Sunday, April 27, 2008

Silent Film Frenzy

I've watched four silent films this week - Chaplin's City Lights and Modern Times, Lubitsch's Marriage Circle and Murnau's Sunrise. It takes a certain frame of mind to get into them, but once adjusted the rewards abound. It's funny how the parodies of Chaplin capture his gestures only generally. You see so many imitations of Chaplin that it's easy to forget how great he was. His work is much more nuanced and truly is masterful.
When I've done a lot of takes people have jokingly called me Kubrick. Kubrick's got nothing on Chaplin who would routinely take a hundred times and once did over 300 for one of the shots in the Tramp meets the Flower Girl sequence in Modern Times.

Signore Direttore

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Master Says 307

A work of art is a confession.

Albert Camus

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April F*^cking Twenty-Second ! ? !

Sheesh! The time is a flying. Perhaps I need to slow down. Though I often tell myself I need to do more. Which is it? Does packing it in make life seem more full or make it rush past? Not really sure.
So we're going along with all the stuff that we ask of life. And it's all going well. Underneath the exhaustion and feelings of being overwhelmed there's a satisfaction and a joy that life is rewarding. It takes a lot of diligent work and patience, but it is possible. Which I haven't always had an easy time seeing. I tend to panic if things don't happen right away. Or I procrastinate until conditions are ideal to proceed. I'm finding the middle way between those two extremes. I need to take that approach as a director and as a father. It helps in other areas as well like dealing with the contractors that are working on my building. Wow, what an exercise in being forthright and kind.
It also helps with actor-students. Overall I'm happy with the progress I've seen and the experience of working with the ten or so folks that have been through the studio these past few months. I've also had my disappointments lately. There seems to be a bit more giddy chatting going on in the studio than necessary. I tried to gently call attention to that again last week, we'll see if it make a difference. Also, my efforts to reach out to specific actors and build a relationship and develop scripts for them have been frustrating. I pitched a feature idea to one actor who called it a short when passing on it. Great listening? Were I an actor looking to do challenging and interesting work and a director that I respected took an interest in developing projects with me and building a relationship with me, I would be all over them. What I've seen too much of around here is actors being overbooked, confused and more concerned with their social lives and day jobs than digging in and getting dirty. Which is why film is not an actor's medium ultimately. Altman said it was, but they turned themselves over to his vision. So who's medium was it in the end? I really think I was on to something in Made Crooked by not letting actors prepare or get scared of playing things close to their bones.
When actors get flaky or confused I lose interest. If I really like them and respect their talents I try to be understanding. But there's a line for sure.
I was reading Fassbinder's editor's account of how he was always miles ahead of the actors, how he knew all of their lines and how he saw the nuances of their parts. And also how well he cast his films, having the ability to see the actors' true hearts and their deepest motives and needs. She told of his scathing response of actors complaining about why a certain take was used. He said technical problems happen, but it's your job to deliver your performance every take. I relate and probably shouldn't say so publicly. No wonder the poor bastard was so desperately lonely.
A lot of actors think they've got it together, but so many of them are so desperate and confused and vested in covering their insecurities that they can't reveal themselves in their work. Unless you trick them into it.

Feeling like The Prince,
Signore Direttore

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Master Says 306

Thank God I'm an atheist.

Luis Bunuel

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Freedom From Bondage

It's official - we are not going to get internet at our new house. We got iPhones instead so we can stay current via email and check the internet for essential information. I don't have an internet connection at my office either. I find it liberating. When I do sit down with a connection as I am right now, I find that all the virtual places I used to visit bore me when I'm in the flow of my life. It's only when I'm seeking to check out that hours spent trolling seem compelling.
I don't expect to blog as much, it's already fallen off quite a bit. I like certain things like the week in review that I started this year to track my movie watching. I'm not sure how I'll do that. There's a great program called Journler that I've using for over a year now. Perhaps I can do some entries there and cut and paste. I'm still amassing interesting quotes from filmmakers which I archive in Journler, so I'll try to continue to post those as well.

