Posts Tagged ‘film school’

Shots from a shoot

July 16, 2014

I worked background (as a film extra) last night, on a feature film shooting night for day in an LA coffeeshop. Now anyone who’s ever worked as cast on a film set knows you spend most of your time waiting to be called to set, and we were stationed on the sidewalk to make space for the shooting and setups inside. So I divided my energy between wandering around taking pictures of what I could find in a 30 foot radius, and reading a novel called Jamesland (pretty good, if you like stories about messed up women) on my kindle.

The great thing about Beverly Blvd is it’s paradise for sign-bloggers. Stenciling has taken off, and is very hard to remove from pavements. Obscure alterations dot traffic signs. And there’s always someone with a lost dog or something weird to sell you or tell you.

A stencil on the ground shows a guy reading a book, but it looks like he's peeing. In the background, a member of the cast takes a break.

A stencil on the ground shows a guy reading a book, but it looks like he’s peeing. In the background, a member of the cast takes a break.

publishenemies600

Stingers curled around a cool stencil saying “Publish Enemies”. It’s a viral (probably illegal, but I’d bet the fine is less than doing it legally) campaign for a comics / TV brand you can follow on Twitter as @publishenemies

crosswalksheep600

“Sheep needs a facelift. Draw here.” I think personally, I’d rather be a live sheep than a dead crosswalk activist. But I’ve seen mothers using their kids and babies in strollers as human shields to jay-walk, so perhaps I’m just not as trendy as they are.

 

missingdogwithpearls600

I am convinced this is a joke. But in Hollywood, you really never know. All I can say is that if this dog is “like their child” I hope we never have to watch the live birth video of its exit from the vaginal canal, because that would be gross.

 

Found another day, just up the road. I actually spotted this guy (without any dogs) a few days later.

Found another day, just up the road. I actually spotted this guy (without any dogs) a few days later. He looks happy, but not like the type to wear pearls or care about cash.

 

wtfgrumpycat_billboard600

Grumpy Cat says more money should go towards providing shelters for homeless animals, but Republican cats think this will only encourage more cats to be homeless. Snapped on La Brea on the way home from set at 6am.

As massive as LA is, as huge a hub as it is for the film business, I was struck by how small it was when I arrived on set to discover that half the crew (including the Cinematographer) were from Chapman too, and the producer was South African. You can always tell when a set is full of Chapman alumni because of the singing and friendliness that comes with the hard work and long hours. And despite any gripes I may have against the school, I say that with some pride in my former film school.

Next, Please

May 18, 2011

I’m switching to a directing emphasis in my MFA, while continuing with screenwriting too. So almost double the workload for me, which I’m gonna love. And this also made me a lot more nervous at the screening of this project. I felt people would be sneering at me: “She sucks. What is she thinking?!” I finally understand why my director friends don’t enjoy going to their screenings. When it’s up there massive on a movie screen with real sound, every flaw is obvious. And the good stuff looks so much more incredibly good… except when the movie is a porn movie. Then it’s just gross. Nothing grosser than a pubic pimple the size of your head. This isn’t, though. A pubic pimple. Or porn.

Compression, or my monitor, has made this all look woefully pink. It looked a lot better playing from blu-ray full size. And the my killertracks.com credit is missing. Something happened on the cutting room floor / buggy lab! Anyhow, the music is all from killertracks.com, who are amazing.

I learned a lot making this film: about actors, about working with editors, about stress, about directing, about cinematographers, about the people in my team for this project – Alex, Dan, John and Kennedy. We literally laughed and cried. Or at least, I did. And not only when I had PMT.

The result of all this tears and trauma? Four minutes. A fun little piece about a teenage girl who goes to get birth control, and encounters a really weird guy in the waiting room… With Matt Green, Claire Gordon-Harper and Dalia Perla, cinematography by John Nodorft, edited by Dan McDonald. I wrote and directed this for my Production II 16mm 3-2-1 project (3 pages, 2 characters, 1 location).

