At Jesse Pinkman’s house, Albuquerque

I Must Submit

So far I've submitted my new short film A Trophy to 7 film festivals, with about 7-8 more on my "to enter" list before year's end.

15 film festivals doesn't sound like much, especially as there are literally hundreds of them all over the world. But those entry fees add up quickly. Some European fests are free (though they rarely play many American shorts), but many in the US demand $40 or more per film. $60 entry fees are not uncommon, and I've even seen a couple festivals ask for over $80. Mind you, these are the fees for short films. Features cost even more!

Festivals have to struggle to survive, so I won't deny them this source of revenue. But those high fees explain why I have to be so selective about where I send A Trophy. If I had $50,000 burning a hole in my pocket, I could afford to submit the damn thing everywhere. But I don't, so I'm doing a lot of homework and entering only those quality festivals that attract good-sized audiences, don't charge an arm and a leg, are places where I could ostensibly attend if accepted, and first and foremost seem open to a weird film like A Trophy, with its tiny budget and troubling themes. In other words, now is the true test of festivals' claims that they care more about story and originality than they do about high production values.

In other news, I spoke again at the motion conference in Albuquerque earlier this month, which was fun, especially for the Breaking Bad sightseeing (see photo at left) just days after the show's finale. There are so many Breaking Bad tourists in ABQ now - far more than even a year ago. Funny how cults can grow so quickly.

I've also landed a couple of decent writing jobs, including an article on Indiewire, probably the most popular site for indie filmmakers on the Web. On the downside, I missed out on what was potentially a great little TV gig. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

And yes, I am thinking more and more about starting a crowdfunding campaign for my third feature Dial 9 to Get Out. I'm actually thinking about it all the time. So if it happens - and I see no reason why I shouldn't try - I may shoot for February as a start date for that. Dreaming up lots of fun backer rewards until then.

Finally, I caved in and joined Twitter. If you want to follow me, I'm @MarkTapioKines, what else?

A Trophy, after color correction

A Trophy – All Done!

What a joy to be able to say that I finished a film in 2013. A Trophy, clocking in at around 9 minutes and 30 seconds, is officially the latest addition to my filmography - and I think it's great. Christopher Farrell composed a haunting piano score to match the minimalist style of the film, and cast members Dom Zook, Virginia Welch, and David Galli White are perfect in their parts.

Now begins film festival submission time. I have a short list of upcoming fests that I plan to enter, and will keep you updated as to which ones I get into. I expect many rejections, but hopefully I will also get a few acceptance letters. I would love to have the film play in an actual theater, which is why I won't be posting it online for the foreseeable future. I will, however, cut a 30 second trailer very soon, and you will find that on this site.

Aside from A Trophy, I have a few irons in a few fires, though nothing's hot just yet. The good news is that I have ideas for at least five more short films that I can shoot in 2014, and an old feature project might also be revived in the near future. I don't want to promise anything about the latter, but let's just say that, since this year I've been finally touting my claim to fame as the world's first crowdfunding filmmaker, I may again try my hand at this means of fundraising.

Dom Zook and the titular trophy

A Trophy Now Has a Rough Cut

After putting it off for over two and a half years, I finally sat down to edit my most recent short A Trophy - and finished a rough cut in just two weeks.

Why the wait? Well, officially, up until now, I never had a large chunk of time in which I could focus on post production. While that is true, my friend Bill Lebeda put it best when he recently told me, "perfect is the enemy of good." In other words, waiting for the ideal circumstances to start editing was providing me with a built-in excuse to delay it. In reality, I could have finished this film back in 2011 just by taking a few hours here and there to work on it. (That said, I did love having two solid weeks to work on it, undistracted by other jobs.)

As I wrote earlier, I was also intimidated by the large and unruly amount of footage I'd shot. Without my usual storyboards to guide me, I didn't know where to start. But once I got going, the editing process turned out to be surprisingly easy - and lots of fun.

