Thursday, June 23, 2005

i don't have time for a meme....

...but i feel guilty as i've tagged a few people myself... frankly, i'm not all that good at them, but here goes:

Total # of books owned:  I have no idea. i have two 8 foot bookshelves in the house filled with MOSTLY my books, plus two large ones in my office overflowing. Very rough estimate based on a count of one shelf and multiplying by number of shelves, not including books in storage: 800+

Last book I bought:  Cliff Notes to The Bible -- as a gag.

Last book I read:  The Wages of Genius by Gregory Mone. Interesting little novel about a guy who so needs to be extraordinary that he's convinced himself he has strange and important links to Albert Einstein. Ultimately, he is very very ordinary and can't cope with that fact.

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me: This is like asking me my favorite movie. I have a very hard time (a) narrowing it down; and (b) remembering all the significant ones. But here goes:

(1) Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney: I read this in high school, at a time when I had abandoned wanting to be a a writer and had decided to become a lawyer. McInerney's use of second person to tell the story grabbed me imediately -- I had never seen that before -- and the story was at turns cynical, satirical, and touching. I actually cried. I re-read it every now and again and I still love it. It reignited my love of words and made me want to be a writer again. Damn you, Jay McInerney.

(2) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Douglas Adams, a lover of and gifted user of words. You can tell he loved the language and enjoyed playing with it, making it do things you didn't expect. I didn't get to see the recent film version of the book (though I want to), but I always contended that the reason a film version wouldn't match the book is that the book's humor and brilliance was directly tied to Adams' gift for words. That doesn't get translated to the screen. The images are funny; the words are brilliant.

(3) Ingmar Bergman: Essays in Criticism, edited by Stuart M. Kaminsky: One of the first film books I bought as an undergrad, when I was thinking about studying it. It really opened up my eyes to the concept of film-as-art.

(4) Life After God and Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland: I'm grouping these as one (even though I could separate them and be done with this post) because Coupland's work is all linked in my mind, touching me with his stories of youth in search of meaning, in search of God, in a world that is decidedly "post-Christian" (hence the title Life After God). Always real, even when writing about apocalyptic events as in Coma, he strikes me as one of those authors I'd really like to spend some time with.

(5) How Movies Helped Save My Soul by Gareth Higgins: Not because it has profound insights, but because it's about having a dialogue about the spiritual elements in films. As a Christian who is also a filmmaker, I find that many Christians want to limit what a Christian filmmaker should be -- to making overtly Christian films where people find God and nothing really too bad happens. But this book looks at the spiritual dimensions of films of all kinds, and I find it inspiring that there are other Christians out there who can enjoy a film as a piece of art, looking for what it is trying to say about humanity and the world, whether we agree with those sentiments or not.

That was a tough list to make. If you asked me tomorrow, or if I was doing this from home where my 'home books' are, I might have had completely different answers. I would also have liked to include plays like Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and a number of Shakespeare's works, Beckett's works, etc., but I didn't think I should since they're not really 'books' per se. And The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon, is another notable absence, even though I just re-read it recently, I'm sure I'm going to want to edit this later. Picking these lists is like picking amongst my children -- I always feel like I just can't choose ONLY five. Ten, twenty, maybe more, but that would make this meme rather unwieldy, wouldn't it?

And on a side note: does anyone else out there ever wish they HADN'T read certain books, mostly so they could go back and read them for the first time again? It's so hard to have that joy of discovery anymore. I read a lot less than I used to (or, I should say, I read a lot less BOOKS that I used to), and there seems to be so few that meet that standard (or maybe my standards have just gone up over the years?) I find, with most books, I'm just trying to finish to say that I did.


scheduling, casting, production design, locations, release forms, more release forms, scheduling problems, meetings, phone calls, managers, oh-and-did-i-forget-my-family...

someone remind me why i wanted to do this again?

i know -- it will all be worth it in the end. one hopes.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Lead Has Been Cast

Spoke to the actor yesterday, He had almost finished reading the script, really liked it, and wanted to do it. So the lead role has been cast. That's a load off.

He didn't fit the physical image at all, but his acting outweighed that. Now, we'll have to do something appearance-wise to make him fit the role a bit... but he's open and willing to do that.

