Monday, October 31, 2005

How strange ... turkeys.

On my morning run I felt like I was living an episode of Animal Planet. Near the Intramural Fields on Guadelupe, I spotted about 20 - 30 large, bright green parakeet looking birds. They nuzzled each other closely on a power line. I did a double take and figured maybe, somehow they got loose in transit to a pet store. Further along, in a neighborhood above 51st, I caught sight of two turkeys waddling around someone's front yard. At the neighbor's house about four or five cats sat prim, staring at the two turkeys. They weren't staring like, "I'm gonna eat you sucka", but more along the lines of "hmmm, how strange ... turkeys".

I got a bunch of sun this weekend. Unexpectedly. Saturday Nevie and I raced, "The Toughest Race in Texas" at St. Stephens High School. It truly was the toughest race I've ever run. It was a 10k along a very narrow, rocky trail that climbed and descended what felt like 20,000 hills. For much of the race it was single file and hard to pass people. We even passed a woman on the side, holding her bloody knee while a couple of other runners tended to her. I'll do it again next year for sure.

We spent two hours with Sandra and Aaron getting more notes after the race. Nevie's been working furiously on those ever since. Everyone agrees that we're really close. It's a good feeling.

Spent Sunday with Kurt, Meredith and the kids getting more photos for the poster. I have a polaroid from the shoot taped to my computer at work. It's from a high overhead angle as they're all lying on each other's bellies.



It takes me back to the day on the beach with Aaron, Garrett and Gena and Jane's Addiction. Stacy, Jameson, Bryan and I shot a new scene after the photo shoot. It went really well. Bryan destroyed the hell out of these two polaroid cameras. It was kind of striking how quickly they flew into a million little pieces.

Lastly, I caught Capote Saturday afternoon. I loved it. It really got under my skin. I felt like sobbing the whole way home from the theater. The performances were smashing. So subtle and so rich, it took me a while to realize Catherine Keener was playing Harper Lee. And I LOVE that woman.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Finding the movie.

I'm very excited. Sandra emailed this morning after watching the latest cut and said we found our movie. Yea! We meet tomorrow morning with her and Aaron to go over last minute notes and changes. I'm feeling really confident these days. It's refreshing really, that whole confidence thing. It sure beats the pants off of this self doubt I've been trying to fight.

Oh, and David, we haven't heard from Sundance yet. Again, not holding my breath. The version we sent them ... let's just say the film was still a little lost in the woods. Maybe they'll see it differently.

Nevie and I are running a race through the woods in the morning. I can't wait. It sounds like so much fun. Trails, rocks, dirt paths ...

It's a busy weekend. A pick up scene, another poster photo shoot, races, editing notes, editing, a date with my boy and a birthday dinner celebration with Stacy, Nevie and Miss Tracy tonight. I've been craving sushi badly these days. I'm on a silly Japanese food kick.

In the Statesman today I got to talk about my favorite scary movie. That Chris Garcia, man oh man.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I've become a gum addict.

I think Mark and I are in agreement. Wedding ceremony in the Egyptian Room of the Dobie Theater and reception at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. That's all we know so far, besides the converses of course. You gotta be comfortable in these type of situations.

It's been a strange day. Big news that I'm a little taken aback by. Not in a bad way.

I've been watching the VHS copy of the latest cut of the film and I'm really happy with it. After doing my morning sit ups to the first act of the film, I caught Mark getting out of the shower. I threw my hands in the air and yelled, "I love my movie!".

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Idle Threats

Nevie and I spent last night escaping. Getting away from everything and everyone. We said goodbye to the Avid and hello to cheesy magazines, vanilla milkshakes, trash talkin', Astros on the TV and talk of toilet papering houses. I sure am good with the threats, but when Stacy took me up on the toilet papering threat this morning and wanted to join in with her teenaged daughter, Annalise, I turned to jelly. See, I can trash talk until the cows come home, but when it comes to following through on something like that, I'm a freakin' scardy cat. I've never TPed a house before in my life. I've had thoughts of it. Lots of 'em. And I've made tons of idle threats, but I'm the first to back out of any wild and crazy fun like that. That's probably why I was never grounded as a kid.

Nevie and I will get back to some serious editing tonight. We have a November 9th deadline to try and make. That's the plan. Stacy's keeping us on schedule and in line. She's good like that. Post production meeting tonight to get everything in check. Lots and lots to do still.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Slowly but surely

Nevie and I added three scenes back last night. It feels better. Jimmy is more established. The mom has a little more screen time. We shoot a new scene with Bryan early Sunday morning and should have that back by the end of next week. It's feeling really good. Really smooth and even. I can't wait for Justin to get his hands on the sound. I'll dance a jig around the room when I watch it with clean sound. I love this process. I love the feeling of it all coming together. Each time I watch it, I find less and less to make notes about. My list gets shorter and my smile gets wider. I kid myself when I think that once picture's locked, I'll have more time on my hands. There's still so much to do. I'll work with Justin on sound design and giving it that silent awkwardness that I embrace so much. I'll coach the colorist on how to even out the lighting and make those night shots darker and richer. The pieces will fall into place slowly but surely.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Arkansas

Spent the weekend in Arkansas for Mandy and Victor's wedding. It was quite wonderful. Most of us were able to make it ... Mark, Kurt, Meredith, Ryan, Karen, Collier, Nevie ... Mark played deejay for the reception and had everyone dancing until their sides hurt. He finished his set with "Since You've Been Gone". He had all of us in the middle of the dance floor screaming the lyrics and throwing our fists into the air. There was something very touching about that moment.

