Apr 29 2013
Or, it will be soon. Soon-ish. Secret Blackheart is done, though! Done like dinner and waiting to be served. And by served, I mean, burnt onto DVDs and sent out to film festivals, where it will hopefully play at a theatre near you!
So, hang on… how did it go? you ask. And… are you happy with the finished film? You wonder. Well, I reply carefully, quite often it went really well, and other times it was a bit of a challenge. I am very happy with the finished film, though, and even happier to have had the experience of making it. I love the process and, as usual, I learned a lot. Also, with an art form that is difficult to practice on a regular basis, any time you have the chance to make a film is pretty amazing.
So… what now? you ask. Applying to film festivals, a cast & crew screening in the near future. If you supported the film through the campaign on Indiegogo, expect an invitation in your inbox in the coming weeks.
Jan 28 2013
Happy New Year!
We’re on to the music and sound part of post production, and it’s going swimmingly!
Well, in truth, it swims, and then it treads water for a while, and then it swims again. This has been my experience with short film post-production across the board. Post is difficult, time-consuming work, and, as everyone involved have other projects and jobs on the go (myself included), the timing and time it takes can sometimes take awhile without the do-or-die schedule that gets you through production.
However… I’m happy to report that this past week, we weren’t just in the water, we were doing the God-damn butterfly stroke mixed with some weird-ass synchronized swimming! Yes, that’s right- I’m talking about scoring the music for the film. I spent some time with the extremely talented composer F. Tyler Shaw in his studio and witnessed first-hand the magical and mystifying work of making music for film.
Now, Tyler is the kind of composer/musician who can effortlessly make things up on the fly – as we were coming up with new ideas, he was making adjustments to stuff he’d already done, and adding other stuff. It was an amazing process to be a part of, especially as this part of filmmaking is very challenging to yours truly. I am admittedly less musically-inclined than some. I generally listen to the lyrics of a song and not it’s construction. I am a casual music listener. That’s not to say I don’t love music (or, ahem, have great taste) – I do! And I also understand the importance music plays in filmmaking- great music can make your film soooo much better and the wrong music can wreck it. I get it- believe me, and it’s terrifying.
Anyway, my favorite moment in Tyler’s studio happened when he asked me if I was happy with a particular cue. It’s an important cue and one I felt he nailed on the first try, so his question took me by surprise. Yes, I replied. You’re sure? he pressed. Yes, I replied, feeling nervous. He said he wasn’t even sure if he should mention it or not, but he finally did – he had buried a tiny bit of music within this cue that, once he told me about it- I thought was pure genius – a hilarious bit of weirdness! A strange little musical joke, and I loved it! Or, I loved the idea of it, anyway, because I couldn’t hear it. He had to play it three or four times AFTER HE POINTED IT OUT, before I finally could. And I loved it even more then, but suggested we turn it up, so that other casual listeners like myself might have a hope in hell of hearing it, too.
Needless to say, the music is going to be great.
Nov 14 2012
Post production continues!
I must confess that this, for me, is the most challenging part of the filmmaking process, especially as it’s the part I’m the least familiar with. As it becomes more familiar, I hope the challenge will lessen, but a part of me fears that may never be the case.
I have no problem with the initial stage – the writing and development of the project. I’m not saying it’s easy but, with my background in painting, I’m used to (and really enjoy) solitary creative work, and have no problem putting in the hours required to write a script. The next stage – pre-production, is difficult, as there is often so much to do in a short amount of time, but it’s also a lot of fun assembling the cast, key collaborators, and crew. As you get everybody on board, you’re also building the momentum that carries you into the next stage – production, which I love. I love shooting. I love being on set, being part of a team that’s come together with a common creative goal. I love working with actors and seeing their work come to life before my eyes. I love the jokes and the gallows humour, the mix of personalities, the unexpected creative solutions, and, well, everything, really.* And then suddenly it’s all over and you’re left with… post-production. Now, if production is, for the director, like being the captain of a ship with a fun, boisterous crew, post-production is like clinging to a raft in the middle of the ocean with one other person – the editor.**
Or, at least, this is what it feels like right now. Luckily, Melanie MacDonald, the editor I’m on this particular raft with, is an extremely talented, creative collaborator who makes the middle of the ocean feel like the best place to be. Of course there are other people involved in post, but right now they seem like mere islands on the horizon. Fortunately, the water is calm and beautiful and we’ll see them soon! The film is really coming along! It’s leaving it’s awkward stage and is on the cusp of being full-on cool. We’ve started adding sound effects, and while this process can be tedious (listening to twenty different sword swooshes in search of the perfect one), it also makes the film come alive in a truly amazing way.
All that to say, things are progressing, but there’s still lots left to do! Tomorrow, Melanie and I are going to record a little peg-leg foley – wish us luck!
* except stupid long hours and shooting outside in unpleasant weather conditions.
** I’ve spent a lot of time thinking up ship metaphors lately. I think it’s what happens when you make a film with a Pirate in it.
Oct 20 2012
If time is a train speeding through pre-production towards the brick wall of the shoot, in post it’s more like a car on a busy highway clogged with traffic. One minute you’re zipping along, the next you’re in second gear, doing twenty. The trick, as ever, is to enjoy the ride and keep the destination in mind. (Is this a good metaphor, or a really terrible one? I can’t decide.)
All that to say, the film is coming together. It’s been edited into a rough cut by yours truly for the purposes of learning, and learn I did. About eye-lines, and sword fights, and how amazing actors can be. I’m very happy to report that the footage looks terrific and it’s only going to get better with sound and music.
So, what’s next? A fine cut, done by a professional editor. The music, at the discussion stage right now, will start being composed. The sound effects will be recorded and added, after determining what’s needed. (I have a good idea, but am waiting until the cut is further along to begin.) In other words, lots of work left to do, and I look forward to my continuing collaborations with my very talented post production team!
