One of those days

Ever have one of those days where you just don’t do a whole lot?

It’s pretty rare for me. I’m usually running on all cylinders. All the time. But not today.

Therefore, here’s my list of things of note that I did today:

  • Smelled my girlfriend’s neck.
  • Enjoyed a 100 calorie fat free jelloâ„¢ brand chocolate pudding while wearing flip-flops.
  • Took a picture of a bird on my balcony. I call it “North Hollywood Dove”. Others call it “Flying Rat” or “Pigeon”.

Here’s the picture*:

north hollywood dove

* Yes, I do believe this poor bird only has one leg. Therefore, let us call him “one-legged north hollywood dove”. And no, having one leg does not seem to have affected this stalwart feathered being one whit. I’ve always wanted to say ‘whit’. Now, I have. 

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Couch Cases- Now Online!

Visit www.couchcases.com for a preview of our show! Couch Cases is the first project from High Five and a Hug Productions, and I co-created and directed it.

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Announcing the Couch Cases website

Couch Cases is a show about a neurotic therapist who can’t follow her own advice. We had a blast in production, and now we’re releasing the website (in Beta form) to the public. The trailer is now online, along with cast & crew info, photo galleries, and more.

Visit the Couch Cases website

Enjoy!

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Thoughts on Web Design

We’ve been working on a new website for Couch Cases, and the process got me thinking about web design as it relates to video projects. Genius Monkeys was created to give our customers the ability to exploit the new opportunities where video and new media converge. And part of that mission involves website design and development.

By the way, our sister company, Empty Street Productions, handles a lot of our heavy lifting when it comes to website development. Empty Street has been around for over 14 years now, and has built websites for clients ranging from small startups like Netscape (remember them?) to huge multinational companies like IBM and Motorola. They know what they’re doing.

Back to planning a website. It’s not enough to have a slick-looking design. When I started Genius Monkeys, I issued a mandate- the websites we design and build must meet web standards as much as possible.

A lot of our clients don’t initially understand the importance of developing a website that follows web standards. Websites that implement web standards tend to cost a bit more than “old-fashioned” websites  upfront. So why spend the extra money on them? It turns out that there’s plenty of good reasons to do so: 

 

  • They make it easier to add to your website as time goes by
  • Search engines love them
  • Separating design from content using CSS allows you to make huge changes to your website with a minimum of hassle
  • A website built with web standards in mind tends to display better on iPhones and other new web-enabled devices 
  • Most importantly, the majority of web users will be able to view and use your website

Most web design companies do not design for web standards. Their reasoning tends to be along the lines of “my customers won’t pay for it”. And it is true that learning to build web standards solutions requires a web design company to completely rethink how they approach a web design project. It’s a whole new way of working, and it requires a huge amount of discipline.

Generally speaking, web designers who only work in “visual” view- who are used to dragging and dropping items around when they build a website- are unable to create websites that follow web standards. To create a web standards website, you need to be sort of like Neo in The Matrix. You need to be able to “see” the code and how it will appear once it is deployed.

And that’s a tough job, but a very rewarding one.

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On Being Afraid

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering – Yoda

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear… And when it is gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear is gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. – Frank Herbert, Dune

Al-Qaeda’s entire existence is based on fear. So are some of the actions of our own government. It’s easy to be afraid in a world where airplanes crash into buildings, stock and housing markets crash and burn, torture is allowed, and bombs fall on people. I don’t think too many people would try to dispute that the overall amount of fear in our world has increased in the past decade. And it’s certainly not limited to “Big Fear”, the kind perpetuated by terrorists and governments. On a personal level, it’s incredibly easy to act like a virus- replicating and spreading fear throughout our environment. It’s an ever-escalating cycle, and it affects every aspect of our lives.

I’ve dealt with a work situation that was fear-driven recently. The client felt that their previous agency had treated them terribly, so they approached every aspect of our interaction as if we were trying to take advantage of them. Being of a good nature (usually at least), I decided we should press on with the client and prove to them that we’re on their side by delivering incredible value and top-notch work, even allowing the client to add in features that were beyond the scope of their projects for free.

