Friday, December 30, 2005

My Studio Runneth Over

2006 looks to be an exciting year at the Neal A. Corl Acting Studio, or NACAS as I've been referring to it privately. Naco is slang for a crude, uneducated peasant in the Mexican vernacular of Spanish. The feminine plural of that seems to be an appropriate name for the studio in some fashion.

Scene Study is at capacity and I've had to bring back the On-Camera class sooner than I hoped. I backed off of the studio a couple of months ago and refocused my commitment to it. I made it less about me and more about the work. I spoke of this problem with my attitude toward my directing work recently. The studio has always been about the work in theory. In practice however, I find that I must be ever vigilant about keeping the focus on the work. It is tricky to bring myself to it without making it all about me. So it is for actors as I reported in my previous post Don't Bring Me Down.

I make it about me in various ways. Am I earning enough money doing it? Is it for vanity or for love of the craft? Are my students worthy of my commitment? Is it in balance with my other ambitions and responsibilities? The answer I consistently come to is that I have something to offer and I continue to grow. I also realize that if I close the studio it is very unlikely that I will open one in the future. Teaching is something I do not wish to let go of impulsively. I'm entering my fifth year as an acting coach. Which is but a beginning. Quitting now would be short-sighted.

None of this pessimism is pressing at the moment for I am inspired anew by the quality of the work, the commitment of the current crop of actor-students and the new blood. Our work will continue much as it has over past years but with deeper focus and greater permission to take risks. It is my belief that it requires a tremendous amount of courage to be an artist of any ilk. I can supply or infuse courage no more than I can bestow talent. I can, however, create an environment that supports the development and emergence of both.
In addition to accepting the responsibility of that challenge I will be making some changes to the physical space and the curriculum.

To make room for everyone I considered moving to a new, bigger studio. I decided not to for a couple of reasons. Primarily, in order to devote the energy required to maintain the aforementioned spiritual and emotional balance I must conserve my energy. Finding, moving and recreating a new studio space is no small undertaking.
Even should I move into a bigger space, I can not give the personal attention that I currently strive to more than six scenes in an evening. I also realize that the intimacy of the current space helps to focus our attenion on the work at hand. There are no distractions nor is there any place to hide. Upon further consideration, I find what I considered one of my studio's weaknesses to be one of its strengths. Lastly, if you'll indulge a little wavy-gravy, those walls and floorboards have a certain memory. The studio has become haunted by our triumphs and our failures, our obduracies and our generosities. I have grown in that room as teacher, actor, director and human being. Likewise, I have seen that transformation in several actor-students.

I considered regaining the Green Room, which I let go of a few months back to curb my overhead. It comes at a fairly high cost for what amounts to a coat room. Instead, I've decided to invest in some lights and a light board. I am hanging a simple truss and will be requiring my students to consider and shape the light on their scenes. In doing so we'll be focusing on an important area of stage craft as well as defining the space better.

The other change of 2006 will be a two-part reading assignment each month. One of the readings is an assigned play. We'll start with Shakespeare. In 2006 we should make good headway into the Bard's ouerve. We'll start with the five tragedies, beginning with Hamlet in January and closing with Romeo and Juliet in May. We'll do some comedies over the Summer and the more popular histories in the Fall. I will give informal oral pop quizzes more to inspire participation than to evaluate scholarship. We'll devote some class time the final class of each calendar month to discussing that month's play. The second reading assignment each month will be to read a biography or auto-biography of the student's choosing. Teddy Roosevelt, Aretha Franklin, Jackson Pollock, Marlon Brando -- I could care less. We'll work that reading into a monologue presentation.

I'm looking forward to it.

Happy New Year and Thank You for being part of 2005.

Yours Truly,
Signore Direttore

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Master Says 008

Be of love a little more careful than of anything.
e. e. cummings

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Holding the Frame

"I didn't think the actors held the frame in such and such shot. You were wide on your coverage and I trusted you had good reason for it. But I didn't get anything from the actors. I wasn't buying their interest in one another."
-- comment I received yesterday about one of my short films.

I had a few responses then and since that I'll share with you in the order they came to me.

a) American audiences can't stand to hold on a wide frame.

b) The actors, due to their lack of experience, were so intent on keeping all of their actions straight that they lost their focus on one another.

c) The lighting was flat.

d) I was too busy behind the camera, art directing and running the set that I let the actors down.

e) Taking angles on actors creates the illusion of depth on the two-dimensional screen. I shot them in flat profile.

f) Everything is the responsibility of the director even if it isn't under his or her control. Always. Always. Always.

I'll tell you what, I've sure gotten a lot from showing my work to people lately, as painful as it's been. I know: No pain, no gain. It's allowed me to consider and reconsider my choices and perspectives. None of this is news to me. But these things must be not be forgotten nor taken for granted.
An old timer once told me there is no one task in filmmaking that can't be learned in a few minutes. It's just that there are thousands of tasks that must be masterfully executed at any given moment.
I've been thinking a lot about how to make sure the actors hold that frame. Their inner lives are not entirely my responsibility, but be it theirs, mine or ours together, if it's happening I want to frame it for the best vantage.
I revisited Full Metal Jacket this afternoon and noticed Kubrick took angles on everything, every shot. Of course he did. A book of his photographs from his work at Look Magazine in the 50s when he was still a teenager was just published.
Something else really cool about the film - D'Onofrio has the hint of the crazy look in his eyes right from the start during the hair buzz montage.

Hoping you all had a Happy Christmas.
I'm on my back with the flu.

Signore Direttore

Friday, December 23, 2005

Reel Agony

Over the past couple of days I've been showing some working film professionals my films and music videos.
A few years ago I got together with my friend David Perez, aka Shadi. We showed each other our reels. His was impressive. He directed the Beastie Boys video shot in a salt mine in New Zealand as well as many other very cool, widely seen music videos. I, on the other hand, chatted all the way through my reel. Qualifying, justifying, annoyifying. He let me know my running commentary got in the way of his forming an opinion of my work. (Likely my sub-conscious intention.)
Point taken, Dave. Thank you.
Since then, I really try to just put the reel or individual work on without a word, unless it is indeed a rough cut or pre-sound sweetening, and let the viewer take it in. Which, I have to say, is agonizing. Ugh.
Yesterday I showed a film that I need to fix something in the transfer before I show it to people. I answered a very pointed question about one of the shots regarding the eyelines. He referred to the shot as the one with the crazy eyelines. I told him what I was intending to show in the shot. He nodded. And I second guessed myself about it for the next two hours. I realized in between fits of self-doubt that I am not allowing myself to be involved in a process with other filmmakers when I don't show something that I don't feel one hundred, or even seventy, percent about. I could take his input as something to take a look at or as the anitdote to the validation I'm apparently seeking when I make approval the be all and end all of showing my work.
About that crazy eyeline: it is a bit crazy, certainly unconventional. I know why I shot it that way. And I'm open to hearing a better or more effective means of communicating the intended disjointedness and separaration between the characters. But I have to get my work out there to have that dialogue.
That old business about being good enough is a real nuisance.
I truly doubted if this person would want to work with me after seeing the film I showed him yesterday. The thing is, that choice is his and so far he hasn't informed me that that's the case.
This morning I met with someone else and showed him everything I've done. After the first film, I stood behind him in silence. Waiting. Silence. Agony.
Wow. That was really cool, dude.
Thanks, but you can see how Honcho Studio Exec wouldn't see … BLAH BLAH.
I'm sick of it. I'm really sick of all this self-doubt and fear.
I'm making this about me and that is a problem. It's about the work and the work on my reel is done. I am going to be proud of it and learn from it. Or I am going to feel bad about it and resist growth. My attitude -- that's about all I can change. I am not going to reinvent myself in the next few months, at least not in any organic way, so I might as well enjoy the successes I have had. Which are plentiful, if not up to my own expectations.
I deserve more. I don't deserve this. I deserve more. I don't deserve this. I deserve more. I don't deserve this.
Clearly, being right-sized doesn't come easy for me.
Thanks for your support.

Merry Christmas,
Signore Direttore

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Let's Go to the Movies!

A line from one of my favorite films. Can you name it?

Actually people are going to the movies less and less. Box office numbers are rising because of inflation, but bodies walking throught the door are decreasing by 1.1% annually. So by about 2036 we'll recall going to the movies fondly as we do things like smoking in bars and dancing cheek to cheek.

I've always enjoyed going to the cinema. Always. When VHS came out, I wasn't that into it. My mom rented a VCR to watch Mutiny on the Bounty. Which was cool, but the small screen really had to fight for my attention. The scale was lost. Televisions were often small with rounded screens, the images were cropped and dark. What many people saw as convenience, I saw as story interuptus. "Pause it while I go to the bathroom." That reminds me of students that tell me they read part of a script. Do you go see part of a play or a movie? Since televison and home video, I guess so.

Don't get me started on the creation of content to be viewed on iPods.

Theatrical release formerly counted for more than 50% of a film's revenue. Increasingly, the theatrical run is a form of advertising for domestic and foreign video sales. Foreign sales have grown exponentially in the past ten years. Further contributing to the move toward high-concept films.

Let's go to the movies! may soon become let's go to a film festival. While theatre attendance dives, film festivals continute to multiply and thrive. What I've often derided as money making schemes by the presenters and, or showcases of horrendous DIY films, may well be the preservationists of the sacred cultural act of going to the movies.

Viva la cinema!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Papa Don't Preach

I've been losing sleep. But I made up my mind. I'm keeping my baby. I'm gonna keep my baby. Mmmm.

