Friday, October 31, 2008

The Master Says 339

People prefer to be the hero of their life story rather than the villain.

Errol Morris

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I said I hated it, but I didn't say I was going to give up. These go in the mail tomorrow morning.

Signore Direttore

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just In Case You Thought I'd Gone Soft ...

I've been working on submitting But A Dream to film festivals all week. Every film festival has different submission criteria but the details of which are at once vague and specific. What the fuck is a flyer one sheet? This is not a standard designation and no further details are available. Why do I need to send posters and fliers across the country before the film has been selected? Isn't that a huge waste of resources? I imagine their offices piled with paper, ninety percent of which is going to be thrown in the trash very soon. Why not embrace the EPK? Electronic Press Kits have been around for nearly a decade.
I'm losing my mind trying to track the criteria of twenty plus film fests. This one wants a Black and White Production Still and a thirty word synopsis. Another wants two color stills, a press kit including a seventy-five word synopsis. I'm trying to build a comprehensive EPK that includes all of the above. So far I've written a logline, a one line synopsis (25 words), a short synopsis (50 words), a longer synopsis (75 words) , a full synopsis (200 words) and a DVD package synopsis.
Yesterday WAB mistakenly submitted my project to the Teen section of the Atlanta Film Festival. There is no way to correct it without writing a letter of explanation to the festival. It is impossible to resubmit the same project until the first submission had been removed from the system. As the day progressed I repeatedly filled out Narrative or Dramatic Short as my intended submission only to be sent on to a page dedicated to submitting my feature film. I was met with warnings that my film wasn't long enough for the feature category. In many instances I had to click through many times before I got the correct page randomly.
Then I got to pay a bunch of money. It feels like a big racket, leaving me with a huge lump of acid in my gut.
I love short films. I really hope a better distribution channel develops. And I don't mean the fucking internet. The net is a great showcase for some things, but I didn't spend over ten Gs, ask for beau coup favors and work my own ass off on a film like But A Dream to put it on YouTube.
Perhaps when some acceptance letters start to arrive around the first of the year I'll be singing a different tune. Perhaps even gloating. Or crying. Right now, I'm just bitter and I can't wait to be done with this.

Signore Direttore

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Master Says 338

Slow motion gets you there faster.

Hoagy Carmichael

Monday, October 27, 2008

Things Get Even Funnier

So I had a good idea for the NOLA project on the flight but when I sat down to outline it for my partner via email Saturday something came over me mid-message. What started out as a brief outline ended with my offer to buy him out and proceed on my own. I realized I didn't want to go back and forth anymore. It doesn't work for me. If I'm going to pitch idea after idea for the basic "What's it's about?", I might as well originate my own story. But there's a seed in my buddy's script that has been planted in my mind and I want to shape its growth. But since we stand so diametrically opposed on the basic tone of the story, I need to take over or step back and let him do it on his own. The finality scared me but I realized that if I didn't like C so much my decision would have been easier. I decided to trust our friendship and ask for what I wanted.
So now it's Monday morning and I'm on my own. I've been drifting in and out of the story since Saturday evening when my offer was accepted. I'm not going to jump into another draft just yet. I need to nail the logline, title, theme and the basic story before I proceed with another draft. There are three main characters that are all very rich and three dimensional. I'm debating whether to pit one against the other with the third caught in between or pitting all three against an arch villain. It could go either way and I'll be exploring the possibilities this week.
I've also got to finish my press kit for But A Dream. I find it annoying to do prior to acceptance to a festival. It's a waste of paper and postage as far as I'm concerned. Many festivals will accept an EPK, but it seems many want hard copies of production stills, bios and such. That's the first order of business today as I've got to get three of fifteen applications out the door by Wednesday. I'll be sending the other twelve off, though they have later deadlines. It's just one more step in the never ending journey of independent filmmaking.

