Rollins Band


Played 164 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 (, 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
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  • 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!




Played 237 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!

Cigarettes & Loneliness

Chet Faker

Chet Faker - Built On Glass

Played 655 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!

Lesson No.1 for Electric Guitar

Glenn Branca

Lesson No.1

Played 249 times

Music for the Weekend: Lesson No.1 for Electric Guitar by Glenn Branca.

What a week. Turned in TWO television show bibles and have now been commissioned for a screenplay. It’s not directing, but its paid work, and I’m always thankful for that. A friend of mine who is a film professor at the University of Michigan had the wonderful opportunity to have lunch with John Sayles, who is a great influence to me. Sayles was affable as ever, and he had to close the meeting by saying he had get back to his hotel room and work on some for-hire screenplay assignments that were due the next day.

Someone of Sayles’ stature shouldn’t have to be doing for-hire work, but because of his commitment to being independent in terms of his directing work, he needs for-hire assignments to make a living. That’s not such a bad thing, especially when the trade off is that you get to direct your films exactly the way you want to. Not a bad thing at all to aspire to.

Even if we are entrenched in corporate / studio environments, it’s always vital that we think independently, that we always take what is around us and process it through our own unique and vibrant filter. I give this piece of music as an example. In the 80s, genius composer Glenn Branca took an electric guitar, which at that time was an instrument drowning in the muck and hairspray of arena rock hair bands, and twisted and tortured into something entirely different, he applied classic compositions to a purely pop conceit. The result in the 80s was mind blowing, the early roots of what we call ‘math rock’ today. It’s an amazing, towering achievement.

When I first bought this Branca record I’d failed to see that it was to be played at 45rpms, and played it at 33rpm by accident. I have to admit, it sounded even better slowed down (‘Skrewed’, if you will), and now that’s how I choose to hear it. I’m making my own departure on what was a departure in the first place. Stuff like that, however insouciant it may be, really really inspires me. Happy accidents, great discoveries, small victories.

Have a great weekend!

Making of 7x6x2, Part 3: Machines and Ephemera.


Part 1: The Beginnings.
Part 2: The Monsters.

To watch the film in its entirety, click here to go to the Tribeca Film website.

In the six days of preproduction for 7x6x2 we had the arduous task of building an alien landscape and the sci-fi elements that were commonplace in Paul Pope’s work. We’d already begun the work on the seven rock people, and we’d turned our attention production design and art direction, which included a desert campsite that had one very specific distinguishing feature: a giant mek.

Meks in Paul Pope’s universe are far more than just robots, they are extensions of mankind’s ambitions and flaws. They are sentient beings with attitude problems, they are guardians and killers. Paul’s THB contains the greatest of all meks, the eponymous THB (aka Tri-Hydro Bi-Oxygenate), and the graceful and liquid lines of THB are tantamount to the very essence of Paul’s Meks. They are insectoid, organic and fluid.

From THB.

Paul’s original script called for a massive terraforming mek that was downed in a barren wasteland, large enough to form a shelter for a lone repairman surrounded by seven creatures. Paul’s concept art shows the intended scale:

From a production standpoint, on a four-figure art budget with less than a week to build, replicating the mek on that scale and form would be an impossibility. We had to strip things down, but not lose the essence of Paul’s signature meks. We brought in art director Mike Conte, who’d done some crazy throwback sci-fi work for music videos and television. Also a bonus, Mike is the frontman and lead guitarist for one of my favorite metal bands of all time, EARLY MAN. You might say it was a match made in heaven.

Mike really starts killin’ it at 2:30

Mike not only had to build the mek, he was also responsible for all the sci-fi gear for both Bryce and Swanson, the young surveyor. This included laser welders, the camping gear, and the electronic workbook used by Swanson. The script also had a buggy transport for Bryce, but our budget and timeframe didn’t allow for it.

Mike started putting concepts together right away, because he had to source materials and start building in his workshop. One major consideration would be the transport of the mek - it had to be easily disassembled to be placed in a truck and reassembled the desert location. It also had to be designed to not just look like a pile of junk sitting in the desert, it had to have indications of a fallen robot.

Mike put together some initial concepts that were based more on Paul’s observation of lunar landings and early NASA concepts. He did 3D breakdowns for scale and measure:

It was a good starting point, but it needed to be bulked up and placed with a personality, hence it needed a face. Paul like the idea of a wasp / bumble bee, and Mike built a ‘face’ with dimmed eyes. The idea was to have a mek that had some power still left in it. Mike took two opaque domes and coated them in the luminescent liquid found in glow sticks. Low-tech solutions to high-tech problems.

