Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sometimes nothins a pretty cool hand ...

I feel like a part of me is missing.

Descanso en paz, senor.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quick Note About NOLA Project

I've been doing a page one rewrite of the New Orleans script the past few days. I started just doing some outlining and some light research and had a long conversation with the writer Sunday night. I had a lot of questions about things and was feeling a little shaky. But I jumped into a big scene in the middle that needed a little shaping and the next thing you know I'd written/rewritten over sixty pages of the script. There's a good twenty pages that I've reworked several times. And another ten pages of rewrites that I've thrown out.
I've been working day and night on it and it feels so great. Feels like a calling. This script is so rich. There are so many distinct characters to work with. The action takes place more or less simultaneously all around New Orleans. It's kind of like Crash but without the PC moralizing. But way better locations and music.

Quick endnote: when I feel really good about something, I can't help but think I'm setting myself up for a fall. I'm trying to enjoy these joyful feelings born of being creative. It's getting easier, but those cynical naysayers upstairs won't shut up.

Signore Direttore

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Master Says 331

The artist is the medium between his fantasies and the rest of the world.

Federico Fellini

Friday, September 19, 2008

Exciting Week

I've been either stressed out or down and out with a head cold all week and yet I have to say it's been a fantastic week. In addition to finishing But A Dream and seeing significant progress on Dangerous Writing I set up a meeting with a very fine actor for an upcoming project and finalized an option agreement on a promising screenplay.
The actor is someone that's always stood out in theater productions at ART and PCS - one of the few locals that I admire. I've written a leading role for him in a short that I think he's going to really bring to life.
The screenplay is a romantic thriller set in New Orleans. It's not like anything I would have written on my own, which taking nothing away from my writing, I find really exciting. The plan is to rewrite it and shop it with me attached to direct.
While I've been ill with this head cold I've been reading David Simon's Homicide. I've become such a fanatic devotee to all things related to The Wire. I've watched Seasons 1-4, The Corner, read four or five books by George Pelecanos, one by Richard Price and another by Dennis Lehane. Pelecanos, Price and Lehane all write for The Wire. I'm saving Season 5 for awhile.
I'm also digging into some exciting research for my tv pilot. I may let that stew for a bit while I did into the New Orleans script.
I've been letting Sway, my novel in progress, simmer on a back burner and while it made me nervous at first now I feel comfortable that I'll get back to it when the time is right.
Everything feels very free and momentous. I'm enjoying it without taking it for granted. I've been here before and I've seen the momentum dissipate without the proper respect and diligence. An odd combination of patience and avidity is required. Finishing a project that I'm proud of fuels both qualities.

Signore DIrettore

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chutes and Ladders

The DVD encoding conflama consumed all of yesterday. The morning edition solved some problems and confirmed the errors of the previous day. It took some diligence to push them away from pretty good, where they seemed content, toward a solid good. I'm doing better at keeping my cool in these situations, pushing earnestly toward getting what I need for projects. Formerly I knew two modes when things went south - strident intimidation or passive aggresive withdrawal. I'm happy to have learned some new skills, though there's no doubt it saps my energy. I've got a lot of energy tied up in these unfinished films. There's fear of success and fear of failure. There's hope of recognition and fear that I'm kidding myself.
One of the things I'm discovering is that I'm conflating recognition for my talents and accomplishments with acceptance by the world at large. I had a dream the other night of being an overnight guest in a friend's house. The friend is successful in the film world and in reality is very generous toward me. As he was in the dream. He offered me a bed in a loft that required ascending a ladder to reach. He and his wife easily scrambled up and down the ladder, but when it came time for me to climb it I couldn't.
As I consider the completion of projects and the possibilities of submitting to festivals like Sundance, I yearn for both recognition and acceptance. Expectations overwhelm my efforts to focus on the work. It is an ascension that I seek. An ascension above and beyond myself. But if the work is coming from me then I don't want to leave myself. It's mine if only I'll let myself have it. And recognition from Sundance or Studios or my peers is a confirmation of what I already am rather than a reinvention.
I did submit But A Dream to Sundance last night. And I did watch the rough cut of Dangerous Writing with the editor today. I'm proud of the work, confident that it's evidence of a strong and unique vision and I'm very hopeful it will be recognized as such. I need to stay off the ladder. I'm not going anywhere and there's nothing to prove.

