Monday, April 24, 2006

Hey kiddies...

I'm giving myself the week off. That's what's nice about being self employed and making my videoblog for myself and not the "man."

I wish I could say it's because I'm on a tropical island somewhere, bleaching my hair and getting seaweed wraps, but it's really because I'm working on a feature and shooting other stuff on my days off. All in all, it's good cuz' it's busy.

Next week will feature a sequel to Eargasm, so stay tuned.

You can now see my stuff on YouTube. Eargasm has already had over 11,000 viewings!

Talk to you next week!!


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Okay, let’s get the self promoting part over with first:

See Me: This Wednesday at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre (6712 Hollywood, 7:30.) I’ll be screening my short, PUSH IT with a few other excellent shorts at Outfest’s Annual Queer Shorts Program. Want free tickets? Give me a holler and I can hook you up, but you gotta reach me before 5 on Monday.

Hear Me: Ohmygod. I’m gonna be on the radio. This Monday night, a few of the filmmakers with films in the program on Wednesday are going to be interviewed on local radio channel, KPFK FM 90.7, at 7 pm as part of their IMRU (Get it? “I am, are you?”) gay and lesbian themed program. Steve Pride, the host has a cool movie site with MP3s of his past interviews and stuff. It’s my website of the week!

Feel Me: Well, first you gotta buy me dinner…

Saw HARD CANDY. It was alright, but, once again, I feel like I’ve gotten about $5 worth out of a $14 dollar film. (Yes, that’s right, folks, in LA, if you want to see HARD CANDY opening weekend, you have to see it at the Arclight: the most expensive – and best – movie theatre in town.)

I’m getting tired of half-baked films. And I’m not just talking about Hollywood stuff. It’s everywhere. Independent, foreign and, please, let’s not forget, queer cinema. I feel like most films I see these days maybe got past maybe the second draft and the writer decided to call it a day and go get a cocktail instead of staying home and doing his/her homework.

I’ll just use HARD CANDY as an example because it’s fresh in my mind.


After a middle aged man, Jeff, meets a 14 year old girl, Haley, on the internet, they have a coffee date and he takes her home to “hang out.” Soon they’re sharing Screw … drivers (he he) which Haley mixes up herself. Jeff passes out, but it’s not ‘cause he’s drunk. Haley has slipped him a roofie and he wakes up tied up to his beautiful Aeron chair – where he stays for most of the film. Seems Haley has quite an axe to grind with guys like Jeff. A young girl has disappeared recently and Haley (out little Nancy Drew dominatrix) believes she has the murderer.

And here’s where the movie hits a brick wall.

Turns out, Haley’s right to tie up Jeff. From the very beginning, we know that she’s tied up a guy sleazy enough to bring an underage kid over to his house. Soon we learn that not only is he into kiddie porn, but he also met the missing young woman the day she disappeared. Good enough for Haley. She proceeds to perform a mock castration on Jeff, shock him with a taser and prep him for a simulated suicide by stringing him up to the rafters.

With the exception of a few moments of freedom, Jeff is tied up for most of the movie. He is never really in control for any major part of the film. And, hey, don’t think I didn’t enjoy seeing cutie pie Patrick Wilson tied up. (I’ll set you free, Patrick!) But what happened to the Hitchcockian twists that this genre begs for? Jeff could have been more clever in his attempts at psychological manipulation, and more successful in his attempts to free himself. An attempt at the nosy neighbor threat (for example, the visiting officer in the much more interesting PANIC ROOM) is introduced but it goes nowhere. Maybe Haley could have made a few mistakes in her mischievous plan. Maybe she’s the murderer. How many of these men has she caught? What has she done to them?

I’m betting the film was made and sold on the basis of the trailer – one of the best trailers I’ve seen in recent years. It’s all there: the set up, the torture, the tension and it’s beautifully shot and edited. It made me want to see the movie. Too bad it WAS the movie.

Oh well, I’m probably going to keep going to these kinds of movies – hoping that they provide the kind of edge-of-your-seat thrills that I want out of a good thriller. In an effort to not be such a Sour Sally, here’s a list of a few of my favorite thrillers. Please do yourself a favor, save the $14 and rent these films or see them at the New Beverly or wherever you go that shows classic film. I guarantee you, a frame of these films will be better than 2 hours of HARD CANDY.

