Happy New Year to all!!!
In the course of making this film I have had adventures i never imagined. I knew I was in for a wall of "secrecy and plausible deniability" but I was not prepared for the high level of obfuscation and crap I have encountered along the way. I am talking to people in the witness protection program, former specials ops people from the military, mob-connected individuals and occult masters and faced with attempts to stuck me up to see archives that may or may not exist for large amounts of money. This is in no way a typical documentary. This is the bed I have made and I am in it to the end.
Most recently, I am shocked at how new faces continue to appear. This past Saturday, I interviewed Ben Nevarez, a Mexican immigrant to Chicago in the early 1960s who started his study of karate in Mexico and joined Dante's school in 1962. He traveled with Dante to a tournament in Canada held by Mas Tsuroka in 1963. More on this in my next blog entry.
I made a decision about this time last year to go to Fall River and try to see what I could do to get them involved and come to some kind of a deal regarding their archive. Aguiar had already told me he wanted money for an interview and $10,000 to look at the archive site unseen. I had already been in touch with his lawyer and asked for paperwork proving their claim of copyright and never got anything but questionable documents attached to cease and desist orders. I tried to make peace and an opportunity for us to move forward in a positive manner.
I accepted the invitation of John Creeden III to come to Fall River. He said he was breaking away from Aguiar and that his father, John Creeden, Jr. had film footage that they had rights to. I asked about meeting Aguiar while I was in Fall River and they said it was not a good idea.
They said Bill Aguiar was not the owner of the footage.
I went there to interview John Creeden, Jr., and I did. I never put it online. I was waiting to see how things panned out. One thing led to another and I got involved with Barron Sheppard, who wanted to come on as an investor in the film. The first time I heard froim Sheppard , he offered to pay for a headstone for Count Dante's grave. That is how we got to talking.
Sheppard is a martial artist, martial arts historian and business man. He was looking for angles to do business on the novelty of these martial arts oddities, and saw the Black Dragon Fighting Society as a marketable commodity for t-shirts and fight wear due to Dante's early advocacy of mixed martial arts.
Playing no favorites, he sought to buy out both Ashida Kim and Bill Aguiar. I introduced him to the Creeden's. Creeden sold film footage to Sheppard for $1000.00 with the understanding that he was purchasing it to do with as he pleased. One of the uses would be for the film. I was specifically interested in the wrestling footage and the poison hand demonstration by Dante himself. Creeden III tried to go into business with Sheppard. Creeden, in trying to go it alone even went so far as suggesting making peace with Ashida Kim to capitalize on his international connections. After numerous delays in recieving the footage from Creeden he had a dubious feeling about doing business with Creeden. When the footage arrived it was very poor quality and had been shot off of a TV screen, it was not produced from the 8mm film footage as agreed.
My trailers had been up since Fall of 2006. I put up another in February of 2007. When Aguiar would not answer my emails back in 2006 I made it clear that I was claiming Fair Use of materials from the 1968 book by John Keehan/Count Dante. At the same time I contacted the Fair Use Project for Documentary Film, explained my dilemma and was taken on by them as a pro bono client.
I interviewed Master Ronald Duncan while I was out there. For me that was highlight of the trip. He was someone I had always wanted to meet. Critics can say what they will about Duncan, all I can say is they no idea of his skills and experiences. I leave it at that. Talking smack over this internet has no value and is very easy to do as we continually witness.
Sheppard, not realizing the virulent hatred the Fall River Black Dragons had for Ashida Kim, explained to Creeden he had bought up all of Ashida Kims footage for the same amount of money. Suddenly it because a contest to be paid more then Ashida Kim was being paid. When some of the footage showed up on YouTube associated with video featuring Ashida Kim, Fall River went ballistic.
Sheppard then soured on the whole idea, he no longer wanted to deal with drama that came with these "novelties." He dropped the idea after Creeden's crap. Sheppard pulled out, he ceased his business with Ashida Kim also. So Creeden is the only person to receive money from Sheppard in that deal.
Aguiar began reissuing the Cease and Desists to get the Videos taken down off of YouTube due to copyright infringement. He was successful in that momentarily. All of my videos were reinstated eventually. He even managed to get footage by Tom Palazzolo removed. Tom's footage was from the 1964 2nd World Karate Tournament.
Aguiar filed suit against me, Barron Sheppard and his wife, and Ashida Kim in September. We go to court in the beginning of 2008. We have a date of January 11, but have asked the court for an alternate date of Feb 11 as a key attorney in the case is having a baby a week before that date and as we who have children know, babies have a habit of coming when they feel like it. I will know the exact date this week.
The whole point of this film is to illuminate the social history of martial arts on the one hand using the implausible story of John Keehan/Count Dante as it's center piece. On the other hand it's purpose is to demystify the character of Count Dante and bring some clarity and closure to his urban mythology and accompanying controversial histories.
I have managed to make many discoveries on my own. I am eternally greatful to the late Ken Knudson for opening the door for me to begin my research in earnest and being my first interview.
The Fall River people are engaged in undermining me by interfering with my efforts to interview people in Fall River. It is quite clear that they have none of the control they claim to have over people that are creditable interviews, people who were alive and active during the pertinent time periods I am investigating. They are blowing just so much smoke. This will become apparent in the coming months.
I was in Pittsburg in November and I met members of then International Black Dragon Society courtesy of Dr Lawrence Day. Master Michael Felkoff was there and I got to see a kinder more friendly International BDFS.
I continue to make good progress with things thus far. Recently the Green Dragon Society has lifted it's head on YouTube. They are presenting all of their dirty laundry in public as well as spinning tales and lecturing me in absentia on how I should do the film to put attention on them, yet, no one wants to come forward to give information or to present their theories on what happened April 23, 1970. I have asked anyone when pertinent information to come forward. No one but Pat Garrison, an individual who was there that day, has come forward and told his version that even the most die hard Green Dragons do not agree with.
The contemporary Green Dragons clearly have no firsthand knowledge of the Dojo/Dragon Wars. It was thirty seven years ago. Yet they speculate who my sources are and I have stated clearly that I had dinner with former members of the GDS that were there that day. No contemporary GDS people would have first hand knowledge of the organization from 1966-1972. I have been seeking older people. The only information I can could get from the present day GDS is how they see the events of April 23, 1970 in hindsight. No one from the Devon Ave school ever responded to my inquiries. People speculating about my informants in the GDS have no idea who they are or how far up it now reaches and they will not know until the film comes out.
I got a letter in the mail today, from someone who has done a limited edition reproduction of The World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets. The letter with the limited edition explains how Count Dante, as a cultural icon, belongs to us all, is part of the collective memory of thousands of early to late middle aged men who lived with the idea and the images of the promise of invincibility. It is a myth come to life, truth or false no longer matters, Count Dante is an urban legend from which we draw memories of youth and the promise of power. No cease and desist letter can compete with this notion.
"Let a thousand T-shirts bloom and a thousand lawsuits
for infringement contend."Da'n Tri'd Ahn Me,
Master of Fei Aah Yuse zhang
In spite of all of what has transpired, I have continued to gather amazing interviews and I will be uploading some of them over the next few weeks to give you a taste of what's coming. For now check out this interview excerpt with Gregory Jaco.
My rough cut is being recut, I will start shooting reenactments in February, I have several more key interviews to round things out. I continue working with a no-budget budget, but this is the miracle of digital tech, knowledge of the software, and pure will. You can actually become unstoppable. My goal now is......I ain't telling...LOL!! Just know I have one.
Those of you who have a stake in knowing will be the first to know. Mystery is good.