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Posted a full trailer for Words Fail Me

A comedy web series about desperate people in absurd situations.

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Words Fail Me — filming complete

Filming is now complete for the web series I created, Words Fail Me. You can check out on-set photos from the filming in Chicago. I’m putting together a trailer this weekend and then editing all six episodes over the next few weeks.

“One shouldn’t allow fate to see what it is one wants”

One shouldn’t allow fate to see what it is one wants… It is my innermost disposition to harbour something for years, and not allow myself to recognise it, but then when it grips me, to embrace it; I was ‘ready’.

– Nietzsche, in a letter to Carl Fuchs

My days become dreamlike…

At its best, my system gives me a smoother living experience. My days become dreamlike, no edges anywhere, none of the snags and snafus that life is so famous for. After days and days alone it gets silky to the point where I can’t even feel myself anymore, it’s as if I don’t exist.

– Miranda July from The First Bad Man

I’m reading Miranda July’s new novel and loving it. First contemporary novel I’ve really enjoyed in a while. Reading her stuff makes me feel like she’s been in my head, jotting down things that I didn’t even realize I was experiencing, and then writing about them. It’s really funny too, which the above quote might not make clear. A very funny book.

The Grifters

I’ve been watching crime movies lately as I’m working on a crime/suspense/thriller/comedy. This was made in 1990 but still has that 80s look that I can’t comprehend. I thought it moved a bit slowly but I enjoyed it. I con-men and -women movies all day.

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

This is the best comedy I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe the best movie I’ve seen this year, although I’m not ready to put it above Inherent Vice just yet. It’s an anthology film apparently, which is a term I didn’t know until I started reading about Wild Tales. Great use of Advance & Continue, which is a term that Keith Johnstone writes about in Impro for Storytellers.

The stories push just far enough in one direction before coming back in the other (sometimes literally, like in the highway vignette). It’s dark and light and every story starts mostly in a light place before going to a really intense or dark place. But it’s fucking hilarious throughout; I can’t remember the last time I was in a theater where people were laughing so much. Actually I do remember and it was Almodevar’s I’m So Excited (Los Amantes Pasjeros), which is a movie that nobody I’ve ever met has seen and I just looked up on IMDB and has a rating of 5.6 so I don’t know what that’s about, that movie was really funny.

Anyway, what was I talking about. Oh, Wild Tales. One thing I loved was how high the stakes were in every vignette. It was mostly about normal people behaving in extreme circumstances or escalating to extreme circumstances, but it never felt forced or unbelievable. And the writing and acting was so rich that even when it got serious or deadly, the human behavior was so real or honest that it was hilarious. At least that’s what I thought. The kind of movie I wish I had written. And the final vignette, the wedding scene, was really brilliantly written, acted and directed. Little touches like the cook in the background telling his buddies about what happened on the roof were so good.

Nice play on words too — “salvajes” means wild but it also means savage, something that gets lost in translation.

Going to the police is dull

The sheriff’s intervention [in Psycho] comes under the heading of what we have discussed many times before: “Why don’t they go to the police?” I’ve always replied, “They don’t go to the police because it’s dull.”

– Hitchcock in Hitchcock/Truffaut

It doesn’t matter what the MacGuffin is

The theft of secret documents was the original MacGuffin. So the “MacGuffin” is the term we use to cover all that sort of thing: to steal plans or documents, or discover a secret, it doesn’t matter what it is. And the logicians are wrong in trying to figure out the truth of a MacGuffin, since it’s beside the point. The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.

– Hitchcock in Hitchcock/Truffaut

I was relieved to read this the other day because I’m working on a script has an object of desire that sets off the action of the entire story, but I was worried that the object was too… unbelievable. Part of that unbelievability drives the humor, but I don’t want people reading/watching the movie and thinking “yeah, that was illogical.”

It reminds me of something an improv teacher (I can’t remember who) told me a long time ago about plausibility vs. believability: that plausibility, in the storytelling context, means “would this actually happen?” Believability means “given these circumstances, are things unfolding in a believable way.”

That’s why you can watch True Blood and be interested or entertained without tossing the whole thing out on the premise that vampires could never exist. Given that they do exist in this world, are things playing out in a believable way? OK, maybe True Blood isn’t the best example1 but the point remains.

Reading this book has made me realize how much I need to watch more Hitchcock.

  1. One reason I stopped watching that show was that the world kept changing–just one you thought you knew what the rules were, they changed, often at the precise moment that the protagonist needed them to change 

New website for Words Fail Me web series

I put together an actual website for the Words Fail Me web series. It looks a lot like this website because I used the same WordPress theme, which was a lot cheaper than paying someone to design a website.

New Short Film: My Last Fare

I shot this back in October 2013 and finally got around to editing it. Editing took a while because it was the first time I’d ever worked with a multi-camera workflow or a green screen. The discerning eye will notice some artifacts due to the green screen,1 but I actually like the effect. My writing teacher (in whose class I wrote the original script) said that it gave it a Lynchian feel.

  1. Chroma keying (the term for working with a green screen) is pretty time-consuming and difficult for someone like me, whose knowledge of post-production visual effects comes from online tutorials. I think the lighting of the green screen was a bit uneven as well, which may have made it impossible to get looking perfect, even for an experienced colorist. Not to mention that the close-ups are shot on Canon 7Ds, which tend to produce artifacts when you shoot with them in low-light/high-ISO situations. All of this is to say that sometimes a technical obstacle can turn out to be a happy mistake, if you embrace it.