"This is no industry showcase unless, of course, these people are completely out of their minds."
Steven Leigh Morris on Brad Mays' acclaimed and controversial 1997 production of Euripides' The Bacchae which was nominated for three LA Weekly Theatre Awards including Best Director.
September 4, 2011.
About a year ago, Lorenda was diagnosed with 4th stage uterine cancer. I was pretty much her sole caretaker for over six months. In January she won The California Film Festival's "Diamond Award" for our film THE WATERMELON, but she was too sick to attend the ceremonny. She died on March 16. We had a lovely memorial service for her on May 7.
December 20, 2009.
I was talking earlier this year with Jim Dickinson , the gentleman who played piano on "Wild Horses," with the Rolling Stones. He's a Memphis musician with whom I was going to collaborate a live Memphis rock concert film. Anyway, I hadn't heard back from him in a while and I went to check it out. Turns out he died. Sobering, to say the least.
Thanks for coming in.
December 12, 2009.
A WAY BACK IN premieres at the Idyllwild International Festival Of Cinema on Thursday, January 14, at 9:00 PM. The festival looks quite promising - this is going to be its inaugural presentation. The people running it are going out of their way to make the filmmakers feel welcome and part of a community, a very nice change from San Diego (did I really just say that?). There's an article about the festival that mentions our film, but doesn't mention producer/star Holly Anderson, and makes a bit too much about a couple of supporting actors. It's funny, in a weird way.
Thanks for coming in.
December 6, 2009.
The official website for A WAY BACK IN is up - Holly Anderson and Don London did a terrific job with it. Today I'm going to see a Christmas concert given by OperaWorks, assuming that those people are still speaking to me. Meanwhile, I'm putting the budget together for a new film project.
Thanks for coming in.
November 27, 2009.
Looks like A WAY BACK IN, the film Holly Anderson wrote & produced and I directed, has won three INDIE AWARDS OF MERIT - for Short Film, Leading Actress, and Direction - from the Indie Fest, and is an Official Selection at the new Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. Way to go, Holly. You never cease to impress me.
Thanksgiving was great.Thanks for coming in.
October 26, 2009.
Okay, I just spent a solid 3 1/2 hours giving an on-camera interview for a major PBS series which will air next year. I discussed Euripides' THE BACCHAE at what I can safely refer to as considerable length. I have a renewed appreciation for what actors go through, believe me! I was interviewed, along with Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka and famed director Richard Schechner. Oh, and Alan Cumming participated as well.
October 16, 2009.
There was a screening of THE DREAM OF ALVAREEN last Wednesday. Not a finished cut, but a fairly sturdy first edit. After languishing for five years, this odd indie epic is about to see the light of day.
September 23, 2009.
We had our table read for REQUIEM, and it went very well. I have a first-rate cast, and I'm hopeful that by tomorrow night I'll have the production location locked down. We'll be shooting in early October.
August 26, 2009. Long story short - I have congestive heart failure, but I take my meds and try to live sensibly. My wife Lori manages our apartment building, and there was a problem while she was off at the DMV renewing a registration. The past few days had been very mild, and because I was upstairs editing THE DREAM OF ALVAREEN in a temperature-controlled room, I didn't know that yesterday was SCORCHING hot. So anyway there is a tenant problem and he's foreign and English impaired and he won't stop screaming over the phone so I grab what I think he needs and run out to where I think he is in my bare feet, and when I finally reach him my feet are burning on the asphalt. My congestive heart failure kicks in and I'm sure that I went into shock. My asthma kicks in on top of that and the guy is still screaming at me to solve his problem. I solve the problem and find the strength to get back to my apartment, eventually noticing that I was leaving a trail of bloody footprints. I get inside, look at my feet, touch them and the skin falls off. None of this is sinking in, so I grab a pair of clean white socks from a basket of clean clothes and manage to get back upstairs to that I can resume editing, thinking that my breathing will come back. I sit down, and the heart thing slams in, full force. I call 911 but can't speak. I sit there, getting in turns hot and cold and realize I'm dying. I can't breath at all. I can't hit the save button on my computer to save the editing I'd been doing all day. Finally I hear sirens and think maybe I'll make it, but by the time the paramedics have found me I know there's no time left. They spray nitroglycerine into my mouth, to no avail. They force oxygen into my lungs, then spray again, over and over. Finally, in the ambulance, I get a whisper of breath and think...maybe.An hour later, I was breathing regularly, with second and third degree burns on my feet. An hour after that, I was off oxygen. That's it, in a nutshell. I am very, very happy to be alive. I'll post a project update in a few days. Thanks for coming in.
July 9, 2009. Easy come, easy go. I dropped out of that film project DON JUAN'S ADDICTION . . . twice. I dropped out twice in less than two weeks. What a mess. Enough said about that.On a happier note, THE WATERMELON was released two days ago, on July 7. You can buy through Turner Movie Classics, amazon.com, and a host of other online outlets or even rent it from Netflix. We're having a small commemorative get-together tomorrow (Friday) night. I am also about to get to work on a film version of my dear friend Linda Chambers' wonderful play REQUIEM, the very first play i directed in New York. Linda's excited, Lori's excited, and so am I. Thanks for coming in.
June 18, 2009.
At 8:30 AM Wednesday morning, I received a phone call from the executive producer of a feature drama which begins shooting on June 27. He told me that he'd had to fire his director the night before, and was wondering if I'd like to take over the production. We met later that morning, I read the script and accepted the job. The film is called DON JUAN'S ADDICTION, and it takes place in the world of high fashion and modeling. I admit right up front that I'm a somewhat odd choice to directed a piece like this, but what the hell?
May 22, 2009.
I just finished shooting and editing CONSTRUCTION DETECTIVES, a reality show pilot starring Bob Golub. The piece is very funny, and is being delivered to Mark Wolper Productions tomorrow morning. The first edit runs about 23 minutes, and Wolper has said that we'll be cutting it down to sizzle-reel length in the coming weeks for early summer pitches.
May 15, 2009.
