Thursday, January 26, 2012

Midnight in the Garden

Recently I've shared a few posts about a series of improvements to the grounds at home. It has been a year-long project...not because of it being a sprawling estate, but more because it takes time and money. I also like to allow enough time for the full creative process to unfold. For example, this giant Buddha in the garden finally has the right lighting and greenery adjacent. The lighting is amazing isn't it? The effect makes it appear Buddha's head is floating above the pedestal. I'm especially pleased with this element of the gardens. All the crushed Palm Springs Gold rock is in place and beautiful. The cactus, succulents and palm trees are all happily established and ready for prime time.
You may recall my post earlier in the week about the boulders I purchased for the front courtyard. Here they are at night, with the new landscape lighting in place. I didn't adjust the color at all on the photos of these rocks, although admittedly part of the rich hue is from contrast in night with the shutter exposure. Regardless they do look magnificent, don't they? I just love my boulders! It is too dark in this photo to see the plants but one they grow in around the boulders they will really look swell. 
Here is another photo I took in the garden, but a few hours earlier...just past twilight. If you look beyond the palm fronds, you can see the dark ridge of the San Jacinto mountains, and if you look up a tad bit in the top left corner you can see a beautiful star in the night sky. For some reason I just really like this photo. At any rate,the good news is that the grounds are now complete and I can enjoy them. One of my favorite things to do is sit outside with my dogs...with a glass of wine in hand--and star gaze. Life in the California desert is especially good this time of year. I'm blessed to have all of this to enjoy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Open Casting Call for Talented Dogs

One of the things I love about my job is working with a super creative and fun group of people. Right now we are developing an awesome new reality TV show called 'Who Let The Dogs Out' which will air on Animal Planet Saturdays at 10AM starting February 18th. In the meantime, we have a series of casting calls underway to find talented dogs. You can submit videos via e-mail to
Petco and Natural Balance are teaming up to find the most talented dog in America! 

It's an open casting call to pet owners around the country! Can your canine perform astounding feats? Does your dog have what it takes to be a star? We are looking for any and all kinds of talented dogs! What types of amazing tricks can your dog perform?

Submit a close up 30-second video of your dog to and come out to the auditions this Sunday January 29th.

DATE: Sunday, January 29th, 2012
TIME: 11:30 AM

If you are not in the Los Angeles area, you can also snail-mail a video to us:

Who Let the Dogs Out
c/o Hollywood Production Center
1149 N. Gower St. Suite 106-C
Los Angeles, CA 90038

For videos sent by snail-mail, please include your contact information:
Name, Address, Telephone number. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year

This post is in honor of my friends in Taiwan, Hong Kong and all over Asia who celebrate Chinese New Year. The new 2012 is "The year of the Dragon" which is a year for great deeds, innovative ideas and is considered a highly advantageous time to begin new projects in business. It is believed that this year will bring financial success!  During this year we should be bold and not humble.

The Chinese believe the dragon brings happiness and success to all good and honest people, and those who have great talent.  It is also favorable to start a family, give birth--so a baby boom is anticipated in many parts of Asia this year.

The dragon is of course a mythological creature which is a symbol of good fortune and sign of intense power, the Oriental Dragon is regarded as a divine beast and not a bad monster that is often slayed in video games. In Eastern philosophy, the Dragon is believed to bring good fortune. For the Chinese, the Dragon is the imperial symbol, the sign of the emperor. The Dragon is the symbol of power and wealth. The Chinese also believe the Dragon is a karmic animal which returns positive energy you give to other people, so go forit and be nice to others this year.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Palm Springs Gold

