Saturday, March 31, 2007

Light and Shadow 001 - David

The Master Says 156

The best stories don't come from 'good vs. bad' but from 'good vs. good'.

Leo Tolstoy

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Liar's Club

My Uncle Zippy and I used to tell each other tall tales. We would be driving somewhere or watching television together and one of us would interrupt the silence. "Hey Uncle, did I ever tell you about the time I swam across the English Channel with a birthday cake on my head for the Queen?" He would get a twinkle in his eye and give a very sincere chuckle before launching into a retort that would top my opener. We'd go back and forth with that kind of cornball stuff for awhile until he would concede by saying, "My boy you are the president of the liar's club."
It was good fun. He was a fascinating man. Having spent most of his life in factories with other immigrants, he spoke a handful of languages. He was a living historian. We talked about the politics and social history of the 20s thru 70s all the time. And baseball, always hours of baseball. He could tell you the play by play of almost any game he ever watched live or on television. Once I took him to a game down in Oakland versus the Yankees. Ron Guidry was pitching for the Yankees. Zippy started talking about Guidry and Yankee pitchers back to the days of the Polo Grounds. Pretty soon he had about ten people ignoring the game and listening to his stories.
There were days that Uncle Pete wasn't at his best. Once in Reno we stopped at a gas station. We were done with the fill-up but Zippy wasn't back form the restroom as yet. My mom went looking for him. He was sitting in the front seat of someone else's car. Apparently when the owner climbed in behind the wheel, Zippy barked, "Who the hell are you?" My mom fetched him back to our car. At first I laughed, but it quickly became obvious that he was very embarrassed.
At his worst Uncle Pete would tell me he was dying. I mean you could really see that the pain of living was getting the best of him and he wasn't up for the fight. "I'm dying, Sonny. This is it." It would get me. I would choke back the tears and incite him to keep living. I'd ask him if he wanted to go to the hospital. "If you're dying, I'd better just take you." I'm not proud of that. At nineteen it was my best defense and it usually worked. Who knows how he really felt. For all the talking he did, he never mentioned his feelings.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Master Says 155

I think being funny is not anyone's first choice.

Woody Allen

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pola Negri

Many years ago, twenty to be exact, my mother and I travelled by car to Northern California with my Uncle Zippy. Zippy was 87 at the time. Always easy to remember his age as he was born in 1900. My son Henry was born in 2000 and is likewise easy to compute. We drove south on I-5 to Grants Pass where we headed west to the Redwood Highway. As we passed through the Redwoods, my mom bought one of those bears carved from a log. Zippy really liked it. It sat outside of the window next to his chair for the next several years.
A quick and dirty family history lesson: Zippy was my grandfather's older brother. They came to America from Greece when they were teenagers and later sent for their parents and sister. Even though they went through Ellis Island on the same day, my grandfather Kostas Kampras was given the name Charles Kampras while his older brother, Uncle Zippy born Panayotis Kampras, was given the name Peter Cambras. I grew up listening to stories about Uncle Pete that lived Back East. There was a photo of them together taken on one of the trips my grandparents made on the Greyhound after they retired. My grandfather was a very snappy dresser, he bought only the best. He was the raconteur of the family. I have a set of his headshots from the Twenties when he was trying to break into the movies. They're pretty awesome, he's got a few looks going: The Leading Man, The Gangster, The Gatsby and The Immigrant. In his old age he had a thick silvery pompadour and a silver moustache. He was slim and although only 5'7'' he always seemed very tall. Uncle Pete was a different story. He had a round head with a few strings of hair. I always thought he looked like a cat. Come to think of it, in my childhood dreams my grandfather was often a big cat. I always thought he looked like a lion. By the way, it's extremely difficult to edit all of the memories that are flooding me as I write. So in the photo there's my grampa, the suave gentleman I loved beyond anything, and his legendary brother. Except Pete doesn't look so impressive. He was kind of roly-poly and wore very loud mismatched plaids. I later learned his lack of sartorial savvy was not only part of his charm, but the result of his very practical frugality that was to benefit me for the remainder of my life.
After my grandfather died in 1979, my mom really wanted to go see Pete and his wife, Aunt Julia. She hadn't seen them since she was a little girl. My mother moved from Hartford to Portland in the early 1950s. So we went back there to visit these very old people that we didn't really know. They lived in a three family house in the Blackrock section of Bridgeport, what was once a lively comunity of immigrant factory workers. By the 70s it was very blighted. It was my first trip Back East, as I learned to think of the East Coast from my grandparents. My first impression as we drove from JFK up through the Bronx to I-95 was basically piles of garbage, fallen buildings and stripped cars, some of them on fire. When we went to Manhattan later in the week, there were crazy people everywhere that would just come up to you and start talking or yelling. I was terrified, but felt strangely at home. My aunt and uncle were very set in their ways and didn't know what to do with us. Pete loved baseball, especially the Mets, and that quickly won me over at age eleven. We talked a lot about baseball while we played gin for hours on end. We went back for visits when I was fifteen and eighteen. Aunt Julia died just after my last visit to Bridgeport. They never had any children, so my mother went to Connecticut to help her uncle. He was going to go into a nursing home, but my mother wouldn't let that happen. She brought him home to Portland. For that he called her Mrs. Calabash. Pete had a gift for bestowing nicknames. Back in the early days of television, Jimmy Durante closed his show by saying, "Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." Legend has it that the real "Mrs. Calabash" was a lady that Jimmy took a liking to because she made him feel at home on his travels.

