Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Dillio...

I would first like to apologize for the glaring gaps in the blog recently. But I have been traveling like mad to screen the short and I don’t like to publish when the episode is not complete …or at least somewhat compelling (not that I think I’m writing hard political narratives or anything). Additionally, I have been somewhat successful in finding and befriending money people. And yes, I have been holding back from you for a number of reasons, but mainly because these are delicate relationships based on favors that some people shouldn’t be doing, so the details about, and the issue with, a majority of the situations I have found myself in …in the last 4 months or so….I can’t really talk about.

That’s kind of fucked up, because when this whole thing started…when the idea was conceived, the attitude was that if nothing else I would communicate information. That I wouldn’t feed filmmakers rhetorical bullshit and DV-inspired dreams about what it means to go for the big money. And now I am reporting that I can no longer do that…

…so I guess I must apologize. I can’t really tell you exactly how to do it….how I am doing it… I mean, look… I haven’t done it. But I can see how it gets down… and who does the doing… if this is not already a completely absurd run on consonance… but I can no longer narrate.

I can recount to you some well learned lessons from some of the failures I have had. I will tell you this much though… I’m not having kind-of, sort-of conversations about scripts that haven’t been written. I’m discussing whether or not someone is going to write me a check for $4MM.

I’ve become really blunt nowadays…when it comes to raising the funding…and it’s has not really affected me to my detriment. Most of these deals are not going to go your way. So it’s okay to have a little swagger about you. To argue for certain things, strictly on artistic merit; because only the poseurs and the wanna-be money men will object. The real people respect your passion, that’s what they want to invest in.

The funny thing is, the closer I get to the money, the less the film seems to matter. And by that I mean, they are investing in me… and an icon, as a figure.

As someone who can garner publicity and make his own media opportunities when it comes to promoting his film…

My “vision” is what I am really spending most of the time talking about. I field a lot of questions asking me if I can lead people; If I can communicate my vision to all that matter or all the production to descend into politics?

I’m telling you this because, the script and the short and all the marketing seem to have been a pretext to this level. Where I’m having really short meetings that come down to whether or not they like me as an artist…..I’m saying that you need to be pure and true and sincere about your desire to make films. That speaks volumes (apparently) because it’s rarely seen.

We have become charlatans and hustlers of filmed entertainment in some hell-bent quest to “get money” or “get power” or “get influence”… to get that deal and to make all your dreams come true.

I write today to tell you that there are several individuals out there, who are looking for the genuine article. And if you are the genuine article you need merely perfect your art as the pool thins…because it is always thinning.

A number of the films that I begun the festival –screening-bullshit with have ceased to screen regularly. It’s really a last man standing competition…if you have genuine desire and a good film (whatever that is) you can see results over the long term.

Det. Budd in I have had several conversations about if this whole thing has been worth it. I can truly say that it has. I mean, I’ve spent so much money. On shooting film, and post and making posters and DVD’s and all that shit… I’ve really pulled out the stops…and I do think it has made a difference. We just had the two year anniversary for the shooting of Sex-Love. I can honestly say that I did not thing I’d accomplish as much as I have in two years. If anything, I’ve set my goals too low, because we are achieving them in less than the allotted time.

I am a proponent of the expensive short film, and I know that burns a lot of people up that I go on and on about art dept. and shit, but it’s not a “luxury” as a lot of us consider it. A film without production design and effective art dept. is lacking….not artistic. You choose to read that as artistic, when really it’s amateurish. It makes your film an approximation of the original (which is a film). That’s the danger in the “just shoot it” mentality.

But I’m rambling….

Anyway, I’m going to tell you about this one money guy I had an encounter with. As far as strangeness and weirdness go, this is right up there with every money-guy encounter that I’ve ever had.

I ran an ad on Craigslist about two months ago. Now before you scoff at my trolling Craigslist I would like to point out that the Film/TV section of LA’s Craigslist gets a lot of traffic. Sure it’s a haven for the rookies and the slackers, but real working professionals do peruse Craigslist from time to time and more importantly, what better way to silence the throngs of individuals who consider themselves filmmakers than to take them head-on in a Craigslist ad.

The ad was short and sweet…kind of snarky, but to the point. It was titled “Are you a serious filmmaker, do you have a serious short film?” …and from there I proceeded to list all the things that I require to consider a short film. My plan was to find 5 other short films and for all of us to screen together and to collectively invite all our money people and see what happens.

