Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ripping and Running

I typed 11,000 words between Friday and Saturday night. This story is just pouring out of me. I haven't gone back and read any of it except for the occasional checking of where I left one timeline or another. It has totally earned my trust. I couldn't have planned the structure any better. There are plenty of places where it's going to need work. I'm bringing my screenwriting experience into play and just trying to get the first draft down as fast as possible. I can and will make more passes later. This method keeps me moving and allows the narrative voice to emerge without too much interference. I've never been able to sustain third person this long without having it start to sound painfully prosaic. I'm not sure yet, but I think rhythm has been the key. And the rhythm has come as a result of not being precious.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Talk about steady

I've been kicking out 2500 words a day in about three and a half hours of writing this week.
I now know where the story is going and roughly where I'd like to end up. I have a couple of turning points or mileposts to hit but the rest I'm discovering as I go. I've found some real gold.
I don't want to talk about it too specifically just yet, but I'm trusting where it's taking me and it feels right in so many ways.
Today I was feeling very confident that I do indeed have a book in Sway. Almost immediately I fretted about the next one. I worried that the temporal shifts I'm riding are not going to fly in every book. I quickly told myself to stop it and went on with my day.
In other news, I'm considering buying a used Mercedes. I took the car I was looking at to get an inspection at a specialist that a friend recommended. It turns out that my mother used to bring her cars to the same shop. They remembered her when I said that my mother's real estate office used to be across the street from their shop. Funny thing was their shop used to be in a different location when they worked on her cars. It was a pleasure to speak about her in a neutral and friendly way. They were sad to hear that she had died and said they had wondered why she had stopped coming in.
Another happy coincidence, and may be responsible in part for the inspiration for Sway, is that my old friend Charlie Kohlmeyer sent me a script yesterday. I ran into him at Reed a few weeks ago when I was shooting a concert for the college. He was in town playing with a band from New Orleans. The band leader said Charlie's name when he introduced the band. My eyes traveled instantly to his feet. Sure enough he was playing in socks - it was the same Charlie Kohlmeyer. I knew him in New York when I was booking gigs for jazz bands. Very good guy. Not surprising that he was back in New Orleans where he's originally from. So many of the jazz musicians I knew in New York were originally from New Orleans or St. Louis. Turns out he'd written a screenplay. He said he was going to send it to me, but when we talked after the gig it was way past my bed time and I kind of forgot about it. He sent it to me yesterday and made me see the connection to my awakening to a period of my life that I reference only in passing. I haven't read his script yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I told him about Sway and he said he would be glad to help with any of the technical research stuff. It's going otbe fun for him to read and try to figure out who the characters are from real life and which one might be him. I think the drummer in socks might give it away. Actually I made the drummer in the band the solid good guy and roommate to the protagonist. Interesting, I wasn't aware of that until just now.
Another funny thing about that is the friend that introduced us, Ingrid Lucia of the Flying Neutrinos (who is also back in NoLa, had called him for a gig that day that we ran into each other. She only calls him a few times a year, he said.