Some of Dave’s Favorite Thrillers:

Fincher’s PANIC ROOM
Polanski’s FRANTIC
The Coen Brothers’ FARGO.

Good, evil times brought to you by master filmmakers at the top of their game.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Wires and Light, Episode 7. "Opal." Written, directed and performed by Pretty Things. Check out more at

Wires and Light is a weekly podcast featuring short films and photography. Visit us at
This week’s episode is the first “guest” episode of Wires And Light: a comedy sketch by my very talented friends at Pretty Things.

Pretty Things is Michael Lucid and Amanda Barrett, two filmmakers and comedians living here in LA. I met Michael a few years back at Outfest 2002. At the time he was showing his amazing animated short Lady of the Lake. I was attending the festival with After School Special. Michael and Amanda have had a Pretty Things episode in every Outfest since.

You can read all about their history and see more clips at (my website pick of the week, of course.) My personal favorites are the continuing adventures of Opal, the distant listener, and the high school intrigue of Mulberry Commons.
So I saw Brick, the movie I was talking about last week. Fun stuff. In case you didn’t know, Brick is a crime thriller in the old school, Maltese Falcon, Big Sleep sort of way – right down to the hard boiled speaking rhythms you might associate with Humphrey Bogart, but set in a present day Southern California high school.

The writer/director definitely had ambition, which is more than I can say about most films these days. I appreciate anyone who makes a film in an original and compelling way. Johnson is a great craftsman and you can see that he took real care in building his movie. I especially enjoyed his action sequences and the fights which had the satisfying jolt of a good Tarantio blood ballet instead of the handheld muddy confusion that is the preferred mode of hack filmmakers recently (a good example of this awfulness is The Bourne Supremacy.)

Another nice thing about Johnson’s work was that, with all the noir gimmicks and clever writing style, he wasn’t afraid to sit back now and then and let the actor’s do the work. One particularly beautiful scene was between the lead character, Brendan (Joseph Gordon Leavitt) and his femme fatale (Nora Zehetner). One of their more intense scenes, the dialog was delivered in a tight close up profile and holds there for almost the entire duration of the scene. At first I was annoyed and needed a cut. I was distracted by the fact that I didn’t know what each of the actors was talking about, but then I really started to study both of the faces and look at the reactions of the person who wasn’t speaking. It’s rare these days that a movie would allow us the opportunity to dig deep into a scene and trust that we’re going to pull things out of it ourselves. So much filmmaking is supposed to be all fireworks and roller coasters and it just ends up, well, sucking (again, The Bourne Supremacy.)

Unfortunately, towards the end of Brick, the conceit begins to buckle under the weight of it’s own cleverness. I found myself confused, which is not always a bad thing. I can watch Chinatown and LA Confidential and Touch of Evil time and time again and still learn something new each time about character and motivation (and filmmaking, for that matter.) The thing I realized with Brick, however, is that, in the case of noir, I like to have a broad age range of actors because so many of the noir themes that I like are about youth running up against an establishment. There is often a generational push and pull and the hero usually runs up against an corrupt leader. There were a couple of cute scenes between Brendan and the principal of his high school, but their relationship really didn’t develop much.

Also, one of my favorite ingredients with noir is the femme fatales. Usually older women, the femme fatale is someone who’s given up on finding love and uses their quickly disappearing seductiveness to manipulate men. I mean, really, what could be more fun? As Brick taught me, it’s hard to believe a femme fatale voice in the body of a high school girl. The Femme Fatale really needs to have kick ass legs, torpedo breasts and be smoking a cigarette – all the while nursing a needy, desperate desire to love and be loved.


One other thought crept into my mind as I watched Brick. Here’s this guy, Rian Johnson. I haven’t ever heard of him, but he seems like an interesting filmmaker who’s arrived. He definitely has the chops. How cool is that that he got to make his film the way he wanted to? It’s easy to get down on Hollywood. Living here is especially hard sometimes with the traffic and the endless cold calls and rejection letters. But then comes along a movie like Brick that, even if it’s not the best thing you’ve seen in your whole life, there is something there that is unique and true and pure and I’m hoping Mr. Johnson will become the kind of filmmaker that will bring something new to the table each time he makes a movie. And here’s to hoping that, someday, everyone with a unique voice will have that same opportunity.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Wires And Light, Episode 6. After School Special, Part 3 of 3.

