Well missing Xmas was more of a bummer than I thought it'd be....I didn't feel like I got to do anything but work at the casino and work on the script, which was as intended, but then the script just started to throttle me screaming "Fix Me! Make Me Wonderfully Moving and Funny!" and it was like, leave me alone, I just want to have some mulled eggnog or spiked cider or something and then there was nothing mulled nor spiked to be had and I'm all, like, boo.
....But it's okay cos now I'm listening to a Margaret Cho mp3 ranting about her mother and sexuality and such, while catching up with some of the other life stuff like bills and late xmas cards, and enjoying a minute, let's give it an hour, of not thinking about the movie. Movie? What movie? Peace on earth.
....I kept having dreams of people giving me money and waking up. Sucks! But as Jen points out, these even out with the dreams where you find out you have AIDS or someone dies horribly, and then you wake up and it hasn't happened. Either way, much better than dreaming about something indifferent like paying bills or blogging. What's worse than being bored by your own dream?
A few thoughts on giving, since it's the season of giving. Giving is a lovely thing, but it can be dangerous. In the anime "Spirited Away" there's a character called No-Face who pathetically offers gold and treats to whomever he meets...and if you take it, he opens his fanged jaws and eats you. Only one girl, the hero, avoids being eaten, apparently because when No-Face offers her something, she politely refuses....whether it's because she was taught not to take candy from strange shadow monsters, or because she simply doesn't need it, it's not clear. Anyway, it seems there's some comment on the politics of giving and receiving going on here, albeit fantastically exaggerated. The problem here is obligation; the perception of a debt, whether it's felt by the giver or the receiver. "True" gifts given out of generosity and love ostensibly won't have debt attached, but many cultural systems from Hollywood to the Mafia to Chinese extended families work on the system of mutual obligation for "solids" performed. The difficulty is telling when you're inside one of those systems. It seems like a simple thing to say that giving is just giving and shouldn't cause drama, just like tasteful begging shouldn't....but it does. I don't know if it's living in LA, or the economy, or just people getting a bit older, but I never in my young life imagined that the past year could be full of so much friction and heartache and general baloney over things like a) people giving something and feeling like they weren't getting anything back b) people giving a gift they felt wasn't appreciated c) people needing something but not wanting it given as a gift for fear of obligation d) every other damn situation you can imagine.
....I'm guilty of it too. I guess the policy should be to give out of love or general empathy and forget about it immediately, so that the political significance of the giving doesn't become more than it really is, for giver or receiver (of course, both have to agree to forget, so....scratch that).
....In any case, in this season in which I am particularly needy (though only in the sense that I *need* to make my indie film which is way different from needing food or clothes), I'm resolving next year to practice only healthy, responsible, giving and highly respectful receiving, 'cause really, if you've ever seen that kid in the movie "Better Off Dead," you know what I'm talking about. $2.
Had our second rehearsal with the two leads today, mainly just talking background about the characters so they could have some foundation to build on. Besides being good actors they are two of my favorite personalities, and easy to communicate with. It's nice to get into the characters' backgrounds because then you can consider the sociological stuff as opposed to the diagrammatic planning of beats, actions and reactions which is of course equally important (and harder). But knowing where the people are coming from will hopefully give the story a lot more life. The trick I think will be to not let the moments gather too much psychological weight when it is basically a comedy. I'm used to working with people who are instinctively funny and are uncomfortable with dramatic bits 'cause they can't tell if the audience is enjoying it. Now it's a bit reversed, not saying that the cast isn't naturally funny, but they may not be used to the ERP-style humor, which was kind of based on the constant threat that if you didn't say your line fast enough, someone would hit you in the face with a pie or start taking a guitar solo or something.
But just to keep this at the top of the page....Please Invest in TA91 & Give Yourself The Gift Of Cinema (next year)!
....What can I say? I work next to people who pick their noses in public and steal money from their sisters. I lack shame.
I'd just like to have it in writing so there is no confusion: I HATE TALKING ON CELL PHONES. It's expensive, uniquely impersonal, detrimental to the social fabric, and probably a health hazard. It has none of the excitement and sexiness of talking on land lines (probably the lack of ritual, and possible interruption by someone else picking up the line, has something to do with it). If it weren't for its insane usefulness for certain practical functions (yknow, calling to say you'll be late for work, finding each other in a crowd, that sorta thing) I'd throw mine the heck away.
