Bits 'n' Pieces: It’s a new dimension, this film called ‘Nightbumpers’

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Dennis Sparks has brought a little bit of “The Twilight Zone” to Clark County — on film at least.

The 66-year-old Vancouver playwright and filmmaker is in the final editing process for a full-length movie called “Nightbumpers,” a story about a graphic artist whose drawings suddenly come to life.

A few years ago, Sparks produced a 16-minute short film called “Wordspeaker,” which is listed on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and was shown at Sundance and other film festivals. But “Nightbumpers” is his first feature-length film.

Sparks said the old TV show “The Twilight Zone” was part of his inspiration for the movie’s plot.

“I grew up with that show, it’s my age, I guess,” Sparks said. “The story is about a graphic artist who has a comic book called ‘Nightbumpers,’ and he finds out one of the creatures he’s created has come true.”

The film was shot entirely in Clark County with actors from here and the Portland area, and Sparks said he expects it will play at The Kiggins Theatre in early to mid-June.

“It was an all-volunteer effort,” Sparks said. “People in Clark County and Vancouver have just been terrific at helping us. They’ve even found us locations to shoot. People have bent over backwards for us.”-- Sue Vorenberg

Mardi Gras All-Star Band continues to evolve

photoGary Smith

The Mardi Gras All-Star Band earned its name from a one-time gig about the New Orleans celebration, yet the collaborative collective led by Vancouver’s Gary Smith has continued to delight Dixieland jazz fans for more than a year.

The jazz band consists of trumpeter Wayne Travillion, clarinetist Jim Buchmann, trombonist Garry Powell, bassist David Duthie, pianist John Bennett, and banjo player John McKinley. Smith is the band’s drummer and vocalist, and his performance record includes Los Angeles hot spots like the Coconut Grove as well as being the drummer for performers such as Barry White.

“Dixieland music is an off-shoot of New Orleans jazz, it came up the river with Louis Armstrong,” said the 75-year-old musician. The style evolved over the years as it branched out to the big cities, while other groups stuck to the traditional jazz played during the early 19th century. Dixieland jazz usually consists of pre-1920s songs made contemporary with modern arrangements. “We find that older people connect with that kind of music, they enjoy the familiar tempos and rhythms.”

Buchmann, who also lives in the Vancouver, is the band’s newest musician, joining by the way of the Titan Hot Seven Jazz Band, a traditional jazz band. “The Titan Hot Seven is one of our favorite bands,” Smith said. He and his wife, Ruthie Westlund, became personal friends with the band. Smith hopes Buchmann will become a regular All-Star.

“Naturally, you gravitate to certain bands that play your type of music,” Smith said. “Every band has a personality; some are comedic and fun, while some just have none.” It’s the bands with personality that attract the fans, fun and celebration, explained Smith. “It’s a tough business. It’s something that you do because you love it, not for the money.”

You can catch Gary Smith and Jim Buchmann and the rest of the members of the Mardi Gras All-Star Dixieland Band at 5 p.m. April 29 at Tony Starlight’s Supperclub, 3728 N.E. Sandy Blvd., Portland. There’s an $8 cover charge. Call 503-716-8584 or visit http://www.tonystarlight.com.-- Ashley Swanson

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.