Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How it went

Where to begin.

Last night was the world premiere of the movie I Co-Produced called "The Violent Kind." At Sundance. Yes, I notrorious late starter Don R. Lewis, had a film at Sundance. How does that happen?? I have no clue. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, my connection to Sundance is incredibly strong. When I first got interested in film, I started volunteering here and that was like, 16 years ago. So just the fact I was returning here with a FILM in the festival was incredibly emotional and extremely surreal.

I got in on Friday and we basically started drinking from the get-go. Lots of nervous energy was abounding in our condo which I'm sharing with the Butcher Bros, Arianne our PR gal, George our attorney and my hero, Michael Gibson. It's a nice spot really close to Main street which is cool. So yeah, we've been drinking into the wee hours everyday and believe it or not, that's not very healthy. We're all dragging ass today. Plus I bought an adrenaline pass which is good for any movie before 11:00 am and after 11:00 pm which is cool provided you're not out drinking until 3:00 am and sleeping until noon.

There's been lots of good buzz about the movie and it's been awesome seeing the crew that came out as well as all the cast here. The entire cast is here except for Nick Tagas which really bums me out. He's so great in the movie and is such a great guy, I wish he could've made it. So all day yesterday I just laid low so as not to freak myself out which I'm prone to do before screenings of my little short docs and I did a good job. Ate breakfast, had a nice dinner...chilled with friends. Then it was off to the premiere.

Our screening was at 11:30 and I got there at 10:30 as I was in charge of doling out tickets to the crew who made the trip. We had a red carpet which was fun. I really, really, really love our cast and am so proud they got to be in a Sundance movie. I've always been a big Cory Knauf, Joe Egender, Joe Mackelheer and Sam Childs supporter so seeing them get some Sundance love was amazing. And Tiffany Shepis and I go way back and if it wasn't for her agreeing to be in this film, I probably wouldn't have got to be a producer so seeing HER finally get a movie at Sundance was amazing. Plus the crew was so giddy and it just felt really great.

I should note that as I write this, it's not coming off NEARLY as exciting as it was, sorry..

So we all sat down right on time and Trevor Groth, who is just a great guy and an outstanding programmer introduced our film. It was at that moment the huge wave of emotion swept over me and it finally really struck me that I had a film in the motherfucking Sundance film festival. It's still just a trippy, surreal feeling and I've spent all day processing it. And being hungover. But processing it too. It means alot not only personally but professionally as well but in my typical fashion, that freaks me out and sends my mind spinning out of control as to what I should do next. Silly, but true. Anyway...

The lights dimmed and what seemed like a 2-hour trailer for the festival came on. My palms were sweating and my heart was pounding. Where's our damn movie!? Then, a really cool 10 minute short called "Still Birds" came on and again....it was like Hitchcockian tension. WHERE IS OUR FILM?!?! Finally, THE VIOLENT KIND began and it was amazing.

I had only seen a rough cut a few months back and I was non-plussed. The special effects weren't done then nor was the sound design and it was really long. I liked it, but couldn't totally fall in love with it because it was so rough. So seeing the completed version was unreal. UN. REAL. It's just a really, really strange, gross, fun movie and I thought it was a blast. However I can't get a feel for what people thought and that's really weird. It's kinda like free falling and not knowing where the ground is or when you'll land. I mean, not to sound dramatic, but it's strange not knowing what people think of your work. It's been eerily quiet out there which, I'll be honest, isn't very good news. But we have the press screening today and another screening tomorrow so I'll be neck deep in peoples opinions soon enough.

So after the film, we did the Q&A and I got to go up on the front stage area which, again,w as surreal. I've seen sooooo many great films and directors in the same spot I was standing so man, crazy. After that we had a party from 2:00-4:00 am and then went to some bizarro house across the street from our condo from 4:00-6:00 then I went home and crashed and woke up at noon once again and ate the hard ticket I had bought for a friends movie. I suck. Tonight I'm laying low and am actually planning on seeing a MOVIE that isn't ours. But before that I'll be stressing out on the twitter feed hearing what all my film critic friends think of the film after the press screening in an hour.