Sep 18 2012
Hard to believe a month has passed since my last post. (Well, maybe not that hard, as it’s been one of the busiest months I’ve ever experienced!)
In that time, we had the crunch of the last two weeks of pre-production, the shoot itself, followed by the wrap-up/clean-up. Post production has just begun, but before we get to that, I thought I’d share a few moments from the last month…
TWO WEEKS BEFORE WE GO TO CAMERA
We have many elements in place, but are missing some key pieces of the puzzle. Our shoot is scheduled for Labour Day weekend and it’s been a huge challenge in a busy production season to find crew who are available (and willing!) to work on the last long weekend of the summer. I am surprised to find myself feeling completely zen and cool about the whole situation, though. I think – whatever happens, we will make it work. I am thinking this zen and cool thought whilst out one night as I notice some beams of light in the sky. I turn to my partner, Tom, and together we wonder what the lights could be for…? The answer hits us a second later – The EX! My zen and cool evaporate as I realize we’ve scheduled the shoot for the exact same weekend the CNE has it’s annual AIR SHOW. The Air Show, which features house-shaking jets that fly about a mile from where we’re shooting ALL DAY LONG.*
5 DAYS BEFORE WE GO TO CAMERA
On each short film project I learn a new appreciation for the different roles people play in making a film. For example, in an earlier short, I hoped we could use clothes from the actors’ personal wardrobes. Now, because the actors were very different from the characters they were playing, it didn’t really work, and I ended up doing some desperate last-minute shopping to find suitable costumes. For Secret Blackheart, I knew I needed a Costume Designer (and found a great one in Deborah Burton!), but this time out I thought I could cover the props myself. Which is why, a few days before the shoot, I find myself at a prop house, trying out different Pirate swords. And picking up a peg leg. “Oh… the peg leg… I’m not sure where that is…” Mm hm. The beautiful, wearable peg leg from your website, the one that I called about, that I said I was coming to pick up? That I drove across town to get? “Right… It must be here somewhere…” It isn’t. A poor (unwearable) substitute is offered instead. After telling Deb I would cover the peg leg, and having sourced no other options, and with no time left to devote to finding another, I grudgingly accept the substitute and zen it out – we will make it work.
TWO DAYS BEFORE WE GO TO CAMERA
Many more elements have fallen into place. We are (finally!) fully crewed, and all the gear has been reserved. We are shooting at my house and the set is coming together beautifully, thanks to the many talents of David Grenier, an amazing artist and good friend with whom I’ve collaborated on all my film projects. Only one thing is missing at this point- the double for Emily Hampshire, who will be playing two roles in the film. This is an important element to be missing, but I’m feeling pretty zen and cool about the whole thing, as I have a back-up plan – If we can’t find a double, our Exec Producer Jennifer Liao has gamely agreed to do the job. Jen doesn’t really look like Emily, but, as I wait for Emily to arrive at the Pearson airport (feeling as if I’m about to begin some strange new romance), I think – we will make it work.
THE SHOOT – DAY ONE
I am ready. I haven’t slept much due to extreme excitement, but I am ready. The rehearsals and costume fittings have gone well. The set is ready. I have a shot list prepared. We have even found a last-minute double for Emily! I take a moment to read over my list of directing rules (a personal list I’ve compiled through experience and observation, which goes something like - trust your instincts, don’t be glib, don’t swear, dress professionally). Uh oh. I realize I should probably iron a shirt or something. I remember my iron is inside a closet that is now totally inaccessible due to the lighting and grip gear stacked in front of it. I settle on the most professional-looking t-shirt I can find.
The day goes extremely well. Emily Hampshire and Melanie Scrofano are amazing in their roles, and a delight to work with. I marvel at my terrific good fortune that they’ve both agreed to be a part of this short film. They play best friends who’ve known each other for years, and despite having only met the previous day, are totally convincing, and share a wonderful chemistry on screen. Ben Lichty, our Cinematographer Extraordinaire, works big miracles in small windows of time, allowing us to maximize our shooting efforts. Even the Air Show’s not too troublesome! Although, when I comment on that fact out loud, the entire crew groans and uniformly believes I’ve now cursed the production.
The curse is quick to materialize as we realize our night exterior location is not going to work moments before we’re to shoot there. We think fast, improvise another location, and the scene plays beautifully. Emily and Melanie are wrapped for the night, and we finish the day with a shot of our homeless guy (so convincingly played by Larry Dickison, he’d earlier made David nervous when he arrived for his costume fitting). The scene is working so well, I get an idea, and ask for the classic “one more shot”. As if in response, the practical lights we’d been working with turn off. Obviously set on a timer, there’s nothing else we can do – that’s a wrap!
THE SHOOT – DAY TWO
Our second day starts late. We fear the jets will be more of an issue, so we’ve pushed the call by an hour. The call time was already pretty late as we need to do all our pirate stuff at night, but I’m glad it’s a late start as I use the morning to really try and wrap my head around the pirate scene, which I know will be complex.
The day is off to a great start! The first scene goes really well, and we even manage to get a couple additional shots off from a scene we did the day before. Markian, our hilarious first AD, keeps everyone in stitches with his many industry-related zingers. He and I both marvel at Ben’s use of the term “wasting” (as in – “Justin, let’s waste a bit more of that light” – ie, use less of it), which neither of us has heard before. I later try using the term – “David, let’s waste a bit of that door”, and am outrageously pleased when Ben claims to be impressed.
