Thursday, July 27, 2017

Monday, April 22, 2013

Making movies is harder than watching them

People keep asking me, "hey, how's your film going?"  Or, "weren't you working on a movie a while back?"  The answer to those questions is more complicated than just "good", and "yes".  I'm a very private person, and I've been keeping the details of the production close to my chest (much to the displeasure of my co-producer).  People deserve to know what's going on.  When it's done, the completion of this film will be the most important thing I've done in my life.  This statement might seem sad to some of you, but hey, we can't all be Mahatma Gandhi.

My friends and I made the original Chronicles of Tre when we were 17.  For about two years I've been trying to make the new Chronicle of Tre as a tribute to my childhood friends.  I've started twice, and had all kinds of hiccups and technical problems that have kept me from completing it.  It's sort of a long story that basically shines a spotlight on my own incompetence.  Allow me to explain.

1st try:  My friends Brian and Anton started helping me with this thing back in 2011.  I quickly became aware that they are both better filmmakers than me.  I was under prepared, I was clean shaven and well groomed.  It didn't work.  I looked like a frat boy, not a refuge from the scorched Earth future.  I couldn't accept making another film just playing around on the weekends with my friends.  That's how I made every film up to this point since I was 14 (save for my college senior film).  That brand of filmmaking is tantamount to jerking off.  I need this thing to be special.  I needed to wait until I was fully prepared and scruffy as hell.

2nd try:  Fast forward a year later.  My hair and beard grew out.  I was fully prepared.  We filmed all summer long in 2012.  The equipment I was using was obsolete.  Old camera - old laptop - I didn't even own a tripod.  As we were filming my laptop died.  I didn't have a way to capture my footage, but we kept on filming anyways figuring I'd just edit it at the end.  Some of the shots we were filming were unbelievable.  Then at the very end when I got my laptop up and running I came to realize that we had filmed the entire summer long with the camera on the wrong setting.  No joke.  You can't imagine how this felt.  By this point the film meant so much not only to me, but a lot of the people helping me.  Some of my friends had done days and days of filming in tropical heat at filthy locations.  The failure felt like having my guts ripped out.  I was crushed.  I laid in bed for two days.

I'm not Steven Spielberg.  I'm not going to try to pretend to be.  I'm figuring this shit out as I go.  I'm also not a clydesdale.  Honestly, when I get home from the aquarium it takes a maximum effort to not plop down, open a beer, and just watch anime until I go to bed.  I know that's not very flattering, but it's the genuine truth.

3rd try:  So here we are.  A lot of the footage from round two is still usable (thank God for Brian and Anton).  For myself, I have new, state of the art gear.  My new camera literally has facial recognition software like in a sci-fi movie.  I completely rewrote the script from top to bottom.  My post apocalyptic beard is in full bloom.  My hair is long.  I have an army of of talented people ready to bathe in fake blood.  It's on like Khan.

The film itself is of little significance - we aren't making the The Sound of Music or The Shawshank Redemption - it's a post-apocalyptic samurai movie.  The act of completing it is of crucial importance.  On my life, Chronicles of Tre will be finished in July.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Oops, you found me!

I originally made this blog as a way of getting intimate things off my chest.  Things I wouldn't even say to my family.  I figured I'd just put it out there for strangers to read.  I honestly believe that if you keep shit locked up inside it turns into something bad.  Like cancer.  I had some garbage I really needed to get out of me.  So I made this blog under a false name and figured that no one would know it was me posting it (save the one person that I told about it - hi, Linds).

A couple people have now mentioned this blog to me, and I found myself being quite alarmed that they knew about it.  It's supposed to be secret.  They found it by googling the name of the film I'm working on.  I removed the name of the film from this blog, but it's still turning up on google.

I have a certain amount of anxiety about this.  As far as I know, my family is unaware of my atheism.  That's just a whole can of squirming worms I'd really not like to open anytime soon.  I'd really be uncomfortable if a certain ex-girlfriend of mine read this.  ...or her sister.  Also, now that I know people that are close to me are reading it, I'm no longer able to express myself freely.

So if you've read this blog - you know me in real life - and your name isn't Lindsay, congratulations!  You've stumbled upon something that I never intended you to see.  Something intimate and personal.  Enjoy.  It may or may not be here tomorrow, depending on how I feel.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Making a movie (pre-production)

I just started working on a short film that I've wanted to make for about the last 15 years of my life.  It's a post apocalyptic samurai movie; sort of Road Warrior meets Yojimbo.  No matter what I was doing, it's always been there, like a worm in my brain, chewing and squirming around for over a decade.  I'm finally going to get in there with my fingers, dig it out, and share it with the world.

