A Strange Sound

Sons Of Magdalene

Move to Pain

Played 74 times

Music for the Weekend: A Strange Sound by Sons of Magdalene.

Call me a helpless romantic of the 80s. I was listening to this Sons of Magdalene album (which is not from the 80s) at 6:00am yesterday, looking out the windows of the subway train onto a gray, rainy and awakening Chicago. I was heading downtown to our rehearsal space for Six Angry Women, ready for another three hour session of improvisation and study.

After three weeks of intense one-on-one rehearsal sessions with my six actresses, this Tuesday was the very first time they all met each other for the first time. I’d laid down some ground rules, the most important of which was that they could not tell each other about their characters. I have to admit I was really nervous on my first day of group rehearsals, as I’d never done this approach before. Usually when I go into rehearsals I’ve got fully broken down script, and here all I’ve got are six very real and very vibrant characters.

Honestly I feel like a newborn baby learning to take his first steps. I’m tempering my need to scientifically analyze and trying to create exercises in rehearsal that will get us to the place we need to be. After two sessions, I’m more than happy with the work we’ve done. Our previous three weeks of work has really paid dividends, as I have the luxury of putting six fully-formed characters in any situation, and watch how they react. It’s really empowering for both me and my actors, and at this point it’s my charge to give them very well thought out and clear objectives to explore. That is my next responsibility, which is to fashion the script around these objectives.

I really admire these six ladies for all the extremely hard work and long hours they’ve put in with me to make these characters. They’re all completely different and unique from one another, and they’re all very real. I must admit that this improvisational approach to filmmaking is incredibly exhausting, even more so that just sitting down and writing a full screenplay and storyboarding it out. At least with the latter approach I have certainties, whereas here I’m faced with the unknown every morning. It’s scary but exhilarating, but the energy required to create something new every day and every minute is immense. I have to find ways to relieve the intensity of the process, or else we’re going to get burned out quickly. I have some ideas, and we’ll try them out on our next session this Saturday morning.

My cinematographer flew in last night and we’re already building our visual strategy and blocking patterns. Watching a lot of movies and pulling photo references, just as we did on Lilith, but unlike Lilith we really don’t have a template to build on. We’re building it from scratch. The film is going to be highly stylized but if done right, it the style will never formally announce itself. As everything comes together, it should coalesce into a new vision, a strange sound indeed.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Six Angry Women: Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Framing.

As we work on the characters, script and performances for Six Angry Women in rehearsals, I’m also constantly thinking of the aesthetic of the film. It’s a domestic drama that takes place in a single room, so from the outset there’s a limit to what I can do visually with the film. It’s mostly faces and the bodies in that limited space, but there are still plenty of artistic flourishes that I can put in. I can put the key lights in the frame and create flares and shadows, I can use props to build layers within the frames, I can distort the images through lens selection, et cetera et cetera.

It’s been a blessing in my career that I can create pretty images. My skills in fine art, from draftsmanship to painting to photography, have trained my eye to where I can comfortably be confident that I can make any given image visually rich. My first true love of cinema came through cinematography, before I understood the meaning and narrative of Citizen Kane I was mesmerized by Gregg Toland’s camerawork. Before I could process the psychological complexity of Apocalypse Now I could only be hypnotized by Vittorio Storaro’s compositions. So naturally when I started making films, I begin and end with my first love, the image as part of the narrative. It’s been a cornerstone of how I’ve worked for the past ten years.

This project though has made me think about performance first, and how the aesthetics can support said performance as well as the narrative. I’ve been watching a ton of movies for research and references, and for some reason I’m drawn to the early films of German wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder, specifically his two masterpieces The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.


The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant

Fassbinder was a highly prolific and mercurial filmmaker, passing away at thirty-seven years old, succumbing to drug and alcohol abuse. In fifteen years of nonstop work he made 40 feature length films, two television film series and countless theater plays and short films. His movies were brutal and efficient (much like the man himself), often using only one to two locations, minimal makeup and production design and lightning-fast production schedules. His subjects and actors were stripped down to their most raw and potent configurations.

To watch a Fassbinder film is to truly engage cinema on a molecular level. But it’s kind of foreign territory for me in terms of aesthetics. There aren’t the grand and meticulous lighting and set designs of Citizen Kane and Apocalypse Now in Fassbinder’s work, and he rarely if ever moved the camera, instead relying upon static shots where the actors roamed freely, spouting over-the-top dialogues that were reminiscent of stage theatrics than the nuance of New German Cinema at the time. By my own parameters of what I consider “cinematically beautiful,” I would have initially called Fassbinder’s films aesthetically dreadful, but in watching them I can no longer make such an assertion.

Fassbinder doesn’t eschew film aesthetics a la Mumblecore, rather he used one device strongly, and that is his framing. This is a lesson to all low / zero-budget filmmakers. If you cannot afford extensive lighting or a lighting crew, and all you have is a camera and tripod, then you can exercise cinematic craft purely through your framing.

