Monthly Archives: June 2014

Preparation and Control

We battle chaos.

That’s what it feels like, much of the time, right? Whether we’re (seemingly) safe and comfortable, or (seemingly) dangling over a precipice between survival and some (perceived) point of no return — it can feel that way, right? Us against chaos. We’re biologically conditioned to expect it.

For me, I’m learning that this natural reaction can be tempered, that there are perhaps different types of instinct, other than the one that’s always prepared for chaos. A conscious voice and an unconscious one, at minimum. I don’t pretend to always know which should be listened to at any given moment. I think probably it depends on circumstance and on how far each of us is willing to go in the direction of either abandonment or control.

PA Puppy can't get a Grip.

PA Puppy can’t get a Grip.

This most recent non-committal point reminds me of the filmmaking process. If filmmaking is anything, in my opinion, it is a dance between abandonment and control.

In crafting recorded narratives, and even in viewing and consuming them, we play god. This is a point that perhaps gets lost among the race to “produce content” — which almost anyone can join at this point, in certain terms. We pretend another world, usually one that’s like ours in at least some accessible way, is real. Depending on what side of the narrative we are on, we then either pretend to be able to capture and populate a world — and lives within it — or we accept it’s reality as a witness to these built worlds.

Personally, as I’ve already discussed, I believe we’ve drifted, on the whole, a little too far from our actual reality, while as a population we participate perhaps too frequently in patterns of “world hopping”, in the preceding terms. But I have already discussed that. I’ve also made it clear what I believe needs to be done, here and now, in terms of what kind of narratives we would create and absorb. If I were running the world. Which, luckily, I’m not.

But. For real.

In so many words, I think The Moment that is coming — for us, here in America at least — is one of reflection. And, hopefully, increasingly, discussion as well.

As a filmmaker, this becomes a complicated proposition for me. In today’s environment, it’s actually very easy to enter discussion. In a way, we’re discussing ideas right now. It’s been a great positive change in my life, having this site to turn to regularly, and having you here reading and, sometimes, reflecting back at me. Now that I’m almost a year and a half into this endeavor, whatever it is, I can’t see not having this space — and you — in my life.

I’ve been overwhelmed for the past several days, and not exactly in a bad way. For a few hours last night, for example, I became overwhelmed emotionally by the small flood of interest in our recent call for collaborators. But I’ve also felt exhausted. Already.

I’m working hard on something. I don’t know how much of a secret that is by now. This project feels important and I know working on it is going to continue to be hard. Thus, we arrive, finally, at the title of this post. I’m having incremental trouble focusing on the line between preparation and control.

As I said, it’s a dance, this filmmaking game. At low budgets — and even at high ones, I suspect — it’s also a test of endurance and the ability of a person to practice self-care. You can’t make films if you can’t stand up. Although I did once “direct” a scene while crumpled in a sitting position in a corner of a room. Won’t forget that day.

So, I was thinking about all this, recently, and I actually started to feel better. Just by reflecting. And for that, I feel grateful. It’s taken years to be able to (sometimes) relax about this stuff.

I have this space to turn to, and you to talk with. I know a fair percentage of readers here are artists. I suspect you understand what I’m talking about. I bet everyone else does, too. Everyone has their own dance.

We battle chaos. But we’re together in this battle. Further, while the real world is certainly not so neat and perfect as it sometimes appears to be from our screens, it also contains it’s fair share of grace.

I think that’s a fair point to make. Filmmaking, with its fictional worlds made up of parts of our own, even the real world, as seen through so many different lenses — the processes of it not about control. Not ultimately.

It’s about preparation. And then collaboration. Creativity.

Call for Writers (Quick, Easy, Fun)

UPDATE: This call for submissions is now closed. Thanks to everyone who sent in a script! 

Hey, folks.

So Rebecca De Ornelas and I are looking for some help with a fun project that we think could also be a cool way to spark some quick and easy collaboration.

I can’t release the specific details publicly, but here are the basics:

  • We’re looking for several original one 10349148_10101298458056442_6565653928597047063_npage monologues (screenplay format) that tell a difficult story in an honest, perhaps even semi-comedic way.
  • We would like to see a strong cross-section of diverse voices submitting (and please feel free to spread the word on that front).
  • We would like to see a strong cross-section of diverse characters (in terms of age, gender, background) in submissions
  • There is no compensation, however…
  • Selected scripts will be produced and delivered to a few different audiences (including mine on this site).
  • Selected writers must be willing to sign a release that grants us the right to distribute the finished product only within the parameters of our project (you’ll get details).
  • Selected writers will be given a final copy of the video and will retain all copy rights to the produced and written material.

Please do not send any scripts at this time. If you are interested in submitting, or would like more detailed information, let me (Michael) know via Private Message on Twitter or Facebook, or via this site. Twitter and Facebook will get to me faster. Please include your email address at this stage. That is how I will get in contact with you.

The deadline for submission is June 30th.