We begin the pirate scene after lunch (our lunch, that is, which happens at a normal person’s dinner hour) and we really have our work cut out for us. It’s a complicated scene by any measure, made more so by the fact we didn’t have Emily’s double at the rehearsal, and there is a lot of technical stuff to work out. We calmly power through it, though, even as Markian’s jokes get increasingly bizarre as the night wears on. (Discussing the EX that will open soon for it’s last day, Markian offers ‘to go and get Ben anything he wants – anything deep-fried! Come on- what would Ben like…? Maybe a deep-fried Arri Alexa…?!’**)
Finally, it’s time for the peg leg’s close-up, and so far this thing has been a total, unusable disaster, but we really only need it for one shot. Tom joins forces with Deb and somehow they get the damn thing attached to Emily’s leg. We roll camera and manage to get about 10 seconds of peg leg footage before it falls off. It’s enough – we made it work.
We wrap, and I’m so thankful for the amazing, dedicated efforts of everyone involved. More than just making it work, we made something special that has the potential to be a pretty cool little film.
THE WRAP UP
I find sleep elusive for the next few days, as I can’t stop editing the film in my head. I decide I won’t even look at the footage for a couple of weeks in order to get a fresher perspective for post-production. It’s not a difficult decision, as my days are surprisingly jam-packed with gear returns, ACTRA paperwork, and the general clean-up and putting-back-together of my house.
Although I’m exhausted, I’m very, very happy. It’s been an incredible experience, and one I can’t wait to repeat.
Right now, the film is being organized, the footage synched, and editing will begin in the next few days. I’m aiming to have the whole thing done by Christmas (if not sooner), and will try to post more frequent updates on the film’s progress in the next few weeks.
HUGE THANKS to everyone involved in the film, and to all the Indiegogo Supporters who made this project possible in the first place!
* If you’ve ever tried to record sound when an airplane flies overhead, you know that it makes any audio recording unusable as the noise from the airplane blankets the sound of whatever it is you’re trying to record. Like dialogue for a movie, for example.
** This joke is so strange it totally cracks me up, not just at the time of hearing it, but for many, many days after.
Aug 14 2012
The indiegogo campaign is over and I’m thrilled to report I exceeded my indiegogo goal! (If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to watch the (1 minute) video I made for the campaign as it won’t be up forever.)
The whole thing was great fun. I gave away 7 tiny desires, and received contributions from 90 people! Also, LIFT has awarded the project a Production Support Grant worth $2000 in equipment rentals, which is amazing!
So, the project is off to a great start! Many, many thanks to all the people who contributed to the campaign, and shared it with their friends, and sent terrific messages of encouragement!
Now it’s time to make a film. And not just any film, but a GREAT film that honours the good will and support of everyone who’s participated so far! And, it’s all happening RIGHT NOW! The momentum from the indiegogo campaign has swept us right into pre-production and we are just a couple weeks away from shooting!
Aug 6 2012
Especially Shakespeare in High Park!
After years of talking about going to check this out, we FINALLY went last night and now I wish I’d gone every year, it was so much fun.
A great production, great cast, and a wonderful, even magical, setting.
Check it out if you can! Tues – Sunday at 8pm, until September 2nd.
Jul 23 2012
It’s been 12 days of Secret Blackheart Indiegogo campaigning and this is what’s happened so far…
There have been an amazing 600 visitors to the site!
60 of those 600 visitors have contributed to the campaign!
4 tiny desires have been given away!
Which means… I am very close to reaching my official Indiegogo goal of $5000! (And that means the website takes a smaller percentage of the money raised than if your goal is not reached).
Now, there are still 18 days left of the 30-day campaign and I have many other paintings to give away. A lot of people have said they would still love to participate, (and the people who already have would love another chance to win a painting!) so I am committed to trying to raise as much money as possible to put towards the film’s $12 000 budget.
Thanks so much to everyone who’s already participated in this project in some way – by contributing, by sharing, or just by expressing interest and encouragement!
Very soon, I’ll have an update on how the film itself is coming together…
Jul 15 2012
If visited this blog in the past week and clicked on the Secret Blackheart image below, then you already know what I’m talking about…
I’ve written and will be directing a new short film, called Secret Blackheart. It’s a funny, dark, and ultimately moving film about Kate, a young woman who faces her deepest fear with a little help from her best friend, as well as her inner pirate. (That’s right. Her inner Pirate.) It’s my most ambitious film project to date, and I’m extremely lucky to have two terrific actors on board – Emily Hampshire (Cosmopolis, The Trotsky), who will be playing the challenging dual role of Kate & The Pirate-
This film is hugely important to me both as an artist, and as a filmmaker. It marks the first time I will be working with professional actors, and I so look forward to collaborating with them on this special project! Also, although Secret Blackheart is a stand-alone, autonomous film, I wrote it in the same tone as a feature film I’m developing and intend to use the short as a kind of example to point to, to help people (investors, distributors, future collaborators) better understand the larger project. This short film represents the next level in my filmmaking career as well as my development as an artist, and I can’t wait to shoot it!
Unfortunately, the budget for this project will be considerably higher than my previous short films, which is why I’ve started an Indiegogo fundraising campaign! I made a short video, licensed a song from With Etiquette, borrowed a mic from a friend and recorded a voice over.
(which I have to confess was the most challenging part of the whole endeavor.)
Anyway, check it out and contribute if you can! Everyone who does (and it doesn’t matter the amount), gets the chance to win one of my 100 tiny desire paintings. (There are 20 left – you can see pics here) The campaign has been live for 5 days and it’s off to a great start – nearly halfway to my $5000 goal!
Jul 10 2012
It’s been a busy summer so far! In the interest of putting some indie film karma in the indie film karma bank, I’ve been working on a couple independent projects lately. One of them is Sex After Kids – a low budget feature that has loads of charm, a terrific director, a great cast, and… a very inspiring indiegogo campaign! What is indiegogo, you ask?
