Thursday, March 30, 2006


Determined to connect with his long lost father, Clay follows the bitter man to the Old West town of Pendleton where an unexpected inheritance puts the power of redemption in his hands.

Logline for a new screenplay

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday Monday

Beautiful Spring morning here in Portland. Came to work with a spring in my step and gratitude in my heart for all things big and small in my life. Now that I'm here, it's not quite as sunny in my heart. Negative perspectives are simply attitudes I slip into, so slipping out of them is possible and increasingly accessible.
I had a lovely weekend going to Home Depot, hanging with the family and friends -- some visiting from NYC -- and doing my taxes. My wife makes loads of money, especially since she works three days a week on average, and spends little. I make little, spend loads and consume countless hours doing so.
I don't really like looking at the black and white figures on the page representing my attempts to forge a career as a filmmaker. Those big numbers spent on film and equipment and so forth seem almost vain and certainly imbalanced.
However, I do love making movies. As I've been processing my latest experience, I've come to discover various things about my directing, the types of crews I want to work with and my responsiblities as a filmmaker. I've discovered that I need more experience in various areas in order to make my films more even and accomplished. I've admitted to myself that it is less a matter of showing what I can do given the opportunity and more about creating opportunities for myself to continue my growth as a director. That said, I am not as blindly confident that I am the right person to direct Original Glory. Much remains to be revealed and I must be patient with myself and the process that I am commited to, which is that I am a filmmaker and that the next right thing is the the thing to do.
At this point I am attached to direct Original Glory. It remains in very nascent stages of development (even after all these years!) Nonetheless, the small cadre of its supporters are waiting to see But A Dream before sending OG out into the world with me atached to direct. Original Glory is the same kind of story as a Sideways or a Hustle & Flow in that it is not a blockbuster in waiting. Those scripts made the rounds in Hollyweird for a couple of years until a commited producer signed on and doggedly pursued funding. So it is possible that I could continue making digital films to gain the experience necessary to have a better shot of helming OG successfully while we take meetings and collect "no's" over the next year or two.
Where I get a bit frightened is that while all this, to whatever extent all this reveals itself to be, is going down I must maintain my day job and my family life. A big task, but with patience and taking it as it comes, entirely possible. It's that taking it as it comes thing that is frightening. Getting ahead of myself has been a persistent problem, one I'm trying to face quite frontally at present. I wonder if I can maintain an attitude of discovery in my filmmaking while taking meetings with the powers that be. Can I project an attitude of competence without compromising my fragile sense of accepting myself as being right where I'm supposed to be?
In the meantime, I have several ideas popping up for films long and short. Without the silly idea that the next film I make is going to be the one, I might just allow myself to have a little fun while I spend much more than I earn. And since the work won't have such high expaectations on it, perhaps I'll allow myself to use digital video and save (quite) a few bucks.
I got to admit I want to know how it's all going to turn out.
But I already know: exactly how it's supposed to.

Signore Direttore

Friday, March 24, 2006


It hasn't been a particularly involved week - no big events or stresses. A lot has been going on - very full. One of the things I'm becoming aware of is that being the type of father that goes to school conferences and baseball practices as well as games puts a huge demand on my time. I'm all too happy to be present in my children's lives - it is a privilege.
It does require some adjustments. Last night I had to go to bed at 8:45 pm. I had nothing left for watching a film or reading, let alone writing or editing.
I hired two assistants this week. One for Gearhead - a talented young woman with a background in art direction and a degree from Brooks. She escaped LA and sought a part-time job at an equipment house to have time for her own thing and to avoid the carrer burnout that plagues so many below-the-line film crew members. It's nice to curb the testerone level at ye olde grippe shoppe and to have a hand so that every last task doesn't fall to yours truly.
The other assistant I hired for my personal filmmaking. I need to finish some projects that have yet to be edited. They've been long abandoned because they didn't live up to my grand vision and the expectation with which they were produced. Well as I'm fond of saying recently, I'm on a spiritual path or I'm not. That said, the things I've started need to be finished regardless of the way I feel about their success or failure. The school of lower expectations need not be a place of shame and remorse.
He's a cinematographer educated in Edinburgh, where my wife went to university. Perhaps we might work together in that capacity as well.
Before I make any more films, I want to finish some past projects and get some work done around the house.
I've come to accept my growth and limitations to a greater degree. I look forward to allowing myself a greater latitude.
The wife and kids are off to the old country next week. I'll be alone. I'll miss them I'm sure, but I'm looking forward to a little peace and quiet. An entire King-sized bed to myself is also going to be a joy.
As my old friend Chuck said long ago, We've got nothing to prove and we're not going anywhere.
Wow, this is really jumpled. Told you I was tired.
I think I'll stay up to about ten tonight. Big, big Friday night.

