Wednesday, September 28, 2016

#Inktober

In 2014 I tried the #Inktober challenge, posting an Instagram picture of a drawing every day of the month of October (more or less), along with people of actual talent and skill.  Nonetheless the mind is drawn towards trying it again, so for your relative pleasure, here are the Top Ten most liked images (in order) from that run (adding Facebook and Instagram together).








Monday, September 19, 2016

From the Brim to the Dregs


This blog post first appeared, in a slightly different form, in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP, which you can subscribe to in my sidebar.

My day life is keeping my night life at bay, so I have not had much to report from the screenwriting world.  A movie I wrote, ALONE IN THE GHOST HOUSE, is now loose in the world and available on various platforms.  It is a "found footage" movie I sometimes forget I worked on because it came together so quickly, and because I wrote more of a long outline for it than a full-formed script.  I think it will surprise people because the spine is tighter than a lot of found footage films and when the dominoes start falling it hangs together pretty nicely.  But watch it and let me know what you think.

I had my 50th birthday two weeks ago, which I took off from work this year to contemplate my mortality.  I went to see SUICIDE SQUAD in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon and was the youngest person at the multiplex and the only one at the screening, a weird feeling.  As a guy who owned a signed copy of John Ostrander's SUICIDE SQUAD #1 (that he signed for me at a Muncie Indiana comic book shop in the 80s) I didn't hate the movie like a lot of hardcore fans but didn't like it much either, with my invisible keyboard in my head righting all of the mistakes.

Regrets at 50?  One is that I sold that signed SUICIDE SQUAD #1 when I was broke.  Otherwise, a lot to think about but more good than bad.  Only about two years ago neither of my kids were married, I had no grandkids, I did not live on five acres in the country, and I did not know I had Type II Diabetes and thus was 65 pounds heavier.  Adding and subtracting everything, the sum total was all good.

For many years I have used my birthday to think about whether I want to keep screenwriting another year.  My brother thinks this is a foolish exercise but I think it is as good a time as any to measure the barometer of my work.  A lot of good has happened this year in meeting people and making connections--including a possible appearance at the Chicago Horror Society later this year, after dropping in on Henrique Couto's BABYSITTER MASSACRE screening a month ago--but a lot of projects have bottomed out.  I have turned down some work lately, including the sequel to a movie I wrote some years ago, but several other projects I thought were sure things haven't taken off.  I got booted off a project not that long ago, which has rarely ever happened (one memorable time I found out when my name disappeared off the IMDB listing) and since then I have had to do a lot more rewrites than I am used to.

I don't think it's about regaining my mojo, it's more about finding the projects that need the mojo I have.  I'm about 15 years down the road from my first screenplay sale, have a dozen movies out and have sold more than 30 screenplays (I need to actually stop and count this more carefully) which is a good track record by any standard in the industry.  So I can be selective about what I want to do next and in what form that might take.

In the meantime, my August pick for my book club is NINEFOX GAMBIT by Yoon Ha Lee.  Basically this is about a soldier tasked with the suicidal mission of re-taking an impenetrable fortress overrrun by heretics--all while psychically linked to the ghost of a genocidal general--but the world-building is so dense and baroque it took me at least thirty or forty pages before I understood a sentence of what was going on.  But when I got into its strange rhythms I found it to be a really good military-flavored sci fi novel.

I've fallen into a bit of a show hole for television, but did enjoy FORTITUDE until it kind of unraveled at the end; by and large, about a murder that Stanley Tucci investigates at a very remote Arctic town.  Waiting for new seasons to start, IRL and on TV.

Talk again soon.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Bookends

I always ask for books for my birthday, and also got an Amazon gift card, so I am stocked up for the first winter in my new house.  Turning 50 was slightly philosophical but I felt buoyed by these two discoveries in a book I was given and one I bought--a mention of a movie I worked on in Brian Albright's REGIONAL HORROR FILMS 1958-1990 and reviews of two movies I wrote in Jason Coffman's THE UNREPENTANT CINEPHILE.  Makes half a century go down easier.



