Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Moving On…Moving Up.

As my alarm went off at 330am the other day a thought hit me; nobody should be getting up this early on a regular basis for a little over minimum wage. I’m a skilled worker who just shot a quality feature in five days and edited it in another 19. Yet, I’ve spent the better part of the last 11 years making the bulk of my money in a service industry job, making just over minimum wage. That’s 11 years of barely making ends meet. Hell, more often than not I don’t make it, at least not comfortably. I’ve explained my reasoning before in posts, as to why I chose to work outside the industry while pursuing my writing/directing career. I thought I’d be able to concentrate better on my own work while working a part-time service job. Industry jobs tend to dominate your life once you immersed in them.

Well, I was wrong. I’m not saying I regret my decision. The life choices I’ve made have led me to where I am today. I’ve written and directed five feature films, that’s an actual career. You can see in my work the growth I’ve made over the years, technically and creatively. I’m proud of my work and couldn’t have achieved it any other way. However, the days of me being a starving artist are over. Month after month my bank account reads just over 0. After bills this month I had 30 cents in my account. 30 cents! And I was still 2 weeks late paying my rent. I’m too old and tired to live like this anymore. Plus, I’ve done almost zero networking in my time in LA. Almost none. I downright suck at it now. Luckily some opportunities have come my way, but most have been out of sheer luck or through friends I made years ago. I really need to open up my world.

Things are happening on the writing/directing front. Put a Ring on it turned out good. It will be released on Sept. 12. That’s the quickest turnaround I’ve ever had on a movie. I’ve already been getting calls from distributors (too late) and even agencies interested in repping me. Monsters in the Woods is 99 percent complete. It’s my best work so far. I think it will open some doors, financially and career wise. Trap is being accepted into film fests (more on that in the coming weeks). Well, that’s well and good, but it still isn’t putting money in my pocket right now. Enter my new job opportunity. A very good friend of mine has been doing editing and production work for a small company whose output and profits have more than doubled since he’s been with them, so much so, that they are looking to hire a full time editor. I’ve been offered the gig. It’s a full time, 8 hr a day, 5 days a week gig. Not exactly my dream job, but it pays triple what I’m making now and it’s a chance to further hone my skills. In

I’m going out there early next week for a few days to shadow my friend to make sure that the job is a good fit. If it is, I’m definitely taking it. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

2 Full Days Off and Not a Thing To Do.

I’ve got the entire weekend off from my day job. Post is finished on Put a Ring on it. The green light has yet to be given on the production company’s three follow-up projects. I’m caught up (for the most part) with my prep on the three horror flicks we’re getting off the ground. I don’t have much to do this weekend. Most of my friends are going out of town or are otherwise occupied. My wallet is a little light. I don’t have much to do.

I suppose I should finish going over those horror scripts. There is some work to be done there. 2 of them need a little fleshing out. I could also do a bit of work on the acting reel I started last night for a good friend. I also need to work a bit on that new Monsters in the Woods trailer. Our meeting with Showtime is next week.

Yeah, ok. I guess I got some shit to do, but it doesn’t really feel like it. I know part of the melocholy I’m feeling is that post partum production depression that I get when ever a production wraps. You know, the whole “one minute you’re super busy and occupied, then the next your stuck with obsolutely nothing to do, or so it seems” thing.

Ok, let’s make a list of things to do today and stick to it.

  1. Work on Monsters in the Woods Trailer. I can do that, actually sounds kinda fun.
  2. Work a bit on that aforementioned reel. It’s really long right now, over 6 minutes. I need to cut that shit in half. She just has soooo much good material, mostly mine.
  3. Script work. I should pepper this in smaller doses between editing tasks.
  4. Clean my house. Never really got to my spring cleaning this year and my roommate is going somewhere for the day. Perfect day for some cleaning and music.
  5. Should go somewhere tonight, but this might prove difficult with the state of transportation and finances, or lack thereof.

Alight, let’s get motivated and tackle this stuff!

