« June 2004 | Main | August 2004 »

July 30, 2004

There's nothing quite like working a 14 hour day and then rushing to the theater to catch a 1 AM showing of a movie that you've been very much looking forward to due to its amazing marketing campaign and the director's unquestionable caliber, even though you know in your heart you will be quite underwhelemed by the final product.

I'd write my review of it, but call time is in a few hours and I have e-mails to answer and a trailer to watch again.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:44 AM

July 29, 2004

I managed to write about two pages the other night. Pretty good material, I think, but that'll be it for the next few days. I'm working until next week on the camera crew of a HiDef documentary, directed by the gentleman who (I believe) founded the NoDance film festival, about the high stakes world of competitive computer game championships. I don't care much for video games, but it's a fun crew and it's nice to finally be working on an HD shoot (using an HDW-900).

I'm beat, though. There's something about working on other people's films that, as fun as it is, is also incredibly exhausting. There's no contention that filmmaking is incredibly taxing work, and when you're not on the creative end of the spectrum, you don't have the charge of seeing your own vision coming to life to keep you going. When you're in that position, you also sometimes forget that all the people working for you are actually working; in that respect, I really like switching roles and working on these other shoots when I can. It keeps things in perspective for me, and there are always new things to learn.

Plus, in this case, it pays.

In other news, first in a series of new online attractions: James has redesigned his site.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:45 AM

July 26, 2004

I can't decide what gets my blood pumping more -- the new Star Wars title, and all that it implies with that classic red font, or the descriptions of the Sin City footage (not to mention those awesome banners that are floating around the web). I've got all my Star Wars CDs playing back to back now and I'm working myself into one of those hyperbolic anticipatory hypes that always precede an eventual letdown.

But just seeing Darth Vader again is going to be so awesome...and it's less than a year away! When Episode 1 came out, I couldn't stand thinking about how it was still six years until the last one. On that note, I got a postcard in the mail today that congratulated me on the 5th Anniversary of Road Dog Productions. It was an advertisement for something; I guess they got my company info from the business bureau or something. I remember the morning I went to the city hall to register the company, and how my hair was wet and tied up in a top knot and it was freezing out and I felt very professional. Since then, the name Road Dog Productions has lost some of its appeal, particularly since there are at least two other companies out there with the same moniker. I'm probably way too sentimental to ever change it, though.

I can scarcely go a year without revamping this site in some way. Towards that end, I wiled away the hours today trying to figure out how to install cgi-scripts on my server, without having any idea what a cgi-script actually is; I followed that up with a crash course in what I think was CSS, or something like it. I guess if you spend enough time messing around with any sort of source code, you can sorta figure it out. In this case, I've installed Moveable Type scripts on this site, and come Sunday (I'm waiting to start fresh with a new month) the format of this page is going to look the same, but much cleaner. And syndicatable.

Okay. I've spent the last week either sick or in front of this computer working on stuff so technical that it's almost impossible to remember that the results have artistic merit. I'm going to disconnect from the interweb and spend the rest of the night screenwriting. Unfortunately, it's already 4 in the morning.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:46 AM

July 24, 2004

In his blog, Zach Braff commented, without much hyperbole, on the heat in Dallas. The temperature today, howver, was in the 70s; it felt like October. What a cruel joke. I managed to spend a good deal of time outdoors -- walking around, talking on the phone, eating out with the Deadroom crew (minus Nick, but plus Jim McMahon, who's in town to do post on his film). It was a nice change of pace, as I've been laboring intensively, today and for the past five days, on a new Flash project which thankfully is nearly done and which will go online very soon. I've been creating every single graphic from scratch in Photoshop, rather than using Flash's own mediocre selection of tools as I've done for past websites, and while it's not exactly hard, now that I've fairly proficient in the program, it's still enormously tedious. I've hardly had time for any movies. I managed to watch The Bicycle Thief last night (which was amazing) but as I predicted, now that I've payed for Netflix, I've stopped being in a rush to watch the films. I've had the same three DVDs sitting on my shelf for a week now.

I did get out the other night to see The Corporation, which was a bit aimless but still quite infuriating, invaluable and even mobilizing. It's upsetting; at the same time that I see myelf as stridently anti-corporate, I'm still always working within the system. Every now and then I get the inspiration to really stand up to corporate culture -- but then I get images of the last shot of Fight Club flashing in my head. At this point, the best I can do is regulate my own personal consumerism and communicate to other people; it's a small step, but it's still important.