Signore Direttore

Friday, October 24, 2008

Funny How Things Work Out

I said a very pleasant, warm and grateful goodbye to my host in New Orleans yesterday afternoon at the airport. As I walked inside to the ticket counter the lack of momentum and the seeming impossibility of getting this story back on track weighed heavily on me.
Then I found out my plane was delayed two hours and that I would miss my connection in LA, requiring me to take the next flight out at six this morning. Waiting in the security line I called a friend in LA, who funnily enough I want to play one of the leads in the NOLA project and who said he was just about to call me when I rang. He was working on his TV show at Paramount to which he invited me to come hang for the rest of the night and then stay at his place. He even sent someone to pick me up. I changed my connection to a flight leaving at 11.
I wrote a couple of emails and read The New Yorker (great Gladwell article on The Late Bloomer by the way - thanks DM) while I waited for the NOLA-LAX flight. I couldn't help but think if things go the way I'd like I might be flying between LA and NO more often. But it really seemed like a distant fantasy. I had a sinking feeling that I was deluded to have ever thought such a thing, such was my disconnection to the script.
I managed not to dwell on it, diverting myself with the rest of the NYer and some Shostakovitch. Then somewhere over West Texas or New Mexico an idea surfaced. For the first time in a week I was able to say what the film was about in a sentence as several points of dramatic action and twists of plot came cascading over me. I quickly wrote them down, smiled to myself and then, before I could cast any doubts, distracted myself with watching ER on the in-flight programming.
I arrived in LA, stepped out to the curb into a car and was at Paramount twenty minutes later. I got to say I liked walking around the lot. Very nice feeling. Found my friend, hung out with him in his trailer until they came and walked us to set. The 2nd 2nd set me up with a chair in front of the monitors with the director, writer, UPM and scripty. They gave me a headset and I got to spend the next couple of hours watching my buddy work. It was great. I enjoyed the experience tremendously - I felt right-sized about things. I both learned a few things and felt confident that working on that level would not be a stretch for me.
While they were turning around, we took a tour of the sets and noticed on the plaque outside Stage 32 that Citizen Kane, Chinatown and the original Star Trek TV series had all been made on that stage.
We walked to his home after he wrapped. It was a beautiful night and a perfect ending to a long day. He has read my first draft of the NOLA script and knows of my interest in working with him on the film. He's interested and he liked my new ideas that I shared with him before going to bed.
I was dreading going back to Portland with the project dead in the water, instead I have a little spring in my step. The West Texas brainstorms may turn out to be duds, but they'll keep me moving at the very least. Which is all I really need.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Orleans Days 4 & 5

Yesterday was the big tour of potential locations. I was looking as a filmmaker initially, studying the dereliction purely as setting. Not to exploit it as much as to study it as character. Before long I just got numb. Three years later, block after scarcely populated block and house after abandoned and destroyed house. A collosal disaster. I've spent time in Cuba and Mexico and even the slums of San Francisco and New York, but this is on another scale. I took a few pictures for reference, but mostly I just looked around feeling empty.

At the same time, we've hit a wall with where we want to take the story. In many ways it feels like we've gone backwards, maybe even terminally. I really can't say. The trip is still very pleasant, but the day ended with watching Game 1 of the World Series and a few half-hearted stabs at different approaches to the story.
As a truly independent filmmaker I rely heavily on momentum, I feel its ebb profoundly after yesterday. I trust that everything that happens at all happens as it should. I don't like it, but I can accept that time takes time. Sometimes more than others.
We're going to Mother's for lunch on the way to the airport.
If nothing else, I always eat well down here.

Signore Direttore

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Orleans Day 3

Started another beautiful day with a long walk during which I explored Uptown winding my way along Exposition, Laurel, Constance and Camp streets. I gave a lot of thought to our stalled process as I took in the beautiful homes, trees and flowers. I resolved to step back from writing and try to guide the story more as a producer. I meditated on that role to make sure I was considering it as a proactive rather than reactive move. We have had many clashes over the overall tone of the story. The original draft read as fairly dark, which I was attracted to and developed further in my page one rewrite. Part of the motive of coming down here was the resistance of my partner to the rewrite's themes which I thought were an elaboration of those in the original. Our phone conferences and emails got bogged down with discussions of minutiae as did the first two days down here. It was really getting me down. I had the sinking feeling that this was not meant to be at some point on Monday afternoon. I pressed on in spite of my doubts until late that night, but when I woke up yesterday I knew I couldn't go forth in the same manner.
I returned from my walk, stopping to stretch on the front porch. Charlie was playing his grand piano inside and I enjoyed listening to him as I stretched. The small measure of animosity that was a product of not getting what I wanted from the relationship vanished. I ate a light breakfast before sitting down across from Charlie to work. I didn't start with a declaration of my retreat from a co-writing arrangement, but with some questions. Then we watched Hustle & Flow. Followed by some discussion of theme and structure of H&F and our script over Fried Green Tomato- dressed Shrimp Po Boys on Magazine Street. We continued our talk on a tour of the less salubrious streets of Uptown and a stop to pick up some Gumbo for dinner.
I did lower the boom of my withdrawal once we got back to the house. I did so kindly and with extreme measure. It wasn't a ploy to achieve anything other than leverage on the process of getting this script ready to produce. However it had the effect of making clear that in order to work together effectively, especially long distance, that things had to change and that Charlie was willing to do what it took to preserve a co-writing relationship. Which isn't to say he was willing to abandon his insistence on a much lighter tone. Through our discussions I realized that his unwavering made all too clear in our discussions was not clear in his original draft or in the films he had mentioned in association with the story. It's kind of like being married -- the relationship is based on a fundamental attraction and common goal, but you often find out, many times too late, that you weren't really talking about the same thing. "Oh, that's what you meant."
As we worked, I continued to approach things as a co-writer. But I felt differently. I had let go of things. I could feel it. It helped move things along.
The only problem is that I woke up today fairly certain that the strides we made last night were a reconciliation toward a lighter tone rather than progress toward finding a solid structure on which to hang this story.
Back to the poetics board.
It's a demanding process. But it has its rewards. Last night's were a sunset walk in the park to see hundreds of egrets, ibises and other fowl nesting in the trees and the pond and a double serving of delicious Gumbo for dinner.
Things could be worse.

