Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A New Realization...

I figured it out today: The movie's never gonna be finished. And I think I know why: About a month ago the guy at the gas station gave me $10 too much in change. I knew it. I kept it. And unbeknownst to me this act damned me. Then I drove off and -- while I don't remember this specifically -- what must've happened was that I got hit by a bus and killed instantly.

Now I'm in Hell. Because in Hell you spend eternity listening to really bad music within your low budget film's price range. It comes in the mail. It comes via computer. And it never stops coming. Because in Hell when you think you've found a song that will put an end to it -- a song within your low budget film's price range -- a producer vetoes it and you start over... And he's right.

Another reason I know I'm in Hell is because Hitler skied by my window Sunday when the Academy Awards' announcer reminded us Ben Affleck had an Oscar.

Meet Giancarlo Carmona

Isn't he just dreamy? Thankfully I'm comfortable enough with my sexuality to say that.

Giancarlo plays teenage Diego. For this role I wanted a romantic leading man-type. As a huge Errol Flynn fan I was looking for someone with dash who could play confidence right to the edge of cocky. Giancarlo was perfect. I think this was his first film. It sure didn't show.
He's also a very nice guy. Much nicer than he needs to be. If I looked like that I'd be a prick.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Sorry -- all two of you -- for the lite posting. Much busy. But in a good way. Lots going on.

Saw all the movies nominated for best picture this week. Here are my thoughts:

The Departed -- way too many contrivances and coincidences. Jack Nicholson was also too over-the-top. He owns a severed hand, eats flies, and walks around covered in blood and they can't catch him? Loved Mark Wahlberg though.

Little Miss Sunshine -- Another overly contrived script, but the actors are so good and the end so unique and charming I forgave all of that.

Letters From Iwo Jima -- If the WWII Japanese army was this sweet where did Imperial Japan find the psychos for the Bataan Death March and the rape of Nanking? It's too slow in it's pacing, the cinematography is too self-conscious, and we were not the bad guys on Iwo Jima. A little historical context would've gone a long way here.

Babel -- Really good film. Holding those four storylines together is quite a tribute to the filmmakers. Good stories, good acting, great editing. Brad Pitt really rises to the occasion.

The Queen -- Far and away my favorite of the bunch. What a radical idea to make a film that treats an institution like the British Monarchy with some human dimension instead of a one-dimensional target for ridicule or villainy. It tells a lot of story in 97 minutes and Helen Mirren continues to prove she's the best actress working today.

Who I'm Rooting For:

Picture -- The Queen

Screenplay -- The Queen

Actor -- Forrest Whittaker

Actress -- Helen Mirren

Supporting Actor -- Mark Wahlberg

Supporting Actress -- No idea.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

On The Lot

Except for the whole making money thing, yesterday felt like I was really in the business. Nothing makes you feel like you're in the business more than meetings. Unless, of course, it's meeting on-the-lot. And I was on two lots: Disney and Warner Brothers.

As far as how the meetings went, they went fine -- but the highlite was the Warner Brothers' lot. I purposely arrived an hour early for time to check it out ,and it was unbelievable. It's by far the best lot I've been on. I thought it was the last one on my list, but my manager reminded me we haven't been to Paramount yet. So, I'm hoping no one buys the pitch so I can use it to go there.

What's great about the WB lot is that outside the soundstages they have a plaque that lists the movies that were made there. So, I was in the buildings where The Maltese Falcon, Mildred Pierce, Casablanca, Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Juarez, The Green Berets, Rio Bravo, Jezebel, This Is The Army, and Yanke Doodle Dandy were made. It was almost like being in church. At least for me it was. Those were movies.

I arrived around quitting time so it was pretty empty and by pretending to belong (carry papers and pretend to talk on your cell phone) I was able to walk all around the Gilmore Girls and Studio 60 sets. The Studio 60 set reminded me of Buffalo Bill's basement in Silence of the Lambs. It was that creepy. I kept waiting to hear, "It puts the lotion on it's skin, or it gets the hose again." I've never watched the show, but the set sure piqued my interest. Is that the one with Matthew Perry or Alec Baldwin?