I have alot of friends who I respect their writing and opinions so I'm pretty nervous right now. But, it's so out of my control. I can't make them like it but I do hope they'll be fair. And not to be egomaniacal about it, but I'm sure there's alot of jealousy that I produced a film that got into Sundance. I can't think of a single film critic out there today who doesn't want to make movies so this opportunity I had could piss them off. But like I said, I just hope they'll be fair and enjoy the ride. The movies a trip and this whole experience has been a trip...but I'm ready to go home and see my girls and dog.

In the meantime I'm gonna chill and listen to "White Light" by Wilco a few times in order to keep perspective.

f you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along
Just sing what you feel
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re trying to paint a picture
But you’re not sure which colors belong
Just paint what you see
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re strung out like a kite
Or stung awake in the night
It’s alright to be frightened

When there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
Inside of you

If you think you might need somebody
To pick you up when you drag
Don’t loose sight of yourself
Don’t let anyone change your bag

And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on

And that’s not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You'll only get uptight

Because there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
There’s a light (what light)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Buy my newest film DRAG KING!!! (please)

Greetings readers! Look at that, 2 blog posts in a week!! This ones rather self serving though. Our newest short doc "Drag King" is available by clicking here now!

In 2007, John Beck and I took another long, strange trip in order to make a documentary about something crazy that exists, but that you might not get to see everyday. Each summer, residents of Lake County, California get together for The Fiberglass 500, a race in which people pull old, beat up boats around a race track with their demolition derby cars, trying to rip each others boats to shreds! Last man (or woman) standing wins.

Yes, you read that correctly. Cars pull boats around a racetrack and smash up the boats. It's frigging awesome and it's called "Drag King." We used 7 different cameras with 4 shooters and we only lost ONE camera! We were also fortunate enough to get Robert Malta of local legends hugeLARGE to add some music and I got the amazing 2 Cow Garage to lend me a song as well. It's a really fun little film.

"Drag King" was fortunate enough to appear at Cinequest in San Jose, the Austin Film Festival, Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, deadCENTER in Oklahoma City as well as the Beverly Hills Shorts Fest and the Big Easy Shorts Fest in New Orleans where it actually WON the programmers award for Best Documentary Short. Now we've made it available it you, the public.

For a mere $14.99, you can purchase this little slice of Americana redneck madness and bring it home to show your family and friends. You can tell them, "Hey! I know these Award Winning filmmakers!!" And most importantly, you can contribute money to help us pay for the hours of travel, therapy and rehab we endured in the making and promoting of the film.

But all joking aside, please buy a copy or 2 of "Drag King" and if you didn't already, buy a copy of our first doc "Stringers" while you're on the site (click here).

John and I are really proud of these films and by your purchase, you're helping us to get out there and make more movies. It's not cheap! Encourage friends of facebook, twitter and myspace to buy "Stringers" and "Drag King" as well. Forward this email to people who like fires, police, movies, documentaries and the like and ask them to buy a copy of "Stringers" or "Drag King," We'd really appreciate it.

Also, If at all possible, please create a new profile on "Createspace" as our royalty is much, much higher. However if you're in a hurry, I do believe clicking the link while you're signed into Amazon will allow you to purchase the film. But setting up a profile through this link: https://www.createspace.com/276233 takes about 3 minutes so please, do that!

Thanks for reading this far and thanks on advance for supporting our little films!!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Top Ten Movies of 2009

Yes! It's BACK!! I posted my top 10 over at the new site I write for, Gordon and the Whale but since I figure you're all too lazy to look there (just as I've been too lazy to blog!) I'll post it here as well.

Keep in mind the following...

I've decided "best of" lists of the decade or year are silly because, lets face it, we haven't seen everything. I know I haven't. In fact, I've yet to see "Up in the Air" or "White Ribbon," both of which would likely have come into consideration. So my list is more like my favorite movies of 2009. That being said...


I walked into OBSERVE AND REPORT expecting, like many people did, a raunchy version of PAUL BLART: MALL COP. While others were pissed that OBSERVE AND REPORT was not a dirtier BLART, I was totally blown away by just how dark, funny, sad, and weird the film was and it’s stuck with me all year. In a cinematic world homogenized for the masses, where every character has to be likable and go through a positive change, OBSERVE AND REPORT is a throwback to seventies cinema where not everyone is likable and sometimes they just don’t change.


