Sunday, September 25, 2016

Meow! (You Were Supposed To Meow Back...)

Sing us a song, you're the Piano Man...

OK, one song, coming up...


*GROAN* *sigh*

O great, here we go again. David in his "alone in the world" mood again... "For crying out loud, Dave, learn a new song already! We've heard this one from you way too often! It's over-played!"

OK, fine. Let me find my happy face to put on for you... gimme a sec...


There it is...

:D

There, how's that? Better?

"No. Look, Dave, we come here to read your goofy nonsense, to cheer us up from our own raft of crap! If you're in the dumps as well, it's counter-productive, eh! Try harder!"

OK, fine... here, let me try again...


"No, no, no! We still see through you!"

Hey, look... first of all, I'm an actor, ok? I never said I was a particularly skilled one. I try my best, on set or off, to play the happy, together guy. I think I pull it off well most of the time. But dangit, the more I learn of people, the less I think I like them.

I pretty much spent the first 40 years of my life squirreled away in a safe place, sheltering myself from The Real World(TM), and crafting my own little goofy version of the world to live in. Made my own rules, crafted people the way I wanted them to be, and moseyed my way through life, willfully ignorant. Well, for the past few years, I've tried to break free of that self-induced, self-crafted little utopia and see what life is like on the outside, with real people, trying to make a legitimate impact out there.

The results have been decidedly mixed.

I'm realizing not everyone is like me. In fact, no one is like me, that I've found. And I don't say that to flatter myself - just the opposite. I am, in many ways, quite socially retarded. I suppose that's logical - not sure why I should be so surprised. I mean, a tree that grows up outside is much more resilient than one that grows up inside a greenhouse... Exposure to the elements toughens one up, I suppose... so why should I be surprised that I'm stunted inside in many ways?

Still, the disappointment is palpable. My experience of the past few years seems to show me that most people are like my Wife... suspicious of everyone. Everybody is up to something, everybody is angling for something, some advantage over me/you. Everyone is out for himself. Honestly, it sucks to have that put on me, when it isn't a coat that fits. I don't have an agenda. I'm just me. I want to tell great stories, and involve great people. I'm not angling for anything, I'm not looking out for myself and my own best interests. I'm not trying to make a name for myself, at anyone's expense (much less everyone's). I'm just trying to enjoy life and leave a positive mark.

Having my actions mis-interpreted by people (who then react accordingly) is frustrating, because how do you fight it? Try to defend/explain myself? That only comes across as justification and guilt-dodging. And the thing is, if it was one isolated case, I could shrug it off. But it seems to be coming from every direction at once. Hence, the pervading, foundational sense of dread and depression I'm back wrestling with. Hello dorkness, my old friend...

My decision(s) now revolve around whether to retreat back into my safe little protected world again, cutting myself off again, or to "man up" and keep hitting it out there in The Real World(TM). Honestly, on paper, the answer is obvious. But the temptation is strong....

Bad grammar, but apt.

So what to do when I have no one to talk to? About this, or anything else?

I blog.

Like the previous post, where I reviewed the films I saw in the Best of San Diego screening for the 48. That post rubbed some people the wrong way. Some of the films I loved, some I liked, some I didn't really like. I suppose I should have seen it coming that voicing a less-than-stellar review of someone else's creative work would step on some toes. In my head, I had no intention of toe-stepping. I thought an honest critique would be appreciated, rather than shamelessly (falsely) gushing over every film, in some effort to avoid rocking the boat... so why post reviews at all then, you may ask?

I just told you! I have no one to talk to about these things! I went to the screening alone, came home alone, and wished I had someone to discuss the films with. So I blogged about it. Put a lot of work into that post, it may not seem like it. Talked about each film in some detail, got it all out, shared it. Good, right? Well, no, ungood. Turns out people are suspicious. They think everyone has an agenda, remember? It couldn't just be that someone wanted to chat without malice or ill intent about something as benign as a film screening...

So, yeah.

Pretend all is well? Pretend people are awesome? OK, fine... let's pretend...


Meow! How's things? Oh, peachy friggin keen!

Meow!

