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!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wake up! Your blogs on fire!!


I must apologize for totally flaking on my top 10 for movies. Fact is, I'm still behind on a few that may merit inclusion. Plus, as usual, I'm really busy. I do intend on doing it though and soon. Very soon. I've been up to the following...

I've written for Film Threat for over 10 years and I love it. I liked it because I've always been pretty free to do what I want because I'm a decent writer and I'm not an irrational asshole (notice, I didn't say I wasn't an asshole. Just not an irrational, ie; untrustworthy one). I also just had to write stuff then later, post it up on the site all by myself like a big boy. When I got there one dude was in charge, then my buddy Eric, then my buddy Mark. Plus, Gore's always been there in some capacity. Well, Mark moved to New Zealand at the end of summer and then, at the end of the year, quit the site.

I knew he would (he said he wouldn't) and I was pretty mad because I didn't want to deal with another editor and site changeover. Plus, Mark's one of my best friends and I love hanging out with him at film festivals but I basically know I'll probably never see the guy much ever again. He says we'll get to hang out, but I don't see how or where. I hate to sound like I got dumped or like I'm a jilted lover, but it does bum me out quite a bit.


Since I have the ability, some time and some know-how, I decided to take over as managing editor and it's been pretty cool! I basically tend to the site, add stories, update stuff and still write my own stuff when I can. I also get to touch base with all the writers, come up with new ideas, etc. I'm enjoying it so far and am grateful for the shot. Plus, it's a natural progression and should look good on my resume.

Still, it's been alot of learning and trying to get a groove going and that hasn't been easy. Plus, my regular job needs me a little more, the band stuff keep trickling in and I'm in full-strength-ahead mode on my graduate thesis. Plus my daughter (who is truly amazing!) walks really well now. Parents in da house know what that means; you can't just plop them down next to you, play some music and spin a mobile while you work. She's requires alot of attention and I'd be a bald faced liar if I said I didn't like giving it to her.

So...that's my excuse(s). A pretty good batch if you ask me! But I will be around more once Sundance winds down. Oh! I didn't go this year! First one I've missed in 13 years!! I went to Vegas instead for the AVN Awards and the "electronics convention." It was awesome and ridiculous and way, way more fun than Sundance would have been. My involvement with Sundance has been running reviews coming in from there and it's been a pain.

I have been doing lazy-man's blogging at Twitter though and you can always follow me there:

That's all for now! Go read FILM THREAT and see what a great job I can do!! Yay me! Now you try!

Monday, January 05, 2009

My Top 5 Favorite Albums of the Year

So the wedding I went to was awesome! I love weddings where the couple is just being who they are and not trying to bowl people over with their ability to play dress up and faux fancy. We’re just people, people. Scott & Whitney's wedding was awesome!

So…here comes my Top 5 Favorite Albums of the Year! After that, I’ll add some random stuff to further stall until I see the other 3 films I need to see to round out my movies, then I can get back onto other random musings. Speaking of randowm musings…have I mentioned I’m on twitter??: http://twitter.com/petalumaFilms

Here we go…

I had just about given up on ole Ryan. Always prolific but always in need of an outer and inner editor, he had just become too predictable and, well, boring. Plus he was in a serious Grateful Dead phase the last few albums and the only thing that sucks more than The Dead are bands trying to sound like The Dead. But “Cardinology” is a rock album…and a damn fine one. It’s funny because I didn’t really get it or like it the first few listens so I put it away. Then my favorite local radio station started spinning some singles that grew on me and I gave the album another chance. And, I love it. I should also note I seem to really, really love Ryan Adams music when it's raining. I have no clue why but it's been fairly dry of late so I was also not inspired to listen more. Anywho...TMI, I'm sure.

4. VAMPIRE WEEKEND Vampire Weekend
Try as I might, I don’t always fall for critical darlings. But, I always give them a chance and sometimes I’m blown away. I won’t say Vampire Weekend blew me away, but they’ve stayed in my CD player consistently and enjoyably for nearly a year. The thing with the album is, it’s awesome and tight. It’s not the frigging…second coming of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and it’s not post-modern African pop rock or whatever other crap critics placed on these kids. It’s just good music people. Sure, some of the songs feature African style phrasing and arrangement. Yes, there’s ska. But I find it funny critics and hipsters placed all these tags and meanings onto this band only to completely turn on them later in the year as they are now. Will V.W. ever make another album this good? Who cares! This one’s really good!

