Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Power of the Dog (or The Power of the age old Hollywood trope about Gay characters)

It's really quite something the groupthink that's overtaken what we could call the 'critical' community but is seemingly morphing into the echo chamber of the PR dept's of various streamers. I have yet to see a single 'critic' have the gall to call out the various & most obvious(and offensive) tropes in the heavily lauded The Power of the Dog. Yes, many critics are correct in the most basic way that Campion's film is very well done & engaging (I just have to chuckle at the love affair & ejaculation over Greenwood's scores that have started to become exceedingly cloying & distracting & seemingly do nothing more than announce 'hey, here's Jonny Greenwood's odd noodling.') I really love Radiohead but his scores are more about his own indulgences than the sound scape for the film itself. I can't count how many times the score just felt completely out of step w/ what was onscreen...
However, the real issue here I find so oddly unfortunate is the handling of the gay characters. I can just imagine poor Vito Russo spinning in his grave as the lack of any serious engagement w/ these obvious decades old tropes trotted out again, and again... and yet, again! If someone were to do an updated version of The Celluloid Closet you could pull tons of segments from this film!! It's not much more than an updated (male version) of The Children's Hour some 60 years later. Have we really made no progress in 60 years? (If one is not familiar the story is about 2 women, very close, rumored to be Lesbians & their lives ruined, one committs suicide. Because, of course, homosexuality is a crime punishable by death!)I'm flabbergasted by how many LGBT filmmakers & critics are heaping praise all over this film w/ nary a critical eye. Let me spell it out in the most obvious terms... CAUTION- SPOILERS AHEAD:
In Russo's brilliant book & subsequent doc, he makes the case gay characters are treated & have evolved in these 3 basic ways by Hollywood: A. started out purely a joke. B. moved on to usually becoming victims, or... C. they're the sociopathic, psychopathic killer or Vicious Queen that needs to be put down or usually killed... Guess what? Power of the Dog is hitting very clearly on 2 of these 3 age old tropes. One is obviously the Vicious Queen (Oh, I'm sorry, did I get that wrong David Ehrlich, AO Scott, insert obsequious critic here ____. Ah, not a Vicious Queen, oh ok, instead rather an example of 'Toxic Masculinity....' but still over compensating for being... a Vicious Queen- wink, wink!) And, literally a victim by the end of the film, dealt w/ by the little sociopathic/psychopath who in some scenes is about as subtle a -serial-killer-in-the- making as a young Jeffery Dahmer pulling the wings off of flies. And, of course, both characters are very clearly gay. OF COURSE, THEY ARE! I thought we were going to see this evolution of their relationship evolve in a unique and insightful way but NOOOOO! WHY OF COURSE ONE OF THE GAY CHARACTERS HAS TO DIE!!! OF COURSE, HE DOES! And, even better.... he gets killed by the other gay character. "Hey, make damn sure those Homos & Faggots kill each other. We simply can't have them live out the rest of their lives like our normal hetero characters, of course not..."
Please, somebody, anybody? How in the world is this not an age old Hollywood trope? Please could some of you so called 'critics' take a look at The Celluloid Closet again and maybe reconfigure here? Moreover, it's been utterly shocking to see a notably successful & openly Lesbian filmmaker conduct a Q& A w/ Miss Campion at Netflix's screening facility & have seemingly no problem whatsoever with the denouement of the film. In another case, a notable film critic, openly gay & married w/ husband doing a youtube show & podcast reviewing the film w/ a female colleague & neither seems to have any issue whatever w/ the final character arcs of the only two gay characters in the film. One simply can't emphasize enough what is so troubling about this film. It would be one thing if Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch) just died at the hands of a cunning rival, in quite spectacular reversal of fortune. But, he dies at the hands of the other gay character in the film, whom it's implied in subtext may have killed his own father. Hence, a young serial killer in the making, who not only happens to be gay, but effeminitely so, 'flaming' as some would say 'back in the day'. His masculunity mocked throughout the film. Not only silence from indivuals but not a single objection from GLAAD? Nor the folks who bring us Outfest (of which the aforementioned critic is a programmer.) Is it really the Power of Netflix that subsumes all else? Has the groundbreaking & revolutionary work of Vito Russo been all for naught? These are very troubling questions & frankly very suprising given how 'woke' the liberal bastion of Hollywood has supposedly become.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

LBJ is the GOAT & it's not really close... Sorry MJ!!