Signore Direttore

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Steady Positioning

After writing prose for an hour yesterday I spent several hours editing. In between I made a blog entry and updated my word count. I was very energized by both my continued progress and the joy of the work of writing. Hence my cocky banter in the face of balance. It was more an expression of separation anxiety from something that was giving me a lot of joy. I realized as I sat diligently cutting, even skipping dinner, that I was experiencing balance in my life to a greater degree than when I haven't been creative.
I received a comment to my post yesterday that was since deleted by its author . I read the deleted comment in the email that was sent to me alerting me of a new comment. I can see why its author deleted it. He or she might fear I could easily misinterpret the intent and the tone of the comment that expressed some concern about unfinished films getting the attention they need. I'm going to trust that the intent was meant to encourage both my new endeavor, albeit faintly, as well as to prompt my commitment to projects in progress especially as they relate to the mutual interest of my collaborators. Which is all fair and good. To be honest I would have rather heard something privately, but I know this party is busy and under strain in their own affairs. To be really honest I would like to have heard some genuine and enthusiastic support for my recent accomplishments with writing. There's no resentment on my part, I just have decided to take the opportunity to be very transparent about things.
A large part of maintaining balance is making oneself independent of the judgment and expectations of others. That sort of dependence will keep you down. I told this other friend I was writing a novel. He asked me the first line. Because that's the clincher you know, he added. I told him I didn't know because I didn't fuck about for three days coming up with a precious Call me Ishmael in order to avoid writing the first ten thousand words. I'm going to keep writing and iron out the kick ass opening when and if it presents itself. I didn't feel compelled to share much more about the project with that friend. Which is fine. I'm at a point finally where I don't live off of the approval of others. I might still like it or even crave it at times, but I can move forward on my own juice.
When it comes to finishing films I do hold an obligation to those that have given their talent, time and, in some cases, money to our projects. I want to make it clear that I remain dedicated to those films. I am working on them all the time. I am paying for them all the time. I maintain an office and the equipment on which they are being post-produced and archived. I provide endless favors to those that are working for “free”. I am working with actors, producers, picture and sound editors, compositors, musicians, composers, as well as mounting grass roots publicity with no budgets whatsoever. There's also a dearth of moral support. Inquiries regarding the projects' status are often tentative and sometimes even scornful. No one has ever said, Let me know if I can help. That's taking nothing from the many that have come generously forth when asked. Or from those that earnestly express eagerness to see them in their finished forms.
The previous paragraph outlines what I'm doing to finish the films I've produced and directed. Hopefully it reads as evidence of my determination to get these tiny little films out into the world in spite of the seeming Sisyphean nature of the process. There's something else though. Doing the aforementioned doesn't feed me in any way whatsoever. Seeing things come together in an edit or doing something creative like writing and singing a theme song offer me much joy. But most of the time I just want to make another film or blog or do just about anything than slog away at cleaning up the mess of shooting on a micro budget with a pro/am cast and crew and a tyro at the helm.

To offer a clear status report of some of my unfinished films in the order they were produced:

London Calling
I hate it and I often doubt I will ever finish it.

But a Dream
Finalizing edit with an editor that is on a job indefinitely in LA, looking for a new sound designer after the first one flaked repeatedly for three months, finalizing titles and promotional materials with graphic designer.
Projected completion date: August 15

Made Crooked
Finalizing edit with an editor that is on a job indefinitely in LA, working on music with composer, beginning publicity
Projected completion date: December 31

Blowing Up
Waiting for sound editor to finalize sweetening, waiting for compositor to doctor a few shots
Projected completion date: August 1

Dangerous Writing
Haven't touched it and don't plan to until Made Crooked is completed
Projected completion date: Summer 2009

The other 15+ shorts sitting un- or partially edited on my hard-drives:
I can't think of anything that I don't want to finish and I'll get to them as I can

In the meantime I will be working on my novel. I can get down a couple of thousand words a day and still leave plenty of time for editing or even for avoiding editing. The writing is filling a void in me and when that ravenous vacuum is filled it restores a lot of my energy. So who knows, maybe this writing distraction will actually prove to enable more activity on the post-production front than it will detract from it.

Part of me questioned whether my word count meter belongs on Finding Fellini. Would it raise suspicions that my commitment to filmmaking is wavering? Have I gone off in search of a new creative pursuit? Not at all. I'm still very interested in creating films. Unfortunately, I don't find being a post-production coordinator/PR officer/IT technician/bookkeeper/colorist all that creative. Fellini was a director and sometimes writer. He didn't produce or edit his films. He sure as hell didn't repair the Moviola when it broke down. Maybe if I were as talented as he I would have people clamoring to do those things for me, but I don't. So I'm going to keep doing my best with what little resources I've got. And I'm going to remember that this blog doesn't serve to chronicle my quest toward achieving what Fellini the director accomplished. Nor is it an apologia. It is about finding the maestro inside of me, my creative center that allows me to express myself freely. The closer I get to that, the more I understand what balance truly is.

Much love to you all,
Signore Direttore

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Could this be love?

I'm at my office today trying to finish the edits of the scenes from Magnolia for class tonight. I spent too long installing necessary updates on some computer applications and just wanted to do a little writing on Sway before getting started on the cutting.
Two hours and nineteen hundred and some odd words later I'm not feeling like switching from Word to Final Cut Pro. From my crush to my battle-ax. Not at all. But the clock ticks forward and there's only three hours until class.
They might call it balance. They might remind you it's a verb. But you don't have to like it. I sure as hell don't.

