suitcase  


peru
This picture of Baggage's director was taken just
days before he was kidnapped and almost
murdered in Lima, Peru.


"They wanted the money from my credit cards, but unfortunately, they were all maxxed out because I used them to fund Baggage. With the lights out, a blanket over my head, and a gun shoved into my skull, I felt like I was in a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie."


The journey started with a crime...


"I was on a blind date in 1994, and when I got back to my car, the window was smashed. Strangely, few items were stolen, but one of them was a VHS copy of my first movie, Nothing, which was a bit like a personal diary.

I wondered if these theives might actually get something out of the film and turn their lives around. That was the how the idea of Baggage came about - wondering if a piece of art could actually change someone's life - little did I know that it would almost end my own."

Four years later, the director found himself hanging on to an unfinished film. Unable to raise the finishing funds, he took what little money he had left and he escaped to Peru for a two week spiritual journey.

Not long afterward, the universe spoke to him in a way he could never have imagined.

__________________________________________________


The police report from the Peru attack. Click to enlarge.


  "We agreed in the beginning that 'come hell or highwater', this film would be completed. We're glad that, despite all the obstacles, it finally happened.

THE GREATEST LESSONS LEARNED from Baggage

ABOUT PATIENCE
The tortoise won the race, and for good reason - he was patient.

ABOUT RISK
Risk without faith equals loss.
And faith is really about eliminating doubt and having confidence.
Confidence might be free, but there is a high price to pay for not having it.

ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
Listen carefully. Intuition is heightened when the noise in your head is reduced.


ABOUT MARKETING
There is no failure. There is only the inability to find your target market.

ABOUT ATTACHMENT
'Letting go' is not the same thing as 'giving up'.
If you love something, set it free, and let it be. Don't try to control it.

ABOUT ART & COMMERCE
Business is the language of our operating system, and you're
in trouble if you don't know it - no matter how talented you are.

The cream does not rise to the top, but the cream with the best business savvy does.
That's why it's not called the best-writing writer but the best-selling writer.

ABOUT THE ILLUSION OF MOVIES
Things are often not as they appear. Look a bit closer as the frame tends to deceive.
Ray Kroc, original CEO of McDonalds claimed that McDonalds was not in the hamburger business. It was in the real estate business.


CONTACT: baggagemovie@yahoo.com

_____________________________

DON'T BLAME PERU
The following is an excerpt from a longer piece from the film's director, Evan Aaronson.
(Note: This is the first time this story has been made public.)

...At this point, all of my leads had fallen through, and I was very frustrated with the whole process. I felt like there was some piece of a puzzle that I just wasn't getting. I had to rejuvenate myself. Perhaps then, things would be more clear. That's when I decided, on a whim, to take what little money I had left and head off for a spiritual journey in Marchu Pichu, a hiking destination in Peru. I didn't want this unfinished film to drag me down and prevent me from living my life.

Many strange things happened during the journey, the first of which was my pre-occupation with death. It seemed to invade my thoughts at every corner. And it probably didn't help when on this four day hike, I asked the tour guide if anyone had ever fallen off the trail, and he informed me that in fact someone did, and it was a member of one of the tours he was leading only a year earlier.

Then the day after I sprained my ankle, I came across a passage in the book I was reading. It was about one of the characters who was hiking in Peru and happened to sprain her ankle. The whole thing seemed a bit trippy, yet somehow, I ignored it and moved on.

After my hike, I went off to the main city of Lima where I met some Ecuadorian tourists while making a phone call in the town square. I told them I was a filmmaker, and we talked briefly about the Peruvian film industry. They seemed very friendly. "We know this beautiful girl who you would love. Wanna meet her?"

So an hour later, their girlfriend came to the town square, and we began our double date in this bar nearby. Even though it was only about 3:00 pm, the bar was pitch black, and there was no one else there. We went upstairs to watch the World Cup, and they were trying to get me to drink the pitcher of beer on the table, but I'm not much of a drinker so I declined. Then, I excused myself to the bathroom, and oddly enough, my date followed me there. "Was this just some kind of weird cultural thing where the dates follow their men into the bathroom?" I wasn't sure.

