Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Master Says 356

I think it is very important that films make people look at what they've forgotten.

Spike Lee

Friday, November 28, 2008

Who Opened that Can of Wup-Ass?

This week kicked my ass. I over-committed myself in unexpected ways. School conferences for all three kids. Two for my oldest who is changing schools after Thanksgiving break. One with his old teacher and one with his new teacher. And since the kids weren't in school, we had to arrange childcare. Having the kids home all week has many stresses beyond finding a babysitter. We also had both of our girls' birthdays, one yesterday and the other next Wednesday, and a party to plan and host this Sunday.
Then there was the Thanksgiving holiday. Which we kept really low-key this year. A nice simple turkey dinner at home. No guests. We didn't accept any invitations for dessert from anyone. I played basketball with my son and one of his friends from the neighborhood. I even took a nap during one of the three lopsided football games.
We had a new tenant move in to our building on Monday. I thought I was ready for that, but I was so relieved to have finished the bulk of the renovation that I overlooked a few small details that were relatively inconsequential yet required some time and effort in a week where every hour was already accounted for at least twice over. I spent the morning today taking care of some of that, but there's more that will have to wait until Monday when Wink's Hardware opens. I'm scheduled to be getting Made Crooked going again with Jordan that day. I'll have to take a little break to finish up my landlord duties.
Then there was work. I needed to record ADR with two actors for DW. I have a new computer that's not entirely set up yet so there were a few surprises and frustrations there as well. I did that without having sufficient time to prepare, so I was fighting poor organization throughout each session.
I also showed DW to two of the actors and But A Dream. In spite of all the praise But A Dream gets, I still can't get over some of its flaws. I've been kind of sick this week since seeing it. The opening sequence is still a little off and the color transfer looks spotty. At least on the screen we watched it this week. In any case, I don't know what to do: throw more time and money at it?; or accept its imperfections?
I made it through the week in the end. Though I've been feeling out of breath all along. I was supposed to go to New Orleans next week, but due to feeling completely exhausted and overwhelmed and my son's school transfer I think it would be best to postpone the trip until after the new year. All these distractions are killing the momentum and connection I was enjoying regarding New Orleans, but I will just have to have faith.
I'm grateful I can recognize when I'm feeling overwhelmed and stop pushing myself too much. I really do too many little things for my temperament. I'm much better at digging deeply into something than going in many different directions. I can accomplish quite a lot, but my sanity suffers.

Signore Dirretore

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Master Says 355

Do you have to have a reason for loving?

Brigitte Bardot

What This Week Might Suppose

I begin this week having not really enjoyed an ending to last week. In some ways Mondays are my transition days - simultaneously taking a break and getting things going for the coming week. My Sundays are consumed with my family and with writing and recording music for Dangerous Writing. I'm enjoying making music, but it is work. Though it's that wonderful sort of work where you push and explore and do and redo and struggle to communicate essential but unformed ideas for hour after hour until you realize you've been fully engaged for five hours. It's time to wrap up for the day but I want to keep going. I often feel the same way when writing or directing.
I'm really happy with the music so far. It's both as I imagined it and taking unexpected turns. I'm excited to explore some themes of the film in the music both thematically and through counterpoint. We've recorded some songs using obscure synthesizers from the 60s which produce analog yet very inorganic sounds. This speaks to Ezra's mental dissociation as represented by his struggle to reconcile the modes of recording his writing. He feels compelled to hide the fact that he now writes on a computer. He ascribes the typewriter with his lost talent, fearing the physical object (and the supposed incumbent loss of his talent) at the same time.
I also wrote and recorded some "lyrics" for the most dissociative song in the score. My hope is that they subtly refer to the ambiguities of the levels of fiction in the film. I play with the question of what it would be like for an author to meet one of his characters.
I hesitate to write about this as I might rather keep this a secret. I am getting more comfortable with talking openly about the film's intended mysteries.
I'm recording ADR with two of the main characters in the next couple of days. I'm excited to be at this point and also very excited to share the film with them.
We're trying to really practice gratitude as an action at home this week. (and beyond hopefully) I realize that I'm caught between desperately wanting convention and rejecting it when it comes to the holiday. It's really easy to say you want either side of that coin, walking the walk is another story. Standing confused between the two is yet another.
I hear from Sundance and leave for another trip to New Orleans next week. But we're not there yet. We have school conferences this week. And most importantly, our daughter's are celebrating brithdays 6 and 3.

Signore Direttore

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Master Says 354

If I knew what I was after I probably wouldn't bother to go after it.

Joe Strummer

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Master Says 353

Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.

Tom Stoppard

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Master Says 352

Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.

