Sunday, September 30, 2007

I See Your Eyes, A Funny Kind of Yellow

Friday night I helped with the Richmond (Indiana) Art Museum's film series, where we screened 2001 in all its oversized glory. There was a nice crowd there and everybody came out after looking either drowsy or mind-blown or both. It was cool to see it with fresh eyes. I have always dug that "look" that was the perceived future from a 60s-70s perspective. And what was neat was that a lot of people stood around in the lobby and talked later. It reminded me how great true cinema is. I've never stopped loving it.

Bill Cunningham is smarter and cooler than me in so many ways, not just cuz he loved Sex Machine. Here he tells you the real deal, so I thought it was worth linking. It's 100 percent true you can sell a movie based on having a script and a cool poster alone; some people I have worked with have done it.

My longer reviews of festival fare from Microcinema Fest are starting to crop up over at Microcinema Scene, if you want to check them out.

Until later, give me a shout at

Friday, September 28, 2007


I don't make it a habit of pooching off of other people's websites, but I thought this would be enjoyable to readers of this blog, and sort of has to be seen to be believed. This looks like the poster for a 50s Red Scare movie but is actually promoting the new NBA developmental league team debuting in Ft. Wayne, Indiana this season. They allowed the people of Ft. Wayne to vote on a team name. Obviously there are a lot of crazy MFs in Ft. Wayne. Now I have a new favorite sports team, based on the poster alone.

Friday, September 21, 2007

PoBros Day 07

The complete lunatics at the Polonia Brothers Fan Club have decreed another Polonia Brothers Day next Friday, their birthday. The total eclipse and rain of frogs during the last PB Day was a pure coincidence. So rush out and snag one of my favorites of theirs--incidentally written by me--AMONG US, from a dollar bin near you! Or, if you really want to celebrate, fly to Japan and check out THE DA VINCI CURSE--also incidentally written by me! Tell my pal Shogo I sent you!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Microcinema Fest 2007: Saturday Highlights

The Saturday screenings started with a blast with HOW MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR DISCOVERED LIFE ON MARS, a near-perfect slice of life short that sent chills down my spine. A boy fantasizes about traveling into space, and an elderly neighbor watching out a window helps him on his journey. Beautifully shot, flawless sound design, just highly imaginative work. Australian director Austin Andrews put it all together here.

Next was a pleasant little short from Todd Tinkham called SADIE TURNS SEVEN, a cute look at a little girl's birthday by the seashore.

More family fare next with LETTING GO, Dan Masucci's pleasantly shot, and passingly pleasant, short story of a boy and his blanket going their different ways.

I have said before that fimmaker Matt Meindl is one of the more creative rising talents in microcinema, with his wholly unique perspectives and his deft use of mixed media. His short LOLLY GAGGER may be one of his most accomplished yet, both in terms of production design and storytelling.

Nashville filmmaker Chase Kuertz brought an earthy, downhome feel to his family tale THE JOURNEY, a short about two brothers and their ailing father. Kuertz showed nice tools in production and also in his performance. His work is really growing stronger.

In the closing evening, AESOP'S DINER led the charge with the second short of the day to send chills down my spine. Cara Maria O'Shea's pitch-perfect urban fable about the dissolution of a rising band features great performances, solid production values, and a knockout soundtrack that my brother and I listened to driving home the next day. In my top three favorite projects in the Fest.

Steve Gelder's easygoing short comedy ARC played next, where two slackers go on a voyage of discovery (of sorts), and you can read what I first thought of it here.

Next was Bill Sebastian's big Texas drama MIDLOTHIA, which snagged a handful of Awards Sunday and was much admired at the Fest for its good performances, honest script, and solid production work. I think MIDLOTHIA has great crossover potential from micro to mainstream, and Sebastian's cast and crew deserve wider recognition for their work. This one snagged Best of Fest and others.

PETER'S PRICE is a crackling noir where a rising exec is robbed by somebody who turns out to be an old friend, and where their conversation leads is the suprising core of this crisp short. You can read more of my original take on it here.

New Zealand filmmaker Amit Tripuraneni's FIVE finished out the Fest on a strong note. Of course, loyal readers of this blog know I am working on a project with Amit, but setting that aside I enjoyed this work on its own merits. Tripuraneni coached naturalistic, almost improvised-seeming performances from his leads, coupling that with energetic visuals and a crisp pace in his "Twilight Zone"-flavored tale of camping friends and the revelations a long weekend at a remote cabin reveals.

And that's MCF 07! Some of these first-impression reviews will be turning into full-length reviews in the days and weeks and months ahead at Microcinema Scene.

Until then, give me a yell at

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Microcinema Fest 2007: Friday Highlights

I MC'd the Friday afternoon session and had a solid line-up.

First was the action short CYN from director Alex Ferrari. Ferrari played in the Fest before with BROKEN, a sharp, FX-laden short which garnered some notoriety when the DVD came out with tons of "how-to" extras. CYN is more of the same, a technical exercise that could have used a bit more heft in the storytelling department. But if Ferrari puts out another DVD loaded with peripheral material again this one could also catch the rocket.

