The work of filmmaker Jason Eberly

I work for a network TV show. During the three years on the job, I’ve become good friends with our prop master named Kevin. His family has a long and storied Hollywood history. He often tells us tales about working with Clint Eastwood, his relatives’ adventures on Apocalypse Now and In Cold Blood, or how he (as a boy) received a sweatsuit as a gift from John Huston. In August of 2014, Kevin told me an intriguing story about seeing his grandfather, Frank Shaw, in a vintage behind-the-scenes photo from the Jimmy Stewart film Harvey (1950). Frank was the film’s assistant director and actually the first Shaw to enter the film business back in the 1920s.

The photo was hanging in a restaurant called Hollywood & Vine Diner about ten years ago and Kevin saw it while working on a film shoot. Other crew members were coming up to Kevin and saying, “There’s a man in a black-and-white photo who looks exactly like you.” Sure enough, the picture of Frank looked a lot like Kevin and he immediately called his father to find out who this gentleman was. Up until he saw the picture, Kevin didn’t know that his grandfather was such a legendary AD (assistant director) and Kevin hadn’t seen any pictures of young Frank before. The restaurant owner unfortunately wouldn’t sell Kevin the photo and he’s been looking for it ever since. Being the classic cinema nerd that I am, I was determined to secretly find this photograph and surprise my friend with a print in time for Christmas.

My first plan of attack was to contact the owner of Hollywood & Vine Diner and see if he would let us professionally scan the photo to create a copy. But, it was a restaurant located in Hollywood. So of course it went out of business years ago. I tried to go through the new management and city records to track down the old owner, but it was a dead end. This particular print of Frank Shaw was long gone; but other copies had to exist. So, in the middle of October, I reached out to a contact at Universal with a plan to search their photo archives since Harvey was a Universal production. While my contact waded through red tape for two months, I searched Internet archives for any picture of Frank that I could find. The only image I uncovered was in a scanned DGA oral history document on Henry Koster (the director of Harvey and many classic films). The picture is below and Frank (second from the left) is barely visible behind Jimmy Stewart.

This poor quality screen-capture would obviously not be enough to end my search. But it was proof that more candid crew photos existed. At this point, I was in too deep and the hunt was now 40% for my friend and 60% for selfish ambition. All I could do was wait for my Universal contact to access the Harvey archives. In mid-December, the red tape finally cleared and all the Harvey photos were pulled from the archives and sent to Universal. The Christmas deadline was fast approaching but I was confident we could still find the print in time. On the 23rd of December, I went to the Archives and Collections Department to comb through all the original photos from Harvey. There was a stack of about fifty prints, but these were only promotional stills of the actors. This was everything that Universal had left from the filmno behind-the-scenes photos in sight. The Universal archivist said that most of the candid stills from classics were sold to private collectors decades ago. It was now two days until Christmas and the hunt for Frank hit another dead end.

With my pride on the line, I went back home with one last plan of attack. I remembered the oral history document on Henry Koster (Harvey director) and I began an online search for any Koster estate information. The family would surely have access to candid stills from Mr. Koster’s films. Besides Harvey, Frank was also the AD for seven more Koster films, including his first American feature in 1936. My investigation lead me to one of Henry’s sons, Robert (Bob) Koster. Bob was a prolific AD and UPM from the 1960s to the 1980s, working on classics such as Hello, Dolly! and numerous Robert Downey Sr. films. Bob was still living near Los Angeles and I was able to uncover his e-mail address through a bit of online snooping. I sent him an e-mail later that evening and crossed my fingers for a response.

At 4:49am on Christmas morning I got this reply from Bob: “Call me . . . I have stills and movies of Frank Shaw. Dad was a compulsive photographer. Had good things to say about Frank Shaw too. Happy to share. Merry Christmas!” Success at last! I had missed the Christmas deadline for giving my friend the actual print, but I could celebrate a small victory with this promising lead. A week later on December 30th, I was invited to Bob’s house, located about an hour outside of Los Angeles. I got to hear some amazing stories about classic Hollywood and see scans of Henry Koster’s vintage photo albums. It was page after page of incredible behind-the-scenes stills, preserved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts. We also watched converted and restored 8mm behind-the-scenes footage from Henry’s early Universal productions. A few minutes into the footage, the elusive Frank Shaw appeared on the screen, waving and smiling for the camera. I had definitely hit the jackpot in this crazy hunt.