This didn’t work out very well. As often happens, the formerly abused became the abuser. No matter how low we cut our prices and how great our work was, this client was unable and unwilling to let go of their preconceived notion that they’d been taken advantage of, and their fear of a repeat situation permeated every aspect of our interaction. Things got so paranoid with this client that they accused us of working for the competition, and demanded that we don’t show our work off to others.

Finally, of course, we had to part ways. It’s a shame, because some of the work we’ve already completed for them is truly amazing stuff. I think that’s part of why we held on to them for as long as we did. We all like to show off our best work. Artists like the world to see their work, that’s our nature. But this client’s fear had completely overshadowed everything else in their lives. And the state of their organization reflects that fear.

I don’t want to become like them. I don’t want to shut good things out of my life because I am afraid. And I don’t want to perpetuate and replicate the fear of others. Dealing with that former client’s fear made me take a good hard look at myself.  It made me wonder, if macro-level “Big Fear” can trickle down to the most mundane actions we take and color all that we do, perhaps the antidote is to take those mundane interactions and make them positive. Perhaps that could result in a sort of “bubble up” process, where little fears are eradicated, leading to larger fears being eliminated.

So, being me, I decided to try an experiment this morning. 

When I first moved to the city, I’d go for a jog and say hello to people as I passed. Over time, I stopped doing this because of all the sour-faced thin-lipped non-reactions I’d get from passerby and fellow joggers. I learned that in the city, you don’t say hello. In the city, we act like “the other” doesn’t exist. Because “the other” is scary.

Well, that’s bullshit. So today, I went for a jog. And I said hello and smiled at 5 people. You know what? 2 of them looked at me in a surprised way, smiled back, and said hello. Sure, 3 of them were rude. But that’s OK. Baby steps.

Maybe if we all start to do one or two little things a day that replace fear with love- as corny as that may sound- our love will replicate and spread like a virus too. Maybe John Lennon was right. Maybe love is the answer. Perhaps love is the weapon that can overcome this culture of fear. I’m not advocating that we let other people take advantage of us. I’m only advocating that we don’t let the dark side win by ceding ground to it on a personal level. We can control how we interact with others.

It can’t hurt to try.

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Arthur C. Clarke

He’s gone, but his words live on:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. 

 arthur-clarke-pic.jpg

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Couch Cases Trailer is Online!

View the Couch Cases trailer.

Couch Cases is a sitcom about a neurotic therapist who can’t follow her own advice.

We produced this project for about 1/1000th the price-per-minute of a network sitcom. We’re very excited about releasing the trailer, since we’d been working on this project for some time now.

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Red One Camera- Genius Monkeys is going 4K!

redone_4.jpg

We are happy to announce that Genius Monkeys will soon have Red One #2464, set to be delivered in late May/June. The Red One is an amazing camera, as it shoots 4K. That’s the highest resolution camera you can get, even Star Wars had only 2K resolution. 

What this means for us is, we will be able to offer our clients work that rivals and in many cases surpasses the capabilities of super 35mm film- for about half the cost. Suddenly, the “big look” of high-end television commercials is now available to clients without the deep pockets traditionally needed to afford such a professional look. This camera changes everything.

This is the new camera being used by Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Steven Soderbergh, and many other high-profile cinematographers and directors. Continue reading

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SXSW, Billy Bob Thornton, catching up with friends…

Kathi and I just got in from SXSW. It was… I’m not sure what it was, exactly. We met some interesting people, but almost none of them were film people. We loved the locals, we loved the musicians, and we had fun meeting some cool people. They just weren’t filmmakers. Maybe that’s OK. Maybe we fit in with the musicians better, since we’re both musicians too.

Highpoints of SXSW for me:

We got to see Daniel Lanois’ movie (http://www.daniellanois.com/hereiswhatis). I’d been a fan of his work since forever, and when I saw it on the schedule I knew Kathi and I had to go. It was a music documentary, and we both loved it. What’s best- Daniel was there and he was pretty cool in person, too. The film is about creativity, not just musicianship. It’s about being an artist. And it resonated with me.

