Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Master Says 320

Everything that moves on the screen is cinema. A film designed to teach children the alphabet as has much claim to be considered cinema as a grandiose production with psychological pretensions. In my view cinema is nothing but a new form of printing - another form of the total transformation of the world through knowledge. Louis Lumiere was another Gutenberg. His invention caused as many disasters as the dissemination of thought through books.

Jean Renoir

The Master Says 319

Discovering the truth about ourselves takes a lifetime, but it's worth the effort.

Mister Rogers

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Giving the Dedicated a Little Hope

Stories like Melissa Leo's are inspiring. Someone that has worked hard got a chance to stretch a bit. Especially nice to see an older woman succeed in a culture concerned more with young ditz's with capped teeth and cleavage than the alluring beauty of artistry.

Grazie universo per una giustizia piccola,
Signore Direttore

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Back in the New York Groove

Picked up Sway again after a two or three week hiatus. I was feeling a little off today, lacking a central connection. I read Chuck Pahlanuik's new novel Snuff after swimming a few laps in the pool. I ate dinner. Nothing seemed to satisfy my unsated appetite. So I said fuck it and opened my computer and started typing. I got a thousand words down. Not one of them seem worth a damn. I'm definitely out of touch with where I left off, but I'm not going to fret. Chuck's new book isn't great, but he writes it confidently. After reading it my work feels stodgy. I'm pretty sure I wasn't reading the hardcover first draft of Snuff. Besides, Snuff is in first person. That's almost cheating! Sounding clever and confident is much easier in first person. I've always found maintaining interest with the third person voice to be elusive. It is tough to keep it active and fresh. Overall I feel pretty fucking boring right now - too much practical responsibility going on. I buck at the reins of convention. Says the man who spent his morning buying appliances, sinks, faucets and heaters.
The groove will come back as soon as I stop judging.

Keeping the faith (really)
Signore Direttore

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Made Crooked Theme

Vocals: Rose Stuart
Music: Mike Spicer
Lyrics: Neal Corl

Back in February, when we were getting on the plane leaving New York after shooting Joey's pickup scenes for Made Crooked, I had the idea that I wanted to write a song for Rose to sing that would express the film's theme. I quickly dismissed the idea as fantasy. But it ended up a reality. If you can dream it ...
I wrote the lyrics one Saturday evening a couple of weeks later. I've been working with the composer on the music and today Rose came over to "audition". I've heard she was a good singer but I had never heard her sing before today. I was very pleased with what she did in one quick take. This is very rough (though smoother than much of the film!), but I think it's great and I look forward to bringing it all together (the song, not the film) in the next couple of weeks. The film is getting closer. I think I've found an editor to do some work since Jordan's return from LA keeps getting delayed.

Signore Direttore

The Master Says 318

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, July 20, 2008

è chiamato lavoro

Down on my hands, well hand actually, and knees working non-stop this past week. Work, work, work. Frustrations of dealing with contractors, helpers, home centers, not enough time and an old fickle building. Della Court (don't know why it's called "court" since it's not a courtyard apartment) turns eighty this year. We've owned her since August of 1988. Going to great lengths to keep her looking almost as good as she was back when people didn't have televisions or even refrigerators. One of the apartments still has the old ice box.
It's a labor of love. I'm turning it over to a contractor to finish what I've started so I can get back to things more suited to me. We'll see how it goes. I'm trying to trust and let go of my perfectionism. I'm definitely looking forward to letting go of it a bit as I'm anxious to get all the units rented at full rate for the first time in four years. That income will allow me to return to writing Sway and other film projects. And to pay off the enormous debts we're taking on to finance these renovations.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Master Says 317

I'm just smiling, thinking about all the poor human beings who allow themselves to love, whether they're artists or famous people or not.