The WB lot also has the biggest fake town/city I've seen yet. A big part of it is the outside of the E.R. set. They also named a soundstage after the show Friends.

So, yesterday was just another experience I never thought I'd have that made me so glad I came out here.

BL News

It's official: I'll be going to Canada April 16th-20th for The Mix. I have no idea what The Mix is but I sound impressive saying it like that "...going to Canada for The Mix," so, that's how I say it.
In other news we finally finished shooting the movie on Tuesday. And by "we," I mean Mike Testin the DP and I. There were a few lingering pick-up shots needed so, we finally went out and, well, picked them up.

Mike's been great to work with. He not only did a terrific job on the film, he's been a delight to work with from beginning to end -- and not just because of his twisted sense of humor -- though that always helps. The shooting schedule ended up taking much longer than expected but he never complained or did anything other than pleasantly do what needed to be done. A real pro.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Gina writes in response to this post:

I think I saw the same Stanwyck documentary (I like her too), and another one about how the poor women were so oppressed once the Production Code came in and they weren't allowed to play floozies anymore. Piffle. Women's roles got STRONGER during those post-floozy years, as anyone could see if they had half an eye. They actually got to play women who used something besides their, er, assets to get ahead.

I totally agree, Gina, and have always felt that one of the unintended consequences of the Production Code was better films. Don't get me wrong, I'm opposed to censorship, but sometimes good things can come from bad things, and I think better movies came from this censorship. It forced filmmakers to find creative ways to explore sexuality and the darkest parts of the human condition. On-the-nose is the worst. And when censorship simply won't allow you to be on-the-nose, you have to find a better way. And when you explore anything with metaphor, atmosphere and nuance, it's usually superior than the in-your-face.

Now, that's a general rule. On the other hand, you can't deny that filmmakers like Tarantino make the in-your-face it's own kind of art.

Movies of the 30's, 40's, and 50's were better than at any time in history for another reason: Silent films. Most silent actors weren't able to transition to talkies but the producers and directors did and silent films had taught them how to tell a story visually. And showing instead of telling is when films are at their best. So, by already having this skill there wasn't the over-reliance on exposition that bogs down so many films today.

But that roles and films and star-status was better form women in those days is an absolute no-brainer. And what's sad about that fact is that men ran everything then, and women are in executive positions today. It should be just the opposite.
I love talking movies even more than about myself. So, you know that's a lot.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Meet Edwin Hodge

Here's a terrific article about Edwin Hodge who plays Morgan Teen in the film who -- as the article pithily states it -- plays the young incarnation of Keith David.

Edwin was quite a find. He came in to read with his brother and both were great. But at that time I hadn't decided on a "type" yet. I didn't know if I wanted a teen of some stature like Edwin or his brother, or a more jokey charactery best friend type. Choosing between Edwin and his brother was hard enough, but it was also difficult choosing between Edwin and this very funny young man who would've fit the charactery type.

Why it was difficult, I don't know, because when I watch the film now it's impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Edwin added so much humor and personality to the part that he really made it his own.

I admitted to him early on that he was taking on a pretty thankless role because the idea of his character is to contrast who Morgan was as a teenager with who he becomes as a grown man. Morgan Teen was specifically written in the way many best friend roles are in the hopes that the audience gets the rug pulled out from under them when they learn more about the character as an adult. So, I asked Edwin to do what he could with it, and what he did was elevate a fairly cliche'd role into something memorable without damaging my original intent.

Friday, February 09, 2007

It's All About Me Part II

gina asks:

So, to ask a question about you ;-) . . . do we get to know what your pitch is about?

And who is your favorite classic female movie star? I couldn't possibly guess after that six-foot picture. :-) (I like Bette myself, and my best friend is crazy about her.)

As far as the pitch, I can only say it's a comedy/fantasy. It's very high concept but impossible to pull off. But the high concept gets me on the lot. And I don't want to give it away because then people may recognize it and no longer let me on the lot.

As far as my classic favorite female movie star, I would have to say Bette Davis. She just made a lot of truly remarkable. Judy Garland is a close second. But I also love Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, and Joan Crawford. I also love Cyd Charisse and Ava Gardner but for different and more salacious reasons.

