Saturday, January 23, 2016

In Which I Number the Israelites and Analyze My New-found Boringness


And now for something completely different!

Yes, I occasionally borrow shamelessly from Monty Python... why not borrow from the best?

Anyways, and now, a man with three buttocks...



So, yeah, hi everyone.... it's me.... Dave....

So after finishing the latest script for the first (of many, I hope) of my new plays that I hope will be produced locally here in San Diego, I got it in my head to assemble all of the stuff I've written into one place, and print it all out so I have hardcopies of everything. Why? I don't know... because? So I can admire the works of my hands, and number the Israelites and other subtly proud motives... I've been writing plays and skits (and now screenplays) since the mid-nineties, and short fiction & poetry since well before that, but I've never been too careful about cataloging/preserving it all.

Anyways, take a peek...


The black two-inch binder on the bottom is all of the Christmas/Easter plays I've written (20 titles), each ranging from 20-minute run time to 45-minutes, approximately. The blue three-inch binder is the other full-length plays I've written (60+ minutes run time) along with the finished screen-plays, with the exception of Pursuing Peace, which I wrote in 2004 (and we made into a movie, using the youth from our church as the cast), which I wrote in MS Word... I'm converting it to proper screenplay formatting in Adobe Story... after it's done, I'll print it and add it here. Obviously, this doesn't include the unfinished works in progress... And the orange folder is all of the skits, reader's theaters and monologues I've written...

Whew!

Of course, my two unfinished novels are not represented... I hope someday to finish them both...

So what prompted all of this? Well, aside from the fact that I've always wanted to do it, a couple weeks back, when Andrew and I met with the theater representative about the idea of producing plays, I was in a position where I had to sort of sell myself. And as I talked about all the work I've done over the past two decades, the guy seemed a bit hesitant to believe me. I guess people don't normally generate the amount of work I have... It's not like a brag, it just is what it is. I do plays every year -- it's just what I do, no biggie. I enjoy it. Anyways, after the meeting, I thought, "What if he asks to see my work? What could I show him?" So now I'm ready, if a meeting is called where I need to prove my prolificity.

See? A real writer makes up his own words!

Honestly, I'm not even sure this is all of it. Some stuff might have slipped through the cracks over the years...

Anyway, I had about 6 or 7 ideas for new plays, and the first of them is called Final Hour, which I wrote the first week of January. It's about a radio talk show host who is caught off guard by some staggering personal news right before he's set to go on the air for the final hour of his show. It's about how he processes the blow while still doing his job. Obviously, there's a lot more to it than that, but that gives you an idea. I think it's one of the best things I've ever written, actually. If the theater OK's us producing plays, that's the one we'll lead with...

But I'm working on the next one as we speak... I want to crank them out while the enthusiasm is there...

I found yet another YouTube channel with filmcraft-related videos that are amazing. The channel is called Every Frame A Painting, and it's well-worth your browse time. Who needs film school when content like this is available?



Each of these videos discusses aspects of directing and/or film making that are so inspiring to me. I tell ya, if/when I finally get a chance to direct a film, I'm going to be so ready... I can't wait. In fact, my idea file for short films and features is overflowing already... even moreso than my play idea file...

Who knows! If you want a part, let me know and I'll write you in!


I can't believe I never knew about Curt's new hat... thanks Curt!

What else?

Well, the new year has only just begun, but I've already finished reading two books and am on my third... Sunset Mantle was quite good, Way Station pretty tepid, but both were brief reads (200-300 pages)... now I'm reading a crazily-creative fantasy book called Three Parts Dead, which has more interesting ideas than I can shake a bookmark at... including this little nugget... "He contacted Kelethras via nightmare courier two days ago."

"Nightmare courier", lol... I love it! Imagine being able to send someone a message while they dream, via a sudden nightmare? I don't know, perhaps it's been done before in other books, but that's a new concept to me... very fun...

I'm not watching as much lately... got one episode into Vikings... I know it's supposed to be awesome, so I'll give it enough of a shot before deciding. I watched Ex Machina (finally) and liked it well enough. Not sure it deserves all the hype it got, but I certainly don't regret watching it. And I've moved onto season 2 of Broadchurch... the first season was sooooo good. Man, those Brits can act. I read an article recently that says more and more acting roles are going to European actors over American actors, because differences in skill levels are becoming more pronounced... not sure about that, but dang, David Tennant can act his butt off. He's rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors. That whole cast in Broadchurch is fantastic...


