Sunday, December 11, 2011
The lead made us all go insane.
Well, here I am again after another extended absence. Fitting, I guess, since I'm creeping up on my 35th year here as well as the final several months of "not being a father" (more on that later)...as well as a crapload of other stuff. Some good, some not-so-good, but all valuable experiences. Of course, now I have the semi-daunting task of trying to encapsulate the last year - easily the most eventful one of my adult life - into one blog entry. So, yeah, it's probably gonna be long and rambling. Moving forward, I'm making a solemn vow to try and update with more regularity as in the "old days"...I've got lots of reasons to get back on the blogging horse, not least of which are a few awesome sponsorships/equipment loans requiring me to talk at length about their stuff in an online venue. (side note: Hi, Zacuto!)
Anyway, here we go, along with the candor you're all used to on this blog. Actually probably more so...if anything, I've become even more jaded over the last year, and now give way less fucks than I ever have up to this point in my life. Don't misunderstand that or misconstrue what I'm saying...I'm actually the happiest I've ever been in my adult life (probably a direct result of less giving of fucks).
Anyway, I guess if there were a greatest hits (and misses) tracklist of the past year it would go like this:
1. Psychic Experiment (then still known as Walking Distance) picked up by Lionsgate.
2. Bunch of Psychic Experiment screenings around the U.S. and the world (still screening in it's Walking Distance 120-minute form).
3. Began re-edit/rescore of Walking Distance to create the 90 minute Psychic Experiment version.
4. Started proactively dealing with some shady film bullshit (sound familiar?) and threatened to sue over same (also sound familiar?) - (also dubbed the "Melpocalypse"). No reason to hide it, I'm talking about Sweatshop.
5. Texas Frightmare Weekend 2011 - best showing ever for us in spite of (or perhaps because of) the above. Fulfilled a lifelong dream there (that bore fruit a few weeks later). Actually received my Sweatshop investment back. Shit pants, pinched self several times, checked for flying pigs and whether gravity still was, you know, gravity-ing.
6. Got involved with a couple of film projects that didn't happen for one reason or another. So if you're wondering about Holy Oak, it's dead.
7. Finally finished the Soon, A Light On script, promptly got it into the hands of my hero, and started the wheels rolling on that one.
8. Was encouraged (as a filmmaker who's "making things happen") to apply for a Texas Filmmaker's Production Fund grant to finish up Imago post. (Long story, but we're currently self-financing to cover an investor gap). Got totally denied for ANY funds. Here's who they did fund. Draw your own conclusions. To be fair, one of the judges DID note that I lacked the skills to actually produce results. Please see numbers 1, 3, 4, 9, and 13.
9. Completed delivery of Distance (now Psychic Experiment) to Lionsgate. Saw my first big studio box art and MPAA red band, "legit" trailer. Nearly cried. They would have been highly acidic man-tears, of course, but still.
10. Started a web comedy series called Placeholders that's turning out to be great fun. Making sure to rip on all the stuff and folks that I've bitched about thus far, including number 11 there.
11. Throughout all that, started getting pretty hardline about taking bullshit from folks. Finally cut a lot of negative influences out of my life, both professionally and personally. Seriously, fuck that noise. The TFPF debacle helped me "see the light" as well - I had been deluded into thinking that the support net for an...Upstart like me might actually exist, especially since I'd done most of the heavy lifting (so to speak) myself. But no, things are no different from the elitist bullshit and cinematic vaporware worship which I experienced back in the late 90's when I got started doing this. I could bring up so many projects that were supposed to be awesome, that would "change the landscape of local film"...that actually never happened - but I kinda lost count. Needless to say, these Films That Never Were have gotten WAY more local press/support than Distance/Experiment ever did. Cut to now. That sound you hear is me, laughing like a hyena sprayed with Joker Venom. Anyway, that one got a little ranty. Back to the positive tip:
12. Received an awesome voicemail (and a few follow-up phone calls) from the Springwood Slasher himself.
13. Psychic Experiment released on DVD 12/6/2011. Available damn near everywhere, including big box retailers, streaming, On Demand services, Blockbuster video, Netflix, etc.
