The Oracle of Bacon

Went to the Oracle of Bacon and found my Kevin Bacon relationship…

chip street has a Bacon number of 3:

1 – Chip Street was in The Tripper (2006) with Lucas Haas
2 – Lucas Haas was in Mars Attacks (1996) with Rance Howard
3 – Rance Howard was in Frost/Nixon (2008) with Kevin Bacon

Just thought it was funny. Didn’t realize it ran off IMDB so didn’t really expect to find myself there at all.

Anyone else?

Whatever It Takes

Hah! I just learned that my first short film, “Whatever It Takes”, is posted on YouTube.

This short was written and produced primarily as an equipment test back in like 2005… my friend Chris Cooney had just gotten a new lighting kit and mic, and wanted to try it out. We were running a writer’s group, using an unused floor of a business building in Santa Cruz. So we co-wrote a shorty that would work in the space available, roped in a few actors who had been helping with reads of people’s screenplays, and shot this out in four days. It kind of grew into a bigger production than we’d planned, but we had fun, and it was a great learning experience.

It ended up being accepted to the Santa Cruz Film Festival. Go figure.

The quality’s a little janky, but enjoy.

Inktip

I’ve got my scripts on inktip.com, in the hopes that they’ll be seen and read by producers looking for new properties. Inktip is a legit site, they do a decent job screening the “producers”, vetting their resumes before allowing them access so we can be reasonably assured that whoever is looking at our stuff is not a poser. It costs for writers to post their features, which run for six months.

Producers can go into the system, run a search (for, say, a “family comedy” with a budget under 10M) and with any luck, your entry turns up in their search results as a title and a logline.

Then, they can click through to view your synopsis, and even download your script to read. From there, they contact you to buy it and produce it starring whatever reality-show loser was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel the week before, and pay you loads of money for the privilege.  (Don’t tell me that’s not how it works… lalalalala!)

We’ve had a crapload of producers see our logline (it turned up in their results, anyway — whether they read it or not is another matter). We’ve had exactly 14 go on to the synopsis. And exactly ONE actually download the script. It was Cube Vision… Ice Cube’s prodco, responsible for films like Barber Shop, Are We There Yet and Are We Done Yet. I think the script could be perfect for them, with some tweaking. But alas, we heard nothing. Weird thing is (as allowed by the rules) I dropped them a line (snail mail) to the address listed, and it bounced back “No Longer At This Address”. So we’ll never know what happened.

Oh well. Maybe I should pitch something called “Are We Sold Yet”.

The jury’s out on inktip… I’d like to have had more action after nine months, but I’ll let it ride a while longer.

The Style of No Style

“Wow, that $5,000 slasher horror flick you made sure is a crappy movie.”

“It’s just a slasher flick, that’s the style. It’s about the blood, not the production values.”

“So slasher flicks can be bad movies and still be good?”

“They’re not bad movies. They have a different style.”

“Er… movies are movies, regardless of genre, right? I mean, it still has to be in focus, doesn’t it?”

I’ve had lots of conversations around the issue of “style”, particularly with regard to genre work. It’s often said that for indie filmmakers, certain genres are more forgiving of mediocre production or execution because the “style” of the genre has a different bar than the “style” of other genres. I think it’s an interesting area of conversation in a creative context, because the issue of “style” is used to place value on people’s work. It can be said that work is “servicable”, “technically competent”, but if it lacks “style” it can’t be taken seriously as an art form, nor can it compete on the larger stage (nee Hollywood) outside its small, forgiving, perhaps apologetic genre audience.

Following is an excerpt from a manuscript I wrote about 15 years ago, discussing the “Literary” work of Philip K. Dick and his “style”. Remove P.K. Dick and replace with the filmmaker of your choice. Remove “literature” and replace it with “filmmaking”.

“Freedman wonders about how sf might fit into all that. His focus is on Philip K. Dick, a writer whose enigmatic career seems anomalous. Most folks seem to agree, he says, that with respect to “the most prestigious test of literary significance – style – Dick appears to fail.” Specifically, Dick’s work fails to demonstrate “the evident polish, syntactic elegance, and allusive resonance of incontestably literary prose.” Dick’s Literary Stylistic tradition is rooted in the pulps, those early years of science fiction history characterized by adolescent adventure tales written by vaguely talented penny-a-word armchair authors, whose prose “has rarely been acclaimed as anything more than serviceable.” (SOC 33-34)

Nonetheless, he tells us, lots of folks consider Dick to be serious Literature; that his work is, in fact, the most important and interesting since Faulkner. Could it be, he asks, that Dick attains greatness despite his Style?”

I’ll pose the question(s): Can there be a “style of no style”? And if we can redefine style to include some (otherwise merely competent) work and thus push that previously substandard work to the same level as more traditionally stylistically polished work, does that strengthen or devalue the art form as a whole?