I’m a big fan of Lars von Trier, and I’ve always loved the way he kind of bullies us into facing fears about what we believe. I also think the guy is screwing with his audience so much that he doesn’t even believe what he’s saying or telling us more than half the time. But with ANTICHRIST, not only is he making audiences squirm the old-fashioned way, I think he’s actually reaching out to audiences and trying to connect with them. People get so wrapped up in the gory and crazy aspects of this film, but I think it’s the most beautifully shot and best acted film of the year.


Again, I went into WORLD’S GREATEST DAD not knowing what to expect. We’re all fairly sick of Robin Williams being “zany” and I feared he would be at full ham strength in this film. I was literally slack jawed by the end of this film and was almost in tears by how honest and moving the film was and, I loved the dark and twisted package it came in.


THE HURT LOCKER is bad ass. At first I was a little irritated by what I thought was a lack of character definition in Jeremy Renner’s Sgt. James. However, upon multiple viewings, I found there were much subtler character traits that I must have missed while clinging to the edge of my seat the first time through. For as ballsy as the action scenes are, there’s also a very nice little human story involved here and THE HURT LOCKER really is a complete package of a film.


I’m a sucker for those tales of rebel country stars who like to drink, smoke and screw so I was into CRAZY HEART from the word go. And it delivers on all those things but also tells a sweet story about a man who never had to grow up and his life is finally catching up to him. Being an artist can be tough on your soul and Jeff Bridges as “Bad Blake” wears his heart on his sleeve. It’s an awesome performance in a really great film.


The biggest question I had after seeing Wes Anderson’s FANTASTIC MR. FOX remains: is this his best film? And I consider myself one of the biggest Wes Anderson fans around so even wondering if FANTASTIC MR. FOX comes close to RUSHMORE is a daunting question and I don’t really have an answer. Not only is the animation spectacular, but the acting is the best I’ve ever seen in an animated film. Plus Anderson gets to use his borderline OCD obsession with set design to it’s full effect and the result is a fun and funny film with some nice observations about human nature.


THE MESSENGER is another one of this years films that reminded me of a 70’s drama and I loved it. Obviously the film is very current in it’s subject matter but the age old question of what war does to a man lingers on. While I still have some quibbles with some parts of the story, I still love the Woody Harrelson/Ben Foster one-two punch and I think about THE MESSENGER all the time.


BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS is a batshit crazy film. Nic Cage is batshit crazy in it, too, and I think this film might be the most fun I’ve had at a movie all year. Fans of the old on-the-edge Cage will be thrilled by this “re-imagining” of Abel Ferrara’s classic bad cop drama and Werner Herzog cashes his paycheck big time by going totally over the top with this film.


MOON is just about the perfect little slice of sci-fi and I don’t really consider myself a big fan of that genre. Even so, MOON is pretty irresistible and clever and Sam Rockwell is genius in it. I’d love to watch it repeatedly on DVD but alas, it’s still not available in the U.S. Hint…hint…

10. UP

Pixar does it again.

I'm still figuring out albums so that's forthcoming!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All the news fit to print

So, in case you haven't heard "The Violent Kind," the movie I Co-Produced over the summer got into Sundance. Frigging. Amazing. When we were shooting it, we were secretly aiming for Sundance but lets face it, every indie filmmaker without distribution aims for Sundance. As the shoot wrapped and the epic editing journey began, we didn't think we'd be done in time for the festival. But through some Herculean efforts by Mitch and Phil (aka The Butcher Brothers) and Nic Hill (our editor) not only did this thing get a cut that was pretty cool, it was enough to get us into Sundance.

This is all so incredibly awesome to me, I really don't think I've processed it yet. And I know many of you are thinking Sundance sucks or is played out or has no purpose and all that and to that I say...you're just jealous. Kidding. To that I say, you might be right in some ways, but it's still the biggest film festival in the U.S. and probably the second largest in the world. And for me, getting our film in also has huge personal ramifications.

When I first realized my love and passion for film, I didn't know what to do with this feeling. It was right when "Clerks" and "El Mariachi" and "Reservoir Dogs" were taking off and Sundance was this mythical place where anyone could make a movie, get it seen there and become rich and famous. Film school was being pooh-poohed because all these directors had made it with NO education and gosh darn-it, you could make it too. I started telling friends and fellow bar patrons I wanted to make movies and one of my best friends told me his sister worked for Sundance and I should go and volunteer. So, I did.

