Friday, October 26, 2007

Wow. I need a vacation.

So I'm in the middle of this project right now. It's a feature-length film that I'm editing. My editing period was originally 8 weeks. The production offered to pay me more if I could do it by November 1 (6 weeks instead), so I said yes.

Well, 8 weeks in the first place was a really truncated schedule, and 6 weeks turned out to be psychotic. I've been working basically from the time I wake up to the time the Red Bull wears off, sitting in front of the computer trying to make this happen.

So today I got a call that I needed to take, but the reception in my area has been extraordinarily shitty on the AT&T service. Specifically within about half a mile of my home. So I went out to hop in my car and get some distance.

The car was gone.

We have a private lot behind the townhouse complex where I live, and they "require" a little permit dangling on your rearview to park there. No one actually has them, and with the heat and dryness this summer mine actually broke, and dissolved into a fine powder when I tried to fix it. I'm serious.

I haven't had a chance to get a replacement, so I assumed that it had been towed. I called the towing company, but they had no record of it. The last time I remembered having it was last night, at around 2:30, coming home from a meeting for ANOTHER potential job to follow up on this one. So since it hadn't been towed, it had apparently been stolen.

I called the police to file a claim -- which took about five times as long as it ought to have thanks to the aforementioned reception problems -- then my insurance. On the upside, those processes were not that difficult and it's good to know how to do them, just in case.

Then I spoke my friend Brandon, who was part of the meeting I had remembered coming home from -- it wasn't last night. It was the night before. In the monotony of the day I had completely lost track of yesterday. I just forgot about Thursday.

So I called the towing company again. It wouldn't be on record for today, what about yesterday? Nope, still not there. Still stolen.

Then I remembered: lunch.

See, we have a little strip-mall, within reasonable walking distance, with a Subway and a Panda Express and such. I've been eating in the last few weeks, but I decided yesterday that I should get out of the house, if only briefly, so I decided to go there for lunch. Since it's within walking distance, I almost always walk there, but yesterday I felt I didn't have THAT much extra time to waste on lunch, so I drove.

But, BECAUSE I normally walk there, and because I had a lot on my burned-out brain, by the time I finished ordering (which took forever because everyone on the Subway assembly line was a trainee that day) and eating, I had managed to forget that I had driven there. I walked home. And then promptly forgot yesterday even existed, so in my head, the last time I saw the car was "last night" at 2:30AM.

I called the police back, and my insurance company. The police dispatcher laughed and said "Man, you're overworked." Both of them let me off the hook, no harm no foul.

Still, shit. If I hadn't figured it out so quickly I might have wound up in a lot more trouble. I really DO need a break once this is done. And someone else is going to have to drive me around for a little while.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Indian Thriller: Revisited

So in searching YouTube to get the embed link for yesterday's post of the Indian Thriller, I stumbled across the edited version below, the "English Lyrics" version.

Now, understand that these are NOT the lyrics translated from the native language. Rather, the creator of this video listened to the video and wrote out what the lyrics SOUNDED like he was saying, if he were indeed speaking English words.

There were a few comments for the video itself to the effect that this is xenophobic, or racist. That this is somehow demeaning or mocking the Indian culture or language. If anyone's going to be an asshole about it, let me point a few things out to you:

1) It's the fucking Indian Thriller. If anyone's mocking an alternate culture, it's them mocking us in the first place. And does that piss me off? No. I thought it was funny. Turnabout is fair play.

2) Misheard lyrics are funny, no matter what the language is.

So, don't approach this "remixed" video on a high horse. Just enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Indian Thriller

The title just about says it all.

I like to imagine that, if I understood the lyrics or the context, this would be an obvious satire of Thriller, as opposed to a shameless (or shameful?) rip-off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tunak Tunak Tun

If you've seen this, you know what it is.

If you haven't, you owe it to yourself.

I was introduced to this my sophomore year of college (five years ago -- I feel so OLD), in the pre-YouTube dark ages, and it is to me the gold standard for amazing music videos from foreign lands. This week will feature several of them, since I'm in the home stretch time-crunch of a project I'm editing and don't have time to write long entries. Thanks to my friend Brian for giving the the idea and an easy out so I can keep with the regular posting.