I haven't seen seasons like that since I lived in Boston as a freshman in college. I haven't seen leaves so red and rolling hills so vast in years. It made me want to make a lot of money and buy a house in the Ozarks. Or at least come back to visit.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Leaving a bruise.

The test screening last night was very telling.

Here we go:

1) The movie is a teen film but it is not for teens. The teenage audience that we recruited didn't quite get it. A few of them seemed to really like it, but a majority didn't. They felt it was awkward, which as Melody pointed out is probably not a bad thing. They picked it apart big time. They made some very valid points and equally strange and unhelpful observations. I opted to listen to the teen discussion instead of the adults. My friend Melody moderated. I don't think the kids knew I was in the back scribbling notes because they were brutally, brutally honest. Which was a great thing and what test screenings are for, but boy, oh boy did it cut listening to them. They hated some characters, thought certain actors were "hot" and didn't understand why these four friends hung out together. I wanted to pipe up and say, "These were my friends and we were all very different from one another. That's not so strange!" There was definite crossover in some of their criticism with the adults and some completely opposite reactions which I found pretty interesting. The crossover is what we'll focus on.

2) I went home after the screening feeling pretty shitty. I popped in the tape that Lorie recorded the adult discussion on and sat up until almost 2am listening to their completely contrasting take of the film. The adults got it. They kept saying it was real, honest, authentic, was true to the way people grieve. To hear that meant everything to me. They had an affection and love for certain characters that the teens hated. They found the film nostalgic and reminiscent of their own adolescence. It really spoke to the adults and I think maybe the thing is, is that the teenagers probably haven't experienced the loss of a loved one yet. And maybe that's why they had such a knee jerk reaction. They haven't been through that sort of grief yet. I don't know. But regardless, it was incredibly helpful to figure out that they're not our audience. The adults reiterated that our audience goes to the arthouse theaters. I knew that deep down all along. I would hope that my friends from high school would've seen this film and understood, but then again, maybe we wouldn't have. I don't know. I don't think I truly understood grieving over a loved one until a few weeks ago. And there was one small piece of that experience that I don't think I got right in the film. I plan to shoot another scene to remedy that.

Everyone wanted more of the mom, to understand the older brother and to have less alcohol. The alcohol we can't do much about but the mom and brother, we can.

One thing is that the audience was pretty divided on the ending. I've always been firm with that ending. I don't want to cater to things wrapping up neatly and happily. That's not the way life works. I'm standing my ground on that one.

The things that Nevie and I will work on from here on out:
a) Putting a tiny bit of the mom back in.
b) Carefully bringing a little bit more life to Jimmy's character.
c) Shooting a new scene with Bryan.
d) Reworking the introduction to the mom and brother.
e) Tweaking

Test screenings are tough. They give you thick skin. And it's good to sit there and take it like a man, or a woman. They give you fresh perspective. Especially from people who don't know you from Adam. They can be really painful and they can be very validating. And sometimes they can leave you with a nasty bruise. But with a little bit of care, it'll go away. Lorie said that Nevie and I finally found it with this cut. That we unearthed the spine of the film. That we're pretty damn close. I agree. Stacy asked me this morning as I was still trying to pull myself up from the harsh words of the teens whether I would reshoot anything or conjure up a bunch of new scenes had I tons of money to work with. I sat there and thought long and hard. No. I want to shoot this one, simple scene and that's it. Just like in "cicadas", I embrace every flaw. I'm proud of every mistake. I'd rather make it, grow from it and move on. I'm really fucking proud of this film. And I'm really fucking proud of every hand and heart that went into making it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Love/Embarrassment

I went over to Hrasky's last night to pick up the contract for our use of an Explosions in the Sky song. He gave me a copy of the reissue of "How Strange, Innocence", their first album. I have the original, but it's beat up and certain stereos are picky about playing it. Taking it with me everywhere and playing it every chance I got, I really wore that record out. I haven't listened to it in years, maybe. But I remember the first time I put it in the CD player. I pressed repeat and drove up and down Mopac for about an hour. I didn't know music like this. It inspired me and left me weak in the knees. Now that I have it on repeat on my headphones at work, it's bringing up all of these old memories. It takes me back to when I first started hanging out with the Sad Loud boys. Chris and I worked at Book People together and we'd hide between shelves of books to talk about films and music. I was in post production on "cicadas" and would leave work every day around 4:30pm and head straight to Shawn Higgins' to edit the film by myself until midnight. I worked bits and pieces of that record into the film. I cut the trailer (that never really saw the light of day) to track #4. The liner notes of the reissue talk about how they've since had a love/embarrassment relationship with the record. I have to say, even after watching their band quietly grow and then explode into worldwide fame and countless raving reviews, and listening to their sound evolve over the years into something so fierce and voluminous, this little record still makes me ache.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tootsie Rolls

