Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Master Says 365

If you try to please audiences, uncritically accepting their tastes, it can
only mean that you have no respect for them: that you simply want to
collect their money.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Sights, Sounds and Smells of Morning

We're in Carlsbad, California in order to fulfill Henry's three year obsession with going to Legoland. Today's the big day. I woke up early and took a ride up the coast to Oceanside and back, about sixteen miles. Oceanside is the town at the gates of Camp Pendleton. It was a sensational hour, in the truest sense of the word. I heard reveille and saw some porcine military wives showing up for their day at the beauty college. Along the beach I saw surfers catching the morning breaks and retirees taking their morning strolls. I saw a surf betty shedding her wetsuit in the cab of her truck. I smelled the ocean and the beautiful flowers in bloom everywhere. I heard two motorcycle cops chatting as I climbed a hill past them. I saw other cyclists, Mexican gardeners and a man shoveling sand from the sidewalk back onto the beach. Not a lot of sunshine yet, but a beautiful morning nonetheless.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Master Says 364

In wilderness is the preservation of the world.

Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 23, 2009


I spent much of Saturday night and yesterday driving to California. I've made that journey south on I-5 many, many times in my life. It's always been a passage filled with reflection and memories of the thoughts of journeys past. All of my life seems to have been plagued with ambition and fear, both of which fuel endless musing and the determined resolutions that are made more easily in transit.
Even with a car full of children there was much time to reflect. Aside from a brief discussion of the possibilities of buying a house in Corbett, there was no talk or thought of the future. It's a strange thing for me to be in the moment, but that's kind of how it went. I marveled for a short while on how my ambition to make films has disappeared. My wife thinks it will return. I'm not so sure. I have a strong idea of why it has left, but I'm not ready to articulate it.
My entire life has been a battle royale of and with all the stories rumbling through me, torturing me to find a way to get them out. Suffering, anxious longing, frustration, neuroses, self-loathing, fragmentation, self-dissemblement - lots and lots of self hyphen terms. And now? Not so much. Leaves me feeling slightly confused and empty, but I'm learning it is something much more positive. And I'm enjoying it. That's part of the reason I've lost interest in telling stories.
When we arrived in Monterey I went for a walk along the beach. It was very sunny and beautiful, but also extremely windy. As I walked along I could see gusts of swirling and driving sand ahead. In the past I would see such tempests as things to avoid and signs that things weren't going well. Yesterday I anticipated entering the petite shamals joyfully with the confidence that the stinging grains of sand would be an experience of elemental, natural life -- the life outside of the mind that I've come to embrace. There is suffering involved at times when pushing my body against itself and the elements, but it cannot compare to the mental anguish I've been suffering for most of my life.


(Signing off as Signore Direttore doesn't feel right these days)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dismal Outlook for Independent Film

There's a Morgan Spurlock quote floating around indiewood that goes something like, "This isn't where we are going to make our money right now. We can't think about paying our rent, but maybe we can pay our phone bills with filmmaking." What about those of us that have yet to make any money at all from our films? I'm not talking about film-related gigs, but the narrative and doc projects we've been self-financing. Where does that leave us? Way outside in the cold unfriendly world riddled with credit card debt. In my case that debt went from zero percent to three and four percent and now my promotional rates have expired. So for a while I was paying around sixteen percent on a couple of cards. Then it turned out the sixteen percent rates were promotional as well and without missing a payment, the rates on two cards jumped to thirty percent. I have a plan and the means to eliminate this abuse very shortly thankfully, but I know that isn't the case for many others.
I came up at a time that many filmmakers built careers financed by credit cards. Robert Townsend and Alison Anders, most notably. It was also a heady time of ten, fifty and two hundred thousand dollar films getting acquired for millions. I made But A Dream for ten thousand dollars, getting another forty in favors. So far it's been rejected by every top tier festival in this country and abroad. Every rejection email encourages me to continue making films. How? Why? Is that encouragement even responsible? Shouldn't there be an asterisk like with the lottery? This game should not be played for investment purposes. It is for entertainment only.
Skiing, pilates and cycling sound better and better.

