Support Indie Filmmaking at it's Crudest!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Fundraiser!: THUMBING

I am looking to collect $3,000 for the start-up costs to get my next feature film THUMBING underway. It is a simple but dynamic road-film about a middle-age truck driver and a young hitchhiker who meet one night in the California desert. Two of the three principle locations have been locked up and I am searching for a truck company interested in sponsoring the film.

We will be filming with a skeleton crew in Utah, Nevada and California, and I have access to two named talents for the principle roles (one a television icon, the other on many people's list as one of the best actors under the age of 30). I will contact them with the start-up funds have been reached.

If you would like to make a donation, please click on the following link:

THUMBING fundraiser

Everyone who donates will receive a special thank you in the closing credits of the movie. For all pledges of $20 or more you will receive a copy of the movie on DVD when finished. And for every $100 pledge you will receive one point on the back-end (out of 100) if the film is picked up for distribution. (Meaning, if the film is made for $20,000 and sells for $100,000 you will receive 1% of the $80,000 profit for every $100 you donated.)

If the $3,000 goal is not reached within 25 days, your pledge will be returned to you with no charges. If we surpass our goal, all funds will go directly toward the production of the film. As the writer/director, I won't be making a penny off the film until everyone else gets paid as well.

Thank you for your support, and please spread the word.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Movie Review!: I Am Legend

I'm a fan of the Richard Matteson novel I Am Legend, but I wasn't very impressed by Omega Man, starring Charleston Heston as Robert Neville, the last man standing following a devastating plague. I was however intrigued to learn a major studio was going to remake this film and happy to hear Will Smith was cast in the lead role. Put Smith on screen with every A-lister out there and he'd be the actor most people are drawn to, so to me this was a no-brainer.
This version of the movie strayed from the book quite a bit but for the most part the changes worked. Making the film a boy-and- his-dog story was genius as it gave Smith a chance to shine as he scoured the city for supplies and searched for survivors and a cure for the deadly virus that wiped out much of the population, and those it didn't kill were turned into something resembling the pseudo-zombies of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. Will Smith gave the character a realism that I felt was lacking in Omega Man, an earnestness that Charleton Heston couldn't deliver. When Smith spends a portion of his day talking with dummies at a video store, it's heartbreaking where it might otherwise have been goofy or out-and-out embarrassing.

The flashbacks were wonderfully done, giving the audience just enough info to keep them abreast of the situation but not enough to overload them, and much was smartly left to the imagination. Some of the other positive changes were the use of cultural references to help tell the story, such as Bob Marley's Legend or the scene from Shrek (although this might hinder the movie in the future as it can strip away a sense of timelessness). I really dug the shots of the vacant city, now overrun by nature and wildlife, and how Neville (and in turn the audience) underestimated the intelligence of the creatures. And even as the story built toward its explosive climax, I was never able to predict how it was finally going to come down.

However, this was far from a perfect movie. The ending I couldn't predict left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. The birthday subplot and the use of the butterfly metaphor were trite and cliched, the product placement was obvious and annoying, and the CGI creatures were awful. If you want the audience to believe in the world you've created you need to surround the make-believe with as much realism as you possibly can but by having the creatures so blatantly unrealistic it constantly reminded me that this was just a movie. I was never able to get beyond that as has happened in similar films such as 28 Days Later or Batman Begins.

Another major change from the book I didn't care for was Neville was not only a brilliant scientist and a decorated soldier but he was also immune to the disease. I understand in a film you have a limited amount of time to convey a great deal of information but one of the things I loved about the book was that Neville had to become a scientist, which fit in the theme of adapting and evolving. Having him be a scientist from the get-go stripped away a layer of his character that was intriguing and realistic.

Although I didn't like the timing of the introduction of the two other characters in the film - Anna and Ethan - I loved the clever and subtle ways the characters are developed. When Neville throws his plate at the wall, the child steps back from the table, apparently in fear. As Neville leaves the room, he steps forward, revealing a knife in his hands - he may be just just a kid, but Ethan is as much a survivor as Neville. There were many little moments in this movie to make it shine, this being my favorite.

Using Bob Marley's Legend album could have been schlock had Smith dropped the ball, but his heartfelt monologue sold it, as did his delivery while quoting Shrek to his new house guests. Using that particular scene from the animated comedy also added to the overall story, rather than just being funny for the sake of amusement.