Don't fret, this isn't about baby June. She's well and safe and the least intrusive little addition to our family yet.
The baby I speak of is Original Glory. I got the next call yesterday. Long ago when I committed to this path, I naively thought that there would be The Call or this magic moment that success would come. What I've discovered over the years is a series of calls and meetings that all keep me moving forward, yet the supposed arrival I envisioned remains elusive. In that regard it is easy to let anticipation and doubt cancel out the good feelings I could enjoy after calls like yesterday's.
The literary agent at Gersh with whom I'm working called and left me a brief message. I've been at times anxious to call her my agent, alack she is not officially my agent at this time. I've been told that at the point that an offer is made, Gersh, and I, will determine whether or not they are to represent me. Anyway her message was, I have one note for you on Original Glory. Oh, here's a cool thing. I called back and said, This is Neal Corl returning a call from Sandra. Her assistant said, Hold just a moment please, Neal. And put me right through! If you've ever had to call an agent or studio exec and had to get past their gatekeeper/assistant, the fluency of yesterday's call was pure joy.
Anyway, she gave me the one note, praised the rewrite I delevered a few weeks ago and told me to expect some meetings in the New Year. Oh goody gum drops! Then the hammer dropped. Are you attached to direct? I hope so. (The answer is yes. The answer is not Maybe or I Hope So. The answer is YES. I'm keeping my baby.) Have you directed before? Yes, not a feature, but shorts andmusic videos. Can you send us your reel? Yes. It won't be right away, I want to make sure it's updated. Okay great. You have a happy holiday. We'll see in the New Year.
That's terrific; right?
It didn't turn out to feel so good for me. I was filled with doubts about my reel, remorse at not having done more and better work and the fear-driven idea that I would rather abdicate my choice to direct now than be denied by someone else later. I start thinking of how to get over. To be sure, directing a studio-financed feature film is not to be taken lightly. I can not speak with absolute certainty that I'm capable of accomplishing it.
But what is it that I preach? Oh, that the results are not up to me. That my job is to prepare to the best of my ability and to accept the decisions of those casting or financing the project. Wanting to be certain of the outcome is a form of tension. Tension is the enemy of the artist - a schoolyard bully just waiting to be tangled with. Do not engage the tension bully!

Dear Universe, please allow me to practice what I preach.

Ciao amici,
Signore Direttore

Thursday, December 15, 2005

In One Eye ...

... out the other.
Too many films are no more than candy for the eyes. Even if a film is meant to touch our hearts, it too often plays but the strings of our sentiment, forgetting to trust our hearts to respond.
It seems the type of film that many see as the antithesis of the In one eye out the other variety is the film that makes its audience think. David Walker of WW is a big fan of this type of film. I don't think a film should make us think too much. Why do we have to figure everything out all the damn time? Dreams are not logical. Human behavior is anything but logical. Why then must a film be logical? Carl Jung claimed he was much more attached to his dreams and to his inner life than to the many awards and famous people he met and analysed. Fellini kept beautiful dream journals. Perhaps I digress.
It is difficult to let go of our disproportionate dependence on our visual sense. Acting students often get stuck in what I call the tractor beam. They sit staring at each other waiting for something to happen, thereby cancelling out most of their impulses.
Go ahead, let your eyelids droop for a moment and sense something different and in many ways more full.

A Big Pizza Pie,
Signore Direttore

The Master Says 007

Voici mon secret. Il est très simple : on ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
(It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.)
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Don't Bring Me Down

Stella Adler says that acting is at once all about us and nothing to do with us. I'm with her on that seeming contradiction.
Last night in Scene Study two actors were working on a scene from Cindy Lou Johnson's play The Years. I've assigned it many times over the years that I've been teaching and therefore know it well. I've even worked on it myself as an actor way back when.
One of the actors used herself very well. She even surprised herself a few times. She suggested her objectives to herself and then became suggestible according to both the given circumstances and the moment. She allowed it to be all about her and yet in the end it had nothing to do with her. In short, she brought herself up to the character.
Her scene partner, on the other hand, played one note all the way through. To his credit, it was a wonderful note for the middle third of the scene. When I gave him my notes during the critique, he stiffly defended himself that he was honoring his instincts. Poor actors always honor their instincts. They ignore the structure of the scene and bring their character and often the entire scene down to themselves.
Poor actors forget the second part of Adler's Paradox.

A River Dertch,
Signore Direttore

The Master Says 006

I think an artist, or any man really, has to face doubts and problems steadfastly. He has to accept his own war, as opposed to glossing over conflict by pacifying and calming it. I think that's what gives dignity to the mission of the artist, and to the mission of being a man.
Federico Fellini

The Master Says 005

I'm not going to bring peace but war to your souls.
Ingmar Bergman

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wonder - ful acting - land

Pardon the poor tmesis attempt. I watched Wonderland this weekend. The film by Michael Winterbottom about a family in South London. The life of John Holmes starring Val Kilmer is also called Wonderland. I am not talking about that Wonder - what all the f**king hype was about -land. Not at all.
Winterbottom's Wonderland is a tour de force of fine acting. Simple performances. Trusting the moment and the camera. Clearly established relationships and circumstances without the crutches of backstory exposition. Emotions expressed truthfully. Check it out.
The actors in this film may well have done the homework assigned by Uta Hagen -- identifying and understanding the given circumstances of the text. They were also capable of doing what Uta fails to deliver -- finding ways to suggest those facts to oneself and trusting one's own abilty to absorb that information without intellectual involvement and interference.

Ciao amici,
Signore Direttore

Monday, December 12, 2005

Why Actors Shouldn't Read Books on Acting

As an acting coach and director I encounter two things all too frequently. Actors visibly pausing to think before each line they deliver is the number one offender. The second is questions of which books to read on acting.
None! Acting is not an academic subject. Nor is it a wholly intellectual pursuit. What's more, there is no comprehensive book or method of teaching the craft of acting. Actor-Students in search of developing their technique approach a text with the goal of being a better actor. What's wrong with that? A lot, frankly. Wanting to be better creates a lot of tension in the actor. A lot of reliance on the brain. And since most actor-students are not yet versed in doing two thngs at once, all that thinking cuts them off at the neck. Instead of an actor or a player before us, we have a thinker.
Another problem with it is, it's lazy. But maestro they're showing inciative! Bollocks. They're looking for a way to evade the work at hand, for the easy way out. Yes, they need to read. Good actors are good readers, certainly. I'd venture to say that great actors are great readers. Do you know how many actors I've taught that could name, let alone have read, Shakespeare's five tragedies? Want to read a good book on acting? Try King Lear. Want to be a better actor, read the play out of which I just assigned you a scene. Harold Clurman claimed to read a text he was to direct five times before he gave it any conscious thought. I often discover that students read the text of the scene and merely skim the rest of the play or screenplay.
Tune in next time for The Limits of Uta.
Ah, it feels so good to be up on the old soapbox.

A River Dertch,
SIgnore Direttore

Monday, December 05, 2005

June Charles Corl

Born healthy and happy Saturday evening at about 7pm in our home.
Delivered by yours truly. What a thrill!
Mommy did a great job and is recovering well.

Grazie al universo!
Signore Direttore

Friday, December 02, 2005

Shout Out 001

This one goes out to my man Andrew Dickson.

If there was a better person that I could have met when I returned to Portland last year I'm not sure who it could have been.

Through his friendship and generous spirit I have come to know many of the people that I mention in my previous post.

Thanks AC!

Your loyal compadre,
Daddy Fool

A Trickle of Sweat

I'm sure you didn't drop in on my blog to hear folk wisdom, or perhaps you did as I seem to drop a good measure of it into the mix. Today's, and many a day's, admonition: Don't sweat the small stuff.

There's one of those indie film showcase events coming up. It's being put on by this woman that is pure hustle but, from my perspective, completely without professional experience and aptitude. She rings me every other day at my day job asking us to sponsor this event. She has managed to convince many of the other professional rental houses and production companies to join her for a sizable fee.

She was working as an indie film casting agent a few months back. I exchanged a few emails with her regarding a role I submitted for when I was doing a bit of acting in June. It was chrystal clear to me that she was pure bluster at the time. "You really should come out for this. No there's no sides, because so-and-so wants to get to get to know you. Oh you know how to do a cold-read without looking at the paper? Well, still just do a monologue. It doesn't matter if it's a little rusty. You just don't want to miss the opportunity to be seen by this director even if you don't get cast." I passed as graciously as possible. Then I saw some of this great director's work. Not as horrendous as one of the films that I've seen which is part of the showcase, but no where near great. Even for Portland.

Okay. Okay. She's full of it. At least one of the films being showcased stinks. So what? I don't know. Because of my position at my day job, I need to play nice. So I am. I politely put her off, telling her that we will try our best to attend the event, but that we are not in a position to be sponsors this year. There's another company in town that would be all over this, but she hasn't contacted them. Nor has she contacted me regarding my acting studio. DJ will be there, so you know it's going to be a first-rate affair. (Might as well fire off a couple more shots while I'm sniping.) Anyway, if she's so on it, why has she missed these other potential players?

I just can't bear to attend another one of these Portland Indie Film events. I'm doing my thing. And I'm feeling more secure in doing so without the affirmation or posturing of the more pretentious local auteurs.

I'm working on a new feature script that could go Hollywood or could be produced locally with some actors coming in from LA and NY. Neil Kopp, a very talented young producer based here, just agreed to produce Crudo, the short that Cassidy and I workshopped over Thanksgiving. Neil produced Old Joy, a feature shot here last summer, which just got into Sundance. Old Joy stars former student Tanya Smith. Greg Schmitt, one of the partners at Gearhead and a shooter that recently lensed a Tony Hawk commercial, has agreed to shoot the short.

So I'm going to stick my nose to the grindstone and keep typing away on my scripts. And saving my pennies so we can shoot Crudo on 35.

Ain't got no time for the small stuff.

Thanks for helping me work it out,
Signore Direttore

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Note to my Readers

Thank you all for reading this web log. It's my pleasure to write it as well as to hear your feedback. I've had some queries about passing it on to friends and colleagues. Of course, please do. It is published on the world wide web for all to see after all.
I've given up an internet connection at home. It's been great so far. So I've started writing entries and cut and pasting when I get to a WiFi spot.

Happy Holidays,
Signore Direttore

Capote and Cash

I saw both of these biographical films this past week.

A lot of folks claim to be a friend of Johnny Cash -- he was a man of the dispossessed after all. I sat on my dad's lap at one of his concerts when I was about four in Memorial Coliseum. When I went to Memphis I skipped Graceland in favor of Sun Records. (Dallas Roberts, a friendly acquaintance of mine, plays Sam Phillips in Walk the Line.) My wife is due to have our third child in the next few weeks. If it's a girl, she's to be called June.

