Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dirty Sexy Life Money

I'm off to the Abbot Kinney festival in Venice today. Love Abbot Kinney! Hippies and tough guys and preppies and people with strollers all joining together to listen to some unknown band and examine the prices of hand-blown glass thingers. Fun.

In the meantime, we must continue to wade through the pilots for the new season.

I begin to wonder if there are any new ideas left. It seems like everything is just a mutation of what has come before.

I watched Life yesterday. It's kind of hard to do a cop show anymore because there are so many of them, you run out of ways to make it new. This show kind of reminded me of the unfortunately canceled Touching Evil because of Damian Lewis' odd way of responding in a zenlike method to all the problems he comes across. Maybe a little Vincent D'Onofrio on L&O too, but with less leaning over. And even though it's got echoes of some stuff we've seen before, Lewis' damn adorableness is what prevents this from being like every other show. I want to watch just to see him being so freaking cute all the time. And I like his partner's own interesting side story, which definitely is different because on most cop shows your hot female partner has no backstory at all. She's just there to serve as a foil for the lead's quirky behavior. But this girl is interesting. Also I kind of dig the way they intercut pieces of a documentary on his experience. I hope they keep that for every episode. I'm tentatively adding it to my schedule.

I also watched Dirty Sexy Money which has a terrible title and would be way better off just being called Dirty Money. Somebody in some cubicle somewhere must have said "people like shows with sexy in the title!" and there it was.

It was pretty flawed in other ways too. Oh look, a show about a poor boy who has to risk losing his soul to take care of rich people's problems. I think we've seen this before.

The cast is fabulous, but I don't know what the hell this show is supposed to be. It was a premise pilot, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still have to create a problem and solve it by the end of the episode. At the end of the pilot nothing was really resolved. There was so much going on the whole time with each member of this wealthy family that lots of cans of worms were opened and not one of them closed. So it was nothing more than a string of events that just sort of sat there moving around until the time was up. Even on Lost the episodes have self-contained stories within the larger piece. This show did not. I won't be adding it to my schedule.

And what is with rich men and trannies? That's the second transexual storyline in two days. Is that the new thing now? Did all the showrunners watch Transamerica in the off season or something?

So I'm off to Abbot Kinney. Unfortunately my movie took all my money so I won't be buying any saris or hand-made bowls this year, but it will be fun to look around.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


I watched Big Shots last night. Eh.

It's being billed as "Desperate Housewives for men." I don't know any men that will appeal to. And I don't like Desperate Housewives, either so it doesn't really appeal to me. I don't see this show developing much of an audience.

I love Michael Vartan and I think he's playing beneath his capacity here. He was kind of miscast because he's supposed to be the one truly nice guy in this group of sinful men, but he just comes across as pathetic. The other guys just seemed like caricatures. And there was a tranny who Dylan McDermott supposedly thought was a woman, but not only was she not pretty like he kept claiming, but there is no way on earth any normal human being with a modicum of intelligence would not know that was a man. I won't be putting this one on my schedule.

Then I watched Cane. Eh.

Shows on CBS have this CBS imprint on them. It's like they have an over-polished look, a exposition-heavy, melodramatic essence that's kind of unmistakable. This show has that same feel. It's about a Cuban American family that runs a sugar cane farm and manufactures a successful line of rum. I know they're Cuban, because half the episode felt like a Discovery Channel special on Cuban culture. Kudos to CBS for some ethnic diversity in their programming, but it just felt so forced, and maybe that's because the exposition was too obvious.

The cast is a good one. Jimmy Smitts, Hector Elizondo, Nestor Carbonell, and the fabulous Polly Walker who played Attia, the most lovable bitch to grace the small screen on Rome.

But it's hard for all that talent to get around the soap opera nature of this thing.

The pilot was written by Cynthia Cidre, and that's certainly a Spanish last name, but I get the feeling CBS execs nixed some of the Spanglish out of fear that Americans wouldn't understand it. All of the Spanish is either full sentences in subtitles or simple things we all know like "por favor". That ain't Spanglish. Then again I suppose most people probably do have trouble following true Spanglish if they're not used to it.

If you were really into Dallas, this is kind of the same thing but with people who salsa dance. I don't dig the melodrama so I won't be adding this to my schedule.

I don't want to watch Life yet because I'm afraid it will also be mediocre and I just love Damian Lewis and want his show to be awesome. But I'll have to get to it eventually.

Friday, September 28, 2007

TV love

People on TV have it made. Whenever they have breakups it's all for the best and everybody exchanges understanding looks as they walk away to a Coldplay song on the ever-present soundtrack.

And they're all so pretty and perfect and manufacture drama.

I mean, good grief. Look at McDreamy. Not only is he beautiful and able to whip up that crinkly smile that makes any girl weak in the knees, but he also knows Meredith and completely gets her and will defend her honor at every turn.

In any normal world that's more than a girl could hope for. Not at Seattle Grace, noooooooo. At that place the perfect man who's completely in love with you is not enough to make you happy. You must look longingly into his eyes and turn your head and express your fears and hope he understands, which he does because he's perfect in every way.

That's why I'm on the border of not wanting to watch Gray's Anatomy anymore. These people bitch all the time about nothing. Hell, in the season premiere Meredith's sister even told George to stop bitching. Unfortunately the rest of the cast didn't get the memo. Then again, I don't think George has really stopped bitching either. That's what those people do on that show. If you took away bitching over minor problems and having sex with each other they might actually have to do more surgeries. Like, normal surgeries. Appendectomies or something.

