Archive for the ‘indie film’ Category

Sundance night one – and check out the fluke celeb snap in my failed selfie!

January 20, 2014

A beautiful but long long drive landed me at the fest 35 minutes before “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” began.

So beautiful.

So beautiful.

A very sexy black and white film by loveable Iranian hipster girl Ana Lily Amirpour, who name checks Die Antwoord while wading through the usual lame audience questions.

I would be so proud of that as my first movie. And sundance. Jeez. So many film lovers in one town. All lit up and overpriced but worth it.

An SA filmmaker friend is here and though both exhausted we popped in on the kcrw Music Cafe. While trying to sneak a selfie of Francois and I accidentally captured Vince from Entourage. He’s right there behind me.

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See in the back? That’s Vince! Adrian Grenier I mean. I’m not the type to take celeb pictures and so on, but am pleased I didn’t delete this.

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Life changing proposals

September 11, 2013

I’m having one of these days – feels like every day is like that at the moment. And it is wonderful. Things are happening so fast with One More Day. I feel blessed and energized. What have I done with Jean? Am I on drugs? Who knows, and no.

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Attn: ALL LIFE CHANGING PROPOSALS DUE TODAY!!! Aren’t they always? Written by some joker on the Dodge College production office whiteboard.

I don’t remember your name either

July 24, 2013

The hardest experience I’ve had since coming to college, about 10 years older than the average MFA candidate I study with, is dealing with the things they say about people over 30. “If I don’t know what I want to do with my life by then… If I’m not married by then… If I don’t have kids by 28… [I’d feel like a failure].” I once, as Key Production Designer on a set, had to take a break to go cry in a bathroom after hearing one of those chats at the DIT station. Granted, I was premensing a tad…

But imagine what it’s like when you’re 80, and all the things about old people have already come true, for you?

"I can't remember your name either": The elderly lady who made this hat won 2nd place in a competition for it. She should have won first!

“I can’t remember your name either”: The elderly lady who made this hat won 2nd place in a competition for it. She should have won first!

I’m making a thesis film (that’s the final short … -ish, in this case, 25 minute) film we make at Chapman. All my key roles are for people over 75 – or at least who can play that age.

I freaked out. My grandmas both passed before I met them properly, although my Mom’s mom, Barbara, was a fierce old lady who would match any game I played with hers. My Dad’s mom I barely met – I know of her mostly through the strange, sentimental stories of my Dad’s Dad. I remember the day she died and my mom taking my brother and I into our room so he could cry. I feel like they’d both have lasted a lot longer if women had careers in their day. My grandpas were around in another town, thousands of miles away, so I didn’t spend much time, although they were both a force in my growth as a writer.

My parents, who are over 65, are still running around like crazy chickens and are my inspiration for my story.

Where would I learn about really old people?

So I started volunteering at the Orange Senior Center – which is a meeting place for seniors (over 65) from Orange – not an old age home, as many assume. I found that old people DUH vary as much as anybody else. Take Wella, who strictly taught me how to serve salad in the kitchen. Anna, who could dance me off my feet.

Today my Assistant Director (if she doesn’t get a real job in time) gave me the best advice ever:
“Don’t treat them like old people. Just make sure they can walk when you audition them.”

This is especially true of actors. One is going hiking in italy for two weeks soon. The other is writing a script. The other is about to star in a play where they have to be on their feet, with an hour of lines memorized… nevermind a few names. They’re all passionate, all working, till the day they day. One amazing actress said “I hope I die on stage, or on set!” And I was like… “Just not on mine!” And we laughed.

I guess that old liberal truism – stereotypes are bullshit – is always true.

A great day / night; an imagined life

June 15, 2013

YEAH I’m using pretentious punctuation. I had one of those days where you imagine a life, with someone, and it seems perfect. Hell, it was perfect. Here’s what happened.

He went for a job interview and I wandered around a shitty area. Beverly Hills ubertown, where it’s totally fine to treat people like shit if you’re rich and famous. Not accustomed to normal hours, I found a 2 hour parking spot to sleep in. When he was done with the interview he understood how I felt about THIS.

Beverly Hills is a segment of a town where fame is everything. So in a health shop window: Whacko Jacko. The guy you worry about when it comes to health. Also featured in their creepy security cam footage: Kate Moss.

