Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

A very eventful year has come to a close. I learned a lot this year and end the year a better man than I started it.
This past week has been a real joy. Christmas morning with the family, of course. Had the week off. Went to see some films (Volver +++++ Little Children ++++ Eragon phtwww) and out for meals with friends and family. Sold some more equipment and bought a new HD camera. Wrote the final twenty-five pages on a new script in the past three days. Had two very illuminating and encouraging meetings about an upcoming project. Even made it to the gym.
It's been a great week to close out a tough, but wonderful year.

I'm feeling rested and ready for all that 2007 has in store for us.

signore direttore

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Master Says 107

I run on the road, long before I dance under the lights.

Muhammad Ali

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Master Says 106

The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.

Che Guevara

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A New Year's Resolution

This is who I want to be:

Me: I'm trying something new.
World: Aren't you scared?
Me: Yeah, ain't it great!

I want to fall on my ass and my face and learn to laugh about it.

I'm starting now by admitting that I'm scared.

Okay. The cat's out of the bag: I'm afraid.

Signore Direttore

The Master Says 105

I've been terrified every day of my life but that's never stopped me from doing everything I wanted to do.

Georgia O'Keefe

The Master Says 104

I also wanted to express the strength of cinema to hide reality, while being entertaining. Cinema can fill in the empty spaces of your life and your loneliness.

Pedro Almodovar

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Master Says103

Where have I come from? What am I doing here? What is it that I mean to achieve?

Konstantin Stanislavsky

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Not Letting It Pass Me By

I have been a little anxious today as I always am around the holidays. I know I am not uniquely affected by the chaos, excitement, expectations and memories that come with Christmas. Each year I try to keep it more and more simple.

We had no last minute shopping to do. No party obligations. No extended family commitments.

I did some organizing - cleaned off my dresser, emptied some boxes of papers, put a piece of gear up for auction on eBay, cleaned up the spaghetti of cables and wires under the edit suite, wrapped a few gifts, watched football and took a nap.

I also put together the cutest little red tricycle. I did it this morning so as not to put it off until after the kids were in bed. I try to avoid that dad putting toys together until late on Christmas Eve cliche as much as possible. I realized that this little trike might be around for a while and that I'd only get to put it together once. I told myself not to let the moment pass me by. Everything shifted quite a bit after that. I was really doing what I was doing. It brought a moment of joy and peace to my day.

Merry Christmas,


Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Master Says 102

Here I am trying to live, or rather, I am trying to teach the death within me how to live.

Jean Cocteau

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Master Says 101

It must be the colors
And the kids
That keep me alive
'Cause the music is boring me to death

Cat Power

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Master Says 100

Filmmakers should think less and use their imaginations more.

Alexander Mackendrick

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Master Says 099

Watch and listen.

Robert Altman

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Master Says 098

To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it his dedication.

Marlon Brando

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Master Says 097

When I grow up, I still want to be a director.

Steven Spielberg

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Master Says 096

I like to write when I feel spiteful; it's like having a good sneeze.

D.H. Lawrence

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Master Says 095

The job is to ask questions - it always was - and to ask them as inexorably as I can. And to face the absence of precise answers with a certain humility.

Arthur Miller

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Master Says 094

Every man is born as many men and dies as a single one.

Martin Hiedegger

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Five and Out

The time has come for me to end my five year career as an acting coach. Last night was the final class at the studio. I've decided to quit teaching in order to have more time and energy for other areas of my life. We went out with a month of very solid on-camera scene study. The past weeks have been very satisfying, allowing me to leave something which I've labored over and loved on a high note. The disappointment and surprise of the actor-students was humbling.
I thought of all the faces and personalities that have drifted through my studios over the past years as I cleaned out the storage closet and scrubbed the floor last night. I remembered the challenges and the laughs as well as the struggles and triumphs I witnessed and experienced over the years. I've grown as a person and as an artist as a result. I've gained some small measure of humility if only in the realization that I don't have to be all things to all people. Letting go of another hyphen in my occupation bio is a big step toward getting right-sized.
They say to teach is to learn a thing twice. My goal was never to be a better actor, but I do believe that all the things that make an actor better at his craft make him a better human being. I can say with confidence that I've done my best to show many the way toward making that a possiblilty in their lives. For everything that came to pass, both good and bad, it was my sincere effort at being present and truthful and that's always good enough. For that I am grateful.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Folk Wisdom 023

Don´t cry because it´s over, smile because it happened.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Master Says 093

I write scripts to serve as skeletons awaiting the flesh and sinew of images.

Ingmar Bergman

The Master Says 092

There is no art in confusion.

Isaac Bashevis Singer

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Master Says 091

The hardest thing to learn is how to correct what's wrong without harming what's good.

Dede Allen

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Master Says 090

The present and the past coexist, but the past shouldn't be in flashback.

Alain Resnais

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Master Says 089

A Little shoeshine boy never gets low down
But he's got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin' low at the peoples' feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street
Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How'd he keep from gettin' the blues
He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
A jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine
It'll shake all the trouble from your worried mind
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Johnny Cash

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Master Says 088

Movie directors, or should I say people who create things, are very greedy and they can never be satisfied, ... That's why they can keep on working. I've been able to work for so long because I think next time, I'll make something good.

Akira Kurosawa

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Master Says 087

In theater, action is apt to be less a physical activity than a confrontation between characters, where the story progresses because of conflicts of personalities and verbal exchanges.
In film, what is happening now is likely to be less dramatically interesting than the action that may - or may not - be about to happen.

Alexander Mackendrick

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Altman Interview


The Stop Smiling Interview with Robert Altman

By James Hughes

Midway through Robert Altman’s 1975 film Nashville, a bemused BBC reporter played by Geraldine Chaplin infiltrates the house party of Haven Hamilton, the crown jewel of Nashville’s music royalty. Regarding her majestic surroundings — a lush, tree-lined estate that looks more like a roadside stop from Wild Strawberries than the backwoods of Tennessee — Chaplin flatters her host by comparing the scene to a slice of Sweden’s premier auteur. “Bergman,” she cries. “Pure, unadulterated Bergman!” Taking one final glance at the locals — a honky-tonk group already tipsy on Jack Daniels — she revises her statement. “Of course the people are all wrong for Bergman, aren’t they?”

This small exchange, typically buried in a sound track dense with overlapping dialogue, encapsulates the essence of Robert Altman. His films have a European sensibility that echoes both the grandeur and the interior anguish of Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini. But the characters Altman chooses to occupy these arenas are quintessentially American. Faithful to his ever expanding stable of actors (Shelly Duvall, Michael Murphy, Lily Tomlin and Elliott Gould among them) Altman explores the lives of real people living in the forgotten recesses of a country often misrepresented by an overexposure of the two coasts. For over 50 years, Altman has created a cinematic landscape that stems from the heartland and branches out to every corner of the map: from the hazy Southwestern sprawl of California Split and 3 Women, through the clutter of Texas (Brewster McCloud and Dr. T and the Women) and quaintness of Kansas City, all the way up the bustling eastern seaboard, where the fictional presidential candidate Jack Tanner shamelessly canvassed for votes in ’88.

Robert Altman was born in Kansas City in 1925. After serving overseas in World War II, he returned to the Midwest and worked on industrial films for the Calvin Co. of Kansas City, eventually landing in the director’s chair for television series as diverse as “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Bonanza.” With the success of MASH in 1970, Altman was tossed the keys to Hollywood’s most coveted projects, but chose instead to champion more personal films. Despite his continuous critical acclaim, he remains in the distinguished company of Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese and King Vidor — all Best Director nominees shut out five times by the Academy. But Altman seems unaffected by the allure of awards, and even more so by the demands and labels of the press. As Philip Marlowe would mumble in Altman’s exquisite adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, “It’s okay with me.”

Fresh off a rebirth from Gosford Park in 2002, which catapulted him back into the public eye with the same force as The Player in 1991, Altman has recently seen some of his greatest unreleased works preserved on DVD, and he now embraces digital technology. His last two features — The Company and the just-wrapped A Prairie Home Companion — were shot on high-definition video. And, as Altman reveals from his well-equipped production office in Midtown Manhattan, he’s not surprised to see film become a thing of the past.

Stop Smiling: The film that you’ve just wrapped, A Prairie Home Companion, isn’t a documentary about the making of Garrison Keillor’s radio show, it’s a narrative that uses the show and its theater as a setting?

Robert Altman: Yes, it’s a drama about the demise of the radio show. The penultimate scene has Kevin Kline at the piano while the stage is being demolished.

SS: How was it working with Garrison Keillor?

RA: It was pretty good. It was tough on him — he’s been in charge for 30 years. This is the first time he’s done anything in which he is the content. And he’s always dealt in radio, so I had to put pictures up there. I have to give the audience something to look at. We could’ve shot the Keillor picture anywhere, but it was easier for all of us to shoot it in St. Paul, because that’s where it was based, and that stuff rubs off on you. It really rubs off on the people who live there and perform there. But we never left — we had two locations: a diner, which we shot in one night, and the rest of the time was all in the Fitzgerald Theater. We get a lot of cooperation in a city like St. Paul, because it’s a novelty to them, and they’re all very nice when you go to those small towns and small venues.

SS: Paul Thomas Anderson was brought on to be your back-up director. Did that work well?

RA: Yes. He was with me all the time. He’s a good friend of mine. I’m 80 years old. So they don’t insure me. On Gosford Park, which was the first time I did this, Stephen Frears was my stand-in. That’s all an insurance issue.

