Lights On

FKA twigs

LP1

Played 468 times

Music for the Weekend: Lights On by FKA Twigs.

I remember selecting FKA Twigs’ Papi Pacify last year for a MFTW choice, and I was completely mesmerized by her. Weird stuff, sexually aggressive lyrically to the point of slight discomfort, and out-of-left-field composition. Even her image was whacked out, elongated and morphed.

I guess that’s what I like so much about her. She’s a button pusher without blatantly being so. She’s being herself and telling us to take it or leave it - if I make you uncomfortable, you need to ask yourself why you feel that way. I mean, look at that cover image. Almost like a plastic doll, one eye made to look bruised, messy makeup that, for me, I find to be disturbing. But that’s me. It’s not like she’s trying to send me a message, I’m making my own. And it’s not pleasant. But I love it. And I love her music.

The song doesn’t pull any punches either:

Break or seize me
Let the things that I tell you survive
In the way that you handle your size
Never leave me

The fuck? I don’t know how to feel about that, especially when couched in an absolutely sensual treatment that screams love and trust. But this indeed is love and trust, and I need to see it in a different way. Not just for my or her sake, but for the sake of a different perspective. It’s fascinating. It’s like having a window to someone’s soul for five minutes.

The entire record is like this, and it’s a frontrunner for my pick of Album of the Year. Aphex Twin’s Syro might challenge that, and by year’s end we’ll have a winner, or a tie because what does it matter really. It’s rare to have so much great music that reaches the inner depths of our consciousness. Very, very cool.

Have a wonderful weekend!

The work on ‘Six Angry Women’ begins, two decisions already made.

Back home from LA, got a day’s rest, and jumping full speed into working on 'Six Angry Women.'

As a reminder for those just joining in, in a bout of inspiration that I will write about further, I’ve greenlit my own production of a feature film that follows the deliberation of an all-woman jury for a fictional trial where a young black man is shot dead. The case is an amalgamation of incidents like the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown shootings. I have no screenplay for the film, only an outline, and the script will be built through improvisation during rehearsals. We’re gonna Mike Leigh this movie into existence.

We’ve set the shoot date for November 6th-11th. Yes, that’s a six day shoot for a feature length film. It’s insane, but that’s how I roll. I’ve found three of my six angry women and have to be fully cast by October 1st, which is when our rehearsals begin. We’ll rehearse for five weeks. My DoP, Faroukh Mistry, who shot Lilith, will be coming in early and during rehearsals we’ll figure out our shot list and visual strategy. We’ve already made two creative decisions that are written in stone: we will film in black-and-white, and the movie will be shot in a 4:3 format.

These choices are both instinctual and symbolic. I just felt the 4:3 format, the “square” aspect ratio, was fitting because all of these police brutality / racial profiling / shootings are being chronicled on television, and the 4:3 aspect ratio, despite our widescreen flat-panel televisions at home, is still considered the classic “tv” aesthetic. It also is symbolic a myopic, sheltered point-of-view, which for me is important when it comes to showing each juror in their own self-justified world. I also love the format, used brilliantly in films like Meek’s Cutoff and Wuthering Heights. Both films feel like a pressure cooker of tension simply by their choice of aspect ratio. Aesthetically I also love having the black bars on the sides, it’s a bit of a jolt since we’re so used to widescreen now.


Wuthering Heights dir. Andrea Arnold


Meeks Cutoff dir. Kelly Reichardt

The decision to film in B&W is a purely symbolic one. The court-justified shooting of unarmed black men is a black-and-white issue that has tons of moral gray inbetween. To film it in vibrant color seems like an affront to the issue at hand. To do it this way would also reinforce the starkness and bleakness of the situation. I’m inspired by Robert Elswit’s work on Good Night, and Good Luck and Roger Deakins’ work on The Man Who Wasn’t There. Lofty standards, but Faroukh’s a kick-ass DoP who can do it.


The Man Who Wasn’t There, dir. The Coen Brothers


Good Night, and Good Luck, dir. George Clooney

Locking in on decisions like this early on makes so many future choices clearer. The location we choose, the set dressing, the costumes, the makeup, the blocking and the framing will all be driven by these two choices. We will not step down from these choices, they are set in stone, and were mutually made after a long discussion between me and my cinematographer. It’s a bold choice, but then again after being honest about why the choice was made, it’s not that bold at all.

Tons of work ahead, and after a long lull this blog will pick up some steam as we plow forward into the great unknown!

Liar

Rollins Band

Weight

Played 172 times

Music for the Weekend: LIAR by Rollins Band.

I’d like to dedicate this song to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Read my open letter to him and you’ll understand why.

Back on the road, back to financing. In Canada, surrounded by lovely, nice people. I love it here.

Have a safe, wonderful weekend.

My Open Letter to Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner.

With new video and information surfacing regarding the Ray Rice domestic violence case and the NFL, after much deliberation I’ve decided to pen a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, demanding his resignation. Read the letter and if you agree, forward a link of this the letter to Mr. Goodell’s twitter account, his email (roger.goodell-at-nfl.dot-com), or write how you feel in your own words and send it to him, send it to your local NFL team’s offices (I sent one to the Denver Broncos offices). Send it anywhere you think it will be read.

(BTW here’s a link to contact info for the NFL.)

_____________

Dear Commissioner Goodell,

My earliest memory of professional football was that of a nightmare. At the age of four, I was convinced that Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Jack Lambert was hiding in my closet. I used to turn off the lights, terrified, thinking Lambert would consume me despite his lack of front teeth. While terrifying as a child, as an adult it brings back fond memories of how much football and the NFL was a part of my life.

I grew up a Denver Broncos fan and have religiously watched every game I could for almost three decades now. My family, immigrants to this country from India, found a sense of community in Denver that centered around football. Some of our dearest and lifelong friends have come into our lives because of the shared experience of supporting our beloved home team.

Having idolized Steve Atwater, I worked hard as a kid to develop my body and skills to become a defensive back. I played in high school and it will forever be one of the most formative experiences of my life. My coaches, some of them retired NFL players, not only taught me teamwork, communication and the fundamentals of the game but also became father figures, teaching me as much about life as they did football.

It is obvious that my regard for the game is sacred, so it pains me all the more, for the first time in my life, to boycott the NFL because of your administration’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case.

The NFL has made many errors in the past, as any organization is inevitably destined to do. In the face of these errors one has to have faith that the heads of the organization will make any and all corrective measures to ensure that these errors do not occur again. To do this requires humility and compassion, both of which were distinctly lacking in the handling of the Ray Rice case. That you, your staff, and the Baltimore Ravens organization were well aware of the infraction and yet actively denied the existence of conclusive and damning evidence not only makes you complicit, it makes you an accessory.

You may think this is hyperbole but it is not. I will go a step further and ask you to imagine if it was one of your own daughters in that elevator, would you bow down to the economics of demographic profitability and sponsorships and cover up evidence that would help bring her justice, and more importantly, safety?

You may also think it egregious for me to bring your daughters – your personal life – into this discussion, but remember that Janay Rice is also someone’s daughter. That every woman who is punched, kicked, spit upon, and dragged is someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s mother. To further compound the humiliation of the victims of domestic abuse, your committee – knowing evidence existed that would send Ray Rice to jail – made Janay describe what had happened to her in the presence of her attacker. Your lack of empathy and any notion of her future safety is mind boggling, disrespectful, and appalling.

Because of this I am requesting – no, demanding - your resignation, and the resignation of all individuals involved in the cover up of this case. I have in the past been forgiving of the NFL in its handling of substance abuse, knowing personally through collegiate friends who went on to the NFL that there are systems in place for rehabilitation and recovery. In theory these are things men do to themselves, and are not afflicting upon others. But violence upon another is another issue.