Beverly Hills is a segment of a town where fame is everything. So in a health shop window: Whacko Jacko. The guy you worry about when it comes to health. Also featured in their creepy security cam footage: Kate Moss.

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The protesters are clearly crappy at the internet, or else the internet is unwilling to lose advertising. Charlotte Olympia is a footwear brand that must cost a fortune, cause a coffee is ridiculous. The only complaint I found online was re. a broken heel.

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Another protest. Organized labor in America is a small crowd compared to where I’m from. But I’d be scared too. McCarthyism is alive and well.

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Funny, cause as cool as people pretend to be they still eat here. Fakers, more like.

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My cohort, who I can’t really call a date since we’ve both remained single on FB for 3 years and this is 2013, said there was a Banksy near the theater where we had decided to go watch docs. Turns our the owner of the building painted over it. So I just kept walking around the corner and found this.

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This is a great picture. I don’t care who it’s by. I love to surf. I know this moment even though for me it’s with foamies on a boogie board.

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Two cool doccies for $8? I’m in. For my SA readers, that’s less than the normal ticket price for two films. At Quinton Tarantino’s theater. No quibbling.

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At the New Beverly (by Tarantino) the drinks are between 1-3 dollars and the popcorn too. Best of all, the butter is real. Real butter on movie popcorn. THAT’s America.

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Took this the same night. Stopped dangerously. 40mph to 0 in 3 seconds, then a reverse. What is it? TELL ME.

The films were amazing. Find them. Watch them.And also, I couldn’t help wondering how my life might be if I lived with him and we went there. If we just went there a few times a week.

“Mud”, and the New Marlboro Man

June 1, 2013

Mud is easily in my top 3 movies of 2013 so far. Maybe it’s number one but I have to wait a couple of days to see how it settles. And if anything bumps it out of top spot, it’s one thing: Marlboro – and what looks suspiciously like very clumsy-ass product placement.

If you saw Take Shelter (writer/director Jeff Nichols’ previous film) and wished you liked it but weren’t pretentious enough to actually honestly enjoy it, don’t be put off. Although could acknowledge the mastery of his craft Nichols displayed in that, it feel like a very, very, long and tedious short film to me and I didn’t buy the marriage at all. If you liked Take Shelter, then Mud offers that kind of cinematic beauty, only this time, it’s combined with compelling story telling. Even the slightly studio ending with it’s extraneous “I love you” doesn’t manage to ruin it for me.

Go see it. On a big screen. Don't forget.

Go see it. On a big screen. Don’t forget.

Back to the only thing that really bothered me: the product placement. Now, I assume that they had to make a few moral compromises to get the 10 million dollars to make a decent movie in an industry that doesn’t really care to finance that sort of thing anymore? And I’m fine with that. I love making movies so much that I wouldn’t care if this one was funded by… *thinks* … who do I hate more than big tobacco? McDonalds. But what bugged me was that the story involves Mud (Matthew McConaughey) being stranded on an island off the Mississippi without food and needing to be brought cans of beans by two kids he befriends. Yet although he is starving to death, and smokes constantly, he never, not once, runs out of cigarettes. Even pinching them (which he does) wouldn’t explain this. Unless the kids are supplying him with that too. It took me out of the story for a second. And that, not the fact that cigarettes cause cancer, is what bothered me. Lots of stuff causes cancer. And most of it is harder to avoid than cigarettes are. Don’t smoke ’em. Easy.

Howdy kids! None of the publicity stills show him lighting up, but he does it a lot... as does his love interest, played by Reece Witherspoon (she prefers the menthols).

Howdy kids! None of the publicity stills show him lighting up, but he does it a lot… as does his love interest, played by Reece Witherspoon (she prefers the menthols).

These days, the good guys smoke. It helps with the stress.

These days, the good guys smoke. It helps with the stress. The packet of Marlboro Kings is always clearly visible through his white shirt pocket.

It's always helped with the stress.

It’s always helped with the stress.

And it's nice to do it as a family. Here, a dad and his daughter spark up a Marlboro - and share a moment of closeness!

And it’s nice to do it as a family. Here, a dad and his daughter spark up a Marlboro – and share a moment of closeness!

Notice the similarity, or is it just me?

Notice the similarity, or is it just me?

PS: Jeff is not related to film director Mike Nichols. He IS, however, directly related to his brother Ben Nichols – lead singer of the band Lucero.

PAST MEMORIES… and other Korean-isms.

