Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

I talk to some degree to my students about story over style with filmmaking. I think this is a prime example of a director going nuts with style and "cool shots" that don't add to the story but actually take you out of it.

I'm a sucker for good horror. Good horror. I'm not a fan of the sadistic torture porn that seems to be finding a back seat to the recent remakes of teen slasher flicks. Thank god. And what I love is that a lot of these new teen slasher flicks are going old school. Kill and move on. No torture, mutilate, humiliate, torture some more and then kill. Nope ... it's simply ax to the head, dead, move on to the next one.

The Midnight Meat Train could've been a super cool film. Number one it has a pretty awesome title. Second, it has a cool/interesting/simple story. But once the director got a hold of what was probably a decent script he couldn't seem to figure out if he wanted to make an art film, a torture porn film, an old school horror film or a sci-fi film. One of the number one ways to kill a film ... not know what it is. When your tone is all over the place ... your audience is gonna get confused, quick.

Less is more. Great horror shows very little. Not like today where they show everything. Dude, that's just gross. Not scary. Sure it makes me close my eyes and hold my ears, but it doesn't keep me up at night looking under my bed or checking my closet.

I was half heartedly listening to the commentary while working late last night Clive Barker and the director seemed to only want to talk about the cool effect shots like the eyeball getting ripped out and using the CG to make it fly at the screen. Yay! You can make an eyeball fly at the screen. Good for you. But who cares.

I'm all for crazy cool camera ... but I'm more for being faithful to your story.

What sold me on watching the film was (besides the title) Vinnie Jones. He's second to Jason Statham for me. And if you haven't seen him do comedy, you're missing out.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Entertainment Weekly Names 25 Greatest Active Directors

1. Steven Spielberg

2. Peter Jackson

3. Martin Scorsese

4. Christopher Nolan

5. Steven Soderbergh

6. Ridley Scott

7. Quentin Tarantino

8. Michael Mann

9. James Cameron

10. Joel and Ethan Coen

11. Guillermo del Toro

12. David Fincher

13. Tim Burton

14. Judd Apatow

15. Sam Raimi

16. Zack Snyder

17. Darren Aronofsky

18. Danny Boyle

19. Clint Eastwood

20. Ron Howard

21. Ang Lee

22. Paul Thomas Anderson

23. Paul Greengrass

24. Pedro Almodóvar

25. Jon Favreau

What's wrong with this picture ... ? I can name a few things.

How I Feel Today

40 Days Without Television

Say what? And I'm not a HUGE TV watcher ... although I do get excited when something cancels and I get to go home and watch The Bachelor (please don't throw things at me. Jim and Rebecca like it too!). And I'm psyched when I get to catch 30 Rock. And the only show Mark and I are pretty faithful to is Saturday Night Live. Digital Shorts are the best thing ever. Ok and we just finished the first season of Gossip Girl. So I like TV, so what?

I thought it was curious when our friend Megan decided to give up TV for 40 Days. It'll be fun to follow her adventure.

Ben, does that mean no TV for you too?

My Meals - For the Moms Out There

My sister in law came up with this awesome way of teaching her kids about nutrition and balanced meals. They're refrigerator magnets where her kids pick what they want to eat for each meal from the four food groups. And now she's selling it through her website.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Juggling Projects - It's a Balancing Act

An Inappropriate Education - 1st Solid Draft, check. Read Through comin' up in a few days.

Brain Brawl - Is going out to an actress this week. It's been dormant up until yesterday.

Ninja James - Chadwick's still cutting. Planning a rough cut screening very soon.

Love Bug - Cast, production design and storyboard meetings this week and next.

Quarter to Noon
- Lots and lots of screenings next week for Women's Day / Week.

jumping off bridges - Been slowly paying off our debt still. Feels great every time we send off a check. Heading to New Jersey/New York next week for a community screening.

The Spider in the Bathtub - Waiting to hear about something.

Love Me - It's out to a small group of people.

My Husband - Planning a short vacation so we can see each other's faces without the every day distractions. I miss him.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Texas Freedom Network Ads

Several Arts and Labor folks contributed to the Jeff Marrow directed spots for the Texas Freedom Network. There are three more on their way to a Youtube near you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Love Bug and The Spider in the Bathtub Influences

The lighting and production design in Stuart Little.
The characters and costumes in Monster House.
The animation in Stuart Little and Mouse Hunt.
The camera movement in Detroit Rock City.
Basically the stories in most 80s kid comedies and adventure movies ... The Goonies, Adventures in Babysitting, Explorers, ET, The Monster Squad ...
The poster art in adventure films where the art is painted not photographed.

