21Jan

Back in Black

Wow, 2007 snuck up on me without warning. Luckily, I got to actually take a real 2 week vacation for the first time since I’ve been in Los Angeles. It was good for the soul.

I’ve been getting calls and buckets of enthusiasm from a distributor based on Wilshire about the Deliverance mobisodes I directed last summer, which is good news indeed. I do believe that these things appeal to an audience that could really be profitable and fun for everyone if the right distributor “gets” the work. Certainly, the Myspace page is doing well with over 6,500 fans at present. And yes, the distributor wants me to create yet more Pizza Dude mobisodes

I am currently working on a new show open, with motion graphics and music for the mobisodes. Just a bit of gloss to brand them a bit. I want them to stand out from the typical “YouTube” amateur stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

My editor friend Brandon and I have begun playing with my new “Frankencamera”, which is based off a DVX100 with a number of special enhancements. I’m able to get a really interesting look with Frankencamera, which will allow me to shoot some interesting stuff in ’07.

Speaking of shooting, I’m the director of photography on Erica Gabrielle’s upcoming directoral debut, a film noir of sorts we’re shooting at the Ricardo Montalban theater in Holllywood. More about that later in the year. I may also be directing a reality television show for Erica this summer/fall.

I am also finally getting back to writing a feature on my own. I’d worked with a writing partner off and on in the past and I’m not against writing with a partner in the future- certainly collaboration is a big part of filmmaking. But I think I’m getting wiser about the kind of person I’m willing to work with creatively.

18Dec

Taking a Break

I’m taking some time off and dropping down to “half days” at work so I can recharge my batteries for the new year. These last 2 months especially have been very busy, as I’ve finished projects up (2 big web projects and about 14 new interview videos for clients).

I plan on getting some writing done (for myself, at last) and working on preproduction for a short film I’m the director of photography on in January. But I’ll also be doing a lot of reading, and not just work stuff.

Mostly, I’m excited to finally get some time to visit family and friends. Plus, I’m spending New Years in Texas with my wonderful girlfriend. Yee-haw!

12Dec

A bit of simple, straightforward work

This is my edit of a short student interview @ Marymount College. Clients are starting to really get into the power of online video, which is cool.

[ hosted on Revver ]
[hosted on YouTube ]
I had a lot of fun shooting these short interviews, and even though these are not dramatic or comedic short films they do have a decent hip HGTV type feel to ’em. The Revver version looks a bit better.

8Dec

Tree Dweller

swingThis is me, swinging from a tree at an undisclosed location in Laurel Canyon a few weeks ago. The swing takes you far out over the abyss, where if you fall it’s a good 30 or 40 foot drop into rocks and prickly bushes. Broken leg at least, you know?

I didn’t want to do it at first- it really didn’t look safe and the pivot point for the swing was way the heck out there. I honestly wasn’t sure my weight and momentum would bring me back to the safety of the ledge. But then a few guys showed up and two of them did it. It looked fun. So, I gave it a try. I took a running start (after all, one must COMMIT to one’s actions!) and flew out over the abyss. Woohoo! It was sooo cool! Then I did it again. Damn, it was fun!!!

I found out later that one of the two other guys was a real life stuntman for the movies. And the other guy told us he came really close to getting stuck out there and falling when he did it the last time. I think I’m glad I didn’t know that until after I trusted that I could do it. Oh, yeah- and those of you looking for an allegory here? Nice. And you’re right. I’ve swung over the abyss this year… and I didn’t fall. Screw any of you who placed bets against me, you should know better by now.

8Dec

Gearfulness

rr1While working on some new story ideas (yeah, you didn’t think I’ve been sitting here doing nothing have you?), I’ve been playing with the Red Rock Micro M2 35mm camera lens adapter for my DVX100 24p camera.

It’s truly a pain in the ass to use. Once business gets to where it should be, I’m still looking at a RED camera instead.

