Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't Take This Personally... But I've Decided You Don't Exist

She was beautiful, but our time together was only a season and she was gone.

Murray called me last week with an idea. A terrible idea. A painful idea. He wanted to get rid of a minor character. Not just any character, one of my favorite characters. So I wasn't letting her go without a fight.

Come on Murray. She has the funniest bit in the whole story.

No she doesn't. Because she's not even part of the story.

But she represents so many themes we want in the film.

We'll fit them in some other way.

We can't. She will seriously be a lot of people's favorite thing about the movie.

So now they'll have a different favorite bit.

And we're already short on female characters anyway.

We can't keep her just to meet some quota in your head.

I had lots of arguments, but there was one major problem I couldn't overcome.

She wasn't important.

She was only there because it was fun to have her in the movie. We added her when we were fleshing out the main character because she was part of his past and she represented the way things would be if he settled for an ordinary life.

But our tragic mistake was never weaving her into the plot. She was just these funny moments that interrupted the real story. I blame myself.

Maybe we could keep her in the story and find a way to make her more integral to the plot. But we're already looking for ways to reduce the page count.

So now she's gone. I know I'll miss her.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Damn the Damsel


You learn a lot when you put in the work.

On Saturday we brought actors into the studio and recorded the entire script.  Thank you Levi, Dave, Amber, and Megan.  We all doubled up on parts; I think I played at least 5 or 6 minor characters, and so did Murray and Curtis.  We're using this recording as a scratch track, and animating the storyboards so we know exactly the shots we want, and the pacing of the script becomes obvious.

Even without the animatics, it became obvious on Saturday that we have to make some changes to our lead female character.  We've had all these discussions about who she is and what motivates her, and she is intriguing to us, but after we got done recording Murray and I couldn't believe what a poor job we've done of making that come across in the script.  She spends most of her time as the damsel in distress and she's just not interesting at all.

So we came up with some serious changes and I'm excited to see them play out.

But I'm so glad we're putting in the work on pre-production.  This is where it's easy and a lot cheaper.  I'm anxious to move on to casting and filming and making the movie, but all this prep work is invaluable.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our Feature Presentation


After making this many short films, I'm long overdue for making my first feature.  So here it is.

Murray Triplett and I banged our heads together for months.  Rewrite after rewrite, we kept going back and diagramming out the entire story, questioning everything, bumping up the action, giving every character quirks and flaws, making sure every dialogue scene had something interesting going on at the same time.

Now I'm excited.

Because this script is good enough to put money behind and devote a couple of years of my life to seeing it all the way through theatrical release until it's sitting in your Netflix queue.

You can follow some of the details on Murray's blog at and I'll have a Facebook page together for the movie in the near future.

And we still need a killer title.  Suggestions are welcomed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So This Is What It Feels Like To Be Cool...


Day three brought a new challenge.  Horses.  I had never tried to work with animals before, and I was seriously nervous about this part of the production, but it turned out to be the most fun I've ever had on a set.

Today I wasn't just the writer.  Today I was an actor.  The deal I made with Scott when we first discussed this project was that I would write it if I got to write a cool part for myself.  I knew I didn't want a big part, but I got to give myself a couple of cool lines and some fun action.

I showed up on the set early to get some time on the horse before they needed me.  Michael Flynn was more experienced than the rest of us, but none of the actors would call ourselves a horse expert.  I was about as low as you can go on the horse experience rating chart.  The last time I was on a horse I was a little kid crying in fear because the horse wanted to go too fast.

Luckily, the owner of the horses gave me a couple of pointers, and I tried to focus on learning how to move with the horse because I thought that would be the key to looking like I knew what I was doing.  The thought that scared me most was having people look at the finished film and think I looked like an obvious idiot who had never been on a horse.  Even if I was really an idiot who had never been on a horse.

It was a fantastic experience, though.  Tye, Paul, and I had some trouble getting the horses to do what we wanted, but my horse, Jade, seemed to respond a little better than the others.  Thank you, Jade, for not making me look like a complete idiot.

When we went to shoot the last horseback shots of the day things got really fun.  We set up the camera looking into the hills, and wanted a shot where the horses came from behind the camera, flew right by and ran up into the hills.  Paul was chasing Tye, and then I was supposed to come just a little ways behind them.  I guess the horses could tell we weren't all that serious, though, because take after take the most we could get out of them was a trot and we were running out of daylight.  Tye went by the camera in this bouncy, little trot and Paul went right behind them, then Tye's horse started up into the hills and Paul's horse wouldn't even follow, so Paul was shooting off in a totally different direction.  I just shook my head and thought, "Oh no.  We had no business making a western if we can't get the horses right.  We look like the biggest bunch of phony cowboys."