SS: How did you and P.T. Anderson meet?

RA: I’ve known Paul since he started, and he’s always been very generous about the origins of his work. Paul agreed to do it, which surprised and thrilled me. His girlfriend, Maya Rudolph, who was pregnant, was in the film as well. So that made things easier. It worked out well.

SS: There’s such a lack of regionalism in American entertainment today. You seem to be one of the few filmmakers who sets their films in smaller cities.

RA: I also try not to make all my films in Canada, and create that city that doesn’t exist anywhere. It’s dreadful what some filmmakers do. Most of my films I call arena films. I deal with a confined area — an arena — and I try to cover every aspect of it.

SS: You’ve had films set in larger cities like Los Angeles, but even then it’s treated almost like an alien environment.

RA: I’ve lived in New York for about 30 years, and I still meet people today who say, “Oh, you’re a Hollywood director.” That’s strange, because I’ve hardly ever made a film in that mold. I’ve never really been a New York director, either. That kind of mafia that runs New York, I never wanted to participate in that. As for Los Angeles, The Long Goodbye and California Split used that arena. Short Cuts was strictly L.A. I usually find that I don’t do road pictures; I need to have a cultural and geographical perimeter. Maybe that’s just the way I organize my thoughts, I need to contain them and contain my environment. Most of the time, it’s whatever interests me, whatever gets my attention at the time. It always ends up as the result of finding the right arena to do the film I’ve got in mind to do. The arena becomes a big part of it, because it fills the big part of it. I’ve done a lot pictures in small towns in the South. When you go to a unique area, I can do more with the stuff they have there. We try to use their culture, their colors, their music, their pride and prejudices.

SS: When the auteur theory came about in the mid-’60s, were you keeping an eye on how that movement was being shaped in the film journals overseas and then imported to the United States?

RA: I was focused on what I was doing and wanted to do. I was trying to make my own career and my own life’s work. Anything I felt helped in that area, I was interested in.

SS: Did the awakening of film writers and their duels in the press — Andrew Sarris battling Pauline Kael, for example — hold your attention at all?

RA: Pauline was a big help to me. She didn’t like a lot of my films. And when Pauline didn’t like my films, I didn’t like Pauline. When she did, I thought she was a genius. At times, I’d say, “What’s Kael going to think of this? What’s Judith Crist going to think of this?” The same is true today, because critics are the first press that you have to represent your work.

SS: So you took initial steps to guarantee that Kael would see your work early?

RA: Oh, yeah. She saw Nashville early. She jumped her deadline at The New Yorker, which helped cause a stir for the film. That was a controversy in itself. What she saw was the finished picture, although the story has it that what she saw was about three hours longer. There was some editing done on the picture since she saw it, but it was just tweaks. The critics were a force in the ’70s, but then the studio heads disappeared, so the filmmakers really were in charge. We could do pretty much what we wanted. I made Brewster McCloud at MGM — they couldn’t release it and they just dumped it, but the fact that it even got made is miraculous. Originally that script was terrible, and we reinvented it as we shot it. For me, the story has never been a concern. I like to literally save the idea, in a funny way. But at that time, I was being offered big, big movies, because it followed right after MASH. I said I didn’t want to make anything like that. I took a really low-budget project instead. I’ve done that all my life. If something works for you, you continue to do it. I did a bunch of pictures for 20th Century Fox when Alan Ladd was over there, but I set the budgets so low that they’d approve and I’d deliver the film. They would have no say in it, which is the kind of arrangement I liked.

SS: Was it your background in television and industrial films that kept you distanced from the theoretical side of filmmaking?

RA: I think it kept me more eclectic, in terms of venue and all that. I was always interested in shooting in places that I’d never been to before, and trying to use their assets. I find it hard to repeat myself, or consciously repeat myself. I can’t tell you how many times I was offered to do another MASH. I would always ask why. There was one, and that’s what I did. I despise the television show, because I think it was thematically the opposite of what the film was. For 12 years, it was about an Asian war. The enemy, no matter how you want to cut it or what platitudes you say, was always the guy with brown skin and narrow eyes.

SS: Were you constantly harassed during the reign of the show?

RA: I remember at my mother’s funeral, all of the ladies in the neighborhood in Kansas City baked some stuff. Afterward they caught me in the kitchen and said, “Oh, Mr. Altman. That MASH, we just love that.” I just said, “Oh, well. Thank you very much.” But they never saw what I did.

SS: When you were younger and watching films, did you keep track of directors and follow their releases?

RA: People have asked me throughout the years which directors have influenced me. I don’t know their names, because I was mostly influenced when I’d see a film and think, “Man, I want to be sure to never do anything like that.” So I never learned their names. It wasn’t a matter of copying or emulating somebody I admired. It was getting rid of a lot of stuff. I was impressed and affected by Bergman and Fellini and Kurosawa. My film Images was a big nod to Bergman, to Persona particularly. My whole sense of Kurosawa was light coming through trees, like in Rashomon. That film in particular was a favorite of mine. I liked a lot of the Italian films, some of the French. It went in circles — the British films were terrific for a while. There doesn’t seem to be room for everybody. Somebody comes in and occupies the art market, as I suppose it would be called, and then another group takes over.

SS: You once said, “The artist and the multitude are natural enemies.” How can you then explain working in so many popular mediums, like television, film, theater and opera?

RA: Opera cannot be considered a popular medium, and theater can hardly be, either. And most films can’t be. Television is still a popular medium. Movies are finished, aren’t they?

SS: You don’t just mean the steady decline of the box office?

RA: Just the general quality or character of the films being made. The marketing has always been to 14-year-old males. That’s one audience I’ve never had, or ever will have. Maybe it’s generational, maybe it’s just all past me and I don’t know it. But I just don’t see any films — or filmmakers, for that matter — coming along that interest me. I find the style of the films so silly. I’m surprised filmmakers can get away with all this. The corniness of most of these things — anyone who can even do it astonishes me.

SS: So it isn’t as much apathy from the audiences, it’s the fault of the filmmakers themselves?

RA: Well, no, the filmmakers are pushing themselves. It’s what they can get done, and now it’s all marketing. It went from the studio bosses ordering certain kinds of films to be made. Then the writers and filmmakers took over in the ’70s. The studio bosses disappeared. Then in the ’80s the agents started taking over. That was okay for a while. Then the marketing and advertising people took over, and now I don’t know who’s calling the shots. I don’t know any of the people who run the studios anymore. It’s pointless. What would I have to say to them anyway? We’re not in the same business. There’s no point in even getting in the same room together.

SS: Are you happy to reach an audience through whatever medium you can?

RA: When you go into opera and theater, you know you’re going into a limited stage, but it’s also a specialized stage. I don’t have to worry about the teenage boys anymore. But now we have a general level of intelligence in America that is considerably lower than it was 30 years ago. We’ve been dumbed down to a point where maybe some positive things will come around again, but I don’t even understand what they market as films these days. How do they do it? As I say, it’s probably me. I’m probably so out of touch with what’s going on.

SS: If there were a more thriving creative community in America, would film be the medium you would want to reach it through?

RA: Any kind of theater. Film is videotape now. There’s no need to use film anymore. You can use film to shoot your original material, and that film can be destroyed right after that, because it’s transferred to digital. At the end, when the digital is all dealt with, it’s put back to film. But that’s not the original film. The whole point of having to use film is because of the equipment that exists, and the egos of most of the artists, the cinematographers. If you took the top 10 cinematographers and I called them up, they’d say, “I’d love to work with you.” Then I’d say I wanted to shoot in high-def and they’d all say, “Oh, I don’t do that.” Well, why don’t they do that? It’s because they’ve made a big reputation by their manipulation of film. But film is just a medium. The picture that you see and the picture I see — how it gets from my mind to you, it’s of no consequence. It shouldn’t even be in the terms of discussion. I couldn’t have shot the Keillor picture, or The Company — the last two films I’ve made — on anything other than high-def. We shot Tanner on Tanner on regular video. We didn’t even get into high-def. The quality of the high-def can’t be beat. We were in this theater in St. Paul the whole time, and if you walked in there, you would not know that there was a motion picture going on, because you wouldn’t see any lights. You’d see a lot of cameras and cranes, but you wouldn’t see any lights.

SS: You’ve been burned more than anyone else by the effects of film deterioration — McCabe & Mrs. Miller being the obvious example. At the time you were making that film, it would’ve no doubt horrified you to think that, just a short time later, the original camera negative would be in such jeopardy.

RA: I was just on the edge of it. All of my films had been saved. There was a point when most of my films were not saved and couldn’t be, primarily because nobody knew who owned the negatives. It was only recently — because of Martin Scorsese and his film preservation efforts, along with a few things connected with some universities — where we went back and saved the films. They then go right onto video. But otherwise, if it hadn’t been for those efforts, you couldn’t see more than 10 of my films.

SS: As a format, DVD seems to be a particular lifesaver for you. Last year was a great year, in terms of previously unavailable films resurfacing. We saw Tanner ’88, Secret Honor, California Split and 3 Women.

RA: Oh, I know. And a lot of them weren’t out because of music clearances, or certain copyright problems. We had to make adjustments. The cost of the music track on California Split was so high that Columbia just couldn’t put it into video or DVD. That kept it out of circulation for years. Finally, Elliott Gould went in to find out why they weren’t releasing it. When they told him it was because of the music, he said, “Isn’t there something we can do about that?” So I made some cuts and took a couple of songs out. We got it into what they considered a reasonable budget. The picture wasn’t hurt by it. And that’s out now. It doesn’t make any difference, the quality of these things. It’s as good as anyone sees them. Most people see every film on a tiny screen. For me to go sit in a nice projection room and look at a screen where I get to move my head to see the full picture, that almost doesn’t exist anymore.