Regardless, I am extremely pleased with the results. My wife, who may be biased but nevertheless doesn't overstate anything, watched the rough cut and told me that this might be the best film I've ever made. So that's encouraging. I showed the cut to my go-to composer Christopher Farrell, and he loved it and is ready to write the score for it. Chris did the scores for my two features, and I've reused tracks from those scores in several of my shorts, but this is the first time I'm commissioning new work from him in a decade. I'm really excited about this, because Chris is a great talent, and his music can only benefit A Trophy.

Meanwhile, I'm about to color-correct the film (what you see in the image at left is not representative of A Trophy's final look), tweak whatever visuals and audio need to be tweaked, and then start entering it into festivals. As some of you know, I have a cynical view of the film festival submission process, as it's not nearly as open and democratic as festivals purport it to be. In short: getting into festivals is mostly about who you know. But I don't want to just upload another short to YouTube and leave it there. A Trophy is a more serious work than my previous shorts, and it would be great to screen it in front of a captive audience, so I'll give it the old college try.

Virginia Welch in A Trophy

A Trophy: Inching Forward

First off, I have once again been keeping busy with paid work. My most recent gig has been a long-term one, as I've been writing content for the second screen (iPad) app for the new horror/drama TV series Hannibal. Alas, the app is only available in Asia and Latin America for the show's audiences there, so I can't show you the final product. It's been quite a time-consuming job, and it's still got a month or so to go, but at least Hannibal's a great show. I'm proud to be involved with it in my small way.

I've still managed to carve out some time to move forward with my latest short film A Trophy. All the footage has now been logged, which is a big deal. At this stage, with the voiceover already recorded and edited (there is no live dialogue in the film), I just need to cut picture to sound.

But I now understand why Terrence Malick takes years to edit his features: by shooting a massive amount of footage without storyboards or shot lists to keep things organized, production may be a highly creative process, but post-production becomes incredibly complicated. I've always planned my shots out well in advance, and actually find it comforting to have a lean amount of material to work with, because choices are easier to make. But for A Trophy I wanted to try something new, so I eschewed my  storyboards and filmed the thing in a loose, free-form style - "Hey, this would be a neat angle. Let's shoot it!" As a result, all the footage I wound up with intimidates me - for instance, I have 55 different camera setups just for one 30-second scene!

I confess that this is why I've been postponing the editing process: I just don't know where to start. It's been a valuable lesson, though, for me as a filmmaker. Maybe Terrence Malick can cope with making a movie in this spontaneous manner, but I just work better when I know in advance what shots I'm going to wind up using.

One final amusing note: in the time since we shot A Trophy, the film's costar Virginia Welch has seen a major uptick in her career: she just played the infamous Casey Anthony in the Lifetime TV movie Prosecuting Casey Anthony, starring Rob Lowe. Way to go, Virginia. By the time our film is finished, you may very well be an A-lister.

I’ll help you defeat your bad guy (i.e. writer’s block)

My Lynda.com Screenwriting Course Is Now Live!

Well, it's been about a year since I first signed with Lynda.com - and I'd been speaking to them for several months before that - so I'm sure you can imagine how relieved I am that my Screenwriting Fundamentals course is now online. Take a look! You have to sign up to be a member of Lynda.com to watch the entire course (I think it costs you $25 for a month, although that also gives you access to all their other videos), but I think you can at least see the first video for free.

There's not much to add, except that I'm incredibly proud and happy that this thing has finally seen the light of day. I worked really hard on it, and a lot of good people at Lynda.com did too. What's next? Who knows? But I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, for those keeping track, I still have a few more Reviews and Lists of 9 to import from the old site. All the reviews are in place except for about 30 for movies starting with "S", and I've got just the lists from 1998(!) left to do. That will all happen in a week. Once the site is fully up to speed, and now that my screenwriting course is basically on auto-pilot, I hope to finish up this very long freelance writing project within a month or so and then I'll finally start wrapping up my short film A Trophy.

When I was redesigning this site, I was looking back at all my old Development Updates, and marveled at how frequently I used to write them. One of my goals for 2013 is to stay busy enough that I keep this section fresh, and that I don't let five or six months pass before I post something new.

Let’s throw a ticker tape parade!