We were probably just being too timid with the horses.  I leaned over to Jade and patted her on the neck and said, "Come on, baby, let's run for real."  Then when I got my cue I dug in my spurs and whipped the end of the reins back and forth on her neck the way I'd seen the owner do it, and Jade took off running.  Of course, being the inexperienced rider I am and being a perpetual klutz, I leaned over too far and when I whipped the end of the reins over her neck, I swung them right up and leather-slapped myself across the face.  Nice going, Jim.  But when I passed the camera at a run and flew up into the hills, the whole crew started cheering.  After that, the other horses got the idea and we finally got a couple of good running shots with all the horses.

On my second run, Jade headed straight for the camera, though.  She was set to take it out and trash the whole thing.  I yanked the reins to the side and barely got her to shift over, so as we went by I brushed the camera matte box with my leg.  I'm just glad Kyle wasn't there to see his camera's near-death experience.  He would have had a heart attack.

When we ran out of sun we shot night scenes, and I loved the performances we got from all the actors involved.  Charlie Halford is so natural on camera, and Stephanie Christensen got all the subtleties I wanted in an anguished scene.  Then Michael Flynn and Tye Nelson filmed a blown-up argument that we see through the window, and it was incredibly powerful.  I got chills the first time I walked up to the set and heard Michael and Tye rehearsing the lines I wrote.  It was a great experience for a writer to hear them bring my words to life with power and passion.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hide The Pipe


The second day of filming wasn't as exciting because we didn't have any gunfights and the crew members weren't slipping and falling on loose gravel like everyone did yesterday.

Today's scene involved a lot of dialogue because we were laying pipe. I threw the pipe under a scene where Charlie shows up beaten and bleeding and has to fill in his sister Caroline about the trouble he's in while she tends to his wounds.

We filmed at the Mary Fielding Smith cabin in the historic village at This Is The Place. It was a great set, with a historic building in fantastic condition. A wonderful find, even if we did have to deal with noise from airplanes and helicopters and tourist trains and sirens all day long.

It's always interesting to watch other people reinterpret the things I write. The scene included a lot of banter between a brother and a sister that obviously tease each other nonstop. I wrote it with humor thinking it would be fast-paced and funny with his injuries adding drama and urgency behind the dialogue, kind of the way some scenes are done on Gray's Anatomy, but the actors and director approached it from the opposite direction and made it a dramatic scene, where the humor lightened things a bit. I think it still works their way, but it's always strange to see how different it comes out in someone else's hands than it is in my head.

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Start With The Ending


Day 1 on the set of my western script. In classic "eat dessert first" style, the first thing we shot was the showdown at the end. Tye Nelson and Paul Mize exchanged gunfire at the entrance to an old mine and the neighbors from the houses less than 100 feet away didn't even call the SWAT team, although one cranky neighbor did come out about 4pm to make sure we weren't going to be there all week. But that was just because she didn't like the 50 or so cars parked in front of her house.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Pitching to Barbara Boyle

I pitched and got pummeled. It was a good experience.

Barbara Boyle came to an event for the screenwriters project and we all got to try pitching our stories to her. She was merciless.

Barbara has an unbelievable resume. She was an english major at Berkeley and got a law degree from UCLA when women just didn't do that. She even had a professor tell her it was irresponsible of her to study law because she was taking a spot away from a man when she was just going to get married and have babies. She told him that men get married and have children, but they still keep right on being attorneys.

She has been an entertainment attorney, a VP at New World Pictures, Orion, and RKO, and President of Sovereign Pictures and Valhalla Motion Pictures. She produced a pile of films including Bottle Rocket and Phenomenon. Now she is the chair of the Film department at UCLA.

Barbara talked 100 miles per hour and dominated every conversation. She was obviously looking for every possible reason to shoot down the pitches after a couple of words. I watched her rip apart writer after writer, and I thought about not even getting up to pitch at all. I would have an excuse. I hadn't participated in anything with the screenwriters project for almost a year. This was my first time back and nobody probably expected me to have anything ready.

But I had a story to pitch, and I think it's a strong one, so I took my punches. When it was my turn I sat down and said, "Ok, what i got is..." and she said "what you GOT?" big mistake on my part. She was an english major. She's an attorney. When she says you have to speak her vernacular she doesn't just mean movie lingo or legal terminology. She also means you must express yourself intelligently. Speak as someone who is at least moderately educated. But the truth is that entire phrase was filler and I should have dropped it. Make every word count. Plan out your pitch word for word.

I smiled and apologized. "What I HAVE is a feature film, supernatural thriller. It's a modern adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." I started to introduce my main character, "Jack Lereaux is a police detective who has a phobia of..." and she cut me off. "It's Jekyll and Hyde. He's the villain and he kills himself in the end. I know the whole story and that's either what you're looking for or not."

"So maybe I shouldn't start off by saying it's Jekyll and Hyde? Just start with the story?"

"No, it doesn't matter. I know the whole thing. You say that much, you're done."

At this point I got snippy and said, "OK. Thanks." and made like I was going to get up and leave.

She said something more about him killing himself in the end and asked me if that's what happens. I told her about my ending, but then I went on because I had been making mental notes about her comments all night.

I had recognized earlier in the session while she was ripping apart other people's pitches that she gets passionate about films considering big questions. She started talking about films digging into real questions and raising issues about humanity and our lives and said that was what made independent film great.

I knew my story didn't fit her type of film. She produces intelligent films with a lot of heart. She's not a horror fan. So after I told her my ending, I went on and told her I thought there was something great about approaching the question of what you do when the darkness is inside you.

She said, "You kill yourself" like it was obvious, but she also looked at me like she was re-appraising me. I think when I sat down and started with awful grammar followed by a pitch for a horror film, she immediately decided who I was, and when I started discussing my film like literature I regained a little in her estimation.

It was the next morning before I recognized that Barbara's approach the entire night was exactly the approach of a law professor. It's a confrontational, impatient version of the Socratic method. Which tells me there's a good chance she just wants people to stand up and make the case for their film. Earn her respect. She's not being a jerk, so don't fire back at her, or you'll be the only one being a jerk. But when she says something doesn't work, tell her why you think it does work.

That is, if your script works.

But when she questions something and says it doesn't work, don't just take her word as scripture. She's challenging you. Rise to the challenge.

The things I should have said?

There are pros and cons to remaking a literary classic. Yes, you know the ending, but it became a classic because you have a theme, characters, a concept that resonates with people. And no matter how many versions of Romeo and Juliet I had seen on stage and screen, there was still room for Baz Luhrman's version, which I for one absolutely loved. And if you really get what made it resonate with people, you can remake a classic and make an incredible film, especially if your interpretation is original. If you can come up with West Side Story out of Romeo and Juliet or make Clueless out of Emma, you will have a hit.

And I should have disagreed with her kneejerk assessment that when the darkness is inside you the answer is to kill yourself. The whole reason this novel resonates with people is because every one of us has a little bit of that darkness inside us. It's the dark urge that makes us rage at other drivers or take out our frustrations on the kid that gets our order wrong at Starbucks. It's the compulsion that makes us fail at quitting smoking or keep eating the junk food we've sworn off. It's the dark corner of our soul that allows us to shut off our compassion when we need to and justify our misdeeds. Just because every one of us has the darkness inside us doesn't mean the answer is to line up the human race and drink the Jim Jones kool-aid.

And just because the original ends with Jekyll's suicide doesn't mean every film version has to stick to that. How many versions of Frankenstein end with Dr. Frankenstein so obsessed with revenge against the monster that he chases it to the polar ice caps, where the doctor dies and the monster sneaks onto his ship to spend the night lovingly holding the doctor's lifeless body? Because that's how the novel ends.

I think I learned a few lessons that will help me pitch better next time. And even after having her ream my idea, I still believe it's a solid script that I want to see through the whole process. I don't know if very many of the other writers can say that after the things she had to say to them.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Some shooting of my own

On Saturday, while Kyle had the cast and crew shooting scenes on the side of the road, I spent a couple of hours hanging around the trailer trying out a new target I bought for my .22

I did get one jackrabbit on the trip. Unfortunately, I got it with my car.

Thanks to Scott Halford for this photo. Lots nicer than all the other photos on this blog that were taken with my phone.

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Burn Baby Burn

A year ago I wrote and acted in a short film for Kyle Mallory. I even blogged about it last April. Kyle liked the script, but he wasn't happy with the way the film turned out, so for the past year he and I have talked about remaking it. Last week we finally did that.

Kyle got together the team from our 48 hour project (Team Firepants), and we headed out to Skull Valley to shoot in the desert. You know you're in a fun place when you get off the highway and immediately pass a sign that says "No dumping nuclear waste without a permit".

We set up and shot the first scenes in the middle of the night on Friday. Scott Halford was on set, even though we really weren't going to be doing much editing yet. I think the main advantage to having him there was so he could transfer all the footage from the camera's hard drives to his editing bay and they could use the hard drives again.

So Scott spent the evening in the trailer teaching his assistant editor Gillian some of the ins and outs of Final Cut Pro.

Since my work on this project was really over about a year ago, I had the luxury of coming and going as I saw fit. About 1:30 in the morning I decided I was tired and I just went into the bedroom of the trailer and went to sleep. They kept shooting until 7am, but I slept right through it. Then they all drove back to Tooele where Kyle had hotel rooms. Scott and I stayed in the trailer. I was up from then on, but I still got the best sleep of anyone on the picture.

About noon on Saturday the group all came back to the campsite and got ready for the second day of filming. Most of the shooting was in a car and on the side of a road. It needed to be out in the middle of nowhere, and Skull Valley was the perfect place to look like the middle of nowhere, because that's exactly what it is. We were a few miles from Iosepa, which consists of a graveyard and a monument to the town that dried up and disappeared sixty years ago. The funny thing is Iosepa is the name on the highway exit because it's the closest thing to civilization anywhere around.