There's been something of a long held view now, (with the help of the 10 part series I've conveniently already forgotten the name of because of it's clear propaganda value), that Michael Jordan is the GOAT. He's certainly one of the greatest ever, but I think it's pretty clear LeBron James has ripped that title away fom MJ. Here's a really quick snippet to consider, which favors LBJ heavily, think back to 1994, the year the Bulls went a full season w/o the 'GOAT'. Would you care to guess the Bulls records w/o the greatest player ever? They must've struggled to eke out a playoff spot, right? Oh sure, maybe they got to about .500, (41 games) but certainly not much more than that... right? Try 53 wins, 3rd in the east and a bad call away from getting to another NBA Finals appearance... WITHOUT MICHAEL JORDAN!!! The greatest ever!!!

Now, can you honestly name an LBJ team that could win 50 w/o him? The 2013 team w/ D Wade, Ray Allen, and Chris Bosh was probably the best team LBJ had up until now w/ AD. Could that team win 50 w/o LeBron? Any team is easily gonna lose at least 10  games w/o LBJ.... Maybe, MAYBE, maybe that 2013 team wins 50, even in the East, but just as easily could just get to 45... How 'bout those Cleveland teams? You kidding me? They may not win 30... C'mon ya'll, if I didn't go any further than this, it'd be a compelling argument. But, speaking of the 2013 Heat, ya know who they beat that year? The Spurs, w/ a legit 4 Hall Of Famers: Manu, Duncan, Tony Parker, & Kawhi (I know you'd say he was too young, but the next year he's the Finals MVP!)  How 'bout the year before, beating OKC (3 HOF's, figure 'em out. I know you're saying, 'they're too young to considered HOF,' but they got to an NBA Finals. KD played in 3 total.)

MJ thinking, "How many HOFers did I beat?"

How many HOFers did MJ's Bulls beat? Well, the first title against LA you had Magic & Worthy but Big game James got hurt midway through the series as did Byron Scott (had they not got hurt in game 4 they were cruising to double digit win which would've tied it a 2-2.) After that, Portland had 1 w/ Clyde, Phoenix Suns had 1 w Charles (Ainge was on that team but prob not HOFer), Seattle w/ Gary Payton, then Utah w Stockton & Malone. So clearly, MJ never beat a team w/ more than 2 HOFers whereas LeBron beat teams w/ both 3, 3, & 4 legit HOFers. And, though the East was regarded as tougher than the West throughout the 80's & 90's one of the Bulls biggest challenges getting out of the East (other than Detroit obviously) was my beloved NY Knicks. My NY Knicks w/ 2 starters from the CBA scrapheap (more on this later...) While we're on the subject of quality of competition, look at the difference in the eras. Many folks would say, 'gee Joe, how would one determine that w/ all those great players in the 80's & 90's?' Simple, think of the principle of dilution... What if we would add 4 more teams to the current NBA in the next 2 years? What would that do to the talent base? Would it dilute the talent pool, water it down a tad? Umm, not hard to figure it out, it'd dilute by about 12% or so... Guess what happened from 1988-1990 in the NBA? They added 4 new teams!! 

Now, you sit there & say to yourself  'ok, fine metrics nerd, with your diluting the talent pool nonsense, but MJ still coulda beat whomever...' Hmmm, maybe, actually probably not. Remember when I mentioned my beloved Knicks earlier, w/ their two rotation guys John Starks & Anthony Mason (RIP Mace) from the CBA? Well, gee, why ya think that was? Because clearly w/ the 4 new teams added to the League, they had to find other avenues for players. Ask yourself this: how many current rosters that get to a Conference Finals have 2 G-League players? Huh buddy boy, how many? How 'bout NONE!!!!! Imagine if the NYK had a few extra picks, imagine them w/ a few more shooters on the roster? A team that took MJ & Bulls to 7 in '92 & was up 2-0 in Conference Finals in '93. It would be very easy to wipe a few titles off the board, then add a few more pieces for everyone else & those 6 titles are in peril. Is that maybe why it took MJ 7 years to win a title? Is that why he couldn't even get to a Conference Finals pre- expansion?  Oh don't worry Max Kellerman, I can hear you now: "The first time MJ played w/ another All-Star he got a chip..." Oh is that right, Schlemeil? Yeah, really? How 'bout when you play w/ a Rookie of the Year, a 1st team all- defender, AND a guy who LEADS THE DAMN LEAGUE IN REBOUNDING 2 YEARS IN A ROW!!!! I call that another All Star, guess what? With Charles Oakley & Scottie Pippen the Bulls still got BOUNCED, several times! 

