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So I produced and directed a campaign video for a progressive candidate in Columbia, SC. It was interesting going back to the hometown, to take on its reactionary politics with a video. I'll say this. We learned a lot in the process and I should've kept a journal, but I intend to on the next one. Perhaps one day I'll write a thorough account of that experience, but for now, I'll just say, I'm proud of the work we did. Basil, Masha, and I worked ourselves to the kind of psychically raw and manic state hard-learned in the good ole days. The kind of formative 18 hour shoots with no sleep that tests a filmmaker. Some get hard-earned into something like a committed professional. Some easily fall to attrition. We did not fall. They used their own version, but here's the director's cut i just put up.
(Puts on backward baseball cap and quickly turns chair around to sit in, arms resting on its back. #realtalk)
Three Billboards is a horrible piece of shit meant to cynically harness and spoon-feed - no shovel - our nation’s cheapest resentment politics into an atomized populace: a worthless catharsis for oblivious but sniggering idiot libs who wanna blame the Low Folk for the political situation. Three Dildos is a cheap glamour cast by soft-brained Hollywood morons. It’s really a painfully transparent exploitation film, and it’ll eventually go down that way in the history books.
The characters in the film do not exist, on any level. Even for flat expressionist characters, they are grotesque constructs, written into action and given dialogue based on cultural cliches that should be laughable. But they’re not laughable. It's one of those cultural moments where you find yourself surrounded by your peers, nodding and chuckling under a dumb spell. It’s just so dumb and normal-assed people’s adoration of it is so dumb…that it makes you realize you should never have any faith in a jury of your peers…because apparently they can’t parse a line of pandering bullshit from a story.
To call Three Billboards (Blah-fuck the rest of the title) “Resistance propaganda” for fed up wine moms to nod righteously at is still somehow a kindness. There’s something darker going on with its authors. It’s a challenge to conjure a film from recent memory I’ve disliked this much. I'd rather watch an honest reactionary film than a string of terrible, out-of-touch woke cliches masquerading as...whatever, I hate the film. It's like the way people saw Zero Dark 30 and didn't realize it's a terrible torture fetishizing propaganda film with the CIA's version of events as its primary source material. If you liked this film you need a re-education camp.
Hi 2018! Just checking in after an East Coast winter holiday. Approximately half of what you will read next is a chain of theft.
Language became a virus spread through our cultural idioms, the internet, and media: a gibbering mind virus consuming public squares; all coherent or moral discourse abstracted. We became postmodern idiot warrior poets, flailing id-spasms and layered upon layered cultural resentments. Yes, everything really became Burroughs AF, but with athleisure ware and invisible robots.
Til soon. Here is Lillian Gish in tragic reverie.
Just digging through my digital closets and I came upon this old quick demo piece I made for then Sarah Krebs; now Sarah Malige, and for a spell; Vera Gogh, a few years back. After this humble video I made for Hometown, I saw that she was in Paris in a band called Slove...holy shit, their video couldn't be farther from mine in style or tone. Mine was hardly "a video." It was just a document, but after falling in love with this sincere little document we'd made, I was like holy shit when I saw the Slove video. And here's Hometown:
Anyway, back in...'06, I believe, she still lived here in SF, and she stayed at house on Delores. I was buddy's with her bandmate Aslan Rife, now of Honey Moon Tree. The how and the why hardly matter. I probably have people's chronology wrong. I just know Aslan was hanging out with Matt from the Blank Tapes and was in a couple of bands or whatever and his friend Sarah blew me the fuck away and I wanted to film her. It's just one of those SF things where...what? I was making my film Attachment Disorder, a contemplation of purgatory that made me make up the word "daymare," which I still like to use from time to time, and I wanted to record every note on their house piano separately, a long and resonant note for each key: 55 recordings for 55 keys to be "played" in the edit. Sarah helped me with these recordings and then I filmed her and her bandmates do a stoney, perhaps too long version, of their song Hometown.
