review

posted by victor @ 5:16 pm November 5, 2011 in film,life

The Darkening Sky DVD hit the proverbial shelves a few days ago. (Note: Distributors release films when it works best for them, not as soon as it’s delivered, which for us was way back in Spring). That means “it’s out there”, which means reviewers will (hopefully) be letting us know what they thought. Yikes, but at this point I’m so far into The Next Thing(s) that I’m way less concerned about what this might portend that I thought I’d be. Still…

Anyway here’s the first review I came across (thanks Google Alerts!). If the annoying POP-UP AD window doesn’t put you off (you can dismiss it as soon as it loads), you’ll find that the reviewer actually wrote a very thoughtful critique to go along with his 3 out of 4 stars. Sounds like a screenwriter himself (taking me to task on structure, specific acts, etc.). Bless him for taking the time to watch, digest, and put his thoughts in order.

For me the most exciting thing about filmmaking is having smart people get involved with your work. It starts with offering feedback on a concept, progresses to reacting to drafts of the script. Then once you have a movie rolling, you have brilliant creatives weighing in, picking apart the script and the vision as pertains to their particular field — strong opinions about everything from who might be best to cast in a role to which story nuances might need clarification (or toning down!). Eventually you get input on how a certain character should look, what they should wear, what the set should look like, etc., etc., etc… I suppose reviewers are the very last part of that chain — opining on how it all turned out.

festivities

posted by victor @ 3:55 pm October 29, 2010 in film,geek,life,writing

Yay! Participating in the Hollywood Film Festival was tons of fun. Heartfelt thanks to all who showed up, either in person or in spirit, to lend their support. Huge thanks, also, to my producer and all of the brilliant people involved in making Darkening Sky a reality.

But there were some technical issues. With picture and sound. A two-fer! Turns out that the HDCAM deck used for projection was, for some reason, set with Very Dark gamma, resulting in brightness/contrast levels that crushed anything remotely “dark” into “pure black.” This meant things that took a long time to get right — a shadowy something creeping across the floor of a room at night, for example — were completely invisible. Some of these were Story Points™. Plus something in the deck’s handling of the stereo/5:1 split made the audio ear-splittingly, painfully LOUD early on.

Now… When people complain about technical issues “wrecking” a film, I’m usually the asshole saying (or at least thinking) something like, “Well, the story either works, or it doesn’t.” Egad. Well, I’m happy (mostly) to report that I was (mostly) able to embrace this idea myself and (mostly) relax and move on. The performances ultimately came through and carried the day. The story I intended to tell was told. And by all reports, it made sense and was entertaining. Still, here is how I imagined a post-festival interview might have gone.

The screening and pre/post hangs were great fun, and the Hollywood Awards Gala was also great fun — of a different kind. Me and the Missus got to play dress-up and enjoy an open-bar, nice dinner, award ceremony and after-party (more open bar) at the Beverly Hilton… Along with a surprising array of stars I actually like, including, but not limited to: Helena Bonham Carter, Sean Penn, Sam Rockwell, Jodie Foster, Halle Berry, Aaron Sorkin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Christopher Nolan, Justin Long, Andrew Garfield, Annette Benning, Zach Galifianakis, Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall. Yikes. Being there at all would have been a thrill; being there as a filmmaker was completely awesome and inspiring.

finish line

posted by victor @ 6:24 pm June 17, 2010 in film,life,Uncategorized,writing

It’s done! Yes, the film is done, made, finished, complete, wrapped. I know this because at my writer’s group meeting a couple of weeks ago — when they ask if anyone has any announcements — I finally raised my hand and said that I’d just finished my first feature film. Because it was actually finished… Like, finished finished, as in through with post-production, with screeners making the rounds to various distributors (so everybody visualize whirled peas!).

Why no hollering from rooftops? Well, “finishing” turned out to be a little softer than I’d imagined, trickier to nail down than other phases of the operation. Like, say, wrapping the shoot, where cast and crew are not showing up tomorrow and it’s hugs all ’round. No, it’s more like scooting away from your desk late one night, hitting “render,” then going about your bidneh until this version makes the internal rounds and we’re all happy with it. So over the course of a few days a while back, we were happy with it, and I quietly realized, “So…it’s finished!” Then promptly spaced out, worked on other things, and took a trip to the desert. Now I’m back and we’re still finished. So it’s true!