Just as swift action was taken against Michael Vick for his role in the abuse and killing of animals, the same consideration was not given for a woman being beaten unconscious by an NFL player. Michael Vick admitted fault, has expressed remorse and regret, and has fortuitously managed to rehabilitate a career despite losing the prime window of his athletic ability whilst incarcerated. But that is the price he willingly paid. That the NFL has pursued justice for abused and murdered dogs and yet is an accessory to denying evidence in violence against women says volumes about what you and your cohorts’ opinions of women actually are. In case you had forgotten, women are living, breathing people, your sisters, mothers and daughters, and not just a demographic to sell merchandise to or curry favor with similar deep-pocketed “not-for-profit” sponsors.

This is not about Ray Rice. This is not about his wife. This is not about the multitude of players, coaches and employees of the NFL who have had troubles with the law. It is about you and those involved knowingly obstructing justice, and doing so in the sole interests of preserving your organization and your job at the expense of victims of domestic abuse. Like any lie, your dishonesty has caused more damage than any perceived gain.

My coach in high school once told us that the great Vince Lombardi, whom the vaunted Super Bowl trophy is named for, was absolutely wrong. Winning isn’t everything. The main lesson of sport is humility, the cornerstone of sportsmanship. The greatest thing I learned from football was not to win at any cost, but to lose with dignity and respect. If I was bested by a wide receiver, my coach would hold me by the pads, look me in the eyes, and tell me to go to that receiver after the game, shake his hand, and tell him he played a great game. And I had to mean it. It is a lesson that to this date has made me a better son, brother, husband, citizen and man.

In this regard I ask you and those complicit to exercise the same lesson of football. Prudence, justice and morality have bested you all. It is time for you to admit your wrongdoing, acknowledge your being caught, and resign with whatever dignity you have left. Until that happens, I will not be watching your games, and I will continue to vehemently campaign for others to do the same.

The NFL was once the bastion of manhood and sportsmanship. Today, because of you, it represents neither, and instead is an organization that has decided to sweep domestic violence under the rug. While it is a difficult and brutal decision for me to give up on the game that has ingrained itself in my DNA, it is nowhere near as brutal as domestic violence. Any person or organization that tries to cover up domestic violence, who is incapable of compassion or empathy, is not worthy of my time, consideration or money.

I look forward to your resignation and the rebuilding of a once-proud league.

Sridhar Reddy
Chicago, Illinois

Never try to convey your idea to the audience – it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life, and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.

Andrei Tarkovsky

I struggled with this concept for a very long time. I always knew I had something important to say, and I didn’t realize that the last thing the audience wanted from me is to hear me say it. If they wanted a soapbox lecture they’d have paid to hear me speak and not buy a movie ticket. They shouldn’t hear an idea, they should experience it. This was an absolute revelation to me, and the difference between my first feature and my second was immeasurable because of this discovery.

Before I made my first film (19 Revolutions) I could have read this Tarkovsky quote a billion times and I would have made the same choices because I was headstrong in my desire to convey my ideas. I had great ideas about wealth disparity and the plight of forgotten youth, and in a grand mistake I had my actors talk about those ideas as opposed to live through them. React to them. It made for a talky, preachy movie, and my saving grace is that the dialogue was at least interesting and my actors brought some cool nuances to it. Other than that it was a lecture on film.

With my new film 'Six Angry Women' I also have a lot of ideas, but I’m taking the approach of having my actresses develop characters around those ideas, using real life people and incidences as the foundational pillars, and we shall improvise in rehearsals from there to build up the screenplay. In improvisation we will hopefully see real reactions to those ideas, reactions based on truths. This will be our key to experiencing ideas, to creating images that show how something feels as opposed to how it looks. During this entire time we will be recording and jotting down our discoveries, and from this our story, shot list and screenplay will emerge.

This of course requires immensely talented actresses, and I’ve already found three of my six angry women. They are both writers and actors, and have done some truly astounding work in Chicago theater. It’s my responsibility to have them think in terms of film and to hone their creativity towards my ideas, and let them build life around it. It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time, but with each new word and image comes waves of anticipation and excitement.

It’s like watching a new universe being born in front of our eyes!