Writing More Good: Bad Grammar and Spelling in Blogs

So I just skimmed through several of my posts over the last year and am amazed at the horrendous state of my grammar and spelling. I'm a college graduate for Christ's sake! I recently read a tweet from a blogger I very much respect who said something like "I pretend English is a 2nd language for most fellow bloggers so I can forgive their writing." Now I'm 99.9 percent sure he's never read anything of mine, but I would definitely fit into this category.

I suppose I just rush through the process in a mad dash to just make the post and move on with my day. I'm not a professional writer...oh wait, I guess I am. Shit. OK, I need to take a little more care and time with my posts to better edit and catch my glaring mistakes.

I hereby pledge to.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No Homo! 5 Actors I might be a Little Too Obsessed With.

Let me preface this by stating, I am a 100% secure heterosexual man (does a secure heterosexual man actually have to state it? If they write a blog like this, they might.) However, I’ve always been more interested in male actors than female. Boy, that sounds kinda sexist too. Sure, I can appreciate a good female performance, and they sure is pretty to look at, but even as a child it was the male performers that I followed and would watch movies for. That is until I discovered masturbation then actresses started playing a more pivotal role (but that’s a whole other thing.) Wow! That really sounds sexist. Ok, let me further preface this, by saying I’m not a sexist. These are purely movie and cinema related opinions. I’m definitely not a sexist I practically minored in woman’s studies in college. Sure it was mostly to get tail, but hey I got really good grades in the classes. I still got the term papers to prove it. Professionally, I've preferred working with actresses over actors overall (and not just because I sleep with a lot of them. That's a joke, I've only slept with like 80% of the actresses i've worked with). Seriously though, most of the best performances in my work are form the actresses. I also tend to write better female roles than male. Huh? Is that some kind of Freudian balance thing? Eh, who knows....

Anyway, here’s five actors (not all categorically “good” actors, but actors that I have what some may consider to be an unhealthy obsession with.

  1. Jason Priestly:  The king of eyebrow acting. Seriously, check out an older episode of 90120, any episode and watch this dude completely emote using nothing but his eyebrows. It’s breath taking. Seriously though, he’s actually a good actor. Like most of the actors on my list, he did his best work in things he’s not known for. His weakest work overall was on 90210234.  I defy ANYONE to watch Love and Death and Long Island and tell me that is not a complex, subtle and moving performance. He’s also good on Coldblooded, a cool little indie-hitman movie. Then there was his stint on True Calling and Jeremiah. I did watch 90120 throughout most of it’s run. I finally did quit in the final season after he left. But I stuck with it for almost 9 years, just for him. No homo!
  2. John Stamos. He’s actually probably my number one “hasn’t really done much good work but I’m still obsessed with actor.” I was never a full house fan. It didn’t move me at all. I didn’t care for him in it either. Then one day I caught this Tales from the Crypt episode. I forget the title, but it was a total John Woo’s The Killer knock off. With John Stamos playing this sleazy gigolo. All of a sudden I was like, “man, John Stamos is cool.” Then he didn’t really do much else. There was the short-lived Thieves and ER (prob. His best dramatic work) but, it was that one episode of Tales from the Crypt that forever made me a John Stamos fan. No Homo!
  3. Andrew Dice Clay: most likely the odd man out on my list. Not nearly as dreamy as the rest. Like Priestly a very underrated actor. I still freaking love The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (maybe it’s cuz I’m a raging sexist!). My 2nd favorite is Brainsmasher: A Love Story. I wrote about this more in detail in my Albert Pyunn director of the week blog. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should seek it out.  I never cared for his stand-up, but am a fan of almost all his dramatic work. No Homo!
  4. Grieko, Richard. What can I say? I like him on both 21 jump st. and his Booker spin off. But it was his feature debut If Looks Could Kill that did it for me. It’s a really funny, well made James Bond spoof. Sure he was a bit old to be playing a high school kid, but goddamn if it wasn’t the old college try and like I said, it was a damn fun movie. No Homo!
  5. Bradley Cooper:  Dreaminess personified. That’s all I got to say about him. No homo!

A Tuesday in the Life...

Most days when I’m not in the midst of production are early days. I usually finish up my movie related business before 5 or 6pm and then try to enjoy my evening. Today was a little different.

4am – 11am Day job..

1130am – 2pm – Lounging poolside with my good friend Meaghan. Gossip and tanning.
3pm – 5pm – Watched Super 8 with John McGill. It’s like watching someone go to a Halloween party dressed in a 2nd rate Steven Spielberg Costume.

6 – 11pm – worked on new Monsters in the Woods trailer with James. The executive producer stopped by at 9 to check it out. He seemed happy.

It’s been a weird last 7 days. I’m awaiting word on the status of the 3 flicks I’m supposed to start shooting next month. My work on Put A Ring on it is (to the best of my knowledge) done. A potential opportunity to make a trio of horror flicks as presented itself, so I’m working to whoop those into shape. But, for all that, it’s kinda quiet right now. I’ve even been feeling some random anxiety (an issue I suffered from greatly in the past, but have been pretty free of for a while.) Not even sure where it’s coming from.

Oh well, its 330am and I got to go start my new day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Put A Ring On It Interviews: John McGill (Assistant Director)

Put a Ring on it was John Mcgill's first time really ADing anything. No shorts. No features. So why on earth did I hire him? He's one of hardest working and easy to get along with people I've ever met in my life. I've seriously never seen anyone he meets not like him. And it's just this trait that I figured would make him a good AD. He gets serious when it's time and has no trouble telling folk what to do, but it's kind of hard to actually get mad at him. Well, I was right (as usual) and them some. John not only did a great job, he was the best freaking 1st time AD ever. I've only worked with one AD ever that did as good a job and she had a ton of experience and is a DGA director now. But I digress... The really amazing thing about John's performance is how young he is. This dude isn't even old enough to drink legally and he's already a top notch AD, a good writer and well on his way to becoming a fabulous director. He's the kind of up and comer that scares the shit outta me. When I was his age, I didn't know what the hell an AD did. Or a director really for that matter. Anyway, here's my interview with John.

1. So, you're black. What's that like?

John: It's fun you ass! People always think you can't do something and then you can and they're like "Oh crap he only did that cause he was black and stuff " lol

2. Put a Ring on it was your 1st feature as an Assistant Director. How was it?

John: A freaking nightmare in a can! I thought I was going to lose my mind but some how with the help of God i pulled trough. Now I'm ready for any kind of A.D. job. Can't be worse than this right?

3. What would you do different?

John: Honestly....Nothing. I try not live with regrets because I learn from my mistakes.

4. I'm much better looking than you. Is it really intimidating to work for someone as attractive as me?

John: Yeah, what ever you say..........( this guy is such a dick reporter)

5. What was the hardest part of production for you?

John: Day 3 when  everything was going to hell and I had a mental breakdown, I had to leave the set for lke 15 min but i said a prayer, drunk a coke, sucked it up and got back to the money, OG style!

6. What was the easiest part of production for you?

John: Yelling at people and seeing their " oh no he didn't just yell at me faces". Man that was fun!

7. If you had to be stuck on a island with one crew or cast member who would it be and why?

John: Blaine , That guy could build us a boat to get off the island!

8. Make up a question and answer it, I'm tired.

John: I don't think that far ahead, sorry Jack ;)

9. What's next for you?

John: Plan to film my short " Dr.Joylove's Stimulus Package for Heartbroken Women" this fall and finish up two more short screenplays before  the end of the summer. Plus anything you shoot my way of course.

Get it on Paper. Get it in Writing. Or Get NADA!

Many times on low/no budget productions cast and crew don’t sign contracts. Usually there is no or a very low amount on money, no back end or the producer is a friend or close acquaintance. So you don’t do a contract. It’s awkward to bring up, especially with a friend. But then stuff happens.

If money is involved and a payment schedule has not been established, you get paid if and when the producer deems it appropriate. I did some editing very recently. My relationship with the producer seemed strong. They had paid me well and on time for other related work, so I didn’t feel a contract was necessary. I was to be paid the full amount when the work was done. Simple right. Well, after I deliver the edit, some things still needed to be added(things outside of my responsibilities as editor). Mostly music. Then when I ask for my pay, I discover that the producer doesn’t consider my work done and payable till the whole project is completed and mastered.