Signore Direttore

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Impatiently Waiting

Yesterday we finalized the color on But A Dream and output it to Digi-Beta and DVD. I worked late at my office getting the Sundance application finished. I decided I should view the DVD one more time. I was told all was good and I have watched the film over a dozen times in the past week, nevermind the hundred or so viewings over the past several months. I'm glad I decided to check the DVD - it was unwatchable. Blurry strobing, interlacing artifacts - man, what a bummer. I woke up a few times last night looking anxiously forward to the post house opening so as to get some answers. First time I called I was told my contact wasn't in yet. My query as to when he was expected was brushed off with an impertinent, It's early, maybe in a half hour or hour. When I called back forty-five minutes later she told me he wasn't going to be in today. So I spoke to someone else that I hadn't worked with. He told me he would get back to me in half of an hour. It's now been that and an hour - and voila! they just now called. I was going to write that I think I'm just going to go down there. But now I wait somewhat more calmly knowing someone is indeed working on it.
Even before this setback, I was feeling exhausted by this process. I'm basically doing it alone, which is a lonely proposition after awhile. There seem to be so many things that need attention and that can go wrong even in the hands of pros. No wonder I've faltered in completing films.
I'm going to keep on keeping on. Doubtful thoughts do creep in in these trying times.
I'm looking at established, premiere festivals to submit the film to. So far there's Sundance, Rotterdam, Berlin, Atlanta, Athens, Ann Arbor, Florida, Nashville, SXSW, GenArts, Tribeca, Krakow and Los Angeles. Many of which are qualifiers for AMPAS, or more commonly known as The Oscars. It's funny to think of the film in such grandiose terms. I don't expect to get into all of these festivals, let alone win them or an Oscar, but getting to this point with a quality project does open some possibilities.
It's funny how hope grows. For not only am I impatiently awaiting the DVD file transfer, I'm also anxious to hear from some of these festivals before I've even sent in my submission.
Impatience is one thing, but sitting paralyzed unable to do anything in the meantime is something else. I need to get up and organize some camera gear or empty the trash. Anything but the dreaded internet. Except to update my iPhone software. Another device in my life teaching me patience.

Signroe Direttore

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Master Says 330

Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.

W. Somerset Maugham

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Good Life (cont.)

While hurricanes battered the Southeast we were in Sisters, Oregon enjoying perfect weather.

Signore Direttore

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Good Life

I've spent the better part of the week in post-production houses working on But A Dream. Talking about my ideas and their realization while crafting the sound and picture in the finishing stages is a pleasure. There are difficulties and challenges. The helpful competence and positive attitudes of the technicians makes handling the hiccups a lot easier. And getting a nice hot lunch served in the suite while working is a nice feature as well. Once more Monday. Then it's back to my office with Jordan and the other boys for less commodious working conditions.

Signore Direttore

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Timeshifting Time Capsule

The Betamax, one of our first timeshifting devices. I liked the smaller tapes, personally. And I've always been a Sony fan. Perhaps due to their advertising in the 70s and 80s - "It's not a TV, it's a Sony". One of my girlfriends was the model on the packaging of the first Walkman's. Maybe that's it. Anyway, porn distributors wanted the VHS format and that's where we ended up until DVDs came along.
Is timeshifting and other on-demand media conveniences good for us? While I enjoy it, I don't always think so. Since I've given up the internet at home, I realize how little I really need to do on the web. And the mobile phone - that too is a mixed blessing.
Anyway, I love the colors in the Betamax commercial. And the real people feel. "Taxi" was a big TV show back then. The whole cabbie motif has really changed. I don't think there are more than about three white cab drivers in New York City in 2008. I actually know one of them - a photographer friend that being young and hip passed by, leaving him driving a cab not so much as an ironic underbelly lark but as his most viable means of support.
This commercial seems to really illustrate for me how much the world has changed. It feels dated, sure, but there's something immutable about it as well as being so of the time it was made. Maybe it's the precision of its capture of the era that makes it timeless.