Well let me tell you, the responses from the Craigslist ad were quite laughable. For starters, I really should have received more hate mail. I mean c’mon… this is Los Angeles, there are literally thousands of us shooting films if you don’t count the people in film school. Yet I received maybe 6 responses from angry filmmakers who demanded to know “what my problem was” and wanted to tell me “that I sound like an asshole”… all of which are valid observations but have relatively little to do with the topic at hand (the strength of your short film). As a result I spent most of the time arguing points with filmmakers I’ve never met about films they haven’t really completed, but yet felt offended that I wasn’t allowing them to participate.

Since that was a washout I decided to personally seek out some of the films that I had screened with over the past year or so and see if they wanted to team up. Well with the exception of two films (“The Package” and “Man-Up”) there were no responses. A majority of the filmmakers who’s film’s had impressed me, didn’t have a website, didn’t have any freely available contact information, didn’t have an email of cell phone number at any of the festival websites that they have registered at. That was upsetting and confirming all at the same time. I mean I was heartbroken that I couldn’t find the films I wanted to screen with….and amazed that you can call yourself a filmmaker and not be overly concerned with people being able to find you and your film. It was as if most of them didn’t realize that the ability to contact the filmmaker is the most important part of all of it.

I found one film from the ad… this piece called “In the name of my Father”. So it would be my film and three others to put the night together….

…then I got this cryptic email from this guy named Dennis McGovern. He rambled on about the need for distribution and how it’s the one thing that all successful films have in common. I should point out that I normally avoid anyone with such a layperson’s approach to explaining what goes on in the film industry. Anyone who does not know the terminology of the film industry or is unaware that the film industry has its own terminology – is not really worth your time….I mean an astronaut is not going to discuss astro-physics with a guy who sells ice cream for a living… and if he does… he’s not expecting life changing implication to arise out of their interaction.

So I begin to correspond with this McGovern character. It’s initially very awkward because he’s made a number of assumptions (like that I’m a white guy). These assumptions begin to complicate things for him as we begin to talk more frequently.

For instance, once he get the nerve to ask me what my ethnic make-up is, he’s a little perplexed at my being black. Not that he thinks less of black people in general, but it’s quite of obvious that he’s never meet a really dynamic person of color. It’s confronting a lot of his long-held assumptions and it causes him to say things like “so did you travel a lot as a child”… or “is part of your family from Europe”… or my personal favorite “is one of your parents a diplomat?” All of which may be valid questions for most persons, but not black people. We are all African descendants and when non-people of color try to ignore this, try to suggest that maybe we are from someplace else…it’s laughable.

I can understand that I confront a lot of things for him, but the logical assertion is that (his) understanding of black people has been sheltered and limited. But no, he’d rather assume that I’m part Scottish or something else as a plausible explanation. As if only western Europe possess the ability to churn out dynamic, thinking individuals.

So it takes three painful conversations about “where are your parents from” before we get to the crux of it. It’s even more amusing that he is cross indexing questions to try to learn about my education and the “strength” of my family unit….too bad I am overly familiar with this approach and can counteract it very effectively. He resorts to asking me outright and is quite surprised at my answer.

He even repeats it aloud … “really, you’re a black guy… I never would have guessed….you speak so well”. Yeah, and I can chew with my mouth closed and not impregnate every woman I sleep with….we’ve come a long way since emancipation.

So.. we begin this “relationship” with his asserting to me that he can put 114 qualified investors in a room if I am the right guy. That was where I started to chuckle…. If I was the right guy. Like he’s doing me a favor, like I should be thankful and fortunate to be in his presence. Yet as we begin to really talk about my feature as a viable investment I begin to notice that he’s unaware of how films are green lit and financed.

I found myself time and time again giving him examples of funding scenario’s that confront his assumptions. I told him that he is attempting to bring static and traditional funding approaches to a dynamic space…and that it is self-defeating.

He seems not to like when I correct him, so I save it for the really big points just to piss him off. Now I should point out, that I never thought this guys would get me any money. I was in “discussion” with two other money guys so he didn’t mean that much to me. I wanted to engage him, but was unconcerned with making it work. He’s a condescending older man who thinks everything is simple a sales transaction.

Things accelerate once I send him a copy of the short. I can sense in his voice in the next phone conversation that he is at a loss for words. He doesn’t know what to say other than “the script needs some development”. He feels the idea is incomplete.

