Arrangements: Director's Diary – introduction

Well, I’ve been asked to direct a short film for a local indie production group.

Cinemar is an organization of filmmakers local to the Santa Cruz area – students, hobbyists and professionals. They maintain a website for members to share their profiles and communicate with one another. They also hold a monthly “Schmoozfest” gathering at the largest local studio (Digital Media Factory). At the Schmoozfest, they discuss current projects, screen short films and trailers, and have speakers.

Once a year, Cinemar holds a “Get Your Short Film Made” contest… they take submissions for short screenplays with minimal production requirements that can be shot locally, and the winner gets their film made by virtue of Cinemar’s collective resource pool. This year’s winner – “Arrangements” – is the story of a middle aged man who learns he has six weeks to live. Learn more at the website –

I was invited to be on the review committee and rate the submissions. There were two, maybe three screenplays worth shooting… Arrangements being one of the top two. Seems enough other readers agreed with me, and Arrangements got the nod. Though the reading was anonymous, it turned out the writer was an old friend of mine, Skot Christopherson. He and Cinemar’s production representative were nice enough to ask me to take the helm on the shoot, and I happily agreed.

The script was chosen around September 5th, and the decision was made to try to get the film ready for submission to the Santa Cruz Film Festival’s deadline of January 15th. That meant preproduction done in record time, shooting finished by November 15th, leaving 8 weeks to cut and score the film. It’s only gonna be ten minutes long… how hard could that be, right? Just need props, crew, equipment, locations, cast, good weather, and post production resources. All of whom have real jobs and responsibilities that come first. So we can mostly only work on weekends. Piece o’ cake… right?

zombies in the air.

I hear lots of talk about stolen ideas, the unlikeliness of concurrent independent creativity, etc. I’ve just had a great example of this happen to me… My buddies and I had a great idea for a zombie mockumentary, based on the concept of high-functioning zombies being integrated into society. We wanted to do a “Best In Show” type of thing, interviews with families, sociologists, economists, counselors, etc, on the difficulty of integrating functional zombies into our culture. What jobs would they hold? What products might be created for them? How would they impact the workforce, the economy, etc? Interviews with families dealing with a zombie dad/son/daughter, Zombie pride parades, zombie food service workers, tofu-brains commercials, high-functioning zombies in corporate jobs, and so on. The title: Zombie America.

We went so far as to outline the script, and started writing scenes. We even initiated an early casting call to find comedic actors with improv experience, etc. Then we heard about FIDO — a new film about to release based on the concept of post-zombie-war integration of high functioning zombies into our culture. Initially depressed, we decided that though we’d lost “first mover” status on the core concept of integrating high-functioning zombies into society, our approach was different enough from FIDO (ours being documentary style, theirs being a narrative) that we could benefit from their breaking the ground for us. So we went on.

Then, today I stumbled across another film – American Zombie — an apparently identical treatment of the subject, which just premiered a couple months ago. Not just a similar “idea”, but some IDENTICAL “expressions of the idea” — dialogue virtually lifted from our notes, were we paranoid (and believed in time machines). Even a near-identical title. We’re disappointed, but glad we did our due diligence before we got too much further into the process. We like to think we’d have done a better job of it, but it’s good to know we had an idea worth producing. Maybe some of you had already heard of American Zombie, but we had not. And maybe, for all I know, there’d been another one sometime before this.

Nevertheless I find it a prime example that concurrent conception DOES happen… perfectly innocent simultaneous, spontaneous, nearly identical movie ideas AND expressions, without any conspiracy, theft or copyright infringement.

Ironically, I met with a Producer shortly thereafter to discuss a job Art Directing a feature in July (not zombies), and related this story to him… he laughed, and told me that he and another writer had put together a concept for a zombie mockumentary integrating functional zombies last year that they had put on the back burner. Crazy. Do people steal ideas? Sure. But sometimes, kids, there’s just something in the air.

Anyways, might as well support the people who moved on the idea first…

On The Fringe


Now Available on Amazon – VOD – Just $1.99

Let me start by saying that On The Fringe is the kind of story I like. I like Good Will Hunting, Everything is Illuminated and Breaking Away… small town stories, complex characters, and universal interpersonal themes that we can all relate to. And at its core, that’s what On The Fringe is about.

It’s also the kind of story that too few indie filmmakers attempt, at least at the microbudget level. It has no zombies in it. It has no blood. It has no guns. Well, okay, a little blood, and one really old man with a shotgun. But no zombies. Consequently, it may not be for all fans of microbudget indie film. Continue reading On The Fringe