Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What I Learned From Damon Dash


There was a period of a few months (some millions of years ago), when I had to spend every single day around Damon Dash - then head of Rocafella Records. I was working on a long form project with him and from his house to the office to spending time with his friends, it really was an all-in situation.

I learned a lot from him - well, at least one really important thing - and it was that if nothing else, he's a man of action.

If he had an idea at 11:58, by noon he was on it. He was making calls and he would follow up and he wouldn't stop until it was happening.

I know so many people with so much talent who tell me these great ideas, and often one of two things happen. 1. Nothing. Or 2. They start, but don't finish. And by finish I mean, really stick through the roughest, ugliest, non-money-makingest part of it until it happens.

I know from watching him that Damon's follow-through was impeccable. Even now, I don't count him out because I know the man. Whatever he's working on, the moment he had that idea he put it into motion and he won't stop until it happens. I know it seems un-timely to talk about what I learned from him with so many stories swirling about where he is now, but this isn't a story about what it takes to stay "there," but what it takes to get "there." And that "quick to action" added with "don't stop/ won't stop-ness" - the will to push and push on the same project - not jumping to something else - until the first one happened instead of giving up when things don't magically turn out the way they want in 6 months. Or a year. Or even two years... is THE way to get there and the most crucial part of filmmking because:

1. The average length of time it takes a script to go from script to screen is 7 years.
2. At every WGA seminar inevitably someone asks about sending out treatments of a script as a writing sample and the panelists tell them absolutely not and by the way don't tell ANYONE you're writer until you have a feature length script to show because if you were a writer you would.
3. Filmmaking is not so much a profession as a life-long commitment. It's like joining a convent. You give your life to it. You get hurt by it, you get knocked down by it, rejected by it. You have to go to meetings ALL the time, work EVERY day, FINISH scripts, face rejection and uncertainty constantly and if you don't know going into it that you can do that, then make your life easier and go to school for a 2nd degree in a lucrative, stable career like law.

Otherwise - when you have an idea, jump on it, wrestle with it, work it out, PERFECT IT. Do it NOW. And then DON'T. STOP.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Filmmaker's Intuition

I'm re-reading the wonderful book The Filmmaker's Intuition by Judith Weston - if you haven't read it, it's fantastic, although I would check out her book Directing Actors first (it's on this site somewhere if you want to see what it looks like).

She had one paragraph that so succinctly described the director's job that I thought I should repost it.

"The film director's task is to tell the story. The tasks involved in telling a story filmically can be grouped thus:

1. Choose a script, and investigate and imagine its subtext story;
2. Supervise the design elements, and make sure they tell the story;
3. Plan and supervise the shots, and make sure they tell the story;
4. Cast the actors, block out their physical action, and make sure their performances tell the story."

She later adds, "There are two crucial directorial duties that many directors are clueless in carrying out: setting the blocking (physical movement) of scenes; and creating pace and tempo-rhythm... Rehearsal can be a place for directors to make these choices, thus preventing chaos and despair in editing."

You're welcome.

Friday, April 23, 2010

BILLY SHAKES


Today is the day that William Shakespeare died. (It is also the day of his birth - he certainly knew how to bring a story full circle).

A moment for the greatest. I know - plagiarism and all, but really, it's pretty hard to write Hamlet and The Bible in one lifetime without a little, um, borrowing.

So for giving us Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, the Taming Of The Shrew, Julius Caesar, King Lear, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night (and those are just my favorites and not even half the list of his work), oh, and again, The King James Bible - Thank You.

Shakespeare didn't just write - he wrote a HELL OF A LOT, so today - get started on being prolific. Maybe it'll end your writer's block, or procrastination to set a goal to just write as many things as possible in your lifetime, you can revise them in the next...

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
William Shakespeare

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When It Hurts So Bad



Sometimes it stinks doing what you love. Sometimes you're up at 5am, and you still have no clue what you'll say in that meeting - which is happening in a few hours.

Sometimes you have to force yourself to read awful scripts when you don't feel like it. Sometimes you're procrastinating working on a great script because you're afraid. You've been hurt before afterall.

Sometimes the frustration of feeling stuck proves the saying "perception is reality" because even if you're making tremendous strides, if you are yet again working at home today and not on set, or if you're one of those awesomely brave people who are working at a 9 - 5 because you're smart enough to want to pay your bills while pursuing your dreams, the thought of coming home exhausted and writing for 3 hours also seems only slightly less preferably to standing in the middle of the street and waiting for some kind bus to take all of your problems away.

There's no silver lining, I'm just saying.