There goes that theory out the window, Max. (Yes, in 1987 Charles Barkley, #1 had a higher average than did Oakley#2, but Oak had more total rebounds AND in 1988 Oak lead in both average & total & Oak never got hurt, he played every game!) So don't sit there & tell me MJ didn't have anybody before Scottie. You could easily say Oak was one of best 3 or so power forwards in the game, period! See, here's the key to the Chicago Bulls winning all those titles, it's the reason the Bulls won 53 w/o MJ. It's Scottie Pippen! What? Get out, absurd! Blasphemy! Well, the Bulls lost in game 7 to Detroit in Conf Finals in 1990... Why? Scottie had a migraine. NY Knicks were the only team in a 6 year run to take the Bulls to 7 in '92. Why? Xman Xavier McDaniel beat up on Da Pip! The only time the Bulls were ever down 0-2 in '93, why? Mace beating up on Pip! Bulls won 53 w/o Jordan, more, WAY MORE GAMES THAN MJ EVER WON W/O PIPPEN! Scottie Pippen! Think about it, just let it stew awhile & think about it.... 

LeBron? Third year, w/ NO ONE else on that team, No one even coming remotely close to a Charles Oakley, LBJ took his Cleveland team to a Finals, he loses to the Spurs 3 HOFers. Then he puts together a run of 8 straight Finals, 10 total and look at some of those Cle teams. In 2015 w/ no Kyrie nor KLove, he's literally inches away from taking the Warriors 7. In 2016 he beats the best record ever in the League. In 2018, a team of absolute spare parts: no Kyrie, only Kevin Love now & literally not much else. (Tristan Thompson prob next best player. He'd still not be as good as a Charles Oakley.) And yet, here's LeBron James scoring 51 points, 8 Reb, 8 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and if not for major bonehead play by JR Smith, steals a game 1 from one of the greatest teams ever. Now seriously, can anyone say w/ a straight face that MJ could take that 2018 Cleveland team to an NBA Finals? I'd argue MJ's 1988, '89, '90 teams were all better rosters than Cle & yet he couldn't even get to a Finals. How bout just mano e mano, seriously, is there any doubt w/ his superior size & strength that LBJ couldn't beat MJ in 1 on 1. LBJ could stop MJ once in awhile, but you can't say the same for MJ stopping LBJ. Then let's just dispose of this myth of MJ being this great defender. I don't care how many All- defensive teams he made, MJ one on one, was never a great defender the way Scottie Pippen or Horace Grant were. MJ got a lot of steals & was certainly a good, solid defender but he was nowhere the two way player, say, Joe Dumars was... Why do you think MJ lost to Dumars & Detroit 4 STRAIGHT TIMES!! 

C'mon folks, it's time to stop w/ this 'back in my day, son' bias that's just a lotta BULL!! I feel pretty confident I've proved demonstrably that LBJ is the GOAT. LeBron James is like Magic, MJ, Pippen all rolled into the body of Karl Malone. He's a freak, a modern marvel of various forms of sports medicine & just a freak of nature. And yes, of course, Michael Jordon is one of the greatest to ever lace up sneakers, he's just not quite as good as LeBron... And, it's not really that close! 

Monday, August 26, 2019

No one's ever heard of Starck Club & why that Matters!!!!!!!!!!!

This post is really geared to my Starck pal friends. First, you Starckers should be commended for all the support you've given not just one, but two Starck Club related projects!!! And, that's greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, it must be understand that the truth is NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF STARCK CLUB... Like never, some random, obscure club in Dallas? What, seriously, do what? No one has ever heard of our beloved Starck Club, but everyone's heard of Studio 54. Now, I know this documentary about Starck is ancient history, most of the folks in the film roll their eyes on each WotD FB post... all these years later. Hell, I can't even get my own family to write a review on Amazon, lol! But, I sense a lack of context & self awareness: just because there a few Facebook pages w/ a few thousand likes or followers on each page, every so often D magazine or the Dallas Observer do a story for a local audience, and therefore many Starckers assume everybody over 40 knows about our infamous playpen... They don't!!!! It's some obscure club in Dallas so who gives a shit? Various documentaries have literally almost 5 x 6 times the amount of followers that both Starck doc film pages have, as well as the several pages devoted to the Club.

Lemme tell y'all lil story. I was at a screening of last year's Studio 54 doc directed by Vanity Fair editor/writer Matt Tynauer who's made docs on Valentino, Scotty & the Secret History of Hollywood, as well as several others... Matt is something of an expert on design & Philippe Starck's work, as he's written many pieces on both Ian Schrager & his boutique Hotels (designed by Starck) hence his ability to finally get Ian to open up about Studio 54. I talked to Matt for awhile before the film, and mentioned I was a fan of his work and the pieces on Starck, then mentioned my doc.... And... I got a big, blank look, that turned into embarrassment. Matt admitted despite writing multiple pieces on Philippe he had never heard of Starck Club and was a tad sheepish about it. Think about it y'all, a guy who was an expert on Philippe Starck had never heard of our club... Never!!!  