I just got back from delivering THE WATERMELON to our distributors. I felt weird as I drove up Laurel Canyon over to Wilshire - I haven't made that particular sojourn in maybe a decade. When I got to my destination I shook hands with the entire group, who were all very warm. Now, roughly an hour later, I feel very strange, almost like I'm about to burst into tears. I suppose that the only way to interpret this feeling is that I've turn a corner of some kind.
May 10, 2009.
Well, it's finally come. I'm scheduled to turn over all deliverables related to THE WATERMELON to our distribution company this week. For the DVD release this includes the finalized motion picture, the trailer for the film, an audio commentary track, a "making of" featurette and, finally, a music video of our remake of the Patsy Cline classic "Crazy." The preparation for all of this has consumed many hours, and I can hardly believe that after nearly two years, the film is a done deal.
March 19, 2009.
Well, the distribution deal for THE WATERMELON has been finalized. There's going to be minor theatrical play and the DVD release will hit the streets on July 4. Several songs on the soundtrack have to be swapped-out because of licensing issues. Among these is Patsy Cline's wonderful rendition of "Crazy," by Willie Nelson. Fortunately, we've been able to redo this tune - check it out if you like.
February 21, 2009.
Just five short months after THE WATERMELON premiered at the San Diego Film Festival, the film has been offered a national distribution deal. Lorenda has the paperwork in her hands now, and we're going through it with great care. LADY CAITLIN is still slated to shoot this July, and DEAD WEIGHT starts production some time in mid- September.
February 1, 2009.
I have never been so relieved to be finished with a project as I am with THE AUDACITY of DEMOCRACY. From inception to online distribution, this film took only six months, but it felt like six years - six LONG years. In the end, I suppose I'm happy to have done it but mainly I'm happy that it's over. For those of you who don't know, the film follows the first 2 1/2 months of the P.U.M.A. movement and their attempt to win Hillary Clinton the Democratic presidential nomination. I worked hard to make the film a legitimate piece of work that would show P.U.M.A. in a sympathetic light, but the folks over there seem to have walked completely away from the entire enterprise with nary a word spoken to either myself or Lorenda. On to the festivals, I suppose.
December 17, 2008.
Lorenda and I have moved into a nice new place with lots of space and sunshine. I'm working on a short subject/pilot film for Holly Anderson which is going very well. THE WATERMELON is being submitted to a number of film festivals, and an old project of ours looks like it might just be put back on the production track.
October 6, 2008.
I've had a week to decompress from the summer shoot, the September festival prep, and the San Diego Film Festival itself. I suppose I should mention right off that THE WATERMELON didn't win any awards. The fact is, I didn't expect it to. We did find out, from several loose-lipped judges, that not all the festival judges even watched the film. And to be fair, because I was in Chicago when the festival contacted us about our acceptance, I was a bit late in getting the screeners to them.
September 21, 2008.
Since agreeing to make a documentary film around the PUMA PAC movement, I've learned one thing above all else: everyone seems to have their own particular view about just what a feature-length documentary film is or should be. Some feel that docs are, by their very nature, all about investigative journalism. Others feel that a documentary film should not express an intrinsic point of view, but seek to depict a variety of outlooks. Some feel that vocal narration is a must, others that it is a vulgarization of pure cinematic truth. If over thirty years of professional work in the arts has taught me anything useful, it is the following:
September 3, 2008.
Just quick note that I removed the 10 minute teaser for THE AUDACITY OF DEMOCRACY from my page at YouTube. I have become increasingly uncomfortable about it over the past four weeks, and when I saw several particularly offensive political clips on YouTube over the past couple of days, I decided that I just didn't want to contribute to the noise any longer. Most importantly, I don't want anything on line to diminish or trivialize the serious effort that THE AUDACITY OF THE DEMOCRACY, which I am now editing, is going to be in its final form.
August 25, 2008.
I'm sitting in an empty office in Denver while at a nearby public park, a PUMA - sponsored demonstration against the Democratic National Committee is well underway. Because I threw my back out several days ago, I am unable to videotape the event. Fortunately, Steve Yeager and Lorenda are able to pick up the slack for me.
August 20, 2008.
THE WATERMELON was just accepted to the 2008 San Diego Film Festival.
August 14, 2008.
Had I even the slightest notion of what was coming my way two days ago as I checked my bags at the Dulles Airport, I almost certainly would have called a friend in Baltimore to pick me up and found some alternate route to Chicago, most likely by bus.
August 12, 2008.
Okay, I'm writing this in my room at the Marriott Hotel located at Dulles Airport, right outside of Washington, D.C. It is here that for the past five days I've been shooting and processing footage of the PUMA Conference, which took place about ten minutes away. The conference was a very secret affair, with surprisingly tight security. Mine were the only video cameras allowed anywhere near the event, and I got lots of excellent footage. This is all, of course, part and parcel of the new documentary feature that sort of fell into my lap last month - THE AUDACITY OF DEMOCRACY.
Tomorrow, I fly to Chicago, where I'll be conducting a good number of interviews. From there it's Iowa, Michigan and, ultimately, Denver for the Democratic convention. I'm basically alone on this whistle stop tour, very strange for someone who spends most of his time in Los angeles, editing films. In Denver, I'll be joining up with a camera crew, Lorenda and the people financing this film.
Looks like this is going to be one hell of month. Thanks for coming in.
July 20, 2008.
Lots of stuff to talk about. First, I went back east for the first time in years to attend my high school reunion in Princeton. I dropped by my old friend Niki Giberson's house to pick her up and met her husband Gary for the first time. They live way out in rural New Jersey on a fantastic farm where they both practice and teach traditional folk arts. Gary didn't feel like going to the reunion so I drove Niki out to some place in Cranbury, just east of Hightstown for the big event. A few of Niki's and my friends were on hand and it was great catching up. My old friend Colin, my old girlfriend Sue, Harvest bass player Todd, the lively Conover sisters, and a bunch of others. And Liz, the Miss Goodie-Goodie Rah-Rah Color Guard girl who now lives and works in Florida and has become a very good friend to yours truly, did a fabulous job putting it all together. Great, great time.
That's all for now. Thanks for coming in.
June 4, 2008.