Signore Direttore

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Master Says 020

I discovered that what's really important for a creator isn't what we vaguely define as inspiration or even what it is we want to say, recall, regret, or rebel against. No, what's important is the way we say it. Art is all about craftsmanship. Others can interpret craftsmanship as style if they wish. Style is what unites memory or recollection, ideology, sentiment, nostalgia, presentiment, to the way we express all that. It's not what we say but how we say it that matters.

Federico Fellini

Plate Tectonics

Don't know much about (geology)
Don't know much about Science books
Don't know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you loved me too
What a wonderful world this would be

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you loved me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Things are shifting beneath my feet. To quote another song -
I can feel the earth move
under my feet ...

I can see the walls come tumbling down ... tumbling down

Substitute postures for walls, please.

But A Dream is going to be a fine little film. I've met with an editor, someone both professional and with whom I have a personal connection. Some of the film is going to have to come together in the edit. That's entirely appropriate for films, though in my purist attitude toward things I feel somewhat apologetic.
Watching the film, I notice a couple of issues with my directing abilities. When rushed or pushed by circumstances on set, the resulting footage feels more rushed than not. When labored over, there are moments sublime interwoven with moments overwrought. In short, my work continues to be somewhat uneven.

I watched London Calling last night with my friend that's trying to salvage the sound. The film is very uneven. My vain attempt to cut it in the camera leaves me with few options of bringing it together in the edit. Any one of my vain attempts to blame some of the principal crew I hired offers a fine example of a confusing cause and effect fallacy.

There is litte despair in this. For I am trying to turn it over. Hit me again, Marcus Aurelius:
Whatever happens at all, happens as it should!

I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

I've been wanting to arrive for so long. It turns out I may not be there, but I'm certainly more here.

Il apprendista alla direttore

Friday, March 17, 2006

It's either a spiritual journey ...

... or it isn't.

It is or it isn't. That's the only thing that's black and white about it.
I'm on a spiritual journey or I'm not.
Contrition is an intellectual frame of regret and repentance for wrongs done
-- treating misdeeds and sins, if you will, in terms of morality. That's
all fine and good. I tend to come to that level of self-awareness and
accountability when I'm accountable at all.

However, I'm beginning to realize that might not be the point. What if I
were to amend my actions and attitudes because I want to be closer to my
creator rather than just trying to be a "good person" or to "get it right"?
Is not trying to be good or to get it right an effort to be in control?
What if I were to treat others and myself with the love that represents the
gratitude I feel for the blessings in my life?
What if I weren't concerned with good and bad as much as accepting each
moment and its players as being exactly how it and they are supposed to be?
What if I approached life as a mystery to be lived rather than a problem to
be solved?
What would happen if I let go?
How the hell do you do that anyway?
Probably requires patience and practice.

Shuddering to think,
Signore Direttore

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Down and Out

I'm very ill. I'm trying to scoot arround town taking care of business but I'm feeling pretty faint.
I have thoughts that can not be typed just now.
But a Dream was telecined on Monday. It looks and sounds good. I look forward to seeing it cut.
More on that and the journey at a later date, amici.