With that in mind, do we all just wanna let it sink into obscurity, just some sad, pathetic space in the basement of some old brewery Building in downtown Dallas. I 'spose we could. I fully grasp the fact that many, some quite powerful in their chosen endeavors now, don't care to shine a light on past indiscretions...  But, let's be blunt, nobody cares, really. The last 3 Presidents have all had a few publicized hiccups along the way, I mean if POTUS can get away w/ it, what's stopping y'all? Seriously, let's help it live forever. Why? 'Cause look at how polarized we are today. In case you Sociology experts have been asleep on this one, this country has not been this divided & polarized in decades. Maybe A CENTURY! That's right, the closest thing to the divide we see now was Vietnam, but in a few short years after the peak of Troop level in country, and after Tet '68, the tide turned very much against LBJ and the war. Despite Nixon's Silent Majority he was booted out of office less 5 years after taking it.... At Starck Club you had red neck oil man, Cocaine Republicans, and Dallas conservative hoi poll oi dancing alongside Euro & NYC Drag queens. Gay, straight, Bi, Trans didn't matter.... DIDN'T MATTER IN MAYBE THE REDDEST STATE IN THE COUNTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Guys come on, it's not just about a film. WE all know people who won't even talk to family members who voted for Trump (or vice versa voted for HRC.) We're so divided as a country... To be clear, I freely admit I made the second best doc on Starck Club and ask yourselves if people knew or heard of Starck, doncha think we'd have not just one but 2 docs out there about this magical moment in time. The birth of the entire EDM, Rave, Ecstasy scene. MDMA was made illegal because of our lil Starck. Guys, a law was changed because of Starck Club & Dallas. How many shootings/suicides could have been avoided if the research on MDMA & PTSD been allowed to continue instead of being stymied for decades. YES STARCK CLUB DID ALL THAT!!  

I mean, is it really such an effort to just take a minute or two to write a review or pass along a link? It's that much effort? C'mon y'all....... folks, it's not that difficult just to write damn review, hit share, just watch something free on Prime. C'mon guys, this is a time we need a Starck like moment again:) And, most importantly, it's not just about these documentaries,  it's the fact we were inches away from selling the Pilot I'd written loosely based on Starck just last year to a major Studio... Inches away!!

Let's do it... And, hey just have an Amazon Prime double header & see how these two Sex, Drugs, Design: Warriors of the Discotheque compare 
and Studio 54: A Documentary 

If you can't do Amazon try Vimeo or Youtube

Friday, August 9, 2019

Last call for for Starck Club or Sex, Drugs, Design: Warriors of the Discotheque get another bite of the Apple:)

A lot of you folks reading this are 'Starckers', many of you still live in Dallas, right? Do me a solid, go ahead and ask some of your younger cohorts, co-workers, or younger pals under the age of say... 35, no scratch that, even 40, that's right 40. Ask them what they know about Starck Club. See that glazed look in their eye? Yeah, that's right, people FROM DALLAS under the age of 40 have no idea what Starck Club was, so keep in mind.... 

Even though I know this is old news by now for many who read this, ancient history actually, there's a reality just a generation removed even from DALLAS who have no idea what Starck Club was all about. But, we have a chance to change that and get yet another bite of the big distribution apple w the Starck doc. A chance to bring it to the world and a much wider audience.... After a bunch of tech glitches I won't bore you w/ and more & more money spent... The challenges have all been overcome & we're hitting all the big Digital platforms: Amazon in basically all territories, Vimeo on Demand, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, UDU digital, & many many more. It's been a damn long road which is why many of you are rightly 'over it'. We started shooting back in November '08, released the first teaser in January '09, a few months later screened the short at the prestigious USA Film Festival in Dallas, TX. We screened a very early, (and somewhat rushed) version of the feature film at the USA FF again in 2011, then did a DVD release party the following year, 2012, at the aforementioned USA
FF, as well as screening at the Legendary Texas Theatre a few months later. In the meantime, we screened this film around the world: Australia to London, NYC, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and of course, Tinsletown... Then, miraculously, a whole slew of extremely rare stock footage and interviews came into our clutches. Finally, we created the COMPLETE version which we've been offering on Blu Ray, and now FINALLY available on all VOD platforms for all of you to peruse.

Of course, just like many of you, we love the other Starck film. It's obviously a better, more complete version of the Starck story, but we like to think the films complement each other quite well. We're the hors d'oevre, the amuse bouche, the appetizer and The Starck Club is the main course, the entree, the graduate course, etc. This is no longer any sort of competition, this is a high tide raises all boats kind of story. If our film does well, it certainly isn't going to hurt distribution prospects for the other doc. It can ONLY help!!! 

