Thursday, May 26, 2005

Burning Car Upholstery Makes a Lot More Smoke Than I Ever Would Have Imagined

At 4:30AM on Monday night we lit a car on fire.

It took three months of planning, forty thousand dollars and a crew of fifty, but we pulled it off. We just completed production on Human Scale Productions Limited's newest short film extravaganza "Anniversary Present"—I got incorporated a couple of days before production because of the possibilities for pyrotechnic disaster.

Somehow 9 months ago I convinced myself that I could make a small and easy 6 minute film that would eventually come to involve a small wedding (with 50 union extras), a three day shoot (that should have been five days), a couple of locations (10), a relatively easy shoot (10,000 feet of Super 35mm film, 50 crew members, 10 vehicles including an HMI package truck, 4 producers, not enough money) and the (complete and utter) destruction of a sports car (in an underground parking lot). Having finally caught up on some sleep I realize that sometimes maybe I aim a little too high. Two people in a room shot on video, that's what I'm gonna do next, or maybe a fringe play.

For now I'm off to the telecine to see the footage for the first time with the producers and the DP. The film stars Liane Balaban (New Waterford Girl) and David Alpay (Ararat) and I think it's gonna be a really fun "little" show.

"Anniversary Present" was generously financed and supported by Bravo!Fact, The NFB, Bravo, Kodak, Panavision Cameras, PS Production Services, ACTRA, The CFTPA, Notch, Cine-Byte, Flashcut Editing and Great North Artists.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


"We live in an age of research"
- Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

In order to write about conflict I felt like I had to experience elements of it firsthand. I thought about where I could travel to—short of a war zone—and decided on the next best thing... Israel.
In February, I spent 10 days in Israel and then walked across the boarder into the Egyptian Sinai desert for another 6 days. The entire experience was very affecting—from hanging out with Israeli soldiers, finding out what their daily lives are like and the emotions that they go through and difficulties that they deal with, to visiting a US military base in Dahab, Egypt and talking to some of the US ARMY regulars there.

Renting 2x4s and driving into the desert at night was an amazing way to wrap my mind around the realities of what it must be like serving as a Recon Marine.

The middle eastern desert is incredible: amazingly quiet, vast, windy, hot as hell and full of flies. The landscapes are really diverse and the colors are mind blowing—the blues, yellows, browns, grays, and golden sand. Seeing "Lawrence of Arabia" when I was 9 years old got me into this whole mess of deciding to become a filmmaker and now I know why.

I was planning to do another trip and go and spend some time near Camp Lajune in North Carolina to interview Marines right afterwards, but when I got home, I immediately started writing the fourth draft of the script and I didn't want to pause in the middle of it. Maybe I'll do that at the end of the summer just to fill in some more details in Owen's character.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Goals & Aspirations

It's going to be very interesting at the end of this process to go back and look at my original intentions for the film and see if at the end of the day, I've managed to meet them.

Here are my hopes for the film:
~ That it's shot in Super 35mm film (and taken to the print stage).
~ That we raise a budget large enough to shoot the main unit elements in North America, and the Saudi/Kuwait desert sequences in the Middle East, most likely using Egypt to sub in for Saudi Arabia.
~ That the film gets a theatrical release (5+ North American cities).
~ That the project stars 3 very talented (and Ideally well known) actors.
~ That the film is completed by the end of 2008.
~ That we come in at around 110 minutes.
~ That the story really works, but that I'm able to persevere with an unconventional narrative that doesn't get watered down.

Stranger things have happened.

Friday, May 06, 2005

And Now a Step Backwards

If I was reading this blog, the first thing I'd be asking myself is "who is this joker? I just wrote a screenplay too, why would I possibly care about some guy saying that he's gonna get a feature film off the ground and write about it. Raising 2 million dollars ain't easy, cause if it was I'd have done it myself by now." So in a vague attempt to legitimize the possibility of being successful in my ambitions here is a very brief history of my career:

Since 1997 I have been creating short documentary and dramatic films. My first film LSD25 was screened at over a dozen international film festivals sold to boadcast and won a couple of awards.

Jumping ahead to 2000, my partner Sierra Bellows and I spent 9 months living in Malawi, Africa filming the hour long documentary "Lifecycles: a story of AIDS in Malawi." for the NFB, UNAIDS and the Link TV in the states.

Then in 2003, we completed our most recent film "The Straitjacket Lottery" for Bravo and CBC National. The film has screened at over 25 internatinal film festivals and won/been nominated for a half dozen awards.

So that's a glimpse into my background and hopefully these projects will help me to raise the budget for "Living-Room War"

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Basement Dream

In March of 2002 I was sleeping in a friend's basement in Cambridge, MA, when I awoke with the strangest sensation--my dreams were so vivid that I quickly wrote them down and I realized that I had just met a new person. That night, the 63 year old Darrel Weir was born. An aging Vietnam war correspondent, paralyzed from the waist down, with an angry chip on his shoulder. In the following years his son Owen Weir too became a part of my life. Owen, a Recon Marine dug in on the Saudi/Kuwait boarder waiting for the '91 ground war to begin slowly began to take his place as my protagonist and eventually the feature screenplay "Living-Room War" came into being.

Now, a little over three years later, I've just printed off the fourth draft of my 120 page script for the first time and I'm starting to feel ready to go out and try to raise the money to make it.