Carl Theodor Dreyer

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What A Week

Getting through weeks like this one takes its toll. Coming through productively takes more of a toll physically than upstairs. I'll take the physical and emotional exhaustion. Gladly.
I didn't do any writing on Sway. I'm a little bummed about that and a little frightened about getting back to the lovely flow I was enjoying. Trust. But I'm very forgiving of myself for not writing. I was leaving the house well before eight each day and getting home between ten and eleven. I barely saw my family.
I had a lot of doctor's appointments for my wrist, including a new set of x-rays. There was a specialist in town yesterday for a conference that worked on it. He gave my doctor some insight and was able to unlock some of the tendons restoring about fifteen percent more movement. I'm now at about fifty percent.
I also narrowed our choice of editors for DW to two. I know who I want to go with but I'm giving myself the weekend to come to a final decision. It's been awesome watching the footage again. I think that movie is going to be very compelling; if I got all the pieces, that is. I'm excited to see it come together. Definitely going to defy convention.
I've been working away with my left hand and some helpers on our apartment building, running to the hardware store twice a day, getting bids from tile setters, painters and carpenters. I'm finally seeing the light and can now walk away until Monday morning.
I've also been prepping my first shoot for my new corporate client.
And I'm finishing the second week of a totally sugar, gluten, wheat and dairy free diet based on the results of a food allergen test I took a few weeks back. It's been tough, but I feel pretty good.
Late-nights, I managed to squeeze in a few episodes of Deadwood and I read a crime novel by George Pelecanos, one of the writers and producers of The Wire. Good stuff.
So I'm going to treat myself to a matinee in a few minutes - Baghead. Then it's home for a swim and off to a party with my family.
I might get back to Sway for a few hours tomorrow. We'll see.

Signore Direttore

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Master Says 316

Success and failure are equally disastrous.

Tennessee Williams

Monday, July 07, 2008

The David Milch School Of Screenwriting

From Something Awful dot com:
by David Milch

Hi there. I'm David fucking Milch. You may remember me as the creative tour-de-force behind Deadwood, a critically acclaimed HBO series that ended prematurely so that I could launch John From Cincinnati. Some people say that was like ending Seinfeld in season 3 to jump right into The Michael Richards Show, but those people don't understand the subtlety and nuance of ten annoying surfers in varying states of insanity wandering around and getting into pointless arguments with one another until there's a clumsy physical altercation and a pointless "mysterious" ending.

This is a summation of the lessons that I learned during my transition from Deadwood to John From Cincinnati. How I grew as a writer. The mistakes I made with Deadwood. What I was doing right all along. Hopefully it can help someone out there to get into the business of writing television that's half as good as the stuff I make.

Your first step is to think of what genre you want to work in. There's a lot of them, right? Seems like you've got a tough choice ahead of you, but you don't. The only genre you need to work in is "a group of loosely connected people stand on a beach and stare off into the ocean when they take a break from mysterious things happening to them".

I know what you're thinking. That's basically Lost, right? No. Lost was simply the first show to work within this genre. There have been hundreds of westerns and thousands of comedies. Is it right for there to be just one show about a group of loosely connected people that stand on a beach and stare off into the ocean when they take a break from mysterious things happening to them? I think not.

Working in this genre is great because, really, you can write whatever you want and you can make it fit since the show will be "mysterious". Let's say you want to write some sci-fi, specifically shit about astronauts and rockets and the like. Go ahead and write your astronaut story, then have those astronauts crash land on this crazy beach where things aren't as they seem. The astronauts can come across the sandswept top floors of the World Trade Center's twin towers. Punctuate even the worst episode with an ending like that and people will tune in next week, guaranteed.

Actually, no. Don't use that. That's my idea.
Another Step

Many young writers make the mistake of giving their characters actions that make sense within the framework of each person's motivations and personality. I was guilty of this myself while working on Deadwood.

See, if a character merely does what you would reasonably expect him to do, there's no real room for unpredictability. No way to leave your creative fingerprints smudged all over every frame of the show.

Those of you who are eagle-eyed will notice that two characters from John From Cincinnati are essentially the same person. One talks to a bird and one talks to a stuffed bear, and when the bear and bird aren't around each man speaks to himself / God / ghosts. Everyone else on the show is equally crazy but in a general way that doesn't make sense or follow any guidelines. Do you have any idea how much freedom that gives me to be creative?

Characterization is a burden. It will only weigh you down.


While sitting at a stoplight, Scott's car is rear-ended by a teenage girl who wasn't paying attention. Scott...

