Using the ancient practice of fixed hour prayer observed by the Abrahamic faith traditions, Praying the Hours personifies each hour into a character to tell a story of a 24-hour day. In the feature film, Traveling Man visits with each of eight friends on the day of his accidental death, and—as he crosses over from this life into the next—sees life anew from the perspective of eternity. In the eight short films that expand the project, the story of each hour is told in more detail.
Here, Director Lauralee Farrer comments on the casting of Aaron Paul Ballard as the hour called None in “The Prayer of the Mournful Songwriter.” None is the name of the mid-afternoon hour of prayer in the Benedictine tradition.
There simply is no one like Aaron Paul Ballard. He is without guile, earnest, genuinely friendly, and self-sacrificing—yet, like this mournful hour of the day, he has had a streak of melancholy since he was a boy. Like his grandfather, he has never met a stranger—he is recognized and greeted by the people in the neighborhood of his frame shop and his enthusiasm is the same for everyone. Los Angeles magazine named him the best framer of 2013, remarking on his winsome ways.
His facebook info page says he is a follower of Adonai (“the Lord”), a Ron Paul enthusiast, and his email name is as descriptive as it is functional: brotherballard. As his website shows, he has been a painter and a musician in countless bands over the years. In one live interview some years ago, when film director Brandon Dickerson was asked to name his favorite band, he replied: “any band Aaron Ballard is in.” The interviewer quipped facetiously, “that narrows it down.” Curiously, one of the places where his authenticity shines with most clarity is on stage as a singer.
Ballard is an accomplished swing dancer, has a thriving custom frame shop—Ballard’s Custom Framing—in Echo Park where he also hosts local live concerts, is married to the beautiful Chris Rhew and father to the ridiculously adorable Beatrix Bette Jo Ballard. I have known him all his life, as I am his aunt, and I remember the first time as a very young boy he watched The Elephant Man, riveted by the story of a man tortured because of his appearance. Though only a young boy, Aaron was weeping when the movie was finished. He said, “if I had been alive when John Merrick was, he would have been my best friend.”
Ever optimistic, ever merciful, he is the rare person who could look at something like his own loneliness and come to the enlightened conclusion that it has hidden benefits to the spirit. One of our cinematographers—the multi-talented Martina Nagel—and I shot a brief portrait of Aaron, on a lark, called “Interim Goals” accompanied by his song “Loneliness”. It gives a little sense of him.
“Loneliness” music and lyrics by Aaron Paul Ballard
Loneliness, it will never die
Loneliness, an obvious surprise
I couldn’t feel it
And I couldn’t see
My loneliness while you were with me.
Loneliness, ever round about
Loneliness, finally found me out
It makes one ponder on the wiser things
So loneliness is just fine with me.
You are the true Fido
Just like the blues I’ve known
I try to fake it like I live alone
But loneliness is always at home.
Loneliness sometimes hides its face
Loneliness is a wise man’s grace
It will always be there when you need to know
That loneliness is how the spirit grows.
Loneliness like a kingdom’s throne
Loneliness, all that’s left to own.
still photographs by Jordan McMahon