We're working on a Screening in Las Vegas to coincide w the launch in early Sept. Las Vegas has essentially become the capital of EDM w Electric Daisy Carnival as well as all the DJs at the various Casinos, many of these guys like Tiesto & Calvin Harris w millions of Twitter & IG followers. And, as many of you know Starck Club was not only ground zero for the popularization of ecstasy, the whole rave scene, but even lit the fuse for the entire Billion dollar, DJ driven, EDM (Electronic Dance Music) scene. We're trying to get into those feeds & it'd be big if you guys on Twitter could shout it out & put it in some DJ feeds. Also just shouting out the links to your own peeps and most importantly for those who rent or buy the film, it's even more important to Rate & Review the film. This is incredibly important as it fires up the algorithms to drive viewership on all the platforms. I can't stress this enough: TO RATE & REVIEW THE FILM IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT than the rent or Buy. It's just Huge!!!! Guys we need your help, we wanna remove those blank stares when it comes to hearing the name Starck Club. Only you guys who were there really know, and we need you now!

So here it goes, you guys reading this are getting the first crack on Amazon & Amazon Prime so please make sure to RATE & REVIEW!!!!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Can Short Films Make $? Hell Yes They Can!!! They also can get you writing gigs...

A few years back there was a lively debate on the filmmaking site about whether short films could make money, then shifted to if there they were even worthwhile.... Actually, it's not a matter of debate or opinion, it's an etched- in- stone- fact short films can make money. I've had 3 short films make money. There are countless other examples of shorts that made money, quite a bit of money actually, like the short by Peter Sollet 5 Feet High & Rising which became Raising Victor Vargas. In the book 'Swimming Upstream: A Lifesaving Guide to Short Film Distribution' Sollet said his 20K short turned a profit, but years back I read an article that stated because of the healthy short film market he accessed via Clermont-Ferrand & having a sales rep he made several hundred grand selling to various Euro TV outlets that paid by the minute, he used it as seed money for Raising Victor Vargas. It's alluded to here in the forward to former Sundance shorts programmer Roberta Munroe's book How Not to Make A Short Film, "5 Feet High & Rising became Raising Victor Vargas, Cashback became cash- back." Yes, it's fair to say examples like this are a tad dated, this was in the days before streaming & when many Foreign Cable/TV outlets were hungry for films & particularly shorts. That's not necessarily the same dynamic today, but consider a short like Thunder Road by Jim Cummings in 2016: it lead to a deal to direct several one take shorts for Vimeo as well as his feature film of the same name. (And, lead to a pro writing gig.) I believe Cummings was precluded from making money on the film because he had the Springsteen song, but it certainly opened many doors... My pal Leon Corcos made a how- to short doc about the ins & outs of being a new parent that was financially the most successful thing he'd done. 

I can't detail all the behind the scenes machinations of the aforementioned films, but I can detail the ways my own shorts became profitable (and led to writing work.) I'll start w/ the first: Back Home Years Ago: The Real Casino. As you'd guess it's about the real wiseguys from Chicago who were the basis for the Scorsese mob epic, Casino. It started as a short 7 min piece of John & Janet Pierson's (she runs SxSW now) old show Split Screen which was on IFC/Bravo. They gave me most of money to shoot the film (and I used a small amount of my own,) but the story clearly was more involved than just a 7 min short. The longest version lives here on Amazon Prime, as well as some other paltforms I'll get into later & Fandor. 

After it aired on IFC, I cut an initial 30 min version which screened at New Filmmakers-Anthology Film Archives, NYC, then trimmed it down to a 24 min version for the Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW. (There was a short section on Milwaukee mob boss Frank Balistrieri they wanted excised to focus soley on Chicago.) Then I cut a more web friendly 14 min version that got bought by a shorts company called Hypnotic (then owned by Universal) and streamed online, sold to Euro cable, Airlines, etc. Hypnotic sold their library of shorts to WellSpring Media (Steve Bannon owned it at the time, go figure:)UK based Shorts International bought the library, gave me more money for an advance and sold it on their various ShortsHD channels, etc. Because I'd cut so many versions and had a lot of out takes, etc. I had enough material to release a DVD that eventually got onto Netflix. In addition, the 14 min version was bought by TF 1 for the French release of Casino. Then of course the DVD itself sells on Amazon and as well as downloads, etc.

