Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The reality of the situation

So it’s somewhere in the middle of the festival. I don’t know how long I have been festivaling…it’s all a blur of parking validation, Hollywood types (no not industry types, retro-dressing tatted and pierced people who live there), cute volunteers who can’t answer simple questions and the never-ending feeling that my creative life is about to end. I have been continually high since this thing began and I see no reason to quit. I have had about 50 arguments with other filmmakers about the art form. There seems to be a general consensus that things are just fine and that the opportunities to film are increasing everyday. Though no one seems to have tried to raise a few million or to shoot something that requires an equity crew or permits so I guess I can see how they feel this way. I have made more enemies than I care to admit but when you lambaste IFP (sorry FindLA – which really should be called find your ass but who am I), The WGA, mini-DV, reality TV, people from the Midwest, romantic comedies, the festival circuit and the president all in one elevator ride – you ain’t gonna make a lot of friends. But I don’t need friends asshole, I need executive producers.

My blackcherry won’t stop vibrating. This could be due to a number of reasons (like getting completely hammered the night before and telling a certain female actor that I’d like to help her prepare for her next love scene – FYI you might want to make sure her drink is empty before tossing out that gem if you get my drift)…or maybe it has to with the statement I made about the festival when I was completely faded and spoke my mind to a woman I thought was just another volunteer but was actually the director of programming for the festival. I was pissed about not screening in competition and she was trying to make me feel good and said that they programmed in a way that all filmmakers can have a good time. And I replied that she wouldn’t know a good time if it gave her an infection. Needless to say I’m probably not on the top of her Xmas card list. Det. Budd won’t be here for a minute and I don’t know if I can do it alone. I am sure that today is the day when I snap and whip my cock out and urinate on the snack bar in an act of defiance. My radical independent filmmaker methodology has me thinking violent thoughts on an almost per second basis….man, I need to get high.

On what has to be the 5th incoming call I answer it, not because I have decided to take responsibility for my actions (I’ll wait to see what evidence is presented at trial), but because I am so arrogant that I am sure that I can talk my way out of any situation.

This is Cooprdog

Hey it’s Steve, I met you last night and we were talkin’ about the audition.

We’re completely cast for the feature.

No, for the reality show

What reality show? I don’t work in TV.

The Fox Show “On the Lot”…you know the one that’s holding its general audition for the filmmakers at the festival today

…I have a vague memory of a conversation about this show and some Kamikaze shots gone awry at the Pig & Whistle (or the Coach & Horse...or the Pimp & Policeman...what is the deal with the names of these bars?).

Uh… yeah... let me get back to you.

Cooprdog... I just want to know if you are going, ‘cause you told me you were gonna heckle and cause a scene so I just want to see it.

See, this is why you shouldn’t drink when you are plotting to take over the world, you might spill your guts while waiting for the next pint to arrive.

Well that’s just fucking great. I now remember that this is like a big deal for the festival. It’s Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg coming to save us all. I check my blackcherry and it is full of filmmakers wanting info on this event. I know this is going to suck.

It’s like 10 AM and they haven’t even opened the doors to the Arclight yet. The whole fucking festival is here…cool directors and shitty directors alike…and then there is me with my funny hat and poor opinion of the TV industry. A few of my drinking buddies from the night before see me and shoot me big shit-eating grins cause they know I am in a personal hell. Det. Budd suddenly appears and wants to know if I am ready… I respond I guess; though in actuality I have nothing prepared…and I don’t care. I’ve got more talent my pipe’s resin that these motherfuckers have on their entire hard drives.

Det. Budd gives me the sign and we quickly adjourn to his truck. We need to get high, very high…because we are about to come face to face with the man, the enemy, the powers that be. This is no time to think rational and be pragmatic. We must be original and we must defend the type of filmmaking we wish to do. Det. Budd quizzes me on our collective strategy of double teaming the interviewer and all that shit. Like we need to practice (“we don’t need to fuckin’ practice”)…we wrote the syllabus on spontaneous bullshit statements. We walk back to the theater with glazed eyes and vengeance in our hearts.

The doors open and we all rush in like it’s the Walmart and we just can’t wait to purchase goods made by shackled children and political dissidents. They herd us into theater number nine (and I do mean herd)… and now I am standing in line to receive my application.

Have you lost your fuckin’ mind? I am a director – I don’t stand in line, and I don’t fill out little pieces of paper. That’s not how films are made. You are supposed to tempt me with virgin production assistants and all the coke I can snort (not that I snort coke, drugs are bad for you). So we find a seat and sit down and here comes the casting agent.

She’s like 25, really nice tits, firm ass… you know the type. The majority of the filmmakers are in awe of her as she lies to them about how many films she has seen in this festival and how this is a really great festival and how excited they are to be around filmmakers. I mean personally I could deal without the song and dance, I fucking live here and these chicks are as much of a permanent fixture in this industry as is back stage west. But I see the affect she has on the other filmmakers, the ones from small countries and non-metropolitan areas. They are madly in love with her web of lies and deceit that she is spinning up there. And then the dick-sucking - “please pick me” shit starts...and I am amazed. Have you no shame? You made a movie and got it accepted into the largest short film festival in the world…how about acting like it!