Signore Direttore

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Great American ...

... Novel. At least I'm writing what I would like to think is going to be novel. Once begun half done, as it were. I've been all over the place lately in a fearful way trying to determine a new course for my life. Nothing drastic, like some big left turn away from making films, but searching for some complementary path that would provide some income, stability and structure. I decided for now to keep my head in the sand where money is concerned and stick to my strengths. Writing scripts always gives me the production jones, so I've been thinking about returning to prose after a seven year break. Then Friday I landed a job making some tasteful, albeit corporate, videos. I didn't think about it until now, but the influx of paid work must have cleared a little space for me to start writing.

Basically I just started writing, trusting that the story and the structure would reveal itself. Which may sound naive, but I'm not someone that has always thought it would be cool to write a novel and just sat down to do it. I've been writing for twenty-five years or more - thousands of pages of stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, journals/blogs. I've even written the first draft of a novel before. I've also been analyzing stories from the perspectives of an English and Spanish Lit student, actor, director and acting coach for as long as I've been writing. What's more, I'm a born storyteller. Some of my friends, especially those from the first twenty some years of my life, might have another name for my endless spinning of yarns.
Writing is something that comes easy for me and as such I've tended to take it for granted. Or perhaps there's some psychological aversion to pursuing something I'm good at for fear of actually being seen as good at something. Because as much as I might crave attention, I shrink from it at the same time.
Anyway, I kicked out 1500 words the first evening. Then another 6000 the next day. And another 2500 this morning, bringing my total to 10,000. Another 90,00o and I'll have a first draft!
It's called Sway. The protagonist is Eugene Morris, the singer and manager of a jazz band that plays weddings and tourist bar gigs in New York City. It's a world I know well and I'm stepping into it again with a new fictional friend leading the way.
I could have spent a lot of time reading books on writing novels or taking notes or joining a writing group or even taken a course, but I decided to just trust that I might know a bit more about this than I give myself credit. Besides it doesn't matter if it's good or it sells or anything like that. It only matters that I keep typing.

Signore Escrittore

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Movies as of late

Some movies I've seen lately, graded academically

Ironman B+
Quai de les Orfevres A
Zodiac A-
The Birds C
Indiana Jones IV. D
Harry Potter I. B-
The Passenger A+
If.... A
The Killers (Siodmak) B
The Killers (Seigal) C
Killer of Sheep. C
Lilya 4-ever A
Dave Chappelle's House Party A
Casino Royale (2007) C-
Paris j'taime A-

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Into Action

It was good to air a little frustration yesterday. Not only to get it off my mind, but it also prompted a little cutting work. One of those things where I do it and then go; What was I dreading? Or; Is that it?
I'm going to a little more today. I'm thinking a couple of hours everyday minimum and see where that leads.

Signore Direttore

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Editing Doldrums

It really isn't the season to be doing a lot of editing. I don't know though if I think any season is the right time of year to toil away in front of a computer screen. I've been able to let it go for a while now. It being the whole lot of films that I've yet to finish. It takes a long time, sure it does. But it takes even longer when I don't cut anything because I only have a few hours here and there and I use that as an excuse not to do any editing at all.
Today I put together an assembly of something for this month's class in about an hour. It's hard for me to edit. I just see what should have or could have been - I don't see the possibilities in what's there.
Even when I direct I sometimes find myself going, oh I like this but it isn't going to cut together - fuck it let's just shoot it. I've been trying to balance out finding golden moments with the more practical continuity concerns. Traditional coverage is so boring and yet free flowing masters are really hard to cover.
Really it's all about sitting down to do it. Which is the hardest friggin part of it for me. I do much better when I'm in the habit of doing just that.
What I really want to do is shoot a film. I know however that I really need to finish a few before I begin anything new. There's a lot of reasons for that. I think I would get a lot more support in many ways if I had some films finished. I have received a tremendous amount of support so far, for which I'm extremely grateful. Another kick ass reason to finish some films.
Of course films plural is a bit overwhelming and contributes to my malaise.

Signore Direttore

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Master Says 315

I've always found it difficult to find people who understand what I'm trying to do and who don't think I'm completely mad.