Francis Bacon

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Picture Lock - DW

We locked picture on Dangerous Writing today. I'm very happy with the film, watching it makes me remember how much I love directing. We watched it on a bigger monitor (30 inches vs. 23) for the first time. I composed the photography for large screens and even that increase in size made a big difference. There's so much depth and activity in the frame. A bigger screen helps the viewer step into the world of the film much more easily. Can't wait to see it forty feet across. Soon.

Signore Direttore

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Local Audiences

I went to a screening of a locally produced feature the other night. It was standing room only. I was one of the standing. Which probably didn't aid in my enjoyment of the film as I thought the plot was pretty forced and not particularly imaginative or interesting.
The acting, other than the protagonist, was very spotty. The main dude was very solid, but he didn't have the charisma to carry a film. I've worked with a couple of the other leads myself. I've seen them do better work and I've seen the same deficient habits under my direction. Overall the photography was pretty good. There was a scene with the sky blown out that was awful to look at. Many of the compositions were often pretty, but got to be monotonous and flat as they were repeated to little effect on the story.
I also know they had some money to work with, not tons but exponentially more than most local indies, and that sapped my generosity. I'm much more interested in someone doing something novel with nothing than someone doing something competent with more.
Anyway, I was glad when the thing was over. And then something funny happened: the audience erupted in a loud appreciative applause. I realized that my criticisms or dislike of the film didn't matter all that much. The audience reaction didn't negate my opinions, but it reminded me that a popular medium enjoys popular appreciation and in a hometown screening that warm support is a wonderful thing.

Signore Direttore

The Master Says 351

To finish is a sadness to a writer - a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.

John Steinbeck

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Master Says 350

I had to spend countless hours, above and beyond the basic time, to try and perfect the fundamentals.

Julius Erving

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November 13th Update

Been running and gunning lately. Thoughts are flying, life is flowing - it's one of those periods where reflection isn't forthcoming. A time of action and movement. Yet nothing of braod significance is going on, at least not that I can speak of in detail publicly.
I've been making more music for films. For Dangerous Writing and we're still slogging away with getting the song right for Made Crooked. I like making music. It's extremely satisfying to have an idea, explain it to a musician, play it together, record it and listen to it. Wow! Obviously one could labor over a song as I do films, but it can be pretty immediate as well. Very exciting. I'm not a musician, but like every one of us, I can make music. I just need to work with someone that is a musician and I become much more capable than I would normally think of myself. In the end, I'm an idea man, whatever the medium. Some technicians and artists like working with an idea man. I've found one in particular that I'm enjoying working with. We put the DW theme under the first big scene and all I could do was smile and nod my head.
The apartment building is now fully occupied at market rents. A relief in so many ways. No more seemingly endless nagging to-do lists. Earlier this year I made those lists and they were several pages long per unit. Six months and a hundred grand later I can finally breath. I actually started the renovation four years ago, but had to take a big step back for a couple of years. Years that I could never quite feel secure about things. Lots of fear and doubt and self-flagellation. There's still some work to be done, but the bulk of it is complete. I'm very grateful to see the end nearing.
Going back down to New Orleans in December for ten days. Hopefully my LA-based partner will meet me there, but his show just got picked up for five more episodes yesterday, which is good news, but it puts our schedule up in the air.
I'm also driving over to Houston to see a good friend. He's playing Harold in University of Houston production of Orphans.
I got an insider's peek at the script for the pilot of David Simon's new show being shot down there. It's not The Wire, that's for sure. Even though New Orleans native Wendell Pierce ("Bunk") stars in it. I'm very curious how it turns out. Usually when I read a pilot I know where the show's going to go, but with Treme I don't see where it could go except for on and on. I thought Simon hit the "Nawlins" buttons and tropes a little hard. He even calls in "Nawlins" in the action paragraphs of his script. I think that's cheesy and the sad downfall of most films shot down there. I'm not trying to be a hater. I LOVE The Wire and have enormous respect for Simon.
I'm late to an appointment so I gotta run.
Big game tonight in Foxboro ... J-E-T-S GO JETS!

A River Dertcheee,
SIgnore Direttore

The Master Says 349

Everything is so dangerous that nothing is really very frightening.

Gertrude Stein

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Master Says 348

Start at the end.

Mike Nichols

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Master Says 347

Music starts to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance.

Ezra Pound

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Master Says 346

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track, which has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.

Joseph Campbell

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Master Says 345

No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self-deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.


Friday, November 07, 2008

The Master Says 344

I'm still the little southern girl from the wrong side of the tracks who really didn't feel like she belonged.

Faye Dunaway

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Master Says 343

Don't think of your film outside the resources you have made for yourself.