I recommend clicking the picture below and finding out…
Jun 25 2012
VERY GOOD MOVIE! Creepy, smart, beautiful. I watched it a couple of weeks ago and it has haunted me since. Sean Durkin wrote and directed this tense film about a young woman who leaves (escapes?) a cult and goes to stay with her sister and her sister’s husband in their country house. Elizabeth Olsen plays the young woman and Sarah Paulson plays her sister. I was especially happy to see Sarah Paulson in this film as I adored her in Down With Love (a verrry fun comedy/romance with Ewan McGregor and Reneé Zellweger)
MMMM is worth watching for it’s use of flashbacks alone. I love subjective cinema and this is a terrific example in that genre. Or… category? Can you call it a genre? Anyway, the story cuts between the present and the past at the cult, and there was one shot where I literally didn’t know where we were supposed to be, but in the best way! The protagonist was so messed up and I felt Durkin did a great job of conveying that through the structure of the film. It was confusing without being confusing, if that makes any sense. If you’ve seen it- the shot I’m referring to is the one where Olsen is on her hands and knees, cleaning the floor, and you hear a male voice asking what she’s doing…
Also worth a watch is Durkin’s short film Mary Last Seen (it was included on the DVD I rented). It’s built around the same topic (young women & cults), but shows how someone might get into one, as opposed to get out. It’s a great example of very visual storytelling and I found it to be rich, inspiring, and totally [...]
Jun 11 2012
At Soulpepper until July 4th, Kim’s Convenience is a play with humour, heart, and smarts that has real Toronto texture. Written by Ins Choi, I saw it a couple weeks ago and loved it. Check it out if you can.
Equally inspiring are Brian Rea’s illustrations for Soulpepper’s 2012 season. Soulpepper has always had wonderful posters and this year is no exception- a collection of gorgeous, graphic distillations of the plays they promote. Hard to say, but my favorite might be the one he did for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Check out other examples of Brian Rea’s terrific work here.
Jun 4 2012
Starting tomorrow, and running till June 10, is the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival. I’ve been to this fest many times and always come away feeling inspired, informed, and impressed. Great short films and terrific symposiums- it is definitely worth checking out if you’re in Toronto this week and interested in film. Great nuts-and-bolts-kind of lectures for filmmakers on organizations like bravoFACT! ACTRA, and Telefilm as well as a master class with director Jean-Marc Vallée this year on Saturday the 9th.
Years ago, I attended the fest and saw Richie Mehta and his producer David Miller talk about the process of making Mehta’s short film Amal into a feature. They gave an example of the pitch they used when describing the project and I was blown away by what a great communicator Mehta was. (Miller, too – they had definitely developed and honed their schtick together- it seemed a totally effortless presentation.) They have both gone on to make other films, and I recently caught an interview with Mehta done by Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund.
Once again, I was very impressed by Mehta’s articulate passion for films and the filmmaking process. I was particularly inspired by his comments about the director caring only for what’s in the frame. As someone who works in the industry and witnesses first-hand the off-screen drama (much of it entertaining, and all of it distracting), I thought this was a seemingly obvious, but particularly smart thing to articulate. The interview is well worth a watch-
May 31 2012
Okay, so Lena Dunham is, like, a genius. And very, very talented. And totally fearless. If you haven’t already, check out her HBO series Girls and her (ahem, second!) feature film, Tiny Furniture. And, did I mention, she’s like, maybe, 26? Holy Toledo, Dunham has it going on. Tiny Furniture was released as part of the Criterion Collection and includes some of her early shorts (Hooker On Campus is my fav) which are well worth a watch.writer/director/star Lena Dunham in ‘Girls’
May 31 2012
Toronto filmmaker extraordinaire and champion of the low-budget DIY approach, Ingrid Veninger is screening all three of her feature films at The Royal (starting June 14th with ‘I am a good person/I am a bad person’) and putting the profits into a $1000 feature film challenge. She’s hoping to fund 5 films (which she will executive produce) and everyone who submits a proposal is invited to participate in a master class with herself and some cool colleagues. Applications are due June 21st.
I love, love, love Veninger’s hustle and flow. She’s community-minded and all-around encouraging, and while I personally am not up for the challenge at this particular point, I wish all those who are good luck! (While mulling the idea over, I did get an idea for a new script, though. Not a $1000-pitch-it-in-a-month kind of idea, but something I’m really looking forward to exploring. So, thanks for the inspiration, Ingrid!)
For more info and guidelines on the $1000 feature film challenge, go to- pUNK FILMS.
Mar 25 2012
I’ve been writing a lot lately, most recently on a new draft of a feature script, and was recently reminded of that old screenwriting adage- ‘Kill your darlings.’
There were probably five or six serious ‘darlings’ in my script, and each one of these sparkly little gems have been imbedded in this story since it’s earliest conception. I say ‘were’ because yesterday I killed them all, and now they lie dead under my desk, a glittering reminder that good writing can often be painful, and should always be merciless.
It’s amazing to me how much this process is driven by gut feelings. Of course, the brain plays a major part, but at some point it must take a backseat to the gut, where it can only yell out harmful directions that you must work hard at ignoring. Things like ‘Leave that in- it inspired the title, for God’s sake!’ or ‘Don’t take that out- that’s the funniest part!’ or ‘What are you doing?! Are you trying to wreck the whole damn thing?!’.
La, la, la. Not listening, Brain. Gut, drive on.
Mar 10 2012
Long time no blog and no update, I know. My approach this year has been to do more and talk about the process less, which is unfortunately the opposite of blogging. Rest assured, though- things are moving along very well here at CFAAF headquarters and the minute I have concrete news to share, share I will…
In the meantime, I saw a film recently that you should definitely check out if you haven’t already- Another Earth. Directed by Mike Cahill, and co-written (with Cahill) and starring Brit Marling, this is a real gem of a film.
To quote Filmmaker magazine- Another Earth is a lo-fi, sci-fi fable about forgiveness, self-knowledge and our perpetual quest for a new beginning.