Love Bug is Cast (Mostly)

I made two tough, tough, tough decisions for Maddy and Turtle, the main characters in Love Bug. I had to get some second opinions to back me up on them. Just to be sure. I basically could have made the film with three sets of kids and they all would've been fantastic. But I could only make one. So now I have one more mom to cast and I'll be done.

Now, moving on to storyboards, shot lists and designing my own bedroom to turn it into a 9-year old boy's bedroom. I'll need lots of action figures, insects in jars and poster on the walls. Just no snakes. I don't do snakes.

Domo Arigato Kitty!

Oh Ama ... sending me funny photos as a follow up to the Oscar Speech.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best Oscar Speech Ever

So heavy. Thank you very much. Thank you, my supporters. Thank you, all my staff. Thank you, my producer. Thank you, Academy. Thank you, animation. Thank you my company, Robot.

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto. Thank you very much.
-Kunio Kato, Oscar Winner, Best Animated Short Film

If you didn't see it live, you'll have to find the Youtube clip when it hits the internet waves.

And then to top it off, I made Mark wait in the car in our driveway to listen to Come Sail Away. Oh, Styxx ... I love you.

Casting, Chatting, Plotting, Scheming

It was a good Saturday. A long day of casting, both with helping my students and friends and my own call backs for Love Bug. There have been no decisions just yet. We watched the tapes right after everyone left and narrowed it down just a wee bit more. And now I need to go back with the tapes and make some final decisions. I could make a movie with almost all of them and it would be great. Just different from one to the next. So it's just a matter of which direction to take it. Oh decisions. They're hard.

And then spent the rest of the night with Scott and this dude plotting and scheming the summer feature. I have to nail down this script. Make it fly.

Friday, February 20, 2009

An Inapproriate Education - Read Through

I've put together a date for a read through of the latest script An Inappropriate Education. Have I mentioned how much I love read throughs? It helps me get back on track with a new draft. I get clouded with reading the same words over and over and over again and wonder if I'm being totally brilliant or totally lame. Usually it's the later. So I'm trying to make it the best it can be with the little wedges of time I can find before that read through.

I'm also barely into a new big, fat comedy. I'm loving it and having a lot of fun being silly and goofy with my characters. I just wish I had more time to sit and write. Oh time, where are you?

Off to the office to do ... worky work.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Maybe Later, Los Angeles

LinkI was supposed to leave for LA on Sunday for a week. But it ain't happenin'. I clicked that little button today that said, "Cancel Ticket". Sigh. There was no time to prepare. No time to email, call, line things up. I feel pretty bummed about it. More bummed than I thought I would be, but hey, whatever. It means I get to visit with Ryan and Tom when they get here. Which means a whole lot.

So I'll be prepping for a NY trip at the beginning of March. But by prepping, I mean ... so, when do I get to hang out with all my friends after I finish up with my jumping off bridges screening? That makes me happy. I miss my girls.

So Los Angeles, you'll just have to wait until the end of the semester to hang out again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Project I Can't Talk About

Round One ... almost done. Woohoo! Round Two ... oh god, I still have Round Two? Argh.

Quarter to Noon Goes on Tour - WIFI Showcase

Ok, so I didn't realize when we got word that Quarter to Noon made the cut for the Women in Film International touring showcase that we'd be going beyond the Texas border.

So as a part of a program of seven short films made by women about women ... well, we're going international. So far, we'll be screening in these cities on these days ...

WEDNESDAY, March 4th, 2009
Orlando, Florida, United States of America

New York, New York, United States of America
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Sidney, Australia

SUNDAY, MARCH 8th, 2009
Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
Dallas, Texas, United States of America
Hong Kong, China
Houston, Texas, United States of America
Los Angeles, California, United States of America
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America
Palm Springs, California, United States of America
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America
Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States of America
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Wellington, New Zealand

MONDAY, MARCH 9th, 2009
Atlanta, Georgia, United States if America
Auckland, New Zealand
Stockholm, Sweden
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

TUESDAY, MARCH 10th, 2009
Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
Washington DC, United States of America

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Mosquito Coast (1986)

Back in my younger days, I was obsessed with River Phoenix. I watched anything and everything I could get my hands on. But not only was I consuming River Phoenix films I was getting introduced to a slew of amazing directors. Nancy Savoca (Dogfight), Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho), Sidney Lumet (Running on Empty), Peter Bogdanovich (The Thing Called Love) ...

Tonight I revisited The Mosquito Coast (Peter Weir). I have a lot of love for Peter Weir (Fearless, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Witness, Dead Poet's Society). I remember loving The Mosquito Coast when I brought it home on VHS as a kid and I loved it just the same tonight. But for different reasons. As a kid it made me wish my family lived in the jungle and built tree houses. But today, it makes me reflect a lot on family and fathers.