Announcing my new feature project, 6 ANGRY WOMEN.

Yes, this is my take on Sidney Lumet’s classic 12 Angry Men, except set against a fictional trial of the murder of a young black teenager. Sound familiar? It should. Between Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown / Ferguson and Eric Garner, this is a subject that is not only timely but necessary.

The twist of this production is that I’m going into rehearsals without a screenplay, only an outline, a set of objectives, and a ton of research. I’m going to count on my actresses to improvise and build the script in rehearsals, an approach used with great skill by one of my cinematic heroes, Mike Leigh.

I, of course, am no Mike Leigh and I find the approach absolutely terrifying. I’m a scientist by nature, I plan things out to molecular detail. But this is an exercise in letting it go, of having absolute control and none at the same time. I’ve been planning for over 18 months now, and hopefully my preparation will serve me well.

In the coming weeks I’ll be going into detail of the pre-production and production of this film, just as I did with Lilith. This is an infinitesimaly smaller production than Lilith - microbudget is an understatement - but it is just as big, if not bigger, in its emotional scope and political impact.

Onward we go, into the great unknown. I’m going to be counting on you, my loyal and hyper-smart followers, to help me promote this production throughout. It needs to build steam as it is a vital issue and a very unorthodox way to discuss it. We need to come up from the underground and give as strong a voice possible to the voiceless. The world should know about this film long before it reaches any screen, it should be the film made by the people and lifted by the people. We can do it.  

Hope you like the poster, I designed and illustrated it myself, a nod to Saul Bass and Otto Preminger. Seemed appropriate.

Have a great weekend!
Zoom Info
  • Camera
  • EPSON Perfection V33/V330

Announcing my new feature project, 6 ANGRY WOMEN.

Yes, this is my take on Sidney Lumet’s classic 12 Angry Men, except set against a fictional trial of the murder of a young black teenager. Sound familiar? It should. Between Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown / Ferguson and Eric Garner, this is a subject that is not only timely but necessary.

The twist of this production is that I’m going into rehearsals without a screenplay, only an outline, a set of objectives, and a ton of research. I’m going to count on my actresses to improvise and build the script in rehearsals, an approach used with great skill by one of my cinematic heroes, Mike Leigh.

I, of course, am no Mike Leigh and I find the approach absolutely terrifying. I’m a scientist by nature, I plan things out to molecular detail. But this is an exercise in letting it go, of having absolute control and none at the same time. I’ve been planning for over 18 months now, and hopefully my preparation will serve me well.

In the coming weeks I’ll be going into detail of the pre-production and production of this film, just as I did with Lilith. This is an infinitesimaly smaller production than Lilith - microbudget is an understatement - but it is just as big, if not bigger, in its emotional scope and political impact.

Onward we go, into the great unknown. I’m going to be counting on you, my loyal and hyper-smart followers, to help me promote this production throughout. It needs to build steam as it is a vital issue and a very unorthodox way to discuss it. We need to come up from the underground and give as strong a voice possible to the voiceless. The world should know about this film long before it reaches any screen, it should be the film made by the people and lifted by the people. We can do it.

Hope you like the poster, I designed and illustrated it myself, a nod to Saul Bass and Otto Preminger. Seemed appropriate.

Have a great weekend!

Big Announcement Tomorrow!

Excited to announce my new feature project tomorrow. It’s something that’s been in the works for about a year and a half, and the time has come to take the leap and just do it. Events in the world have dictated that I need to make this film now.

For me it’s an entirely new approach to making a film, and truthfully it scares the living daylights out of me. But it’s an essential step in my development, to become the filmmaker I aspire to be.

Watch this space!

#6aw

Loctaine

Peter Murphy

Lion [+digital booklet]

Played 181 times

Music for the Weekend: Loctaine by Peter Murphy.