After you marvel at the all-around loveliness of this movie, I recommend reading the interview in the magazine with Cahill and Marling – two cool, smart folks whose DIY approach is terrifically inspiring. (It’s especially interesting to hear how they did the ending.)
And yes, once again going against the social media grain, I like to read about interesting films in Filmmaker magazine, watch them at least eight months later, re-read the article in Filmmaker and then blog about the film online. It’s good fun! I noticed the Film Buff recently acquired Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture (featured in Filmmaker’s 2010 issue), which I’m hoping to catch this weekend… stay tuned!
Feb 22 2012
Ok, so I don’t claim to be an expert on this kind of thing, but it occurred to me to write this post when I was at a pitching event earlier this month and witnessed some truly clueless pitchers. The write-up for the event said bring a ONE SHEET & NO SCRIPTS, PLEASE. Fair enough. I had what I thought was a rough idea of how to put together a one sheet and, after speaking to my fellow pitchers in the line-up for this thing, realized one person’s rough is another person’s very, very polished. So, I write this post today in the spirit of giving back to my fellow emerging filmmakers who are looking for a little guidance in this area.
First off, what is a one sheet?
As defined by wikipedia- ‘In the entertainment industry, a one-sheet or one sheet is a single document that summarizes a product for publicity and sales.’
It can also mean a poster for a film, but for our purposes we’re going to talk about the kind of one sheet that is literally a single 8 X 10 piece of paper designed to offer an easy, at-a-glance understanding of the film you are pitching to the pitchee, who will (hopefully) be reading it.
A one sheet typically includes…
- some kind of visual representation of the film (an image in the form of a poster, for example, or a logo maybe). I realize that having a background in visual arts is a huge advantage in this department, but I really believe with today’s access to photoshopping, image searches on line, iphone cameras, etc. anyone can pull together some kind of image that captures something of the essence of the project for a one sheet.
- a BRIEF synopsis of the film. DO NOT fill a one sheet with [...]
Feb 2 2012
I recently saw a movie called Texuality that features the lovely Carly Pope playing a very unrealistic artistic type. Now, I’m a sucker for nice clothes and apartments in movies, but seeing yet another struggling painter (who supports herself blogging?) in yet another huge gorgeous loft space takes me so far out of the movie, I might as well be reading it’s budget.
One of the best portrayals of artists I have ever seen is Catherine Keener’s Adele Lack in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York. Of course it helps that it’s also a great film- wonderful, funny, sad, and a truly ambitious work of art. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. And see it again if you have – it’s definitely a film that rewards multiple viewings.
Anyway, Adele has a messy house and uses the space in her basement adjacent to her washer and dryer as a studio – a reality for many working artists and a far cry from a huge, gorgeous loft. Adele paints on the walls of her messy house and her even messier studio. Adele’s artwork all looks like it was done by the same person, and Catherine Keener does an excellent job of pretending to paint, unlike some actors who have obviously been instructed to go over the same area again and again. (Although they wisely don’t actually show much painting in the film).
Charlie Kaufman has an obvious respect and affinity for painters (in the interview included on the DVD extras he even makes comparisons between his work and that of a painter’s), and it shows not just in the way he gets the surface details right, but also in the character as a whole- Adele is [...]
Jan 21 2012
(It’s my new thing for the new year – blogging in list form.)
1. aesthetics of joy – a great blog, with the subtitle design + delight. My favorite recent entry – the Rothko-inspired cookies.
2. The wonderful documentary on Woody Allen by Robert Weide that aired on PBS. A very intimate look at his process and a terrifically entertaining film overall – a must if you’re a Woody Allen fan like me.
3. Great books! I’ve been reading a lot lately and have been simply blown away by The Corrections and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, as well as The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (which has one of the best book covers I’ve ever seen.)
4. The work of Dan Stiles – especially his gorgeous artwork for The Sisters Brothers.
5. Tebowie – not just hilarious, it also sparked a revival of David Bowie classics in my house. Google it. Right now.
Dec 31 2011
I saw Mission Impossible 4 and, what can I say? It’s awesome. (Well done, Brad Bird, Tom Cruise, et al!) If you haven’t already, you should go see it at once – on the big screen, preferably IMAX.
I loved this movie so much it has informed my New Year’s resolutions for 2012. Here they are, in no particular order – the top 5 things I learned from Mission Impossible 4:
1. “Light the fuse.”
Like a battle cry, but no need to yell – that’s right, it’s time to get started.
2. Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to change it up.
By busting out a fellow inmate in your Russian prison at the last minute, for example.
3. Visit a foreign country.
Always a good idea, and something I don’t do enough.
4. Be persistent, daring, and bold in pursuit of your goals.
Even if it means going back outside the building to get in – oh, yeah.
Your body is your best instrument and you never know when you, too, will be doing your own stunts.
BEST WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR!
Dec 11 2011
I finally saw this classic – on the big screen at the Lightbox, no less!
And it was gorgeous. And weird. And wonderfully artificial in many senses – the look, the theme. In fact, that’s probably my favorite thing about Hitchcock- his beautiful artifice.
Just look at those eyebrows!
Rear Window remains my favorite of his films, though, and I think it’s because the whole thing is movie-movie artificial. It’s obviously a set and the thing works as a whole. What was most jarring about Vertigo for me were the exterior shots in the California countryside- too natural! Too normal! I was taken out of the film and reminded of all the California-set detective shows I saw as a kid. (Not fair to Hitch, I know, but…)
One of the best parts of Vertigo for me was the scene in the bookshop, where the light is slowly dying as the shop owner is talking. When James Stewart and Barbara Bel Geddes walk outside, the lights come on inside (behind them) and it’s wonderful- we’ve watched night fall in a totally contrived way- I loved it! I love lighting cues like that in movies. And the control, the craft, the colour! I love sets that look like sets – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a great example.
