Caper Away Productions

Writings of Chad Boudreau

Storytellers

Posted by caperaway on June 10, 2015

With the publication of The Dig on The Grim Collection, I find myself thinking about storytellers. The Dig was inspired by a storyteller in my own family, my great-uncle Leonard. I can’t say I spent a lot of time with Leonard, but my most vivid memories of him involve the stories he told. I remember him sitting in an aged yet comfortable looking chair in a living room filled with the kind of pictures and knick-knacks one accumulates during a life filled with family. Great-aunt Minnie busy elsewhere in the house. Leonard’s thick head of hair. My dad sitting off to the side and me uncomfortable around unfamiliar people. I don’t remember ever commenting on the tales woven or asking questions, but I certainly remember retelling those stories on the walk to school or on the playground, doing my best to remember the details for my equally young pals.

My favourite story and the one I remember most clearly involved a dream where Leonard saw the location of some buried treasure and upon waking knew where to go. And go he did. Shovel in hand. He dug and struck something deep in the sand but a ghostly hand emerged. He dropped shovel and ran. Some time later he returned but could no longer remember the spot.

That story stuck with me for more than 30 years and eventually became The Dig.

My dad added a lot of background lore to Leonard’s ability to vividly dream. Leonard’s father was the seventh son of the seventh son. That man could put a light-bulb in his mouth and his finger in an outlet and the bulb would light up. He disappeared for years only to return near the end of his life. I never questioned the truth of these tales. One doesn’t do that to stories such as this. I think I knew that even as a young lad. It’s a harder thing to do as an adult– not questioning the tales of storytellers. As an adult, we look for answers to help us understand the why of things, but with a story it is not the why that is important. The best storytellers know this.

There was another story Leonard told where, as a young man, he saw the devil perched on a neighbour’s house. The devil dropped into the shadows and disappeared when it noticed Leonard looking. I’ve got a comic script knocking around in my head based on that one.

Another storyteller from my youth was a neighbourhood friend of my father’s. Joe was his name and, to me, he seemed old even when I was in elementary school. I interviewed him once as part of a school project. We had to talk to an adult about what their childhood was like. I used this black tape recorder my sister had. It was the same tape recorder she and I used to record silly little programs we made up before I was even in school. I also used the tape recorder to record letters to a friend of mine that moved to another city. He did the same in return. I don’t remember the details of Joe’s answers, but I remember he came to the house and we did the recording in the basement. I also remember the quality of the recording was terrible. You could barely hear him on the playback even with the volume at its highest.

Later in life after we left and returned to Sydney, my dad took me to visit Joe. He was still in the same neighbourhood. Same darkly painted house with its immaculately cared for lawn and shrubbery. We sat out in the backyard. Dad and he talked and I listened. Dad was working for Brinks by this time and I remember Joe leaning intently forward and asking with quiet interest: “What does a million dollars look like?”

Stories.

My dad and his brothers would tell stories of their youth, not naughty tales but definitely wild tales about kids fending for themselves and finding things to do as they wandered the city, of their own father and his brother– the aforementioned Leonard– running booze in the countryside and dealing cards at back-room poker games because none of the players trusted each other.

And, Murray, now also gone. The trucker. One summer when we were back on the East Coast visiting I found myself alone in the living room with Murray, and we got to talking about trucking, about what is trucked across country and across borders; about how cargo is tracked; about how truckers are sometimes robbed or even hijacked. It’s all locked away in my brain.

Stories to create other stories.

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The Dig goes live on The Grim Collection

Posted by caperaway on June 7, 2015

A new comic written by me has been published on The Grim Collection. The Dig is drawn and lettered by Wilson Dela Fuente.

The plan was to have a new short fiction on The Grim Collection on June 1 but I failed to do so. I’ve been unhappy with what I’ve been writing and, to be honest, much of my writing time in May was focused on my return to writing a daily journal and preparing for an epic D&D session I was running at the end of the month. I don’t regret my decision. Both the campaign preparation and the journal writing is a type of writing even if one has a small audience and the other is private. I enjoyed doing both and these were in keeping with the key goals of my return to writing– regular output and writing as an enjoyable act.

Ryan Howe is currently working on another comic for The Grim Collection. He started at the very end of May. I will definitely need to have a short fiction ready for July 1 because there won’t be a finished comic for me to fall back on.

