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