It was well over one hundred degrees and we just cooked all day. In the picture above, Richard Terrell holds the boom. Behind him is Chazz who was shooting behind the scenes footage. In the blue cap and tan shorts is Jim, who I knew from the Utah Screenwriters Group. Jim helped as a grip for this shoot. Standing in the shade of a large flag are Mike Terrell and Wendy Macy. Mike reprised his role for the team as production design. Wendy was an actor in the team's last production, but this time she was here taking care of hair and makeup. Pushing the dolly in the gray shirt is Cory Anderson, a new face to me but a guy who knew his way around the set. You can just see the green sleeve of Chris Forbes who was back as director of photography, and in the red shirt is the assistant director Clayton Farr, who was a real professional all the time.

Here, Kyle (center) discusses the scene with the actors, from left Kellie Cockrell, Robert Easton, and Jamey Martinez.

I broke off and went back to town about four o'clock in the afternoon. Then on Sunday morning, we got to do our work in a more civilized environment. We shot in the front yard of a very nice home in North Salt Lake.

Here Chris Forbes shoots through the car window to pick up some detail shots of Kellie shuffling through maps and papers.

I'm interested to see how this film turns out. I'm always nervous to shoot things at night because I rarely see it come out looking good. Of course, I won't really be able to compare this version with the version we shot a year ago because Kyle's the only one who ever saw the way that film turned out.

Still, here's hoping.

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Chickens, jewels, and aqua-aerobics

Our 48 hour film, Watertight, is up on the web for anyone interested in seeing the final product. The file is a quicktime movie and it's a little over 100MB, so it takes a long time to download. I recommend right-clicking and saving the file. That way you at least get a progress bar and you can tell if anything is happening. If you just click on the link, it will go to a blank page and sit there doing nothing until the film is completely downloaded, which could be about half an hour.

Click here to download the film

Sunday, May 18, 2008

2 Days and a Chicken Suit

48 Hour Filmmaker: Salt Lake City 2008

Kyle Mallory asked me to be the screenwriter on his team for the 48 Hour Film Project. 44 teams signed up for the project this year. Every team was given the same character, a prop, and a specific line of dialogue that had to be included in the film. Then each team was assigned a different genre of film (we drew "Road Movie"), and we had 48 hours to write, film, edit, score, and hand the film back in.

At the opening meeting we sat around waiting for them to announce the character, prop, and dialogue line, and as we talked to the other teams, lots of people were impressed by the people Kyle had recruited for his team, and the fact that we were going to shoot the film on Kyle's new RED One camera.

Then the guy stepped up to the microphone to announce things and everyone settled down quickly and got their pencils ready.

"Your character is . . . a guy in a chicken suit."

The whole crowd groaned and someone said, "Are you joking?"

Luckily, he was joking. The character we had to include was really an instructor named Jacob or Janice Simon. The prop was a jewel. The line of dialogue was "Just wait and see."

We all raced back to meet with the rest of our team and come up with the story as quickly as we could. That night was also game 6 of the Jazz vs. Rockets NBA playoffs, so finding a parking spot downtown was like fighting over the last chicken dance elmo on christmas eve, and I was the only person on the team who wasn't smart enough to have picked up a parking pass for the hotel.

Since it took me so long to kill someone and take their parking spot, when I got into the room the group had already been discussing story ideas for twenty minutes. And the worst part was that Kyle and Linda hadn't realized the chicken suit was a joke, so for twenty minutes they had been coming up with chicken stories.

I quickly explained. Come on, don't you remember him saying the real character was Jacob Simon? They talked about calling to get clarification, because if we were really supposed to use a chicken suit and we didn't have it we might get disqualified from the competition. I decided we weren't going to get in trouble for having a chicken suit in the film, so why fight it, and we put the chicken suit into the movie. Could be fun.

We were the only team with a chicken suit.

The other problem was the number of people in the room. There were almost twenty people there. That is way too many for talking about story ideas. When we're on a tight deadline, we should have had two or three people get together, hash out an idea in 20 to 30 minutes, and then I kick everybody out of the room and lock myself away to write a draft.

Instead, we talked about story ideas for hours without ever really agreeing on anything, and I sat there thinking that if we have 20 people in the room, no matter what we come up with I'm going to end up pissing off 19 of them when I finally put this to paper.

Luckily, everyone was very easy to get along with. There was only one person who was really adamant about any one story, and she ended up happy because that was the story we decided to go with.

When I sat down to write, since there were still 20 people joking in the next room, I put in headphones and turned up some brain-numbing trance music (Office Rocker from DJ Steve Boyett's podcast Groovelectric ) to pound in my head while I pounded the keyboard. I like this setup. The music is numbing enough that I don't get distracted by it, but I feel it pushing my pace and keeping my fingers moving.

The script is based on a real experience that happened to Arthur, the lead actor. The main differences are that in real life Arthur was alone in the car, and the fellow in the truck was not actually wearing a chicken suit.

