What’s Actually Happening – March 3
I feel bad. I feel guilty. Because I started this blog about a year ago at Justina’s (my wife) urging and I was into it and writing fun stuff that was behind the scenes and naming some names and taking some artistic licenses and people were starting to follow it and pay attention to what was actually going on in my life with the stuff that I do.
Then I kept getting busier and busier. Which you would think would make it more and more interesting except that I stopped the actual blogging stuff and just posted press releases and interviews and movie reviews. Which I want everyone to see but that isn’t the point, is it? If I’m asking you to check into this damn thing then I should make it worth your while.
So, I’m taking another stab at it. Because there is A LOT happening and a lot happening with me wearing various different hats. So I’m going to try and stop being a perfectionist with the prose and just start delivering some goods – rough on the edit edges or not.
So, here’s some stuff to look forward to:
DALLAS International Film Festival. I’m into it BIG TIME. We’re like five weeks out or something and there’s great, exciting stuff and there’s “what the hell?!” stuff and there’s a lot of praying – to uhmmm…no one in particular. Because that’s how it works in film festival land. AND, this is the first year with no AFI involvement. Training wheels are off, baby! And I just might throw in some thoughts later as to why I believe that was a HUGE mistake on their part. I’ll give you a hint: It’s the “vision” thing. Or lack of it.
SXSW (or South by Southwest Film Festival for those of you that need this shit spelled out – literally). I’ll be covering the film festival for Movie City News, like I just did for the Sundance Film Festival. And once again, I’ll try to write about every damn thing that happens to me so you’ll have an idea of what the experience is like. Of course, you’ll have to go to Movie City News to read it, since Dave Poland promotes the fact that I’m reporting/writing/reviewing for him, so he’s kind of like you to read it on his pages instead of mine. And since I would kind of like him to pay me for doing that…it works for me.
FESTWORKS. At Sundance, Rose Kuo (Artistic Director), Robert Koehler (Director of Programming and film critic extraordinaire, David Rogers (Festival Producer) and myself joined forces to form our own version of a film festival super group. Hopefully, less like Asia and more like Derek and the Dominoes. But with less heroin and more staying power. Anyway, we all left AFI after beating the odds and the house with AFI FEST last year (if you know what I mean and if you don’t….well, I’ll talk about that at some point too, I’m sure) because we love film festivals in a way that we want them all to be the best damn things ever. And we think we can help various ones do that. Sometimes, it will be just some simple consulting, some times it will be us recommending some kick-ass person we know would be great for the job and a great fit and sometimes will swarm the place, roll up the sleeves and bust our asses side-by-side with the teams in place to make something work. Anyway, I’ll be announcing the first “official” project soon and it will be very, very cool.
STRIPPED. The movie. My first feature film as a director. And the first feature film for Justina and myself as producers. It’s a post-feminist horror film. Three guys on a birthday outing talk their way into the wrong house with the wrong women inside. Think TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or THE DEVIL’S REJECTS with a “family” of women orchestrating the proceedings…
We are scheduled to shoot this thing at the end of May going into June and as much experience as I have doing various jobs in front of and behind the camera and watching as many films as I do and working with as many filmmakers at the film festivals as I do – well, there is a HUGE learning curve with this thing every single day. Producers on the film include one of the guys responsible for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake and the other producer has cool-ass films like David Lowery wonderful ST. NICK and current SXSWers EARTHLING and AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK under his belt. We already have the horror dynamo known as Tiffany Shepis on board as well as Samrat Chakrabarti, an Indian actor that despite an amazing international filmography we’re getting on the ground floor with because various dumbasses haven’t cast the guy in some weird-ass network sci-fi series where a strange incident has tied a group of random hot people together in a world where truth is false and pretend is sexy….or something like that.
Anyway, Justina and I actually bought the house we’re shooting this thing in. Which I’m living in right now. I’m sleeping in the room that will be inhabited by ‘Crystal’ a hot little sociopath that like the color pink, scrapbooking and uhmmm…cutting things. Our friend Marc Lee is staying in “the killing room.” Fun! So, I’ll clue you into the process as we hurtle along toward the shoot not too unlike one of those test rockets they show in stock footage that would freak you out if you were standing anywhere in the vicinity while it blasts off the blocks and careens not entirely toward its destination.
Here are some fun things about the house: It’s in South Dallas. Which is not a “great” area. But it is a cool two-story four-bedroom place with close to two acres of land and a freeloading horse named “Money” that is taken care of by an old black rodeo guy named “Peewee”. Oh, and we are surrounded by Baptist churches. And a train. One final thing, when we cut the chains that had kept the garage closed since we bought the place we found an old cabinet that had in it (among other things) a bee keepers outfit and smoker, random mason jars with weird stuff in them and two chainsaws! Made to order for Justina and John, the couple that gets romantic when they’re watching OLDBOY.
