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