Wednesday, 29 June 2011

10 Ways To Relieve Stress During Pre-Production

1. Don't make the movie.

2. Don't look at the finances.

3. Take drugs.*

4. Avoid all contact with all people (including and especially yourself)

5. Don't make the movie.

6. When addressing cast, crew, and the producer; reply to all questions by saying "do whatever you want" and then take the pretty production assistant to a beach resort until the film gets shut down.

7. Care less.

8. Remember that if you do a bad job and totally ruin everything, it makes major distribution and success even more likely.

9. Re-write the script and shoot it all in one day, in one location, using an iPhone. Watch it unfold at home on Skype (I hear Spielberg directs in this way).

10. If an actor starts being difficult during rehearsals, change all of their dialogue to Urdu (yet print the script in Latin, and hire them a Portugese dialect coach)

*I do not promote the taking of drugs. But check back with me when you're in post-production.

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Opening Weekend, and Seventeen Years Later

The new releases come out and the stars sit on the sofa on the TV and someone says something about how good or bad the box office numbers were and we seem to get caught up in thinking it's important.

But what's important is, when home alone and sleepless on a random Tuesday morning at 4am, what film do you choose to watch? When you've had the worst day of your life, what film do you seek out afterwards? When you meet someone new and want to treat them to a DVD what do you buy them?

That's what's important - especially if you write or direct. I mean, if you want to make anything that'll live on after opening weekend: Just create what you HAVE to create. Do it for you, not the box office.

I went to see 'Win, Win', not because of the poster but because the same director made 'The Station Agent' and 'The Visitor'. He made small, profound movies in his own way. They're unique, they're him. That's why he does so well. The films are his own. Kevin Smith used to be like that, then he started doing anything he got offered and he's not relevant as an artist anymore, the fans lost their passion soon after he did. I'll still watch his films, I just don't care like I used too.

When you take the business route, you may get lucky. But then you live and die by the box office. And there are hundreds of journeymen who've been doing it for thirty years who will have an easier time than you. Before you know it you've had one box office hit and one dud, and you're gone.

You don't have to play that game. Instead you can just create what you think works, what turns you on creatively. Stuff that makes life bearable. That's the magic. That's the film you buy for your new girlfriend. Right now I'm listening to an old Wilson Pickett song and earlier on I watched 'Beautiful Girls'. This stuff outlives the soulless stuff.

Art lasts. Business kills you. Don't get excited by the big lights, just do the work that you love.

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Sunday, 26 June 2011

BAD TEACHER With Pete & Craig

Craig can't stop himself. Every time, without fail. He orders the biggest popcorn and the giant ass coke, and THEN he bitches about the price.

We end up in this bizarre argument at the counter. Craig moans about how disgraceful it is that a medium popcorn is the same price as his mortgage, and the cinema worker, who is usually a seventeen year old girl who looks like she wants to kill herself, gets all defensive and smart ass. And then there's me, saying to Craig that he doesn't get to moan if he's handing the cash over.

I mean, popcorn is an option. If you don't want it, don't buy it.

Sometimes I think he starts the argument just because he thinks the girl is cute. I don't think he realises how psychotic he looks when he starts yelling about trading standards and capitalism and whatever it is he yammers on about.

We were in our seats. They never make those cup holders the right size. Mine was pretty much falling through a hole. Weird things happen in the cinema. Ever look down at your shirt halfway through a movie and see two bits of popcorn stuck there? Even happens when you're not eating popcorn.

Then the other thing happened. I was annoyed but Pete was laughing, except for when I was laughing and Pete was annoyed. You see, in the seats directly behind us, we had a crazy guy who puzzled over plot issues out loud, in a confused manner. Hard to explain what he was doing, but he was kind of insane. And he kept repeating dialogue to the friend next to him.

He got louder and weirder. Pete turned back to give him the evil-eye. He turned back and whispered to me, "I think he's on his own." This made me instantly crack up. I was in a sea of laughter. Actually, a sea of popcorn. It was stuck to me. Don't know how. No-one knows how that happens.

But I was laughing uncontrollably. Because this guy who'd been yammering away like a mad-o was talking to himself.

What do you do? Do you ask him to be quiet? He's not even talking to anyone! He may not even be in the cinema, mentally. He may think he's on a steamboat or something.

I needed to pee real bad. I tried to figure out the running time in my head. How long could be left? First of all you get an instinctive feeling about how long is left. Normally this feels good, because you think you only have to sit through ten more minutes.

But then you do the plot check in your head. You think to yourself, "Diaz still needs to convince some people, she needs to learn a valuable life lesson, and win the guy. And Lucy Punch's story needs to be resolved." So you figure out you have 27 minutes remaining.

And it drags on. When you need to pee, the story gets resolved but the film doesn't end. The director likes to fuck with you, just because he knows you want to pee. I hate that. "The Directors No-Pee Cut". I'm sure you've experienced this.