Overall, I'd say I've made 4 to 5 times the budget over the years and money comes in still both monthly & quarterly from various deals. True, it's a unique situation, but it's a short that's def made a nice amount of $ (low to mid 5 figures.) But most importantly, the doc lead to a relationship w/ Writer/Director Joe Carnahan that in turn lead to a low six figure writing deal & membership w the WGAw, everything you'd want a short film to do for your career. (I flipped some of that money into the feature version of Warriors of the Discotheque, which also started as a short that made $.) Keep in mind, flexibility, and especially persistence, were key here. I could've easily just done the 7 min version for Split Screen & called it a day, but instead, I kept cutting new versions to suit the market opportunities.... The original Split Screen/Criterion Channel version screened in Las Vegas at the Silver State Film Festival Sept. 5-8 2019, as well as a slew of other International Fests, and achived what one has to say every filmmaker's dream: that is to one day get the 'Criterion' treatment... And, as part of the legendary, groundbreaking series Split Screen, we did just that... Now on the Criterion Channel on  you can stream Season 4, Episode 3 here (originally Episode 18 on the initial IFC Show.) The final 40 minute version lives here on PlexXumoTVAmazon, ZuZu in Canada, & Social Club TV. Also here:  Most importantly, as mentioned prior, not only did it lead directly to studio gig for Joe Carnahan but also a script that was loosely based on making of said doc & has been my calling card script for other work.

In terms of parlaying this short into a Hollywood writing job, it was not quite a marathon, but far from a sprint. I ended up meeting Joe Carnahan indirectly through Peter Broderick who ran Next Wave Films for IFC which provided the finishing funds for Joe's first feature Blood, Guts, Bullets, & Octane. I was able to stay in touch with Joe as I moved to Northern Cali not long after doing The Real Casino, and I found myself on the Casino DVD in France & getting a separate DVD release which Joe took note of. Of course, he was at a much higher level as he was negotiating the success of Narc & choosing his follow up... I had done another low budget feature called Into The Chasm that he was a fan of and sent him a few of my scripts. As he was prepping Smokin' Aces he jumped into a new project (the details are here: ) about a young kid who was a drug dealer in high school up in Blaine, WA. He needed someone to knock out a first draft and even though it never saw the light of day, it did lead to other opportunities. (Including paying for The Starck Doc & indirectly The Early Inauguration, having that synergistic effect.) I'd say now more than ever, ya need to show people something other than just a deck or sizzle reel. These docs demonstrate an understanding of a world I usually get hired to write (just started a gig few week back as of this update August, '21 The Real Casino got me) that in many cases do more for me than my spec scripts. The point is, you have to nurture relationships without question, but you also have to keep doing the work!!! Had I not continued along in the process of writing & directing, there would be little reason for Joe to track my progress.

Next, Warriors of the Discotheque: The Starck Club Documentary short version (which became a feature) It too had a built in advantage 'cause it had a pre-existing avid fan base. The Starck Club was a super hot Club in the 80's in Dallas that was legendary designer Philippe Starck's first foray in the US and it was actually legal to buy MDMA aka ecstasy there, people would put it on their credit cards. The DEA stepped in and made it a category 1 drug on July 1, 1985. This, despite NOT really understanding anything about MDMA... It wouldn't be an understatement to say The Starck Club was not only ground zero for the popularization of ecstasy, the whole rave scene, but even lit the fuse for the entire Billion dollar, DJ driven, EDM (Electronic Dance Music) scene.

The short traveled the Fest circuit including the premiere at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, HollyShorts, (both Academy accredited), New Filmmakers- Anthology Film Archives- NYC and a slew of many others. While the short did make money, it's most important purpose was to be a testing ground for the feature. At the short's preem at USA FF, the theater was literally packed after a lengthy front page piece in the Dallas Morning News. Had I been properly prepared, I could've made a small fortune then & there w/ DVDs, T-Shirts, Posters, etc. (When I preemed the feature at USA I was very well prepared getting back a significant chunk of my budget the first week, in person & online.)
As it was w/ the short, I sold many DVD's online and via amazon as well as VOD
I basically doubled the initial investment and used screenwriting money to finance the Feature which lives here on Amazon Prime:
and here as well as being newly released on a slew of other platforms, as well as various countries. Again, I admit it's a unique case in which the built-in audience has made both short and feature pretty successful. At this point, the feature has made 3/4 times it's budget and still coming in monthly due to Prime, PlexXumoTV,Tubi,and Fandor. The short sells once in a while but is included on the DVD too, so that pretty much negates a lot of new sales... But, it does sell here on

The last film, The Early Inauguration, you can find here and
here and here on streamer Filmzie Now, on this one, I made money essentially by having spent nothing on the short 'cause Fandor helped raise money for it via it's KS page (scroll down) here here But, it was easily the most miserable experience I've had in filmmaking. I despise these campaigns, the web equivalent of banging around w/ a tin cup. (I know some folks are able to make it all exciting and inclusive, but despite my best efforts it just felt like begging:) If I'd been part off this collective I'd have really made a lot more $. By the looks of one film, one of the filmmakers spent about $2500 on the film and pocketed 8K. There are still a few deals on the horizon, one of which is a deal I signed w/ Shorts International &   for broadcast on ShortsHD- Home of the Oscar Shorts (Channel 573 on DirectTV) in the US as well as AT&T U-Verse (Channel 1789) US Sonet (Channel 292) CenturyLink (Channel 1789) Frontier Communications (Channel 1789) Google Fiber (Channel 603.) The money from ShortsTV was almost the entire budget and w Amazon Prime the film would be in the black even if I would have financed the film out of pocket....