I was pulling up random blog posts from my archive yesterday... man, I used to be really goofy... no wonder my blog used to be more popular than it is today... I've really mellowed out, unfortunately. I've been pondering why, and I have a theory....

I started taking acting classes in March of 2013. That's also when I decided to get braces on my teeth, and also got a new car. That all came out of a very tough year I had leading up to that. I always had a rather profound sense of dissatisfaction about myself and life in general, which produced an underlying sense of "life panic", for lack of a better phrase. It meant I was prone to bursts of depression and mania... I would lose myself in goofiness and entertainment, because I desperately needed to escape from myself, and laugh at things, since I think I lacked the maturity to face life full on. It was like bubbling lava just under the surface of my life, which heated me and my output.

So in deciding to pursue my acting dream, and get my teeth fixed and try to become a professional actor/writer, it has calmed that manic undercurrent. I feel far more solid underneath, less "on the edge"... it's a double-edged sword, I think... on the one hand, that crazy creativity that came out of my extreme sense of dissatisfaction has tapered way off... but I feel so much better about life and about myself... I feel like life-long dreams are becoming a reality...

So while I enjoy going back and re-reading some of the older blog posts, it is with a certain amount of nostalgic wistfulness... I'm sure that's part of the reason far fewer people come here to read this blog anymore... look how boring I am now!!!


Such is life, I suppose. Trade one level of creativity for another, eh?

Going to get back to working on my next script. I'll let you know how things develop!

Adios for now,

Dave the Older, Wiser, and More Boring

Monday, January 11, 2016

Will You Play Upon This Pipe?


Well, hello everyone!

It's a new year, eh! Same as the old year?

Maybe, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, for me... Yeah, that sounds selfish, I know... but hey, I can't talk about you with any authority! I don't know how things are going with you, you never talk to me anymore! Remember when we used to hang out, and, like, go on picnics and ride skateboards at the beach and eat spaghetti? Remember!? What happened!?

I guess we grew apart. *sigh*

But it's a new year! Let us renew our friendship! To keep things simple, my friendship can be purchased for a reasonable price... I accept cash gifts, as well as Amazon Gift Cards! I'll use it to buy more books! Which I will, of course, go off by myself to read... it's a vicious circle, really...


So, what's new, then?

Well, the most exciting tidbit of news that is consuming me of late regards theater acting... The Illustrious Andrew Ian and I are in talks with a local 100-seat theater here in Beautiful San Diego, to produce original plays, to be performed in their down time between big productions. I would write and likely direct them, at least initially, which is sort of a win-win for everyone involved. It's a beautiful space - when I saw it, the possibilities blossomed in my brainpan. I'm already working on (and am almost finished with) the first of a half-dozen scripts for play ideas I had. I can't give too many details yet, since the board at the theater has yet to sign off on it, but it looks like this year might see Andrew and I making an entrance into the local theater scene.

I know my focus these past two decades has been on spiritual themes (read: I write church-friendly plays), so those that know me may wonder if I'll be writing secular plays now, or sticking to church stuff. Well, yes and no... I think I've found a sweet spot in the middle, with secular characters and settings, which hit themes that can be considered spiritual. Sort of like the Christmas play we just did (called "Out There"), which you can watch in the previous blog post, if you'd like. Non-religious people dealing with things that include spiritual, philosophical aspects.

More info as it evolves.

As far as Beyond the Impact, excitement levels are ramping up on the cast and crew, as the scope of the project intensifies and expands. It truly is amazing, as Jeff and his inner circle put piece after impressive piece into place. Of course, Jeff is increasingly concerned about keeping details under wraps, and I know he occasionally reads this very blog, so I will leave it there. Let's just say, no one is ready for this... MUAHAHAHAH!!!

Also, movie-related. I went on opening day to catch a matinee of Quentin Tarantino's latest film, The Hateful Eight. And I wrote a review of the film, which the Glorious Two Gay Geeks, Ben and Kieth, posted on their website for their millions of fans to read! If you'd like to read my thoughts on the film, by all means, head over there and check it out! HERE is the link!

