Tag Archives: Brooklyn

A Pair of Shorts: New Screenings

Well, hey! I’m excited to announce that both The Confession and Multiverse will be screening next week!

The Confession will be playing at IndieWorks in Manhattan, which is awesome because that’s where Rebecca De Ornelas and I met the film’s Director Jaclyn Gramigna, when Multiverse screened there at the same time as her short, Downtown.

This month’s IndieWorks is on March 16th, at Subject NYC. Doors open at 6:30PM and screenings start at 7:30PM.

Director Jaclyn,  Lead Actress and Producer Rebecca, and Lead Actor Jeremy Plyburn and I will all be in attendance. So, if you haven’t seen the film yet, come on down and watch it with a group. If you have seen it, come on down anyway and watch it (and all the other great shorts) with a group.

Multiverse will screen as part of the Cinema Club screening series in Brooklyn, as part of their 50th program, “Handshakes but Headaches”. I’m just guessing, but I think we might be part of the “headaches” portion of the program 🙂

Cinema Club takes place at Videology in Brooklyn, and screenings for this month’s session will start at 8PM on March 17th. Lead Actor and Producer Rebecca and I will both be in attendance.

I really want to show you my shorts. If you like them, you might like The Videoblogs, too.

602066_10100681300095942_1773576913_n (2)Subscribe to my list for advanced (and free!) access to new (creative) content produced by yours truly. I send one email per month (sometimes less).

Hometown Battle: Which City Will Win?

We’re running a friendly competition today over at The Videoblogs.

Are you ready for battle?

Here’s the deal. Today, from now until midnight, we will tally the total number of donations from the following hometowns of our team members:

  • Cranston, RI. My hometown, and the eventual winner of this contest.
  • Brooklyn, NY. Rebecca’s hometown.
  • Pittsburgh, PA. The hometown of Associate Producers Zach and Alex.
  • Pell City, AL. The hometown of actor Phoebe Allegra.
You don't really want to mess with Cranston.

You don’t really want to mess with Cranston. (From: Over Easy, my first film).

You can contribute here. The rules:

  1. Each contribution represents one point. One dollar counts as much as one hundred for the competition.
  2. The hometown with the most points at midnight wins. We’ll announce the winning town on Tuesday.
  3. The prize for winning is bragging rights, and exclusion from…
  4. The punishment for losing is that all three “losers” from The Videoblogs team have to records a videoblog while holding a sign that says “Cranston Rules” (because Cranston is going to win). They also have to admit out loud that “Cranston Rules”.

Yes, I am already playing a little dirty with all the Cranston boasting. But for now I have the mic, so…

Are you guys in, or what?

All you have to do to participate is to contribute.

We really want to show all of you the film. So why not contribute what you can, TODAY, and at the same time show us which hometown really rules? 🙂 A download of The Videoblogs is only $10, or grab a DVD for $20.

Here’s an individual incentive, for first-movers…

I will mail a signed paperback copy of my book, AND a DVD of Sex and Justice, to the first contributor from EACH hometown. Respond to a Facebook post from a member of our team with #VideoblogsFilm so that we can identify you.

Okay. Now let’s show them who rules, (Cranston).

Wandering and Deliberation: The Importance of Nothingness

Photo of Birds in Park

I took this a few weeks ago, while wandering in Brooklyn.

My “ideal” state is that of The Wanderer. I don’t know that it makes me much different from most other artists — or writers in particular. But, on many occasions, if I had my way, I would say that I’d like to do little else than wander about New York City with no particular agenda.

Of course, constraints of time and money and responsibility and attachment — make true wandering difficult. Also, wandering too much is almost certainly unhealthy in the long term. This is why being The Wanderer, in the long run, or permanently, is not actually an ideal. Over time, anomie invariably creeps in; the romance of the idea evaporates over time, trails off into the changing, moving air.

