Monday, March 30, 2009

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The following film is a perfect example of exceptional film making. Some of you may have seen this short before, perhaps in the context of the entire BMW series, but I assure you on second viewing, when the construction of the piece is considered, it will take from you a new level of respect. How it can be so short but still so comprehensive and coherent I don't know. How the dialogue and voice over can be so sparse but every character so rich and complex I don't know either. It's at once a love story, an action film (some of which is only implied), an intense drama and, not least, a character study in full form.


The choices in music, sound design, what to show vs. what not to show and over all production design are inspiring. This is film in pure form. I must commend Wong Kar-Wai and Andrew Kevin Walker for a brilliant work.

writing under the influence
jeffc

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

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Just a heads up - because I like to post daily - that I will be away for a few days writing. Empty cabin in the middle of nowhere, no internet, no people, no animals (that need walking). Just my macbook and a bottle of cheap Alberta Rye.


In the meantime, visit here.

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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On a less serious note. It was a few months ago when I came across a trouvaille of sorts; I began watching Ricky Gervais stand-up, then I got a hold of both seasons of BBC's "Extras". After that I made it my goal to watch both seasons of the infamous "Office"(UK) as well.  With a recent hollywood role in "Ghost Town", Ricky has solidified himself as a real ocean-crossing superstar. (but I saw him first)

In the following videos, he showcases not only comedic brilliance but his tendency to not take himself to seriously, which is a trait I wholly admire in starts of his caliber.  As I ramp up to shoot an african-aid music video in sub-sahara Africa myself, I have taken a certain interest in other uncommon attempts at world issue.  There are plenty of people that 'take a piss' out of those who try to do their part to help less privileged and/or at risk nations. Of course, the only real solution to Africa's issues is not foreign aid; medicine, schools or toys, but, actually, wealth building via entrepreneurship and infrastructure training.  But, at risk of sounding cliche, every little bit helps.

You'll also catch a few cameos from a couple more 'other-side-of-the-roaders' putting in thier two pence.

writing under the influence,
jeffc


Monday, March 23, 2009

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"Lost (Acoustic)" by Coldplay is having it's way with my iTunes as I type. I have wanted to write about this for a short while, as it's something that, as a screenwriter, I feel very strongly about. There's no doubt that the screenwriter is the most abused role in the film industry - except for that of the person who scoops up horse shit in between takes (but, alas, I have been there too). The screenwriter's job, and direct lack of acknowledgment, is analogous of the modern music producer; often the 'creator' of the content yet never the final deliverer. The screenwriter is the composer of the music as the director is the conductor of the orchestra. I don't mean to intimate that the director's role is less meaningful or artistic, I simply wish that the 'creator' of the actual piece would get the appreciation that he or she so obviously deserves.

I am, of course, speaking of films that don't share a writer and director. There are certain filmmakers that, though I still don't agree with, are more tolerable when snatching such a credit as "A Film By" or "A ________ Film". Such directors may be Quentin Tarantino, Charley Chaplin, Clint Eastwood or even Christopher Nolan; who have all shared multiple credits on multiple films, be them in the disciplines of direction, writing, acting, or score composing. No, this rant - some may call it that - is directed at those directors, famous or not, who worked for the 'director credit' and so traditionally take the "Film By" credit as well; as if they were entitled to it. An unwritten rule.

Is it really A Film By Them? Or is it an immense collaborative effort? A collaboration of cinematographers, actors, producers, grips, gaffers etc... not forgetting the inventor of the material, the writer. (More and more writers these days are optioning novels, books, short stories or real life occurrences, thus loosing some points for originality, but we won't get into that now. For I to am guilty with my recent bio-pic script "Allenbury". It's no coincidence that the "Best Adapted Screenplay" category at the Oscars held such viewed films as "Curious Case of Benjamin Button", "Doubt", "Frost/Nixon". "The Reader" and "Slumdog Millionaire" while Best ORIGINAL Screenplay housed the less prolific "Frozen River", "Happy Go Lucky", "In Bruges", "Milk" and "Wall-e" ["Milk" of course built upon a preexisting character).

