Stacking the 'Deck'

Stacking the 'Deck'

Pasadena Bob Walters’ tetrology comes to a close with ‘Diamonds’

By Patricia Cunliffe 09/25/2008

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Call it the luck of the draw, or just sheer determination.
Both would apply in the case of independent filmmaker Bob Walters, who recently released his latest film, “Diamonds,” the fourth and final installment of Walters’ “Deck” series of films based on characters acting out emotions assigned to the suits in a deck of cards — “Hearts,” “Spades,” “Clubs” and “Diamonds.”

Each of the four installments of this project, which has been eight years in the making, is unique and able to stand on its own merits; a tetrology based on an ancient Greek storytelling structure in four parts — three dramatic and one satirical.

Thematically, each film is based on the characteristic of the suit they are named after: “Hearts” is about love and the loss of it; “Spades” looks at terminal illness; and “Clubs” is set during World War II.

“Diamonds” is about wealth and power, a heist film that takes place in Vegas. The satire of the series, with intriguing performances throughout by Michael Pappas and Shannon McLemore, it is a visually stunning piece of work, featuring an actual Vegas act: Danny Diamond and the Rodeo Lounge Band, put together specifically for the film, with Walters, a musician, doing the arranging. “I still play, still arrange, still write … I write all of my scores,” he said.

Originally from Chicago, Walters moved to Pasadena in 2003 after working six years as a staff producer at Arlington Community Television in Washington, DC. He’s a firm believer in bartering and befriending people to get jobs done — and Walters reciprocates.

Though his financing thus far has been out of pocket, he has an infectious energy about his projects that makes people want to get involved, and because of that has always been blessed with amazing crews — sometimes with casts and crews being one and the same.

“I have a very distinct definition of independent filmmaking,” Walters said. “If your film has an Oscar winner in it, it’s not independent. It might be done outside the studio system, but it is not done independently.”

A good example of Walters’ working well with others is “Diamonds’” director of photography Benji Newell, who Walters first worked with on Newell’s film “Sinners Welcome.”

“I knew that he was ambitious enough to take on this size of a project with no budget and would actually make it happen,” said Newell. “I appreciated the opportunity to work with him.”

“Diamonds” was the most expensive to make of the four films, mainly because of the transportation and lodging costs in Las Vegas. After shooting exteriors on the strip, an emboldened Walters decided to try a shot on a casino floor. They strapped the camera onto a piece of rolling luggage and walked through the unnamed casino as though they were going to a room, with the actors following a few feet behind.

It was potentially dangerous work, but it had to be done to both tell the story and preserve the independent integrity of the production, Walters said.

“An independent filmmaker writes and shoots and produces and oftentimes funds his own projects, puts it out there when no one else will look at it, finds a way to distribute it that doesn’t have the Hollywood means behind it and makes it happen for himself,” Walters said.

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