He has a manager (none of the other actors had reps we needed to work with)... so there will be some work to be done there, but hopefully it won't hold anything up. It's a no-budget film with deferred pay, so I am guessing they aren't expecting a lot of perks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Pardon the all-caps title, but I AM shouting, because I think I found my lead.

Taped audition, from a NY-based actor-friend of the woman I just cast in the female lead role... and he totally gets it. It's not a perfect performance, but it was VERY good, and he can obviously act. With some direction, I think he will be wonderful.

He looks nothing at all like the lead, but I think we can make it work, if he's willing to do some physical/appearance-changing stuff.

I have to watch his tape with Producer and discuss the financials (we have to add a ticket from NY and a hotel stay to an already-stretched budget), but I think we can make it work, and of course, it'll be worth it.

More later, when I talk to Producer and the actor.

Monday, June 13, 2005

It's always something... independent film.

This weekend featured not one but TWO separate but equally frustrating events.

First, our primary location -- where we're shooting for one full week out of our three week schedule -- started threatening to drop out on us. Bunch of college guys, and all of a sudden they didn't realize we were going to be shooting in their bedrooms. Ya know, after we walked through the entire house and talked about what rooms would substitute for what locations in the script. And they don't want us to start to early. And one of them doesn't want us to use his room at all, because he's really freaky about it and is afraid of his stuff getting broken.

None of these are outrageous claims. But they were appropriate to bring up back when we made the agreement. Not now. In any case, we're trying to accomodate so we don't lose the location.

The second problem: we nearly had half our budget pulled out from under us. The department is providing a significant amount of our productione expenses, plus the purchase of some equipment that they'll be able to use after our production. Today, the director of our division put a cap on the amount that suddenly seemed WAY lower than the originally agreed upon amount.

Okay, a bit of a tease here -- this one turned out to be a miscommunication. When we asked for clarification, we realized it was just a poorly worded e-mail. But I had a few hours of sweating that out.

And tomorrow I have to meet with these students about that location stuff. {enter smooth talk mode]

The good (casting) news: I have cast a wonderful actress (I believe) in the major female supporting role. NY-based actress, alum of Second City and Upright Citizens Brigade. I'm looking forward to working with her.

Now if I can just cast the lead...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Resolving Issues

DP issue is just about resolved. We have a guy who has agreed to do it, pending one thing on his schedule that he still needs to clear.

My department graciously offered to pay for the script clearance when I discussed my financial plight with them (very nice, considering the dept is already kicking in money for the film).

Down to two actresses for the main supporting female role.

Still NO ONE who can play the lead (except for yours truly).

Locations still unsecured, waiting on a call from location guys to give me an update.

Met with industrious senior who will direct the 'making of' documentary for the project. Comes highly recommended by a colleague and longtime friend of mine, and I have basically set him loose to capture everything and anything (though I will maintain editorial control). I am giving pretty much full access to meetings and etc.

Trying to lose the extra 10-15 pounds I put on since moving, so all I've eaten today is:
  • 4 bottles of water (20 oz. each)
  • 1 cup of coffee with sweet and low
  • 8 saltines

Honestly, I'm not intending to starve myself. I watch what I eat very carefully, and most days my willpower is decent. The grocery shopping hasn't been done yet, so the pantry is somewhat bare of the things I can eat. Thus, I am holding out rather than splurging on delicious but fattening foods. (The mouse caught in the trap in the pantry, however, was cool with eating peanut butter, much to his eternal regret).

Why the **** am I talking about food? I don't know -- just cataloging the day.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Feeling Antsy

I am getting very anxious about the film... there just seems to be so much to do. Little things are getting to me. When I'm not working on something for the film, I feel a lot of anxiety. I hate getting like this.

I'm also at a nervous stage -- this thing is finally becoming a reality, after several attempts to pull it off, and I'm getting a little... hm, can't decide what word to use here. I'm getting to the point where I'm starting to doubt my instincts, doubt whether the script is good enough, doubt whether I've made the right decisions.

I hate being this person sometimes.

I have been working on some production design stuff, just to feel like certain things are done. Some t-shirts have to be made for a scene where the characters pick up the special-ordered shirts from a shop. Now, I'd love to have these printed up, but it's expensive. So I decided to make them myself, with iron-on transfer paper. I can print the design right off my color inkjet and iron it onto the shirt.