Don't misunderstand. I am not saying that the writer should get the "Film By" credit all to themselves because they mindfully birthed the content. What I am saying is that the credit should all together be abolished and the glory thereof should be shared. "The Wrestler" stands as a shining example. As I sat in a dark, ghetto theater and the house lights dimmed, the credit "A Film By Darren Aronofsky" appeared on screen. I thought to myself "Hmmm. I thought Mickey Rourke was the big thing about this movie?". I watched the movie, in awe, of it's genuineness, complexity and depth. But it occurred to me rapidly that Darren, as much as I admire him for this work on 'Requiem' and such, had very little to do with that magic that jumped off the screen, beyond my over-priced popcorn, and into my willing mind. It was the words, the performance, the style of shooting that I connected with effortlessly. And yes, Darren had a huge part of that creation and I would never deny him that, but did he really, truly, deserve the entire film?

Call me a whiny screenwriter if you will. Truth be told, I have not even enough credit to complain from experience, only from philosophy. In my latest screenplay deal, when optioned, I had it written into my contract that "Any director that any and all production companies, studios or motion picture facilities now known of hereafter invented throughout the universe, contract on to the picture in the event of purchase, development and production shall not receive “A Film By” nor “A [Directors Name] Film” credit at any point during the film’s running time, marketing, distribution or design."

Long live the writer. 

Long live the inventor. 
Long live the composer. 
Long live originality of the written word.

writing (severely) under the influence,
jeffc

Friday, March 20, 2009

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Singer/Songwriter Robyn Hitchcock recalled: "I remember going to the Hope and Anchor (a pub where many folk punk acts played in London). The Pogues were all on stage and ready, it was a full house, but they hadn't started yet. Then this character shambled in through the door and shambled downstairs. I thought, 'Jesus, you're not letting that guy in are you?'. Then he walked on stage. That guy was Shane MacGowan."

If there is one thing that close friends know about me it's my unhealthy fascination with self-destructive artists and their aloof behavior, which, parenthetically, I believe contributes greatly to their creative endeavors. While these artists that fascinate me never intend such behavior it is their trend none-the-less, almost as a substratum throughout their entire life. Perhaps the poster-boy for such a character is Irish singer/songwriter Shane MacGowan; best known as the lead singer and songwriter for the prolific and influential Irish Folk/Rock/Punk band The Pogues. As you investigate their music further it will become increasingly clearer that The Pogues are to bands like Flogging Molly what The Beatles are to Coldplay.

I admire Shane. I love his music and what his music has done. I enjoy his personality and the magic that he posses and emits. I also find it interesting when fans love an artist so much more than the artist love's their fans, and for that matter, their music. A tale comes to mind, A Fairy-tale of New York if you will. It was the night of The Pogues sold-out Madison Square Gardens show in New York. Leading up to this, Shane and his band had started to drift apart, driving a wedge in the bands touring success - mainly caused by Shane's abuse of drugs and alcohol. Backstage before the show Shane was nowhere to be found, unless that is, you were putting down Guinness and polishing the bar with your sleeves at a local Irish pub. Shane had no intention of playing that night, as he grew sick of his band and his fans (I am reminded of the modern example of Kurt Cobain and song's like 'In Bloom'). Long story short, fifteen minutes before the show was to commence, a few hard-core Pogues fans, on their way to the arena, spotted Shane stumbling through the streets completely self unaware. He might have been a stray dog. Needless to say, they pulled Shane into their cab and made haste to Madison Square Gardens. The show went on and some lucky fans had a story for to tell their children (what entertainment those children find out of the story is another question. I'll get to that in a bit)

What has really begun to bother me, and is the stimuli for this entry, is the reputation that Shane is falling victim to as videos of him, at his lowest, become more popular on YouTube. Kids and teenagers poke fun at him, joke about his obvious intoxication and look up to him for his ability to consume alcohol, not his ability to write music and change the face of the industry. In fact, in that, they are probably completely unaware. I suppose this is the nature of the beast that is aging celebrity. As the previous generation that appreciated and grew with someone like Shane either dies off or moves on, Shane is still left in the boat that everyone has bailed out of. And as younger generations are ushered in they see a man like Shane for what he seems to be now and not for what he surely was then. It is impossible to recognize the arch and relevance of man when one's perspective is only that of the second half of their life, and not the first. Imagine watching only the second half of "Gladiator".

