Tiger Within

IN PRE-PRODUCTION

written by  Gina Wendkos

A young skin head runs away from home to New York City where she is befriended by a Holocaust survivor.

Casey, 16, is a loner…and a lost soul in search of love. The film opens on her disastrous first day of school in Michigan suburbs where she is humiliated and disrespected.  At home, it’s not much better.  Her mother’s new boyfriend is an abusive drunk, while her mother, Marge, has good intentions but is ultimately weak.  When the boyfriend threatens to leave if Casey doesn’t, Marge sides with him and arranges for Casey to live with her estranged father in New York City.

Upon arrival at Kennedy Airport, Casey sees her father and his family before they see her.  She hears her three half-sisters and step-mother complain about her reputation as a trouble-maker and decides not to step forward. After a while, her father reluctantly leaves without her.  Casey can see the relief on his family’s faces. Now she is in New York alone.

She tells a cab driver to take her to a place “where no one will stare at me” and he drives her to the roughest part of town he knows.  She joins the rest of the bums, punks, junkies, and prostitutes and wanders the streets alone. It’s only a matter of time before her bag is stolen; she’s approached for sex; and she sleeps where she can, including a Jewish cemetery.

The next morning, Samuel Benz, a Holocaust survivor, is making his daily visit to his wife’s grave when he discovers Casey asleep on her tombstone. At first taken aback by the swastika covered jacket which covers her shoulders, he decides to wait for her to wake up.  When she awakes he invites her to eat and wash up at his apartment with no strings attached. She accepts the offer but is so exhausted that she eventually falls asleep in his bathtub.  The next morning she thanks him and returns to the streets.

Three months later, Casey is working in a massage parlor – jerking guys off for money.  She’s a little wiser now and number. She runs into Samuel a couple of times, then again on Christmas eve. Over dinner he reveals that he lost his two twin daughters in the camps and never had a chance to fulfill himself as a father… he then explains an old Chinese saying “embrace the tiger,” which means to learn to love ones fears “so you can control them and they not you.”

Taking this advice, Casey takes a cab to her father’s house in the suburbs. In a very awkward scene, he introduces Casey to his wife and three daughters. Later, Casey overhears his wife complaining about the new “trash” they’ve let into their house and what kind of “influence she’ll be on the girls.” Casey runs away again in the middle of the night…to Samuel’s house in the city, where she angrily confronts the old man for telling her to go in the first place.  Samuel quickly comforts her and offers her his house as a new home.  The only “catch” is that she must take the swastika off her jacket, and start going to school. She agrees.

The school won’t let Casey register without signatures from one of her real parents, so Samuel and Casey take the train to Michigan together to confront her mother and the boyfriend. Marge reluctantly agrees to sign Casey away. On the train back to New York, Casey asks Samuel why he’s going to all this trouble. He answers that he once made a promise to his wife to stop hating, and that initially he hated Casey…”You were the challenge God presented me that day in the graveyard… if I’d learn not to hate you, a child in a swastika, then I could learn to forgive all before I die.”

At school, Casey excels in poetry and makes friends with a young man named Tony.  Before going on a date with Tony, Samuel helps Casey “prepare” by buying her a dress, some stockings and shoes. The date goes well. Later, Samuel takes Casey to a health clinic to have “the talk” with health counselors.

One summer day, Casey and Tony begin having sex on the beach.  At the same time, Samuel is viciously attacked near his Temple by a gang of skinhead punks.  Casey finds him in the hospital later that day. He is close to death. Within the next few days his condition deteriorates and Casey begins to withdraw back into herself, avoiding Tony, neglecting the apartment, sleeping in the bathtub like her first night there. When Samuel finally dies, she completely reverts back to her old ways…including the massage parlor.

In the parlor, about to “work” on some guy, Casey comes to a revelation and quickly bolts during the middle of the “session.”  She goes to the cat section in the Bronx Zoo and sticks her hand in between the bars of a tiger’s cage in order to test her fear.  The tiger roars at first, then licks her hand lovingly.  Casey has embraced her fears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mia

 

MIA

It’s a music film about a teenager (Mia) who is a singer/musician from a small town – white trash type trailer-park kind of background living with a single mom who is abusive, addicted and promiscuous…

The story (still in the evolution process) would go something like this:

We introduce her in fragments of several scenes, dialogue, song…

She is loner, misfit, hyper-sensitive, gutsy, mocked at school…

She locks herself in her room and drowns out her pain and the sounds of her mom outside, as she writes out a poem, which become lyrics
and a song…

…she finds a broken guitar in a dumpster… gets some strings from a pawnshop… puts it together…trains herself…

…cuts school, sits in a junkyard and plays for the rats…

…then she finds out about the garage band app and starts creating on her phone..

