Making Once In A Lew Moon, by Lonnie Senstock.
I’ll attempt to reprise the last ten years of making the documentary film, “Once In A Lew Moon.” It was not long after being cast in Alexander Payne’s film, “About Schmidt” & I just finished doing rock star Tommy Lee’s show, that I returned home to Lincoln Nebraska. I received a job offer from Oscar nominee documentary film maker Sean Welch, to work on a documentary called, “Lucky”, about Lottery winners around the world. That film went to Sundance and was bought by HBO. In that time I was touring the US on a national dance and talent competition, stage directing over 300 dancers in a different city for 4 months out of the year. The journey of all of those jobs and films, really taught me the tricks of making a film. I could act, dance, sing, direct, produce, cast, and do all the jobs of a film. During this time I had also won awards in acting in Chicago, that lead me to now know, I have the experience to make my own large films.
I then met Lew Hunter in Nebraska. I was set to audition for the lead role in “My Antonia” with Jon Jackson in Omaha. I did audition and it went well, but they decided the role go to a known name instead. During this time, Lew Hunter was in coordination with that film, producing, or something of that nature. I emailed Lew and we got to talking. I then found out how powerful he was. He was a top executive for all three major TV networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, and was nominated for his films he wrote. I knew then because of his work ethic, that this was a story that the world would be inspired by. That lead me into then just finding my self, self discovery in making a film about real people who happen to be successful in Hollywood. I then met Chance Williams, at an audition I was running for a film, and we hit if off immediately. We discussed the film and went to our money man we knew from the tour to get us to the larger cities for interviews. I built relationships and trust over the years with these known names, stars, writers, and they trusted me. They wanted to be a part of something never done before. Showing how great it is to become what ever you want to be by simply being encouraged. The only hat I didn’t want to wear, was editing. I wore so many hats already, that that just seemed another hat I didn’t want to wear. So we shot the film all over the US from LA to New York. We ended up with so many people that we had more than enough. From old VHS footage to clean, to only having a simple SD camera and one mic. I went to seek out an editor. I’d known film maker Rhett McClure, who’d I’d worked with over the years filming college sports for a company called S-Video my brother owned. I knew Rhett’s love of film and he was so talented. I’d asked him to convert the mini DV tapes, the hundred or so, we collected over the years.
But then I fell very very ill. I’d had two major surgeries and illnesses over this period and I was getting burned on working so much. Between tour, filming, and wearing so many hats, and now battling on going illness, I finally hit a point, where I wasn’t sure where I was going. The original concept of the film was to do an homage on a man who changed the film world in Hollywood. But as with any film, it leads itself. And it did. I realized that I could not spend every night at someone else’s house, editing 13 hours a day, sitting with them every night with as much footage as we had. I then had to learn to edit. So I’d work every day, then get off work and come home watching 149 editing videos. I slowly and painfully put together the VHS footage along with the SD mini DV footage…and the film started to take course. Over the years, this was a self discovery, of me, of the film, and of how it all worked itself out. I then could have out sourced the music myself and edited it in, but I knew of two film folk in Iowa that wanted to be a part of this film. So Terri DeBolt was given direction on what type of music I wanted for this and she did it. I only advised her a few times of my vision, and she then created it. It was perfect. Her husband Kris, did some of the transitions in the film.
We then were offered a World Premiere, but only if UCLA liked the film. We did the World Premiere and it was a success. Two weeks to the day today, I received 3 offers without even yet showing it at a single festival yet. Out of love, and a labor of helping others, I learned if you want to get anything done, you have to learn all the hats and never give up, no matter what. Rhett McClure, Chad Holle, Chance Williams, and all of the others who were there over the years to piece this together, will forever be loved and appreciated. The stars who did this with me, did it because they believe in a professor like Lew Hunter, and trusted me and my work. The blood, sweat, and tears…was worth it. I am now doing two high profile films of celebrities, along with one stalker show/series, directing/producing/editing.
So, what ever you do…make sure you know all the jobs and wear all the hats. Just so you don’t have to rely on anyone. More importantly, choose stories that will make a real difference. Remind the under dogs to believe in themselves, and to never take anyone’s notes too serious. Follow the story and let it create itself. Be creative, but not pushy. Be motivated, but balance your time. Be loving, but stern. Read everything, and trust no one. But do something that makes others feel good about what ever they’re doing.
I recapped this story over ten years into two pages. The real truth is…if you knew the pain and all of the true thousands of struggles, it may deter you to never do a film yourself. So I shortened this version so that you’re still left with hope that yes, you too, can do it.
Believe and never give up.
NOTE: Preceded by a special discussion: