Google+ Followers

Saturday, 30 October 2010

I'm Just Out To Find The Better Part Of Me

I've always known where I'm going; it's the strangest thing. From as early as I can remember, I knew where my creativity would take me and I knew where I fit in. When people recommend a film or a writer to me; I know very quickly whether it is relevant to me as an artist.

I read a wide variety of books and am fascinated by numerous things in the world, but at the same time can be very narrowly-focused and disinterested in things around me. I might obsessively appear to watch any film that comes my way yet people will be frustrated when I show no interest in watching films they recommend to me.

I've always been very aware that life is not going to last forever. I have a limited amount of time to learn to be the best writer and director I can be. Therefore, engaging in my fascination with Woody Allen's career is helpful, or watching Aaron Sorkin's writing mature over the years is useful, but buying and watching every episode of CSI is meaningless to me.

I knew that I would be a writer/director and that I would make low-budget independent films long before anyone in my life knew what those things were. In the past I have turned down chances to direct music videos, or to write feature films for particular producer's, or to follow opportunities to make money working on film sets because I know-- they are not what I am here for and they'll distract me from where I'm heading.

I think it's important to know where you're heading. Even with this blog; I have absolute clarity in regard to what it is, what it does, and what it means to me. And if someone says "You should do more articles about horror films" or "Have you ever thought of writing more advice about film budgets?" I very quickly know my answers.

I think when I was younger, people saw my choices as limitations, perhaps even naivety. But for me, specialized focus is one of the key reasons I am able to follow the career path I am choosing. I knew with SO MUCH clarity last week that ADVENTURELAND is a great film; because I know what I like, I know what is meaningful to me and I know what I value as good writing, directing, and acting.

I know what drives me, what excites me, and what challenges me to do better. I can define it:

I like writer/director's. I like film's where we see the world through the eyes of a sole creator. I like that you can watch something and SEE Billy Wilder, or Giuseppe Tornatore, or Cameron Crowe. I like that they can make things more meaningful. I like the effect they have on me as a human being.

I've always wanted to do the same. It's what I value in film.

If someone gave me ten million dollars to direct a Hollywood action movie, that's very cool; and it'd be hard to say no, for sure; but it genuinely ISN'T what drives me.

When someone tells me 'a concept' for a movie, I get bored. When someone tells me why Blu-Ray is technically better than DVD, I get bored. When I watch a movie that doesn't have the voice of an idea or angle stemming from the writer and/or director--- I can instantly identify that something's missing and I get bored.

This isn't a limitation, not in a creative sense; it's a big window into who I am and what my essence is. When I first saw A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS, I loved it. It spoke to me. As I researched further, of course, I found it was a passion project by a writer/director, Dito Montiel. Not a surprise, not a coincidence. This happens all the time. Likewise, I loved the movie 'Beautiful Girls.' This movie wasn't directed by the writer. But when I spoke to the writer, he told me that it was a passion project that he wrote in five days because it was burning inside of him.

This isn't a surprise, it's what I do, it's what I relate to, it's what I care about. THE WEST WING is my favorite show because it was Aaron Sorkin putting his brain down on the page week after week, and the reason I didn't like '24' was because it was about being cool and clever. The reason I adore ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is because the creator had a way of indulging in his wacky, unique humor and sharing it with the world. The reason Charlie Chaplin is one of my biggest influences is because he is the epitome of everything I value in art, creativity and the movies.

I am not enthralled with trailers, or script pitches, or viral adverts, or factory-studio-movies-- not because I'm pretentious, but because; my interest comes from a different place. It comes from somewhere deep inside of me that longs to hear a voice that echoes truth about our world. Charlie Chaplin was the master at this. Likewise, people like Woody Allen and Cameron Crowe were able to capture their generations in ways so few people can. And it's not just that so few people can, it's that so few even try.

I am not about the quick idea or the 'cool' concept. I don't care what your story is about, I just care about why you care about it and how much of that is going into your work. I watched ADVENTURELAND the other day knowing nothing about it. By the end of the movie I was ecstatic because I'd found a piece of art created by someone who had to tell a story about himself, his life, his youth; and had managed to transform that into something universal and relatable to a bigger audience. This is what interests me and this is what I value and this is why I write blogs, write movies and direct films.

If I have no interest in your work or your DVD recommendation, I'm sorry, but life is short, thousands of films are produced every year, I have work to do. Put it this way; in the USA alone, over 500,000 people a year put their profession as 'artist' on census survey's. If we were to pay attention to all of them, we'd never get any work done. I need to focus on me, on what I'm creating. The people I collaborate with, get inspired by, steal from and aspire to be are only going to be a very select group. It has to be that way in order for me to be able to function and move forward as a productive creator of material that will be meaningful to me and, hopefully, the world.


"I don't want to be,
Anything other than what I've been trying to be lately,
All I have to do,
Is think of me and I have peace of mind,
I'm tired of looking 'round rooms,
Wondering what I've got to do,
Or who I'm supposed to be,
I don't want to be anything other than me."
-Gavin Degraw

Care to share?

Friday, 29 October 2010

Something To Think About

Just got an email from a friend, and he wrote:

"I want to run around Hollywood with you, man...we need to play here and make movies here and drive up into the hills and up the coast highway, blasting Allman Brothers and Rolling Stones and early Van Halen."

If he agrees to swap Van Halen, for Springsteen, maybe I'll book a plane ride.

Care to share?

ADVENTURELAND Is Still With Me

On Tuesday I saw ADVENTURELAND for the first time. On Wednesday I blogged about it. Now it's a few days later and I'm still thinking about the movie, it's still playing in my mind and unravelling in my thoughts. There are songs in the movie that I love that I haven't heard in years, like "Unsatisfied" by The Replacements, but there are also songs like "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House; a song that I always found annoying. But now I've heard it from a new perspective, filtered through the eyes of 'Adventureland' and now I can't get enough of it.


There is something no screenwriter or director can be taught. It's how to create something that will have the effect that 'Adventureland' is having on me right now. There's no formula for it. And, no doubt, there are people who will think this film sucks, and rightly so-- I'm not saying it's one of the greatest films ever, but maybe it is for me. The films I have been claiming to love recently are THE SOCIAL NETWORK and THE PUFFY CHAIR -- two very different movies, both great in their own way. But, when I think about it, they're just good movies. Very good movies. But they didn't connect with me in the way 'Adventureland' did.

But why? What is it? Is it because the film was set in my formative years? Is it because I can relate to the problems of the characters? Is it because I want the type of connection that Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart share in the movie? Or is it just because Greg Mottola and his team did such a great job and creating a world I could believe in and get sucked into for two hours?

I have no idea. If I was a film student, maybe I'd have an answer (they always do) - or perhaps if I was a more analytical blogger I'd be able to come up with some theory. But I don't have that, and luckily; I don't want that. I'm happy having this feeling-- a feeling where I'm watching every interview with the cast and crew I can find, and I'm listening to the soundtrack non-stop, and I'm telling every person I know to watch it, and I'm ordering multiple copies of the DVD and I'm going over memories of the movie in my head.

This is exactly WHY I love movies, and it's great to feel it again. As much as the reason I love movies is to get this feeling, the sad fact is that --- it's extremely RARE. But right now, before I ruin it by watching the film thirty times over, it's truly magic; and I am aware again of the awesome power of the cinema. It gets to have this effect, on people. That's something to strive for, someone to hope for; and that's something to be excited about.

