Friday, December 07, 2007

Budgeting and Scheduling

I've spent the last week working on a script breakdown of The Diamond Chasers and now I'm creating and fine tuning an actual budget. I'm also gearing up to rewrite the script based on notes I'm awaiting. All of which mean, I suppose I'm in pre-production. It's a tenuous time because – ah heck, it's filmmaking -- the whole nature of the animal is tenuous. Anyway, budgeting this movie is daunting. Unlike The Last Broadcast, which I basically made out of pocket, and Ghosts of Edendale which was made with plastic and foreign promises, The Diamond Chasers is quite a bit bigger. So, of course, the much larger pile of money that will be spent is partially dependent upon the actors, who are partially dependent upon any number of things, including which way the wind blows.

The budget being bandied about is also quite modest – not really 'action movie' money. It means that I'll have to pull in the belt and think very creatively. So be it, I'm certainly one of the most qualified directors ever for that job.

Anyway, there is something mildly exciting about this point because it is forward motion to the project. For the moment, I better not detail any more lest I thoroughly jinx things. I'll just put it this way -- Outlook is hopeful. Hey, I even had new business cards made. That may not seem important except that I've never made a movie specific business card unless the movie was relatively close to rolling…

Hopefully The Diamond Chasers will follow in that tradition. It's a project that has been around in one way or another for many years. It's high time to get the thing into the air.

Anyone have a good price for a 48''x30' rubber belt conveyor? Preferably located in the Midwest?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back in the U.S.S…A.

Yeah, that's lame… but… ah… whatever.

I'm back from my trip to Russia and Finland. Wow. Just Wow.

Experiences and overall impressions are created by a series of the smallest things. A small issue at an airport, perhaps a rude person on a street curb, or maybe a less than stellar meal – and you can HATE the place to which you went. It's not that the overall experience was bad, but it just sits funny in your throat when people ask you about it. Conversely, a good meal, a friendly or helpful person guiding you somewhere… a few positive small things, and you remember a place fondly.

When every single instance of a journey is perfect, it's rare. In fact, it's a bit unnerving. Well, I just got back from one of those perfect journeys; from St. Petersburg, Russia and Helsinki, Finland.

Wow, just wow.

Rather than immediately go into the details of the places I visited and things I saw, I will only write now that – if possible, the way to see a country is to stay with a family. If you are given the choice between a five star hotel or a small bedroom in a family's house, don't hesitate – stay with the family. You get a chance to experience the country in a way that simply isn't possible in any other way. Tours are great, but they are an insular world and not necessarily the real country one is visiting. And if one gets to stay with a really great family, then the experience is one that will be remembered and cherished forever. Such was my recent experience in Russia and Finland. Besides seeing all the incredible sights of the cultural wonderland currently called St. Petersburg, I also got to experience the people somewhat. I had a chance to go into the supermarkets, the stores, ride in the cars and walk some streets not on the obvious maps. I had a chance to talk politics with normal people. By the way – They LOVE Putin. That's not propaganda.

I will, most likely, create several web pages devoted to this trip – but for now this blog entry is strictly to say Thank you to the Ruchkin family – Sasha, Helena, Alexander and Dasha – who may or may not read this. Families like this are what reminds you what a great place the world is.

Once the dedicated pages are created (dutifully added to the list of things to do), I will direct you to them. Look forward to the hearing about the harrowing traffic, the nerve wrecking drive to the opera, impressions of St. Petersburg life and the art and the palaces – oh, the art and palaces.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Get out of Dodge

I've written a couple blog essays that I haven't published. It's just as easy to hit the 'draft' or 'delete' button as the publish button. It's something more people should do more often. I include myself in that bunch. This entry may deserve one of those buttons, but I'm putting something up to let people know I'm actually still getting in front of the computer.

Plenty has been happening in the last month, which may be one of the reasons I haven't been blogging so much. We're in the midst of AFM (The American Film Market) which has seemed quiet this year. A friend, in town with his movie, has been making some decent sales -- so I guess things are going alright in spite of the seeming lack of energy.

Elsewhere in town the Red flags are waving again, which is frightening. They indicate high winds – hot winds – dangerous winds. The danger of fire is still present even though more humidity is in the air and the temps have dropped. For the most part, the signs of the devastating fires of the past weeks are over where I live. The plainest sign of them was the air – skies that would turn Orange and Gray, and a haze over everything. Though There was only one day that was really bad, I have had a small cough for days and my throat feels similar to the 'day after a party'. Since there hasn't been a party most evenings before, I attribute it to the smoke that was once forests and homes.

The biggie now for many people in this town is the impending Writer's strike. It's going to come to pass and the feeling is that it's going to last a long time, that it will wipe a lot of people out – and ultimately, that writers will lose. It's a shame and the deregulation of the 80's, which has continued to run rampant to this day, is one of the big reasons it will be so difficult for writers to win. Huge multi-faceted corporations are hard to beat. Sony, et all, don't need to make movies to survive. It's a hell of a beast that's being fought, made worse by the fact that all the unions haven't banded together to fight at the same time. Over and over, people in the film business prove themselves as being their own worst enemies.

If one believes in residuals for artists, (which is a well established part of the pay equation) the fight is justified. It would be nice if the AMPTP weren't so greedy. But they are. And so – the strike will happen.

Seems a good time to get out of town for a bit, and coincidentally, that's just what I'm doing. In two days, I will be in Helsinki, Finland and then off to St. Petersburg, Russia. No computers, no internet, no cell phone, no nothing. It will be the first time since I had my first 2400 baud modem that I will be away from it all so completely. Wish me luck on that, and expect to see full postings of the journey when I return.

Best of luck to all that live and work in Los Angeles.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Writers with a ‘Sense of Foreboding’

Tell me about it. Tell any writer about it. If this is what you do for a living:

  1. You are to be pitied.
  2. You know damn well a sense of foreboding is hanging over your head every moment of the day.
    1. Will I have another good idea?
    2. Will I get paid?
    3. Will I eat?
    4. Will I get read?
    5. Will I get produced?
    6. Will my words get edited into a strange approximation of what I actually wrote?
    7. Will the critics rip me up?

Unfortunately, this sense of foreboding is about the WGA/AMPTP negotiations. A couple months ago my money was on 'no strike'. Now, I don't know. I think we're in for some lousy times. Heck, we're already there because most people are assuming that there will, in fact, be a strike; and the town has been in that mode for some time now.

The smart money in this town is betting on a strike-- Damn it! Because it doesn't matter if you're in the union or not, this is shutting down the town for the most part. It messes with the mindset of everyone, large or small.

Basically, I'm anti-union. Yes, the idea of a union is a good one but it's been so abused and I have seen unions screw things up so much, that I have a knee jerk response to them. Maybe it's because I am also a producer. In the case of the WGA, I am also not overly impressed by their abilities; not as a bargaining entity, and certainly not as an ethical business. That goes for all the guilds by the way, not just the WGA.

That disclaimer made: I hate to say it, but this strike, if that's what happens… has to happen. While the AMPTP did take their initial 'rollback' -- "oh, and *uck you" off the table (that was the one where they wanted to end residuals as they now exist), they are standing fast with the main issue, which is residuals for internet downloads etc. Yes there are other things thrown in for confusion, but that's the one this is all about.

And writers need to not bend on it. Everyone talks about how this is the future. Well scribes, I have news for you -- It's already here. My last movie made almost as much money with VOD as with DVD. It's a big secret that is being kept quiet by the Producers at this point. I know—I'm privy to all the business side of my movies. DVD's and other physical media are going the way of the DODO bird. Writers, jump on download residuals now or lose.