And by the way, I've scoured the web. As far as I can tell, no one in the world is entirely sure

a) what language he's speaking, nor
b) what he's saying.

But I think you'll agree: whatever he's saying it must be EPIC. By the time you reach the sitar break, you'll be trying to learn his hawt moves.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A good day...

Finished the Descendants treatment last night. The final page count was 22 pages, including cover page.

I was wild about it because, quite frankly, it rocks. I'm not going to say it's the best thing ever written, but I think plot-wise it's the best thing I've ever written, and that's what excited the hell out of me. Inspiration struck and this great story just all fell into place. At the end of it I had written something that I would love to pay to see in a theatre, to say nothing of having the privilege of making it.

I sent it off and I bit my nails wondering what the others would think. Would Chris (the producer) think it was too expensive or complicated? Would Joey balk at the liberties I had taken with some of the material? Would Ray come back with "I already did a film like this"?

I really thought I had captured what everyone liked about the comics, what compelled them to want to make the film in the first place, but I couldn't be sure. So you can imagine my relief when Ray -- who doesn't often respond unless he's really moved to -- e-mailed back saying "I really like it, great job guys." I saw Chris to drop off a DVD copy of the teaser, and when I asked what he thought, he just grinned and nodded. Shortly after that, Joey called and he was really excited, saying it really captured what we were trying to achieve in our development of the project.

In other words, everyone liked it.

I'm just thrilled to death because this is a movie I would positively love to shoot, and it looks like that's the goal. There are a few notes, which I agree with, and after I finish this other project next week, I write the script, and then we look for funding.

There's nothing more thrilling, or rewarding, than to finish a project thinking "I nailed this" and have the people who make the calls say "yep, you nailed it."

Also, the spaghetti sauce I made for dinner tonight was absolutely perfect. I am ON today.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

When it's good...

I love writing. I really do. When it's good. Because when it's good, it's really good. You get in the rhythm and the flow and the story starts telling itself to you, and you just have to hope you can keep up.

It's not always like that. Usually it's awful, you have to strain and strain just to get SOMETHING on the page, and when you do, it's crap. You know it's crap. But you have to put more crap on the page or else you're not going to get anywhere. You have to create the raw materials for the process. More specifically, you have to get all the bad ideas out of your head and onto the page, so you can crumple them up, toss them out, and start over.

But oh man, four or five drafts in, it just all suddenly starts to click. Ideas you had that you couldn't make work in the first draft suddenly pair up with seemingly unrelated but equally unworkable ideas from the third draft, and then suddenly bingo, they work. They work so perfectly it's hard to believe you didn't plan it that way.

I had one of those experiences tonight, writing up a new treatment for The Descendants. Joey (the creator of the original comic book) and I have been banging our heads against a wall trying to come up with a story that's true to the spirit and the premise of the comic, while injecting new life into the concept; the opportunity to blow it up the size of a building and expand it beyond the scope of the comics is too good to pass up. But we couldn't come up with a solid storyline. We've done several drafts, first collaboratively and then back-and-forth individually, and with Joey's most recent draft I started to feel like we had hit a brick wall, we just weren't cracking this thing the way we needed to.

I had a similar problem with another concept I had, which my manager was very excited about as a concept, but I couldn't for the life of me formulate a plot. He still wants to do it. I still want to do it. But it's stuck in limbo without any kind of real storyline. And I couldn't bear to think of that happening on Descendants.

So I started to despair, I freaked out a little. It was a low point on the project, for me. But then I took the new outline, and all the previous outlines, and all the other ideas we'd bandied about, and most importantly, the comics themselves. And I looked them all over, out of order. And things started to click.

I wrote 8 pages of the treatment in one sitting, which is tough to do. Writing at that pace is genuinely exhausting, but it was great to feel so excited and adrenalized by the concept again. I don't know if the team will even like it, and it will probably need to undergo changes (there is always a better way of doing something), but I'm damn proud of this treatment.