Composes songs in bedroom or in a rusted old car on the edge of a junkyard – her favorite spot

Finally things get out of hand at home…

Fights with mom (she could be addict or prostitute)- perhaps too clishe?

Runs off.

Guy at gas station tells her about her dad (“Tom”) – used to know him – mom does not talk about him ever –

Gives her a clue – he lives somewhere at “Paradise Apartments” in Silver Lake In Los Angeles

She runs away… jumps a freight train… sings a song for the drifters and immigrant workers riding along…

Chased by guards?

Arrives in LA.

She only has an address – but it leads to a series of dead-ends and obscure clues – the apartment building has been turned into condos – seedy bars where he worked, places he was kicked out of – and left a trail of people he owes money to, etc…

A group of homeless kids invite her to abandoned boarded up building. Writes a song as homeless kids huddle around a fire…

Another night she sleeps under freeway, it rains

Sings a song to the homeless hobos

The guy at liquor store nearby the condos used to know him … He used to buy beer … owes him money – cashed his paycheck which bounced

She has no money for food

Sings a song on the subway – collects cash for McDonald’s hamburger – even looks for leftovers behind restaurant

…and it takes her days to finally track him down… in the meanwhile she is homeless, surviving on the street paying music on subway stops Hollywood Boulevard, Venice Beach

It turns out her dad is a burn out rock n roll musician with faded dreams, an alcoholic, playing around town in various dives, working odd jobs… living here and there on people’s couches… and is not so eager at all to accept his daughter…  he tells her to get lost…

…but eventually he accepts her…

He is a first without place – lives out of car – even in a tent at campground

Task rabbit odd jobs

…they get an apartment, he enrols her in school and he tries to be a decent dad, but with a lot of resistance from his girlfriend Kate who is also a singer in the band, and struggling with her own demons.

She falls asleep backstage as he drinks after show

Dad does not get the kid’s music – he does not understand it – the
electronic pop sounds – and heartbreak lyrics – the EDM/rap influences – he is more into rock/grunge

… and she is not into his music either… at first, they are competitive-dismissive with each other.

But he finds himself reluctantly helping her, and she, in turn, inspires and rejuvenates him – they need each other… even find themselves singing each other’s songs.

She is protective of him – sabotages his date with Kate

When a skateboarder – rapper shows interest in Mia – Dad becomes protector – breaks it up in case things get too

There are happy times like when they go to the Santa Monica pier and clown around singing and kidding with each other – in a battle of songs.

Asks daddy to read – song her a song before she goes to sleep – lullaby – he tucks her in

Dad cannot get a big audience but she post a song on youtube and gets a million hits immediately – dad just does not get it… but he knows she has fire and talent — like he has… but he never got the chance to break through…

However hard she tries not to show it he loves his daughter.

Dad has some old contacts at the Austin SXSW Music fest and manages to book her a showcase. As they prepare/rehearse dad goes on a self-hating drinking binge and has a heart attack.

She finds herself all alone again, kicked out, and all is lost, but she remembers the song her kept on singing “never give up”… in the last moment she runs, hitchhikes, jumps busses and trucks and motorbikes and …makes is to Austin, just in time to sing her song…. for dad.

The movie would be ultra low budget – sort of indie Sundance type film – and half of it would be told through music videos. I hope to get a talented musician to play dad – people like Father John Misty, Devendra Banhart, or (Alex Ebert) Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeros come into mind if I can get to them… I am hoping to discover an
actress-musician who can write and perform her own songs.

Euphoria

I was young.
I was troubled.
I wanted to get lost in distractions.
He was older.
He was the remedy.
He was the perfect distraction.

A poetic diary of a fourteen-year old’s girl’s roller-coaster love affair with an 18-year-old boyfriend, fuelled by the drug Esctacy.

