hedgerow movie site or the Jane Pickens Theater.

A few scenes from the Newport premiere:

-- The line at the door.

-- Standing-room only in Bazarsky Hall.

-- Writer/producer G. Wayne Miller with friend Andy Kinnecom and Judy and Laurence Cutler at the High tea Reception that followed at the Slocum's Bellevue Avenue estate. Laurence is in the movie.

-- Script consultant Y.T. Gabrielle, Miller and R.I. State Police Col. Brendan Doherty and his wife Michele. Col. Doherty is in the movie.

-- Gene Quinn and wife Margy Slocum Quinn, hosts of the reception.

-- Gabrielle, Miller, Adam Powell IV, Beryl Slocum Powell, sponsorships director Katherine L. Miller, and Coleen Richards Powell. Beryl is in the movie.


Photos by Y.T. Gabrielle and Katherine L. Miller

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Awesome BEHIND THE HEDGEROW premiere!






We had a fabulous opening last night at Vets Auditorium in Providence -- a great audience that really seemed to dig the film, and fun parties before and after at this beautiful hall. The film itself, in high-definition, looked and sounded like nothing else. Now it's on to Newport for our August 14th premiere, followed by High Tea at the Slocums' Bellevue Avenue estate.
Pictured here are:
-- Script consultant (and fiancee!) Y. T. Gabrielle and writer/producer G. Wayne Miller, me, in the lobby.
-- Three Millers: Associate producer Calvin, sponsorship director Katherine L., and me.
-- Director David Bettencourt and me introducing the film to the audience of hundreds.
-- The hall beginning to fill up.
-- The writer's own after- after-party at The Temple Restaurant, next door.
-- G. Wayne Miller

Monday, August 9, 2010

25 hours...

... until the world premiere, 7 p.m. August 10 at Providence's Veterans Memorial Auditorium, of BEHIND THE HEDGEROW: Eileen Slocum and the Meaning of Newport Society. And just five days until the Newport premiere, 2 p.m. August 14th at Salve Regina University. Information on both screenings, which are followed by gala parties (the August 14 Newport soiree is on the grounds of Eileen's Bellevue Avenue estate!), is available through this link. Tickets will be sold at the door, at both events.

In the days before the premiere, we have received tremendous publicity, in newspapers, on the radio and online. To see some of it, go to this page on the Eagle Peak Media site.

And now, we basically cross our fingers, knock on wood and hope to break a leg. And hope to see friends, film fans and anyone else.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Score!


Early this morning in the studio, we completed the last phase of BEHIND THE HEDGEROW the movie before the final technical fixes of image and sound, which will occupy much of the next week or so. We brought in the excellent musical score by Lonnie Montaquilla and Ben Mesiti. Here are Dave and Lonnie, right, doing some fine-tuning.

The sound is beautiful, to match the quality of the high-def images.

See you at the Aug. 10 and Aug. 14 premieres!

Friday, July 16, 2010

HEDGEROW TICKETS!

BEHIND THE HEDGEROW OPENS
R. I. INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL


July 14, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PROVIDENCE, R.I. –– Tickets are now on sale for the World and Newport premieres of BEHIND THE HEDGEROW: Eileen Slocum and the Meaning of Newport Society, the exclusive and first-ever movie about the secret world of old-money aristocratic Newport and one of its -- and Rhode Island’s and America’s -- most prominent families.

Both premieres, which are presented by the 2010 FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival, will be followed by gala parties. Admission to these parties is included in the ticket price.

The World Premiere will be 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 10, at the VMA Arts & Cultural Center, 1 Avenue of the Arts, Providence, R.I., 02903. This screening is the feature event of the opening night of the FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival. Tickets are $25, including the post-screening soirée.

The Newport premiere will be 2 p.m Aug. 14 at Bazarsky Hall, O’Hare Academic Center, Salve Regina University, Newport. Tickets are $30, including a post-screening High Tea hosted by members of the late Eileen Gillespie Slocum’s family on the grounds of Slocum’s Bellevue Avenue estate.

Online ticketing for both events is available at the Film festival site or through the film site. Phone orders can be placed at 401-861-4445 or in person at the FLICKERS/RIIFF office, 83 Park Street, Suite, 1, Providence, RI 02903. Tickets will be sold at the doors but seating is limited, and advance orders are recommended.