Hopefully, people who admire and respect Shane MacGowan for who he was and realize that these videos circulating the net are horrible inaccurate representations of who Shane's really was, will start to out-voice the drunkard youth. For a good read, check out a feature MAXIM did on Shane a few issues back. I forget the month, though somehow, I remember Shannon Elizabeth was on the cover;)

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Shane Singing In a Pub In Ireland


Shane's Music Video for "That Woman Got Me Drinking" Starring and Directed by Johnny Depp

Thursday, March 19, 2009

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So here is the latest reason why, I believe, Lil' Wayne rocks...literally: his new Single and Music Video for "Prom Queen".

It was directed by Dave Meyers, whose birthday party I went to in LA. Dave also directed, in his directorial debut, "The Hitcher". He's a bit of a door-knob which is reflected in the aforementioned feature film - but he directs one hell of a music video.  Look at the back up band playing for Lil' in the video; if it looks like KORN it's because it is.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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I  am still not sure to what extent I adhere to Elizabeth Gilbert's creative belief system but this video is surely worth a watch. Inspiring and eye opening this clip of the "Eat, Pray, Love" author's views on creative genius will definitely leave you scratching your noggin.

And don't fret, despite the video player's choice of thumbnails, the video is not, in fact, about nipple tweaking.

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I have always loved and appreciated magic. Not in the supernatural 'rabbit and that hat' context but in a much more visceral meaning. Let me explain. I am, to some degree, in the movie business. I enjoy my time there because of the romantic notions of the creative artist. The tortured individual whose purpose is creating forms of entertainment, sometimes at the risk of himself. I believe that a true artist is a complex and tormented one. After all, where is the artist who doesn't not have such profound disputes within? This creative ebb and flow produces the magic that I speak of. This magic permeated through the golden age of the screen. The Paul Newmans, Bob Evans, Stanley Kubricks and Dustin Hoffmans not only possessed a magic but celebrated it along with the general public. It wasn't about the 'story' of how the film came to be. It wasn't about the URL. It wasn't about the EPK. It was about, simply, the film itself and it's profound nature. The piece, not the process was to be noted. Times have changed, though not entirely, yet...

With the birth of 'Indie Filmmaking' came it's tough but clever child 'Guerilla Filmmaking'. I have nothing against 'Guerilla Filmmaking', except for perhaps, it's whining underachieving offspring, the grandchild of 'Indie Filmmaking': 'Gimmick Filmmaking'. 'Guerilla Filmmaking' allowed me to be where I am today, whatever that may mean. I even implemented tactics that would evolve quickly into the system of "Gimmick Filmmaking'. I too am guilty. My feelings of pride and shame are mixed.

As access to money and budgets diminish at alarming rates so does the class and credibility of the worlds Indie Filmmaker despite their anti-money mentality. The present retarded elephant in everyones room, be him still functioning, is the economy which is the IV that the film world is hooked up to - and hooked on. With each passing day, it gets harder and harder to get your film made. Yes, technology has allowed every one and their sister to make a film and call themselves a filmmaker but at what price? I use three examples, and in no way mean to insult or belittle the people behind the examples and their achievements. I hope, truly, that they succeed in their careers in the film world. However, the means in which they are going about it embody precisely the slow retardation of the nature of Indie Film and the possible extinction of the cinematic 'magic'.

My Million Dollar Movie
I have had countless conversations about this project with people inside and outside of the film world. If you haven't heard, the idea is to get $10 off persons of the general public in exchange for a 'producer credit' on the film and a piece of memorabilia. I can imagine the very long list of producers in the ending credit scroll almost having a counter-productive effect. The idea, while clever - I admit, has one innate flaw. As I mentioned, I have had countless discussions about this endeavor and have yet to find out what the film is actually about. Now given I could dig deeper and inquire into the actual narrative and genre of the film, but the fact that the project itself hit my radar long before I could even be exposed to what the film itself was, I believe, kills that 'magic'.

How Many Days
Filmmaker Gavin Booth is on a mission. Whether it's to make a film or not, I'm not exactly sure. I spoke with him on the phone once, and he was a very nice fellow. We spoke of some potential collaborations that would never be. With a few shorts under his belt, and I believe a feature that is unreleased, he is trying to make his mark in the beast that is the film world. A long while after we spoke, his new endeavor would surface. It's ambitious and also clever and entertaining to say the least. The website that will eventually take the form of a documentary I would speculate, is of Gavin's quest to meet and greet the filmmakers that molded his style and serve as role models for him. I gather this venture is to make contacts, build a network and ultimately provide a level of exposure necessary to get that coveted first major feature film off the ground. Again, clever and resourceful. But again, where is the film 'magic'? Where is the film? Where is the surreal screenplay that every producer wants to produce and every actor wants to perform?