Care to share?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

ADVENTURELAND Is Something Special

So, your life must be utter shit or you wouldn't be here.

It's two o'clock in the morning. I'm tired and I have a headache. But I had to turn my laptop on and write. I just watched ADVENTURELAND; for the second night in a row. I have no idea what I want to write, I just know that I have to. This is how I know it's a great movie. When you start figuring out clever things to write in your blog midway through a film, then you know it sucks. 

'Adventureland' is about being in your teens or in your early twenties, at that stage when you're trying to figure your life out whilst surviving a bullshit job and falling in and out of love. Pretty much as soon as we love movies about these topics we begin to hate them and look for something more meaningful-- just like in real life. We're young people in dead end jobs for our whole lives but we're only really open and honest about it at the beginning -- at the age the characters in this movie are portraying. We spent the rest of life being grown up, pretending we have it figured out, refusing to dance the dance of emotion and love and lust and pain. We're only reminded of how big a part of ourselves these things are when we see a piece of art like 'Adventureland.'

Don't you just love that movies like this exist? That the guy who directed SUPERBAD (Greg Mottola) can follow it up with something so understated and honest. Who'd have thought? And who'd have believed that the girl from TWILIGHT would follow it up with something like this? While we're on the subject, it's important to say: Kristen Stewart is amazing. Everyone seems to hate her now because she's in these big blockbusters and because she doesn't smile and act like a whore every time her agent forces her onto television to do promotion or every time a group of journalists interrupt her holiday abroad to see if she's still with her boyfriend. We seem to hate her for the fact that she just likes to act, just likes to do her job. But she's something special. She's great in INTO THE WILD and IN THE LAND OF THE WOMEN and she does a solid job in TWILIGHT, but it's in films like this one where you really get to see what she's capable of. And what is it she's capable of? Honesty. Subtlety. Humanity. I can't help but watch her and feel like I know her. Or feel like I knew her, like we went to school together. She knows what acting is, she knows what her job is; and she does it with a grace and skill that is rare.

But then, so does Jesse Eisenberg. What I love about him on screen, whether it's in 'Adventureland' or THE SOCIAL NETWORK is that he just knows how to be himself. And of course, actors get criticised for 'always being themselves' but people don't realize how tough that is. Most actors spend their whole careers trying to be someone else because they haven't got a clue how to be themselves. These guys know how to do it and the results are incredible. Watching Eisenberg and Stewart in this movie; we get to really see the characters, we get to really feel something real; and as a result, we get to see ourselves.

You might think you're watching a bunch of young people working at a theme park but what you're really seeing is yourself back when you worked in that store, or at that leisure center or at that bowling alley or wherever the hell it was back when you kept falling in and out of love whilst trying to figure out what the hell you were going to do with your life. This is a movie about you and it's a movie about me. It's a film that dares to be honest and dares to be small.




They struggled to market this movie. It had the 'elements' like the big actors and the hotshot writer/director -- but there was a problem: it had a story, and it had heart. How the fuck do you market something like that? The problem is, you can't. You can't market heart. If a good heart was an easy sell then all the lonely people on dating sites tonight would be out there falling in love. But it's not that easy. Good heart doesn't sell well. It's hard to recognize, and people will misunderstand it and people won't be expecting it. You have to just do it, be it, create it. Heart will find its way eventually. Films like 'Adventureland' sneak up on you when you don't expect it. They are disguised as typical studio comedies and they're generally thrown out in cinemas and swiftly dumped because no-one really knows they exist or they know they exist but have been sold some bullshit by a trailer that made the movie seem like some contrived, typical junk.

But 'Adventureland' exists. And it's a little slice of magic.Thank you, Greg Mottola.

Wait, Em -- I think, I maybe see you a little differently than-than you see yourself. Yes, I-I see the person who fucked up but I.. I also see the person who saved me from being knifed over a giant-ass-panda.

Care to share?

Giving Myself Permission To Watch Films

I'm not sure when I got like this. One minute I was 14 and watching four movies a day. The next thing you know I'm quite a bit older and any time I watch a movie I feel guilty. Like I'm being unproductive. For me, watching a movie is like a weird, complex and secretive thing I have to do at times my inner critic will allow. It's like this.

Inner Critic: Dude, you can't sit around watching movies.

The Kid: Okay, but it's 3am! You can't expect me to be productive at three AM, can I watch a movie now?

Inner Critic: Ssssh, I'm napping.

And so I watch a movie at 3am. Or today. Today I am getting paid to edit. But, the first part of this job is uploading and converting. Which takes hours. So I was able to have some permission.

IC: Dude, do your job.

Kid: It's uploading, and converting, and all that stuff.

IC: Then work on your script.

Kid: I am not in the frame of mind for that, whilst I'm doing the other job.

IC: Find a location for the movie you're doing.

Kid: I'm editing.

IC: Hmm. But it's converting.

Kid: So I should watch a movie.

IC: That's not working.

Kid: Work is being done. I'll sneak in a movie. 1pm till 3pm. It's fine.

IC: Okay, fine. Be like that.

And that's how it's done. When did I get so insane? The truth of the matter is: I NEED movies. I need to watch them. I need to sit there and sink into the wonderful world of a good story and fascinating characters. But I give myself a hard time getting there.

Yesterday, I did a long job in the freezing cold in the middle of a field and it was all handheld and my equipment was getting ruined by torrential rain and it was all a bit insane. But it was hard work, and I got paid well, so my inner-critic went on vacation.

So when I got home, I felt like my day had value. I was able to watch a movie guilt free. I watched "ADVENTURELAND" and had the most fun I've had with a movie in about a year. But this is what I do to myself.

It's funny because; I do a lot of inner critic work and positive thinking and personal development and all that stuff -- but this issue, of film watching guilt still arises. It could be a negative thing, or maybe it's the part of me that makes sure I do a good day's work. I give myself a hard time and it leads to me watching a lot of films for seventeen minutes before turning them off so I can go and work on a script or whatever; but maybe it's a good thing; I watch less films now, but when I see them: I've really earned it. Like "THANK YOU FOR SMOKING" just now, or "ADVENTURELAND" last night.


Care to share?

Blogger Issues

Whenever I change my fonts, i.e. font type or font color, by the time I preview or post the changes, it reverts back to the original look. i.e. - when posting an interview it won't allow me to use different color's for the questions. Or when writing dialogue, it won't let me use the Courier font. Does anyone have any clue what the hell is going on? How will I survive this ordeal?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Care to share?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

TRACY CLIFTON - Actor Interview

TRACY CLIFTON is an actress. A very good one who has done a lot of great work, but you probably don't know her. Tracy is like most of the actors in the industry-- doing the best she can each day to find her way in a challenging, unpredictable, and highly competitive industry.

I'm interviewing Tracy because a) I think she's wonderful and I want you all to know about her, and b) Because she represents the bigger, silent majority of actors, who are doing the best they can each day to have a great career and find work that inspires them.


There are a billion actresses out there, and they all want the same roles as you. How do you stay sane?

I was taught this very simple concept by my favorite acting professor in college: Go into every audition thinking, "Here's what I have to give. Can you use it?" And that's how I go into every.single.audition. I have a gift - the gift of being me, in all my spazziness, my enthusiasm, my eyes that change color depending on my mood, my knife fighting skills, my dark sense of humor. Can they use any, or all of it, for the role I'm auditioning for? If the answer is Yes, then great! That's wonderful! We're both blessed by me being hired. If the answer is No, we can't use what you have to give right now, then I don't need to be there, and I don't want to be some place where I'm not needed.