Oh... but I will add this. When you feel this way ask for help. Ask the gods of creativity or Allah or Jehovah or whomeva... that you receive inspiration (the very word means filled with spirit), ask to receive clarity, wisdom, good decision making and wonderful things just falling in your lap - not potential things, but actual, bill paying, creative explosions that are happening right now.

And right now, I am co-signing with you and stand in agreement.

May the force be with you. May you receive.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quote Of The Day



“There are only two or three human stoires, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

- Willa Cather

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quote Of The Day/ Free clips



"Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains; God composes, why shouldn't we?"
- Terri Guillemets

If you haven't subscribed to AFI's channel, you should definitely check it out. Conversations with some of the best directors ever - Wilder, Friedkin, Mendes, etc... on how they practice their craft and it's free. It' a whole film education and you pay nothing - unless you decide to make a donation - which I, of course, think you should.


and here's a link to this guy's page on youtube where he shares free public domain movies - super cool, old horror stuff like Night Of The Living Dead, Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, etc...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBc18J5cUcs

Thought today would be a little inspiration, and a little "freeness" to make Monday a little easier to bear. Enjoy

Saturday, April 17, 2010

AFI 2010

These are clips from the year's best STUDENT THESIS FILMS. Why is that in all caps? Because they look terrific. Who are these "students?"

Filmmakers, step your game up, your competition is young, hungry and talented as hell.

Friday, April 16, 2010

TGIF?


Today: Turn in one re-write, start another re-write, start an original script (under producer deadlines), reschedule a meeting, go to a meeting, Read a screenplay. Develop 2 pitches. Brainstorm visual presentation ideas for both pitches. Update calendar to make sure with all of this nothing is slipping through the cracks. Possible edit changes to music video. Read outline and give producer notes on directing project.

All of that to say...

No time for any thing of real substance. Here is a lovely quote of the day. Be inspired.

"A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others."
- William Faulkner

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bloomberg: 'Iron Man 2' Likely First Film Traded In Box Office Futures Scheme


Bloomberg: 'Iron Man 2' Likely First Film Traded In Box Office Futures Scheme

I'm just disgusted by this...

"Despite uniform opposition in Hollywood, stirred up by the MPAA, there appears to be a high likelihood for approval of Wall Street plans to bet on movie box office performance, according to a Bloomberg report today. It cites several sources that claim the Commodity Futures Trading Commission staff will recommend plans by Media Derivatives and Cantor Fitzgerald to create the futures program despite the potential for conflicts and manipulations. That decision could come this week, and Bloomberg reports it may be in time for Cantor Fitzgerald to sell box office contracts for Iron Man 2 as its first film.

Interestingly, Bloomberg quotes Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns as seeing an upside. Burns, one of the founders of the Hollywood Stock Exchange web site that is serving as a model for Cantor's formula, opined that "if the studios have a chance to have an equity position in the actual exchange, if Cantor offers that, I think that's a giant win-win. I think it will ultimately become a terrific hedging vehicle for the studios. You can buy corn futures, orange juice futures, it makes no sense you can't buy movie futures."

-Mike Fleming from today's Deadline Hollywood

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Evening With F. Gary Gray


An Evening with F. Gary Gray


Moderated by Greg Braxton of the L.A. Times

6:00 P.M. on Friday, April 16th, 2010

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
School of Cinematic Arts Complex
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA

FREE ADMISSION. OPEN TO ALL.

MAKE A RESERVATION

If you do make it out to this, make sure to leave a comment and tell me what you thought of the evening and what you learned!

Hump Day

Exhausted from so much work and so little sleep the last couple of weeks... but grateful. so grateful.

anyway, nothing too inspiring today, so will up load a music video I did year's ago, it's a perennial favorite. If anyone has any questions about the process of shooting something in all special effects, please feel free to shoot me an email.

On another the note, the song, even years later and having listened to it hundreds of times, is still amazing.

Here's Dashboard Confessional's "Hands Down."

When I asked the lead singer who it was about he replied, "My Girlfriend." I, then said, "oh, how long you been going out?" "Since 4th grade." Apparently there were some off times, but they were back on when he wrote this about kissing her in the 8th grade (I think it was the 8th grade anyway)... Can we please just go ahead and exhale a giant "Awwww..."

video

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quote Of The Day


"There was one who thought he was above me, and he was above me until he had that thought." - Elbert Hubbard

That seemed so appropriate for Los Angelenos. Happy Tuesday.

(shout out to Tracey "too tough" Pennywell for the quote).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Support For My Sister-Girls



I wanted to take the space to support a couple of fellow creative souls...