I was watching a documentary about Stanwyck the other day and some bubblehead said Stanwyck was ahead of her time because she played strong female roles during the studio system days when woman weren't allowed to be strong on film.... What a load of crap.

At no time in the history of film did women have it better than during the reign of the studios in the 30's, 40's, and 50's. Women made more films, had better roles, had more starring roles, and actually made money equal to their male counterparts.

Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Stanwyck, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford, and Garbo were HUGE stars in their day -- above the title stars -- who starred in their own pictures two to three times a year. And they always played very strong women. They were all Julia Roberts and Meryl Streeps. Now we only have Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep and they often share top billing and make only a single picture a year.

Most of the other women stars today are relegated to romantic comedies, sex-pot roles, and women in jeopardy thrillers and horror films. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are exceptions whereas in the big studio days huge "A" prestige pictures with strong female starring roles came out on a monthly basis.

Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of things wrong with the old studio system, but that they produced a constant stream of great women's pictures that pale in comparison to today is just a fact.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

It Really Is All About Me

Finally a question about me. No more What about Adam? this... What about John Schneider? that... No, this question's about me -- and it's about time. Because I find myself fascinating. And you would too if you weren't all so star struck.

This one's from Harmony:

this is harmony. i worked with you on casting. it seems like everything is
coming along quite nice. thought i'd say hello and good luck with everything.
have you been writing anything or just working on post production stuff?

Harmony, I remember you. What a great time we had casting with the wonderful Jeff Passero. You did a great job and it was appreciated. Let me know what's new with you. But getting back to me...

Post production business comes and goes in spurts. Now, it's heating up. So, yes, that's keeping me busy. But I have also been writing. I wrote two scripts over the winter. One su-u-u-u-ucks, and I've had it killed. The other is a romantic comedy that's close.

I also have a pitch I'm just starting to take around next week. No one's gonna buy it -- it's not all that good -- but it gets me on the studio lots, and I love getting me on a studio lot. Last week it was Fox, the week before it was Disney, and Tuesday it's Warner Brothers. I'm very excited about Warner Bros. Those are the sidewalks trod on by Errol Flynn, Jimmy Cagney, Bogart, Bette Davis, Bugs Bunny, and Edward G. Robinson. It's the only lot I've yet to see, so it's a big deal. Thankfully, I've perfected my day-at-the-lot ploy.

I always show up at the gate an hour before my appointment so I have plenty of time to creep around the place. Then after the failed pitch meeting, I stay until the security guards start eyeing me and loosening the trigger straps on their holsters.

And please all of you can just save your Bugs Bunny isn't real crap. I saw him at Six Flags just last month. Keep those emails and letters about me coming.

BL News

Looks like going to Canada to do the finishing of the film is gonna happen the first week of April. We're sending all the stuff to The Great White North as I speak and I went out today to get a passport. $200 bucks! $200 bucks to get into Canada. Now, I'd pay $200 bucks to get out of Canada, but sheesh...

Listen, Canada scares me. What if my appendix bursts? I'm gonna die in some line with a handful of forms and a #2 pencil.

Now, I am digging the whole passport thing. Not the $200 freakin' bucks, but I do very much like the idea of owning a passport. I think it will give me a certain continental flair. An international appeal...

Next: The license to kill.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tip From The Unemployed Part 63

Never go food shopping hungry.

Anyone know if you can freeze cheese?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Want to post. Really do. But nothing comes to mind. After weeks of working on the pitch and my wonderful manager finally declaring it done today (just a bit long), I am spent. Burnt.

Maybe I'll post tomorrow. Maybe I won't. Definitely gonna have me a Death Wish I-V marathon tomorrow, so we'll have to see... Bronson, baby. Bronson.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Rick Moranis

Don't you miss Rick Moranis? I do. I heard he lost his wife in the early nineties and quit films to take care of his kids. That doesn't surprise me, he seems like a very decent down to earth man. But I do miss his presence in films. Him and John Candy.
They did Spaceballs together, remember? And they were the only funny things in it. My favorite Moranis film is either My Blue Heaven or Parenthood. My favorite John Candy film is Planes Trains and Automobiles. But that's really more of a Steve Martin movie, isn't it? My favorite pure John Candy movie is Summer Rental, a very underrated little family comedy I watch every time it's on.