Nude ladies, “Friends”, pool, karaoke and hamburgers at Barney’s Beanery, West Hollywood

March 24, 2011

Do I have to blog about it every time I go to Los Angeles? Well, probably, until it stops seeming like a place of magic and dreams; everything I expected of it and more.

Traffic. Rain. 35 Miles in three hours. Thank God for CD changers and conversation.

Been going to LA a lot at the moment because the Writer’s Guild is holding a weekly interview / screening / discussion series with famous TV writers – last week was an amazing session with Steve Levitan of Modern Family. Today I got roped in to checking out Friends‘ Marta Kauffman and David Crane. And I didn’t expect it to be half as amazing as it was. I loved it so much that I now… briefly wanted to watch the whole 10 episodes of the series for (believe this or not) the first time. I doubt I’ll actually go through with it though, don’t worry.

The original pitch and treatment. Check it out - it seems Friends was originally titled "Bleeker Street" (like in the sad Simon & Garfunkel song) and later the slightly cheerier "Insomnia Cafe".

Anyhow, we wound up at Barney’s Beanery afterwards. It is awesome – and proof that America will turn anything – ANYTHING, NO MATTER HOW ALTERNATIVE – into a commercial undertaking. The place is basically a collection of all the USA’s rock ‘n roll glorification, thrown together in a faux dive bar atmosphere, with a technology coulis.

Great burgers, better mash, and a beer list that made me very happy. A 10pm happy hour too. And all the healthy options and mild food choices that keep All-Americans and Hollywood types content.

Of course, you want it to seem “real”, right?

This picture of a sexy lady pasted on the booth wall, the slightly worn leather seats, and the Wednesday night karaoke all contribute to the pleasant illusion that you might be somewhere in the real world.

LA: How is this is not as good as it gets?

March 3, 2011

I drove to LA for a meeting yesterday morning. I felt like a real screenwriter. You know, driving to LA with a pitch to meet a director in a coffeeshop. On too little sleep. Let’s just say it – it felt real and unreal.

I feel a rising excitement as I get closer to LA, as the grafitti and wall art gets more sophisticated, as the drivers get ruder and the smog gets thicker.

The thrill is still not quite gone.


And sure, it might not work out (thought the meeting went well) but I’m just enjoying this. This is the time when, even if I’m consumed by panic, there’s still time to dream. Everything could still be perfect. And LA is a wonderful place to dream because in LA, a dreamer is never alone, although not every dreamer can afford the coffee.

"I promise you are not just a waitress" - a poster stuck to an electricity box opposite a french bistro staffed by suspiciously attractive waitrons who are probably, actually, actors.

I sat next to two old guys. They were discussing something one of them had written. On the left, two women gave each other notes on a screenplay. A few tables down, two Americans had an intelligent political discussion about Libya. Then went back to discussing a movie they’d like to make. Dreams, dreams, dreams, everywhere here.

If I’ve learned anything in the last four years is that nothing – no matter how wonderful or how terrible – is impossible. I could… find love? Maybe when I’m not looking for it, cause like, I need it like I need a hole in the head. Another hole in the head. It’s possible.

My fellow-blogger Dorothy Black (acaseofnerves.blogspot.com) collects pictures of "random hearts". Here's one I photographed. Spotted on the floor of a coffeeshop in Vermont Ave., Hollywood.

Or I could wind up a struggling screenwriter, working somewhere, writing something, living in a small but beautiful apartment in an area with really good fish tacos within walking distance.

I could live here. I'm a single.

Or they might send me home to South Africa, where I could… write that movie nobody here ever sees. Or that movie that wins a foreign movie Oscar. Same thing really – except then South Africans won’t watch it either.

Or... they say the sky's the limit. What was once in that building that's now leased as storage? Who's the latest porno superstar at Adultcon? And where are all these cars going to? What new building is that orange cement mixing truck mixing cement for?

I guess I hung around for a while. I bought three different colors of nail laquer so that I could paint all my nails different colours. Then I left. And on the way, I passed this writing on the wall: THIS IS NOT AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

Right now, just being near this alleyway leading to a dumpster excites me.

