Video: Telling ‘Mysteries of Travel’

We tried to make sense of what we had seen. We compared notes. We realized that we would probably never find out anything more about what had happened, and why and how.

In case you missed any of the live shows (or you’re dying to see it again!), here’s the video of my story, “Mysteries of Travel,” from the Monday Night Marsh event at The Marsh in San Francisco on April 29th. Storytelling in the oral tradition. No notes, no text.

Closed captions available. Just click on CC near the bottom of the player.

My April Storytelling Gigs

‘Mysteries of Travel’  
‘The Great Debate’  
‘The Elevator in Rome’  

I’ll be telling some new stories at three gigs this month in San Francisco and Oakland. Storytelling in the oral tradition. No notes, no text. Hope you can make it! The Marsh venue is easily accessible on BART (or park nearby). And the Stagebridge telling is free.

MONDAY NIGHT MARSH on April 15th and April 29th at The Marsh in San Francisco.

LUNCHTIME STORYTELLING on April 18th at Stagebridge in Oakland.

Video: Telling ‘The Elevator in Rome’

She looked at me, wide-eyed, with a big smile.
I knew that getting stuck in an elevator was one of her worst fears.

In case you missed the live show (or can’t wait to see it again!), here’s the video of my story, “The Elevator in Rome,” from Tell It On Tuesday at The Marsh in Berkeley last month. Storytelling in the oral tradition. No notes, no text.

Closed captions available. Just click on CC near the bottom of the player.

On Discarding Books

How Not to Be a Library

Today we gave away over 300 books from our dusty shelves. Many bags, crammed full of books, all in excellent shape, an alarming number unread and unopened.

It started with a holiday season when our kids were away most of the time, coupled with a desire to reduce dust and sneezing, amplified by a dread of our kids someday discovering that our vast collections were both voluminous and virginal.

The latter dread, which is not uncommon for retired folks, is a byproduct of having lived in the same house for 32 years. Without regular purges of stuff, every closet, shelf, or cabinet would be stuffed. That’s why they call it stuff.

The last book purge took place a few years ago, when we discarded funky old open shelving and invested in glass-doored book cabinets from, you know, the huge Swedish place. But the cabinets didn’t close tight, the dust seeped in, and the number of books doubled.

A Storytelling Journey

I gave a talk on Storytelling at my 50th Dartmouth College Reunion last month. Following is the text of my ten-minute introduction. If you want to see the whole, one-hour presentation, including video clips and stories, click on the video player below. Closed Captions (CC) available.

I never wanted to be a performer … until I discovered storytelling.

About two-and-a-half years ago, a friend of mine had a gig playing classical guitar at The Marsh, a club in Berkeley that was hosting a monthly storytelling night called Tell It On Tuesday. She urged me to come along. After she finished playing, five people, all roughly my age, stood up in turn and told stories.

BILLY SOLO Video — Part 2

One-Man Solo Storytelling Soirée Salon

4/20/18 at Silk Road House, Berkeley, California

I guess gratuitous self-promotion pays off, eh? Every single chair was in use. I was so pleased with the turnout and the enthusiasm of the audience, even if most of them were friends!

They laughed a lot, usually at appropriate moments, and applauded each story. What fun!

Part 2 includes these stories:

  • “FDR: Fear Itself”
  • “Evelyn’s Story: Alex and the Cole Porter Show”
  • “Mendocino: The Essence of Nature”
  • “Snow Story: The Moon and Dr. Zhivago”

BILLY SOLO Video — Part 1

One-Man Solo Storytelling Soirée Salon

4/20/18 at Silk Road House, Berkeley, California

My solo storytelling show last Friday was amazing, a real peak experience!

What a fun evening! I had a terrific time and feel wonderful about having challenged myself like that. I did eight stories, about 75-80 minutes of material in all.

The place was packed. About 48 people in a medium-smallish room.

Part 1 includes these stories:

  • “Anansi”
  • “Dog Years: Pop, Sophie, and the West Wing”
  • “The Seven Lies”
  • “Chartres: Ecstasy at the Altar”

Moose Encounter

(Loosely inspired by a tall and nearly true tale)

Jake rushed through the door—sweaty and disheveled—to find Al playing solitaire in the main lodge.

“Al! I just had a moose encounter,” said Jake. “Up on Bacon Ridge. It was pretty great, dude. Wait’ll I tell the guys at home about this.”

“Was it sweet and chocolatey?”

“No, dipshit! Not that kind of moose, with a U! Moose with two O’s, like Bullwinkle. Huge, with antlers. I just saw one.”