The Purchase Brothers
I can relate. Brother filmmaking team trying to get noticed. Been there. Still there. And these guys have shot their way out with sniper-like aim. A few years of producing short, shaky-cam action films and spec commercials provided them with the know how to take on something with more stature, more relevance and most importantly more inherent fan-base. They made a short film piece based on the wickedly popular "Half Life" video game. Duplicating the costumes, effects, sounds, imagery, perspectives and tone of the actual video game they succeeded in creating a very impressive live action version. But where is the originality? Where is the magic? After posting it on YouTube the interpretation would collect more than 2 million views in the first two or three weeks. No small feat. But, with immense numbers of people typing 'Half Life' into the search bar in Youtube every day, it's no surprise they had this level of viewership. Once Hollywood caught wind of this spectacle, they were hot on it for one reason and one reason only; these kids can generate 2,000,000+ hits but we, the All Good and All Powerful Omnipotent monster that is Hollywood, can't generate $2,000,000 at the box office. "The Purchase Brothers know something we don't" I picture the stiff suits contemplating in their frosted glass boardroom. I look forward to seeing what comes of this over-night phenom. Will they choke on Tinsel-Town sized budgets, will their visible lack of creativity be an achilles heel? Or will they step up? In any event, I still fail to see the artistic magic.

I congratulate the above artists on their achievements thus far, and the success they will surely receive. They are all fellow Canadians, and for that reason and reasons beyond, I am in their corner. But they do, in my humble and perverse opinion, lack the movie magic that I already miss. It has become more about the "How are we going to do it-" then "What and Why are we doing it-". And I repeat, I am guilty of such crimes as well. I paraded around Toronto International Film Festival with a shirt that read "I HAVE A FILM FOR SALE" and not only sold the film because of them, but got an Entertainment Tonight Exclusive as well. I benefited from the very tactics which are starting to erode my faith in the future of long-form cinematic entertainment. I had won and therefore lost.

I mean no offense, I am merely making my point. I look forward to seeing these projects and fighting the good fight together. We all dream together and hope to be the exception to the rule. But, as I grow I realize that we must dream to be the exception but plan to be the rule..

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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I met him on the set of Kill Shot. Back then - it was a year or two ago - I was making a futile attempt to, at once, supplement my miniscule revenue stream while learning a thing or two about professional filmmaking. I would do this by enlisting in the shameless and dream crushing army of movie extras. At that time, Joseph Gordon Levitt, to me, was but another actor in the seemingly endless sea of moderate on-screen talent. It wouldn't be for another year or two that I developed a true and fair appreciation for him as an artist and thinker.

At the time I had longish hair. Greasy and intentionally wavy, it hung in the awkward space between the bottom of my ears and the top of my shoulders. Joe also had a similar hair cut as well as similar stubble and body size. Thus I was hired to be his body double. I was to be wrapped in a blanket and uncomfortably tossed into the black-hole that is a Lincoln's trunk by six large assuming mobsters - also extras. My face was unseen much like the rest of my body. Why they didn't use a sack of Idaho potatoes I will never know. It would have been more cost effective. Not only would it not have to eat, it would provide others with food (after it was wrapped of course).

Lunch was served. I ate on the bench across from Joe who was engaged in conversation with his co-star Mickey Rourke. The spread was generous but contained too much seafood - I hate seafood. After lunch I jumped in a crew van heading from the lunch building back to the set. Joe jumped in the same van. We shared minimal conversation. Small talk at best. He was a nice fellow. He was newly single so we humored the idea that he would hook up with Avril Lavinge while we was in town north of the border. I imagined, in more of a casual intimate environment he would be, at the same time, funny, caring, bright and amusing. Arriving at set, he jumped out, as did I. That was that. I would have no further interaction with the Cobra Commander to-be outside of glances back and fourth on set.