3. THE MOTHER TRUCKERS Let’s All Go to Bed
These guys and a girl are from my neck of the woods and when they up and moved to Austin, I thought it would be their death knell. “There’s already like, 100 bands like them in Austin,” I told a friend and fellow fan. I was wronger than wrong. Since moving to my favorite city in the world, The Mother Truckers have found their heart and soul and they no longer sound like a San Francisco band trying to sound like beer swilling Texans. They are beer swilling Texans who shred on vocals and guitar! And listen to what I’m going to say here as it's no B.S....

Lead singer Teal Collins is a mega-babe and I love her sexual energy and innuendo on this album. A few songs of hers I had listened to for weeks and then it suddenly hit me…they were about sex! I’m slow like that. Although she’s the front person of the band and rocks and stands out because of her pipes and great looks, it’s her husband Josh Zee who steals the show. In fact, I think his guitar work on here is some of, if not THE FINEST Americana rock-n-roll playing in the last ten years. I kid you not. I’m totally serious. He’s a bad mother-humper. Big words, but I mean it. Josh Zee and Will Kimbrough are the shit but for totally different reasons.

2. FIVE A.M. Raise the Sun
Yes, I manage them. So what. I’ve received endless amounts of shit from them about not including their last album (or maybe not including it “high enough”) but hey, I’m nothing if not honest. That being said, “Raise the Sun” isn’t a good album…it’s a great album. And I say that with all seriousness and all the frustration a person can have as I don’t see why the songs on this album are not embraced by radio when people like Matt Nathanson, The Fray, Sister Hazel and countless other really musically sound and all around solid bands do get embraced. It’s simply and honestly not fucking fair.

We’ve heard at least two DJ’s we don’t even personally know say upon spinning the single “Be Still,” “ I really don’t know why that song isn’t a huge hit.” It’s a nice sentiment, but really kind of salts the wound.

Grousing aside, this really is an amazing album and it’s really not the kind of music I typically listen to. But even if you aren’t into pop and rock, you can’t deny the sensitivity, intelligence, musicality and all around awesomeness that is “Raise the Sun.” There’s not a song on here I don’t love and again, that’s not based on any kind of friendship or salesmanship. This album is fucking great and I couldn’t be happier that it’s out there and being heard by people who have never discovered five a.m.

1. THE DRIVE BY TRUCKERS Brighter Than Creations Dark

I simply cannot love this album any more than I do. I listen to it almost daily and it never gets old. It’s funny because as usual, I’m about 7 years too late on the love-in for a band, but the DBT’s last few records have made me love them while everyone else bitches for the good old days when they did “Southern Rock Opera,” a double album that I respect to death but never really liked. In fact, I was skeptical to even get their follow up “Decoration Day” but did and have been a DBT’ fanatic ever since.

Things I love about this album are as follows…
It rocks. Hard. But it’s also sensitive and sweet at times. And I like it either way.

The song “The Righteous Path” speaks to every middle income and below American better than any other song this year or hell, the last 15 years. By way of example:

I got a couple of opinions that I hold dear
A whole lot of debt and a whole lot of fear
I got an itch that needs scratching but it feels alright
I got the need to blow it out on Saturday night
I got a grill in the backyard and a case of beers
I got a boat that ain’t seen the water in years
More bills than money, I can do the math
I’m trying to keep focused on the righteous path

If people took writing or poetry as serious now as they did when Steinbeck, Whitman or whoever you respect as a great American wrote what they wrote, Patterson Hood would be recognized as a great voice in America. I just re-read that and it shows I am NOT agreat voice of American writing, but my point is in there someplace. Patterson Hood is an outstanding writer and a terrific voice for these modern times.

Other stuff I love about this album…

Jason Isbell (the #3 guitarist) split which left room for his ex-wife Shonna Tucker (who plays bass) to sing and when she does, DBT fans worldwide swooned a little and heaved a collective sigh of “where the hell has that been for the last 5 years!!!???” It's amazing and beautiful and fits in perfectly with the overall sound even though it probably shouldn't.

