Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Master Says 031

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.

Virginia Woolf

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Master Says 030

A film is born three times -- in the writing of the script, in the shooting and in the editing.

Robert Bresson

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Where the writer's work ends the director's begins.
Where the director's work ends the actor's begins.
Where the actor's work ends the audience's begins.

That's the deal in the theatre.
In the film world there's an adjustment to be made:
Where the collaborative work of director-actor-photographer ends the editor's begins.

I've had a very difficult relationship with editing for the past few years. It has a lot to do with the expectations I've put on myself and my films. As soon as they have revealed themselves to be anything less than my vision, I've abandoned them to a purgatory of unfinished projects.
Things are changing. First off, I'm willing to learn from the work that I've done up to now and accept its flaws. Secondly, I am willing to embrace the discovery of happy accidents in the editing phase of filmmaking.

It's going to happen slowly. That's how writing used to be for me. My directing preparation process once required weeks for even a short film.
In the seventh grade I watched the lunch time basketball games from outside the cage. The next year I was the best player on the court. That happened because I had a basketball in my hands at every waking moment. So much so that years later my mom told me that whenever she heard a ball bouncing she still thought it was me coming home from the park or gym.

I miss those early mornings in Alberta Park circa 1979. All by myself shooting jumpers, running drills.
From U-C-L- AAAAAA- A! Neal, Neal, Neal Corl, Corl, C-orl,orl,orl!
And countless buzzer shots. 3-2-1! Corl hits it! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The crowd goes crazy.

I have a Super 8 movie I made of my best friend Jeffrey Maxwell and I playing basketball in the park back then. I have a big bouncy white boy fro. When I dribble, I hang my off hand real low and loose like some sort of pubescent blacksploitation pimp. I slink more than I run. I look absolutely ridiculous. But I felt like the baddest white boy in the hood.

Signore Direttore

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Master Says 029

Since I'm not a second Marx or Freud who can offer people alternatives, I have to let them keep their own wrong feelings.

Rainer W. Fassbinder

I Want I Want I Want I Want

I want more time to devote to writing and filmmaking. I want to be doing less running around. It seems I always have several errands to do - things that are contigent upon still more niggling tasks. This morning I need to take my bicycle down to Bike Gallery and get the pedals and cleats on my shoes fixed. I have been doing that task for six weeks or more.
After dinner last night I went for a walk with Maisie, our three year old. It was a treat to be sure. "Do you like flowery plants, Daddy? They are so beautiful!" We went to the farmer's market near our house. She was thrilled by the baby pears. Looking across Hawthorne, I noticed the windows on the top floor of our building need painting. I've been putting that off since 1993. It's going to take about two hours per window. Even at a rate of two windows a week I could manage the South Side by mid-June. By the way, the two hour schedule only applies to a good job. Stripping the windows down to bare wood and restoring them to their original 1928 glory will require at least another thirteen years.
When I say I Want - I want it now and all at once.
That clearly doesn't work. I've been waiting for the big three weeks with nothing else to do but paint those windows for thirteen years.

I often wonder what I could possibly excise from my schedule. I have a sneaking suspicion that patient integration is the key to my sanity.

Signore Direttore

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Head In the Clouds, Feet On the Ground

There's no As If about it - something profound shifted in many of us last weekend. Whether or not things shift back to previous conditions isn't really at issue. They may or may not recede to the status quo. It doesn't matter what happens in the future. Paying attention to the here and now is, as always, paramount. There are a few of us that are doing exactly that. I'm proud that we could engage in an artistic expirment that affected us spiritually and emotionally. It tells me we were on to something - that the process allowed a revelation of our inner lives that was previously inaccesible. Isn't that the point?
What did we do that facilitated such discovery? First off, we let go of getting it right. We adhered to a structure of dramatic storytelling wherein we had to keep moving from scene to scene, much like live theater, yet without any need to give fair trade to the people in the seats. We were interdependent, completely, absolutely. No one could work by himself. No one was superfluous. Not a one of us could stand around and drain the energy as happens on many film sets. There was no time to wander off literally or figuratively. Nearly everything was intentional, even our meals and rest. Another boon - no cell service. I did notice a couple of people going into town at night to check their messages or doing so from the house phone. Not me. I wanted nothing to do with the outside world or my regular life.
That's why movie stars have personal assitants - so they can devote themselves to the world of the work at hand. I'm sure that there are the corrupt actors that go in for the status and ego, but the intention is to allow the actor to get every molecule into their work, disregarding phone calls, dry cleaning, driving, etc.
There's a saying that urges us to walk with our feet on the ground and our heads in the clouds.
I feel as if I can do that after last weekend. I am humbled by the experience. The humility offered a lot of joy. The moments that I tensed up and got urgent sucked. Focusing on preserving harmony and openness minimized the sucky moments the few times they started to raise their ugly heads.
I am no longer afraid to let go of control.
I am good enough to let go.
I trust.