 

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The Grim Collection returns

Posted by caperaway on April 30, 2015

I am happy to report that The Grim Collection has returned as of a moment ago. This was a Web site I started a couple years ago to be a showcase for horror / thriller comics written by me and drawn by others. It fell silent when I took a hiatus from writing and producing my own comics, but I am back now and happy to be so.

First up is a 12-page comic drawn by Robert Carey and lettered by E.T. Dollman. It is called On the Other Side of the Bridge and I hope you enjoy it.

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Movie Poster Exhibition – Installation #4 and #5

Posted by caperaway on November 19, 2014

My experience with war through my childhood and into my early teens was strictly through movies. I watched films like Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Midway (1976), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), Battle of the Bulge (1965) and many others with my father and marveled at the ships, tanks, planes, battles, and heroics of the film soldiers. I never felt the emotional impact of war because these films of that era, at least to a young viewer, played out like action movies, with lots of gunfire, explosions, military hardware and a large cast of soldiers who died– usually with a few parting words– as battles raged.

As a result, my wartime playtime with my friends was very similar. We’d storm the imagined beaches or rush a bunker of enemies represented by the neighbor’s front porch. There was a small recess in that same yard and we’d hunker down in it. That was our trench and we’d psych ourselves up to climb out and charge across the battlefield, shouting, firing our plastic guns (without red tips), and when it was clear we were outnumbered and losing too many men, we’d turn tail and haul arse back to the trench.

I was the leader of these games, guiding the action with my words and movements. I played a large cast of characters and when one of these characters would get shot or get hit with artillery, my friend Chris would kneel down beside my prone form with concern in his eyes. “Who was that?” he’d ask. I’d name the character who had been hit and then deliver the soldier’s dying words with gasps and a slow close of my eyes. Then we’d be on our feet again, continuing the assault.

Another one my of specialties was launching myself through the air to simulate death by grenade.

The feeling of exhilaration when watching a war movie was replaced with one of dread and unease for the first time when I saw Platoon (1986). I saw it on home video so I was probably a pre-teen at this time. Others movies that came on the heels of that were Hamburger Hill (1987) and Full Metal Jacket (1987). These were a new type of war movie for me– ones that did not treat war as a heroic adventure.

Then in 1991, the Persian Gulf War invaded the television in our home and my perception of war changed. The coverage of that war on CNN arguably started me on a 23-year (and counting) journey to understand war. Not only why war occurs and the details of conflict but also its cost– the staggering casualty numbers, the physical and psychological cost paid by the individual soldier, and the price paid by society.

Days before Remembrance Day, I hung on the wall four posters of modern films that did an exceptional job of portraying the cost of war: Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers. In my journey, non-fiction books have provided me the most insight (With the Old Breed, Helmet for My Pillow, Generation Kill, Black Hawk Down, On Killing, among others), but one cannot deny the lessons delivered to millions of people who viewed these major studio releases.

Those posters have been replaced by six more posters with war as its subject and setting.

On the south wall are two films featuring two actors not known for roles in serious pieces of work. Casualties of War (1989) stars Michael J. Fox in a harrowing depiction of an event that actually occurred during the Vietnam War in 1966. Also on the wall is Glory (1989), starring Matthew Broderick. This, in my opinion, is the best movie to deal with the American Civil War from a societal and soldier’s perspective. It’s also the movie that turned Denzel Washington into a star. The third poster on the south wall is Rescue Dawn (2006), a lauded but not widely seen movie starring Christian Bale as a real-life fighter pilot shot down over Laos and imprisoned.

On the west wall are three more posters, but there is only one to which I want to draw special attention. George Clooney had received positive reviews for his role in Out of Sight, but it was Three Kings released the following year that drew him even more acclaim. This fictional account of American soldiers in the Persian Gulf War was laced with enough politics and boots-on-the-ground authenticity that it strikes a reality chord despite the shenanigans occurring on the screen.

The first lines of the film set the tone:

Troy: Are we shooting?
Soldier: What?
Troy: Are we shootin’ people or what?
Soldier: Are we shooting?
Troy: That’s what I’m asking you!
Soldier: What’s the answer?
Troy: I don’t know the answer! That’s what I’m trying to find out!