This keeps me sane every day of the week - and keeps me from ever taking it too personally (or getting caught up in the ridiculousness that is being an actress.)

As an upcoming actor - you want roles, but I'm sure you also want to do good, interesting work. So, how important is a good script to you?

A good script and a good actor create a great partnership (American History X, LA Confidential, Children of Men, 40 Year Old Virgin, etc.) but you can still have a bad script with good actors (X-Men 3, Speed, Bad Boys 1 and 2, and most slasher flicks); but it's hard to pull off anything with bad acting. So when looking at a script, I drop the judgment. I'm never going to blame a bad performance of mine on a script because a good actor should sell, and make believable, a bad script any day of the week. Do all actors want the chance to act in movies like The Godfather, Good Will Hunting, The Insider, American Beauty, Pulp Fiction, American History X, etc? Yes. But let's remember this: Star Wars didn't have the best script. But the actors sold it and never turned up their noses, or dialed it in because it wasn't good writing. They found ways to make it work through their performances. And because of that, it's freakin' awesome. So I would say - while it's a nice perk to have a good script, I don't turn down bad scripts. Those are the challenges (and I don't back down from challenges.)

Do you think there are as many interesting roles out there for women compared to men?

I don't, honestly, but instead of complaining about it (which I've probably done on your blog, Kid) I want to change the industry. Not necessarily with a "Mrs. Smith goes to Hollywood" kind of idealism, but with an attitude of: women are just as complex as men. And their stories deserve to be told. Women don't have to be defined by their relationships the way they are portrayed in films (she's the Daughter! Sister! Mother! Bride! Whore! Virgin!) but can be the heroes of their own journeys, being fallible and human while still being fascinating to watch. I would also like to see the industry move away from its fascination with torture-porn and punishing women for wearing tank tops in dark forests, but that's another interview altogether, I think. :)

I would also say that the industry is getting better about this every day - from strong female roles created by Hilary Swank, Ellen Page, Christina Hendricks, Maggie Q, et al, to more thoughtful high school comedies/dramadies that take a girl's point of view into account, such as "Juno," "Easy A" with Emma Stone, or even "Jennifer's Body" with Megan Fox.

What one quality makes you awesome as an actress?

I like to think it's a quality that makes me an awesome person too - I'm a very good listener. I don't just wait for my co-actors to finish speaking while thinking, "Okay, my line's next! My line is next!" but really try to focus on listening to what is being communicated. I like to think this keeps my own performance on its toes because I'll never know what line will really affect me each time, so nothing is fake or forced (As David Mamet said: invent nothing, deny nothing.) Also, I like to think I have some kick ass comedic timing.

Okay, I'm done giving myself compliments. Two is enough.

Everyone wants a 'successful' career --- but what does success mean to you?

Success means doing what I love, and earning enough money at it to not be scared when I have to pay my bills each month. I'm serious, though - I don't need to be a millionaire, I don't need everyone to know my name. I just want to get up every morning and go to work, feeling useful, creative, and as if I'm putting the gifts I've been given to good use. Who could ask for anything more?

Care to share?

Monday, 25 October 2010

What Am I Looking For When I'm Casting?

I don't really know, is the answer. I'm just floating around-- looking at everyone whose applied to me, and I'm searching on casting sites, and I'm listening to recommendations--- but I don't have any rules, I don't have any specifics. Just an idea in my head, which actually isn't overbearing-- it's just a guide.

I'm looking to get a feeling, to be swept away in the belief that the person I am looking at could be the one. Especially when I'm casting a lead role in a big project. I don't care where you trained or what your trained in, I don't even really care what your experience is. I'm just looking for a sign-- a sign that you might get what I'm doing, a sign that you are not just looking for a job. Casting isn't placing someone in a role, it's finding the magic password, it's trying to make something spectacular for dinner when all the ingredients look like the same thing. I'm just looking for something to jump out at me.

And I don't mean jump out at me. Like, if an actor writes and over-friendly email or tries too hard to sound amazing, then it's immediately over, I've got no interest. I'm just looking for a human being, someone who could potentially get it. Get what I'm doing. The clues are everywhere-- they're in my job specs, they're in the way I approach people and they're in the way actors present themselves online.

If an actor is tweeting every four minutes about 'projects' and they're writing perfectly crafted emails to me telling me they're perfect for the role, that isn't it, that doesn't excite me. What excites me is the hope that I am not going to stumble across the perfect actor, but that I am going to stumble across my character. That I am going to see the person I wrote, standing right there in front of me.

It's impossible.

But you keep searching until you find it.

Care to share?

The One Where A Tripod Plate Gives The Kid A Breakdown

Sometimes you really feel like you know yourself. You really have your life, and your mind, figured out. You've dealt with your personal problems, overcome confidence issues-- and life seems like one big bowl of sunshine; a universe full of love and opportunity. It's easy to feel like this when nothing is really happening, and when nothing in particular is going wrong. But then something drastic can happen; like a death, a huge bill, or a small tripod plate going missing.

For those of you that don't know -- a tripod plate is the thing that fixes your camera to the tripod. Okay, you probably all knew that. I have two of these plates, at home; yet they both decided to go missing, leaving me to go completely insane.

It all started last week some time when a guy I know rang me up to ask if I wanted a camera job, as he couldn't do it. My initial thought was "Will this stop me from sitting around watching The West Wing?" which of course it would, but then he mentioned how much I would get paid - so I accepted. Because as much as I ramble on about artistic integrity and the heart of movies, in reality I just want a huge wad of cash.

So I took the job and went back to watching The West Wing and then before you know it today arrives and I'm suddenly very aware that tomorrow I have the shoot. So I go find my equipment. Everything is fine. Apart from the Tripod Plate. Which is missing.

It was actually missing two weeks ago, when I offered to film an audition piece for an actress friend. She thought I was a bit insane when, in between the tripod and the camera I placed a big medical encyclopedia from 1967. Luckily this not only helped stabilize the camera but also enabled me to diagnose her with lumbago. Of course, going out on a professional shoot - it is less acceptable to balance equipment on a medical book, especially as I have a tendency to test people's knowledge of Onychogryphosis.

The plate was missing, but I figured it would be laying around, somewhere. I still believe it is laying around somewhere, probably chilling out and relaxing-- but after a brief, carefree look for it this morning, I suddenly began to go insane. WHERE THE HELL IS THE TRIPOD PLATE? I looked everywhere. Camera bags, in the garage where my old lighting gear is, in my room, in the fridge, in the toaster. Nowhere-- where the hell was it?

Maybe that friend who borrowed my tripod because he was filming a wedding has it? In fact, I was certain he had it. Even though, truthfully; I remember him returning the tripod and the plate, maybe he didn't? Or maybe he did but, when I turned away, stole it back from me. Why would somebody steal a tripod plate when they don't have a tripod or a camera? I don't know, but I was certain he stole it and was ready to phone him up and scream at him just as soon as I took the carpet up to search for the long lost Tripod Plate.

I looked in the same places, again and again. I then text the guy who got me the job to suggest my suddenly genius idea of doing it handheld. He called me back and told me to stop being insane and said "you really need a tripod."
I said "I have one."
And he said "you should use it."
So I said "I will."
And he said "so what's the problem with your tripod?"
And I said "there's no problem with the tripod."
So he said "Why are we having this conversation?"
And I said "because of a tripod plate."
So he said "You don't have one?"
And I said "Actually I have two."
So he asked "What is the problem?"
And I said "I don't know where they are."