I devoured In Cold Blood when I stumbled upon in it at the Goodwill for fifty cents sometime in the 80s. I knew of Truman Capote from my obsession with Warhol's Factory and my hipster's reverence for Breakfast at Tiffany's. If our child is a boy, he's not going to be called Truman. (Dashiell is the boy name on deck.)

I'm a sucker for both the bucolic gunslinger and the urbane sophisticate, having spent my years oscillating between the trappings of the preppy and the outlaw.

There really is no comparison of these two bio-pics. Walk the Line is all too embracing of the genre's conventions while Capote masterfully charts new territory, easily escaping genre classification altogether. Phil Hoffman both brought Truman Capote to life as well as told his story. Joaquin Phoenix was able to act only the physical life and voice of Johnny Cash. When telling the story of the Man in Black's inner life he was limited to a brooding stare and the conjuring of one mood after another.
Still, I don't care to see Capote again anytime soon in spite of its merits. But I've been singing Walk the Line all week long and thinking seriously of dropping another nine bucks on the inferior film.

A River Dertch,
Signore Direttore

Compassione (Actually pieta, but my pidgin Eye-talian sounds better)

A script note that I've consistently heard regarding Original Glory is; why does one character so devotedly follow the other? Why doesn't LBJ just go off on his own? Because he can't, that's why. It's said, screenwriting is in the rewriting, and I've had to find a way to satisfy the questions of producers and agents while not succumbing to the hackneyed devices that often explain the needs in a character's inner life.

I've been revisiting Fellini's La Strada lately and see a character far more despicable in Zampano than my own Johnny. (Has any other actor played two such notorious characters with names beginning with Zed as has Anthony Quinn as Zampano and Zorba?) Martin Scorsese points out the Franciscan elements of Italian neo-realism. The neo-realists had tremendous compassion for all the characters in their films, eschewing the black and white hats and hearts of Hollywood. I love to repeat the old refrain that 's there's a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us. As I love Saint Francis's admonitions that we seek to understand than to be understood and so forth.

Fellini is a far more masterful storyteller than I, of course. He does not kill his bad guy. Rather he kills his sweet Gelsomina, instructing on profound levels both Zampano and his audience with the death of an innocent. I didn't see that possibility in my tale, but I always knew Johnny had to die in the end. In an affirmation of my own humanism, I still have tears well up when I read the final scenes of Original Glory. Not bad, considering I've read them seemingly countless times.
I really have more compassion for Johnny than LBJ, because LBJ finds a way out and Johnny stubbornly thinks To Thine Ownself Be True is an epitaph rather than a call to arms. Pobrecito.

Ciao amici,
Signore Direttore

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Something Yet to Discover . . .

Somewhere along the path I learned that a story needn't be told if the teller knew all there was to tell. Sometimes I confuse author(ity) with absolute expertise. As do many actors. Often I witness actors approaching the work with the determination to know absolutely everything about the character they're playing. That's really boring if you think about it. That's like hanging out with a know-it-all.
I'm learning to explore finding out more. In my life I don't know how I felt about things in the past. I know what I've done. The acts I've commited. The nature of memory prevents me from reliving my feelings accurately. I've rejected or covered many feelings of shame or grief in order to continue living. Of course those things don't disappear, rather they become part of the way I move and react through the rest of my days. I propose getting my hands dirty with those causes and conditions, particularly through physical recall. In doing so I hope to tell some stories that need no embellishment or qualification. The explorations may not draw conclusions in any explicit way.
But I will attempt to be truthful. I will reject logic. I will experience the reactions of others as they come up against the circumstances I set forth. I will discover new answers and new questions.
When writing this new short entitled Crudo (hungover in Spanish) I was telling of getting a blowjob in hopes of killing the pain in the main character's head. I paused as I set out to write the images in my mind in order to phrase it delicately. In a split second, I wrote exactly what I was thinking. It was so freeing. And now a few days later, it doesn't seem such a big deal. I wrote He smiles and tries to enjoy the blowjob.Not entirely PG, but hardly scandalous. In spite of my best efforts to rebel, I'm hopelessly middle-class at times.
Dear Lord, please let me come in out of the cold.
At the same time, I do think there's a large chuck of truth in the assertion that the best artists are non-neurotic.
A thing to discover: balancing the rejection of the bourgeois with an embracing of sanity.
That should keep me busy.

A River Dertch,
Signore Direttore

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I'm Not Ready

When our son was about three we were someplace with a Santa Claus. He gasped and ran away from what could have been his first encounter with Saint Nick shrieking - I'm not ready!
I know how he feels. Funny thing is we live in a culture that doesn't care if we're ready for things or not. It seems to reward those that are willing to step up - ready or not.
Michael Cassidy is in town. We began rehearsals on a short that I've written for the occasion - something that is akin to the physical and inner lives he'll play should we ever get a greenlight for Original Glory. After reading the script, he expressed his trepidation towards rehearsal. It has been years, he said. His preparation on television shows and films has been a meeting with the director to inform the helmer how he's going to play it. Once that's done, it's a simple question of, Are you ready? The camera rolls after some blocking rehearsals and adjustments are made according to the results required. (The required results are determined much by the studio and producers rather than by the director in tv and big studio films.)
In spite of not having the opportunity to work very organically, Michael knows how to work. He forms his own ideas very quickly, translating his intellectual analysis of the text to action and behavior easily. He's very receptive to direction, especially sub-textual suggestions. At the same time, he admitted a tendency to want his scene partner's approval. I appreciated this bit of honesty during rehearsal, seeing it as an invitation to coach him as well as a willingness to experience the rehearsal in the moment.
Nice to walk away from a bit of work with such good feeling, looking forward to the next time.

Ciao amici
Signore Direttore

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Me, Me, Me

How was Fellini able to make films so much from and about himself while appealing to so broad an audience? How did he leap so resolutely from the personal to the universal?
Perhaps, as Donald Costello asserts in Fellini's Road, by avoiding looking only inward. He knew that we must look outward in order to look inward. He did "not wait for the world to something for the me, to the me or with the me." asserts Costello. He listened to Saint Francis, seeking to understand rather than to be understood.
I suppose in that tremendously energetic creativity there was little time to get sick of oneself as I often do when my persistent self-seeking sings me, me, me.

a river dertch,
signore direttore

The Master Says 004

Making a film is something quite other for me than a simple professional fact. It's a way of realizing myself, and giving my life a meaning.
Federico Fellini

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Behind the Green Door

Ever see that film? One of the classic porn films, film with a capital F, of the 70s. Nothing great enough about it to track it down, but the title is great and it's not near as graphic as modern adult videos.
I recall the title only because I'm becoming increasingly aware of what's behind things. What is this emotion about? What is behind this line of action or dialogue? Is there another way to see this? What will I find behind the green door?

My life is very full at the moment. Patience, diligence, delayed gratification, lowered expectations, slow and steady wins the race. Indeed.
I'm experiencing a bit of grief in many areas. I don't often allow myself to experience grief as I'm wary of making excuses for myself. My default is to become cynical and closed off to my own healing. As I keep my feet moving from early in the morning until late in the evening each day, I am trying more than ever to feel a little of the pain that I carry. Once I feel it for awhile, I'm trying to let it go and make the burden a little lighter. I want to put some of it into writing soon. Currently it helps to experience it more clearly without cynicism's cloak.

My heart is full of love for you at this moment.
Get it while you can.
Signore Direttore

Friday, October 21, 2005


I ran into a very old friend this morning on my way to the j-o-b. I saw him several weeks ago at the J&M cafe - a spot where many of my old loves and cronies tend to brunch it seems. He in his Range Rover looking over the $900 pickup I was driving today. He passed me his card - something to do with wine. He apologized for not having called - Busy, he said, while his eyes darted over the truck.

In high school I palled around with both the high and the low. The stoners, the merit scholars, the Deadheads, the Punks - I was a populist. I was interested in all of them and I preferred doing drugs and drinking to being in class. So while those bound for the Ivies, Cal and Stanford were in classes I was often getting high with the rabble. One morning I recieved an invitation to take bong hits in the new car of a knucklehead. With us was a merit scholar with a penchant for Leary and The Dead. There were quite a few kids that seemed able to mix drugs and scholarship - it was an either/or thing for me. So these three unlikely chums - the knucklehead jock, the hippie genius and the populist soc - went off to smoke pot in the knucklehead's new Firebird. He asked what we thought of the new car. I laughed - I drove a VW Rabbit and was strictly into Euro cars at the time. (Probably why my friend this morning couldn't get over seeing me in the old F-150) The hippie proclaimed, An automobile is simply an extension of one's over-inflated ego. Totally dude, replied the jock.

I like cars and I stay pretty busy. I fall prey to seeing cars as status symbols. It's weak, I know - I'm trying to break the chains. I bought a mini-van and a $900 pickup in the last year for chrissakes.
But being busy as a status symbol, or even as an excuse, is silly. I abhor people telling me that they're too busy. If it were a pissing match, I might certainly win. But I'm not talking about that. I thought I would leave that I'm busy crap behind in NY. But it's here in little old Portland as well.

So next time you hear yourself claim to be busy, stop for a sec and see if it's true. If it is, ask yourself if what is keeping you busy is that important. If it isn't, dump it and look at the sky for a few minutes or really listen to a friend.
It's so much better than BUSY.
And if you are busy, try expressing it in a different way, especially to those you love.
Sorry for the soapbox if you came to hear about the pursuit of filmmaking mastery -- I'm in a reconstrucion of my psyche phase.