Very long time since my last post. A lot of little stuff has happened since then, plus a few larger developments. I am (hopefully) finishing up on SHOWGIRLS for Monument Television and Film Company. Like many documentary films, it has been enormously labor-intensive and time consuming. It's a good film, very funny, but it must come to an end or I will surely die. I finally finished SING*ularity, and had a screening for it in May that went very well. I'm proud of the film, and sent copies of it to several participants. I'm always amazed that I can take the time to mail DVDs of a film to folks with a vested interest in the film, who claim to be terribly anxious to see it, and then never hear word one from them in response. Not a big deal, just interesting. Larry Malloy (DP for THE WATERMELON), Lorenda and I helped Julia Aks (who played the Artist in THE WATERMELON) with a short film she herself adapted from a short story written by a friend of her mother. The short, DESECRATION, is her final senior project for Oakwood High School. We shot for several days and nights, and Julia directed. Turned out well, from what I've seen.
February 19, 2008.
Very busy these past few months, lots of news. First, Peter Girard is composing the score for THE WATERMELON. I'm very happy about this and think the world of Peter and his abilities. Next, I am finally putting the final touches on the director's edit of SING*ularity, which will most certainly be finished by the end of the month. The reason it's taken so long is that I shot more footage last April, May and July, and working this stuff into what was already a fairly dense film has proven difficult but worth the effort. I've also been cutting a really terrific documentary called SHOWGIRLS for Monument Television and Film Productions, which has taken up a huge amount of my time and energy. I just turned in a 92 minute first cut that works very well, so I think we're going to see some light at the end of that particular tunnel. SHOWGIRLS is about a famous cross-dressers review in Provincetown MA, where locals and professionals alike compete for a weekly $500.00 prize. The film is very enjoyable and the characters are all quite appealing. I'm thinking it might have some serious cross-over potential.
November 13, 2007.
I finished my edit on THE WATERMELON yesterday. The film comes in now at 92 minutes and 47 seconds, a very good running time. I'm talking with composers and should have one in place by next week. I've been chopping together a HiDef travel show for cable, depicting the Nederburg Wine Auction in South Africa - a nice diversion (man, you never know what's going to land on your desk). Looks like I'll be cutting a couple of small projects over the next few weeks. Why not? Keeps the bills paid.
October 29, 2007.
I'm on my last few days of editing on THE WATERMELON. Next comes the musical score, and I'm talking to several composers right now. I'm also editing a television show on South African wine growers. But that's not what I came in here to say.
October 10, 2007.
Well, that cold is still with me. Nevertheless, I did manage to get THE WATERMELON into its second edit. Did quite a bit of trimming and the like. That's when a film really starts to come to life, you know - when you get rid of all those one and two second moments that drag the rhythm down. We've started sending the film out in an official capacity, to industry folks, so now I suppose will come the first of many moments of truth.
September 29, 2007.
I think I picked up a cold at some point in the past week. I've been working so many hours in the editing room that I didn't notice how lousy I was feeling until I took a breather on Thursday. That's how it is when you're totally wrapped up in a project. And now, as we're winding down on THE WATERMELON, we're also gearing up to do STATIONS sometime next year. We'll be using the same basic creative team, which did so well this summer. So far there's a totally gung-ho attitude toward the new project, which is quite gratifying.
September 27, 2007.
The final few scenes of THE WATERMELON were shot on September 15 & 16. We now have a complete first edit in place, plus a one minute trailer. The film is definately strong, with a great story, first-rate performances, and some very nice twists. Our director of photography, Lawrence Malloy, called me today with some very encouraging remarks. Since he's a guy who knows exactly who he is and where he's going, I'm going to allow myself to feel very good about what he had to say.
Thanks for coming in. Oh, and if you wish to see a slightly longer version of the trailer, click here.
August 20, 2007.
As of this date, the bulk of principal photography has been completed on THE WATERMELON. The August schedule took us from the high desert to Beverly Hills to a private Malibu beach to a courtroom mock-up shot in a Studio City church. Lorenda and I were very concerned that the production somehow manage to keep up the high stardard we'd established in July, and if the resulting footage is to be trusted, we managed to do just that. As things now stand, we've got roughly a day of odds and ends to shoot in September. By the end of that month, our first edit should be in place.
I'm going to say once again that I feel blessed beyond all measure by the experience of working on this remarkable little film. The feeling on the set was always very warm and laid back, yet focused and professional, with very little bickering and virtually no animosity. Pretty much every day player and visitor we had said as much.
Without going into detail, I'll add to all of this that we have been approached by some very reputable people who are interested in handling foreign distribution on THE WATERMELON. Also, as I indicated in last month's post, I've aquired the rights to another fantastic Michael Hemmingson script, STATIONS for our next production. There's a lot of enthusiasm building up around this project, which is going to require genuinely innovative shooting techniques to make the story work properly.
Post-production work continues on the documentary Sing*ularity, and I still anticipate completion on both features no later than November. I guess I shouldn't forget to mention that, in addition to all the work on THE WATERMELON, I also shot and edited roughly 45 hours of performance footage for Ann Baltz's OperaWorks program (I've been a very busy boy this summer). While I genuinely love working with Ann and her task force of musicians, I must say that I was really feeling the strain by the end of July. My one saving grace in all of this is that Ann is so easy on the eye. There. I've said it.
Thanks for coming in.
July 20, 2007.
As nervous as I was before the first day of production on THE WATERMELON, I am now feeling an even greater degree of confidence in what we have thus far been able to accomplish during the past two weeks at our Pasadena location. We have a small but incredibly resourceful and dedicated crew, a brilliant cast, and a first-rate script. Still, with all this, there is another factor at work on this project, something akin to magic. I've been involved in a lot of productions in my day, but I have never been on a happier set, or one that was surer of ultimate success, than this one. I don't want to get all bogged down in rhetoric here. I'm very certain that the finished film will speak with far greater eloquence than I ever could in a forum like this. Let's just say that I have never in my life been happier, or felt more fulfilled, than at this moment.
So tomorrow we wrap at our Pasadena location. We re-group in August for the final days of shooting, which will take place in a variety of locations. I am very happy to say that an old friend who dropped from my life a few years ago has agreed to accept a role I offererd her a couple of weeks ago. We - that is she, Lorenda and myself - got together last weekend to see how this situation felt and I'm happy to say that it feels, in the very best sense of the word, just like old times.