....In other news, the crazy Korean player Janet today wore a hat that read "Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Authentic Since 1975." I just thought that was funny.
...I also made a teaser promo image for our movie. I made it out of a postcard ad from Abercrombie & Fitch, which they send me on a monthly basis. Apparently they confused my email complaining about their racist t-shirts with a request to be on their mailing list. Smiley face. So I saved all their stupid ads in case I could use them later in a parody. Hopefully this falls under protected speech.
Wow. Some people have really been quite nice in supporting this project. We're getting a lot closer to what we'd need to begin shooting. Not close enough yet that we can make up the difference through shoplifting, but almost. Thank you.
....There's a lot of pressure in this near-holiday time to try to make people happy. And also to create perfect moments. 'Cause the holidaze are the only times you can plan, and shop for, a perfect moment (or perfectly-realized ritual if that is your thing). And that perfect moment starts to crumble if Uncle X doesn't have the right chair, or Cousin Y gets bored, and someone's unhappy....anyway it's a lot like the anxiety I have over making this movie. Making people happy and also coaxing out their full potential for perfect cinematic moments.
....Sorry, went with a bowl of the pretentious porridge this morning. I'll stop now.
Today I thought of a twist ending while sitting on the toilet. Don't know if we're going to use it, but I think the whole twist ending thing adds a touch of class, except of course when they're lame, contrived, and sound like something the writer thought of while sitting on the toilet.
Arrrrrgh! The pain of sheer existence!
...(smiley face)....
...Korean cool is going to be the next big thing. If you HAD to generalize, one could totally generalize the Korean character as "psychotic intensity combined with naked sentimentality" (paraphrasing a friend here). In any case the movies Shiri and My Tutor Friend are really good on both those fronts.
...(I only make this generalization based on continued contact with the gamblers, admittedly a flawed study sample; don't ask me what I think of the Vietnamese and Chinese characters)
Had our first rehearsal with Molly and Winona. We shot test footage with the camera and it looks great: a depth and mood that the old digital video just don't have. The white walls are no longer shrill, but grey and somehow purposeful. The people look like movie stars, their movements graceful, with a filmlike blur. It's totally ridiculous that a little technological innovation can make something seem more "human," but somehow it does. I heart 24P!!!!
...It's been a wild week at the Bicycle Club. The last two days Tomoko and I have gotten hit by the big players, down by 50, then 60, then 80 thousand, only to fight our way back to even money by relentless psychotic shaking and banking. It's always good to not lose a couple years' salary worth of money in one night, but it's much more satisfying to almost lose it and then get it back through hard work and dumb luck. I've been a little charmed this year and I'm hoping to God some power-that-is will eventually notice. I love the team, really, but the job is gradually sucking out my soul. I don't talk to people the way I used to, I'm much more reticent and snappy, from this developed fear of others screaming or trying to get one over on me. I mean I think it's healthy to know that you can't trust anyone, but it's not too happy.
...Planning TA91 is what sustains me; unfortunately it also comes with this constant money headache which is difficult to separate from all the artistic concerns. It's not that I'm like this whiny indie director going "Why can't someone just give me two million dollars to make my moooooooovie??!! Why, world, why?" It's just that I know I've spent all the money that I'd need to realize this little dream in my lifetime, and if I'd only saved it rather than using it on cell phone bills, chicken wings, boba teas, bar tabs, electronic doodads, forty-five minute plane rides, casinos, crap movies and frickin' entry fees, then maybe I wouldn't have this headache now. Thank God my Dad at least taught me to pay my credit card bills. If only someone had taught me to appreciate the taste of gruel and the solace of quiet unfurnished closets, I'd be sitting pretty right now.
...Well here's the point when I should link something but I don't know what it should be.
...Just a friendly reminder that I am the Easiest Xmas Gift that you could possible deal with in this anxious season of giving. I don't need a card or wrapping or nothing. Just throw a few bucks at the Donation Button (see to your right), cross me off your list, and rest cozy knowing that you have made an incredibly generous gift, uniquely appropriate, and deeply deeply appreciated. And next year I'll get you a pair of movie tickets. No, you don't have to know who I am or like me.
