Saturday, May 31, 2008

Steve Martin's Born Standing Up

Took a few hours out of the day to read a book I’ve been looking forward to, Steve Martin’s autobiography Born Standing Up. It was a brisk read, with great insight into the creation of the bizarre stand-up routine that made him a superstar in the late 70s. I really admire Martin’s film writing, which is always literate and witty, as well as his versatility (he has written successful novellas and plays, too). His underappreciated L.A. Story (written by and starring Martin) is one of my favorite films.

I used this to clear my mind of stress while preparing for the film's start date next week. I don't know if it helped, though.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Okay, that's not a verb, but I'm using it as one, because Endings got some last minute partial funding thanks to a successful grant application that I submitted to Baylor's URC (University Research Committee).

So now I can actually pay the DP and the lead actor! Thanks URC, and maybe this is a good sign right before production begins.

(Of course, I'm ignoring the impossible to find convenience store location. Anyone know a convenience store owner who would let us essentially take over his/her store for two shooting days??)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

T-minus 7 days...

Yes, one week until production begins on Endings. (Side note: what does the "t-minus" stand for anyway?).

There is still a lot to do, but I have to start getting into "production mode" -- I already nearly shaved my head (i.e., no worrying about my hair getting too long during the shoot.

I've also pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we're going to start production with several locations "unconfirmed" or not locked down. This always seems to happen; not sure why it's the hardest part of making films (for me). It just is. And it means I'll have to go with whatever we can gain access to in mid-shoot, with very little opportunity for me to look over the location and see how well it will work. On American Messiah, there was one location that we didn't confirm until the morning of the day we were using it.

So, it is what it is. That part drives me crazy, but we're doing all we can.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Festival Submission Process

A few years back, when I was a newbie at submitting films to fests, I found it to b e a difficult process. You could research films on the web, but every one of them had different rules and requirements, and of course you had to fill out a different form for every fest to which you applied.

And then along came Withoutabox.

It's a brilliant concept, really. One place on the web where you fill out ONE application, and you then submit that application to any fests you want (provided they are signed up on -- and a great many are). Wow, what a time saver. It has made the process so much easier. Side note: it has also caused a dramatic increase in submissions to even lesser known fests.

One of the interesting parts of the experience is the Submission Status page. Because you're entering all these festivals, you have to keep track of which ones you entered and whether or not they received your materials. When you enter and pay, Withoutabox creates a listing for the fest on your personalized Submission Status page, and it has a little red dot next to it to indicate that they have NOT YET received your film for consideration. Once they receive it, the festival goes into the Withoutabox system and indicates that, which turns your red dot into a little blue dot with a "check mark" in it. See the screenshot:

That's a clipping from my Submission Status page for Clean Freak. Being the clean freak that I am, I don't feel comfortable until all the red dots have changed to blue ones. And I derive an inordinate amount of satisfaction from seeing them change, especially given that it means nothing about your chances of getting into a fest. It simply indicates that they've received the film and will be reviewing it.

The nature of the process indicates that you'll get more rejections than selections, so I shouldn't enjoy the "red to blue" change. It means nothing. It means only that someone who you PAID to watch your film got it in the mail. That's it.

But for some reason, I still like watching those red dots turn blue.

Location Blues

Finding suitable locations -- to which you can have access for a film shoot -- is an enormous time suck.

Friday, May 16, 2008

ENDINGS update: Interdisciplinary

One of the pleasures of making a film in the manner in which I'm making Endings is that I get to work with students. We have a crew of about 25 Film & Digital Media students, all of whom seem very excited to be a part of the project.

But it extends beyond our own department. As I've gotten to know more and more people over my four years (and counting) at Baylor, I've been able to connect with sharp faculty from other disciplines, and because film is so collaborative and involves so many people with different skill sets, it only makes sense to make this a "crossover" experience.

Here's a sampling of people working on the film:

  • from Theatre: several faculty members in the Theatre Department here are playing key roles in the film. These people are great actors, and I'm lucky to be friends with them! And our makeup/hair artist is a Theatre student with an interest in film (she's also a pretty good actress, though at the moment she's not acting in Endings.
  • from Marketing: Baylor has a very competitive program in "Music and Entertainment Marketing," and students from that program will be doing PR and marketing work for the film this summer, including setting up opportunities for good press coverage, conducting interviews with cast and crew for an electronic press kit, and helping to maintain an "in production" web presence, with updates on progress and photos from the set. (This relationship with Marketing will likely grow into a permanent thing, and we're in discussions for some pretty big and very cool possibilities.)

I love bringing in people from other departments. It's a pleasure to get to know people with an interest in film, and I feel like everyone gets to stretch their creative and professional muscles and work on a real project.

Link Note: I just read this post about "the writer on the set" at TV writer Jane Espenson's blog. She's talking here about the writer's role on a TV set, which is different than on a movie set (writers in the TV world are "in charge" and directors work for them -- so, it's a different animal), but her advice resonates with me as a writer/director, so I'm linking here so I'll remember to read it again before shooting starts.