And if I can get the chance to make movies without Hollywood money on the level Jarmusch does or Woody Allen used to, I'll certainly jump at it. And if I could someday provide that opportunity to others...well, I'd like to think I'm not getting ahead of myself.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:47 AM

July 22, 2004

Well, I'm mostly all better, at least on the surface, at least enough to have gone to see Garden State this evening. Zach Braff was there; I've never seen his TV show, and in person he was so different from his character in the movie that it left me quite impressed with his acting skills. He's not bad at the whole writing-directing thing, either. The film wasn't perfect, but oddly, that's what really sold me on it; it has all these little technical errors, that I've made on my films, like eyelines that don't quite match or cuts that don't quite cut together. It was almost comforting to see that someone else, with a 2.5 million dollar budget and amazing actors, can make the same mistakes as me, and that the film can still be really good anyways.

He said a few things in the Q&A that indie filmmakers just hate to hear; like, how with both him and Natalie Portman involved in the project, studios still wouldn't give him a cent to make it. "These are the kind of projects we might buy after they're made," they all told him. Arrrghh. Also, knowing that, even if I have a 2.5 million budget for a film, I'll still be roughing it makes me feel like I have a long way to go.

I wanted to ask him about his adaptation of Andrew Henry's Meadow, one of my favorite books growing up, but as always I remained shy and reticent. There was early word from our contacts at the theater, later proved false, that Natalie Portman might be there; god knows if she had, shy and reticent would have become...well, a million times more of the same.

I'm now off to open up the Deadroom Final Cut Pro files for the first time in months (1.5 months, but it feels like more). I don't even remember which folder the final cut is in.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:49 AM

July 21, 2004

I've contracted an evil strain of flu from somewhere. The last time I was this sick I discovered the wondrousness of Teletubbies at 4AM. No such luck this time around...at least not yet.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:50 AM

July 17, 2004

I just finished a minor French New Wave kick, first with Godard's Band Of Outsiders and My Life To Live and then with Truffaut's Shoot The Piano Player, none of which I'd ever seen. In fact, the only Godard I'd seen before was In Praise Of Love and bits and pieces of A Bout De Souffle on PBS late on night in 9th grade (around the same time I saw the first half of The Godfather II, incidentally). I'd read a book on his films and a few of his scripts back then, when Pulp Fiction came out and I was desperately searching for anything and everything that would give me a clue as to where Tarantino's brilliance came from, but those were the days before DVD, and I didn't know where to find the films themselves. So here I am now, finally starting to catch up, and seeing as how these two classics are basically my introduction to him, I feel almost unfit to comment on them -- other than to say that I was suitably electrified. Despite the many homages and take-offs I've seen over the years, and the many references and essays I've read, they didn't fail to strike me with their vivaciousness and originality. The obvious things come to mind: the opening titles of Bande A Part, the Dreyer cinema sequence in Vivre Sa Vie, the enchanting dance scenes in both, all the moments that sums up everything that is pure cinema.

I'm more familiar with Truffaut. Now, having seen Shoot The Piano Player, I wish that I could watch his first three films for the first time in the order they were made; what an amazing flight of moods that must be. I recognized a lot of Punch Drunk Love in it (and I'm sure I would have even if I hadn't been looking for it). And that shot of the mother dying is priceless.

Earlier today, I went to the Inwood to see The Twilight Samurai, which wasn't quite as great as I had hoped. On the way home my back tire practically exploded on the freeway. While inspecting the damage on the shoulder of the road, a gentleman in a luxury sports car stopped to see if I needed help. He was incredibly nice, and moments after I had politely declined his offer to help, I realized that he looked almost exactly like Jerry Bruckheimer. Wouldn't that have been something if a.) it was and b.) he helped me change the tire? Would his chivalry have made up for Pearl Harbor?

Then I went home and got some good writing done; hopefully, the music video gave me a long enough break from the written word to allow me to continue with a fresh, unabated vantage point -- for a day or two.

Two books that I just read and highly recommend: Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying,' which was wonderful and unsettling, and Cormac McCarthy's 'Child Of God,' also wonderful and even more unsettling. Both are good enough to tear through in a matter of days, and then to re-read in bits and pieces, to savor the individual sentences on their own accord.

