Not Much Time on My Hands!

Thanks to Detroit Fanfare being this weekend (Come find me at Booth 200!), and my actually being there for most of it, I don’t expect to have my usual Sunday post on Sunday. That’s why I’m doing this early. You see, our Fine Director suggested a new segment will be up in the channel, but I won’t be here to post. Do yourself a favor, go to the channel, and subscribe there. If you subscribe, you’ll be ready for whatever surprises he has planned! If you come to this weekend’s show, you can get copies of the calendar in person!

The Adventures of Jack Uzi--The Calendar!

Want some cool pics from the series? Buy one and reveal new secrets all year long! Available at Detroit Fanfare, Table 200 (Detroit Tradecraft!)


365 Dates… and Just One Dean!

Well, folks, as promised we’ve got the 2014 Calendar up on the website! Four of the most likely images are previewed on the website, and we’ll be taking both pre-roders and allowing you to pick up and commemorate important dates until August, when everything finalizes. At that point, reserved dates are locked and the price of the calendars increase by a few bucks to cover the inventory. Be smart and get in now!

Meanwhile, as I play “catch-up,” I caught up with Dean Vanderkolk and asked him a few questions. Dean plays Leland Crane in Jack Uzi, and, as mentioned, last week, has the starring role in “Day-Planner of the Dead.” This is one guy with a lot on his mind!

Dean Vanderkolk as Leland Crane

Dean Vanderkolk plays Leland Crane on Jack Uzi

Based on the IMDb, it looks like you’ve been getting pretty active as of 2009. How did you get involved in film, and what has been your favorite project so far?

I’d been active as a writer and actor since my junior high school days, but I’d always focused on writing for the stage. I had a deep love for film, but I always thought that breaking into that area was just out of my reach. One day I happened to catch an episode of a locally produced program called Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive In, and contacted the producers about becoming a writer. They invited me on board, and soon I became head writer for the show, writing nearly all of the episodes. Through that show, I met many members of the crew, most of whom were active in local film production, especially John Wisniewski. When the television show folded, I was fortunate enough to continue working with those folks, particularly Grindley Studios, and we’ve created so really good work together. Of course, they were creating good work without me, so at least I haven’t dragged them down!! As far as a favorite project, I have to choose Dayplanner of the Dead, our most recent film. It’s a zombie comedy that I wrote and star in, and so far, the response to it has just been wonderful! We were able to secure cooperation from the creators of the original Night Of The Living Dead, including cameos from Kyra Schon, Gary Streiner, and Tom Sullivan, and the finished film has been very well received.

I notice you both write and act. Which do you enjoy more?

Oh, that’s a tough question. Each thing has it’s own rewards, and they are very different. As an actor, it’s wonderful to be able to slip into the identity of someone else for a while, and I truly love the process of acting (finding who the character is, finding the rhythm of the dialogue, etc.), but as a writer I get to do all of those things on an even larger scale. I get to create an entire world of people and places and situations, and dive into it to see what surprises are waiting for me there. Hopefully, if I am surprised, an audience will be, too.

It looks like most of your work has been here in Michigan. Do you intend to stay here and help build the Michigan film community, or do you have other goals?

I’m very happy here in Michigan. The artists working here (in all disciplines) are as good as you will find anywhere, and they have a luxury that places like Hollywood don’t have. Because this area doesn’t have the huge deep pockets of Hollywood, filmmakers have to substitute creativity for cash. They don’t have the ability to just throw money at a problem until it goes away, and as a result, their solutions (and their projects) are more interesting. Projects tend to be more personal.

What would you say is your biggest ambition? What would you like to put together most?

Besides a winning lottery ticket? Actually, I’d like to start branching out into longer form screenplays and stories. I have a story that has been poking at me for over a year, and I am very excited about it, as I think it could make both a great novel and an interesting film. While working on that, I am going to continue working as an actor and writer on other projects.

I feel very lucky to be able to work with many great and talented people, and I think that artists have a duty to help each other. It always makes me a bit sad when people only do projects as long as it glorifies them in some way. I think good work is it’s own glory and reward, and you should give whatever gifts you have whenever possible. Never turn your back on your fellow artists.

Late to the Tromadance

Dear Readers, I’m sorry.

Had I been paying closer attention, I would have told you about the Tromadance Detroit Film Festival, a totally free film festival, with additional performances during the DVD changes. Our own Dean Vanderkolk was there, showing his movie, “Day-Planner of the Dead,” and it was a real hoot. In it, we learn the real reason zombies eat flesh. I won’t spoil it for you, though.

Dean Vanderkolk as Leland Crane

Dean Vanderkolk as Leland Crane

Go here to learn more.

The Calendar Project is well underway now, selections being made for the cover and pictures for the inside. These should be ready by August, and a pre-order link will go up soon. Meanwhile, we still need entries for our “JU for June!” contest–at this rate, it may turn into “JU for June and July!” Enter now, while you still can.

Courtney and the Contest

Courtney Danielle Steward plays GGNS Agent Lora Pine in "The Adventures of Jack Uzi."

Courtney Danielle Steward plays GGNS Agent Lora Pine in “The Adventures of Jack Uzi.”`

Today, we start with an interview with Courtney Danielle Steward, who plays GGNS Agent Lora Pine in our series.  After the interview, we proceed with information on last week’s Photoshop Contest… along with a poll where you get to decide the winner.  Courtney is an actress, a model, and a dancer, and one of the nicest, and friendliest people you will ever meet.  Gracious as always, she not only answered my questions, but also passed along information on those with whom she worked.

Courtney, you list yourself as an actress/dancer/model.  Tell me about some of your projects as each, and which of those you wish to do most (and why.)