On top of this, in terms of the present discussion, I only set up half my point in admitting my wanderlust. Because, when I do take time to walk out into the city with no agenda, I invariably find just as much pleasure in settling down, somewhere, to eat a meal, or drink a cup of coffee, or to people-watch. At this point, the wandering ceases and I’m (usually) able to melt into the fogscape of an least temporarily directionless mind. This sort of break from Time and Place can be peaceful — because it is an embracing of the fact of life’s inevitable march, not an avoidance of it. This sort of break engenders a sort of rare, quiet deliberation. It offers rest to the overworked, active mind.

I grow increasingly distrustful of my active mind, lately. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here, but I recently realized that, a year or so ago, I had stopped remembering my dreams. That hasn’t been the case for a few months now. My subconscious has apparently decided it’s safe, for the time being, to rejoin the interplay of day-to-day life. This mostly pleases me, even if it sometimes leaves my active mind with a lot of work to do, in terms of unraveling the results of whatever it is that’s been going on in my head while I sleep.

I’ve come to cherish the insights my dreams provide. I’ve had to lean on them. It isn’t easy for me to be with myself, currently, when I’m awake. I’ll admit it. It’s an ironic twist, considering where I’ve gone lately in progressing as a person.

As has probably been made obvious over the past year, one result of the work I’ve been doing both professionally and personally has been the discovery of “new,” tenderer layers of myself that just aren’t resilient to the winds of the outside world quite yet. Just as I’m getting comfortable with not being alone, as a result of making Multiverse, and by keeping up with this site, I find it necessary to force myself to incrementally reengage with solitude anyway.

I know the only way for these new layers to become resilient is through exposure. If I have learned anything in recent months, it’s that lesson. Another lesson, though, that I’m taking some time to truly absorb, is that this process must happen on its own. It cannot be controlled. Only guided — compassionately.

In the past, wandering performed two functions for me. As I have alluded, it was a slower, safer form of running away from life. It allowed me to pretend I was unattached to Time and Place, which was never true — especially in my case. I rarely wandered anywhere for longer than a day, or very far. Usually, I would disappear only for a morning or an afternoon. At the same time, I think I wandered symptomatically. In this way, my walks were arguably healthy — an emotional reset at a time of high anxiety or incredible sadness.

Now, I feel compelled to incrementally resume the incremental wandering for a different reason — for the exposure. I feel that, when I wander now (as it also happened in the past, to an extent), I invariably end up replicating something like the subconscious patterning that happens when I dream — but while in a conscious state. Because my active mind isn’t tasked, it can go where it pleases, or needs to go. Because it isn’t completely at rest, I can more easily trace and recall the resultant paths it takes. This fosters learning.

It can be so easy to lose ourselves with all the somethings we need to do or obtain. It can be maddening, to always have to be somewhere, in pursuit of someone for some reason. Tasks and tactile goals and wants and needs — they all have value. But nothingness, I would argue, has an important role in life as well. Nothingness is not only the terrifying symbol of the mystery of death. It is not only The Void. Nothingness can strip away distraction and falsehood, can expose hollowness. In this way, it is capable of infusing the experience of living with virtue, virtue that comes directly from the self.

Value and virtue are subtly different things, and I wonder often about the space between them that defines their difference. I lately feel compelled to explore that space more fully.

Recap: Sundance ShortsLab 2013 at BAM

While the event itself took place last weekend, I wanted to take some time this week to recap the great experience I had at the Sundance ShortsLab at BAM in Brooklyn.

Some of you may have seen me tweeting about it here and there while the lab was proceeding. I had planned to do more of that but ended up just listening. It seemed counter-intuitive to obsess over pulling quotes (though there were plenty to pull) and risk looking the next great piece of information coming from the programmers and industry panelists.

And that’s really what I want to talk about, in case any of you out there might be interested in attending either the LA session of the ShortsLab on August 10th, or another session, wherever, next year. The Lab, more than anything else, provided me and others with a glut of very useful information. And a bit more of something else, that is arguably even more crucial in the long struggle to make it as an indie filmmaker.