Recently I had some landscaping done in the yard and decided to add a few boulders as accents in the front courtyard. As a focal point at the main entrance it was important to me to find just the right rocks. So off I went rock-shopping. Where exactly does one go to shop for rocks, I wondered. Sure enough I found a few rock supply stores, and off I went.
Without being a Geologist, I already knew that there are many types rocks, so I set my mind on a variety known as 'Palm Springs Gold'. The courtyard already has 32 tons of crushed gold rocks as the ground cover in our desert landscape. Once at the rock supply store, I was directed toward the area where the Palm Springs Gold rocks were piled high. I scaled the pile with one of the workers. Once I selected my rocks, I labelled them with my last name so the workers would identify them for delivery. As I stepped back and gazed at the label I found it amusing to see 'Rockhill' scrawled on three boulders atop of a big pile of rocks.
A few days later a nice man in a massive truck used a huge crane to hoist these three boulders in the courtyard. Weighing around 2 tons each, once in place they were not to be moved ever again, so I used a variety of hand signals to direct the crane operator on how to position them as best he could. Funny, once in place they don't look quite as big.
The gardeners have begun planting various eco-friendly, drought-tolerant plants in and around the boulders. In the peak season, it isn't uncommon to reach 118 degrees, with virtually no rainfall, so its environmentally responsible to use as many plants as possible that require little water. Most of the yard is now cactus and such, which suits me fine actually. Next step is to install a few low wattage accent lights here and there, for dramatic effect. Anyone who knows me well understands that it's all about the lighting with me. Until the next time....

Friday, January 13, 2012

'A Thousand Cuts' Movie Delivers Thrills at PS Film Fest

The Palm Springs International Film Festival last night showcased a new suspense thriller 'A Thousand Cuts' with a premier screening at the Annenberg Theatre in Palm Springs. A Thousand Cuts (ATC) is the latest film project by Kim and Kim Productions, a Palm Springs based production studio. With a story brilliantly written and directed by Charles Evered, Executive Producer Jim Casey and Producer Kim Waltrip assembled an impressive cast that brought the screenplay to life in vivid reality. Academy Award nominee Michael O'Keefe and Michael A. Newcomer lead a cast that includes Olysa Rulin, Jimmy Van Patten, David Naughton, Joshua Fardon and a cameo appearance by Madi Goff.

'A Thousand Cuts' is a high-suspense psychological thriller about a strange guy who crashes the party of a Hollywood horror director, with a warped determination to teach him what it is like to live horror and experience terror--personally. While the film has a few squeamish scenes intended to titillate horror fans, this is primarily a suspense film that leaves you on the edge of your seat through most of the movie. The cleverly written storyline pulls you in like a tractor beam. A party scene at the home of Lance (Newcomer) defines the world in which he lives, and becomes an important backdrop for later in the film when he questions what is important in life.

Frank, the stranger (O'Keefe) who crashes the party slips in unnoticed and tampers with the power, covering the house in darkness several times, which forces everyone to exit, leaving Lance home alone where Frank has the opportunity to unleash a rage of pent-up revenge. Olysa Rulin plays Lance's sister Melanie, whose character is off screen for much of the high tension moments but is at the very center of the fear that is so deftly delivered. The fate of Melanie is of high interest to the viewer, and Rulin does not disappoint. The suspense filled plot is so well done that I found my own imagination racing ahead trying to imagine what would come next, almost to comfort myself and release fear of the unknown. The timing of this film is excellent, raising tensions just long enough to bring the viewer leaning forward in their seat, and relaxing long enough to ease your mind to catch you off guard for the next scene.
During Q&A time after the screening, Producer Kim  Waltrip explained that ATC was filmed entirely here in the Palm Springs area in just ten days. The cast spoke of the intensity  of the production schedule and working in limited set space. The entire film is set in one house, primarily in a few rooms. This Independent film production has a major production feel but includes a few clever winks to the audience; a movie poster in Lance's office for "I Didn't Come Here to Die" is more than a set prop, it was a nod to the last film from Producers Waltrip and Casey.
After the screening, when the cast and crew assembled on stage to discuss the film. Writer/Director Charles "Chuck" Evered answers questions along with cast members including Michael A. Newcomer, Michael O'Keefe and Jimmy Van Patten. A Thousand Cuts is masterfully presented and offers sheer delight to fans of the suspense thriller genre.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Glitz & Glamour at Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala

Awards Main Stage Set backdrop
Last night I attended the Awards Gala for the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Our festival runs for 12 days showing 188 films from 73 countries, which makes it truly an International showcase for Independent Films around the globe. 

in the limo headed to the Awards Gala

"Entertainer" statuette

The Gala is always held before the major awards events start and are viewed by insiders as precursors to who will win (Golden Globes, Oscars, SAG Awards). Many of prior year award recipients went on to win an Oscar at the Academy Awards.
...a media frenzy...
As I've written previously, Palm Springs remains a popular getaway destination among the Hollywood set. Actors, directors, writers, studio execs, etc continue to flock to our fair desert city to relax in the sun. Many maintain second homes here, or quietly take a house for the season. 
on the red carpet
The Palm Springs Film Festival is important to Hollywood because the studios and especially independent filmmakers and distributors need to build buzz around their projects and get noticed. Major stars, directors and studio executives  come to the desert to pick up an award or two. 
Glenn Close
This year, at our Awards Gala, eleven stars received awards, including George Clooney, Octavia Spencer, Glenn Close, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain and the creative ensemble of "Young Adult" including director Jason Reitman, writer Diablo Cody, Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt. Also honored were directors Stephen Daldry and Michel Hazanavicius, and music composer Howard Shore. 
Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt
For celeb watchers, there were loads of other major celebrities who attended the awards gala last night. As the doors of sparkling stretch limos opened, a series of stars emerged including Angela Jolie, Tom Hanks, Jonah Hill, Al Pacino, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, Melissa McCarthy, Shailene Woodley, Jeff Goldbloom, Jerry Weintraub and Judy Greer. Revelers young and old alike were not disappointed. 
George Clooney signs autographs
Palm Springs truly had a lot of glamour and glitz last night. Most of the time when celebrities are in town, they are here relaxing, incognito, and not walking red carpets, so this evening is a big deal even for a town that sees A-list celebs every day. Here are a few photos of inside the Awards Gala, to give you a sense of the evening's glamour:
Glamour and Glitz for sure
The inside of the Awards Gala was set up to have a big Hollywood Awards feel. Dramatic lighting, spotlights, and huge screens hovered over a large stage before an audience of 1,900 people attending the black tie affair.

Purple tulip centerpieces
Each table had a beautifully lighted floral centerpiece of purple tulips. The tables were set with purple table cloths and chair-covers. Lovely glass napkin rings with a large purple butterfly put an interesting accent on each place-setting. Penfolds is a major sponsor of the event, providing wine at each table, in addition to their sponsorship of the festival this year.
the bar were elegantly decorated
At the back of the room, were a number of bars set up, elegantly decorated with fresh purple tulips illuminated with dramatic lighting. It perfectly punctuated the watering hole for thirsty guests!

Enjoying a martini
It is hard for me to resist an ice cold vodka martini at these events. They always seem to taste better when wearing a tux. I limited myself to just one for the evening, as I knew it would be a long night of mixing, mingling and long acceptance speeches. Being a black tie affair, everyone was well dressed and in their season's best. I haven't seen so many diamonds in one place since I had been  in a Cartier store in New York!
OK, now for a series of photos of the awards ceremony. These are photos of various celebs as they are on stage giving remarks.
Brad Pitt: Desert Palm Achievement Award

George Clooney: Chairman's Award

Glenn Close: Career Achievement Award

Jessica Chastain: Spotlight Award

Kenneth Brannaugh introduces Michelle Williams

Melissa McCarthy introduces Octavia Spencer

Michelle Williams: Desert Palm Achievement Award

Octavia Spencer: Breakthrough Award

Tom Hanks and Thomas Horn

AFTER PARTY PICS: the dance floor was packed

AFTER PARTY PICS: the cheese table was amazing

AFTER PARTY PICS: Dessert Table: Chocolate goodies!