Inspired by the novel “Misconception” by Clelia-Angelina Frith and by true events.

365

365 Poster

The screenplay is an imaginary, conceptual, hypothetical film as if written by “John”, the central character, who is an aspiring screenwriter, an outsider and a rebel. John is adopting his “love-journal” that he created documenting his love scenes with his girlfriend “Jane” to an imaginary screenplay, a movie that would not be made by any main-stream filmmaker, as it is too intimate and risque.

With the advent of the internet, there are millions of such pieces out there in various forms. Whether they are photos, blogs, videos, tweets, social-media text bits – our compulsion to document and share the most intimate moments has become the fabric of our collective consciousness.

It is a “journal” – someone writing it down right afterwards, sometimes next morning, next day, next week. Sometimes it is a re-telling of the stream of consciousness, or trying to capture it as if the writer lost track of whether the dialogue was actually spoken, or went through the mind at the time, or occurred after the fact.

The challenge of this material would be to minimize the nudity, rather make it a poetic-literary stream of consciousness full of beautiful hypnotic images, a film about memory, poetry, art, the soul… and the mind of these two characters. It will also be a way to open up the film so it does not become just two-actors-in-one room.

I see this as a 240-minute movie (in four parts: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall) with a non-stop continuous-hypnotic-sound-track that could almost place you into an altered state – it’s about those moments in our lives when we are in that zone. The non-stop beat will help us jump in time within scenes and even edit them as non-continuous events – fragmented – as if snippets of memory…. it may involve working with 4 different DJs creating a separate piece for each of the four seasons.

My hope is to premiere the film as a triple screen immersive experience live event in 4 parts, with intermission, each with a live score by each of the 4 DJs. It could as a multi-city tour, followed by a conventional theatrical and video release.

 

Bardo

Virtual Reality- Poster

 

A BARDO IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE

Tibetan Book of the Dead

Bardo Thotrol (Bar-do’i-thos-grol) in Tibetan or more commonly known as “The Tibetan Book, of the Dead”, is a classic of the world’s religious literature.

It concerns the nature of the mind and its projections – beautiful or terrible, peaceful and wrathful – which seem to exist objectively and inhabit the external world.

In particular, it describes these projections as they appear immediately after death, in a much more overwhelming form since the consciousness is no longer grounded and shielded by its connection with a physical body.

It teaches recognition of these terrifying and seductive forms, and through recognition attainment of the state of enlightenment.

This centuries-old scripture was traditionally read aloud to the dying to help them transcend and see death and rebirth as a process that offers the possibility of attaining ultimate liberation.

Bardo means gap. It is not only the interval of suspension after we die but also suspension in the living situation.

According to the Tibetans, death happens in the living situation as well.

The Bardo experience is part of our basic psychological make-up. The book is not only a message for those who are going to die and those who are already dead, but it is also a message for those who are already born: birth and death apply to everybody constantly, at this very moment.

History

I came across this book as a teenager in India.

When I was at MIT, studying art, design, and film, I received a grant to turn it into a one-hour immersive three-screen film and I had William Burroughs writing the script and Phillip Glass the music. We got only part of the way as the computers were not up to speed.

When I came a Hollywood, I developed a screenplay (“Bardo”) which was a mainstream film aimed at a wide audience, and also two subsequent low budget indie versions (“Last Verse”, “In a Dark Wood”).

After seeing the recent breakthroughs in VR I became interested in a realization of it as a VR experience and embarked on creating a new screenplay – utilizing lessons learned from the previous incarnations of this project and molding it into a VR experience that could be perfect for today’s audiences.

Story-synopsis

The script is a love triangle between three characters who find themselves in the Bardo state – one is in a coma (near-death experience), one is truly dead, and one was given a date drug.

We also visit dream-states, hallucinatory-drug experiences, and moments of illumination where life and Bardo almost meet.

The central character Adam (23), works at a VR startup designing games.

Over a weekend in Las Vegas, he hooks up with Chloe (21) at a music festival, overdoses and goes into a coma.

In the near-death state, he reunites with Julia (20) his college sweetheart (love of his life) who died three years earlier.

His experience merges with Julia’s consciousness, who is truly dead. As they re-visit scenes from their loves, Julia encourages Adam to snap out of the coma, return and live out the remainder of his life.