I have to get back to writing it -- I need to get the third act on paper and send it out to the team -- but I was taking a break from the aforementioned marathon session, and thought I'd exult about the rare moment of total story clarity that makes writing worthwhile.

When it's bad, there are few things I want to do less. But when it's good...

Saturday, October 20, 2007


So big news if you're a Harry Potter fan (or a Harry Potter hater, I suppose): this last weekend, the magnificent J.K. Rowling gave a Q&A regarding her work, and when asked if Dumbledore ever found "true love", she replied that Dumbledore is gay.

Ignoring the fact that "Dumbledore is gay" is not "yes" -- in fact seems to be "no, because" -- I'm still a little bothered by this, which is ironic. While other gay rights groups will no doubt applaud her for being willing to write such a fantastic character and not let his sexuality compromise his character (as a lesser writer might have done), my objection is that it removes some of the impact of Dumbledore's character, or potentially does.

So Dumbledore had a love affair with Gellert Grindlewald, and that is why it took him so long to step up and defeat him in their "famous duel" (this relationship is set up on the chocolate frog card Harry gets in Book 1) -- he still loved him and he didn't want to think ill of him. Which is great, but couldn't he have loved him even without being gay?

That's the main thing that bothers me: whenever a male character in today's movies, TV, and even books shows any genuine affection for another male character -- even non-sexual affection -- that character is a gay character. You don't see that happen when two female characters share affection, and I think it perpetuates the stereotype that only gay people show affection -- and you don't want people to think you're GAY, do you?

As a role model, I almost feel like this revelation diminishes Dumbledore's compassion, if only in the sense that "oh, well of course he was so nice and emotionally-invested in his relationships. He was gay. That's how they are." No doubt people will start reading a Catholic priest vibe into Dumbledore's intense interest in Harry, which would be the real goddamn shame here.

Look, I love the Harry Potter series. I really do. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was astonishing and, in my view, perfect. I wouldn't have wanted her to do a single thing differently (well, except maybe let Neville finish off Bellatrix Lestrange instead of Mrs. Weasley -- he had more invested in that relationship). And I really do think it's wonderful that she had the courage to write a gay main character, and the talent not to make it obvious.

I just wish that being gay wasn't a prerequisite for male compassion -- although, I guess there's always Harry and Ron's relationship. They clearly love each other very much, and it works out well for them (maybe because they're NOT gay?).

But then, we come to the other problem: homosexuality-as-tragedy. We have yet to have a mainstream gay character whose story does not end in tragedy. The most mainstream gay movie of the last decade was Brokeback Mountain, and that didn't work out. Gay relationships never work out in the media. Even most gay indie films I watch, the boy doesn't get the boy. The best he can hope for is that everyone else accepts who he is and what he wants, but he's not going to get what he wants in the end.

This isn't Rowling's fault, I just wish that if Dumbledore's greatest tragedy had to be loving too much, it didn't have to be "in a gay way."

All that being said, I'm probably just over-thinking it. After all, Dumbledore was the champion of love and reason, who all the good guys looked up to, trusted, and revered in one of the most popular book series ever written. And that probably can't be a bad thing.

I'll still re-read the series many times, and pass it on to my kids someday.

Friday, October 19, 2007

To continue...

Coming off yesterday's R. Kelly party, I thought I'd round out the week with a related video, this one a parody by Weird Al of the Trapped in the Closet series.

This is an official Weird Al song, apparently the official video done by the guys at Dougtoons. Like the original TitC, this one is long: three parts, totaling almost 11 minutes.

Weird Al's lyrical work is astonishing; I really think this may be one of his best parodies. And I mean ever. It captures TitC perfectly, the meandering story and yet the solid rhyme and rhythm schemes, and the pure mundacity of the whole thing, and the fact that it IS, like R. Kelly aims to be, exactly how this kind of thing goes, is what makes it hilarious.

I don't want to over-analyze a Weird Al song (too late; give me a break, I gotta do SOMETHING with my English degree), but I've been a fan since "Fat", and as a fan, I gotta say: the guy wrote the hell out of this one.