SS: Or it exists on a level where you almost don’t want to participate?

RA: Well, you just don’t have the opportunity that often. On Prairie Home Companion, we ran tests right off the bat. We took the tests down to a big art center in Minneapolis and ran the footage on an enormous screen. It’s breathtaking. But it’s hardly a big issue, because few people will see it under those circumstances. It’s a shame — although television is getting bigger and better, and screens are now a decent size. But you can’t just do a beautiful shot for the sake of making a beautiful shot. It no longer can really overwhelm.

SS: You certainly seized that opportunity when you had the chance. For example, on a film like The Long Goodbye, with its post-flashing of the negative, which led to stellar results.

RA: The flashing was a different kind of conceit. We were trying to not make Los Angeles look so pretty. We used a fog filter to destroy the image. Now the thing is to make everything as sharp as possible. But times change, tastes change. Eventually, people will see enough of that and want to start distressing the image. Already, the big problem is that it’s too sharp on too many plains. But I don’t think I would go back to film. Especially in the two years it took between The Company and this film, the technology has jumped 200 percent. Cameras don’t have to be the same size they used to be. They can just take a different card and put it in existing equipment and that upgrades it. When they get the equipment packaged down to the size of a Kodak box, the possibilities will really open.

SS: Would you steer younger filmmakers toward digital technology and encourage them to keep their eyes on the developments of high-definition video?

RA: Absolutely. Most of them do it, because it’s cheaper. But mainly they’re misinformed about film, and misinformed by their cinematographers, because these guys have made their reputation with film — they don’t want to just suddenly throw that out. But that’s always been the way. I remember when television started, and it was the first time Russell Metty and some of the other big cinematographers had to go over and do television. Oh, man, that was tough for them. “What do you mean, do a show in five days?” they’d say. It was degrading.

SS: What held your interest when you were younger, growing up in Kansas City? Were you tapped into the jazz scene?

RA: Yes, I was. I lived in Kansas City until I was 18 years old, then I went on to the Second World War. I came back and worked there for a little while. Early on, jazz was a big influence on me. We had a black maid who worked in our household. She helped take care of me. I remember she sat me down on a hassock in the living room and said, “Now, Bobby. You sit down here and you listen to this, because this is the best music there ever will be.” It was Duke Ellington’s “Solitude.” It was the first time I became aware of it, and the world that surrounded the music.

SS: How was your reception when you went back to your hometown to make the film Kansas City?

RA: They weren’t very impressed. Jesus never made it in his hometown, either, you know? I don’t know what that is. But after I’m dead and gone, they’ll laud me, all the people who don’t know me and wouldn’t have liked what I did. Kansas City, they hated that. I went back there and made a black picture and they didn’t approve.

SS: Was the starting point for the film an attempt to explore the jazz world?

RA: It was the time period, and the music — the pre-bebop time period. I was there then, and I used to go down to clubs when I was 14. They would sit me up in the balcony, or find some place for me. I had a couple friends, and we’d spend hours and hours in those places. It was a milieu we weren’t exposed to in any other way. But those musicians played at our high school dances and our proms and all that. We didn’t know their names, but we probably had big-name jazz players right in front of us.

SS: When you were discovering movies and jazz, did you have to go to those venues surreptitiously?

RA: The general group of people I went to school with didn’t do those types of things. A few of us would take off and ride the streetcar downtown and go to those joints, which were all in the same area. My friends and I became known, and these musicians were very generous and would allow us in.

SS: You’ve had that approach as well with your films, allowing people to participate and watch dailies with you.

RA: That was in the old days. We don’t do that anymore. Dailies don’t exist anymore now that we shoot high-def video. We shoot so much footage now that it would take too long to see it. It’s the thing I miss the most.

SS: When you assemble a large cast, as you so often do, do you rely heavily on a casting director?

RA: I never work with casting directors. There’s a person I use in New York now. There have been times when I’ve used them, but primarily I put the cast together. Rarely have I read people for roles. I have people in mind, and then we rewrite their part to fit that particular actor.

SS: Do your choices stem from personal connections to people?

RA: Yeah, or people I see. I just figure someone will be good for a particular part, or a particular kind of movie. Or some will get a movie made for you, so I talk myself into liking them. But in almost all cases they’ve enjoyed the experiences — I’ve got no actor complaints.

SS: Because of the freedom you give them?

RA: I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my good judgment. There can’t be a lot of freedom, because they come onto the set and I say, “We’re shooting this scene, where do you stand? Where do you sit?” It’s organized. But they are collaborators, and that’s what they became actors to do in the first place. Even if they realize that they’re stuck, they realize that everybody else is stuck, too. They’ll do their best to help everybody climb out of that hole.

SS: You produced a few films for other filmmakers, and certainly your former production company, Lion’s Gate, was an attempt to broaden the reach of other filmmakers. Was producing too much of a departure for you?

RA: I didn’t want to force my artistic views on anybody else. If I’m going to do that, why have them there? And these were their projects. It doesn’t give me much gratification. There was a time where I was trying to be a mogul, I guess. It was no fun. The only time I ever fired an actor was for Robert Benton, who I produced a picture for called The Late Show. I had to step in and do it, because he wouldn’t do it. Bob said, “I have an actor I need to get rid of.” Suddenly I realized that’s what my job was. I’ve never done that in my own films. There were times when I should have, but I just didn’t. I always made the films out of the material I gathered together. I figured that’s the DNA of the film, so I would stick with it.

SS: For all the actors you’ve worked with on a regular basis, is it a painful process when one particular actor falls out of favor, or if there’s simply never another role that comes along that suits them?

RA: There’s a lot of pain connected to it, because actors by nature think they can do anything. And they’re right. But then everything else has to change. But I’ve found that I use people over and over again. If I see someone in a picture and I like their work, I go right to them.

SS: What about when you’re not able to go back to certain names and certain friends — if you can’t quite find that right match for them?

RA: I don’t know that that’s happened. Lily Tomlin, I hadn’t worked with before this last picture for a long time. Everybody else on the Prairie Home Companion picture was new to me. There were several people there that I’d like to work with again, and probably will. The question is, how much longer am I going to be able to work? Eventually we give up the ghost.

SS: Retirement not being an option?

RA: No, retirement not being an option. But stopping working being a reality, probably.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Master Says 087

There is a popular misconception that film-makers have to look to Hollywood to be commercially successful but this is how we have been conditioned.

Mike Leigh

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Master Says 086

It's always the cast. As you pull a layer off, you realize they are really courageous, really gutsy...I admire them for what they bring to me (and) to the audience.

Robert Altman

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Master Says 085

There's no point in making a movie just to be making a movie.

Warren Beatty

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Master Dies

"Retirement? You're talking about death, right?"
Robert Altman

His obit from Variety:

Helmer Robert Altman dies
Cause of death not disclosed

Robert Altman, the caustic and irreverent satirist behind "M-A-S-H," "Nashville" and "The Player" who made a career out of bucking Hollywood management and story conventions, died at a Los Angeles Hospital, his Sandcastle 5 Productions Company said Tuesday. He was 81.

The director died Monday night, Joshua Astrachan, a producer at Altman's Sandcastle 5 Productions in New York City, told The Associated Press.

The cause of death wasn't disclosed. A news release was expected later in the day, Astrachan said.

A five-time Academy Award nominee for best director, most recently for 2001's "Gosford Park," he finally won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2006.

"No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have," Altman said while accepting the award. "I'm very fortunate in my career. I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition."

Altman had one of the most distinctive styles among modern filmmakers. He often employed huge ensemble casts, encouraged improvisation and overlapping dialogue and filmed scenes in long tracking shots that would flit from character to character.

Perpetually in and out of favor with audiences and critics, Altman worked ceaselessly since his anti-war black comedy "M-A-S-H" established his reputation in 1970, but he would go for years at a time directing obscure movies before roaring back with a hit.

After a string of commercial duds including "The Gingerbread Man" in 1998, "Cookie's Fortune" in 1999 and "Dr. T & the Women" in 2000, Altman took his all-American cynicism to Britain for 2001's "Gosford Park."

A combination murder-mystery and class-war satire set among snobbish socialites and their servants on an English estate in the 1930s, "Gosford Park" was Altman's biggest box-office success since "M-A-S-H."

Besides best-director, "Gosford Park" earned six other Oscar nominations, including best picture and best supporting actress for both Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith. It won the original-screenplay Oscar, and Altman took the best-director prize at the Golden Globes for "Gosford Park."

Altman's other best-director Oscar nominations came for "M-A-S-H," the country-music saga "Nashville" from 1975, the movie-business satire "The Player" from 1992 and the ensemble character study "Short Cuts" from 1993. He also earned a best-picture nomination as producer of "Nashville."

No director ever got more best-director nominations without winning a regular Oscar, though four other men — Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Clarence Brown and King Vidor — tied with Altman at five.

In May, Altman brought out "A Prairie Home Companion," with Garrison Keillor starring as the announcer of a folksy musical show — with the same name as Keillor's own long-running show — about to be shut down by new owners. Among those in the cast were Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson and Tommy Lee Jones.

"This film is about death," Altman said at a May 3 news conference in St. Paul, Minn., also attended by Keillor and many of the movie's stars.