Friday, August 26, 2016

The Soft Parade

So earlier this summer I sold one house, closed on a second house, moved, and then flew to Italy, all in a single week.  It is still not long enough ago to be funny, but one cool thing that has happened as a result is the legendary Mooreland Fair is just a short distance down the road--and the Saturday parade leaves out of my side yard.



Later that day and night, the Fair.  I've been going for almost 30 years, and these guys are always standing out here singing "Elvira."




A summer tradition, now within walking distance.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Live from the Heart of the Nerd-Quake

I'm slowly becoming one of those guys that reads more news about, and talks more about, comics and gaming than I actually read comics or play games, so my GenCon experience each year is becoming more about connecting with old friends. There is a lot of crossover between nerd-spheres so I should never be surprised when I see movie people at GenCon, like Matthew Meyers from Hoosierdance, FX guru Rob Merickel, and my Chicago people Jay Neander and Jon Solita.


But I make new friends, too.

I can't help but think about the food trucks when I'm there, and there was a time I would rather game than eat.


But sometimes I see something I can't resist, as displayed below.

Now to find time to play these beasts, and read that Doctor Who book I bought (not pictured).

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Scenes from Blue Whiskey

Stayed downtown when I was a judge at the Blue Whiskey Film Festival at the end of July, and really got to feel like a South Loop guy for a week.




In the middle of the week I had a night off from judging the Fest, conveniently when my pal Henrique Couto was screening his film BABYSITTER MASSACRE for an appreciative crowd at the Chicago Horror Society.  The Chicago crowds are tough--cheering loudly every time somebody got murdered--but I was among my people nonetheless.  I hope to attend another screening there soon.

Here I am doing a Q&A with Dax Phelan, director of JASMINE, one of my faves at the Fest.
Kinda looks like the Rat Pack with all that swag going on, but this is the Judges Panel.
Last but not least I try to grab a picture with Festival Director Michael P. Noens at the end of every Fest.  We should take it at the beginning, when we are less tired.
Looking forward to next year!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Live from Blue Whiskey 2016

This post first appeared, in a slightly different form, at my newsletter I Was Bigfoot's Shemp.  You can subscribe here.

I spent last week gorging on movies at the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival in suburban Chicago.  I have been involved with these folks since this festival's inception and have watched as it has grown and matured over the years.

One way the film fest has differentiated itself is by focusing on having cast and crew on hand to be interviewed live or via Skype, but an even greater differentiation point is having the judges screen the films live with an audience, counter to most festivals I have worked on (where you watch the entries by yourself and all the votes are tabulated).  In what is sometimes long and frequently lively discussions, our deliberations at the end can often sway each other one way or the next.  Watching 30 or so movies in a week, and then debating them, takes both physical and mental fortitude in the kind of "Nerd Extreme Sports" I like.

My personal favorite of the fest this year was Dax Phelan's cerebral Hong Kong thriller JASMINE.  It was a cool noir with the kind of unreliable narrator that I enjoy.  But the Chicago-centric romantic comedy OPEN TABLES by director Jack C. Newell was hard to beat, with nice performances, a domino-tipping plot, and good cinematography to make a pleasing blend (that won Best of Fest).

On the shorts front, I was utterly charmed by director Becca Roth's LUCKY PENNY, about a lonely barista who tries to seed the world with good luck in the form of pennies from her tip jar.  My sensibilities were much in line with director Megan St. John's rural crime caper BROILED (which won Best of Illinois) but director Benjamin Cappelletti with his apocalyptic dark comedy SKAL introduced me to another guy who is probably going to push me out of the way some day.

Those are my top five, but there were cool things and good performances all up and down the festival lineup.  Plus I got to eat Chicago pizza multiple times, and who can complain about that?  You can go to bwiff.com to learn more about the film festival.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Live from Hoosierdance

This  post originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in my newsletter I Was Bigfoot's Shemp, which you can subscribe to here.
 
Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Hoosierdance International Film Festival in Kokomo, Indiana, where I was a festival judge for the screenplay competition. We selected a tidy little screenplay called DIRTY WINDS about the American Revolution and its impact on a group of people.  But look how sweet I got treated at the festival:



First I went to the Indiana short films bock, where I got to meet some like-minded people.  To me, this is the best part of any fest, especially a grassroots one.  I always say you can't push anyone's career ahead of yours, but if you catch the rocket, you can pull other people in your wake.  And that's what this is about, proving you are a normal person who seems able to meet deadlines and keep promises.

I saw a lot of good things, and I know I missed some things that played well, but from what I saw there were some standouts.

UNEXCEPTIONAL by Scott Carelli was a funny little alien invasion movie that played like the opening salvo to a full-length work.  RANDOM by Cindy Maples was a very tight genre short that I can't say much about without giving away the game.  But probably my favorite was MISREAD by Ryan McCurdy, about a schlub hired to drive a woman around who reads lips for a living.  The production was a little uneven, but I like stories I haven't heard before.

Next I went to the student films block, where I saw all the people that will push me out of the way one day.  They had a large, warm crowd for a mix of narrative and documentary shorts. David Stallard did an interesting doc called THE BLUE FLASH about an old guy who built two roller coasters in his backyard in rural Indiana.  THE NETWORK by Adam Nelson was a very polished-looking post-apocalyptic riff.  But what knocked me out was THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY by Alex Cook, about two orphaned brothers hanging on in a bleak rural setting. Very good acting and directing signaled that this guy has a tremendous upside.

Part of why I missed a few screenings was that I really ended up enjoying downtown Kokomo.  You can see when you visit that they are making an effort to revitalize the area with little shops and cool places to eat and have coffee.  They even have a self-proclaimed Geek Street, with a comic book shop, gaming store, toy store, with an Irish pub, coffee shop, and hipster record store all within shouting distance.  For me, a street of dreams, indeed.

I Snapchatted all day from there to test the app out for a work project.  You can find me on Snapchat at John Oak Dalton, to catch me next time.

I enjoyed being a part of Hoosierdance in just its second year, and I hope they have more to come.  At the end of the month I will be at the Blue Whiskey Film Festival in Chicago, and will have much to report from there.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

China 9, Liberty 37

This  post originally appeared in a slightly different form in my newsletter I Was Bigfoot's Shemp, which you can subscribe to here.

In a single week I sold my house, closed on another, moved, and then jetted off to Italy.  One day, those seven days will seem funny.
As usual, I made my annual pilgrimage to the grave of fellow A/V nerd Guglielmo Marconi, and stocked up on fumetti.



But five trips to Italy later I finally fulfilled my dream of visiting Cinecitta, the legendary Italian film studio.


I had always wanted to go, but it is more than a dozen stops from Roma Termini, the central train station, so I have never been able to find the time.  Even though it is a giant studio space, there isn't a ton available to the public, but I still found it interesting.


As you might suspect, Fellini gets a lot of space here.  Apparently he used to crash out and sleep at the studio a lot back in the day.




In the museum, there is a lot of time spent on Italian Neorealism, one of my favorite genres even before I visited Italy, but also a fair chunk on Spaghetti Westerns and Sword and Sandal movies (or Peplum as they are called there).  I thought there might be a section on Poliziotesschi films (Italian cop movies) but I guess that genre hasn't reached critical nostalgia mass yet.

Since this is Italy, they also have an area dedicated to Italian starlets of the 60s and 70s like Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, and the like.  There was a section about Cinecitta during World War II, and the destruction that led to Neorealism. 



I thought one of the more unusual displays was a room full of drawers that were objects that inspired various directors that have worked there.  The photo above was for Martin Scorsese's, and includes a pair of glasses he apparently left lying around.  Tarantino was the only other American director represented, but the great Sergio Leone left some junk there, as well as Roberto Benigni and Lina Wertmuller.

A pretty cool day, and I'm glad I went there.