After the game ended, they suggested that we take a cab to their friend's house to hang out and have some beers. I politely declined, but they were insistent. They said it was right near the nice part of town where my hotel was. I figured what the hell, and I went along for the ride.

As I got out of the cab, I noticed the run down houses and the poverty stricken townspeople wandering around the street. It didn't look too appealing, but I figured that this was the way the people in Peru lived. The cab driver looked at me kind of funny and said, "Ciudad".

"What?" I said, barely hearing him.

"Careful," my date quickly interrupted in her harsh Latin American accent as she pushed me out of the cab and lifted my sweater over my fanny pack.

At that point, we wandered around the Peruvian streets trying to find their friend's house. We went down one street, then turned around and went down another.

"Don't you know where your friend lives?" I asked the head honcho. He said it had been a long time, and he couldn't remember.

We finally wound up at this old shack with a hole in the roof, and my date led me into the bedroom. Just as I was taking off my jacket, the door bursts open. Two young men barge in with guns and drag my date out of the room. They take my fanny pack, my watch, and my camera with most of my pictures from Machu Pichu inside.

One of them lifts up his gun and points it to my head. He demands to know the pin number to my credit cards. Not only did I not know them, but because of Baggage, they were all maxxed out anyway. "Hago un film," I told them in my broken Spanish, but they did not believe me. (I don't think Robert Townshend is too big in Peru.)

Still, they grew increasingly frustrated, asking me over and over again for the numbers, and even threatening to kill me if I didn't give it to them. I had to give them something so I gave them my social security number. The two henchman then went off to the bank and left me to be entertained by their assistant who was no more than 19 years old. With a gun in my rib, he tried to hold a conversation with me and ask me questions like, "Where are you from?" and "How do you like Peru?" which was a bit hard to answer when you have a gun being shoved in your rib.

When the two henchman returned, they brought along someone else with them - the so-called Ecuadorian tourist who I had met in the town square. It turns out the whole thing was a set up.

STILLS FROM THE SET

mariette hartley
shane edelman
vincent schiavelli
baggage
director

BAGGAGE FACTS

At one time, Ned Beatty, Ricardo Montablan, Ally Sheedy, and Crispin Glover were all in talks to star in Baggage. Crispin Glover came the closest.
______________________________

The director auditioned himself to play the
part of Martin, and though the casting
director wanted him to do it, he decided
Christian Leffler was better for the part.
_____________________

Most of Baggage was written in
Denny's restaurant.


OTHER DELAYED MOVIE RELEASES

Heaven's Gate - Michael Cimino
Apocolypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola

Know any more? Email Us


BAGGAGE QUOTES

"At the heart of the entertainment
industry is insecurity, ego, and the need
for validation. If people could just be OK with who they are, it would be a much
more compassionate and less cut throat business.
"



UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE
Found in the Unloading Zone

"There is a famous story about a man and his leaky roof. Whenever the man tried to fix one leak, another would pop up somewhere else, until eventually, his whole house was flooded with water. Finally, the man decided to go under the roof and investigate its foundation. He soon discovered that the leak was caused from one hidden pipe with a hole in it. Once that hole was fixed, the problem disappeared. I realized these leaks were symbolic for the symptoms in my own life. I had only looked at the leaky roof without looking at the root cause - the hidden pipe." - Anonymous

What's the hole in your hidden pipe?
Unload your own piece of wisdom in
the unloading zone.

The guy who was very charming throughout our day together now suddenly transformed into an evil monster. Upset that the cards didn't work, he punched me really hard in the head. "What are the f***ing pin numbers? Give me the f***ing numbers," he kept saying.

Again, I tried to explain my situation, but he didn't like my answer so he took his large gold chain, wrapped it around my neck and started choking me. Not knowing what to do, I gave him my phone number. This time, when he returned from the bank empty handed, he had someone else with him - the Godfather - not Marlon Brando, but his Peruvian equivalent. While these other guys were in their 20s, this guy was in his 40s, and he looked tough. Really tough.

