Monday, July 31, 2006

This past weekend we ("we" being Dwayne, Oliver, Melanie, and myself) successfully broke down the sets at Phobia. The place looks like were were never there. I'm very thankful to the Darke Institute for letting us shoot there, so if you're in the Houston area, make sure you patronize them when the season begins in late September.

We moved all the material to the duplex so that we can rebuild one or two sets for some pickup shots. This week and weekend I will begin construction on HouseWalker Ranch in earnest. We'll shoot some pickups the following weekend (the 11th and 12th) and after that, all that remains is the school stuff in late August.

I'll have to buy a few things and work a little harder, but the combination of the most convenient location in the world coupled with the minimal involvement of outside parties will probably make these shoots go a lot smoother than previous ones. Maybe I'll actually get my entire shotlist this time. About midway through principal on Closet Space, I seriously considered abandoning the project just out of sheer frustration, but I think I've isolated the issues and hopefully ironed them out. Unless of course, the issues are just endemic to my control-freakiness and short fuse. Maybe I just need to kickbox on a more regular basis.

I've still been working on music ideas here and there, but that's in the background until I can get an edit done. We met with our Digital FX team yesterday, and started that process along. I need to dig in and get some serious work done on CS before the next project rolls around in September....and I also should bang on the screenplays a little to get them ready. Lots to do, and of course, never enough time to do it all. It seems overwhelming, but then I think back to what I was doing in 1998, and I get pretty thankful for the crazy workload.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Last night I went and had a rock session with my drummer John - intitally to start work on new band material, but also so that we could begin jamming out some ideas for the Closet Space score. Mainly I wanted to see if I could actually pull off some semblance of incidental move music in the power trio (or duo in this case, although I will be playing guitar and bass on the recordings) context. I actually think things went pretty well - I threw in lots of minor 2nds, major 7ths and tritones (aka "the devils interval"), and it gave the music a restless feel that I think will lend a lot to the on-screen proceedings. I'm still going to take an initial pass at one or two scenes and then see what I come up that point I'll decide whether or not to go to an outside composer. It's pretty interesting to at least try it, though.

The discovery of the night was definitely John's old analog synth. I think it will play a prominent role in the compositions, since we got some killer sounds from just screwing with it for an hour or so. I wish I had thought of using the thing during Witchcraft...there were definitely some cool stings and "magic shooty" noises that we found

CS editing and new project(s) scripting proceeds apace. Now if only I could quit my 9-5 and do this full time. Dreaming cant hurt, right?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The relative calm before the storm...

Editing on Closet Space continues in earnest. I actually don't really want to commit to the term "editing" too much...mostly I'm roughly assembling scenes to see what I need to reshoot or pickup (not much so far), and to get the 2nd unit practical FX and digital FX processes underway.

While I'm working on that, I'm also mounting plans for not just one, but three follow-up projects. The first is pretty much a definite go, and we are shooting in September. More on that one as it develops...I'll actually be acting in a moderately different capacity than what I'm used to doing...although basically I'll be doing a lot of what I already do on set, if that makes sense. Reading over it, it probably doesn't.

The second and third are kind of a big deal (at least to me)...and are in no small part motivated by the fact that I've gotten away from my intended "writer/director" path. Don't get me wrong - it's a moderately fun and interesting experience to bring the words and ideas of others to life, but I really miss throwing my personal issues, peccadilloes and bullshit on the page in some foul mockery of therapy. I actually get a lot of negative vibe thrown my way for not having written lately, despite the fact that I wrote my first feature, and did a considerable amount of uncredited on-set rewrites and additions to my subsequent projects. Not that I'm a bitter auteur (well...not entirely bitter), but the minimal flexing I've done makes me want to work those atrophied muscles. So in that regard...I'm retooling and finalizing a long dormant pet project of mine, hopefully to set up for production in the next couple of years. Yes, it's horror. The third one is kind of a "swing for the fences" deal, but I think I actually might stand a decent chance...then again, maybe it's just delusion on my part. At any rate, I'm writing up a treatment for an "established" property that will probably end up being a full script. So far it's turning out pretty well. Hopefully, I can position myself to make a pitch to the "powers that be".

