Wednesday, Apr 03 2013 04:43 PM

CAMILLE GAVIN: Writin' -- and ropin' -- for him

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    By Photo courtesy of Betty Younger

    Betty Younger with her sculpture, Mending Hearts, at the new Houchin Community Blood Bank building.

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BY CAMILLE GAVIN Contributing writer, gavinarts@aol.com

Branding calves may seem like an odd side job for a Hollywood screenwriter, but that's what Jim Beard was doing in Glennville recently.

Even so, wrestling with livestock is almost second nature for the Bakersfield native.

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GO & DO

"I come home every couple of months to help my dad on his ranch," Beard said. "I grew up there so I've been doing it (branding) since I was a kid."

But "Occupying Ed" is the thing he really wanted to talk about during a recent phone conversation. It's the title of his original screenplay, which is being made into a movie.

Describing it as a "quirky romantic comedy," Beard said his screenplay is about an uptight man named Ed, who has a split-personality disorder.

"He discovers that his alternate personality is in a romantic relationship," the writer said. "It's probably the first love triangle with only two people."

Starring in the film are Chris Sams, who played Nathan Cross in the TV series "Gossip Boy," and Holly Hinton, a London-based actress who's working in the United States for the first time.

All of the shooting has been done and the film is now being edited. Beard hopes everything will be completed by August, in time to enter it into regional, national and international film festivals. It's expected to be released in 2014.

"I was fortunate to have a great director pick it up," he said. "His name is Steve Balderson and he was on Roger Ebert's best films list of 2005 for a movie called 'Firecracker,' starring Oscar-nominated actress Karen Black."

Beard, 37, and his wife Christine, a pastry chef at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, have lived in West Hollywood for three years.

"Occupying Ed" is the fourth screenplay he's written but the first to be made into a motion picture. During the shooting, the couple spent three days in Manhattan, Kan. Most of the film was shot there but in the movie Manhattan is not named; the actual setting is purposely vague.

"It was sort of dejà vu, seeing what you've written appear before you," he said. "It was the same but not quite the same, if you know what I mean."

Before relocating to Southern California, Beard was a full-time actor and toured with the American Shakespeare Center. Yet he's maintained his hometown contacts over the years and that's proved beneficial in terms of his ability to secure investors for his present project.

"I've had a lot of help from Bakersfield natives," he said. "Dewar's Candy even jumped on board and agreed to do a product placement for us. I'm excited about that because growing up (in Bakersfield) I always remember eating their candy, especially at Christmas."

Another investor in the film is local businessman David Milazzo, owner of Macroscopic. He and Beard have been friends since their teen years, when both were actors in the old Oildale melodrama theater.

"My favorite melodrama show with Jim was 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' where he was Peter Quince and I was playing Bottom," Milazzo said. "I had a ridiculous wig that would occasionally get turned the wrong way and crack us up. On more than one occasion we caught a case of the giggles and barely got through the scene."

Both men later studied acting in New York and were roommates there for a period of time. Milazzo isn't surprised that Beard is now devoting himself to screenwriting.

"Jim's been writing since we were kids -- poetry, fiction, sketches, stage plays -- screenwriting was the natural progression," he said. "When he moved to New York, Jim took a job at Lincoln Center as an usher and would write backstage between duties. When I moved back as well he got me the same gig. After a week I was bored stiff; but Jim used all the downtime to hone his craft."

Milazzo, along with a number of other local friends who are investors, has read the script for "Occupying Ed."

"I've enjoyed watching it mature through various drafts," he said. "And I think he landed on the perfect balance of zany and touching. These are characters worth knowing."

'Mending Hearts'

Betty Younger's 8-foot tall sculpture called "Mending Hearts" is a striking feature of the courtyard at the new Houchin Community Blood Bank on Bolthouse Drive.

The artwork, which consists of several curved pieces of 10-gauge highly polished stainless steel, is meant to represent a human heart. Her motivation for doing it, she said, was to show appreciation for the organization's continuing role in helping to save lives.

"The blood bank is the primary source of the life-giving product in the county," she said. "The medical procedures for the mending of hearts frequently require large blood transfusions."

HCCB president Greg Gallion thanked the sculptor and her husband, attorney Milt Younger, for their contribution during the opening ceremony of the new building on March 23.

Improv for kids

A team of young improvisational actors plan to take part in the First Friday events Friday in downtown Bakersfield.

"We'll be doing street performances on Eye and 19th Street," said Guinevere PH Dethlefson of Tonicism Productions. "We also hope to perform for the customers of Burrberry frozen yogurt inside the Spotlight Theatre lobby."

And on Saturday at The Empty Space, instructor David Lee Rock will begin an eight-week workshop called Improv I. It's sponsored by Tonicism and is designed for children who are in third through eighth (third through eighth) grades.

Enrollments are still being accepted. To register, visit info@tonicism.com.

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