15 years ago I set foot in the snowy whirlpool of Sundance and my life was forever changed. There were other people there who loved film. I was seeing movies and then sitting in a Q&A with the filmmakers. I was seeing movies all day and that was it, I was hooked. I headed back home and enrolled in a screenwriting class and spent 5 years working on ONE FEATURE SCRIPT that no one will ever, ever read. But still, I was working on it and taking classes and learning everything I could and making small films to learn with and get into festivals with now, I have a film at Sundance. Sure, it took a while, but I've discovered I'm a monumentally slow starter. I hate it and will be changing that, but it's the truth.

So that's the main reason this is so special to me personally. In many regards I got into the film thing backwards and now, I'm back where I started, but in another way. if that makes sense.

The other reason this is so great to me personally is I really, really like and respect the new director of programming Trevor Groth as well as the new festival director, John Cooper. These guys were just regular ole programmers when I started and over the years, they were the 2 programmers (and later, Mike Plante) I sought out in the program guide because the films they chose were almost always awesome. I kind of know Trevor from CineVegas and various other festivals but I only know Cooper in passing from when I volunteered. I should also mention that these 2 guys were always extremely kind to volunteers, always checking if they were o.k., asking what films they saw and liked, etc. That stuff goes a long way and I couldn't be more happy our film was chosen by these guys to be in the festival.

So, there you have it. I'm off to Sundance 2010 as a filmmaker and it's awesome.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Getting dark early

I'm kind of done apologizing for not blogging, it gets old and I guess technically, I'm not "sorry," just busy or bored with it or.....something else. Of late, it's been the latter. I have serious issues surrounding my mood.

I just started writing like, 3 paragraphs worth of info (too much info) on that last statement and just don't feel comfortable putting it out there. I'll summarize and say "I'm on the downward slope of a funk." Much better. See, I need to finish this freeking thesis and I simply cannot get into it. It's on Hal Ashby who is one of my top 3 favorite directors and it's a mere 30 pages. I do it, I get my MA and can move forward with myself. But see, I can't get around to writing it and it's incredibly frustrating.

It's frustrating because it's an easy task. Hell, between movie reviews and comments on other peoples blogs and instant messaging, etc., I easily cover 30 pages in a week. But, my stupid mind knows that if I finish this thesis, I'll have no excuses to start other projects or really pursue a teaching job. It's all a clever, yet mean trick my brain plays on me when it comes to doing work. Even writing that is frustrating because it shows I am actually in control of my brain and mood and can see what's happening and am still kind of unable to correct it. Here's the breakdown...

I am not allowing myself to edit footage for a behind-the-scenes thing I shot for the movie I co-produced this summer until I finish my thesis.

I am not allowing myself to write out grant requests for FREE MONEY for a feature length doc I started shooting this summer until I finish my thesis.

I am not allowing myself to log footage from the feature doc I started shooting this summer until I finish my thesis.

I am not allowing myself to start a new screenplay that's basically written in my head until I finish my thesis.

I feel really creatively backed up because I'm not allowing myself creative outlets (I LOVE editing and logging and writing too...which is another annoying habit I have) until I finish my thesis.

So, as you can see...if I would just buckle down and finish my thesis, I could do some things I really, really want to do and that will make me happy and move me forward as a filmmaker. But if I finish my thesis, my secret mind knows that I'll have no excuse for not doing those other things. It's a vicious circle and one that ends up with me beating myself up mentally to the point of dark depression which is kind of the space I'm in of late.

Hopefully blogging here will chip away at my listlessness and help me get my ass in gear.

Thanks for listening!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Jay Bennett November 15, 1963 - May 24, 2009

Jay Bennett, formerly of Wilco died Saturday night and it's very sad news. I've been trying to write an entry about him, Wilco, his effect on me as a fan and his effect on all Wilco fans, but it's going long. And rambling. Someone posted this youtube vid below and it says everything about the guy (sorta, not really) that I'm getting at in my inability to write it all out. In short, it's so sad and really does have an effect on Wilco fans based mostly on the movie "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" which the clip below is from.

I know I've always admired Bennett's contribution to my favorite band, but I've also sided heavily with Jeff Tweedy in booting the guy from Wilco. It seemed like an impossible collaboration and although I know film can lie, I "know" people like the person Bennett was portrayed as in that film, and I could see where Jeff was coming from. Even so, I always tried to lend an ear to what Jay was up to and check it out. His contribution and collaboration to Wilco made them what they are today, no ands, ifs, buts. In fact the song "Jesus, etc." is, for my money, one of the finest songs ever created and Bennett has a ton to do with that.