First, if you don't want to end up with a loser, please buy the very funny, great read by my sister writer Dee Sanderson

You can check it out here on her website -

http://www.marryaloser.com/


Based on true events, this searingly funny yet sobering tale explores all of the choices we make in relationships without ever realizing how they will impact our lives. This "how to" guide can help you recognize the warning signs before you end up in "Loserville" or help you get there faster... if that’s what you really want!

Some of the more helpful chapters include:

"Where To Find Them... Couches and Guestrooms"
"Sex... or Lack Thereof"
"Honesty... or Lack Thereof"
"Sometimes They Come Back... The Proposal"

You can also check out her new relationship internet column at-

http://www.eurweb.com/?p=17149

I also want to show some love to independent filmmaker Nia Danielle. She's superdope and continues to produce projects on her own with limited resources out of the ATL. Check out this interview with her

http://www.youtube.com/v/32WWZvp1lR4&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0

And if you want to check in with what she's up to lately or support her in any of her upcoming projects (through investing, acting, interning) also check out her website.

www.platinumfilmsandtv.com

My sister Kim Hill (an amazing artist and superstar on LA's underground music scene) has one of the best, brightest blogs on life in the hood that's out there. Please check it out, follow it, and spread it around.

http://southcentralchronicles.blogspot.com/

The lovely Kasema Kalifah has a blog that feels like entering a meditation garden and having a cup of refreshing herbal tea and taking a minute to re-center and re-focus before going back into the "real" world.

http://inspiringpause.blogspot.com/

And finally, if you are an actor in LA my beautiful friend Sarah Sido has the must-follow blog/site http://www.brainsofminerva.com/

It has the most practical advice for actors (everything from auditioning, publicity and agents) that you're going to find. Even the books in the Minerva shop are must-buys for any actor who wants to consider themself a "working-actor."

AND, they have consulting services in this section - http://www.brainsofminerva.com/hire-us/ - where they'll consult with you on things like your head shot, how to get work in voice-overs, what the best acting classes are, who are the best coaches, etc... For any actor reading this, I would RUSH to get help like this.

Please pass this blog on so we can support our fellow artists and sister-girls!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Billy Wilder - About Billy Wilder | American Masters | PBS

Billy Wilder - About Billy Wilder | American Masters | PBS

a biography on the best - and that ends Wilder week. for now.

if you haven't seen "Some Like It Hot", "The Apartment", "Double Indemnity," "Sabrina," "The Lost Weekend," please rent, buy, search your TCM listings asap. you'll thank me later.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

WILDER!


This is just the week of Billy Wilder I guess. The more I think about him, the more grateful I am that he existed.

The book Conversations With Wilder (there's a link somewhere on the right) is all the film school you need.

Instead of one "Quote of the Day", here are a bunch from my favorite writer/director of all time-

(Also, if you haven't already, scroll down and check out his top ten screenwriting tips).

“I never overestimate the audience, nor do I underestimate them. I just have a very rational idea as to who we're dealing with, and that we're not making a picture for Harvard Law School, we're making a picture for middle-class people, the people that you see on the subway, or the people that you see in a restaurant. Just normal people.”

“I just always think, "Do I like it?" And if I like it, maybe other people will come and like it too.”

“Don't be too clever for an audience. Make it obvious. Make the subtleties obvious also.”

“An actor entering through the door, you've got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you've got a situation.”

“You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.”

“If you're going to tell people the truth, be funny or they'll kill you.”

“A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.”

“An audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark - that is critical genius.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Admission...


I went to an astrologer a few years ago as a birthday gift from my mother. The "astrologer" was really just her friend Jackie, but apparently she really knows her stuff.

Jackie told me about how artists should meditate every day and made some time predictions which didn't really come out the way I was thinking they would.

But then she told me there's a director, born under the same sign as "you who wants to help you as a mentor. He's passed, but his essence is still close to the earth."

I'm not really big on talking to dead people, but go on.

She said that when I get stuck with something to just ask him for his help. I asked her who it was she said there was a name that I wanted it to be when she first started talking and I should look him up and see if he's my same sun sign. Well, I did and it was Billy Wilder.

I have not taken much advantage of this cosmic connection, so I'll ask him now, how did you get to be so prolific? Can you whisper me in my ear when I write and make me somewhere in the vicinity of almost as talented as you were? Can you listen when I gripe about how different it is in my day, and then lean over and say in that heavy accent, yes, but get to work anyway.