I’m going to be up front about this – when I heard Sundance was going to be in my backyard in Brooklyn, I was interested but unsure as to whether the Lab itself was going to be for me. The reason was simple, if flimsy. I’ve made, or helped to make, four shorts (technically three, since Multiverse is still in post) and have produced countless other short form projects that aren’t quite the same thing and yet not completely different either. The entrance fee seemed reasonable, insofar as any monetary amount can seem reasonable to an indie filmmaker, but I (like a few others, probably) still didn’t just have the money laying around.

I’m so glad I went anyway.

First, it was a little arrogant of me (and I’ll briefly continue the pattern of self-absorption by patting myself on the back for knowing I was wrong) to assume that years of making shorts qualified me to say that I didn’t need Sundance. That’s not exactly what was happening – I just didn’t want to waste money that could go towards plugging other holes – but at the end of the day a decision not to attend might as well have been based on this fallacy. As it turned out, it would have been a mistake to pass up on the opportunity.

Enter reason number one why any filmmaker, who hasn’t already made his or her first feature (and this may even still apply to a few who have – I’ve made half a feature), should attend the ShortsLab in the future. The program wasn’t just money well-spent. It was money incredibly well-spent. Further, it wasn’t even about money or time. Not fundamentally.

It’s easy to forget, when we are always struggling for funds, for opportunities – when we are simply always struggling – that there is a reason for the struggle. That there is passion beneath this compulsion towards “success” that becomes a leech on the remainder of our lives.

More than any other film-related event I can remember attending (though my festival attendance to this point has been limited), the ShortsLab felt abuzz with a genuine passion for the medium of film and a distinct and pure hunger for information and access.

A lot of the time, you walk into an “industry event” – any industry event, really – and the experience is a mix of opportunism and genuine interest. This is, of course, understandable. However, invariably, even in the arena of the arts, programmers and crowds seem to lose sight of the natural order of these two factors. To be clearer: more people are there, more specifically, to get what they need and that only. The urgency of, and the desire for, the “prize”…it overcomes and outstrips the reason for the journey.

Quite simply: the Sundance Shorts Lab programmers put the more appropriate and more crucial reverse relationship into practice – from the start. Passion for art first, business of film second. The day started, smartly, with an hour of Q&A, which allowed Sundance to dispense with the anxious “need to know” on the part of the crowd  — which can be boiled down to: how do I get my film into the festival. Then they got to the important stuff.

What was the important stuff?

While I am tempted to go into further detail on what I believe was an expertly planned and executed program (especially considering it took place over one long day), the crux of it is this: we were there to learn. To absorb the information that the festival, mostly via its invited industry guests, was delivering.

After the initial talk about the ins and outs of the shorts program itself, the majority of the rest of the day was about an opportunity to discuss the ins and outs of getting films made and made well, and positioning yourself for future (artistic and career) success. This information came from people who knew what they were talking about, and were actively interested in “paying it forward”. Which is what made it the right decision for me to go.

I learned quite a bit. I did come out of the day feeling good about how Multiverse is going. I also feel, after talking with some of the panelists, that I am on the right track with Sophia. These were admittedly priority hopes of mine for the day. But, more than anything else, I gained valuable insight into the professional process that I have not always been able to gain working on my own and teaching myself.

A few films does not an expert make. I’ve known this for a few years. Still, I wanted to provide a record of this mistake so that others might realize it as well. The ShortsLab was about shorts, yes. But it also took a long-view about filmmaking and a career in independent film. Maybe that seems an obvious natural progression out of the arena of shorts – few filmmakers make shorts with the idea of doing it perpetually – but, in my naiveté, I wasn’t completely expecting to get quite as much out of the experience as I did.