Signore Direttore

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Master Says 019

Even if I set out to make a film about a fillet of sole, it would be about me.

Federico Fellini

The Master Says 009 Redux

Whatever happens at all, happens as it should.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

All Too Human

I've mentioned before that I chose Fellini as the titular master of my quest in a seemingly arbitrary manner. My first director heroes were Scorcese and Coppola, beginning in elementary school with The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. In high school I moved away from Coppola (I wrote a paper on Apocalypse Now with a title based on a quote from Rudyard Kipling, It's Clever but is it Art?) toward Woody Allen and Sergio Leone. I dabbled with Fellini when I moved to Germany at 18, but Jim Jarmusch and Spike Lee came along and stole my attention. Soon after that I discovered David Lynch and Godard.
My point is that I could have chosen so many others for their mentorship and alliterative possibilities -- Seeking Scorcese, Limning Lynch, Chasing Coppola ... I loved things about Fellini films, but honestly didn't make the connection to Fellini's humanism. I somehow excused my stories as not being personal in the manner of a Fellini film.
I'm slowly awakening to the heart of my storytelling, trusting that I didn't choose Federico as my virtual adviser without reason. This morning I was jolted from my cynical slumber. I referred yesterday to the grief-like experience of post-production. This morning a friend spoke of the effects of the anniversary of her mother's death on her lately. I casually related, slightly nodding my head since my mother is also passed. When is the anniversary of my mother's suicide?, I asked myself. Oh, let's see, March 3. That would be last Friday. Grief. Grieving -- allowing oneself to process and adjust to profound loss and change.
I drew upon the grieving I did in the year following my mother's death in the preparation of But A Dream. I cited my inabilty to move, to dance, the complete shutting down of my physical life to Joey in relation to his inability to step forward in the mine field.
My cynical self says this is unconnected.
My cynical self is a fucking liar.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I'm a ball of string piled on the floor. Making the film wound me so super tight that unwinding went beyond restoration to a pile of frazzled silly string.
And that's just how it should be for a guy like me doing the things that I do. The challenge has been to leave the pile of string alone. To avoid trying to pick it up and start winding again. When I do that things get weird. I want to point fingers. I want affirmation. I want to build alliances and destroy others, both imagined and actual. I want to draw lines in the sand -- to define all relationships and responsibilities. I want to hold on.
It feels a bit like grief. Yesterday morning I started crying after I had been awake for awhile. My wife was alarmed, but she quickly and quietly came to my side and let me weep for a few minutes.
I'm trying to resist the all too familiar temptations of holding on this week. I'm trying to accept that some tears might be a better restorative. I'm trying to learn to stand on my own two feet and to allow others to stand around me. Some behind, some in front, some close, some further away - it is necessary for the artist to learn to do this in order to own his work and his process.

signore direttore

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


The minute I saw the trailer to Capote I whispered, He's getting the Oscar, to myself.
But with all the Brokeback hullabaloo, I thought it was a lost cause.
All hail Caesar!
All hail Phillip Seymour Hoffman!

I didn't love Crash, but I liked it very much. I'm very pleased that it won over BM (ah, what a perfect abbreviation).

As for Crash, check out Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco on Creative Screenwriting's podcast. Those guys are smart and pretty right-sized in the ego department.