Julia has brought Adam and Chloe together for a reason.

After Adam snaps out, Chloe immediately rejects him and they go their separate ways – but Julia engineers a way for Chloe to visit the Bardo through a date-drug experience.

As the two women meet in the Bardo state, they resolve past karma between them.

All three are linked in more ways than one.

Chloe’s destiny is to be with Adam… so Julia and Adam can be together again.

Inspiration

Several films have been an influence – Its a Wonderful Life, Ghost, Jacobs Ladder, 2001 and Enter the Void, Matrix.

Even people who do not believe in life after death or reincarnation would relate to the story – it is about looking back and seeing the effects of karma – the power of each action, word, and thought.

It is also about being fully in the moment in every point – seeing the magic of life, the world all around us and the loved ones that surround us and are connected to us in more ways that we can imagine.

It’s about how we all are so interconnected and ultimately one and all.

It is really a movie about love and life, rather than death.

I see it as a new version of the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

My hope is for it to be a visceral (beautiful, awe-provoking, mind-blowing and at times terrifying) experience as well as a journey that is moving, emotional, sensual, consciousness expanding and ultimately even “spiritual”.

VR Approach

The audience is the consciousness of one who has died (subjective POV), but the character can also appear in the scene “watching”, so we can also become an objective POV – like watching one’s physical ghost of current age beside one’s mother in childbirth – seeing one’s own birth.

The past and the present reunite and become one. It is a chance to merge several realities and time frames into a single shot, witnessing a collage of moments from one’s life play out all around as we, or the protagonist, interacts with the memories.

The experience is grounded by placing it largely in real settings with real people from the main character’s life – it is more about connecting death to life rather than visiting otherworldly realms.

Films about death typically have fantasy settings can be problematic (“What Dreams May Come”, “Pretty Bones”) because they try to create a sort of spectacular, limbo-fantasy life-after-death setting which is unreachable for our imagination.

Adam’s experience is colored by him being a designer of video games – but these elements can be kept to a minimum if the budget is a constraint.

The three characters are often seen surrounded and immersed in memories, visions, and hallucinations (“cycloramas”) – to be filmed on a 360 green screen set and then capturing various moving components individually to collage behind and around the actors.

Core Audience

Understanding death one can lead a richer more meaningful life – especially if there is still much left to experience – so we are aiming at younger audiences – the demographic most interested in VR.

The central character is a designer of games – the story is about young love, childhood, school, college, relationship to one’s parents.

It is set in the world of tech start-ups, the Electric Daisy Music Carnival, Burning Man Festival, the outdoors – backpacking around the world, action sports and situations that would be fun for a young audience in VR.

Budget

Coming from the independent world, I see this as a film that could be done on a modest budget – it could mushroom into something bigger by embellishing the effects – but at its core it is an emotional film – about real people – real lives – real places – so the effects should not overpower the experience. As an indie project, it can be more daring and we can push the envelope further.

Personal Connection

My mom has vivid memories of her past life, and I have seen the proof – I’m 99% sure that life does not end after death.

My writing partner on the original “Bardo” passed away a few years ago, but the moment I decided to write the new version as a VR film, the script came to me guided as if from beyond – often I found myself writing, without even being aware I was writing – and it was a joyful experience.

I met with a practitioner of past-life regression therapy and interviewed her. One fascinating aspect has been the reversals she has encountered, time and after time – unresolved issues repeated from life to life – men being re-born as women, parents reborn as offspring, the same “cast of family characters” appearing in different configurations. She has seen abusers being reborn as the ones abused, racists as ones discriminated against, killers as their victims.

I tracked down the Dalai Lama and offered the script to him – he took it, smiled and sort of giggled… then just bowed – a perfect “Bardo” moment.

Rafal Zielinski

ALieNS

As a couple, Kane and Skye are pretty near perfect.  They’re young, ambitious, brave, and stuck together on a beat-up old spaceship hurtling across the vast reaches of intergalactic space.

The only problem is Kane comes from Drop Nine, a desolate little asteroid in the middle of nowhere, where life is nasty, brutish and short.  Where men are men and women are…well, men have been cloning copies of themselves for a couple of hundred years, so no one actually remembers what women even look like.