He often took on Hollywood genres with a revisionist's eye, de-romanticizing the Western hero in 1971's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and 1976's "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson," the film-noir gumshoe in 1973's "The Long Goodbye" and outlaw gangsters in "Thieves Like Us."

"M-A-S-H" was Altman's first big success after years of directing television, commercials, industrial films and generally unremarkable feature films. The film starring Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould was set during the Korean War but was Altman's thinly veiled attack on U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

"That was my intention entirely. If you look at that film, there's no mention of what war it is," Altman said in an Associated Press interview in 2001, adding that the studio made him put a disclaimer at the beginning to identify the setting as Korea.

"Our mandate was bad taste. If anybody had a joke in the worst taste, it had a better chance of getting into the film, because nothing was in worse taste than that war itself," Altman said.

The film spawned the long-running TV sitcom starring Alan Alda, a show Altman would refer to with distaste as "that series." Unlike the social message of the film, the series was prompted by greed, Altman said.

"They made millions and millions of dollars by bringing an Asian war into Americans' homes every Sunday night," Altman said in 2001. "I thought that was the worst taste."

Altman never minced words about reproaching Hollywood. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he said Hollywood served as a source of inspiration for the terrorists by making violent action movies that amounted to training films for such attacks.

"Nobody would have thought to commit an atrocity like that unless they'd seen it in a movie," Altman said.

Altman was written off repeatedly by the Hollywood establishment, and his reputation for arrogance and hard drinking — a habit he eventually gave up — hindered his efforts to raise money for his idiosyncratic films.

While critical of studio executives, Altman held actors in the highest esteem. He joked that on "Gosford Park," he was there mainly to turn the lights on and off for the performers.

The respect was mutual. Top-name actors would clamor for even bit parts in his films. Altman generally worked on shoestring budgets, yet he continually landed marquee performers who signed on for a fraction of their normal salaries.

After the mid-1970s, the quality of Altman's films became increasingly erratic. His 1980 musical "Popeye," with Robin Williams, was trashed by critics, and Altman took some time off from film.

He directed the Broadway production of "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," following it with a movie adaptation in 1982. Altman went back and forth from TV to theatrical films over the next decade, but even when his films earned critical praise, such as 1990's "Vincent & Theo," they remained largely unseen.

"The Player" and "Short Cuts" re-established Altman's reputation and commercial viability. But other 1990s films — including his fashion-industry farce "Ready to Wear" and "Kansas City," his reverie on the 1930s jazz and gangster scene of his hometown — fell flat.

Born Feb. 20, 1925, Altman hung out in his teen years at the jazz clubs of Kansas City, Mo., where his father was an insurance salesman.

Altman was a bomber pilot in World War II and studied engineering at the University of Missouri in Columbia before taking a job making industrial films in Kansas City. He moved into feature films with "The Delinquents" in 1957, then worked largely in television through the mid 1960s, directing episodes of such series as "Bonanza" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

Altman and his wife, Kathryn, had two sons, Robert and Matthew, and he had a daughter, Christine, and two other sons, Michael and Stephen, from two previous marriages.

When he received his honorary Oscar in 2006, Altman revealed he had a heart transplant a decade earlier.

"I didn't make a big secret out of it, but I thought nobody would hire me again," he said after the ceremony. "You know, there's such a stigma about heart transplants, and there's a lot of us out there."

Folk WIsdom 022

Seeking strength from others prevents us from finding our own.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Master Says 084

It's easy to fool the eye but it's hard to fool the heart.

Al Pacino

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Master Says 083

Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.

William Goldman

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Master Says 082

We're always bemoaning the fact that there are great directors around who haven't made a decent film in 20 years, or writers who have ran out of stuff, but I don't think it's that so much as they simply lose their ear - or maybe their eye - because they haven't been looking and listening.
What I always meant by that was that I do believe that a lot of directors, and writers, and sometimes producers just lose their edge because they haven't seen anybody or talked to anybody or been with anybody who isn't a kind of replica of themselves for a long period of time. You know, we're voyeurs and eavesdroppers, and if everyone is voyeuring and eavesdropping on what's being said at Spago, you're not going to get a lot of really good material.

Buck Henry

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Master Says 081

The only safe thing is to take a chance.

Mike Nichols

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Master Says 080

Hollywood is the only industry, even taking in soup companies, which does not have laboratories for the purpose of experimentation.

Orson Welles

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Master Says 079

An actor is never so great as when he reminds you of an animal - falling like a cat, lying like a dog, moving like a fox.

Francois Truffaut

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Master Says 078

Wisdom and love have nothing to do with each other. Wisdom is staying alive, survival. You’re wise if you don’t stick your finger in the light plug.
Love -- you’ll stick your finger in anything.

Robert Altman

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Science of Saturday Night

Many years ago I received a voice mail on a Saturday night from a woman I was dating. In her coldly sensual wit she droned, "Hey it's _____. Saturday night, big Saturday night." So forever since, that message echoes in my brain anytime something is happening on Saturday night and, perhaps equally when absolutely nothing is happening.
Last night was a Big Saturday Night. We were invited to the wrap party for Gus Van Sant's film, Paranoid Park. The type of event that I always am pleased to have the opportunity to attend, yet always feel a great deal of anxiety about. The trepidation is due in part to an egotistical conceit that being part of the crowd rather than one of the kingpins is something shamefully mundane. The fact is that I admire Gus Van Sant tremendously. He is an incredibly prolific visionary that makes wonderful films. Whenever I've been in his presence he treats people very graciously. Who am I to think I merit more than an invite to such a celebration? I didn't last night. It was a nice feeling to be one in the crowd, free from envy and thwarted entitlement. In fact I spoke to a couple people about my recent filmmaking with earnest humility. There was no need to assert my accomplishments, I was simply reporting on some facts of my own life. I really appreciate the ability to feel comfortable with who I am. It's been a long time coming after a lifetime of the anguish of feeling the need to be more than I am. On a less solipsistic note, when we were leaving we noticed some of the teen girls in the cast in a room by themselves. They weren't talking. They were logged onto myspace.

After the party we went to see The Science of Sleep. What a joyful treat that was! At more than one point I found myself attempting to discern what was dream and what was fictive reality. I was able to resist my left brain impulses and enjoy the film's illogic. I love Gael Garcia Bernal. For one, he's a very wonderful actor that skillfully fills every moment without chewing the scenery. Another thing I find familiar and attractive about him is that he's a Chilango. He speaks English with the accent and posseses the mirthful ennui particular to my wonderful friends in Mexico City. I love the ordinary look and feel of Michel Gondry's films. His work is wonderfully cinematic without any slick baggage. In a certain sense they're anti-films. The surrealism of his films is all the more powerful because of it. Charlotte Gainsbourg embodies that sensibility well, she's an anti-movie star. She seems to wear no makeup nor comb her hair, she is at once self-effacing, strong and helpless. How utterly human, yet on a scale grand enough to allow us to get really close to her. Go see this picture in a theater. For sure.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Master Says 077

Dare to be naive.

Buckminster Fuller

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Master Says 076

Everyone sees the big things, but these smaller things are so beautiful and people might not notice them if I didn't emphasize them.

Georgia O'Keefe

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fences Make Good Neighbors

I've been thinking about the idea of community a lot since yesterday afternoon. I was directed to a local theater review blog in which an actor was cited as a reason not to see a show. The comment didn't directly name the actor, but a quick cross-reference to the theatre's home page would quickly reveal his identity. I had to scan sixty-some comments to find this attack. Boy, it was sickening. A lot of petty but quite vicious back and forth. Ultimately, I didn't find any of it illuminating. Gossip can sometimes serve as a means of social control, but this was plain old cruel and snarky stuff.
Last summer there was a similiar thread of comments on another local theater weblog. About that time I stopped visiting blogs on a regular basis. I also started to focus my energies on posting bits of wisdom and inpiration on my own blog rather than my own turgid solipsism.
I have often said that artists aren't polite. I need to amend that and assert that an artist's work need not be polite. I have acted and spoken quite cavalierly in my life, openly judging and criticizing others in a vain attempt to place myself within a community of artists that I'm simultaneously undermining with my vitriol. One of the comments about a particular theater suggesting that the theater opened itself to attack because it charges $18 for its tickets and seeks reviews in the local press. I certainly don't want to spend an evening watching actors struggle to tell a story for any price. A reviewer can certainly report this type of critique without calling out a company and, or an actor. Especially if the reviewer seems to call into question the performers' right to perform at all.
I want to say it loud, very loud, that I am not speaking from the mountaintop. Just yesterday, in a somewhat more measured tone and certainly more private discourse, I quipped to a friend about a couple of our mutual colleagues getting the opportunity to direct funded feature films.
I suppose anytime that we trumpet the lack of fairness in the universe we likewise sound our own foolish arrogance. We all have the right to pursue our dreams and aspirations. We live in a free market economy that confers success and failure based more directly on patronage than on idealism. In fact, fairness by definition most often determines the prices we pay based on supply and demand. In the case of entertainment, if the supply doesn't meet the demand another source of supply is sought. It's a bit of a self-cleaning oven in the end. An argument can be made that a bad play or theater is bad for the theater community as a whole, causing audiences to lower their expectations or stay away. I myself have made the argument that a bad film is bad for every filmmaker. I must admit the vanity of that opinion is motivated by a projected need to raise the capital for my own films. Investors are going to invest in more films. Audiences are going to go see live theater. Maybe not forever, clearly our culture is significantly shifting to more electronic media based forms of entertainment. Our civilization may well be in decline -- complaining about an actor's or a director's work so passive-aggressively is likely abbeting the decline rather than arresting it. To further prove that the basis of such arguments is largely egotistical (asserting that that which is ego-driven is ultimately destructive to the individual and his or her community), I find that many plays or films cited as must-see successes are often picked apart or compared disfavorably to what the critic could have done with the same resources.
We have the right to say whatever we like, of course. We also have the right to live very dysfunctionally. Perhaps a good way to practice setting some boundaries is to exalt in the success of others.
Okay. Enough of this. I have work to do. Blogging is no exception to the adage that idle hands are the devil's playthings.