Next was YELLOW FELLAS from Canadian director Tetsuro Shigematsu, a comedy-drama about racial identity that has some laugh-out-loud comedy as well as some surprisingly sharp political statements. Hammers its points a few too many times and is a bit uneven in spots, but a worthy feature from a new voice.

Fellow Hoosier Peter O'Keefe and I have been circling a lot of the same places, including teaching a screenwriting workshop together in Palatine two summers ago. As long as we never circle the drain together we'll be okay. I liked seeing his strong short LULU TAKES A LOVER with fresh eyes. To see what I thought about it the first time, go here.

I have said for a while there should be more connectivity between aspects of the DIY culture, and Joe Biel's zine documentary A HUNDRED DOLLARS AND A T-SHIRT shows one way how that can happen. Although technically wanting, I think the audience had their eyes opened a bit by the doc's content. I gave Biel's work a look before, here.

After a really good Chinese dinner during the break, we came back to some old school ReWinders from the early days of the Fest bringing the game with GRIM CIRCUMSTANCE. Erin Arbogast's tense, sidewinding short thriller has a RASHOMON by way of PULP FICTION feel.

The gut-busting comedy short SIMPLE TASKS from Tim Wilkerson was next, an absurdist parody of "how-to" videos of days gone by. Biggest laughs of the Fest.

Australian filmmaker Austin Andrews was next with KITE CIRCUIT, a visually arresting but thematically curious short about intertwining lives on a mild afternoon. Great shooting and editing, but eclipsed by a project Andrews screened later in the Fest that I felt was my favorite of the year.

THE CHEMISTRY OF DATING was a genial comedy feature from director Matt Olson which gets an uptick from a strong performance from Brandon Rowray, a lonely collegiate who tries to apply scientific principles to finding the perfect mate. Although the character is a bit pickier than I might have been during my bloom of youth, I found myself rooting for him throughout. Rowray is complemented by a well-rounded supporting cast, with John Snipes as a professor just phoning it in especially memorable.

CLEAN BREAK, a hip comedy short about trying to break off with an unflappable girlfriend, had a funny little riff throughout.

Next came the coming-of-age drama COOP'S NIGHT IN from director Joe Burke, which many people named as their Best of Fest. It was telling to me that despite being acknowledged as strong in many categories, the short was shut out of the awards (as one of my other favorites, screened Saturday, AESOP'S DINER). It just shows the strength of this year's festival. Good performances carry the day for Burke's work, and you can read the rest of what I thought here.

Next was the edgy, hardboiled INTOXICATED DEMONS, whose content sent a few ripples through the audience. See what I first thought here.

Next came a dramatic short from Canadian director Carey Lewis, ROSE, an interesting character sketch of a disturbed young man. His STREETS OF WONDERLAND remains one of my favorite microcinema features, and blew the lid off the Fest two summers ago.

Finishing out the night was Scott Beck and Bryan Woods with the faux-spaghetti western THE BRIDE WORE BLOOD. This directing pair from Iowa have screened at the last few Fests, and I think this was one of their best works. They have been able to surround themselves with many talented actors--Travis Shepherd, Justin Marxen, Jim Siokos and Sabien Minteer among them--but I would like to see them tighten up their storytelling, both on the page and through their shooting and editing.

A long day with a lot of good screenings, but there's one more day to go--and my two favorites of the Fest. And that's next time, with more reviews from the gut.

Friday, September 14, 2007

MIcrocinema Fest 2007: Thursday Highlights

This year, my brother Eric and I got right to business in Palatine, hitting a drive-thru with Illinois filmmakers Jon Solita and Jeremy Neander and Canadian filmmaker/Fest founder Wally Fong on the way to Cutting Hall. There were more than 30 entries to screen in three days and some butts needed to get in some seats. Later Solita would write me that he had a massive bruise on his ass from twenty hours of movies. But it was game on from when the lights dimmed forward.

First was OMEGA 35 from young Florida auteurs the Dastoli Brothers. I have been saying these dudes are young for quite a few years and they are still young, as they started bringing the goods back in high school. This FX-laden sci-fi short harkened back to my high school days, giving off an early-80s vibe with a BLADE RUNNER/OUTLAND-type story set in a dystopian future. The Dastolis remain long on style over substance, but their style is worth just sitting back and enjoying.

Next was PRETTY DEAD FLOWERS from Justin Liberman, a dramatic short which gave off a different retro vibe, more of a French New Wave thing, as a an aging model engages a flippant young photojournalist in a meeting of the minds. Shot in luminous black and white, with mature storytelling and nuanced performances, PRETTY DEAD FLOWERS was a nice surprise and one of my personal top three favorite projects in the Fest.

IMPRINT from the Linn Brothers was the first feature of the Fest, a polished supernatural drama featuring a largely Native American cast. This is another pair of brothers who I have been following since high school, though they are much closer to my age. They have delivered a mature, resonant work with nice shooting and acting throughout. The Linn Brothers, the original Fest hosts, were given an Alumni recognition at the Awards Banquet Sunday, much deserved.