So without further ado, I give you:

Trapped in the Drive-Thru.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I can't decide what to make of R. Kelly. Apparently he's kind of a pedophile, or at least that's the vicious rumor going around. I actually liked "I Believe I Can Fly" back in the day, but I was 13 and I liked Space Jam then, too.

Actually, that's a lie. I never liked Space Jam.

Anyway, with some of R. Kelly's latest endeavors, like his "epic" Trapped in the Closet, it's hard to tell if R. Kelly is a brilliant comedian or just insane. It's entirely possible he's both. Does he actually think he's "keepin' it real", or is his body of work one long satire of the concept?

If he is actually playing a big prank that no one but him and his pals get, R. Kelly is officially our generation's Andy Kaufman.

His latest offering in the "Is this supposed to be this funny?" category is a little track called Real Talk, a free-verse poem set to a beat, not unlike the aforementioned Trapped in the Closet. Apparently bolstered by his success with TitC, R. Kelly goes straight to the fans, producing a direct-to-YouTube video for the track.

I'll let the video speak for itself from here on:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Talent vs. Skill

I spend a lot of time on various internet message boards (way more than I ought to), and I see a lot of people asking, essentially, whether it is possible to teach talent. Often this is part of a discussion on film school (which I'll save for another post), but the question is general enough: can you teach talent?

To me, the answer is a definite no. I believe that, like many other things, talent is inborn. You have a certain amount of it and you can't get any more talented over time, because talent is a natural thing. One might APPEAR to become more talented in something, but that is in fact a development of skill.

As I see it, talent is your capacity to achieve something. In artistic endeavors, the word most frequently used is vision. In physical pursuits, like sports, a person is said to be or have "natural talent", which I'm arguing here is redundant -- although I think "raw talent" is still valid.

The example is most easily illustrated by continuing with a physical example. Pick a sport, any sport. If you take two people who have never played the sport before, and teach them both the same way at the same time, and chances are one of them is going to be better at it than the other. He will learn faster, understand more quickly, and surpass his "peer", sometimes almost effortlessly.

Another example. You take two people who can't draw, and you teach them. Or some other artistic pursuit -- painting, 3D animation, whatever. Teach them all the same information, and test them to ensure that they both possess the same knowledge with their tools and the attendant skillset. Then ask them to create something. One of them may bring back something absolutely astonishing, while the other will bring back something straight out of his lessons, or similar to it.

The one who made something astounding didn't gain talent from his training, he just learned the skills necessary to express his talent using the given tools. Talent is the ability to create art, skills are the physical or mental processes to facilitate that art.

In film, it is perfectly possible to be a highly-skilled filmmaker without being particularly talented. An example I always use is Chris Columbus. Columbus is a very skillful filmmaker. He knows where to put the camera, he knows how to cover a scene, he knows how to put the world of the film in front of the lens. He puts the page, on the screen. His productions are well-made technically, but they are not art. He's got all the skills a filmmaker needs, but not the talent/vision to make his films soar. They simply get the job done.

The reason I like to use Chris Columbus is because I can then compare him to Alfonso Cuaron, as they both made films in the Harry Potter series. Comparing the first two films to the third is completely night and day. Cuaron took more license with the story, but still got all the major beats across and managed to make the world feel like it existed, not like a storybook land. I could gush about Cuaron's use of the camera for hours (especially if we bring Children of Men into it), but the point is that I'm not sure that there's any technical knowledge Cuaron has that Columbus doesn't. Cuaron just has a vision of what he wants to do with it, whereas Columbus has a sense of where it's "supposed" to go.

Everyone has a talent, and everyone's talent is different. And even if you learn the skills for something, without talent you'll be mediocre; above-average at best.

Personal example: I enjoy music. I was in the band in high school and I think I have the capacity to learn all the skills I would need to be a composer. But the problem is, I lack the talent. I could learn HOW to write music, but no one could teach me WHAT to write. A true composer (several of which I have the good fortune to know and work with) hears music all the time, and the skills are merely employed to get it from his head into a form that others can understand and appreciate. I can't be a composer because I don't hear the music.