The new site? You’re looking at it

I am thrilled to report that, after over ten years with the crusty old 2002 layout, I finally redesigned the Cassava Films website, with an enormous amount of help from my genius programmer friend Natalie MacLees. We just relaunched it today. If you're a long-time visitor, you will notice the changes immediately. For one, the site's now a lot bigger - in many ways. It's been redesigned to fit today's larger monitors (yet is also now scalable for mobile browsers), and it's also got literally hundreds of new pages, since I've broken every movie review off into its own page instead of lumping them together by letter. This process of importing over 700 reviews and over 300 Lists of 9 has taken more time than you can imagine, as I had to create brand new graphics to go with each and every page. I hope you will appreciate the improvements.

All the old content is still here. (The only thing I got rid of was the extensive "making of" section for my film Claustrophobia, which is all ancient history now anyway.) The big difference is in how you can access all this content. Reviews and Lists of 9 now have search functionality. You can browse reviews alphabetically as always, but now also by year or director. Lists of 9 can also be filtered via keywords, if there's a particular subject you're interested in.

Today is something of a "soft launch" as I still have over 150(!) reviews to import from the old site, as well as 30-40 ancient Lists of 9. I should get that done within the next week, just in time for the debut of my lynda.com screenwriting course, which is scheduled to happen very, very soon.

With the wife in Sydney

Still Here, Still Productive

I want you to know that, although this site's Updates section has been woefully underfed this year, I've actually been quite busy. The main reason I'd been postponing a new entry here is that I've been waiting to announce the launch of my lynda.com Screenwriting Fundamentals course. We filmed the thing in July and originally it was set to launch in late September. But the lynda.com team and I have been experiencing what could be called a "good problem": unlike many of lynda.com's other online courses, this one isn't just me in a white room. We are actually filling the course with animations and other little special effects, and the fact is that it's taking a long time to do. (I'm not doing them; lynda.com's resources are hard at work.) I've been assured that the course will be live before the end of the year, but admittedly I am starting to get a little anxious. I must emphasize that this course is a major project for me - easily the biggest thing I've done since I finished Claustrophobia - and I think it turned out really well, so I can't wait to see it online.

Meanwhile, I've been hard at work on other things. I wrote the content for two iPad apps that are tied in to major blockbusters: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Amazing Spider-Man. Both are "second screen" apps, designed to enhance your viewing experience of those films' Blu-ray discs, but they can be enjoyed on their own too. Best of all, they're completely free, so head on over to the App Store and check out my work. I've also had a lot more Blu-ray extra content writing jobs (my usual contributions for HBO's True Blood and Treme, amongst others), and have done my share of traveling this year as well, as evidenced by this photo of me and my wife Miki in Sydney, Australia (where I have actual fans - and I know, because I met them!), taken just over a week ago. I also gave another talk at the motion conference in Albuquerque last month, and that went well. So what's on the burner for 2013? Well, I promise to finally finish editing the short film I shot almost two years ago, for one thing. Also, people are starting to tease me about how antiquated this website is, so I plan to redesign this site when I can. Otherwise, what I do next year pretty much all depends on what happens with the screenwriting course. If it's a bust, then it's back to business as usual. If it's a hit, then it could lead to any number of fantastic developments.

From the lynda.com screen test

Professor Kines Will Teach You How to Write Your Screenplay

I had to wait a while to post my first update of 2012 because so many things have been simmering but not announceable. At least one project has gone public: This summer, I will be teaching an online screenwriting course on lynda.com! For those who don't know, lynda.com is a popular website that offers thousands of high-end training videos. Usually they teach stuff like Photoshop, After Effects and so on, but now they're adding more "soft skills" courses like this one. As far as I know, I'll be the first online screenwriting teacher in the world. It took a few months to plan for this (including a screen test shot last December, as seen in the graphic above) to work out, but we finally signed the contract and I am busy writing this extensive - and, I think, enjoyable - course, which we will hopefully be taping in May. I will tell you when it's online. Screenplay structure has long been a passion of mine, and I love telling people what to do, so this is the perfect project for me to get involved in. I'm really excited.

