Nikon the Musical

Now you can call me a Fan Boy!

Posted: 1 April 2013

Yes, I know I should have been working harder on the Web site and doing more reviews this past year. Thing is, I've been keeping a secret from you. I've long been working on a special project I haven't yet written about, one that has been one of those life-long dreams that not all of us actually get around to doing. Not even my best friends know about this project, though I think one of them is a bit suspicious. Are you sitting down?

I asked, are you sitting down?

With your posterior correctly placed, yes, the poster above is real: I can now reveal that I've been writing a musical. This dream started back in college. Many of you know that I put myself partly though college by playing in the Spokane Symphony. My ex-wife played in the pit for Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and musicals. Music was in the air of our small apartment most of the time, and when it wasn't playing, we were ourselves playing (our instruments, that is).

One of the Symphony's gigs was to act as the orchestra for the Seattle Opera when it toured Eastern Washington and even into Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. It was during one of those long bus rides between towns that don't have opera companies that I started thinking to myself "you know, I should write an opera or musical." Always thinking of the monetary aspect, I decided upon musical. Hey, if Max Bialystock can make money on Broadway, maybe so can I.

Over the years I tinkered with possible melodies and harmonies, but I never could figure out what the musical should be about. Now here's the really wierd part: my mom, bless her soul, knows what film she would write. She can recite the whole plot, from beginning to end, and it's actually quite good; she'd probably have a studio executive hooked in minutes with her pitch. I wish she'd just put it down on paper.

Why is it wierd that my mom knows what film she would do? Well, I'm the trained filmmaker and a trained writer, and I don't know what film I'd do (though mom's idea is certainly compelling). It just seems strange to me that here she has a nicely laid out plot--one that's going to choke the audience up at the midpoint, by the way--and I'm supposedly the more creative one but have struggled with the long form plot type for pretty much forever. If I can't write a plot for a film, how the heck am I going to do it for a musical?

I know what you're thinking. Yes, I know what day today is. But everything I've written so far is absolutely true. Which is why the next part is going to blow your mind.

I was at a conference of writers almost a decade ago and somehow a group of us got around to a discussion of projects we couldn't quite finish. Yes, a block of writers with writers block. We all took turns tackling each other's problems, fears, and black holes, hoping that we could get each other motivated to get back to putting words on paper. When it came round to me and I had to face the group--you'd recognize some of the names, by the way, but we all promised we'd never disclose each others' names in conjunction with having writer's block--I pointed out that my problem was a little more fundamental than the ones that most of the others were having. While many of these pros were stuck on a character or a plot twist or something procedural or having a kick ass ending, I was stuck back at the starting gate: I had no idea what my musical should even be about.

One of the more famous of those present asked me: "Well, what are you known for?"

"My instruction manuals, mostly."

"Well, that's what you should write about: your musical should be an instruction manual."

And that's how The Complete Guide to Nikon, The Musical got started.

Yeah, you read that right.

It really sounds silly, doesn't it? Almost like it were an April Fool's joke. Unfortunately, I'm a pretty twisted fellow, and once that little germ of an idea lodged in my brain, it wouldn't come out. Funny thing is, once I really pondered it, it became clear to me that the idea was simply brilliant. Boy meets camera, boy loves camera, boy loses camera, boy gets a new camera. Funny how that fits so nicely into a very regular musical plot line, isn't it?

Nikon the Musical

So my hero, Nick Hawn, is going to fall in love with a camera. You're probably saying to yourself "well if he had problems getting started before he's really going to have problems with such a wild premise." Well maybe not. Almost immediately one of the love ballads came to me: "I'm Falling for Your Pixels."