Cemeteries of the soul – behind garage doors

December 5, 2010

Garages are the attic of a man’s world. While the photos of you when you were a kid, the first drawing of a dysfunctional / smiling family in front of a house, the blonde doll you alternately loved and tortured and your dead puppy’s collar might end up in Mom’s attic, Dad has his own cemetery of the soul.

Garages have always fascinated me. I shot my first production exercise in one. It’s full of mistakes (I’ll never zoom again as long as I live, I swear). But I still love it.

http://www.youtube.com/v/_EBQXDn9xTs?version=3

Here, dreams and pride gather dust. Stuff that might belong to many people, dumped there for safekeeping and never collected. If you ask to borrow something from garage, the answer will almost always be “yes”, and quite often becomes: “As long as you never bring it back.” In South Africa, an organisation I wrote about called Men at the Side of the Road raised funds partly by clearing out people’s garages and re-purposing their junk.

And I’ve never been in a garage you couldn’t write a movie about. Happily for me, we were shooting Sarah’s 789 (that’s Dodge-speak for “five minute short”) in an actor’s garage last night, after mine turned out to have no electrical plug for the lights.

A shovel. A ladder. Some unidentifiable stuff. Mattresses? And wait... what is that?

Ronald Reagan signed photo

It's a signed photograph of Ronald Reagan. The president who called a 1988 strike on Iranian ships "Operation Praying Mantis". He was one creepy guy. And look who all's in the background!

And this cat. Loved enough to have its portrait taken and framed. But now the picture's on the floor behind a mattrass, gathering grime. Who was Kitty Cat?

Take 5, Shovel. Starring Dan McDonald, Daphne Karpel and Will Kasson.

Being American seems to involve owning copious amounts of American flags, which go all over the place. On matches. Above the creepy crawly spare pipe. On cupboards, cars, post boxes, doors... Above a box of golf clubs that don't seem to have made it out onto the green for a while.

Speed, freaks and the thrill of the chase

November 11, 2010

Lights! Camera! Action! Kink! Hot rods! Babes! Elephants! Oscars! Five out of seven ain’t bad.

Shopping for this shit was a mission. Then I still had to sit and sew stuff. The result? Relatively convincing, for a student production. Mrs Bleach, I finally found a use for all the stuff you taught me, although I have to inform you that your washing of my mouth out with soap for swearing was a 100% fucking failure.

It’s the same, every week. I arrive in production class sure that this time I’ve gotten this damn film-making thing right. Usually a couple of people have had a look and given me feedback, which I’ve then implemented in the edit. I’ve tried to avoid the mistakes I made in the past, like making my own puppets, zooming, appearing naked in my own videos or taking instructions literally.

For the chase sequence assignment, I even got real people to act. Vanessa Wolf (a theatre student at Chapman) has quite a lot of experience on films. Whatever’s wrong with my work is nothing to do with her.

Jennifer Wolf is great to work with. I hope she'll let me use her for something again. For the final shot, I said I wanted it to be funny and porno, and asked her to play it straight. And she did it perfectly - without losing dignity.


Ed Moore, a second year director who has helped me more than once before, put me on to her. Then Josh Sheets (yes, his real name) has done some acting and modeling here and there. I met him at the sort-of-wrap-party for Wilt. I thank the power of tequila for the fact that I thought he needed to star in one of my films and asked for his number. Remind me: Who said drugs were bad?

Anyhow, it’s short, but we had under two hours to shoot it and chases are heavy on set-ups, particularly at night when you need to light stuff. Those who’ve wanted to see my car: it is in the movie.

Twisted – Jean Barker
Fixed version – updated 5.28pm on Nov 12.

Apart from directing my own chase, in which I only kind of appear (as the driver of my own Mustang, Sally) I also agreed to act in quite a few. I starred as a Concerned Citizen, A Thief, and a Large Breasted Woman. In the two where I have to run, it’s kinda scary just how much bouncing goes on. This has made me realise I need to lose a few pounds. Not for health reasons – my BMI is fine – but because I’m vain. Why lie about it?