Then again we don't watch TV to see what life is really like. That's why Tell Me You Love Me probably won't get past a season. We like it much better when we can imagine our own McDreamy who will wait around for you and have sex with you in the on-call room while you deal with your issues.

Stupid TV shows. Making my life look inferior.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Where have you been?

I was going to write about Bionic Woman, but Ken Levine pretty much summed it up.

I still haven't had a chance to watch the rest of the pilots because some things happened and then there was stuff going on and now I'm subbing for a friend of mine while she takes most of her classes on a stupid field trip that is annoying her very much. But the time I was going to spend watching all the pilots I am instead spending my day relaxing and watching important episodes.

Then I was going to write about the dream I had where I blew my mom's head off while telling her I loved her, but I don't feel like reliving that right now.

So I guess I'll just elicit some stories from the gallery. Yesterday I started looking up various festivals I'd like to submit the short to. Of course we'll be doing all the big ones because I dream big, but since my chances of getting into Sundance are less than stellar (although I do have some fantasies about premiering at Cannes on my birthday), what else is there? La Film Festival? Cinevegas? Anybody had any good experiences with any of the smaller festivals? I don't want to submit to any of those ghetto fundraising things that suck.

And yes, I know I'm months from my finished product, but I enjoy planning ahead.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My feelings on Reaper

Last night House was awesome as usual. Yep.

Then I watched Reaper.

In the past two days I've seen three new pilots about some man developing a new superpower. Journeyman was engaging and Chuck was adorable and Reaper.... eh.

The show has a cute premise poorly executed. With the other two shows I felt like these were real people in extraordinary circumstances. With Reaper I felt like I was watching actors on a sound stage, and not all the acting was good.

I'm beginning to think maybe Kevin Smith is a better writer than he is a director.

But some of this was very much a script problem. One of the things I always tell my students who are aspiring writers is to set up your character interactions for maximum conflict. Reaper did not follow this path.

Sam is the main character. Before Sam was born his parents sold his soul to the Devil. I know this because Sam's dad explained it in a very boring piece of exposition in a living room with nothing else going on. And that piece of exposition was followed directly by another piece of exposition where Sam learned about his new job as the Devil's pawn.

But it would have been a lot more interesting for Sam to be defending his parents from evil souls or something, trusting them to be the most amazing parents in the world and risking his life to save them when he finds out they sold his soul and that's why all this is happening to him. Instead he just sort of went, oh, really? That sucks.

Then he forgave his parents and the conflict was resolved.


And why would the Devil send a 21-year-old Home Depot employee out to fight evil superpowery demons without a proper training montage? The Devil is an idiot, even if he is Laura Palmer's dad.

Brimstone was better. One of the things that worked about that show, which tragically only got a handful of episodes, was how you'd get to understand each of the lost souls and what their motivation was to commit their sins. That's not happening here. Then again, this is supposed to be a comedy. I laughed once.

Maybe Reaper will improve. I like the idea, but I will not be adding this show to my regular schedule.

I'm far more excited about the new season of Supernatural. Ooooh, Jensen Ackles is gonna kick some ass.

The season kickoff

Yay! I love Fall premiere season. There's so much hope for new stories and characters to get all caught up in and then there's the return of shows I was excited about last season.

I didn't watch Gossip Girl because I have no interest in something called Gossip Girl.

But I did watch Chuck last night. Good pilot all in all. The character dynamics were good, I adore Captain Awesome and the fact that his name is Captain Awesome. There was plenty of solid action and good comedy. My complaint is mainly that Chuck's best friend had a bit of Jar-Jar disorder - he's in way too many scenes and he's way too annoying to be in more than a couple. My other concern is that I'm having trouble with the overly sensitive CIA agent. She's too nice. Then again, so was Sydney Bristow so I guess I'll let it play out. Adam Baldwin as usual is super cool. I added Chuck to my regular schedule.

The Heroes premiere I was on the fence about. I wanted to see some cool new powers but we really just saw glimpses of the same stuff and a guy who turns stuff into gold which was not really all that exciting. I also don't like the cliched characters. The head cheerleader at Claire's new school is a major bitch - surprise surprise. Her dad's younger supervisor at the paper store is a power hungry douchebag - because we've never seen that before. But the awesome samurai Hiro is all about turned out to be a white devil from England so that was interesting and surprising. Way to go, David Anders. Work that British accent. We'll see where this goes.

Then I watched Journeyman. Kevin McKidd was my favorite thing about Rome, so I'm on board with this show. I'm drawn into the mystery already and I love the husband - wife dynamic. They clearly adore each other, but there are problems just like there are in any marriage and they're only accented by this crazy new Quantum Leapy experience and the return of a lost love. There's lots of backstory nicely inferred through dialogue. I added it to my schedule.

Tonight it's Reaper and Cane and the return of House. Yay!

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm a filmmaker, everybody

This is me directing. And also slouching:

Thanks to all those people who wished me luck. It worked.

Saturday morning DP came in and said, "I don't usually look at the footage from the day before because I don't want to see all the things we did wrong, but I decided to look at it last night..."

-and this is when I held my breath, waiting for the inevitable list of reshoots we were going to have to blow through before we could move on-

"....and it was really good. It was really funny. We have a lot to work with."

That's kind of what this weekend was like.

The first day I really had no idea what I was doing but my crew - consummate professionals all - was very patient and helpful and quietly guided me through the shoot so that by the end of Sunday's shoot I was pretty confident about the choices I was making. So I owe Kellee a HUGE thank you for being an amazing script supervisor and AD. I would have been lost without her. DP was filled with ideas and brilliant shots, Gaffer was everywhere, perfecting everything quickly and making beautiful light with no power and dealing with a giant set of glass doors on the balcony.

