Back in college, I got invited to host a show for the school radio station. I played a variety of music…folk, rock, hip-hop, jazz, oldies, music from local musicians, music from people I knew, pop music…I played pretty much everything. The majority of the music I played was local, and in Vermont (where I went to school), that means mostly folk. The name I came up with to fit the laid-back nature of the show was “Old Hearts Cafe.” I always loved cafes, so that was easy. Plus, the idea of spinning music in a cafe where people talked and drank coffee gave me a nice fantasy while I was sitting in the college station. I also find expressions like “Young at Heart” somewhat funny. It seems people always want to be what they’re not. Why not be young while you’re young instead of “beyond your years,” or old when you’re old as opposed to “young at heart”? So I came up with the name “Old Hearts Cafe.” It stuck. I have continued to use Old Hearts Cafe as a location in my plays, screenplays, poetry, and stories in the years since.
After graduating, I wrote a pilot script for a web series entitled “Old Hearts Cafe.” It would have several characters I have used in plays, screenplays, poetry, and stories in the past. I have been writing and making up stories for as long as I can remember, and I still use some of the same characters I was using when I was seven and eight years old. In this web series, all my characters would meet or have individual episodes focusing solely on them.
I have always been a writer and an actor, but filmmaking was new to me, so I wanted filmmaker friends to direct the episodes. It never happened, although there was interest. Other projects always ended up taking priority. Acting has been my main focus since I was twelve, and I have never been without work for long, so the “Old Hearts Cafe” web series was always put aside. I made a few promos for the show and put them on YouTube to have the name in people’s minds, in case I ever made it. And “Old Hearts Cafe” never left my mind.
In 2016, I finally decided I was going to do it, brought it up to two filmmaker friends, and helped direct the first episode. The original script was much longer with more characters, most of whom I would play. After some discussion, we decided to do only one segment of the pilot script entitled ” Markus: The Adventures of a Dishwasher with Dreams of Becoming a Filmmaker,” which happened to be my favorite. It was centered on a new character who hadn’t appeared in any of my previous work named Markus Montage. He was the dishwasher in the cafe, and he was a moody, vinyl loving, aspiring musician who yearned for nothing more than to be a filmmaker. The character was a parody of hipsters, which is familiar territory, but instead of completely making fun of him, I wanted the audience to laugh and empathize at the same time. I gave him a monologue to tell his story, and we filmed in various locations throughout Poultney, Vermont and Granville, New York. We also added a new scene at the beginning, in which I introduced the character as myself, the screenwriter and actor who would play him, and added a scene at the end where we shot various footage and I did a voice-over as Markus of a poem he had written. The voice-over was improvised and we did it in one take.
Pre-production was years in the making, but we filmed it in a matter of days, editing fast, and it was up on YouTube as soon as we finished.
It took awhile to get attention, but this year it started getting accepted into film festivals, got on PEGTV (a TV channel in Vermont), and even won an award at the Avalonia Festival in Rhode Island. I would like to make more episodes soon, but in the meantime it is finding recognition as a short film.
Success has been slow, but it is finally happening. Soon, there will be more episodes after the pilot has made the festival circuit. It has been a long process, and whatever happens, the name Old Hearts Cafe will float around in my work for years to come.
“So yeah, sit back, relax, and enjoy as the old cliche goes.”
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