AFTER PARTY PICS: Lithographs of award recipients

Here are a few photos of the after party. Aside from all the celebrity focus, I hope you enjoyed my recap of the 2012 Awards Gala. It was a lot of fun, and a real treat. 

Most important however is that the Palm Springs Film Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting independent film making, particularly here in the Palm Springs area. If you are an aspiring writer, director, producer, actor, etc know that the Palm Springs Film Society is a friend to you. Support your local film festivals, to help them thrive and continue to fund projects. You may also see a film or two that might stimulate your mind a bit.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Opening Night Film at the Palm Springs International Film Festival

2012 poster from
Our fair desert city of Palm Springs continues to be a mecca for the Hollywood elite, film industry moguls... and hopefuls. As The Palm Springs Savant, I try to provide some coverage here and on my radio show about it all. The 23rd Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival kicked off last night with an Opening Night screening of the Brit film 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen'. The Palm Springs International Film Festival is one of the three largest events of its kind in North America, and one of the most important--if not THE most important film festivals in the US. 

logo from
Founded by former Congressman/Mayor/Entertainer Sonny Bono, today the Festival has become an important stop on for the entertainment industry before the Major Award season in Hollywood, including the Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards and the Academy Awards (Oscars).

On the Red Carpet
In addition to tall the glitz and glamor that a film festival can bring, it is also an important vehicle for upcoming film professionals, and especially independent film makers, of which I am particularly passionate. This year, our film festival team viewed 3,000 films, and from the pool of submissions selected 188 films for inclusion in this year's festival. Our festival is also important for women directors to be featured, which sadly are still a minority across the film industry. The Palm Springs Film Fest is also known for our wide variety of foreign films featured. For all these reasons--and more, this is a major event in the entertainment industry. Saturday's Awards Gala will be star studded and full of glamor; I'll be tweeting live from the event if you want to follow, just search Twitter for #PSIFF for all the stream of Tweets under my handle: @RickRockhill.

The Festival's Opening Night film 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' is a British comedy based on the novel by Paul Torday. The film was directed by Lasse Hallström and produced by Paul Webster stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Amr Waked. Originally financed in part by the UK Film Council, and BBC Films the film is distributed by CBS Films and Lionsgate. The story focuses on three primary characters, Fred (McGregor), an uptight civil servant in Her Majesty's Government Fisheries Department, a fishing obsessed Arab Sheik (Waked) and Harriet (Blunt) a financial company representative to the Sheik. 

my tickets to the opening night
The basic plot of the story is that the Sheik wants to bring the sport of Salmon Fishing to his home country (Yemen) and introduce wild salmon so he can fish at home. A few sub plots develop as the main characters sort through their own lives, initial ambivalence to the project and then immerse themselves to making a theoretical possibility come to fruition. 

in the theater opening night
While the story can be somewhat formulaic and slightly predictable at times, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Several themes are nicely woven through the film, such as personal responsibility, faith, motivation, and respect for other cultures, the entire film can be viewed as a metaphor for the West's miscalculation for our involvement in various Middle East conflicts. 
Actress Emily Blunt on the Red Carpet in Palm Springs
While not a judgment, it dangles the thought in the viewers mind of "what if" we had not made certain assumptions, or "what if" we had taken a different approach. Of particular note is the Sheik's own realizations and lessons learned from his dream. Quite telling. McGregor, Blunt, Waked, all gave wonderful performances; in my view Ewan McGregor's was stand out. I thoroughly enjoyed Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and recommend it!
Meanwhile, following the film, I attended the Opening Night Gala held at the Palm Springs Art Museum, one of my favorite places in the desert.  As a festival sponsor, and the official car of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Mercedes-Benz had this gorgeous car parked out in front of the museum, greeting guests to the Gala.
Mercedes-Benz is the official car of the Festival

Twitter Feed for #PSIFF hashtag
Without its sponsors, the Palm Springs Film Festival could not happen. We are grateful to all the sponsors who support through funds, services, goods or PR to make it all come to life each year.