I was so lucky. Our biggest problems were a broken china ball, a bottle full of red ibuprofen that was supposed to double as cocaine and a fire alarm going off in the condos across the street followed shortly by the sound of fire trucks. All problems were easily solved or went away while we shot a few inserts.

I also owe a big thank you to my fabulous PA, who took these pictures, kept an eye on continuity, manned the air conditioning unit, ground up ibuprofen and somehow managed to still take care of lunch. Also my amazing Boyfriend who turned out to be the perfect sound guy. When it began pouring with crazy rain - while my roofless Jeep sat parked on the street all day and is now filled with puddles of water which are hopefully evaporated by now - Boyfriend went on the roof and bared the storm to lay a blanket over the vent that was making all the clinky noises. Problem solved once again.

Things went so right we actually finished four hours early on Sunday. That I owe to my incredible set of actors who knew their characters inside and out, knew their lines perfectly and took my direction just right with minimal complaint.

I still can't believe we had no major disasters. Not only did we have no major disasters, but we had a lot of fun.

Here are some pics from the set.

Guns and roses:

A little girl on girl:
Some of the talent and the crew in serious preparation:So, in short, my first directing experience was wonderful. That's what happens when you surround yourself with excellent people.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Progress report

Lots of little crises are taking place, including the fact that my bank will now not let me have any of my money for some reason and I can't get anybody on the phone until Monday. Fortunately I have just enough cash to pay for lunch today.

But overall, things are going well. We're on schedule and we got some terrific shots. My cast and crew is wonderful.

Tomorrow I'll post pictures and a full recount of events as they unfolded.

No time for cat pictures. I have to put out snack food before people get here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The time has come

I have to unplug my computer now so I can move my desk out of the film set to make more room so I won't have internet for the next two days.

I probably won't have time to post anyway as I will be immersed in shooting a film.

I felt like an idiot in the Indie Rentals store because I had no idea what I wanted and I didn't order it ahead of time and I had to go back and get cables after I left with a mixer. But man those people were super nice just the same.

Our A.C. who is apparently the best in the business and was willing to give up a paying job to work on this short has decided he's not so willing to give up a paying job to come work on this short. He announced this today. DP has spent the last few hours making frantic phone calls. I don't know if he's found a replacement yet. I really hope so. A guy at Indie Rentals offered to help me find somebody until I told him it was free labor. No dice.

So yeah, any excellent A.C.s out there wanna come and work your whole weekend for an untried director for the bargain price of Boston Market and Subway lunches? Didn't think so.

But it'll be cool. I feel it. I'm relaxed and ready. Let's do this.

I'll see you on the flipside.

The rehearsal

One more day until my first film shoot.

Last night my actors came over and we ran through the script a few times.

One of the actors is Writing Partner, who knows this script inside and out, has rehearsed and rerehearsed his lines, has thought about this thing until he has a complete analysis of every syllable.

One of the actors is Lead Actor, who's been into this from when the script was a silly little plotless story about people playing Taboo. He doesn't have all his lines memorized yet but he knows his character so well it's amazing. He showed me the three pages of notes he wrote on backstory and filled me in on the story he wrote about his character's relationship with his mother.

Actor number three is Lead Actor's Girlfriend, a girl with talent coming out of her nasal cavity. She had a better understanding of her character's motivation than I do. She loves the script and loves her character and probably enjoys acting more than anyone I've ever met.

Our final cast member is New Girl on the project, a young, fairly green actress I originally read for the other part. She wasn't right for that one, but I really liked her and felt like she had something in her she didn't know how to reach yet but could really develop if she had the right opportunity. She's got charisma.

And these four people came over last night to run through the script.

And it was beautiful.

New Girl started off a little unsure, probably not as nervous as I was but pretty close. But as the night progressed she loosened up and took direction very well until she was ad libbing perfect little moments with Writing Partner that I told her to leave in for the shoot.

Lead Actor had some brilliant ideas about how to improve the blocking to quicken the pace and increase the tension. And even when the rest of us were cracking up he never broke character, especially when they all changed every "fuck" in the script to "dry hump". I was in hysterics, largely because Lead Actor played every moment deadly serious.

In fact, I was so engrossed in the performances that I did a piss poor job of feeding the actors lines when they forgot. It probably also didn't help my persona of control and mystery when I didn't know what the hell New Girl meant by "Can we do this off book?" Fortunately Lead Actor saw my puzzled face and explained what she was talking about.

But I learned what kind of director I am. Collaborative. It felt like a big group of friends just getting together to play around and have fun and looking to me to make final decisions. I felt completely comfortable. Okay, that's not completely true. I didn't want to stop the action to correct things. Instead I tended to wait until the action stopped on its own and then told the actor how I'd prefer for them to perform a line from a couple of pages ago. After everybody else left, Writing Partner said that his only note to me was to speak up sooner, but other than that I did a good job.

I don't know much about cameras and lighting and technical stuff, but I feel good about the actors and my place in charge of their direction. And oh, boy was it fun.

Now I have to see how I adjust to being in the same situation when the camera is up and running and crew members are watching.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ready for action

I have to move a little bit of furniture around and put up some fabric on the ceiling, but all in all the place is camera ready.

Tonight is our rehearsal, so here' the big test of how my actors work together and how well I can encourage their performance.

But for the next few hours, at least, I can enjoy my redecorated apartment.

I can't find my freaking before picture.

But here's what the set looks like in the calm before the storm:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My unintentional tour of the city

I knew when I hit every single stop light on Wilshire that it was going to be one of those days.