Well, first off, I’ve been a dancer since I was eight–I was also on the competitive team, through Maria’s School of Dancein Fowlerville.  I also currently teach dance there, so there are way too many things that have happened with that to even list.  The coolest experience related to dancing would have been performing at Hayden Panettiere’s 21st birthday party in Ann Arbor, when she was here filming Scream 4.  Dance is what actually led me into acting.  Many of the dance conventions [the team] would go to would have acting classes that we would all attend.  That was my first taste of acting, but my first acting experience was during my freshman year of college.  I performed in a play that one of the English professors wrote; it was an adaptation of the Cinderella story, and I was an evil stepsister.  After that, my passion for acting jumped into high gear.  I met Jack Uzi director Michael “Freon” Andaluz on the set of I Remember Yesterday, where my grandfather, Curtis Watkins, and I were both extras.  My next project was The Adventures of Jack Uzi, where I played Lora Pine.  Since then, I have done a few projects, including a fun music video by a country artist named David Shelby.  I was a featured extra there.  My most recent project was Dissonance, short film by Colin Nichols.  Without giving too much away, I play a character named Kate who catches two guys breaking into the house where she’s home alone.  I’ve also recently been cast in a feature-length independent film, Beyond the Dark.  Modeling was something I started doing just tog et more exposure and some great pictures.  I’ve done a few different workshops, and one of my pictures was used in an ad for a resale store.  Other than that, I’ve recently shot with Steve Phillipson in Howell and with Brent Taylor out in Holt.  I would like to do more acting, but with my class schedule, I really don’t have a lot of time to audition thanks to homework, exams, and the rest.

You’ve been going to college… What is your major, and how does this fit in with your career plans?

My major is in Human Services and Case Management at Baker College;  I hope to work in the adoptions field.  Most of the acting and modeling projects I get don’t pay much, so I plan to get a job in the field after graduation in order to pay for my travel and eventual move to Los Angeles.  Then, if the acting work in L.A. doesn’t pan out, then I have a degree to fall back on.  Interestingly, many of the psychology classes I have taken have also helped me when trying to understand a character.

What has been your most fun experience to date in any of your projects–what happened, and why?

I would have to say one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had recently would have been on the set of Dissonance.  When Colin sent me the script, I knew immediately it would be great.  One thing that drew me to it is that my character ends up [spoiler removed!].  If you didn’t know, I’m kind of a geek about the special effects stuff–I can’t do any of it, but I love to see how it’s done. Both the make-up artist Haleigh Wovo and Colin Nichols himself worked on my bullet wound.  It looked awesome!  The acting in it was also a challenge for me because a few of the scenes required that I convey all these different emotions but only with my eyes. (Once you see it, you’ll understand what I mean).  Everyone was very helpful, though, and it’s always great to connect with others in this industry.  My co-stars Cameron McCormick and Tristan Ward are great actors as well.  It was very helpful to be able to watch experienced actors work through a scene and learn some of the things they do. Overall, the entire cast and crew were great, and between scenes everyone was friendly and joking. It was a lot of fun.

Everyone successful has a view in his or her head of what success would be. How will you know when you “made it?” How would you describe your “ultimate ambition?”

That’s a hard question because some people in this industry think that being a successful actor/actress means you are “famous.” To me, I’m already successful–I get to something that I love, and my friends and family say that they are proud of me.  That’s what success means to me.  My ultimate ambition, once I get to LA, would be to play a character that is the complete opposite of myself, to experience my ultimate challenge in acting.

And now, the Photoshop Contest Finalists!

Continue reading

Pontiac, Pupadei, Pizza, and Pete

Wednesday saw us in Pontiac, shooting scenes with Juan Pupadei and his mountain of pizza boxes.  Many thanks to Bartelli’s Catering for providing much deliciousness.  Yesterday saw us getting more filming done with the help (and more food!) of Pete’s Coney Island!  That’s one of the thing I love about this project:  our sponsors.  By helping us with locations, food, funds, or what-have-you, these guys make sure we’re able to get our job done, and we get to direct our friends, family, and fans out to them, sing their praises, get them on video, and generally give back as good as we get.  Check out all our sponsors over at and help them help us!

Help Promote a Minor Character

Handling even a weekly blog is difficult, what with events like Detroit Fanfare (what a great show!) getting in the way… but fortunately, there’s always something going on with our series.  In order to make a high school class look big enough to be a high school class, we needed to have lots of high-school-age characters audition.  Now, as a fun little exercise in promotion, we’ve invited you to decide which ones you like the most… by “liking” their photos in Facebook!  The one with the most “likes” will be allowed to change his or her character name!  Go help them now!

Meanwhile, we’re still on the look-out for the right ring-tone for our hero, Jack Fitch.  C’mon, folks!  We know some of you have favorite music samples, and some of you are even musicians!  Have some fun with this!  All it takes is a clip of .wav or .mp3 with any appropriate credits, sent to the secret e-mail address!

Leaping Forward

Although we’re approaching the big Time Change of the Year, we’re making things happen in the world of JACK UZI. We’ve been getting more footage from around Michigan, shooting new images of the Spy Car in action, and generally making the most of Autumn this year. New people are getting involved with the series (why not YOU?), both in front of and behind the scenes, and there’s tremendous fun to be had. We’re still looking for the right ringtone for Jack, I’m still looking for folks interested in other projects, and generally speaking, if you’re bored, YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE.

If you do not participate, you are missing out.

If you “like” this, great. Share it. Then get involved. If you can’t think of something to do, ask me. It’s not about money. It’s about time. Leap forward and DO something. Come see me over at the Detroit Tradecraft table at Detroit Fanfare this coming weekend, and we’ll have a blast.

I double-dog dare you.