So this is why, with a heavy heart and very mixed feelings -- even though I hate unions and even though this is really screwing my projects up, I believe -- The Writers Guild has to stay firm.

Now, with that said, I'll get angry again. Why, why, why, can't these stupid guilds band together? You want to fight the man? Get together! Today, in the same story that mentioned the "sense of forboding", SAG (actors guild for those who don't know) said they wouldn't walk out with the Writers. Yes, they have their own negotiations coming up as do the directors – but why does everyone have to protect their precious hide so much?

Band together, you bastards, and do it right. Remember – United we stand?

To read the full LA TIMES story, click here.


Also, if you're a writer and you're not already aware of this Craig Mazin's blog, shame on you… and get over there now.


Monday, October 08, 2007

But is it art?

Some friends of mine returned from far-away lands. We hadn't seen them for a long time and just had a wonderful evening with them. Unexpected gifts from these far-away lands were an additional delight.

I must explain that these friends have impeccable tastes. But they also have a sense of humor which will sometimes manifest itself as a "comment" about 'taste' and "what is good". They can find charm and meaning in something with no artistic merits whatsoever; absolutely BAD can in itself, be art. Or they can trash what others would consider High-art. They may laud the taco wagon under the overpass or trash the five-star French Restaurant. The same goes for music, art exhibitions, etc. They themselves are serious artists – in many mediums - including culinary.

This may seem strange and excessive introduction, but is a necessary stage-set for the following.

One of the gifts they gave us was this…

At home, Marianne and I studied it, not entirely sure of what it was. Marianne thought it was perhaps a plaque to be hung somewhere - somehow.

I thought it was to be eaten. After all, it would be a horrible piece of 'art' to be hung anywhere. But if it was food, she wondered, why was it glued to the wood? And if it was food, why would it be on a plaque of wood, a piece of a log in fact, in the first place? I argued that the wood was presentation – that could be used as wished afterwards: A tiny cheese cutting block, or kindling on a cold winter night… the possibilities were quite varied. I didn't have an explanation for the glue.

The 'what is it?' was shrink-wrapped and labeled in the language of the far-away land from whence it was brought. Incidentally, I can read, write and speak this far-away language – thereby complicating the matter.

I read the label on the back, which was a list of ingredients. I could make out some of the ingredients: flour, sugar, food dye. Others, I couldn't translate quickly. All of these things were potentially food – or paste for an arts and crafts project. What I could also easily translate was a warning at the end of the ingredients: Not for children under 14. Hmm… dangerous?

The 'what is it?' sat on the kitchen counter for the day.
Later, while Marianne was running errands, I wandered into the kitchen, esoteric discussions of past floating about in my head. Is it art? What is art? Define Art? Cripes that's awful art. My friends have good taste – but they are witty and occasionally troublemakers. It could be a 'comment' about the whole nature of gift giving and trinkets from far away lands. I was in a quandary. Damn.

I pressed on the "pretzel" and the "sausage". They were malleable. The "Mustard" was hard as rock. All were solidly affixed to the scrap of log. This mystery was not revealing itself easily.

After mulling it over for several minutes, turning it this way and that, pressing gently, rereading the labels – wondering if I should hang it up in the kitchen above the spices, I did what any true art critic or meta-art critic or artist or any derivation of the whole tortured business would do.

I ate it.

When Marianne came home I mentioned to her what I had done. She looked at the cross section of the pretzel (and the sausage – I ate a piece of that too).

"I guess we're not hanging it up", she noted. She asked me what it tasted like. I wasn't sure. I had tasted it before, but I couldn't recall if it was when eating dessert at a high-end restaurant or when eating Play-Dough in first grade. Food group or Kitsch Art, there was less of it in either case. So Marianne did what any art critic, meta-critic, or any derivation of the whole tortured business would do.
She cut off a piece and ate it.

You can say this about us: We may not know art when we see it, but we know it when we eat it.

The plaque of pretzels, sausages and mustard was marzipan, of course. Thanks B, E&A. We love it!

Currently there is an exhibition of Cosima Von Bonin artwork at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a multimedia artist; he doesn't hang everything on the walls either. The museum is merely minutes away. We're thinking about going there for lunch.

It does look lovely between the spice racks.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

WGA – Will they, won’t they? And where’s my damn money?

Fall – the weather is beautiful as is to be expected in Southern California. For the moment, I'm listening to Bach, sitting under the pergola with the laptop. A picture perfect moment.

While that sounds like a nice respite, it is in fact, incredibly inconvenient; a moment created because the internet is not working. I'm on a silly deadline to write something (a favor for a friend) that is due within a few days and has not yet been started. I'm expecting to do a few interviews for which information may or may not be awaiting; won't know till the internet comes back. Can't make a phone call on my landline cause it's voip. It's frightening how much I've come to rely on that umbilical cord. I suppose I could go to a local coffee shop with my cell phone and computer -- but that's simply uncivilized.

Onto Real issues that might actually interest someone:

The WGA has just re-elected the same board as before. A couple changes, but not many. I don't really have much thought on that, so I'll keep quiet. However, shortly after the elections, the WGA put a vote to its members – a permission to strike vote. That takes this town one step closer to the mess that always arises from strikes. The arguments for and against the vote are all with merit. Those that want a "YES" say that giving the board the power to initiate a strike will give them leverage; that a NO would show weakness in the face of negotiations with the thugs that are the AMPTP (studios). Those in favor of "NO" argue that the board is a bunch of trigger happy non-writers, not overly concerned with general rank and file. Both sides are right. And in this era of stupid wars wrought by stupid presidents, we don't have to look far to see the consequences of giving people power to wage battle.

At this point in time, everybody – the studios, the Guild – are making crazy demands of each other. Where it ends is anyone's guess at this point. My gut tells me there will not be a strike. How much more than that, I don't know. My feeling is that, given the success of the last strike (not very) and the way television has moved toward 'unscripted' shows, a strike would be a real tough nut for the writers. It's not made any easier by the fact that the studios are entities within multi-conglomerates. A strike against Sony or Warner or the like is not going to kill them. Sony makes computers and a bazillion other things. Warner basically owns the world (my non-working internet is via Time-Warner). Unfortunately, I fear that these days, the studios can weather a strike much more ably than the writers. If it were up to me, I'd try to convince writers, directors and actors to give the finger to the studios and start their own damn studios. Okay, so I'm still a bit of a dreamer.

In other Guild-related news … I got another foreign levies check from the DGA. This surprised me greatly as I expected the first one to be a one-off. It's not as if they are still playing my first feature on German television… are they? More interesting is the fact that that thus far, the WGA has not come close to equaling the amount the DGA has written. The amount apportioned both guilds is supposedly the same – so somewhere, someone isn't doing their job properly. Doing the job properly of course is assuming that one agrees that it is their job in the first place.

Which really, it's not. They just 'volunteered' for the job.

And along the lines of that thought – a director friend of mine, alerted by yours truly to the whole concept of foreign levies, discovered that he is owed "under fifty dollars" in foreign levies by the DGA. However, he was told that they are holding on to this levies money because it's their policy not to write checks to people for amounts of less than fifty bucks.
How very nice.

I love it when someone says "it's our policy…" This guild is holding on to money that doesn't belong to them because they have "a policy?" I wonder how many 'less than fifty dollar amounts' they are holding onto? Actually, I don't wonder – I know. MILLIONS… by their very admisson!
Earning interest.
Which they keep.