And while you're there, catch the latest podcast. They're all great fun to listen to. I'm a big fan (even though I'm pretty sure I annoy Kieth... sorry Kieth!).


I guess one could logically ask why, if I consider myself a church-going person with a strong faith, would I subject myself to a film like The Hateful Eight, with a tidal wave of foul language, violence and other offensive elements... I mean, not exactly a film I would invite a church youth group to go see, lol... and the answer is multi-faceted, and ties into my life-long love for story-telling, in its various forms. Books, films, TV shows, music, plays, poetry, dance... anything that takes people away from their daily concerns, and not only entertains them for a while, but also inspires them and possibly makes them think about their concerns a little differently. I love when I see stories that do that for me - jar me out of my civilian noise and let me see things in a way that could possibly lead me to a solution. As a prayer supplement, of course. Does God communicate to me through stories? You bet he does....

Plus, I love good acting. Which brings me back to the Tarantino film. The beautiful visuals, the effective setting and costuming, the richly-drawn characters, the snappy dialog, and the eyes... man, great actors communicate so much with just their eyes... I wish more actors understood that, especially locally. I've seen so many locally-made short films and web series', where the actors have dead eyes. It's as hard for me to get past as a bad script is. Mediocre dialog delivered by dead-eyed rote is impossible for me to handle for very long.

I'll take great, effective story-telling wherever I can find it, even if it's bathed in mud. Because if it's done well, I can find the lessons in it, the inspiration, the escape, the new perspective. The film isn't for everyone, I know, I and I don't fault you if you stay away from The Hateful Eight. I saw the gold in it, like I knew I would.

Here's an hour-long round-table discussion featuring an incredible set of top Hollywood directors: Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino, Danny Boyle, David O. Russell, Alejandro Inarritu, and Tom Hooper. I found it endlessly fascinating.



And for those of you who don't have an hour to watch a video like that, here's something fun instead! A little slight of hand from an amazing performance artist.



One last acting-related link, which is to a series of incredible videos on the Variety You Tube channel, called "Actors on Actors," in which a pair of big name actors/actresses sit down and "interview" each other. There are some incredible videos in this collection. LINK is right here.

So that's that.

So, yeah, lots of cool stuff on my plate, including things I haven't mentioned yet (and won't, in this post). Going to keep plugging along and see what happens. Who knows? If big things happen, I'll take you along with me!

Adios for now,

Dave the Still Blogging After All These Years.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Caramel is Just Sugar, When You Boil It Down...


2015 is coming to a close. It's been a terrific year, all things considered. No, I'm not going to get all maudlin and do some personal "year in review" nonsense! Fear not!

In fact, tonight's post is likely going to be brief. As in, I'm wearing briefs on my head, as is my year-end custom. Hey, we all have our quirks, don't we..?

I primarily came in here to post the video of this year's Christmas play, called "Out There", which was performed on December 20 and starred Jennifer Scibetta, Andrew Ian, Mario Ortiz and Hanna Halland. It was, by all I could see, the most well-received play we've ever done. I'm immensely proud of the job our cast did...

As usual, there's something about seeing a play, live, in person, which does not translate well into video form... so even though the video turned out great for the most part, it just doesn't have the same punch to me that it did in person...

If you do watch it, be prepared for a weird little buzzing noise from 1:23 to about 1:50, it was a technical feedback glitch, and Bill O. handled it. After that, the play really takes off. It's about 30 minutes long. It doesn't look good full screen, sorry... I don't know how to get it to upload to YouTube at anything higher than 480p...



Again, many thanks to everyone - both the cast and the crew - who helped make the play happen. I think it bodes well for future productions... perhaps I can get even more local actors to participate.

Christmas was mellow, as was our 25th wedding anniversary, and we have nothing really planned for New Years... but hey, that's ok...


OK, I'm going to talk briefly about Star Wars vs Star Trek, and I shall keep things spoiler-free in case you haven't seen The Force Awakens yet... yes, I'm going to nerd out for a few minutes...