And so, on this happy note, thanks for coming in.
July 9, 2007.
Just one final day of prep and rehearsal before we start shooting THE WATERMELON. There was a line in a play that a one-time dear friend, Stanley Keyes (an absolutely brilliant writer), wrote back in the 80s. The play was called DRAGON SLAYERS and it was about an insane troupe of puppeteers on the verge of a murderous meltdown. Anyway, the play opens as the troupe is frantically putting the final touches on a show they're getting ready to perform and everything is going to hell in a handbasket. One of the characters asks "why is it always like this?" Anyone with any significant experience in film and theatre will understand this line. No matter what the show is or who is working on it, there's always this final stretch of chaos and terror, where it feels like you're riding a crazy locomotive straight into a mountain. And that, my friends, just about sums up the frantic last-minute flusterfuck I find myself in the midst of right now, at this very moment.
Which is not to say that I think things are going badly. Far from it, actually. But...like, why is it always like this?
Yes indeed, we start shooting this Monday, July 9th. The cast in in superb shape, we have a wonderful walk-away location, great little crew, and I even think the production catering is going to be pretty good. This is my first decidedly mainstream directorial effort and I have never been more jazzed. And even better still, it was Lorenda Starfelt, the apple of my eye, that made this whole thing happen.
So wish us luck. And thanks for coming in.
June 18, 2007.
We start shooting THE WATERMELON on July 9 and wrap sometime the middle of August. Getting this thing up and running has been a tremendous challenge, but we're just about there. We've managed to put together a great production team and terrific cast. I'm absolutely thrilled, and more than a little stressed.
I've been sick on and off for a couple of months now. Things got really bad when I was in San Francisco doing some extra shooting for SING*ULARITY (formerly OPERAWORKS). Very unpleasant, but the trip yielded some good footage. Over the past couple of days my condition seems to have improved. Knock on wood that it lasts.
Thanks for coming in.
May 21, 2007.
Can't believe I haven't written anything in five months. Things have been somewhat crazed, admitedly, perhaps even more than usual. THE WATERMELON shoot was postponed until mid-June, necessitating the recasting of our male lead and the altering of the production financing, but we're now pretty much set to go again. We have a distributor interested in OPERAWORKS (now retitled SING*ULARITY), and we're shooting some extra footage on it in New York as well as other locations.
On a personal level, life is good. Zack and Lana have had another baby, so I'm a grandfather twice over. Lorenda is getting a fair amount of videography work, mainly in corporate and live event projects, which is lots of fun for me. Another old Princeton friend of mine, Lesa Aldridge, is part of a feature in the May 2007 edition of Smithsonian Magazine. It seems that she was the subject of an exquisite and very famous William Eggleston photograph ostensibly taken in the back room of a Memphis bar in 1973, and the magazine decided to track her down for the purpose of bringing new context to the image. I hadn't seen Lesa in many years, and it was a tremendous surprise to see her like this! I was aware of her musical career in Memphis, but otherwise had no idea what she'd been up to.
On a perhaps less culturally extravagant note, I'm having friends over for my birthday next week to watch my all-time favorite film, BARRY LYNDON and eat General Tso's chicken. There'll also be lots of pie for anyone who wants to come on by.
Really. Don't be shy.
Thanks for coming in.
December 16, 2006.
This is, beyond question, turning out to be the liveliest holiday season I've ever experienced in Los Angeles. In addition to the stuff I mentioned in my previous entry, a number of other things are unfolding. First, a private screening of my first edit for OperaWorks will be happening Monday evening. I have a very good feeling about this project but I still have the heebie-jeebies about showing it to an audience. I just found out this morning that Paul Bojack's RESILIENCE, a film I cut last year and have spent a fair amount of time discussing in here, was just given a glowing review by none other than the New York Times. I couldn't be happier for Paul. As I've said before, I think he's a brilliant writer/director and his film is a true gem. DODO, the film I edited for comedian Bob Golub, just won Best Documetary in the Pittsburg Film Festival. It's getting great reviews as well.
Lorenda and I just videotaped an exciting dance and artsong program devised and executed by our good friends Paula Thomson and Ann Baltz of OperaWorks fame. The presentation was very strong, a genuinely dazzling beginning for what is sure to be an ongoing work-in-progress. And if all this weren't enough, I was just contacted yesterday by the State Department who are sponsoring a film project for independent filmmakers in Kosovo - of all places. These filmmakers will flying to America in January to make a documentary about the American independent film movement, and they want to feature me. Their plan is to hang around THE WATERMELON set for a couple of days shooting me at work and interviewing other people involved in the project. They also want to follow Lorenda and I around while we go through our ridiculously boring daily routine. They are also interested in the OperaWorks film, which they are eager to have me discuss on camera. So anyway, I'm talking to the woman from the State Department and she's laying all this out for me and then asks if I have any questions to which I reply, "yeah, why me?" She answers very simply that their project is scheduled for January and that's when I happen to be shooting THE WATERMELON. So I say, "So, it's as simple as that, huh?" Laughing, she says, "No, not really. We started with a very long list and went to various websites and settled on you because you have the requisite "street cred" for these Kosovo filmmakers." So, I say, "My street cred has been endorsed by the State Department?" To which she replied, "Yup. And it's our job to know about these things." Talk about weird.
All in all, it's been a very good year. We've been very busy, very productive and this body of work we've been laboring to create is starting to amount to something. We've made lots of new friends and a good number of old friends are finding us through this website. My only complaint is that there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day. A week from tonight I'll be a pie baking fool again, and we think we'll have some people over for Christmas dinner. Thanks to all of you who've been coming in and reading this stuff. And have a very Merry Christmas.December 9, 2006.
One of the great things about having a website is that people from my past have a way of getting in touch with me, which is great fun. Last month I heard from David Weisberg, with whom I did some theatre in NYC back in the eighties, as well as Peter Girard, who wrote the score for my 1997 stage production of THE BACCHAE in Los Angeles. Several other old friends have come by as well, which is very gratifying.