New Website

heyall…

Seems like I’m forever tweaking, but it seemed like my old site had way too much info, was too busy, and was hard to navigate. So I’ve rebuilt it.

Please take a look and give me any feedback. The one thing that’s still to be integrated is a media page, with any clips/shorts/reel etc.

ChipStreet.com

Thanks!

Making Arrangements – Day Three

How did we get everyone to show up on a weekday? Don’t these people have jobs? I don’t know… but it’s a Monday shoot and we’ve got a bunch of dedicated volunteers here again.

Today we’re shooting the first and last scenes in the story… funny how that worked out. We’ve got a small white empty room that we’re turning into a doctor’s exam room, and another small empty green room that needs to become a mortuary lab. Both are empty when we arrive… we have to dress them both. Fast.

First scenes first… we’ll shoot the opening in the doctor’s office. It’s a super simple set… intended to look kind of surreal, like a doctor’s office might look in a dream. Not a lot of dressing or equipment, just the icons of a doctor’s office… a padded exam table with paper stretched across it, an eye chart, and a wall clock. One short rolling stool for the doctor to sit on, and we’re done.

Of course, we have no exam table. We have a folding table with a vinyl chaise cushion on it, and a length of paper across it. We frame the shot just at the bottom edge of the pad, so we don’t see the table… Bill (Chad Davies) sits on the table, centered in frame, buttons his shirt and then waits uncomfortably for the doc to show up. It’s what we call our “lonely guy” shot, and I hold it for an uncomfortably long time before signaling the doc to enter scene. Again, it’s all played out in one long take as the doc enters and delivers the bad news to Bill. No cuts, no inserts till the end when the fantasy sequence kicks in (more about those another time).

There’s some medical jargon… “The infection’s responding to the broad-spectrum sulphanimides…” but luckily, our actor (Ken Keonig) who plays the doctor actually is a doctor. Not only is medical jargon familiar to him, but he was able to provide his own lab coat and stethoscope. Sweeeet for a no-budget shoot…

The scene, again, is designed for that long take… so all the dialog, medical jargon and all, has to go off end t0 end without a cut. We go at it several times, we try one alternative setup, and we grab an insert shot of the clock on the wall. I’ve also brought along the Felix the Cat wall clock that I wanted to have in Kayla’s apartment. We used it on that set yesterday, but never got the insert of it. So we hang it on the wall here, and shoot it… of course, the wall color’s all wrong, but we’ll fix that in post. The editor loves to hear that.

Now it’s time to shoot the “fantasy sequence”, one shot of which is Bill in a hospital bed with his wife Cassie (Kimberly Parrish) at his side. We get Bill to lie down on the same “bed”, throw a sheet over him, hang an IV and a shower curtain behind him, and then call Kimberly to come on down from work (a few blocks away). No dialog, MOS. Bing Bang Boom, we got our shots. Outside for one more fantasy shot in a planter in the parking lot (again MOS – Kimberly runs dirt through her hands) and we break for lunch.

After lunch we’ll be shooting the final scene in the movie… Kayla and Bill together in the mortuary lab. It’s the last scene to shoot, and it’s literally the last scene in the film. I’ve been troubled with the last scene (in particular the last lines) from the beginning. It’s a great little script, with a cool hook and good story structure… but I just haven’t been able to wrap myself around those last lines. The writer (Skot Christopherson) is very dedicated to that scene and those lines… I asked for a rewrite, but he really wants it to stay as is. Or at least, if it gets changed, he’d prefer it were someone other than he that makes the changes… I’ve discussed it with a number of people, and I’m getting a lot of support for a change… what to do?

During lunch, I take off to the cafe next door. I’ve got a blank pad and a pen, a copy of the script, and a sandwich.

I stare at the pad for a long time. I re-read the scene. Skot had inserted some changes into earlier scenes that I’d asked for, which conceivably would support the sort of ending I was thinking about. I write a few lines of dialog… I can’t go way off book, since nearly the balance of the film is in the can. But something starts to flow. I think about who the movie is really about (to me anyway) — who’s scene should this final scene be? Kaya? Bill? Kayla and Bill? What about Bill’s wife Cassie? In the context of the film, we won’t have seen her since the third scene… and now, Kimberly is back at work.

Just then Gina drops by the table with her hubby, Greg Camp (of Smashmouth fame) to say hi. He’s a very nice guy, and he ends up hanging around the shoot for a while. In the end, Greg and Gina help us out with some amazing music for the soundtrack… more on that another time.

I finally put something together that I think will work, and I call in the actors… Chad and Gina read it through with me, help me refine it. I think it’s gonna work… we’ll see what happens on set.

The little green room we had has been filled up by our Art folks… a white melamine exam table, a table filled with bottles and jars and stainless steel sharp things, a work lamp. I have no idea what a mortuary exam lab looks like (save the usual Law and Order/CSI insight) but this looks cool. It’s a family mortuary, after all. More like Six Feet Under. I like it, and it looks good on screen.