Keep in mind, the guild was never authorized by my friend to collect his money. The guild is not responsible for having 'created' his money. It's money that was collected by overseas entities. The guild just took, I mean, collected it. Now they have a policy not to give it to him? What if (and this is more likely than not) his movie never makes another dime? Do they keep the fifty indefinitely?

Hmmm. I could have a policy to beat up people that happen to pass by my house. Doesn't make it legal.

That's show biz, folks.

Oh, and with that, my internet seems to have come back.

I'll try to get a few more blog entries written before I go to Russia. Oh yeah – I'm going to Russia!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


The Pre-viz is finished!

Well, it still has a few more things to be done. I'm going to replace a voice and trim two shots, but basically it's finished; Finished enough that I'm able to start thinking about other things.

Though this is an industry tool – I'm putting it online for your viewing pleasure. I don't know how long it will remain online, but I see no harm in doing so now.

Currently the file is rendering. My laptop is running at a toasty 75 degrees Celsius and the processor is at full bore – almost literally cooking through the file.

This project has been fun but it's also been a lot of work. It took about two months of ten-to-fourteen hour days to do the ten minutes that you can see – which included learning, improving, and honing my skills with the software itself. The details are what really take the time in these projects. Anyone who has done 3D work will know what I mean. A basic move or virtual world might not take too long to build, provided you know what you're doing -- but getting things to go juuust right… That's the time suck.

Every camera move, every person, every virtual inch of the set – the world – is created. If you re-direct an 'actor' to go somewhere a little more quickly, it means that every camera following his/her/its action has to also be adjusted. And so on with every aspect of the world.

23 minutes left of render time…

I could go on describing the difficulties, but that's not the point.

So what is the intention of this pre-viz? The screenplay for Diamond Chasers is getting very good reviews. That's great, but that's certainly no end game. It's just a start. As it "goes out" into the world, I'm giving it an extra push with these ten minutes. There will be other elements to demo it in addition to what you'll see.

This ten minutes of this pre-vis represent pages 20-30 of the screenplay: The ACT 1 break.

Here are the actual pages from the script. You might have fun comparing them to the actual pre-viz.

The pre-viz not only visualizes the pages, but also visualizes them in the way I would do it; so it's also a demo of my directing style… this is pretty much the way I see these pages (as live action, of course) If you like it, it not only means you'd like the movie as a screenplay, it means my native directing style would be to your liking.

12 minutes left of render time…

When working in the 3D world, it's very easy to do camera moves that would be absolutely impossible to do in real life. The WOW factor might be very high but that's not really the point. It's not supposed to remind you of a video game, it's supposed to be like a live action movie. It was "directed" as a live action piece. This means that I didn't really use the conventions that an animated piece might use to accentuate character emotion. Take this into account when you watch the characters faces – these will eventually be live people, grimacing, gaping, wondering, screaming…

The HOW of it all

Except for two shots – the shots of fuel gauges, this pre-viz was done with ANTICS 3D. The fuel gauge shots were done in After Effects. Any custom set stuff was either done in Photoshop (when 2d) or exported from 3D MAX (which I don't know how to use past making extremely simple models based on unaltered primitives)

4 minutes left of render time… Done… 9 minutes to upload…

And now – here it is…

Diamond Chasers

After viewing, hit the Back button on your browser to return to this blog.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Still grinding the stone with my nose

Just a quick note to let people know I'm actually alive. I'm still in full 3D mode on the pre-viz, but the light at the end of the tunnel has gotten pretty bright. I'm (I believe) about a day away from being done with the visuals; and then I can move on to sound, blessed sound. My friend, mathboy pointed out that this would represent ten percent of the movie. Quite a bit of screen time for such a relatively short period of work. It's also - in terms of animation - some of the more difficult stuff - though the bar room brawl, and the final aerial hand-to-hand battle would be pretty tough too.

In the meantime, I've put a new little do-dad on the right column of the blog. It's an IM of sorts. Good for if you wanna send me a quick note that's not specific to a blog post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

All work and no play, but Johnny is happy

The Me7erg Ergohuman office chair by Raynor is quite a great piece of engineering.

Before you think I've sold out and am shilling for the company, I'm not. It's just that I've been spending twelve and thirteen hours glued to my chair, in front of the computer and – no pain. Wow, wonderful! Since plenty of people peruse this blog because a google search for a good office chair has led them here, I thought I'd mention it once again. It deserves it.

I'm in the midst of building the pre-vis for The Diamond Chasers and yesterday, I goofed around with adding some sound. Something I say every time I post a movie or show of some sort is how important sound will be. I've said this to countless past clients as well as many a test audience, however, I never cease to be amazed by just how effective music is. Every time I add sound (music and/or effects) to a project, I am as amazed and thrilled as the first time I did it. Doing this pre-vis has given me a chance to experience the drug-like rush without having spent the millions (which it would be in this case) of actual production. As I'm watching some of the roughs, with sound, I firmly believe that if I can't fast track the movie based on these, I should go into carpet sales. Or maybe masonry. I've always fancied that.

Anyway, short story – I am deeply immersed, not exercising or eating and slowly going insane as I maneuver little people on, over and into virtual biplanes.

But man, am I having a good time and my back isn't aching.

Tomorrow I start recording voices for the pre-vis. First up is a friend of mine who, in addition to TV and film acting, does quite a bit of game VO (voiceover). I'm looking forward to hearing him do some accents and eccentricities.

Soon my masterpiece vill be complete!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hollywood Executives Call for End to Residual Payments

From the July 11th NY TIMES:

'In an unusually blunt session here today, several of Hollywood's highest-ranking executives called for the end of the entertainment industry's decades-old system of paying what are called residuals to writers, actors and directors for the re-use of movie and television programs after their initial showings.'

Now, this should instantly be filed under the "Dude, it's not April fools Day" or "Dude, give me some of that crack you're smoking" or any other number of derisive thoughts. And it will be. But for now, I have the feeling that every industry blog is writing about this as quickly as can be. I'm sure there will be similar thoughts to mine, much better worded. Think of these as quick, undisciplined musings, subject to editing.

'The executives stopped short of saying they would demand an immediate end to residual payments in the upcoming, probably difficult negotiations with writers, actors and directors. But they were emphatic in calling for the dismantling of a system under which specific payments are made when movies and shows are released on DVD, shown abroad or otherwise resold. Instead, they want to pool such revenue and recover their costs before sharing any of the profit with the talent.

"There are no ancillary markets any more; it's all one market," said Barry Meyer, chief executive of Warner Brothers. "This is the time to do it." '

Wow, from the mouth of the head of the Cosa Nostra himself. One must never forget that Warner Brothers invented the Gangster picture. There's a reason for that. Never forget that. I say this not from second hand information. I have a deal with Warners. I know. I get the statements.

The idea of pooling revenue and "sharing profit with the talent" – they should never have said that because that's the giveaway that it's gotta be a joke of some sort. Movie 'profits' and accounting are the worst, most notorious that exist. There are always expenses eating away at the profits – to the point where most movies lose money on the books.

So, this will never fly.

The thing is, I do have mixed feelings about residuals payments. Why should we (the artist) get residuals? We didn't take the risk in producing (funding) the movie, did we? We already were paid to do the work once. It's the same as if a car mechanic wanted a piece of the action when you sold your car down the line.

The studios will likely point to super stars like Tom Cruise who reportedly has made 400 million dollars on the Mission Impossible series with residuals and cry - "oh, we can't afford this." So get rid of him. Oh, yeah... you did. So the fact is that you don't have to pay it if you don't wanna.