M.I.A. on the headphones. Mixed CD. My friends gathered in New York City the first weekend in October. I wasn't able to join them, but they all made mixed tapes to share with everyone. Karen brought me a huge stack. I think I'm listening to Clare's. It's really good. Interpol, Elastica, The Stone Roses, Yo La Tengo, Tom Waits ... It makes me miss my girls.

Tomorrow night marks our 3rd and hopefully final test screening. We're bringing in about 40 adults and teenagers who don't know us, don't know the film or anyone involved in the film. I'm pretty excited to get feedback from actual non-industry audience members. I want to know if it's honest. If it feels real. We're also sending it off to a few more industry types in New York for one last look. The one I'm most anxious to hear back from is Scott Macaulay.

I discovered today that I have a serious weakness for Tootsie Rolls. I knew that I loved them a whole lot, but I REALLY REALLY love them. The stupid candy bowl is about 20 feet from my desk. I can see it as I type this. My coworker, Melanie, bought Tootsie Rolls, Blow Pops and Reeses Cups in celebration of Halloween. Usually we have pretty crappy candy in there and it's easy to avoid, but those damn Tootsie Rolls have really got a hold on me.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Best friends are always on your team.

This weekend we'll celebrate Amy and Egil's wedding. I'll be surrounded by new aunts and uncles, friends of the family, cousins ... They'll ask to see the ring. It's currently in the shop being resized. They'll want to know about the movie, my life, our own wedding plans ... I'm not sure I'm quite ready. I'll hold Mark's hand tight and not let go. That boy has given me so much ground to walk on. He's been a pillar of strength in my recent weakness and frailty. I couldn't have asked for a better man.

The movie is coming into its own. Nevie and I are putting on the finishing touches before we do another test screening next week. We've added some beautiful transitions. I made another cameo. My last one got cut. I'm adding another scene which I hope to shoot at the end of the month. I still need to talk to Juli and Bryan about it.

It's been strange sorting through my own grief and confusion and watching it unfold on a screen in words I gave to these characters. Watching the scene where Eric tries to resuscitate Zak after pulling his unconscious body from the river breaks me.

I plan to meet up with Garrett, Gena and Warren in February to show them the film. Right now, I'm looking forward to that more than anything else.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Summertime Rolls

I went back to Florida last weekend for my friend's funeral. It hit me hard. I've since been slowly climbing back up from the sadness. His death was a tragic and senseless mistake. That's all there is to it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Absence

I've been absent for the past week. Hiding away from everyone and everything. Trying to make sense and find peace with something. I've been writing a lot in my journal. And I've spent a lot of time on the phone with the two friends that meant the world to me in my youth. We vowed to break the distance that's come between us over the last ten years. I made them promise. No more weirdness. Nothing left unsaid. I've needed them more than anything lately. Just to hear their voices and know that they're there. To tell them how much I love them and how much they mean to me.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

letting go ...

It's been an interesting few days.

Saturday: Jim, Beau, Tracy, Stacy and I spent the day getting pick up shots. Establishing neighborhoods, bridges, seasons ... I think we got some cool fall shots. We found random people in yards fixing houses, mowing lawns, lighting firecrackers. I'm hoping we'll get that footage back on Wednesday

Sunday: We had a screening for a few "industry" people. Sandra and Aaron gave incredibly helpful, detailed and constructive feedback. It felt really overwhelming listening to it all, but sitting with it afterwards, for the most part, it all feels right. Sandra suggested taking out another 20 - 30 minutes of the film. "Wow", I thought. I kind I did one of those cartoon gulps. But really, she's right. They helped with restructuring the first act and slimming down the second. Everyone agreed that the third act is pretty damn solid.

Monday: Nevie and I took the notes from Sunday's screening and started the restructuring/slimming down process. We'd each made a list of what scenes to include and in what order. From there we compared and compromised. After watching what we'd done to the first act, it felt much better. More kids. That's what everyone wanted. More kids, less mom. The suicide gave more of a punch this time around. And you get to know the kids better. The second act, felt a little better, but we both agreed we could still take out a few things. We'll also be redoing the title sequence. I've had really simple, plain title sequences, up until now, but it's time to get a little fancier.

Nevie and I will continue the reshaping process. It's feeling good. After the screening on Sunday, I'm having major doubts about Sundance. I wish we could've sent something in later, or maybe not have sent anything at all. I think we'll have something more solid to send to Slamdance. But I'm feeling a relief about letting that idea go. I'm feeling more comfortable with just focusing on the film and not on all these damn deadlines. I think the film will be better for it.