Framing is the core of shot composition, the very foundation that the shot is designed upon. Everything is built / added around it. There are no rules to framing, it’s purely how you see it and how you feel it tells the story appropriately. Two of the most referenced uses of framing are in the works of Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick. Anderson is noted for framing almost all of his shots symmetrically, with a clean division line down the center. Kubrick was notorious for using a one-point perspective, as shown in this brilliant video:

Here’s the Anderson video:

Wes Anderson // Centered from kogonada on Vimeo.

Fassbinder was too a meticulous framer but he didn’t use elaborate set design or complex lighting. He simply allowed his performances to dictate the frame, and placed his characters within a larger psychological state. If a character was on the fringe, he would frame them accordingly to the edges of the frame. If they were intense and poignant, he’d be in a close-up and dead center. He’d use golden proportions to convey peace (if ever, rarely, there was a moment of peace in his films) or violate the proportion to create unease.

I’ve pulled a frame from Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. We see the performance at hand, a black man who is being ethically torn has his back turned to the white woman. Fassbinder uses framing to accentuate the performance, using the door frame to give us the idea of a narrative within a narrative, of distance and entrapment. This film was made on a miniscule budget, but the use of framing to bring out visual layers and meaning makes it not only look expensive, but is also artistically accomplished.

In this gif from The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, which is my favorite Fassbinder film and photographed by the great Michael Ballhaus, we see Fassbinder’s meticulous and marvelous use of framing to brilliant effect. The scene itself is quite innocuous, a woman opening a blind and letting the sun in, and it startles another woman out of her sleep. But there’s so much information and texture in these shots because of their framing.

In the first shot, the woman has her back turned to us, and Fassbinder places her on the left side of the frame. He permits significant negative space to the window, thereby making the sun a major player in the action. He reinforces this in his second shot, placing the recipient of the sun’s rays to the far right of the frame. When the two are cut together, we get a sense of velocity and power of the sun, almost as if it took a running start and tackled the woman in bed. It tells the story of the woman opening the window, who is in many ways letting out a pack of wild dogs on the woman in bed. Her back is turned to us, so she doesn’t even care what it does to the other woman. There is disconnect, there is coldness to it. This is Fassbinder’s skill of framing on high display.

You may think I’m reading a lot into these compositions but trust me, every great filmmaker worth her salt puts this kind of thought and consideration into everything. Those that don’t make films that don’t resonate on so many different levels. It’s what differentiates the very best from the aspirants. Fassbinder shows a mastery of the medium despite miniscule budgets, he puts the performance first and allows his framing to deliver high artistry that takes full advantage of the power of cinema.

The next time you take a video on your cell phone, play with the framing and see what it does to your subject. If you record your cat sleeping, try stepping far away and placing her in the lower corner of the frame. You’ll suddenly see her place in a bigger world. Place her at the exact center at medium distance and you’ll see her become the center of her universe. Have her entire body occupy the frame and you’ll see her boxed in. That’s three extremely powerful concepts all accomplished with zero money, art or production design, or lighting schemes. Start adding those things and your world of expression expands infinitely.

Budget rarely defines the quality of a film. Artists make beautiful films for pennies, studios make bland duds for hundreds of millions. Fassbinder teaches us that the greatest value on a film is our ideas and our execution of craft. Apply those two and your film will be rich and defy any budget.

Six Angry Women: Building a Technique and Studying Mike Leigh

When I made my first feature, 19 Revolutions, I used Jean-Luc Godard as my guiding influence, shooting youthful idealism with reckless handheld and frenetic editing. With Lilith I embraced Andrei Tarkovsky, using long, stabilized, languid and almost spiritual takes in a widescreen landscape.

Of course it’s one thing to ape or simply copy these filmmakers, but it’s an entirely different thing to let them be your guides. They did something right, and they fit their worldview perfectly, we’d be remiss not to visit their work and buttress it upon our own. When I look at a Godard or Tarkovsky, I’m not asking myself how they did it, I’m always asking why, of how their technique served the narrative and if those tools are something I can use to tell my story. Godard himself quoted the work of Howard Hawkes, and Tarkovsky’s films always carry the fingerprints of Eisenstein and Vertov.


From Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin’s Dziga Vertov Group, Un film comme les autres, 1968.

With Six Angry Women I knew I had an ensemble piece that required absolute emotional honesty and real characters. I wanted to avoid the cliched archetypes that infect so much of American independent cinema today, like the screechy malaise-ridden families of August: Osage County, which was an amazing play but I absolutely abhorred as a film. I don’t want my actors playing characters that fulfill a role, I want them to play real women who are in a volatile and unpredictable situation.

Tarkovsky and Godard are not the right reference for material like this. Nor is Kieslowski, Roeg, Bergman, Ray, Fincher or Kurosawa. They all have that balance of dynamic realism with surreal images, and it populates their entire body of work. Likewise I didn’t want to go to the crushing reality of filmmakers like Ken Loach and John Cassavettes, because I’m portraying a world that we can only imagine the reality of (the jury room, which none of us have access to), so I needed to look elsewhere. This is what brought me to Mike Leigh.