Signore Direttore

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Orleans Day 2

More running in Audubon Park. Followed by a long day of story conferencing. It's very difficult to say just what I'm going through for many reasons, especially on a blog. I'm glad I'm here. So far it's not going as I'd hoped, but I'm trying to trust that everything happens as it should and the benefit of these impasses will be revealed at some point.
Right now I'm a little confounded as to how best to proceed. Everything is friendly and nice, but there are issues of compatibility that I'm seeking to resolve.
More will be revealed.

Signore Direttore

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Orleans Day 1

Got in late last night. A cab dropped me at my friend's place Uptown. I dropped my stuff, called my family and set off on the walk to the bar where my host was playing a gig. His house in on Camp Street where it dead ends into Audubon Park. The walk down Magazine Street to Nashville Ave where I cut south to Tchoupitoulas was eerily quiet. Most of the beautiful shotgun houses fronted by lush gardens were dark. Every once in a while a cat would rush out from under a house or car. I jumped every time. Though the houses were dark, the night was very bright. And warm. Though once I arrived at the bar where the doors were open and most wore short sleeves I heard many complaints of how cold it was. I was wearing a sweater and was just right.
I went for a run this morning in the park which is a hundred feet from the front door. The weather is perfect - a sunny and mild 75. I took my time warming up and stretching.
We're going to a party to watch the Saints and eat food in a bit and then Charlie has a gig tonight. We plan to roll up our sleeves and get to work Monday morning after I've had a chance to see and hear a bit of this very unique place. Everything has its own tempo down here. I feel myself breathing more easily, just slowing down. It feels good. Supports one of my mantras - it's no big deal and we're not going anywhere.

Signore Direttore

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Master Says 337

We've lost everything, ... I don't know what we're going to do. I never wanted to leave.

Fats Domino

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Master Says 336

I think one of the reasons people quit is because they're afraid they won't be able to get better and better; that they have to come to a zenith of some kind.

Conrad Hall

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Master Says 335

The line between virtue and vice is one dividing the whole of mankind.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Master Says 334

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.

Edgar Allan Poe

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Master Says 333

It's always the fool that stands where evil stood before.

David Milch

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Master Says 332

Be patient to all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, October 03, 2008


I'm working on the New Orleans project. Rewriting, phone meetings, research, casting -- all very enjoyable work. In part, because New Orleans is so far away both geographically and otherwise, it doesn't seem real somehow. Being down there soon should help with that. Even so, doing something like this on spec is a daydream. How not to proceed other than acting as if this movie is going to get made? When in reality it's some words on a stack of paper. Of course those very powerful words conjure a story that compels me like nothing I've worked on before, evoking people and a place that I feel like I know in spite of the fact that I haven't been to New Orleans in nearly fifteen years. I believe others will also know that place as intimately once they read those words that Charlie and I have been writing. The doubts come in often enough - what makes you think this is so great? There are hundreds if not thousands of guys like you trying to get their movies made. How the hell are you going to overcome that? The thing is, I don't know if -- but I do know how and while it may be a steep climb, I feel like I have something that's worthy of carrying up the mountain.

As I meet some New Orleans actors through email and over the phone I really get excited. They have distinct voices and experiences yet we talk across the daunting divides of race and geography, speaking a language more common than I've often experienced in projects I've done in my own backyard. I thought I might feel like an outsider or that there would be a distance. So far that hasn't been the case. I think part of the credit goes to our insistence on meeting actors there first before trying to cast in LA or NY. We're also staunchly avoiding all the silly Bourbon Street-Voodoo-Gumbo-Mardi Gras-Big Easy crap that permeates every film set down there.
JFK and Down By Law, my favorite film depictions of New Orleans are not really about the city and only feature it anecdotally.

There's a great documentary about Katrina coming to Cinema 21 soon called Trouble The Water. Here's the trailer (talk about a voice!):