A. Calls for a police officer and writes down the girl's insurance information. The girl is apologetic and has a particularly difficult time coping with her role in the accident because her own daughter was killed by a motorist who hadn't been paying attention. (WRONG)

B. Gets out of the car, lays down in traffic and begins singing a song about aliens as the damage to his car fixes itself. The teenage girl places a hand on her stomach and knows in that instant that she is pregnant. A Latino man holding a sing reading "The End Is Near" gets peed on by a magic dog and turns into an Asian. (Ding ding!)

Dialog Step

Perhaps the most important aspect of writing truly great television (and naturally something I've always been good at) is coming up with dialog that just barely resembles what each character is trying to say. When people have to work to understand what the hell is going on, they presume (correctly!) that they must be watching fine art.

I could explain this, but I'm not that good of a writer so I'll just show you through an example. Casey does not want a drink that his friend Adam is offering, but he does want to use his phone.

Adam: Want a drink?
Casey: No thanks. Mind if I use your phone, though? It's a local call. I'll make it quick.

That's horrible. Now let's punch it up by making that exchange harder to follow.

Adam: As I would offer to others who were in my house if they were here and desired it, what say you to a serving of this not-air not-earth not-fire element?
Casey: If I were to answer you in the positive I would be the embodiment of the title of that Henry Rollins Band hit from the mid-90's, and half the embodiment of the title of that Jim Carrey lawyer movie. How much of a strain on our friendship would it be if instead I asked for a rendezvous with one of your appliances which I hold close to my head and stimulate with my mouth?

Better. Not quite there yet, but better. As I learned from Deadwood, cursing is the ultimate hot sauce. It goes great with everything. Let's revise the exchange accordingly.

Adam: As I'd fucking just as soon offer it to others, I'm telling you that a glass of that liquid pleasure can pass between your cocksucking lips if you indicate in the affirmatory.
Casey: Much as I appreciate your gesture of motherfucking kindness, I'd like to communicate with another cocksucker via your telephonic voice relay device.

Now we apply the lessons learned from John From Cincinnati. Anger, insanity, mystery.

Adam: (to a chair) I'd offer it to him, but I doubt he'd... no, no. You're right. (long shot of the chair, with the camera slowly zooming in) Hey, you shitbird! Why don't you partake in this once in a lifetime offer of what some who appreciate potables might accept gladly?
Casey: (pushes Adam onto the ground and pulls out a gun) This is the cocksucking end. I wanted to ask of you a question that would possibly lead me to using your receiver and dialing pad but the device communicated with me directly from across the room vis-a-vis my left and right hemisphere. It told me... (an old scar on his cheek vanishes) These things cannot be undone unless we have fucking started them. All is Babylon.

Boom. Instant classic. That's all I have time for, as I'm off to get John From Cincinnati canceled so I can start a new show about angry, insane people who experience mysterious events as they comb a beach for buried treasure and bottle caps. Good luck out there!

(He just might have lost his mind. Or he's onto something the rest of us haven't caught on to yet. ciao, signore direttore)

Now Hiring

I started the face to face phase of hiring an editor for Dangerous Writing this morning. We've come up with a bit of money to pay someone. There are several interesting prospects coming through in the next couple of days.
It was very good to open up some clips from the film and watch them again. It's been awhile. One of the things that struck me in the six random clips we watched this morning was how good many of the performances are.
I'm looking forward to seeing it cut together even in rough cut form. Maybe sooner than later.

Signore Direttore

Friday, July 04, 2008

Jane Gallagher, please Demo | Teaser

It's been a number of years since I've just played around in Final Cut Pro. My friend, the one who's doing the music for Made Crooked, sent me a track to try out on some other shorts. So I selected one of the scenes from the JGp assembly and messed around with it.
I don't think it will fit the tone of the final story, who knows, but I may play around with the cuts to black that I tried out here.

Happy Get Drunk and Blow Off One of Your Fingers Day,
Signore Direttore

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Folk Wisdom 040

Some people simply aren't happy unless they're unhappy.

(And I hope I'm not one of them, at least not perpetually)