Sure, it's subjective, but this is my favorite version of the song. The video's not great. It's just me on sticks with cluttered, not thought out enough mise-en-scene. Jesus, now I'd have kissed the background with a little light for crissakes! And! It's a mono recording, right into camera. I probably had an omni mic just propped on a book or something.
Stil though, the sincerity of this performance... It means a lot to me. Anyway, if you stumble upon this, now or later, maybe you'll find the space among thy cluttered head, to give yourself over to Sarah's eyes, breaking down the 4th wall with that confrontational eyeline or to her voice, of course, that let's you know she's "...been to your hometown..." and you can't believe what she's found. The conceit of this song stays with me. I'm a longtime SF transplant by way of South Carolina and Sarah, from Mississipi, if I remember. What the song gets at, for me anyway, is the smalltown kid in all of us who goes to the Cool Town to reinvent themselves, but no matter what, someday somebody's gonna take a look into your towny heart and say let you know what's there. Are we frauds? Are we noble reinventions? I mean, this is clearly just one aspect of the song that I'm projecting myself onto, but no matter: I just know I'll always remember the lovely Sarah Krebs, in that stage of ever-changing reinvention, staring into my lens, into me; an ever-changing reinvention myself, and me giving myself over to her gaze and her song. Tell me what you've found, Sarah. Anyway, I hope Sarah doesn't mind me waxing existential over this old thing. She's a badass lady with nothing my deepest respect, and I hope more and more people will be fortunate enough to come in contact with the beautiful songs she writes and be stunned still by the command she has when performing them.
So I acted recently in a film, Retreat, by director Gary Mairs in a scene with Amy Seimetz. My character is a writer who's taken a desperate last chance writing retreat, to combat the disillusionment and the psychically traumatic economic/political landscape that is now. The film's of course about more than that, but yeah, from my character's point of view, it was all painfully close to home. For all creatives trying to insert their personal vision into the commerce-driven steady flow of seemingly never-ending content while surviving the day-to-day grind, we all know (or don't know) that if we could just "get away and write" we might actually have a chance to finally get it done: to find that little patch of respite where we can actually think...and just maybe achieve some creative grace, to realize our voices and our training into the art we've long yearned for. I know. We're all terrible assholes with tremendous hubris, but in my experience that's the kind of morbid introspection it takes to actually make the things people consume.
Regarding the production, It was truly a pleasure working with Gary and Amy, collaborators who have solid respect for the traditional production/on-set protocols that get movies made but are also open to a more organic collaboration. "Organic" is art jargon tossed around by creative halfwits in all mediums but the word, as it's meant to describe our "process" really does mean something. Basically, we had the script and storyboards and shot-list set, but Gary had a confidence and faith in our stretching out and experimenting with the material that I really appreciated. For Amy, who's currently directing Steven Soderbergh's Starz series the Girlfriend Experience, this organic creative process means she gets to do things like...making narratively alternating episodes of TGE, cleaving the series into two parallel but unrelated (seemingly unrelated so far) storylines. She directs an episode and then another guy, Lodge Kerrigan, does the following week's episode (I like her episodes better. Don't tell anyone. Shhh!) and (here's the really cool part I'm jealous about) she cast Harmony Korine as an actor in a serial role, and holy shit! Harmony kills it. Of course he's a solid performer who can both honor and challenge the material at hand when given the collaborative opportunity. This is what I'm talking about: "organic process."