There's more than that, but I'll keep it at lucky 13 for now. It's funny - I'm not very open about most of that stuff (might have something to do with the fact that my blog has lay dormant for a while now), and I guess since all folks see is the "positive news/promotional excitement" thing on Twitter or Facebook, they get the impression that I'm an egomaniac who thinks his shit doesn't stink, a deluded asshole, or both. Actually one of the people I've cut ties with accused me of getting my figurative dick sucked constantly in this town (Houston, if you don't know) - which couldn't be farther from the truth. I've got a movie in wide release, and I get more press from NY/LA and fucking Europe than I do in my home town...or state, for that matter. More support, too. Even the people that work for or with me go off on regular stretches where they think I'm crazy and totally full of shit. My wife included. That's not a dig on them, it's just the reality of the situation, and a reflection of the hard lifestyle choices one has to make to get to this point. Don't get me wrong, I have had TONS of support from cast and crew involved with the various projects...but there are just as many times (if not more) where I am out on a limb totally alone. The hard times, after the fun of the big crazy weekend shoot is over. The limb may be creative, financial, or just psychological...but it's a realization that's stuck with me and settled in pretty hard this year. Could be a result of having to repeatedly defend myself from all kinds of bullshit over the years, from Generic Records to the Access television show to Witchcraft to Closet Space to Distance/Experiment. It's a battle. It's a fucking war, sometimes. That's a pretty well worn metaphor for filmmaking, but it is one of the most apt I've ever heard. Blood is shed. People desert, change sides, die in the crossfire. But as Chuck Russell (Nightmare 3, Scorpion King) once said: "my definition of 'Director' is the last man standing."
Anyway, that was a little ranty, too, but I needed to put that out there. Lately, I've been doing a lot of informal speaking engagements at film school programs and it seems that people respond most to my honesty. Well, that and my winning smile. So, I'm trying to be honest here as well - it ain't all red carpet premieres and Facebook fan pages, trailers, lattes, and an assistant. And it's not going to be just like all the books you read, or special features you watched, or articles you found on Wikipedia. And it's surely NOTHING like the view you've gotten from behind your desk preparing your business packet and reading Syd Field, or the limited field of view you got during your PA position on Kickboxer 7. (Disclaimer: I'm pulling this out of my ass, but if there is a Kickboxer 7, I'm sure it's awesome, especially if Sasha Mitchell returns to whup more Tong Po ass). It's a dirty, tiring, thankless business with a lot of casualties. But I'm making my way through the pile of bodies one project at a time. And if you think I'm doing it the wrong way (despite some pretty cool results/returns to the contrary), feel free to blaze your own trail. Just know that you might have to gnaw through a corpse or two on the way out.
At any rate, as mentioned above, we are just on the other side of the biggest movie thing I've done thus far - the Psychic Experiment release. I still don't think the enormity of it all has entirely sunk in (I actually think that will happen once the first sizable chunk of money arrives). It's available damn near everywhere - even on your DirecTV boxes. Fucking weird, man. Really fucking weird. Of course, I'm beyond happy and excited, but the reality of the situation is...well, what's next? Where do we go from here? I'm insanely proud of Experiment, but for me (especially lately) this is a stepping stone, a beachhead from which to launch the next campaign. I'm sure living with the film for 3.5 years helped that "disconnect" process along somewhat, but I remember it happening with Closet Space to some extent as well. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I've done a LOT of growing up in the years since I began the script back in college, and also via the lessons learned during the film production and sales process. And some of the Imago hard knocks as well. So yeah - totally enjoying the Psychic Experiment moments, but priming for the next journey from a better tactical position as well.
That next journey looks to be Soon, A Light On, which I think I mentioned in my last blog entry. It's my "old school ghost story". We hope to start in the spring, and we have a BAD ASS cast and crew attached thus far - with hopefully more on the way. Wish I could say more at this point, but yeah...dream project. Emphasis on dream. More as we can reveal it, but you know, hints are around if you know where to look. :) Shooting this one in New Orleans, and happy to give THAT city the $1 million USD injection that Houston and Texas apparently don't want from my no-account, indie horror directing, doesn't play well with others (when the others are full of shit) self. Real Talk.
Somehow, in the interim, we started up production on a comedy web series titled Placeholders. The series takes place in and around a public access station, much like the one I worked at here in Houston. Of course, it's populated with the same types of wacky characters as well. There's also a healthy dose of what I've come to term "cine-hatred". Pretty sure you know what I mean by that if you've read this far. It's been great fun, VERY cathartic, and it's also been a good opportunity to involve other folks as directors on varying episodes - which is turning out to be a pretty successful experiment thus far. Look for Placeholders to launch before the end of the year.
There's tons more to say (some spec scripts I'm working on, our impending move elsewhere), but we'll get to the rest later as we finish Imago, launch Placeholders, and start Soon, but I'll go ahead and wrap this one up with inarguably the biggest news of the year - Melanie and I are with child. Yep, the Houses are pregnant, and it looks like I'll be a father before I turn 36. So...I guess I better enjoy this Christmas and birthday as it will probably be the last purely selfish one I have for myself. Paintball/Fogo De Chao/Comic book run, anyone?