"Pray to the Jesus picture on the wall and prepare to die," he said softly. Being Jewish, I was a bit torn about doing this. I almost mentioned this fact to them, but I reconsidered thinking that they probably wouldn't understand. I couldn't help but think what a funny scene it would be in one of Woody Allen's movies.

But my thoughts of Woody Allen quickly disappeared when they turned off the light, put a blanket over my head, and shoved a gun in my skull. "Prepare to die," they repeated. The whole thing didn't feel like it was really happening. It felt like some poorly dubbed Quentin Tarantino movie. We have the build up of the bad guys. We have the talky dialogue. The only difference is that this was real. It was very real. And in that moment, I truly did feel like I was going to die. I never was able to get out of traffic tickets, and I didn't think I'd do any better getting out of my own death. I thought they'd get away with it because they'd just dump my body somewhere and no one would ever catch them.

"I guess this is what it means to die for your art," I thought to myself. "It was that film that caused those credit cards to be empty, thus bringing me to this place." Then, I thought that maybe this was the way it was meant to be. Maybe by sacrificing my own life, I'd actually be saving the film because it would benefit from all the publicity.

The worst part was thinking about my family. Having a dead son in Peru was probably not on their to do list that day. "Why don't you just go to law school?" my father's voice echoed into my head. Sitting in Peru with a gun to my head in the darkness, I thought for the first time, "Maybe he was right."

They say that Mozart would see all of his symphonies in a split second before sitting down and actually writing them all down. Well, in a split second, it felt like all of the answers of the world were revealed to me. I remember feeling how ignorant we all are, that we really know nothing about anything. I was convinced at the time that there was something else out there - a higher plane of some kind.

But during those five seconds when I thought my life would end, I basically surrendered. By cutting up celluloid pieces of reality and putting them together in the form of a film, I was, in essence trying to manipulate reality - control it for my own benefit. Life, on the other hand, had a mind of its own - no matter how hard I tried to steer it in my favor. And what happens when you try to bend a piece of metal in a direction it wasn't meant to go- it breaks.

I thought to myself, "OK, Evan, so it didn't work out in this life. Maybe the next one will work out better. Maybe there's a reason things turned out this way."

A few seconds later, the light went on, and again they pestered me for the credit card numbers. "Didn't we just go through this?" I felt like saying. "I was just getting ready to die, here," but I didn't say a word. The lights turned out, sheet over the head, and gun to my skull scenario happened an additional two times. Somehow, it kind of lost its impact, but each time, I was still unsure whether or not they would actually pull the trigger.

Finally, they came back, and the pin numbers did work - these numbers were the pin numbers to my bank card - the only numbers I knew. They were still upset though cause it was only $500. That's when I made a deal with them. We'd go back to my hotel, and I would give them the rest of my money. In return, they would give me back my driver's license and passport. They agreed.

So the 19 year old, his buddy, and me all headed out to the main street to catch a cab. His gun was hidden under his shirt and pointed toward me. This time, I actually initiated the conversation.

"So what's your name?"

"David," he said, "and this is my friend, Mike". They looked as much like a David and Mike as Tom Cruise looks like a Josh Bernstein.

"You should go to Machu Pichu. It's one of the most beautiful places in Peru." I couldn't help but find it a bit odd that these guys just tried to murder me, and now they're promoting Peru's tourist attractions.

"Don't let this thing that happened between us give you a bad impression of Peru. Peru is an incredible country," they told me in a Spanish I could understand.

They made me promise about three times in a row that I was not going to go to the police. I agreed to this, and we got in the cab. David's gun was still underneath his sweater, and he was pointing it at me without the cab driver noticing. I thought to myself, "Is this what Kevin Smith had to go through to make it to the top of the independent film world?"

I tell the cab driver to take us back to my hotel, but within a few blocks, the two hoodlums asked to get out of the cab.

"Where are you going?" I ask.