The assignment was different from class to class. In most classes only directing and cine students needed to do the chase, and shot it on 16mm. But in ours we were all made to do it, though the writers, producers and other floozies of film were only required to shoot on digital. This means I’ll probably post another story with the directors’ and cine’s work, as their stuff’s mostly still at Kodak. The videos I appear in have not been posted online… yet.

But here’s OTHER COOL STUFF FROM MY CLASSMATES

Andrew Kappel – Jerkins
A cute, sweet, sad, cringe-inducing film about a pre-teen looking for somewhere private to get intimate with a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. John Nodorft – a cine, and someone I hope I get to work with more – shot this one for him. The kid is pretty much a professional actor.

John Nodorft – Mondays are Hell
John shot this awesome battle between the devil and Jesus in both digital and on film. I’ll post the film cut next week. My favourite bit is the last shot… A little behind the scenes info: both actors were extremely hung over. I know this because we were all at the same pre-halloween Halloween party the night before.

Bowling. Not for Columbine*. Just for fun.

November 9, 2010

… in which an alien goes bowling, breaks her In & Out cherry, and hears the sound of music.

This Japanese poster for The Big Lebowski is just... I don't even want to know what the title became.

Considering The Big Lebowski is one of the top 10 reasons I am becoming a screenwriter, and considering the fact that Cape Town is in truth very, very close to Parow, it’s surprising that I do not know how to bowl. I think I went, once, as part of someone’s birthday party, but all I remember about it was how much the birthday girl’s brother complained about driving to Parow the whole way through. I was dating the annoying, self-centred brother. Apologies for stating the obvious.

I got a ride with a girl in my class, Sarah, who has been nice to me. She’s also cool in an odd way my friends back home would like – the kind of person who could make driving a motorised tricycle seem stylish, but isn’t pretentious enough to do it. We we went cruising down the boulevard through 23.5 identical suburbs, past 789 identical 8-store markets, passing Disneyland’s nightly fireworks display and on. I’m not surprised onse babe Charlize Theron feels at home in California. It’s really very much like her native Benoni – just with fewer guns and better Mexican food. The GPS didn’t know which side of the road the bowling alley was on, but as it turned out, that wasn’t really a problem.

This sign is one of only 56,000,8998,99766 signs in the U.S.A. that is visible to the naked eye from space. The alien schools already hold compulsory early morning bowling classes in the belief that it will "help them blend in". Now you know.

We were out in Anaheim because one of the students who came from New York wound up living out there, thinking “eight miles from school isn’t far.” And because the beer was supposedly cheaper.

Americans have a newspaper for everything. For instance, Adult Daipers Monthly, which is printed on recycled disposible adult daipers. (Not really, but that'd be cool.)

It’s B.Y.O. socks for the next bit, where you hire a pair of shoes for $3.25 and pay 5 bucks to bowl. Or you order a pint of Newcastle and watch other people. That’s what I did. I have been having one of those weeks where stuff lands on your head all the time, and you fall all the time. If I wasn’t driving, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be handling balls that weigh more than my head.

I'm not sure I understand the need for the giant rear view mirror. I for one do not want to see my own ass on the way out.

At about midnight, we ended up at In and Out Burger. I’ve been trying to avoid this discovery, as their food is clearly addictive. Now I have tried it, I think about it three times a day. When I grow up, I want to be an In and Out Burger Dealer, although I’m not sure whether or not I’d be keen to sleep with In an Out Burger ‘ho’s. It’s not delicious because it’s packed with healthy goodness. In and Out is basically everything McDonalds wants to be, but isn’t. It’s like McDonalds that doesn’t have McD’s signature “faint whiff of garbage truck”.

Then it was back to the Bowling Alley, and the bar had closed.

The sign on the right says "Popcorn only in the bar". I guess the popcorn must be the free bar snack.

See now, in South Africa, when the bar closes, everyone bails. Often drunk drives, but if not, shares taxis, or whatever. In America… they start singing the songs from Musicals, apparently. Or maybe it’s just the film school students I hang out with.

Sarah wouldn't let me take a picture where she wasn't pulling a face.