 Woah! So, I just took several weeks off work from my day job in order to complete this edit, rent is due,  I have no money and I'm not getting paid!? WTF! My first reaction is to get mad. Then I stop and think about it. I didn’t ask for a contract, in fact I never even made my expectations on when I was suppose to be paid clear. The producer had done nothing wrong. In his head, the work was not complete until the project was mastered. In my head, my work was complete when my portion of it was done. We never discussed it and I never got it in writing. This is my fault. No one is going to protect you in this world except for you (maybe your mom, but she's in INDIANA and I didn't want to tell her) It’s always weird talking money and payment. I hate doing it. But if you’re going to work in this business it’s something you must do often and it a very blunt manner. There can be no miscommunication. Then to further protect yourself you need to have it in writing. Deal memo’s and contracts are easy to do. Templates are readily available on the net.

Even if no money is involved, you still need a contract. Maybe it’s a credit/copy deal. Then later on the producer decides you didn’t fulfill the duties properly and revokes the credit. Did you? Where your responsibilities laid out? Did you perform them? Who’s to say? Maybe they added duties you didn’t agree to. Maybe they decide to credit their cousin instead. Whatever, if you have no paper, you have nothing and you run the risk of getting nothing.

I’m a believer in the better aspects of human nature. I tend to trust someone rather than not. This has led me into some bad situations before and probably will again. But, I will not sign on to any projects in the future (pay, no, low, whatever) without paper stating my rate, payment schedule, duties expected, ect…

Monday, June 6, 2011

Classy Ink

Classy Ink

Paul Misko from Monsters in the Woods wrote, directed and acted in this pilot.

Good stuff. Check it out.

Back on the Verge

Right before shooting Monsters in the Woods, I wrote a blog about being on the verge. Well, it took a little longer than expected to finish Monsters up (the score is being finalized now) and a lot has happened between. I shot and edited another feature, Should’ve Put A Ring on it (which will likely beat Monsters in the Woods to store shelves) and am prepping to shoot 3 more movies in just under 2 months. I’m literally one phone call, one green light away from leaving my day job.

Honestly, I’m kind of scared. I’ve been toiling away on the fringes now for almost 10 years. I made Rise of the Undead back in 2003 and have worked the same day job from Rise all the way through Put A Ring on it. It’s always been there. I’ve left a few times before to edit full time and to make other movies, but I’ve always come back.  However, I know that the next time I leave it will be for good.  And I’m ready…I’m so ready to leave the day gig. But at the same time it is a part of me. It’s a part of who I am and I will miss it.

But it’s time to move on. There’s more professional interest in my work now then there has ever been before. Producers, agents, and distributors are seeking me out. Nothing major has been signed yet, but things are rolling. My skills have a writer/director have increased exponentially since Rise of the Undead. It’s been said before but one of the coolest things about my work is the visible growth between projects. Then with Put A Ring on it, I totally switched gears and tackled a movie unlike any other I had directed thus far. And it didn’t suck.  Monsters in the Woods is poised to make me the most money I’ve ever received for my work and even Trap looks like its about to finally see the light of day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Put A Ring On It Interviews: Alonzo Jones (BJ)

    I’ve worked with no one other person (cast or crew) more than Alonzo Jones. He’s had a major role in every feature I’ve ever directed, except for my 1st (we hadn’t met yet). I asked him below why he kept coming back, guess I should say why I keep asking him back. It's because he's a very talented actor, but an even better human being. He's just plain good to have around.'s the interview.

1. This was our 5th movie together (I think). Why the hell do you keep coming back to me?
Zo - . You're a pretty good director and I think we've built an okay repore. I also like the freedom to create the character.

2.  You played one of the three leads, but only shot for one full day. What was that like?
Zo - It was cool. It was a fast paced day and it was challenging. But I definitely liked not having to make that trek to the location everyday!

3. What was your approach to this character?
Zo - Well, I read my character (B.J.).. then I envisioned what I thought he would be like. Then I tried to convey that on camera.

4. If you had to be stuck on a desert island with one member of the cast/crew who would it be and why?
Zo - You Jason, no doubt!