However, it gives an amazing image (assuming you know how to light a scene and don’t want to shoot in very low light). It’s probably not very useful for most basic video clients, but for the ones who want a real “movie look” it certainly does the trick. More later, as I get ready to use the M2 to shoot a short film for a friend in January. After that, well, let’s just say I have some ideas I’m working on. Ideas that I could not have done before now.

But this one’s gonna need a LOT of testing.

24Nov

Thanksgiving

turkey
This was a special Thanksgiving for me. I spent it with a wonderful woman who’s become very special to me. And we pulled out all the stops for the meal, although we didn’t have anyone else over for dinner. Yup, that means leftovers all weekend.

This was the first year I cooked a real turkey. In previous years, tofurkey would substitute or I’d end up at a friend’s table. So this year I got to experience the truth about preparing a turkey dinner.

Preparing a whole turkey isn’t a pretty sight. It’s squishy and bloody, and it has moments of pure “EW!” involved. But I think it’s a good thing, having to deal with the blood and entrails- I think that the mere act of preparing a thanksgiving dinner forces one to consider the realities of life. In our modern world of prepackaged convenience foods we’re increasingly cut off from the truth of our appetites. Life feeds on death, and that’s how it always has been. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing.

So when you do eat, I think it’s good to- once in a while- say a silent ‘Thank You’ to the creature your burger or meatloaf used to be. Preparing our turkey meal was an excellent reminder to me, to be more thankful.

And speaking of being thankful- this has been an interesting year for me, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to do lots of amazing film, video, and web projects with some very cool people.

This has also been the year I became a real working director. That’s so awesome, and I sometimes can’t believe I get paid to do something I love. Despite the fact that the projects are generally low budget affairs, I have a great time and I love hearing my clients’ reactions when they see my work- it is very gratifying.

I’m thankful for the good- and the good people- in my life. I have an amazing family and some truly outstanding friends. This year a lot of you got to step up and help me through some rough stuff- and I thank you for that. You know who you are. Thank you.

And yes, what I am most thankful for this year is meeting the woman I spent this Thanksgiving with. She’s incredible.

21Nov

Robert Altman

altman
Robert Altman died last night. The old coot was truly a talented director, and he was one of the few people in Hollywood I looked up to. He’s one of the reasons I got into making movies.

I’ve always loved Altman’s dedication to his vision- unlike a lot of insecure directors, Altman knew what he wanted and he wasn’t afraid to make movies his way. Sure, he directed a lot of clunkers along with his list of massively successful movies. But every one of his films had heart. He was a rare man in Hollywood who wasn’t afraid to make movies that would force his audience to think and feel differently. The guy had guts.

If you haven’t seen an Altman movie in a while, click here to see the list of his films on IMDB. I’m sure there’s at least 2 of them which you have not yet seen that’ll surprise you and make you glad you have NetFlix.

5Nov

Dan Neil- 800 Words, LA Times, New Horror Movies

This was far too good not to copy and paste. Link here. This is why I don’t write and don’t support these new “torture-based” horror movies:

Barring a wave of sweet mercy and enlightenment sweeping the nation, by the time you read this, “Saw III” will be the No. 1 movie in America. The “Saw” series revolves around the cruel stylings of Jigsaw, who traps his victims in fiendish puzzles that they must solve as the clock winds down. A woman wakes up to find herself fitted with the retainer from hell, a spring-loaded device that will rip her head apart unless she can fish the key out of the entrails of her companion, who’s understandably dubious. The lesson here is to never get sideways of a maniac with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Halloween typically leaves the box office slicked with blood, but October’s fare was particularly hemorrhagic. I give you “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” yet another gory terpsichore through the heart of Bush Country. Taken together with “Hostel,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Wolf Creek” and “The Devil’s Rejects” (and their ineluctable sequels), these films constitute a quickening sub-genre of horror movies, the ultra-violent torture flick, or as Entertainment Weekly has dubbed it, “claustrophobic cruelty.”

Here diners at the feast of American life might be tempted to say, “Check, please!” The very notion of torture chic is profoundly dispiriting. Has our culture become so debased, so desperate for frisson that films glorifying inquisitional agony can find an audience? Well, duh.