All that being said, I've left out one important component, the one I'll argue is MOST important: passion. Remember that vague sports analogy above? Well, no matter how much talent the one guy has, if the other guy has more passion, he might be a better player, because he cares more. It's the whole point of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. No matter how talented you are at something, it's worth nothing if you don't put your all into it.

I know a few people who I think are ridiculously talented, but they either lack the skills to fully explore their talent, or the passion to bother. It drives me up the wall, because if I had the talent they did, I'd never stop. It's difficult to be passionate about something, but not have the talent, and see someone with all the talent you wish you had and none of the passion.

On the flip side, even if you have the talent for something, why do it if it's going to make you miserable? Isn't it better to do something you may not be the best at, as long as you love it? Here's where I give the resounding yes. Because you know what? You'll never be the best at whatever you're doing. Someone will always be better. You might as well have a reason to get up in the morning.

So between the three, the most important thing to have is passion. Learn all the skills you'll need, and if you happen to be lucky enough to have talent, too, you'll rise to the top. And even if not, with the right passion and skills, you can have a long and satisfying career doing what you love.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Movie Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Apparently this film, starring Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, was put out into limited release this last week. I had heard the title before (it's not a title you're likely to forget) and it's been getting raves on Rotten Tomatoes. So, having little else to do late Sunday, Ryan and I trotted out to the local theatre for a showing.

Let me put this out there first: I don't like biopics, as a rule. Life is messy, and biopics by their nature are, therefore, also messy. Things don't get tied up in a little bow with much frequency, and maybe it's the nihilist in me (or in the biopic filmmakers), but usually I come out of a biopic less sure of why I should care about the person's life than when I went in. I'm one of the few people I know who positively loathed The Aviator, just in the sense that it didn't GO anywhere. The guy got richer and crazier and the movie ended with him filthy rich and hygiene-crazy. Very skillful filmmaking, sure, but I'd rather talk about the implications of the film towards the human experience, than the two-strip color timing effect used in the first half.

But I digress. This is a review of The Assassination of Yada-Yada. I'm not sure that Assassination necessarily counts as a "biopic" in the strictest sense, but it details the important sections of the lives of its two eponymous characters, and it also suffers from the usual problems that a biopic suffers. It details the decline of these two men, and doesn't really seem to have anything to say ABOUT it other than the fact that it happened.

I was always taught in English class not to summarize, but to analyse, but as a review for people who haven't seen the film, some summary is first in order. There will be spoilers (although given that the climax is in the title, I hardly think they're significant):

The James gang (Jesse, and his older brother Frank) are pulling the final heist of their careers. Most of the original "gang" is dead or imprisoned, so the Brothers James have hired some of the local hillbillies to help them pull of their heist. Among them is another pair of brothers, Charlie and Robert Ford. Our introduction to Charlie is his attempt to approach Frank, asking him to take him on as a kind of protege in the glamorous world of banditry. Frank doesn't like the kid, tells him so, and that's the end of that.

They pull off the train heist and everyone goes their separate ways. Robert stays with Jesse for a brief while, helping him move his family under cover of night to a town where his crimes will be unlikely to catch him. It becomes evident that Robert idolizes Jesse, and has grown up on a diet of Jesse James pulp novels and urban legends. We've all known that kid who lacks social skills in general, and kind of creeps everybody out; Robert Ford is that kid, and working with Jesse James he is just about working with his own personal Jesus Christ. To his dismay, Jesse does not return the adoration. In fact he really loathes Robert, and the attention Robert gives him, and actively seeks to hurt Robert emotionally by ridiculing his obsession with The Jesse James just about every time he's within earshot.

Steadily disillusioned with his hero, Robert eventually turns on him, deciding to hand him over to the police for the big reward. The stakes in this decision are raised and established by several scenes in which Jesse roots out treachery within the band of compatriots who helped with the job, and one by one takes them down before they can take him down. Apparently there's a guy named Sam Cummings (I think that's what it was) who is Jesse's nemesis; several of the people he kills he first accuses of being in cahoots with Cummings, and he beats a young boy mercilessly for the crime of being related to Cummings.