May 24, 2013

We finally screened Formaldeyhyde, a film about a suicidal young man rediscovering the joy of life through the eyes of dead people in his father-in-law’s morgue.

We shot it in Busan, South Korea with the help of Dongseo University.

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Past Memory. Park here. It will be different when you return. In a way it’s tautology. In a way it’s true. As humans, we really need to watch our version control… we forget a lot.

The film making and the trip were both amazing experiences. At the time, they were too, but I forgot how difficult they were. The past has a way of reinventing itself in softer light and prettier ways.

Alex Valencia, who documented the making of, reminded me of how it really was. Sure, there were moments of amazing. But when you’re going 35 setups a day with a tiny crew in tricky conditions, the wheels come off everybody now and then… specially if you only slept three hours the night before.

I laughed, at myself and the co-workers I know and love. I cried with embarrassment for my bad skin, the 16lbs I lost recently (captured on camera for all time), the sweat, and mostly, the lack of cool. And I swore to be cooler in the future.

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The entry way: Already the restaurant name has changed to “past memories”. Plural. Inside, however, the kimchi is always amazing.

What’s best about it all in the end? I like the film we made. It’s strange but it’s beautiful.

No idea what it says, or what what I said translated as in the end.

No idea what it says, or what what I said translated as in the end.

Birthday Girl – the movie

March 1, 2013

We made a movie. Another short movie. A whole bunch of people exist who didn’t exist before. It makes me feel like a god. A small flawed god, but a god.

Birthday Girl is an ensemble cast comedy about how every person has an inner brat just waiting to come out, for our own reasons. And that’s why I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been OBSESSED. And at last it’s a wrap.

It was amazing. I had so much fun making this film that I almost don't care how it turns out. I remember someone else saying that and now I get it.

It was amazing. I had so much fun making this film that I almost don’t care how it turns out. I remember someone else saying that and now I get it. Except of course, I will work that post production until I nearly die and my Editor and Sound Designer wish I would.

Despite a crazy schedule, five kids on set one day, lots of learning on legalities and cake flying around, it was a great set, thanks in no small part to Carol, our host, who was also the best caterer ever. So hiring her again! Also my amazing A.D. Alyxandra Press, who kept her cool despite the set turning into a virtual swimming pool in summer, and Max, my tempestuous and passionate D.P. The Amazing Amy Shirly did us proud on the production design and set dressing front. I was so happy to have Dan Risk (from Indio, CA) as Gaffer, Nate Lertpreechapakdee (from Formaldehyde) as Key Grip and Jules Paholio (from my future) as 1st AC. I love cines. Special mention also to assistant producer Mady Muy, who did an amazing job as UPM and kept the set a happy place, and to Danni Zhao, who produced.

It’s over to my editor Paul Danforth and Sound Designer and recorder Sherry Xie now.

What is she building in there…? A speedrail slider!

November 28, 2012

I have a confession. I should have been a guy. My best memories of my dad from when I was a kid are all about the smell of sawdust. He tended to be stressed and grumpy in that garage, but he let me help, he taught me how to use a circle saw and a screwdriver and fit things together, and he bought me my first and only set of power-tools (they were stolen out of a friend’s garage when I stored them there after my 2nd big breakup.) He also made me my first crib, my first rocking chair, my double bed, my pencil case and various salt bowels – all out of cherry pine. I always think of him when I smell sawdust. And he’s not even dead.

He recently helped me improve on an Indymogul build for a rain machine, which I used in a movie. It worked out really well, and I thought of him a lot as I woke up this morning and set about making my own slider / speedrail for a directing project I have to shoot and edit by next week (or one of my personal heroes, Prof. Martha Coolidge is gonna give me her disappointed-in-you look. I don’t want that to happen.)

I know there are better, and quieter ways, to build a slider. I went this way because I wanted swivel wheels on the cart, so that when I need to do circular movements I can make that happen with just a flat surface or maybe a circle slider, if I can figure out how to build one. No luck so far finding something that curves and could act as track.

Thanks to Pete Vanderpluym for stapling the rail (cheap plastic edging from Home Depot) to the pine planks (also home depot) as well as for recessing and drilling a bolt hole and making me some starter-screw-holes. I secured the rest with duct tape and then screwed it together once I’d tested the placing, using a leatherman. The whole thing could have been done with hand tools… I just skipped that pain cause I could.