The reviews were all good
The forums were quite abuzz
Every place that I looked
Says you're the best that ever was

But I dis-be-lieved them
and couldn't think that was right
That anyone could shoot
in the darkness of the night

Then I received a file
That made the goosebumps rise
And it turned out that
this camera really takes the prize

At one hundred percent
I'm falling for your pixels

At twice life size
You still deliver

Your RGB goodness makes me shiver
Oh at one hundred percent
I'm falling for your pixels, your pixels, your pixels

Which led me immediately to a second love ballad, believe it or not. Who knew I was such a romantic? Yes, as Nick begins falling in love, he goes in head over heals. He can't contain his love. So he starts pressing all his camera's buttons and sings "When I Touch You Something Changes."

When I push this button and twirl that dial
All my pictures of you will pop and make me smile.

When I touch you
Some-thing changes
You let me control
Every one of your ranges
Oh when I touch you something always changes

I had long thought writing a musical was going to be hard, but once the basic premise was in grasp the only hard part turned out to be gettiing the music right. The plot, dialogue, and lyrics all came very quickly (though I keep tweaking them pretty much every day). Not having done much composing, it was actually melody, chords, and orchestration that has been the bane of my getting this thing done. The end result is something that's a bit out there, much like Rocky Horror Picture Show or Little Shop of Horrors, where the suspension of disbelief is a huge gap to get the audience to cross, but once crossed, everything becomes total camp and fun.

Really, is it that difficult to believe that you can write a musical about cameras? I mean we've got tornados that take people from Kansas and land them in a world with yellow brick roads, nanny's that can fly using an umbrella, rival New York City gangs that dance, lottery winners touring a chocalate factory, a con man that sells musical instruments, women on death row, producers trying to make a flop but instead succeeding, and of course those alien plants that eat people and a couple whose car breaks down near a strange castle owned by a transvestite. My premise seems a bit tame compared to those, don't you think?

But back to the plot. My favorite part of the musical has to be the start of the second act. The first act was all about falling in love with a DSLR and then losing it. The second act starts with Nick in a camera shop hoping to find a new love. All the other people in the camera store begin to sing the complex group number "He's a Switcher, Beware" as the sales folk circle around him offering him potential new loves. This is one of those classic one-voice-versus-many songs, where we have a soloist singing:

The grass is greener in the pixels of another body
There's no banding in the shadows, no distracting color noise
The skies are so much cleaner, the QA not near as shoddy
It's clearly so much better than my older camera toys

while the chorus of circling and slowly closing in salesfolk and other customers sing a classic staccato counterpoint against the melody:

He's a switch-er, be-ware
A-bout the brand he shoots he does-n't care
Chang-ing loy-al-ty we're sure he'll dare
But nobody knows just how in the end that he will fare

Nick manages to get out of the store, do his research ("Do I Trust Lloyd Scott Rockgood?") and eventually order his new love. Of course, we're still not out of the woods yet, as the waiting turns to fret with the lament "When Will My Pre-Order Ship?"

I clicked when you asked
and I gave you my credit card
you said you'd get back to me
but now I just wait on guard

Where is my camera?
When will it come?
When will you ship it?
Where will it be shipped from?

Please oh please oh please just ship it
Please oh please oh please just send it to me
Please oh please oh please I need to have it
I'm just tired of it being absentee
So hurry up
and just
ship it to me

I won't give away any more of the plot or lyrics today, let alone the ending, as I need to save a few surprises. Amazingly, it all seems to have come together into a cohesive ode to photography as only Broadway could overdo it. Many of you know I work with a local theatre company every spring (see poster), and spring is almost…okay, one more:

My card is full
I can't save any more
the model's still cool
but I'm headed out the door

I need more cards
I can't take it any more
these megapixels are killing me
SanDisk is making me poor

Oh, what I'd give for proper WiFi
For my bits to my computer fly
Oh, what I'd give for proper WiFi
There's no workflow that's right I can buy

(That last bit is from the song "You Interrupt my Workflow")

Again, I know what day today is. I know you don't believe me. There are only two false statements in this entire article, though. Indeed, really only six false words in the sentences making those statements. So the real April Fool's joke is forcing you to find those words.

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