This album boasts the worst frigging song the band has ever done (to my knowledge) in “You and Your Crystal Meth.” I hear the opening chords live or on this album and I groan and get away from it. But, it’s seriously the only song out of all NINETEEN I don’t like and that makes it like one of those errors the Amish put on their quilts so they don’t show God up with their beauty and perfection.

I love that there’s 19 songs on this album, 18 of which I could listen to anytime, anyplace.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Bottom Half of My Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2008

Happy New Year everyone! I stayed home this year, drank Lagunitas Brown Shugga beer (and some Russian River Brewing Co. beer of course) and watched “Iron Man” on Blu Ray. The lady at the video store (an aged, larger lady) told me at least 7 times in a 3 minute span that “Iron Man is the best movie to get on Blu Ray. My son says so. I’m going to get it for him because he says it’s the best movie you can get…on Blu Ray.” I swear, she just kept saying that over and over and I agreed and nodded and acted interested and all the things you do to make a person stop being irritating but it was to no avail. I finally resorted to “well, I’ll let you know!” as I ran out the door. I mean, you work in a video store…how hard is it to get your kid this frigging Blu Ray!?! Which, in case you have not heard, is the best one you can get on Blu Ray.

But I digress…here’s 6-10 of my favorite albums of 2008!

6. THE RACONTEURS Consolers of the Lonely

Once again Jack White jumps back to his bigger, badder rock band and puts out another truly great album. This one is better than their first one and more diverse. In fact, I see no reason why White would go back to the White Stripes as The Raconteurs are a “better” outlet for his burgeoning genius.

7. AC/DC Black Ice

I frigging love AC/DC. A lot. Like, a ton. Nothing can put me in a better mood faster (besides DLR era VH) than when they come on the radio or if I pop in an AC/DC CD. Whoa…that was weird to type. AC/DC CD. But “Black Ice” is an ass-kicking album that to me sound more “musical” than anything else they’ve done. I suspect rock producing God Brendan O’Brien (does that guy make bad albums? No…he does not) had a lot to do with it and I also suspect there may be a new rhythm section, but I’m too lazy to find out. Point is, if you like AC/DC, you will like “Black Ice.” Plus I noticed one of the lyrics for the song “Big Jack” goes “Santa ain’t the only one who’s gotta big sack.” Ah, to be pushing 60 and still be in high school mentally.

8. SHE & HIM Volume One

Probably the most surprisingly sweet album I’ve heard in a long, long time. Zooey Deschanel teams up with M. Ward to make a really cool, sweet, angelic, funny, witty and great album. I can’t really explain what this album is, but it’s a mish mash and throwback and a nice way to spend an hour. And, I love Zooey Deschanel. A lot. And also, this video rules all:

9. STEVE POLTZ ”Travelling

Steve Poltz is one of my favorite performers and songwriters and this album is just plain awesome. Awesome I tells ya! Then why isn’t it ranked higher? I dunno. Now I feel like a creep. But seriously, there’s like 4-5 songs on here I’m crazy about and then the rest, I hate to say, I kind of skip over to get to the ones I love. Sorry, Poltzy. Hey, Top 10 is pretty good considering I went through about 40 CD’s this year!

10. TEDDY THOMPSON A Piece of What You Need

I bought Teddy Thompson’s first, self-titled CD a few years back and did not like it. At all really. I mean, the guy has a terrific voive and his dad is THE Richard Thompson, but something about the album left me cold. I read some interesting articles about him and found it incredibly cool that he did an album of classic country songs when his record company wanted more mid-tempo adult alternative, so I gave him another chance with the new album. Admittedly though, it wasn’t until the wife and I saw him on “Live at Abbey Road” one night that I gave in. And I’m glad I did. If you like wry, witty songwriting coupled with a truly great voice, go get Teddy Thompson’s “A Piece of What You Need.” You won’t be disappointed.

Hopefully Sunday, I’ll get my Top 5 up here. We’re going to a wedding in Monterey tomorrow so it won’t be till Sunday. Speaking of, who wants a bottle of old tennis shoes?