After 2012 got off to a very busy start, with a large writing project for the home release of a major Hollywood picture, over the next two months I hope to split my time writing my course and finally editing my new short film A Trophy, which I can barely even call "new" anymore since it's been so long since I shot it. But it's slowly moving forward, and once I gain some momentum on it, post production should go smoothly. As for that cool interactive children's book that I was hoping to oversee... well, never say never, but I think it's dead in the water. One of those situations where the producer just couldn't land the financing. Something I've been experiencing since 1997.

Still from The Road to Hana

Finally, Something to Show for the Year

I feel bad that 2011 has only allowed me to write three development updates for you, dear reader. I really do. It's not for lack of trying. I just don't like talking too much about things in progress if I don't have actual stuff to show you. So let me give you a little gift for the season: My first music video is now online! It's called "The Road to Hana" and it's for a one man band called State Shirt. I've known many acquaintances over the years who have attempted to make music, but I genuinely like this guy's work. If I didn't, there's no way I could have endured listening to this song several hundred times while editing the video (which I also conceived, directed, and shot most of). I'm proud of this thing, so check it out.

I also have news along the personal filmmaking front: I finally recorded the voiceover for A Trophy, the short that I shot literally one year ago. Getting the voiceover done was the one true obstacle (besides my own busy schedule) that kept me from editing. Now that this crucial part of the film is in the can, I should be able to get into post-production next month... Unless yet more freelance work gets in the way, that is. Without divulging too much, I can say that, other than a couple of design-oriented gigs I'm deep into at the moment, there are two really cool projects in the pipeline. One is an interactive children's book and one is an online screenwriting course. Yes, really. Neither of these has been written in stone yet - it all depends on somebody else signing a contract and a check, which will either happen this month or never - but they're far enough along for me to at least cite them as reasons why I've been so busy this autumn. If they don't pan out, this is the last you will hear of either of them, and the upside is that I will be able to concentrate on A Trophy. But if they do move forward, I'll keep you in the loop.

Oh, one more thing: I wrote Jesse Eisenberg's voiceover intro for the Rio animated Blu-ray, as well as text for the headlines for the newspaper montage in A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas as well as some phony Cosmopolitan-style questionnaires for the title sequence of the comedy What's Your Number? which was released a couple months ago to little fanfare. Yours to enjoy on cable someday soon!

Chad Evans and Katie Ty Warren in the 48HFP short I wrote

48 Hours (and 8 Months) Later…

Well, this is embarrassing. I've never taken so long to post an update. Apologies. For those who come here regularly, you'll note that I have continued to add movie reviews and Lists of 9, so it's not like I have neglected this site. That said, I've written fewer lists than usual this year, because I have been much busier than I expected to be. My freelance career has seen a marked improvement over 2010, and ever since January I have been very active with both writing and design work. For the most part, I've been supplying the copy for various special features on major studio Blu-ray releases, though as usual I'm not allowed to say what they are until they come out. (Things I wrote last year on the discs for HBO's True Blood and Treme were released in the last couple of months.) I will say that this year involved writing a voiceover for a recently Oscar-nominated actor and even jokes for a popular late night talk show host. Quite unexpected in both cases. On top of that, if you squint, you can see my text in the opening credits of the comedy Your Highness here, and two upcoming studio comedies feature my words in special animated sequences. I've also gotten back into the web design business, launching three brand new sites in 2011 already, with more to come. Finally, I made an animated video for a PR company, which is pretty cute. Feel free to check it out.

Meanwhile, my live action film career yet lives! I once again wrote the screenplay for this year's 48 Hour Film Project competition. Working for my producer friend Dom Zook (who also starred in Party Pooper and my upcoming A Trophy - more on that in a second), this is the second year that I have written for his team, after directing two years ago. All this went down just last weekend, so I haven't even seen the finished film yet. If we win any awards after our premiere next week, I will post a little addendum. And in July I directed my first music video, for State Shirt. It still needs to be edited, but I'll post a link to it when it's done. Speaking of editing, what is going on with that short film I shot last December (see previous update)? Well, the aforementioned A Trophy - that's the title for now - has been on the back burner because I kept waiting for a good lull in my freelance work to edit it. The noisy distractions of heavy renovations on the property where I live - nine months and counting - have provided another excuse not to get to it. But the freelance lull has arrived, the construction work is slowing to an end, and I promise I will finish this film.