In short, no pun intended, there are an amalgam of factors one has to consider when embarking upon a short. Most important, one has to pursue a project that you have genuine interest in, but it doesn't hurt to consider if there is a niche audience or built in following so to speak... Or some sort of wider draw, for instance with a film like The Early Inauguration, one could make the case it'd be relevant every two years, during a Presidential election year, of course, but also a mid term year as well. You can also see TEI  here as well as here as a double header to my  newest short Ralphie's 'Blue'. I consider Ralphie's 'Blue' a companion piece to 'The Early Inauguration' in which TEI was the 'raison d'etre' for Donald Trump's campaign as he was going to 'drain the swamp' & fix the 'rigged' system. Wherein, Ralphie's 'Blue' is the end result of those 4 years culminating in the January 6th insurrection... The 2 shorts should absolutely be watched back to back.

More pointedly, I'd wanted to do a project on the infamous Starck Club for some time but most likely a feature script. I realized a doc (short one at first) might be perfect when I saw all the sites online devoted to the club. Obviously, these examples are one offs, like almost every story in Cinema no two paths are the same: which is why it's so perplexing to so many newbies to find their path in the Entertainment Business (there is NO formula) & why a whole cottage industry has sprung up on 'how to succeed' and so forth. (Most of these ‘gurus’ make more money from guru’ing than actually as a screenwriter or filmmaker.) What works for some won't work for others, but just know that short films are not a waste of one's time. They've helped create a path to features for many and been a source sustenance for others. 

And even more importantly, what all these projects have in common is the long haul. It's not as if a mother has a child and just throws it out after a year or two if the youngster doesn't show immediate progress. I'm being cheeky here, but the truth is far too many filmmakers are in such a rush to move on to the next one that they miss an opportunity to fully exploit and take advantage of the possibilities right in front of them. Of course, in many instances a short can be just a learning experience and hidden in the closet on that random hard drive. But, I can't tell you how many times I've seen an interesting film (short or feature) at a legit film festival or screening and then you can't find the film anywhere. It's inexcusable in this day and age with all the platforms available not to finish the job....

Good luck & plan well!!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Breathe Review

Breathe is in many ways emblematic of everything that’s wrong with the Film business these days. As you read this, you’d probably be aware of the feeding frenzy going on as one sanctimonious, pious individual after the other can’t wait to (rightfully) demonize Harvey Weinstein’s atrocious behavior.  The issue is, the timing, of course. Despite the fact everyone and their uncle know of, or heard of his deplorable behavior, for decades even. (I mean come on, how many settlements were there? Rose McGowan's suit was known of for quite some time as well as many others.) It didn’t all come out until TWC was almost out of business. (The Producers of their two biggest releases last year, Gold being one, The Founder the other, sued the company for not spending enough money on their respective releases and dumping them on the market at the same time.) Not exactly a flush time for the Company, of course, that’s the time to burn them at the stake, not when they’re spending lavishly on P&A campaigns for several features a year.  Hollywood’s always been known for its bravery.  

 What does this have to do with the powerful directorial debut of actor Andy Serkis?  Just like the films they cover, the film critic cabal is just about as brave and insightful. Is it that the movies aren’t what they once were, or the people writing about them are cowardly lemmings?  I remember seeing a fairly notable film critic I knew from various festival screenings at a preview of PTA's Inherent Vice. After I discreetly messaged him what he thought of the film. In essence, did he think it was as much of a muddled mess as myself? (Yes, I understand it has it's rabid fans, but I'm in very safe territory saying it's far from Anderson's best work.) As much as I was able to get was, "I'm still puzzling it over." Translation? It's like the old joke about 2 agents discussing a screenplay, "what did you think of the script?" "I don't know, no one else has read it yet." Hollywood=Bravery! Of course, it’s a given these days that if a film earnestly deals with a true story about the courage and bravery of a couple who together overcome staggering odds in order to help millions around the world lead a better life. That film just must be a piece of shit, huh? One would think so if you listened to the maddening crowd, but the good news is DP Robert Richardson reinvents himself once again and helps Serkis bring wonderfully rich characters portrayed by Andrew Garfield & Claire Foy to life. Breathe is the true story of Robin & Diane Cavendish, (the film Produced by their son, Jonathan.)  Robin, in the prime of his life is struck down by polio. Unlike most sufferers, he’s permanently crippled and needs a breathing machine to keep his lungs going, which eventually presents problems of its own. After the initial shock and distraught desolation Robin goes on a journey of discovery of what’s possible for those physically limited to a wheel chair. He goes even further in blazing a path for handicapped people around the world.  
Andy Serkis 

