July 28, 2009

FX Seeks Comedy Rx

A recent Variety article announces a new push by the FX Network to bolster their comedy presence.  Perhaps I could prescribe Soap Athetic as a nice compliment to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

July 25, 2009


“A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.” – Alfred Hitchcock

P.M. Dawn had a song in the early nineties called “Reality Used to Be a Friend of Mine.”  I think I may have first heard it in Encino Man, which featured the brilliant Pauly Shore.  That’s a sarcastic brilliant for those unfamiliar with sarcasm.

The poppy, repetitive song found its way into my encephalon when I read this article featuring wisdom from Peter Jackson and James Cameron.  Seems the two opulent directors are convinced the falling box office numbers will turn around if more 3-D screens are introduced in theaters around the world.

Leave it to those to whom money is as much an afterthought as water, electricity, or post-Taco Bell farts, to overlook the real reason for relatively modest box office numbers.  People can’t afford to go to movies like they could a decade ago when Mr. Cameron’s pockets were filled to titanic proportions.  Should the general public fork over more coin to experience in 3-D something that may or may not be any better with the extra dimension?

As a soda and candy smuggling matinee attendee, I’d rather keep things simple and – well, cheap isn’t the right word – um, less gouging.  Maybe in a few years when Obama has rescued the economy like he promised we will be able to dole out a Benjamin to bring the family to see Terminator vs. The Hobbit in 3-D.

So financial reality may not be a friend to the Peter Jacksons and James Camerons of the world, but I was relieved to see Mr. Jackson quoted at the end of the article saying “movies and technology is, to me, just a huge red herring, because movies are all about story and character.”

At least some of the big directors still get that.

July 23, 2009


“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.” – Winston Churchill

I’m not one to put a lot of stock into the words of film critics.  I find myself all too often in complete disagreement with much of what the self-appointed experts have to say.  But I recently read an article from Roger Ebert in which he had written some agreeable insights.

The article, now several weeks old, is a response to the implied hordes of Transformers fanboys calling out Mr. Ebert’s ignorance in blasting this summer’s sequel’s substandard semblance.  I have yet to see the tent-pole sense stimulator, so I can’t pick a side in relation to its quality or lack thereof.  However, I find most of Mr. Ebert’s generalities right on the button.

I find one point the Chicagoan makes to be most profound.  He writes “that many Americans have an active suspicion and dislike of the ‘educated.’  They ask, ‘what makes you an expert?’ when they’re really asking, “what gives you the right to disagree with me?’”  There is such a big push today to glorify the individual – with which I don’t disagree – but when that translates to, “I’m always right no matter what anyone else thinks,” we are setting ourselves up for endless, unwinnable battles.

What does this have to do with making movies?  Well, looking back at some earlier entries in which I encourage feedback from unbiased sources, I think it’s important for all feedback to be considered regardless of the giver.  Don’t be too quick to judge another’s viewpoint simply because it differs from your own.  It is, of course, our job as the creators of entertainment to ultimately pick and choose which criticism we want to accept.  It’s just way too easy to label as “wrong” the opinions that are simply “different” from our own.

This is an ongoing battle for me.

July 21, 2009


“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

Ah, artistic integrity.  The catch phrase is comforting and scary at the same time.  A filmmaker’s artistic integrity is often praised by critics when audiences loathe the final product, and conversely admonished when a filmmaker “sells out” for commercial success.  A filmmaker can tout artistic integrity as an excuse for either critique.

Only two kinds of filmmakers can afford to consider artistic integrity: those with already established careers and those with no desire to ever have a career.  I’m willing to sacrifice my own artistic integrity to join the former club.

Am I jaded?  Maybe.  But at this point I have to approach the film industry as the business it is.  Ultimately, I’m okay with that, because I’m in this business not for my own gratification, but to make others happy because of something I offer them on the screen.  In that sense, my artistic integrity is based solely on the reception of my products.  If they like it, I’m satisfied; if they don’t, it’s back to the drawing board for me.

July 11, 2009


“50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong.”  -- title of Elvis Presley’s ninth album, 1959

So Uncle Harry, Aunt Rose, and Cousin Cletus all offer the same glowing review of your latest efforts.  They must be onto something, right?  Perhaps.  But it’s probably best to seek out a few more worthy opinions.  Brett Favre probably isn’t one of them.

I’m amazed by the selective hearing so many creative types employ.  They treat favorable reviews as gospel while dismissing negative reviews as misguided tripe spewed forth by disgruntled wannabes.  I’m certainly guilty of filtering feedback, though I tend to dwell more on the negative than the positive, an equally unhealthy habit.

A middle ground exists between languishing in only positive evaluations and loathing in only the jarring criticism.  The law of averages comes into play and eventually the perspective of the masses is identified.  It’s up to each of us to sieve through the crystal blue persuasions offered by all the hanky pankies of the world until our crimson and clover are aligned like mony mony.

Uh, in other words, invite feedback often, and utilize the most oft recurring notes to better shape your craft, whether the craft be acting, writing, painting, or singing in a Tommy James and the Shondells cover band.

July 3, 2009


“Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties.” – Aesop

Brett Favre.  His laid-back drawl and fist-pumping antics have been fixtures on SportsCenter for a decade and a half.  This summer, like last, has been a wait-and-see game for us Purple faithful while Mr. Favre teases us with his desire to once again end his faux retirement.  The latest rumor today is that the immortal #4 is house-hunting in the Twin Cities.

Were Brett Favre to write a book on decision-making, I wouldn’t spend the gas money to go snag it from the library.  A book about quarterbacking?  Favre’s take on the subject would intrigue me as much as anybody not named Montana.

Brett Favre has accreditation as one of the most successful quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.  His accreditation in decision-making has waned as much as his natural hair color over the last several years.

As mentioned in my previous post, I think it’s important for each of us to receive feedback for the work we put out there.  What I failed to mention is that the source of the feedback is as important as the feedback itself.  While there are many qualities desirable in our trusted critics, accreditation must be first and foremost.  No matter how much your Uncle Harry claims to know about Hollywood, unless he’s actually been in the trenches, his critique is about as useful as marriage advice from Jon and Kate.

Come to think of it, so is mine.  I haven’t been in the trenches, but I’ve learned from those who have.  My hope is that anyone (the one?) who reads this, will seek advice from worthy sources.  Don’t rely on Mom and Dad to steer your career (unless you’re Sean Astin or Colin Hanks).  And don’t rely on Brett Favre for decision making advice… or acting advice.  Have you seen There’s Something About Mary?