We also found six high-quality photographs that featured Frank, most of them from 1930s productions with Deanna Durbin. Although I never found the exact picture that was hanging in the restaurant, I think these discoveries surpassed my initial goal. On January 5th, I made large prints of the photos and finally presented them to my friend Kevin. Needless to say, he was quite surprised by the discoveries and has since shared them with all the other Shaw relatives. The images are copyrighted, but I received special permission from Bob Koster to post them on my blog. I believe these images were taken in the mid-1930s, during production for Three Smart Girls and One Hundred Men and a Girl. 

Images curtesy of Robert Koster

After an eight month span of bicoastal photography and countless hours of post-production, I am so proud to present KINGS & QUEENS, the second installment in our cinematic dance trilogy. (Please follow this link to view the first film, “Dead Drop.”) Like its predecessor, “Kings & Queens” was created on a shoestring budget, this time costing only $84. The generosity and volunteering of countless people made this film possible. Special thanks to Kevin Shaw, Donna Baxter, John Bucher, and Matt Miner. “Kings & Queens” was directed & produced by Jason Eberly, written by Nathan Hartman, shot & edited by Jordan Steele, and starring Mayte Valdes and Carlos Barrionuevo—the most beautiful and talented couple that I know. Be sure to stick around after the credits for a teaser shot leading into the final installment!

Following the rousing climax of “Dead Drop,” KINGS & QUEENS finds the spy and his lover reminiscing about better times on the eve of his departure to settle a debt. While she contemplates the past, he looks to secure their future. Full of passion and danger, this penultimate chapter in the cinematic dance trilogy will leave you breathless for more. “Kings & Queens” is dedicated to Giuseppe Tornatore and Ennio Morricone.

I had the privilege to attend the 66th Annual DGA Awards on Sunday. What a stellar evening! Michael Spiller and Lorie Zerweck, two producers on THE MINDY PROJECT, purchased a table and invited some crew members. Besides getting to hear from five auteurs who I greatly admire (Cuarón, Scorsese, Russell, McQueen, and Greengrass), I had a blast with everyone from the show. Plus, I finally got to meet Gail Mancuso and Michelle MacLaren, two directors who I worked with while at ICM. In the end, Alfonso Cuarón won for his work on Gravity. Well deserved!

The 66th Annual DGA Awards

Introducing the official poster for KINGS & QUEENS. We are working hard to complete post-production on this second film in the dance short trilogy, starring Carlos Barrionuevo and Mayte Valdes. It is scheduled for online release on 2-13-14. Directed/produced by Jason Eberly, written by Nathan Hartman, and shot/edited by Jordan Steele. To view the award-winning first film, DEAD DROP, please visit this Vimeo link.

Photography by Jordan Steele and artwork by Jason Eberly

Honorable Mentions: Don Jon, The World’s End, Mud, Room 237, Prisoners, The Way Way Back, Rush, The Wolf on Wall Street, Monsters University, The Great Gatsby, La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)

10. Captain Phillips

Click to view the official trailer

“Listen up, we have been boarded by armed pirates. If they find you, remember, you know this ship, they don’t. Stick together and we’ll be alright. Good luck.” – Captain Richard Phillips

9. Dallas Buyers Club

Click to view the official trailer

“Got a news flash for y’all. There ain’t nothing out there that can kill Ron Woodroof in 30 days.” – Ron Woodroof

8. Saving Mr. Banks

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“Winds in the east, mist coming in. Like something is brewing, about to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store. But I feel what’s to happen, all happened before.” – Travers Goff

7. American Hustle

Click to view the official trailer

“She was the Picasso of passive-aggressive karate.” – Irving Rosenfeld

6. Blue Jasmine

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“Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.” – Jasmine

5. Frances Ha

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“I’m too tall to marry.” – Frances