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

p.s. It's been a hell of a week - holding down ye olde grippe shoppe, moving house, teaching, producing Nick's film, etc. I didn't have time to read books, write or contact old friends, but I found some time for my family and friends, I watched some baseball and I squeezed in a little time each day for the development of my inner life.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

9 - 5

For the past several years I've avoided a day job for the purpose of devoting time to filmmaking. There were periods during which I enjoyed substantial income from freelance work and other endeavors, but I've consistently been the type of grandiose fool that presumes the highest weeks' income to be the average. I never dealt in seven figures, but I was hanging in the sixes and I completely understand how millionaires go bankrupt. I have avoided bankruptcy, but I am penniless.
While the wine flowed and the roses bloomed I invented a path for myself that was a shotgun approach to building a career as a filmmaker. I was all over the place. I thought directing commercials translated into features. i thought writing prose was no different than writing for the screen and the screen no different than for the stage. I thought directing actors and coaching actors was the same thing. In my best estimate I would say I spent a third of the time inventing and reinventing the path, a second third of the time agonizing about things not happening fast enough and comparing myself to others and the final third of the time was divided between creating and shameless self-promotion.
I'm mentoring someone presently that insists on making the same mistakes. Often I let myself wallow in the pity that no one showed me the way. My experience with this apprentice teaches me that perhaps I neither sought out the input nor listened to it when I heard it.
There's an old refrain that none of us likes to hear - Don't quit your day job. I never had one to quit until now. Funny that. I thought that once I got to this place - optioned screenplay, packaging deal - it would be all aboard the gravy train. It's only getting more difficult.
The 9-5 is helping.
So, based on experience, I would echo that old refrain. Until the contracts are signed and the check is on your hand, don't quit your day job. And if you don't have one, think about getting one.
I want to be cautious here so as to not project my woes onto unsuspecting and perhaps undeserving others. First of all, I want it both ways. To be an artist and to live in luxury. I put the cart before the horse over and over again. I throw money at things and plan later. I seek the easier, softer way of doing things. Worst of all, I've done a lot of work for the purpose of seeking recognition.
Currently I make less in a month than I once did in a week or even a day. Yet I can pay my bills. And I know what it takes to conceive, manage and complete a film. It's far more simple and far more difficult than I ever imagined.
Having a day job eliminates the need to expend energy plotting and scheming the way that I did while I was looking for the quick score. I don't have any extra money to throw at half-baked projects, so I have to have a plan. Since I don't have time to do it all myself I have to hire a producer to manage the project, something I should have done from day one. As for the recognition seeking, I know that if I do my best work and put it out there, it will be recognized or it won't. That part is really out of my hands.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


August Wilson died at 60.
That pisses me off and makes me sad.
And, as when anyone dies under the age of 70, it scares the bejesus out of me.

I love Fences and Two Trains Running.
He was a tireless writer and a great contributer to the American Theater.
May the man rest in peace.


The Master Says 003

One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking. I have only touched it, just touched it.
-- Dorothea Lange

The Master Says 002

The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.
-- Albert Einstein

Saturday, October 01, 2005


The origin of the term refers to the separation and isolation from society of the hermit or monk.
Indeed, wabi is literally poverty, but it came to refer not to the absence of material possessions but to the non-dependence upon material possessions. The material world is that which is interpreted and conceived of by the intellect (largely ego in my opinion). The intellect serves mainly to abstract information or to interpret information that has already been abstracted. Wabi is a divestment of the material that surpasses material wealth. Wabi is simplicity that has shaken off the material in order to relate directly with nature and reality. This absence of dependence also frees itself from indulgence, ornateness, and pomposity. Wabi is quiet contentment with simple things.
Nothing lasts. Nothing is finished. Nothing is perfect.
All of the beauty and knowing in life is not "out there" to be discovered, but instead is right here in this moment - right before our eyes. In the book Wabi Sabi Simple, Richard Powell shares that “wabi sabi is a way of life that appreciates and accepts complexity while at the same time values simplicity.”
Powell concludes, "To accept these realities is to accept contentment as the maturation of happiness, and to acknowledge that clarity and grace can be found in unvarnished existence."
This all reeks of Pragmatism. Cassavetes was a big fan of William James and Pragmatism. The only problem with studying philosophy is its innate dependence on abstraction and intellect. Great for the Ivory Tower, not so for the stage.
So give me a stage where this bull here can rage …

Also looked at a lot of Dorothea Lange photographs today. So beautiful. Talk about being devoid of material. Nobody got no shoes!

A river dertchee,

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bated Breath

Last night in my scene study class, two students were in the later stages of working on a scene from Suburbia. It was wonderful. They were talking to one another. They were alive head to toe, reacting to one in another in the simplest of ways - sliding over on a bench to invite a sit-down, subtle but fully alive furtive glances, bumping shoulders. It's always a good sign that after seeing various students work on a particular scene over the years, I wait with bated breath to hear what they might say next.
It's especially encouraging to watch fine young actors let go of their bags of tricks and patiently discover new ways of playing a particular set of given circumstances. In doing so, I believe each found tremendous subtlety and dimension.
I look forward to seeing what they do next. A swell place, too, as I appraoch one of those months when half of my regular students are not going to be in class for various reasons. With a small studio like mine, that means I pay the rent and earn less than a clerk at 7-11.
So thanks to those that are open and growing for bating my breath.

And thanks to the boys at Gearhead for gainful employment, further easing the sting of reduced studio revenue.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Writing is on the Wall

Public schools in Georgia are closing for two days next week to save gas. I suppose when education results in complete dependence on fossil fuels, it makes absolute sense to shut the schools down.
Our supreme leader truly is crude.

Went to a performance of Portland Taiko last night. I didn't like it. I thought it devoid of what Lorca called duende, roughly translated as feeling. Arbitrary banging. Arbitrary banging of simple rhythms by smiling white folks getting cultural. Some sort of reverse minstrel show. A Left Coast version of Stomp. About half of the performers were of Asian descent, many Japanese. Obo Addy and several Ghanians came out for the final number. It was only then that I felt anything anyplace other than my ears. The Africans were the real deal and I couldn't help but think that the Taiko folks were blessed and cursed to be sharing the stage with them. Of course there was a standing ovation. As our babysitter pointed out when we got home, put a person of color on the stage, the darker the better, and the crowd will stand and cheer in Portland.
Of course they'll ask them to live in blighted areas until they get around to gentrification, pushing them out of the way until they need cheap housing or to be entertained.

It's a crazy world. Which is no news at all. The writing has been on the wall all along.

Con amore per umanita,
Signore Direttore

Friday, September 23, 2005

This Side of Paradise

The title of the first of F. Scott Fitzgerald's few complete novels, much more minor than Gatsby, but closer to home for me as I devoured the books of The Lost Generation in my teens. Its protagonist, Amory Blaine, looked up at the spires of Princeton assuring himself that he would surely do better in school next year, but knew deep inside of himself that he would not. And in fact, did not.
Was he being honest with himself that some things are not meant to be? Or simply rationalizing his lack of effort?

I've had a few students argue about objectives lately, claiming that a character doesn't know he or she won't succeed as they pursue his or her objectives. In short, that they are always in it to win it. Maybe I'm just a fearful doubting Thomas, but I think desire is almost always plagued by a measure of doubt. If not, where would the tension come from? Surely not the other person. My battles within have always been more epic than those without.
I find it far more involved and nuanced to witness a character check his or her own doubts about his or her objective against the other/s/ in a scene.

Just got the phone call I've been waiting for since Tuesday. I'm the new manager at Gearhead Grip and Lighting. I start Monday. A set schedule. A paycheck. Healthcare benefits. Paid holidays and vacation. Things I've never experienced. I'm excited.

My theory is I'm surrending to win. I'll keep you posted.

Fono ai noi,

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Dispassionate Gardener

Saw The Constant Gardener yesterday for my Monday matinee. Having forgotten to wear my watch, I checked the time on my cell phone around an hour into it and every ten minutes thereafter. I was bored and anxious for its anticlimactic denoument to come so I could go.
The exhaustion of my patience with the film coincided with the end of the jump in time segments, which ultimately I found very arbitrary and therefore tedious -- just as the director settled into telling the story it was too late. I suppose the jumps in time were thought necessary to fill in all the backstory. I may have known it was adapted from a John LeCarre novel prior to seeing it, I'm not certain. I did say to myself while watching it, Oh this story is intriguing, but I'd rather read about it in a john LeCarre novel. (If I ever read those types of books.) I just didn't find the backstory all that necessary. The wife of a quiet, well-peered diplomat is very active politically. She spends a lot of time with a native Kenyan doctor helping the poor. A pharmacuetical company is up to no good with the help of the British government. Shadow agents eliminate the bleeding heart wife when she gets too active in her discovery of evil doing.
That's a good set-up. I don't need to know she has always asked too many questions going back to meeting her husband at university. I can see that in the way she handles herself with the poor, the Kenyan doctor, her husband and at a diplomatic social function. I don't need to see them fall in love in a flashback. I'm not so cynical as to believe they might well have been in love to have gotten married in the first place. For all the the first hour's attention to backstory, it makes the sudden introduction of the wealthy cousin in the third act feel more like movieland than reality. Though I liked the jump in time juxtaposition of his eulogy and the gardener's final earthly moments.
For a film that does a good turn in showing the shanty towns and the suffering of the African poor as well as offering some truthful though often, dare I say, too understated performances, it shrinks from allowing reality to unfold before us with any patience. Think of the power of the long take in such dire living conditions. The fast cutting really worked in the director's film, City of God, precisely because the world it was depicting depended on fleet-footed survival. We were given the chance to sneak a peek into a world that doesn't allow Peeping Toms.
A note on the preformances: Rachel Weisz was great. She had conviction and compassion and showed great courage. All of the supporting roles were well played, though F. Murray Abraham suffered a sliding dialect and the manner in which the Kenyan doctor's eyes lighted on the heroine was exactly that -- mannered. I found Ralph Fiennes far too understated. He hit some wonderful notes of realization that reflected his inner life and his character's temperment and class at key moments. However, if the film hoped to show a man awaken to a less distanced relationship to the world, I think the actor failed. Though he may have failed, he is not to blame. As always the buck stops with he or she at the helm. In this case, the director didn't give his leading man and his audience a chance to watch the gardener's garden grow.
All that said, I appreciate that the film was about human beings. Unfotunately, the view of humanity was obfuscated by frantic cuts, desaturated images and too much backstory and exposition. I never groaned, I just got a little bored at times as the story went in one eye and out the other all too self-conciously.

I predict Phil Hoffman will be accepting a gold statuette from the Academy next Spring based on the trailer for Capote. Wow.