Brief Summary of Things Still In Progress:

BTI filming this month. Momentum script closing in on 200 pages (waaaaay way too long for a feature... gonna be an interesting editing session). Script for Best Dressed Guest having trouble moving past the "detailed notes" stage. The Christmas play for Mt. Zion is alive in concept form in my head, but yet to be written. Another test film set to be filmed with Ryan in the next month or two. He has a strong concept; gonna let him run with the script, and help where I can.

That's it.

Meow!

Of course, that's not it. Other facets of my life all seem to be vying for my attention by spiraling downward all at once. But you don't need/want to hear about that! I'll save all that for my Invisible Friend! Lucky Him!

So to cheer myself up, I've been watching tons of tsunami videos from the Japan 2011 quake.



Plus, random landslide videos. Those are always cool.

Here's a great song I'm digging a lot lately... "My Name is Human" by Highly Suspect...



And, because great acting always cheers me up, here's the best scene from the film Flight, with Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly and the magnificent James Badge Dale...

Warning, some foul language, but incredible dialog and acting...



Man, a scene like that does wonders for me... I love that....

So, yeah, all that to say, venting. As in, I needed to vent. So vent I did.

For starters.

Trust me, you don't want me to uncork.

Then again... you're all kinda like my Invisible Friends too, in a way... I don't know who reads this... I can imagine you any way I want. And the version of you that I imagine? That version likes me as I am. And knows I'm not angling for something from you. That version of you sees that I have something valuable to offer, and is willing to put up with my idiosyncrasies in order to make use of it. That I'm just me, trying to slide through life and leave something of substance behind for you to remember me by.

Who knows how much longer I have? 46 years is a lot longer than some people get to live...

We shall see.

Adios for now,

Dave, Vented.

Friday, September 16, 2016

48 Hour Film Festival - Best Of San Diego Screening


This year's 48 Hour Film Festival has come and gone. For the most part, I enjoyed the heck out of it. You can read about my personal experience, as far as the film our little team made, in the previous blog post. I will, however, post the film here for you to watch if you have any interest. It isn't the "director's cut" version I mentioned in the previous post - this is the version we submitted, which the people saw in our screening group.



Props to our cast, especially Kate Schott, for such great performances. I look forward to working with her -- and the rest of the cast -- on future projects. Ryan and I have big plans for future films, including shorts and features. Hopefully we will be involving a substantial number of San Diego acting talent.

So, the Best of San Diego Screening took place 9/15/2016, and it was a buffet of awesome films. I thought I would take the opportunity to review the films, and embed them here (as they are uploaded by the teams) for your enjoyment. Please keep in mind - I am nobody. My opinion, in my little corner of the world, counts for exactly squat. I stress this indelible truth because, in the mood I'm in, I might not limit myself to only positive commentary on each of the submissions... if you happen to be here from one of the teams, and you happen to disagree with a meaningless nitpick I have toward your film, please know that I am no one of any substance. Just a man with a blog who likes films... that's all... I suppose the flip-side of that is that the positives and accolades from me are just as empty, right? ;P

I might as well go in order of appearance... I found artwork where I could, but not every film had poster art...

Again, check back often! I hope to embed all of these films here, once they are available. A few are available now...

DISCONTINUANCE
by IntelleXual Entertainment


This is a science fiction piece about a man who has family problems, who is then abducted by aliens. The lead actor -- Shane Allen -- had some good moments early on, but when Randy Davison paired with Shane late in the film, it provided the highlight of the film, in a fun scene at a bar toward the end, with some nice banter between them. They work well together. There were little technical quirks here and there (mostly with sound), and the story structure suffered from the "7 minutes or less" rule - it really needed to be ten minutes to make more sense. But there were enough great moments to make it worth the watch.

THE CALL
by The Joelsons

This one received a lot of awards attention, and rightfully so. Great cinematography, especially the opening sequence in the rowboat, and the sequence in the snowfall. The ending sequence in the ambulance was also nice. Great editing. Honestly, the lead actress wasn't consistently convincing, in my opinion. And there were awkward moments where she voiced thoughts that would have been better left unsaid ("I couldn't have only been sleeping that long" "I couldn't have been here for four weeks" etc).... But tons of great visuals, and a nice soundtrack. One little quirk; the background generator noise (AC noise?) when she was in the hotel room was distracting...