The flipside of the argument is that movies become more valuable as the creators of them become more famous – so they should be able to share in the profits. It's also not really the same as fixing a car. It's a creative business. The talents and the faces of the of the people are the thing.

Additionally, most residuals are for actors and writers who aren't making that much money. This is life blood; a one day gig which is dependent upon their face, or words might initially pay a few thousand bucks. If it generates millions of dollars, isn't it fair to give a piece to the face or wordsmith?

Frankly, I believe, while these statements obviously have a lot to do with the upcoming negotiations of the Writers Guild (the big part of the negotiations is INCREASING residuals in future mediums), they also have something to do with the can of worms I helped open a couple months ago – about foreign levies and the perverted definition of Authorship.

See, studios buy the work that the writers, directors and actors do. They own it. Legally speaking, a "studio" could accept the Oscar for "best screenplay by" because according to copyright law with film, screenplays are "works for hire" thus – it's the studio who can take all the credit (why not go for all the money too?).

This is going to be contended; something I think will wind up at the Supreme Court level with the studios fighting tooth and nail, every step of the way. This crazy statement is an early punch in that fight. If they (AMPTP, ET AL) lose that "work for hire" definition, they will have to license the screenplays, etc. from the creators. That will solidify residuals payments in a way that doesn't exist now.

Barry Meyers, along with the other Studio/TV heads are pulling a Cheney/Bush trick: be outrageous in your statements – go WAYYY out into right field, do it righteously and with a straight face. Then, when people ask for something realistic – you're still WAYY out there. Be Audacious.

The one thing that these finite, forgettable people (Barry and co, you will be a forgotten piles of dead dust while people still talk about and remember Billy Wilder, Robert Towne, etc.) must realize… if they push on this in the slightest, every guild AND non-guild member will stop working. NO ONE is going to go for this. It's a war they can't win.

I will elaborate, perhaps edit this entry. For now, I put it up and hope to hear some comments.

Here is the link to the entire article. You may need to login or create an account – which is free and doesn't take long.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Antics 3d Pre-vis Tool is Amazing

Generally, I try to title my blog entries with something clever – something that might not make sense till the entire entry has been read. This is a practice shunned by those trying to get the most readers possible. Rightfully too; people looking through the various feeds, and google searches, etc. – would have no idea what the heck "The Old Grind", "Itchy Fingers on Keyboard", or "Partial Reveal" are about. I don't care as I'm not obsessing about building a reader base or anything of the like. Not at the moment, at least. Ironically, the most frequent searches taking people to this blog are for the ME7ERG Ergohuman office chair (which is the incredibly great chair I'm sitting on now as I write this) and Miniwax Polyshades (awful product btw), which I described when I was building a DVD shelf.

I break my tradition of obscure blog titles because I DO want people to surf to this entry – to learn more about this product.

I'm currently pre-visualizing several scenes from the movie I'm in pre-production on (to be known from now on as The Diamond Chasers) and have to report – this is one of the coolest pieces of software I've used in a long time. I'm excited in the same way I was when I moved from tape to digital editing with audio so many years ago; the same feeling as going from a typewriter to a word processor. This is a radically important piece of software. It works and it works well. It not only makes it possible to visualize a movie before it's made, it enables one to really practice directing; honing visualizations or creating entirely new ones one that might never have been thought of on set - where the ever present knowledge of cash vanishing into the ether rightfully stifles the creative musings of a director in flux.

Incorporating ik (inverse kinetics), lighting, character movement – as well as gaming logarithms AND some AI, this stuff is nuts. It's a big program and it does bog down the computer after a while, but man o man… so cool. I am not a 3D person, as I previously wrote, but this software really allows people who don't do much with 3D to avoid the mind-numbing modeling and other work, and get right to the creative stuff – creating a scene.

I will be putting the actual pre-vis online when it is finished, but for the moment – I tease with twenty seconds of part of it. There's still geometry crashing through itself, lighting and shading is super basic and still in test mode, timing isn't right, I'm still playing with camera angles – and it's obviously silent – but it gives an idea of what can be done with this incredible program.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Okay, I'm back with an honest to god entry. It's bad when people start razzing me from other continents.

Somethings I've noted about why personal blogs and websites are or aren't updated in general:

  1. Nothing is happening in your real life, so you sit in front of the computer and write meaningless entries about meaningless things.
  2. A lot is happening in your real life, so you don't have the time to write about all the interesting things going on.
  3. You are shamelessly promoting something (usually yourself), so you are trying to keep yourself out there in the world and will write about anything to do so. This frequently devolves into reviews of things or editorializing about other people.
  4. Things are happening in your life and you are so well organized with your time that you are able to find the time to write about them.

By the way, I don't really think #4 exists – unless you are a paid writer. I am a paid (occasionally) writer, but since this blog is strictly for kicks, it gets updated last. And I admit to having been guilty of all the above enumerated reasons.

That all said…

The script for the next project is done. Well, at least it is as done as it's going to be until the next set of changes falls upon it. That's the way it goes.

I'm happy with it, the happiest I have been with any script I've written. Early word back from readers is that - this is it. Which is good because it's going out.

"Going out", for those not familiar with the vernacular of show business types who have the pathologic need to drop dopey phrases to appear 'in', means – The script is going to be sent to people who could help move it to future phases.

"It's going out" is most frequently used by people who "Do Lunch" and "Take Meetings". In case you're rolling your eyes about how infantile everyone in Hollywood is, these are expressions most frequently used by people who aren't actually 'in' but are rather, desperately trying to appear 'in'.

I will leave further snarkiness about Hollywood to those that do it better and focus instead on what I'm beginning to do now – which, actually – is really cool and also the title of this entry.


Given the cost of making movies and given the collaborative nature of the form, from early on, pictures, sketches, still photos, etc. have been used to demonstrate the director's vision. This is most often done for stunt scenes or situations where camera coverage has to be done absolutely perfectly and hopefully as best as possible, artistically. A conversation between two people is not so important. Any decent director should be able to come up with an interesting way to cover those on set. Or perhaps, not so interesting a way, but still a serviceable filming thereof. Okay, some directors should pre-vis a conversation between two people.

Pre-visualizations are also a way to aid in pitching the movie to those who might become instrumental in getting the damn thing to happen in the first place. Frequently these are the same people the movie "goes out" to.

Pre-visualization of stories has, over the years, become quite sophisticated: moving from pencil sketches to beautiful oil painted renderings, to full animations, or clips from other movies; all to demonstrate, "It'll look something like this!"

That's what I'm doing now.

I'm beginning to work on a visual and audible demonstration of what parts of the movie will look, but more importantly, feel like. Basically, it's a fancy sales tool. The idea is that it will help people actually pick up the script and read it – and get it. An unfortunate (and I am one of these people) problem is that reading scripts is a drag. For one thing, there's so many of them. There really has to be a reason. Either you're doing it as a favor, or it's a potential gig. Though a good script can be a great read, I don't think anyone actually reads them for pleasure. Watching something for a few minutes is much easier.

Though I can't draw my way out of a paper bag, I'm a pretty handy animator when it comes to doing 2D animation on a computer. Certainly, I'm no Scott Hale, or any of the wiz kids working up North, but I can get by. 3D though has never been my bag. Too much scrolling around a virtual world, and I always end with 3D characters that look fine from one angle, but from another angle have arms three feet away from their bodies. If you've done any 3D work, you might know what I'm talking about.