Admittedly, Breathe does follow a tried and true paradigm seen recently with James Marsh’s compelling effort in The Theory of Everything which garnered Eddie Redmayne an Oscar. Redmayne is clearly a talented actor, but frankly not quite the body of work Andrew Garfield has put together. Garfield’s breakout year, one could argue, is 2010 in which he headlined the criminally under rated Never Let Me Go and the kick off to the brilliant Red Riding Trilogy: Red Riding 1974.

Andrew Garfield in Red Riding 1974
Breathe, unbeknownst to most who get compensated to write about film seemingly, appears within a specific context. That context is that there’s indeed something of a renaissance in British filmmaking that’s been going on for a decade plus, (possibly fueled by The UK Film Council- financed by the UK Lottery. It turns out if you put money into Indie films they actually produce quality, who knew?) Garfield, Redmayne, Andy Serkis, James Marsh, etc. all Brits intersect and connect with each other in various ways Andy Serkis, as mentioned earlier making his directorial debut here, will always be Martin Hannet for me, chastising Joy Division’s Peter Hook’s bass playing, “you wear it well, mate!” Of course, I’m referring to Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People.  
Andy Serkis in 24 Hour Party People

Around the same time Marsh’s somberly, bizarre Wisconsin Death Trip and years later Man on Wire were making the rounds.  (Marsh directed the second segment of the Red Riding Trilogy, 1980.) Then films like Harry Brown w/ Michael Caine and the brilliant Sean Harris (also in The Red Riding Trilogy- and of course Ian Curtiss in 24 Hour Party People. It should be noted The Governor on The Walking Dead- David Morrissey also came from the aforementioned trilogy. Speaking of TWD, Lennie James' Morgan was Steve Coogan's mate in 24...) The Imitation Game another solid effort with terrific performances that again follows the fatally flawed and jeopardized hero paradigm as he helps win WW2. Concurrently, one could throw in the Churchill biopics, one starring the wonderfully skillful Bryan Cox, and the other Joe Wright/Working Title production Darkest Hour featuring another chameleon like tour de force from Gary Oldman 

But, what the American film Industry and its inherent media hangers on have not figured it yet, is it’s all in the execution. And, after all a little originality does go along way. It’s laughable to read so many complain about the pedestrian sentimentality and predictability of Breathe when ya know, we’re on our what 16th or 17th iteration of Star Wars? Or what… not the original Planet of the Apes series, not the Tim Burton version, what 11th or 12th film w/ Apes in title? Really folks? Really? The simple truth is Breathe delivers on all accounts. A strong script by William Nicholson, fantastic performances with Claire Foy every bit up to the challenge of matching Garfield’s skillful acuity, and Tom Hollander as the Blacker twins, Diane Cavendish’s (Foy) brother’s bringing in wonderful comic relief.  

Most interestingly, the camera work by Robert Richardson beguiled me. Seeing this film, as well as many others, in preview screenings as a WGAw member, I purposefully go in knowing as little as possible about a film. Being a lifelong fan of Richardson’s, his muscular style cultivated on films with Oliver Stone like JFK, NBK, and Nixon very much influenced my own work as a young filmmaker. While there were a few things that felt familiar. In particular, a skillfully crafted scene very reminiscent of Born on the Fourth of July in which the newly paralyzed Robin dreams himself able to simply rid himself of his breathing tube and make his way out of the hospital ‘prison’. Eerily familiar to a scene in Born in which Cruise’s Ronnie Kovic imagines himself walking out of his wheel chair and beating a path out of the crummy Bronx VA hospital. One could make the case both scenes derive from Steve McQueen’s character in Franklin Schaffner’s Papillion envisioning himself and Dustin Hoffman shuffling off the Island as old men. Regardless, when the credits rolled at the end of the picture, it was a complete surprise to see it was shot by the brilliant Cinematographer, once again reinventing his look and style to fit the material. It was a marvelous picture to look at but perfectly contained within the material.  

Breathe certainly does pull at the heartstrings, but absolutely earns all those moments w/ an exceedingly well made picture: great performances anchoring a strong script, shot by a world class master, very well paced and leading us to an emotionally powerful climax. But hey, if you’re still clamoring for the 23rd Star Wars installment, by all means, have at it….