One fairly weird event - I was engaged by Los Angeles actor Don Scribner to create a video of his one-man show, 2 ROOMS IN THE VALLEY. Through a series of events that are far too circuitous to chronicle here and now, this modest project quickly evolved into a relatively conspicuous indie shoot directed by Victor Salva, for which I was given my first Director Of Photography assignment (go ahead, laugh all you like - it turned out quite well). Lorenda operated the second of three cameras utilized for the shoot, and I spent 16 straight hours on a Chapman mini-dolly (like I said, laugh all you want). The following day, Lorenda and I shot a short dance program choreographed by our friend Paula Thomson, whose work we love beyond words.
We're still looking to shoot THE WATERMELON this January.
Thanks for coming in.
November 23, 2006.
My son Zack and his wife Lana are expecting a new boy in a few months. I'm going to suggest they name him Armstrong. Lorenda shot four days worth of behind-the-scenes documentary footage for the latest installment of a children's video series, WHEELS ON THE BUS, which features Roger Daltry as the voice of the friendly dragon bus driver. Her footage looks great and she's editing it down for her own archives.
Have a happy Thanksgiving. If you want a free pie, come on over and get one. First come, first served.
Thanks for coming in.
October 20, 2006.
We've just posted a six minute trailer for OperaWorks - just a taste, really. There's so much material, it's hard to think at this point in terms of short segments. Still, this first peek holds together fairly well, I think.
This website is getting a lot of hits from all over the world, which is nice of course (if a bit bewildering). Athens, London, various cities in Spain, Egypt, Italy. Welcome, one and all.
Thanks for coming in.
October 15, 2006.
Thanks for coming in.
October 6, 2006.
We have new artwork up for THE WATERMELON - it's beautifully done by the prodigiously gifted Julia Aks, who can also sing like a bird as well as act. The table read for this film is still set for November 12, with casting to come immediately after.
OPERAWORKS is, especially for a low-budget indie documentary, a massive project. I will start editing the "film-proper" this week, following two months of pre-editing two enormous sequences, both of which, I am quite certain, will run substantially longer than the finished doc itself.
The four-week opera training program depicted in OPERAWORKS begins with the first of two so-called "Aria Marathons," in which the participants each stand up onstage and perform an aria of their choice for the entire collection of students and faculty. Toward the end of the summer, this "death by aria" ritual is repeated as a means of demonstrating how well an individual singer has been able to apply what he or she has learned. This is then followed, several days later, by a fully-staged, improvised, three-act opera, performed before an actual paying audience. Both of these performances were filmed, by my tiny crew and myself, with multiple cameras and edited as complete films unto themselves, sections of which will ultimately be used in the finished documentary. (DVDs of both performances are being made availale to the program's participants.) Lotta work.
So, as I say, now that the two "performance pieces" have been completed, I can now begin work on the film itself.
I guess that's it for now. Thanks for visiting.
September 24, 2006.
Just a few things. DODO, the docu-comedy I cut for comedian Bob Golub, just had a successful screening in Los Angeles (successful in the sense that people showed up, laughed in all the right places, and had good things to say as they left the theatre) this past Thursday. I couldn't attend (working, as usual) but I sure am happy for Bob. This story from his hometown newspaper in Sharon, PA (where much of the story takes place) quotes from this very blog, believe it or not.
Thanks for visiting.
September 14, 2006.
Thanks for visiting.
September 12, 2006.
After countless documents and transcripts of various and sundry actions and events, after interviews and verifications galore, you get to a point where you think you really know a story inside and out; that you know the look, the smell, the feel of it. Suffice to say, then, that after having seen court documents and transcripts of a particular injunction hearing which took place last January 26, I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about it and felt satisfied that my understanding of the final events and circumstances which form the conclusion of FREE, WHITE & TWENTY-ONE was pretty damned near complete. Then yesterday I received a surprise package in the mail: an actual audio recording of the hearing itself! Thinking, as I did, that my work was finished and my grasp of this story a done deal, I played the recording with the expectation that I would find considerable amusement in its sordid foolishess.
I was in for the surprise of my life, for instead of the darkly comic grotesquery of my expectaions, I was confronted with a very sad, thoroughly banal soap opera in which lies, egos, and feelings of entitlement congeal to form a featureless muck of wasted human potential. My God, did all those moments of betrayal and avarice and sheer malevolence transpire only so that these real-life cartoon characters could whine and posture and carry on so insipidly in a Florida courtroom about family dogs being thrown across kitchens, manly fists clutching heavy barbells to intimidate helpless girlfriends (while posing collateral threats to precious livingroom furnishings), and whether or not installing locks on interior sliding doors is a sure indication that a woman genuinely fears her raging boyfriend, who has wantonly siezed control of her sumptuous master bedroom? That the court found in favor of the female "petitioner" (no names for now) was no surprise, as her spoiled, lunatic used-toy-car-salesman lover had no actual claims on her property other than the fact he was living there, rent free, at her behest. That the "petitioner" never offered her ridiculous lover even the slightest clue that she intended to have him forcibly evicted was no surprise, either, because that's how that particular rich, puscillanimous harpie operates, using layer upon layer of lawyers and private investigators to accomplish what a simple "this isn't working, please move out" could have achieved with far less drama, chaos, expense and personal mortification. The surprise is the needless sheer fucking wasteful banality of it all, wrapped up in the courtly trappings of legal ritual and driven by the omnivorous appetites of personal pathology run amok.
I think what I'm trying to express here is that sometimes, in the course of researching a piece, the coldly factual nature of written documents leaves a great deal unsaid, unaccounted for. On the other hand, listening to actual human voices reveals countless nuances of intent, desire, cruelty and pain. Having heard the used-toy-car-salesman previously brag ad nauseum about his finely-honed courtroom skills (once upon a time he made his living as an attorney), I was actually embarassed by how shallow, vain and ineptly puffed-up he sounded during his pedantic cross examinations of the "petitioner" and her various witnesses (yes, the used-toy-car-salesman actually engaged in his own desperate legal defense...thank-you, God)! And to hear the "petitioner's all-too-familiar "I'm just a confused, misunderstood victim" sobs and bleatings in the midst of this paint-by-numbers charade of her own design was equally numbing.