Meanwhile, throughout the evening I was busy reporting live from the event, Tweeting from the Red Carpet, after the film and at the Gala Reception. You can see a snapshot of the Twitter Feed on the Desert Sun website. It was great to kick things off and let others follow along what was happening. 
Fantastic food at the Museum Post Film Gala
Local Palm Springs restaurant Spencer's catered the food for the evening, which was excellent. Spencer's is owned by Festival Chairman Harold Matzner, a great local philanthropist who lives here in the Coachella Valley.
with Producer Kim Waltrip
It is always nice to spend time with the amazing Kim Waltrip, a Palm Springs-based Hollywood film Producer. She is quite talented and a very busy lady too. Next Thursday, January 12th, one of her films 'A Thousand Cuts' will be shown in the Festival (more on that next week). Come back again for more coverage of the Palm Springs Film Festival. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dogs Surf the World's Longest & Heaviest Parade Float with Natural Balance

photo credit: Betsy Martin
If you missed seeing the Natural Balance Pet Foods Rose Parade Float during the Rose Parade, I took a brief video of our float. The float was certified by Guinness World Records as the World's Longest and Heaviest. The float measures 116 feet from end-to-end, and will weigh more than 100,000 pounds thanks to 6600 gallons of water.

It took a Ford 6.8-liter three-valve V-10 engine, normally used in its F-Series Super Duty trucks to power such a massive float. Thanks to the folks at Ford Motor Company for getting the float going! 

Now here is the video I took with my iPhone. If you watch closely you can see Rose surf.
Here is a link to the same video on YouTube.
I thought I'd also share a bunch of awesome photos of our float. Most of these photos below were provided to me by Betsy Martin, who works with me at Natural Balance. 
We were very excited to be awarded the 'Extraordinaire Trophy' for our float.
photo: Betsy Martin, Natural Balance
Above: here are Dick Van Patten, Jimmy Van Patten and NASCAR driver Greg Biffle, at the front of our float! 
Greg Biffle photo: Betsy Martin Natural Balance
Here's a great photo with famed NASCAR driver Greg Biffle, who rode on our float, along with Tillman! He is a really great guy who loves animals too. The Greg Biffle Foundation raises awareness for animal advocacy, so check it out.

photo: Betsy Martin, Natural Balance
Check out Tillman surfing! Tillman is certified by Guinness Records as the fastest skateboarding bulldog in the World. He loves to surf too! Check out these two photos. He is really having a blast here. He surfs with his dad at local beaches near LA all the time, so he is a real pro, as you can see from these pics.
photo: Betsy Martin, Natural Balance

photo: Betsy Martin, Natural Balance
photo: Betsy Martin Natural Balance
Here is Stanley an amazing Chesapeak Bay Retriever and friend of Natural Balance. He is one of the So Cal Surf Dogs who surf with their dogs. They promote safe dog surfing and having fun surfing for the mental and physical health for both you and your dog. Pretty cool group, huh?
Here at left is Norman, better known as "Scooter Dog" He is also a friend of Tillman and Natural Balance, read more here.
photo: Betsy Martin, Natural Balance
Here is Newman, an English Bulldog and one of the winners of the open casting call we had at Natural Balance for dogs to surf on our float. Newman is surfing backwards in this photo, pretty amazing trick!
Stealth Bomber photo: Rick Rockhil

Photo: Rick Rockhill
At the start of the Rose Parade, a US Stealth Bomber completed its fly-by, which is always a crowd pleaser. It is one amazing piece of military technology. 
A Skywriting airplane for Geico insurance wrote 'Happy New Year' over the parade route, which was fun. The 2012 Rose Parade was really awesome. I'm proud of the Natural Balance Pet Foods float, I think we really stole the show. I hope you enjoyed these photos.


This blog is about life experiences & observations and stuff I am interested in. It is simply a side hobby and creative outlet; generally, with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I don't take it too seriously, nor should you. I do not profess to represent every point of view. Nothing on this site is a paid post.

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