Sometimes I worry that, for an increasing number of us, who are stubborn, who are afraid, who are sensitive, who are limited and intimidated by a lack of resources and time – I worry that the struggle to learn to make films, and to excel at making them, forces us to retreat into ourselves. We condition ourselves (with a great degree of help from an increasingly callous world) to believe that the pursuit of our passion must be an impossible and solitary endeavor.

A single day on set, when it comes around to production time, always lays waste to this flimsy belief, perhaps.

But what of the intervening time and space?

At the end of the day, we are all artists – if we are at all doing it right. I don’t care what you do, what you want to do, what you are forced to do. We as humans are fundamentally creative beings. We create as a compulsion of our condition, regardless of whether we do this towards a positive end or with awareness.

And specific to those of us who pursue a more directly artistic calling – we live largely in our minds, a fact that can be a danger as much as it is an inherent necessity as we go about pursuing our particular compulsion in our medium of choice.

But film – film in particular – is about community. We, as filmmakers, cannot succeed without our mentors, our peers, and most importantly our supporters and audience. This is part of the mysterious bargain of art.

What impressed me most about the Shorts Lab was my sense that everyone there, from the programmers and the guest panelists to the majority of the audience, was there to celebrate the creation of film.

Perhaps that shouldn’t have been surprising. I understand that Sundance, being Sundance, can afford to maintain a hold on this more correctly ordered dichotomy between art and careerism more easily than most. But in my experience in this industry so far, more people are more interested in credit and careerism and attention than the purity of film narrative. Perhaps this is a result of our over-capitalized society. Probably it’s more complicated than that (though perhaps not much more complicated). Either way, it’s refreshing to see an organization with the recognition and the power to keep things ordered as they should be, exert their influence in support of storytelling first, in an arena (short films) where the overwhelming majority of us get our start.

I’ve been working hard, perhaps too hard, to simply “learn the ropes” – for a very long time. Again, my festival experience as an attendee has been limited. I also didn’t go to film school. Honestly, this has mostly been because of a dearth of time and resources. When you are truly fighting the fight, few opportunities arrive, in the current economic climate, to put yourself physically in the same place as “the business”. I can’t go out to Sundance. I’m too broke and too busy making films. But I could spend a Sunday in Brooklyn doing the next best thing.

What I’m trying to say is that I was grateful to have an opportunity, despite these facts, to get together with like-minded people, to learn, and to feel at least in some small way that I was where I belonged.

Other filmmakers in a similar position as me, in any of the above terms, would do well to attend a session in the future.

I Am The Anger (Somebody Pushed Me)

When I get on the subway in the morning to go to work, especially if I’m on time – and I am increasingly on time these days due to the steps I’ve been taking to exert more control over my health – I often make the insane decision to follow the rules and step all the way into the train.

By this I mean that I walk into the middle of the car, or as close to the middle as space allows. I rarely sit, even on the rare occasions when there are seats to be had, because whenever I do I start thinking about how much sitting I’m forced to do at my desk during the day, which isn’t good for your body. Also, standing burns extra calories. Standing occasionally, during relatively short intervals when you might otherwise sit, makes a big difference over the course of a year, in terms of fitness. This especially holds true if you “force” yourself to do a little extra walking each day, or opt for stairs more often than elevators or escalators. And so on.

I digress. I don’t want to talk about standing. I want to talk about the angry old man who got up in my face on the train yesterday.

Another reason why I move into the middle of the train is because my stop is a bit further out into Brooklyn, resulting in a situation where “enough space” to stand in becomes “no space,” as larger crowds of people pile in as we near the bridge to Manhattan. As a logical procedure, moving all the way into the train works quite well to minimize the effects of the tight squeeze that each car becomes, despite the general fear some New Yorkers seem to hold onto – that they will get stuck inside when they arrive at their stop, as neighbors swarm on and off, and will thus be forced to get off at the next stop, after which they will be late(r) to work, and then they are going to get fired, and on top of that spanked, then defiled by a fusillade of pigeon shit, and finally zombie apocalypse.