These and other scenes are also used to establish that the cheese is starting to slide off Jesse's cracker. There are a number of scenes where he almost kills Robert Ford "in jest". He's depressed, paranoid, and frightened of himself (and for a man who's killed as many as Jesse claims to, that's pretty frightening to the people around him). By the time Jesse and Robert are alone together (well, Charlie is in the room), the man is really having a problem. Jesse knows Robert has turned on him, Robert knows Jesse is going to kill him. Yet Jesse takes off his gun belts, proclaims "that picture's awful dusty" about a picture without a speck of dust on it, and proceeds to clean the picture with his back to the Ford brothers. Robert takes the opportunity and kills Jesse.

He triumphantly announces it to the world, is paid well for it, and somewhat inexplicably his act becomes branded as an act of betrayal and cowardice. People write songs about how great Jesse was and how shitty Ford's actions were (in Ford's presence). Charlie Ford kills himself, unable to bear the burden of his betrayal, and Robert Ford's life is taken by a half-crazed vigilante who blows his head off with a shotgun in retribution. The end.

Now, if you're like me, your reaction to the third act is summarized by three letters: WTF.

Part of the problem, almost certainly, is that I know absolutely nothing of the historical or legendary elements that make up the story of Jesse James. My assumption is that Robert Ford has spent the last century or so being vilified as a coward and a traitor, and that the movie's intention was to show how Ford acted in a way that any of us would have done in the same situation, and indeed, seemed to be acting in accordance with Jesse James' own wishes. Jesse establishes early on that he "never takes off his gunbelts"; it's that explicit. The man cocks a gun in his sleep when he hears stirring in the bed next to him. He wanted Ford to take the opportunity, and made it as open as possible.

So, I guess the idea is that we know this story of the Great Jesse James and how he was betrayed and murdered, and we see the truth behind it, we experience Robert Ford's disillusionment with him, and when the time comes, we understand and have discovered a new perspective on the old legend.

The problem is, again, I didn't know the story of the Great Jesse James, and so besides the creepy stalker vibe he gives off, Robert Ford's actions seem like exactly what any sensible person would do. There's no real conflict there, and the behavior of the rest of the world when they hear about Jesse's death is, as I said above, rather inexplicable.

The Old West just isn't the romantic obsession it used to be. I really doubt that most people of my generation could tell you about Jesse James, or Davy Crockett (beyond his theme song and racoon hat), at the length that kids from previous generations could. Outlaws aren't the zeitgeist anymore, so it's difficult to look back and understand the way that an outlaw like Jesse James captured peoples' imaginations. It's hard to understand why people hated Robert Ford so much, and why even he is said, at one point after the assassination, to "miss the man [Jesse]". WHAT?! He killed more than a dozen people, was going to kill you, and did nothing but make the people around him live in fear.

What is really meant by that line, I think, is that he misses the LEGEND of the man. I think where the movie could have been improved -- or at least, the experience could have been improved for people like me -- would be to take the opportunity to briefly show the importance of Jesse James to the common folk. What he meant to them, and why. We see that Robert is obsessed with him, and that his obsession is fueled by dimestore paperbacks he's been reading all his life, but I would have liked to understand what the legend is, how much the world loves him. Is he their Robin Hood? Then show me that, and THEN dive with Robert Ford into the ugly, crushing reality of what your idol is probably really like.

Now, I said a lot about the central problems I had with the film. When I walked out, I really didn't know why I'd spent two hours and forty minutes watching what I did. But there are a lot of good things to be said from a filmmaking standpoint as well.

The performances are phenomenal. The world is utterly immersive and you really get an unromanticized Old West. Brad Pitt is good, although when Jesse starts to get really unhinged I saw a bit too much Tyler Durden in his mad laughter, and it distracted me and pulled me out of the movie. Casey Affleck does a great job as the creepy stalker-ish fanboy of Jesse James (unless Affleck is, in fact, creepy and stalker-ish; I prefer to think it's a performance), and Sam Rockwell is brilliant. He's great at comedy, great at drama, and probably doesn't get as much credit as he ought to for that.

