Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Small world -- Jenny Dolan from Pennsylvania

I wrote this blog-essay a couple years ago but never posted it. Wanted to get the words right or something.
Time flies. so fuck it. Here's the post, perfect or not.

No matter the clich├ęd expressions; it is not a small world. In fact, it’s an enormous world. But when a billion random moments happen every second of every life -- well, there’s gonna be collisions. And once in a while a collision will be so direct that… bear with me...  This story is something. At least I think it is.

I’m in the movie and TV business. In addition to writing and directing some of what you see on big, small and yet-ever-smaller screens, I also “hire on” to plenty of projects. Currently, I’m working on such a project; a movie about the American civil war. I point out that I am not a creator of this movie so as to assure that I am not 'guiding serendipities' in any way. I’m merely one of the crew on this ship.
Today, in a comfortable editing facility in Pasadena, Ca. I work on a section near the beginning of the movie. Temporary “slug” fills the screen. In huge bold letters, a low-resolution image of a newspaper headline from 1861 asks the readers, “Treason and Rebellion -- Or the constitution?”
My job today will be to turn this temporary title into a cool visual sequence.

I watch and re-watch the scene, allowing my mind to drift creatively; imagining what it could look and feel like in the final program. Then, I retrieve the elements required; high resolution counterparts to the lo-res “temps”; the main element being the original newspaper article. Dated August 28th, 1861, it comes from the Library of Congress.  In its entirety, the headline reads:  Reason and Rebellion or the Constitution? The Union & the laws? Which will you choose?  Freemen of old Bucks in DOYLESTOWN
As already indicated, I’ve live in Los Angeles. However, I grew up and spent the majority of my life in a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania; so small that when asked from where I hail, I say, “Bucks County”. In fact, the town is Doylestown. Doylestown, Pa.
Three thousand miles away in Sunny California, I feel like someone from the past has goosed me.
I look again. Indeed, the newspaper is from Bucks County! Doylestown!
I’m so excited that my home town is right HERE is this article from 1861, that it is going to be in this movie,  that I have to share it with some of the others in the edit room. I explain this is where I grew up. I tell them how small Doylestown is; how I can’t even imagine how small it was in 1861.

 “Wow. Small world.” they say.  “Yes”, I reply at the overused expression. “Yes it is.”
Later in the day, the researcher for the movie comes in to the editing room to discuss something with the director. As he’s leaving, I motion him over. 
“Dave, I gotta show you something.”
Dave leans over my computer as I bring up the newspaper from 1861. 
“This –“, I say with dramatic pause, “- is where I grew up! Doylestown, Pa. I was born and raised here!   Dude, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!”
Dave straightens up from my monitor and nods. He seems a bit impressed -- but not nearly the way I think he should be.  
“Small town in Pennsylvania, right?” he says, more as a statement than a question.
“Yes.” I laugh. “I can’t believe it.”
“You’re the second person I know from Doylestown. I went to college with a girl from there.” Dave comments casually.
I dubiously ponder the odds David from Los Angeles actually knows someone from D-town, Pa. The casualness of his statement thickens my doubts.
“My R.A. at Syracuse University was from Doylestown -- in Bucks County.”
Wow, anything’s possible. He did say “Bucks County”.  My mind immediately goes into age/deduction math mode.  How old is Dave? I suppose he’s roughly my age…. When would he have graduated?  Back in Doylestown, I knew a fair share of people from high school, the various hangouts (Kelley’s, Doylestown Inn, Finneys, etc.)  How crazy would it be… ?
 “What’s her name?” I ask.
“Jennifer Dolan” he answers.

At this point, please stop ALL background music and sound. The wings of the hummingbird outside your window have just frozen in mid-beat.  The second-hand on your watch -- THOOONCK -- just came to a standstill.
“Jenny Dolan?” I gape. “She was my next door neighbor! I GREW UP with Jenny Dolan! We shared the same bus stop in front of my house from elementary school to high school! You KNOW Jenny Dolan??!”
I can’t believe this! I haven’t seen Jenny since high school, when she graduated in 1984. She was awesome! She was one of the sweetest people I ever knew -- and I have known her since I was in second grade and she was in fourth. We used to talk about my KUNG-FU lunchbox!!! I still clearly remember the last time I saw her; in high school, when she put a small flower in my shirt button and pretended it was a hippie moment.
He knows Jennifer Dolan!!! They went to college together!

Dave shakes his head faintly before winding up and punching me in the face, really FUCKING hard.
 “Jennifer Dolan who got stabbed to death by her boyfriend?”