So, the age-long debate over Wars vs Trek is, in and of itself, well-trodden ground... but the fact that the same director has now made solid cinematic efforts on both sides of the debate lends new wrinkles to the discussion....

The punchline to what I want to talk about is thus: I really liked Star Trek: Into Darkness, while I was greatly disappointed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I have never really considered myself a "true" fan of either franchise, really. I mean, I like them both, as much as the next guy. That being said, it seems that "true" Star Trek fans (whatever that means) had substantial problems with the way JJ Arbams handled Into Darkness, while "true" Star Wars fans can't gush enough about how incredibly good The Force Awakens is. My 2 favorite online movie reviewers -- Jeremy Jahns and Chris Stuckmann -- each said The Force Awakens was their favorite movie of the year. For comparison - for Into Darkness they each gave their highest possible rating at the time, but in the year end list, Jeremy put it at #9 in his Top Ten Films of 2013, and Chris Stuckmann gave it an Honorable Mention - not even top ten...

Now, being a casual fan of both franchises, I went into each movie with an open mind, hoping to see a great movie. I didn't expect anything from Into Darkness - and I loved it. I thought it was a fantastic action film, with great moments, characters and performances. I went into The Force Awakens with an open mind - though admittedly, with everyone saying so universally how awesome it was, I took it for granted that I would love it as well. And surprisingly (to me), I thought it was a bit of a turd. It was sappy, ham-fisted, and filled with uninspired characters, dialog and performances... it did have great visuals and some great moments, but overall, the more I ponder the film, the less I like it. The opposite was true of Into Darkness...

The reason I bring this up is the irony, and also the idea of the impact that "true" fan-ness may have on a person viewing the properties. I had nothing really invested in either franchise - I liked them both, for the most part. I wasn't anchored in the lore, or the canon, or expectations based on things that have gone before. In each case, I just wanted to see a good movie. "True" fans disliked Into Darkness, "true" fans love The Force Awakens. To me, the better film is easy to spot a mile away...

I could go on at extreme length about all the questions and concerns I had about The Force Awakens - but I know it would be wasted. I think that the vast majority of the population is willing and able to overlook every possible weakness in the film and label it amazing, which is fine. Unplug your brain and enjoy the ride, that sort of thing. I say, go for it. I'm not wired to do that. I have to think about what I'm seeing - and if things go clunk, I need to figure out why....

Bottom Line: Without a "true fanboy" filter to hinder my assessment, I give Into Darkness a very solid 9.5/10 and I give The Force Awakens a very generous 6/10.


So the final blog post of the year is in the bag. And yeah, it was boring. What can I say? One of the drawbacks, I suppose, of winging it.

Lots of great things on the horizon for 2016, in both writing and acting (and possibly directing). I will keep you all updated as things continue to evolve.

Thanks again for your support and silent readership (lol... leave a comment, dangit!).

Have a great New Year's Eve/Day.

Adios for now,

Dave the Contrarian

Monday, December 14, 2015

25 Down, 75 To Go. Plus, My "Best Of" List! O Joy!

 

Well, hello there!

Welcome to another episode of Which Dave Is Going To Show Up To The Blog Tonight?! I am your host, Dave the All-Over-The-Place, and have I got a KFC-Bucketful of nonsense for you tonight! Unless you're reading this in the daytime, in which case the, uh, "tonight" thing doesn't really apply... whatever, I don't know how timezone's work...

Where was I?

Ah, yes, which Dave has shown up tonight? Is it the morose, pensive Dave, prone to wax maudlin and self piteous? Or is it the goofy Dave, spouting nonsensities and randomness? Is it Dave the Overconfident, droning on about some artsy thing, or reviewing a book/movie/TV and pretending he knows what he's talking about? Or is it the pseudo-theological Dave, peppering you with empty Biblical theories and semi-relevant scripture verses? Or is it that version of Dave that just talks about all the acting/writing stuff he's been doing?

The answer?

I don't know! Let's find out!



So tomorrow (December 15) is my 25th anniversary. 25 years of marriage. Twenty Five Years. My entire adult life.

Honestly, as you probably can imagine, I have a wide variety of feelings about it. The question of the moment is: how open should I be about it? I suppose a related question could be: who cares how open I am, lol?