"God, I'm so BUSY." Why does it seem that everyone is busy, as in, too busy to make time for anyone else? Lately I've felt too busy to even breathe, but in actuality my busy-ness consists a lot of vegetative staring at the computer screen in the hopes that some bit of a web page will change and reveal new information, and working, and oh yeah, driving to work. Throwing away days of my LIFE doing this junk. Everyone I know is, by their own reports, in the same state. Someone profits from this epidemic of ostensible busy-ness, and I don't think it's me. It's the car people, the caffeinated beverage people, the fill-your-life-with-more-personalized-hooha people.
...Oh yeah, and I just got the new 24p DV camera to shoot the movie on. It's real cool. But of course I'm too "busy" to have played around with it yet. It's one of those from-Japan with-Japanese-instruction models so I'm hoping it has some easter egg functionality that surpasses the standard model, like it turns into a robot or something.
Storyboards are looking good. It's tempting to try to tell the whole story in action figures. It's especially poignant with our little KuBrick Rei (from Neon Genesis Evangelion--sorry, I'll learn how to link these later) standing in for Winona. I can't believe they're going to try to make a live-action Evangelion...I hope at least it deviates from the original a lot, so it won't be a "faithful" re-enactment. But, digressing.
...Very excited about the cast, anxious to see if the chemistry will work. I have these nervous visions of people crying and screaming on set...or better yet, finding solidarity through common oppression by a tyrannical director, as happened on Karaoke Nights. But actually, none of that's going to happen. The worst thing that I think will happen is we'll have some great scene going and due to forgetting to press some key button on the camera we'll have to shoot the thing over again.
Work at the casino has filled me with melancholy. But our meetings and progress on the film this week have filled me with hope. So I guess, basically, I'm full
...We're approaching our optimal budget...generous donors and intrigued investors are popping up out of the woodwork...but we still, as they say on PBS, have a Way To Go. So in case you're lurking on this blog waiting for me to sound desperate, I'll reiterate, Even One Lousy Dollar will make this movie better, and 10 Lousy Dollars will make the movie, perhaps not 10 times better, but certainly 10 times the increment of "better" that the one dollar enabled. I know, you're skeptical....you may live in LA and yourself have stumbled onto one of those catered post-private-screening receptions and thought, with your mouth full of pumpkin-flavored ravioli, "is THIS where that 100 million dollars went?" I know. I know those ravioli. But with our movie, your buck actually buys entertainment value. So really, how can you refuse! Especially when you probably aren't even reading this!
...Saw Master and Commander last night, and they had some fine ravioli. The movie itself was a refreshing mesh of special effects and non-assaultive, non-MTV storytelling, with a nice balance of cannon fire and people taking the time to look at exotic lizards. There also seemed to be a whole lot of references to Star Trek II going on, right down to the music. Right, lads.
Note to self: need a shot of the aliens appearing in the crowd at LAX. Should be a fun thing to try and steal. If not at the baggage carousel, perhaps in the parking structure.
....I'm trying to figure out what is the best Hollywood equation way of summing up TA91. Yknow how every movie in development has to be something meets something. I've been telling people that it's The Breakfast Club meets Signs. But "Signs" is a generic word which kinda ends the equation weakly, so occasionally I saw it's The Breakfast Club meets Close Encounters. But then I get sick of saying The Breakfast Club all the time so I say it's Men in Black + Afterlife. But who's really into Afterlife except the Japanese and the indie culture-vulture sect so I go with Harold & Maude times Third Rock from the Sun via They Live. It's really quite a bit like They Live except not really, and what is gained from a comparison to They Live except someone's inevitable imitation of Rowdy Roddy Piper's famous line....s? What I really want to say is that it's Neon Genesis Evangelion plus Rushmore, except it has nothing to with Rushmore, and is not animated, and it probably will remind you of the Breakfast Club, especially in that part that is exactly like what happens in the Breakfast Club.
...How any movie with a pedigree of references this ridiculous could possibly fail to make a 100 million trillion dollars is totally beyond me. Especially if you consider that it will be huge in Korea.
Feeling a little stressed out by the casting and pre-production, but then a few things happened that put it all in perspective. One was I almost crashed on the freeway when the van in front of me's hood popped up, causing the driver to brake and swerve frighteningly into my lane. Then I read that Elliot Smith died. Poor guy. I used to not like his music, like I used to not like Prince, and then, as with Prince, Gaby's highly informed musical opinion helped him grow on me. His miserable futile love songs helped carry me through a bad year. What is it with the depressed musicians and self-inflicted death?
