Monday, June 10, 2013


This was one the very first blogs I wrote three years back when I was I writing Monsters in the Woods.

Coming out of college, a lot of aspiring filmmakers got to work right away in the industry. They usually start as a production assistant in whatever department will have them and work there until they can worm their way into their department of choice. Then they work towards advancing in that department in hopes of becoming “the” production designer, casting director, key grip, ect…ect. Along the way, most settle into a position somewhere in between P.A and department head. For the unfortunate few of us that just have to pursue a career as a writer, director or DP, the final goal is, more often then not, never reached. You could work the whole rest of your life on studio features, diligently working towards becoming a director and never make it. In fact, the odds are more likely that you won’t.

This was my train of thought five years ago when I decided to work outside of the industry and make movies independently. My rationale was that a full time industry job wouldn’t leave me with the time or energy I needed to develop and produce my own work. If I started in the industry and did slowly advance, as the money became better and I my lifestyle became more comfortable, I was afraid I lose my hunger to be a writer/director, making it easier to give up. Instead, I chose a job-type-job outside of the industry. A job that would pay my rent and bills, but would leave me ultimately unfulfilled. This way I would stay hungry and pursue my dream with even more conviction.

Six years later, I’m directing my forth feature. My first three were all distributed and my last actually made a little bit of money. I am still working that same day job. I shoot, edit and write on my time off. I live pay check to paycheck and project to project, the very embodiment of a starving artist (or pop artist.) This life style was kinda cool when I was fresh out of college and in my mid 20’s, but now well into my 30’s, I sometimes question the path I’ve taken.

But then, time and time again, a thought occurs to me: “I wouldn’t have it any other way!” I might live paycheck to paycheck, not own a nice car, or know exactly where I’ll be or how I’ll be doing a year from now, but I am (RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW) living my dream. I make movies, movies people actually see, hate, love, talk and/or write about. How many folks in this world can truthfully say that they are living and pursuing their dreams? And for me, that dream is growing and evolving. Here’s to the next five years of struggle!

****three years later and I'm outta my day job, just making flicks. Still don't have a nice car and am living month to month, but the opportunities are growing and the projects are getting bigger.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Another Sunday in the Life

JJ Diaries – 6-2-13

Sunday should be a day off. Not for me.

I'll keep this short today.

6am – watch final cut of an older deliverable. Gotta make sure nothing is funky for the distiributor.
730 am – add ooo and ahh audience reactions to the sit-com/features I’m cutting.
9am – breakfast at Granville. Brough to you by Granville.
10am – finish out both EPK’s. gotta go over producer and assistant’s final notes.
12pm – work on shot adjustments for both projects.
4pm – lunch
5pm – re-read the feature script I’m shooting next month. My goal is to find time to read it once a day, everyday til production starts.

7pm – shower and head out for game of thrones night.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

JJ-DIaries 5/31/13

Over the past few weeks I've started working for a new company. I was hired to develop, direct and edit 5 feature films over the course of 6 months. The first feature shoots in July. In the meantime, I've offered to help out with edits on 2 feature projects that they've already shot.

These are my days.

4am -  wake up to check on an export. I'm making an uploadable version of the current cut of a project, for the executive producer to approve. See this project is actually due to the distributor in exactly one week. So it's imperative that I get it locked and off to sound mix ASAP and I need the EP's go ahead.
Problem is somehow in the middle of the night, the power chord on the harddrive got bumped and the export was halted. I have to re render the project, which is a four hour process, re-export (a 2 hour process) and re-upload a 2 hour process. SHIT! I'm trying to make a good impression, as these are my first two projects for this company. Don't want it to go bad before it even starts.

8am - render is done. Start export. go get breakfast.
10am. start encode.  While it's encoding I prep all the OMF exports for the sound mix.... Now I'm anticipating a go ahead on the cut. If I have to make further timing changes, I'll have to do this all again.

1pm. Encode is done. Start upload for EP.  This particular project is a three camera sit-com style shoot and the EP's notes so far have been coverage related. The only real timing notes have involved the laugh track. These things can be adjusted after the picture is locked. So I'm taking a chance and sending the sound off to the sound guy. If I don't, we definitely won't make our delivery date.

130pm. Do a final review of the OMF and video files for the sound mixer.
2pm. Producer assistant picks up the sound files and delivers to the sound mixer.

3pm. Make adjustments to the two EPK's I've cut for the projects. I've received notes from the EP's assistant that need to be addressed. Not too terribly tough.

4pm. EPK adjustments made.  Now re watch the current cut in real time, making personal notes of technical flaws ect....things I can address and change without effecting the timing of the sound.  I also need to start thinking about how to cut the final product down. The EP wants another much shorter version of one of the projects to shop to networks.

6pm - dinner break

7pm - Re watch the 2nd project, again looking for any tech flaws I may have missed.
9pm - watch a movie, go to bed.

Little Moments....

Working in movies is tough. No it’s not police officer tough, or soldier tough…hell sometimes not even Starbucks tough. But it’s hard work all the same. Over the past six month, I’ve collectively had fewer days off than a person can count on two hands.  And all this on indie wages. If you’d actually break down the number of hours I put in vs. pay, you’d come up with something like 40 cents an hour.

Then on top of that you’re always at the beckon call of those flipping the bill. You may or may not have creative control, but to some extent the producers own you. And you can forget about stability. No matter how much they may promise a long-term relationship, they can let you go at the drop of a hat. I live in constant fear of the company or companies I may work for going under, or finding someone cheaper, better or a friend that they just like more. I work month to month, project to project... often not sure of where my next gig is coming from.

So why do it?

Because I have to. I have a burning desire (no need) to make movies, to express something, to say something. Something about me or the world around me… Movies are that form of expression for me.  I don’t always get the freedom to fully express myself, but occasionally something does slip through and those little moments make it worth it.

Here’s to the little moments, may they be more plentiful in the future.