 

“Now With Twice The Dread!”

Just an update that my novelette, A Night Alone in My Dread, is now available in paperback.

A freelance videographer spends a lonely evening obsessing over his past after a visit from the NYPD reveals his involvement in a shocking and tragic crime.

The Cover to My BookIt’s also available on Kindle. And I have reduced the price. 

If you prefer an electronic version at the electronic price point, but don’t have a Kindle, tweet me. We’ll work it out via PayPal.

PAPERBACK
5.55

KINDLE
2.99

All proceeds from sales will go directly towards my next film project.

PROS FOR PAPERBACK VERSION

  • That new book scent. You know you like it. Remember when books made scents?
  • Tactile feelings of dread (it oozes).
  • A higher percentage of your purchase goes to me (actually, the next film)

PROS FOR KINDLE VERSION

  • YOU CAN HAVE IT RIGHT NOW!!!
  • Electronic remove from tactile dread (no ooze).
  • Easier to hide dreadful purchase decision from friends.

If you purchase and read the book, please review it on Amazon.com.

Reviews help bolster sales. Of course, be honest. In case it helps get you started, a good review will quickly summarize Likes/Dislikes, and maybe points out What’s Unique about the product being reviewed.

Writing a review should only take 5 mins, but it will help me enormously 🙂

Review the book on Amazon 

Still need convincing? Man, you are a tough cookie. The first chapter is available here.

You may also Subscribe to receive content like this FREE in the future. This book was delivered for free to my list.

Dear Angry White Men

No. Not you, necessarily. This post isn’t meant for White Men Who Are Angry. Not exactly. Not exclusively.

Anger is okay. There’s plenty going on, everywhere, to be angry about. So, if you just happen to be angry and white and male, I’m not necessarily talking to you when I say…

…I used to be one of you.

So…if you’re that other kind of angry white man…

…trust me.

Listen.

When I tell you…

…this has got to fucking stop.

Let me clarify.

I have (thankfully) never been “crazy enough” with anger, or delusional enough, to believe so fully in my “righteousness” to think for a second that it was okay to hurt people en masse.

Let’s get that out of the way.

But. I have been, in the past, somewhat delusional. I have been so angry, in the sort of way wherein I thought that “everyone else was the problem”, that I hurt those close to me. Including myself.

Perhaps many of us do this, as a consequence of trying to make it through what is almost always, invariably, whoever you are — a complicated life. Still, historically, I’m not sure any one group has ever hurt quite so many people, quite as effectively, as the “victimized” Angry White Male. Especially not lately. Especially not here in America, lately.

The past version of me who felt this way, that everything and everyone else was wrong (and not him) — he was in a lot of pain. I’ve forgiven him whatever sins I felt I had to forgive him for, as he dealt however he could with that pain, because, in addition to taking responsibility for myself, I’ve learned that forgiveness is the right response.

Sometimes, though, these realizations — this progress — has only made it more difficult for me to continue to watch angry white men, of all ages and types, ignore their pain to such an extent that it eventually results in a tragic outburst of violence.

And I’m not just talking about young gunmen. There are angry white men in positions of great power in our society. And they kill too, remotely, via willful ignorance that they intentionally fire up and keep simmering. It’s about time we started calling a fact a fact, in that regard.

I don’t know why I’m writing this, other than to offer testimony in support of a point of view that should be easier to adopt — that it doesn’t have to be this way.

But, here I am, anyway. So.

Angry white men? You can stop. It’s possible.

It’s okay to be angry, especially if you’ve been hurt. It’s obviously, obviously, not okay to hurt others, just because you’re in pain. Under any circumstances.

There’s another way you can make an impact on the world, when you’re angry, when you’re hurt. You can ask for help. You can try to understand your anger. You can admit your pain. Channel it into something creative, or redemptive, or both. You can become an example of how things can get better.

It may not be — won’t be — easy. But it’s the right thing to do. Deep inside, beneath your fears, you know this. I know that you know it, because I always knew it, even when I pretended to be certain that my destructive anger was more righteous than admitting I was hurt and scared.

Give it a try. Now. Fast.

Because — guess what? Those of us who understand you, as much as something like this can be said? We’re still angry, too. It didn’t go away. This stuff doesn’t just go away. But, once we master it? We become friends and allies with all the “others” you pretend are responsible for your pain.

Speaking only for myself, I feel powerful with righteousness. Now. In every way that you feel compelled towards destruction, I feel compelled toward creation. I feel moved to do more and more to diffuse the sort of pain that’s destroying whole swaths of our country, that’s perforating the fabric of our society like so many discriminately fired bullets.

You are in the way. You’re dangerous. And despite my sometimes unbelievable empathy for you in your sickness, I am less and less on your side.

So, in your own parlance…

…be a man.

Just…

…stop.

Think.

Please.

Be truly brave.

Help yourself. Ask for help. Whatever you have to do.

Just no more of this. Please, no more of this.