So, for those of you who have been following the development of FREE, WHITE & TWENTY-ONE, I can finally say that I now know how the film ends, once and for all. I can also say that, while it is still a very funny piece, there is now a lumpy, festering banality at its core that is the perfect reflection of the characters and events it depicts. We do a table read of the script this November.
Thanks for visiting.
August 13, 2006.
A few notable recent events. I've learned that two dear souls have left us - Karen Besser, a good friend from Princeton, and Don Evans (also of Princeton), a teacher who changed my life. Don was a brilliant, larger than life, powerhouse of a theatre instructor who demanded intellectual rigor of his students. I learned about innumerable subjects from him - not just theatre. Life, blues, jazz, literature, history - he introduced me to an entirely new way of thinking about the world and I am a far better person for the time I spent in his realm of influence. Karen Besser was a straight arrow; a smart girl who was kind and incredibly decent in chaotic times. She left us at the age of 48. Though I have not spoken with her in years, she's one of the bright spots of my time in Princeton. I burned candles for both of them.
This past week I spent working and shooting a new documetary/TV Pilot with David Stein of SPORTS TALK RADIO. A few weeks ago, an Iraqi war vet named Trent called into David's show and spoke of his sojourn to various American ball parks to see the summer games. He'd taken a grenade in Iraq and had been badly wounded. Fifteen surgeries later, he's on his feet and recurperating while he travels around the country. Stein's listeners were taken with this young corporal's story, and in very short order, free airline tickets to Los Angeles as well as a hotel room were provided for him and his girlfriend. We picked them both up at LAX on Thursday, courtesy of MY LIMO Limousie Service, owned by a very cool, very professional cat named Kevin Ingram. Friday, we were all driven to Dodger Stadium, where we were privileged to meet Tommy Lasorda, and were actually invited into his private office, where he signed autographs for Trent. Now I know from stories I've heard from various friends in the sports television world that Lasorda rarely allows ANY media into his inner sanctum, but I kept shooting and he didn't stop me. Following this auscpicatory event, we were all invited out onto the field during warm-up, where Trent was introduced to several baseball legends. The footage is beautiful, clear and sharp. I love my Canon XL2. And while I will admit to feeling a tinge of jealousy while looking at the hi-def cameras (also by Canon, by the way) some of the network cameramen were using, unlike them, I own my footage.
Thanks for visiting.
August 6, 2006.
Despite the fact that I've been laying fairly low these past two years, a surprising amount of interest has been steadily developing around my work in general, and in several forthcoming projects in particular. I won't bore you with details, but local interest, at least at the moment, seems fixed upon two upcoming feature comedies that are in the works: THE WATERMELON and FREE, WHITE & 21, both of which are being shot next year. Since the basic contractual agreements for these two films are now in place and the paperwork is safely filed away, I suppose that a sentence or two about them is in order.
THE WATERMELON, written by Michael Hemmingson, is the story of a 30-something man whose dismal life seems pretty much a lock-down. That is, until he inherits a rather singular artifact from his recently-deceased ne're-do-well stepfather. The possession of this artifact, so large that it must be kept in the front yard of his little home, provides the impetus for a series of events that might very well save this man from a lifetime of self-induced nothingness. The script is beautiful in its stark simplicity; it's really like nothing else I've ever read, though I think that comparisons to David Lynch's THE STRAIGHT STORY are inevitable. As I've said before, we're going to be shooting THE WATERMELON early next year, most likely in January.
FREE, WHITE & TWENTY-ONE is a whole different matter. This project was begun back in 2003, when I was asked by a wealthy Florida aquaintance to write a screenplay depicting her true-life relationship with her new husband, who had turned out to nothing more than a con artist out to get her money. But what a con artist he was! Claiming to hold three (count 'em, three) PhD.'s, he was also supposedly good friends with Bill Gates, Ram Dass and a host of other heavy-hitters. He was also supposedly on the verge of a major break-though in the science of mind-expansion. When this particular clown committed suicide on New Year's Day of 2004, the screenplay was in for the first of several major overhauls. When a second con artist wormed his way into the rich woman's life, the story took on a series of increasingly bizzare turns, one of which was a strongly-worded letter from her $500-an hour attorney to immediately cease writing the screenplay. This directive was obeyed, of course, and I began writing an entirely new script with an entirely different point of view - one that was, unlike the first, both morally and legally defensible. After all, I had accumulated literally hours of taped phone conversations with the the Florida woman (taped with her complete knowledge and co-operation, of course), copies of her now-dead ex-husband's excruciating phone messages captured during his final days, as well as a mountain of court documents and other legal work.
So, in short, I began work on the new screenplay - independently, as they say - and when con-artist #2 eventually found himself in predictably poor standing with his rich new girlfriend, my script took yet another gigantic turn. So no, FREE, WHITE & TWENTY-ONE is not a story of racism, nor is it a racist story. The title is taken from one of the Florida woman's favorite phrases when the subject turns to personal free choice. So what I have now is a completely different script from the one I was originally engaged to do back in 2003. It is much funnier and infinately darker in tone. It is also much more factually correct than its predecessor(s), in that no one depicted benefits from a white-wash treatment. Warts and all, baby, warts and all. Perhaps it bears mention that while FREE, WHITE & TWENTY-ONE is in what must be considered its final form, there is still a fair amount of play in the ending, which for now is somewhat ambiguous in tone.
By the way, the short anti-war film I did for the LIVING THEATRE should be on their website within days. Go to:
I have begun editing my new documentary OPERAWORKS. The footage looks great to my eye, which is a good thing considering that there are almost 200 hours of it.
Thanks for visiting.
July 29, 2006.
You may have noticed that my website has a whole new look. With all of the new projects starting up in the coming months, a major change was definately called for. The job was done by the brilliant young guys at Burton Information Solutions, who take their work very, very seriously.
