Archive for September, 2011

Working with animals

September 27, 2011

The poster I made, next to a real one on the dog park bulletin board.

Working with animals is a lot harder than it looks. And it’s not something they bother to teach us at Chapman, for some unknowable reason. Probably financial. So I decided to give it a shot early in my career. The result was a short film my production teacher didn’t like very much, for good reasons, but that I still think is sort of fun – and not bad for 12 hours’ work – writing, casting, shooting and editing. Take that, 48-hr Film Festival!

Thanks to all that helped out. Especially Daisy the dog, Vinny the actor and dog wrangler, Anirudh the cinematographer and Megan, the actress, who came all the way from LA to star.

For those interested in filmmaking, here’s how the dog made things trickier than they would have been with a human star.

1. She had to be enclosed and on a leash at all times as she isn’t a stunt dog or trained to sit and stay. This meant we had to shoot in the doggy park – otherwise she could have run into the street.
2. She isn’t used to playing with strange dogs, so she was nervous.
3. I didn’t know her before the shoot, but she bonded with me first. So it was hard to make her bond with the actress.
4. It all took so long that we couldn’t move locations to the more ideal place to shoot the scene where she sees the poster. I wanted to make it a different place. Shooting in the doggy park also made the dog being lost at all seem much less plausible.
5. Dogs drool, put hair all over you and have to be taken care of. It’s hard to direct when your first priority is not the actor, or the cine, or even the shotlist, but this slightly helpless hairy creature who doesn’t speak English. Have a handler on set – this stuff is not suitable for student skeleton crews.

Still, I’m not sorry I tried.

PS. Mom if you’re reading this and you want to watch the video you should click the play button (it’s a triangular thing in the middle of the video thing in the page). And I love you.

The day before doomsday

September 7, 2011

The day before my birthday is always – without fail – a disaster. Or make that the week before. It has taken a long time for me to figure out why, but I finally did figure it out today, as I stood in the dark at a gas station forlornly holding out my jumper cables and begging passers by for a jump start.

The week before my birthday is the week during which I evaluate what I have achieved in my life, and realise that it’s not nearly enough. Then I try to compensate by doing all the administration and finishing all the projects that I didn’t do or have left incomplete for the last 360-odd days, or the last two decades. Like having kids. Or sorting out my internet banking. Or changing my cell phone number. Or stuff I can’t talk about.

Of course, I set myself impossible and unachievable tasks and set myself up for multiple disappointments that would have been easy to handle one by one, but should never be crammed into the space of five working days. Or four, since it’s “Labor Day” in America.  P.S. Labor Day is about as significant in America as the concept of a Slut Walk is in Afghanistan. The fact that they don’t even celebrate it on May 1st should be a clue on that front.

But as I go around, beating myself up about everything I have ever failed to do in life, I occasionally come across cool stuff. For instance, I paid the price of a crappy secondhand car to have my personal crappy secondhand car fixed at Tom’s Radiator. And though I’m sad about the money, I saw some things that made me think.

I thought the Native American was real for a bit - probably because I was distracted by the Frank Zappa poster on the wall to the top right. And cause I'm easily fooled when I've been walking around in 105f for a while. So many mistakes I made involved men who liked Frank.

Frank. Always ready for his close-up.

Anyhow. So I went and did some work while Tom worked on my car. Then I picked it up, paid $815 for the compressor and the fan to be replaced. It had been a bad luck day (can’t go into it) so when the aircon was working wonderfully, I thought my luck had changed.

It hadn’t. I went driving around doing more chores. And stopped to fill my car with gas… and after I did that, it just. Wouldn’t start. I guess I forgot to tell Tom the Frank fan not to use the stereo while the car wasn’t running. Luckily I recently conceived an unpublished masterpiece known only to me as The Power of Negative Thinking. So I carry jumper cables. And when a great big man parked his great big van filled with his great big family at the pump next to mine, I pounced on him, and he graciously saved my mustang-driving ass. Oh, how I curse my immigrant’s taste in motor vehicles…

Tom at his front desk (photo with his permission, but unposed): The postcards are all from "places I would rather be". Looking at these, I felt shamed for my lack of gratitude for all the places I have been, and for all the places I still can go.

Still, adventure’s overrated. I’m staying home tonight. It’s still 85F outside. And I have stuff to achieve before midnight strikes me down… except it’s not like that at all. The birthday itself is usually okay. It’s like getting a new line of credit. Crisis averted. The earth is still solid. The sky is still blue (in a smoggy California way). And I’m still as annoying as I was yesterday.