It's a funny thing as a kid trusting that your parents know what's best for you. Trusting that they have your best interest at heart. But when they did something or said something to misplace that trust ... it's a hard thing to resolve as a child. I'm not sure exactly how the line goes, but it's when Charlie (River Phoenix' character) talks about the lie his father told. And he knew good and well that it was a lie. And it sank his heart in every which way. And even though his father lied, he still loved him. But all of a sudden that lie that his father told made him feel really lonely. And the only thing he could hope for was that his father would take back that lie and own up to it.

Men and pride are a funny thing. Especially when there's a whole family involved.

Quarter to Noon - Women in Film International Showcase, 3/8

Quarter to Noon will screen at the Women in Film International Showcase in Dallas / Addison on March 8th. Sadly, I'll be on a plane coming home from NYC and won't be able to be there. So if you're in Addison or the Dallas area, please check it out. I'll be there in spirit.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Coming to a SXSW Near You

Saddle Up NYC

I have three students screening, so if you're in NY on Wednesday, please go support my kids. I'm just a really proud teacher.

Wednesday, February 18th
NewFilmmakers goes back to college

Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue @ 2nd Street


University Of Texas - Austin Film School

Drew Xanthopoulos Western Brothers' Adventure Story
Katja Straub Martha
Miguel Alvarez Kid
Alan Lampert Mr. Shoop
Logan Strobel The Moon or Bust
Lucas Amman Popsicle
Drew Daniels Oley
Adam Morgan & Erik Johnson An Apparent Celebration
John Moore Refurbished
Marshall Rimmer Color by Number
Gabriela Yepes Danzak

Casting - Love Bug

In the middle of casting yesterday one of the little girls pointed out, "I know why you picked today to do auditions for Love Bug." "Oh yeah, why's that?" " Cause it's Valentine's Day!"

We spent a full day from 8am - 5pm watching about forty 7-10 year olds reading for the parts of Maddy and Turtle. It was cute, cute and more cute. They were little, big, skinny and round, inexperienced, experienced, younger and older. We had a full range.

So as I'm watching these kids it's more about Who is Turtle? and Who is Maddy? It's got a lot to do with how well they can act, but it's got more to do with who they are and how well they inhabit the character.

Scott and I were chatting during lunch about how some of these kids would be awesome for some other roles in other films we have, but maybe not perfect for this one. That's the thing, just because you don't get the part, doesn't mean you're not a terrific actor. You may not be old enough. You may be too old. Too tall, too short, too slow or too fast. We saw one kid who was super natural and sweet and would be awesome in another role, but just not this one. And those are the actors that you tuck away in your memory for later on. Or for friends' projects that come along.

With all of that said, I can't decide. I think I have a Maddy, but I'm still pretty undecided about my Turtle. So I'll be doing call-backs next Saturday. I want to make sure I get it right.

Friday, February 13, 2009

jumping off bridges - Bergen Community College

jumping off bridges will screen in New Jersey, on Thursday March 5th as part of the Bergen Community College Wellness Center and Care Plus Foundation Community Screening. I'll be flying up there for the screening and then heading over to New York to see some friends and colleagues.

Here's a link to more details if you're in the area or you have friends that can check it out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What Makes My Heart Sing

As Jason and I plow through this week and next ... we're reassessing what really makes our hearts sing. And vowing to only do those things.

What Makes My Heart Sing:

1) Telling fun, sad, hopeful, thoughtful, inspiring, depressing, mainstream, up stream, no stream ... movies.
2) Teaching and inspiring people ... young and old, big and tall, short and sweet.
3) Watching movies. All kinds.
4) Working with my friends on projects we love.

So in honor of doing things from the heart ...


It's hard writing those things cause you have to write them backwards. But there ... that says it all. I'm ready. And gonna make it happen.

And just after a day of bad (but actually kinda good news), I got a little pat on the back with some bonafide good news. I think we all need that pat on the back every few months or so. It's just like ... you're not a total loser, you are kind of talented and some people out there actually like what you do. Cool. I needed that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

School of the Seven Bells Video

My friend David produced this video for School of the Seven Bells. I love it so much. So beautiful.

I Don't Do Voice Work

I've been recording voice over for this particular project. It ain't my thang, yo. I stumble, stammer, use "uh" a lot ... say "blah" quite a bit and start over constantly.