Anyway, we just wrapped the bulk of shooting for OPERAWORKS, and are prepping the footage - all 200 hours of it - for editing. I'm hoping to have a first cut by Christmas. I am very excited about this project and have tremendous faith in its future. We are also about to go into pre-production for THE WATERMELON, which is still scheduled to go before the camera in January of 2007. FREE, WHITE & TWENTY-ONE is still on track for next year as well, and we anticipate having our first table read in mid-November.
Thanks for visiting.
July 3, 2006.
A few new developments for those few of you keeping tabs. First, my son Zachary got married on July 1 to a sweet and charming young woman. Lorenda and I are thrilled.
Secondly, an agreement was reached for our forthcoming feature film "THE WATERMELON." We start shooting next January.
Thanks for visiting. Have a happy 4th!
June 18, 2006.
Seems like a good time for an update. DODO: THE DOCUMENTARY was just wrapped up last week. This very strange, unique and funny look into the world, both past and present, of comedian Bob Golub turned out to be one of the most complex and labor-intensive projects I've ever gotten myself involved with. The edit, which began last December, was supposed to have been completed in mid-March, but a very necessary re-structuring of the storyline wound up pushing that deadline back several months. I think I can honestly say that I've never - and I mean NEVER - seen anything quite like it. The film deals primarily with Bob's relationship with his family back east, most particularly his eccentric, abusive, bar-hopping father, now deceased. Very funny, very sad and very profane. Did I say funny?
Sometime back in April I was hired by the El Dorado Opera Company to put together a series of video streams for their free public "Opera 101" classes. These I did, which in turn led to my undertaking a feature-length documentary on the use of opera in motion pictures, entitled OPERA IN FILM / FILM WITH OPERA. The film is very near completion and there should be a public screening sometime in August.
Speaking of opera (which I happen to love), I am in production on a documentary film which depicts the 20th year anniversary season of the world-renowned OperaWorks training program, founded and run by the brilliant and beautiful Ann Baltz. I am actually directing, shooting and editing the film myself, and co-producing with Ann. We anticipate shooting over one hundred hours of tape on 2-3 cameras over a total of seven weeks. I have committed myself to having a final edit completed by next Christmas.
For the year 2007, Lorenda and I have two feature films planned, both of which I will direct and one of which I have written. The legal work on these is almost complete and we anticipate starting on the first of these sometime next January. For those few of you keeping track, EXIT STRATEGIES seems to be doing very well in festivals, RESILIENCE has just signed an industry rep for distribution, and the score for SEVENTH VEIL has just been completed.
By the way, I just saw SCHOOLED, the feature Lorenda co-produced last year, and I'm very pleased to say I think it's a winner. Congratulations to all involved, most particularly director Brooks Elms, producer Brian Hennessy, cinematographer Skye Borgman, and production designer Krista Gall.
On a personal note, my son Zachary is getting married on July 1, so I guess I'll soon be a grandfather twice over.
One final thing and then I'm gone: I just edited a taped public performance of a brief anti-war play presented on May 5th by my dear friends the LIVING THEATRE in the middle of Times Square during what appears to be lunchtime on a regular business day. The piece is an ingeniously-devised split-screen assault which I am very pleased to have had a hand in. You'll be able to catch it on the Living Theatre's website in a week or two. Even if they had offered to pay me (they didn't and good for them), I would have refused - they represent much of what I love in art, and it's both a joy and a blessing just to be able to help them fight the good fight.
Thanks for visiting.
March 11, 2006.
Numeralogically speaking, this should be a month of wrapping up old business; if certain recent events turn out to be reliable indicators, it would seem that the numbers may again prove correct. Several projects that have been on the back burner for a while (some indie producers have a tendancy to briefly disappear) have been reborn with considerable energy. "SEVENTH VEIL," a 35mm feature I'd begun work on last winter, is just about to go into a final sound mixdown (or so I hope); several other odds and ends are about to find closure as well. The weird thing is, just as soon as I thought a certain project of mine had had all of its i's dotted and t's crossed, a whole new (final) chapter just sort of fell into my lap, virtually out of nowhere (talk about Deus ex machina)! Which is a good thing, because the ending I'd had in place always seemed to me perhaps a tad, well...ambiguous. Not any more (let's hope the fact checkers turn in a favorable report).
While we're on the subject of "out of the blue," another new and, for me, profoundly exciting project has just been offered. I don't want to jinx it, so I'll remain quiet until my signature is on paper. But still, I am very very jazzed.
Thanks for visiting.
February 6, 2006.
I finally got to see the final version of RESILIENCE, the dramatic feature film I recently edited for Paul Bojack which was supposed to be screened last November (but was delayed due to minor post production issues). The screening finally came off a couple of weeks ago - unfortunately, I was unable to attend the event. Still, I managed to see a DVD the other day and was tremendously impressed. Paul is deeply influenced by an assortment of great filmmakers but remains very much his own artist. I couldn't possibly be prouder of his latest effort, which I think has a frightfully good chance of generating serious buzz in the indie film world.
EXIT STRATEGIES is due for a release of some sort in the near future, and my work on the semi-secret Docu-Comedy is coming along well (I'm about to go into the second edit, out of what I anticipate will total four before all is said and done). I'm working with Final Cut Pro 5 on a new Mac G5. I love the computer, and while I believe there is a lot to be said for FCP 5, I nevertheless feel that the program still has a few bugs that Apple needs to address.
On a personal note, my lovely granddaughter Ana is healthy and strong and melts my heart with every pic Zack e-mails our way. Thanks for visiting. Scroll down and E-mail me, or sign the guestbook if you wish. Or not.
January 13, 2006.
Any thoughts I may have had about a holiday slow-down were soundly obliterated with an unexpected ratcheting-up of activity. A tremendous amount of stuff is in the works, and there aren't enough hours in the day to deal with it all. One interesting development has resulted in my needing to scrap the idea of a writing samples page altogether. Perhaps sometime in the future I can post some items but a number of things are in play and I've been strongly advised to reconsider making certain projects public (even in a tiny forum like this). My good friend Linda Chambers also has some action going on a book she's been slaving over for years.
Synchronicity. What a concept. I'm enjoying the docu-comedy I'm currently editing. Happy New Year to one and all.
December 21, 2005.
