Back home, weird dreams.

What a trip. Got a lot of business done but turn around succumbed to the worst fever I’ve ever had. Eight days with my temperature above 102, two days where I was near 109. Started seeing things. Couldn’t put words together. Never thought I was going to die, but I was worried about my brain.

I was worried about my brain because I was having really bizarre visions and dreams that would get stuck on a salient point, and when I awoke I too would be stuck on that salient point. And I mean stuck. To the point where my mind would obsess on what things meant and how it all fit together.

I had a singularity dream where I collapsed in a bathtub and through the drain I could see one thousand different versions of the same event, each slightly different than the other. It was as if my life were one of those 100-CD carousel players and all I had to do was stop on one of them and my life could continue on. I would choose a particular reality but end up back in that bathtub, looking down that same drain. As if I could not escape time, that it would find its own equilibrium.

My second dream involved a black USB cable that had no function, but it was extremely important. I could see myself holding the cable and hear myself saying the words “black USB cable” over and over again. It was a piece of a puzzle to making a larger technological construct work, and I was surrounded by robotic machines and giant chunks of twisted metal, one of which needed a black USB cable. I could feel it in my brain, lucid in vision, but I could not articulate it. My nurse tells me that at the height of my fever I tried to explain to her something about a “head start,” about having it all laid out before me and locating a power source. She said I was talking gibberish. Even now I feel like something important in my brain is trying to express itself.

It’s believed that altered states are when we are at our most lucid - we’re looking into the ether of something beyond logic. My brain was cooking itself and making connections that could either be interpreted as madness or some greater pattern that is worth investigating more.

It’s a gift that I have perfect recall of my dreams, but figuring them out is an entirely different matter. The imagery produced is vivid and often does find its way into my work, but when I figure out a narrative puzzle it makes for some very interesting scenarios, born of legitimate tension and pull. Doesn’t mean I seek altered states - the loss of control is probably the greatest frustration I can experience and I do not cherish it. But altered states can also be achieved without the use of drugs or being pushed to the medical brink. Transcendental meditation, sensory engagement / overload (music, paint, color, sex, etc.) and simply being open to the indifference of the universe can take you there. It’s the major difference between creating a scene and creating an experience. If we can convey rawness of being in our most simple and elegant forms, then what we commit to paper is hard truths, real feelings, and sometimes things we weren’t supposed to find.

Fright unlocks a lot of dark truths. I was certainly frightened whilst in the hospital, in a different country, away from my loved ones. And it tapped something powerful inside of me. Because I am a writer I can explore this, and it is a new frontier for me, an infinite horizon of the mind. It’s exhilarating and powerful, and I am thankful I am able to do it.

Glad to be home. A few weeks and I’m back on the road, raising more money and putting it all together. Thank you for your patience these past three weeks, I will get back to posting regularly. Much appreciated.

Your humble director,

Robin Williams - My Memory.

It’s amazing to see how many lives Robin Williams touched, and how devastating his loss has been to so many, yours truly included. I memorized every one of Adrian Cronaur’s monologues from ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ (“Fool - it’s so hot I saw a guy in an orange robe burst into flames! Damn!”) and reveled in the quiet, tender moment when he saw young men off into battle. But perhaps the most meaningful moment in Mr. Williams’ filmography for me was the most innocuous.

My mom was a fan of ‘Mork and Mindy’ (it was impossible not to be a fan as the show was set in Boulder) and in the grocery store video section she saw a Robin Williams film and brought it home. “It’s got Mork!” she exclaimed, and after a nice dinner the family settled around the tv, and dad popped in the cassette. The movie was ‘Moscow on the Hudson’ and it was NOTHING like Mork from Ork. It was dirty, profane, and on a wire’s edge. I didn’t understand it, but I found its energy infectious. Then a scene in the film burned itself into my head forever. There was Robin Williams, naked and easily one of the hairiest men on the planet, cavorting in a bathtub with an equally naked Maria Conchita-Alonso, their tub flanked with American flag shower curtains. Mom shut off the VCR at that moment, realizing this wasn’t a family-friendly movie. But that scene stuck with me, and it did with every Robin Williams movie I saw thereafter.

As I grew older, as I lived in places all around the world, as I struggled with life and celebrated small victories, that image always came back into my head. It was happiness in America. It was simple pleasures, sex and Chinese take-out. It was raw power. And today I realize that it was everything that Robin Williams embodied. I still haven’t seen ‘Moscow on the Hudson’ in its entirety and for me the movie will always end on that bathtub scene, and I want it to stay that way. It will forever be my personal memory of a rare actor who became a part of an entire civilization’s DNA. Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. May your demons be calmed and I hope you find the healing power of love and laughter, the very same gift you gave to us all. You will be missed.