I started at 10:30 for Inglewood and ended up in Beverly Hills by accident - you know, the way you do - stuck in traffic with no reasonable way to get back going in the right direction. That kind of day.

I had two purchases to make today: a rug and light blue, sheer fabric to drape from the ceiling. Then I was going to come home and clean the apartment and finish decorating the set.

I thought at first I'd try Michael's and Wal-Mart. Did you know that Michael's doesn't sell fabric? Did you know that Wal-Mart continues to suck ass?

Almost every decision I made today was a bad one. Even my smoothie from the Orange Julius was not very tasty.

I went to Ikea in Burbank. But before I could go to Burbank I had to go halfway to Long Beach. Apparently the freeway system of Los Angeles County doesn't want you going north on the 5, only south. One would think you could just turn around and get back on the freeway going in the other direction, but one would find ones self cruising on the 101 trying to figure out how to get to the 5 north sign two medians over and screaming if one used that logic.

I finally managed to sneak past the secret invisible blockade and find my way to the 5 north where traffic moved like a turtle race for no discernible reason while the other side of the freeway was empty. I had to pee very much the whole time.

I found Ikea. I used their bathroom. I bought a rug. Yay.

Their fabric selection was crap so I called Maggie (thanks, Maggie!) who directed me to the Jo Anne store in Glendale.

And that's how I ended up in Pasadena.

But first I had to go through the turtle race going south while the north side was empty.

Fortunately there is also a Jo Anne in Pasadena, so Maggie and her coworker directed me successfully to that one, where I got all the fabric I needed. Yay.

I had pictured fabric store ladies as nice old grandmotherly types who knew just what you were looking for and were only too happy to help, not middle aged hormonal types who are very annoyed with your complete lack of knowledge about fabrics and measurements and anything resembling craftiness.

But I got my fabric and raced home to get to the gym so I could punch things.

By this time it was 5 pm. That's right. It took me six and a half hours to find 7 yards of fabric and a rug. In Los Angeles.

So no before and after pictures today because there is no after yet. I'm a day behind on my cleaning and moving of furniture. I guess I know what I'll be doing tomorrow.

Next time I'm hiring a decorator.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Necessity is the mother of my short film

DP is very unhappy with my apartment. Too small, not enough power, no storage.

But I remember what a producer on the Bratz movie told me: "Sometimes it's better when you have no money."

Because of the constraints of my apartment we'll be using practical lighting only, giving the whole film a natural feel, a nighttime feel, seedy and a little off. Because it's so small we'll shoot few masters and a lot of close ups, giving the characters a bit of a claustrophobic feel.

Robert Rodriguez shot El Mariachi with a beat up camera, making his whole film have a gritty, unusual look. Stanley Kubrick shot Eyes Wide Shut entirely in practical lighting and the whole film feels dark and a little off as a result, the perfect feel for a film about underground sex orgies or whatever the hell that movie was about.

Of course, that's easy for me to say. I don't have to figure out how to solve the problem.

Still, I think it's all going to work out. I have my cast in place and they're all talking to each other. We'll be rehearsing Thursday. Friday I meet with the DP and we lay out our final plans. Saturday morning we'll do a blocking rehearsal, then leave so the crew can set up while we run another rehearsal, then come back and start shooting. And we'll be shooting fast. We're going to shoot chronologically as much as we can, leaving only three scenes to be shot out of sequence.

Today, however, I get to go shopping. It's art direction day so I get to buy things for my apartment that will help the whole film look good and yet I will want to keep around. It's like a guilt-free redecorating event. I'll have before and after pictures tomorrow.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Do I know what I'm doing?

Until today I've been a producer. In fact, last night I spent so much time on the phone I didn't get food until 9 pm, and unheard of occurrence in my house. I set my dinner out, then the phone rang. I talked to that person for an hour then got my dinner back out, took one bite and the phone rang again. That call prompted me to make another call, and so on until I was very grateful that I'd planned a cold meal last night instead of a hot one.

In short, I've spent a large portion of my time these last few weeks on the phone or swapping emails, making things happen.

Yeaterday I went to Target, list in hand of all the things I need for art direction in my apartment, credit card at the ready for a fun little shopping spree. I went home empty handed. What happened to Target? Today I'm off to Ikea to see if I can do better. Tomorrow, I begin set decoration.

But all these things - the casting, shopping, calling, emailing, script finalizing - all seem very producery.

Then last night I had a dream.

I told Writing Partner that we needed low angle shots to make the character of Billy look intimidating and high angle shots to make the character of Eric look weak until the moment when Eric stands up for himself, and at that moment we need to reverse the low and high angles. We also need straight on shots to make the gun look scary before that moment, and angles shots to make it look like a flaccid penis afterward.

Just go with me on that. It's a metaphor.

Then I woke up and repeated my dream advice to DP.

I'm smart when I'm sleeping.

And now I finally feel like a director.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dirty jobs

Boyfriend is a Production Assistant. Just like everyone else out here he has his eyes on something greater, but for the time being he is an errand runner on set for whatever television show happens to need his services, a very important job that almost never gets mentioned in the credits.

Until recently he worked on a bad reality show that will thankfully not get a second season, although this did not stop me from demanding a hat that I now wear all over the place as if I were somehow affiliated with the show.

On this show he usually worked 12 hour days with no overtime pay and no health benefits and for a paltry sum of money. Then the job ended and he was unemployed so we've been on vacation together until some production manager somewhere remembers him when they need a PA and gives him a call.

Then last week he was offered a one day job on a new show for the fall season. It's a drama on a network, a show I'm excited about, a show that will most likely get a full season order and possibly more seasons after that. I hope so, anyway.