Related: I finally read the one interview McCarthy has ever given. Ever. Also, the new Entertainment Weekly reports that Harvey Weinstein is trying to get Billy Bob Thornton's original cut of All The Pretty Horses released on DVD. Finally.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:52 AM

July 15, 2004

I finished the video at 1:30 AM Monday night (or Tuesday morning, I guess), made a brief appearance at a party while the DVD files were encoding, returned home and had a copy burned by 3:30, dropped it off at the 24 hour post office at 4:00, and an hour later set off with my brother and sister for a camping trip, which I've just now returned from and which will likely be my last until this triple digit weather subsides. Curtis was going to meet up with us, but had loaned his truck out for cemetary-groundskeeping purposes and couldn't make it out.

So anyway, I finished this thing in five days (aside from the eight seconds, eventually cut down to four, that I started off with) with a price tag of $5.95. I'll post it online after the contest is over at the end of the month; I'll save any exciting production details until then, so that they'll make sense. I don't think it will win, but that's just because I'm pessimistic that way and I'm sure there's some idiosyncratic rule that I didn't completely follow or something. All that really matters is that I'm very very happy with it, in the same way I'm happy with Looking For Love: it turned out exactly how I envisioned it (vastly moreso, actually, thanks to my wonderful collaborators, who eventually also included Mateo Zeske and Ben Lowery). I do wish we had been able to shoot portions of it on film, but when has that ever not been an issue?

Yen and I met up with Kat Candler this past weekend -- she was in Dallas for a screening of her Slamdance short and PBS commissioned-short at the Dallas Video Festival. She brought her two producing partners with her, and the four of us ended up sitting at the Cosmic Cafe for over two hours, talking nonstop about filmmaking, even after we were all out in the parking lot, standing around instead of going to our cars. It was a lot of fun, and felt really benficial, like we all had very worthwhile things to share.

I talked to Mae for a long time the next night and she made me feel better about not moving out to LA, which I was thinking about doing this summer. She painted a picture of a creative environment where joy is in short supply, where making a music video as good as this one for 5.95 would have been a heck of a lot harder. And where I'd certainly have to get a day job sooner rather than later.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:54 AM

July 13, 2004

I've been editing, shooting and rendering simultaneously since Friday. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to come up with a last story segment for the video that would top the first two I shot on Thursday but I did and I think it just may work, although it has to be in the mail within twelve hours and I'm trying like mad to finish it and I love doing this so much it's cazy and man am I wired....

Posted by David Lowery at 1:55 AM

July 9, 2004

I shot the majority of the non-FX contents of that video project yesterday, making much of it up on the spot with my collaborators/actors: the beautiful Cammi Heath (who seriously needs to get a lead role in a movie), first-time actor/victim Neu LeBlanc (who also designed our official Deadroom poster) and the ever reliable and ever brilliant Curtis Heath, who plays a disgruntled violin courier (something we decided after we had already shot all his scenes). I was originally going to just have one storyline throughout the piece, but I think I've upped the ante to three now. The shoot was a complete rush; just running around town with a camera, constantly coming up with new ideas and filming them. Trying to beat the sun before it went down.

I started editing the footage today, from which the three frames presented here were grabbed. I made it up to the thirty second mark, and then went to see Anchorman with James and Amy. Then we went to see Spider-Man 2 again. It was so great the second time that it almost made me completely forget about the sheer brilliance of a dog who talks to bears, jazz flutes and an acapella take on 'Afternoon Delight.'

Congratulations are in order for Yen, who just found out that his most recent script made it past the first round of selection for the Sundance Filmmaker Labs. I've read it, and it's the best thing he's written yet; I hope it goes further than Lullaby did. It certainly deserves to.

I just realized that my mention of the Deadroom poster (which is not online yet) is the first time I've mentioned the film in what feels like weeks. We're in a state of stasis until early next month, at which point we may in fact have something to brag about.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:56 AM

July 7, 2004

Oops, I forgot to cancel that Netflix account. Free trial's up. Darn.

I watched Ikriu today, which I was expecting to love a lot more than I did. Instead, I think it's probably my least favorite of Kurosawa's that I've seen so far. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was good, but it also seemed to lack the subtlety that makes his other work so brilliant (I found myself comparing it particularly to High And Low, due to the setting). It was still quite good, though, and the Happy Birthday scene on the staircase was a particularly transcendant moment.