Also loved the crazy obsession that is the driving force of the film – some say a pointed attack from Hitch to Grace Kelly – his favourite cool blonde who had recently quit acting to become royalty. A “see? I can turn anyone into a cool blonde like you” kind of thing.
Dec 10 2011
I rented this movie last night* after reading about it and it’s creators in Filmmaker magazine.
It is a highly original, emotional, and intense film. It has an unreliable narrator (one of my favorite narrative modes), and some beautiful and striking cinematography. It also has a terrific making-of story that is super inspiring in a DIY, balls-to-the-wall kind of way.
And the title (taken from a street in the film) makes me laugh.
This is a picture of some Bellflowers-
And this is a picture from the film-
Check it out.
* that’s right- I still rent movies. Yay, Film Buff!
Nov 19 2011
Yup, this weekend is when one of my all-time favorite film fests happens- Breast Fest 2011.
If you live in the Toronto area, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s incredibly well put together and in my experience the films have always been highly entertaining, inspiring, and moving.
Rethink is the organization behind it all and here’s a very clever PSA they did recently promoting self-exams-
Oct 23 2011
Freshly released from it’s contract with short film distributor Ouat! Media, I present to you my very first attempt at filmmaking- Deliver Me.
Made in 2006, at a point when I had taken exactly one filmmaking class* and never been on a real film set in my life, this short is strangely still my favorite filmmaking effort so far. What can I say? It’s really raw, but it makes me laugh, and, weirdly, every theme in this film (obsession, denial, addiction issues, health issues, etc.) has surfaced again and again in all my work since.
*the excellent LIFT workshop – Super 8 Guerilla Filmmaking for Absolute Beginners
Sep 25 2011
Long time no blog.
Apologies for that, faithful readers- I’ve been back in action writing and working on set, leaving little time for blogging, unfortunately.
I have, however, some good news I’d like to share with you… I just finished (and by just, I mean, like 5 minutes ago) a real, honest-to-goodness draft of a new feature script. And it rocks. Seriously.
Let’s call it R&F for now, and aside from a little spell-checking, it is ready to submit to the Canada Council for a scriptwriting grant which would (hopefully!) fund another draft or two.
In other news, Nicola and I heard from the CFC again and once again learned that the shortlist selection process has been delayed- this time until mid- October.
Sep 3 2011
As summer winds down I feel the need for a little… I don’t even know what to call it… Re-cap? Refresher on what’s been happening?
A whole lot of not much, to be honest. Oh, sure there’s been good progress made on the writing front (difficult to write about and most likely boring to read about), I’ve had films in a couple of festivals (thank you Parkdale Film & Video Showcase and Wakefest!), but aside from that, I’ve been JC* and it’s been a terrific summer for filling up the much-depleted artistic gas tank.
So, instead of a re-cap, I offer you a few things that I really enjoyed this summer, that (if you are not already familiar with), I would recommend checking out this fall.
1. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Terrific book. One of the best I’ve read in years. (A Nicola recommend, so there you go.) Also, The Outlander by Gil Adamson (A Fiona Walker recommend. And gift- thanks Fee!), and lastly, a bit of delicious non-fiction- The Chairs Are Where The People Go by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti. (This one is particularly fun if, like me, you live in the west end of Toronto.)
2. Spending time in nature. I especially recommend going to some place where you can’t get cell phone reception. This was a magical thing for me and led directly to enjoying #1.
3. The work of Miranda July and Mike Mills. Ok, so what if they’re married- do they deserve to be lumped together? Probably not, but I can’t stop thinking about them as a package now. A narrating cat, a subtitled dog. Their films have too many sweet similarities not to compare and contrast. And enjoy, in their own special way.
4. The hipstamatic app for iphone. A friend tried to [...]
Aug 24 2011
Aug 19 2011
Nicola and I finally got word about our application to CFC Features:
“Due to various circumstances the selection committee is still finalizing their decisions for the short list, and the turnaround time for notifying applicants is taking longer than usual. Please know that your project is still in consideration for the short list. We anticipate final decisions to be made by early September, with interviews happening later that month.”
That’s fine – I love September. That old back-to-school feeling of renewal and fresh starts and new projects. And, of course, there’s also that fun little film fest.
Speaking of which… Cinematographer extraordinaire Ben Lichty (the man behind the camera on Two Words) has a film in this year’s TIFF – Ingrid Veninger’s I am a good person/I am a bad person.
I am a person who is looking forward to this film.
For some serious filmmaking inspiration check out Ingrid’s website. In particular I recommend checking out her press kit where you can read all about her process and the film’s journey and just generally marvel at her chutzpah.
Aug 14 2011
… are still not in!
After a May 27 deadline and an expected wait of 6-8 weeks, Nicola and I have yet to hear anything about our CFC Features application.
Meanwhile, the summer is sliding by in waves of writing and working on set. This past week saw a break from both, though, as I took a much-needed and much-appreciated vacation. It’s amazing what a little time in nature, (especially time out of cell phone range) can do for a person- I’m feeling refreshed and inspired.
My partner and I went to a place very far up north, a place I haven’t been to in 10 years. In fact, the last time I was there I was at a very different stage in my artistic life.
Yes, I was painting landscapes.
When I spent the majority of my time painting, my Mother always told me I should paint landscapes (“because people like landscapes”)* and one year, sick of working in restaurants to support my art, I decided to see if she was right. Well, people don’t like landscapes, they love landscapes, and I gained a new appreciation for landscape paintings and painters. It was a strange and difficult year, though, as I’m not naturally drawn to this subject matter as an artist and painting, which was previously a joy, became a job. At the same time, I was just starting to explore the film path and was increasingly frustrated by the bizarre fact that all my time was being sucked up by these landscapes. I did make some money from this experiment, but the effort required (it takes time to do anything well) and the increasingly soul-less feeling I was feeling didn’t quite balance out, so back to the restaurant it was…
Anyway, while up north [...]