REALITY BYTES
by GrooveKo

I loved this one. Very creative. I can't wait until they upload this one online so I can share it with you. Very funny, crisp pacing, solidly acted by the lead actress, great supporting cast. Definitely one of my favorites. A woman tries to find love in a series of virtual reality sessions...  Check it out!






Very creative, well-shot, nice production value. Great performances by the cast (Steve Murawka, Adrianna Glade and Isabella Cuda). I loved the final moment (the mirror shot)... One of my favorite films of the evening. Here is the trailer, until they upload the full film, after which time I will swap them out...


'HUSH' - trailer - FESTIVAL CITY FILMS from Sean Dejecacion on Vimeo.


CHECK/MATES
by State of Flux


This one had some good ideas. For a 48 Hour Film, it's a solid effort. Some great shot choices, funny moments, and nice cars (yay, production value!) added to the viewing, but the performances struck me as a bit too forced for my tastes, and the casting and writing a bit shaky. But it played well in front of a big crowd - I had watched the upload ahead of time, and enjoyed it more on the big screen than on the little screen.


CHECK|MATES from Jake Segraves on Vimeo.


THE NBL
by Bad MF


I had seen the teasers for this one ahead of time, and my expectations were low... it looked super corny... but man, I was surprised at this one. It's a Sports film, about the National Beerpong League Championships, and it was very, very funny. Standouts for me included the announcer team, Team GILF and the two homeless dudes (Mike Brayden and John Allen). But honestly, the whole cast brought it. Great editing, great pacing, great make-up, and lots of laughs. I believe this is the same team that made one of my faves last year, Crowd Sorcery...


AIRPORT VALETS
by Grudio Pictures


This one grew on me. At first I was off-put by the lighting issues (blown out shots, slipshod reflector use, etc.), but once the story settled into the La Jolla location and the older lady (Lisa Galer?) was introduced, it really took off. Very funny, didn't take itself too seriously, it had fun with the premise... Ultimately, I found it very enjoyable. Here's the trailer - again, when the film is uploaded, check it out here!


Airport Valets Trailer from Grudio Pictures on Vimeo.


SUPr
by Team Groovy


These were the guys that won it all last year with Under New Management. It has my favorite local actor Joe Hurley in it. It's very well made - this team knows how to shoot a film and make it look great. Lots of great moments, and some cool special effects - but honestly, I think they were hamstrung a bit by the "Superhero" genre... it was a great location and a strong cast (for the most part)... another genre would have let them really stretch their wings. As it was, I think this is a good, solid effort, but not among the standouts for the evening.

Check for yourself!


48 Hour Film Project 2016 - SUPr from Tom Antl on Vimeo.


FAMILY IN PROGRESS
by 4th Hallway

This film... wow, what can I say about this film? It starts off like a goofy 80's sitcom, complete with bad humor and a laugh track... and it quickly plummets into the darkest of tones... I loved this film. It was so risky, and it paid off. Trying to describe the journey would be impossible... you really need to watch this film... when they upload it, it will be here, for those who dare. Exquisitely creative and ballsy. This was a highlight of the evening for me, big time. Terrific writing and editing - and the actors needed to bring it on several levels, and they friggin nailed it.


FLETCHER & JENKS
by Satiated Sadists


There was so much to love about this police procedural film. The casting? Perfect. The writing? Outstanding. The acting? Wonderful. The locations, the pacing, the editing.... top notch. If there was an award for Best Supporting Actor, Luke Pensabene would have won it, hands down. He was fantastic. I would have put this film Top 3, easily, if I were judging. Very enjoyable, on just about every level. I cannot wait to watch this one again.


LOSER
by Alloy


Another strong selection, the two female leads (Cristyn Chandler and Lisa Winans) were both outstanding, and complimented each other fantastically. A relatively-bleak tale about a woman recently released from prison, who finds out that while she's been incarcerated, her life has fallen apart. Some lighting quirks occasionally detracted, as well as occasional odd blocking choices, but overall, one of the best acting treats of the evening.