But I have a second, more selfish (or more self-aware) reason for moving towards the middle of the car and away from the doors. It allows me to exert a small measure of control over a situation I can’t control: the coming onslaught of The Crowd.

I have had an aversion to crowds since I was about eight or nine years old. I remember standing in the school yard during recess at that age, with a handful of friends, and watching from afar as many other students congregated together, laughing and screaming and generally having a great time. I wasn’t an outcast per se. In fact, I was friends with many of the children who made up the group – on an individual level. But the crowd unnerved me, at least in terms of being unable to easily join it without feeling a rush of anxiety or insecurity or just general discomfort with the idea of joining the group. I just didn’t understand it. I didn’t feel whatever it was that they were feeling, that compelled them to congregate. 

The psychology of such events can probably be unwrapped and analyzed a few times over, but for the present purpose I mean only to point out the necessity, in adulthood, for people like me to do something about a situation in which discomfort or anxiety is going to come whether you like it or not. Such feelings don’t often go away.

I live in New York City. I cannot ever avoid crowds. But, to a degree, I can avoid crowding, which is one of the reasons why I live deep in Brooklyn, where I can get more space for the same money that I would pay to live somewhere closer to the epicenter of the city – which doesn’t want people like me anyway (we lack capital).

In truth, certain parts of Brooklyn don’t want me either. This doesn’t surprise me, because the majority of the people living in such parts live in bubbles. Since I can be a bit prickly, there’s just going to be a lack of hugs all around when it comes to me and them. They don’t want to endanger their bubble and I don’t want to get sticky.

That’s all a long preamble to the additional fact that I also choose to move into the middle of the car as a means of exerting a small degree of control over my fate, as the crowd of bodies swells into a current and the jostling and pushing and crushing begins. I try to put myself preemptively out of the range of too much contact or too much crowding. When I know the crowding is imminent, I spread my legs a little farther than normal and stand slightly farther back from the people closest to me than I otherwise have to, in order to maintain comfort. This way, when the squeezing comes, I have a little extra space to play with. I know. I’m brilliant. It’s not at all ironic that I’m talking about creating my own bubble.

So what happened yesterday? Why do I go into so much detail about something so apparently mundane? Would it make you feel like you’ve been making a good use of your time reading this, if I told you that, in the midst of a situation typical of the above testimony, that I was suddenly accosted by an angry old (white) man?

Isn’t that kind of appropriate?

He got on at a particular stop in one of those neighborhoods in Brooklyn. A neighborhood famous (in my eyes) for the overwhelming percentage of genteel oblivious fuckheads whose behavior, movements, and general carriage belie an intrinsic belief that they (and their children) are more important than everyone else around them. Sticking to the example of the subway, these are the people who get on the train and act as if it’s your job to not be in their way, or in the way of the e-reader or iPad or magazine or book that they are going to hold out in front of them at a comfortable arms length even as others struggle to find room in the car. They are adept at holding their coffee in front of your face and hitting you repeatedly with their bags (in fairness, you are in the way of their bag). They also don’t mind chattering loudly about some of the most boring topics known to man while surrounded by a crowd of quiet fellow commuters who just want a few more minutes of peace before the furor of their day begins.

I was in the middle of the car. Minding my business. Reading. With my book in my face only. Shortly after we arrived at that stop, in that neighborhood in Brooklyn – I felt pressure at my back. The crowd. I stopped reading for a moment, to make room as best I could.

I should mention, at this point, that I travel to work with a backpack. One that is often bulging with lunch and filmmaking. I should also mention that I have a spinal condition that leaves me sensitive to pressure at certain angles. For instance, when someone pushes against my bag, adding extra relative weight from the top down – I feel it a little bit more than you do, because the curve of my spine is more acute than yours, from back to front. It’s like a more glamorous form of scoliosis.