This site is getting a lot of hits these days, from all over the world. There are quite a few folks in Italy, France and Poland who are interested in Euripides - most particularly THE BACCHAE - and people residing in Great Britian check in to go through all manner of stuff. This is a good thing; for a person who slaves away at editing 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week in my tiny office, I actually feel like a member of some sort of global community (I wish some of them would leave a message in my guestbook). I've been so damned busy with film work that I've become fairly neglectful of this place. Hopefully, I'll be able to post some of the texts I've been meaning to include on the samples pages over the holidays.
"EXIT STRATEGIES," "REAPERS CREEPERS," "THE TELLTALE HEART," and several other projects have all been completed. I've begun work on a great new project with a very well established West Coast actor/comedian. The footage is superbly shot and extremely funny. My first cut deadline is the middle of February. Also, Lorenda's film "SCHOOLED" has wrapped and is about to go into post. As I've said before, I'm not involved in any way on this project. I am, however, very proud of Lorenda (she's also got business plans for several other projects in the final stages).
As usual, I'll be baking a ton of pies for the holidays. Friends know that they can come by and get one if they like. "You don't have to flatter or pay us, or laugh at our jokes. Just take home your pie...you're one of the folks."
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.
Okay, September was a rush month. I had two films - one a comedy short and the other a feature documentary - that had to be ready for the Sundance deadline. The comedy short is called "A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S REWRITE," and chases the notion of what writing Elizabethean comedy might have been like if Shakespeare had been the head writer of a Network sitcom type enterprise, albeit set during the 17th century. It's genuinely funny, with some excellent performances. Barry Langer, the writer/director, is a very talented fellow who used to work as a writer on sitcoms. This is his first directorial effort, I believe.
The documentary is called "BEHIND THE LIFE" and revolves around the lives of various participants in the adult film industry. The young filmmaker behind it is Carlton Jordan, who gives one the impression of knowing exactly where he's going. He's focused, perceptive, centered and very hard working. Getting these two films ready was a nightmare - lots of 14 hour days.
Right now I'm editing another feature, a dark comedy called "REAPERS CREEPERS." I like the piece quite a bit and think there'll be a market for it. It's sort of a dark comedy that's suitable for family viewing. I know, it sounds weird but it's actually engaging and even touching at times. The final cut is due on November 3. Again, some outstanding performances.
Lorenda's film starts shooting in a week or so. They're still getting locations worked out - lots of excitement there.
I've gotten a lot of streaming video up and running since my last post. There'll be even more in the days to come. I'm also going to be posting some writing samples. Some of it will be old, some of it brand new.
Anyway, please take a look around. There are lots of new photos and video streams to look at. I did a little tribute film for the victims of Hurricane Katrina that some folks have been moved by (go to REELS for that one). There's also video from various film and stage projects both old and recent. Thanks for popping in. Scroll down and E-mail me, or sign the guestbook if you wish.
This past year or so has been one of the most productive in my life, also one of the quietest. Since hanging out my editing shingle, so to speak, I've had the opportunity to cut a number of very interesting film projects. One feature film in particular stands out: RESILIENCE, written and directed by a very pleasant chap by the name of Paul Bojack. It was conceived and executed very much in the style of John Cassavettes' films, but it also smacks of the writing of Sam Shephard, Harold Pinter and even Ingmar Bergman (without the heavy allegory, if you can imagine that). As of this writing, the sound tracks are being mixed and a score composed. The first screenings are scheduled for November of 2005 in Hollywood.
Another project near to my heart is a 12-hour series called CONSCIOUSNESS, which deals with radical new theories regarding the nature of human consciousness and the mind's ability to interface directly with exterior phenomena. Mostly interviews, but dazzling in scope and depth. Maxie Collier's documentary about Hip-Hop entrepeneurship, PAPER CHASERS, should he out on DVD by now, and will be shown in October on IFC. I did post-production supervising on that one, as well as the final editorial work. Stephanie Beaton's crazy little flick TALES FROM THE GRAVE, VOL II should be out soon as well. It's a hoot, believe me (just like Stephanie herself). I'm still putting the final touches on a re-edit of a feature film called SEVENTH VEIL, while the composer is finishing up on the score.
Last winter I got it into my head to re-edit and otherwise spruce up my old film STAGE FRIGHT. The technical aspects of this process are a bit much to go into here, but the film in its present form is vastly improved. New music, new pacing, new running time, new everything. Many of the framing and photographic issues have also been dealt with, and the results are wonderful.
Some of you might be wondering about my film THE BACCHAE. A very long story that, but it too has been cut and shaped into a form I think works. The final step is to finish the musical scoring. SHAKESPEARE'S MERCHANT, the feature film version of "The Merchant Of Venice" Lorenda and I produced (and which I also edited) with director Paul Wagar was shown at the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, where it was, from what I heard, well-received. Apparently there were some problems with the digital transfer that was used for projection, which have subsequently been corrected. I don't know for sure; I wasn't there.
I've also just completed a book dealing with some very bizarre happenings of the past three or so years, events which culminated in an apparent suicide and subsequent lunacies of many varieties. Those who know me are aware that I detest writing but possess some facility for the task, so if it weren't for the fact that this book has provided me with some large measure of self-therapy, I most likely would never have finished it.
Lastly, my son Zachary, who was serving with the Marines in Iraq, has returned from the war in one piece. He is still very much a Marine, however stateside he may be. Zack is also the father (which makes me a you-know-what) of a very lovely baby girl named Anastasia. Lorenda, of course, is thrilled (as am I).
There's some discussion about my directing a play in New York, there's also some talk about a feature film I've been working on finally going before the cameras. It would be nice to direct again, but for the present editing is great. It gives me a chance to serve the visions of others without having to put my own head on the chopping block and expend such endless effort into proving myself 24-7.
Lorenda's friends might be interested to know that she is producing a new feature with a writer/director she thinks quite well of. From what I've seen, the project looks promising and the folks involved all seem to know what they are doing. I am not involved in any way, shape or form. Production on this piece commences in October.
I think I'd like to start a dialogue in here on various production and post-production issues. Suggestions regarding this are welcome.
Thanks for visiting. My best to one and all.