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WHAM: Trailer

A trailer for my new short film, WHAM. The film was finished in November 2017 and will go out on the festival circuit in 2018. You can learn more about WHAM here.

 

The Deadline Chicago Premiere!

The Deadline is getting its Chicago premiere on November 9, 2017 at the opening night of the Chicago Comedy Film Festival. The screening will be at Second City’s Harold Ramis Film School in Old Town.

The screening includes five short films and an opening night reception that starts at 7pm.

Get your tickets here!

Assorted links

I’m cleaning out Evernote on this Labor Day and posting some stuff. I basically use this blog as an archive of the things that I’ve read or found that I want to remember later. So if it helps you, then bang on, as my English friend says.

John Cleese: how to write the perfect farce.  File under “steal old stuff.”

Accidental Wes Anderson. People on Reddit post photos of real places that look like sets or frames from Wes Anderson movies.

Advice on how to play a gig by Thelonius Monk.

Screenwriters: How Not to Get an Agent. Quotes excerpted from a great interview with an agent by John and Craig on an episode of Scriptnotes. This one really opened my eyes about the (lack of) value of 99% of screenwriting contests. Most of them are a way to make money for someone that can’t help you. Some of them have intangible benefits that might help you improve your writing but won’t help you get representation or sell a script.

How to Become Insanely Well-Connected. Good article on networking with practical and non-sleazy advice.

 

Back from the Middle Coast Film Festival

 

This is way overdue! I went to the 2017 Middle Coast Film Festival last month in Bloomington, IN.1

It was a great weekend! The festival was so well-organized. The parties were great. The other filmmakers were great.

The screenings were excellent, with average and peak quality of films far above what I’ve been seeing at other festivals this year.

And Bloomington, IN is a lovely college town. The screening venues and projections were great too, especially the main theater.

I can’t recommend this festival enough.

 

I’m also really happy that The Deadline got to premiere there. They gave it two screenings, including one in the main theater.

It’s really amazing, the first time you see a film you made up on a big screen with a professional audio system.

I had tears in my eyes. Then it was too much and I had to leave for a minute because sometimes I get weird watching my stuff with other people in the room.

 

 

 

 

And Off Book won the award for Best Comedy Short!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But really, I want to share some of the films that I saw and made me laugh:

 

 

Lovewatch by Harrison Atkins. One of the best/funniest things I’ve seen this year. Unfortunately, he hasn’t posted in online yet, but here’s another great weird short from him:

 

The Day Before. The full film isn’t released yet, but here’s the trailer:


  1. There are a lot of Bloomingtons in the Midwest, which inspired me to write one of these ridiculous Weird Hemingway stories

“Art is fire plus algebra”

Art is fire plus algebra.

— Borges

I found this quote in a book that wasn’t amazing but did have this quote, which is good.1

When I started writing feature screenplays, I was struck with how much engineering was in the work of crafting a story. Here’s how I think the drafting process breaks down, alternating between imagination and craft, fire and algebra, open mind vs editing mind.

Brainstorming: fire

Outline: algebra

First draft: fire

Rewriting: algebra + fire, depending on what’s going on. Usually mostly algebra unless I go too far in one direction and over-engineer things so I have to go back and find the thing that made me love it in the first place.


  1. I wonder about the efficacy of quoting a great writer in an average book. A lot of times it just makes me realize that I’d rather be reading a better writer and I put the book down and find something better to read. 

Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest

Now for the matter of drive. You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode’s office and said, “How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?” He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, “You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years.” I simply slunk out of the office!

What Bode was saying was this: “Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.” Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity – it is very much like compound interest. I don’t want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode’s remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don’t like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There’s no question about this.

From The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn by Richard W. Hamming, via Marginal Revolution.

I never thought about it this way, in terms of compound interest, but I have felt that there was an advantage to writing every day for an hour, that it was much more effective than writing only a couple times a week or just writing when “inspiration” (hah) strikes.

The hardest and in my opinion, most important, part of filmmaking is the script (improvised work aside), so it makes sense to me that that’s where you would want to focus your most precious energy and time, day in and day out, because that’s where the biggest returns will be. The ratio of (indie) films with good production value but poor writing to great scripts with poor production value is very high in my opinion. This seems somewhat backwards to me, as production value costs a lot of money but writing costs only time and most of us are broke or don’t have access to a lot of money, but we can all squeeze out an hour a day to write, if we look hard enough. Not that I’ve written anything great yet.

“If I were wrong in the script, then that’d be as wrong as I could be”

I must say that I’ve never approached a project without fear – especially the writing aspect of it – and commitment to the writing. I always felt I could know a bad performance from a good performance or fake a way to make something look good, but if I were wrong in the script, then that’d be as wrong as I could be.

Francis Ford Coppola via Heidi Saman

I’m in love with Heidi’s Tumblr and her feature debut, Namour, which I was able to catch at The Gene Siskel earlier this year.

“The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair”

The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.

Sarah Manguso via Austin Kleon.

And the purpose of being a non-serious writer too?

“If you haven’t anything to say…”

If you haven’t anything to say, you sure as hell better know how to say it.

-Pauline Kael, Politics and Thrills in The New Yorker (1973), excerpted from The Age of Movies.

Filed under anti-inspiration?

“We are driven back to the ‘blood’, the thriller”

I found this Graham Green quote in one of Pauline Kael’s reviews in The Age of Movies, my first encounter with Kael after I stumbled upon it in Powell’s Books in Portland:

“The cinema,” Greene said, “has always developed by means of a certain low cunning…. We are driven back to the ‘blood,’ the thriller…. We have to… dive below the polite level, to something nearer to the common life…. And when we have attained to a a more popular drama, even if it is in the simplest terms of blood on a garage floor (‘There lay Duncan laced in his golden blood’), the scream of cars in flight, all the old excitements at their simplest and most sure-fire, then we can begin–secretly, with low cunning–to develop our poetic drama.”

Kael is a wonderful writer, one of the best non-fiction writers I’ve read, and I enjoy her writing even when she writes about movies that I haven’t seen or haven’t even heard of. Besides adding a long list of movies to my already long list of movies I need to see, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about filmmaking in the process.

Graham Greene is one of my favorite novelists and I didn’t even know that he was also a screenwriter, and wrote The Third Man (!).

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