A sneak peek at the new short

A New Year, a New Short

2011 is already off to an active start for those of me here at Cassava Films. To begin with, I shot a new short film in December, and over the next month or two I will be editing it. This is a much more serious film than my last few shorts, and if it turns out all right, I will even enter it into festivals - something I haven't really done in over a decade. But I think this film has the potential for better things than the YouTube dumping ground (though I'd like to live in a world where Party Pooper and Ron and Nancy would be welcomed by festivals). I can't tell you too much about it, except that it stars Party Pooper's Dom Zook as a lonely filmmaker who gets wrapped up in the dark side of Hollywood history, and that I shot it mostly outside, guerrilla style - kind of a new thing for me - all around Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. I haven't even nailed down a title for it yet. But I will keep you updated on its status.

At the same time, I continue to slog away on freelance writing, design, and even animation gigs. After my writing work on The Other Guys' end credit sequence earned a surprising amount of press last summer, I've been providing the company who designed those titles with "background text" for no fewer than four major 2011 releases (three theatrical features and one TV movie). I'll reveal their titles once the movies come out and I know my work has survived. As for my own third feature, I continue to play the waiting game. My potential financier had originally suggested a springtime shoot in Florida, but has informed me that this will be postponed, although he says he still intends to have me write and direct this thing. As always, until a contract has been signed and the check clears the bank, I remain skeptical - but hopeful. Happy New Year!

Chick Flick, which I wrote (and cameo’ed in)

Summer Wrap-Up

How was your summer? Mine was productive. Most recently, I participated in the Los Angeles version of The 48 Hour Film Project, where teams of filmmakers conceive, write, cast, shoot, and edit a short over the course of one weekend. You may remember that I did this in 2009 as a director. That film, Double Feature, won the Audience Award. This year I was the screenwriter (the short was directed by my own Party Pooper star Dom Zook). Once again, we won the Audience Award. It's a good team! The film is called Chick Flick. It's a comedy about, well, two women in chicken suits. Erika Godwin, who's appeared in several of my recent shorts, stars along with Brianne René and Dian Bachar, a cult actor whom you may have seen in the live action features made by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I probably won't put this short up on this site, since I just wrote it, but you can find it on YouTube.

In other news, I recently did some writing work on the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy The Other Guys. No, I wasn't a screenwriter on the project, but the film's end credits, which have received a surprising amount of media attention, center around a series of infographics about Wall Street chicanery. I researched and wrote most of those statistics. My first big-screen Hollywood movie! I didn't get a credit, but the fine folks at Picture Mill, who designed and animated those infographics, made sure to mention me in interviews. There's a really good article about the credits (including a video) here. Enjoy! I worked again with Picture Mill on the opening credits of an upcoming studio comedy. I'll talk about that after it's been released. Meanwhile, I'm still doing what I can to get a new feature going, and slowly moving forward with plans for a new short.

A random Mary Lynn Rajskub encounter at LAX

Win Some, Lose Some

I'm pleased to announce that I won the DateCheck $1,000 Dream Date video contest! I have to thank everybody who watched my little one-minute video and voted for it. I only won this contest because of the massive support from friends, and friends of friends. Unfortunately, I did not win the "Balsamic Blowout" video contest, as the sponsors' judges preferred a clever, high-quality rap video instead. So I didn't score that trip to Italy, but it was still fun to make my little cartoon, and the winning video was a worthy competitor. In the end, I'd say that any one of about four videos could have won this contest. None of us was better or worse than the other three, only different; like a director choosing between talented actors during the casting process, the judges simply had to decide which approach to go with, and hip hop beat animation.

Speaking of actors and European holidays, you might wonder by looking at this photo if I went globetrotting with Claustrophobia star Mary Lynn Rajskub, but in fact I randomly bumped into her at the Los Angeles airport when my wife Miki and I were embarking on our vacation to Spain, a day after my birthday. Mary Lynn was on her way to New York to promote the finale of her popular TV show 24. I must say, though she now has considerably more fame and fortune than she had when we worked together way back in 2002 (could it really be eight years now?), she hasn't forgotten her old director, and was very warm and friendly. It's good to know that Hollywood success doesn't change everybody.