It’s actually not too easy to recover from a complete sucker punch and maintain one’s cool. I think I do well because Dave is only about halfway into his next sentence before I’m able interrupt him.
“Yeah, Jennifer graduated from Syracuse and went to Washington with her boyfriend. I think they broke up or something and he couldn’t handle it and he killed her.”  

I can’t blame Dave for the matter of fact way he relays this information to me. And really, is there a good way to hear it? He mentions having read it in the Syracuse University Alumni magazine, and then disappears back to his office.
Hey, this is a major TV movie. The work doesn’t stop; huge amounts of work for all of us.
I try to concentrate on the monitors, on the program, on that newspaper headline from 1861 that has alerted me to news I hope isn’t right.

 That night, at home, I do serious googling. It turns out that ‘Jennifer Dolan’ is a fairly common name. There was a movie about “Jenny Dolan”. There was a burglar by that name; lots of people.
But, with enough cross referencing of years, schools, towns, grim key-words and finally - parents and siblings… I arrive at “pay required” archives within the Washington Post from 1991.
I pay to read 90 odd, sterile words that I translate into my reality:  Sweet, cute, wonderful -  girl, teen, woman – Jennifer Dolan -- of Doylestown Pennsylvania… a friend I haven’t seen in twenty-seven years –  has been dead for more than twenty of them. She never got to live her life. She never got to realize her dreams. In November of 1991, at age twenty-five, it was over for her; she was stabbed in the heart by her estranged boyfriend in a murder-suicide.

Been thinking about it for a while now and I haven’t found the meaning in any of it yet.
In 1861, a headline was set in type about the impending Civil War; a war of horrible, wasted young life.  One hundred fifty years and three thousand miles away I read that headline, prompting news of a woman’s murder, twenty one years before: Jennifer Dolan, a girl I had known daily and with whom I’d grown up. 
That's a lot of time and distance going backwards and forwards to demonstrate what a small world it is. 
But dammit, did the story have to take that cruel twist? 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Cave

Wow... he lives... a blog entry after more than a year. That's crazy.

Yes, Facebook has decimated the blogging energy that I use to have; not that it was ever that great. Gone are the hours spent writing one post, instead - many small status updates. I fear that I too have an ever-decreasing attention span; a result of non-stop Internet. Well that and how busy I've been over the year.
Much work in TV, a move to a new home, moving in with a new girlfriend - yes, it has been a busy year.

But here I am, doing a quick entry to write about my new Post-Edit suite. Ah, exciting times -- I spent the better part of three months converting, building, hacking, framing, dry walling, etc. to create my dream editing suite.
You can check it out at 

Lots of TV, lots of editing and several new projects in the works. After years of avoiding it, I have decided though... to make another horror movie! There you have it: a bit of inside news from me.
I won't say too much about it as I have promised 'the scoop' to a specific magazine writer, and she'd kill me if let slip too much information here. It's still in the early stages but I am excited about it. It's going to be very in-your-face; the title itself will be guaranteed to upset.

Stay tuned...

Monday, May 30, 2011


I was the Visual Effects Producer of this Special Documentary.
Check it out if you can. Premieres May 31st at 9:00 PM on The History Channel

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


After months of rumors, Final Cut X was announced today at NAB.
Taking the feed from somewhere, I respond...

FINAL CUT PRO X -- people say the new interface looks more like imovie. I think it's starting to look a bit like Avid Media Composer.

1. Crowd is unruly!
Of course, it's an Apple product. Zombies get unruly very easily.

2. Final Cut X is a full rebuild from scratch

3. 64 bit – Crowd: “finally!” “thank you!”
AMEN. About friggin time. Adobe products have been for more than a year.

4. Cocoa, Core Animation, Open CL, Grand Central Dispatch support

5. The Focus was on image quality
Um, yeah, I guess it kinda should be -- considering it's an EDITING PROGAM!

6. Fully color managed
see above

7. Resolution independent playback/timeline all the way up to 4K
Nice, but I don't really work that way and neither does any pro.

8. Features people detection, single or in groups

9. Non-destructive auto color balance
Yeah, I guess everyone is doing crappy TV these days that has to be churned out fast.

10. Automatic audio cleanup (option to auto noise reduce audio, more)
See above.

11. Features “smart collections”: a lot like the smart folders found in OS X
I have an Assistant Editor. I'm sure he will get a laugh out of that.