I began to panic. What the hell would I do if I didn't find my Tripod Plate? I immediately formulated an emergency plan, but found it hard to concentrate as I took in another episode of The West Wing.

The point of this story, in case you haven't figured it out already; is never, ever, trust a tripod plate.


Care to share?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Screenwriting Contest Finalists To Be Judged By GLEE Editor JOE LEONARD

Thank you to everyone who took part in the screenwriting competition, the deadline for which passed a few days ago. There were twenty-four entries, which is fantastic given the short deadline and the small readership of the blog.

Here's what's going to happen now; I'm going to spend time this week reading all of the entries, and then I will make a shortlist of the best screenplays. I will then work with JOE LEONARD to determine which is the winning screenplay. Joe is the writer/director of the fabulous feature film "HOW I GOT LOST" and is also an editor. He's edited numerous episodes of "GLEE" and was on the editorial department of the recent film "EAT PRAY LOVE." He is a great writer, has great creative instincts, and is the perfect judge for this competition.

We'll be back with more information soon! Meanwhile, thanks for all your entries! I can't wait to read them all.

Care to share?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Bad Ideas

I've got a bad idea; let's meet up to discuss writing a script together, spend two weeks talking about it and then not do anything.

I've got an idea; let's say we're finally going to edit our showreels, demand the footage from all the people who have it and the leave it all under the bed for two years.

I've got an idea; let's take that contact at Universal that your Uncle put himself on the line for and then let's not bother calling them for seventeen months.

I've got an idea, let's call ourselves writers and not write a word in three months. Let's not complete a script in five years.

I've got an idea let's get a cast and crew to dedicate their time to a short film and then when it's shot let's not bother editing for two years and then when we finally finish it, let's hide it and think of a load of reasons why it will never be ready.

Here's a great idea, let's buy a load of inspirational industry books but not read them.

I've got an idea; let's take little trivial things like having to stay an extra hour at work or having to help the Grandparents carry their shopping home and let's use those things as excuses for not doing things for the rest of the day.

I've got an idea, let's get boyfriends and girlfriends who have no interest in creativity and then let's be surprised when we're no longer creating anything.

Here's a genius idea - let's tell someone we're really excited about the opportunity they have and then when they call let's not answer, and let's pretend that our phone wasn't working or that we'd accidently left it at home.

Care to share?

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Event - WTF?

I began watching "THE EVENT," just because it was on TV. I don't normally do that; in fact, I don't watch anything on TV. I just watch box-sets about six years after everyone else. But the show was up on the screen and I was down on the sofa so I thought I might as well begin watching as the girl in it was kind of hot and also I was under the strange impression that this was a one off TV movie. So I sat and began watching.

A guy was on a plane going a bit crazy for no-reason and then there was a caption saying 'Eight Days Earlier' and the guy who was going crazy on the plane was now chilling out with the hot girl by the beach; they chatted for a bit, and then he dived in the water to save some girl who was drowning. And then it said 'Four Days Earlier.' Was this four days before the previous eight days; or four days before the original day, the day of days; which I can only assume was the day the dude went crazy on a plane - or some other day?

Anyway, suddenly the President got involved, but that was sixteen days before something; but was maybe four days after the hot girl's mother got shot either three minutes or three years after another one of her daughters got kidnapped for trying to rescue a small bike.

Meanwhile, some time went by and the crazy dude was not on a plane and not on a beach but it was six days since four days ago and three years ago he was in a hotel room looking for the hot girl who may have been kidnapped or may have popped out for a coffee. Then we cut to a commercial and came back sixteen days after three days before the four days five months ago when the daughter's Father became a pilot and then an alien stole the airplane. The End.

Can someone explain to me what the hell is going on? And is everyone okay? Do we even know what date it is? Does this blog even exist yet? Does Sarah Roemer (hot girl) wanna crash at my place until all this dies down?

Care to share?

When An Actor Says "I'm Sorry, But I've Just Been Offered Paid Work"

It's day four of a six day shoot. You have invested all of your energy in putting this incredible project together. You managed to get an incredible cast, the best DP in independent film and you somehow managed to score an office location for the shoot for free. Everything is perfect. And then your actor awkwardly says "Um, I've been offered a paid job tomorrow, and I have to take it." Actually, they probably don't say that; they text it, or email it, or tweet it. This is one of the big elephants in the room in independent filmmaking. But this elephant gets around, because absolutely everyone has experienced it. So, on the one hand, I'm inclined to go into the big question of -- what do you do in this situation? But I'd rather focus on the one who is creating this conflict, the one who is taking the paid job. Because it is to them that we really need to say; what are you doing?

Of course, the simple wisdom is 'pay them something' and 'get them to sign a contract,' and these things sound lovely - but people still walk out after four days to do something else. So firstly, before we go on, I hope we can all agree that this happens, and in fact - it happens quite often. It's very rare for the person leaving to go to a paid job instead and feel good about it. They will defensively say they have to or that they have no choice, but they will feel bad doing it and know they are in the wrong. You know this because they'll text you their excuse and you'll probably never see them again.

The two main reasons given are: "I'm sorry, but it's paid, and I'm so broke right now that I have to take it." The other one is "This is a great opportunity, the guy who was AD on that spin-off from that show who made that thing that used to be on NBC is directing it!" - this, of course, is especially true with actors who think it's their big break.
But it's this idea of a big break which is the troublesome thing--- because, the big break doesn't exist. Being in a commercial or having two lines in a feature film directed by someone reasonably established isn't a big break. Real acting, like real directing, isn't about a big break-- it's about constantly creating opportunity through your body of work. A big break, if it happens, is temporary, and fleeting. One minute, you're in a magazine as "The Star of 2007" and the next thing you know, it's 2010 and you've not had a job in three years. A real 'big break' happens once a year, and it happens to Kristen Stewart or Andrew Garfield. If David Fincher wants you in a movie - I understand. But if the paid job you're ditching your indie flick for is a yogurt commercial - you really need to think seriously about your priorities, and your career.

Let's imagine it's 2005, and Mark and Jay Duplass ask you to be in their independent film "THE PUFFY CHAIR." They're shooting it for $15,000; they can't pay you anything. The film is about relationships and it's mostly improvised. You get a role and it seems like fun-- you don't know much about them and you don't totally know if it will work, but you take the role.

And then two days into the shoot you get a call from your agent, if you have one; and they've got you a role playing a young parent in a McDonald's commercial, and they're paying you two thousand. What happens here is most people take the two thousand, and go do the McDonald's commercial.

Now, of course, on the shoot -- the Duplass Brothers would be pissed because you've monumentally fucked up their movie, which you know; so you keep avoiding them, meanwhile you do the McDonald's gig because you desperately need the money and you want to get that big break.

So now it's 2010. Five years have gone by and that two thousand is long gone. Would you rather have done the McDonald's commercial or starred in one of the best independent films of the last decade? Which one is the best for your career? Reality check--- if you're in this business for the money, or for stardom, you really shouldn't be wasting your time in independent films in the first place. If you want to be doing good, meaningful work -- do it now, and dedicate yourself to it.

There are two very different roads to be taken on the way to 'success' in this industry. One is financial; it involves stardom, magazine covers, and the hope that one day you'll be Johnny Depp or Megan Fox. The other way is to do projects that move you, inspire you, and challenge you. You can start deciding to do those right now, TODAY. You can find the writers and directors who are really trying to do something that is about having something to say, and about putting out meaningful art. You can align yourself with them and there's the hope that one day you'll be Mark Duplass or Patricia Clarkson.