Later in the day, I went to see The Notebook. Yeah, yeah, I know. It was surprisingly good though, mainly because of the cast. I wish Gena Rowlands would get more work; she's so wonderful (the very first feature length screenplay I ever wrote had a part that I intended for her). I felt sort of guilty for being what seemed to be the only person in the theater not sobbing profusely at the end of the movie. Oh well. I'll always have Big Fish, among others, and a box with a twenty dollar bill in it.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:00 AM

July 6, 2004

Remember how she said it would sound like a cross between Tom Waits and Outkast? Also, that last link disappeared, then reappeared here. I don't know where this new one leaked from or how long it'll be up, but get it while it lasts.

I've got eight seconds of footage composited, corrected and mostly completed. 235 to go.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:01 AM

July 5, 2004

I spent the morning injecting milk into a vat of water with a syringe for transitional plates. It was glorious.

My brother rented Who Framed Roger Rabbit last night, and after refreshing my memory of the film, I watched the behind the scenes material. It reminded me again of how much computers sort of spoil us, as viewers. Everyone assumes everything is done with computers these days, even though a.) that's not necessarily the case and b.) most people don't realize exactly how much hard work and careful artistry goes into quality CGI. But I often fall into that same trap myself, and I can scarcely remember what it was like not have that blanket assumption instilled in my head; back when everything and a kitchen sink might have been used to achieve any given effect. Watching Roger Rabbit and knowing that every frame was made up of dozens of handpainted layers run through optical printers and then edited on a Movieola was just staggering. It was such a different method of working; I've often thought about how glad I am that I don't have to worry about ever editing on film, but at the same time, I'd sort of like to have the experience, just so that I can appreciate this technology that so recently undermined nearly a century's worth of carefully developed and perfected techniques.

Anyway, after cleaning up all the cloudy water that I spilled creating classic practical effects, I switched gears and modeled and animated a CGI sunrise.

And now comes the portion of the day set aside for writing, in which I stare at the screen, drinking coffee, pondering this plot and perhaps even writing a page of new material, until I'm too tired to keep my eyes open. I kept my obsessive tendencies at bay on that first draft; they're back in full force now. I had hit page ninety last week, but now I'm back down to seventy six.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:05 AM

July 4, 2004

I was alerted today to the fact that The Polyphonic Spree, the increasingly ubiquitous Dallas band, is holding a contest in support of their upcoming CD. I always find out about these things too late; in this case, this one ends on July 13th. The competition involves shooting a music video for their new single, revolving around a daydream, and after a moment of lazy balking, I realized that I've got nothing but time to spend on things like this. Over the course of the day, after listening to the song several times and trying not to think too hard about it, I came up with an idea for a video that could be potentially amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I don't know if I can pull it off. As I see it in my head, it'll be incredibly daunting on a technical level, but I'll be damned if I don't give it the best shot I can over the next nine days. I feel very creatively invigorated all of a sudden.

So now I'm going to go break the song down and time everything out. And I guess write a script of some sort. And then find some someone to act in it. My head's already stuck in post production.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:06 AM

July 3, 2004

While you're waiting for PTA to make a new movie, why don't you check out this fascinating Chris Marker-style photo narrative he recently made with Adam Sandler. I'm sure you'll agree that it's a brilliant piece of work that, like all of Anderson's ouput, effectively subjugates expectations. Like the wound in Adam Sandler's head, it's unexpectedly deep.

I was randomly thinking about Spider-Man 2 just now and suddenly remembered listening to Fresh Air way back in whatever year it was that Sam Raimi made The Quick In The Dead, and Terri Gross asked him what his goal as a filmmaker was; he said something to the effect that his dream was to make a film that would make people walk out of the theater feeling truly uplifted. As far as I and the majority of other people are concerned, he's succeeded. I can't stop thinking about that train scene; that's got to be one of the greatest action sequences ever filmed.

Today I'm going to watch Bergman's Smiles Of A Summer Night, which I checked out from the library; my next Netflix shipment hasn't arrived yet. To top that off, I had forgotten in my initial scheduling to take into account that there would be no mail this coming Monday. It's going to be tough to even make it to nine movies before the free trial is up. This is actually quite ridiculous. I should just go ahead and pay and keep the classics coming. Speaking of which, I guess I picked a rather fateful day to watch The Godfather . No need to say anything about it; obituaries are everywhere you look.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:07 AM