4. Her

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“Falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s like a socially acceptable form of insanity.” – Amy

3. La Migliore Offerta (The Best Offer)

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“There’s always something authentic concealed in every forgery.” – Claire

2. Gravity & Inside Llewyn Davis (tie)

Click to view the official trailer

“Sit back, enjoy the ride. You gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Hey Ryan, it’s time to go home.” – Matt Kowalski

Click to view the official trailer

“If that’s what music is to you, a way to get to that place, then yeah. It’s a little careerist and it’s a little square and it’s a little sad.” – Llewyn Davis

1. 12 Years a Slave

Click to view the official trailer

“I apologize for my appearance. But I have had a difficult time these past several years.” – Solomon Northup

I first saw Roberto Minondi perform while catching a show at the Café Tortoni. This was during my research trip to Buenos Aires for Eliana: A Tango Fairytale. I had seen numerous tango shows before the Tortoni show, and each time I looked forward to the dancing and secretly dreaded the singing. With the other vocalists, the same passion as the dancers just didn’t translate for me. It was different for Roberto. He stole the Tortoni show and gave me chills during every performance. And when he sang Carlos Gardel’s “Volver,” I finally understood why Gardel is still a national icon and why tango singers can be so alluring. I liked the show so much that I took my writer, John Bucher, back the next night to see it again. Moreover, we have added a supporting role in the Eliana script for a “passionate milonga singer” based on our admiration for Roberto. After the second show we were able to track down Roberto and speak with him regarding the film. If the film’s schedule and other details pan out, I would be honored to have Roberto perform in our film. As a tease, please see the video below of Roberto singing a portion of “Volver.” It was captured on my iPhone during the first performance I attended at Café Tortoni.

“Volver” Chorus
(English Translation)

To return…with a withered face.
The snows of time,
Have whitened my temples.
To feel…that life is a puff of wind.
That twenty years is nothing,
That the feverish look,
Wandering in the shadow,
Looks for you and names you.
To live…with the soul clutched.
To a sweet memory,
That I cry once again.

In an odd turn of events, our film “Dead Drop” was accepted to the 2013 Silent River Festival in Irvine, CA. This is the first time that a festival has reached out initially with the offer to screen a film. And it’s even sweeter since “Dead Drop” is a shoestring budget short — created for only $97. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the link to view online.

Very happy to announce that “Niña Del Tango” is one of sixteen films that were selected for the 2013 monthly showcases at IFS. The Independent Filmmakers Showcase (IFS) recognizes the best independent and underground filmmakers working outside of the studio system. Our film screens on July 12th at 7:30pm. Tickets available for online purchase two weeks before the screening.

In late February, we announced that John Bucher was on board to draft the screenplay for the feature adaptation of the award-winning short film “Niña Del Tango.” Donna Baxter, in conjunction with her company Elsie Katz Couture, was also recently attached as the costume designer. The full-length film will be directed by Jason Eberly, who will also assist in story and character development, and will feature the acting and dancing talents of festival-nominated Mayte Valdes and Carlos Barrionuevo. Below are promotional photographs for the film, featuring the film’s stars and taken by Jordan Steele.

At a prestigious event on May 29th, we made the first public announcement regarding the film’s title and unveiled the teaser poster at the Consulate General of Argentina in New York. I am now quite excited to extend the announcement to our online followers. The title is “ELIANA,” named after the lead character, with the tagline “A TANGO FAIRYTALE.” The story is an Argentine retelling of the classic Cinderella fairytale, set in the mid 20th Century. Compared to the short film, the feature’s storyline and characters are quite different. But the tone and fantastical elements remain intact. Below, please find the teaser poster (hover over to activate a zoom function), created by Justin Wentz.

Poster artwork by Justin Wentz

Congrats to Jada Facer on her nomination for Best Performance In a Short Film at the 34th Annual Young Artist Awards. This is regarding her role as LUCY BIRD in “Niña Del Tango.” It was an endearing, nuanced performance and I get comments about Jada each time we screen the film. Best of luck when the winners are announced next Sunday at the Hollywood ceremony!