Love One Another,
Signore Direttore

Monday, October 30, 2006

Folk Wisdom 021

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure -- try to please everybody.

Herbert Bayard Swope

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Folk Wisdom 020

One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have wholehearted enthusiasm.

Hannah Senesh

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Master Says 075

Nobody who takes on anything big and tough can afford to be modest.

Orson Welles

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Folk Wisdom 019

Do you want to know my secret?
I don't mind what happens.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Folk Wisdom 018

You've gotta be slightly stupid.

Joe Strummer

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Master Says 074

All great work is preparing yourself for the accident to happen.

Sidney Lumet

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Master Says 073

Once you label me you negate me.

Soren Kierkegaard

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pilgrim's Scallop

Yesterday I enjoyed a brief chat with a fellow amateur filmmaker. I was renting some gear to him for a shoot. Wishing him luck and expressing a desire to see the finished product, he replied with a wary premonition that as always he would finish the shoot wishing he had done it differently. He asked if I often felt the same way.
I could honestly reply in the negative. I don't always like what I've done or how I've shot a particular scene or set-up, but I know that it was the best of which I was capable at the time. I realize more and more that it's the journey rather than the results. As I told my peer, for many years I agonized over the quality of what I desperately wanted to be my oeuvre. What a poseur I've been! Thankfully the sting of hollow posturing has begotten a measure of humility, rendering the list of what I've long referred to as 'my films' (harumph) the designation of visual exercises.
I long thought that, as on the pilgrim's scallop, all roads led to one point -- the indie filmmaker's Compostela: Hollywood via a brief but glorious stopover in Utah. I've known many filmmakers that make films in order to earn the mantle of director, rather than fulfilling a burning desire to express something vital. As I know many student-actors that yearn for the title of professional actor. I no longer want or need such external recognition, nor do I want to associate with those who strive for conferment.
I've reached my goal - I have become a storyteller commited to discovering ever deeper and more effective ways of revealing my humanity. My pilgrimage continues on a road growing ever wider as it narrows.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Master Says 072

My only goal is to have no goals. The goal, every time, is that film, that very moment.

Bernardo Bertolucci

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Master Says 071

In carrying on my own humble creative effort, I depend greatly upon that which i do not yet know, and upon which that I have not yet done.

Max Weber

The Master Says 070

I have been perhaps slow to realize that the facts are always friendly. Every bit of evidence one can acquire, in any area, leads one that much closer to what is true. And being closer to the truth can never be a harmful or dangerous or unsatisfying thing. So while I still hate to readjust my thinking, still hate to give up old ways of perception and conceptualizing; at a deeper level I have, to a considerable degree, come to realize that these painful reorganizations are what is known as learning, and that though painful they always lead to a more satisfying and more accurate way of seeing life.

Carl R. Rogers

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Master Says 069

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all art and science.

Albert Einstein

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Master Says 068

I see no dividing line between imagination and reality.

Federico Fellini

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Master Says 067

We live in oppressive times. We have, as a nation, become our own thought police, but instead of calling the process by which we limit our expression of dissent and wonder 'censorship'; we call it 'concern for commercial viability'.

David Mamet

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Master Says 066

Cut for proper values rather than for proper matches.

Edward Dmytryk

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Master Says 065

So quite a lot of people who've come into cinema from the commercials world have had to learn the very fact of what cinematography is over again.

Nicolas Roeg

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Master Says 064

I just always think, "Do I like it?" And if I like it, maybe other people will come and like it too.

Billy Wilder

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Master Says 063

The real truth is that I didn't want to (advance his filmmaking career). As an assistant I could drink all I wanted and spend my time talking. As a director I'd have to stay up all night working on continuity. Still, my friends told me to go ahead and give it a try.

Yasujiro Ozu

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Master Says 062

And that's what I hate, you know. Talking - it's real dangerous.

David Lynch

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Folk Wisdom 017

Life has no meaning, but we must give it one.

Charlie Chaplin

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Folk Wisdom 016

My reaction to grief is a certain kind of nervous action. I just keep moving, walking, pulling away at things, praying to myself while I move, and making up my mind that it is not going to get me. I am not going to be licked by tragedy, as life is a challenge and we must carry on and work for the living as well as mourn for the dead.

Rose Kennedy

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Master Says 061

It's finding the soul of the story, and deciding what that is. And when all of the scenes develop from the roots of this tree, which is a philosophical understanding of the story.

Conrad Hall

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Master Says 060

When characters are presented in a static relationship, dramatic tension is apt to be weak (remember 'drama' means the 'thing done'). The beginner is apt to think of character in terms of outward physical appearance, the age, sex, social class or profession of the person in the story. But this matters very little in the sense of the drama. A dramatic character is definable only in relation to other characters or situations that involve tension. A dramatic scene is usually one in which something happens: an incident or an event takes place, the situation between the characters is different at the end of the scene than it was at the beginning. The equilibrium has been altered and there is some narrative momentum that drives the character (and us the audience) to a new situation in the next scene.

Alexander Mackendrick

The Master Says 059

I'm a liar, but an honest one. People reproach me for not always telling the same story in the same way. But his happens because I've invented the whole tale from the start and it seems boring to me and unkind to others to repeat myself.

Federico Fellini

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Summer of 1995 I returned from several months in Mexico. Before returning home, I spent the remaining money in my checking account twice by putting a final trip to the Yucatan with a girl on my debit card and making a cash withdrawal at an ATM immediately upon leaving the travel agency. That trip is another story that isn't at all blurry -- its pleasures and pains remain blissfully vivid.
The blurry story is my return to Portland. Everything went away before and during the Mexico trip - my Portland girlfriend, my best friend, my place to live, my '73 Buick Riviera, my money as I mentioned and, most notoriously, a few years of sobriety.
I wanted to get everything back but the sobriety. I was staying at my mom's house in Dunthorpe, no place to be without a car. I had the idea that a job as a busser at one of the better restaurants in town would be easier to get and pay just as well as some starting shift as a waiter. I started work immediately. Black bow tie and starched white shirt hustling dirty dishes and setting tables. Drinking every night after work at the same couple of bars that boasted the latest last calls in town followed by boozy after-hours bullshit sessions at some waiter, cook or bartender's apartment. Some nights the whole gang was there. Other nights it was but a couple of us. I was very regular. There was a pretty cocktail waitress at the after work spot that eventually became a bartender and eventually said no to a date with me. There were flings with some of the waitresses at the restaurant where I worked. One of whom lived across the street from me in New York a few years later. And another whom turned up back east as a server at Grammercy Tavern where my wife and I went to celebrate our marriage.

I got incredibly tan while living in Mexico. So much so that two months after my return during which I was still awake on the wrong side of the sunrise more often than not, I still had a pretty deep tan. One night after work I was at the late last call joint with a co-worker - one of the cooks I think. After work I traded my no longer starched white shirt and bow tie for a tee shirt from a surf shop in Puerto Escondido. One minute I was telling lies to the cook and pining over the cocktail watiress cum bartender, the next some woman was all over me. I couldn't tell you if she was pretty or not. A lot thick, dark and curly hair. Tall - ish, I think. I had been waiting for this to happen at this bar all summer. Of course she was attractive; how could she be anything but hot? Two o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday, rubbing an underemployed dude's forearms. She was sure the big muscles in my forearms were from surfing. I didn't bother to tell her it was from hauling tubs of dirty china and buckets of ice all over a huge terraced restaurant. It was the day before my birthday. If she thought she was getting a surfer boy rather than a busboy, I wasn't going to let her down with the dreary truth.
The cook bailed and I ended up at breakfast with this woman and her friend. Breakfast was a pretext to extend the possibilities of hooking up. Somehow I guessed her last name and we ended up at my mom's real estate office by the river. I let her friend make long distance phone calls to her boyfriend. There was a lot of running around to the different offices. Even into the copy machine room. Finally to the break room where there was a fold out couch that I called home when I couldn't make it to Dunthorpe for the night. By this time it was dawn and my birthday.
A few months later I went out with this woman again. By this time things were getting more and more blurry. It was Fall - dark and rainy. All the Summer-time drinkers were getting back to their responsibilities. I was wandering the streets making poetry out of my lonely pain. I was calling women I didn't have but a fleeting attraction for in the middle of the night. I was crashing the '71 BMW a friend sold to me on a payment plan. The woman from my birthday was yet another on my desperate hit list. I remember a few things from our date. She was a flight attendant on international flights. We ate at some fancy restaurant. I had some sort of fish filet on a bed of lentils and a lot of wine. We crossed the street for drinks at a dive bar. We went back to her place in Goose Hollow for duty-free booze and a quallude. Despite our previous encounter and lots of drugs and booze there seemed to be some resistance on her part. Something happened between us - boozy arousal and clumsy attempts at satisfying it. Then I woke up and went to a Latin American history class. After that I wandered around campus in a pained, blurry haze. I saw her from a distance a few months later on Twenty-third. I didn't say hello.