We shoot out the scene… it’s getting later and later, our DP Matthew has to get home really soon. I keep asking for more takes… again, it’s a long take with lots of dialogue. There’s a pan in it, some business (flipping back the sheet, walking around the table, hopping up on the table) and so a few takes are needed to get it all down in a take. But again, our actors come through, it all looks good, and we’re finally done. Matthew is really ready to go.

BUT – I also want to shoot the original end, the writer’s end. It’s only fair. We need to try both, to give it its fair due. So we run the scene two more times, with the original dialogue. We’ll make a final decision in the edit.

We break down the set and once again (hopefully) leave our location just as we found it… and I think Matthew made it home in time.

The last scenes are outdoor scenes… one, a long conversation walking down the sidewalk. We’ll be steadicamming that one. Another, a long conversation in a moving car (truck, actually) which we’ll be towing behind my pickup. Lastly, a short scene outside the Mortuary… for which we got permission to shoot outside an actual Mortuary. There’s a mini-jib in that one.

We’ll be shooting that all out next weekend, in one day.

That should be fun.

Making Arrangements – Day One

Day one of shooting Arrangements.

Today we’re on location at Glen Alba Gardens. Figgered we’d keep it pretty simple, and do all the interiors… They’re pretty easy setups, only a few actors, and we can control light and sound so it’s an easy way for the crew to find its mojo since we haven’t all worked together before. Besides, it’s threatening to rain.

We started with the scene at the front door… Kayla comes to visit Bill. Gina (as Kayla) rocks the performance with some very subtle stuff, Chad (as Bill) is great too. It’s kinda complicated, since the reverse on Bill from outside shoots all the way through the living room and out a picture window to the backyard, where we can see his wife Cassie cleaning up after the party. So I’m directing action at the door, as well as action fifty feet and two walls away simultaneously. We got some funny outtakes, where on “action” the folks in the backyard didn’t know we’d started and were gesticulating a “when do we start” signal during the scene – ah, my kingdom for a set of walkies. But we got the scene off, both setups, including a nice subtle jib shot as the huge moving guy shows up to pick up the tables…  makes a truly huge guy look even huger. Huger? Is that a word? Ah, it is now…

Anyways, the rain is threatening, it’s getting cloudy, cold and moist… we’re done with all the stuff at the door, and manage to get to the kitchen scenes. Bill is sitting at the table, alone, while outside the window we can see Cassie cleaning the yard… again, directing two locations at once with no walkies, but it worked. A simple scene, no dialog, but lots of subtlety in Chad’s performance.

Then, on to the conversation (different story day, different wardrobe) that Bill and Cassie have at the same table. It’s a tough scene to get right… again, very little dialog, but it’s the early scene that sets up everything we need to know about Cassie as a character, and their relationship – against which the audience will measure all their other actions through the rest of the movie. So it’s gotta be on point.

We had shots we needed to get pointing at the window, and reverses pointing away from the window into the kitchen hallway. We made the mistake of starting with the shots away from the window… so, at the end of the shoot, we were pointing toward the window, and racing the light as it got darker and darker outside. The darker it was outside, the more of a mirror the big window became, so of course we struggled with avoiding reflections of the crew standing around watching… but we managed it. The outdoor angles are darker than I might have liked, but in the end it adds to the mood, so it works. Both Chad and Kimberly (as Cassie) gave us great performances, and I think it’s really touching.

Believe it or not, we finish ahead of schedule and get everything we wanted. Damn! What a great crew.

It’s ready to rain – in fact it’s starting – and tomorrow we’ve got a big exterior shoot…. 20 extras, a pool party, barbecue… weather.com shows it’s clearing, so fingers are crossed.

Arrangements: Director's Diary – auditions and other stuff

We held auditions at the Digital Media Factory (thanks, guys!). We had a pretty good turnout, though not as deep as I’d expected… but it was cool, cuz I got lots of time to just chat with each person. We just ran camera, and talked about the script, the character, and their thoughts on both.

Then, I had them read a scene. Our writer, Skot, got to read with our first actor, Kimberly Parrish (she read for the part of Cassandra, Bill’s wife). Skot was quite moved, as much by her performance as by hearing his words come to life.

I gotta say, we had some talented people show up. I was super impressed with everyone’s commitment to the material and their craft… good actors are a joy to watch. I had some tough decisions to make, and I have to say to those that weren’t chosen it wasn’t for lack of effort or talent… I had lots of great actors to choose from, and fell upon a combination of “look” and minor subtleties in performance.

Congrats to Chad Davies (Bill), Kimberly Parrish (Cassie), Gina Marie (Kayla), Ken Koenig (Doctor), Char Johnston (Sandy), Linda Pearson (Lou), Carlo Matteucci (Terry) and Dave Johnson (Huge Guy).

Now it’s on to more crazy making.

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 – ArrangementsMovie.com.

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?

On The Fringe

FringeDVDfront

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