Here is the team that worked on the film

  • Scott Halford was editing on set while we shot. Scott is a fantastic editor. He has great instincts for editing meaningfully and improving the storytelling and pace, and he's fast.
  • Mike Terrell was in charge of production design. I have been a big fan of Mike's work ever since his animated short Devon's Journal was in our film festival two years ago. Click the link and watch his film. It's dark and disturbing and so . . . wrong. It's one of my favorite animated shorts ever.
  • Richard Terrell (Mike's brother) composed our music and did on-location sound. Richard helped out with some database work for our film festival this year, so I had heard some of his music and I knew how good he was.
  • Chris Forbes was the Director of Photography again. Chris shot the two films I made with Kyle last year.
  • Rory King was a new face. I haven't worked with him before. He's a relatively new resident around here, just transplanted from L.A. He seemed like a great guy who knows what he is doing.
  • Linda Eyring was Kyle's producer again, and she took care of everything and everyone. She is meticulously organized and one of the nicest people I know.
  • Arthur Lazalde was the main male actor in the film. Arthur actually played a lead in the film that gave birth to the film festival I help run, so it was interesting that after going on to get a masters in fine arts from NYU and working as a player at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival he happened to be back in town for a while and available to be in another film.
  • Wendy Macy was the lead female actress, and the one who took hold of this story in the initial meeting and became it's main cheerleader. She really had the vision for the dynamic between the two main characters.
  • Mike Hardy said he had always wanted to play a creature in a film. I don't think he really imagined that the creature would be a guy in a chicken suit, but I'm glad we could make that dream come true. And he definitely got the best line in the movie.

There were some others, too, like Mary who I think was assistant camera, and a P.A. who I think was named Tom, but I didn't work with them so I don't know them well.

I'll write another post about the actual production process.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Video Game practice pays off!


If you don't spend enough time playing video games, you will lose out on some of life's best moments. Yes, I understand the irony in that statement.

I went to a Real Salt Lake soccer game last Thursday, and after the game the X96 radio station van was there with a bunch of people hanging around the back of the van playing Guitar Hero.

They announced a contest for video game players, so I signed up. I ended up winning and the station gave me this guitar autographed by My Chemical Romance.

So my team came away with a win, and I walked away with a very cool prize. That's a great night.

What does that have to do with filmmaking? Absolutely nothing, but it's cool, and this is my blog. So there.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

You're so Butch

I took my family to the Utah Family Film Festival this weekend. Didn't even know it was going on until my wife heard Chunga talking about it on the radio.

We saw Ryan Little's new film Outlaw Trail, which was absolutely charming. It's the story of Roy Parker, a teenage boy in the 1950's that lives with the family embarassment that his uncle Leroy Parker was better known to the world as the outlaw Butch Cassidy. While the world believes Butch and Sundance were killed in Bolivia, Roy is convinced his uncle survived, came home, and tried to turn his life around to become an honest guy. When Roy catches a couple of thugs stealing artifacts from an archaeological dig, he is led on the adventure of his life to try and recover Butch's treasure and clear the family name.

The story has a definite Indiana Jones feel to it, with some great moments, and a lot of use of dynamite. The script is not as strong as Ryan Little's last picture Saints and Soldiers, but it was plenty of fun.

There were some familiar faces for those of us that see films shot in Utah, like Rick Macy and Steve Anderson, plus some great performances from the rest of the cast, especially Dan Byrd, who was fantastic as Roy's nervous friend Jess.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Get with the program

I got accepted to the Utah Screenwriters Project, put on by the Salt Lake Film Society. It's a year-long project where they bring in industry folks to teach about screenwriting. It sounds like it will mean rearranging my schedule at work several times to go to morning meetings, and a lot of off-hours homework and email correspondence.

I also signed up for Script Frenzy!, which means I have committed to writing a 20,000 word script in thirty days. The event starts June 1.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Too much of a good thing




Too much of a good thing can be wonderful - Mae West

I'm a nice, ruddy, crisp sunburnt and I desperately need some sleep, but it was a wonderful weekend.

Saturday morning I joined Murray Triplett, Greg Johnson and Brandon Smith in a canyon in Eagle Mountain to shoot the short film Anthems of War. They put together a great production. Several collectors brought in authentic vehicles and weapons, and Dave Larsen's whole family was there doing make-up and effects.

I thought I would just be helping out behind the scenes, but as soon as I showed up Murray had me jump into costume to stand in as Levi Larsen's corpse. So Dave created a bullet exit wound in my head and I spent some time face down in a field.

After I got a chance to clean up, I got back to just doing some general helping out around the set. Looks like this film will be good. Special thanks to Bryon Darby for taking great on-set stills.

Then at 6pm I left the set and met up with Kyle Mallory to film the script I blogged about last week. I ended up playing the part of James, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We filmed just a little farther up in the same canyon, and shot night scenes until 2am.

The next morning at 8 we started up again and shot in the desert all day.

To commemorate the long hours this weekend, and to remind myself that although I may enjoy putting in these kinds of hours, I shouldn't expect others to put in these kinds of hours on my projects on a regular basis, I ordered myself a 12 on 12 off hat.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Channeling my inner nerd

Hi. My name is Jim and . . . I'm a nerd

(Everybody together: Hi Jim)

That's why I was the perfect guy for the job when Kyle Mallory wanted someone to write a script about two people on a road trip arguing about which is better: Star Trek or Star Wars.