Next time you are caught between the paid job, and the great job - it's really a decision about who you are and what you're in this industry for. ESPECIALLY when the two of them collide, and ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY when you have already agreed to do the no-budget project.

This isn't an article about being pretentious or about being purely about art. It's about realising there are different things we can be chasing. And if you get too caught up in success, you're going to lose out on a lot of amazing experiences. I know a lot of filmmakers who have been majorly let down by actors for these very reasons. And more often than not, the filmmakers go on to do great work and the actor's are still chasing down jobs and struggling. A 'big break' to me is either a) Getting cast in a big franchise and getting stinking rich --OR-- b) Getting cast in the next 'Once' or 'The Puffy Chair." As an actor, you should decide which one you're after. And then go for it completely.

Care to share?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

ADAM RIFKIN Writer/Director INTERVIEW

I had barely finished asking the first question before writer/director ADAM RIFKIN was displaying his incredible passion for films and filmmaking. Not that it was any surprise. Adam is one of those rare filmmakers who is absolutely passionate about every aspect of the industry. His own work segues seamlessly between the big movies that he writes for the studios, and the smaller, more personal projects that he loves to create.

His credits as a screenwriter include SMALL SOLDIERS, UNDERDOG and MOUSEHUNT, and he directed DETROIT ROCK CITY, which I absolutely love. His new series, LOOK, (based on his movie of the same name) is currently on Showtime; where its opening two episodes had the best viewing figures the network has seen in over two years in that time-slot.

We had schedule a five minute meeting, but once you get Adam talking about movies it's impossible to get him to shut up. But with all his wisdom, advice, and insight into creativity, directing and working within the studio system, I am not complaining. This is a MUST-READ for anyone interested in screenwriting or directing.

If you could only write -OR- direct, for the rest of your career, which would you choose, and why?

I would direct if I had to choose, because I got into filmmaking because I love directing and I love the act of making a movie. I write predominantly so I have something to direct that I feel passionate about and I relate to. I know a lot of filmmakers who are writers first, who direct. I'm a director first, who writes.

In 'Detroit Rock City' you really captured the magic of being young and being obsessed with music. Were you always passionate about music when you were younger, and if so, do you still feel that way now?

I love music and I am passionate about it but my main passion my whole life has really always been about movies. I just related my passion towards movies towards the character's passion for music, to be able to draw from. My number one focus, my number one passion, my number one obsession my whole life has always been movies first and everything else has always been a distant second.

Do you think that to be a good film director you have to have that passion, or do you see director's that perhaps operate differently to that?

No I don't think you have to. If you have a natural talent for it then you can be a great filmmaker and not have a passion for it. Talent is kind of non-discriminating that way, I mean, sometimes you have it and sometimes you don't. There's a great movie about talent called "BULLETS OVER BROADWAY" directed by Woody Allen, and it's very much about that. Which is: John Cusack has the passion for playwriting and he believes his methods and the meaning behind why he's doing what he's doing is merit enough to have the talent. He believes that because his heart and his passion are in the right place, that he deserves to have the success and talent that he wants, but he starts to realize, it's this hitman, who has the talent. I just think that's an interesting exploration of that topic.

I heard Woody Allen say once that he feels lucky that he has talent, because that enables him to express what is inside of himself -- and that there are millions of people that don't have talent, or don't have an artistic temperament, and they perhaps can't express what is inside of them the same way you or I might be able to.

Well it's not a surprise that Woody Allen was able to put that into words, because he's a talented guy. Hearing you say that he said that makes perfect sense.

Your first movie, "NEVER ON TUESDAY," one of the producers was Elliot Kastner; I was fortunate to meet him just a few months before he died, he was ill at the time. I was just wondering; he was such a fascinating character and obviously a great producer. I was wondering if you have any stories about him that might interest our readers?

Not only did Elliot Kastner give me my first shot and allow me to direct a movie when I was nineteen years old, he let me write and direct my first movie, I was nineteen, nobody does that. He was a rare guy that way. He started so many people's careers that way. He started William Goldman's career. He's one of the few people that I've ever met who just absolutely, 100% trusted his gut. He didn't believe in anything else other than what he believed was right. I kept in touch with him throughout his entire life, from that first experience of making that movie with him.

He was a loon. I mean, he was a crazy crazy guy. He was very obsessed with cleanliness, he yelled at everybody all the time; his temper was absolutely legendary. But, he was brilliant, he was creative, he loved movies, he believed in filmmakers and he never stopped working well, well, well into his old age. And suffering with brutal cancer he was still, still pursuing his passion for getting movies made.

Yeah, when I met him - he was still talking about all these plans he had and projects he wanted to produce. He's going to be missed.

Very much so. And he was the one who taught me, never take no for an answer. He's the one that taught me that it's not a business for shy people. When he gave me an opportunity to direct my first film, the one thing he said was "don't fuck it up!" So err, I say that to myself every time I'm about to start a project. "Don't fuck it up!" I don't always succeed, but I say it to myself, y'know?

I'm in the UK at the moment, and we've not had a chance to see "LOOK", your new show. But I've been reading all about it and it seems like it's doing really well. I'd love to hear more; how has it been received over there? And what are your plans for it?

Well "LOOK" is based on a movie I made of the same name. It explores the idea that the average American is captured on surveillance 300 times a day. I know that number is much higher in London.

You're probably right.

Yeah, London is the most surveilled city in the world -- and so, basically it follows several interweaving storylines; but the entire series is shot solely with surveillance cameras, cellphone cameras, webcams and flipcams and all the different cameras we live our lives in front of every day but never think about. Without being preachy about it, it just inherently explores the idea of privacy or our lack thereof.

The show opened to huge numbers. It was the number one show in its time-slot with higher viewership than Showtime network had for two years in that time-slot.

Congratulations.

Thank you. The number 2 episode also came in number one in its time-slot; so knock on wood, it's doing very well.

I've been reading some interviews, where you seem to take the middle ground when people ask you if you think all these cameras are a good or a bad thing. Do you not have any kind of opinions yourself, or feelings around the subject?

I would say that before I started the project, I would say I was leaning more towards the idea that the more cameras there were more of an invasion of privacy, I felt it was. But the more research I did into the subject, the more I really do see both sides. I definitely feel there are many many examples of camera abuses. And y'know, a very recent example is this poor freshman at Rutger's University who killed himself when his roommate turned on the webcam and filmed him having an intimate encounter with another boy, and posted it online.

In 37 States in the US it is legal to have cameras in dressing rooms and bathrooms. And that footage can often get into the wrong hands. The laws are very hazy as to who has access to that footage and what can be done with that footage. It gets out there, and that's a real invasion too.

But on the other side of the coin I think there are many many examples of cameras being used for good. In London, it's a perfect example; all those surveillance cameras caught the London bombers, y'know?

Yeah, of course, yeah.

I think it's a really complex issue and you can't really say; all the cameras are good, and that's it. Or all the cameras are bad, and that's it. I think there's a lot of levels there.

What I want to ask is really about advice for filmmakers. But I've seen you asked this question a lot, and your answers are always very inspiring; so I want to ask it a little bit differently.

Okay..

So many; whether it's screenwriters or directors.. a big problem they face is the idea of this inner-critic, y'know? The voice in your head that tells you you're not good enough, or it's already been done. Y'know, that thing that keeps people flicking around Facebook all day rather than writing that script or getting out there with a camera. So I'm wondering what you think about that, and how you get past that annoying thing that holds people back?