Back to the Redwoods and the bear. Uncle Pete named her Pola after Pola Negri, the silent film star, who coincidentally, and unbeknownst to us at the time, died earlier that very month. I would say, "It's not a polar bear, Uncle. And he would say, "Not Pola Bear, Pola Negri." He had a charming way of speaking that made me want him to repeat things. He was old and his false teeth were loose in his mouth. Even htough he had been in America for seventy-some years his English was very accented and stilted. Whenever I brought a girl to the house, he always muted the television, leaned forward in his chair and took her hand in his. Oh how I loved the feel of his hands! You could hear him getting his teeth right in his mouth. Then he would clear his throat before he said, "Doll, you are the most beautiful girl my sonny boy has ever brought to meet me. Take good care of him, he's a good boy." Then when they would leave the room, he would whisper, "Bring em back alive, sonny!" He said the same thing every time. Once he gave me some advice. He said I was too much like my grandfather. Whenever he spoke about my grandfater he would say, "Charlie, my brother, your grandfather ..." as if I needed the clarification. He told me, "I see the girls you bring to meet me, sonny. They seem like nice girls, but they're trouble. Too much time in the looking glass and not enough in the kitchen. Your Aunt Julia was an ugly woman, but she was a good woman. In those days you wanted a woman that had the cherry. The girls Charlie, my brother, your grandfather was with, they didn't have it. They said they did, but they were lying. When Julia told me she had the cherry I believed her and she took good care of me until the day she died. Remember that."
I drove to San Francisco this past Sunday. I thought a lot about the many trips I took back in the late 80s, early 90s on that same road. I didn't enjoy the scenery in the same way back then. I was too distracted by the all those girls that liked the looking glass. Nor did I wear polarized sunglasses which make it all look so much better.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Flying High

I am officially free from any obligation to my former employer. I gave notice over a month ago, but stayed around at their request to help them make the transistion. In the meantime I have been accepting freelance work. So I've been working six or seven days a week for the past four or five weeks. This week is no exception.
The thing is, I'm having a great time. I've worked the last few days on the rigging electric crew for Untraceable. I am so happy to transistion from managing the grip shop to working on set. I love being part of a crew and having a mission. It's very strenuous labor at times. Every piece of gear on a movie is heavy. Cable weighs a lot. We pulled up tens of fifty foot runs and wrapped it into coils yesterday. Everything around the west end of the Broadway Bridge. There were lights on the ground under the bridge, lights on the roof of Albers Mill, lights up in the top of the bridge. Of course where there's a light, there's cable and all the cable runs back to the generators. So before the rain had a chance to soak us from the outside I was drenched with sweat from the inside. I loved every minute of it. Especially working high up in the bridge in a condor lift for several hours last night. Definitely felt alive. I was up in the air with another guy, but we had to stay focused on the work we were doing and accomplishing it safely. So there was no chatter. Just work. Flying that high with the rain coming from every direction and being so focused mentally while being challenged physically made me so happy.

Molto Contento,
Signore Direttore

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Master Says 154

A woman is closest to being naked when she is well-dressed.

Coco Chanel

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Master Says 153

Art is only a means to life, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.

Henry Miller

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Master Says 152

I see in nature only forms that advance, forms that recede, masses in light and shadow.

Francisco Goya

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Master Says 151

I have a fine sense of the ridiculous, but no sense of humor.

Edward Albee

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Master Says 150

Films are light.

Federico Fellini

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I Spy ...

with my little eye something with little pink flowers.

The cherry blossoms are upon us. They take my breath away.