Skye is an ace fighter pilot from a technologically and intellectually superior civilization on the other side of the solar system.  A civilization of women who consider the few men camped out on asteroids like Drop Nine to be the scum of the universe.

But despite their different backgrounds, Kane and Skye quickly become reluctant allies in a desperate and foolhardy attempt to save what remains of humanity from certain destruction.  And while they’re saving humanity, they do the one thing people on opposite sides of a centuries-old war in outer space should never do.

They fall in love.

Romance,  adventure and the battle of the sexes with lots of attitude.

The past and future history of the human race as it’s never been told before…

 

 

Calling Aphrodite


IN DEVELOPMENT

based on play “Calling Aphrodite” by Velina Hasu Houston which received its world premiere recently at International City Theatre, Long Beach, California.

Youth, dreams, and lives destroyed in Hiroshima. The story of two teenage sisters who survived the blast close to ground zero and how it affected their lives.

Houston is a Pinter Review Prize for Drama Silver Medalist for the play which also was a finalist for the American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg New Play Award for its 2007 world premiere. Calling Aphrodite has been embraced by The former Honorable Consul General of Japan of Los Angeles Kazuo Kodama as a “remarkable and appropriate exploration” of the Hiroshima experience. In 2008, Calling Aphrodite was presented at Tokyo Engeki Ensemble (TEE), Tokyo. TEE and Houston continue to collaborate toward an international presentation of the play in Hiroshima.

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Mother

When I was a teenager we lived in Calcutta for five years.

Mother Theresa was not an international figure at the time, and my mother had several projects going with her. She founded a dance & music school and made an arrangement with Mother Theresa where children from her orphanage would be be given free art, music and dance classes. Whenever we saw a leper, sick or dying person in the streets, we would call the Mother and one of her sisters would come and arrange for the person to be taken to the hospital or hospice.  It was a tumultuous time for our whole family and India changed us forever. I would like to go back and explore that part of my childhood, as a gateway to the  inspirational life-story of this powerful, compassionate and loving being, when she was just beginning her mission.

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Flood refugees and my father’s pre-fab concrete low-cost housing projects sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

The pre-fab toilet factory was another project. Thousands of toilets were installed all over Calcutta (prior to that people went to the bathroom in open ditches lining the streets, the only form of sewage system in most parts of the city – which became a greater issue during the Monsoon season).

Every moment in Calcutta was an assault on the senses, the mind and one’s soul…

Frisco Disco

Set against the backdrop of the late 1970’s into a changing new decade full of promise, hope, and uncertainty.

Meet Frankie, Ingrid, Ricky and Christian; each with their own secret demons of drugs, promiscuity and sexual uncertainty. Each longing to break free and try their wings and soar.

An upcoming feature, based on a true coming-of-story, set during the apex of the disco-era in New York City, full of exciting dance, glitter and updated re-makes of classic disco hits.

Our goal is to bring the excitement of the disco era to a new generation, in an updated form that will be both nostalgic and futuristic.

producers: Joey Dedio & Dennis Grimaldi

written by: Jared Iversen

director: Rafal Zielinski

 

 

TWINS

Mom wanted a son… Dad wanted a daughter.
They had one kid… And got both!
A serious romantic comedy.
Imagine knowing what its like to be the opposite sex even for one day. Imagine knowing someone who does. Well, meet Joe and Josephine. He’s all guy. And she’s all girl. Together they’re one and loving it. You’re likely never to see them in the same room at the same time. But no ones caught on yet, although it could happen soon. In fact, Joe tries awfully hard to remain male throughout high school. But when all attempts to win bombshell Julie – the princess on campus – fail, Joe’s left no other choice. He becomes desperate and deep in the darkness of his room, or locker or a bush, a captivating transformation takes place. A rugged, striking Joe inch by inch develops into a softer, more round and voluptuous Josephine. Now as Josephine, she can befriend Julie, distract Julie’s brutish boyfriend, clear the way for a passionate affair with her “twin Joe, and learn that perhaps there’s a bit of male and female in all of us. It’s not fair, but who said teenage love ever was?

 

SYNOPSIS

It’s your dream: to become the opposite sex, just for one day. Here’s a teenage boy who does just that. Every day, whenever he wants. And no one knows – except his parents, and they engineered it.