Folk Wisdom 015

Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines.

Satchel Paige

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Dark Tales from Hollyweird

Takes a minute to load and runs almost twenty minutes, but it's worth it.
Courtesy of AC Dickson.

The Master Says 059

A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an

Karl Kraus

Friday, September 22, 2006

Folk Wisdom 014

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Master Says 058

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of
light on broken glass.

Anton Chekhov

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sweet September

Been a long while since I've blogged about the folly and fodder in my life. Basically I've been trying to keep things simple. Not an easy task for anyone in the modern world. I've been working a lot, including three of the past four weekends. It's busy production-wise in Portland these days. Feast of Love, the Morgan Freeman movie and some big car commercials out of LA as well as politicals and the regular stuff.
Neil Kopp, my buddy that produced But A Dream, is producing Gus Van Sant's new film Paranoid Park. I'm excited for him and for Portland. Paranoid Park is the park between Washington and Stark at SW 9th Avenue known for the punkers and freaks that made it home. There's a parking lot beneath where much of the action used to happen. I'm not sure how much of the histroy of the park is to influence the film or if they're even going to shoot it in the actual Paranoid Park.
June took her first steps last Saturday. We were all quite proud. Maisie started Montessori school and is very excited about her lunch box that she decorated with a glitter pen and some patches. Henry is now in the first grade and rides alongside me to school on his bike sans training-wheels. Nicola has been working a lot as well and is off to New York next week.
We've been landscaping our front yard. I moved four nine hundred pound boulders into place by myself last weekend. Very primal activity -- pivot rocks, pry bars, brute strength. Satisfying work.
I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang last night. Don't think it will make the Master Moments anytime soon, but I enjoyed it. Val Kilmer was funny and RJ Downey Jr was at his better. I liked Michelle Monaghan. Angela Lindvall was in it as well. I think she's very beautiful and had the fantasy of casting her and Michelle as the San Antonio girls in Original Glory. Angela is an Okie after all.
I'm searching my schedule to carve out some time to edit London Calling, But A Dream and Made Crooked. It's really not looking very good. I'm going to have to let something in some area of my life go. I don't know what that is just yet. I'm exploring the possibilities.
I had to be somewhere very early this morning and threw on a down jacket to beat the chill. Feels cozy.
Recently, I read a great novel called Towelhead about a 13 year-old Lebanese-American girl gone to live with her father in Houston during the Gulf War. It would make a great film. Alan Ball optioned it when it was published, but nothing has happened with it so far. A few years ago, I would have given some energy to the what if of getting a hold of that. Now that I'm a little more grounded and realistic about my resources, I would be happy to see it made, knowing full well that it's way beyond a guy like me. I haven't let go of someday, but I'm more in tune with what's right in front of me.

Signore Direttore

The Master Says 057

All of my life I been like a doubled up fist... poundin', smashin', drivin' - now I'm going to loosen these doubled up hands and touch things easy with them.

Tennessee Williams

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Folk Wisdom 014

The winds of grace are blowing all the time.
You have only to raise your sail.

Sri Ramakrishna

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Master Says 056

Love, and love alone, is capable of giving thee a happier life.

Ludwig van Beethoven

The Master Says 055

To be or not to be. That's not really a question.

Jean-Luc Godard

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Master Says 054

What I admire most ardently in Jung is the fact that he found a meeting place between science and magic, between reason and fantasy. He has allowed us to go through life abandoning ourselves to the lure of mystery, with the comfort of knowing that it could be assimilated by reason. My admiration is the sort that is felt for an older brother, for someone who knows more than you do and teaches it to you. It is the admiration we owe to one of the great travelling companions of this century: the prophet-scientist.

Federico Fellini

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Master Says 053

I'm not a good critic myself. I'm a very poor witness. I put everything out of shape and I'm very partisan. I won't have any argument; discussion bores me. The critical spirit appears in me in the form of doubt. It's paralysing. For someone of my temperament, exercising the critical faculty is masochistic. Why mummify what has moved you, why become lukewarm about it, why mortify it, why extinguish it? It's a physical fact: I can't bear people who try to define me too precisely.

Federico Fellini

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Master Says 052

The point of life is to fail at greater and greater things.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Folk Wisdom 013

The Romans create a desolation and call it peace.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I told you not to call me here!

Summer of '03. On location in Geneva, NY for ROAD as Production Designer.

Walk Like An Egyptian

Ever wonder why Egyptians are depicted in such a contorted fashion? In a word, essentializing. Each body part was recorded in its most characteristic aspect. The face and feet in profile combined with frontal shoulders and hips. A very strange contortion to our eyes.
Film editing treats its subjects in the same manner, cutting from one angle to the next in order to reveal the subjects most characteristic aspect.
John Cassavetes rails against essentializing. He claims it is dishonest and artificial. Maybe. Or could it be that getting to the most revealing thing through the artificial means of film editing is as, or perhaps ever more, truthful than following your wife and your friends around with a camera?
In two or three thousand years, assuming celluloid lasts that long and anybody is left on this globe to view it, will the grammar of our films seem as absurd and contorted as Egyptian wall painting does to us? Will they sing a silly song about us?
Walk like an hollywoodian.

Signore Direttore

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Master Says 050

I write to discover the next room of my fate.

Saul Bellow


My friend Michael got married yesterday. It was a beautiful ceremony attended by many friends and family from both near and far.
I was touched.
Congratulations Mike and Laura. May your happiness together continue.

Molto amore,
Signore Direttore

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Master Says 049

Most movies use music the way athletes use steroids. There's no question that you can induce a certain emotion with music -- just like steroids build up muscle. It gives you an edge, it gives you a speed, but it's unhealthy for the organism in the long run.

Walter Murch

The Master Works 002

Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola

The Compound Scene - Capt. Willard/Martin Sheen goes to the intelligence compound to get his orders. He sits down for a meal with the general, his aide-de-camp and a man in plainclothes, presumably CIA. Everyone but Willard looks directly into the camera, but they don't seem to be looking at the audience. There's an extreme sense of subjectivity that makes it seem as if they're looking at Willard. Willard looks just to the left of the camera according to film grammar conventions. In doing so he seems to avoid their eyes. His hangover his emphasized by this as well as the drifting camera. The cameraman was Italian and Coppola told him in Italian to pan the camera whenever he got bored. So the camera drifts away from the speaker mid-sentence at times. The camera comes to a rest on Willard for the last shot of the scene. He looks directly into camera. The effect isn't like the others, he's not looking back at them. He's looking right at us, as if to say, Can you believe this shit?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Folk Wisdom 012

Insights do not produce growth until they are accompanied by specific actions.

or, as my buddy Carl Gustav-Scott was fond of saying:

Willingness without action is fantasy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Folk Wisdom 011

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Master Says 048

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the
direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he
will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things
behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will
begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded,
and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the
license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws
of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor
poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your
work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under

Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Master Says 047

To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

The Master Says 046

There's no democracy on a film set. The director has a vision of the film that he has to get into the heads of everyone involved.

Roman Polanski

Thursday, August 17, 2006


If you have this enormous talent, it's got you by the balls, it's a demon. You can't be a family man and a husband and a caring person and be that animal. Dickens wasn't that nice a guy. - Dustin Hoffman

I envy people who can just look at a sunset. I wonder how you can shoot it. There is nothing more grotesque to me than a vacation. - Dustin Hoffman

I wouldn't go so far as to call my talent enormous, but I have been on the fence about the demons of ambition and talent versus being a family man for several years. I've been leaning toward community and quiet for some time however. There have been hiccups and burps recently -- likely last ditch attempts at rebellion. Both in spite of and because of all of my actions and attitudes I continue to find my true center.
I want to look at sunsets.
Nothing is more grotesque to me than the lost souls, liars, self-important careerists and fame seekers that I regularly encounter in the film world. My recent trip to SoCal beaches and Disneyland with my wife and children was anything but grotesque.
JD Salinger inscribes one of his books to the amatuer reader with a doubt that the amateur reader still exists. I want to read for pleasure. As I want to watch and make films.
I could walk away from all of this right now. I'm not going to - not because it has me by the balls - simply because it's what I do.

Signore Dilettante

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Folk Wisdom 010

To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.

Mother Teresa

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Master Says 045

The best thing that can come with success is the knowledge that it is nothing to long for.

Liv Ullmann

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Master Works 001

The Marraige of Maria Braun
Rainer Maria Fassbinder

Maria Braun is on the bed with her lover, a black American soldier, when her long lost husband Hermann walks into the room. Hermann is a former Nazi officer married to Maria during the last days of the Third Reich. Maria (Hanna Schygulla) looks up, smiles and quietly says, "Hermann." She is happy to see him, yet remains gently between the two men. She neither rejects nor embraces either. Her strength of character is something to envy - the ability to accept oneself so completely. She embraces all of herself at once - her true love and her present lover - apologizing to nor for either.
The film is part of Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy. As Maria Braun symbolized the Bundes Republik der Deutschland, this moment serves as a perfect symbol of then West Germany caught between its Nazi past and its US Armed Forces occupation.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Master Says 044

Bus stop, wet day, she's there, I say
Please share my umbrella
Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, love grows
Under my umbrella

All that summer we enjoyed it
Wind and rain and shine
That umbrella, we employed it
By August, she was mine

The Hollies

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Master Says 043

I do films to be behind the camera, not in front of the camera. I'm sure I say very intimate things about myself in all my films, but it's better to say it not too directly, to be hidden behind a woman.