I'm making a 10 minute short film first, and if it's successful a feature length will follow.  After typing that it seems like I should put the "if" in bold capital letters, in a 50 point typeface.  That's a pretty big if.  I digress.  I'm submitting the short film to the Guam International Film Festival for starters.  The deadline for submissions is July 1st, so I've got to work fast.  I'm taking the first 2 weeks of June for production, and the the last 2 weeks for post-production.  I'm officially in pre-production.  "What does that mean?"  That means I'm pulling all of the elements together.  I've got to draw hundreds of storyboards, get props, make costumes, choreograph a sword fight, make about 20 gallons of fake blood, find a way to hang people without actually injuring them, and find a beautiful island woman willing to take her top off on camera.  And I need to do all of this before June 2nd.

I'm not a rich man.  Making movies costs a shit ton of money.  The only more expensive art form than filmmaking is architecture.  So in terms of architecture, how do you make an interesting building for less than $2,000?  I mean, that's maybe a tool shed at best.  No one would pay money to see a Tuff Shed.  "Hey man, give me $8 and you can check out where I keep my lawnmower."  Please.  But what if it's a tool shed on a tropical island next to a cascading waterfall, smeared in blood, with naked women inside?  Now that's something someone might pay money to see.  That's the posture I'll be taking with my films until the day I start using other people's money to make them.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Twilight sucks

Twilight sucks.  It worse than sucks, and it's bad for you.  I can't believe it's as popular as it is.  Are there that many insecure, teenage girls out there, bored with their lives?  Or as Bill Hicks would say, "is there that much babysitting money being passed around?"  I'm going to try to lay out why I hate it so much, and hopefully plant seeds of hate deep in the hearts of anyone who reads this.  Stephanie Meyer must be stopped at all costs.  And I mean why it sucks beyond the fact that Stephanie Meyer couldn't write herself out of a paper bag.  Her writing is adverb laden scat that has about as much literary value as toilet paper.  

First of all, vampires don't sparkle.  Period.  When Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, it was because there was an outbreak of syphilis and the book was a cautionary tale for young women to beware strange men with accents.  That's why vampirism is a disease of the blood, it leaves sores (bite marks), etc.  Vampires are supposed to be scary and gross.  It's a metaphor for sexually transmitted disease.  Vampirism is supposed to be something you want to avoid getting.  Like herpes.  Vampires that shimmer make about as much sense as a teenage girl saying, "I would love for my vag to turn black and rot off."  Not only that, but the glittering serves no purpose in the story.  If Bella had to use Edward's shine as a way to find him, it would be a plot point, and would serve the story.  But it doesn't.  It serves no purpose outside of making the vampires seem more beautiful.  

And you know what, Meyer?  You don't have to keep repeating how good looking Edward is on every single page.  I get it.  Once would've been enough.  Twice maybe, if you're really trying to drive the point home.  Over and over with the "dazzling porcelain God", and "perfectly toned chest".  If you cut out all of the descriptions of Edward's shocking good looks, the book would've been about 50 pages.  

Now imagine being perpetually in high school.  Seriously, close your eyes and visualize graduating and then registering for your sophomore year again right after you throw your cap.  It never ends.  I hated high school; it felt like prison.  Vampires that are over a hundred years old perpetually going to high school makes absolutely no sense.  Are they being punished for something?  I mean, if the vampires were going to school so they could make fun of all of the high school kids, that would be something.  Like they're just sitting in their chairs snickering with laughter the whole time.  That would make sense.  My friend's teenage daughter is on my facebook, and her overdramatic, teenage, soap-opera posts on her wall are hilarious.  They're seriously funnier than failblog.  But now that I'm an adult, the desire to go back to high school would sort of be like wanting to take a poop and then roll around in it for a while.  It makes no sense.  Twilight fans say it's so the vampires don't draw suspicion.  Yes, that makes perfect sense.  Nothing is less suspicious than a high school student who calls in sick every time the sun shines.  Why don't they just live in the woods and keep to themselves?  Then people would say, "the Cullens live in the woods, and keep to themselves."  But no, they have to hide in plain sight, despite the fact that they don't eat, never age, and shimmer when sunlight hits them.  Makes perfect sense.  

The main reason I hate Twilight is because it's misogyny written by a woman.  Bella can't do anything without Edward.  She's the protagonist, and she's completely useless.  Every third page is Bella almost dying and Edward swooping down to save the day (after we're told how beautiful he is, of course).  That's a perfect message to instill into the ripe young minds of adolescent girls.  Wait for a man to save you.  If I was a woman I'd be insulted.  Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, those are female protagonists.  Nausicca of the Valley of the Winds, that's a female protagonist.  They're protagonists because their actions propel the story forward.  Bella is a damsel in round-the-clock distress.  Remember the ending, how Bella gets to the warehouse or whatever, the bad vampire bites her, and then Edward swoops in to save the day?  Here's how it should've happened:  Edward gets there before Bella, and the bad vampire wrecks him.  Then Bella shows up - she's just a human, completely outmatched by the bad vampire - but she steels herself, and uses her sharp mind to turn the tables and saves the day.  That's an ending.  Everyone loves an underdog.  But no, Bella is the main character, and she spends the climax of her own story laying on the ground in the fetal position.