Ya mero,
Signore Direttore

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Master Says 363

You can observe a lot just by watching.

Yogi Berra

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Importance of Being Earnest

At Portland Center Stage. Thoroughly enjoyable. Laughs and articulate language. Actors with good looks, voices and timing. Oh joy.
Very pleasant night at the theater.

Signore Direttore

Thursday, March 05, 2009

My Seeming Life of Leisure

While I am very fortunate and lead a comfortable life, I am not a wealthy man. The areas in my life that seem to be lived on a scale of decadence are balanced by frugality, sacrifice and perhaps even short-sightedness when it comes to personal finance. One thing my wife and I have discovered is that when we both work full-time, our family suffers. Since she makes twice what I make, and likes what she does, she's now the main bread winner. The jobs for which I'm qualified to do other than make films, if I'm even qualified to do that professionally, have a very low net return after paying taxes and babysitters. Not to mention my total lack of connection to that work. I've tried over the years to earn a living in various aspects of the film industry. I really didn't enjoy it. I hate working on commercials and corpo schlock.
So when I'm trying to make films and be a daddy to three small children I feel compromised on both sides much of the time. Whereas now that I've concentrated my focus on home and fit in some cycling and skiing, things are in better balance. One to three hours of hiking or pilates is a complete activity on a daily basis. Getting up to the mountain for a day or two each week, especially when one of my children is with me, feels like a real treat.
With the film stuff, a few hours a few days and one or two full days a week mainly reminds me of how much there is to do rather than accomplishes much. I'm still plugging away, but I've lowered my expectations considerably. And I won't work on more than one project at a time. Nor will I do much of anything entirely on my own anymore.
As my kids grow older and more independent and I get back into my body, things may change, I don't know. But the dream of making it in Hollyweird no longer burns brightly. Nor do I want to scratch and claw through one no-budget project after another. Perhaps a happy medium will emerge in the future. Perhaps not. Either way, I'm going to enjoy my life. My happiness is no longer tethered to success as a filmmaker.

Signore Direttore

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Turn On My Heart Light

Do I love making films? No, not really. It's been a colossal struggle. I've labored with the technical side of it, the interpersonal aspect, the financial challenges and the aesthetic demands. Not entirely an uphill battle and certainly not without rewards, but it's been tough. In fact a lot tougher than I realized going through it. I've noticed that while I'm doing something I never feel as if I'm doing enough and then discover later that I did more than plenty. My expectations of myself and others have often been imbalanced and unrealistic. I've gotten much better about such things. Don't get me wrong, there have been great moments that have brought light to my heart and eyes. It does seem like a high price to pay - like dating someone that's a jerk but is pretty and sweet when she wants something. Not a love connection, but your ego holds on for all the wrong reasons.
I feel like DW and MC are the love children of such dysfunctional relations. DW is a mostly healthy child. While MC has some form of fetal alcohol syndrome - lovable but not quite right and certainly challenging to parent. So good things can come out of these relations even though their inception lacked a solid foundation.
So what does make me happy or better yet; what am I happy to do? Lately it's been moving in my body. Cycling on the roads and trails, skiing, running, hiking, doing yoga and pilates. These activities give me great joy before, during and after. I'm not looking so much as to what I'm going to get out of them but what I'm experiencing while doing them. Very unlike filmmaking.
I'm not giving up on making films just yet. I'm going to continue to practice the aforementioned sporting and fitness activities indefinitely while finishing DW and MC. When and if another new project is upon me I will see if my new attitudes allow for a more grounded filmmaking experience. Perhaps it will.
A friend asked how I was affording skiing. Easy. It's a lot cheaper than making films. And for now I'm finding it to be a lot more fun. Maybe I'll switch mentors from Fellini to Warren Miller.

Signore Direttore