Francois Ozon

Stepping In Three Times

Hou Tsien Tsien's Three Times played at the Whitsell Auditorium this weekend. Hou is one of my favorite filmmakers. His films are extremely challenging and breathtakingly beautiful. His camera moves slowly, revealing the details of each moment without drawing any conclusions. He connects scenes with the most sublime interstitial travelling shots.
Three Times is made up of three forty minute stories starring the same male and female leads as lovers. A Time for Love is set in the 60s. A Time for Freedom takes place in 1911 and A Time for Youth in 2005. A Time for Freedom was silent with title cards. Initially it was tedious, but I found its rhythm within five minutes or so. It was my least favorite of the three, nonetheless I was very inspired and envious of Hou's power to be so bold.
Each segment of Three Times felt at once timeless and precisely accurate historically interms of set design, costumes, language and behavior. The physical space between lovers was wonderfully articulated according to era. The drug addiction, bisexuality and aloof digital communication of the contemporary story rang painfully true. While the lovers in earlier times seemed trapped by culture, the modern lovers are trapped by themselves. These are personal observations, the filmmaker asserts nothing directly.
Film is such a young medium that remains very conventional. Thank goodness that all films don't have to satisfy Hollywood's strict 3-act formula. I'm all for a well constructed plot, but I love being absorbed by the rambling quiet and affecting moments of art films. I know so many producer and pro crew types that say art film as if they just stepped in something.
I want to step in more films like Three Times.

Signore Direttore

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Master Says 042

There are only two curses in life. One is when you don't get what you wish for. The other one is when you do.

Oscar Wilde

Chinese Handcuffs

My reaction to so many things is the mechanism that keeps me handcuffed. I pull with all my might to get my fingers out of that little Chinese tube.
I'm faced with a few minor challenges this morning. I feel myself sticking my fingers into the Chinese Handcuffs.
It makes me ill to think I'll do the same thing again and again expecting different results. It makes me ill to fear that the ill feelings won't pass on their own.
What if I were to breathe? Release the tension? Give in to the stress by accepting it for what it is?
How does one avoid those little finger cuffs? Stop reacting, i.e. pulling. Relax the fingers. Move them gently toward the center. Remove fingers.
Would that be the equivalent of letting go?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Maisie Malcolm's World

Maisie Malcolm's World
Originally uploaded by Signore Direttore.
It's the earth's blood from a lightning storm all the way from outer space and all the planets. It's a long time ago in outer space. I think it is. I've never been to outer space. I think it is.
It just doesn't know that everything is everywhere. And all the planets. I don't know what it takes to put out that fire.
There's something that knows in the earth. The chlorine in the swimming pool and the salt in the ocean. I don't know what all the earth is going to do about it.
I'm just telling you about this lightning shock that communicates with your brain and I'm not kidding you. Look. Look. I'm not telling you. It's just a story form a long time ago. I don't remember when. because we've never been in a rocket ship that goes to outer space.
And this is a beautiful rock.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Master Says 041

You have to show violence the way it is. If you don't show it realistically, then that's immoral and harmful. If you don't upset people, then that's obscenity.

Roman Polanski

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Folk Wisdom 009

Knowing that you don't know something is knowledge.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Sandy River

He was floating down the river. He was alone. The inner tube was from a gas station off of the interstate. He was wearing cut-off jeans and high-top sneakers – Doctor Jays that were purchased during the previous school year. Later that day one of the sneakers would fill with water and sink to the bottom of the river.
There’s a bend in the Sandy River as it approaches Dodge Park. The river is shallow and rocky before it comes round the bend into the deep water under the bridge. The bridge is one section of the original Burnside Bridge in Portland.
The park sits under the bridge. A sunny riverbank looks across the river at a shady steep tree-lined bank. There’s cold running water in the parking lot. His aunt washed her hair in it one afternoon. She claimed cold water was best for washing hair. She used Beer Shampoo.
The walk to the rapids above the park is made short by the bend in the river. Across from the entrance to the park is a trail. A short walk for a long float. His mother brought him to the river that day. She had a lawn chair, Hawaiian Tropic, Harold Robbins and Tab. He had his inner tube.
There was never anyone on the beach upriver of the bridge. He floated until he hit the gentle rapids. He bounced off the rocks and spun round until he was under the bridge once more. It was sunny. The air was hot. It smelled like the trees and the cold river. He rode down, walked out of the river in the park past his mother and the other sunbathers, crossed the parking lot and the road to the path leading to the spot above the rapids. He never smiled. Or laughed.
On his last trip down the river some people were on the bank of the river above the bridge. A woman in a bikini was lying on a man. The man moved his fingers under the bikini bottom between her legs.
The boy floated past. He wanted to put his fingers in the woman’s bikini bottom. He could do it just like the man. He was ready now that he had seen the proper way to do that sort of thing. He wanted to tell somebody.
The current carried him downriver. He stayed near the beach for the rest of the afternoon. His shoe filled with water and was lost forever.

Folk Wisdom 008

All things pass... Patience attains all that it strives for.

St. Teresa of Avila

Equivocation Empathy

There are those of us that are damaged and crooked. We learn the most awful means of staying our course. We become so saturated with pain that we see everything in terms of it -- protecting ourselves or getting relief. There's nothing in between those extreme management measures because there is nothing else but pain.
We create false experiences and identities to insulate ourselves. We develop elaborate worlds in which to hide. We numb out with drugs, alcohol, relationships, sex, food, spending, media. We act out with anger, self-pity, physical abuse, masochism, sloth. We lose ourselves and in doing so disguise our true selves from the world. Most of us that go to such extremes do it out of necessity. There really have been threats to our emotional, psychological and physical selves. It's likely that we continue to seek out abusers and psyche invaders throughout our lives.
If we should happen to meet someone that sees the shiny penny of our true selves shining through; what then? Can we flip a switch and drop the armor of our defensive habits. Unfortunately, we can not do such a thing. Depending on how far we've retreated into our psychoses, we can usually muster a mask that will be attractive and congenial. The sad thing is that the mask usually doesn't match our natural shininess that caught the new friend's eye in the first place. The disparity might cause them to take a better look at us. Especially if they really like us. Thankfully most people are indifferent; we would like their attention, but we're relieved by their aloofness at the same time. But those that really focus their attention on us, even though we crave it, we don't like so much scrutiny. They threaten us.
We start creating space. We sabotage the relationship with deception, judgment, drama. We avoid the person. Then things get even more twisted. We like the positive attention of their attraction to us. But we can't trust it. We don't know how. Nor do we think we're very attractive. Not if they could really see us. Yet, in pushing them away we've gained a measure of control. The mere illusion of which empowers us and prompts us to either hold onto that person or reject them and use the temporary surge in our confidence to attract another victim.
The saddest thing of all is that we don't know we're doing this. Sometimes we really try to bring our best selves to relationships of all kinds, but something always go awry. Being real isn't sustainable. Usually because we lack the stamina to stick out the pain of exposure.
During this whole charade of intense feeling, we have been lying to others and ourselves. When we find ourselves alone again, we tell ourselves even more lies. Those that were involved with us can not see us as a whole person. We are fragmented in their minds -- a source of confusion. If they are the least bit fragile themselves, we cause them great pain. Our decepetions take their toll. Who were we? Who are they?
Nobody likes being lied to -- it's a fundamental threat to our emotional security. Worse yet, nobody likes being lied to by someone they tried to love. Perhaps worst of all, nobody likes giving love to someone who wasn't ever really there.
I've been on both sides of this equation. I'm exteremly grateful to have found my way towards my own shiny self. I'm sad to have suffered the whirligig of deception and emotional confusion from someone that I tried to love. And whose love I needed and deserved, namely that of my parents. I'm both sad and grateful to see and feel just how ugly that whirligig, to which I subjected oh so many friends, lovers and employers, can be.

I needed that.

signore direttore

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Density of Skin

To be an artist one must be willing to bring oneself to the work without taking criticism personally. This is especially improbable for the artist who is in process of attaining the skills necessary to work fluently.
In order to attain this proficiency, personalities and egos must be ignored as much as is possible. Though it has been my experience that my ego provides some fireworks that are hard to resist and ultimately inform my experience, however selfishly and inefficiently.
Culturally, we resist the concept of process and patient diligence. We are disposable and instant. We reinvent ourselves after the sligthest hint of failure. Failure is unacceptable. A dirty word. Like amateur. Beginner. Novice.
Wouldn't want to be called any of those ugly words.
It seems everybody has been making movies since they were small children. I haven't been. I shot a few reels of Super-8, but that wasn't especially challenging. Pop the cartridge in the camera. Aim it and pull the trigger. Send the cartridges to the lab and project them. Genius. "Ahem. Chawau. Harumph. Ah've beeeen making FFFilmszs since Ah was a young child."
Whatever. I've been around this stuff for a long time. I've been interested in movies for longer. But I haven't really been getting my hands dirty for long at all. A few years of directing. It's but a beginning.
Nobody owes me a thing.
Whatever I get out of this deal I will have to earn.
I love doing it as long as I don't expect things of myself that I am not yet capable of accomplishing. This stuff is no joke. You can't fake it. You can't think your way through it or figure it out as you go along. You have to deliver or suffer the consequences of making horrible films that won't cut together or sound and look like hell if they do.
My first film won a prize and got into several festivals. I've made money directing stuff since then, but I've yet to make another award-winning film. My first screenplay has recieved a lot of attention and even made me a little money, but it sits unmade as of yet.
I don't feel anxiety about these things. Lately I've been worried that I don't have the burning fight in me. I don't spend a lot of time on that particular concern. i just keep showing up and letting go of the results.
I'm happier and my work is better.
I've got nothing to prove.
I'm not going anywhere.
And that's just fine with me.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Master Says 040

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

Thomas Jefferson


We lived in New York during Wit's premiere run. In spite of all the praise it earned I couldn't get past the depressing poster. The emphasis on cancer and 17th century poetry did even less to prompt my attendance.
Fast-forward to Portland 2006. There's a little production of it opening tonight. I attended the preview last night. My first obligation was to see and support two of my students that are in the cast. My second obligation was too avoid paying too much for Portland theater. As I have yet to see anything that warranted the price of admission in the past two years. Entering the playhouse I had a sudden chill - What the hell am I walking into? Who are these people that think they can put this play up? Why do I continue to forget how insufferable these things prove to be again and again?
Oh well, we were there. I wanted to see Aislinn and Joey work. We had a babysitter. No turning back. In we go to a mostly empty house. And . . .

