Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jesus, I Come Off Like a Snob

Well, this wasn't the idea. Somehow I start wanting to write something personal, and end up writing about a book or a film or some semi-profound thing.

I suppose on the one hand it's the writer in me, wanting to keep y'all entertained. Plus, I feel like my personal life, while very interesting to me, is not necessarily so interesting to you. As Minx says, "I ate a cheese sandwich" is not necessarily a compelling blog entry.
Well, here's an attempt to talk a little about my personal life.

First off, I currently live in Astoria, New York, a neighborhood I fell in love with many years ago and recently got to know again, when I separated from my ex-wife (who lives in Manhattan). Oddly enough, I live about five blocks away from one of the last places I used to live before I moved in with my ex all those years ago.

Here's a quick view from my subway stop, Astoria Blvd (warning: it's big, and a little squished.
A rainy day, but quite beautiful.
I like the food, the people, my building, even the somewhat scary bar down the block from me (hey, the beers are cheap, and it's great to be able to literally stumble home).
The view is of the Triborough bridge, and (in the left background), Manhattan. The vista reminds me of my 20s, which is great - I had a more optimistic outlook on life then. It also reminds me that I'm not in my 20s anymore, and how I'm finally getting close to the place I wanted to be when I was in my 20s... now that my 30s are getting fewer in number.
Just last year I finally said I wasn't going to hedge my bets anymore, and try to pursue two careers (filmmaking and computer programming). I said yes to filmmaking, something I nearly did... eleven years ago, when I last lived in Astoria.
This is not to say that the eleven years in between weren't good ones... I fell in love, got married, made a movie with my ex-wife, wrote several scripts... and yet it's somehow taken me this long to get here.
Somehow, by the time my mother was my age, she'd had two kids, been married twice, had owned a house and a car... and I live with my cat in a studio apartment previously occupied by a college student. On the one hand, it seems to be taking me a long time to grow up. On the other hand, I think growing up is a big trap to avoid at all costs.
Well, that's enough personal crazy for now. Go see Pan's Labrynth and read Care of the Soul. Awesome movie and book. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2007 Resolutions For Indie Filmmakers

Happy merry 2007 to all of you. I've compiled a list of resolutions that I hope and pray we will all be able to follow this year.

(1) Stop using the phrase "award-winning" in job postings, usually in conjunction with free jobs. If the director or producer has won awards and is such hot stuff, why is s/he still asking me to work for free. If the ad doesn't mention the name of the award, I'm even less impressed.

(2) Pay your crew & cast to work on your projects. I realize this isn't always possible, but a good goal to set nonetheless.

(3) Don't go into production hoping to put everything on credit. Production requires cash, and lots of it.

(4) Work out your post workflow before going into production.

(5) Stop whining about how video doesn't look like film. It's not supposed to. Talking movies didn't sound like silent ones, color movies didn't look like b&w, CGI didn't look like optical effects. Every time a new technology enters the picture, something is lost... and something is also gained. The important thing is that it's now cheaper than ever to tell your story.

(6) Stop hiring production design crew at the last possible second. These poor souls get beaten up on every production I've been on this year, because they end up working 'round the clock to make up for inadequate #s of prep days, too small a team, etc. You bring your DP on early enough, why not your production designer?

(7) Production designers, stop letting yourselves get exploited as per #6 above. Learn to say "no" and get some sleep.

(8) Break the "stars" mentality. I've seen some great films at festivals this year that will probably never get distribution because they have no "name" actors in them. These films would do really well somewhere (on cable, in limited release, etc.) One way to help is to vote with your wallet: see movies without name actors in them in those rare times when they come out theatrically. Watch direct-to-video releases (some of them are much better than their theatrical counterparts).

(9) Stay calm on set at all times, even if everything's on fire.

(10) Make your short/feature/pilot/doc/whatever already. Maybe you've got rescale your ambitions to match your wallet. Maybe it won't turn out exactly how you envisioned it. Remember when you were a kid and you just decided to do something and "just did it?" Have a little faith - you can't wait for the stars to line up perfectly.

(11) Enjoy your work. You're working in a field most people dream about being involved in. There's lots worse things to do in life.

Okay, that's it. Have a great 2007! Let's make some movies!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Transparency of Reality

Intellectually it may be easy to understand the idea that everyday reality is an illusion, but it often takes a good deal of prayer, meditation, or substance abuse to really feel it in your bones.

Fortunately, I sometimes find that staring at pictures helps. I took this at a bar a few days before new year's eve. I was screwing around with the slow shutter (I recommend trying this on your digital camera).

Anyway, I find for some reason that this pic captures that feeling of unreality better than any words I could use.

Oh, and the music was good too.


I finished Jared Diamond's Collapse, finally. Great book. Now I'm back to struggling with Investigations, by Stuart Kauffman. This is one smart dude. He's a biologist who unpacks who's trying to figure out the rules behind the complexity of life, and has some rather wonderful answers. But it ain't easy reading. Lots of graphs, math and some very tough prose. However, it's worth the slog, and he's clearly very passionate about what he's doing.

Okay, that's it for now. More personal stuff to come, I promise.