Indie Film is Dead: The Rise of Interdependent Film

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Perhaps you’re thinking: “Filmmaking has always been interdependent.”

Well, if you are, congrats. You’re smarter than me.

But I can’t speak for you. I can only speak for myself, and I — am excited.

Let me explain.

Independence Today: It’s Exhausting

I know it doesn’t work the same way for everyone, but I don’t think I am alone in having stumbled into independent film, first, because I love film, and second…because I’m (fiercely) independent. To a fault, sometimes.

Once, when I was in college, I was talking to a friend who I was trying to get to date me, who was smart enough to avoid that chore but kind enough to remain friends with me anyway. I remember, once, saying to her:

“Sometimes, I feel like my life is just a never-ending series of tiny rebellions.”

To which, she replied: “That sounds pretty accurate.”

I bring this up for a specific reason. The pattern is exhausting. Especially, now, in a world where true rebellion has been both quashed and yet at the same time mostly proven by history to be (arguably) less effective in result as it is in promise (there are, of course, major exceptions). It makes less sense to always be acting contrarily, from moment to moment, than it does to simply just turn around and walk in another direction. Or to do this subtly, quietly, over time.

That needs some unpacking, I know.

That Doesn’t Mean The Independent Voice Isn’t Still Necessary

Here’s my point — there always should be a challenge to the status quo. I hope we can all agree on this, even if we may differ in defining that status. I’m definitely not here to argue against rebellion and/or independence. But, as I have said here before, I do believe the time has come — for filmmakers, for artists, for people — to fight smarter, not harder.

So, instead of fighting alone, as I believe some smart and talented people are beginning to see — we need people to fight with us, and us with them.

I hone in on filmmaking as an example, now, because it has the convenience of being my primary vocation while at the same time providing a good embodying example as a result of its truly collaborative nature.

Why Indie/Interdependent Filmmakers Are Primed to Lead

I have been over this before. So have others. Here’s the gist, quickly:

Technology has been democratized.

I’m not going to summarize what this means. It should be clear by now. Basically, anyone can do anything they have a talent for, so long as they put in the work, over time, and are strategic about it. I’m living proof. My career studying film, in official terms, lasted six hours. I made my first film by studying a bit and diving in. It wasn’t perfect but it lit the flame and taught me a lot about the craft and myself. Oh, and I had a lot of help.

Knowledge has been democratized.

By the way, help protect net neutrality. It’s important. Here’s why.

Like I said, I got into this by studying and diving in. Most of what I learned, I learned on the internet. Countless others have done the same. This is important, in terms of independent spirit, in my opinion, for one primary reason. Film school — filmmaking in general — is often for the wealthier among our population.

Again, there are exceptions. But there used to be far more of them. This is mostly a product of our increasingly unequal, increasingly bifurcated society (the “Haves” and “Those Getting By”).

I won’t go into what’s happened to what used to be the lower class, because this is meant to be a hopeful essay. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and that we are artists in particular don’t owe the less fortunate a greater chance to exercise their voice. Even free access to democratized knowledge can’t help someone who spends every waking moment treading water. Anyway. End digression. Another story for another day.

The benefit of democratized knowledge is that those of us who are able and willing to rebel, to be truly independent (and it’s not easy, by a stretch) are at least able to try to make art. Though, increasingly, even to do this we have to do it together.

Need fulfillment is becoming “localized”

When I say that indie film is dead, obviously I’m exaggerating a little. In certain ways, actually, it’s never been easier to be an auteur (speaking purely on a technical basis) . However.

It’s also never been easier to convince oneself that this is easy, and to get in over the head only to realize it too late.

We’re getting too many mediocre films.

But there seems to be a trend emerging, that’s to me appears a match of circumstance to need. People are, slowly, working together — more often.

Mediocrity breeds boredom and cynicism that causes audiences to understandably jump ship. Even bold material that people argue over, in terms of its innate quality, is better than a lot of what we were getting up until recently.

But film collaboratives. Teams of filmmakers swapping roles and supporting each other across the years. Startups extending an hand from the tech sphere to ours, to the mutual benefit of each party. Locally made films, for and by locals, within neighborhoods and states. Niche documentaries supported via crowdfunding by those whose story spurred their genesis. We’re starting to take more risks in terms of trusting others. Those risks are starting to pay off.

Conclusion

This does not seem, to me, a replacement of indie film as we have known it. It seems an evolution of it, a birth of a new thing that’s like the old thing, and which may even exist in parallel to it for a long time to come, but is also necessarily a little more solid. Again, it’s more solid because we need it to be, to help us navigate a still consistently confusing time. Interdependent filmmaking is about rising to the moment.

It hasn’t been an easy transition for me. I used to be, and still often am, a loner. But I’m learning. I’ve started taking those risks. Asking for help. Offering it. It needs to be done.

If we’re going to survive, if we’re going to try to leave a mark on the world to make it even just a little more our own — we have to depend on one another. At least a little.

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