Signore Direttore


In the past I've worn many hats on my film productions. I've always directed, produced, art directed and coordinated. At times I've operated the camera as well. There have been occasions where I've done the lighting in addition to that. After the fact, in post, I've always done my own cutting except in one or two occasions. Only once, actually -- the second time I fired the editior after seeing his cut.
By doing nothing but directing this time I was able to concentrate fully on the task at hand - understanding what the actors needed to be prepared to experience the given circumstances truthfully as if it were reality, as well as how to compose those frames to best tell the story.
I could simply tell Greg that I wanted to force perspective in some shots or open up the frame on others and leave the camera configuration to him. I had to decide what lenses I wanted, the rest was up to him and his assistants.
I worked hard with Justin on acquiring the weapons and the uniforms, but once procured Justin took over and handled every detail. He even hand-painted a camo pattern on the helmet covers to match the uniforms with fabric dye. I did have to drive out to Scapoose the night before our first day to pick up our M16s, but it was worth it in order to get actual weapons rather than plastic replicas. Justin would have done that for me, but they belong to a friend of my boss' at Gearhead, so it was better that I went.
Neil, Jeff and Zach handled all of the dirty work of bringing everybody together and feeding them. My wife usually handles catering and craft services. I know she was grateful to have that off her hands. Neil handled the film stock order, the camera order and the rest of the equipment orders.
I had to answer some questions and make a few calls. We had a couple of meetings every day all last week. I had to hand over my American Express card and some cash. I did that very happily, however.
With such dedicated support I was able to go over things in my mind about the script and finalize preparation with Joey and Heath.
In the past I've done a lot of directing and AS IF improvisations on set. I thought that was directing. And it is. Just not in such volume. This time out I discovered that by focusing on directing I didn't have to do as much directing. By just being focused on the actors on set, they were able to feel their way through each set up knowing I was there. I gave them some notes and some as ifs, but I was able to sit back and trust them as they were able to drop in and trust themselves and me. I simply reminded them where they were before each set up. (We shot this thing way out of sequence for logistical reasons) Then I sat back and watched what they did on our rehearsal for camera. No more than a word or two was needed after that in most instances.
When Joey needed to cry and break down I reminded him that it's not about trying to cry, especially for a man in front of other men. I asked him if he wanted to cry in front of Greg and the camera crew. Of course not, he replied. Then don't, I told him. I stood on the other side of a black floppy to give Joey his privacy and isolation and watched him on the clamshell. I didn't say anything to him aside from directing his attempts to step forward. I was crying with him. For me, it was a combination of pride, empathy and exposure. In order for a director to ask an actor to get naked, he better be willing to get naked himself. On cut I hugged Joey and told him we got it, he didn't have to do it again. He walked away and Greg told me the worst thing I could hear at that point - we have to go again. So I brought Joey back, I'm crying right now just thinking about it. He had released it all on the first take, so I had to pull it out of him. I had to shame him from the other side of the black curtain. It hurt like hell while we we're doing it. We got what we needed. Apparently we were working within the bounds of directing rather than manipulation or exploitation, because after calling cut and a hug, I felt clean.
Anyway, the biggest lesson I got from this weekend was that by focusing the bulk of my attention on directing, I didn't have to do as much directing.

Signore Direttore

Folk Wisdom 001

Two men in a burning house must not stop to argue.

African proverb

Monday, March 06, 2006

BAD Credits

Joey Boyd | Private Zach Naitani
Heath Lourwood | Corporal JP Read
Ricky Jackson | Private Young
Neil Kopp | 2LT Taylor

Steadicam | Greg P. Schmitt
Art Director/
Wardrobe | Justin O'Shaughnessy
Gaffer | Joel Stirnkorb
Focus Puller | Matt Barbee
AC | TG Firestone
AD | Jeff Harding
Makeup/Hair | Nicola Corl
Makeup | Robin Schmitt
Grip | Efrem Peter
Grip | Dave McMurray
Sound Mixer | Todd Hanna
Boom Operator | Peter Bauer
Video Playback | Eric Gorski
Set Photographer | Simon Hill
UPM | Zach Lewis

Production Assistants
Nicole Hawkins
Neil Taylor
David McCormick

Producer | Neil Kopp
Director/Writer | Neal A. Corl

Executive Producers
Your Mom Films
Gearhead Studio Rentals
Neal A. Corl

Special Thanks
Koerner Camera
Thad Smith - 180 Films
Zach Sherman
Andrew Dickson
Damon Jones - Actors In Action
Ryan Artists
Michael Cassidy
Matt Read
Aunt Julie

This list and my gratitude will grow as we move into post

The Master Says 018

It is only too true that a lot of artists are mentally ill- it's a life which, to put it mildly, makes one an outsider. I'm all right when I completely immerse myself in work, but I'll always remain half crazy.