No, it's not a Nightmare script. I'm not that cocksure yet.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Real quick...

Been editing some of the more complicated scenes of the movie together, similar to the approach I took with Witchcraft. My homicidal rage and cynicism quickly gave way to giddy, schoolgirl excitement. Things are looking good.

Saw Criteria, The Appleseed Cast, Russian Circles, and Radio Pioneer last night. All were good. I needed a hot rock injection to rejuvenate me. It also served to further my burgeoning idea of scoring Closet Space myself. We'll see what happens with that.

More set movement this weekend, as we move from Phobia to the inveterate locale of the Tulsa Carport...soon to be known as HouseWalker Ranch. It is there that we will bring the CS shooting to a close by doing the final set of pickups and FX shots.

Friday, July 21, 2006

In the words of the prophet Angelo Moore:

"Am I going crazy...or is it the world around me?"

There's been some weird shit going on lately...I've felt it in the air since about midway through the Closet Space shoot, and it's a vibe I got a whiff of during Witchcraft, as well as something I had to deal with numerous times during my stint as a producer of public access television.

Hubris is a motherfucker.

I guess the best analogy in this case would be to liken low-budget filmmaking to being in a band. You've got all these people ostensibly coming together for the same goal, and you have to work together under pretty strenuous conditions to acheive said goal. Of course, there's all kinds of similar bullshit to deal with as may not have the best gear (or cameras), your rehearsal room (location) is cramped and hot, the drummer (cinematographer) would rather be off doing his own experimental project, and the guitarist (assistant director) keeps showing up drunk and playing in the wrong key.

Just like in a band situation, when things are firing on all cylinders and you're "in the groove"...nothing can stop you. Problem is, most of the time you're operating at half potential because of ego, or lack of focus, or both. Maybe your bassist doesn't like the composition you're working on, and would rather go off on some Return To Forever trip. Or perhaps your keyboardist keeps trying to send text messages on their Blackberry while you're trying to nail down an arrangement. Better yet, maybe the backing band begins to each develop the dreaded "frontman syndrome" - you know..."why is this guy writing the riffs and lyrics, so derivative, sounds too much like Sabbath, I could do so much better on my own". I guess coming together to make a killer sound/movie isn't enough at that point. It seems so easy to just go off and create your own heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Maybe you take the Megadeth route and spit in the face of your percieved "oppressors" by forming a band with a similar sound and logo and showing them how it's REALLY done. Or, you could pull the classic "you know, this material is beneath me, so I'm going to go off and record my concept album of klezmer music". Either way, the point is that egos flare up, and everyone acrimoniously goes their separate ways, and they eventually find new people to jam with. And the cycle begins anew.

Of course, things usually don't work out too well. You generally can't have a band with four frontmen, or it will turn into a fractured, schizoid mess. There needs to be a Hetfield...and maybe even an Ulrich (I'm talking up to and including the Black Album here) to write the arrangements, and set the groundwork for the other guys to add their parts to. It's not an easy thing to do, either. I think people fail to realize how hard being that guy really is. You're called a control freak if you run a tight ship (movies: Kubrick, music: Jeff Tweedy), and you're criticized for lack of focus if you let everyone run roughshod over you in some approximation of "democracy". Not only that, you probably won't ever get anything done (be it a movie or an album), because you're going to be too busy listening to the production assistant's lighting suggestions.

I know that seems pretty black and white, but there really is no middle ground. Trust me on this one. Maybe in the studio system when you bring unions and clearly-defined job-descriptions into the mix, but not in the indie world. And the biggest death wish that you can make would be to get your friends to help you out. In most cases, this is the absolute worst idea you could possibly have. You can't manage to have a "business" rapport with people that you have baggage with. You'll begin to notice that people start to take things way too seriously and get offended as if you're making a personal attack, when really all you're trying to do is get a shot that looks halfway decent in a reasonable amount of time. That's not to say that you won't find people that are able to switch back and forth between "business" and "pleasure"'s just a rarity. The set of Sweet Thing was a great example of that vibe. My wife manages to pull it off pretty well (and she's probably got it the most difficult, because she has to live with me and listen to the fallout of other people fucking up on a regular basis), as do most of my main grips. And one of the hardest workers on the set is our new sound guy, most likely because initially I didn't know him from Adam, so he's approaching the gig with some seriousness.