In researching methods of doing previs work, I found several pieces of software which I've demo'd. In this brave world we're in, there seems to be a tool for every job. Of all of them, one blew me away. Designed specifically for this exact job, thus far it seems very workable – even for a 3d challenged person. You build a set, inhabit it with characters, direct them, place cameras and move them… and it creates full motion, with all the camera dollies, cranes, lens, etc. built in. Depending on how crazy you want to get, it can do some pretty decent shading and rendering (that roughly translates to – how realistic it looks in the end).

Though it was rather expensive, I just bought it, and am now crash coursing myself on how to use it properly. I feel certain that it will worth the investment.

This is also a tool that could really allow for an idea I proposed around 'town' about nine years ago. More on that in future entries.

So, there you have it. Expect to read much more about the previs of Diamond Road, and hopefully soon, see some examples.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

I promise to return to the subject of my Los Angeles life and the entertainment business soon.

But not quite yet. Not for the Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial day is a strange holiday. It's a time to remember all those who died having served our country in war.
It's a very noble holiday. However, like Christmas, it's been co-opted by big business. One of the most guilty is, of course, Hollywood. This weekend translates into big bucks. Get the pirates out there waving their swords. It's seen as a harbinger of business to come for the summer months.

Did you know that Memorial Day originally was to honor the dead of the American Civil War?

There is irony as I think about memorial day this year and how the monkey is guaranteeing a fresh stock of bodies for us to be memorializing for years to come - in what is now another civil war.

So, while you eat your Hamburgers and drink your sodas and beer, do think about the soldiers of the past that never got to see another picnic. About that, don't be cynical. People laid their lives down fighting great battles that were important. Battles against true evil - especially during World War Two.

But also, think hard about these newly dead.

And think about what this well dressed animal is eating this weekend.

What is he celebrating?

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I'm disgusted with the Democrats.

Why are they such weak-spined... politicians?
Imagine I said that last word with bile pushing the 'P'.

Big promises, broken as they bent over for the Monkey that defiles our country.

Is it a surprise? No. But it doesn't mean I'm not disappointed.

Watch this to see what this war is costing us.

Oh, and by the way --- the numbers are now out of date.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Why the difference?

If you haven't read my article about foreign levies yet, you should. It will put this entry in more perspective.

Today I got a check from the WGA for foreign levies. A few days ago, I got one from the DGA.

In both cases, the amount of information about where the money came from was pitifully miniscule. In the case of the WGA check, there was no information at all.

I know the WGA has the information as some of it was read to me over the phone. Why didn't they include with the check?

Unfortunately, there is something more disconcerting. These checks, from both the guilds, are supposed to be identical in size. The most the difference would/should be would be 3% -- based on the fact that the WGA takes a 5% commission for their hard work vs. the DGA's 2%.

The WGA check was almost 50% LESS than the DGA check. This would lead one to believe that perhaps, past the obvious problems with foreign levies that I've already written about, there is something else "problematic". The checks in question are also four figure checks, not a couple bucks.

Obviously, I will be investigating this further, and hopefully the WGA will provide me with more information, and an explanation about this rather large discrepancy.

Since these are the first checks that have come from foreign levies, past payments, different accounting periods, etc. can't be used as legitimate excuses. Bottom line – these checks should be the same size.

The thing that is disturbing: I'm the writer and director (as well as producer) of the project in question. Had I only been the writer, I would never have known about this nor had anything to compare the WGA check to.

I really hate to be a sore spot for the Guilds, but damn it, why couldn't they be above board?



Thursday, May 17, 2007

A bright spot in all the grim news

This blog is called Stefan Avalos tells all.
It was done in a fit of unoriginal energy when I first created it a few years ago.
Well, in the spirit of letting people know what really pleases me, and because he says it so much better than I would, here is a clip that I hope will bring as much joy to you as it has me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Island Fire

I certainly hope my blog doesn't turn into a fire report as 2007 continues. However, two days after Griffith Park, Catalina is on fire.

Catalina Island is a resort island about 30 miles off the coast of California – twenty six miles, if you want to sing about it. When Marianne and I moved to Los Angeles, we spent our first Thanksgiving there. We sailed to the island with a neighbor and had thanksgiving dinner on the boat, before going ashore and spending a day. I've been back a few times since – camping, or a sailing destination.

The island is a magical one. By Ferry, you can get to it from the mainland in about forty minutes. Once there, you're a million miles away from reality, though you're still technically in Los Angeles County. Some tourists have asked if they use American Currency – that's how different it feels. No cars, just golf carts, and only two small towns – Avalon and Two Harbors. The rest of the island is wild. There are trails you can walk or bike (provided you have a bike permit and proper tires) but for the most part, it's inaccessible.

Now it's on fire. As I write this, they say 4000 acres are burning. Though the town of Avalon is a concern, I wonder about all the wildlife. Buffalo roam the island as do all kinds of other animal you won't find anywhere. The Wrigleys (who originally owned the island) have an amazing cactus garden there. Will that survive?

It doesn't take long to destroy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Push…ahhh… SPLASH!

An interesting story in today's L.A. Times.

While this is not directly related to the story I wrote, it certainly is indicative of the foreign levies program run by the guilds. If the scandal grows to the proportions I believe it could, I wonder if others – "bigger" others, will be handed over to the police as readily as this low-level person.

Writers Guild seeks police probe of former employee
By Richard Verrier, Times Staff Writer
May 10, 2007

The union representing Hollywood TV and film writers has formally asked Los Angeles police to investigate a former employee who it alleges embezzled union funds.

A report filed Monday by the Writers Guild of America, West, alleges that Michelle Trinh, a former assistant administrator in its foreign levies department, misappropriated $17,000 in union funds by issuing unauthorized checks to the sister of her boyfriend.

The filing of a police report does not mean Trinh has been charged with a crime. Investigators will look at the allegations and prosecutors will decide whether to file criminal charges.

Trinh, whose responsibilities included disbursing funds and researching names in a member database, could not be reached for comment.

Guild officials have declined to comment on the report or the circumstances of Trinh's recent departure.

Last week, guild officials acknowledged that an internal investigation found evidence of missing funds and that the matter was being turned over to authorities.

Trinh, 28, worked in the department that has come under growing scrutiny over its handling of fees levied by foreign governments to compensate writers for the reuse of their work.

Over the years, the guild has amassed a pool of foreign levy funds totaling $20 million that it has failed to distribute. That has fueled criticism that the guild is improperly holding on to money that belongs to hundreds of writers or their heirs.

Guild officials have dismissed allegations that they are deliberately holding on to the funds, citing such problems as scant information provided by foreign collection societies and the difficulty of tracking down authors who aren't union members.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hell's Flurry

The smell of smoke is still in the air but has diminished quite a bit.
What's most surreal is that at a couple points this morning, it looked like a very light snow flurry outside. Outside, collected against walls and wherever the wind wants are the faint drifts of the "snow" - which of course is the ash of the trees and brush.

It's still early so the temperatures as of yet are cool. It's going to be another hot day, so the fire fighters are racing against time.
From what I understand, the fire is under control and from our house we don't see any smoke.

I've grabbed a couple pics from yahoo and put them here. I didn't take these pics, so if a copyright holder gets annoyed, let me know.

This area is near the famous old Merry Go Round

Imagine seeing this view from your house?

I described the the fires looking like a volcano in the midst of the city.
Perhaps these photos help visualize that.

It's hard to comprehend that just a couple miles away, firemen have been waging a battle on the ground and from the air that has been as intense as many a military battle. Seeing it on the news, and seeing with my own eyes, I give them my utmost respect and thanks.

The Inferno

It's not the same when you see it with your own eyes.
The fire, which got a lot worse as night fell is hard to describe. On television, the aerial shots are horrific: firefighters dragging houses, dwarfed by flames that are inhaling trees and brush.