Further Not Better


What's Between

Played 179 times

Music for the Weekend: Further Not Better by WIFE.

Am halfway around the planet in India, just getting started on my meetings with potential financiers for some long-gestating projects. It’s been three years since I was last in this country, which continues to reinvent itself on a daily basis. The world is changing at a pace that few of us can comprehend.

I chose this song because of its backstory. James Kelly, who is the brain behind WIFE, is also the brain behind Altar of Plague, one of the best black metal bands in Ireland. It’s a complete shift in musical ideology, and yet Kelly makes it work. Listening to this album on my flight reminded me that the greatest joy as an artist is to be unclassifiable. It means no one can peg you down, no one can predict your next move, and if you’re really good at your craft, the world will eagerly anticipate your next move.

It also means that you will continue to challenge yourself, you will never become complacent or spin your wheels. As the saying goes, change is the only constant, and this applies to so much more than just art. Never be bored. Never be satisfied. Never settle. Always change, always learn, always discover. The art which will come out of you will surprise you, it will be dangerous, and most importantly, it will be yours.

Have a great weekend.


Martin L. Gore

Counterfeit E.P.

Played 145 times

Music for the Weekend: Compulsion by Martin Gore.

I’m four weeks into my insane ten-week travel schedule and I’m already starting to feel burned out. I’ve done three cities in four weeks, a meeting a day, and still have the hardest part ahead of me, which is international travel. I’m abroad for the next three weeks.

Feeling worn out aside, I’ve gotten a lot of things done and things look promising. I’ve been in the film business long enough to temper my emotions coming out of an outstanding meeting (and I had a few) where everything seems perfect and your life is ready to change forever, but then weeks, months, sometimes years later you’re still waiting for those promises and agreements to come to fruition. It’s an old adage from my business law classes during my MBA, which is that if you don’t have it on paper, you don’t have it. I don’t start breakdancing until the ink is dry on the contract.

This song popped up on my playlist - a relic from my college days - and the lyrics hit me hard as I was sitting in a crowded discount airline cabin in my middle seat, at the back of the plane, by the lavatory.

Charms in limited supply and refusing to stretch
That indefinable nothing somehow keeps pushing you
Finding the right words can be a problem
How many times must it be said
there’s no plan
it had to happen

Got to move on sometime and it’s about time
By putting one foot in front of another and repeating the process
Cross over the street, youre free to change your mind
Strength through diversity couldnt have put it more plainly

It seemed to perfectly distill the process of pitching. You’re good in the room, your passion is authentic and vital, and the other side seems excited, but whether it is out of professional kindness or genuine sincerity is known only to them. Then the dance begins, the coaxing of that simple-yet-evasive one syllable answer: yes or no.

Scott Rudin used to say the best answer he could get from a meeting was a “yes,” but the even better answer was a “no.” Because when someone says “no” you can move on, you can try a different angle or strategy. But the media business rarely works like that. On average my discussions / negotiations with agencies take about four months of back and forth, all of it exceptionally noncommittal. It’s absolutely maddening.

We slog it out. Work damn hard. Make sacrifices. There’s few luxuries. Save money by crashing on the couches of loyal friends. Spend money where it benefits your goals the most. And sometimes you make a breakthrough and it’s our human nature to feel excited. But besides giving you a thick skin, this business will give you a new concept of delayed gratification. The celebration must wait until the movie is in the can, or even better when it’s onscreen, or even better when you get your first check from the receipts. There are so many stages, so many uncertainties.

Doesn’t mean we can’t be happy. It’s a cliche but it really is all about enjoying the journey, this is the source of our joy. Those moments when you look up at the ceiling of a room that isn’t yours, and realize that you’re working towards something that’s pretty fucking cool and is incredibly important to you, and is your mark on the world. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Soldier on. Back on a plane tomorrow and away for three weeks, so the posting may be a bit spotty. Thanks for understanding, and let’s keep fighting for our dreams.

Have a great weekend!




Played 239 times

Music for the Weekend: Asleep by Makthaverskan.

What a brilliant record by this Swedish quartet. You know music is special when it can transport you, either to a future that you wish could happen or to the past you’d like to reclaim. In this instance for me it is the latter.

There’s something about this track that reminds me of my most awkward introduction to love, or what I thought was love. Sometime around freshman year of high school. I couldn’t stop thinking of this one girl in my math class. She wasn’t one of the unattainable popular girls, she was a figure skater and would show up at school at like five in the morning to practice. Nobody seemed to really notice her. In that sense we had a lot in common.