After that, new stuff that has just come up include doing some stuff with the Texas Frightmare Weekend screenings at the end of April, working with the Las Colinas Studios on a couple projects, possibly the Vision Awards benefit and definitely the Feel Good Film Festival.
I’m sure there is – and will be – more. Because that’s how things have been since January 1st. A very strange year and a very cool year so far.
So stay tuned….
South by Southwest – Day 2
Day two for the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival and I’m starting it off with a couple of interviews for Envy Magazine.
First up was a group chat with some of the people responsible for EXTERMINATORS which I had seen the night before. Director John Inwood, Producer/writer Suzanne Weinert, Producer Jay Michaelson, and stars Sam Lloyd and Farah White were all gathered to talk about the movie first thing in the morning. No Heather Graham, no Amber Heard, or Jennifer Coolidge. They couldn’t make the trip, weren’t available or backed out at the last minute, who knows? Who cares? It’s the kind of stuff that makes publicists drink. Heavily. Because most people think everyone only cares about what they have to say since they’re the stars, they’re hot, they have breasts, the usual.
Truth is, I was psyched about this group because Inwood directed some WAINY DAYS episodes (David Wain’s very funny little internet series), Weinert is one of those people (not just women) that give the people behind the scenes and behind the camera hope that they can eventually ascend to their creative dream spot (since she began film life as Julia Robert’s assistant, among other things before writing and producing her own stuff), and the best one yet was Sam Lloyd.
Why Sam Lloyd? Was it because I was crazy for SCRUBS? No, not so much. Was it because he’s the go-to guy for casting directors’ weasily, sleazy, nerdish roles? No, not that either.
It was because I used to play basketball once a week against Sam and others at Fairfax High in L.A. Those others included – I kid you not – Norm MacDonald and Kato Kalin. But Sam was one of the big-time regulars known for having a deadly shot and having the unwavering belief that on the rare occasion that he missed a shot, it could only have been because he was fouled. But a nice guy and I was looking forward to having some fun and calling him on it in of all places Austin, Texas at SXSW. It was a good interview with a group of people that have every right to be proud of that little film.
The next interview was with John Favreau and Jaime Pressly for I LOVE YOU, MAN. Again, this one had the touch of familiar to it because Favreau was repped by IDPR for years when I was there. In fact, when I got to the Four Seasons there were two current IDPR ladies and one former IDPR-ite each with a client. So it was catch-up time with everyone the way you do before these things where everyone is relieved and happy that there are familiar, friendly faces we can all do “business” with so no mystery or attitude or question marks anywhere in sight.
I have been happy for Favreau’s success because he’s taken a methodical, working class approach to his career and he always was easy to work with from my vantage point (which wasn’t THAT closely – I only had to help on the peripheral with his PR stuff for the most part). In fact, the funny part of the interview happened at the conclusion when my friend, his publicist, introduced me to his wife and she recalled (with much more clarity than Jon) the help I gave the two of them to attend the Comic Con premiere of Rob Zonbie’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS.
That’s how it works. The wives or husbands always remember the people who have made things happen for them and their celebrity spouses at those moments and events for long after. But I still think Jon is a good guy even after ascending to the top of studio tent-pole mountain. Jaime was stuck on junket interview auto-pilot a little bit, but once you get stuck on your talking points it can sometimes be a little tough to be shaken out of it. In fact, we used to play a game at junkets where we would give the client a secret word before each on camera interview and they had to figure out a way to work it into their answers. During Franke Potente’s interviews for THE BOURNE SUPREMACY various interviewers had things like “porpoise” or “gorgonzola” or “face cream” randomly thrown into the conversation about what it was like to work with Matt Damon.
Because junketing can be fun when you know how!
But what about the films? Well, after a panel or two and the Texas film party, I finally made it to one. That film was Daryl Wein’s BREAKING UPWARDS. The film is basically a recreation of a time during the relationship of Wein and his co-star, Zoe Lister-Jones when they decided to “have days off” from one another and be open about dating other people.
So the film is a New York-ified and Jewish flavored anti-romantic comedy. And I would be for a lot of those ingredients in my romantic comedy soup. I would. But this one also had the spice of the couple in question playing themselves with one of them directing and…well…there was a lot of self-satisfied, I know I’m adorable and/or interesting and real moments in this thing that I recoil from like having to watch a spoiled full-of-itself toddler perform a rehearsed something or other while the parent stands next to you nodding in encouragement.
So it’s tough. For me.
Not a bad movie at all. Andrea Martin gets to do some nice work as Lister-Jones’ mother and remind us of the instant joy she can uncork at will. But not a movie that hits the bulls-eye either. In fact, my only solid laugh-out-loud moment was when Lister-Jones’ character has a crying jag in the middle of a yoga class due to the delayed feelings of loss and emptiness after she sleeps with the co-star of a play she is in. Confused and trying to help, the instructor reassures her and the rest of the class that “This is a really emotional (yoga) pose. It’s opening the hips up.”