I don’t know any songs from Musicals. They’re kinda big here. I guess a lot of them are from here.

Anyhow, they sang for hours, and then when everyone was sober, and only then, we left. Not that anyone got particularly drunk in the first place. I was impressed, and amused.

Driving back to American and British rock ‘n roll classics on the radio, I realised one of the very powerful things about American culture: That musicals and rock ‘n roll and pop radio hits are part of shared folk culture here. I suspect would be unimaginable, in America, to grow up with parents who couldn’t sing you a Doors song, or were vague about who Billy Holiday or Fleetwood Mac or Nina Simone might be.

I wonder what the South African equivalent is. Miriam Makeba, perhaps, or oh no, no. Not Shosholoza? I love being from a place with many questions, with no clear answers, that could still become anything it wants to. But sometimes, from far away, it’s hard to grasp and impossible to hold onto.

* Wiki says: The film title originates from the story of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – the two students responsible for the Columbine High School massacre – attended a school bowling class early that morning, at 6:00 a.m., before they committed the attacks at school starting at 11:19 a.m. Later investigation showed that this was based on mistaken recollections, and Glenn Moore of the Golden Police Department concluded that they were absent from school on the day of the attack.[4]

I haven't seen The Sound of Music. But I've heard the whole thing now.

I see dreaming people – part III

October 27, 2010

Patrick Bosworth’s video, in which I starred as both a girl crying and a hat with hands, is now live here… I can’t get it to embed properly. But here is the facebook link – take a look. It’s made on the camera I want to buy, which costs much less than it would in South Africa… or, as I see it, the same as the average social smoker spends on cigarettes in a year. Or 20 takeout meals.
You might need to be his friend to watch the video – try though

Many other great ones. But I’m just going to stick to the ones I can embed. So only YouTube… pity vimeo insists on failing to embed on wordpress, and facebook (which people use for privacy reasons, even though they’re signing over rights when they do) is hopeless too.

So that’s just one or two.

Wendy Tzeng’s dream sequence
Wendy was the first person I spoke to at a social event at Chapman – during Dodge College’s various Mixer events. Mixers are parties where you kind of speed date, but without the sex. Usually.

Bethany Burr’s dream sequence
A late addition – some classes did things in a different order. Easily one of the best though. Bethany is  a screenwriter. She and her boyfriend work as a team, with him editing. Gorgeous photography too, by Oliver. District is a bar in Chapman. Popular with undergrads and people who sleep with them.

And previous installments in this series:
i see dreaming people II
i have a dream… you don’t wanna know

Getting my characters from San Diego to Alabama, somewhere

October 15, 2010

They start here.

 

I've been to San Diego, but this isn't my photo. I found it on this site, which is a relic of the WWW's old days, I think. All wonky, all out of date, but once useful. Check it out for laughs.

 

The story I am turning into my script was originally set in South Africa, where I know what I’m doing. But I was challenged – nay, commanded – to set it in the USA. This is tricky, as I don’t know what is in the USA. Can you tell me? Here’s the route they’re taking, although they’ll be on the back roads. I’m even considering sending them through Mexico… is that a good idea? The main thing that must not happen is a roadblock that requires the Winnebago they’re traveling in to be stopped and searched.

 

If you've been to any of the places along this route, tell me about it. post a link in your comment to your blog about it... whatever you can offer me, I'd love. At some point, I'll do the trip myself. But right now, it's impossible.

 

Five days later, they’re somewhere around here.

 

Took this picture (actually only part of it) from a blog called classentravelogue.com.

 

Crash, burn, learn, or fly? Taking on Terrible Tuesdays

October 6, 2010

Tuesdays have always been my unlucky day of the week. Mondays could be awful but you expected that. Tuesdays was usually when all hell broke loose. By Wednesday most people give up and break out the beers, or other vice, if they didn’t already foolishly do that Monday. In Cape Town Wednesday is called Kleinvrydag – Small Friday. Then again, Tuesdays are Tequila Tuesdays and Thursdays are phuza Thursdays. And Fridays and Saturdays are also phuza. Actually South Africans are pretty big on the phuza thing. The only nation that drinks more per capita are the Aussies – one thing they always beat us at. Well, that, and that they have even more depressing feminists. The two things may not be unrelated.