People say that making a film is more like running a marathon than a doing flashy sprint, and I agree. I’d go one further and say it’s like running a marathon comprised of many, many, little sprints (some flashy, some not), with l-o-n-g breaks in between to assess, review, and prepare for the next. Also, the “finish line” is pretty amorphous and entirely subjective. Kind of “not with a bang, but with a whimper.” Only not as pathetic as that sounds! Plus it’s not “over” yet. Still need to get that distribution deal sorted! Just…one…more…step…!

made

posted by victor @ 3:03 pm January 30, 2010 in film,life,writing

wrappedOkay, so one little running joke throughout this “making a movie” adventure — at least in my head — has been deciding when, exactly, I can say it. Say, “I made a movie.” Okay we, but the point is, when can it actually be considered “made?” It’s important. Why? Well for one thing, I have a notion to get a tattoo commemorating each finished flicker.*

Originally, I figured it would be upon wrapping the shoot. I mean, it takes a LOT to get to that point, and well, you’ve definitely “shot” it, haven’t you. It’s fair, at this point, to say, “I shot a movie.” But — it’s not really a movie yet, is it… I mean, not at all. It’s certainly well on its way to being one at this point; quite unlikely that all this footage will just be shelved, set aside, forgotten. But there’s nothing to show for it. Not yet, not really, other than photos of how much fun/adventure it was!

premiereSo it must be later in the process. Okay, Final Cut! Not the (awesome) software, the event. As in, “We have a final cut!” The film is edited, and that edit is locked. Final. Surely at this point it’s “a movie,” isn’t it? Beginning, middle, end? You could actually sit down and watch it! Could, perhaps…but realistically, almost no one will. Or should! Temp sound, temp VFX, audio levels all over the map, colors still flat, etc., etc., etc. Sure it’s stitched together, but it’s still not presentable. Gah. Maybe it’s not “really real,” until it’s been screened, received (well or otherwise), bought and distributed. Surely THAT is a Made Movie…?? Come to the premiere! Buy it! Rent it!

Naw. Fuck that. I’m tired of waiting. Okay, how’s this: How about when there’s a bona fide, finished, color-corrected, sweetly mixed, tweaked, polished, awesomely awesome finished version of the film that we’re actually sending out on DVD as a screener? One we’ve shown at an official wrap party? ridertattooSounds good to me! Well, in that case, we’re only about one month out from me yelling from the rooftops! Figuratively, at least. And who knows, maybe even getting that tattoo. But…of what? The title? Logo? Hm… I know: Maybe it should be a likeness of Rider’s face… Something tasteful, say, covering my entire chest. Something…Classy. Yeah; I think know he’d like that.

* I don’t have any tattoos yet, but it always seemed to me like something that should mark a special achievement or goal having been reached. This seems to qualify.

suck wall

posted by victor @ 12:06 am May 2, 2009 in film,life,music,writing

blankcanvasThere comes a time on the road to artistry when one encounters the Wall Of Suck. That is the wall you hit where your natural ability at something leads you to actually study and practice it, which takes you to the point where you are met with the actual depth and breadth of your incompetence… Suddenly, you suck. Suddenly, it is devastatingly clear that your “natural ability” was just a starting place, a jumping off point on a journey to the place where you might actually get good at something. I call it a wall, because this is where you either give up (turn back) or your workload increases exponentially (i.e., your forward movement becomes a vertical climb). I’ve encountered it a few times in my life; some pursuits presented challenges I could not ignore and proceeded to engage with all my energy, damn the consequences… Others were ultimately revealed as misguided, and I bailed.

passionI think what pushes people up and over the wall is passion, pure and simple. Either this thing truly lights you up and inspires you, or it  does not. When it comes down to it, it’s just you and the _____ (guitar, blank canvas, whatever), and no one really gives a shit. If you don’t absolutely love doing it, you will not do the work, and you will continue sucking. The road ahead is arduous, lonely and often boring; frustration is constant (the curse of good taste comes strongly into play), and nothing but overriding love for the sheer doing of it will push you through. Plus you have to be stupid enough to actually think you can be great at something, and be willing to perform (show, tell, whatever) in front of others and be humiliated. Yay! Oh, and your work will truly suck — even after you get pretty good at it — and you will know it (and if you don’t, well, that’s a whole other animal not being discussed here).

So ultimately, the Wall Of Suck is your friend; when you hit it, don’t be discouraged…or do be discouraged, and stop wasting time lying to yourself about what it is you really want to do. It’s probably something else. The artists I am most interested in hearing from are the ones that can’t not do what they’re doing (not the ones trying to be famous/rich/loved for it).

am

posted by victor @ 7:30 pm April 2, 2009 in life

dscf0035I drive a ’66 Mustang. All/mostly stock/factory original, including the dashboard AM radio (the kind with push buttons that feel like they’re actually doing something, pulling cables and whatnot inside), with a tinny dash-top speaker to complete the experience.

savageAnd AM radio is freaking strange. Mostly talk, mostly right-wing, and holy shit, these are strange times for the right. I’ve caught certain tidbits in the past from Michael Savage. I found the guy at least entertaining, at best quasi-coherent and invigoratingly un-PC.