I’d seen Leigh’s films - Naked being one of my all-time favorite films - but I can’t say I’d ever really studied Leigh’s technique. Turthfully because his technique terrified me, as he regularly goes into a film without a formal script, building the screenplay in rehearsals. Because of my scientific background and my inherent desire to plan, and because I lack any experience directing theater, going about a film like Leigh does seems counter intuitive and unproductive. I was terrified of the prospect of working that way, but I knew it required consideration.


'Naked'

I started watching Leigh’s films and picked up a copy of Amy Raphael’s excellent book Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh (also check out her book on Danny Boyle, it will change your life). I was accustomed to seeing powerful and impossibly authentic performances in Leigh’s films, but in rewatching and studying his work, it also dawned on me that his movies are quite visually beautiful. I’d never noticed that before, and it turns out he had a background in visual arts before going into theater and film. It became abundantly clear to me that I needed to study his technique, and that despite my fear, this was the technique that would best serve Six Angry Women.

Leigh, who is famously cryptic about the details of his method, gives out hints as to how he goes about things. I’d done training in improv at The Second City here in Chicago, so I was familiar with a lot of the rehearsal techniques that Leigh mentions in the book. Trust building exercises, hot associations, actors giving each other “gifts” of “yes, and” in improv sessions. I could do that, yes. But I was far more curious about how Leigh built his screenplays. The misnomer is that he films without a script, which is not true and only applies to Godard and Wong Kar-Wai. There is no waiting-for-inspiration-making-it-up-as-we-go with Mike Leigh. He builds his screenplays in rehearsals, and by the time the shoot date arrives, he has a screenplay in hand, one which his cast and crew can use to make a film efficiently. I loved this about him, and wanted to know how it’s done. Since there is no official document about this technique (at least one I know of), I basically had to create my own version of it based on my own skillset and whatever little information I could glean from writings and documentaries about Leigh, and DVD commentaries from his films.

I know that Leigh assembles his cast early and doesn’t even tell them what the film is about. A lot of times even he doesn’t know what the film is fully about but he has a nascent idea that he’s fleshed out a little. He spends a considerable amount of time only building characters with his actors. I don’t have a clue how he does this, but I’ve created my own version.

I’d tried writing a Six Angry Women screenplay many many months ago, and found that my own politics and desire for justice were getting in the way of the narrative being fluid and honest. The downside was that I was stuck, but the upside is that I had a very clear idea of what the film was about in my head. This helped me as I approached my actors about the project. I’d give them the basics and no details, and told them we’d be building the screenplay in rehearsals, that they will be part of the writing process. It intrigued all of them immensely.

Given that I only have a month to put this all together, I couldn’t afford to be as reserved as Leigh in his productions, so I had to spill some beans about the story, but I only provided a few sentences about what I thought each character would be. Based on that seed, I asked my actresses to find someone in their own lives, or multiple people, who might fit that description. I asked them to simply observe and put together a composite of a character. We were only focusing on character - there’s no mention of the jury or the trial, nor did I want my actresses doing research on race relations or the justice system. I just wanted them to build someone who is real. I asked them to put together a physical description, to come up with a career for them, a family history, and a daily routine that they go through.

The physical description is very important here, and by physical description I mean only quantitative analysis. It’s important to connect a visual to these ideas, and by obsessively writing down every detail, we form a bridge between the visual and the idea. Once the visual is established, then we build the qualitative and emotional aspects of the character. In director’s parlance this is called hot objects and is something I picked up from actress / University of Southern California professor Nina Foch.


Nina Foch. A brilliant teacher and a foxy lady til her last day.

So far we’ve only been talking about character, testing them in different everyday situations that have nothing and everything to do with the trial. But only I know that, and I’m taking notes. After two weeks, I feel like we have a group of very real women who are walking into this jury room. The next step I gleaned from Leigh is to now engage in group rehearsals, where the actors will meet each other for the very first time. Leigh maintains a very strict policy here - all characters must be spoken of in the third person, and no one is allowed to be in character until I say ‘action.’ At this point I am going to present the case to them in detail, and we’ll start collectively figuring out the natural flow of conversation and events. This is based on an outline that I have.

At this time I’m also going to have my cinematographer sit in the room, and we will be recording the rehearsals. I’ve hired an assistant (paid, of course) and at the end of each day, my assistant, DP and I will review the footage and come up with pages of script and a shot list. Hopefully by the end of the rehearsal period we will emerge with a screenplay and and full shot list. Performance, story and visuals all in one exercise

This may not be Leigh’s exact technique but rather it is a modified version of it that suits my own technique and temperament. As much as I was terrified by it, with each passing day of rehearsals I’m amazed with how it’s all coming together. I’m seeing the film clearer and clearer with each new idea. I’m feeling more confident and I know this technique can work because Mike Leigh has proven it works.

My film will not look, sound or feel like a Mike Leigh film because I’m not Mike Leigh. But he’s given me a new set of tools to work with, and my cast, crew and I will figure out how to use these tools to accomplish our goals. It’s like being in school again, and because we are independents we don’t have to please anybody except ourselves. It’s a wonderful and liberating way to work.

Lights On

FKA twigs

LP1

Played 790 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 219 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!
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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