Boyfriend didn't want to give up his vacation, but this was a one day job. More importantly, for a drama on a network. A real show with a plot and everything.

Real shows with plots and everything pay a decent wage. They also pay overtime and a few benefits to the long term folks. And the craft services is excellent. So of course Boyfriend took the job.

Then he was on set for 16 hours. His call time was 6 am. He called me at 9:44 pm, exhausted, saying they'd asked him to come back the next day.

In addition to the crazy hours, he was in a park all day on a second unit shoot. There was no shade and he spent most of his day running up and down a hill, so now his neck is redder than the blood of the innocent. Just as well. He does like to hunt and fish.

The next day he went in at 7 am. Around 9pm he called to say he'd be there until at least 1:30 am so don't wait up.

Today he's on location somewhere. We're supposed to meet tonight to go to a show but now he's worried he won't make it because he'll still be onset working on the 3/4 of a page they're supposed to shoot today.

I'm starting to forget what he looks like. Fortunately he has tattoos so I'll be able to identify him by those when next I see him.

Right now he's working day to day, but I have a feeling they'll offer him a long term job soon. I may have to get a walk on to the lot just so I can see him again.

This has served as a reminder to me that 1 - PAs are awesome and deserve some credit and major amounts of appreciation and 2 - that the script needs to be tight and the actors need to be prepared and the crew needs to be efficient so that people have time outside work to have a life.

If you see Boyfriend, please tell him I said hi.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I just can't handle it

For the past few days I've been a nervous wreck. At night I've been swirling the sheets into a tight wrap around my body, in the day I've had pounding headaches that won't leave me alone. My stomach is in knots and my shoulders are turning into earmuffs.

A nice chunk of my money and a lot of people's weekends are riding on my directing skills and I have no idea what I'm doing. Now I've learned that the AC my DP has brought on board actually gave up a paying job to come to the shoot. So now I feel guilty. It has long been my contention that if I'm not paying everybody I'm not paying anybody, but this guy is actually losing money to be here.

If I fuck this up everybody's gonna be pissed.

DP doesn't seem too worried. He says look, here's where we are, here's what we need to do, no big deal. It will all work out.

Actors are like, whatever, tell me where to stand.

Boyfriend is like, just get me the equipment and I'll hold the boom.


His heart is in the right place. He went to film school, I didn't. He's worked on a bunch of films, I haven't. He knows I'm going to need guidance.

But his guidance has made me a bundle of nerves.

I realized this last night when I received three emails in a row from him about the order of operations on set.

I told him I couldn't take it anymore and from this point on, would he please just be an actor? Let the DP give me all that guidance because DP isn't making me feel panicked.

And Partner said oh. Ok. Let's talk about the part, then.

And I immediately felt better. We've been discussing the script and the casting and nothing else since. And he's been very supportive.

And now I feel like maybe the world won't end if I do something wrong. I am surrounded by people who will make sure I don't.

It will all be okay.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Emily is a super freak

You know that thing Michael Jackson says he has that makes his skin turn white and everybody is all like yeah, right, Michael Jackson, you freakazoid, we all know you just want to be a white lady so stop making excuses? You know?

Yeah, well um, here's the thing about that.

A few years ago a couple of white patches of skin started showing up on my chest. I didn't think much about it at first, just mild curiosity and a hope that they weren't affiliated somehow with melanoma. But I kept forgetting to ask the doctor when I went in for my physical each year and eventually I got used the them. Then they spread slowly, each summer, a little bit more. I thought it was some kind of odd way my body tanned. Now my entire chest and my shoulders don't tan and the patches sort of sprinkle down my arms. I've never been too concerned about it. I don't even really notice it anymore. Like freckles.

And in the meantime I drive a convertible and wear nothing but tank tops in the summer.

Yesterday a colleague saw me wearing spaghetti straps and touched my shoulders. "This looks like vitiligo," she said.

So I went home and looked it up and now I'm freaked out.

I don't need a doctor to tell me this is what I have. It's pretty obvious.

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to attack the pigmentation in your skin and turns it white in patches that slowly spread over your body, often to your face.

That's what's scaring me right now. I don't mind it on my body, I just don't want it on my face.

It only affects 1 percent of the population. One. A hundred people in a room, and I'm the only one with these fucking spots on my body.

My mother used to annoy the crap out of me by telling me about my future thyroid problems. "I have thyroid problems, your grandmother has thyroid problems, you'll get them too," she said. And I would tell her to stop talking about it because no 18-year-old wants to hear about how she's doomed to turn fat when she hits forty.

She never told me those thyroid problems could turn me into an albino.

It's genetic but most people who have it don't have parents who have it. My mom certainly doesn't have it. And I probably won't pass it to my kids. My grandkids, maybe, but it's one of those things that sort of sits around waiting to strike.

I'm grateful that at least it doesn't have any medical effects. It won't cause me cancer or rot my skin off or anything, it just makes me look funny. And since I'm pretty pale to begin with it's not a totally disfiguring disorder that will make people stare at me or anything, unless it starts to hit my face. It does also gray your hair and eyebrows and eyelashes prematurely.

There are steroid creams and skin grafts people use, but the most effective way for people who have it all over is to have their skin totally repigmented to match the patches. That's what Michael Jackson did. But he didn't do it to become a white lady. He did it to prevent people from staring at him and thinking he's a freak.... oh.

I already have karitasis, a skin disorder that makes you have little bumps all over your arms that feel like goosebumps. One time I met this sleazy guy at a club who rubbed my arm and said, "Oooh, you have goosebumps!" as if it was a credit to his sexy manliness. I looked him dead in the eye and said, "No, that's a skin disorder."