“Tell me.”

“I grabbed my camera, hiked to the top, then took a few snaps, looking down at the ranch in the fall foliage. It was right purdy, pardner.”

A Writer’s Debut As a Storyteller

About two years ago, I went to a storytelling event at The Marsh in Berkeley and watched six people tell six very different stories. Some personal, some historical, all about 10-15 minutes long.

My first reaction: I can do that.

Little did I know.

The tellers were all from Stagebridge, a Senior Theatre Company housed in an old church in Oakland, so I started taking storytelling classes there. Stagebridge also offers courses in acting, directing, singing, dancing, and many other kinds of performance. It’s the only “senior” thing I’ve ever done. But close friends, both recently retired psychologists, have found new passions in performance at Stagebridge, and, so I dove in.

Listen to My Interview on FCC Free Radio

Radio host Lilycat interviewed me recently about my writing on FCC Free Radio.

The show ran live on September 18, broadcast from their studios in the Civic Center/UN Plaza District in downtown San Francisco. For two hours, we talked, she played music, and I read three stories from my book, Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil.

Lilycat, aka Melinda Adams, hosts a weekly show, called “Lilycat on Stuff,” every Sunday at noon. Once a month, she hosts authors like myself from Left Coast Writers.

FCC Free Radio, an Internet-based radio station, is home to over 50 original programs each week, that produce more than 1,000,000 listeners per month. Melinda recorded the whole broadcast, which is now available as a podcast.

Pop’s Podunks

Whenever my dad wanted to speak metaphorically about Podunks—places that were remote and sparsely populated—he often cited Broken Elbow, Indiana, and Frozen Dog, Iowa. I always assumed they were real places, and recently I dug around to find out how they got their colorful names. Internet research truly is the best! Googling “Broken Elbow, Indiana” […]

Good Night, Irene—Confessions of a Mileage Whore

Bronze Certificate, Funny Travel Category, 9th Annual Solas Awards for Travel Writing from Travelers’ Tales, March 2015 It’s not easy being a mileage whore. Sometimes you have to do things that don’t seem to make sense. United Airlines operates a major hub in San Francisco, and I’ve whored for their miles for years now. On my trip to Brazil recently, because I […]

New Award & Reviews for SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil

My book SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA tells true stories from my long career as a director of photography, working on film and digital cinema shoots across the U.S. and all around the world—Japan, India, China, Uganda, the Philippines, New Zealand, France, Singapore, England, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil. The book has recently been honored as a Commended Winner in Non-Fiction in the 2014 Self-Publishing Review Awards. […]

SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA Now Available in Paperback and Kindle e-Book Versions

SHOWDOWN AT SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil

New Book by BILL ZARCHY on sale now!

Introduction by Larry Habegger

Bill Zarchy’s new book—SHOWDOWN at SHINAGAWA—is now on sale at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle e-book versions.
SHOWDOWN AT SHINAGAWA: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil tells true stories from Zarchy’s long career as a director of photography, working on film and digital cinema shoots across the U.S. and all around the world—Japan, India, China, Uganda, the Philippines, New Zealand, France, Singapore, England, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil.

Daniel Pinkham: The Unpredictable-ness of What’s Coming Next

A new profile on Dan Pinkham I wrote for Varney’s Place, the blog of The Kenwood Group:

“In college, I supported myself with a commissioned sales job at a prominent Westwood Village camera store. One day I sold a super-8 camera to Johnny Carson and had the pleasure of teaching him how to use it! That was a mind-blowing moment for a film school student, to be sure.”

Common knowledge about personality types: humans are either left-brained—analytical, detail-minded, mathematical, and logical—or right-brained—creative, thoughtful, artistic, and open-minded. It depends on which side of the brain is dominant, right?

On Predicting the Future: Roku’s Reward and Augmented Reality

Predicting the future is a tricky business. It’s difficult to know what’s going to happen, and you never know whom you might inspire.

Jim Samalis, who joined Kenwood as Executive Creative Director on April 1, was reminded recently of a visionary film he made years ago, and was rewarded by seeing the fruit of some seeds he helped to sow.

The story starts seven years ago.

Writing Projects for Varney’s Place

Recently completed pieces for The Kenwood Group, for their Varney’s Place blog:

Giants Stadium: In the Shadow of Kenwood

Starting Friday afternoon and 81 times in the next six months, the neighborhood around Kenwood will be transformed. Thousands of people of all ages wearing Halloween colors and panda and giraffe hats will flood the streets around our office, their shirts bearing an odd collection of names which are common nouns like Posey, Pagan, Panda, Pence, Belt, Huff, Bonds, Snow, Mays, the Beard, and the Freak, as well as unique three-syllable names like Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Marichal, Scutaro, McCovey, and Lincecum.