Watch Three Kings then read the non-fiction book Generation Kill (or watch the equally excellent Generation Kill miniseries from HBO) and you’ll see that some of the laughable horror depicted in Three Kings isn’t too far removed from the reality of modern conflict.

This does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that I find war laughable, deplorable or even unnecessary. It has taken me almost a quarter century to understand war and I am certain my journey is not yet finished.

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Movie Poster Exhibition – Installation #3

Posted by caperaway on October 8, 2014

The third installation in the ComicReaders Downtown Movie Poster Exhibition is the first in a series of horror movies. Horror is an obvious choice because October is the month of Halloween, but I also have a personal connection to the genre. Some of my earliest memories as a movie viewer  are of horror films.

I clearly remember not being allowed to watch Jaws during a visit to grandma’s house in Humboldt, but that was around the same time I had watched The Fog with my dad, and probably a year or so later The Thing and Poltergeist. (Looking back, it seems to me the adults just wanted some adult time, or perhaps my mom didn’t want her mom to know her five-year old grandson was already gaining an appreciation of horror.) I saw The Exorcist when I was still in elementary school– my sister and I perched on my dad’s knees during the truly horrific stuff– and one day after school I showed some friends the scene in Evil Dead when Shelly is hacked to pieces with an axe.

So it was with much excitement and nostalgia that I hung the first six posters in the horror movie collection. This first set includes three posters from an enduring franchise, two landmark films from 1999, one of which changed the way horror movies are made, and one that has ties to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3 and Bride of Chucky
The most recognizable and most enduring horror film icons are, in my opinion, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers, Leatherface, and Chucky. The collection from which we get the posters for the exhibition does contain an original Child’s Play poster. That one is not hanging on the wall because it’s in rough shape compared to other posters in the series and because it does not contain the iconic image of Chucky. The possessed doll did not rise in prominence until after the first movie was a modest hit in 1988. (With only a 14A rating, I saw the original movie in the theatres when I was 12 years old.) In later films, Chucky was a talkative chap, getting heavy with the dark comedy in the later sequels Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, but in the first film Chucky doesn’t say a word until the movie is almost half over. It was also interesting for me to remember that the original Child’s Play was released during the Kid Sister and My Buddy phenomenon, and that the movie was disowned by its studio because of controversy surrounding its subject matter.

The poster for Child’s Play 2 is the one that demands the highest price in the collector’s market. It features Chucky in all his sinister playfulness, threatening to snip the head off a jack-in-the-box.

The Sixth Sense
Not since The Crying Game were moviegoers excited by but unable to talk about the ending of a movie. The Sixth Sense breathed new life in to the ghost story and announced the arrival of M. Night Shyamalan. Much was made about the twist at the film’s end and it is the “twist ending” that became the Shyamalan trademark, an expectation that arguably hindered his career. None of his later films could exceed or even match The Sixth Sense, not only its twist but also its overall masterful craftsmanship. Shyamalan has all but faded from Hollywood limelight, which makes this the perfect time to revisit The Sixth Sense. Even when you know the twist, the movie is a pleasure of fine acting, slowly revealing storytelling, and a showcase of how to build tension in a scene.

The Blair Witch Project
In the same year that The Sixth Sense showed how intelligent and finely crafted a horror film could be, moviegoers were also introduced to a film with a budget of $60,000, no gore, no monsters, no set design, only three actors, and the barest of plots and it not only scared up $140,000,000 in ticket sales but also changed how horror movies were made.

The technique would come to be known as “found footage” and if it were not for The Blair Witch Project there would be no Paranormal Activity franchise, no Cloverfield, and no other movie with shaky camera techniques designed to create unease, tension and even sickness in a viewer.

And if it were not for The Blair Witch Project perhaps horror movies made post-1999 would have been more focused on craft, performance and storytelling like The Sixth Sense rather than low budgets, short production schedules and quick turns of a profit.

Slither
What do Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy have in common? A lot. Both were written and directed by James Gunn. Both feature Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry. And both have an intelligent sense of humor that defy the trappings of their genres (horror for Slither; superhero for Guardians of the Galaxy). When it was released in 2006, Slither was a box office failure. It only gathered seven million at the box office compared to fifteen million required to make it. It has since found more fans and is worth checking out if you’ve not discovered it.

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