Robert Bresson

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Master Says 342

I didn’t think “Taxi Driver” was going to be a big hit. Next I was going to make a musical, “New York, New York,” and it was supposed to be a big hit. Whenever I try to make a movie for a certain market, I don’t know how to do it.

Martin Scorcese

Yes We Can

I cried several times last night. The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States is important for so many reasons. I predict he will be the greatest president on the world stage since Truman. Clinton and LBJ accomplished great things but they were seen outside of the US as bufoonish Southeners. Obama represents great hope for all Americans. Yes, electing a black man is a huge step for our country. But the election of a leader that inspires hope and commands our love and respect is something I have seen only now in my lifetime. Until now it has always been a choice between two politicians. We have elected a leader this time. For the past eight years I have refused to call W. the president. We have a president again, legitimately and resoundedly elected. Yes we can call Barack Obama Mr. President. Yes we can say it with hope and pride in our hearts, reason and intelligence in our minds and tears of joy in our eyes.
This is a time we can again be proud to be Americans. It's been a long time coming.

Signore Direttore

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Have a Dream ...

... that we'll wake up tomorrow with this man as our President-elect. I cannot understand how it could be any other way and I'm deeply disturbed that the candidate leading by 7 to 11 points on Election Day in major polls may not be the clear winner on November 5th.

I include the following "letter" that I received via email to explain myself further:

Dear Red States:

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. It may even include Florida and Ohio, they are seriously considering it. We've given them until Nov. 4th to decide. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country. Since we're dropping the middle states we're calling it United America, or simply the U.A.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the former slave states, including Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky et alia that would have liked to have had slaves. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. You can take Ted Nugent. We're keeping Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. We're fairly certain Willie Nelson will defect. You get WorldCom. We get Intel, Microsoft and Apple. You get Ole' Miss. We get Harvard and 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms, and the highest concentration of pregnant unwed teenagers. Please be aware that the U.A. will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMD eventually turn up, really we do, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush/McCain’s quagmire. We'd rather spend it on taking care of sick people and educating our children.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines, 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT. With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy Reds believe you are people with higher morals then we Blues.

Nice Knowing You,
Blue States

I wish only to add that we will no longer need worry about your governors or Senators, i.e. Georges Bush, Sarah Palin, John McCain, seeking public office. We will need to keep a close watch on California and New York for the likes of Nixon, Reagan, Schwarzennegger and Guiliani, but we'll have more resources to monitor such developments without having to worry so much about Pro-Lifers, Prayer in Schools and people that think the earth is six thousand years old.

Also I want to stop singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch and go back to the good old days pre-9/11 when Take Me Out to the Ballpark served as a fine tradition for decades.

That's my dream, but I'll settle for a smart, articulate and reasonable man in the White House. Then perhaps the atrocious ignorance of Middle America will be less noisy for a few years.

Nervously Hopeful,
Signore Direttore

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Master Says 341

My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.

Anton Chekhov

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Change Blindness

Funny thing about Bunuel films - I always think it's going to be a chore to watch them. And every time I'm easily charmed. And in a way that no other filmmaker achieves. Not to say he's the maestro of all maestros, but he has a specific talent of challenging our minds and our eyes in a very easy manner. I'm tempted to say his films possess a facile charisma, but it isn't accurate. He's simply a master.
The two actresses above play the same role in That Obscure Object of Desire. The first few scenes I wasn't certain of the switch. Aside from context and costume no effort is made to obscure the use of two actresses. A little hiccup started happening - "that's not the same actress" - and then I started watching for it. Once noticed, it became obvious and yet remained inspired as I engaged the switches on another level. I've read that some people view the entire film without noticing. A phenomena known as change blindness.

¡vive le cinema francais!
Signore Direttore

Una idea caprichosa de un dia lluviado






smoke rings


go go boots



The rain has stopped now.

Directing Actors Weekly

It's been a while since I've had a camera between me and an actor. End of June to be exact. I've been very busy with other things and I decided not to teach indefinitely. I had a short planned for the fall but the main actor flaked on a prep meeting and I decided to move on to more pressing matters.
The other night I had dinner with an old college friend. She was my Spanish study partner. She's now an immigration lawyer, speaking Spanish daily. She asked how my Spanish was. I said it had been a while since I'd had any conversations, but that it will never leave me completely. Give me a week or two fully immersed in it and I'm fluent.
I think directing is much the same. The language I speak with actors will never leave me. However, since most independent films shoot in four weeks or less, a week or two to regain fluency is a costly reassumilation. In short, I need to stay in practice.
I'm not going to rush to schedule a practice session, but I'm going to reach out to a couple of talented actors this week to plan some workshopping in the coming weeks.

Signore Direttore

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Master Says 340

The banal and the weird are not incompatible.

Errol Morris