"Goodbye, my friend," they say as they step out of the car.

"But what about my passport and drivers license?" They just wave both items in front of my face as the cab driver drove away with me alone in the car. I later found out that they could sell the passport and driver's license for a good amount of money.

As I sat alone in the car, I was partially relieved but still unsure if the cab driver was in on the whole thing. I saw a picture of Jesus hanging on his mirror. Then, unable to keep it a secret any longer, I told him what happened. He looked at me and shook his head. He then drove up this deserted dark alley and slowed down the car. Again, I thought I was dead.

Luckily, it was my imagination. He continued on and reassured me that everything would be all right and that Jesus would take care of me. "Did this whole thing happen so God would get me to convert?" I wondered, but before I could answer myself, the cab driver told me "not to blame Peru". This sentiment was later echoed at the hotel, the embassy, and the police station. No one wanted Peru to look bad.

The kidnappers had my hotel room key so I was too afraid to stay there another night. By this time, it was about 10pm, and most of the hotels were booked, but we did manage to find one. I went there alone and totally scared, while a Spanish speaking Conan O'Brien cheered me up on television. The next day, I went to the embassy where I waited most of the day to get a new passport and explain my story, crying in the process. I didn't want to alarm my family, so I only notified my brother and my fellow producer through email.

The first thing I did when I got back to LA is go to the bank. "You smell," the cute bank teller told me as she urged me to take a shower. After going to the DMV to get a new driver's license, I took her advice, and then, without calling or talking to anyone, I got in my car and drove up to Vancouver to see my friend get married.

During that 14 hour road trip, I actually wasn't sure whether or not I had died. I thought maybe I wasn't able to face my death, so I fooled myself into thinking I was alive. Little flashbacks would occur and weird trippy things that I can't begin to explain here, but let's just say it was surreal. I thought the universe couldn't completely do away with me so it just sent me to Purgatory to learn a few lessons. Unfortunately, those lessons took a while to learn.

Looking for answers, someone told me, "The old wise man character you see in movies simply doesn't exist anymore. What else could your generation do but turn to the entities that were screaming the loudest for your attention- magazines, movies, and McDonalds."

When I later brought up these distractions to two spiritual men I met on the beach, they said, "God never told you to look at those places."

"God never told me where to look and that's the problem," I responded.

"We kind of like to think of him as a puzzle maker, and it's up to us to put together the pieces," they retorted.

"Yeah, well if he was a human puzzle maker in the real world, he would be fired because his puzzles suck. No one can figure them out." And with that, the two men said, "good luck" to me with a smile on their face and walked away.

Someone later pointed out that we are not fully equipped to completely figure out this puzzle, and in fact, it's more of a blindfold. For me, that blindfold made itself obvious in the form of a blanket over my head in Peru, but it actually exists everywhere - especially in the deceptive world of entertainment.

They said in film school, once you put a frame around something, you are immediately deceiving someone because they are not seeing the whole picture. You see someone coughing, and you think they're sick, but when you zoom out, you see a guy smoking off to the side. You see someone crying and you assume they're sad, but when you pan over, you see someone peeling an onion. I was in the deception business, and perhaps now, I was getting a taste of my own medicine.

But taking it even one step further, filmmaking's deception is really just a microcosm for how the world deceives us every day through our five senses. All the information is filtered through them, and we may think we're getting a complete picture, but in that enlightening 5 second near death experience, I discovered that my picture was far complete. Like a film existing on a two dimensional plane, the world I was experiencing was merely a shadow - a 1% reflection of true reality. We simply don't have the physical tools to experience the other 99%.

Years later, I found myself driving down Ocean Blvd. As I looked at the picture perfect view of the beach and the artificial Los Angeles palm trees flowing in the wind, l took out an old Joni Mitchell CD and played one of my favorite songs of all time. "It's clouds illusions I recall. I really don't know clouds at all." And for the first time in my life, I understood what those words meant.

_________________


Shortlty after this incident, the finishing funds for the film came in, and it was completed a year later.