BAD TEACHER REVIEW: Kinda lame. Some things didn't make sense. But there are some laughs. Cameron Diaz is gorgeous. She should date film bloggers. Timberlake keeps impressing as an actor. Overall: 5/10

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Saturday, 25 June 2011

Finding Yourself As An Artist and Surpassing Blocks and Disturbances

Your agent is sitting on his ass. Your producer is strangling your creativity. Your co-writer is making negative remarks about your dialogue. 

Regardless of your success levels, everyone has these problems. The problem is that these issues come home with you, they eat away at your energy, they affect your life and creativity in a big way. Too often we forget about the dreaming behind our creativity and focus too much on the disturbances. 

Your dreams and aspirations are the guiding principle behind why you are an artist. It's important to get in touch with them as often as you can, because they really help keep you on the right path. 

We all have peak experiences -- when we are firing on all cylinders, and nothing can stop us. We feel happier, lighter, and our artistic selves are prospering. And there are other times when we're refusing to get out of bed, we tell everyone we're thinking of quitting, and we convince ourselves that we're talentless and that our work is embarrassing. 

Focus on your peak experiences. Can you remember a time when you felt fully alive and full of possibilities? FOCUS on that experience. Fully bring it alive in your memory. Stop reading for a second, and truly visualise it. 

Where were you? Who was there? How did you talk to people? Did it feel like there was a presence or a force supporting you? (Call it God, call it a good caffeine rush, whatever it was, for you). If you are able to strongly visualise this pleasing memory, it will make you feel good, you'll get some of those feelings back.

I have had many of these experiences. Many of them are from when I was a teenager and began making films. I was full of possibilities, extremely experimental, and everything made sense every time I wrote on a page, or pointed a camera at actors. 

Another time was in New York a few years ago. I felt super-powered. Like New York is my spiritual home and the world wanted me to be there. I would walk out of the apartment I was staying in and within five minutes I'd make a new friend, a new creative soulmate, it seemed to happen nearly every day. It was a magic time; the world seemed to work for me in every way. 
When was your peak experience? How did it make you feel? 

When you feel that you are fully in that experience, that you are not only remembering it but you are feeling some of its essence in you now --- how can you use that feeling in your work right now, today? Does that energy help you overcome some of the blocks and resistance you have been feeling? 

Let me know how it goes. 

What we have a tendency to do, is focus our energies on the roadblocks, whether they are external problems (i.e. investors, landlords, YouTube comments) or internal (lack of confidence, second-guessing, depression). This exercise is to help you get back some positive energy, by focusing on the dreaming processes that shape who you are as an artist, and what your goals and intentions are).

As a way of ending the exercise; it is good to write down a few words about yourself and your work, and the dreaming behind it. For example, I could write, "I have always strongly related to the work of writer/directors like Chaplin, Wilder, and Woody Allen, whose work as artists created meaning for themselves and the world around them. I believe that art lives forever and that my dream is to create work that will last, that will cheer people up and brighten their days for a long time to come."

Don't allow yourself to be critical or embarrassed about what you write, because it's a part of you and it's important to bring it out in you. An actress friend of mine yesterday was telling me about how she wants to work with disabled people to help give them a voice by using drama, another friend of mine was telling me a few days back about how books helped him understand the world when he was a kid, in a way that nothing else ever had -- and he wants to be an author so that he can bring that same feeling to future generations. 

Our dreams are important. When we fully access them, own them, and believe in them, we are able to step forward with more purpose and confidence. 

Care to share?

Friday, 24 June 2011


Believe the hype. The film is great.

Kristen Wiig steals the show. It is her show. She deserves it. Undeniably one of the most talented actresses and naturally gifted comedians in the business; this film showcases everything about her that is awesome.

And she's not just funny. She pulls at your heart in this movie. There are times when she communicates giant pangs of loneliness or intense and heartbreaking vulnerability -- and she's able to do it with just a look. A moment.

That's what great acting is, capturing a moment. The best actors can do it in a millisecond by doing something or making a decision to not do something. It's like Tom Hanks in 'The Green Mile' when he's listening to John Coffey through the prison cell. He just sits and listens, but somehow he also communicates pretty much every emotion known to man. I'm exaggerating, but only slightly. Great acting is when they make it look simple. They turn nothing into everything.

Wiig is beautiful, too. Not beautiful in the way that all the women in the movies are. Just beautiful in the way that women are beautiful. She's real. It's so much more interesting than looking at Megan Fox bouncing around in Transformers. I'm aware that women's looks always get mentioned when they're acting; I never review a Kevin Spacey film and then talk about his looks. But I guess my point here is --- in this film, and not just with Wiig, but with all of them -- they seem real. I can relate to them. They don't look like some insane and unrealistic 'dream girl'. And as a result, the women in 'Bridesmaids' are more appealing.

There are moments when Wiig will break your heart in this movie. There are times when she's jealous, resentful, lonely; in fact-- for most of the film, she is really lonely.

Yet she's also hilarious. Truthful pangs of loneliness but with big laughs. That's not easy to do. You just have to see her in this movie.

Care to share?