The smell of smoke is in the air. There's no escaping it. inside, outside, it doesn't matter. It's in our clothes.
Tonight we went to a friend's place in Pasadena. Like the photo I took in the last post, the smoke is awing to behold - however, to see the flames. That brings a different level of disbelief.
As we drove along the freeway (134N) to our left, the fire - not a string, not even a wall - more accurately - fields of fire, raging deep orange flames - stretched out over not one, but several mountain and hillsides. I've never seen anything like it and I find myself grasping for words.
On the way back home, the sight was equally surreal: A ring of flames in the mountains, appearing to be perhaps a mile in diameter, the center a flickering, pulsing faint red. The best way to describe it would be that the mountains look like a volcano, the opening a mile wide, full of seething lava. In the sky, helicopters point beams of light into the smoke and flames below.

All in the middle of the city I live in.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Heating up

Here is what you never want to see... but to see it in May is very frightening.

The fire is in Griffith Park and as I write this, it is still going strong.
It's the kind of fire that could be devastating; we're basically talking the Hollywood Hills here - ablaze! There's a zoo, golf courses, museums, not to mention all the homes, the multi-million dollar homes.
With the hot, dry winds of the last couple days and with temperatures of 95, it seemed inevitable.
But it's evidently the work of an arsonist.

What keeps going through my mind is - it's only May.
We only had three inches of rain since last July, the driest season on record.
My God, this is going to be a rough summer in California.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The sound of things hitting

The stories – the LA TIMES, the LA WEEKLY and FADE IN (mine) are starting to cause a stir.

The WGA just issued a press statement in regards to what is going on.

In the interest of fairness, here is a link to it.

On the other side of the coin, here is an email the editor of FADE IN received in regards to the story.

I thought your article about the foreign levies scandal at the WGA and DGA was wonderful. But in terms of the unanswered question as to whether this is inefficiency or corruption, I can assure you as someone who served two terms on the Board of Directors of the WGA it is:

Corruption. The Guild has been deliberately stealing as much of this money and has engaged in a huge cover up. That cover up is falling apart now, but the corrupt people remain in charge.

Writers and Directors won't get their money until the
people running these Guilds are exposed.

J. F. Lawton

J.F. Lawton is a pretty well respected screenwriter in addition to having been on the board. His most famous writing credit is Pretty Woman.

A little day in my life to keep you entertained.

A couple weeks ago, Marianne and I went out to enjoy a nice cool night in our Hot tub only to discover – cold water. Very cold water.

Flipping the switch to turn it on was followed by heart sinking silence.

A couple days later I was able to determine that the pump that circulates water when it is heating had died - a 160 dollar part.

Thanks to the wonders of Google, I found a warehouse in Arizona selling the pump for $65.00. I called, only to be quickly told by the very friendly woman, that if I was calling about the little pumps on the Internet, they were all sold out.

We talked for a few minutes longer before she told me to wait while she took a look on the shelves. Lo and behold, there was one pump, but it hadn't been sold for a reason. Upon opening the box, she saw the reason. It had no power cord, hence no one wanted it. She opened it up but couldn't figure out where a cord would even go. For them, a useless item collecting dust on a shelf. I asked her if I could buy it and she told me to "make an offer".

"Ten bucks?" I asked, figuring that if it couldn't be salvaged, no harm done.

Done deal… fifteen dollars with shipping.

Today, I wired it up and HA HA, it worked!

Another three dollars and change in plumbing parts, and about forty minutes to put it in, and I'm back in action.

Total cost: $18.61

The Dead Pump… and it was only twenty one years old.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Story Has Gone Live!

Because of yesterday's double hit in the presses, the Editor of FADE IN Magazine decided to do the very rare thing of putting the story online before it even hits the streets.

So, dear reader – I submit to you –

It's on the right column of the website.

Also, if you are a writer or director (or if you want to see the extent of the lists) click on the links at the end of the story.

Please leave me comments here. I'm looking forward to them.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Partial Reveal

Okay, a little bit of info. More as I receive it.

The investigative story that I've been researching and writing is going to be in this coming issue of FADE IN magazine.

What appears to be the cover. I'll let you know as soon as I have one in hand.

My story is about the foreign levies programs of the WGA and DGA.

Never heard of the words "Foreign Levies"? Didn't think so.

Sounds dull? Trust me, it's not.

Remember how I was racing against a couple other writers covering the same story? Well, they both hit the streets yesterday. However, it's not a bad thing – one was in the La Times, the other in the LA Weekly. The LA Times story is good, however the LA Weekly article is incredible. In the spirit of accepting and acknowledging Dennis McDougal's great investigative writing, here's a link to it. My story covers some of the same ground, however it is a bit more independent filmmaker oriented.

You could very well be witnessing the beginnings of a monumental scandal – a scandal you can't quite call a "Hollywood" scandal, because it involves so many people not truly associated with Hollywood.

I'm going to try to keep my blog the free form, "day in my life" thing It's been. However, be prepared to see some future entries get very industry and film specific.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Babble On, Hollywood

As part of this magazine story I've been writing (yes, it has still been in process, now two weeks beyond the original deadline), I tracked down a rather reclusive director. It was an exercise in detective work on my part because certain entities (I promise you will eventually find out what the hell I've been alluding to) said they couldn't find him. It was also because, not only do these entities owe this guy money, he is a legend. It was an excuse to take a walk on the wild side – and tell him of money owed him; certainly a good ice breaker in any situation.

After a bit of searching, I was given his address by someone who said that postal mail was the only way to communicate with him.

Because he has no telephone, this really is the only way to reach him. His mailing address rather than a P.O. box, was an actual address in Hollywood complete with suite number.

I decide to drive to the address. Perhaps I could talk to someone there.

The address led to a seedy hotel in a seedy part of Hollywood. Actually, it was a youth hostel.

The front desk told me that yes, this is where the person I was looking for lived and, after leaving my ID, explained how to find his room.

I entered a tiny elevator, the type where only two people can fit at a time, with the steel cage you close around you; and arrived at his floor with a shaky clang.

I slid the steel door open and then walked down the long, narrow, windy hallway that was painted about four different colors from start to finish until I reached his room.

I stared at the brown painted metal door with the large peephole in the center for a long while. Behind this door possibly was a legend of avant-garde cinema. Then I knocked. I heard the shuffling of feet. Then the door opened slightly and around it peered the annoyed face of the eighty year old director.

"What do you want?" he asked, staring at me with baleful eyes.

I, rather nervously, told him who I was and then, before I had a chance to tell him I had information that would lead to money for him... Kenneth Anger slammed his door in my face.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Night and I'm Ready to Rock

So what am I doing? – GUESS?!! Guess starts with a ‘G’ which is also used in the “GRRRR” sound.

No fault of the editor, it would be so easy to blame dear Audrey – no, a court ruling just (as in merely hours ago) came down in regards to my story. Now, instead of it going to press - to bed, as it were, I’m back to transcribing brand new interviews and amending the story.

Take into consideration, this magazine is a quarterly that comes out on Thursday… not a freakin’ daily paper. It’s supposed to be going to press now, so that it hits the streets across the country on Thursday!


Well, actually, she (Audrey) is amending the story. I haven’t seen it, but evidently, she’s doing quite the “polish”. I hope in “polishing” my story that it:

  1. Still has balls. (not castrated)
  2. Remains balanced. (balls haven’t grown too large)

Okay, no more comparisons to Bulls, or Steers, or whatever might have been conjured in your mind by my rather colorful words. Forgive me.