The climax of the movie came too suddenly. I would have liked another day or two of Neville reintroducing himself to society, even if that society consisted solely of a woman and a child. The way he rigged his home to be the last line of defense against an attack was fine, but I think the filmmakers dropped the ball by having the end come so soon after the arrival of Anna and Ethan. They could have mined some good tension out of their relationship, but feeling the need to wrap this film up quickly the filmmakers decided they'd had enough with the drama and turned this interesting film into just another (albeit intense) action flick.

Smith's total engrossment of the Neville character is, in my mind, worthy of an Oscar nomination. It's unfortunate this film will be looked at as a crowd pleasing popcorn flick rather than a rich character study - the same problem facing my favorite movie of '07, The Lookout - but he also had the bad luck of doing so well in a year of brilliant turns in more award-friendly fair by Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises), Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), George Clooney (Michael Clayton), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd) and Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah).

Overall I appreciate this film for staying true to the spirit of the book even at the cost of a word-for-word adaption, and Smith's understanding of the character allowed him to pull of something only a handful of actors could have, and that's make a believable action hero out of an ordinary man.

New Travelog!: Part 2: Tooele, UT

It's Tuesday the 28th. After being snowed in in a mansion in Park City, I finally got a ride into Salt Lake. I ate some pretty good brunch at a Thai restaurant near downtown before getting a ride to a bus stop. A quick bus brought me to a transfer point that was supposed to get me on a second bus to take me out to Stansbury Park, but I waited 3 and a half hours in the cold and the wind. I talked with several operators on the phone and after very clearly letting them know my coordinates, each one told me I was waiting in the right spot and they were unsure why the bus hadn't arrived yet. Turns out, each of the six operators told me I was supposed to be on 2nd South, rather than the next street over, State Street. For their errors, I received two free bus tokens. Fucking sweet!

I was dropped off at the Old Firehouse and after struggling in the weather with my luggage, I was picked up by an older woman in a Cadilliac (thanks Mrs. Preston!???), and dropped off at my dad's house. I've been here ever since. I think today is Day 5, and it's been pretty uneventful.

The highlights:

Bumped into my Aunt Lynne at Wal-Mart. She was buying dog food and wondered why she never received an invite to Andrew's wedding.

I'm working part-time at my stepmother's office, filing 6 months worth of backed up paperwork.

I sent my script out to a producer I met at Sundance, and I'm spending my days systematically erasing all my posts from The Cult.

Bowled with my stepmom and my sister but I lost all four games. I'm blaming it on the lane being overly greased - I couldn't get my slider working to save my life. Apparently Lazer Bowling is the big teenage draw in this town.

My dad sold his pool table. We played a few rounds of chess. He bought tickets to the Jazz/Bulls game on the 9th.

Watched Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth today as well as a French coming-of-age movie from 1975 called A Very Young Girl. Tomorrow I'm going to give Dead Man another shot after finding a place to watch the Super Bowl.

I'm pretty much counting down the days until the 10th. This place makes me lethargic. I'm not sure where I'm going from here - probably either Portland to kill some time, Seattle to babysit my stepfather while my mother recovers from surgery, or Bellingham to visit some friends. I plan on visiting all three of these cities in the next month, but in what order I'm not sure. After that, if there is still no work in LA, I'm going to take a bus to southern California and move all my crap back to Desert Hot Springs and hang tight out there, fixing up the house until my brother's wedding.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Travelog!: Part 1: Sundance '08

Prologue: Due to the WGA strike I'm having no luck finding work in LA. I've been without a job since mid-December and I was turned down for unemployment because there was a mistake in the paperwork, and because so many people are out of work right now, it's even more difficult to get someone on the phone, which, in the best case scenario, is pretty damn tough. So my options are as such: Spend my last couple hundred bucks on one more months worth of rent and hope a job materializes or take my last couple hundred bucks and hit the road, travel around for a few months, and return when there are jobs to be had.

Travelog Pt. 1: Sundance '08

As I talk with my roommate about happiness and the future and what we can do to better ourselves as people and whatnot, I received a text from a friend from high school wondering if I'd be interested in flying out to Park City to volunteer at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Although I grew up in Utah, I vowed to never go to Sundance until I had something showing. But this felt different. The idea really stuck, and I mulled it over for a couple hours before deciding to go ahead and fly out.

I was working on a friend's film through the end of the weekend so I bought a ticket on Jetblue for Monday night. The flight was delayed two hours, and I spent $14 for a burger that was prepared wrong twice before finally understanding that I don't want onions and pickles. I'd forgotten my laptop charger, and I hardly had any cold weather clothes. When I left LA it was probably 60 degrees. In Salt Lake the temperature was in the single digits.