Pasta and Bagels,
Signore Direttore

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Kentucky Windage

There are three ways to hit a target with a rifle - blind luck, Kentucky windage and zero the sights.
Blind luck is a wily devil, betraying its beneficiary sooner or later, especially if it coincides with beginner's luck. Blind luck is particularly troubling when one has a run of it and believes it an indication of a talent that requires no further training.
Kentucky windage involves firing a shot and adjusting to the sight's inaccuracy until "a little to the left and a squirrel tail lower" hits the mark. Of course this method must be adjusted any time the distance to the target moves. Sure to be the case in a live action scenario.
Zeroing the sights takes a little longer. Set the front and rear sights to mechanical zero. Fire at a target at 25m and first adjust the front sight for elevation and then the rear sight for windage and elevation until all rounds strike within 4cm of the target center. The weapon will be set at battlesight zero for up to 300m. For longer range shooting, a second zero can be set and marked as necessary.
What I'm trying to draw is a parallel to preparation for the actor. I find that most actors tend to rely on blind luck and Kentucky windage. When we practice contacting ourselves and opening our instruments, setting ourselves to mechanical zero, rather than rush into practicing for performance, we stand a better chance of having more accurate use of ourselves.

A River Dertchee,
Il comandante

Saturday, September 17, 2005


There is very little I feel compelled to report this week.
Classes were great -- new faces and new energies. There is a certain desperation that emanates from many aspiring actors. One of my tasks as a coach is to interpret and react to it accordingly. Becoming an actor of any measure requires a great deal of courage. Like talent, I find that courage is an innate attribute. It comes out with diligent exercise, but can not be taught. I run into problems when I make assumptions or sweeping assesments about the level of courage in the studio in any given class. Even with small classes, I often find it difficult to adjust to and encompass six to ten hearts. I suppose the best thing I can do is speak from my own heart and experience, thus being as courageous as I am capable.
Much like staying close to oneself as an actor -- if it is yours and in the moment, it is always the best you can do.
Oh, to practice what one preaches.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Nella terra dei ceichi …

… the one-eyed man is king.
The winner of the Best Actor Award for the 2005 Filmerica Challenge is yours truly.

How about them apples?

Buona sera,
Signore Attore ahem Direttore

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Second Guessing

To say my first encounter with second guessing occured within the last decade would surely be false. Just as we sometimes hear something many times, there comes a point when we really understand it. Perhaps when our receptors are ready or when the strength of the transmission signal is irrepressible.
Such was the case with second guessing. I had just started studying with Cay Patten in New York. I felt immediately at ease with her during our interview. She was not the touchy-feely, new age teacher I had when younger. She was a New York intellectual. And a fat Greek lady, just like my mother. Anyway the interview went well and she admitted me to intermediate scene study. I was happy not to start in the beginning class, yet nervous. Especially when I saw a couple people in the lobby wearing national tour jackets from shows.
One of the show vets was an actor called Steven. In one of my first classes Steven was making a salad in his scene. Or he was going through the motions of making a salad. Every question Cay asked him about the salad, Steven answered with a defense of his choice, citing his (mis-)interpretation of Cay's input rather than an answer to her simple questions. Finally she had enough and told him she was finished with him. Not just for the day, but forever. She told him he was never going to be a good actor if he second guessed clear, simple direction.
I thought, Yes!, she's absolutely right. I further deduced that good actors don't second guess impulses. Just like people don't second guess the sunlight of the spirit, except when our neuroses get in our way, of course.

I optioned Original Glory to a producer with limited experience and we went through a long phase of development during which the script improved in some ways and died in others. I've always had a hard time pitching the script. It is not a high concept script for one. But the plot covers a lot of ground. To get from A to Z, I've had to leap over certain plot developments, expecting the audience to jump with me.
It seems that readers in Hollywood all stumble at those junctures. They say things like, I don't feel you earn the murder of the father. Or, He makes a phone call for help and then he's thirty days sober.
My response is usually something along the lines of, I don't really want the audience to be concentrating on the details of the plot, I want them to go on the journey with the characters.
Those with money need plot points. They need structure. They need a package that they feel is marketable. In the past, I've second guessed this. Resisted it. Judged it.
I've been seeing it differently of late. It's giving me a lot of freedom. I realize that what people are objecting to is the structure of the script. They love the stories and the characters and the physical world that I've created. But I've packed too much into its 100 pages. I've spoiled them. If I rewrite it using only the first act, they'll miss the ending or something in the second act. I've created this smorgasboord that incites gluttony.
I realized this after hearing the same feedback for years on this project. The first producer I worked with belabored the details, when I should have gone back and simplified the structure. Recently, I watched a few films that are similar to Original Glory with a careful eye toward plot development. If I were to shoot my film and expect it to come in around ninety minutes, it would be a ruthless whirlwind. While I want it pack a wallop, I want the story to be able to breathe. Think of spaghetti westerns -- three or four gunfights and a lot of quiet space between them.
In developing the script a couple of years ago I killed a lot of darlings in order to make room for more plot devices that still aren't working entirely. No more second guessing Hollywood.

I read Mark Medoff's great play, When You Comin Back, Red Ryder? Teddy, the outlaw, is ruthless, raw and honest. Every moment counts. It's like Shakespeare -- no need for stage directions. Reading it, I recalled the rawness of the characters in my script before all the second guessing under the guise of polishing.

I spoke to Michael Cassidy about this with some trepidation a couple of days back. He had just watched Peckinpah's The Getaway and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
Once again, we were on the same page.

In the past, I've always been anxious to do the rewriting on Original Glory. Seemed there was always a deadline, real or imagined. I'm sitting back on this one. Gonna let it simmer. Gonna figure on where I want to start and where I want to finish. Then I'm gong to write a logline. Then I'm going to work up an outline. I'm going to let it come to me.
I'm not going to second guess it.

signore direttore

Monday, August 29, 2005


As far back as I can remember, I've been self-concious. As I have tried to move away from self-obsession, the culture has increasingly embraced it. Not all of the independents have been co-opted. Pedro certainly has, yet he continues to stay true to his original vision.
I recall seeing films by Scorcese, Almodovar and Jarmusch in the 70s and 80s having no idea who the filmmaker was. By the early 90s, just after Resevoir Dogs came out, I saw a poster of Tarantino in the window of Django's, his name emblazoned across the bottom.
(Nostalgia can be a slippery slope, I'm experiencing a flood of sense memories regarding Django's.)
The fare in those early days of independent cinema was meager in between the feasts. One of those feasts -- a double bill of She's Gotta Have It and Down by Law at the Clinton Street -- still offers a bit of nourishment. Another film, largely forgotten, that I loved: Patti Rocks. Mamet's House of Games was another favorite. Oh, how I loved Almodovar -- the colors, the quirky stories, the awkward and twisted sex. So rich. The themes and situations at once totally alien and yet all too close to me. I lived in Europe from 1985 to 87, ages 17 - 19, experiencing many more situations out of the films of Almodovar and Jarmusch than of Hollywood's.
I suppose I'm blurring the lines between indie, small studio and foreign films in terms of financing, but the heart and soul of the films are akin.
It was while living in Germany, West Germany in those days, that I discovered Fellini. A friend gave me a VHS copy of Amarcord for my 19th birthday. Mike Gallo, a former high school English teacher and writer for a small-town paper in upstate New York, was my sidekick and mentor in those days. It's a long story how he ended up in the Army, but thank goodness he did. He saved me from the philistines. The last time I saw him he was in graduate school in Sacramento. I showed up at his door at 7am in a stolen convertible, drunk and eager to add fuel to my fire. He indulged my escapades in a dive bar, bought me lunch and sent me on my way with a copy of The Ginger Man. Yikes.
Gallo and I were very unpopular at the armed forces movie theaters. We loudly mocked sentimental tripe like The Color Purple and Platoon. Eventually we were 86d after getting caught drinking beer during one of the latter Rockys.
I found a link to Almodovar's site, where he keeps on online journal. I'm so glad he's exalted and appreciated. His films are just as good, if not better than they were when nobody knew who I was talking about as I blathered on about his genius.

John Peirson's book, Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes is a good read on the history of independent film in that era.

As I recall those films, the details of the theaters and my companions all spring to life in my memory, shutting out the pain, confusion and hurlyburly of the rest of my life at the time. Many of us have these things that chrystalize our memories so -- my friend Dan Eccles has it with music. He recalls at once the melody and the record jacket or concert. It is in his bones. His fingers move as if on frets and his the lyrics start in the back of his neck.

I leave you with a roll call:
Matt Van Vlack, Clinton Street Theater, Cinema 21, Bleecker St Theater, Spike Lee, Please baby baby please, Sarah Posey, Ara Vallaster, The Red Vic, David Lynch, Koin Cinemas, The Fifth Avenue, Siesta, Matador, Mamet, Sujata Kakar, Mala Noche, The Castro, Drugstore Cowboy, Slackers, Hollywood Shuffle, Tampopo, Sex, lies and videotape, Laws of Gravity, Adam Trese, Roger & me, The Thin Blue Line, Carl Scott, Din Johnson, and many more…


Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Greeks called it Hubris

There are three cases of arrogance on my mind today.

The most immediate is of the naive variety. Just sat through the beautiful afternoon indoors for a casting session for Nick Peterson's film Yellow, a musical. Actors came in and sang along with a recording and then read sides. Two were well prepared and two were not. One of the ill prepared was a student of mine. A student on partial scholarship. A student I passionately recommended to Nick. I wonder what the point of showing up to an audition unprepared might be. Could it be that the actor thinks of it as an opportunity to meet and greet the filmmaker or casting director? Or that by simply showing up they'll be cast based on their good looks and winning ways? My student will be called back. Unfortunately, in my opinion. He sings well and he is a good actor, his talent certainly came through. Though not nearly as well had he put an hour into preparing for the audition I set up for him more than a week ago.
My money is on the other two guys. Both of whom are non-actors, by the way. It helps that they are musicians, most particularly for this film, but it's their charisma combined with their preparation that's winning them near the kiss.

