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Day: June 15, 2011

Local trio, McNary grad, sets to lens ‘Lake Noir’ in Keizer

Director Jeff Schneider, actor, casting director and McNary grad Mike Gonzalez, and writer Abel Martinez are prepping their first feature Lake Noir to shoot in Keizer in July. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

For those lucky enough to land a role in Lake Noir the director, writer and star are making a simple promise: your brush with fame won’t be as the blurry person asking for more salt as the featured performers do their thing.

“In a lot of productions, you’re an extra, you’re waiting eight hours for someone and then someone walks by and you go home,” said director Jeff Schneider. “If you’re in our movie you’re going to have screen time and have lines.”

Schneider, along with writer Abel Martinez, Jr., and actor and casting director Mike Gonzalez, a McNary High School graduate with appearances in the The Shield, House MD, Crank and Jay Leno to his name, are gearing up for their first feature this summer slated to be shot, predominantly, on the outskirts of Keizer. The trio is looking for local actors to fill roles. They currently have openings for 15 actors with a passion for the horror genre or films in general. For more information about the roles available, visit www.mgcasting.com.

The tag line for the film is, “Nothing good happens at this lake.”

“We have a group going out camping and all hell breaks loose when this entity is reborn with superstrength from an incident predating the film events,” Martinez said. “We wanted to do something that would be fun and put together really quickly so we could be local. When we looked at it, the best way to go about it was to do this kind of a film.”

The intense focus on being local is what drew Gonzalez to the project beyond his friendship with his partners.

“Abel went with the Robert Rodriguez train of thought where you write to what you have and you keep focus on the story, so you don’t have to cheapen it with a lot of bad special effects,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez got his start in the movie business after moving to Los Angeles from Keizer.

“I wanted to be a digital editor, but at the time I was also working as a special needs instructor for the Salem-Keizer School District,” he said.

His charges occasionally acted out and hair was the first thing they reached for. To deter them from trying, Gonzalez started shaving his head.

“When I moved to Los Angeles it worked out in my favor because the casting directors thought I looked like a gangster. Those first jobs helped me get a foot in the door,” he said. “From there, I sort of became an ambassador from the streets to the casting rooms.”

Schneider, who is taking his first turn behind the lens after several years as an editor and producer on a small film, said Lake Noir should have appeal beyond horror buffs.

“Abel has looked at a bunch of the horror films out there, but he’s involved himself in it in a new way that will resonate beyond that audience,” Schneider said.

Filming is slated for weekends in July, but novice actors shouldn’t be shy about auditioning, Gonzalez said.

“We’ll be working with them personally and having weekly workshops up to the point where we start filming,” he said.

“Some of the best actors you’ll get are the ones who have no experience, but a lot of enthusiasm,” Schneider added.

Band director takes a bow after reassignment

McNary High School band director David Hodges has been reassigned to Stephens Middle School after six year with the Celtics. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School’s band director, David Hodges, won’t be with the Celtics next year to continue ushering them through a four-year music program, and he knows first hand the effect it’s likely to have.

He experienced it when he joined the McNary staff six years ago.

“I expected to find a highly-developed music program, but lot of kids had graduated and a lot of others decided they weren’t going to continue after the teaching change,” Hodges said. “By the time the second semester rolled around we were down to 47 students and another 11 in a separate program relearning fundamentals.”

Hodges has been reassigned to Stephens Middle School for the 2011-12 school year. The reins of McNary’s band program will be handed over to Claggett Creek Middle School music teacher Jennifer Bell and Whiteaker Middle School music teacher Chad Davies.

By any measure, Hodges has been successful in his tenure at McNary. In the past three years, 100 percent of his graduating students have gone on to play in college. The secret he said, is keeping the focus on the kids, and not playing to place the highest in any given competition.

“Many band directors get caught up in the need to perform at high levels in competition, but I like exposing them to a wide variety of music quickly, showing them the things they like and the things I think they need,” he said.

At the core of his teaching philosophy is a deep commitment to his students, but music wasn’t part of his original plan growing up in Kansas. As a senior in high school, Hodges went to his father, a prominent area band director and said he wanted to go away to college and study to become a physical education teacher. His father responded by telling him he was going to Kansas University and becoming a band director. The “discussion” ended there.

Thirty-nine years into his career, he’s realized that the subject didn’t matter so much. His love was teaching and people.

“I had every leadership position you could have in my high school and I loved people. I always wanted to help people,” Hodges said.

The joy he finds in the job is taking students as freshman who can’t play or can’t march and turning them into practitioners proficient in both.

“It’s not so much me, it’s what music can do for our sons and daughters,” Hodges said. “Some of the senior kids, they got through the middle school program without being able to play and two or three are graduating playing hard music and playing it well.”

Even though he’s departing from his role at McNary, his advice to students continuing on with the band, and those thinking of quitting, is to remember what put them in the seats in the first place.

“I want the kids to realize they’re in band because of the music. Some have stayed because of me, some have dropped because of me, but I want them to realize that they love music and that was the thing that brought them to this point. Their new teachers do, too,” he said.