For the evening, I am stuck in front of the computer, or at least within the earshot distance of the sweet sounds telling me - I have new Email.

Overall, in spite of my laments and GRRR-inding of my teeth at the additional work, this is exciting. The story that I discovered, that little tidbit that I thought would be a nice informational piece for writers and directors turned out to be such a whopper, it boggles my mind.

Soon… soon, dear reader I will tell you what the hell this is all about.

For all you Sherlock types out there, this entry has probably given enough information that you could figure out the story and the magazine.

Or, just wait another couple days.

Ps – anyone know the band that sang the song with the blog title in it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

All Quiet…

The article was resubmitted in its final (at least my final) incarnation.

The emails from the editor have stopped. I think now, with the street date basically one week away, they (she and her employees) must be going crazy with fact checking, grammatical checking (I hope), illustrating, proofing, layout and all the other things I know nothing of, that go into printing a magazine.

Or perhaps she decided she hates the story and has decided not to print it. See? There's my insecurity. If you're a professional, you're supposed to do your work, hand it in, fix as required, repeat as required. Personal feelings of competency be damned.

And in the end, it is a darn good, important story… so I know she likes it.

Still, there is that child within that seeks some kind of validation – a "well done" or "good writing" or "WOW". In the end, being printed will be validation aplenty. I'm awaiting the questions from her fact checkers now. As soon as I get confirmation that it's going in the magazine, I'll tell you which magazine and the thesis statement of the article. I'll save the rest for you to read from the pages of the magazine itself.

Okay, enough doubts about writing. Time for more doubts about writing. Screen writing, that is.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

still investigating

As per the editors interest on a part of the story I hadn't really focused on, I am investigating and re-writing part of the story.

Oh the tangled web some people seem to be weaving...

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Old Grind

Two blogs in under twenty four hours. That can mean only one thing. I'm dawdling, not doing what I should be doing.

While I wait for word from the editor regarding the article, I'm walking around in circles. It's time for me to crack open the work from two weeks ago. In that regard, this assignment was perfect for my head – much better than a vacation. My mind was one hundred percent occupied with something besides 'screen' writing. Now, it's back to the real world, which for me is one of intrigue, synthetic diamond smuggling and stolen biplanes.

I have thoughts about seeing Grindhouse this weekend. There are a couple theaters around running it digitally. I wonder though, considering what the movie is supposed to be, would it actually be better to watch it in three months from now at some small dive theater – AFTER the film print has been beaten to hell?

Wow, I bet that went over some people's head; and for you I apologize for being cinematically arcane.


Hello. How are you?

I'm back. I got a good excuse for not blogging.

The March 29th entry (god is it that long ago already) mentioned a story I had stumbled on. Itchy fingers and all.

Well, as I felt would happen, a foreword thinking editor did jump on the story. Boy, and how. Generally you get a three month (or thereabouts) lead with magazine articles. Not this time, not with this story. She wanted to put it right in the next magazine. Boom. Twelve days till press time. Yikes. And this is not a "how to" article or a human interest story. This is dead serious research, investigation, interviewing – trying to pin down people as they run behind their lawyers, and weeding out the real from the fake. As I joked to a friend of mine, I've been Bob Woodward for the last two weeks. Quite a rush.

Twelve days to deliver it all.

So that's what I've been doing. The initial story, the one I thought was good when I mentioned the itchy fingers on March 29th turned out to be a whole lot bigger. Strange how those things happen. It turned out the editors quick decision to go with putting in the next magazine was a good thing too. In the course of some interviews I crossed paths (though I don't think they know) with two other newspapers that were rooting around the same story. One is a little paper that some call the "gray lady", the other the local 'weekly' paper. I think I may be scooping them both, which would be so incredibly, delightfully, comically, surreal'ly cool.

With tomorrow being the deadline, today was to be for last minute interviews, a few double checks on facts, final revising. So, of course, Old Man Murphy came along with a ferocious windstorm that knocked the power out. All day long -- No phone, no Internet, battery power for two hours. Done.

Luckily, unlike the days of old where I would be writing papers at the last minute, the story was pretty well complete – fourteen hour days for a week straight will do that. Around five 'clock, some power came back on the other side of the neighborhood and I took a quick drive to find an internet friendly spot.

Using web based email, I was able to email the story to the editor – officially completing the process in a very strange, and slightly anti-climactic way.

Now, the power has finally returned to the house and an email from the editor tells me that they were without power too. I will have to wait till tomorrow at least to hear what thoughts they may have about it.

Once I know how they feel – and that the story is really going to go to press, I will make sure to alert you to the actual magazine and when it hits the newsstands.

Stay tuned.

Damn, with the internet back, I just see that Kurt Vonnegut died.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Itchy fingers on keyboard

It's been quite some time since my last blog entry and for that I apologize.

At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant, I just wrote an 1800 word blog entry which is simply amazing. It's about some information of which I just became aware. As I've was researching some of the details, I realized that it is a magazine worthy story, so I've had to hold off on publishing it here. Again, I'm sorry and I promise to be telling more about it soon. Suffice to say that it involves millions of dollars, hidden away from its many rightful recipients.

For the moment, I'm blanketing various film and script magazines with proposals to write the story for them. Having written for magazines before, I know the deal. Sometimes it's smooth sailing; sometimes you get an editor that's a pain. The nice thing about this story is that I am unconcerned about having to "Sell" it to some editor. It's that big. There is also egotistic comfort in the fact that if I don't get what I want, the deal that I want from any of these magazines, I'll simply not do it. HA. It's nice when you got the scoop.

Anyway, I'll cut this one short. Loose lips sink ships, and I feel my fingers growing anxious to share my story with the world.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I had a nightmare last night in which I was back in a high school math class. I was copying formulas down from the board with a pointless pencil, desperately trying to understand any of the gibberish I was copying. What’s more, the teacher was assuming this was strictly reviewing a problem before moving to the new stuff. I had absolutely no idea what any of it meant. My silent mantra as I kept copying the formula was, “Please don’t call on me. Please don’t call on me”.

Interestingly, as I think back on the rapidly fading horror, the part of the teacher was played by my true high school English teacher, not my math teacher. What does it mean? Most likely, nothing. I could stretch and think that it had something to do with re-jiggering the third act of my screenplay, trying to get all the words and sentences to fit like a math formula. Or I might extrapolate and think of it as a metaphor of sorts for not being as prepared as hoped as the we move into the second week of March.

More likely, it has to do with reading not one but two articles about math geniuses yesterday. The first was an article about a math wiz doing time in excessively harsh conditions after destroying a bunch of SUV’s in the name of ‘ecoterrorism’ – a good article to read in case you need any further reminding that the country and its associated institutions is run by below average people. The second was Richard Feynman’s Wikipedia article, at which I arrived after an email volley with my friend, Mathboy.

Because this is my blog I will show how that happened.

Stumbleupon (evil but genius firefox plugin designed for procrastination)

leads to

(click on image to appreciate)

emailing link to Mathboy

Response from mathboy (already aware)

This gem

(click on image to appreciate)

Richard Feynman Wiki

I ended up buying his book before getting back to work.

So, there is my crude flowchart of what -

A. I believe caused the nightmare.
B. was a twenty minute diversion from writing.
C. cost me $15.00
D. today's blog

Saturday, March 03, 2007

My Neighbor Alex

My neighbor Alejandro Martin died.