Jul 29 2011
TIFF recently published the list of films coming this way in September and Sarah Polley’s Take this Waltz is one of the Gala Presentations.
I’m quite excited to see this film. It has a great director, great cast, rumored great script (it made The Black List a couple years ago) and a very appealing colour scheme.
Part of this image is featured in the poster for the film and I love the poppy, primary colours and gorgeous summertime lighting. (Other images from the film on the TIFF website show more of the same.)
I also love the way this particular photo captures a sort of old-fashioned Norman Rockwell kind of feeling (the diner setting, the old milkshake machines), but subverts it at the same time with their suggestive expressions and martinis.
Nice work SP & DP Luc Montpellier!*
Looking forward to September…
* and, of course, the rest of the cast & crew. (some of whom I know personally and am happy to report that they all spoke very highly of SP and had a lovely experience working on this lovely looking film.)
Jul 24 2011
… is that she’s just so awesome.
Inspiring in a way that makes me want to be exactly like her. Except I know that I’m not exactly like her and even trying to be exactly like her would be the exact opposite of being exactly like her because she seems to be so totally herself that she would want everyone else, including me, to be totally themselves, too.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out her new blog for her new movie The Future, or her old blog, which includes her new blog and everything else.
Jul 17 2011
No, not election(s) in general, Election the movie from 1999, directed by Alexander Payne and written by him and Jim Taylor from a novel by Tom Perrotta. Starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon.
I recently got back a stack of DVDs from Fiona (of Deliver Me, Two Words, and Pink fame), which I lent to her last year after she broke her knee, and promptly re-watched one of my all-time favs. If you’ve never seen this film, I strongly encourage you to do so immediately and have thoughtfully compiled a list of reasons why…
1. The story. So simple, yet so brilliant. A solid piece of entertainment built around a high school election that also manages to explore it’s very serious theme of ethics and morals on every level (including filmically!).
2. Matthew Broderick as Jim McAllister. Fantastic actor, and a pleasure to have watched go from great teen movies (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) to great adult movies (see also You Can Count On Me).
3. Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick. One of my favorite actresses working today. Can do leading lady as well as character pieces. Comedy. Drama. She sings. She’s amazing. Reese can do no wrong.
4. Discriminating and excellent use of swear words.
5. The language/writing in general. (As highlighted by DVD scene selection titles such as ‘harmonious & productive’, and ‘slanderous accusations’.)
6. The voice overs. While most films demonstrate how one voice-over is too much, Election proves that four is just right.
7. The music. Not just the wonderful score by Rolfe Kent, but the excellent song choices and wonderful ‘sting’ used whenever Reese Witherspoon’s character gets mad (a piece by Ennio Morricone originally composed for the spaghetti western Navajo Joe)
8. Larry Fouch. The Election Committee Chairman played by Nick D’Agosto in [...]
Jul 15 2011
Jul 4 2011
It’s been a busy time here at CRAAF headquarters.
Doing lots of dailies, mostly on TV shows, with one notable feature film exception. Long hours all around, but also managing to get some writing in- I recently finished a (very) rough draft of a new feature script and it’s been incredibly refreshing to live in a different world after the ‘Emily’ onslaught with the CFC application.
Speaking of which… In just a few short weeks, Nicola and I find out if we’ve been short-listed for a interview even though I managed to bounce the application check (yep, just plain forgot about it- very unlike me). Nicola was understandably pissed, and for a heart-stopping weekend I thought I’d gotten us kicked out of the whole selection process. The kind folks at the CFC were very understanding, however (apparently this happens more than you’d think) and let us hang in there (hoping ‘hang’ isn’t the operative word here). I also managed to have a major script breakthrough on ‘Emily’- the kind that naturally happens only after you’ve submitted an important application. Fantastic for the project as a whole, but anxiety-producing for the pending submission. (If only they could read the script that’s in my head!)
And so it continues- working & waiting. Waiting & working.
Jun 27 2011
I meant to get this up last week in time for the Season 2 Premiere, but here it is, in time for the 2nd episode this Thursday on Global at 10pm.
I worked on this show quite a lot as a daily AD. It was a sweet gig- working downtown with a great crew and super talented cast.
Best of luck to Rookie Blue for their second season!
Jun 26 2011
Last night Pink screened in the “Screening Under The Stars” program of the Parkdale Film & Video Showcase.
This was the first time I, or any of my collaborators, had seen this little short with an audience and we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of laughter we got for our efforts. I have to say there is little else that is as gratifying as making people laugh (making them cry? maybe I’ll find out one day…).
Anyway, there is a wealth of talent here in Parkdale. This particular fest leans toward the arty, so last night there was a lot of stuff I probably wouldn’t give thirty seconds to, if it passed before me on my tv screen. I’m one of those people who definitely has to see slower paced stuff on the big screen, where I’m sort of, uh, captive and less distracted. Last night, the final film in the program was an abstraction of Norman McLaren’s 1968 film Pas de Deux, which, frankly, I thought would be boring as hell (one look at the description and running time – 12 minutes!), but instead I found it wonderfully inspiring and came away with some ideas for new paintings, of all things! The film is called Plus de Deux, and it’s by an artist named David Frankovich.
Lovely night, all around.
Jun 11 2011
Pink was just accepted into the Parkdale Film and Video Showcase!
One of my all-time favorite film festivals, it used to be known as the Parkdale REHAB Film Festival* and it was where I had my first ever public screening. (My first short Deliver Me screened there back in 2007.)
The festival is organized by the Parkdale Beauty Pageant Society, a renewable collective of local artists, curators and arts educators.