Well I will tell you that everybody needs to know that everybody has that. Even the people that are very successful in these chosen professions that we are all pursuing. Everybody that I know, myself; you sit down to write a script-- I know very few writers who sit down to write a script and love the process and everything that they write, when they're done they say 'man, I'm good! this is great!' All of the artists that I know are very self-critical, and sometimes that can be a real detriment to productivity. But what you have to do is you have to, as best you can, ignore that voice and keep pushing forward.

The hardest part about writing a script, is writing the script. Sitting down and writing every day and getting it done. Everybody is capable of coming up with a good idea, I bet you most people are capable of coming up with a good scene and writing a good scene. But it's the discipline to sit down every day like it's your full time job and bang out however many pages a day you're capable of banging out. And you just have to keep moving forward. I mean, you get to the end, and you realize most of this is crap and I have to rewrite it. But it gets better every time you rewrite it.

But I would say you absolutely can't let that inner voice slow you down, you have to bully past it and keep moving forward. The good news is, if you're talented, which hopefully you are-- you're gonna persevere and the talent is going to rise to the top, and you're going to make it. You just have to believe that and you have to be extremely confident in that idea. And don't let all the insecurities, 'oh this is crap,' 'who cares what these characters have to say,' 'why am I bothering? why am I wasting my time?' Ignore it.

That's great. I think that's really helpful. What are you currently working on?

Besides 'LOOK', I'm working on a movie that I'm not really allowed to talk about but it's very exciting. When I can, I'll let you know. At the same time my day job is writing studio-family movies. I just wrote one for Disney, and I'm writing one for Nickelodeon. Those pay the bills and enable me to do the passion projects, like 'LOOK' y'know.

With writing Studio films, obviously you need to be passionate about what you're writing, even if it's an assignment. How do you keep motivated when it's not something that has necessarily originated from within yourself?

If I'm writing something that isn't necessarily coming from my soul, it's not like I'm born to write it and I need to express it otherwise I'm going to die unhappy. If I'm doing it more for the fact that, you know, this is an opportunity that's come my way--- um, first of all I try to do the best I can with every project I'm involved with. I love all kinds of movies, I love big silly popcorn movies, I love small independent more artful movies, and I love everything in between. So I try to find a way to love everything I'm working on even if it's nothing that I necessarily would have originated myself anyway.

At the same time I also keep in mind that this job, let's say it's a big studio family movie that came my way--- this job is going to afford me the freedom to make the next movie I want to make which is a smaller more passion-project of mine. If it weren't for the big studio job I wouldn't have this opportunity. So for me, it's a great sort of give and take. I'll give this to the studio system, and in exchange - the studio system very graciously gives me the freedom to afford to do the smaller passion project.

I think that's something that's changed now. I think before, people use a phrase like 'artistic integrity' and think you have to be like Woody Allen and do exactly what you want year after year. But I think now, people like yourself, or Steven Soderbergh; it's that idea you do one for them, and hopefully then you get to do one for yourself.

I have found that that has been one great, lucky opportunity that I've been afforded. A lot of the filmmakers that I admire, John Sayles is a good example; and also, by the way, John Cassavetes and even Orson Welles. Cassevetes and Welles would act in films, y'know, specifically to make some money to get the freedom to make the films they were more passionate about. I don't feel in any way that it's a compromise to my integrity. To me I feel really lucky and fortunate to be a part of big studio Hollywood, and really lucky to be able to make smaller, more personal films too.

I really liked 'SMALL SOLDIERS' I think it's interesting with these types of films, because you're writing for two audiences, right? You're writing for the youngsters and for older people; because you don't want the parents sitting there bored. How do you achieve that mixture?

The biggest inspiration I take is from the Warner Brothers cartoons. I think about all the Bugs Bunny cartoons that I grew up watching. They were very funny for kids, but there was also a lot of adult themed humor, and double-entendre humor in what the characters say. I didn't understand a lot of that as a kid, but now as a grown up you appreciate it on a whole separate level. I think the best kids films do that, I always try to do that.

What is the one achievement you're most proud of. The one where you say "yeah, I really got that right."

I would say it's a two pronged answer. My sentimental favorite is "The Dark Backward". It was the first script I ever wrote. It was the first and one of the few times where I had total creative freedom. It was a great experience, it's my sentimental favorite.

I do feel though that I'm the most proud of "LOOK", the film and the series. I do feel that it's my best work. The characters and the character complexity, and the subject matter; I'm very passionate about it and I feel the best stuff I have done is "LOOK" the film and "LOOK" the series.

Is it hard to cast for? Because the acting has to be extremely natural, and it must be tough to get right?

We see hundreds of people for each part. It really is a different style of acting. I can't rely on movie tricks to manipulate a performance. I have to cast people who I believe can pull it off completely naturally, we have very few cuts and can't hide behind the tricks of fast editing or the camera pushing in to create tension. I like to believe we pulled it off, and we got great people. I'm really happy with the cast and so far the reaction has been great.

How do you deal with criticism-- when you read a review or you hear something about your work and it gets completely slammed. Do you read that stuff? Do you pay attention to it?

I read it occasionally. My feeling is: you can't take anything personally in Hollywood. If you start taking things personally, it will cripple you. To me, criticism and at the same time rejection - because in Hollywood when you're pursuing a career in making movies you experience a lot of rejection. You just can not allow it to affect you one bit.

I think a lot of that is just a function of just a natural ability to not let it bother you. I know a lot of people who are very bright and very talented, and no matter how many times they tell themselves they're not going to take it personally, they do, and they can't help it. I'm lucky that way; I just don't ever let rejection or criticism slow me down. It just does not affect me. When someone says nice things about my work I'm happy to hear it. But I don't rest on my laurels either. I don't get overly swayed either way by positive or negative. For me it's all about keeping my focus, keeping my eye on the ball, moving forward. I want to write that next script, I want to make that next movie. If they liked the last one great, if they hated the last one, great, irrelevant, I'm just going to keep moving forward and keep making stuff.

I guess the two extremes of loving it or hating it; it's much better than someone just walking out and not really having an opinion, right?

I would absolutely agree with that. Some of my movies that have enjoyed the longevity, the ones people are still discovering and appreciating.. were the ones that were hated by a lot of people and loved by a lot of people. So I'd much rather have a movie that has an extreme reaction than no reaction.

I think, as you work in the studio system, I think this is an interesting thing to ask; it's more of a screenwriting question. There are so many books and seminars now that say there's '12 steps to writing' and 'you must have this happen on this page,' all of these rules; and I think upcoming writers especially feel so much pressure to deliver a script that will please people, and it gets further and further away from writing what you want to write. How do you get that balance between pouring out whatever is inside of you, passionately onto the page -against- writing something that essentially people will want to make?

Well that is a great question, because all of the rules of screenwriting often completely strangle the creativity right out of it. If you love movies and you've seen a lot of movies and you want to make movies, and you've lived your life studying movies; you're going to kind of have a natural understanding of a movie pace and plot. I don't think you really need to over analyse what page this plot twist is supposed to come on, or when an act break is supposed to occur. You want it to be original, you want it to be creative, you want to be inspired by all the movies you've seen in your past.

One of the things that makes movies good and original; when you look at the movies you're researching and watching, and loving, and watching over and over again - is that they have originality to them, y'know? The perfect structured film is rarely the best film.

Definitely, yeah.