With the mek and gear taking shape, it was important to Paul to ground all the elements in a tangible reality, and he wanted all the items to have brands and logos that signified an authentic and identifiable world. We employed the services of our longtime friend Jim Pascoe, who hands down is one of the most talented people on Earth. I’m not exaggerating. Besides being a design genius, Jim is also an acclaimed published novelist and international man of mystery. And he’s funny. And a great father and husband. We should all aspire to be men like Jim Pascoe. Seriously.

In true 7x6x2 fashion we asked Jim to create iconic brands and labels for the mek, for Bryce’s manuals and references, and for his provisions. Paul created space foods that were prevalent in his graphic novels, including things like PRO-JAK, PROACH and fruit hybrids. Jim belted out some awesomely hilarious labels that we affixed to tin cans:

Tribeca was concerned with Sony having modesty issues, so Jim modified that last label.

Jim also created a manual for robot repair and logos for Bryce’s gear and for the mek itself:

While a lot of this would never be seen in the film, it added a layer of authenticity to what we were doing, and helped create an atmosphere that we could all immerse ourselves in. I’d written about this some time ago when we included a copy of ZORD magazine in the film, ZORD being a tip of the hat to Blade Runner. The magazine was illustrated by cartoonist Sam Hiti and designed by Pascoe, and it’s a thing of beauty.

Put it all together, and you’ve got a believable alien world on film.

With production design chugging along, we turned our attentions to the human elements of the film - our three leads and their corresponding looks. We weren’t even halfway there, and we had four days to hold auditions, rehearse and source and fit costumes. It wasn’t getting any easier.

Making of 7x6x2, Part 2: Monsters

For Part One of this series, click here. To see the film in its entirety, click here.

We didn’t waste any time once we got into Los Angeles, the clock was ticking and we now had six days to design, build, dress and cast the film before shooting. We were met with many skeptics and naysayers, but we plowed ahead with aplomb and confidence.

It’s impossible to say our “biggest concern was” with this production because everything counts, but we knew the component that would likely require the most time and resources would be the seven monsters that surrounded the campsite, and the downed mech robot that would comprise the campsite itself. We started with the monsters.

The word “monster” itself is a loaded word, and we didn’t want to create one-dimensional baddies. All animals are complex, with social structures, languages and rituals. Our script revolved around a pack leader and his clan, so our first goal was to find our leader and then design everything around him. Our good fortune and friendships brought us to one Mr. Paradox Pollack.

Paradox is a fight and motion design maestro - and founder of LA’s brilliant Alien Fight Club - who has worked on the highest profile films imaginable, from Thor to his playing the lead vampire in I Am Legend. Paradox is aptly named, as he is one of the most gentle and generous artists I’ve ever met, and yet he has an uncanny ability to tap an inner rage and ferociousness that gave both Paul and I chills. We brought Paradox aboard and he immediately went to work, bringing in six of his colleagues to complete the tribe. Within 36 hours, Paradox and his tribe, beyond designing motion choreography, had created an entire goddamned culture and language of the Rock People, bringing Paul’s two-dimensional illustrations to vivid life. Paradox had given each member a name, a skillset, a backstory and a series of hand gestures that served as battle communication. They operated as an organism, feeding off of one another, moving in concert like a tightly wound coil. It was simply brilliant to behold, here’s a little video I shot of Paradox and his tribe interacting with Paul in Griffith Park, in character:

While 99% of these details would never be seen onscreen, they manifested themselves as true menace from the characters. Our screenplay had a much more complex interaction between the Rock People and Bryce, but our shooting schedule would not allow it. Because the majority of the film took place at night, we basically had two nights and a few daytime hours to shoot - about 18 hours in total. Factor in time to get the Rock People made up and prepped, we really had no choice but to strip them down to their bare minimum. But the characterization was key - these creatures had to be a real threat, and this is where Paradox and his tribe’s preparation really shone through. I am forever indebted to Paradox for the sheer amount of heartfelt work he put in, and I look forward to working with him again in the near future - he’s got some amazing, world-altering, magical ideas up his sleeves.