Lindsay Anderson

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Master Says 314

If a man has talent and can't use it, he's failed. If he uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If he uses the whole of it, he has succeeded, and won a satisfaction and triumph few men ever know.

Thomas Wolfe

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Master Says 313

Chaos is a friend of mine.

Bob Dylan

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Master Says 312

The camera is the eye of the marvelous. When the eye of the cinema really sees, the whole world goes up in flames.

Luis Bunuel

Piling on the Pounds

I gave that JGp assembly another look last night. I was able to give in a bit more to the experience of it. As such I'm starting to fatten it up and trust that it's okay to let the thing be as long as it needs. Patiently and courageously allowing it to reveal itself to me.

Signore Direttore

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Nothing Matters

I'm feeling a bit insecure about this, hearing voices in my head. One of the reasons I dislike acting in my own films is the lack of separation for myself and often the viewer. Where does one begin their criticism? And that's exactly the problem - my experience of the film begins with critique. I want to move toward experiencing things and offering experiences. However, I think I'm caught up in striving and seeking the approval of other strivers. In our scramble toward becoming we are missing at least some of the joys of the journey, I'm afraid.
Several weeks ago I sent a couple of scripts to an actor with whom I've been interested in working. He hit me back with notes on the scripts from a writer's perspective. It doesn't really matter whether the notes were good or bad. I didn't even write one of the scripts. I was just trying to get a sense of his taste and interest. As a result I have a better idea of what he's like and whether I want to work with him.
When I imagine giving him a copy of this film, I recoil. Because I don't want to be reproached for doing something I've enjoyed. Because someone like him (or me) is not going to take it in. We can't. We are so practiced in deconstructing every element, that there's no joy or possibility even of simply experiencing something.
Salinger wrote this dedication in one of his books - “to the amateur reader, if he exists anywhere”. I'm feeling a bit like an over-educated Rodney King - Why can't we all just read a book or a film for pleasure? I'm guilty, guilty, guilty of the inability to do exactly that. And letting go of it is likely the answer to enjoying my own work as well as that of my peers.
As I cut the assembly of 'Jane Gallagher, please', from which the above clip is taken, I oscillated wildly between doubt and pride. But I doubted the pride more quickly than good feelings ever quieted my trepidation. Nonetheless, I carried on and stayed with it, which is progress that must be noted.
There's a guy in a hotel room that spends twenty-four hours waiting for his lover to show up. He leaves the room, but we don't go with him. He only talks to other people on the phone for the most part. “Nothing really happens” said my collaborator. Fellini said a film should be like watching the ends of a string unravel. I'm obsessed with this idea. And I'm working on it diligently. Brian is wrong - A lot happens in the film. Brian is right - Nothing happens in this film. It's like life. Especially from a nihilistic view of things.
Ultimately, I think I'm just scratching at the surface of what I want to say in my films. The takes in 'Jane Gallagher, please' are very long. This clip will likely remain this long in the finished film. Going to require some patience. Some of my viewers will be much more patient than I am. And the impatient viewers will be made all the more impatient by my lack of confidence in asking for their assiduity.
This project may fall into the category of yet another exercise. On the one hand, I'm grateful to have the resources and the determination to trudge onward. On the other hand, I fear that I'm unable to accomplish the task of completing a film that I can stand behind or next to or in front of or ...
Looking from the outside it's hard to believe other filmmakers need as much fucking practice as I seem to be requiring. It's difficult to trust that my journey is valid and that it's permissible to experience its joys.
One thing I've read and been encouraged by was an interview with the actor and short film director Matthew Modine. He says he sees a lot of movie credits behind short films and urges short filmmakers to keep it simple. Whether Mr. Modine would like my films or not is questionable, but he's sure to be impressed by the compactness of my credits. 'Jane Gallagher, please' - written, directed, acted, edited and produced by neal. camera, lights, sound by brian. c0-starring naomi.
Oh, and one more thing - I've become obsessed with the Bourne movies. I think Paul Greengrass is brilliant. So strike my scathing assessment of him a few months back. I'm looking forward to the 2010 Jason Bourne project with delighted anticipation.

Please dear god, in whom I don't believe, give me the strength to be an amateur.

Signore Direttore

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Master Says 312

All good acting is about detail. It's about
fighting generality.

Paul Greengrass