The sun might exacerbate the problem so now I have to be kind of paranoid about sunscreen. I love the sun. I don't want to be afraid of it. I love tank tops and the beach and my convertible. But I also don't want crazy skin patches all over my face.

So seriously, ancestors. What the hell did you do to your skin? And thanks ever so for passing it down to me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My first casting session

It's supposed to be the actor who's nervous at the audition, not the casting director. But there I am, running around like Mike the Headless Chicken when the First Girl comes early. Her audition was supposed to be at 2:15, moved from her original time of 4:15. School lets out at 2:09 on Tuesdays (I know, it's a weird school) so I have to set up the camera, the chairs, the signs and get myself together for my very first casting session in just over 5 minutes.

Then First Girl shows up at 2:00 wondering why there are teenagers in the audition room.

So I am frantic putting everything together and since she had changed her audition schedule Lead Actor wasn't scheduled to show up until at least 2:30. Since I had somehow overlooked her when sending sides out I give her the script and let her peruse it while she waits.

And waits.

And waits.

I call Lead Actor, who was cursing the existence of traffic on the 10.

So we wait.

He finally arrives at 3:22.

They read. The girl has clearly not been to a lot of auditions. I don't know that because I'm such an expert, I know it because Lead Actor will tell me so after the audition. She is cute and makes a few choices I like, but all in all doesn't have the spunk I was looking for. Very nice, though, and remarkably patient considering. I hope she does well and learns from her experience with me the way I learn from my experience with her.

I redirect her to pick up the pace a little, but all in all I don't have much else to say, and when I don't have any questions for her she looks terribly disappointed but says she enjoyed meeting us and goes on her way.

By this time I realize my next two girls are late.

So we wait.

And wait.

And it's pretty obvious they are not going to show.

It's 4:30. The next girl is at 5:35 but I had a feeling she'll show because she emailed me questions about the script last night.

I realize I don't have the key to unlock the room once I leave it, so I send Lead Actor with a $20 to Pollo Loco where Emily the big spender buys him dinner by proxy. We discuss his character over tacos el carbon and he has some excellent suggestions on how to read a particular line he doesn't totally get.

I will defend his honor any time, anywhere. That man is a damn fine actor.

At this point I start to realize how cold it is in this particular classroom and I'm wearing spaghetti straps so I'm tweaking like a junkie selling one torn flip flop for $5 on the Metro. That's exactly what you want out of your director/casting director/producer/English teacher.

5:35 rolls around and Second Girl is having trouble finding the school. I give her directions and lead her in and we introduce ourselves and it's very professional and she reads and I ask her to be a bit meeker and she reads again and it's all very fine, although I'm not sure she was quite meek enough but I'll have to watch the video to be sure.

It was also Second Girl's performance that helped me realize what was wrong with First Girl. I feel like my directing ability is improving already. If nothing else I should audition more people just to practice telling people how to alter their approach.

After Second Girl left we cleaned up and left so the adult parenting class could come in at 6. Thank God the girls after Second Girl also canceled or I would have been really embarrassed.

And that was it. In retrospect I could have done the whole thing at my apartment after all. More people probably would have showed, too, since they wouldn't have had to trek downtown on the 10 to a high school in an iffy neighborhood, a high school so new GPS has no knowledge of its existence thus virtually guaranteeing you will get lost somewhere in a street where MS13s patrol the sidewalks looking for people to decapitate in some sort of gang initiation.

Tomorrow two, possibly three girls will come over to my place to read. I think things will go a bit better. At least, I hope they do.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is this all there is?

I've reserved tomorrow for my auditions at the school where I teach. We'll use one classroom for holding, one for the actual audition. I chose 16 girls. Two are out of town but would like to audition when they return if the part is still open, one can't make it during those hours but she's a friend of a friend so she's coming over to my apartment to audition the next day, five have confirmed and the rest, who knows?

I am a very easy going person for the most part. Stuff slides off me like water on a duck's back most of the time, but this film is something in which I'm investing money, time, and lots of energy. I know this is LA and every street is filled with people who've made short films and features over and over, so maybe mine doesn't seem that important. But it's important to me.

Lead Actor told me he puts himself in for dozens of projects each day on Actor's Access and rarely hears back. I ended up with 232 actors submitted and only chose these 16 girls to see. If I were one of them I wouldn't wait. I'd respond immediately to any audition, enthusiastically.

That's how I chose my yearbook staff every year. At least, that's how I chose them at my old school where scheduling actually made sense and was done ahead of time. Anyway, I had students turn in applications and an essay by a certain date. Anyone who didn't turn it in on time or didn't fill in everything including the essay was automatically out of contention because if you can't follow the directions on the application, how can I rely on you to put a book together with minimal supervision?

Part of me is annoyed because it echoes of my past. I have a history of planning parties nobody comes to. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. And this may not be a party but it's just one more occasion where I've put loads of time and energy in and nobody shows.

They better show up to my freaking film shoot or there's gonna be stabbin'.

It's also possible my anxiety is caused by the fact that for the last two days I've spent a remarkable amount of time sitting around reading and waiting for actors to email me. They've probably been doing things like jobs. I've been looking for cat pictures.

Hopefully by the end of today I'll have a few more commitments. As of right now they're spaced so I have an hour between each audition. Super.

Either way it separates the wheat from the chaff. The girls who don't go to auditions end up on the bus back home.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Emily's casting saga continues

To facilitate the casting process I signed up for Breakdown Express, one of the major online casting sites which many of you probably already know about.

I studied some other breakdowns then wrote my own for one of the characters I still need to cast.