I first met Kyle on the set of a Star Wars spoof called Rehash of the Chlorians. He was an actor in that one, sporting a Ewan McGregor style Obi-Wan Kenobi beard. I just helped out with miscellaneous grunt work, like laying behind the set and shaking the droid every time it was supposed to chirp and whistle.

As part of a filmmaker group, Kyle has to make a short film every thirty days. Last month I helped him write the script for his project, and this month he asked me to join him again.

For my part, I'm enjoying having deadlines and a reason to have to get something written. Why do I have to have a deadline to get anything done? I don't know. I don't make up the rules, I just try to figure out what they are and work with them.

This script took a lot of research, but it was also fun to air all my grievances with both Star Trek and Star Wars. I'm very interested to see how it translates to the screen.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

So let it be written. So let it be done.

btw, I promise there was writing on the board in the picture. It's just a trick of the camera that makes it look like Dave is pointing at a blank whiteboard.

Dave Trottier presented some basics of screenwriting and the screenwriting business to a full room of aspiring writers on Saturday.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pirates of the Great Salt Lake

Opening night of the festival is Wednesday, February 28. Festivities will kick off with a reception at the Union Station at 6pm. Then over to Peery's Egyptian Theater for the screening of Pirates of the Great Salt Lake at 8pm.

Produced by Christian Vuissa and starring Kirby Heyborne, Larry Bagby, Trenton James, and Emily Tyndall. Pirates of the Great Salt Lake has been winning awards at festivals all over the country, but it has never played in Utah before. A lot of the cast and crew will be there for the screening.

Also: look for Larry Bagby to perform an acoustic music set later in the festival.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Two for one

Go ahead, print it out and use it. You'd think we'd know how to spell 'Napoleon' before we publish it, though, wouldn't you? Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 16, 2007

David Trottier - How to Break Into Hollywood as a Screenwriter

On Saturday, March 3 at 10am, David Trottier, author of The Screenwriter's Bible, will teach a two-hour workshop titled "How to Break Into Hollywood as a Screenwriter"

Last year I attended a screenwriting workshop led by John Moyer (writer of The Singles Ward and Writer/Director of Mobsters and Mormons) at the LDS film festival. John held up the Screenwriter's Bible and said it was the best book he'd ever gone through for screenwriters.

It's a huge honor to have Dave Trottier lead a workshop for us.

The workshop is only $10, which is a huge bargain for a workshop with Dave Trottier.

Tickets are available at Peery's Egyptian Theater Box Office, or by phone at 801-395-3227 or online at (service fee may apply) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blind Dating


Blind Dating stars Chris Pine (Just My Luck, Princess Diaries 2) and Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie). It was shot in Ogden, Utah, so a lot of people are excited to see the film at the festival.

In the film, Chris Pine plays a 23-year-old blind man. When his brother, played by Eddie Kaye Thomas, finds out he knows absolutely nothing about women, he sets up a series of hilariously awful blind dates. Real love appears in the form of newcomer Anjali Jay, but as their relationship progresses there turns out to be a new problem.

Blind Dating plays Saturday night as the closing event of the festival. The film will open in theaters nationwide later in March.

Watch the trailer at

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Here we go again


It's time for my film festival again, and I've been so busy for the last few months I haven't even blogged about it.

After last year's festival we got a lot of attention from filmmakers telling us how valuable the relationships are that they built at our festival, local government leaders telling us how valuable the festival could be for the city, audience members telling us how many people they want to bring back with them next year, and even members of the press who were upset we didn't do a good enough job of letting them know ahead of time how cool it was going to be.

This year we have even bigger things going on. I'll fill in the details in future posts.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Lucky Me


I put together a little project for the Gloria Film Festival's 7-day Film Challenge. They gave out topics for a film, and all the teams had 7 days to write, film, edit, and hand in a short film based on the assigned topic. Our topic sounded like a fortune cookie, but it made for a fun script.

Our topic was "He who finds discontentment in one place will not likely find happiness in another."

Based on that, I wrote a script with my cousin Stephen, and he and I put together a short film. We didn't use any professional actors, just family members and my next-door neighbor. We didn't even use any lighting. We just put this together in easy, cheep, speedy mode and had a lot of fun.

The film is on the web at

If you'd like to see the other entries from the same contest, they will be screening as part of the opening night festivities for the Gloria Film Festival next Wednesday, August 16. You can get tickets on the Gloria Festival's website. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Shooting for The Lot

I posted a script to the Utah Screenwriters Group to get some feedback. I'm thinking of directing it to submit with my application for the reality show On The Lot.

One of the lines I like from the script:

Put down the gun. I’m not armed and
you’re not a killer.

Yeah, but I am armed and you are a
killer, so we’ll keep things the way
they are.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Nicely Seasoned

Brandon & Greg premiered "Passing Season" at the Union building at the University of Utah. You can tell they've come a long way since their last film, "Scout's Honor". This is a much better piece for them to show off, and something to be proud of.

