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Director James Kicklighter's
Film Kicks Cancer's Ass

By Mende Smith



James Kicklighter's 25-minute Doc Film A Few Things About Cancer is a great story in every way. The film had its premiere at L.A.'s recent FirstGlance Film Festival where it picked up the prize for Best Short Documentary. One critic called the film 'a crescendo in positivity' and I could not have put it better. Kicklighter is always looking for a new story to tell, but he did not set out to shoot a documentary film about fighting cancer; his old college pal asked him to record his experience with Stage IV Burkitt's Lymphoma and the footage morphed into the well-liked short film of its own categorical success. I had a chat with James to see what inspires him to get behind the lens and the soak up the story behind the film.

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"Caleb and I were fraternity brothers, we pledged together when we were in college and we had lost touch," Kicklighter says, "I hadn't heard from Caleb in five or six years. When it was announced on Facebook that he had cancer, I felt miserable. I saw that it was stage four and stage four is as bad as it gets. I instantly had all of these feelings of guilt and lost time, how the moments that bind our relationships together in life don't always keep us together forever."

Kicklighter reached out to him on Facebook offering his condolences and also asked  if he needed help with anything? His friend messaged him back within five minutes saying yes, he wanted to video record his experience with the disease for friends and family to follow his journey wherever it might take him. Kicklighter accepted--and convinced his friend to let him make a documentary film out of the footage to help people to understand and get beyond cancer with a unique cinematic experience.

A Few Things About Cancer is not like any other short I have seen. Kicklighter avoided the all too common view of "I'm sick" stories and the only heartstrings pulled are truthful, intimate, and fulfilling ones. This film is a true documentary of the biggest challenge chronicling Caleb Mock's personal experience and his battle for survival. What was the biggest challenge for Kicklighter?

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Kicklighter says, "First of all, I thought there really needed to be a singular voice telling the story--without doctors, or nurses weighing in on the process of cancer treatment like you would normally see in this type of films. I've had seen that documentary before. To my mind, I felt as though the experience of treatment, whether it is cancer or any other disease, is a singular experience. Yes, you go through it with other people, your family, your partner, your children, but ultimately you are going through it alone with the aid of others. I wanted [the film] to take the audience through that experience too." 

I asked how the film was shot in such an intimate way and was surprised by Kicklighter's answer. He chose an uncharted channel to keep the intimacy of the interpersonal relationships of his characters intact--his absence. It was clearly tricky to pull off the single camera, single perspective and Kicklighter knew it would be--so he made the family the inside film crew.

"I gave Caleb his own camera and taught him and his family how to shoot footage. And we used Dropbox every week to review what they shot because there were moments that I did not want to go into the hospital and be invasive to his treatment process.  I'd give him notes as to what we needed to see more of as we reviewed what they shot, then every other week, I came in with a limited crew and would film him ourselves.  That's how we merged the two shooting styles, creating something intimate, but also non invasive." Kicklighter says. Were it not for new media transfer and hours by hours of footage traveling through an email box over the internet, Caleb's tale would not have been the same.

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"There are two things that I wanted to accomplish here as a director: the first being, I didn't want to inject commentary into the film, I wanted to shoot it as the events unfolded and discover the message as I went. Secondly, I wanted to be non-invasive to his treatment process while retaining the authenticity. I feel like we did that."

The camera transfixes a single shot held by one of the family members or even his crew from tons of collected footage, sewn together into a seamless blanket covering the illness and recovery of one patient during seven rounds of chemotherapy spanning two-week intervals.  Whether a scene is shot by Kicklighter's crew, Caleb's mom, his wife Jada, or even Caleb himself, we see the highs and lows of the treatment, medication, surgery, and all of the solipsistic hours in between. Mock's role as husband, son, and patient, and friend are shored up into a short documentary package intended to humanize the reality of facing mortality at such a young age.

"I had enough footage to make a very long movie,"Kicklighter adds, "I chose not to because I thought it was better to focus it and keep it contained. As a film maker, I like to tell a variety of different stories. I try to waffle between narrative films and documentary projects, mostly. In all of my films, the themes tend to deal with loss and identity--I think this documentary fits right into that canon. This film is about loss of the person that Caleb was, and discovering who he is as he goes through this strange quarter-life crisis that most twenty-five year-old's don't have to tackle."

Kicklighter talks freely about his love for the business of film and offers advice to those looking to make movies and the role of technology today. "I think there is now more access for people that make an attempt at making a film, now you've got smartphones that shoot such high quality and you've got editing software that comes free on all these computers. When I got started you had to invest in cameras or rent them and buy expensive software, it wasn't as cheap as it is now. So really at the end of the day, it comes down to how you perfect and hone your storytelling skills in a low-budget way. Don't run off and get the most expensive camera you can if you're starting out because you don't need it--you need to know how to tell a story effectively and how to edit properly and stay focused."