I actually don't mind my voice. As a freshman in college I was told by an "esteemed drama teacher" that I didn't breathe properly and my voice wasn't "authentic". She made me cry more than I care to admit. And so I left that stinkin' drama class and became a filmmaker instead. So, fooey on her. Cause I like my voice. I like the ring of it. I just don't like recording 5 - 8 minutes of it reading text that's dry and lifeless.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Summer Features

Shooting a feature this summer is looking more and more likely as the days go by. Hot damn.

NJBB - Editing

Remember that little short Ninja James and the Beast Boy that we shot last fall? Well, we're still editing the sucker. Spent a few hours last night with Mr. Chennault tweaking the latest cut. It's clocking in at about 10:30 right now. That doesn't include credits. I challenged Chadwick to get it down another minute. That means pinching it here and there. It needs it, I think. It still feels a little long for an action film. So we're ditching shots we love just to move the story forward. That's the hardest part. Cuts like a knife. But yeah, Chadwick added some cool stuff and made some moments that I hated, moments that I actually like now. The magic of editing. His mission is to show it to folks that don't know me or the story and get some brutally honest feedback from it. Moving on!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Love Bug - Casting

Nancy's been organizing our casting session for next weekend. We've gotten a fair amount of little ones coming to read. This is big time comedic acting for two little kids. I had a boy in mind for the role of Turtle who read for me at a screenplay reading a few years back but now he's 14. Man, how time flies. I mean, really, time flies. Crazy.

In other news, now that I've gotten over a huge hump in production, I can balance my time a little more and start focusing on some storyboards and lighting. the fun stuff. I need to focus on a house to shoot in too. A huge little boy's room that's already got some production design going on so we don't have to do a whole lot ourselves ...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Shoot Day #2 - Done and Done

Our shoot wrapped today and we got some really beautiful footage ... of hands clicking a mouse, fingers clicking a keyboard, lots of nods, smiles, inquisitive looks ... very generic, very, uh, boring, but damn it looks beautiful. So my vow to stay home on Saturday, nixed. I'll go log and organize the footage to prep it for our editor and graphic artist. I'm glad the shoot is over and now we can just work on the post end of things. Please, god let them like it.

Yesterday was Thursday, Today's Friday. Woohoo!!!!

Day one of our corporate shoot went really well. It's much more fun shooting than it is prepping those things. It's not like prepping a narrative where it's all about colors and costumes and creative stuff. But I'll say I've learned a ton on this. Jason's taken the lead on a lot of things and I'm super grateful since he's been on a lot more of these. Our DP is great and knows how to rig a dolly in like two minutes flat. And with corporate stuff, almost everything's on a dolly. Slowly moving around actors, keyboards, hands, products ...

I think I might've caught up on some sleep last night too. I was at the point where I just wanted to cry for no reason I was so tired. This weekend I vow to sleep and do a whole lot of nothing. Well, Saturday at least. The couch might be my little heaven for twelve hours.

Today's Friday. And it actually means something.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Film Choices

As I sit and model for my UT kids and Jim works with them in a camera workshop I have a few things to say to them.

Every semester with every film class choices are made. Which short films will get produced in class? Outside of my UT film classes, the students choose which films to make. At UT, it's set up like a studio system. I have 20 some odd students and not all of them can make a film with the resources, the cameras and the crew that we're allotted. My TA and I make the final choice. We chose six this semester. We take into consideration how solid is the script, how clear is the vision of the director through the director's written pitch and this semester they shot a one minute short film at the very beginning of class. As with everything in life, it comes down to personal taste, choosing a variety of genres, and leaving behind some amazing work that we just couldn't choose because we were limited.

There are six great films that will be made in my UT class this semester. And there are many great films from scripts that weren't chosen that will be ready to go next semester. There's a lot of talent in this group. I can't wait to see their collaborations come to life on screen.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

St. Nick at SXSW

ST. NICK trailer from ST NICK on Vimeo.
It's a beautiful film. At least the last rough cut I saw was pretty friggin' amazing. I can only trust that the final cut will be even more beautiful. If you're going to SXSW this year, go see this film.

We are Loopy

This is what happens when you don't get any sleep because you stay up all night reading scripts, you work non-stop during the day prepping for classes and working on a particular project that you're not particularly fond of (not my beloved students or my beloved classes mind you. because those make my heart sing) ... You get a little loopy. Give me sleep. Please.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Reading Scripts

I've spent my entire weekend (in Mark's absence) redecorating my place and reading scripts. I've been reading tons and tons of scripts. First drafts, third drafts, final drafts. Between my Script to Screen, Advanced and UT classes, I've been buried in short screenplays. I haven't even begun the feature scripts that I need to read for my special project kids and friends. And what's funny is that all of a sudden past students are needing scripts read. If you're reading this and you need a script read, you'll have to take a number. It could be a little while still. My eyes are about to fall out of my head.