With the Rock People actors and performances taking form, it was time to turn our attention to the design and look of the creatures. We enlisted the talents of creature company MORB-X, headed up by Eric Fox, who has his own SyFy show Foxy & Co and was a much loved winner on Face Off. We called Eric and he was on board immediately - he had to, because we basically gave him a 48 hour deadline to create seven creatures on a vaporized budget, and he went to work in his studio. We sent him Paul’s original concept drawings:


And 24 hours and 500+ lbs of clay later, this is what Eric came back to us with, which blew our minds:

photo 1

We gave Eric the green light to build the seven creatures, including their hands, feet, and radio controlled faces. Despite the level of insane detail Eric was putting in to the makeups, we also knew that our Rock People, because of our budgetary restrictions, would also have to be built up in post-production, specifically CGI and sound. I’d never done CGI work before save for basic plates and mattes, and we’d referenced the creatures in the brilliant film Attack the Block as our desired effect, where bare minimum highlights would be made. This was our way of working around our budget to create the effects we wanted, the effects we could achieve within our limitations. We took the footage to Platige in New York City, and they darkened the creatures, lit up their eyes, and added small but powerful facial movements to the creatures.

Chris Stangroom, my Director of Sound on Lilith, went to work at Howard Bowler’s HOBO Studios in NYC on manipulating the original creature sounds that Paradox and the Tribe were making, and added more layers of animal sounds to the Rock People, including his own voice (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve made Chris scream into a microphone). In our edit we limited the screen time of our creatures to very brief, quick extreme close-ups, which allowed us to highlight Eric’s sculpture work with punctuated emphasis. The final combination of character, performance, image, sound, music, edit and VFX helped us create a threatening sevenfold antagonist that was believable and palpable, all on a four-figure budget, all done in six days.

During this week we had to also bring our human characters to life, and before us stood the daunting task of building a giant robot in the middle of a desert. We hadn’t received our prototype camera from Sony, which was being shipped in from Japan. Every night, after an 18-20 hour day working with Paul, Gary, Elisa and our core team, I put my head to my pillow, trying desperately to figure out the puzzle of what lay before us.

To be honest, I was scared. More to come.

Making of 7x6x2, Part 1: The Beginnings

By now I hope you’ve had a chance to the see the short film I co-directed with graphic novelist Paul Pope. If you haven’t, you can see it by clicking here.

In the coming posts I’ll take you through the journey of the film, which is quite unorthodox but it’ll demonstrate one way to get a film made. The “x” factor in all of this, of course, is that Paul Pope is someone who film companies actively want to work with. He’s worked for almost three decades creating groundbreaking original stories (or “content” or better yet “Intellectual Property / IP” as the suits like to say), and he’s built a loyal and diverse following of readers over those three decades. That hard work and visibility invites opportunities, and it is well earned, no fluke, and beyond simple luck. Paul is a hot commodity in film for good reason, and he did it without nepotism or industry connections, so he can afford to be choosy about who adapts his material.

Most of us are not in that position to have people approach us to adapt our work, in large part because we don’t have a body of work that’s been through the gauntlet of distribution. Our goal therefore is to create that body of work, either on our own or through collaboration with the creative friends and people we do have access to. Just as Paul put brush to paper many years ago to create his first graphic novel, so too must we put pencil to paper, write ‘fade in’ and create a body of work that makes people want to work with us. It must be inventive, beautifully crafted and with something unique to say. It must be your voice, your talent, your worldview.

I’ve been fortunate to be friends with Paul for the past six years. Our relationship started professionally as I approached him, as a complete stranger, to option his book The One Trick Rip-Off as a feature film. Paul is very guarded with his work, as he should be, and it’s not his first time at the rodeo in terms of people / studios wanting to adapt his graphic novels. He’s been through development hell (he was a co-director for the proposed Kavalier and Clay adaptation before it went into turnaround), had promises made to him that were not kept, and he’s got the healthy dose of skepticism which is absolutely required when navigating the media business world.

Paul really liked my take on The One Trick Rip-Off, and more importantly, we both liked each other as men and respected each other as artists. I’d written some time ago that when I go into business meetings I’m not looking for money or a product, I’m looking to determine if this will be a good relationship. Paul’s the same way. We clicked, and over the years our conversations about the progress on The One Trick Rip-Off are always couched in great food, life hurdles, Battling Boy and Lilith, and whatever it is we’re feeling at the time. There’s a tremendous amount of fraternity and trust there.

Paul entrusted me with his baby, and we’re making it the right way. Four years of development and counting…

This sets up Paul being approached by Tribeca Films to make a short film. Tribeca is an extremely progressive company dedicated to independent cinema and pushing the envelope, and they saw the same qualities in Paul’s work. Paul had an idea of a space western, which is natural to Paul as they’re his two favorite genres. It was a great idea - a man surrounded by seven monsters has a gun with six bullets to deal with them - and it was prefect for the short film format because its core mechanic was simple, but its psychological depth was beautifully textured and vast.