My dad picked me up from the airport and drove up the canyon to Park City. I had a bed in a condo that was shared between myself, my friend Heidi, and 7 of her friends. Out of habit and out of not wanting to crawl up a skeezy looking ladder when I arrived home at 2 am every night, I slept on the couch down stairs. After signing in at the Volunteer Villa, I was given a Sundance '08 jacket, scarf, beanie and vest. If it weren't for my shoes, I'd be all ready for winter and the -5 degree temperature that I walked home in that night.

I worked at the Holiday Theater tent, selling tickets to impatient tourists and imputing data into a computer. I was told I'd be on the morning shift which would allow me a chance to see more movies at night and possibly get into some of the parties, but instead I was moved to the night shift. Because of this, I wasn't able to see two of the films I really wanted to check out - Michael Haneke's Funny Games (the remake of his own Austrian film from 1997) and Gonzo, the documentary about nutjob journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

However, I did manage to get in a handful of movies while I was there, including The Wackness, the final movie showing on the final night of the festival. Starring Ben Kingsley as a drug using shrink, it was easily the best movie I've seen while here. It was the only movie that truly blew me away, and was just about as perfect a movie I've seen in a long time. It costarred an Olsen Twin, which made it even more unlikely that I'd enjoy it.

Other movies I enjoyed were the Spanish language film Sleep Dealers, a sci-fi flick about a kid from a small Mexican village who leaves home after the death of his father by a Corporate Army hired to keep aqua-terrorist from harming the company's water supply. Although it was a low budget movie (I can't imagine it had more than a million bucks), it was so well put together. I walked out of the movie thinking it was the best writing, best editing and best directing I've seen in a long time, and I haven't been this impressed with special effects in a film since the original Matrix. It won the best screenplay award at the festival, along with the sci-fi award.

I only caught two documentaries, although there were several I wanted to see. The first (and the better of the pair) was Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired. Very well put together, it was able to get into the reasons why he did what he did, although it (rightfully) doesn't excuse him from the crime he committed. It spent quite a bit of time focusing on the judge in the trial, and there was a lot of effort in showing various angles and points of view. Definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of Polanski, or if you love documentaries.

The other doc I caught was Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?, which I'm torn about. I think the film is one that everyone needs to see but there is a lot I don't like about it. First, it's going to shoot itself in the foot during it's marketing campaign. I'm convinced it'll be presented to the 18-35 year old market as kind of a Dawg the Bountyhunter hunts down Osama bin Laden, which obviously pique a lot of interest, but the truth is the movie is less about Osama bin Laden and more about the way various peoples in the Middle East view Americans and American foreign policy.

Using bin Laden as the reason to visit various countries, Spurlock never intends to discover where the terrorist is hiding. Every mention of bin Laden bit could very well have been removed from the movie and it would have been more profound, although the audiences wouldn't turn out en masse, so I guess it's a trade off he wasn't willing to settle on. The other major turn off for the movie is the use of goofy cartoony videogame sequences to seque one scene to another, and the dumbest opening movie sequence I've seen in a long time. All of this is for one reason - to get young audiences into the theaters.

Again, I think it's a documentary that everyone should watch, but I think this is going to turn off a lot of people and I'm not convinced flashy CGI fight scenes between a 9 foot ninja bin Laden and Morgan Spurlock is necessarily going to resonate with today's youth.

Other noteworthy films were Frozen River, which I saw because I'd written a role for Mark Boone Jr. in my script A MILLION SHADES OF WHITE, and he had a small part in this as a French Canadian strip club owner cum human trafficker. It was good - deserving of it's audience award, for sure - but it will probably resonate with female audience members more than it will the guys. The acting was top notch, the directing was steady throughout, there were some great cinematic moments, and the entire situation seems plausible, which makes it even more heartbreaking.

One of the three movies I intended to see was Choke, written by Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk and starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Houston. I was a bit frightened when I noticed the film was less than 90 minutes long, but it was funny (which is good 'cuz it's a comedy) and most of the cast did a great job (it won an award for best ensemble cast) although I thought both the leading females were the weak part of the film, along with some issues with the low budget. Mostly I would've liked better sets and more creative camera work. Also, the way the flashbacks transitioned in and out of the film was abrasive.