You could say that again.
South by Southwest – Day 1
Day one for the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival and it is raining and it is freezing. And I hate the cold – so it was all about that today. But if there was any warmth, it was delivered by the press department here since due to some stereotypical bad journalist lameness and laziness on my part, I showed up today with no info and little idea of where to go and what to do. I won’t even pretend I was testing them. I was just an ass.
See, I had been sent some official coupon code to enter into an online form to secure my press pass and of course I filed the e-mail, then pulled it up the day-of and way too late. If anyone should know better, it would be me. But instead, I was the annoying “can you help me even though I clearly don’t deserve your consideration” guy. And to the absolute credit (and my benefit), the Head of PR – Rebecca Feferman – peeled herself away from other crises to walk me over to Jarod Neece, who took care of me in short order.
I have to say that I have a lot of big brother pride seeing Rebecca kicking PR butt here in Austin, injecting organization into a film festival that defies the very idea of that to its core. I was with Rebecca during some of her formative PR years in the trenches at IDPR and had more than a few long talks with her about how this stuff worked and how to navigate her way around the nonsense to get to the real job we were being paid for and she’s light years ahead of where I was at her age.
The charm of SXSW is rock n’ roll indie filmmaking and you-saw-it-and-heard-it-here-first sensibility, but there is a very welcome growth and character adjustment in just a year under Festival Producer Janet Pierson and Rebecca. It’s a cliché way to put it, but Janet is a breath of fresh air as a Festival Producer. She has an open “How am I doing?” approach to this that is a pleasure to be in the company of. The film festival world can be a very clique-ish, insiders kind of thing that can be irritating to have to deal with from the outside in and it’s nice to have people like Janet and Kelly Williams of the Austin Film Festival as the AFI DALLAS counterparts to the south. Soon, I think you’ll see some joint ventures here in Texas that will boggle the minds of some old-school and tired competitive folks elsewhere.
The first film tonight was John Hamburg’s I LOVE YOU, MAN. But before I could get into the movie I had to wait in a huge-ass line that wound around the block. I hadn’t been in a line this long since BEVERLY HILLS COP II opened in Westwood. I should’ve known better then, I definitely do now. And the admission I did that for that movie is even more embarrassing than my clueless journalist behavior was. Okay, maybe a tie.
Anyway, so while I’m in line this guy passes by and does the time honored film festival “I know you but don’t know your face so I’ll try to scan your badge as I walk by just in case I need to stop and say hello and then ask you to screen my film, buy my film, sell my film, write about my film, film, film, film, me, me, me” move. I mean, I recognized the guy and couldn’t place his name either, but damn…
So – we finally are all ushered into the Paramount Theater. Which is great. It’s beautiful, ornate in the right way, intimate yet seats a ton of people apparently. I have to image that it’s a died and gone to heaven moment for a filmmaker to screen a film in that indie cathedral.
The film will take its rightful place in the Apatow comedy family tree. It’s got clever takes on the dynamics of male-male bonding and Paul Rudd, Jason Segal and Rashida Jones are supported by an insane top loading of comedy talent. It’s one thing to have ace players like Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly at your service in supporting roles, but every other moment another former member of The State or Broken Lizard or The Daily Show was being trotted out in a supporting role. After awhile I felt like I needed to push myself away from the table because the Jewish casting mother wouldn’t stop feeding me comedy cameos.
Honestly, I sat down to watch the film resisting what is starting to feel like an assembly line of these types of comedies – some male bonding and either drug humor or poo + pee = teehee stuff which is all balanced by a lot of heart – but in the end it wins. I give up. It’s funny. I cared. Okay? Stop it already.
Next up was EXTERMINATORS. Directed by John Inwood from Suzanne Weinert’s script, the film stars Heather Graham, Amber Heard and Jennifer Coolidge as three women with some anger issues thanks to the men in their lives. The story takes off when a couple of them decide to make a career out of male pest removal. As Coolidge’s character says in their anger management group, “I’m Stella and I use my car as a weapon.” Inwood comfortably infuses the proper mix of his SCRUBS skills with Weinert’s lines – which skew a little more to the twisted side of town: “When I was in my dark place, I watched a lot of LAW & ORDER.” Or a woman dismissing Graham’s predicament after she had punched a guy over a blouse in a sales bin: “All that trouble for a synthetic blend.”
Inwood also mined the SCRUBS team for Sam Lloyd as the film’s antagonist – an IRS agent with a pervy, videotaping fetish. He plays it like an extra creepy, hold the dreamy version of James Spader’s SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE role. As much as I personally enjoyed it, I think that ultimately, the film will go as far as your appreciation of Graham, Heard and Coolidge. And for me – Jennifer Coolidge turned loose trumps all.
Even the freezing rain.