Paul had been through pre-production before on Kavalier and Clay, so he had a good idea of what it took to make a film, but probably one of the greatest qualities of Paul Pope is that despite his overwhelming and otherworldly artistic talent, he’s humble enough to step back and say he doesn’t know something and wants to learn. He felt he needed to co-direct 7x6x2, to go through the baptism of fire with a trusted collaborator. He’d been enjoying our collaboration on The One Trick Rip-Off, and phoned me up. I flew out to NYC and we sat with producers Gary Krieg and Matt Spangler and talked cowboys on Mars.

Instant chemistry. Tribeca, Paul and myself were all on the same page from the outset, and we wanted to make this happen. It was an ambitious project, as it required the trappings of the sci-fi and western genres - alien planet, seven creatures, firearms, and a high level of production design to bring Paul’s universe to life. The budgets available to Tribeca simply wouldn’t allow that. I did many drafts of Paul’s original script to not only make it more cinematic, but also make it more affordable. After many rounds we came upon a script that was feasible, but we were at an impasse with money, and had to bench the film until we came up with an idea of how to fund it properly.

In the meantime, I’d done an interview with Blackmagic Media about Lilith and the interview, which was done over three days between Chicago and Australia, was amazing. I’d hit it off with the Blackmagic folks and we talked for hours. One of our conversations was about their development of small 4k cameras, and at that time Blackmagic was still in their R&D phase. In passing conversation I told Gary Krieg at Tribeca about the cameras and he being the genius he is, came up with a plan to get 7x6x2 financed.

This leads to a conversation about getting short films financed, and one way to do this is through sponsorships and product placement. A ton of short films are being funded this way, and it requires a deft business and artistic hand to balance the needs of art and commerce. It’s vital to learn this balance because it is the story of film finance, and you will face this battle every step of the way with all of your projects. You must find a way to get money for your films, and equally find a way to preserve your original vision. This is the core of the movie business.

Through Tribeca, Gary and Tribeca co-founder / super producer Jane Rosenthal got the ear of Sony, who were gearing up to launch their new flagship digital cinema camera, the F55. They’d already commissioned multiple shorts that were already in production all over the world, but there was a little bit of funds left over in their budget. Gary asked Paul and I to put together a mood document that would show not only what we envisioned, but also how we could showcase the technical capabilities of the new camera. Our story was perfect for testing a camera - hostile remote location, extreme low light, slow-motion, intense blasts of light, and day and night photography. We included in our mood document references to not only Paul’s work but also the paintings of Andrew Wyeth and screencaps of a variety of movies from Attack the Block to Once Upon a Time in the West to Achipatpong Weerasethakul’s brilliant Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. We submitted the document along with the revised screenplay and we waited. This was on October 24th and we knew that Sony was launching their camera with their array of short films on their lot on December 6th. It was a very, very, VERY small window.

On October 26th, we got the green light from Sony. They would provide us with the camera, technical support and a small budget. Key word was small, as it was the remains of their overall short film budget in their department. But it was more money than we originally had, and so we decided to go for it. On October 27th we flew out of New York to Los Angeles - just missing Hurricane Sandy by a few hours - with the shoot scheduled for November 3rd and 4th. Our producer Matt Spangler was grounded by Sandy, so Gary, Paul and I were down a man, which was frightening considering what we had to face.

We had seven days to prepare. Seven days to plan our shots, storyboard the film, find our crew, our actors, our locations, test a camera that was still in R&D, choreograph our alien tribe, build seven prosthetic alien suits, a crashed mech robot, and oh yeah do it all on a VERY small budget. After photography we’d have two weeks to edit, find vendors to execute our CGI elements, do an original score, color correct, sound design and mix, and deliver by Thanksgiving.

At that point all we could do was trust one another, trust the story, and let the film guide us. We’d partnered with Native Fims in LA, and their line producer, Elisa Morse, became a great ally in our battle against time. She met us at our hotel on the first night, and we got to brass tacks right away. In the middle of our meeting, a fortune teller came to our table and offered to tell our futures. I was dog tired, having flown from Chicago to New York to LA, and the time zone was not helping my fatigue as I’d been storyboarding during the entire flight. But at that point I was hallucinatory and got my fortune read. The lady made me put a rabbit puppet on my hand and she looked in my eyes and said “you will make magic in this next few weeks.” Elisa took a pic of that moment.

Fortune teller.

I took it as a good sign. We were going to need all the help we could get.