Listen, Vinegar… (All graphics made from scratch)

Another Contest, Another Animated Short

Even as I wait to hear the results of that DateCheck video contest, I have entered another contest. This one's sponsored by a gourmet food distributor called Zingerman's. The rules of the contest: Make a short video about balsamic vinegar. The prize: A trip for two to Italy! I had a lot of fun making my DateCheck cartoon, so I returned to Photoshop and After Effects for some more animated shenanigans, starring a couple of bottles of vinegar. [UPDATE: I've since removed the video from YouTube. Sorry.]

On the legitimate film front, I just got some good news: Little Lotto, the short I wrote last November, was just accepted into the International Film Festival Ireland. As I was just the lowly screenwriter, I do not believe I will be asked to go to Ireland to represent. But it's a great honor, and I hope it will lead to even more festivals for this lovely little film.

Miki and I get animated

A New Animated Short

In something of a flashback to the 2006 Getty Images short film competition I entered (and won), I recently found out about a video contest called DateCheck Dream Date. It's sponsored by a dating service, but that's okay - I liked the idea, which was to make a 60-second video describing what I would do if I could spend a thousand dollars on a date. If I win, I get that thousand dollars. The sponsors were encouraging entrants to simply upload webcam videos of themselves talking about their dream date, but I took it a few steps further and actually created an animated film, with my own voiceover and cartoon likeness (as well as the likeness of my wife Miki; fortunately, married contestants aren't blocked from entering). This is the first animated short I've made since college, and I'm proud of it. [UPDATE: I've since removed the video from YouTube, but the sponsors still have a copy of it up, which you can watch here.] I'll update you all in a couple of weeks when the contest is over and I'll tell you how I did. Another video contest is looming on the horizon, and I plan to make an animated short for that as well. More on that later.

Ron and Nancy will broaden your horizons

Ron and Nancy Have Arrived!

Last week I finally finished editing my new short comedy Ron and Nancy, after many, many hours of After Effects and Final Cut work. I'm proud of the results and I hope you will find it entertaining. After several lengthy attempts at uploading the HD video to various sites, I've decided that good old YouTube is the venue with the best video quality. So I will direct you there now. Click here to watch Ron and Nancy! If you enjoy it, I'd appreciate a Thumbs-Up from you on YouTube. And I'd really appreciate it if you could share the link with your friends. I'm trying to get a lot of people to see this film. Why? Well, duh. But I do think it's very funny, and actors Erika Godwin and Tyler Rhoades have put in wonderful work that deserves to be seen.

Meanwhile, Little Lotto, the 35-minute film that I wrote last November, has now been completed. I have yet to see the final version but I'm told that it is good. As I mentioned last month, if the film plays at any festivals, I will report it here. What's most important about the film's completion is that the people who made the film happen are really, really happy with it, and keen to talk about moving forward with a feature-length motion picture. It's way too early to know what my involvement with this feature might be, if anything, but naturally I'll keep you updated.

Yes, I wrote a film about a Catholic priest!

A Surprise Screenwriting Job: Little Lotto

Happy 2010 to you. It already seems like a year of sadness and trouble in the world, but you can rest assured that at least I am still here and still making movies. Though I must apologize for not finishing my new short comedy Ron and Nancy by the end of 2009, as I had promised. In November and December I got a ton of freelance work, which took me away from the project for a while. There were the usual design gigs, but I was also hired to write a screenplay. It is for a "featurette" - for I can't really call a 35-to-40-minute film a "short" - titled Little Lotto. It's a family drama about a blind priest who habitually buys one lottery ticket each week. When he loses a ticket one Saturday afternoon, he shrugs it off - until he later discovers that it's worth $58.5 million. Unbeknownst to him, however, the ticket is found by a young member of his congregation who doesn't know who bought the ticket. It's a story about ethical decisions, and I think it turned out rather well. It was produced and directed by my good friend Brian McLaughlin, who shot it in the Chicago area last month. Brian had originally asked me to direct it, but I didn't want to be in Chicago in the winter, especially when I had so many other projects that I was working on at home. But I'm happy to say that I was actually paid for my script, something I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to say again. The film is now in post production and I have high hopes for it. If it plays in any venue where you can see it, I will let you know.

