How We Got Here
Here's how it all began:
There were two of us -- Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm. We wanted to make movies, so to learn our craft, we worked on other people’s projects, and we made short films of our own. Our mock newsreel Gandhi at the Bat was fortunate enough to play at a lot of film festivals all over the world, and its success encouraged us to make our first feature film, The Red Machine. That one also became a festival favorite, and for several years, we traveled nearly non-stop to present those two films and to meet our audiences.
On our journey, we played the Port Townsend Film Festival, where we met Jim Ewing, one of the festival’s co-founders. Jim changed our world forever. He was a former rocket scientist (really!), who had worked for TRW Space Systems in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At a certain point, TRW brass sensed that Jim would be the right person to mentor a small group of women in the company so that they could advance in their careers. Jim did, and in doing so, he found his true genius: he had an extraordinary ability to help individuals and companies through major transformations. He left TRW and began transformational consulting on an independent basis, working with companies like Apple and BP.
And he worked with us. Jim declared himself our "Strategic Gnome." (We were a little concerned that at six-foot-a-lot, he might be a bit tall for a gnome, but we granted a waiver.) He challenged us to look at the meaning and potential in what we were doing. Was there a way to broaden our work? To travel beyond being just filmmakers? To put ourselves, as Jim would say, "20 minutes into the future." Above all, what does it mean to be a storyteller, and how can we use storytelling to help make the world better? Jim asked us a lot of questions, and taught us that it was okay if we didn’t immediately have answers. Instead, he encouraged us to imagine a path for ourselves, then launch ventures to test that path.
Under Jim's guidance, we devised a project called A Person Known to Me. The idea was that we would create an epic detective adventure using alternating forms of storytelling, switching between films, illustrated prose, and more. The tale would be about detectives who travel the country at the turn of the 20th century, and we would draw on the real local history and culture of the places they visit. For the film elements of the project, we would supplement our small core of ongoing collaborators with local actors and crew, in an attempt to build connections within and between communities. To test the idea, we did our first film shoot in Port Townsend (where else?) -- and Jim appeared as an extra, playing a tall and dangerous smuggler. The project has continued to evolve since then, constantly surprising us, and (in true Jim fashion) pointing us toward our next steps.
On July 22, 2014, Jim passed away from multiple myeloma. Even though we're heartbroken to be without our strategic gnome, we're grateful that his questions live on in us. This website is our attempt to share some of those questions, and our own explorations toward the answers.
We hope that you'd like to join in the conversation: you can contact us at info@MentalSlapstick.com. And please return often!