Film poster

Film poster

Saturday, January 28, 2012

California Daze

Our recent trip to California was so many things--reunions with friends and relatives, intensive shoots, an evening on stage, research and travel, the ocean, rain, sun, and everything between.

We flew Virgin America--what a pleasure--and arrived early enough to go into San Francisco to shoot at
the Unitarian Church where Abdu'l-Baha spoke.  Imagine--the same chairs, pulpits, and stained glass windows as in 1912. It was beautiful--and it seemed significant to be there, filming.
Century Club, San Francisco
Then, we went to the Century Club, which was hard to shoot as there was so much traffic around it and we couldn't go inside. But Tim got some nice details of the building.

From there we went to the Art Institute, which is located right downtown at the UN Plaza. There are actually three buildings, but we only visited one, as we were there to borrow a light kit from the technical library. Interestingly, a student named Lauren was also checking out lights, and when I expressed interest in having some African-American extras, she said she'd come on Sunday to help us.  It was great to read the quotes about peace on the UN fountain and monument right next to the building!

Mansour Taeed
We then drove to Berkeley, where we stayed with Michelle and John Steere--long-time friends--at their beautiful 1906 home, full of antique furnishings, costumes, and other creative elements.  They had worked hard to set up things for us in advance and were so willing to have their house taken over by our project!

In the morning our friend Mansour Taeed came to play one of the Persian entourage members--and Matthew Martin came to be our production assistant. He was a friend of a friend, from Little Rock, and worked so well with us.
John & Michelle, on right
(Michele Davey-Hatcher on left)

Matthew Martin preparing an old camera to serve as a prop
Our first shoot with talent was at Lake Merritt in Oakland, where 'Abdu'l-Baha had walked.  I had to hide my face, since I've been in so many locations as a re-occurring unknown woman. Need to get a better disguise!  For once we have more men than women, but the weather was great--clouds dispersing for us.  My dear friends Chris Rideout and Gordon Gullett came, and a fun-loving Persian man, Hugh. John and Michelle and their housemate Matt also participated. What a crew!

John's character had the old camera

the group, getting ready for the shoot

Michelle and Mansour

Chris, Hugh, Gordon

Anne & Chris

Matt, sleeping between shoots
After a brief time at the Steere's for lunch, we went to the Greek Theatre on the Berkeley campus.  Some more extras joined us--Lena and Tammy--and Gordon had to leave.
Anne, Tammy, Lena, Michelle


the group, historic building in Berkeley
That night, Mansour hosted us at his theatre in Richmond. It was the first time we had ever been interviewed on stage! It was fun--Tim had prepared a great sampling of our film shoots, and we told stories. We also showed the trailer on a big screen. I slipped off to put on a costume to do excerpts from Juliet Thompson's Diary (but I don't have any photos of that part!)  Mansour and the audience asked questions, and there was a sort of breathless expectancy about the film. It was really quite a rare occasion for us!
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I had made jewelry for the occasion
Mansour interviewing us

Virginia and David
The next morning we went to Stanford University, in Palo Alto.
My cousin Virginia and her husband David came to greet us, bicycling in the rain! They both work at Stanford--David teaches Geology--and it was great to see them!
Stanford campus
Memorial Chapel, Stanford
Tim at the Gates of Hell

Stanford has the largest collection of Rodin sculptures outside of Paris!  We enjoyed shooting the museum and sculpture garden and meeting a young Baha'i student, Sadaf, who met us in the rain.

Then, amazingly, my cousins Nancy and Virginia met us at a restaurant & we got to have a brief reunion together--after 30 years or so. . . .

Anne, Nancy, Virginia--a rare reunion!   
Then, our friend Rose and her son arranged to meet us at the Menlo Park Station, where Abdu'l-Baha arrived to go to Stanford.
With Rose and her son at the Menlo Park Station

 Then came the most special scene of all. It actually took place in NY, at the Kinney home, the day after the farewell banquet at the hotel where the African Americans weren't allowed. Our scene is a touching depiction of the white friends serving the dark friends the next day, with love.  Abdu'l-Baha said it was a sign of the Grandeur of the Covenant--isn't that beautiful? 

We had amazing extras--four of whom came from the Art Institute, with Lauren.  Baha'is in the area responded as well, along with some other friends of John and Michelle's. It was quite an evening! 

When we set up our lights, one lamp blew out and another failed to work. Luckily, Lauren had her light kit from the Art Institute, so we felt lucky and blessed.
Moriah (youngest actor) 

Lauren in foreground

Michelle and John felt it was perhaps the most special of the events at their home to date--and they have had a lot of amazing events!  Michelle writes: "We were happy to host you and Tim in our home; as well as assisting you with the myriad details which a project of this scope entails.  And enjoyed the exhiliration of having the Master's 'entourage' in our midst. What an experience of a lifetime. Tim showed us some of the shoots from all five days and it was breathtaking what you both accomplished. Every one in the vignettes looked wonderful, too; with some really photogenic moments. John and I both feel confident that, if properly marketed, this could be a sought-after special for public television. . . ."

We did not get all we wanted--but the days were so full we could not have added more. I flew back to teach my classes; Tim stayed another couple of days to shoot the ocean, more of Lake Merritt, and Pleasanton--the former home and grounds of Phoebe Hearst. 

I wish we could have gotten some Japanese participants, along with some additional scenes. Yet our California days were rich, indeed. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012


ah! The year is HERE! We are living in it! How we've waited for this year--for so long!

Mysteries and wonderments abound.  Example:  In Chicago, we had arranged a location permit (with a fee) to shoot in Lincoln Park.  Though so many 1912 photos existed, we studied the google maps and could not find a single location that replicated them.  The hotel was no longer there, nor were the same bridges, benches, and so forth. So, we chose to shoot around the statue of Abraham Lincoln. It was sort of a "wild card"--we knew He must have passed by the statue and perhaps even thought highly of Lincoln. . . .

In Earl Redmond's new book, 'Abdu'l-Baha in their Midst, there are a number of stories and details I haven't read in other places. So, picture my astonishment when I read this sentence, describing what 'Abdu'l-Baha did after giving children an envelope full of rose petals and taking a photograph: "He then asked for time alone and walked over to a statue of Abraham Lincoln, at which He gazed for a while."

Incredible! Imagine my further surprise when the very next day a friend sent a PowerPoint with this photo in it:

'Abdu'l-Baha (left) with statue of Lincoln in Lincoln Park

Now we just need to track down the original!  I don't think it's at the Wilmette National Archives. . . .

What a year it will be, 2012!