What's killing me is I didn't take any pictures at the premiere, and I always take pictures. I think it's because I usually go to these things by myself, but this time I took someone with me. Yeah, it's all her fault. Just like everything else.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Full Court Press

In keeping with the small size of our festival, we received a small amount of press coverage. Utah's arts scene is dominated by a few heavy hitters, like Ballet West and the Capitol Theater, but Stephanie did a good job of attracting press attention.

The line that surprised me was a Deseret News quote from Neil Mandt, the director of Last Stop for Paul.

Neil Mandt . . . is bringing his mock documentary "Last Stop for Paul" to the festival. Mandt said the event "is gaining notoriety as being one of the best-organized festivals in the country and has a reputation for screening top-quality films."

Thanks for the compliment, Neil.

Here's some of the press coverage:,1249,635195679,00.html

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Disorganized Organizer

Organizing the film festival has kept me incredibly busy, so I haven't posted in quite some time. I didn't even make it to the screenwriters group meetings in February or March (the March meeting is this Thursday, but I know there's no way I'll be able to break away and attend).

I've decided I'm OK with that. Even though I resolved to write every day this year I decided organizing the festival was going to count as my daily time toward that goal, so I haven't been writing anyway. After the festival next week I will go back to forcing myself to write on a daily basis.

Every time I tell someone I'm the festival organizer, I get asked what that means. So here are my duties in a nutshell. I arrange the hotel accommodations for all the filmmakers coming into town, including their transportation. I also work with all the filmmakers to get the correct versions of the film for screening at the festival, whether that's a 35mm print or a videotape of some kind, and I arrange for any promotional materials they can send, such as posters and flyers. I recruit volunteers to serve as ushers and help with marketing and promotion, and I schedule their volunteer shifts. I arrange a bunch of details with the theater in regards to the volunteers and their duties, and the film prints being stored there. I also have convinced shopkeepers all over the valley to let me hang posters advertising the festival in their windows.

The festival looks like it's going to be great. Here are some of the features we'll be showing.

You Did What?
Directed by Jeff Morris

Bon Appetit
Directed by Justin Lutsky

Last Stop For Paul
Directed by Neil Mandt

Directed by Ben Hickernell

Directed by Gary Shore

Friday, February 03, 2006

Always Another Party

I'm serving as Festival Organizer for the Foursite Film Festival this year. We announced our film selections this week, and last night I sent out acceptance letters to all the filmmakers whose films were selected. Today I have a flood of responses from excited filmmakers. Now my work really begins.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Bible, A Bible . . .

David Trottier , author of The Screenwriters Bible , came to our screenwriters group  meeting last night and had a short Q&A with our group.

I haven't read the Screenwriters Bible, but last Saturday I went to a screenwriters forum presented by Matt Whitaker  and John Moyer .  John held up The Screenwriters Bible and said it was his favorite book.  I'm an avid reader of anything I think will help my craft, so I picked up a copy.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

(Sun) Dancing All Night

Q&A after 'Wristcutters: A Love Story' with director Goran Dukic and the cast

Saw two more films at Sundance last night.

First I caught "Kiss Me Not On The Eyes", a Lebanese film made by a woman director who grew up in Beirut. The story follows a young woman in Cairo that is fascinated by sensual Arabic poetry, and is training to be a champion belly dancer, but cannot relax herself sexually enough to even sleep with her new husband. Every member of the audience gasped and cringed during the scene where an older woman makes her 12-year-old granddaughter respectable by "excising" her with a razor blade (a home makeshift surgery to cut out her clitoris). It turned my stomach when the credits of the film said 97% of the women in Egypt are excised.

Then I ran at breakneck speed to the Library Theater. I was 119th in the wait list line, but I caught a ticket scalper and made it into the midnight showing of "Wristcutters: A Love Story", a wonderful film starring Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, and Tom Waits. In the film, Patrick Fugit commits suicide and ends up in a grimy parallel universe that is the world reserved for people who "offed". When he finds out the girl who broke his heart in the live world has "offed" as well, he sets out to find her on a road trip across a strange, gloomy, nonsensical world filled with bizarre characters. After the film I stood outside and talked to Cameron Bowen, who played a supporting role. We talked for a while and he struck me as a really nice kid.

Monday, January 23, 2006

You're So Sundance

The 10-day party called Sundance has taken over Park City, Utah again. I spent the day pressing through the masses of people.

My favorite part about going to any festival is attending panels and forums, so today I saw a bit of a panel discussion with filmmakers from Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt. I attended a gathering for festival organizers. I listened to a Q&A with the still very sexy Ally Sheedy. I met Jeff Wadlow and Beau Bauman, the director and producer of Cry Wolf.