I've been working up in Seattle the past couple of days. Coming home last night I drove out of Seattle at dusk. I was feeling ho-hum about the long drive when suddenly Mount Rainier popped into view. It was blue, orange and pink and made me grateful to be alive. I started singing at the top of my lungs. I could feel the blood coursing through my lips and tongue. I ran out of songs that I know all the way through after twenty minutes or so. There was no radio in the big diesel grip truck. The truck was too noisy to talk on the phone and traffic was just heavy enough that my full attention needed to be on driving. Night had fallen and I drove into it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Master Says 149

Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

Howard Aiken

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Master Says 148

I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Master Says 147

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

Joseph Campbell

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Master Says 146

Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's.

Billy Wilder

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Another One Down

We shot March's short film, Blowing Up, today. It went well. I got tired going into hour ten, but felt no stress of note. Nice way to work. And work it certainly was, so I'm going to sign off and fill you in on the details later.

Thanks go out to Stephen Lisk as Floyd, Eric Stevens as Matt, Greg Schmitt as DP, Dennis Brenahugh as AD/Producer, Jordan Karr-Morse as AC/Camera Op, Brian Grubb on Sound, Brian Seidel as Grip, Tom as 2nd AC, Travis as PA, Ed as PA, SImon Hill as Stills/PA.

I did the writing, directing, producing, casting, set decoration, wardrobe and hair and makeup. I'll give myself credit for the writing and directing. And maybe for editing and producing, we'll see. The rest is just part of being a no-budget filmmaker.

We did a number of setups involving complex dolly moves that were half a page long. Things often went so well that we would go for a page to almost two on the takes. I liked what I was seeing and just let it continue. It was fun.

Buona Sera
Signore Dirretore

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Master Says 145

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Master Says 144

I've been in beautiful landscapes where one is tempted to whip out a camera and take a picture. I've learned to resist that.

David Byrne

Monday, March 05, 2007

Deeply Weird Coincidence

Okay. This is strange. I'm making this short this weekend that draws on an experience of mine from about twenty-five years ago. I stole the cable remote from my friend's family. I stole it becuase ours went missing and I spent the money that my mom gave me to replace it. I've been thinking about it a lot recently.
Just now we got a phone call on our home phone. Not many people call on that line other than solicitors and parents from our children's schools. It was my friend from middle school and early high school. We haven't seen each other since high school aside from a random run in on Hawthorne fifteen years ago. She said she hasn't thought of me in years, but she had a dream about me last night and decided to look me up to see what became of me.
I'm here Wendy, mining my inner life's petty crime memories for film inspiration.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence.


Concrete Knees

I was on my feet in a warehouse for ten plus hours today. My knees are vibrating from the unforgiving floor. My mind is equally dull.
We're making another short film this Saturday. Greg Schmitt is shooting it. Greg shot But A Dream. Dennis Brenahugh is producing. Dennis AD'd London Calling. Always reassuring when good people want to work with you again. Especially when they're not getting paid.
I was in the edit suite last night working. I'm doing that with more regularity. It's a bountiful time. And pretty darn exhausting, too.

signore direttore

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Master Says 143

I am stalking, as in the hunt. What a bagful to be taken home.

Walker Evans

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Blowing Up

A salesman exposes himself as a petty thief on a friendly sales call.

This short is based on very similiar actions to Klepto. We're going to add dialogue, but keep it inside in a single location. We're also adding more sophiticated camera moves with a Fisher 11 dolly. I'm allowing more time and for a bigger crew. My goal is to focus on directing with emphasis on really looking for the moments and establishing and maintaining tone.

Bandwidth Exceeded

One of my producing partners provided me with a username to an incredible website that makes imbdpro look like kid's stuff. He warned me that it's going to be like crack for me. Problem is, I'm too exhausted to smoke crack. It's been a busy week. My goodness. I've been all over the place physically and mentally (somehow I'm staying grounded otherwise). I shot a short, worked crew on two films, worked my day job, took meetings on an upcoming project and put in a lot of time planning and networking for the imminent day job to freelance transistion. I even made it to a friend's opening on First Thursday.
Last night I put the baby to bed at eight and fell asleep with her. Guess I needed the rest.
I woke up this morning and knocked out a script for this month's short, Petty. I'm meeting with the producer later today. I'm going to try to be really hands off on this one. I'm going to let the producer produce it. And the AD do his thing and so on. Just direct. Weird, but very good practice letting go.
I've refrained from getting involved in anything at all tomorrow. A day of rest.
For the rest of this morning I'm going to try to summon the bandwidth to dig into We'll see if I get addicted.

signore direttore