When I first started posting on this blog, I mentioned that OL' Hole Heels (OHH) approached me in 2006 to shoot two music videos and a documentary about the band he was managing, The Skeptics. Though his proposal sounded like a an interesting project, I was at first very reluctant. Since I knew next to nothing about the band, it seemed like a big time commitment. In fact, I wasn't looking to shoot a rock documentary and had only heard a couple of their songs through a friend, years after the band had departed the music scene and gone underground. OHH played me a cassette of the boy's music while we sat and talked about everything from dandelions to European fashion. Suddenly, I realized the music was great. Not only that, but there were many songs. Their catalog was huge. I was stunned by how many, but more so by how the songs resonated with me. Hearing all this great music helped warm me up to the project idea. Also helping to win me over was learning so much about OHH and his unique abilities and talents; one being his expertise on many obscure subjects. But more importantly, his pitch was mesmerizing. By evening's end, I was sold on his idea. For some reason, I felt akin to his ways. Don't know why, but I trusted my instincts, something we both had in common, and in hindsight, I'm certainly glad I did.
I'd like to share a story with you about the event that took place before my project with The Skeptics formally began. Before signing on to film the music videos or documentary, OHH said I must first pass an initiation of sorts. This was a test the boys requested using to determine if they were in-synch with me; something they needed to do, especially with someone they were about to give unlimited access to their lives and private archives. Though my instincts indicated I should stay and follow through with their so-called "test", my brain said run! But I was curious and patiently listened to OHH as he further explained the need to abide by their wishes. Granted, it was somewhat of an odd request, but that night I found myself trusting OHH, and as time passed, my anxiety diminished and I began feeling that I was simply dealing with eccentricity. I was game.
OHH explained the boys were very fond of snacks. He said snacks were an essential part of their day to day affairs. Without them, nothing got done, no matter how important. Snacks were written into all contracts with the band, from recording scenarios to club venues. I laughed and asked OHH if this was some sort of joke. I had heard of big-time rock bands wanting certain colored M&Ms and exotic foods, but I thought that was done more for publicity stunts. He looked at me and said, "No, this is as serious as a possum on moonshine." I grinned. He didn't, so I kept asking questions. After about 90 minutes of intense conversation, including photoghraphs and a slide presntation, I was convinced OHH was telling the truth. There was no doubt in my mind his boys, The Skeptics, were quite fond of their snacks. I agreed to honor their wish an carry out my task, "test", but it required one caveat: I get to film the event. OHH thought it over and decided it was good idea. He suggested that some of the footage might prove good enough for use in the documentary. He said if it turned out I was not the man for the job, I would hand over the tape and we'd go our separate ways.
On July 26, 2006, I met OHH at his Maryland office. I brought a cameraman with me. He asked to remain anonymous. When we arrived, OHH was already waiting outside. He jumped in the car and said he'd guide us to the location. We ended up on some desolate back road in Frederick County. OHH told me to pull the car over. He then handed me a map. Not sure what was occurring, my expression must have been funny, as OHH began to laugh. He said it was about a 30 minute walk and he'd meet us there. I asked why we had to walk? Why couldn't I just drive us there? He said the boys were adamant. They wanted the "test" as a way to evaluate how much I wanted to work with them. A few moments passed in silence. My cameraman and I exchanged glances. He and I had worked together for a long time. I saw the twinkle in his eye and knew he was thinking it might be fun. Besides, we both didn't sense any danger, other than OHH leaving us there as a practical joke designed for us to get back on our own. I had to make the call. Again, common sense told me I was making a mistake and I should call the whole thing off, but my instincts told me otherwise. Yes it was weird. It could prove risky in some ways. Nonetheless, my adventurous side won out. The "test" was a go.
We got out of the car and watched OHH drive away. Here I was standing on the side of the road, watching as my car disappeared in the distance, driven by someone I barely knew. And, I forgot to mention, I was carrying a cake. But worse yet, I was wearing a hat. It was OHH's, and part of the deal. This particular hat was his "good-luck" hat. He told me he had worn it during every critical band related negotiation or affair since 1985. He was entrusting it to me because he felt good about the project. So, giving in to his superstition, we stood on the side of the desolate road ready to move out. I had my map. I had a cake. And I donned the lucky hat of OHH. Without further delay, we were off on our adventure..."test". I could only laugh at myself. What was I doing?
Well, my "test" worked out. It was a blast. I met the boys for the first time that day and we immediately became fast friends. My willingness to take on the "test" proved my enthusiasm for the project. From then on, they knew it would all work out. And for the next three yeras, it certainly did. I found out much later, though, it was OHH who was putting me through the "test". The snack part was very real. OHH, as I soon learned, was an brilliant and effective barracuda of a manager who beats to a different drum. He was, and is, very protective of his boys. The "test" was just one of many unique ways of OHH that I learned to love. You'll continue to learn more about this remarkable man and his entrepreneurial spirit in posts to come.
The following video is of the "test", what I now fondly call, "The Initiation Journey". Unfortunately, once we arrived at the house, I was instructed to turn off the camera. There is no footage of my first meeting with The Skeptics. The Skeptics' song, "Expanding and Contracting", though its words don't quite fit my "test", somehow felt right to use for this video. The footage of the boys playing was recorded at the Cultural Arts Center in Frederick, Maryland, during the summer of 2007, actually some of the first footage shot for the documentary.
The following short clip is only one of many occasions I experienced during the boy's constant quest to locate snacks:
Get your copy of The Skeptics' documentary at FilmBaby