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

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Master Says 038

You make films to give people something, to transport them somewhere else, and it doesn't matter if you transport them to a world of intuition or a world of intellect...A lot of people don't understand the direction in which I'm going. They think...I've betrayed my way of looking at the world...I absolutely don't feel I've betrayed any of my opinions or my attitude to life. The realm of superstitions, fortune-telling, presentiments, intuition, dreams, all this is the inner life of a human being, and all this is the hardest thing to film...I've been trying to get there from the beginning. I'm somebody who doesn't know, somebody who's searching.

Krzysztof Kieslowski

Monday, June 26, 2006


Walking home from a film last night, a friend asked me what are the moments in films that not only stick with me, but hit me with comparable force each time I see them anew. Excellent question. My immediate response -- The Godfather. More followed. What about Fellini? he asked. Oh. Yes. Fellini. Fellini films don't have moments that resonate so much as interweave as a continuum into the fabric of eternity. Lofty praise, I know. Believe.
In terms of story I think of Keislowski. I added that the story of Made Crooked is one that continues to reveal itself to me, its profundity resonates. Whether we got that shooting is another story. Perhaps we did, I simply have no way of knowing until we're much further into editing.
My friend said he was asking himself that question in order to examine how he might tell better stories. I like that. I'm glad to have a filmmaker friend that is not simply into making it big or "wouldn't it be cool" arbitrary shots. What's more, this particular friend believes in my filmmaking abilities more than I do. He's the one person reminding me to stay on track as I trudge through the rest of my present situation.
As I let go of my more grandiose goals, it's sometimes difficult to remember that my humble goals are not only worth pursuing, but truly the most worthy of my energy. It is likely that from this departure point more moments in my films will have a chance to resonate.
But when? Patience. Patience sucks.
Oh. Big sigh. As always, I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

A River Dertch,
Signore Direttore

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Master Says 037

Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.

Martin Heidegger

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Critic

The critic is a nihilist. While those that claim that nothing matters may be closer to the truth that there is no Truth, they aren't much closer to their humanity. It's not quite the opposite side of the same coin, but it's an extreme reaction.

F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed to be a nihilist, but he sure paid close attention to the details of individual and cultural behavior for someone who doesn't think anything matters very much. I don't want to present a critical analysis of FSF. I am not qualified to say much beyond the fact that I loved This Side of Paradise when in high school - it spoke to me about my inability to will certain changes in myself, particularly regarding conformity and conventional achievement. His alcoholism and despair frightened me, perhaps because I related very closely in that regard as well. Oh how I loved Amory Blaine's kissing games -- the way he would pursue a kiss for the sake of the kiss. Even when he felt nothing for the girl melancholy would overwhelm him were he denied.

I've heard it said that nobody ever raised a statue to a critic.
When I criticize I cut off my authentic self and seek to apply standards and judgments. Standards and judgments that I have learned and that prevent me from doing my own work for fear of failing to meet the selfsame restrictive criteria. If you go out into the wilderness there are no comprehensive guidelines. You can never bring enough gear to handle every potential challenge.
I am going through a very tough thing right now, something that I thought I would never have to do. I am doing my best, but I am doing some things very poorly. As I started to judge myself yesterday, I reminded myself that I don't want to be good or get good at this particular thing. I just want to do my very best to be present and as honest as I can be. That's probably not going to be one hundred percent. I am not pure. I am human. One of the herd grazing on the fringes.

Signore Direttore

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tranquilizer Darts in my Psyche

I am a lover of language learning to hate my lover. She is my muse as well as my oppressor. You're really going have to have to deal with more of this as I dig ever deeper into Nietzsche. He says the wise learn to love their enemies and hate their friends. Language is my bosom bud and I am learning also to despise its tyranny of personal pronouns, polemics and its proclivity toward cultural memes.

For instance, right about now a funk soul brother is feeling light and free and doesn't care about making sense to others or about being comprehensive. Joyful. And you know what? I'm afraid to appear excited. I fear labels of manic and euphoric as they seem to indicate a lack of perspective. Good! I don't want too much god damn perspective. Which has been conflated to mean MENTALLY ILL. Doesn't perspective refer to the point of view of the herd? Doesn't it chastise and shame the invididual for being other? Doesn't it call us crazy when we don't conform?