Women of the world, stop waiting for a man to save you.  Save yourselves.  I know you can do it.  The white knight's armor is so shiny because his mommy polishes it for him before doing his laundry for him.  Stop waiting for the fairy tale.  It isn't coming.  Stop waiting and live a sincere life.  You'll be better for it.  

Keep in mind that this is only the first book I'm talking about.  This is without going into the whole Jacob being in love with the vampire baby that's eating Bella from the inside out thing.  Twilight is awful.  It's the only book I've ever read that actually made me feel dumber when I put it down.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

How my mom died

So on Wednesday, February 16th at 3 in the morning, my mom had an aneurysm.  She woke up with a thunderclap headache as blood filled her brain stem.  The doctors later told us that the weakened blood vessel could've been there for years, and if they had even given her an MRI the day before it happened they probably wouldn't have noticed it.  A one in a million chance, they said.  She called her best friend Wendy on the phone instead of calling 911.  Wendy said that mom sounded frantic and scared.  She kept saying, "dark", and "bleed", over and over again.  Wendy's husband found her in her nightgown on the bathroom floor with the lights on.  She was saying "dark" because the blood in her skull caused damage to the part of her brain responsible for sight.  She woke up blind.  She kept saying "bleed" because she was a nurse for 25 years, and knew exactly what was happening to her.  An ambulance took her to Poudre Valley Hospital, and then they threw her on a helicopter to the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.  During the flight the second bleed occurred.  That's the one that killed her, but they didn't declare her brain dead until 4 days later.

My mom was an organ donor with a rare blood type.  That made what was left of her sort of a valuable commodity.  They kept her body alive with machines while they looked for people in need to receive her.  In the end, they found recipients for her lungs, liver, both kidneys, her eyes, and her skin tissue.  There's a 22 year old blind woman from South Dakota that can see now because of my mom.  My trip back to the states took me 21 hours (I live in Micronesia), but I still got there in time to hold her warm hand.  My sisters seem to think that that was somehow a blessing for me.  So now for the rest of my life, the last mental image I have of my mother is her reclined on that adjustable hospital bed, swollen and slack faced, mouth agape with a garden hose sized tube crammed down her throat.  They taped moist gauze over her eyes to keep them fresh for the blind lady previously mentioned who was patiently waiting for them.  She had a catheter between her legs and electrical sensors taped all over.  They shaved the right side of her bangs off, drilled a hole through her skull, and shoved another tube into her brain to relieve the pressure.  When I came into her room and saw her I said, "that's not my mom."  My sister said that I stood there for about 15 minutes with my hand over my open mouth, but I don't remember that.  And that's how I get to picture her for the rest of my life.  A corpse, pin cushioned with tubes and wires.

She was under a pink, fuzzy blanket when they took her to harvest her organs.  It was some synthetic fabric.  Super soft.  My dad put that blanket on his bed when we got back to the house, and Belle (my mom's yellow lab) wouldn't stop laying down on it.  Throw it on the floor, and Belle would hop off the bed and lay down on it.  Dad didn't wash the damn thing, so it had that sour smell from the hospital on it.  Before I entered mom's hospital room I could smell it.  Her room was filled with it.  It's the odor that happens when a person has their mouth forced open for almost a week.  That Darth Vadar respiration, as machines pushed air in and out of her.  Mom was a dead body with that God damn tube taped in her mouth for almost a week.  The scent was on everything.  It just stuck to you. 

At the funeral everyone hugged me, giving me their condolences.  "Oh Danny, I'm so sorry for your loss".  The aroma of all their different shampoos and aftershaves mixing together.  The stink of middle aged women's makeup.  These are people who didn't like my mom; when I was a little boy at church I'd overhear them talking shit about her.  Fucking two-faced vipers.  And shortly after I told them it's okay, I'm fine, they all got an eagerness on their face, practically licking their lips in anticipation for the juicy details.  "How did she die?"  "Was it quick?"  "Did she suffer much?"  Or maybe it was that they just wanted to see how long I could talk about it before I broke down.  I think people secretly yearn for that moment when you're talking about something painful, and your voice cracks, eyes swelling with tears, when you lose control to emotion.  That flicker of hurt across your face.  Then they can get some kind of vicarious catharsis.

So here's the really shitty part.  My mom was divorcing my dad.  My dad loves/loved my mom, and was trying to contest the divorce.  Me and my sisters were pretty upset by this - it seemed like my mom was kind of stabbing my dad in the back - and I've been on the short end of unrequited love a number of times, so I sympathized with my father.  I started ignoring my mom.  I was very cruel to her.  She was a bit codependent, so ignoring her really hurt her.  I called her to say Merry Christmas, and it had been so long since I called her that she started crying.  I asked her to stop being dramatic.  I said some mean shit to her.  I said some mean shit about her to my dad and my sisters.  And then she died.