The dialogue is well-written for the most part, generally not too on the nose and very evocative of that time. It's the kind of writing where you hear it and go "Man, I would never have thought to use that archaic term, but that's EXACTLY what they would have said back then." Good stuff.

The directing is quite something, if a little uneven. The sequence where they rob the train has a surreality to it that makes some of the shots look literally like moving paintings, without any kind of overt digital tweaking that gives movies like 300 the same effect.

The movie is very still, for the most part. There is some great work in building tension when someone is lying to Jesse and he's rooting it out. The camera will hold on them...and hold...and keep holding, way longer than you feel it ought to, and you see the characters' discomfort by being held accountable under the unblinking eye, you watch them fidget and struggle with their composure. We feel the discomfort too, we feel like it REALLY OUGHT TO CUT but it just doesn't. Through the camera we become Jesse, staring them down. We see what he sees, we root out the lying as he does from their glances and fidgets, and there are some moments of truth in the awkwardness, for the actors and for the audience, that a lot of films these days wouldn't get to.

Would I recommend the movie? Academically, I think so. I think this is a film that's a slow burn. It's not going to be the cause of a major upheaval in cinema, but there's a lot going on, a lot of craft at work in front of and behind the camera. As a piece of entertainment, no, I don't think this is one to watch. It's one to study, instead.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My new blog -- Welcome!

To anyone stumbling upon my blog, now or in the future, welcome. My name is Michael Scott, otherwise known as Dorkman, and I pre-date the Steve Carrell character on the American version of "The Office" by a good twenty years.

"Nice to meet you," you say, "but who the hell ARE you, and why should I care about this blog?"

You're forward. I like that.

The honest answer is, if you have to ask that question, you probably don't have a very good reason to care about this blog. As of this writing, I have acheived a very limited kind of notoriety based on a couple of films I've made with my best friend and business partner, Ryan Wieber. You may have seen them, and in fact if you found this blog and have any interest in what I have to say, it's probably because you've seen the films. If not, you can check them out on the films' website:

I hope you enjoy them.

Anyway, I don't want to get this blog, or our relationship as blogger and reader (blogee?), off on the wrong foot, or under false pretenses. Anyone who blogs inherently has a rather high opinion of themselves, and in particular, of their opinions. The very notion of writing down your thoughts or anything you "have to say", and making it accessible to the entire civilized world, implies that someone else will care to read it.

I am no exception. I have aired my opinions on other sites, blogs, message boards, etc., on various and sundry subjects (see below), and it occurs to me that, if I'm going to blather my opinion into the ether, I can at least do the rest of the ether the courtesy of containing it to my own personal sphere of egotism. I will do my best to contain my thoughts and opinions here, on this blog, and comments elsewhere, if any, will be hopefully kept brief. The posts here, on the other hand, might be on the long side.

Going back to that egotism thing for a second, as my link above might imply, I'm a filmmaker. Perhaps not as accomplished as others who have made films with plots and characters (I have made one, but it was a couple years ago and there's a lot I would do differently); nor, indeed, even as accomplished as Ryan, who as of a month or so ago became a bona-fide Emmy winner. As of this writing, I am someone who talks the talk, but has yet to fully walk the walk.

But hopefully that will change. I am confident in my talent (though my skill could use some work; I'll probably get into that in a later entry), and confident that my future is going to be big and bright. So with any luck, you're reading this blog from five years in the future, and you came here because I'm a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and what I have to say not only interests you, but the "proof is in the pudding" and I have accomplished much in the intervening years. Those of you starting with me now, or near to it, will be able to follow me on that journey, and watch it happen as it happens.

How much would you have loved to read a blog Spielberg started writing before he got big, and continued writing after? Not that I think I'll be Spielberg (nor will I deny it's a reach-for-the-stars goal), but you get my point. In case I ever become worth something, hopefully my thoughts and opinions will too.