The shorts program was a lot of fun, too. Sure, there was a bunch of stuff I did not love, but there were some really great films… including one that really touched me. I’ll post the link to that one once I know its title. I know, sad. But it all went by so quickly.

We liked the trailer panel a lot. Part of the reason was we’d just worked together to cut a trailer for our show. But the panelists were good.

Billy Bob Thornton’s panel was really the best part of the festival for us. The cat is cool, and we were both very impressed with his openness regarding politics in the industry. For me, the best moment of the festival was when he was riffing on success. He mentioned a conversation with Billy Wilder, and he said Billy told him, in effect, that the only way to succeed was to be who you really are, not some weird Hollywood-ized version of what you think “they” want you to be. I know it seems obvious, but living here in LA you get exposed to so many people who are full of crap that it’s easy to lose track of what’s important. I like that Billy Bob Thornton made it on his own terms. It gives me hope.

He also mentioned something that went along with the message in the Daniel Lanois film- basically, that an artist is an artist no matter what the medium. As a musician who is also a writer-director, this made me feel good, too. I don’t think we celebrate creativity enough, at least, I think a lot of people I’m around- including myself at times- don’t.

Oh yeah, and Kathi and I shared a plane with Billy Bob on the way back. So, we talked with him a bit. He’s a gracious guy. Of course, he was trapped in an aluminum tube that was going to be 30,000 feet in the air. We almost gave him a card, but instead promised to come see his band the next time they play LA. 

We were also lucky enough to meet up with some old friends who shall remain nameless who I hadn’t seen since my running days. That was awesome.

Finally, Harvey Weinstein bought me a beer. Well, to be fair, he bought about 200 people a beer- the entire theater, actually- through the generosity of director Morgan Spurlock at the screening of his movie Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? The projector messed up, because of the storm raging outside the theater. And you know, the movie’s damn good too.

Speaking of weather, I loved an early morning thunderstorm we got to enjoy one day. Funny how a thing like weather can be so awesome, when you don’t get much weather where you live.

Other movies I enjoyed enough to remember after the rush of films we saw: Run, Fatboy, Run! (the director turned out to be pretty cool, too), Secrecy (wow, excellent documentary), and I thought Shuttle was disturbing and good. The movies I didn’t like? Nah. Thing is, except for one huge Hollywood movie that stunk and deserves to be kicked in the nuts, I respected every movie I saw. Some of them needed some work, but anyone who can get a movie together should be respected for that. It’s a huge deal, putting together a movie. Especially when your budget is 1/1000th that of a big Hollywood movie.

And that’s something I’d know quite a lot about, coming off Couch Cases. So, hats off to all the filmmakers and I’m grateful I got to see so many movies I probably wouldn’t ever see, otherwise.   

And now for what I didn’t dig about the festival:

Again, all this is colored by who I happened to bump into at the festival. It’s a HUGE fest, so my sample size isn’t statistically relevant. But it felt to me like a lot of the people there who I happened to meet were a bit pretentious, desperate, and fake.

Here’s what they’d do: they’d walk up (or you’d walk up to them), and you’d smile at them. Then, before smiling back, they’d “badge” you. They’d actually look at your badge and see if you were with Warner’s or Sony or whatever who could help them get their movie made or distributed. If you weren’t (I wasn’t, obviously), they would avert their eyes, not smile back and they’d walk by you as fast as they could.

And that’s bullshit.

I got to see what happened if you did have a badge from a big distributor, too. Those poor people got mobbed. Sometimes it’s better to fly under the radar. And that’s all I have to say about that.

We love Austin, Kathi’s a Texan so it’s coming home for her. And it feels like home to me, too. Yee haw!

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SXSW, Billy Bob Thornton, catching up with friends…

Kathi and I just got in from SXSW. It was… I’m not sure what it was, exactly. We met some interesting people, but almost none of them were film people. We loved the locals, we loved the musicians, and we had fun meeting some cool people. They just weren’t filmmakers. Maybe that’s OK. Maybe we fit in with the musicians better, since we’re both musicians too.


