Director, writer, producer and editor Dan Chinander talks about the blues, bluesmen and Blues Man

"A bluesman to me is a gifted poet that has experienced many hardships and life lessons. He is one who knows how to take the words from his or her life and blend them poetically with his instrument."

Dan Chinander: Blues Man's Story

Daniel W. Chinander serves as the director, co-writer, producer and editor of HIDING VICTORIA. Dan has operated his production company, FishTale Entertainment, since 1999; producing, directing and editing motion picture, video and other media. Dan is pleased that Hiding Victoria not only won festival awards but was picked up for distribution both domestically and internationally. Dan is currently working on BLUES MAN, a feature-length film and is in development on a slate of four of his other screenplays ranging from drama, action adventure and family films.

Blues Man the movie is scheduled to be released in late 2015. This is an independent film written/ produced/ directed by Dan Chinander and is inspired by a true story. If you love the Blues you may want to follow this production. If you don't love the Blues you might after seeing this film. There is not only a good storyline but lots of music - the blues. Also, this film will educate the viewer on the history of the blues. A line taken from the script says, "If we didn't have the blues we would not have jazz. If we didn't have the blues we wouldn't have the big bands of the forties. If we didn't have the blues we wouldn't have rock & roll. And ladies and gentlemen, if we didn't have the blues we wouldn't have had Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, or the Beatles!"

Dan talks about the blues, his movies, Howard Minsky ... and Jesus.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues culture and what does the “Blues” mean to you?

The Blues to me is like a release valve on a pressure cooker. As the pressures of life build, playing the Blues is a release valve. It doesn’t mean the Blues will solve your problems but it is a good way to let go of some of the pain. Now, I claim not to be a Blues expert by any means. But I love the music and the history and am still learning everyday more and more about its roots.       

How important is music in your life? How does the blues music affect your mood and inspiration?

Music is a part of my being. Sometimes it feels like a curse at times because I can’t turn off the music in my head. I am always whistling, blowing the harp, playing the keys or humming or tapping out a beat with my hands. If somebody is talking to me and there is music playing in the background, my ear tends to zero in on the music and not what the person is saying. I have to constantly tell myself, “listen to what they are saying, listen, listen, listen.  

    

"I miss hearing the old Delta slide, the one-man show on a street corner who plays a slightly out of tune guitar and sings with a tired voice. Much of the blues today is show in my opinion, and that’s okay because I understand times have changed." 

How started the thought of "Blues Man"? Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

Blues Man was inspired by a true story that happened to me. One day I took my mother shopping and on the way back to her apartment she said to me, “You are going to like this, three old bluesmen moved into my apartment building”. As I carried her groceries through the front door there they were sitting in the lobby and one of them, Jerry, was messing around on his guitar. My mother said, “Jerry, this is my son I told you about, the one who plays the harmonica.” Well it so happened that day I was dressed in business attire due to a meeting I had and I clearly did not look like a bluesman. So Jerry and the others sized me up and said, “Oh, the bluesman!” They all chuckled to each other. I then stepped up and said, “I know I don’t look like a bluesman today but I would like to play the harmonica with you guys someday. Jerry looked at his two buddies and then back to me and said, “Well son, where we come from we call it a harp. Blowin’ the harp”.

I then replied, “Okay, I would like to blow the harp with you guys”.  Jerry with somewhat of an attitude said, “We’ll think about it.”

The following week as I took my mom on her normal Friday shopping trip, this time I did not dress preppy in business attire but wore black jeans and a black t-shirt.  I also slipped a harp in my back pocket just in case. As I entered the lobby carrying my mother’s groceries I noticed that the three bluesmen were not there.

As I led my mother down the hall carrying her groceries she stopped and knocked on an apartment door. There I heard a voice, “The door’s open Gladys”. I quickly walked back to my mom and asked what she did and she said, “I set up an audition for you.” Feeling like I was in the 7th grade again I sheepishly walked into Jerry’s apartment. There he was sitting on the sofa with a Gibson hollow body guitar resting on his belly.  He said to me, “Okay, let’s hear what ya got”.