I saw Paranoid Park again the other night. If I was looking for a conventional narrative and, or to be entertained, I would be disappointed. I can see why it didn't do so well. Thing is I want to make films very similar to GSV's. So for me seeing the film multiple times reveals more of what Gus is exploring.

I met with my favorite leading lady yesterday to discuss shooting a challenging long-from experimental film. She seemed less than eager, but I quickly realized that her apprehension is a good thing. I don't want to do projects that are slam dunks; what would be the point in that? As an exercise in pointing the camera and other production techniques, slam dunks are great. As an opportunity to explore retaining the heart and pathos that's behind all of my favorite ideas throughout the filmmaking process, the short and sweet needs to give way to patient and dirty.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Or Not

Last year when finishing Dangerous Writing I complained to a friend of having to come back down to earth. She proclaimed the virtues of doing remodeling projects and working for money. I don't entirely disagree with her. However, I think my comments yesterday about getting going on another film need to be amended. And I think the source of getting ahead of myself had a lot to do with wanting to get into something new as an escape from the mundane that my friend finds more solace in than I apparently do.
Upon further consideration I determined that the idea that's working on me right now deserves more from me than a splintered dedication. Principally that I would want to retain the emotional link to the story and in order to do that I can not get caught up in producing the thing. But it's obvious to me that even if I find a competent producer, I will have to do quite a bit of producing myself before I could return to the heart of my story, which may be too late. Then of course with a producer on board, its realization would require substantially more budgetary resources than I can possibly muster any time soon. I will continue to let it form as I do the work of finishing films and remodeling our building. If it takes a shape that still begs to be produced, it will get what it deserves at some point in the future. The possibility of a very experimental truncated version remains viable.
One thing that does come out of all the leg and back work of my life is that I am becoming much more discerning about the projects to which I am willing to commit.

Blogged from my iPhone

Living Large,
Signore Direttore

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Losing My Virginity in An Orgy

Been awhile. No internet at the new house. Not yet, debating ever.
This is what's on my mind.
While I'm determined to finish some films before I start any new ones, I never can stop the flow of ideas. I'm always riding waves of stories, even when I don't want to. Often they attain a certain form in my mind and on paper. Sometimes I discuss them with select friends. Though I learned a long time ago if you tell an actor you have something in mind for them it's kind of like telling someone you love them - there's an obligation and it usually ends in heartbreak.
As I've been getting dirty with dust and paint and my back has been called upon to move every object in our lives, my mind has been at work. I've been thinking about what films I've directed and written that really mean something to me. Which really come forme the deepest apart of me, expressing and exploring some mystery that intrigues and eludes me. There are many stories that I've authored that are exercises in craft and sometimes in vanity.
When ideas come to me, they usually give me a little hit. Then sometimes, like with Original Glory, Made Crooked and Dangerous Writing, they take grab me by the heart. In the case of DW, I think I ultimately tried to make too much sense of the plot, thus making it more of a film from my intellect. Which is fine, it was where I was at the time. My mind is strong enough to interest me and hopefully others. I recall this stuff to remind myself to continue to explore the new idea from the place that it's grabbing me. let it be known that I'm considering breaking my vow of abstinence.
One of the things that prompted my filmmaking abstinence was not wanting to get ahead of Made Crooked. It's something I'm very proud of. I want it to be my first film. And it is. I feel the need to fit my filmmaking endeavors into a tidy CV. Not going to happen folks. My cherry was busted long ago.
Right now my mind is keen to respect the need to finish my past films, but I don't think it is necessary to sit on my hands in the meantime.
I got the ghost of Fassbinder in my bones - nine films in 1970. Fucking A.

The Whore of Indiedom,
Signore Direttore

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Master Says 305

Artists should cut out their tongues for fear of not letting their work be self-explanatory.

Henri Matisse

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

But A Dream Logline

A nursery rhyme proves to be more effective than orders and
combat skills in advancing two soldiers across a minefield.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Master Says 304

When I show people on the screen the ways that things can go wrong, my aim is to warn them that that's the way things will go if they don't change their lives.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder