Tuesday 29 January 2013

Tuesday's Song

This piece of music has come to encapsulate everything I feel about World War 2. That's strange in itself because, I have absolutely no idea what I feel about it. But I do feel, to the point where I just want to cry.

Over sixty million people were killed, which was over 2.5% of the world population, can you imagine? Just think of all the wonderful people you've never met, because they were never born, because of this devastating war. 

In school we were taught in a simple way: England were victors, Nazis were bad, and Europe saw lots of fighting.

But there's so much more to it. 

Like, my Grandparents. The role they played. Heroes to me in every sense of the word. 

But there were heroes on the other side, too. That's what I realise whenever I see a war film now. I've lost the sense of "Hey, we won!" and am left thinking, holy shit, a huge chunk of humanity was wiped off the face of the Earth. 

War still rages. Genocide exists. And you realise as you get older that who you think are the good guys are very rarely the good guys. 

And I don't even know what I'm saying. 

I just know that this piece of music captures how I feel about war. Sadness, and heroism, and senselessness, and mourning. And so many other things. 

This piece makes me think of people I know. People I knew. People I never came across. The billions of humans who were effected by this giant tragedy of a war, and its repercussions that still play out in the world today. 

But there is something beautiful about this piece of music. And there's something beautiful about remembering all those who came before us. The angels who fought for good, and those who perished because of evil ideas. 

It's crucial we remember. It's crucial we feel. It's crucial we love. 

Care to share?

Monday 28 January 2013

Monday's Song


We're great at making things complicated. We get into endless conversations and disagreements about our over-caffeinated modern lives.

But at the end of the day, it still comes down to this: find that one person and make them happy.

We've lost sight of that. My generation, we don't know what we're doing. We hide behind computer screens, send cryptic text messages, and get endlessly mixed up in casual dating.

But of course, no-one really wants casual dating, or being non-exclusive or any of the crazy things we've come up with to protect ourselves. We're the most privileged generation in human history, and we handle it with narcissism, we fall in love with our possessions. There's an episode of 'Boston Legal' where a character falls in love with an iPhone. Six years ago, it seemed funny, now it just seems realistic.

Make someone happy. Such an alien concept to us. How often do we do it?

Sure, we do a good deed and then say, "Didn't you notice? Didn't you see the effort I put in?" I told you, we're narcissists. We do things for the validation.

But maybe it can be a lot more simple than that.

"It's so important to make someone happy. Make just one someone happy."

The song resonates because it cuts through the bullshit. Makes you realise you've gone five years without tending to the relationships in your life.

Is there someone you could make happy? Would you want to? Maybe the risks seem too high, but what is the alternative? What do you want your life to be about?

Care to share?

Thursday 17 January 2013

Training Yourself As An Artist

1. Practice makes perfect.

2. What I mean is, the more you practice, the more tools you have in your box. You become highly skilled and develop expertise.

3. But it can so easily lead to autopilot. You use your tools, the work is passable, but nobody truly connects.

4. All the great writers and directors, they had a golden moment, genuine magic was created. You can't force that moment just by picking up new tools.

5. So you must have life experience. Imagination is great on its own, but it's at its best when mixed with genuine insight.

6. Every great piece of art needs insight. That's what makes your favourite movies your favourite movies.

7. We can't have insight every day. I think when I started this blog, I had unique perspective, something different to say. I'm a better blogger now, I have so many tools -- but the fresh insights are harder to come by.

8. That's why you have to live more, and be open to influence and new ways of thinking.

9. You have to let go. When you define yourself by your profession all day long, you're a bore. Go for a walk around a lake with someone, and while you're there, completely drop the identity you've built for yourself as 'writer', 'actor', etc. They're just words, mental concepts. Above all, you're a human!

10. Eat healthy.

Care to share?

Question From A Reader, re: Film School

Kid, I need your help. I'm a young filmmaker - 15, actually. Of course, the question of film school is popping up, within my own mind and my parents. My parents believe producers and studios won't give a filmmaker millions of dollars to produce a film if they don't believe he can do it. They say a film school degree will show them I know how to produce a film, how to make them money. 

What's the truth?

Thank you for answering. It's a question that's been plaguing my mind for some time now. Cheers, 


It's all about your track record. If you make a movie for $300 and it wins some awards, someone will give you $2000. If you make that movie and manage to sell a heap of copies online and make $5000, then a producer will think "this kid is profitable!", and more money will come your way.

It's never a flowing stream. It's never easy. When it comes to film financing, and getting hired by studios, it's all about business. Whether you went to film school or spent your entire teens and early twenties fishing, they don't really care. They want to know -- can you make them money? 

At least, that's how it is when a lot of money is involved. 

With smaller, independent film producers, they often care more about art. They want to put something great into the world. And sure, you need a great track record, but not so much a financial one. It's more about your reel. How many people have you inspired? How many festivals have your films been in? How many people are clambering to work with you? 

I have been paid well to write, and paid reasonable amounts to direct -- although not at the big-budgets your questions imply. But I know many people who have done, some of whom are at the top of the pile in Hollywood. And you know the one thing nobody EVER asks them when they're being hired? "Where did you go to film school?"

Film school is a tool. It's a place to meet like-minded people. A place where you have permission to sit in a tiny room all day with a pretty girl watching French New Wave movies. Can it help? Of course! You have access to so much equipment and so many amazing people. But it doesn't guarantee a job. 

Despite what I say, many will no doubt have completely opposite opinions. Truth is, there are people who walk out of top Film Schools straight into big directing jobs. Just like there are random kids from Spain who win a competition and then are signed up immediately, having never been near a film school. 

As the old wisdom goes, there are no rules, and nobody knows anything. Figure out your path and follow it. Somewhere between everyone's advice, your parent's hopes and your own intuitions, you'll find the answer. I hope you come back here and share it! 

Care to share?

Monday 14 January 2013

Independence Within Hollywood: The Actors Who Are Paving Their Own Way

Channing Tatum could, quite easily, hop happily from '21 Jump Street' to '21 Jump Street 2', without having to do much else. Yet he starred in the subtly brilliant 'Son of No-one', which hardly anyone saw. And he produced and starred in '10 Years', an independent film full of hugely talented actors.

'10 Years' is an important film to look at, because it stars some of the best acting talent in America. And they all did it for virtually no money, because they were longing to do something meaningful, where they get to play.

Ari Graynor is my favourite actress of the moment. She steals your attention in everything she's in. 'Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist' being the perfect example. She was heartbreaking in '10 Years', hilarious in 'Whip It' and frustratingly difficult in 'Celeste & Jesse Forever'. And then she did 'For a Good Time, Call'.

It's her best and biggest role yet. Her comedic and dramatic talent is undeniable. But how often does she get the chance to truly shine? Perhaps not enough, which is why she produced 'For A Good Time, Call'. Increasingly, actors on the periphery of Hollywood blockbusters are doing their own thing as a way of making memorable and personal films.

For all the hype surrounding Rashida Jones --she was universally praised for her role in 'The Social Network', for example-- it's still ridiculously hard for talented women like her to find truly great roles in Hollywood. So what did she do? She wrote 'Celeste & Jesse Forever'. It's a film about staying friends with your ex, and she penned it with a guy she once dated, ouch! (Will McCormack) That's what it takes to create a great movie. Go deeply personal!

The film is full of insight, openness and honesty, in a way that most big-budget movies lack. The difficult thing for the studio films, is that they need to cater to everybody, whereas a great indie only has to appeal to somebody. Not everyone will relate to Celeste & Jesse, but those who do will connect in a more thorough way than they would with a bigger movie because it has more genuine insight. That's why these small films are so important.

Back to '10 Years', because it really is a fascinating film to unravel. It was by a first time director, Jamie Linden, who was previously known as a writer. The film stars Kate Mara and Brian Geraghty, who were in 'We Are Marshall' (which Linden wrote), and Channing Tatum who was in 'Dear John' (also written by Linden).  This proves the most important rule in independent filmmaking, it's about who you know - who you can get to do favours. 

Which doesn't mean you have to be related to Steven Spielberg to make it in the film industry. It means that the relationships you build are crucial. When Jake Pushinsky edited 'A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints', he'd never edited a movie before. But the job he did was great. He went on to edit two more films that starred Tatum, 'Son Of No-One' and 'Fighting'. So when Tatum produced '10 Years', guess who he called on to edit? And is also stars Rosario Dawson, who was also in 'Saints'.

That's a huge part of why the film works. It was a huge collaboration, on a tiny-budget. Packed full of friends and colleagues amassed from projects prior. And that's kind of what the film is about too, everything that happened in the past and where everyone ended up since.

With the ever advancing technology and bigger appetites of Hollywood directors, we're always in danger of losing the subtle and small. That's why projects like '10 Years' are so refreshing. We get to see humans being human. Luckily, young actors like Justin Long and Aubrey Plaza prioritise the indie films, and because of this, their careers are building artistic longevity. They're not in it purely for the money, for the box office. They're doing work they care about.

It's a mistake that so many upcoming actors make. They think it's about rising to the top. And the top, of course, meaning big studio movies. But Ari Graynor did a no-budget short as recently as two years ago. It looks cheap, not all of it works, but it's creative! And she got to play an interesting role. I've met actors --unsuccessful ones-- who say "I'm done with short films. I don't work cheaply anymore". But Graynor did 'No Deal' for virtually nothing, and the entire cast of '10 Years' worked for scale, and it included the likes of Rosario Dawson and Max Minghella!

It's great to see some of the best Hollywood talent taking matters into their own hands, by producing personal works that they're proud of.  There are great independent films in America, you just have to look for them, and the people making them.

Care to share?