I pulled out my Key of F Blues Harp and gave him a show. Jerry got so excited he sat up in his chair and said, “What key is that?” I said, “Key of F”. Jerry quickly retuned his guitar and said, “I ‘m going to play a twelve-bar-blues double time and I want you to keep up. So Jerry took off on his guitar and I got right into his face and kept up.  After one pass Jerry hit his leg and said, “Gladys, your boy is hired!  We’ll have the jam this Saturday!”

That next Saturday I went to the Jam and had the time of my life. As I walk back to my car I thought, “This is my next film, ‘Blues Man’, a story about a 16-year-old teen’s life being changed when meeting three old Bluesmen from the South.” Now clearly I am not a teen and if I was to have anybody see this film I would have to make the main character a young man, so I did.

"The Blues to me is like a release valve on a pressure cooker. As the pressures of life build, playing the Blues is a release valve. It doesn’t mean the Blues will solve your problems but it is a good way to let go of some of the pain." (Photo: Dan with Jamiah Rogers & his band)

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues? What is the best advice ever given you?

I have to say I am learning every day, but one piece of advice I was given, and it wasn’t from a blues man, but from the late Howard Minsky producer of Love Story he said, “Dan, when disaster strikes, and it will, look for the blessing in it!”   

Which was the best and worst moment of your career?  

The best would be winning Best Feature Film in a Los Angeles film festival on my film “Hiding Victoria”. The worst was when we had to deal with the dishonest people in Hollywood.           

Which is the most interesting period in your life?

The most interesting period, and I have to add life-changing, is when I came to faith in Jesus Christ. All the amazing and good things that have happened to me I can only attribute them to Him. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrown plenty of hardships as well, but He always leads me through them one way or another.    

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? Which memory makes you smile?

My most memorable meeting was with actor Malcolm McDowell. I even wrote a story from it called, “Three Days with Malcolm”. One day I hope to produce a short film based on this experience. Since then Malcolm and I have grown to be good friends. 

The memory that makes me smile, and I have to say laugh, was when I went up to talk to the late-actor Mickey Rooney. As I approached him he was in a state of a stroke victim and couldn’t talk. I was horrified, I didn’t know he had a stroke. Well, he didn’t. It was later that I learned that he would do this to people if he didn’t want to talk to them. I guess it wasn’t my night to talk to Mickey Rooney, but what a cool rejection!

"Everything we hear today on the radio has elements of the Blues in it. And the words are a very powerful vehicle to convey struggle, pain, loss, rejection; I mean who has not experienced any of these? The words always find a home in somebody’s heart." 

What do you miss most nowadays from the old days of blues? How has changed over the years?

I miss hearing the old Delta slide, the one-man show on a street corner who plays a slightly out of tune guitar and sings with a tired voice. Much of the blues today is show in my opinion, and that’s okay because I understand times have changed.    

Some music stars can be fads but the bluesmen are always with us. What means to be Bluesman?

A bluesman to me is a gifted poet that has experienced many hardships and life lessons. He is one who knows how to take the words from his or her life and blend them poetically with his instrument.

Why did you think that the Blues culture continues to generate such a devoted following?

One can’t deny that the music grows on you. Everything we hear today on the radio has elements of the Blues in it. And the words are a very powerful vehicle to convey struggle, pain, loss, rejection; I mean who has not experienced any of these? The words always find a home in somebody’s heart.   

What's the legacy of Blues in the world culture and civilization? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

One of the goals I have for my film Blues Man is that the young would realize that they wouldn’t have any of their music today if it wasn’t for the blues.

"Music is a part of my being. Sometimes it feels like a curse at times because I can’t turn off the music in my head."

Where would you really wanna go via a time machine and what books and records would you put in?

I would like to go back to the very beginning of the creation and see what it would be like to breathe clean air, drink pure water, live off fruit of the tree. No Cell phones, no computers, no TV, just family and friends. Books would be the Bible, how to live off the land, and the records I would take would be some old Robert Johnson tunes along with some James Cotton harp tunes. 

Blues Man the movie - Home   

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