She was very pretty but more fascinating to me was an understated elegance to her. Every movement of hers was soft and on some sort of parabolic glide. She had sharp features mostly hidden by long, straight brown hair. I was mesmerized and awestruck. She was the first girl that reminded me of Audrey Hepburn. And the last.

She also had a boyfriend. Every nerd’s nightmare. She was off limits, and even if she was unattached I was so painfully shy I wouldn’t have done anything about it. What would a beautiful girl like her want to do with an introverted dork like me?

High school continued and two years later I ended up having a photography class with her. And her boyfriend. My torture resumed. Then one day I had my nightmare scenario. One early morning before school started, I was in the darkroom (we used to develop our pictures back in the 90s, kids) and I was developing a series of pictures that I took in the mountains. It was really good work, the nascent legs of a visual career that I had no idea would turn into my life’s passion. I was in the darkroom by myself, and then she walked in. It was just the two of us. I was petrified with fear. We worked in silence.

She looked over at my picture in the developer bath, and looked at me and tried to say something, but she choked on her words. I looked up at her, as if I’d done something terribly wrong. She smiled and said “your pictures are really beautiful.” My brain exploded, and I eked out an almost inaudible “thanks” and smiled at her. And then something amazing happened. We talked. Like a lot, for an hour or so, about a ton of stuff. Music. Mountains. Skating. Art. Life. We got out of the darkroom, and for reasons beyond my understanding, she asked if she could take my picture. I was dying inside. I said okay. She snapped a pic, and I took a picture of her on my camera. Our relationship thereafter was relegated to exchanged smiles in the hallway and a hug at graduation.

And that’s it. Rather unspectacular in the annals of recorded relationships, but the emotions that were invoked in me, the sea change of feelings, I cannot possibly give justice to. It wasn’t love, or infatuation, or some teenage masturbatory fantasy, it was a special moment when you just connect with someone on an entirely different level, when every nerve is activated and every cell engaged. Small, beautiful moments that carry on for the rest of your life. For that, I thank Lisa with all of my heart.

All this from one song. Such is the power of art.

Have a great weekend!

Polaroid by its nature makes you frugal. You walk around with maybe two packs of film in your pocket. You have 20 shots, so each shot is a world.

Patti Smith

I feel this way about film vs. digital. I’ve shot movies on both, from Super-8 to 16mm reversal to Super 35mm to RED, Alexa, Sony and Canon DSLRs. There is a unique economy to film that digital doesn’t have, because it is a finite resource.

I put a ton of thought into every shot irrespective of capture medium, but film has this additional pressure that repels any kind of shortcuts. There is no safety net with film, when you expose it you have that much less time and money to work with, so you make each one count that much more. Smith says it perfectly - each shot is a world.

Film strips by my late college professor and mentor, the great Stan Brakhage.

The thing to take away from this is that even when you shoot on digital, you treat it with the reverence and care of film. We are filmmakers, not videomakers. Film is an art, a craft that knows no shortcuts. You exercise it, you execute it, you practice it until you are a master of it like any other art. When you shoot digital, you plan for film, you light for film, you color correct for film. No excuses. When people start accepting digital as digital, this is when you see glitches, limitations and movies that look like backyard birthday parties and bar mitzvahs.

Everything - including digital -begins and ends with film.

Cigarettes & Loneliness

Chet Faker

Chet Faker - Built On Glass

Played 687 times

Music for the Weekend: Cigarettes & Lonliness by Chet Faker.

This weeks starts an insane ten weeks of work travel, and I’ve already spent a considerable amount of time in airports. I’m shopping three television shows and two feature films, all which has been written in the past two months. I’m all written out for now, but now it’s time to hit the road and sell.

My father used to be a consultant, and he was on the road all the time. There was a period in my childhood where I’d see my father maybe 1/3 of the year, because he’d stay for weeks in Europe on consulting gigs. He’d always come back with gifts from wherever he visited. He’d get me old comic books and weird stationary products from Asia.

My pops rarely if ever shared his stories from the road, but having grown up and logged my own fair share of miles, I can now understand why. The road is an amazing place, lonely and introspective, and simultaneously dangerous and exciting. Those stories are personal and just for my dad. Someday he might tell us, but that’s okay, we all have to take some things with us.

Eating dinner in a hotel bar, or getting room service in a small town hotel. I always order fish and chips or french onion soup. Don’t know why, but it’s comforting. Watch the spelling bee on ESPN. Local news, where the Mudcats scored three touchdowns against the Fighting Hornets. Weird guy who sat next to me on the airplane and who tried to convert me to Christianity. People crying on their own. Cigarettes and loneliness.