I'm starting a new writing project today and am about to embark on two big rewrites, I'd like to invite you to give me little nudge when I'm missing something and ideas that you think might make the whole thing better. Thanks.

nzingha

So, afraid of going it alone, I have decided to enlist the help of the deceased. Good I guess since once feature project I'm involved in is about zombies. Are there any creative souls you would like to ask for assistance from in the great beyond? Let me know who in the comments, maybe they can have coffee together.



Below is the previous post with Wilders Top Ten Screenwriting tips. I believe they're all you need.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Billy Wilder's Tips for Screenwriters



This was originally in the Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) book Conversations With Wilder - a fantastic read if you're interested.



Keeping in mind that all rules are meant to be broken - until you ARE Billy Wilder (my favorite writer/director of all time), may be best to start with the basics.

1. GRAB 'EM BY THE THROAT AND NEVER LET GO.

This is page one of Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" - the AFI's number one comedy of all time.

"A hearse of Late Twenties vintage is proceeding at a dignified pace along a half-deserted wintry street.

Inside the hearse, there are four somber men in black - and a coffin, of course, with a wreath of chrysanthemums on top.

One of the men is driving, another is in the seat beside him. The other two are sitting in the rear of the hearse, flanking the coffin. All four seem fully aware of the solemnity of the occasion.

Now they hear a SIREN, faint at first, but rapidly growing louder. The driver and the man next to him exchange a nervous glance. The other two men move tensely toward the rear door of the hearse, raise the black curtain over the glass panel, and peek out cautiously.

Through the glass panel they see a police car bearing down on them, the red light blinking, the SIREN screaming.

The two men at the rear window gesture to the driver to step on it. He does.

The hearse, obviously a souped-up job, instantly picks up speed, weaves crazily through traffic, the police car in hot pursuit. The hearse careens around a corner at eighty miles an hour, the police car right on its tail.

By this time the policemen are leaning out of their car with drawn guns, firing at the hearse."

2. DEVELOP A CLEAN LINE OF ACTION FOR YOUR LEADING CHARACTER

What they want the whole way through.

3. KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING

4. THE MORE SUBTLE AND ELEGANT YOU ARE AT HIDING PLOT POINTS, THE BETTER YOU ARE AS A WRITER.

5. IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR THIRD ACT, THE REAL PROBLEM IS IN YOUR FIRST ACT

6. LET THE AUDIENCE ADD UP TWO PLUS TWO; THEY'LL LOVE YOU FOREVER

7. IN WRITING VOICE-OVERS BE CAREFUL NOT TO DESCRIBE WHAT THE AUDIENCE ALREADY SEES. ADD TO WHAT THEY'RE SEEING

8. THE EVENT THAT OCCURS AT THE END OF THE 2ND ACT CURTAIN TRIGGERS THE END OF THE MOVIE

9. THE THIRD ACT MUST BUILD, BUILD, BUILD IN TEMPO AND TENSION AND THEN THAT'S IT. DON'T HANG AROUND

10. THE AUDIENCE IS FICKLE

There it is from the best whoever did it. On the AFI's list of 101 best screenplays ever he has 4 before you even get to 30 - in multiple genre's.

If you want a copy of Some Like It Hot, feel free to email me and I'll shoot it over to you.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quote Of The Day


I loved this-

"I was inspired by the way Charlie Kaufman writes. He doesn't know where he's going and just writes from his intuition and gut and what he's interested in, and just follows that through. The first pass of his scripts are sometimes 250 pages long before he goes and whittles it down. Watching him work and the way his brain makes connections was very inspiring."

Spike Jonze on the writing process of Where The Wild Things Are…

If you want a copy of the script, feel free to email me and I'll shoot it over to you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Free Acting Podcast


This is for actors, but I think it's really helpful for filmmakers to learn as much as they can about actors as well...

"The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble would like to introduce you to one of our featured partners, Inside Acting Podcast. Inside Acting is a free audio podcast for artists, by artists. Each episode of Inside Acting brings you tips and insights from Los Angeles-area casting directors, agents, producers, writers, actors, musicians, filmmakers, personal finance gurus, and more. Get insider information on marketing yourself, creating your own work, and booking the gig -- straight from the minds of the entertainment industry professionals who are currently doing the same.

The podcast is co-hosted by two long-time Ensemble members, Trevor Algatt and Albert Meijer. You may have seen these two in Ensemble productions such as Wounded, I Gelosi, Survived, and Quixotic. Catch up with Trevor and Albert in episode 15, in which they field a few listener voicemails, discuss Albert's new stage name, chat about IMDB Pro and the "developing actor", then sit down for Part 1 of an inspiring and insightful interview with Steven Spielberg's go-to guy, actor Neal McDonough."