5. You do soo much, acting, writing, music ect...Where do you see yourself ending up? Besides a shallow grave beside a small dirt road.
Zo - RICH as hell & in Alaska.

6. Did you think my hair looked better while shooting this or Edges of Darkness?
Zo - Wasn't paying attention. (wasn't it the same?)

7. So you've been beaten up on screen in both Trap and Put a Ring on it. Aren't you afraid of being type cast as a pussy?
Zo - Not at all! It's called ACTING, don't get it twisted!

8. Make up a question and answer it, I'm getting lazy.

Zo -  Q- 'Why didn't we shoot the patented Alonzo looking out the window shot?'
        A- Jason is lazy as hell.
9. Do you prefer working on the more family friendly stuff, like put a ring on it or the harder horror, thriller stuff.
Zo - Doesn't matter to me, as long as there's a camera with film in it...Just hope the pay starts getting better!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wednesday List of Things to Do Thursday

  1. Still waiting on word of the Put A RING on it harddrive drive arriving in Lousiana. My tracking confirmation says it was delivered yesterday. In the meantime, I’m continuing to tweak the Put A Ring on It edit. However, I’m fast approaching the point of aimless tinkering. I don’t want to get much further into color correction if a post house is going to handle it. Same with sound design. Sure there’s more I could do, but if my work is going to be thrown aside anyway, why bother? So what was the point of this number? Oh, yeah. Go over final color correction at least double check that everything is within broadcast safe. Also check sound levels for the same.
  2. Go over Trap edit. I’m submitting it to festivals. I need to make sure the cut is tip top.
  3. Go over Monsters in the Woods edit. Same thing.
  4. Go over the rest of EXIT. I’m going to repackage my horror trilogy. I think I’m at a place now where I can successfully put these projects together.  If I’m not too burnt out, I’ll jump right into Chophouse as well.
  5. Do a preliminary budget break-down for EXIT, CHOPHOUSE AND THE WORM.  My plan over the next month is to have compete breakdowns and schedules for all three projects.

Put A Ring On It Interviews: Tiara Gathright (Thea)

It was my 1st time working with Tiara Gathright. She came onto the project less than a week before we were set to start shooting. Her character Thea appears in just about every scene and has a ton dialog. Of all the cast, she impressed me the most. She came in, knew her lines, did her job and performed admirable, especially given the circumstances. I see a bright future ahead for her.

1. Put a Ring on it was your first time carrying a lead role in a feature film, Did you feel much pressure?

I didn't have time to feel pressure because I had to learn 90 pages of dialogue in less than 5 days. I guess it worked in my favor. I typically work better under pressure anyways!

2. Shooting a full feature in 5 days is a gruelling task and you appeared in just about every scene. How did you make it through?

I was doing what I love so the grueling task was more like a fabulous high. The only thing that I didn't enjoy about the 5 days was I felt rushed. 

I also prayed my way through.

3. You played Thea, How did you approach playing her? What's your method?

I read the script so many times and got so emotionally attached to my character, that it all came so naturally and organically. I am all about living in the moment and that's how Thea came alive. 

4. What was your favorite experience on set? Least Favorite?

My favorite was working with Robin Givens. I always loved her work so working with her was an honor. Least favorite was not eating till I was about to pass out.

(I had that same experience on the 2nd day.)

5. This was our 1st experience working together. How would you describe our working relationship?

The first day was a little dry, but after that, I felt we became best buds. In other words, we worked well together. I am sure we will work together in the future ;) We are homies now. 

6. Do you like me better with the beard or without?

Without. I'm not a fan of beards. SHAVE!!
(it’s gone tonight)

7. If you had to survive on a desert Island with one member of the cast and/or crew who would it be and why?

Veronica, she and I are like sisters and we have a spiritual relationship!

8. Did you find difficult balancing the comedic and dramatic aspects of the movie?

Only when I felt overly rushed. 

9.  If there had been a tenth question how would have you answered?

I can't believe I made a  film in 5 days and was in almost every scene. It was a huge accomplishment and I showed myself that I can really do anything I put my mind too.