Days ago I was at a friends house, actually working on the post production of a music video I am helping out with. Somehow, now a mystery, we drifted into the topic of Joe. My friend, we'll call him Elvis, went on to tell me about a video on YouTube where our man turns the tables on the ol' faithful Paparazzi. I went home, watched it with thorough enjoyment and began to think slightly more in depth about this character that I had such a fleeting exchange with so long ago.

The Paparazzi video, affectionately called "Pictures of Assholes" can be seen here:


Once completed, sealed was my fate to begin the wonderful and vicious time wasting activity that is "Related Video" surfing. After a few views, all of which are included in this blog so you can see for yourself, my unexciting and average opinion of Joe had been replaced by a new one. I saw a very bright light inside Joe. A light i wish I had and hope one day I will have. After "Pictures of Assholes" I saw "HitRECord" and a new side of Joe became as clear as a summer's day.

HitRECord:


Express Your Self:


and the inspiring and haunting "Escargots"


In Joe, I now notice a man who we will see a lot more of, thankfully. A true artist, independent thinker and trail blazer. He exudes a passion and eccentricity that repossess any doubt I may have had that he will, in no uncertain terms, show us the meaning of art and expression in the years to come.

For once the capriciousness that is the modern day actor has led to a fruitful reward. A tree that has many bad apples, which are often times at the forefront of the public eye, has dropped a ripe specimen sure to seep it's nectar into an industry that is facing imminent death.

Keep inspiring Joe, fuck you're cool.
(support him and his posse and visit http://www.HitRECord.org)

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Monday, March 16, 2009

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Some things I would like to ramble on about in my 'write as if no one is reading' style...

  • The Rapid Decline of Indie Film and the Fatal Virus that is Gimmick Filmmaking
  • Joseph Gordon Levitt
  • Creative Genius
  • The Internet Critic and his Infinite Self-Unawareness
  • The Absurdity of the "Film By" credit
writing under the influence,
jeffc

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I have never claimed to be wise nor have I thought myself as an intellectual at any point or junction in my fresh and sheltered life. Both of the above I, one day, strive to be, and perhaps will be in my own perversions, but doubtful in some fashion of reality.  In my opinion, and it is simply that, there are two types of people in this world. First, but in no way more important, there are the types of people who, at any given point, feel the constant biting need to express one self. As if an itch routed deep under the skin crawling from one limb to the next, one is compelled to emit their thoughts, their belief systems, their skills and talents to the world, be it listening or not. And Secondly, there are those who do not. The recent advent of Blogging, in the blip that is the Devil's technological conception, a number of people living in category One have packed up and set sail for the new world of online exposure. I have no respect for the Blogger, nor do I posses a disrespect for him either. He merely is.


I sometimes furnish the notion that people who lived and spoke in the public sphere through the 50's,60's and possibly the 70's were more complex, less predictable, characteristically rich and independently thoughtful. They had something to say. Something that, if people listened to, would have a positive effect on reality.  However, I am constantly torn. Were they, in fact, more intelligent and observant? Or was that of a different ratio present? Today, are there just so many venues, vehicles, exhibits and showcases for  people to display their personalities and world views that it seems a less intelligent, less tasteful human is taking over due to shear volume of douche-bags speaking their mind and being heard? The weight of one's word has been diminished to a mere gram of Warholian fleeting fame.  Are there still smart people out there? Are there still interesting characters? Where are the Norman Mailers? Will the Jim Morrisons please stand up. Will the Marshall McLuhans rise above their Global Villages? Where are all the voices that so eloquently, effectively and sometimes accidentally spoke ahead of their times. Who will I speak to my uninterested and eye-rolling kids about 20 years from here? Where are the great minds and independent thinkers of My generation? Who do I have to look up to? Where are my inspirations? They definitely aren't blogging.

It seems exceedingly likely that the days of excitement, invention and exploration have been sucked into the vacuum of counter-progression and met an untimely fate with the giant metaphorical nostalgic garburator and that the days ahead are those of redundancy, interpretation and expectation. Cheaper, less durable tar laid over the bumpy yet still effective road of discovery that led us here.

As I type along to the metronome in my brain and gulp my red wine, which poured out of a cheap, plastic corkless tetra pack, I can say, with the certainty of a time bomb, that there are too few pieces to what is too much puzzle.

writing under the influence,
jeffc