Since I listen to all of Jay's stuff, about 4 months ago, I downloaded for free- per his request- his new album. And I was really digging it. Then, I heard he was suing Jeff Tweedy for royalties owed 7 years after the fact as well as for money from "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" which Jeff was merely a participant in, not a producer of and I'll be honest. It soured me on him and I tucked the CD away. I felt he was being petty and low and cheap. Then, he died Saturday. And it turns out it was from complications of hip surgery. A hip surgery that he was suing Tweedy to cover. Ugh. Ouch. As bad as I and other fans feel, put yourself in Jeff's shows. Ugh.

I have acquaintances who make fun of me for saying "we" when referring to a sports team I like or make fun on my fan boy tendencies. But you know, when you love a band or team or director, you feel on board with them. It's like church. You gravitate towards them and their message and what they bring to you. You take it personally. Like it's for real. It is real. You invest your quiet moments with these bands/teams/figures and you come together to worship and be happy for and with. And when someone who had a big part of that dies, it hurts.

So yesterday, today and for a while...I miss Jay Bennett. His last solo album really is quite great and anyone who ever saw the guy with Wilco or otherwise can attest to his brilliance. I just wish things hadn't been so messy and moreover, I wish they hadn't ended so sadly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ch-ch-ch changes

Well I wasn't lying when I posted that last blog at the beginning of the year. I've been suuuper busy. It's funny that my last post detailed my taking over managerial duties at Film Threat because now, I'm trying to remove myself from that site and find a new home for my writing. It hasn't been easy and the story behind it isn't worth getting into on here but I will say it makes me pissed, sad and frustrated.

The thing about film writing right now is....print film critics are getting fired left and right and newspapers are going under. Since it's an electronic world, many of these writers are starting blogs or jumping on board with established film websites. Since these people have a solid rep because they are paid "professional" writers, schlubs like me are getting passed over pretty quick for established writing jobs because bigger names are available. Plus, I kind of painted myself into a corner at Film Threat by reviewing mostly arty, small indie films. There's no money in writing about that stuff for bigger webpages so adding me to their site maybe doesn't make sense.

I will say that for once in my life, the nagging feeling that I totally suck isn't bogging me down. I'm confident in my writing. The timing to move on is just really shitty. So, I'm doing less at Film Threat and not running any admin stuff at all. In fact, I've really taken a break from writing since SXSW in March which was shitty for me this year. While it feels good to take a break, I miss covering film festivals and writing reviews. I have some new stuff in the works though and more on that soon.

Anyway....since we last spoke I....

- Attended the AVN Awards in Las Vegas. It's the porno awards...and it was an incredible trip. Just ridiculous and silly and I had a blast.

- I went to SXSW and had a bad time. Saw some great movies though and kept my partying to a minimum, save for a night out at the dance halls with a friend who's wife is having twins this summer.

- I went to AFI Dallas which was killer. That festival knows how to get it done. Very inclusive feeling, several awesome films, great parties and some of the bets panels I've seen. Plus, I got to be ON a panel which was alot of fun. Dallas is no Austin, but I have several friends from Dallas so it was great to see them and I made some new pals as well. That trip definitely made up for my SXSW "mood pocket."

Plus my new personal photographer, Kelly Williams, took that photo at the top of this post and that's the best photo of me EVER taken!

I've been working on my thesis which has proved more difficult that I thought. I can't get a groove going. It's only 30 pages and I've pushed my graduation back to this summer. But man...I can't get it going. I know what I want to say and I know how I want it to look so eventually it will just come pouring out of me, but until that time....I feel kind of lost and frustrated. Patience though. It'll happen soon I think.

I thought I would get back into the groove by posting here again so here goes. Sorry for bailing but I've just been enjoying being home with my wife, daughter and dog and recuperating from an insane year of travel. Now, I'm broke but feel really great about laying some seeds at festivals I loved attending. I'm going to try and come back to them this year as a juror or panelist (or, both) and then after, that, I should have my first feature length documentary ready for festival travel! More on that soon.

In the meantime....I'm BACK!