Here's a quick teaser. Check back soon for the full film.





MUG
by Kanari Storm


I was not expecting this... I loved this film. It was so well written, acted and filmed, I had a smile the entire time I watched it. It was sooo dark and funny. The entire cast brought it, and the director (John Freeman) did a terrific job. Top notch. Easily one of my faves. Here's the teaser, though it doesn't convey the comedic tone of the film in the least...


MUG-Teaser Trailer from Robin Martin on Vimeo.


PASSED OVER
by Fallen Light Media


Not much story here - this film seemed to be primarily a showcase for some terrific hand-held camera work. Strong visuals makes the viewing worthwhile, but not much under the hood. Perhaps you'll have a different opinion? Check it out.


PASSED OVER from Ryan Kelly on Vimeo.


CON BOYS
by A Focus Group


This is the film that won Best Film for 2016 (they also won back in 2014 for the wonderful Good Ol' Chap). It was certainly well-shot, and had solid acting performances, but I found the script to be a bit cliche and predictable. I certainly enjoyed it, and felt Jon Maxwell's award-winning performance was certainly worthy of acknowledgement, but I was a bit surprised to see it win. That having been said, I think director Ryan Casselman is a legitimate film-making force in San Diego. I look forward to seeing what he does next, whatever it is.


ROYAL DE LUXE
by City Band Productions


I really dig the lead actor in this film (Seth Marshall). He has a great look and seems extremely comfortable in front of the camera. That having been said, I think this film had enough going for it to be included among this group, but only barely. It just seemed undercooked to me, especially the ending. It had some good ideas, but the premise (writer's block) is sort of cliche... It had good moments, though, and it seemed to connect well with the audience. It just didn't really work for me.

Watch it here:




BLOODLINE
by Four Lazy Guys


I'm still uncertain about this one. It got a lot of love last night - it received a slew of awards... It had a healthy amount of funny moments, but the "overacting for comedic effect" approach didn't click with me. And the story didn't make sense to me in the least... but maybe it wasn't supposed to. They were supposed to choose between "Slapstick" or "Western"... I guess they tried to blend them both, since it strikes me that the film just doesn't know what it wants to be...  I don't know... I realize film appeal is a subjective thing, based on the particular viewer, and it certainly had a legion of admirers last night. But all things considered, I enjoyed last year's Elephant In The Room much, much more... I know this film team is legit, but Bloodline missed me...

Here, see for yourself!


Bloodline from Four Lazy Guys on Vimeo.


That's all of them!

Again, keep in mind, I'm merely one man, a blatant nobody. Your viewing experience may vary - as it apparently varied for the judges...

The winning film last night was Con Boys, with Bloodline and Mug taking the First- and Second-runner-up spots... if I were to rank them, man, it would be tough... I would have voted Fletcher & Jenks, and then maybe Mug and Reality Bites... although Family In Progress, Hush and Loser were close as well...

But again, that was just among those that were chosen to be included in the Best Of screening... it would have been cool to watch all of the on-time films, and pick my own version of the 16 Best... I wonder how different my list would have been (if at all)?

I realize how hard it is to create a film at all in 48 hours, much less a great film. And I know how annoying it must be to have some random yahoo like myself subject your film to scrutiny... I try to mention the positives where possible - each of the films in the line-up had a lot going for them. And heck, I wouldn't mind working with any or all of these teams in the future, on either side of the camera... Kudos to everyone involved - and trust me, that's a ton of people. You should see the endless credits for most of these films... where do these teams find so many people to work on their films?! Sheesh! One team even had four people credited as "Dog Wranglers", lol.... that's awesome...

All that to say, I loved participating again this year. I think the whole 48 Hour Film Festival experience is terrific, and I hope to participate for many more years to come, either as writer, actor or director... we'll see, eh?

Next stop, the 4 Points Film Festival in November!

Again, I hope to ultimately have every film from the Best Of screening viewable here.

Take care,

Dave the Goof

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Post-Mortem: "Final Hour" and the 48 Hour Film Festival


"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, Chuck Windham here with the final few paragraphs of tonight's blog post..."