Woo, as they say, to the hizoo. We got out first unsolicited, completely goodness-of-the-heart donation from someone I've never met, which will enable the rental of some extra light or the employ of some extra qualified crew person for a day, and will make the movie that much better. Thank you! I'm trying to think of goodies with which I can reward these special true believers...a ticket to the premiere is definite. Hopefully also a T-shirt and a bag of gummi bears. Don't worry, in the catastrophic likelihood that this film doesn't happen or there is a surplus, any excess collected monies will be given to Amnesty International or some similar worthwhile cause. Heck, maybe my whole LIFE will be redirected towards Amnesty International. But that's the Droopy talking. The project is reaching, for lack of a less apocalyptic metaphor, critical mass.
....I've gained an absurd attitude towards money from my job and from living in LA. I see people fingering stacks of $1000 chips at work and think, "Hey look, everyone here has a car or a camera package in in their hands. They're throwing it away gambling, why shouldn't they cast it towards my cute little movie?" Or, "I got a $40,000 budget to do a motivational infomercial for a pharmaceutical marketing team. I guess I can finally pay off the balance of my plasma-screen commode-mounted entertainment unit." Well not really, but you know what I mean. It's a totally subjective inanity. The amounts of money thrown around discussing movie budgets sound absurd when you consider that a sunset is like, free. But a $40,000 movie that doesn't suck sounds pretty good when you consider that there are movies made for 500 times that whose express purpose are to make you puke and buy cell phones.
Still casting. Now we have more than one likely candidate for all of the major parts. It's hard not to just go by what people look like, all other things being roughly equal. Those wiley actors are trained to impress you in the auditon, yknow. I had an experience years ago where a waify model-type actress really nailed the audition, got the part, and turned out to be the most psychotic element of the whole production....so I'm very big on knowing something about the person before inviting them to be in the cast. And even then the things you know are so random and unrelated to whether the person is right for your movie that the whole casting process becomes really arbitrary. So you end up having to trust yourself with the decision, and trusting myself is not among my favorite activities.
Well here's what I think we need and we'll be okay: a Panasonic 24p DVX100 camcorder, a lawyer, a storyboard artist, a life-size dummy, a web designer, a large selection of delivery menus, someone who knows how to take care of fish, an extremely large hard drive, a safety cable, two or three catchy songs, a widescreen adapter, one or two inconspicuous vans, a few bright objects, a few producers, a large amount of love, several pairs of glasses, and an adept hairstylist. That and a few bucks and we'll be just a-ok.
I really want to make a movie that "only" costs about one year's middle-class salary because it seems apparent that most of the money spent on films is completely wasted. I mean, crane shots...digitally-enhanced exploding explosions...individual Pringles packets at the craft service table....WHATEVER. In my perfect world, most of the movies would be like the Blair Witch Project, and by that I don't mean boring and manipulative, but clever and mindful in their use of resources, and with a populist entertainment angle. I also would love for this movie to be full of the summer-camp love and not hampered by too many people worrying about their careers. Oh, and having the movie turn out well would be nice, too. Note to self: research whether "All Your Bases Are Belong To Us" might be a viable title.
Jen was wondering aloud, "How can the people in California be smart enough to vote against prop 54 but dumb enough to elect Schwarzenegger?" I dunno, man. Maybe all the Democrats like being governed by idiots so they can feel smarter.
I can't think of what to get my darling sister for her birthday and it's driving me frigging crazy. I eventually sent her a Better Luck Tomorrow DVD 'cos she was active in the Asian American activism/arts scene through high school and college. In another weird BLT moment, at a film festival I ran into my old UCLA roommate who I think was involved in one of the tragic stories that inspired that movie. It was nice, he seemed really grown into himself and actively attending this Asian Am film event. He even went out of his way to find me and say that he liked our short. I'll always wonder though, what he thought about Better Luck Tomorrow. Probably shouldn't say more about that in a public forum.
I think Thom Yorke of Radiohead sounds sad because he knows his place in the System (like the preprogrammed rebel faction in "The Matrix") is to be this anguished clown essentializing a countercultural spirit in the form of pretty music that creates a "scene" for scenesters and in this scene, the more genuinely sad he gets, the more he seems to be performing a function.
In the casino, underneath politeness and "could you move over a little/pass that to me please?" there's this despicable self-absorbed disregard for other people that makes all politeness seem ugly.