Kicklighter adds that he actually got his degree in Public Relations from Georgia Southern, he did not study film but has been doing films since he was sixteen years old. He credits his PR training as having prepared him to market his own productions and his volley between writing and directing. 

The best part of this project is that it pays off in a happy ending.  For our readers, it also reveals the ties of friendship once-forgotten, and a favor tethered through the diligence and perseverance of film making. Even better, we are reminded that we all remain connected through social media; today's outreach can reconnect the ties that passing time threatens.

For more information about James Kicklighter, check out his website.

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An LA Journey

By Mende Smith



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Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing one of L.A’s newest playwright collaborators, Lorenzo Alfredo, premiere An L.A. Journey, a triumphant story of personal suffering and courage tinged with bittersweet sorrow told through the eyes of Lorenzo Alfredo as a child.  Most beloved coming of age stories, are not like this one. An L.A Journey is homegrown—and it feels that way. A cast of 16 actors portrays multiple roles in the play.  As the audience takes in the faces of the common working class in modern South American towns ranging from Guatemala to Mexico we follow eleven-year-old Lorenzo, played by Olin Tonatiuh (of Boyle Heights) as he finds his way from the K’iche village of Xojola, Guatemala upon losing his only caregivers. For the first few scenes of this production, we come to feel for the boy as he begs for food on a busy street—now a homeless youth working odd jobs on the brink of starvation. This youngster steals the show as he finds a new home in Guatemala City with his would-be savior, Olivia, played by Blanca Melchor (of South Pasadena) who discovers she can use the boy to gain the courage to leave her unfulfilled life behind her and travel to America to chase another man whom she calls “her boyfriend” in New York City. This multimedia production is carried off beautifully at the CASA 0101 Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. At first glance, this performance space looks more like an elementary school gym than an art house, but walking in you are transformed to the many stages of a homeless child’s memoirs.

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The minimalist set, designed by set designer Cesar Holguin (of Los Angeles) consisted of painted wooden crates positioned and stacked on the stage in simple configurations in the foreground of slide-projected streets, desert roads, interior houses of various sizes, and the occasional constellation view of the cosmos. The warmth of this production is embodied in the cast themselves.  The honest depictions of the lives unfold in simple dialogue by plain-faced rugged people. Most scenes are scattered with few props; from indigenous bright clothing and handfuls of flowers, baskets of oranges and dusty backpacks used throughout the performance—and it works.

Inside the T.V screen-like set, a wonderful ensemble of actors builds. Where the play begins, we follow Lorenzo’s harrowing journey of twists and turns and we feel for him the way we might feel for any lonely child. From our seats in the audience, we want to hold out our arms and fill his life with the joy and security every child deserves, but we must watch as he is disenfranchised before our eyes and mistreated by the adults who he depends upon for hundreds of miles on his journey to freedom.  This play brings laughter, and tears. Because of this child’s story, we can lose ourselves in the true stories of thousands like Lorenzo, and find ourselves wondering if we will ever view immigration the same again? Each actor is worth noting, but standouts include Aurelio Medina as Spicy and Kathy Pedraza as Rosa. The simplest words of each are impeccable, and their onstage chops are undeniable.

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Emmanuel Deleage (Co-Writer/Director) has put together an amazing show with smooth scene changes, a clear focus, and a cohesiveness that is both impressive and unmatched. No actor pulls focus when they shouldn’t, and even the smallest of children is of the utmost importance.

In addition, the lighting design of Maura McGuinness and the costume design of Abel Alvarado enhance the show in their simplicity. I can only describe the lighting as magical, with the beams of impeccably placed spotlights and projection playing their own distinct parts in the show. The costumes are unique to every culturally diverse group of characters we see in modern Los Angeles—merchants, families, and travelers—and everything complements each other.

This production features native music of South American Cultures and songs in English, Spanish, and also K’iche. The real life boy in this story, now-grown Lorenzo Alfredo takes the stage for two spoken word/singing performances adding to the story’s crescendo of devotional merits. Alfredo’s quavering vocals and sudden gestures of affection coupled with the karaoke-esque tracking offer an emphatic reprise to the true-life adventure of hope and sacrifice and foretell the positivity of this story with elegance and optimism of the tribulations of both crossing cultural borders and the ethical realities of coming to America.

I encourage you to go see this production. At this time of year, hundreds of theatres are putting on shows to capture your imagination, but I guarantee you won’t find one quite like An L.A Journey.  If you want to escape from your everyday grind into a the reality of a migrant child’s dreams, hopes, and fears— then come out and support these fine players!

An L.A Journey runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 5 pm through June 7, 2015 at CASA 0101 Theater, located at 2102 EAST 1st STREET, BOYLE HEIGHTS, CA 90033. For tickets call (323) 263-7684 or buy online at www.casa0101.org. The running time of the play is 123 minutes.