The second instance of hubris I experienced this weekend is of the harumph variety. I suffered through Ridley Scott's commentary on the Thelma & Louise DVD. Clearly he's a man of considerable talent and accomplishment. Knighted by the Queen. A member of both the American and British film academies. Indeed.
"My genius is caah-sting, you see. When the actors are well caahst, they know what to do and I can concentrate on things like this shot." A night travelling shot of Louise's T-bird passing a truck on the highway. A shot that tells us nothing. Totally arbitrary.
I quite wish he would have let us experience a shot of Geena Davis's face when she's about to get raped. That way we would have felt what she felt as it was happening, instead of seeing insert shots of her panties getting pulled down. (Which leans more toward eroticism than violence if you ask me.) Had we experienced the imminent threat of violation with her in the parking lot, the moment that Thelma stops Louise from second-guessing herself later in the movie and reminds her "He was hurting me." would have had much more of an impact.

The other case of excessive confidence that comes to mind is David Walker's film reviews in the last two issues of WW. The exact position of film critic for an alt-weekly is in question. Certainly we expect a little sardonic zest, wit and hipness in such a rag. Though, is not the job really about letting us know -- in a hip, witty and zesty sardonic fashion, of course -- if the film is worth a sawbuck and two hours of our time? Surely we do not expect Film Comment nor Cahiers du cinema. A little film crit is welcome for the cinephiles, sure, but let's serve the common WW reader. Well lately DW has erred not in the over-erudition of his criticism, but in subsuming the reader's knowledge and going straight for the kill. (Or in the case of a local film on which he toiled as associate producer, straight for the fluff job.)
First the fluff. Eight paragraphs or so qualifying his review of the film, two paragraphs of plot summary and a paragraph excusing the poor craftsmanship of the filmmakers. He claimed that the film showed the promise of digital video. I thought promise requires more than getting some people together to make a movie with no thought toward composition, lighting, sound or story development. Dear David, I would have appreciated a heads up that the film stinks and it's not worth my time, let alone my money.
Then the kill. "John Singleton is a no talent hack." Though DW loves Hustle & Flow, as do I, which wouldn't have gotten made had not John Singleton put up his own money to produce it. DW's review of H&F is a good example of why he is gainfully employed as a film critic, by the way. "Someone should pay Rob Schneider to go fuck himself." Does Deuce Bigleow European Gigolo really incite such vitriol? Sky High: "Super-stupid family-friendly comedy that…" DW doesn't have a family and doesn't have to endure family films. But I do and after seeing the super-stupid moron-friendly film DW fluffed earlier in the day, Sky High seemed like the Wizard of Oz later in the evening. Dear David, Sky High was well worth our $12 and the two-hour roundtrip out to Newberg to see it at the 99W drive-in.

I would write a letter to DW c/o WW, but I'm practicing restraint of tongue and pen. Lest I wind up fodder for an arrogance posting in some blog.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Movie I'd Like to See Remade

I'm not a fan of remakes normally. But I am a fan of auteurs. And of good stories. So when I read and, or see a good story poorly told I like to think of ways it could have been improved.
I've been watching and reading road movies this week. Last night's film was Thelma and Louise. Ridley Scott was the wrong director for that film. It's hopelessly slick and lifeless. Since it can't be remade in the past by any of my heroes of the 70s, it will have to be remade in the future.
There was an article in the NYT this week about the studios admitting better movies need to be made. Michael Bay's The Island didn't make any money -- boo hoo. This is good news for auteurs -- since the studio biggies are failing to bust blocks this summer, movies by Miranda July, Jim Jarmusch and Craig Brewer are all tracking long theatrical runs.
At times the acting in Thelma and Louise was a commentary on the themes and plot of the film. I blame the director for that. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis both did a great job as far they were allowed to take it. Brad Pitt, Mike Madsen and Harvey Keitel were all very good as well. However, if the camera isn't there to record the inner life of the actor, there isn't much an actor can do about it. The objectivity of the camera work in Me and You and Everyone Else We Know would serve the tale of the ladies from Arkansas very well.
Gus Van Sant likes to remake films. The quiet lurking of his recent films would set a wonderful tone for Thelma & Louise.
I don't really care who helms the remake as long as it's gritty and human and the humor comes from our collective difficulties with sexism and chauvinism instead of the one-note spin and visual cliches under Scott's direction.

Buona sera,
Signore Direttore

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cento metro di Federico

A friend told me today that I'm a hundred yards from the finish line, and like on any tough terrain, it's the hardest part of the journey. Well thank you, friend, for the comforting words. I'm not sure that I buy it, but I see the wisdom in his analogy and I am comforted by it.
It is the journey and not the destination that interests me, I'm nearly always pleased to recall.
There is a tendency at times like this that I'm tempted to look only forward and back, ignoring the present.
A friend is going through chemo, my aunt is moving back to the awful small town in Ohio that she spent the last five years trying to get away from to try to get her cheating husband back and poor W is suffering a 36% approval rating.
Meanwhile, my wife is beautifully pregnant, my children are healthy and happy and I just returned from a bicycle ride on a beautiful summer evening.
Repeat after me:
Slow and steady wins the race.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Slow and …

Ciao amici,
Signore Direttore

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Between a diamond and a sapphire: luxury problems part uno

Today's my birthday.
I met with the storyboard artist first thing this morning. So very nice to see images of the ideas that have been kicking around in my head for so long. I would love to board the entire film, but there's a lack of funds available for such work at present. That meeting was interupted by a phone call from 323. The secretary - Neal, I have x on the phone.
X is an old friend that I got in touch with to go over what I am doing with The Gersh Agency. She's extremely busy these days developing a bunch of tv stuff for one of the networks. She and her company have been all over the trades the past couple of weeks. I am grateful she took the time to return my call. Unfortunately she told me the same old thing that I've been hearing for years -- don't try to direct this film, get out of the way. Don't do anything, just wait for them to come round.
Meanwhile, I'm looking around my house for things we can sell. I'm considering jobs as a custodian. Maybe moving the family into a one bedroom apartment. I got number three on the way. I've been working toward this for years. I'm not holding out to direct because I think it will be cool. I'm ready to do the work of a director. If David Fincher or Sofia Coppola wants to direct this, I'll step aside, all too gladly. But I'm not going to get out of the way for somebody that flatlined some lame picture nobody has ever heard of.
At the same time, I'm talking to someone making fifteen-k a week to play Playstation in a trailer on the set of a studio movie who is complaining about how lousy that is and how he can't wait to make this film with me. He's telling me to hang in, that I'm his only hope.
I'm not whining about this. And truthfully, there's really nothing I can do. There's no offer on the table to give the film up to another director. There's nothing except regular news that the script is slowly working its way up the food chain. Nobody is saying, here's the deal. I'm might ask Gersh if there's some re-writing work or some such thing available to hold me over. But I'm not sure if that's even appropriate.
I am grateful to be in such a difficult place. They may well be nice problems to have, but that don't make 'em easy to solve.

Pasta and bagels,
Signore Direttore

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Had my first session with a storyboard artist this morning. It was very exciting to think about the film in visual terms from shot to shot. I discovered that I have developed a fluency of cinematic language. That I have strong ideas about where to put the camera and why. It's very exciting.
There are varying opinions on the use of storyboards. Roman Polanski feels they stiffen actors. I don't agree. As an actor I like to know the director has thought carefully about the placement of the camera. It helps me feel supported in order to go deeper with my work. It's my opinion that actors play better to a camera carefully placed rather than letting an actor go and trying to catch it. I suppose in comedy that's the way to go, but with drama I'm all for detailed mise en scene.
Seems the Italians are some of the most fluid when it comes to actor-camera symbiosis. Think Bertolucci, Leone, Fellini, Rosselini. Last Tango in Paris is a great example of intense inner lives of actors in a film with complex actor as well as camera blocking. I'm sure the source is the Italian cultural legacy of commedia del'arte and opera.
The storyboard artist said Original Glory reminded him of The Last Picture Show. I liked that movie, but I felt it was very distant and cold emotionally. The black and white photography was beautiful, of course, but it certainly contributed to the muted emotional tone of the film. The acting was very good, I could only hope for a cast so great.
I think where storyboards can pose potential problems is when directors are determined to shoot specific shots in spite of what might be evolving out of the story and the contributions of the cinematographer and the actors, not to mention the production designer. I have used them a bit in my last couple of short films and I think the films have been better because of it. As I've studied film over the years there have been theories, like Polanski's denouncement of storyboards, that have appealed to me, but I find that in practice I'm forced to abandon them. I used to want to be the next Cassavetes or Scorcese, but now I just want to be the first Neal A. Corl. To do that I have to find my own way, taking and leaving from those that have mastered the craft through trial and error. Trial and error on my own dime, when it comes to seven figure budgets, there's a very reasonable expectation on the part of the investors to have a solid idea regarding the vision for the film.
Ultimately, as a first-timer, it would be foolish for me to not do everything I can to show potential producers what my vision is for this film.

signorre direttore

Sunday, August 07, 2005

No mas

I'm sure Roberto Duran made it further than round two when he uttered his famous surrender, but I won't be making the family picnic today for round three of my high school reunion. Enough is enough. The picnic host fondled my derriere and threatened further assaults should I complain too loudly. He may well have been joking, but he's off his rocker. I watched him demonstrating the obscure form of martial arts he studies to some other classmate later in the evening. Too much money isn't good for you. Keith Reddin writes in Brutality of Fact - If you have money, it's eccentricity. Since I know this fellow has never worked a day in his life as well having sat around the dinner table with his kooky clan many times, I'm calling a spade a spade - He's mentally ill.
He's not the only reason I'm begging off. I taught class yesterday morning, then went to a pig roast hosted by some college friends. (Whom, at large, I prefer to my high school friends.) I'm reserving my energy for Andrew and Susan's wedding this evening.
All was not miserable. I faced the fear that's been creeping up on me for the past few years. I let the discomfort exist without dulling the pain with evasion, intoxication or embellishment. I reconnected with a couple of great old friends that I was looking forward to seeing. One of whom's spouse is an organizer of the Bend Film Fest and knows my pal Andrew Dickson. Always a good thing when the good people in one's life have come together outside of your influence.
My wife has been working all weekend and I'm daddying in addition to all the other stresses.
We're off to see the penguins march.