Valerie, female, 21, any ethnicity. Valerie is petite and drop-dead gorgeous but has deep insecurities. She identified herself as a sex object and only feels like she has value because her boyfriend wants her. She is easily bored and very subtle in her behavior.

If you've never used this site, here's how it works. You post your breakdown then agents and actors submit headshots and resumes and you filter through them, selecting the ones you like and dropping the rest into a separate category. You can email the list and print it and you can schedule the auditions right there without actually having to talk to anybody. I have an irrational fear of calling strangers so this is a big plus for me.

So I posted by breakdown and then drove north for two days where I shut off my phone and didn't even look at a computer. Hell, Los Angeles could have been wiped out by a giant robot attack for all I knew.

But LA was still here, albeit not quite as blazing hot as when we left.

When I returned last night I hopped on the computer and checked my results. 226 submissions. 226 girls, some union, some pretty experienced, some brand new, all ethnic groups (only 4 of the girls are 100% white), all interested in auditioning for my tiny little unpaid short film.

I had to filter it down to 14.

Some were easy. Valerie is supposed to be petite but I had girls on that list that were 5'9" or so, so they were out. Valerie is supposed to be 21 but I had girls on that list who looked more like Valerie's mom. And I cut all but one of the SAG members because even though I am signing the no budget agreement and Lead Actor is SAG, I'd rather not have to deal with union issues.

It turned out to be more fun than I anticipated. Looking at these pictures and imagining these girls being both sexual and innocent while they read my lines was an exhilarating experience. It also highlighted just how important that headshot is because a lot of these girls had the same basic level of experience and skills on their resumes, so I had to separate them based solely on facial expressions.

A couple of the girls wrote personal notes to me about the short, which instantly placed them in the audition category because anyone who takes the time to write personally about why they're interested is the kind of person who will show up on time and know her lines and not bitch about being paid in food. One of the girls who wrote to me is a Yale graduate with a double major in economics and political science. Another girl who wrote to me completely avoided all punctuation and capital letters. It's a diverse group and I hope to have fun sifting through them.

I still need to cast my other girl, Sheila, but I want to cast Valerie first because she's much harder to play. I'm hoping I'll see Sheila in one of these girls so I can cast straight from this pool. And who knows, maybe I'll see a girl and remember her for a future project. I do have five other shorts in this series.

I'm running all my auditions on Tuesday from 2 to 7, so now I have a new problem. Where. I have nowhere to hold the auditions. Anybody got any ideas? I'm a bit in crisis because the only places I can think of are bedrooms and that's just unprofessional. Help.

Edited to add: I forgot what I do for a living. I called two friends of mine who have adjoining classrooms at the school and asked if I could use them Tuesday. Crisis averted.

At any rate, casting's not so bad after all. I'm actually kind of having fun. We'll just see what happens when it's time to narrow my 14 to one.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

I just got back from Carmel and Monterey, which was pretty freaking awesome.

Boyfriend and I drove up the 101 until we came to San Louis Obispo, where we switched over the PCH so we could swivel through the mountain pass and drive through Big Sur. That's how we discovered Hearst Castle. Did you know William Randolph Hearst built a castle in California? It was cool. He had people over all the time and they had to follow three rules: attend a nightly cocktail hour / film screening, don't drink to excess, and don't sleep with anyone you're not married to. Apparently Errol Flynn broke all three rules in one day, making him the fastest guest to get kicked off the ranch.

I packed a cooler for a picnic lunch, but due to some complicated circumstances that are none of your business, we didn't break into the sandwiches until we got to our hotel at 5:30, where I discovered that the sandwiches had soaked up the melted ice. Mmmm, soggy sandwiches.

We opted for pub food.

We spent the night in Carmel at The Carmel Fireplace Inn, an excellent bed and breakfast where we could walk to lots of little touristy spots including a Hog's Breath where Emily learned how many apple martinis it takes to make her use the tile wall as a punching bag while stumbling through a shower. It took me two hours of searching online to find the perfect place and I'm glad I did. I would definitely go back and stay there again.

But Carmel is a nice, quiet town filled with shopping and Clint Eastwoodiness, highly recommended for romance and destination weddings.

We woke up and drove to Monterey to the aquarium where we looked at fish. They have an otter exhibit there which is just about the most adorable thing ever. Also, jellyfish are nifty and boyfriend quite enjoyed the great white shark. The sunfish is fascinating to watch and kelp smells bad.

Then, to balance out our night as "ballers" as Boyfriend put it, we spent our Monterey night in the crappiest motel we could find. The Motel 6 was asking $105. The place where we stayed was $65, so you can imagine the awesomeness. And it was indeed awesome. As we arrived a girl got out of a cab and immediately started fighting with a shirtless skinny guy in the apartment below us. The manager was so happy to do business with two people with no criminal record he actually gave us a large candle as a present when we checked out. I'm not kidding.

On the way back there was a cycling race from one side of the mountain to the other, so I swerved around the mountain pass dodging oncoming traffic as I regularly passed the riders on the edge of the cliffs, trailing behind drivers who were terrified of their own shadows and consequently came to a dead stop whenever they couldn't see 158 miles down the road around the next cyclist. Let me tell you how much fun that is with a stick shift.

But that mountain is beautiful. I can see this being the kind of place where J.D. Salinger would go to disappear. I could spend weeks in one of those beachside houses just writing all day, every day until I ran out of food and had to trek eight million miles to the nearest store, dodging cyclists.

I love the city but sometimes it's nice to get away. I'm recharged now and ready to start casting.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Emily declares her love for actors again

I probably won't post again until Sunday because I'm going to Carmel for a romantic long weekend to stay in a nice quiet B&B that will make me remember what it's like to live in a place that's not a city.