Signroe Direttore

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Made Crooked


Friday, May 12, 2006

By the by

Meditation works.

I just bought a bunch of that editing equipment and software online from B&H that I've been fretting over. Five grand.
That didn't make me feel better.

But a woo-woo chick whispering in my ears for fifteen minutes about emotional healing has me feeling alive head to toe.

I'll have to try it again when I get my American Express bill.

Signore Direttore


I'm up very early this morning. Not feeling one hundred percent physically. And a bit anxious for the weekend. So many things to do. Yesterday I was hoping to get out of work after lunch and get some rest, but the preparation for the retreat went on until 9pm.
Lately I've been trying to adjust my attitudes and actions toward others in life and filmmaking. I've written at lenght about it here, at least it seems to me that I have. We're shooting this retreat this weekend. It's an expiremental exercise. I really don't know what the results are going to be. I've been very excited about aiming for the best work we can do collectively and viewing the results as evidence of our abilities. When I share my excitement with others, it seems there are more lessons to be learned. One actor sees it as my thing and he doesn't want to commit to it or acting at all anymore. The DP from my last film thinks I have written that project off. My boss reacts to the work we're doing to get ready for the weekend with some sort of sadness that I'm thinking might be that he's feeling left out.
It seems that however hard I try to be right-sized about this, I'm still a big dumb bull in a china shop.

I wrote the following to the DP of But A Dream this morning:


It seems like I've been sending some mixed signals about the short film we
did together.
I'm sorry about that. Sometimes I wish I was one of those guys that falls
in love with his own work and thinks he's the baddest mofo in town --
Next stop Hollywood!
I'm more of the tortured type that suffers over every project trying to
figure out how to get better as an artist and a communicator to my
collaborators and supporters.

I want to be clear about a few things. But A Dream is the best film I
have ever made. You are the best DP I have ever worked with. It's
beautiful. It sounds good. The acting is good. I don't want to say more
until it is cut, but I'm proud of what we accomplished together. Whenever
I show the footage to people they say, "Oh my god, who shot this?"

Telling you that it's the best film I have ever made scares me a bit. I
fear that you think it was kind of a hack job and if I admit it was my
best work, you'll think I'm a phony wannabe. So when i talk to you about
it, I downplay it all a bit to protect myself. To try to be one of the
cool kids.

When I talk about moving on to new projects I am really talking about
geting more time on set as a director. I think lack of experience on my
part was the cause of some of the poor communication between us on set.
Rather than play the blame game, which I tried for a couple of days as you
know, I think I would like to take what I have learned and put it to use
as soon as possible. I'm sorry if that came across as flippant disregard
for the work we did. Not at all my intention.

Before making that short together I wanted you and the other guys to think
I was some great director. That attitude put a lot of unnecessary
pressure on me. It took a lot of the fun of making films away. I did
that to myself. If I ever become a great director, it probably won't be
the result of trying so hard.
More and more, I'm ready for you guys to think I'm some indie guy that
makes freebie stuff you guys might not want anything to do with
professionally. I'll just go play with some gear from the shop and have
fun making movies. That's not a booby prize, it's actually really
exciting me. I've let go of letting that one project that's with Gersh
rule my life and my filmmaking ambitions. I've been writing new stuff
that I could make for no/low budgets and just going with it.
Letting go of the results. Making mistakes. Trying to stop
apologizing or making excuses about where I am at as a filmmaker.

Being part of Gearhead makes that even easier. Thanks for bringing me
into your company. And thanks again for letting me use your camera.

I'm sure we'll work together as director and dp again someday. When we
do, I want it to be a choice on both of our parts. I don't want it to be
about me trying to prove to you I've grown since our last experience nor
do I want you to do it simply as a favor to me. If that opportunity never
comes, it won't be because of a lack of respect or fondness for you, Greg.

Warm Regards,

Rereading it brings tears to my eyes. Hurts to admit that ego stuff. I'm not sure if reprinting it here is respectful to me or the recipient.
I don't know. Seems to be the thought of the day so far. And it's only 6am.
Rather than feeling hopeless about not knowing, I am going to try to embrace it.
Seems a good plan for retreating.

Like a big pizza pie,
Signore Direttore

Folk Wisdom 005

No matter how far you've gone down the wrong road, turn back.