My first concert ever was a Bauhaus show, at the Gothic Theater in Denver. I was thirteen. I’d listened to all the tapes but I had no idea what to do at a show. I showed up in an Einsturzende Neubauten t-shirt, baggy jeans and a beat-up pair of Air Jordans. I was surrounded by mostly porcelain-pale women dressed in black lace, black nailpolish and lipstick, and black / purple hair covering most of their faces. They shrieked and cried as the band played, and despite sticking out like a sore thumb it was for the first time that I felt any kind of sense of community. I loved this kind of music and was ashamed of having dark thoughts, and here was a bunch of people who expressed it outwardly, without shame or embarrassment. The room was full of fog and piercing lights, and Peter Murphy emerged from the mist, shirtless and skeleton-like, and full of a primal, dark energy as he dove headfirst into a blistering rendition of 'Stigmata Martyr.' A hot girl next to me was so excited that she grabbed me and kissed me long and hard on the neck, leaving behind a black lipstick reminder. It was technically my first kiss.

Six days ago on my plane ride home I was listening to Peter Murphy’s new record, and between my post-fever haze and feeling emotional about leaving my grandparents, this song brought tears to my eyes. I felt like one of those ghostly goth girls, swelling with feeling and sadness. I can still feel the raw power in Murphy’s voice, now fifty-seven years tested, and I put this track on repeat and listened to it for an hour.

My sickness has taught me to live in the moment, that our lives can change on a dime. It’s been one year since my wife and I experienced our tragic loss, and where I once used to think the flair for drama and bellicose was silly, I see now the value of living out loud, in the present moment, not caring what people think. Which doesn’t mean we have license to be inconsiderate - in that theater with Bauhaus we respected each others’ space, and any outward displays were in the name of passion, love and life. We learn lessons from life, and sometimes we need a trigger - a reminder - of those moments that meant something to us and changed our lives. I never realized until now how important my first concert was, beyond it being my first concert. It was my first experience of a shared love, of connecting with who you are with people who understood you. That’s pretty special.

Next time you go to a show, think of that scared thirteen year old who finally learned to let go and let life happen to him. You’ll hear the music in an entirely new way, a powerful way, a way that art can only affect you. You’ll find it magical.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Please Support Mike Pecci’s ‘12 Kilometers.’

Some time ago I wrote about my dear friend and film school classmate Mike Pecci, when he made a very controversial fan-film using The Punisher, and Marvel got their panties in a bunch because Mike’s film was a little too amazing for their liking. I guess fan films are supposed to only reek of amateurism, and Mike is the furthest thing from an amateur. He and producing partner Ian McFarland are some of the finest filmmakers working in the United States today.

A few weeks ago Mike launched a Kickstarter for a feature project that literally sprung out of his mind early in the year. I was actually helping Mike and Ian out with a music video project here in Chicago when Ian sent me an email: the shoot was canceled, and Mike was in the hospital.

You hate to get emails like that. Apparently Mike had cracked his skull open after taking a digger on some ice, and was out cold in a hospital bed.

Yesterday I’d written of my own experience with hospital lucidity, and where my brain was cooking itself, Mike’s brain was being squeezed by a hematoma. And of course thankful that Mike survived, but he emerged with something pretty fucking cool. It’s called 12 Kilometers, and it’s a feature horror film. Hear it from Mike himself:

I contributed to the campaign immediately, not just because Mike is a friend but also because more than any other filmmaker working in America right now, nobody knows how to stretch a buck like Mike Pecci. Give him nothing and he’ll make gold, give him something and he’ll make something priceless. He’s that good, he’s that fucking creative, and he’s already created some striking images for the film.

12 KILOMETERS - FILMING THE MONSTER from McFarland & Pecci on Vimeo.

And if it’s your thing, Mike wrangled up some kick-ass (or “wicked hardcore” as he would say in his thick Boston accent) perks for the campaign, including original artwork by the always-amazing Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night).

Support good art. Support amazing indie film. There’s 65k+ followers of this blog and if each of you donated a dollar then Mike would hit his goal tenfold. Contribute and reblog this post. Mike’s not asking for much, and he’s giving everything in return. Help him out, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more of 12 Kilometers in the near future. This is one to watch.

Contribute by clicking HERE.