This didn't work so well with the darker colored shirt I used. But I should have used the sheets designed for -- duh -- darker colored shirts. But this is the kind of thing that's been bugging me ALL DAY.

Why do I do this to myself?

If you can't tell by now, I'm a bit of a control-freak-perfectionist.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Just How Creative is This?

Put this in the category of things I just happened to think about and thus am committing to the blog...

The filmmaking process is seldom about creative expression and is more often about perseverance in the face of adversity and overwhelming odds. Making an indie film, even moreso.

I don't feel like I'm doing anything particularly creative in getting this film made. I feel, at the moment, like I am just an administrator. Yes, to that expenditure. No, I don't want to hire that person. Yes, no, yes, no.

Oh sure, the scriptwriting was a creative act. And the directing will be. But at the moment, there's just a lot of in between stuff that is not at all creative.

In terms of my teaching position, for tenure purposes, the closest analogous activity to making a feature film is writing and publishing a book. But I can't find anything analagous to the overwhelming pressure and financial burden of filmmaking. To write a book involves a commitment of time and mental effort. Some money might be required, and usually a grant can be gotten for this purpose. If there is some need to go overseas for research, or some other expensive endeavor, than getting that thing might be somewhat like this.

But this process of trying to get people and places together, to coordinate it all and make it come off WELL... I hope the tenure committee respects that and understands it, though I doubt they truly will.

Perhaps I'll write up something to include in my tenure credentials notebook outlining these thoughts (in a non-offensive manner).

In other news: I'm tired and cranky today. I don't know why. I've just been in a blah mood. I am frustrated by casting, frustrated with the slowness of every part of the process, frustrated with everything. I think I'm just probably mostly frustrated that I cannot do everything, that I need to leave things to other people and to trust them to do their jobs. I have issues with that in the best of worlds; in this world, where some of those people are students, I just have major concerns about things getting done.

I think it's just Saturday night doldrums. At least the Braves won tonight.

I think I'm also frustrated on a personal level because, after 10 months here, I still don't feel like I have any close friends in the area, no one to call when I want to go see a movie, no one to bounce ideas off of. I have a few friends in the department, but we don't hang out. We all have young families, and that complicates things. But after 11 years in our last place, we had strong ties and close friendships that we left behind, and I am only now -- at the end of the academic year as I am catching my breath for the first time since the move -- beginning to mourn the loss of those friendships and wondering how I will ever replace them.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Casting Update

Man, I can't catch a break this week. I decided to offer one small but pivotal role to a colleague of mine who auditioned. Turns out he's going to be taking a group of students abroad and will be gone for the entire shoot.

This is a small blow. Nothing major. But I feel like everything has been negative this week (there's more behind the scenes that I haven't told you about).

I may replace him with my brother, who I think can handle the role and who will be visiting during the shoot anyway. I feel weird casting family members, but then again, why not be like Francis Ford Coppola and include my family in my films.

Except for Sofia in Godfather III. That was a bit of an error.

Hopefully, this won't turn out like that.

Spending Budget Money Wisely

I've mentioned our micro-budget for this film in passing. We have about $20,000 pulled together, and with the free use of equipment, it probably kicks it up to $50,000.

That kind of budget leaves little room for extras like paying actors (we're offerring deferred pay, meaning we'll pay them if the film turns a profit); and much in the way of production design (you'll notice a lot of indie films are shot in apartments; these are usually the apartments of the filmmaker and his/her friends).

So now I'm up against one of those difficult choices. We need to get a script clearance report. The short version: a company checks out every possible legal issue in your script (like use of first/last names, company/brand names, etc.) to make sure you won't be sued. You use this report to get something called E&O Insurance on your film (errors and ommissions -- basically, the insurance a distributor needs so they know, when they buy your film, that they're not buying into any legal problems).

The cheapest scritp clearance service I've found thus far is $1000. That's certainly reasonable, but given our actual cash budget, it's a LOT of money. I have raised an extra $350 from other sources, so now I've got a deficit of $650 to pay for the report.

I discussed this with the producer, and he basically said: we don't have any extra anywhere, so it's up to you to tell me if we need to pull money from another place to use on this.

So -- $650 needed, but where do I pull it from? Not sure what I should do... but times 'a wastin'. I have to get the report done soon if it is to be of any use.