Ciao bella,
Lincoln High Alumnus #92848y529

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Ultimate Folly

Last night was the reception for the twenty year reunion of my high school class.
I kept my mouth shut for the most part, but as I made my way through the evening I marvelled at how little I had to say to these people and my utter lack of nostalgic yearning. Gone were the intense feelings of inadequacy that were chronic in those days. Many quietly expressed their anxiety of being there in my ear. Which I shared absolutely. My tension however had more to do with the shame that I feel regarding who I was rather than who I've become. I've got further work to do as a human being, but I am pretty gosh darn proud of who I am, particularly in the face of who I once was.
I would venture to say it is my ultimate folly whenever I think I'm not good enough and seek to overcompensate. High school was the heyday of such insecurity to extremes that were more Abel Ferrara than John Hughes.
The night was light on fodder.
On the ride over my friend and I mentioned an old classmate. Divorced I'm sure, Dave surmised. Of course the supposed divorcee was one of the first I ran into. After telling him my vitals, he shared his - single, no kids. Oh, you're not divorced? He laughed, not knowing the extent of our predetermination, of course.
There was something else, but I've lost it for now.
Oh, it involved the same guy. He was across the room with a group of people that I was seeing at once now and twenty years in the past. Suddenly he put a cell phone to his ear and I was like, What's that?, for this millisecond.
A similiar thing occurred in Memphis about ten years ago. Peter and I were having breakfast in this downtown cafeteria that hadn't been painted since the 60s let alone remodeled. There was a burly maintenace man with a graying flattop and monochrome work clothes. I'm imagining the garbage strike and segregation, projecting an intense Dixie racism onto the fella when his beeper went off and catapulted me twenty-some years and a Constitutional amendment forward.

Tonight's the big night. I wish men still wore suits. Now when I wear a suit, people can't help but say - What's the occasion? I tried from 1991 to 1998 to endure and ignore such queries, but our casual culture wore me down.
I bring up the suit, because without it as an option I'm at a loss as to what to wear to appear both smart and casual without looking like I've given in to middle age nor trying to hold onto my youth. Maybe I'll dress like a cowboy.

Second to the folly of Bad Lieutenant insecurity in my life's history is the chronic skirt chasing for which I was notorious. Of the first hundred or so names in my black book, a good forty or so were present last night. Let's just say that I'm all too glad to be married and no longer subject to that insatiable master. Most of them I just want to give appropriate space, i.e. polite smiles as I slide past. And perhaps, given the opportunity, offer a sincere apology for my whirlwind antics in the past. There are a few fellas obviously on the prowl and I am so grateful for my immunity from the clutches of that cliche.

Could it be that I've grown up?
Il mio dio.

To quote myown Senior quote:
I was, I am and I now know I will be.

A river dertchee
Signore Neal A. Corl
Direttore di cine

Friday, August 05, 2005

FPS Folly and more

29.97 to 24 to 23.98 to 29.97 to 30 frames per second 2:3:3:2 pulldown AA BB CC EE AE

Somebody come over here and put me out of my mumbojumbo misery please.

Here's a link to a good article about the viability of DV as a prodcution resource.
It's a little outdated, but the core of the info remains vital.

I gleefully cancelled my subscription to Oregon Film Casting Society today.
I've yet to see a casting call that was not viewed earlier on Craig'sList or the Oregonian call board.
My just in case continuation was resolved by my decision to return to my hiatus from acting and to excuse myself from playing politics in the local scene.

Let me say it loud, let me say it proud: I am not an actor!

There are those actors as well as aspects of the craft and process that I adore, but I am a director.
And that's that.

No more hyphens!


Last Days

I walked downtown, over the Hawthorne Bridge, last night to go see Last Days. It was a beautiful night. My old friend Peter arrived from New York on his motorcycle and it was great to walk and talk with him.
I missed Last Days while it was still up at Cinema 21. Regal Cinemas is vile. The advertising for NBC television and their inane in-house entertainment news program The Twenty is maddening. If I wanted to suffer that shite I would stay home and watch the little screen.
Fox Tower may be the place to see art house cinema in Portland, but the quality of the prints, projections and the projector noise from the projection booths is maddening. I had to leave a screening there the other week due to a serious focus issue that went unresolved after multiple complaints. The other sheep sat there squinting in the dark.
Gus Van Sant's latest film has been regaled as visionary and masterful. While viewing I had to struggle to stay awake. Boring doesn't equal bad, however. Thank goodness some critics out there proclaimed its genius, otherwise I might have given up on it. In spite of my attention to filmmaking as an artform, I did come of age and still live in this culture of Hollywood fare. Taylord Hackford's bios of musicians go in one eye and out the other, leaving no aftertaste, but they do meet my expectations of sensational storytelling.
Last Days avoided the sentimental grid that Kurt Cobain's life could easily chart -- the abandoned young daughter, the megalomaniacal wife, the hordes of flannel clad fanatics and worshippers. Instead, Van Sant stages the quietest of passion plays. Aside from a trite confrontation by a record exec played by the stunning but wooden Kim Gordon, the daughter is excused from the manipulation of our heartstrings. We did not have to suffer Courtney. The band was in their own blur, avoiding the usual expository histrionics. Lukas Haas was genius, though a great deal of my praise is for his hipster Jerry Lewis specs.
Sentimentality and judgment were remarkably absent.
The camera did not linger on the tragic beauty of Blake/Kurt. Most of the time we saw only the curtain of his greasy locks. Michael Pitt played the physical life and murmurings of a doped genius perfectly.
The camera work was beautiful. Capturing the physical presence of Pitt, and to some degree Asia Argento, much like Wong Kar Wai's famous shots of women from behind as they lean forward, creating unique organic forms within the formal composition. The reworking of time through multiple perspectives courageously portayed the mundane nature of mental and spiritual disintegration. As Christ reportedly said upon his death, Many will be decieved.
Harmony Korrine's cameo was retarded. And the superimposition of Kurt/Blake's ascension was pushing it.
My viewing partner mused if the mumbling wasn't some sort of subtext indicating the lack of substance in Cobain's words.
Given Gus Van Sant's prediliction for beautiful young men and youth culture, I sincerely doubt that.

Trying hard not to decieve,

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Some wonderful kismet was in the air yesterday.

#1 - When showing Polar to a friend and fellow filmmaker he noted that perhaps the visual problem (in an otherwise nice little piece of filmmaking) was a frame rate issue. And therefore solvable. Hurray!
Makes sense as my editing experience went on hiatus in 2003 before 24p DV hit the streets. I was excited to salvage the film as I decided after putting the film in a mailer to meet Monday's deadline for NWFVF that I didn't want to submit it due to the visual strobing and blurring.

#2 - Just after learning the problem was frame rate related, I received an email stating that the submission deadline has been extended two weeks.

#3 - Mike Cassidy called relating that Lit Agent Sandra Lucchese at the Gersh Agency loved Original Glory and will be in contact soon.

#3 was kismet in the sense that I really need to stop sweating the small stuff and stay focused on the bigger picture. Since moving to Portland I've been somewhat obsessed with gaining status within the local scene. I've met some great local folks - Nick Peterson, Greg Schmitt, David Walker, among others. I've also met a lot of insecure, desperate wannabes that bring out all of my own wannabe sludge.
If I want to be a wannabe, I can always ignore where I'm at, no matter what I've acheived. Or I can want to be exactly where I'm at, celebrating the years of hard work that I've invested in getting to this juncture, and focus on the next task at hand, status be damned. Which is getting Original Glory ready for production. I'm sure as producers are attached further rewrites will be asked of me. Until then I'm taking my hands off the typewriter and picking up the megaphone.

It's a scary and exciting transition. I wrote the outline for OG in 1998. A one hundred and fifteen page prose treatment, fifty-four screenplay drafts and countless revisions later I can finally let go of the evolution of the story and begin to think of it in more realizable terms.

Polar as a title isn't working for me after all. Pretty really sums it up. Shari Menard's performance is stunning. She was in that Blazers spot last year playing Jenga with my man Andrew Dickson and ex-Blazer (officially as of this afternoon, functionally since two seasons ago) Derek Anderson. She totally disappeared in that scene. Well, she's not disappearing off the screen now.

Joey Boyd turns in a solid perf (-ormance - reading too much Variety) as well.

I'm thinking of postponing any more acting for the time being in order to concentrate on prepping OG.

signore direttore

Saturday, July 30, 2005


The short film I've been working on as Pretty is now known as Polar.
I'm nearly finished, the deadline for NWFVF is Monday.

There are some shots of the actors swinging at a playground. The angle I chose to shoot them and the speed that they're swinging presents some problems visually. I tried to chop it down to minimize the swing shots, but the story was weakened. I almost fell prey to putting the visual look first. Maybe it will make this short more polished looking, but I'm not going for polished in the long run. Especially at the expense of the story. I did a little digital blur effect to simulate more natural movement and had I not mentioned it, I'm not sure there would be any notice taken.
Takes courage to let things be and to trust that my best, provided it is my best, at any given time is good enough.

There's a little sidebar interview with Lalo Shifrin in The Oregonian A&E section's Film Freak.
He says he always tells himself whatever project he's working on is the best film in the world.
That seems wise. And nothing like an easy thing to do for someone like me.