Now my time has freed up and I am working on some of Ron and Nancy's surprisingly complicated special effects shots before I dive into the actual editing. The shots, goofy as they may be, are turning out well, but with just me and After Effects on my rickety old computer, it's a slow journey. It is certainly my intention, though, that when I check in here again, it will be after the film is finished and ready for your viewing pleasure.

Tyler Rhoades and Erika Godwin are Ron and Nancy

New Comedy Short Just Wrapped

Back in August, I informed you all that I was about to shoot a new short called An Active Fantasy Life in September "if all goes well". Well, not all went well: on the date we were supposed to shoot the film, in my house, somebody decided to throw a big street music festival literally around the corner from my house, featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Korn, and other mellow bands. My (justified) fears of neighborhood noise forced me to postpone the shoot. The actors - Erika Godwin and Tyler Rhoades, who also appeared in my previous two shorts - were not available until this past weekend, so I rescheduled the shoot for Sunday, October 4 (yesterday) and all went very well. And I decided to retitle the film Ron and Nancy, after the two characters that the actors play. The title may change again, but only if I can think of something more clever, which is unlikely. It looks like I'll be editing this film by my lonesome, so after a brief vacation next week I will commence cutting, and I'm sure the finished version of Ron and Nancy will be available for your viewing pleasure before the end of 2009.

With actors Patrick Donahue and Michele Venlee and producer Dom Zook

Double Feature: Double Winner

In the previous development update, I said that if Double Feature, the film I directed in this year's 48 Hour Film Project in Los Angeles, didn't go anywhere, I wouldn't say anything more about it. You may now note that I am saying something more about it, which means in this case that the film won the audience award for our screening group, and went on to screen last night as one of 14 films in the Best of Los Angeles show. (These were the top 14 films out of around 70-75.) We also went on to win Best Special Effects at the show, which is pretty funny if you actually see the film. Oh yes - you can watch the short here. There were some amazing films in the "Best Of" screening. Very inspiring to see what can be accomplished in such a small amount of time.

Now it's on to my next short, which I will be shooting in mid-September if all goes well. The script is ready, cast and crew are ready, and the tentative title is An Active Fantasy Life. It's a comedy with some "kinky" elements. Stay tuned.

An android (Michele Venlee) malfunctions in Double Feature

Making a Double Feature… in 48 Hours

At last, I directed a short film this year. Just last week, in fact. If you've never heard of the 48 Hour Film Project, it's an international competition, taking place in over 80 cities across the world, where aspiring filmmakers in each locale scramble to write, cast, shoot and edit a 4-to-7-minute film in less than - you guessed it - 48 hours. As you might imagine, competition in Los Angeles is fiercer than in most other cities, or at least more plentiful: there were around 70 submissions in LA this time. My film was one of them. The rules of the game are inspired by improv: Last Friday at 7pm, my team (I directed, Party Pooper star Dom Zook produced, Party Pooper costar Tyler Rhoades wrote the script, and his wife and Party Pooper costar Erika Godwin joined him as part of the cast; five other actors and three crew members were recruited) were randomly assigned the genre of science fiction. We were given a line of dialogue, a character name, a vocation and a prop that all had to appear and/or be spoken on screen, just to prove that we did in fact make our movie during the 48 hour period. Ambitious as we were, we wound up making two short films, combining them into a sci fi double feature we imaginatively titled Double Feature. Tyler delivered the finished film(s) right on time on Sunday night and we screened publicly on Tuesday with ten other entries. We were well-received, even by our competitors. I think ours was the best all-around film in our screening group, with the strongest performances and the tightest script, but it's too early to tell whether we will win any awards in the competition - if you hear nothing more about it here, then assume we simply had a good time and aren't up for any further accolades. If you're curious to see the results, in a few weeks I will post the film on this site, after we take a few more hours to clean up the audio. In any event, it was an invigorating experience, and just goes to show you what you can accomplish when you get off your ass and start working. It's a good prelude to my next personal short film, which I still plan on shooting before the summer's over.