Signore Direttore

Monday, September 08, 2008

Our Politics Mirror Our Stupidity

I am unhappy but not too surprised to see McCain currently leads 50-46 in a recent USA Today poll. I know it's a post-convention bump. We looove publicity - please just tell us what to think.
I also saw that in a recent CNN research poll 45% of those polled felt Sarah Palin is ready to be President. In the same poll 75% believed that she was chosen because having a woman on the ticket would help McCain get elected. So only a quarter don't have a cynical view of politics, but almost half are willing to give a very inexperienced person a heart attack away from the oval office the benefit of the doubt.
What the hell have we been going on and on about for the past year if this VP candidate can come out of nowhere and earn that much support based on one speech? It's a joke.
And what of all this crap about her being pretty? She's certainly not physically ugly, but she's nothing to get excited about.
And why is Obama's lack of experience such an issue? W. was governor of Texas for six years. That was the extent of his experience in public office. Not too much more time than Obama has been in the US Senate, let alone as a state legislator. I won't compare the intelligence of the two men. Not because I think the answer is so obvious, but for that I fear intelligence is becoming an undervalued commodity in America.
I don't talk about politics that often, but I'm starting to get to the boiling point. The candidates bother me far less than the enfranchised and the fourth estate. Ugh.

Signore Direttore

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Master Says 329

Honor the source.

David Simon

The Master Says 328

A 'professional', at least in the common usage of the term, is one who is very far from being 'independent'. If the artist seeks - indeed demands and must have - 'freedom', then the industry professional must face that what he needs and wants is 'dependence', the mutual and reciprocal support of others in what is an industry that produces a product designed for mass consumption in the hopes of massive profits.

Alexander Mackendrick

Friday, September 05, 2008

Trudging Ever Forward

I had a spotting session for the sound design of But A Dream at Digital One this morning. It was one more experience that I went into uneasy and came out calm and confident. I directed the film two and a half years ago. I've since made two features and over two dozen shorts. I'm a far more experienced filmmaker at this point. I've also lost all perspective on the film. As I sat through it one more time this morning I wondered if the tension I was feeling was a result of the story or nerves from sitting in a room with three strangers. I've also noticed that people are very quiet after seeing it. So there's that pregnant pause that makes me think people are trying to think of something nice to say that will cover how much they hated it and resent my asking for ten minutes of their time.
I've gotten better about sitting and waiting for responses to my work. Even when people don't like something I seem to survive. The Digital One guys liked it. The sound designer, Chip Sloan, had some very welcome ideas for it. He really got it in a way that the other sound editors I've been trying to work with for the past six months did not. I guess those relationships didn't work out for a reason. There was one guy that had done some stuff on a few of GSV's films that I wanted to work with for the very wrong reason of having some names in my credits with impressive bona fides. Though there are several others that worked on BAD like Neil Kopp, TG Firestone and Greg Schmitt that have kept very good working company.
Moving on from my egotistical concerns ...
I was anxious about the meeting this morning. It started last night. I've been working on my Withoutabox application form. I'm hoping the film will have its World Premiere at Sundance. I've been doing this for awhile and this is the first film that I've finished that I think merits submission to premiere festivals. I'm looking forward to finding out how it fares, all the while coming up with judgments of it that confirm its failure. It's just a way to try to control the outcome. I want to feel safe and my brain is telling me it's safer to fail.
That's what the film is about - taking that next step even though it might be your last.
Robert Evans says you need to learn from your successes. I'm going to call but A Dream a success right here and now before I even send it off to Sundance. Goodness knows I've learned a lot from making it and seeing it through to meet the world on its own merits. It feels nice to learn from my success.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, September 04, 2008

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

I loved this film. You, too, can go see it at selected theaters like The Hollywood in Portland. It's well written, well acted and beautifully photographed. Downtown Los Angeles has never looked so good.
This film gives me hope for Digital Cinema. The filmmakers told a simple story in their own collective voice. They created something wonderful, avoiding the usual failed imitation of a big studio production or the snarky sloppy cam of many DIY films.

In Admiration,
Signore Direttore

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back to School

Thus ending another summer. All three of our children are in school this year. Rented three units in the apartment building - only one unit left to renovate. But A Dream is getting finalized in the next week.
The fall looks like a promising season for some writing as well as guiding the two features home. Kind of hard to believe. I'm a little breathless - both out of breath from all the activity and lacking breath from the anxiety of actually finishing some things.
My life truly is good. But for me, it's really hard to accept at times. I'm not used to not being in crisis. I'm sure some things will come up - life always intercedes, but this feeling that there are no big deals coming my way is hard to imagine let alone embrace.
My wife is going out of town for a job and I have to get contractors going on the last unit, so I'm keeping my writing expectations low for a couple more weeks. Oh and I have meetings and sessions with sound designers and colorists and graphic designers for But A Dream. Funny how I tell myself I'm not doing much and then write it down or tell someone and realize, oh shit I'm not really taking it easy after all.
Today, I'm off to coffee with a friend and colleague and then to a school picnic at Blue Lake.

Signore Direttore