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Artist Jocelyn Josef Brings
New Signature Style ‘Squarism’ To The World of Art

By Amber Topping



All the way from the beautiful island of Oahu, artist Jocelyn Josef (who now currently resides in LA) brings a unique, new art genre to the world called “Abstract Pop Squarism.” Jocelyn, a graduate of The Art Institute of Seattle, has been featured in various magazines like Honolulu Weekly and Innov8 Magazine and is now here at REAP to talk about her background and share more about her signature style.

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Can you talk a little bit about your background and what inspired you to pursue a career as a painter?

My education background is in Interior Design, however, I have been painting since I was 3. I didn’t realize my passion for painting until I was in my 20’s after backpacking through Europe and visiting the Picasso Museum in Paris.

You created your own style of art called “Squarism.” How did you first come up with the idea? And how would you describe Sqaurisum to people who aren’t familiar with what you do?

The Squarism idea took 15 years to perfect. I explored different texture concepts, I researched the Masters who worked with texture, Van Gogh and Picasso.

Squarism is the combination of Picasso’s Cubism and Modernist period. It is layers of Acrylic squares on canvas – a continuous layer of squares in an emotional sequence pattern that dance off the canvas.

You’ve mentioned that Picasso has been a huge inspiration. In what way has he influenced your work? Are there any other artists that inspire and influence you?

There are many talented Artists out there that inspire me, however, I feel most inspired by Picasso’s work.

His passion screams off the canvas to me. For an Artist to struggle so hard in the beginning of his career and never stop because he was so devoted to his work, is the most inspirational. His work ethics and beliefs to his passion is so amazing that his work still lives on after his death. That’s pretty powerful.

Are there other factors that inspire your work? Personal experiences, beliefs or even people for instance?

I mostly paint self-portraits. My personal experiences I paint are memories good, bad or tragic. Being a strong Christian, I do paint inspiration verses from the Bible. My paintings are large scale pieces.

What projects or paintings are you working on right now?

I just completed a 12 piece Collection entitled “A Journal of a Woman in Love.” In this collection, I have a 4 piece series inspired by biblical references, along with self-portraits based on personal memories and loved ones in my life.

Is there any message or impression you hope to leave with people who see your paintings?

I want the colors of each piece to transcend an emotion to the viewer. The colors and the dance of the squares tell the story. If I captured the emotion well, the viewer will feel exactly what I feel.

What is the best way to follow you and your projects?

My website http://jocelynjosef4.com or my IG: https://instagram.com/artworkbyjj4/. My IG is the best way because I post completed pieces as I finish them. 

 

 

 

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The Majesty Of The Antarctica

By Beverly Houwing



Adobe Certified Instructor and wildlife photographer, Beverly Houwing, has been traveling from a very young age and became interested in photography as a teenager.  We are very happy to share her amazing photography and thoughts from her recent trip to the Antarctica. (Click on each image to view larger version.)

Few parts of the world are truly unspoiled. To get the opportunity to see a place that is pristine and has a low volume of visitors compared to most other tourist destinations was a real treat. About 38,000 people on average get to the Antarctic Peninsula, the most popular destination, each year.   The point of departure for an Antarctic expedition (and it really does feel like you are on one) is from Ushuaia in Argentina — the southernmost city in the world. Just knowing that made me feel that this far away continent was reachable! Rather than going straight to the Antarctic Peninsula I took the “scenic route” - quite literally. Before even getting close to the continent, we cruised to amazing places with huge amounts of birdlife and spectacular scenery, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island.   After getting used to boarding zodiacs from a lurching gangway in choppy water and landing in the surf on rocky beaches, I was sufficiently prepared for our first stop on Antarctica. We crossed the infamous Drake Passage to get there, and it lived up to every bit of it’s name as the “roughest water on the planet”.

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We went past Elephant Island, where Shackleton had to leave his men after their failed attempt to cross Antarctica via the South Pole, in order to get to South Georgia to bring a rescue party, which he accomplished.   The next afternoon when we arrived at the continent the weather was calm, sunny and “warm” for the polar region. Massive icebergs floated off the coast, fed by glaciers that descend from the high mountain peaks at Brown Bluff. Some icebergs was passed were over 1 mile in length and over 100 feet above the water - sheer towering walls of ice.

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Smaller icebergs had Adelie penguins resting on them in between going on feeding missions before returning to their colony on land.

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Our next stops were at small islands off the coast of the peninsula. Places like Hope Bay, Petermann Island, Booth Island, Yalour Island & Danco Island all have fantastic numbers of penguins. Hope Bay was another place that Adelie penguins seem to have overrun. Many stood or rested on the ice floating in the bay, while other icebergs had weddell seals relaxing on them.

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In addition to the different species of seals, crab eater...

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and leopard...

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that also hung out on the sheet ice drifting about, the other attraction was the spectacular icebergs that came in different shapes, sizes and shades of blue.

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Some had delicate icicles dangling from them...

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and others had layers...

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 To see more of Beverly's Antarctica and other wildlife photogarphy visit her website.

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