As I continue to sit in utter and complete amazement of the reaction of this group of “directors” Det. Budd is asking me a slew of questions…like where I was born and all that shit. He is filling out the application for me. I don’t want to do this because I know that I cannot play along. I don’t respect any of the people on this show because it’s TV. I don’t want to work on TV unless it’s Talk Soup (I’d be the fuckin’ man). I mean it’s only a matter of time before I scream out “Yusuf Hawkins” and raise my right fist in defiance…and he knows this.

Now little Miss casting is explaining how the show works and how we will shoot these films on the show….she is speaking to us like we are in grade school, she is speaking slowly and annunciating words like “development” and “pre-production”. Is she fucking kidding me? I’ve pre-produced more projects than she’s had men pass out on top of her…she needs to recognize. Other than the glaring contradictions in what she is telling us (like initially stating that we will have all the filmmaking resources at our disposal, but that it’s going to be guerilla filmmaking - like I want to be chased by the cops and get my scenes in one take for the rest of my professional life) she lacks sincerity. I am a director, I spew bullshit all day and I can recognize a bullshit statement from a mile off. She laughs a lot and shakes her perfect ass right on cue and they are eating it up. I feel my blood boiling as I remain quite in my seat.

Now she is going in-depth about the application process. Telling us that if we have a film that is longer than 5 min’s that we need to “cut it down”; the sets me off and I make my first loud comment from the stands “you got to be fucking kidding me!”. Much to my chagrin many of my peers seem to have no real issue re-editing their films so that Burnett and Spielberg can come to the conclusion that your film is somehow deficient by viewing a version that was drastically shorter than what you the director had intended. If I had a Molotov cocktail I’d have tossed it right about now. Do you have any idea what you are asking? Why not ask me to cut off my leg…that’ll probably be less damaging emotionally you fuckin’ assholes. Then Mr. Producer that’s been sitting in the back looking disinterested the whole time (why the fuck does the main producer come to the casting if he’s such a misanthrope that he can’t even hide his disdain (and facial expressions) for “the cattle”… I’m sure you’d be much more comfortable being on the lot and sexual harassing some intern while you plagiarize the work of a struggling writer) ..comes forward to the mic and say that you can upload a trailer if you film is longer than five minutes. But you can tell by the looks and whispering of the collected Fox staff that they can’t understand why anyone would shoot a short film longer than five minutes. Of course you can’t understand, because you work with 22 page scripts and a 4X3 aspect ratio…don’t you have some Ginzu knives to push?

They inform us that they will select 16 filmmakers from ages 13-100 (like you really want to see a film by a 13 year old…a fuckin’ bio-pic about capt’n Crunch or some shit) and that we will each take turns directing when we are not crewing for that weeks director. Yeah, that’s gonna work. But wait it gets better. You can’t write your own scripts, which I guess is not a real problem unless you are a writer/director like myself…I mean that’s my whole shit man... that’s where my style comes from. You honestly expect me to meet with a writer once and then he shows up with a script and we shoot it…are you fucking nuts? We don’t make cookies…we make films... and it takes time. Furthermore you have to shoot across each genre, which I guess they think will be fun and challenging – but there are huge differences between comedy and drama and we tend to specialize because that’s how we solicit an audience. Not to mention that my genre (noir) is never mentioned…I guess I am a freak. Oh and here is the kicker…we only have a week to produce these films… a week – yeah ok! I can’t make up my mind about how many red vines I want on the set in a week… I have to plan for everything.

Now it is question time, and these wannabe’s just can’t wait to ask rhetorical questions to highlight how impressive their filmmaking resume is. You think I am joking, get a load of a few of these questions that “spontaneously” were asked…

“If you are in pre-production for a film that is shooting in another country can you still apply to be on the show?”

“I have four films in competition right now, do I really have to pick just one to submit?”

“What if you were a top 10 finalist on Project Greenlight? Are you still eligible to apply?”

“Two of my producers are executives at Fox, does that disqualify me?”

“What if you have a first look deal with another major studio, can you still apply?”

..I am not making this shit up. I mean they should have been handing out the kneepads when we entered the theater, it would have made everything a lot easier. But then comes the $10,000 question…

“Do we retain the rights to the media that is uploaded?”

There is silence, and then confusion and then whispering by the collected Fox producers. I look over at Det. Budd and say “this out to be good”. Mr. Asshole producer now moves closer to the mic and tells us that while we do retain all the rights to our films, and that in no way-shape-or form is anyone of the producers on this show going to steal our work because they aren’t that type of people (oh…ok..but you’ll talk shit on each of us out of ear shot because you’d rather be at Starbucks drinking a $5 Carmel Macchiato)…but they do reserve the right to re-edit anything uploaded on the servers and to publicize it in conjunction with the show in any way they see fit.