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

That's a photo taken during dress rehearsal for Final Hour, the play I've been bombarding you about for the past couple of months... well, we put in our 6 weeks of prep, and had our three shows!

From the day we cast the play (back at the tail end of June), I was in full Enjoyment Mode. I loved working with the cast. I told them from the outset that my focus was going to be on the journey to the stage that we all took together, not (necessarily) the final product that ended up on stage... and those first five weeks were thoroughly enjoyable... we played theater improv games, experimented with the text, had great times of discussion, etc...

But it ended up being a pretty tense final week leading up to our performance dates. There were technical details that were difficult and time-consuming to sort out - which caused my plans for the tech rehearsal and dress rehearsal to need modification on the fly - something I'm not very good at (it turns out, lol)... by the time we got the kinks and details worked out, it was time for opening night - and we still really hadn't had a solid complete run-through yet! Opening night ended up being the dress rehearsal that we really needed to have...

But the show was very well-received, and ultimately, I stressed out over nothing. The cast pulled through and delivered, and the crowd loved it (for the most part). Apparently, no one really knew what to expect from the evening, and were pleasantly surprised at what they saw.

The Saturday show was even better. We were able to make further adjustments based on notes and observations taken from the opening night performance, and it really showed on Saturday. Randy Davison (the lead) gave an outstanding performance, and the supporting cast (Megan Gunsorek, Bailey Shaine and Joe Hurley) were right there with him.

The Sunday show (our final performance) is where I really dropped the ball, as the director. We were riding high from the success of the Saturday performance, and so I decided against keeping the focus ratcheted up, and decided to ease into Sunday, assuming all would go well. I didn't take proper care to keep my cast in the zone before the show, and the performances suffered because of it. Again, my fault, not theirs. Lesson learned.

Overall, I'm really glad we did it. I loved the script and the cast, and the journey to the stage was just what I'd hoped it would be. Great fun and a learning experience. But honestly, I really wish we had been able to take an extra two weeks for additional preparation and polish. There were things about each of the characters that we didn't really have the proper time to explore, which I feel would have elevated the performances even further.

If we ever get a chance to stage it again, I'll know what to focus on!

Here are some more photos...






It was a fun, tense ride and I'm glad we took it. Many thanks to the Great Andrew Ian for making it all possible. Also many thanks to Lamplighter's Community Theater for letting us have access to the venue. We had between 50 and 60 people per night (the place seats 98, I believe). My first foray into professional theater was, I believe, I solid success.

NEXT.....

We also did our film for the 48 Hour Film Festival this past weekend!

So Ryan Etzel and I formed a film team called Operation Kino for this year's 48. Ryan had created a film for last year's event, and I contacted him after I saw it, and we connected, and after a series of meetings earlier in the year, decided we'd combine our efforts and make a team. So I brought on my Eldest Daughter as our Assistant Director/Make-up artist, and Middle Daughter as our Director of Photography, and Middle Daughter's Significant Other as our Sound Guy. We then assembled a strong team of actors, and met at my mother's house in Ramona to make a movie!

Ryan and I hammered out the script Friday night, Ryan made some revisions Saturday morning, and we all convened on the Ramona location late morning to begin.

All things considered, the day on set was fantastic. Our cast consisted of Kate Schott, Laine O'Connor, Megan Gunsorek, Andrew Kearns and Ruslan Khanaferov. They were all fantastic, and watching them work was a real treat. We got all of the footage we needed within the space of 8 hours. We then sent the cast home, packed the gear up and headed home to begin the post-production part of the weekend (read: editing).

Ryan busted his butt to get the film finished in time, but we were faced with a series of unforeseen challenges that limited what the final film could have been. It was a great script - but we had only 7 minutes tops to tell it... the film we wanted to tell really needed closer to ten. A lot of good, important content had to be left out in order to try and tell the story in seven. As a result, there were some issues with the final result which really couldn't have been avoided. HOWEVER! We learned what we needed to about our team and where we are strong, and where we need to focus, as far as improving things. So that, in and of itself, made the whole endeavor worth the effort.