12. Editing can start immediately during importing of AVCHD and other media, switches silently to local media as it ingests
I'll believe it when I see it. Again, my AE will have things to say about that.

13. Uses every available cpu cycle to keep things rendered. Also highly scalable.
So I can't update FB while I work???

14. Will even work on a Macbook
yeah. whatever.

15 No interruption for rendering. No transcoding, EVERYTHING native. (incl DSLR footage–assume this means AVC)
So, things will render in shitty quality AND good quality in the same timeline? YAY

16. Presentation received a standing ovation!
Of course it did. See #1.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Stuck With Hackett Premieres tonight on the Science Channel.
Check it out... It's a fun show. I know, I edited it!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The smartphone

Yes, 1 in 4 or you -- or some inordinate percentage, already have iphones and blackberries and androids -- but until two weeks ago, I was stubbornly holding onto my old dumb txt-ready-but-not -much-more-than-that cellphone.
Upgrade - to a super duper fancy dancy smartphone; a MYTOUCH 4G to be exact. Never one to fall into the Apple camp readily, I didn't actually forgo the Iphone so much as say NO FRIGGIN WAY to another ATT contract. Been there, done that, made a vow never to go back.

So, Android-phone, you are my new techno-lust, my newest obsession. You are so sexy.

So, iphone store has about 200,000 aps, the android store has about 100,000 aps. In looking through the countless lists of top ten must have apps for this or that, I see basically the same 20 or so apps. Is it so? Is it really like cable television (with an exponential number added) Are there really so few good, download-worthy apps for either system.


Let me know. tell me what you have on your phone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I was on Jeopardy

Last night, on Jeopardy, the 1600.00 question in double Jeopardy, under a Movies section was --

Pretty cool. I was, well a movie I made, was a question... wow.

Still feeling giddy, but as I was falling asleep, I did ponder a few goofy things.
1. I was happy that the contestant was able to quickly answer the question correctly.
2. I was impressed that he did so as I do think it's a bit obscure.
3. My next goal is to somehow be another question on Jeopardy, but - a cheap question. I'm aiming for 100 dollars. That means that I'd be sufficiently in the pop culture as to be expected to be an easy answer. Yeah, that's the goal. Now, how to to accomplish that without doing evil???

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Bit Rate Calculator is all wrong!

Facebook has killed the blog. That's kinda true, isn't it? There was a time when I would spin a ten word thesis thought into an essay. Admittedly, some were better than others - and that was the overall life of a blog. Facebook as killed that. The ten word thesis is nothing more. "Today I am blue" "Shouldn't have had that last Chili Dog" "Earthquake".


So, here's an attempt at a blog entry again. The fact that the microsoft word plugin that worked well with google blogs doesn’t work anymore, doesn’t make this easier; I’m typing in the clouds now, hoping that this will work. Life is a continual experiment.

I’m working on two new projects, both similar to each other. Action/coming of age movies. One is being fast-tracked. If we can get it all together, we could be shooting in the fall. In Europe. More realistically, it will be in the springtime. No matter, it’s very cool and exciting. More to follow. Hopefully.

To my left, the machine that was rendering a nine part DVD series for three months now renders another DVD project. For some reason, this supposedly simple output, something that should have taken no longer than a few hours, has taken three days thus far. Don’t know what it is, but the computer is getting a lot of predictions wrong. With DVD authoring, predicting final size of files is of utmost importance. You want to play as close to a zero-sum game as possible. You want the disc full, but of course it can’t go over. Normally, the calculators and bit-rate predictors are accurate to within a few “K”. For some reason, I’ve been off wildly on this one - hundreds of MB, signifying - failure. Argh, Frustration. Hair pulling - virtual.

I need to wrap this one soon as I have another job coming down the pike. Gonna be running a Sumo Wrestler over with a Smart Car. Gotta get prepped and in gear.

Fun times ahead.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

working and rendering

To the left of me, my Mac-Hac-Pro is rendering away at a major show -- 18 hours that will span 9 DVDs. It has occupied my time non-stop for the last two months. At last, I see light and it is with great delight that the computers are doing their jobs without complaint.

I am allowing myself a bit of time to blog (all too rare these days) and return to a story which I've been working on. In scraping up childhood memories to exploit for this current screenplay, I am recalling a favorite childhood book, The Magnificent Inventions of Alvin Fernald. Anybody here remember it? If you have kids, a boy around 8 years old, this is a good one to have him read. I don't think it matters how long ago it was written, I believe it would still be very entertaining.

Back to work...