“Is he fucking joking?”…. “You must be honing your stand up routine…you must be Ray, you must be!” (Props to Joe Carnahan). Det. Budd lets out his first chuckle. I mean who the fuck do these people think they are to openly admit that they will re-edit trailers and films as they see fit to make them fit into their shows marketing. I utter my next loud statement “the last man that tried to re-edit my trailer now sleeps with the fishes”… I get a few chuckles from the crowd, but mostly looks telling me to shut up. Yeah, like your pasty single shot opus on how tough it is to quit smoking is going to get you into the game…mind your fuckin’ business! I am wrestling in my seat now. I am not one of them nor do I want to be one of them. The whole scene goes M.O.S. as I contemplate a 4 min stunt sequence shot at like 70 frames a second where me and Det. Budd go postal and put all of us out of our misery…I am jarred out of my delusion by the most important exchange of the casting session

“What if you have a film that contains nudity or profanity?”

Now I was under no great delusions because the FCC is about as much fun as Grandma and her leaky bladder on a roadtrip, but I wanted to hear the answer. The production teams seems a bit perplexed on how to answer and little Miss Casting is doing her best to tell us that it’s TV and people don’t want to see and hear those type of things (have you watched “The Shield” ?)…but behind her there is much confusion. She senses this and looks over her shoulder several times while speaking. All of which is a telltale sign that she has about as much juice as the PA’s that do lockout on the set. The Mr. Personality actually grabs the mic and rolls forward in his chair to address us (I guess standing would have been too much of an effort to address the people he is so happy to work with).

He says something to the effect of “…if you can’t find a better way to express yourself than that…then I don’t know what to tell you”. His comment sets me off. I turn to Det. Budd and say “oh well I guess it’s ok for Quentin to say bitch and whore and dyke and nigger and kike and whatever else he thinks he needs to communicate his ideas. It’s ok to dismember innocent people gratuitously according to your own value system or stick large objects up the asses of inmates and make jokes about it throughout the narrative, or construct scenes rife with neo-Nazi imagery even though it’s a minor part of your plot or to have 6 min rape sequences and call it a metaphor…all of that is fair game. But you independents…keep it PG-13 if you want to work in this industry, we have standards you know! Please ignore the institutional sexism and racism inherent in Tom & Jerry and the xenophobia of Bugs Bunny, not to mention the myriad of caricatures that have become such an institution for Walt Disney that people don’t even see the offensive imagery anymore yet flock by the hundreds of thousands to participate in birthday celebrations atop secret bases and draconian rules that require the theme parks employees to be constantly in costume, lest someone realize that Mickey Mouse is not a real person and that there is really nothing funny about Goofy’s physical attributes or his uncanny resemblance to a certain enthninticity. No the peddlers of such fine and enlightening entertainment as eating live bugs and holding your breath underwater long enough to induce brain damage find offense with “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”…it’s the downfall of all that is wholesome and decent…get a fuckin’ clue!!

Det. Budd senses my displeasure.

Det. Budd
“You don’t want to do this do you:

“No dude. I really fucking don’t”

“I mean yeah, the guys a fuckin’ asshole, who the fuck isn’t it”

“Look all I am saying is if I have to put a dick in my mouth, I'm going to be picky about which dick it is.”

Det. Budd laughs at my comment…nice to know my partner still thinks I can write.

“Look man, I know it’s bullshit. But this is an opportunity, a genuine opportunity”

“An opportunity for persons with absolutely no love or respect of our art form to openly humiliate filmmakers for the sake of Neilson ratings”

“True…but its all exploitation”

“Listen…it’s not like I didn’t attempt to sue CBS over my last reality TV experience and wound up losing the countersuit and owing them $500,000 and filing bankruptcy”

“Oh yeah, that’s right”

“That’s right. I know these motherfuckers all too well, ok!”

“Look all I am saying is that you are a dead ringer in the first time director category, the black filmmaker category, for the screenwriting category and probably a whole bunch of other shit I can’t remember cause I’m high. I just don’t want us to miss out on those opportunities cause you are a member of the revolution”

“Fuck you”

“Ahh...c’mon... it was funny”

“Yeah it was… I am just sayin’ what are they really offering us? You think you this is going to be a successful show? With a crew full of directors taking turns? You couldn’t get 8 directors to agree on the toppings on a pizza, how the fuck do you think they are going to form a crew. But that’s not the real issue here. A week to shoot?

“Yeah that is kind of crazy”

“I mean our film looks the way it does because we spent 2 years in pre-production. You can’t shoot good films in one week…I guess you can get something that is laughable… but it is not an art form that is conducive to hard deadlines…this whole thing stinks.”

“But it is an opportunity”

“Ok but what kind of opportunity. We blew $50K, we had $2.5MM of insurance not to mention 15 speaking roles…we have things we can leverage. A lot of these people need this opportunity, because they don’t have any other options; we do!”

“Ok...ok... so what do you want to do?”

“Dude….let’s bounce.

…and as they lined up to hand in their applications and speak their audition piece on camera… “I should be on the show because I shot a 15 page script in 4 days with no permits…” as if any of that is comforting to someone who wants to invest several million dollars and have a competitive film as a result.

We caught a lot of perplexed looks as we walked out of the theater. Many couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t want to be involved and in hindsight I can say that I don’t think less of anyone who wants to be on this show; but if you really consider yourself a filmmaker and you love this art form, it’s really tough not to be offended.

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