So, when I felt unnecessary pressure on my back (the train wasn’t that crowded), I looked to see what was going on.

What I saw was an angry old man, who also had a large bag, grumbling about the reality that was the prior existence of other people on the train. For whatever reason, though there was room elsewhere, he had decided to stand right behind me – which placed large bag up against large bag. He pushed me a little, seemingly on purpose.

I had already relinquished all the extra room I had saved for dealing with The Crowd, and I wasn’t about to force discomfort on myself and the woman seated in front of me by straddling her legs. I also wasn’t going to allow the man to weigh my back down with the weight of his bag. So I held my ground against the pushing. Again – not my job to get out of your way.

I heard and felt his annoyance, but I didn’t care. He could have gone somewhere else. I would have. There was room. But, as it turns out, none of this mattered. The man would soon prove that he wasn’t concerned with anything other than being mad. For the time being, I focused on my book and listened to music through my headphones and stopped worrying about him because I was fine.

A few stops later, he turned around and shoved a hand into my shoulder. I also turned around, pulled my headphones down around my neck, and looked at him.

“Your umbrella is poking out of your bag! It’s all over the place!”

The words were delivered acidly, manically. I looked down at my umbrella. It was facing away from him, on the other side of my bag from the one he was closest to, and though it was dangling a bit from where I keep it secured to the outside of the bag, a quick glance at the people around us confirmed that the man was overreacting or creating a situation where there wasn’t one. He had spoken loudly, and was glaring at me, and since the train had been quiet (as it often is in the morning) everyone was looking at us.

I did the right thing before I even knew I was doing it. I told the man, in a kind but firm tone of voice, to calm down, and that everything was going to be okay.

This is a new tactic I have been using whenever someone comes at me with anger. I tell them, emphatically, that everything is going to be okay. I illustrate this fact through my tone, and via the look in my eyes. I often repeat the phrase, if they bark again. Everything is going to be okay.

He turned around immediately, and said nothing. He seemed embarrassed, perhaps because, after everyone had turned to look at us, I had immediately redirected their attention to where it was deserved, with him only. This was his problem.

I double-checked the umbrella and went back to my book.

Outside the realm of general politeness – when politeness is called for – it is the job of no one to get out of the way of someone else. This especially holds true when dealing with someone who is always in their own way, and is merely swapping you in, in place of themselves, as a means of spasmodically releasing their anger or dissatisfaction with their own self…while as the same time holding onto it for dear life.

Too much of what keeps too many of us perpetually dissatisfied with our lives, here in America, in my opinion, is the general default attitude we take when confronted by angry, childish bullies. What other explanation can there be for our current depressed state, wherein few of us are satisfied, or feel represented or free, and yet, as a daily rule, on average, we continue to acquiesce to a metastasized old world status quo in which the few dictate the lives of the many? Here, in a supposedly free democracy, this is the norm. Will this be the legacy of our time? Silent capitulation to screaming old men who want what they want, and you better get out of their way? Is this not a serious, widespread problem of courage?

These small stories add up. They are not separate from the larger picture.

As early as a year ago, I might have had a different reaction to the attack of that old, self-important man. I might have told him to fuck off, taking his bait, turning myself into a part of the show. I might have become fodder for the crowd I simply wanted to avoid. Depending on my mood, I might have also just taken the abuse, mostly ignoring him on the surface while privately fuming on the inside. Hell, on another day, even further back in my life, I could have even been that guy.

Now, I have more important things to do. I am no longer a man who deals in irrational anger. Except when we are here, on this site. Here, the anger is rational. Here, to borrow a phrase (while lopping off a key consonant): I am the anger.

This is a place where we get angry and speak up. Here, the energy can go somewhere useful.

Don’t let angry fuckheads throw you off track. And don’t be an angry fuckhead. Life’s crowded. Shit’s going to be in the way of the ideal. Deal with it and keep going.

It’s going to be okay.