Ugh. Fuck off, herd. Everytime I get up close to the other animals it feels gross - it stinks with rot and corruption. I'd rather hang out over here and enjoy my own aromas and get comfortable with the fact that I am not moral or upright. My shit stinks, but it is necessary to my existence. Keep your various perfumes.
Only that without history can be defined, says Freidrich. I have a history. I definitely have a past - a really sordid one full of selfishness, fear, dishonesty, crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological trauma, irresponsibility, recklessness, pain, pleasure and unbelievable opportunity. Not least of which is my will to survive through self-reinvention and exploration. Will to power. The herd don't like that will to power mojo.

I am not definable for I am ever changing. This isn't a new idea. Darwin, baby. Read that shit. My species: artist. I have my eyes and my heart open. I am evolving. My mobility defies definition.
I'm tired of apologizing for that. I'm tired of hiding my joy and my excitement. I am tired of apologizing for my suffering. You gotta suffer, darlin. It's part of the deal.
I'm tired of being a critic -- Disgust with cynicism is being experienced.

Signore Direttore, Goddammit.

The Master Says 036

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, June 19, 2006

What A Bunch of Amateurs

Word History: When Mrs. T.W. Atkinson remarked in her 1863 Recollections of the Tartar Steppes and their Inhabitants, “I am no amateur of these melons,” she used amateur in a sense unfamiliar to us. That sense, “a lover, an admirer,” is, however, clearly descended from the senses of the word's ultimate Latin source, amtor, “lover, devoted friend, devotee, enthusiastic pursuer of an objective,” and from its Latin-derived French source, amateur, with a similar range of meanings. First recorded in English in 1784 with the sense in which Mrs. Atkinson used it, amateur is found in 1786 with a meaning more familiar to us, “a person who engages in an art, for example, as a pastime rather than as a profession,” a sense that had already developed in French. Given the limitations of doing something as an amateur, it is not surprising that the word is soon after recorded in the disparaging sense we still use to refer to someone who lacks professional skill or ease in performance.

Nothing I have done in the arts for money has been as rewarding as the projects to which I've done from my heart. Perhaps one day the twain shall meet, but more experienced friends tell me that tis rare indeed.

Devoted Friend of the Cinema and Actors,
Signore Direttore

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Master Says 035

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Walt Whitman

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Days Seem Like Weeks

Suppose it has been but a few days since my last write, though in emotional years it feels much longer. I'm going through it. That's all I can say publicly.
That's another reason for my silence on ye olde blog -- I feel censored by my current need to respect my privacy and of those that are close to me.
I have a lot to say, yet can't say it. I've been writing in my analog journal for the first time in months, something I did nearly daily since 1991 prior to Finding Fellini.

I saw Prairie Home Companion. I liked it. A lot. I felt sad afterwards.

The summer production season is upon us and I'm crazy at Gearhead. Overtime. Ch-ching. Bling bling. Don't be hatin. Or perpetratin.

Henry finished kindergarten today. I had the profoundly mundane realization that that will only happen once.

Michael Cassidy is in town and came over for waffles with me and the kids.

Nicola is in Hawaii, working. Henry calls it Hawati.

I nearly cut off the tip f my finger this morning at work. Typing is out of synch.

My desk is a mess. I have work to do, but I can barely keep from falling face down on my desk. Even reading the baseball scores is too much.

Macbeth in the park opens this weekend. I am looking forward to going, though I think it won't be until its second weekend.

Andrew Dickson is in town shilling for the man. Always good to see him.

I want to buy a Jeep and go camping. I could probably just go camping, but the Jeep has become part of it.

Send your money to my buy a Jeep to go camping fund when you get round to it.

Signore Direttore

Friday, June 09, 2006

Folk Wisdom 006

If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Master Says 034

It isn't easy to accept that suffering can also be beautiful... it's difficult. It's something you can only understand if you dig deeply into yourself.

Rainer W. Fassbinder

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Master Says 033

The reasonable man encounters circumstances and adapts himself to them. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt circumstances to himself. All progress depends upon the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw


After the weekend of Made Crooked I experienced a heightened sense of myself, a dizzy euphoria. I felt in my body and beautiful. As it was a sensation that I had not felt without the aid of LSD or Ecstasy for a long, long time, I was very eager for those positive feelings to continue. It would be easy and tempting to beleive that the events of the weekend were responsible for this ecstasy. In fact, despite my cognitive awareness of the fallacy of that opinion it has had a grip on me.
I made some serious decisions to alter how I live my day to day life in order to allow myself to continue feeling beautiful. In fact I have forgotten what I did to prepare for the weekend. I was meditating regularly on allowing myself to experience my center and to heal emotionally - to become less congested emotionally and physically. I was eating well. I was focusing my energy on acceptance and tolerance. The idea that whatever happened at all would happen as it should was resonant. I was meeting calamity with serenity. Not only was I not experiencing the fallout of negative emotion, the positive acceptance I was practicing elated me.
In retrospect, I immediately started to engage in some old habits to hold onto this new way of experiencing the here and now. I am pleased that by being open and honest with the incredible supporting freinds in my life that clarity is possible. I don't know all the answers to the things I have set in motion. There is clearly more to be revealed.
Euphoria is a byproduct of sexual love or being in love with someone. Loving someone is more difficult to acheive. It can not be impetuous or frenzied. Still waters run deep.
Shooting a film in a weekend was like having a torrid affair with the muse.
Editing the film shot so rapturously is learning to love once the honeymoon is over.
Perhaps the waters of editing are too deep for an immature fool like me - the broiling brook of being on set steals my attention away from deeper waters.

Going Deep,
Signore Direttore

Advice on Memorizing Lines


I read some actor's blog where he counts the number of lines after he's highlighted his then divides them by the number of days before he is to be off book.
I almost got mad when I read it, it is so wrong-headed.
Actors memorize lines because they don't know how to do text analysis. If you learn what the given circumstances are to you and the writing is good, you will say exactly what needs to be said less from memory than from structure.
Learning to work with the paper in your hand is a good idea. Why rush to get off book? So you can memorize the emotion of your scene along with the lines?
Not for me, amici.

Signore Direttore

The Master Says 032

Cinema isn't like chemistry where you can predict that ten grams of one substance, when combined with five grams of another, will give a particular result. With cinema, I do as I please.

Roman Polanski

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hearts and Minds

It's pretty much a bona fide historical joke that LBJ wanted to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese.
I can't seem to reconcile my own heart and mind. In trying to follow my heart, my head tells me I'm a fool.
What's that crap I try to remember?
Life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Notes on Future Films

I am always thinking about my next films. Currently I am attempting to focus my attention on cutting, but that is not a simple transition for me. Particularly now, as I am very distracted by some things in my personal life.
For some films I see a density of information in the frame and for others I see space. Original Glory is wide open - lots of sky and loneliness. Depth and separation of characters from one another and the landscape - emphasizing their inability to connect to the here and now. Perhaps an articulated coming closer as LBJ, the protagonist, is capable of more of a relationship with himself. Made Crooked was in-your-face doc style coverage, punctuated with longer shots that seemed to spy or reveal characters individually or in sub-groups. The density of the frame often depended on random impulses of actors and camera operators. Pendleton will use wider shots to include the landscape of Eastern Oregon and the emotional terrain of its characters. I like the idea of long lenses and wide vistas to flatten the space and emphasize familiarity of scale - father is taller than son, even though son is an adult. Smashing the characters into the land, rooting them there whether they like it or not. That's where they're from. I also like the idea of hanging the characters on a closeline in the distance, not literally but by flattening perspective. Hanging them out to dry.
My grandmother told me a story of how her father used to cut wood in South Dakota when she was a girl. (Aha! I used to stare at maps of South Dakota with longing - but never made the connection that my grandmotehr is from there.) He would jack the car up, remove one of the rear wheels and attach a belt to the axle that would power a saw. I want to rig something similiar in Pendleton for Zach/Clay to cut the wood for the picket fence he builds for his grandmother. But it sounds really fucking dangerous.
I want to experiment with longer interior shots and more intentionally dense frames in our next Actor's Retreat movie, which is tentatively planned for the Fall. I'm thinking of two families living in the same house or going to the same weekend house at different times. I don't know if their experiences are parallel or contradictory, but I like the idea of playing out different characters and their stories in the same space from the same perspective. I am going to rewatch Hou Hsien Hsien's Goodbye South Goodbye for inspiration. It is one of my favorite films. I recommended it to someone a few years ago. When they commented on the ending I was at a loss, for even though I had seen it a dozen times I didn't really care about the plot. I love the way it looks and feels - the story is incidental. Somewhat like Last Days- more of a psycho-spiritual journey than an entertainment.
I saw The Proposition. Ray Winstone was brilliant as always. Danny Huston is the guy that has stayed with me. He has such courage. At least his character did. I'm of the mind that the depth of personal courage that he showed can't be played or acted.
I'm also wondering if Emilio Estevez can act or if he's doomed to wooden characterizations that bank on the familiarity of sharing his infinitely more talented father's voice and demeanor.

Signore Direttore