Plot Recap: Alex is having a bad day. She caught her best friend, Benjamin, using her father’s cell phone to make 1-900 phone calls to a gay phone sex line and she humiliated herself in front of a girl who she likes from her soccer team. Because Benjamin stole her father’s cell phone, she can’t call him to pick her up at school and is forced to walk home. Benjamin tries to catch up with her, but soon gives up and goes home.

Episode 1
Episode 2
Let’s try this again.

After a day of deliberation, I’ve decided to take down my original cut of After School Special’s third and final episode and replace it with an edited version.

The reason is because (spoiler alert) this final part contains a sex scene. Originally, I included it here, uncut – exactly the way it appears in the theatrical version, but, in this new version I have simply lifted out the racy shots and replaced them with a black title card.

I regret posting the original version. I thought about it a lot and finally decided that, when my actors agreed to be in my movie (the amazing Daniel John McCoy and Crystal Robison), they took a risk in creating a memorable performance and they trusted me to respect their craft. I didn’t make the film for the web, I made it for a movie theatre, and, let’s face it, viewing a sex scene on your personal computer is a much different experience than seeing it on a screen in a movie theatre and you just never know where that clip is going to end up.

I would feel more guilty about my self censure if I didn’t have David Lynch on my side. Lynch airbrushed a full frontal nude shot of Laura Elena Harring in Mulholland Drive’s DVD release. A friend of mine heard that Lynch did this because he was concerned that her image would wind up on websites that lift nude shots of actresses in movies and post them without permission. I’ve seen these sites and they are very creepy.

Other shorts I’ve made contain nudity. I will probably edit these as well. I guess I’m more interested in hearing what people think of the films themselves than debating the ethics of nudity and sex in filmmaking. These elements can distract us from the real meaning of a work of art. It’s most often used to shock and titillate and rarely is it used in an interesting way.

Also, I don’t hate the edited version of ASS. I actually think it’s more funny in some ways. I’m sure that what people imagine is going on in the deleted shots is much more raunchy than what actually appears in the original cut. Guess it depends on how dirty your mind is.

Well, if you absolutely must see the whole short in it’s original theatrical form, drop me a line and I’ll let you know about any screenings that might be coming up in your neighborhood.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

I decided to do away with my intro sequence with the music and pretty background images. They were cool-looking and I liked how they gave a consistent look to each episode (especially considering how different my episodes are) but, in the long run, people don’t give a crap about the name and mission of the blog. They just want to see the “content.” (I’ll write some other time about how much I hate that word.)

I understand why this is. So many blogs start with intros by the filmmaker and inevitably, people’s vanity peeks through. Unless you’re funny or have something interesting to say, please just start the film. I have a similar negative reaction to people who screen rough cuts of their films and spend five minutes before they start it making excuses and providing explanations about why it looks a certain way, etc. If you have to preface a screening with so much information, maybe it's not the right time to screen it.

So, from now on, I’ll just introduce the clips here and give a context to each one that way. People can either read it or not.

Next week's entry will be a short from a friend – my first presentation by another filmmaker other than myself. In the meantime, write a comment and let me know what you think of my lil' video blog.

In other news, I'm going to try and promote one other video blog each week in an attempt at spreading good karma in the blogosphere.

This week's recommendation is not technically a videoblog -- It's Rian Johnson's personal website ( He's the writer/director of the new film, BRICK. If you've been living in a hole, you probably don't know that BRICK is a murder mystery set in a California high school. Cool idea, eh? Anyway, I haven't seen it yet, but, based on a Mr. Johnson's website, I bet it's going to be pretty fun.

The cool thing about Johnson's website is that it's not just some opportunity for self promotion. In fact, it's pretty damn entertaining. Check out his pictures from BRICK's production, but also definitely check out some of his silly films he made as a kid, particularly NINJA KO, ORAGAMI MASTER featuring a ninja oragami master who can fashion a car out of a cigarette.