It doesn't hurt to know what a basic three act structure is, and it doesn't hurt to hear what some of these rules might be. But you kind of want to forget about them when you're sitting down to write. You want to be swept away in the story and the characters. You want to blaze a new trail for yourself, you want to be original. That doesn't mean write something that's absolutely non-sensical and call it original. You want it still to be a movie that people can digest to some degree, you know? But I think people get mired in the formula---- but I will tell you this: if somebody has a natural talent, that formula will not slow you down unless you allow it too. You have to trust your talent. The people who have no talent, all they have to rely on is the rules and the books and the formulas. It's like playing the piano, or a cookbook. If you have a natural talent for cooking, you're just gonna feel how much salt is gonna make it taste better. You don't necessarily want to measure salt grain by grain just because it says it in the book.

Linked to that question-- do you think there are certain character traits in people who are successful in this industry compared to people that aren't, or do you think it's just luck?

It's interesting. One of the things I like most about the movie industry is that there are absolutely no rules. If you go to medical school and you study and you get your grades, you come out the other side as a Doctor. You know what I mean?

Yeah.

If you want to be a filmmaker, there's no set path, no rules. You make up your own rules as you go along. Everybody does it different, and everybody blazes their own path. One of the things I like about the people who succeed in the movie business, or anybody pursuing a career in the arts of any kind, is that they just innately know that their way is the right way, for them. It might not be the right way for someone else, but it's the right way for them. And if it isn't working one way, you can shift gears and try it another way. The people who succeed at it are the people who know, 'yeah this is the way for me, this is the way I'm going to pursue this career for myself, and to hell with everyone else and the way they did it, I'm going to do it my way.'

Talking of doing it your own way, I'll finish on this one now. I'm doing a feature film in the coming months; without going into the details of it -- do you have any advice?

Don't fuck it up!

Care to share?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Deadline Day For Screenwriting Competition

Today, the 21st, is the deadline for the screenwriting competition. I am happy to be as liberal as possible with this for any of you deadline-cramming crazy people. In Alofi, which is the capital city of Niue it is currently 1.10pm on Wednesday. LA time is currently 5.10pm. So, you can all pretend you're in Alofi if you need to work until four in the morning (regardless of where in the world you are.)

Good luck!


Care to share?

Go VIVIDLY Into Your Memories

I can't remember what triggered me to do this last night, maybe I was thinking about an old friend or something; but there I was, at two in the morning, unable to sleep and thinking about my old school. I vividly imagined being on the grounds and walking into each and every building. I imagined walking down the old corridors that I used to walk down, every day, for years. I set myself a little challenge of remembering every classroom and what subject was taught there.

To my surprise, as I did this-- it brought things back really intensely. As I entered the classrooms, I would see my old teachers. Of course, they were as they were, all them years ago - they've surely aged a lot now and many of the rooms may have changed, or are not even there anymore. But in my memory, everything was so real. How often do you really take the time to truly use this power in your mind? To go back, intensely, into a past experience?

It wasn't just visual, but it brought back the smells. The aroma of the Food Tech rooms (which is not as nice as it sounds) or the carpet-y smell from the room where we were taught French, or the Drama Studio smell which I can only describe as the Drama Studio smell. If I could smell it right now I'd think "wow, that smells like the drama studio from school!"

The most interesting thing to me was how I saw all my old teachers in a new light. Back then, in the school days, Mr. Thomas was just Mr. Thomas who would be waiting there in History class for us. Twice a week, every week, for many years, there he was, delivering a class that we seldom paid attention to. Thinking back, did I even recognise him as a human? Did I care how his day was? Was I aware that he had good days and bad days? Did I know anything about his family? Did I give him a hard time? This was a very fascinating experience, to think back, because in my memory, I'm 15. But now, I'm not 15, I'm a lot older and arguably wiser, so it's weird to revisit a part of my memories with a new perspective. A perspective where I can see things a lot more from another point of view.

If I had to write a scene last night, or even right now, about a teacher-- I would be so much more prepared. I have written teacher scenes before, and done the usual thing of imagining it a little bit and then thrashing it out on paper. But now, with this different and more absorbing process, I am certain my writing would be a lot better. I literally feel like I jumped in a DeLorean and zoomed back to my younger days, and got to observe it all over again. Similarly, if I was an actor; I would be so much more prepared now playing the role of a teacher, because of this experience.

I implore you to do this tonight, before you go to bed. Go vividly into a past experience. School is a great one because, we spent so much time there, there is a giant warehouse of memories and ideas and feelings locked somewhere in your brain that you probably haven't accessed in years. Even just picturing old classrooms again-- you probably haven't pictured them in many years, but there they are, waiting for you. The memory is fascinating, and an incredible tool- be it for creativity, or for reminiscing or even just for passing time!

A bizarre thing for me was that some things I couldn't remember. The main building of our school was on three floors - and for some crazy reason, I can't remember the top two floors AT ALL, even though I spent as much time there as anywhere else. Why would my brain choose to disregard these areas? I have no idea.

You could use these skills you have to dive into the past for very specific purposes related to writing or acting, but I would recommend just doing it for the experience, it will unlock parts of yourself and places from your life that you've completely forgotten.

Care to share?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

BILL MURRAY In GHOSTBUSTER'S gear

I was doing what I normally do at 1AM in the morning, searching for "aging men in uniform," when look what I found.

It's BILL MURRAY! In GHOSTBUSTER'S stuff!


And that is the last time I ever blog about what someone is wearing.

Care to share?

Monday, 18 October 2010

Frustration

I'm tired, tired of being passionate about the cinema. I want to be like my heroes, who speak of hiding away in cinemas and loving every minute of it. That is not my experience. My experience is usually one of disappointment. When I see something like 'The Social Network' or 'Juno' on the big screen, it's pure bliss; but in between, it's disappointment and frustration.

I keep thinking other people will be tired too. Tired of 'big' movies, tired of predictable storylines and stereotyped characters - but that isn't my experience. And this isn't pretentiousness; I don't want everyone making and watching 'artsy' films, I just feel we, as an industry and as viewers, set the barometer extremely low when it comes to quality.

It saddens me that film podcasts talk about how a film has a 'cool' marketing campaign, or that young screenwriters are driving themselves crazy trying to write a 'hot' screenplay. This is not why I love movies; but, I find it hard to grasp the general public and the way they approach movies. People are short changed, every time - but they seem happy to watch a film with a bigger explosion --it gives you two hours of distraction-- but what about afterwards? The films that truly excite people are the ones where fifteen years later you're still saying "Stupid is as stupid does" and eighty years later you're watching clips of 'City Lights' on YouTube because you're amazed by how funny Chaplin is. But so few people are being the best they can be; they're chasing a script sale, or fame, or trying write something purely to be controversial.

I'm frustrated because there is unlimited potential in how good we can be, as writers, directors, actors and everything in between. When we use truth, honesty, humor, and passion -- when we write controversial things not to be controversial but to challenge people to see things a little differently; that's when we're at our best. Yet most people aren't even trying. You meet a writer and they say "Im doing a horror script and a film about a guy who likes comics and I'm doing a superman-meets-godfather drama" - what does that mean? Nothing! Why aren't people writing things that matter? That inspire? The reason, in part, is that the industry doesn't support it. But it's a cycle that we play a part in every time we write the same old shit, or try to come up with something that's 'in.'