Of course, they also show films at the festival, so at the end of the day I took in "Who Needs Sleep", a documentary about the film industry and the dangerously long hours demanded of film crews. As documentaries go, it wasn't the most perfectly executed. It made its point in the first few minutes, and then spent the rest of the time making the same point over again without much in the way of story structure. Still, I think every person involved in the film industry should see it because the point it raises is valid.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

2nd Place is the First Loser

Our 3-minute spoof of 12 Angry Men won second place in the Audience Choice awards, and received an honorable mention from the judges.

Audience Choice Winners:

#1 - Cassidy's Magic Show (an adorable piece starring a little 6 year-old girl named Cassidy that was a fantastic little actress and about as cute as a kid can be).
#2 - 12 Merciful Men (our film)
#3 - The Light in the Fire (a music-video styled piece about addiction with absolutely gorgeous cinematography and clean, sharply-paced editing to some good music)

Official Winners:

#1 $500 prize - Cassidy's Magic Show (see above)
#2 $200 prize - Spasigba (Three friends throw a birthday party for a Russian foreign exchange student. They try to make the party as Russian themed as possible, but end up just being insulting.)
#3 (tie) $50 prize - The Light in the Fire (see above)
#3 (tie) $50 prize - Loser (A husband and wife play board games. The husband wins every game, and is not a very gracious winner. His wife slaps him around until he apologizes and says he should have let her win like he usually does, which gets him slapped again.)
Honorable Mention - Reunion
Honorable Mention - Light the Tree
Honorable Mention - It Still Burns
Honorable Mention - 12 Merciful Men
Honorable Mention - The Runner
Honorable Mention - Street Saints

I wasn't surprised by the Audience Choice selections. Every member of the audience got to choose three films to vote for, and the three winners were the three I put on my ballot.

I was disappointed, though, that the other two audience choice selections made it into the judges' prize winners and we didn't.

Additional postings about this film on: January 20, January 19, January 15

Friday, January 20, 2006

Three Minutes of Fame (Part II)

Consider this the "Special Features" section of the DVD. Here is a breakdown of the characters we each played. There's a link to watch the film in the previous posting.

We only had five people (the maximum allowed), so we each had to play multiple parts. Of course, we had to make it look like there were twelve men on the jury, so we created this composite shot of all the characters sitting at the table together.

First I played Mr. Confused. Dave did a great job making me look like I have hanging jowls.

Next I played Mr. Rushed. I cracked a joke about someone shaving their head to make their characters look different. Everybody jumped on that idea and decided the bald one should be me. They offered a cash incentive for the razor job, and the amount kept going up all night. When it got to $56 I caved.

Dave is a great makeup artist, and he's the kind of funny, creative guy everybody wants on the set because he keeps us laughing all night. He made his Mr. Foreman a wonderful Wilford Brimley-esque character.

Then Dave shaved his beard down to a goatee and took time away from doing our makeup to sit in a chair as Mr. Sleepy. That's my hairy monkey arm picking lint off his shoulder.

Murray and I co-wrote the script, then Murray directed and still put in performances as three characters, although one of those characters ended up being cut from the show (see final paragraph below). Here, he put several pounds of slimy products in his hair and turned out a great performance as the creepy Mr. Macabre.

Then, Murray shaved his moustache and sat down as the blustery, insulting Mr. Loudmouth.

The workhorse of the night, though, was Greg. Not only was he the cinematographer and the editor, but he put in four characters. Here he slicked his hair, and what started as a Vincent Price impersonation kept getting more over the top until he did nothing but squawk "yes" and "no". This character was improvised while shooting, and wasn't even in the script. Even though he says "no" more than he says "yes", we lovingly named him Mr. Sycophant after a character that had been cut from the first draft.

Greg's next character was the droning Mr. Details, our tribute to Ben Stein.

In his third role, Greg tightened a necktie until he could barely breathe, and played the stammering Mr. Nervous.

The role that took the most preparation in hair and makeup was a silent one. Greg got a large Charles Manson-esque 'X' scarred on his forehead and posed for a photo as the defendant, Mr. Psycho.

Murray's brother Tom stepped in at the last minute to fill the fifth position on the film, and he did a great job in the lead role. Murray said Tom was good at doing a Jimmy Stewart kind of character, so I wrote his part with 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' in mind. Tom nailed the part from the beginning.

With more lines in one character than the rest of us had in several characters combined, we probably didn't need to give Tom another role, but he graciously stepped in as the ever-silent Mr. Stressed, whose part was whittled down until he was nothing but background to keep the film inside the 3-minute time limit. Here you see him holding his hat to the left of Greg's Mr. Sycophant.

In the interest of time, we ended up cutting what I thought was one of the funniest bits in the film. For Murray's first character of the night we connected a smoke machine through the back of his suit and gave him a cigarette. He oozed smoke from every fold of his clothing, and sat enshrouded in a thick haze, coughing and complaining that the room was getting too stuffy. Then the silent Mr. Stressed got so irritated with the smoke he poured water on him to put him out. In the editing room we had a lot of cutting to get the film under three minutes, and the smoke machine whined through the shot, so it got the axe.

Additional postings about this film on: January 22, January 19, January 15