So since it's completely impossible for me to only do one thing at a time, last night while I was looking for hotels to book I watched some old movies I'd recorded and never watched. I was on a divorced Cary Grant kick, evidently, because I watched His Girl Friday then The Philadelphia Story.

I appreciated how both films managed to make use of one location for most of the film and really relied on character interaction and dialogue, but I really loved watching three of my favorite old school actors in The Philadelphia Story. Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and my one true love, Jimmy Stewart are just amazing together. Except the ending. I didn't like the "let's pair everybody off because they're conveniently located next to me and they're better than the other person near me" message. But the exchange between these three brilliant people is fun to watch.

Which made me think of something Alfred Hitchcock said.

I know he's voted number one director ever in the history of the world and all, but I can't get on board with his view of actors, especially coming from someone who worked with Jimmy Stewart. Have I mentioned how much I love Jimmy Stewart?

"All actors should be treated like cattle," he said. If an actor is looking to find motivation he cites "your paycheck."

Wow. What an ass, genius or no.

I guess he'd know. I mean he walked through a lot of scenes and that went fine, so he's proven himself as an actor.

I think of the Buffy episode "The Body", where Sarah Michelle Gellar had to do seven takes of her long shot reacting to her mother's death. Or The Basketball Diaries, where Leo had an emotional breakdown while begging his mother through her house door to give him money so he could buy drugs. Oh yeah, that's really easy. Just turn it on and off like a spicket. And if you don't like it it's really easy to find somebody else who can do it with fewer complaints. So shut up and act.

Yeah, there are prima donnas. Just hang out in LA a little while and you'll want to start punching actors in the face every time they go on and on about how awesome they are even though nobody wants to cast them, but that's all because casting directors are stupid and haven't appreciated their genius. Bitch, please.

But I defy any director to toss a random actor into Jimmy Stewart's place and see how well they do.

Have I mentioned that I love Jimmy Stewart?

I watched a short once on IFC that was well written and a very clever idea but the actors were abysmal. The short was terrible as a result and I'm not sure how the hell it made it onto IFC.

So with that in mind, here I go into casting the short. I just put out my first casting notice this morning. Oi.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My big plan of action

Writing Partner had the excellent suggestion that the cast and crew get together the night before the Game Night shoot and go for dinner and drinks at some restaurant nearby. I'm all for that. I'll even reserve the room and buy a round, but I can't afford to pay for the whole thing.

One thing I'm certain of is that there will be good food on hand for the shoot. I'll make some food, I'll buy some food, and there's a Starbucks within walking distance. I know a guy who's trying to get a catering business off the ground - perhaps I could persuade him to give me a deep discount and then I won't have to worry about the food at all.

My view of this whole thing is this: I'm asking several people, some of whom are friends, some of whom are casual acquaintances, some of whom are my boyfriend, to give up their precious time and do what I say for two days with no pay. They are volunteering for this abuse, and it is good for their careers if everything turns out like I want it to, but that's no reason for me to have a chip on my shoulder about my crew. So my main goal is to make this as little like work as possible while still getting a lot of work done.

When I was a kid my mom used to get really mad at me for not working harder in math class and I used to say, "When I get older if I need some math done I'll hire somebody to do it for me." Of course, if I'd paid more attention in math I might now have enough money to actually pay someone to do it for me. How ironic.

Anyway, that's my philosophy about the whole directing thing at this point. Not that I should be doing math, but that I should let people who know what they're doing do the things they're good at. I don't know much about cameras and sound, even though I'm researching and learning more every day. I can't run this shoot by myself. So I've brought in people who do know what they're doing. So I'll tell them what I want and they'll give it to me. And in return I will feed them well, have an efficient plan in place when they arrive, and let them have a little fun for two days.

It sounds like a reasonable exchange to me.

Monday, September 03, 2007

It's fucking hot.

The Labor Day pool party event at Boyfriend's apartment complex has been going for three days. Thus, I have spent the weekend surrounded by clear blue chlorinated water and lots of people drinking booze. It's been glorious. I only came home to get a change of clothes, pet the cat, check my email and eat some lunch. Then it's back to the pool.

Right now in Los Angeles it's like 8,000 degrees. I'm from a hot state - North Carolina - where it regularly gets up to the late nineties in the summer. But it's also very wet, and although the heat weighs you down with the humidity, I can tolerate that much better than this current feeling of being seared in an iron skillet.

In fact, I like heat. I take showers so hot my skin turns red and the steam encloses the bathroom in a fog of hot, humid glory. Growing up I'd shut my doors and open my windows so the upstairs of the house was so hot that when you opened my bedroom door to the rest of the air conditioned house a thunderstorm would appear over the doorway. I never go anywhere without a sweater and I always sleep with a blanket.

But this is too much, even for me.

Back home we have this thing called air conditioning. In LA you may find such a phenomenon in grocery stores and movie theaters, but anywhere else is pretty much a hotbox. If only there were better movies out this weekend the box office probably would have been soaring.

Right now I would not want to be the cat. He's spent the last four days finding the coolest part of the hard wood floor and lying there, comatose, lamenting his beautiful fur and wishing I'd just shave him. I left the fans on him while I was gone so at least he can lay in front of them and squint his eyes at the breeze. He's excited to have me home because he's had nobody to complain to about the heat.

Today I was supposed to put out a casting notice for the two female parts in Game Night, but I think I'll put that off to tomorrow. I'm going to go back to the pool and try to become one with its cool wetness. Enjoy your air conditioning, if you've got it.