s y n c o p a t i o n

Jodi Marcos and Rick Clemente

Old before her time, a homeless woman wakes up in a laundromat, decides that she's had enough in life and wants to die. Her vibrant young soul is reluctant to go with her, but has no choice. The destitute woman gives away one of her last meager possessions, an old doll, in exchange for one artificial flower that she takes to her burial at the beach. She exchanges her last dollar for a ticket to the burial site, and then must give the grave digger her Rosary beads so that he'll cover her with sand in the shallow grave. Her soul must follow.


Forty-seven years ago, I was in a film class at Art Center College of Design in L.A. The scandal of the week was about extortionist sales methods by some in the funeral business. This film expressed my feelings about it.

My teacher, Phil Cohen, loaned me his beautiful pristine manual-wind Bolex 16mm camera, and I shot the movie on two 50-foot rolls of Tri-X film, almost entirely in sequence, on two afternoons. For editing, I used a pair of scissors, a roll of splicing tape, pocket-size splicing block, one single-edge razor blade, Agfa loupe contact sheet magnifier, and friend Dave Guerra's home-made rewinds and sound reader... and lots of coffee and Rick Clemente's cigarettes... and ENORMOUS patience, talent and good will of Jodi and Rick.

The college bought the film from me, and until recently, that was the last I had seen of it. While digging through a box of old photo gear parts, I came across this copy of a copy of a non-timed, "A"-roll-only (visible splices) work print.

Watch for the dog at the beach who moved perfectly in time with Jodi crossing the screen. Jodi yelled back, "Ken, a dog!". With not enough film for a re-take, I yelled back, "Keep going! Don't stop!"

As I shot the last image of the artificial flower being covered by a shovelful of sand, I heard the tail end of film detach from the core inside the camera as those last frames were exposed. There was zero unexposed film.

Ahhh, those were the days!

Ken Schuster, October 2016

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