The “Twins” begins with a brilliant moonlit scene of young JOSEPHINE and a guy attempting to make out in a car. She resists, and he begins to physically pressure her. Suddenly he realizes he’s losing the fight while the girl overpowers him. He bolts from the car with a panic-stricken look on his face.

Flash to parents and their son JOE, who looks strikingly like the girl making out in the car, in a station wagon With a U-Haul trailing behind. The father’s dialogue implies they’ve been run out of town before but there’s no bitterness in his voice. It’s the price they’ve had to pay for their selfishness. Father wanted a daughter and mother wanted a son. So through their genius wizardry with potions and computers, they had one offspring and got both sexes.

And their son Joe, a good-looking boy with a mischievous disposition is about to enroll in his umpteenth new high school. On the first day of classes, he sets his sights on a knock-out blonde cheerleader who is very popular and very “taken”. As Joe and his newly found friend FRED plot the courting of JULIE, trouble begins.

Julie’s football hero boyfriend DOUG jealously plots the destruction of this new hunk-about-town. But this is no ordinary Joe faced with an- ordinary crush; the tantalizing theme throws rope-fulls of twists to the awkward boy-meets-girl saga. And what new boy in town wouldn’t welcome a little cheating to get that princess on campus.

Joe has been beaten up, on the football team and off, and unsuccessful in his attempts to impress Julie. He has no other choice, he didn’t want to do it..,

Back at home, an eerie green light shines from under the door next to Joe’s bedroom. In this room sits an incandescently lit bottle of liquid, lots of female gadgets, and a family portrait of Joe’s parents with a girl – who looks just like Joe. He puts the picture down and contemplates himself in the mirror. With intense concentration, Joe tightens his lips and endures minutes of mild contortions. Very slowly, Joe’s chest hair disappears and softer, round hips replace the firm, boyish torso. A silky voice emanates from a previously stubbled face and supple breasts begin to form. The transformation is complete.

Now as breath-taking Josephine, Joe’s supposed twin sister, she will become Julie’s best friend. Then she will coyly distract Julie’s boyfriend Doug by flirting with him. Perhaps then, will Julie be available to Joe – the girl he desperately wants. And Josephine can have her fun too – driving every boy on campus mad with her charm.

The witty highlights of this comical story climax when people become friends with both Josephine and Joe. Comic confrontations and masterful transformations surface constantly. Frantic scenes erupt when the two are supposed to be present at parties as Joe uses lockers, bushes or closets to expertly become a girl and vice versa.

But behind all the humor, a very strong dilemma is brewing, Joe has absolute y fallen in love with Julie, and now wants to remain male.

Today its’ the football championship, tonight is the prom, and he’s got to have her now. n a triumphant, charged game, Joe becomes the hero of his winning team and slaughters Doug’s team into oblivion. Joe’s become the hit of the high school, but more importantly, he’s Julie’s date for the dance

It’s Doug whose been defeated on both counts – expelled from the team and cast out of Julie’s life. By now Josephine and Julie are best friends and even she no longer wants to toy with the loser.

Joe is in heaven, and devilish Doug will do anything to change that. One fateful night, he is followed by an inebriated, bitter Doug to a ravine where an unsuspecting Joe becomes Josephine. This scene frightens Doug to death – and he runs home to his army-disciplined father who accuses the lying boy of being on drugs.

Prom night turns into a superb nightmare with scenes of alternating personalities even a magician would envy, with Joe and Josephine being the dates of Julie and Fred almost simultaneously. In a desperate attempt to persuade his peers of the fraud, Doug practically strips Josephine in the school parking lot – only to reveal very feminine attributes. But soon

Joe’s dream to be male forever may just happen as his parent concoct as steamy brew at home to separate the twins forever.

Unfortunately, the effect of his parents sex-changing hormones begins to alter Joe’s appearance at the prom. While talking to Julie as Joe, gradual breasts appear as Joe self-consciously tries to hide the mummeries.

Suddenly in a cosmic blast of colored air, the twins emerge as two complete people – yes, it’s Joe and Josephine staring at each other. The experiment is a success and the ecstatic teens return to their unsuspecting dates.

Now Joe will have Julie forever…