It was wonderful. Excellent. The play itself was amazing. This production is best thing I've seen in Portland for years.
The leading lady was great. The doctors were a joy.
Joey was good. He'll settle into the many supporting roles he plays in the ensemble.
Aislinn. She was terrific -- pleasure to watch, having fun. Best of all, she brought herself up to the role like none of my students has up until now. I was very proud of her. (And proud to be her teacher. Though I try very hard not to take credit for my students' work whether it be good, bad or somewhere in between.)
In any case, Bravo Aislinn, Bravo!

Go see Wit.

Signore Direttore

Landing on My Feet

The last two months has been one of the most turbulent times in my life. I rebelled against my status quo and embraced an alternative path. As I trudged through this I kept few secrets, enjoying the reactions and input of many friends and supporters. Contrasting this with the recent articles in the press regarding isolation and loneliness in contemporary society; I feel fortunate to have so many friends, but also the willingness and courage to share so openly with them. Their advice was hardly universal -- I enjoyed strident disapproval from a few, patient compassion from others and projection of personal experience from many. Some kept me in check while others gave me permission to stumble toward getting what I thought I wanted.
I protected myself with rationalizations, numbing out, acting out and some outright dishonesty. The dishonesty was something I rationalized as protecting others; a burden I shouldered on their behalf. At the urging of friends I started to come clean and let those affected deal with the truth themselves. A funny thing happened -- everyone was better off. The whole story allowed for understanding, healing and forgiveness. Which not only cleared up the hurly burly of my rebellion but altered the status quo at which I rebelled.
The truth has made me free once again.
How can I continue to doubt its power to help me land on my feet?

All too human,
Signore Direttore

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My True Calling

This morning I got up a bit earlier than usual and made my way to a coffee shop to meet all but two of my Made Crooked compadres. We went up to Forest Park to shoot some pickup scenes for the film. It was a beautiful day. Perfect.
We set up our shots, did a few run-throughs, rolled a few takes.
It wasn't without its challenges. A couple of the scenes required some difficult blocking. I didn't quite acheive my vision on some shots and exceeded it with others. It seems that's the way it seems to go. As I gain experience I concentrate on getting stuff that will serve the story however minimally. If the shot happens to be beuatiful, all the better, but if what I imagined requires great pains I tend to abandon my ambition in favor of getting the emotional events of the scene. Trying to get the shot just right often drains the life out if it.
It remains to be seen if I am a director of any great merit. But it's clear to me that I love doing it. The pleasure I derive from making movies is quickly becoming my primary measure of success.

Signore Direttore

Saturday, July 15, 2006

No Guarantees

A film based on David Mamet's play Edmund is being released in selected markets this weekend. It stars William H. Macy and Julia Stiles. Mamet wrote the screenplay. The director, Stuart Gordon, has won a Critic's prize at Cannes.
Even with these bankable pros attached the project struggled to obtain financing for years. Just goes to show that you can't get let your expectations get the best of you, especially in show business.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Edmund. Though I may have to get on a plane or wait for it to be released on video.

Signore Direttore

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Master Says 039

A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.

Jean Renoir

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Ends of a String

I am looking at the end of an unraveled string, seeing its disorganization. No way to wind its threads back together and make it string again -- alack it is unwound, completely unraveled. Disorganized. There are only the ends to look at.
It's a beautiful thing, this little piece of string. Sad and tender in its whimsy. The string was but itself all along. Ordinary string wound tightly into a ball, wrapped in cello and sold for a buck or two.
I was trying to build a bridge with string. A bridge so big and so proud in my mind. Its blueprint was a visionary feat to behold. A span supported by cables as thick as your arm. Magical suspension.
Much had to be destroyed in order to begin building my vision. Tracts of land cleared of history and the quotidian to make way for its anchorage. Initially it was to be done at all costs - there were no limits.
Con/De-struction commenced. Immediately the project that initially had no limits was over budget. Bankrupt.
I stopped clearing space. I ceased digging holes. I stopped drafting the plans.
I returned to the land under the future span. Though scarred, the land and its people are safe again from my grandiose dream.
Yet I find myself unable to escape the shadows of that tall, proud bridge.
In those shadows of what isn't there, I look at the ends of the string slipping from my hands. It's not even string. It is but tangled and discarded threads. To think that I dreamed it was cable.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Moments of Folly

I sat for new headshots yesterday. Not many things feel sillier to me. Twist in the chair. Look over there. Look at the camera. Don't smirk. Too intense. Tension in your mouth. Close your mouth. Open your mouth. On and on. Hours of this nonsense. And to what end?
Tomorrow's audition to play Sasquatch in a regional spot for the Oregon State Fair?
Actually it sounds like a good spot. I want it. And not for the money, because the rate is close to a day at Gearhead after the agency gets theirs.
One thing I find lame is when actors talk about a job that they haven't auditioned for yet as if it's ours for the asking. I'll be happy with a callback.

On the set of But A Dream I wrestled with the ever tangled cords from my headphones and the lanyard of my director's viewfinder. I thought of this persistent problem as I walked around the neighborhood this morning. I laughed at the ridiculous sight of me struggling to manage my tools. I was worried that buying a director's viewfinder would make look pretentious. I suppose my lack of dexterity with it kept me looking more foolish than vain.

Also in my thoughts this morning was the shooting of the final scene of London Calling around Ladd's Circle. I was so concerned with the results that I didn't let the shots breathe or give myself any options. By that point I was tired and wanted to tell everybody we were wrapped.
My arrogance has been checked by the results - I now see the need to make mistakes. To humbly accept them as part of the process, not only to learn from them but to enjoy their folly.

I am really really good at getting ahead of myself. Which is sure to provide evermore anecdotes as I stumble forward on this path toward mastery. Hah.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Good Are the Enemy of the Great

How can I possibly say that with any humility? Being human can feel so mediocre - so lazy, mundane and repetitive. I am tired and bored with the resentments and fears dancing in circles between my ears. I want to grab a couple of actors and do some raw shit on film. I want to eviscerate. I want raw emotion from an actor's guts.
I had this audition recently - more of the same phony pantomime shit like my last audition for a commercial. Result direction. No callback. No desire to get better at hamming it up.
I taught class last night. Lots of evasion and ego on the part of the actors. Not completely. A couple of actors tried to stay with themsleves and managed to do so well enough. One actor opened something. I wanted to call the whole thing off - I wanted to get up and scream something like - TELL ME THE FUCKING TRUTH, PLEASE! SOMEBODY!
Later on I met an actor that is new in town. We talked. I gave him my spiel. I was true, but I doubted our compatibility. He had been referred to another acting coach on town by his agent. I thought that particular agency was giving actors my name as well. Certainly in some cases but apparently not others. I've been thinking about that a lot today. I've also heard a rather nasty rumour about me that originated out of that other studio. I am somewhat indifferent, which isn't to say neutral.
I'm reactive. I've been increasingly reactive lately. Emotionally raw. DIsturbed.
I am not happy, joyous or free.
I am at the mercy of patience - not biding my time, but staying with myself moment to moment. I've been trying to contact the moment all afternoon. Driving up the Gorge. Simple prayers. Love is greater than fear. Love is greater than fear.
I used to spend at least one twenty-four hour stretch in Atlantic City every week. I could work two hands on a $25 Blackjack table well, working the odds and the cards with patience to build a stake. Playing with house money. Though my cronies and I always reminded ourselves that once we won it was OUR MONEY. The failure of my brief career as a professional gambler was due largely to an uncanny streak of dropping a $50 chip on number 26 of the Roulette wheel and hitting it, to which I would regularly boast - Seventeen hundred and fifty mothereffin dollars! As I collected my money I was reminded to watch my mouth by pit boss after pit boss. I also rolled fours and tens on the craps table. As one denizen of Trump Taj Mahal serenaded me one early morn, You don't bet 'gainst a man that roll fo's and ten's! Someone betting against my forty-five minute turn throwing the dice and those deadly fo's and tens lost over a hundred thousand dollars while the rest of us cleaned up. Every run of luck runs out. Lack of patience burns. To be a professional gambler one has to have an ass made of leather, a will of iron and ice water in the veins. Like I said, my career was short-lived.
I didn't have the emotional endurance.
I want to be your horse, but I feel like a longshot.
That's me - not the good, certainly not one of the great ones, just a longshot on a sunny, boozy trip to the Meadowlands. So tear up your ticket and head over to one of those air-conditioned Jersey strip joints where everybody looks like an extra on the Sopranos.

Washed Up and Wrung Out,
Signore Direttore