Pink is screening at the Fuller Avenue Parkette on Saturday, June 25th, so come on out! In the fest’s words-
“Bring your own blankets and snacks and settle in under the stars for a family-friendly, fun and thought-provoking outdoor screening of new and recent film and video shorts by Parkdale-based artists. Our most popular event is PWYC!”
In other news, Pink’s excellent camera-man, Jon Wayne Brown, just heard that his television project The Small Time was shortlisted for NSI’s TV development program- Totally Television.
Good luck, Jon!
*Parkdale’s all rehabilitated now, hence the name change.
Jun 7 2011
This afternoon I struggled with burning yet another DVD for yet another application. Now, every submission guideline for every grant/film fest/whatever is different, so that means that each accompanying reel/clip/collection of films on the accompanying DVD has to be re-edited/burned/whatever. Being semi-tech-literate, this process usually takes me at least four times longer than it should and today was no exception. This particular DVD is for an application to TIFF’s Talent Lab, a very fun-looking program that takes place during the festival in September.
As DVDs must be dropped off at the Bell Lightbox, I think I will time my drop-off to catch a screening of Good Neighbours – Jacob Tierney’s latest film starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, and the wonderful Scott Speedman.
Check out the trailer below – It looks like a deliciously noirish good time.
LATE BREAKING UPDATE:
So engrossed in Good Neighbours, I completely forgot to drop off my DVD while at the Lightbox- doh! Will now have to courier it tomorrow to meet the deadline, as I’m on set all day. Needless to say, the film is definitely worth a watch, especially at the gorgeous Lightbox theatre!
May 27 2011
Our application to the CFC Features program, that is.
Yes, Nicola and I slipped our application in under the wire this afternoon, just two hours before the five o’clock deadline. We’re feeling pretty great about the app, but more importantly, about the project itself- we ended up learning a lot about our feature Emily while putting the package together- the part of grant writing I’ve always appreciated. Plus, I learned a lot about grammar! Nicola is just a few months away from getting her PHD in English and I must say, it was both fun and trippy writing with someone who could definitively answer the semi colon question; should it go here?
(No. Definitely not there, in case you were wondering.)
May 25 2011
Nicola and I have been hard at work on our application to the CFC Features program (3 days to deadline), and one of the most difficult parts of the process has been the film’s marketing strategy.
Of course! How you want to market the film makes you ask the difficult questions that you should already know the answers to (especially if you’re doing a marketing strategy!) – What is this film about? Who is it for? What other films does it remind you of? The first two questions are no problem, but the third is a little tricky, especially if it’s not yet a completed film.
For some reason (procrastination, probably), I thought about this video I saw a few years ago. Not totally related to what I was just saying, but fun all the same…
May 10 2011
May 6 2011
May 1 2011
Barney’s Version was just plain satisfying!
Superb acting*, wonderful craft (including amazing hair and make-up), beautifully photographed and, most important, of course- a juicy story.
It was a fun night out at the Revue.
If you didn’t catch it at the theatres, I highly recommend it as a rental.
*Scott Speedman, in particular, was a revelation.
May 1 2011
Okay, technically it’s take 3, but I can’t really count my first application. I applied alone, with possibly the worst script ever, and the thinking that I was going to switch gears from painting into filmmaking and make a feature film immediately. Don’t get me wrong – I believe it’s possible, but in my case I seriously underestimated my own learning curve. (It’s still curving! Look at it curve! It’s like the God Damn Appalachians!)
Cut to a few years later and the ever-lasting optimism that this is it! The biggest differences between then and now is that desperation and self-delusion have been replaced with simple joy in the process and the confidence that even if we’re not accepted, this film is definitely getting made. How can I be so sure, you ask? Because this time, I have an awesome producer on board!
So, here it goes… the deadline is May 27, 26 days away as of today with quite a few AD dailies booked in there as well. Wish us luck. They’ve expanded the application guidelines this year, so the competition will be fierce!
For more info about CFC Features, click here.
Apr 21 2011
Cinematographer Ben Lichty, a friend and collaborator (he shot Two Words) was recently in Europe shooting Ingrid Veninger’s new film and sent me this pic, saying it made him think of Pink.
I love it- thanks, Ben! Can’t wait to see the new film…
Apr 19 2011
I began this post on a day off between my 2 weeks of work on set. I was working as an AD on re-shoots of a big movie and, as you can see by the title, the first week went very well.
I was high on the beautiful big-movie lighting and giddy over the collaboration of highly skilled technicians, all in the name of art. The movie was troubled, to be sure, but the key players were all so passionate about getting the story right, it was inspiring to witness.
The second week went, well, less well, and I am very happy to be back working on my own stuff, and throwing my money-making-lot back into the daily game. It’s amazing how long 2 weeks can seem when you’re strapped into the roller coaster of film production.
Apr 5 2011
I did a little spring cleaning on the website and thought I would take the opportunity to share the new version of Pink. This is the silent, 1 minute version that David and I will be submitting to TUFF. Enjoy-
ps. the script re-write went very well (ie, the operation was a success!) and now I’m back on set for a couple weeks.
A better report to follow shortly…
Apr 5 2011
Mar 17 2011
… taking a car apart, looking at all the pieces on the lawn and then trying to put it back together so it will run better. Or, at least, that’s the analogy that’s been in my mind for past re-writes.
As I get ready to start another revision of my feature script ‘Emily’ (yes, the same one I claimed was done in many past posts), a different analogy has come to mind and it’s been freaking me out a little.
This time, I feel like I’m a surgeon who’s about to operate. It’s a risky procedure, and the script will be in a lot of danger, but if I don’t try this operation, it will definitely die. The script has been prepped for surgery and is waiting for me to start writing…
At this point, I should probably mention that I worked on set for just under 19 hours yesterday. Yes. From 1pm Wednesday to 7:45am Thursday. And now, after 6 hours of sleeping in the day, I feel like I’m on drugs.