So I guess that brings me to the moral of this story: if someone you love is doing something that hurts you, tell them that you're hurt, but then tell them you still love them.  And call your mom.  Seriously, call her right now and tell her that you love her.

...and the next blog I write won't be depressing.  Promise. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Good sex and Jesus

I recently heard that the love of my life is married and just had a baby girl with the man she left me for.

I also recently had a Christian friend ask me how I came to lose my faith.  When I was a Christian I had friends that would frequently attack my faith.  Hindsight being what it is, I realize that anyone who attacks your faith most likely isn't your friend in the first place.  So when my friend asked me what made me let go of my Christian upbringing I couldn't really tell him.  I said something along the lines of, "if I told you why I don't believe anymore, it would be an attack on your belief, whether I want meant it that way or not".  So here's a little SPOILER ALERT: this blog is about why I'm no longer Christian, and why I'm flirting with the idea of abandoning belief in a higher being all together.  If you feel uncomfortable with that, dear reader, you should probably stop reading this crap and do something more productive, like picking belly button lint, or illegally downloading that last episode of Southpark.

I've committed my life to the vocation of storytelling.  I'm that douche-bag that went to film school and sits in coffee shops writing screenplays.  During my time in college I was taught that if you want your story touch people, shape it to share in the motifs of your intended audience's mythology.  For example, ET has a lot of things in common with Jesus Christ: they both heal with touch, they both rise from the dead, and they both ascend into the sky with flying saucers.  So in the interest of becoming a better storyteller, I started to study world mythology in my free time.

There's a great book on comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell titled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  In it, Campbell demonstrates that many cultures from all over the world and throughout history have similar recurring mythological patterns.  It's as if humanity has a story that is encoded in our DNA; it is burned into our collective unconscious like a cattle brand.  Campbell then makes a generic mold for the pattern these mythologies fit into, and he calls it the "monomyth".  The story of Christ fits the monomyth perfectly.

But then there's also the fact that the story of Christ follows the story of Horus (Egyptian sun god) almost flawlessly, and predates Jesus by about 3,000 years.  Just like ET, Horus has a lot of things in common with Jesus Chirst:  They both had no father (immaculate conception).  They were both born of the virgins, and both their births coincided with a star in the east.  Shortly after their births, they were both admired by three kings.  At age 12 they were both prodigal teachers.  Both Horus and Jesus had 12 disciples and performed miracles.  Both of them died and were resurrected.

The film Zeitgeist mentions that many mythological gods share this structure.  Attis of Greece (1,200 BC) was born of a virgin, crucified, dead for three days, and was resurrected.  Mithra of Persia (1,200 BC) was born of a virgin, had 12 disciples, performed miracles, died and after 3 days was resurrected.  Krishna of India (900 BC) was born of a virgin, a star in the east signaled his coming, performed miracles, and was resurrected after death.  Dionysus of Greece (500 BC) was born of a virgin, performed miracles - such as turning water into wine - and after death was resurrected.

The story of Christ is about as original as the story of Avatar, and the council of Nicaea was a political decision.  Christians talk about the council as if it was a spiritual event, made through prayer and meditation.  Emperor Constantine wanted Christians to come to consensus to ensure political solidarity.  That's it and that's all.  And what better way to ensure obedience and political rest than to switch to a dogma of servitude?  The Bible is a tool used by authority for social stability.

But it doesn't even matter because Christians don't even read the Bible (save for the parts that support their agenda).  Right wing Christians are always using scripture to attack gays, but they never quote verses that command believers to kill their children for swearing at their parents (Leviticus 20:9), or to kill nonbelievers (2 Chronicles 15:12-13).  Deuteronomy 22:20-21 says that you should kill brides that aren't virgins.  All it takes to discover that the Bible is not the perfect word of almighty God is to read it and to think critically.

It was when I realized that you can't be a Christian if you know the Bible is flawed that I discovered the writing of Richard Dawkins.

I was a Christian for the first 30 years of my life.  I had relationships with women fail because my Christian upbringing led me to believe that sex was wrong, and it's one of my biggest regrets in my life.  Sometimes I find myself praying out of habit.  When I realize that I'm doing it, it sort of feels like when you pick up the phone to dial a family member and then remember that they died the year before.

Anyways, this is all a whole lot of jibber jabber.  I'd be surprised if anyone even got this far and I don't think I'm even going to proof read this before posting it.  The long and short of it is the only person I've ever fully loved - the woman I had the best sex of my life with - is procreating with some other man, and I'm almost certain there is no God.