For the next few projects I have lined up, I'm hiring the crew for sure. Fortunately, I'm past the point of "eager beats pretty", so I can ensure that they have actual on-set experience as well. To bring this back full circle to the music analogies, Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) hired bad-ass session musicians to record The System Has Failed, and then hired bad-ass touring musicians to play the live dates. The result? Megadeth's best album since Rust In Peace, followed by a critically acclaimed word tour. Sure, Mustaine can be a little much at times, but you can't deny the success of his Machiavellian tactics.

But you know, with all that said...the dissidents will always think that they have a better handle on the way things work than "the powers that be"...whoever that might be at any given time...the director, bandleader, etc. The only way to convice them otherwise is to have them try, and most likely fail...a few times over. Trust me, I speak from experience. Granted, my shit-talking egomania kicked in when I was a boom operator in the middle of my college career, so I was able to learn the hard lessons before I really was in a position to screw up someone else's directorial groove. My first feature Fade To Black, was an experiment and learning tool all in one, and I count myself lucky that a few people dug it...because honestly, I knew nothing about anything back then as far as making movies. Oh sure, I thought I knew it all, from criticizing and aping things I picked up on other sets...but that wasn't the case. Not in the least.

Maybe more on this topic later...I just needed to vent, and now I'm falling asleep at the keyboard.

Requisite movie status update: we are getting more pickup shots tomorrow night, and then I believe we are finished shooting at Phobia. Principal photography on Closet Space is about 98% complete.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Two posts in somewhat rapid succession. What ever could be the cause of that, you ask? looks like I've pretty much got my next movie gig lined up. And it's coming up pretty soon. So much for time off...I'm starting to notice a disturbing trend in my production schedules. But I couldn't be happier.

More info to come in the next few weeks once things solidify. To head things off at the pass for speculation's sake:

- No, it's not the Nightmare prequel.
- Nope, not Alien 5, either.
- Witchcraft 14?
- and also a big no to Leprechaun Vs. Chucky By Way Of Demonic Toys.
- no, I did not recieve a big windfall from Witchcraft 13 and use it to fund this production.
- Yes, it is horror.
- No, it's not Closet Space 2...although that's probably directly afterward.

Man, the freako numerologists would have a field day with this post. Anyway, more on that later. In the meantime, check out this quasi-review of Electric Purgatory....the documentary I shot for my buddy Raymond. It's lukewarm, but hey, I got my name in Variety magazine.
Life can be really unfair sometimes.

Before I get into this, let me warn you that this post is only tangentially Closet Space related....if you are here just for news on the movie, here's the Cliff Notes version: things are fine, we have one or two more weekends of pickups left, and then we are done with principal photography. I am already editing footage together, and it looks stellar. The movie is going to be awesome.

Anyway, today I'm really focused on something else. This morning I was informed that my best friend's father passed away last night.

Now, I'm not the emotional type. Anyone that knows me can attest to that fact. I've even been accused of acute sociopathy on numerous occasions. But this is affecting me a little more than usual...for a number of reasons.

First of all, this man (and his wife) are probably the closest thing to what I'd call my godparents...assuming I believed in God. Those that know me know how virtually worthless my birth parents have been throughout my entire life. The Baragans were seemingly always there to fill that gulf. When we were kids, and I wasn't able to hang out, go anywhere, or do anything because my parents didn't want to drive me anywhere, the Baragans came all the way across town to give me a ride. Usually to Astroworld (and once I started driving myself, I discovered how literally out of their way they were going for me) so that Domingo and I could strike out with girls on a regular basis.

Domingo and I kind of drifted apart for a couple of years at the end of high school, but on the couple of occasions I was around, his parents were among the only people to actually congratulate me and tell me how proud they were of my accomplishments. Background on that: I did some stuff that enabled me to get a full ride to UT, plus numerous other scholarships as well. My birth parents never ONCE said anything even remotely scraping praise. The most I got out of my father was disappointment at the fact that I didn't get a football scholarship. Anyway, aside from a few teachers (who I will also be thanking in my Oscar acceptance speech), the Baragans were the only people there for me.