Roving Camera’s 2500th Facebook Like

The Facebook Page for Roving Camera: Bill Zarchy’s Blog passed 2500 Likes earlier today. It’s been my pleasure to write for you on a crazy array of subjects for more than two-and-a-half years, and I humbly appreciate your support, enthusiasm, and suggestions.

I’ll be publishing two books of my stories this summer and have more surprises in the works, so stay tuned!

Writing Projects: Hurricane Sandy / Trip to Taipei

Wearing my writer’s hat, I’ve recently cranked out two articles for The Kenwood Group about some of their projects, published on their Varney’s Place blog.

Into the Storm: Producing a Movie Marathon in the Face of a Hurricane

Imagine planning a live event long in advance, only to have the storm of the century threaten to shut you down.

On a recent project for NVIDIA, Kenwood managed to pull off a production just before Superstorm Sandy hit New York, but completing the project proved difficult in the aftermath.

The plan: producing the Rooftop Films Indie Horror Movie Marathon in Brooklyn, with scary flicks and features on several HD projectors, and a live band playing heavy metal.

Studying Spielberg: McBride’s Biography is Memorable … and Unauthorized

Imagine deciding to write a biography on someone you had met twice, a contemporary who worked in the same industry and lived in the same state, only to learn, several months into your research, that your subject has declined your request for an interview and asked his close associates and family to do the same.

This is the backstory for Steven Spielberg: A Biography by Joseph McBride. Undeterred by Spielberg’s lack of cooperation, McBride soldiered on. No slacker, over the next three years he interviewed 327 other people for this book, including many of Spielberg’s cohorts and relatives.

The result is a marvelous work, an unauthorized biography overflowing with McBride’s voluminous research, crisp critical thinking, and an easy, engaging writing style that refreshes like a clear mountain stream.

OUR NEW BOOK—No Definite Plans: Eleven Tales of Laughter, Love, Travel—Volume 3 from Townsend 11

I’m very excited about the publication of the third volume in our new e-Book series!

No Definite Plans: Eleven Stories of Laughter, Love, Travel, is now available on Amazon’s Kindle Store and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Book Store. This new offering is by Townsend 11 (my writing collective), edited by Larry Habegger. I contributed a story (“Chartres: Ecstasy at the Altar,” about my family’s odd visit to a venerable landmark), as well as one of the two cover photos.

In this third book, No Definite Plans, you can learn how to hold it while rafting the Amazon, have an animated dream, witness a unique spectacle in a French cathedral, visit a women’s only sanctum in Morocco, and head for home in the Midwest. You will contemplate an emperor’s curiosity, discover the unexpected aftermath of adventure, and confront the inevitability of aging. And, in our first fiction offerings, you’ll meet unforgettable characters in China and India and ponder the generation gap in modern language.

Townsend 11 Publishes Volume 2: No Set Boundaries

Townsend 11 has published Volume 2 of our new e-book series—No Set Boundaries: Eleven Stories of Life, Travel, Misadventure.

For several years now, I’ve belonged to this collective of eleven writers (including one who lives in Barcelona). We meet monthly in a converted brick warehouse on Townsend Street in San Francisco.

We are committed to sharing stories that enlighten, entertain, and inspire. Our work is an eclectic mix that has been widely published in major magazines, newspapers, and books, and has earned numerous awards. Now, in this age of e-books, we’ve launched a series of works to engage you.

In our second book, No Set Boundaries: Eleven Stories of Life, Travel, Misadventure, you can witness a Catalan ritual in Barcelona, shop the Italian way, freeze on an English beach, deal with prejudice in Ethiopia, backpack down a frightening road in Cambodia, rest in a California garden, and glide along on a French canal. You’ll learn about a bent zucchini that’s not a vegetable, try to help lost travelers, break a leg on a mountain trail, and dash through an ancient city in India.

Write What You Don’t Know

I’ve been a filmmaker and writer for most of my life, but I’ve never written a film. There was no screenplay writing class at Stanford when I was in film school there, for some reason, and I never caught the bug.

Now, however, Julian Hoxter, my colleague in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University, has published a wonderful book called Write What You Don’t Know: An Accessible Manual for Screenwriters. I can feel my life starting to change.