Part history, part contemporary look, BEHIND THE HEDGEROW is told through the focus of Slocum, Newport’s last grand dame, who died in the summer of 2008. Slocum’s family has granted the filmmakers exclusive access to her archives and private Bellevue Avenue estate, where much of the film was shot over the last year.

The film features the on-camera appearances of several members of Newport Society, many of whom have never appeared on the screen before. The film is narrated by the late Eileen Slocum herself, through audio recordings made before her death.

Slocum was not only Newport’s last grand dame –– she was a leading national Republican political figure for many years, a friend of both Presidents Bush, Presidents Reagan and Ford, and many others on both sides of the political spectrum. She was a descendant of prominent Rhode Islanders, including Roger Williams and the Browns of Brown University. These stories are told in the film in Eileen’s own words and appearances by several friends, including former Governor Bruce Sundlun and Hugh D. “Yusha” Auchincloss, stepbrother of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

BEHIND THE HEDGEROW is the second title from Eagle Peak Media, the production company founded in 2008 by writer/producer G. Wayne Miller and director David Bettencourt. ON THE LAKE: Life and Love in a Distant Place, its first title, premiered in February 2009 to critical acclaim. PBS broadcasts in major national markets began in March 2009 and continue today. ON THE LAKE was nominated for an Emmy by the New England chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

George T. Marshall, RIIFF Executive Director, is the executive producer of BEHIND THE HEDGEROW.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Soft light, Newport evening



Yes, we really did return to Eileen's mansion for one last shoot, the evening of Tuesday, June 29. We had some additional scans provided to us by Eileen's daughter Beryl Slocum Powell, which production assistant Brenda Rourke handles; a sound-recording of Patricia Painter, the diarist voice of Eileen, which musician/soundman Lonnie Montaquila oversaw; and an on-camera interview of granddaughter Phyllis Trevor Higgerson, which Dave and I conducted. That's Phyllis, back to camera, and me in the distance, in this photo by Dave.
Phyliss beautifully narrated an important era in her grandmother's life: her coming of age in 1930s New York City society; her engagement to richest-bachelor-in-the-world John Jacob Astor VI, whose mother was pregnant when she survived the sinking of the Titanic (the second Titanic story in the film, by the way); and the eventual meeting and marriage of Eileen and her husband John.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Behind The Hedgerow premiere approaches...


With the premiere now less than two months away, we are intensely editing. I spent a couple of hours today with Dave, pictured here, in the studio helping refine the opening sequence, Folks, it's starting to look kick-ass.
Information about the 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 10 world premiere at Vets Auditorium in Providence can be found through this ticket link, and as always, more is at the official movie site.
And please join the Facebook World Premiere events page. There will also be a Newport premiere at 2 p.m., Aug. 14, Bazarsky Lecture Hall, Salve Regina University.

Monday, April 12, 2010

First look at HEDGEROW

April 12, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BRISTOL, R.I. –– This year’s Roving Eye documentary film festival will feature an early look at BEHIND THE HEDGEROW: Eileen Slocum and the Meaning of Newport Society, the first-ever feature-length movie about the secret world of old-money Newport that will premiere at the 2010 Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Writer/producer G. Wayne Miller and director David Bettencourt will be on hand April 25 at Roger Williams University to screen selections from the film and join RWU professor Edward Delaney to talk about the making of HEDGEROW and participate in a more general discussion, “The Art of Creative Storytelling.”
Part history, part contemporary look, HEDGEROW is told through the focus of Eileen Gillespie Slocum, Newport’s last grand dame, who died in the summer of 2008. Slocum’s family has granted the filmmakers exclusive access to her archives and private Bellevue Avenue estate, where much of the film was shot over the last year.
The Roving Eye event will be at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 25, at Roger Williams’ Global Heritage Hall 01. It is free and open to the public.
HEDGEROW, scheduled for PBS broadcast, is now in post-production. A second advance look and discussion will be staged in Newport on Wednesday, April 28. This session is by invitation only. Those interested in attending should contact Eagle Peak Media for time, location and other details.
BEHIND THE HEDGEROW is the second title from non-profit Eagle Peak Media. ON THE LAKE, its first title, premiered in February 2009 to critical acclaim. PBS broadcasts in major national markets began in March 2009 and continue today.
For news, links to the HEDGEROW blog and Facebook page, and more, visit the Hedgerow site.
More information about Roving Eye at the festival site.