June 30, 1989. Just a week into their first U.S. tour Nirvana lands in San Antonio, Texas, at a venue called Alfred’s. Every time I discuss what got me started writing the ‘I Found My Friends’ book I always come back to names that intrigued me back in February 2013 when I wrote a post about bands Nirvana shared stages with. Well, this show featured both Happy Dogs and the Swaziland White Band – both curious names that I wanted to learn more about. Ultimately I was lucky enough to hear from members of both bands and, in the former case, it was through the trust and support of Cynthia Bergen who arranged an interview with Jose Soria – former member of Happy Dogs and the subject of a film she was putting together called ‘Strange Places.’ It’s been intriguing learning of the creative collective Cynthia runs and wanting to know more I asked her if she might be willing to let me interview her for the blog…
For a start, we ran through what was coming from the team of which she’s a part – the sheer scale is kind of mind-boggling as is the diversity. “We’ve got a short horror film called ‘Delirium’ pending submission for film festivals…Then the feature film ‘Strange Places’ will complete production at the end of May 2015. There’s the ‘Underground Movement’ web series showcasing various artists, musicians and film-makers – plus the ‘No Sleep’ horror channel that director Isaac Rodriguez has got up and running. Around that there are two books on the way – firstly there’s the ‘Vintage Club Stories: Volume 1’ – that’s a short story collection for summer 2015. Next there’s ‘Dark Cloud’, we’re waiting to announce a release date there. I’m also a fire performer with ‘Nocturnal Sol’
Cynthia: “I was a movie buff from a young age – I’ve a lot of memories of eating popcorn and watching movies with my family. Plus I started – fairly early in my teens – writing short stories, poetry, music and frequently going to the movies. So it is ironic that the interests I started off in my early youth would play a big factor in my life today. My first story, the one that actually started it all for my writing, was “Carolina Mansion”, which is still in progress. That was to be my first book and hopefully to be picked up by a publisher and production company. That would have satisfied me. My friend and editor at the time told me ‘I think we have something here,’ by which they meant a story that was worth telling and possibly a movie. But while writing ‘Carolina Mansion’ all of these other stories started popping up in my mind. The interesting thing is these stories were based on true events that I had experienced and vowed never to tell because I was ashamed. For example, ‘Houston, We Have a Problem’, is a story about racism and the hatred endured when I was visiting my German friend in Houston. This story turned out to be my first short film ‘Storm Within the Veins’, which received an Honorable Mention Award’ at the Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival held in Houston, Texas back in October 2012. Educators from a college took an interest in my work which led onto engagements speaking to students about both my writings and short films.”
I asked about the “Strange Places film too given its focus on an individual whose life and past experiences had brought me into contact with Cynthia via the topic of Nirvana.
Cynthia: “A very good friend of mine, Jolene Blakely, introduced me to a couple; Jose Soria and Vicki Wyman. Jose was a chef at The Friendly Spot’, a popular local ice house in Southtown, San Antonio. Jolene’s work as a nurse has always given her a deep empathy for people and their personal experiences – Jolene would frequent ‘The Friendly Spot.’ Vicki would often be there waiting for Jose to finish work, they began to speak and ended up having so many conversations that Jolene gained a true understanding and feeling for the daily struggles the couple endured as black tar heroin users. Jolene brought Jose and Vicki to my attention and, as a writer, I jumped at the opportunity to speak to them – whereupon I discover that they were a true goldmine of intriguing tales. These first conversations evolved into a number of more formal interviews and eventually into a lengthier story based on the lifestyle their specific difficulty creates. I have a section on my website called Hidden Artist where I decided to begin promoting Jose’s art work. Meanwhile Jose began to list bands he’d performed with, plus those he’d hung out with across the years. The list of bands…Wow…Nirvana, Happy Dogs, Faith No More, Joy of Pain-it just kept coming. The couple really opened up about daily struggles alone with their 600.00 dollar a day drug use, and this is how Strange Places came about. The name itself came from hearing the different areas of their bodies’ heroin addicts are forced to use when injecting their…Demons. There are scenes in this movie that are going to leave you speechless.
Production-wise we started over a year ago but had to make some adjustments to the cast and crew, brought in some additional talent and just worked hard to ensure that everyone involved, shared the same vision. The workload is pretty grueling at times but it’s become something to which everyone in the cast and crew (Aaron Martinez, Anthony Fountain, Jolene Blakely, Jesse Salazar III, Isaac Rodriguez, Gloria Bueno, Adam Alexander Ramirez) is devoted so we’re looking at completion date of June 2015. My role…I think it’s all about the artist and the actors. I see myself as a collector of creativity. I’ve found my greatest happiness comes from discovering new talents and collaborating with them in new projects that give them exposure and that gives me the excitement I’m looking for. I am also a member of ‘Geekdom’, its and organization that has all types of facilitators, people who can help-it’s all just there at your finger.”
Next I just enquired more broadly about what kept her going with what sounds like an incredible workload and so many creative directions. Cynthia started by pointing to the importance of a core.
Cynthia: “I run something called The Vintage Club – it started as an idea for something I was going to open with a friend, I owned the name for ten years but it never went ahead in that form…My motivation comes out in the word ‘Vintage’, from my love for original things – I saw it as a place for any form of music, art, creativity that had a story to tell, something deeper. So, the Vintage Club evolved into The Vintage Club Stories – a fuller idea, a new beginning for myself and hopefully a community with unlimited potential and unlimited expression for those who join us. It’s always been crucial to me, that there are artists, musicians, film makers – a family that believes in my work. What motivates me to continue is that drive for achievement and the will to express my life experiences in text. Positive feedback is always a plus!”
WORK FROM THE COLLECTIVE:
Delirium, Dir Isaac Rodriguez, Synopsis- While investigating a mysterious murder, detective David Freeman uncovers a long-buried secret that traps him in a world of terror. Available on No Sleep Channel Apr 6, 4015
Underground Movement, Dir Anthony Fountain- A series covering bands, artists, and filmmakers in San Antonio, TX, and surrounding areas.
No Sleep Channel, Dir Isaac Rodriguez – A web series of short horror films.
Vintage Club Club Stories: Vol I, Writer Cynthia Bergen – A collection of Short Stories based on true events.
Dark Cloud (Book)Writer Cynthia Bergen – Classmate that I found out is fated to be incarcerated and later executed. A story based on true events. Book coming in the fall.
You can find vintagestories.com