Script writer/director Clark Gregg (photo <----) did an outstanding job adapting the novel and he didn't flinch at some of the more perverse and obnoxious elements of the book. It's a testament to his script that I can't really think of anything that was missing from the book and I enjoyed the few things he added, such as the interview scene before the fake-rape. Funny, but probably not for everybody.

I'm a little disappointed at the amount of drinking I was able to accomplish, but we did have a party in our condo the second to last night, in celebration of one of the roommate's 27th birthday. He was kind of a douche, but his mother was nice. The party wound down around 3 am when he decided to go to bed and told us it was his party so he was allowed to tell us when it was over. I arrived late due to work, but it seems like everyone who came (probably around 30 people or so) brought a bottle of wine to go with our already pretty impressive alcohol collection. We had plenty left over the next night, although we did our best to finish it off before the festival ended.

As the festival was winding down we were hit with a major storm that closed off portions of the freeway and stranded us in Park City for an extra couple of days. My friend Heidi - who has been working at the festival since we graduated in '98 - has a friend whose father owned a house in the area, so we crashed there. And by house, I mean full blown mansion. There must've been a dozen rooms, each with their own bathrooms. A sauna (which I couldn't turn on), a gym, a wine room, a nifty hot tub - and a kitchen with 4 ice cream scoops, two microwaves and two stoves! Anyway, the first night it was just the three of us, and it was pretty tame. After they went to sleep, I explored the house and drank bourbon and Coke.

The second night started out a bit different. Four more of Heidi's friends showed up - all women - and we sat around drinking and playing Scattegories. As the ratio of guys:girls was 6:1, I knew I wouldn't be getting laid (with those odds, nobody's getting nothing). We drank a lot and one by one people left to go to bed until again I was left alone. I finished the bourbon and went to sleep.

The next morning, I caught a ride down the mountain with a couple of the girls from the night before, and now I'm here at my dad's place trying to figure out where to go next. My brother is getting married in April, so I figure that's a good time to return to LA. Until then, I'll keep moving and keep posting.

Friday, January 11, 2008

New List!: Favorite Movies of 2007

2007 was a good movie year. There was a time around August/September where there were seven movies playing in theaters that interested me enough to fork out the money to check them out. Unfortunately, I was probably broke so I was only able to see a couple. Even though it was released in February or March, the film I most enjoyed this year was Frank Scott's brilliant directorial debut The Lookout, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels. It bombed at the box office, mostly, I assume, because it was marketed as a thriller when in reality it was a drama about a kid with a head injury. To me, it was the perfect blend of Hollywood style and Indie heart.

Once, an Irish romantic musical directed by John Carney and starring
Glen Hansard of the rock group The Frames was a really close second. I can't say with any certainty that I've ever truly enjoyed a musical or a romance before, and being equal amounts of both I was blown away by how much this movie affected me. I'm glad I caught it on a red-eye flight, if the rest of the passengers had been awake I might've embarrassed myself as I dabbed my eyes and grinned like a retard on helium.

My other favorites, in no particular order:

* There Will Be Blood
* Red Road
* No Country For Old Men
* Michael Clayton
* I Am Legend
* I'm Not There
* Eastern Promises
* Zodiac
* The Darleejing Limited

Movies I bet were really good but I didn't see:

* The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
* Gone Baby Gone
* Into the Wild
* Lust, Caution

Saturday, January 5, 2008

New List!: Some Things LOST Can Do To Improve

I'm not sure if Lost is a great show or not. I know at the very least it is a really good show that has some great moments. But like everything else heeding my advice can make it better. So, as we stand at the eve of the new season here is a list of things Lost can do to improve:

- Unless they're vital to the outcome of the show in some sort of spirit animal/anime type way, stop it with the animals references. They were interesting for a while but they became a cliche somewhere in the middle of the second season. Kate's horse, Sawyer's boar, the Hurley bird, Sayid's cat, and so on and so on. Enough already.

- More cliches: Jin is only an asshole when its a Sun or Jin-centric episode. Either he's a dick or he's not, but be consistent. Also, Sawyer is cocky but he's bad at poker and he's bad at ping-pong. We get it, so make him either a bad ass or less cocky, but not both.

- Limit Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Locke to 1 Flashback per season apiece. There are a lot of characters out there who are far more interesting who can use the attention, and whose pasts can be mined.