What I’m saying is, there’s not a lot to listen to. Then today, stuck in traffic, I stumbled onto him again, and wow. This guy has completely flipped his lid. Glenn Beck with a Brooklyn accent. Blathering about how much better America was in 1959 (where I’m from!!”).Kind of interesting what’s going on over on the right these days. That’s all.

burpee

posted by victor @ 9:19 pm March 29, 2009 in life

burpOr “burpie.” Either way, it’s a killer workout. Allegedly working every muscle group in your body, (sure feels like it) this move is also called “the prison workout,” as inmates allegedly find it a way to stay in ass-saving form while limited to tiny spaces.

One burpee = from a relaxed stand, crouch down, place palms flat on floor, kick feet out to put you in pushup position; do a pushup; snap feet back to where they were; straighten back up to a stand, stretching your arms above your head to finish (or jumping in the air, if you’re all hardcore). Set-wise, the idea is to do X (a reasonably achievable #), wait/stretch 1 minute, then subtract one… and so on (i.e., 10, then 9, then 8, etc.).

pushupbarsIt’s not very easy.

Stretch first; hold your abdominals tight on the kick-back (don’t let back “sway”). One tip I use that I haven’t seen elsewhere yet: Using something to elevate the hands slightly on that initial squat/pushup, to take some stress/load off lower back & wrists. I’m using a pair of pushup bars. I’m still all hardcore, tho.

blogging right

posted by victor @ 8:40 pm March 26, 2009 in life,writing

sknitterMy wife got into knitting some time ago. Seriously into knitting. She also happens to be a razor sharp design journalist who cracks me up around the house. Put it all together, and you have: The Perfect Blog.

This thing here (my “blog”) is a great example of everything a blog should not be: all over the map, idiosyncratic in the not-good way (“inbred” comes to mind)… I like writing things down (thus making them important), and it’s fun, but I am always shocked to see any significant amount of unique visitors show up in the logs… Wrong turns? Searches gone bad? Actually, these days I have been trying to write things that might be helpful to someone, somewhere (hence the usual geek-centricity), since I have been helped by so many who bothered to write down what they figured out/discovered and love the idea of paying it forward.

Sknitter, on the other hand, has everyting a blog should have: A smart, unique and informed voice, writing passionately on a single subject they know and love while curating interesting, related and on-topic links to fun and informative material. Terry loves doing it, it’s brilliant, and now (of course), it’s catching on.

experiencers

posted by victor @ 12:57 pm February 28, 2009 in life,writing

phoenixlightsI’m in the process of rewriting a sci-fi/horror thriller, and when a good friend alerted me to the UFO Conference being held this past week, I had to go check it out. Nothing like the real deal when it comes to fleshing out characterizations and connective tissue in a screenplay. An interesting presentation by Dr. Lynne Kitei on the Phoenix Lights phenomenon brought me up to speed on something  everyone apparently already knew about, and Peter Davenport gave what amounted to an excellent primer on ufo in a historical context.

But the very best part was our very first night in, an experiencers discussion group moderated by Barbara Lamb, and while a handful of insufferable blowhards threatened to eat up the allotted time, there were others who made it all worthwhile. This is what I’d come for, and the participants did not disappoint.

alienOne woman spoke very simply of a lifetime of dealing with multiple alien species, with her experiences of the events ranging from blissful transcendence to utter terror. When I asked her about it, she explained that it was mostly not knowing what was going on that was frightening, not any sense of malevolence on the part of her abductors. One man added that his repeated requests for explanations were answered only by a wordless communication from one annoyed extraterrestrial that “it doesn’t benefit us to become your teacher.” Others said that this was the same response they’d gotten. It made sense, really… Imagine if lab monkeys insisted on detailed explanations of every process they were forced to participate in. Then, imagine explaining, say, “antibiotics” or “mascara” to said monkey. Understandable that they aliens mostly just keep mum.

adventure

posted by victor @ 10:55 pm January 7, 2009 in life

parisWhen my wife and I married, we opted for a courthouse hitch, a trip to Paris, then a backyard celebration with close friends and family. One of the reasons to marry at all, we believed, was the involvement of people we care about in the declaration and promise of marriage. To that end, we came up with a plan (riffing off and expanding on ideas we’d seen elsewhere)…

Each attendee at the party would be assigned a word, something we agreed a great marriage should have — humor, authenticity, etc. The recipient would be someone who somehow symbolized the attribute to us, and would henceforth be a reminder to us to sustain and empower that aspect of our union. I hand-tooled the words onto the little candy tins everyone had at their assigned seats, and… It was a hit. Curiosity about everyone’s “word” led to a series of impromptu speeches by all. The evening was completely amazing and wonderful.

adventure1One guest has followed through in a particularly enjoyable way. Our friend James, who snow-boarded and mountain-climbed and things like that, represented “adventure” for us, and to this day we receive snapshots from around the world reminding us to be adventurous. And while neither of us has taken him up on his offer to join him in paragliding {gulp}, it sure is fun to hear about — and, as we did today,  receive pics of him actually doing  (yes, those are his feet).

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