Call for Proposals: Doctor Who

2008 Film & History Conference
"Film & Science: Fictions, Documentaries, and Beyond"
October 30-November 2, 2008
Chicago, Illinois
Third-Round Deadline: August 1, 2008

AREA: Doctor Who

Doctor Who first entered the public consciousness on November 23, 1963, as a new science fiction serial on the BBC. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running Science Fiction Television Show, the serial is a national institution in its home country – the subject of countless pop-culture references – and a popular export to American public television stations. As a televised serial, Doctor Who has exhibited features dared by few others, from its controversial content, to its public ranking in the 1970s as the most violent programming produced by the BBC, to the serial’s constant re-casting of the leading man, the adventurous Doctor, whose alien biology conveniently allows for regeneration.

These controversies and innovations, along with the evolution of a complex “Whoniverse” of audio stories, novels, and entries in various other media (the “canonicity” of most of which is still in question), not only have turned the enigmatic Doctor Who into a cult figure but have interwoven time and history through grand adventures that address issues of human existence and the meaning of civilization. The newest edition of the series, which continues the storyline/timeline from the original, often features the Doctor interacting with historical figures (and making wry commentary on current events in the process) and explores more deeply the dilemma of the Doctor as a lonely traveler who will generally outlive any human companion who joins him or who falls in love with him.

The Doctor is clearly a man of science, yet his function on the show is often God-like, with occasional explicit references to him as a Christ-figure. How does the Doctor’s dual role comment on the role of science in society? In its peregrinations through human events, what does the show say about the construction of history? What does it say about national/British identity in the new millennium or about the uneasy relationship between Western empiricism and theological mysticism?

Papers and panels are invited on the topic of the Doctor Who series. Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

Cultural commentary and trans-historical morality tales
Issues of and intertextuality and metafiction
Historical figures and the depiction of historical events (and the Doctor’s role in them)
The role of technological innovation and special effects
Fan cultures
Gender and sexuality
Psychological models
Canonicity of other media
Use of guest stars/actors
Religious imagery and allegory
The role of visual technology (including film and television) in the show’s content

Please submit all proposals by August 1, 2008, to the area chair:

Professor Christopher Hansen
Baylor University
Department of Communication Studies
One Bear Place #97368
Waco, TX 76798

Submissions by email are encouraged.

Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal. Deadline for first-round proposals: November 1, 2007; third-round deadline: August 1, 2008.

This area, comprising multiple panels, is a part of the 2008 biennial Film & History Conference, sponsored by The Center for the Study of Film and History. Speakers will include founder John O’Connor and editor Peter C. Rollins (in a ceremony to celebrate the transfer to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh); Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of Visions of the Apocalypse, Disaster and Memory, and Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood; Sidney Perkowitz, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University and author of Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, & the End of the World; and special-effects legend Stan Winston, our Keynote Speaker. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


At the request of my fan (okay, I know I actually have two or three), I'm endeavoring to provide an update on various aspects of Endings, which begins production on June 5th.

I spoke (via email) with one of the lead actors this week, and he is preparing his "look" for the film. He's on stage in Chicago right now in a production of Carousel, so he's having to wait til the last week of the run to grow out his hair and beard a bit. Since the character he's playing is an addict, I'm trying to make him look as grungy as possible.

We're still looking for a sound recordist -- not an easy task on the budget we have, but I'm still hopeful that we'll find someone good (there are still a few candidates in the running, but nothing has been decided).

We're still waiting on equipment to arrive, specifically our Letus Extreme lens adapter, which is taking a frakking long time to arrive (pardon my Battlestar Galactica profanity).

Location scouting continues. We're working with the city of Waco to get access to a number of great locations here, and with the city of Bellmead (just to the north of Waco), whose City Manager is a great guy who loves working with filmmakers.

I'll be getting the word out for extras in the local paper via the entertainment editor's blog on the paper's website.

A day player in a key role may be dropping out because of the expense (gas costs continue rising, and this person -- a friend -- was coming from a long way away to be a part of the film).

The same friend also sent me some music samples this week, because he's the composer (and he was also the composer on my last feature).

Every time I talk to one the actors, I get excited.

Every time I think about making a creative decision, I get nervous.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Gold Remi

My Gold Remi award came in the mail from Houston WorldFest today -- so I thought I'd share it with my readers.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Not much to say

Well, I'm guilty of blog-silence, but it's only because I haven't had much of interest to report lately.

Endings goes into production in less than 4 weeks, which is stressing me out because there's still a lot to do.

Clean Freak seems to be doing pretty well with fests, and of course I'm just waiting to hear from a bunch more now, so there's nothing new to say.

I'm starting to think about what project is next after Endings. I don't know why I'm even thinking about it now -- I should be focusing exclusively on Endings (and, really, that's mostly what I'm thinking about at the moment). But I'm feeling a bit like I need to be writing something once production on Endings is complete.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Scented Text Messages?

When I read something like this...

German companies developing scented text messages

...I think, "Was someone at that company just bored?"

I mean, scented text messages? Was there a perceived market need for this?