Don't worry; I'm not here to lament the hard stretches of road, or pat myself on the back, or fish for compliments/sympathy. It is what it is. I suppose the heart of what I'd like to say revolves around the idea of symbolism, I guess. The past several years, in my personal ruminations on various subjects, I seem to always come back to the themes of "fantasy v reality", or rather, "the idea of something" vs "the reality of something." An off-shoot of that topic is the idea the importance of symbols... it's funny the way things represent things to people - often wildly different things, depending on the person.

Did you ever see the movie The Pianist, with Adrien Brody? He's a Polish Jewish musician of some renown before the war, who has a harrowing time dodging the Nazis during the occupation. At the very end, emaciated, desperate, the Nazi's have fled and the Russians have arrived, he stumbles out of the home he's been hiding in, and he's bundled up in a big winter coat that a Nazi officer had left behind for him - with the German army markings all over it... he stumbles out to greet his liberators - and is promptly shot at. He dodges into a building, calling out that he's Polish and please don't shoot, etc. They call him out, guns pointing at him, and one guy says "Yeah, he's Polish..." Another guy says "Why are you wearing that &^%$&* coat?" And Brody says, "Because I'm cold."

It's a powerful scene, and popped to mind as I was contemplating symbolism today.

But, yeah, a 25th anniversary... it represents something multi-faceted and emotionally complex to me. I suppose it's like finally reaching the peak of a mountain I've been climbing. Trying to imagine the view from the top (the fantasy) for so long... and then actually seeing the view (the reality). It's odd... there's always been a sense of finality, or completion associated with the 25 anniversary in my case... like once I get there, I've accomplished something huge, epic, worthy of note. Like the world should stop and celebrate our accomplishment or something. And yet I know the day will pass like any other day for everyone else - as it should. The symbolism of my 25th anniversary doesn't mean anything to anyone not directly impacted by it: my spouse and I of course, but also our kids and my mother and sister... that's about it. It won't even register on anyone else's radar - and it shouldn't.

The power of symbolism. Why am I wearing this coat? Because I'm cold.

But of course, my marriage isn't ending - I'm not "finished"... We will continue to march forward together, my wife and I. It has its ups and downs, as it always has - as I'm sure it would also have ups and downs if I were single or married to someone else or whatever situation I find myself in... alone in a cave somewhere. Pluses and minuses. Accept them both or reject them both. In fact, if anyone were to ask me, "Dave, what relationship advice do you have for people who wonder how the heck you can stay married for 25 years?" I'd say that. Everyone has positives and negatives... which weighs more? If the positives outweigh the negatives, accept them both. Don't try to pick the positives and "fix" the negatives about the other person... accept them both. If a "negative" changes, it will be because the other person changes on his/her own. If they don't, then so what? You accept them, right? The price you pay to reap the positives. If the negs outweigh positives? Chuck them both. Weigh them both, accept them both or reject them both. Don't try to cherry-pick and micromanage.

There. Simple advice from Dave the Simpleton.



So the year draws to a close. I guess I could discuss some of my Favorites of the Year, in various forms of media...

Books

This is a tough one for me! I read 25 books this year - most of them new, but a few re-reads. Once again, I read the Stormlight Archive (Brandon Sanderson), the Kingkiller Chronicles (Pat Rothfuss) and Tuf Voyaging (GRR Martin) all of which I enjoyed revisiting... not surprising, I suppose... I wouldn't re-read a book if I didn't really enjoy it previously. But as for the new books I read, as I review the list, there isn't really a title I loved without reservation. There were good ones, but they each had flaws of various kinds. City of Stairs (RJ Bennett) and Leviathan Wakes (JS Corey) were both great reads but had weak endings... Redshirts (Scalzi) and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (R Riggs) had great premises but mediocre execution. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (L. Taylor) and Half-A-King (Abercrombie) were watered down with too much Hollywood flavor... I suppose if I had to pick this years best book for me, it would be Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence - though that one was hamstrung by it's choice of first person perspective, which limited it's potential scope.