I hope that this blog, wherever it may go, will be entertaining at a bare minimum.

And where, intrepid reader, might this blog be leading? Another fantastic question. The most straightforward answer, dear friend, is anywhere I damn well please. I have eclectic (and occasionally esoteric) interests, and the blog will explore whatever strikes my fancy at the time. My intention is to attempt to write at least a brief entry every other day, if not daily, so some straw-grasping may take place.

The more astute of you will notice that I haven't really answered the question. So, some of the subjects you will find covered here (and there):


Of course. Both my own experiences and what trickles down to me from others, projects of the past, present, and speculative future. I will also be so bold as to offer my reviews of films as I see them, also past and present. It is my intention to express clearly what I like and do not like about a film, what could have potentially improved it and where it needed no improvement. This is as much for myself as anyone else, since as a filmmaker it's important to be able to articulate these things.


There are plenty of gizmo and gadget blogs out there, and I will probably rarely get into it. Most of the tech, indeed, will probably be a sub-heading of filmmaking, regarding a new camera, software package, or other innovation that might change the playing field. Although sometimes I might just come across a doohickey I think is really neat. Or funny.

Web entertainment

AKA "Stuff I Found on YouTube." The good, the bad, and the hilarious. The RvD films got their kicks in the pants by all the blogs that showed us love, I hope I can help some entertainers reach their audience as well.


If there's one thing I actually know, it's writing. In practice I do a LOT of writing (as this post alone shows), and in theory I have a degree in English from UCLA and have read more books on the subject than most. If there's anything I can actually say "I know my shit" about, it's writing.

Writing is where the telling of any story starts. So this will probably a frequent focus of my posts, and warrant at least a mention in others.

Video games

Likewise, I'm no gamer by any stretch. But I USED to be, by God, and I can still put in my two cents when a game really catches my fancy. If you see a post about a video game, I probably really liked it, so there goes that mystery.


Probably not so much of this. But sometimes I've really gotta say something. So it'll come up. If you like to avoid that kind of stuff, keep your eyes on the tags and if you see "politics", avoid that post.

Gay Rights

Subset of politics. I'm a gay man and even though it's screaming against the wind sometimes, everyone has to make their voices heard if we're going to get anywhere.


I used to be a Christian. Now I'm an Atheist. Believe it or not, it had nothing to do with my sexuality (see the previous item). I don't expect to get up on a soapbox about this with much frequency, if at all, but sometimes something's got to be said. Subset of politics, mostly.

More importantly, it will apply significantly to my discussions of writing and storytelling. In discussing storytelling and themes and such, I won't be according Christianity any more -- or less -- credence than any other mythology. (It's precisely because I realized that no mythology seems to deserve more or less credence than any other that I became an Atheist.)

Also, it's important that to realize that I will still occasionally use deity-affirming language ("God willing" above, "God's-honest truth" below). It's part of the English idiom, and just the way I talk naturally, perhaps vestigial from my former life as a believer. It should not be construed as me retaining any particular belief of that kind.

Visual Effects

Subset of filmmaking. I do a lot of visual effects stuff and I remain fascinated by it. I will try to make it as plain-English accessible as possible, but a lot of it is really technical (but still damn interesting).

Other stuff

Who knows. We'll take it as it comes.

The one thing I know is that whatever I post will be the God's-honest truth as I see it. That, at least, is a promise I make as the writer. If I can't tell the truth about something, I'm not going to write about it at all.

Also, a couple things this blog will NOT be:

A Shoulder to Cry On

This will not be where I come to talk about how much life sucks and how I'm going to cut myself. I'm not gonna get all emo here.

A Kiss-And-Tell

As of this writing, I'm single; but you might be reading this blog when I'm dating someone hot and famous. Or just someone hot. If you're looking for dirt about our pillow-talk, or mushy talk of how we met or whatever, you're not likely to find it here. But who knows. I might go all Tom Cruise on your ass.

Anyway, by now you're regretting your decision to start reading, or to find out how this blog began. I hope that the future of this blog continues to warrant your interest.