Highpoints of SXSW for me:

We got to see Daniel Lanois’ movie (http://www.daniellanois.com/hereiswhatis). I’d been a fan of his work since forever, and when I saw it on the schedule I knew Kathi and I had to go. It was a music documentary, and we both loved it. What’s best- Daniel was there and he was pretty cool in person, too. The film is about creativity, not just musicianship. It’s about being an artist. And it resonated with me.

The shorts program was a lot of fun, too. Sure, there was a bunch of stuff I did not love, but there were some really great films… including one that really touched me. I’ll post the link to that one once I know its title. I know, sad. But it all went by so quickly.

We liked the trailer panel a lot. Part of the reason was we’d just worked together to cut a trailer for our show. But the panelists were good.

Billy Bob Thornton’s panel was really the best part of the festival for us. The cat is cool, and we were both very impressed with his openness regarding politics in the industry. For me, the best moment of the festival was when he was riffing on success. He mentioned a conversation with Billy Wilder, and he said Billy told him, in effect, that the only way to succeed was to be who you really are, not some weird Hollywood-ized version of what you think “they” want you to be. I know it seems obvious, but living here in LA you get exposed to so many people who are full of crap that it’s easy to lose track of what’s important. I like that Billy Bob Thornton made it on his own terms. It gives me hope.

He also mentioned something that went along with the message in the Daniel Lanois film- basically, that an artist is an artist no matter what the medium. As a musician who is also a writer-director, this made me feel good, too. I don’t think we celebrate creativity enough, at least, I think a lot of people I’m around- including myself at times- don’t.

Oh yeah, and Kathi and I shared a plane with Billy Bob on the way back. So, we talked with him a bit. He’s a gracious guy. Of course, he was trapped in an aluminum tube that was going to be 30,000 feet in the air. We almost gave him a card, but instead promised to come see his band the next time they play LA. 

We were also lucky enough to meet up with some old friends who shall remain nameless who I hadn’t seen since my running days. That was awesome.

Finally, Harvey Weinstein bought me a beer. Well, to be fair, he bought about 200 people a beer- the entire theater, actually- through the generosity of director Morgan Spurlock at the screening of his movie Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? The projector messed up, because of the storm raging outside the theater. And you know, the movie’s damn good too.

Speaking of weather, I loved an early morning thunderstorm we got to enjoy one day. Funny how a thing like weather can be so awesome, when you don’t get much weather where you live.

Other movies I enjoyed enough to remember after the rush of films we saw: Run, Fatboy, Run! (the director turned out to be pretty cool, too), Secrecy (wow, excellent documentary), and I thought Shuttle was disturbing and good. The movies I didn’t like? Nah. Thing is, except for one huge Hollywood movie that stunk and deserves to be kicked in the nuts, I respected every movie I saw. Some of them needed some work, but anyone who can get a movie together should be respected for that. It’s a huge deal, putting together a movie. Especially when your budget is 1/1000th that of a big Hollywood movie.

And that’s something I’d know quite a lot about, coming off Couch Cases. So, hats off to all the filmmakers and I’m grateful I got to see so many movies I probably wouldn’t ever see, otherwise.   

And now for what I didn’t dig about the festival:

Again, all this is colored by who I happened to bump into at the festival. It’s a HUGE fest, so my sample size isn’t statistically relevant. But it felt to me like a lot of the people there who I happened to meet were a bit pretentious, desperate, and fake.

Here’s what they’d do: they’d walk up (or you’d walk up to them), and you’d smile at them. Then, before smiling back, they’d “badge” you. They’d actually look at your badge and see if you were with Warner’s or Sony or whatever who could help them get their movie made or distributed. If you weren’t (I wasn’t, obviously), they would avert their eyes, not smile back and they’d walk by you as fast as they could.

And that’s bullshit.

I got to see what happened if you did have a badge from a big distributor, too. Those poor people got mobbed. Sometimes it’s better to fly under the radar. And that’s all I have to say about that.

We love Austin, Kathi’s a Texan so it’s coming home for her. And it feels like home to me, too. Yee haw!

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