TV

I saw some great television this year - as well as some turds (The Flash). And also some that started well and morphed into turds (Person of Interest)! I seemed to gravitate to superhero fare mostly. I loved the first season of GOTHAM - but the second season is flat-lining. The inconsistent writing is undoing the show, in my opinion. I had big problems with The Flash for this same reason - although I had other problems with The Flash beyond the writing -- basically top to bottom. The writing, directing, casting, acting, story choices - I honestly have no idea why this show is so popular...

But back to the good stuff! I loved the dark and gritty shows, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Fantastic filmcraft on display - in fact, when it gets to the point where I'm ready to start directing films, I'm going to use Jessica Jones as my film school. I will break down scenes - shot for shot - to see the choices that the director made, and why. It is a visually sumptuous show - practically every shot like a painting. So good. I hesitate to say it's my Favorite of the Year, since the content is dark and disturbing - the villain (David Tennant as Kilgrave) was as unnerving as he was well-portrayed. Can't say I'd recommend the show to anyone who offends easily. But if you want to see absolutely fantastic filmcraft on display, you won't get any better...

But to pick a Favorite, I'll go with Daredevil. It had direction almost on par with Jessica Jones, terrific writing, great casting, wonderful long shots, and great performances - with two notable exceptions. Two of the main characters in the show - Eddie Henson as Foggy Nelson, and Deborah Woll as Karen Page - absolutely rubbed me the wrong way. I don't think it was just the way the characters were written (they were a couple of hard-drinking whiners, really, who never passed up a chance to cry), but the acting was consistently weak. However other actors (such as the fantastic Vincent D'onofrio as Wilson Fisk) more than made up for it, as well as cameos by the likes of Scott Glenn. All things considered, an outstanding show.

Movies

This one is an easy choice. As with the TV category, I saw films that ran the gamut this year. But Birdman was easily not only my Favorite of the Year, but one of my Favorites of All Time. The writing, the acting, the themes, and the incredible craft on display made it thoroughly memorable to me. I wrote a review of it last March, if you'd like more detail on why I loved the film as much as I did. The same director is about to release The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCapprio, which I *was* going to see - until I read reviews about how relentlessly brutal and unflinching it is... I may pass on that one for now.

Of course, the new Star Wars movie comes out in December - If it's as good as I hope it it, I may need to revise this list! I doubt it will unseat Birdman, but hey, you never know!

Other good movies I saw this year include: Spotlight, St. Vincent, John Wick and Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Music

This one is a bit of a challenge - I heard some terrific music this year. It was hard to decide between Thank You (Sevendust), Hush (Hellyeah), Failure (Breaking Benjamin) and Big Bad Wolf (In This Moment)... but I decided my Favorite Song of the Year is the recently-released song The Light by Disturbed.

I would link to them, but honestly, they are all heavy rock songs - my listening has trended in that direction the past year or two - I love the energy level. I know not many other people who read this blog would be interested in listening to such music, but if you are, you likely already know the songs. If not and you're really curious, you can find them easily enough on YouTube.

I will embed The Light, though...



Games

This one is also a pretty easy call. As much as I enjoyed the Dead Island Series, Grim Dawn, Minecraft and Wolfenstein Old Blood (fantastic art direction), I have to say Fallout 4 is proving to be every bit as awesome as I'd long hoped it would be. Roaming the wasteland has never been so fulfilling. I'm 70 hours in, and still only level 29...

A funny (to me) sidenote. I bought and played a bit of Grand Theft Auto 5, and I can safely say it's one of the most impressive games I've ever played (and likely one of the best games ever made), but as much as I enjoy the game when I'm playing it, when I'm *not* playing the game, I have absolutely no desire to play it. Does that make sense? It's a great game, but I rarely ever play it. I really have to talk myself into playing it - and when I do, I enjoy it completely. It's a weird dynamic.

---------------------------------------------

Anyway, that's that for now.

We perform the Christmas Play next Sunday (12/20). The whole cast is miked this year, so we'll hopefully have good sound on the video. If it turns out good, I'll post it here.

Other projects I'm working on all seem to be on hold until after the holidays.

Wow, this post ended up being longer than I had anticipated. Looks like all of the Daves showed up to tonight's episode!  If you endured all of this nonsense without tipping over, you have my admiration and appreciation.

I hope your Christmas is a good one.

Dave the Rambling Smacktard