Before you even start, horror fans, I get it: Commerce in images of cruelty is nothing new. From Seneca to Shakespeare—whose arm-chopping, head-lopping, children-baked-in-a-pie “Titus Andronicus” is the weirdest carnage in English literature—there’s always been a theatrical appetite for violent depravity. Nor is it a peculiarly American appetite. Witness Chinese martial arts films and Italian mondo horror. For world cinema, blood is a primary color.

But there is a quantitative difference between this year’s dicers and anything that pioneering gore-meister Herschell Gordon Lewis ever made, and that’s the size of the audience. Exploitation flicks were once cult films, consigned to grind-houses, drive-ins and other shame-based venues. “Saw” I and II have a worldwide box office of nearly $250 million and counting. “Hostel,” a movie where a young woman has her eye burned out with a blowtorch, has made $80 million worldwide since January. A butcher blockbuster, if you will.

I walked into a Sunday matinee of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” expecting the theater would be empty. It wasn’t. Perhaps 100 people were there, and while most in the audience were teenagers—slasher films’ primary demographic—a lot of them were Gen-X’ers and older. Uh-oh.

“Chainsaw” is supposed to be scary, I guess. Except that it’s such a piece of genre apparatus, with conventions so smoothly grooved from decades of use and so generously lubricated with blood—imperiled hottie teenagers, cannibal psycho-billies (and not the good kind), falling-down house of horrors—all that’s left to ponder is the stunning, bone-and-gristle violence.

In one scene, Leatherface nails one of the heroes to a vivisection table and flays the poor lad’s forearms to the radius and ulna. Then he gets downright unpleasant. With the movie’s eponymous power tool, he guts the poor kid, then filets his face off—all while the boy’s girlfriend hides below the table, drenched in runnels of blood and organ juice. Popcorn?

There’s also a qualitative difference. Older slasher films—such as the original 1974 “Chainsaw” by Tobe Hooper—were by current standards pretty delicate. They were carefully, not to say responsibly, edited to cut away at or just after the spattering moment of impact. Look-away editing is a thing of the past. This film—and I can only assume its genre contemporaries—is a work of unblinking sadism, cold and profanely explicit. It’s astonishing that the filmmakers actually had to pare back 17 scenes in order to avoid an NC-17 rating. Geez, what did they cut? Never fear, sociopaths, these scenes will be restored for the unrated DVD release.

For me, the worst horror was not on the screen. A half-hour into this film, a mother brought her son, no more than 9 years old, into the theater. To that woman, wherever you are: What in Christ’s name is wrong with you?

I don’t want to come off as the Tipper Gore of gore, but I can’t help wondering: How far can this line be pushed? How far into the mainstream can these images reach? When the guys on “CSI” take the revving bone saw to the bloated corpse of some poor floater, why is there no outrage, no network boycotts? I guess so long as we don’t see her nipple.

Forgive me. I’ve been working with this material for a couple of days now. I’ve read the blogs and contended with the defenders of this vile trash. I’ve tried to keep an open mind. And at the end of it, I just want to let out a biblical howl of despair.

I don’t know exactly what these awful movies say about us, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t good.

15Oct

Star Trek 40th Anniversary

kirkIn honor of Star Trek’s 40th Anniversary, I wrote and directed a 3 minute episode of Deliverance where the Pizza Dude delivers to a couple of comic book store Trekkies and has to decide who the best Starfleet Officer is- Mr. Spock or Dr. McCoy.

I had a lot of fun with this project. One of the cool things about it is I shot all the background plates at the original location that was used in the 1966 Star Trek episode “Arena”. We didn’t have the budget to actually shoot at that location, so I took my digital camera and shot the backgrounds on my own, then composited them with Apple’s Shake software. That’s right- every shot is a greenscreen one on this episode.

Here’s the link to a QuickTime version of that episode (latest QuickTime required). And here’s a link to it on YouTube.

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!

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