Have a great weekend!

paloma-voladora ASKED:

Hi I never got around watching Tarkovsky films. I wonder in which order would you recommend to watch to get into him. With some directors don't matter what order, but it others makes a significant difference! Thanks

A great question. I’ve spent over a decade studying Tarkovsky and I think there definitely is an order to go in. One that works for me, at least.

I’d start with Andrei Rublev, as it contains pretty much all essential elements of Tarkovsky’s philosophy and aesthetics, his usage of Christian themes as part of his greater Russian identity. It’s also a doctrine of the artist, an encapsulation of the place of art within the larger state and consciousness.

I’d then move on to Ivan’s Childhood, which for me is a great juxtaposition of finding beauty in detritus, of childhood innocence within the mores of men. From a composition standpoint it is one of Tarkovsky’s most visually arresting pictures, and as it is his first film we see his reliance upon painterly visuals and less maturity in terms of performance.

From there I’d move to The Mirror, which to me is Tarkovsky working at the height of his powers, and it is his most personal film. Here we see it all come together, and it is Tarkovsky’s most layered and textured film, and it is imbued with an emotional honesty that was previously masked. Tarkovsky mines his heart and his memories, and it makes for an emotionally riveting experience.

From here I’d move to Tarkovsky’s science fiction masterpieces, first Stalker and then Solaris. Both films in this order will take you through the gauntlet of faith, the former being stripped bare of it and the latter reaffirming it, albeit in the most gnostic of ways. After the grounded humanity of Andrei Rublev, Ivan’s Childhood and The Mirror, it’s fascinating to see Tarkovsky move into fictionalized, created spaces, where his humanity is allowed to exist in a pressurized construct. Both films use the environment and inexplicable laws of science to test the human subjects, a test of ultimate faith which would mirror Tarkovsky’s own allegiances to the Soviet Union.

This is a good time to revisit Tarkovsky’s earlier works pre-Ivan’s Childhood, as it’ll give a remarkable insight as to where Tarkovsky developed his signatures. Start with The Steamroller and the Violin then to The Killers and There Will Be No Leave Today. It’s the equivalent of reading old high school essay papers, where we know the later outcome but we start to understand how it all came together.

Back to his features, we see the tumult in Nostalghia, where Tarkovsky was betrayed by his homeland and he had to divide his work between Russia and Italy. The dynamic affects his work, and for the first time I felt a genuine rage in Tarkovsky’s writing, a discontent which moved far beyond his mammoth reasoning. It’s my least favorite of his films, but Tarkovsky’s least effective movies are grand successes when compared to others.

It is apt to watch his final film last. The Sacrifice was made in collaboration with legendary Swedish cinematographer Sven Nyquist, and the battle of monumental wills is apparent onscreen, but to brilliant effect. It was at this time that Tarkovsky’s health was beginning to decline, and one has to wonder if it influenced the overall tone of the film, which reads as a gentle dirge, a passage to a different place altogether. Combined with Nyquist’s flawless lighting, the film contains trademark long takes and transformations, each more arresting and affecting than the next. I see the film and the romantic in me thinks Tarkovsky understood his fate, and he made this beautiful tone poem as a result.

While you watch all of these films, I highly recommend that you check out / purchase Tarkovsky’s book Sculpting in Time. Let the book be your reference along your journey, it is better than any kind of commentary (albeit the Criterion discs are magnificent in both transfer and extras), and will be a reference to you for the rest of your life. I know that sounds like hyperbole but Tarkovsky was one of civilization’s truly great thinkers and philosophers, far more than just a filmmaker or even an artist. He was an intellectual giant, a deeply felt humanitarian, a philosopher who rightfully belongs in the same breath as any Plato, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Krishnamurthi or Lao Tzu.

Enjoy the journey, it will likely be one of the most rewarding in your life. Hope this helps!

When Will They Shoot? [Explicit]

Ice Cube

The Predator (World) (Explicit) [Explicit]

Played 169 times

Music for the Weekend: When Will They Shoot? by Ice Cube.

These past two weeks in Chicago have been insane. On the 4th of July weekend, some sixty-four people were shot, fourteen dead. It’s getting crazy in this city. On the news you hear of innocents being killed in Palestine (zero fatalities in Israel) and just out your door you hear of grandmas being caught in the crossfire of gang activity. There aren’t enough cops, and a lot of the cops can’t be trusted to make fair judgements without prejudice.

What to do?

Be active. Be proactive. Be empathetic. If we all flee then it will only get worse.

Have a safe weekend.