As a longtime indie director & content hustler (Almost anything you can point a camera at I've done to pay the rent.), I'll admit it's taken a while to find the sweet spot between an experienced confidence and an openness to creative risks when the camera rolls. I started out with a fuck-all attitude for on-set traditions-n-protocol, but then I "learned" how to actually run a set, and I fell in love with production; with its nuts-n-bolts hierarchy, it's division of labor; its synthesis of disparate talents all serving a singular vision. It's been a long go at learning how to balance these tried-n-true traditions with the fuck-all experimentation that got me into this in the first place. Anyway, this post isn't about digging into the particulars of Retreat or any production. It's to honor the work and heartbreak required for creative professionals to just...work in our industry; what that actually means at a day-to-day level. To serve another's vision and your own in a time when art and its makers are increasingly devalued while people are more consistently "entertained" than ever before. Honestly, the topic is a whole other post but suffice it to say, my admiration for anyone at any level who strives to survive and do good work in the everything available all the time era grows stronger with each day's hustle.
Retreat screened in LA this week. I couldn't make it because I had three deadlines looming: an edit for a nice-little-commercial I directed, the final rounds of edits for a series on homelessness I'm making with San Francisco's chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America, and then the fully, editorially immersive, roughcut stage of a comedy pilot I directed called Cheaper Than Therapy. It's gonna be good I think: funny and vérité performances that are real as hell but a deep dive to edit.
Among all this creative business...I find myself just...so proud of my fellow collaborators, all the creatives I've known and worked with who've long ago transcended adolescent aspirations of fame-n-glory to really just work and live for their craft. I can't wait to actually see Retreat because 1: I think it's gonna be good because the people I worked on it with were talented and inspiring, and 2: because I know what it takes to get this shit done. See Retreat when you get a chance. Okay. I gotta get back to editing now.
So we shot the first part of Go ahead It's Okay for Apogee last week. We did all the performance footage and are saving the "cinema" shots for this week. Still though, even in these simple lighting setups we got some lovely footage, and the extras were a blast to work with. It was the fun shoot. Now onto the craft-n-detail! Check out these production stills by Green La Fleur.
Annie and I shot some video at In Flux this Friday. In Flux is an outdoor gallery produced in conjunction with Lower Polk Art Walk.
We saw our friend Jean Jeanie there who was prototyping the mobile story booth with Aaron Bray.
Welcome! This structure is a temporary, autonomous zone, aka TAZ. It is a prototype of a mobile story booth. With it, we hope to investigate the less tangible elements and document the many storied experiences of San Francisco.
I went to Cambodia and Indonesia in September, and brought along my trusty old FM2. I had forgotten how nice it can be to have a light camera with a single prime lens, and not be staring at a LCD all day. Plus I've always had a secret desire to be a travel photographer, and heading out into the jungle with my little light-tight box is exciting.
We went temple-perusing in Cambodia where we stayed up in the Northwest, first in Siem Reap near Angkor Wat, then in Battambang, up the river. I shot a mix of black and white, color reversal, and slide film.
It's an amazing place. These enormous edifices rise up out of the jungle, and in some cases the jungle has grown back in over the temple grounds.
I stayed in town some days as well, to get some cafe time in with a book and do some street photography.
Some of the friendliest people I've ever met, and of course great food. I love the tradition in that part of the world of having a spicy soup in the morning instead of a big plate of waffles or eggs.
Our time in Indonesia ended up being much more Heart of Darkness. We were staying in a little village on the island Seram in the far east of the country, near the Spice Islands, west of Papua. The village was built in this little cove, and it spilled out onto the water with stilt houses going a couple blocks deep into the sea.
The majority of the island was highland rainforest, the center of it being protected national park. Incredibly lush, fog-hugged rainforest. Full of birds, including the endemic Moluccan Cockatoo, a beautiful, large, white parrot. I didn't bring a telephoto lens with me, so no bird pictures...
In Way Down East to achieve her performance Lillian Gish lay on a iceflow for so many hours that she suffered permanent nerve damage in her hand. It is an historic film climax and without Lillian's dedication to her director and her role is one of the moments that, arguably, created naturalist and methodical acting for the modern acting era. As a director/actor her performance in Way Down East reflects the urgency and devotion of will it takes to become a role and to articulate a truly personal performance. For my actors, I expect some skin in the game, and your audience demands it.