Turkish proverb

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Researching some editing system equipment. It gives me a headache. Gear. Gear. Gear.
I realy just want to tell stories as a writer and director. Editing is a huge part of filmmaking and I've done a fair bit of it. What I'm always left with it the urge to reshoot or come up with a new project.
I worked as part of team that cut a feature called Evergreen. The film had its moments as well as its problems. It made it to into the Sundance Competition and had a limited release. Anyway the editor, our leader and teacher, was Meg Reticker. She's cut some good stuff, Heavy, Wet Hot American Summer, Decade Under the Influence, and is a really awesome person. After working with me for six weeks, she discouraged my further pursuit of editing as a career. Not for reasons of incompetence, but more because of temperament. (Which was pretty arrogant and ugly in retrospect) You're a director, she said.
Several unfinished projects later - I'm left with facing the editing phase of filmmaking. Melissa Henderson is on deck to cut But A Dream. Originally we were to go to Downstream and do an offline on the Avid. That was going to cost $500 for two eight hour sessions. She has agreed to cut on my system provided I am patient with her adapting to Final Cut Pro. I'm not as proficient on FCP as I once was, but I'm sure between the two of us we'll be fine.
As for FCP. I started cutting on it when it first came out and crashed every two or three minutes. Boy that was fun. Still it was awesome to have the tools to learn how to cut movies in a spare bedroom. I've never purchased a copy of FCP through it's several versions. I started on 1.2.5, switched to 2 then 3. We cut Evergreen on 3. 4 came out, but I was deep into the rewriting of Original Glory as well as trying to figure out how to write a good short script. I got 4.5 last year from someone and 5 just recently. FCP 5 burn that I got doens't have hte supporting discs and therefore is not loading. I ditched FCP 4.5 HD before trying to load 5. I am now void of Final Cut Pro on my machine for the first time in six years.
I'm thinking it might be time to actually buy it. It's the right thing to do. But somehow I feel like a fool.
Then there's the whole RAID, SATA, Firewire question. TetraGiga - ugh.
And Capture Cards.
And HD.
I spent hours on the net this am looking up reviews and user group info on this crap.
What I would rather do is write the scene I've been researching. And direct it.
After I direct it, I will want to direct another. I get that taste. Sitting in front of the editing station makes me want to get back on set.
Meg was right.
However, I am going to have to start finishing films.
Is there a 12 step group for this?
Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our films that had been shot and that our reels had become unmanagable.

Signore Direttore

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Watched Close to Home last night. Guest star Zach Sherman played a pivotal witness in a murder case with more twists than a bag of pretzels. TV is ridiculous. Anyway. Zach did a very nice job. He was very present and alive. He looked great. Physical life was good - very odd walk to the witness stand. His voice quivered, but that seemed part of the characterization. (I have heard this phlegmy quiver many times in him and have wondered how strong his voice is. We all need voice work that's for certain.)

I haven't seen Zach in a year. So it was odd seeing him on the tele. Looking forward to seeing him in person this week. Rumor has it he'll not only be in town, but will be attending class.

Thanks for making us proud, Zach.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Master Says 028

Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.

Jack Kerouac

Letting Glue

Today was another long day. I didn't work as hard at the hard work I accomplished.

I have some good folks in my life.

Signore Direttore

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


So many things coming at me. Overwhelmed. All day long. People call me and email me with demands, questions. When not standing to that barrage, there's the face to face stuff. My three children. My boss. Employees. Students. Collaborators. Contractors. Tenants. Last but not least - Spouse.
Tuesdays are hellish. Too long of a day.

I'm working on this duet. I've mentioned it before. We played it by ear the other day. Then I got the chord structure from a friend. Last night I met with my partner. He dug right in and played. I was not feeling it. Reluctantly I suggested taking it one time through. It sucked. I was trying to let it suck, but I could not even manage a coherent lack of connection. I experienced something that I have when singing karaoke - it's hard to be really good and it's hard ot be really bad. Mostly I land in this beige-gray middle. H suggested making it my own. Actually, he said he tries to make it his own when he's playing a cover, which he's been doing a great job of with Sister Morphine. Admittedly, I was trying to channel Mick Jagger. Somewhat unlikely. We tried it again. This time I listened more closely. And I made an effort to sing the notes from the page. I let go of my intellectual idea of what A minor or D sounds like and sang a A minors and D as I heard them. Doing that helped me not only hear the notes H was playing, it made it a lot easier to come in on the note. Most importantly, it allowed me to make it my own. I had tears in my eyes by the time we were through. Not weepy ones. Just leaks of bottled up ick from trudging through one hell of a day and putting it into some work. Revealing myself as Cassavetes urges.

Michael Caine is sounding in my ears. If you're working too hard, you're not doing it right.
I'm going to try not to work so hard today.

Signore Direttore

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Master Says 027

The most difficult thing in the world is to reveal yourself, to express what you have to. As an artist, I feel that we must try many things - but above all we must dare to fail. You must be willing to risk everything to really express it all.

John Cassavetes


Zach Sherman will be guest starring Friday night at 9pm on Close to Home - whatever network that's on.

Zach is a very talented collaborator, friend and former student.

it is no small tragedy that his great comedic genius continues to go unrecognized by casting agents.

A River Dertchee,
Signore DIrettore

Monday, May 01, 2006

Good News

I emailed Cam Archer to let him know how much I loved Wild Tigers I Have Known.
He responded, letting me know it will be released this fall.

Signore Direttore