Fast forward to the present time, and the aforementioned movie connection. Just for a little context, my parents and immediate family have never ever seen anything that I've done. No movie screenings, no live shows with bands, nothing. And it's not because they weren't invited (at least until I stopped wasting my time inviting them). Not only did the Baragan family show up at just about every screening; upon my finishing and screening Witchcraft 13, the Baragans believed in me enough to finance a great deal of my follow-up project, which of course you know as Closet Space. I will forever be thankful for that...because once again, they were the first people to come up and actually tell me that they were proud of me. And then they gave me the means to go really nuts with this movie. Throughout all those conversations and interactions, what touches me most to this day is the fact that they would always refer to me as "son". And I feel like they really meant it.

So I spent a lot of the day thinking about all those things and occasionally tearing up because the world totally sucks sometimes. Good people leave us way too soon, it seems.

With all that said, I extend my heartfelt thanks to Domingo Baragan II for being there when I needed him, and most of all believing in me. On behalf of the cast and crew, we dedicate Closet Space in your honor.

Rest in peace,
(Your third son)

Friday, July 07, 2006

I posted this as a MySpace bulletin, but I'll repost it here since it's an update of sorts:

It seems that our incestuous little circle is becoming even more incest-y. I shot 2nd camera on Necrophobia a while back, then a great deal of the Necrophobia gang became part of the Closet Space cast and crew, and now this.

This past week my wife (and Closet Space lead) Melanie was cast as a last minute replacement lead in Rejected Films' latest mission-to-offend, entitled Sway. I've been around for one night of shooting so far, and I think it's going to send people screaming for the hills.

Eve Blaack from The Hacker's Source was also on hand to do an interview with Josh, the director. Most people don't know that we have a pretty classy genre publication right in our own backyard. Of course, I took the opportunity to slide in some Closet Space and Witchcraft 13 references, of course. I also gave her a screener of Witchcraft 13 so we'll see how that goes.
So now we have at least four (Sway, Necrophobia, Witchcraft 13, and Closet Space) indie horror movies primed to burst out of our fair city in the next year or so. And when I say indie, I f*%king mean it. Blood, sweat, and more blood...big budget sensibilities be damned. And as a result, we have a pretty tight-knit group of individuals to collaborate on more sick stuff going forward.

Be on the lookout for screenings and announcements in the coming months - I assure you that Houston's streets will run red with blood.

And tentacles.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I think I can consider this past weekend an "off" weekend, although that wasn't entirely the case.

Friday night began an ordeal which continues to this day - I'm upgrading to a new system drive on my editing suite before getting started on the Closet Space post, and transferring everything over has proven to be a pain in the ass. I think most of it is due to the proprietary and unstable nature of most of the software configuration. Next time I upgrade, I'm definitely going with a Macintosh editing solution, even if I decide to run Windows apps on it. I think I've figured out a workaround of sorts, so hopefully tonight I can finalize that process.

Saturday a few of us went up to Phobia and reconstructed some sets for the pickups that we have to start getting next week. We built a cliff, a tunnel (with walls on both ends), and a short hallway. It was arduous at times, but mostly fun....and we all still have our fingers. Once again, big thanks go out to Phobia for letting us do this up there.

Sunday I basically caught up on my comic book habit. My thoughts on this weeks haul:

- Squadron Supreme is killer, although it definitely is a lot like "JLA meets Rising Stars".
- Astonishing X-Men is still astonishing, even when it veers towards Cheese City, which is an accomplishment. Bravo, Joss. You really should have gotten the X3 gig.
- the Marvel "Civil War" crossover actually has me interested in characters that I've never given a crap about.
- Chris Claremont is leaving Uncanny X-Men, which is a good thing, considering his last two runs.
- Peter Milligan's run on X-Men is over, and I just feel kind of...."eh" about it. He started off with some interesting ideas, but ended more on a whimper than a bang, I think. Especially with the 'Gambit as Death' thing. The new creative teams have me excited, so we'll see what happens.
- As always, The Walking Dead is one of the best comics out there. Maybe I can direct the inevitable adaptation.