I confirm his assumption and counter that the short film “is an incomplete thought” and is just a taste or approximation to the original (the feature film). All of this existential, theoretical talk seems over his head because he doesn’t grasp the concept of using the machine against itself.

And then it begins….he suggest that I read a screenwriting book to clarify my ideas. I laughed out loud at that one. I asked him if it was because the type of narrative and its foreign way of “unspooling”…that has led him to believe that I need help with my writing. He states that it is unclear and I ask him if it is truly unclear or if he feels that it is unclear …because he doesn’t understand it.

He’s instantly offended and says to me that he’s been watching films his entire life and that he knows a good one when he sees it.

I then go on the offensive and ask him what the film is about and what happens in it. He answers with a rambling answer about a bet and a car breaking down. So I say to him that he grasps the theme of the script and the types of characters that populate it….but that his issue is that it doesn’t do enough for him….that he doesn’t feel satisfied.

He agrees, and then I point out that I wasn’t trying to satisfy him… I was trying to see what kind of concepts he can grasp. He tells me that it’s not a film and that it’s a waste of people’s time. And I ask him if it is more of a waste of time than a Hollywood remake of an already popular film.

He asks me how that is relevant and I ask him again. Is a remake of a film like say… “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “The longest Yard” more of a waste of time than an original script that plays with the form that is a feature film.

He refuses to engage me and says that a remake of a good film is still a good film. I agree with him, but I stipulate that that doesn’t make it an honest film…and that it doesn’t make people feel like the film industry is responsive to their needs.

He laughs and says that needs have nothing to do with it, that it’s about entertainment.

I counter that contemporary action films fill our need for violence and mayhem and disorder and spectacular visuals. I protest to him that that is why special effects and CGI are progressing in a very linear fashion (as far as what kinds of things we are creating and the change in the overall viewing experience). He really wasn’t expecting that, but still asks me to humor him and read a screenwriting book.

This is where I really started to argue with him….he asked me to hear him out and stated that all successful film had some fundamental things in common.

I responded that just because you reduced rocket science to launching large objects into the sky doesn’t mean that if you do it incorrectly that it won’t kill you in the process. I stipulate that making a film is a huge use of resources and should not be a decision taken lightly.

The argument ends with my agreeing to read his book if he agrees to read mine. Well his book was screenwriting 434 by Lew whateverthefuck his name is. It’s an ancient text on “screenwriting” that I took great joy in ripping to pieces.

For starters I got up early and drove to “the Writers Store” in Westwood just to get a copy. While in the store there was an incident.

May I help you

Yeah, I’m looking for a screenwriting book called Screenwriting 434

Oh, that’s a great book, a little dated, but still a fine read. Have you just started writing?

Uh, no…I’ve written my share of features, I just need to read it to win a bet.

You bet on the book?

On whether or not it was relevant.

It’s always good to know the basics

True, but there are glaring omission in books like these.

How do you mean?

I mean narrative theory tells us that there is something in the neighborhood of 29 discrete narratives that can be told in any language.

The associate is really troubled by what I am saying.

Hey Bill, you ever heard of this….?

29, 35, 19…the number is in dispute..

But the concept of a discrete set of narratives is valid and really changes the meaning of books like this.

So you are saying that the books don’t matter.

I’m saying that it’s only about 10% of what makes a script a script.

The first associate looks like his head is about to explode. He retires to the back. His friend engages me further.

So what kind of things do you write.

I’m primarily concerned with the trends of American Independent film and the emergence of a new genre.

New genre? All the genres already exist.

Yes, but there is a new one emerging. I call it generation X.

How does a new genre just emerge, would we know about it already?

Well, you do.. you just don’t consider it a genre yet. You just know that every now and then a film is released that is different.

How so?

Well, look at how narratives directed at Generation x have a noted lack of parental figures and very few women as characters.

I have noticed that there are not a lot of females in these films.

Because we have issues with women, because we have issues with how we feel as men. It’s not coincidence that we dream of a world that is by and large devoid of women…it’s a psychosis.

My words did a lot to uproot a lot of the things these two dude had believed for a long time.

They asked me to come back and discuss things some more….but I don’t’ run an outreach program. I said I would be knew I’d never return. I just really wanted to point out that the very same people who sell you all these books have a number of questions and holes in their knowledge that they would rather not think about. How can you expect to write dynamic scripts by associating with them?



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