Broken telephone... what's the bet this conversation took place on a Tuesday?

Turns out I’m not alone on the Tuesday blues. Perhaps because Tuesday alliterates perfectly with Terrible, or perhaps because this day of the week actually is cursed, musicians agree. Karma, for instance says Fear like this is only made on /Tuesday afternoon. Adam Green was losing on a Tuesday afternoon (the only day on which he wasn’t swearing it seems) and the Moody Blues ruined my entire argument by being all happy on a Tuesday Afternoon – so much for double setup and punchline, arseholes. I guess I could have used 911… That was a Tuesday.

Anyhow, Tuesdays are now the scariest days of my week. This means they’re either the best, or the worst, the day on which I feel like a complete failure, or the day when I feel like maybe, maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late for me to rise and shine. I never know which it’s going to be until I actually lie down and go to sleep. I can’t control how I feel – I’m just too new in town to know how to.

But when that Tuesday in a million works out, I feel the manic high that manic-depressives speak whistfully of, after they get medicated.
And which I deny I’ve ever felt without resorting to drugs I’d never dream of trying not even once, of course. I feel like I can fly. It’s that feeling, that nothing will ever be wrong again, that nothing ever hurt me. Tonight I cycled home in the dark so full of hope that I was singing.

On Tuesdays I have to A) Make it on time to a 10am class, which is hard when your last class finished exactly 12 hours before. My brain takes about four hours to wind down. B) And this is probably actually A), B), and C) be ready for a terrifying, exhilarating, exciting, embarrassing, humiliating, inspiring, and always productive hour one on one with Randal Kleiser, who’s helping me figure out the problems with a screenplay and solve them. He is amazing, but I have nightmares in which he just yawns, and yawns and yawns, until I cry and run out of the room. C) And this is the part that’s always awesome: watch a movie or attend a workshop for the course attached to the Randal Kleiser scholarship thing, called Industry Insiders.

I'm such a dork. A happy dork, though.

Tonight one of the reason why I was whooping while I peddled my red bike home at high speed through the rainy and shiny-black streets of Orange was that I got to watch one of my favourite childhood movies, Flight of the Navigator, on a big screen, and then get a picture taken with the director (who actually knows my name). With the model of the ship! Damn. I’m not the kind of person who has pictures of themselves taken with celebrities. Not because I don’t admire some of them, but because I don’t believe fame rubs off. But this was different. I would never have forgiven myself for missing this chance.

I think I saw this when the person at the ticket office wouldn't let my friend and I into something with an age restriction. It was awesome.

Also the screenplay I’ve been struggling with (and when I say struggling, I mean I shout at the characters: “What the FUCK you do you want, you stupid $%^&!” until they tell me) is suddenly revealing its meaning to me, thanks to the help I’ve had from James Dutcher and class, and the intensive time with Randal Kleiser. And sleepless nights. I’m nowhere near there yet; I can’t tell the story in 30 seconds, but I’m close.

I can almost touch the truth that’s in there, the way you can almost remember a dream, or how to solve a maths puzzle, or yes, I’ll say it, how to fly. I’m convinced all of us think we can when we’re born. After all, we were all weightless in the womb. We spend the rest of our lives either compromising, or finding another way.

(PS, added 10/10/10: While doing my weekly assignment for this class, I discovered that Disney – who dominated the production of the original, specially towards the second half, are remaking the movie – something the blogger who I read wasn’t happy to hear. I am not sure remakes are all bad. Shakespeare’s been remade a stack and everyone thinks that’s kinda cool. Brad Copeland (Arrested Development) is slated two rewrite a bit. But what does worry me is the potential for overuse of CGI. Give me some glue and a handpuppet anyday. How are actors supposed to talk to things that don’t even exist? Just sucks. Let’s hope Disney keep a light hand on that. But I doubt they will.)