I'm tired. I feel like my 'passionate' side and my 'pissed off and frustrated' side are constantly smashing into each other. It's time to choose one. I choose art. I choose writing things that matter. I choose writing for the guy in the front row who wants to see a good story, I want to write for the girl at the end of the isle who's about to walk out because the films don't have the soul they had in 1960.

I understand all the screenwriting books and script guru's, and I understand they have to keep sharing their messages because it's how they make a living, but writing is not about rules and principles; it's not even about words --- it's about the life inbetween. Most writing fails because it suffocates that life, it doesn't recognize it and it doesn't have a chance to grow.

There is room for the next generation of incredible screenwriters. I'm not talking about a writer who gets rich making a smash hit; but the next Woody, the next Ephron, the next Kaufman.


Care to share?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Scorsese Wisdom

From a Facebook Chat this morning..

KID
i drink an INSANE amount of caffeine
and the effects are only really negative

A FRIEND
i hear your confession

KID
i get distracted, i pee a million times a day,
i can't concentrate well, i need more, etc!
but i don't drink, don't smoke, don't mistreat women,
i need some kind of small vice you know

A FRIEND
scorcese rule:
only drink two cups a day

KID
what are his reasons?

A FRIEND
he is who he is

KID
good point

Care to share?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

AARON SORKIN & THE FACEBOOK MOVIE

When 'The Social Network' ended, I was genuinely shocked. "How can it end now?" I wondered, "it's only halfway through!" I normally have a pretty reliable movie-body-clock. That wasn't the case with this movie. The reason being, I was so completely engrossed in the flow of the movie that I lost all sense of time, real-wise and movie-wise. I was swept away in the magic of what was in front of me. This is rare. Really really really rare. It's why I go to the movies and why I watch so many DVD's-- yet this experience of total immersion is very unusual. I can't remember the last time it happened.

For the purpose of this article I will be giving all of the credit to Aaron Sorkin. This is probably not fair-- as I'm sure David Fincher played a giant role in it too-- as did the actors. But for me, this was always about Aaron Sorkin. I love his work. This kind of adulation usually leads to disappointment. There are very few people I'd rush to the cinema for. There's Cameron Crowe, Woody Allen, and---um, Aaron Sorkin. That's about it. I'm not sure why I still do it for Woody Allen, and last time I did it for Sorkin, with Charlie Wilson's War, I was very disappointed (great script, but I didn't love the movie).

But this movie really had it. Every single scene, every bit of dialogue --- it just burned with life and energy. The Sorkin touch was plain to see. He always starts a scene where you don't expect it to start, in a location you don't expect to see, from a perspective you never thought to look through before, and it's always about three different things, just like Erica Albright mentioned in the opening scene, telling Mark Zuckerberg how he always talks about three things at once. That's exactly what Sorkin does, and it's magic.

The film was like a rollercoaster. Actually, not even a rollercoaster-- it was like a really fast car. This is exactly the type of movie I like. If I had my way, every movie would zip along at 2000 miles an hour with razor sharp dialogue. Strange that I feel that, and that it's my preference, because there have hardly been any films in the history of cinema that have truly honored that energy. But 'The Social Network' did, and that is down to Aaron Sorkin's script.

Frustratingly, some of the dialogue that was hilarious in the screenplay didn't translate quite as well on screen. It seems that even a master like David Fincher can't totally do justice to Sorkin's genius. Maybe only Tommy Schlamme can. I'd love to see Aaron Sorkin directing, himself; because I think the hilarity of his wit and humor would really shine, if he was at the helm.

This isn't a review. I don't know what this is. I just know that I was completely engrossed in the movie. That only stopped once, when I desperately needed to pee -- I literally sprinted to make sure I missed as little of the film as possible. I haven't cared that much about a movie in the long time.

This film really reminded me of how incredible motion pictures can be -- and how great we can be as screenwriters if we really try. The energy, the innovativity (or something that's a real word), the structure, the humor; it was all PERFECT.

Aaron Sorkin is the best writer in the industry. I say this with complete confidence.

Care to share?

Monday, 11 October 2010

You Gotta Get To That Place, Where You Really Wanna Be

Writing only really takes place, when you're really immersed in it. When you forget about your back problem, and you forget about your Facebook addiction, and you forget that you have to be somewhere in an hour. That's how you need to write, and that's how magic happens. That's how your imagination really knows you've clocked in. If you're distracted, you're not really there.

Think of William Shakespeare, sitting down to write. Would he have achieved what he achieved if he was also thinking about writing a Twitter update about his dinner? I don't think so.

Writing is really about getting back to who you are, who you've been, and what it is you need to say right now. But you can't really figure out what to say, you can't really make the choices-- it needs to come from a place you're not really conscious of. What you really need to say, you don't really know. You just need to do the writing. But you gotta get to that place. You gotta allow for it. You need to find a way to get your brain there-- whatever it is, loud Metallica records, or complete silence, or sitting in a coffee house, or laying on your back on the rooftop -- you HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO get to that place where you can flow magically between thought and dreaming, when your characters and stories and knowledge and instincts just glide in and out of each other.

You're probably thinking "I know, but how?" -- I don't exactly know how, but I just know, most of the time, we're not even trying. Don't allow for things to get in the way. Don't start the washing just as you're about to write, don't start to write just as you're due to pick the kids up from school. Find the time, decide on it --- and be present. Be there. Don't put pressure on yourself--- remember a WRITER is what you are. Go into the moment. Have fun. And let me know how it goes.

Care to share?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Night I Discovered SOLOMON BURKE

It was 2003. I was maybe less tall; although I can't be sure. The night was a mix of amazing and depressing, which is always the case; when you're the kid with the weird tastes who has to do stuff on his own. I wanted to see Van Morrison live before he died, or before I died. I had it in my head that Morrison was old, really old, like eighty. I soon found out he wasn't-- but by that time I'd already spent £80 on a ticket near the stage.

So there I am, a guy in his late teens, going to see a legend of music, on my own. That made me grumpy. Well, that kind of thing used to make me grumpy-- now it just excites me to like what I like. Van Morrison was okay, he was cool. I didn't love the gig. He messed around with his songs a lot. I normally like that kind of thing but it felt more like messing things up than inspired improvising. All was not lost, because I didn't just discover how young Van Morrison was that night, I discovered Solomon Burke.

He was the support act. He came on stage and he just had PRESENCE. He was THERE. And the minute he sung-- wow. It was beautiful. His big, booming, beautiful voice-- it simply took over the Royal Albert Hall. I wanted to be Solomon Burke. Like, I want that attitude, I want that peace. I want that message, I want that heart. He sung "If You Need Me" and he meant it. I felt like he was there for me. And for me, his version of "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" is so soulful - it's perfect.

I don't listen to Burke as much as I listen to Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, etc--- for me, those guys are the Shawshank Redemption's of music; you always go back to them. Solomon Burke is the movie you pull out on a Tuesday night when you're feeling depressed and need to hear from an old friend.

Here is his version of 'A Change Is Gonna Come.' I don't see it as a cover of the Sam Cooke song, they're not in competition -- for me, it's something else, a different angle, that fills a different need-- but it's still something that definitely needs to be heard.


There are less and less people like Solomon Burke in the world, and that's a shame. It's strange to me because, just last night; I spent a night sitting at a computer with my Dad, going through all the music we love. Of course, at first; I had to explain what YouTube is, but after that.. it was glorious as we revelled in the magic of Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Otis Redding. And then, hours later it would seem: Solomon Burke died. Rather than be sad about having to say RIP to another music legend, I'd rather just be grateful that he existed at all. He added something to the world.

Care to share?