We turned the film in (calling it Lost and Found), and it will screen with the rest of the films in Screening Group C on September 7th. But for our own benefit and education, we will be re-cutting the film, without reference to the running time limits, so that we can have a version of the film that works better. And THAT VERSION is the one I will post here for you to watch, whenever that is.

But in the interim, again, I loved the experience. Working with my daughters was amazing. I'll remember it forever.

Here are some photos!

Our Cast: Megan, Kate, Ruslan, Laine, Ryan's arm, and just off the photo to the right, Andrew!

Ryan filming Kate in the blazing heat - a shot we ultimately couldn't use...

Andrew playing with weapons, while Megan looks wistful...

Some of my grandfather's WW2-era items we used as props in the film.

Ryan Etzel: Fearless Director

Andrew Kearns: Fantastic, endlessly-amusing actor.

Andrew conquered the back yard as well!

Ruslan and Kate working on the ending scene, with our 2-camera set-up in play...

Katie and Jon, enjoying their time on set. (I'm photobombing in the mirror...)

Again, I loved the experience, and I look forward to the next film we get to make together. We're working on new ideas already...

Now that the play and the 48 are behind me, I can re-focus on BTI-related filming, and finishing up the Momentum script with Rob Dey. Plus, the Christmas play at Mt. Zion looms!

Maybe we'll do a Christmas film instead...

All that to say, these are great (though busy) days! Can't wait to see what comes next!

Take care, y'all.

Dave the Dave

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why Yes, My Mind is Like a Beehive! Thanks For Noticing!


Behold, the calm before the storm... or maybe its the clam... I don't know... Bah, I shouldn't have mentioned the clam... that's so shellfish of me...

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen...

As I write this, we're less than a week away from opening night on Final Hour, the play I'm staging with the Great Andrew Ian, and a wonderful cast. Am I nervous? Hard to say... it comes and goes, you know? Some days I think there's nothing I couldn't do... other days? Hide me under the bed, lol...

My focus with my cast has always been on the journey to the stage, rather than the final product... not that I don't care how the final product comes out, I do. I want it to be awesome, of course. But beyond that, my hope the whole time has been that we gel, as a group of artists, and enjoy the ride together, learning and having fun, so that we can take from the journey things that will help us out in future productions. Sounds hipsterish, I know (especially the part where I said "my cast", lol... how pretentious)... but nevertheless, it's what I feel. It's pretty remarkable what we've been able to put together in these 6 weeks between the first rehearsal and the opening performance. I'm proud of these people; I've certainly pushed them...

Anyways, if you're reading this in San Diego and I haven't talked to you in person about the details, you can get the info at my resurrected website Wagnervana. I brought it back and made it my main site for info on the play (and will switch it whenever a new play is in the works). Check it out, and come see us this next weekend in La Mesa! Tickets are cheap!

WAGNERVANA WEBSITE.

The rest of what has kept me occupied remains the same as the previous post in June. Ryan E. and I are officially a team for the 48 Hour Film Festival, all registered and entered and stuff. Our team name is Operation Kino (a reference that the Tarantino fans among you will recognize). We have some great equipment, an eager crew, a couple of great locations, and access to some strong acting talent. It's an ideal situation, actually, since we're on no one's radar... we may just sneak into the theater with our film and "blow it up", you know? lol... or not.. depends on the genre we pull... but Ryan is a strong writer (a strong film maker all the way around, actually...). Between the two of us, we should be able to generate a strong script. We'll see!

Still finishing up work on the Momentum script (which has been renamed, actually, but I won't say the new title yet!). I love it. Once I get on the other side of the play and the 48, we'll focus on it in full. Would love to share info with you on it now... but I can't. Soon!

BTI is still set to kick into high gear throughout Sept and Oct. Lots of great news on that front as well, which will have to wait to be relayed to you as well. Here's some new artwork, though, which I love... and a recent (partial) cast photo...



The way my black T-shirt is hanging forward, it makes it look like I've put on 50 lbs, lol... I'm not chubby, it's just the shirt... I'm actually in good shape...

I've had to bump production on my short film Head Hunter into next year.

Other stuff percolating in the background which I may unload on you soonish. Check back for updates!

I hope you're all doing well.

Come see Final Hour!

Adios for now,

Dave the Borderline-Frazzled