For most of his life, Alex had been an auto mechanic. As a retired man, he never hesitated to help neighbors and others repair their cars. I frequently saw him under the hood of any type of car, rooting out and fixing a problem. I think a lot of the younger people in the neighborhood looked up to him for that reason. He helped more than a few first-time car buyers get their wheels on the road. When, one morning, we awoke to a flattened tire due to an errant screw, he took it to his place and returned it a short while later, plugged, balanced and ready for action – of course refusing to take any money.

Not too long ago, he had been happily picking some of the various fruits of which we have an over abundance and had shared more of the neighborhood stories with me. It was he who told me the history of the house in which we live (a voodoo witch used to live here – hence the reason for all the red paint hidden beneath the newly repainted walls). I'd also seen him during the graffiti incident where he had finally brought a paint brush of his own to help with the repainting of a wall across the street.

I knew he had cancer, but it was recently diagnosed and the chemotherapy didn't seem to be taking too much out of him – or so he claimed. So when, in the midst of a sudden flurry of activity next door, I saw his son and learned "We lost dad on Saturday", Marianne and I were kind of stunned. As we have woefully noted, the transient nature of Los Angeles is unnerving. The ground on which we stand, the houses in which we live, the friends, the neighbors and the neighborhoods have such a temporary feel, that it begins to feel like we are living in a film production. The sets and actors are all transient, and "It's a wrap" might be called at any time. For his family, it also came suddenly and unexpectedly.

At his wake, seeing the photos of him throughout his life was touching. I only knew him as a man in his early sixties, but seeing him as the young guy, fresh from Mexico, hopes and dreams yet to be realized was sweet insight into his life.

Seeing Alex in the casket, I was struck, as I always am, by the ritual itself. Rather than raise any emotions, the deflated wax figure made me ponder the strangeness of a "viewing"; a relic from a primitive time to confirm that yes, they are indeed dead. The utterly false representation of the person I knew lessened the emotions I was feeling – until my eyes caught one thing – a tiny wrench placed in his breast pocket. That small piece of chromed steel really got me.

In a town where stars are born, worlds and ideas created and exploited – where wealth and fame reach incomprehensible levels, Alex was a simple man; an immigrant who dreamed of a better life and made one by working hard with his hands. However, if a sign of a man's greatness is by how many people attend his funeral, he was a great man. Every pew in the church was filled to capacity – three hundred or more people. He affected a lot of people in a positive way, myself included. I'm glad to have known him.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Everywhere around town, I am guessing that people are approaching their jobs with renewed vigor. The day after the academy awards and people are inspired. I know as I opened the document called brainstorming.doc, I was. But here I am doing a blog.

To me, it seemed that Last night's Oscars moved along at a nice swing. It helps to be – A. on the west coast where it's not insanely late when they finally end, and B. having a party where the wine flows freely and an abundance of good food is mere steps away. The awards were given to a wide range of people, the horrible dance numbers were replaced with a truly cool shadow dance show – and surprise for me who has never been a fan – Ellen DeGeneres was a really good host. Most importantly, Scorsese finally got one, and Inconvenient Truth got one. Of course, there was cheese – the worst in my opinion being Michael Mann's montage for I don't know what. Additionally, the writers montage would have been better if the entire three minutes had just been shots of empty pages through the years – empty page in a manual typewriter, empty page in an electric typewriter, green dos prompt blinking, and finally a beautifully rendered I beam cursor blinking patiently in Final Draft Version 7. But this is Hollywood, where we make everything seem sexy - so – inspired writers tapping away followed just a bit of the loneliness of the long distance writer. After all, no one wants to know the truth, do they?

And, at the insistence of the blinking cursor in a window beneath this document, I'm off to work.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chat macros suck

My thrice a week blogs have been tardy, haven't they?

Okay, not much, here's something.

The website for has been down for the past four days. I checked the first day and was told that my isp was having server issues. They apologized and said it would be up again quickly. Now, three days later, I'm at the chat window again. I had planned to write a blog entry while the following chat transpired. I think instead I will just let you read the chat transcript. This took place over the course of 45 minutes – which is a great way to practice meditative techniques to prevent hurling things against walls.


  • Please wait for a site operator to respond.

    All operators are currently assisting others. Thanks for your patience. An operator will be with you shortly.

    You are now chatting with 'Darren G.'

    Darren G.: Thank you for contacting IPOWER Live Chat. How can I help you?

    stefan: doesn't work.

    Darren G.: I'll be happy to assist you.

    Darren G.: It seems that the status of your domain is clientHold

    stefan: what does that mean?

    Darren G.: Ok

    Darren G.: Please allow me a moment

    stefan: ?

    Darren G.: Ok

    Darren G.: The Domain is got renewed now

    Darren G.: You will be able to access your domain after 12-24 hours

    stefan: why did this happen? This is very uncool.

    Darren G.: After 12-24 hours you should able to access your domain

    Darren G.: Meanwhile you can access your domain by using temporary link

    Darren G.: Is there anything else I can help you with?

    stefan: what happened to email people have sent in the last four days that it has been down?

    Darren G.: Ok

    stefan: and what the heck is this website you just sent me to?

    Darren G.: Ok

    Darren G.: Please keep changing the password, so that nobody can hack your site and upload and delete the files.

    stefan: are you telling me that the site was hacked?

    stefan: Please clarify what you are saying.

    stefan: ?

    Darren G.: I'm sorry for the delay. I'll be right with you.

    Darren G.: No

    Darren G.: Stefan we have renewed your website

    Darren G.: Your website is not hacked

    Darren G.: The status of your website was clientHold

    Darren G.: Now it is resolved now

    Darren G.: But it will take 12-24 hours to update

    stefan: two questions - what is client hold?

    stefan: why did you send me to this PITA website?

    stefan: Please understand, I was told three days ago that it was a server problem. This has been happening since the supposed auto-renewal of the domain (Feb 19th)

    Darren G.: Client/Registrar Hold is a domain name status. When doing a WHOIS search on a domain, you may find that it says Client Hold or Registrar Hold. This means that the domain name has expired (is in a suspended state). No matter what the expiration date shows, a client/registrar hold means that your domain has expired.

    Darren G.:

    Darren G.: Now it is resolved now

    stefan: this means that ipowerweb, which was supposed to take care of renewing the site, failed to do so in the appropriate time - which would explain why I just NOW received an autorenew confirmation.

    stefan: Do I need to take this up with anyone else?

    Darren G.: You can check it after 12-24 hours

    Darren G.: Stefan

    Darren G.: The issue is resolved now

    Darren G.: You need to wait for next 12-24 hours

    Darren G.: Meanwhile you can acecss your website by using temporary URL

    stefan: What is this temporary url you keep telling me to go to?

    Darren G.:

    Darren G.: You need to allow us next 12-24 hours

    Darren G.: Then you will be able to access your website by using your domain name

    Darren G.: Is there anything else I can help you with?

    stefan: I'm gonna have to say that I don't think there is anything else YOU can help me with.

    stefan: Generally, I have been happy with ipowerweb... This has been a very unsatisfying experience.

    Darren G.: I understand you are frustrated and I apologize for your inconvenience. I understand how you feel and will do my best to provide you with the best possible resolution.

    Darren G.: I have renewed your domain

    Darren G.: The problem resolved now

    Darren G.: But please allow us next 12-24 hours to update the status of your domain

    Darren G.: Is there anything else I can help you with?

    stefan: no

    Darren G.: Thank you for contacting IPOWER Live Chat.

    Darren G.: Enjoy your day.

    Darren G.: Good-bye.

    Chat session has been terminated by the site operator

Argh! – I never did find out why the heck he kept sending me to that url. Maybe he's an undercover vegetarian.