What I Want To Do When I Grow Up

Finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up. Figured it out Saturday night.

A composer friend of mine (not the composer friend doing Beautiful Loser, a different composer friend) invited The Love Of My Life and I (TLOML=Wife) to see him conduct his latest score Saturday night at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, which is coincidentally right across the street from where we shot a scene of the film. Well, this guy's very talented and we had a marvelous time watching this hundred piece orchestra play his marvelous score, but through it all I couldn't take my eyes off the cymbal crasher.

Now, I know that's not the real name for what he does, but I don't know the real name, so we're calling him a Cymbal Crasher. But what a job! What a gig! What a way to make a living. The whole night he maybe crashed those cymbals 10 times. While everyone else is violining and tooting their asses off, he spends most of his time sitting on a bench between crashes like a member of the audience. But it gets better...

He has an assistant! And he's the only one. He has someone to turn the music pages, hand off the cymbals to after a crash, and run get them before he has to crash them again. And I don't even think you have to learn to read music for that job. If you just sit through a few rehearsals and get a feel for where to bring those bad boys together.
It's good to have some direction back in my life. It's good to have a goal again. My resume's up on and I await my new vocation with great anticipation:


Cymbal Crasher Guy

Experience: 20 years as a cymbal crasher in the United States Navy

References available upon request.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

High Plains Drifter

Do you think Clint Eastwood is The Devil in High Plains Drifter? I think he might be. I know we're supposed to believe he's the murdered sheriff come back for revenge against the town and the killers they hired, but there's more at work there than just a ghost. We're told the murdered sheriff was an ethical man who after uncovering a crime the whole town was in on had to be killed because he couldn't be bribed. So, I don't think his ghost would come back and immediately rape some woman. No, that's The Devil come back to get that town. I'm pretty sure of it.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen that movie. In the Stone Age before cable and home video you could only see movies when they aired on one of your four channels and they used to play High Plains Drifter on the Sunday Night Movie all the time. That and Willy Wonka. Boy, it used to crease me when the stupid football game would run over into the Sunday Night Movie and then they'd cut into the movie after it had already started. Stupid football.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Beautiful Loser News

I know, I know, you're thinking, "No, no, John, not BL news. More mindless ramblings..." Well, I hate to disappoint but I have news on the film. Maybe I'll do more mindless ramblings later.

The music is reaching the final stages. The score's very close and the songs are finally starting to get cleared. As of now, there's a possbility we'll be going to Canada in April to do the finishing lab work on the film. And that will be it. The film will be done. It will be on 35MM and ready for the big screen.

What happens after that will solely depend on people's reaction to the picture. The good news is that the picture could not be in any better hands than in those of our executive producer Steven Wolfe and that no one is more capable of getting it out there than he is. The most that can be done with the product he ends up with, will be.

The bad news is that I have to go to Canada. I'm not knocking Canada but I lived in Wisconsin for 27 years and the only difference between the two is that you can actually get medical attention in Wisconsin. Why Canada? I don't fish, hunt, drink beer, or wear flannel. I thought the movie business was supposed to be exotic and exciting -- and I get one shot at travel and it's Quebec, or Montreal, or Winnipeg or... wherever the hell it is ... as if there's a difference. Shit.

It Was A Simple Request...

...All I wanted was a few days on this blog all to myself. But, no... Nope. Can't even have a couple days for me. I check the hit counter and what do I find? I find that you're still coming around when I asked you not to.

Good thing I got me a hit counter, because I was thisclose to getting naked.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I need everyone to stop reading this blog for a couple days.
I need some alone time.
And remember, I got me a hit counter so I'll know if any of you drop in to sneak a peek at what I'm doing.

The Pitch

I have a pitch next week at Disney. The Pitch makes zero sense to me. I'm supposed to be a writer, but I have to tell a story verbally. It's bad enough I have to write a ten page treatment. It's bad enough I have to memorize it. But now I have to walk into a room full of strangers and tell them a twenty minute story.

Why can't they just read the treatment? I'm a writer, not Mark Twain. I mean, I know Mark Twain was a writer, but he used to tell stories on stage and... Oh, forget it.