- Kill kill kill! Eko was one of my favorite characters and although I was pissed when he died it re-solidified Lost as a show worth watching. The writers missed a golden opportunity at the end of Season 3 to knock off a few characters - Sawyer obviously isn't going to die, Jin will probably stay on through the end, but killing off Bernard would have gone a long way toward making Rose more interesting. Even if no one died you could've ramped up the suspense factor by having their lives hang in the balance until the beginning of this season. Killing Charlie was nice - props to the writers for offing a character I never liked while making me actually care about him. And c'mon, finish off Rousseau, please.

- Keep fucking with our heads. Desmond's de ja vu episode was the best of the season and one of the best of the entire series. The season 3 flash-forward finale was great. Congrats on having the balls to not stick to the structure. Keep it up and keep us on our toes.

- Let Jack Bender direct every episode.

- Not all of Hurley's episodes need to feel good. In fact, I'd love the next one to be a real fucking downer. On the same note, it's time for the resolution of Libby's storyline (and Bea Clugh's, too).

- No more well known special guests.

- During season 1 I bet my brother the show would jump the shark when there was either a birthday episode or a holiday episode. Lost went through Thanksgiving with only the briefest of mentions, but as season 4 is starting just before their Christmas Eve, I'm a little nervous.

- I have always felt the producers knew what the final outcome was to be, but they weren't entirely sure how they were going to get there. When ABC announced the series would end after the 6th season, I felt this was the best thing that can happen to the show. With a definitive ending in sight the creators can map out exactly how they want us to reach the destination. I know there are a lot of fairweather fans - probably as many as there are die-hard fans who claim the show is flawless - but I'm willing to stick out to the end to see what has been cooking up. I don't claim to know what's coming and I'm sure there's a good possibility I might not like how it ends, but knowing that it has an end makes it that much more intriguing. X-Files and Twin Peaks has nothing on Lost.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Thing!: Jaywalking (Updated)

I went to sleep around 3 in the morning and set my alarm for 11, but when I woke up at 7:30 I thought to myself, you know what, you're awake and you feel good, why don't you walk to the court and deal with that jaywalking ticket, you know, get it off your mind? Boy, am I retarded and once more I got fucked by the California legal system.

To recap: July 4th on my way to see a movie I was pulled over by a couple cops who said a woman reported I had jaywalked. They issued a ticket. I left for Washington to work on a film and when I returned I found that the fine was originally $250 and was now, with fees included, $977.

Today, I went before a judge and he asked how I wanted to plead. I told him not guilty, and, thinking because my driver's license had my address listed way the hell away, I asked for a change of venue. He pretty much told me I was an idiot and should learn what the hell I'm talking about. He told me that had I pleaded guilty for this infraction he would've let me walk out of the court room with a $50 fine (which probably wasn't true - everyone before me who had similar cases were given light fines for the infraction and still had to pay the hefty fees for not showing up to deal with their ticket in a timely manner). He said furthermore, he thinks I'm foolish because, obviously, I'm guilty of the crime, and he set my bail at $977, which I have a week to pay, then he set my court date for further on down the road. I asked if I could change my plea - something which many people before me had done - and he ignored me and told the next person to come take the stand. So, basically, I can pay the $977 bail and go in front of the trial judge and try to convince him that the cops had not seen me jaywalking and had given me the ticket out of heresay - and the cops will probably be there to tell him that's a lie - and I'll get nailed with paying the bail amount, or I can go to court again tomorrow and ask the same judge if I can change my plea, and either he's going to make me look like an idiot in front of everybody or he's going to say, I'm glad you learned your lesson, now here's how much you have to pay... (probably the full $977, or what I might've been able to walk out of court paying today, which would've been $50 for the ticket plused the assest fines, which will probably amount to about $350, plus another $30 because I won't be able to pay the fine when I leave the court). All this for a goddamn jaywalking ticket given to me by hearsay!

Fuck yeah, California!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Fundraising!: Marvin's Lament's Film Festival Funds

Hi all, I hope your new year is off to a good start.

My short film "Marvin's Lament" is nearly complete and is being prepped for a film festival run. I'm going to have an updated version of the film online later, hopefully by this time next week, but you can check out the rough cut here.

So, now is the time for me to shamelessly beg for money. Please visit this link to make a donation to the cause. I have 25 days to raise at least $500 which will pay the fees for about 10 festivals.

For anyone who makes a donation, you'll get a special thank you in the credit. If you make a donation of at least $20 I will send you a copy of the DVD as well as some nifty promo stuff when it's all ready.

Thanks, and feel free to spread the link around to anyone who might be interested in helping out.


PS: Send me a message or leave a comment after you donate so I can make sure you get your copy of the film.