Vincent van Gogh

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Picture Wrap

Happy with the work we did this weekend.
Four thousand feet of film is on the way to the lab.
The images were beautiful on the monitor.
We'll see how they cut together.

Buona Sera,
Signore Direttore

Saturday, March 04, 2006

But A Dream Day 1

We made our day.
Everyone was great.
Best crew in my experience up to now.

There were triumphs.
There were difficulties.

There was no yelling.
There was no storming off.
There was no silent scorn.

I've never worked harder.
I've never worked better.

I am grateful.
I am exhausted.

More later.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Fifteen Hours to go

It's getting closer. And I'm getting looser. For the first time ever I am not running around the day before the production like a madman. I'm not working with the actors. I'm trusting our work up to now.
Instead, I got a massage. I went to the bank to draw some more petty cash for the producer. I went to Freddy's to buy some long underwear for the boys. Something I already asked production to do, but since I was right there I thought, why not. I started looking for sizes and it was annoying me in short order. So I walked quietly away and let others help me.
I have a meeting with Jeff Harding the AD to go over the schedule and I have to stop by Gearhead to make sure the trucks are loaded as I would load them were I working today. I have to go pick up our M-16s (actual weapons) after dropping my children off for a sleepover.
I feel good.
Godard was right. I was lost on where to put the camera in one of my opening shots, the introduction of Private Naitani. I recited Godard's admonition. Sure enough something else was wrong, I was falling prey to surprise rather than tension and revelation. I wanted to show Naitani already stuck instead of showing him get stuck. The medium better serves suspense than surprise. Think about Buster Keaton and the banana peel. If they didn't show the banana peel before he falls, it isn't as funny.
It's like telling a joke -- without a good set up, the punchline suffers.

Wish me buona fortuna,
Signore Direttore

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Forty Three Hours and Counting

Day 1 of 2's call time for But A Dream is in forty-three long hours.
Just back from a multivalent visit to our location. Actors, cinematographer, AD and art director in the same place for the first time. A very early time of day to meet at that.
Everybody is great - asking questions, sharing insights, filling me in on the work they've done so far. I have to say that as much as I love being the center of attention, it is taxing. Especially after but a few hours of slumber. I was Rip Van Winkle compared to the DP. Greg was on a shoot in Las Vegas and touched down at PDX at 2am. He was fine when we were out there but on the ride home he told me he felt like he drank a bottle of bleach.
My favorite part remains working with the actors. I love framing shots. Like I love cheeseburgers or sushi - tasty and a real treat. But I love working with the actors like I love my children. When I see my kids, I don't think about cuddling them or kissing them. It's just the way I respond to them. That's how it is with the actors for me.
I love watching them work as I love watching my children play. I love answering their questions as I do those of my little ones. I want to be as close to them as possible.
Today, Joey was having trouble staying on the mines. He would turn to Heath as they dialogued. I ran over and told Joey to focus on my fist. To let go of Heath. That if he took his eyes off my fist I was going to punch him in the face. He did it. He found it. I told him he was controlling my fist with his eyes. Just like he was trying to control his interaction with Heath by hanging onto him visually.
Joey was excited and not scared once the beat played through.
Not understanding our As If, Greg wondered aloud to me on the way home if Joey was going to show up on Saturday. Greg only heard the threat to punch Joey. He was not privy to our intimate work.
I'll accept a hug from just about anybody. It's nice. Oftentimes it's a juicy cheeseburger. But the last time my father put his arm around me in a sincere way, I felt it in every cell of my body.
I try to remember that when I hug my children.

Signore Direttore