Too often I'm lamenting what I didn't acheive as I'm cutting a film. As if it's the last film I'll ever make.

neal a. corl

La Gioia

Just returned from a film shoot. I had a small part as a detective. Really basic lines of dialogue and only half a page total for the one scene. I looked it over a couple of times and did not have much inspiration. It wasn't bad at all, just very plain jane. What I did have was a certain degree of confidence in my ability to be in the moment and have fun with it. The director and DP set up a cool shot and let us work. He told us what he liked and stayed pretty clear. Indeed my instincts kicked in -- we did a couple of takes, I found some good stuff, everybody laughed and said great job, I signed a release and said my goodbyes.
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I need to remind myself prior to such engagements that I have been asked to come down and contribute as an actor and nothing more. I am not a producer nor director nor any other of the myriad hats I wear at any given time on other projects.
To suit up, show up and shut up is a true joy.
I have nobody to resent, no remorse to suffer, no inventory to take. I can simply look forward to the news that the film is screening at some point in the near future.
This is the first time in a long time that it's been this clean.
I think I'm finally ready for a fresh start to clear the way for more inspired work on all fronts.
Thank goodness.

signore direttore

Sunday, July 24, 2005

200 or so hours later …

The 72-Hour Film shoot went reasonably well. We drew classic film as our genre and we decided that meant Film Noir. There is a poll on the Filmerica Challenge website listing Classic as the genre least hoped for by far.
I was unable to stay clear of writing duties. The writing corps failed to produce anything coherent by hour seven, so the director asked me to take charge. Half an hour later we had a rough draft. And home I went to a puking child that kept me up for the few precious hours remaining of the night.
Our rehearsal process was nil and the head writer that had been shoved aside was now the AD. We clashed. It was ugly. Then we moved on. I liked the improvisational nature of the acting as I used takes to discover the writing and the character and story. Aislinn, my co-lead was great. I was supposed to seduce her, but her actual boyfreind had been cast in a supporting role, so I found myself tentative with that objective at times. I didn't feel much light in my eyes and the camera always seemed very distant. When I saw the film later on, it was as I feared. Wide. Way too wide.
They used two cameras. My theory on two camera shoots is it makes filmmakers lazy. As an actor I don't know which camera to play to. Likely why TV acting is so broad and general. Two cameras might be cool for closeups, but the lighting takes so long, might as well just turn around. As a director I like one camera closeups so I can give actors that need more time off-camera duty. As an actor I like to work in an up tempo rhythm, so I love to go first on the closeups.
There were some folks I really enjoyed working on the project. Some grew on me, some wore on me. One woman in particular still occupies a bit of space in my brain. Overall, it was a good experience. It could have gone a lot worse.
It's screening next Sunday at the Hollywood Theater at 6:30pm. I have a deadline Monday for something else I'm working on, but if I'm not pressed I'll probably go see my mug on the big screen.

We finished Pretty this week as well. Joey and Shari did a great job. I'm logging and capturing the footage right now. A lot of good stuff. There's a few things I'm not crazy about, but overall it's going to be a fine little film.
My children were in it. They were great. Henry had a couple of lines. He hit his mark and delivered his lines very consistently. I was quite proud and amazed. I allotted a lot of time for them, but they were in and out. Good thing too, because we had another unexpected problem that cost a fair bit of time.
Sometime in the first part of the day, Jack hurt his back and left me to finish the film by myself with the actors and the sound guy. It was very exhausting, but I set out to work with a small crew. A very small crew.
As we wrapped that schoolyard location, the police arrived. There had been a complaint that it seemed as if I was shooting scantily clad women in front of the school for the opening of a porn film. Shari was hardly scantily clad. I laughed it off with the cop and went on my way.

I have a small part in David Walker's feature, Uncle Tom's Apartment, this weekend. A racist cop.
Hey did I ever tell you the one about the …

A river dertch.
Signore Direttore

Friday, July 15, 2005

72 hours from now …

I will have another completed film credit to my name. We recieve our instructions from on high as to what genre and other specifics we are to include in our project that must be postmarked by Monday.
I think I'm opposed to this manner of working, but I've decided to check it out to speak from experience rather than conjecture. I've signed on as the leading man, so the impact should be lessened. Truthfully, I see it mainly as an exercise in patience. That strikes me as quite ironic, since the time frame is so precisely limited. The team/crew is very inexperienced, though in my experience filmmaking, especially digital filmmaking, doesn't attract the humble. There's usually a great deal of posturing and self-assurance. I have to admit I've swaggered unjustifiably myself. Ho-hum.
I really like the director, Jack Dahl. He is actually quite humble and level-headed. I wouldn't have agreed to this were it not for Jack. I want him to have a good experience. Therefore I want to behave myself. I wish it weren't a concern. Though I suppose I'm grateful that I know it's a concern and that I won't be at the complete mercy of my character deficiencies.
I have but one job to do -- act.
My goal is to do that job without informing the director and writers of their ignorance at every juncture. What a pompous ass I can be!
I really, truly hope that I can refrain from contributing unless directly asked for my input. It's such a chore to chime in and judge and silently scorn.

I'm also in the midst of making a short film of my own called Pretty. I hope to complete by the August 1 deadline for the Northwest Film and Video Festival. It's going okay. I've chosen to work with a minimal crew. I think we're one person short for it to work effectively. We had some sound issues the other night that completely overwhelmed me. Delegating that next time around. I'm finding it conflicting to work efficiently, cinematically and to offer the actors freedom. I've been guilty of moving the actors around quite a bit as I'm trying to tell the story visually/in the cuts. It's a more commercial style, but the goal is to balance that with some masters and 2 shots where the actors have a lot of freedom. I love Cassavetes, but it's quite dull cinematically for the most part.

Got to go,

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fodder and Folly

I have been remiss in relating the fodder and folly of a filmmaker's quest for mastery. My apologies. Truthfully I have not experienced much in the way of folly. Though I am off to a rehearsal for a new short short that I've written and am directing. Pretty Trendy Boy meets Hard Core Girl -- The tender beginnings of an unlikely relationship. And I agreed to act in a 72-Hour film project as well as a small role in David Walker's latest digital feature. Oh, I'm meeting with a photographer for headshots later today. Acting is weird, actually I'm cool with acting, it's the being an actor that weirds me out. It continues to feel alien to me in spite of so many years with it. I do enjoy it. I did a scene from Annie Hall with an actor-student last night that was a lot of fun.
In terms of fodder, I saw Miranda July's film and was very impressed and moved. There's a girl that has a hope chest which reminded me of my hours with the Montgomery Ward catalog at the age of five, planning and preparing every detail of my someday family. I went to Pendleton and saw my paternal grandmother and my father. Yeah. Boy. That's quite a journey, well beyond the 200 road miles. Sure to be some fodder in there. I did have my father killed by my best friend in Original Glory.
I read somewhere that true art is never auto-biographical. Though Fellini was absolutely exploring himself in his films.
Back in the day cinephiles and moviegoers divided between Fellini and Antonioni. I see the differences clearly, but love them both. My clear choices have yet to emerge. Favorite is an impossible prospect for me to consider. I might venture to say red is my favorite color, but I'd hate to commit to that. There's a lot of great colors out there.
You know Jung was in his seventies before he was able to extend the hand of friendship to himself.
Hopefully I'll live that long.

signore direttore

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Il operaio fra gli operai

I believe that translates as the worker among workers. I'm fully prepared for it to be idiomatically incorrect as I do not admit to being fluent in Italian (nor English for that matter).

When I began this blog a few long weeks ago, I considered the fodder and folly to be wholly external. It was the world that was presenting annoying commonplace obstacles to the realization of my genius. Don't think for a minute that that arrogance is lost on me. Though it was entirely lost on me until very recently, a gross shortcoming for which I am trying to humbly account. I can't tell you exactly what happened, let's just say as I bent over the pond I couldn't stir the water in such a way or tilt my head to get the reflection I needed, so I took a lingering glance at what was really there. I didn't like what I saw and I acknowledged that it wasn't the first time that I saw such utter selfishness.

Rather than a complete retreat, to which I've consigned my life many times, I decided to stand firm and face truth's reckoning. I must not be seduced by the thought that this was some white light transformation, the flicking of a switch between dark and light. It is rather a reostat, moving from the dark to the dim. Dim to the solipsistic is very bright indeed. In the dimness, I see not a self-centered vision of, "Ain't in grand the wind stopped blowing", to genuine faith that, though I have but a tiny idea of the true brightness I seek, trudging forth will slowly bring a luminosity heretofore unimaginaed.

The lofty prose is befitting. Deal with it. Please. I would appreciate your patience. I need to learn patience. I need to learn a lot of things. Principally that I don't know everything. That you have something to teach me. Fellini learned from Rossellini. He wrote for him and even acted in The Miracle. My initial thought is that I too must find a worthy master to whom I will apprentice. Not a bad thought, but with what amounts to a fairly pessimistic outlook, I'm not sure anyone but a legend would suffice. Problematic to be sure. If I change my perspective ever so slightly, I could perhaps recognize that Fellini likely made the world his master and learned from it with true genius as is evidenced in his most humanistic work. So how did an ogre like me choose Fellini?

Admittedly, I simply like the way Finding Fellini sounds. I think the term Felliniesque, like surreal, is a giggle in its overuse. I absolutely admire the truth of his discovery and reconciliation of the external and the internal. His images are brilliant. Maybe too there's a humanist inside this oversized bulk of flesh. I hope so.

Yesterday I worked on a commercial as an actor. I fought symptoms of sabotage along the way. I managed to avoid it this time. On so many film sets, I have either disappeared or been the crazy-maker, judging the skills, talent and efficiency of all. I went into this one eager to have the experience. The experience of being a principal on a low-budget, though national, commercial. Of working in Portland. Of being directed by someone that did not initially impress me. (Who turns out share my exact birthday, August 23, 1967)
Of being a worker among workers.

Here's out it went. I showed up on time. I found the AD and said hello to the client, director and producers. I went to wardrobe. They weren't ready for me so I went out to set. I said hello to the DP, to whom I am acquianted. He was chilly and I couldn't help but think it had to do with me. He couldn't possibly be stressed and preoccupied with the task of shooting a commercial. I sat and chatted with the craft services girl about Glasgow, where my wife was born and this girl had lived for six years. I saw the lead actress arrive with Starbuck's for the director, producer and client. I saw her act like a star. I stopped myself from voicing my disdain out loud. I got called to wardrobe. I hated the initial options. I made a face to the director. A face that said, not my choice, but whatever you want. It was a tight sleeveless number that made me look like a "bear" marching in the gay pride parade. Remember Philip Seymour Hoffman's shirt in Boogie Nights? I was glad the client didn't like it. I changed clothes in front of the client. I let myself be looked at. It was the wardrobe they were judging. I was clear on that. But it didn't come easy, I have to admit. We did our blocking. I liked the woman playing my wife. She was a good actress. I worked with her. I acknowledged her talent and let it support me. Again I'm afraid I must admit that my first inclination was to assert my talent. I judged a lot of things. I fought myself a lot. But I put a good face on it for a change. It felt good to be a professional. And I didn't have to lurk about announcing it all goddamn day like the surly prick I've almost always been in the past.

I have an audition for a student film at the Art Institute today. A short. A zombie short, no less. Can you believe it?

I'm still waiting for somebody to pinch me.

Ciao amici,