AN APOLOGY TO THE DEAD was the next feature, and shows the dangers of a professor becoming too close to an eager student who happens to work in a massage parlour, a predicament I faced time and again during my teaching days. Despite some shortcomings in the technical and storytelling mechanics, I thought the two leads were quite strong and created some memorable moments.

Next time--more off the hip reviews of Microcinema Fest 2007!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Start of Microcinema Fest 2007

A threepeat in Palatine. Here is the lobby of the beautiful Cutting Hall, where the Fest played. This year there were cool new t-shirts and a raffle, in which I won two memberships to the Gene Siskel Film Center, which is all I wanted in the world.

The Real Start of Microcinema Fest 2007

Jagermeister-masters Jon Solita and my brother Eric start off the Fest in style. There was at least one night when my brother was going to bed when I was getting up.

Iron Man

Canadian filmmaker Wally Fong, longtime Fest anchor and founder of ReWind, updates the ReWind site at around 3 a.m., which was like noon to him. I know it was at least that late because we didn't go to Spunky Dunkers for donuts until after midnight every night. Wally posted a bunch of pictures of himself getting drunk and hanging around with young girls. Apparently the wives are more understanding in Canada.

Meat Skillet Challenge Year 3

The traditional filmmaker's breakfast at Billy's Pancake House, a place I fantasize about eating at when I'm away. Check out Wally Fong getting ready to take the Meat Skillet Challenge, a heaping pan of heart blockage that has broken many a man on its back, including me. Filmmaker Jason Santo increased his street cred the previous year by being the first person in Palatine history to finish one, a feat not dimished by the revelation that he used the burning ulcer in his stomach to access additional space in his body cavity. Later filmmaker Brian McQuery also ate one, leading people to theorize that the formula was changing. The feats of these two great warriors was still being discussed this year. A friend of Brian's who first came to the Fest this year said the story has passed into legend in certain parts. He declined to sample one himself.

Crossing the Finish Line

Wally Fong cowboys up and finishes the rest of the skillet with a straw while Jon Solita records this monumental event. The shamefaced competitors who fell weeping were not recorded.

There Can Be Only One

Wally Fong said he was drinking water here but I think he was throwing up in his glass. But much respect for completing the Palatine Triathalon: drinking all night, eating a meat skillet, then watching movies all day.


Cool Indiana filmmaker Peter O'Keefe, at the afterparty and post-screening of his short LULU TAKES A LOVER. Peter and I taught screenwriting at a workshop in Palatine two years ago. Even sitting down, he's taller than me.

Rollin' With My Homie

Microcinema Scene O.G. Gary M. Lumpp and I reunite at the Fest again this year. Gary and I met on the Triggerstreet message boards and wrote and critiqued each other's work for a long time before we ever met. The interwebs is a funny thing.

Brain Trust, with Donuts

It was hard as hell to judge the Fest this year, as there was a ton of good stuff. We were up until I think about 3 a.m. trying to get it right. Naturally, I brought the Spunky Dunkers but forgot a pen.

Awards Banquet

The home stretch, the Awards presentation, with a nice buffet on Sunday morning. As I've said before, you will never go hungry in Palatine.

The Winner Is...

Wally Fong and I help Fest organizer Jeff Greene of Theatre Nebula hand out the awards. I was there as the eye-candy, sort of a micro-Vanna White.

Nashville Skyline

Me and talented Tennessee filmmaker Chase Kuertz at the banquet. He's from Nashville and my daddy's from Crossville, so we're probably cousins.

Like Mike

CNGM dude and former Fest organizer Mike Noens has slept maybe four hours a night for about six or seven years. He has so much energy he's like standing next to human cocaine. He is going to Flashpoint Academy and probably getting some sort of computer brain put in or something.

The Tao of Steve

Last year's Fest organizer Steve Coulter and me. I wanted to give him a shout out because a cute girl at the Fest told him he was like a brother to her. That's worse than the friend zone! I wish I could help a brother out, but I'm not much of a wingman since the last stone fox I pursued was probably before Steve was born. But Steve is out in L.A. now and hopefully will remember me when he needs his car washed.

Dinner for Four

Wally Fong and I snap a picture with filmmakers Cara Maria O'Shea and Peter Kohl, who made AESOP'S DINER, one of my two favorite projects in the Fest. My brother and I listened to the cool soundtrack on the way out of Chicago.

Return of the Five Deadly Venoms!

It's hard to believe it was four years ago that I shared bunks at American University in Rapid City with these dudes. All they have done since then is work harder and get more mad skillz. That's Wally Fong, me, Jeremy Neander, Jon Solita, and Jay Neander. We missed honorary Venoms Tyler Wilson, Miguel Coyula, and Jon Clark. We always say we'll see each other again before a whole year goes by, and I hope that's true some day.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Good Night, Palatine

Back from Microcinema Fest 2007 in beloved Palatine. I have had little sleep and my brother Eric even less. I will update more soon with blackmail photos and unvarnished opinions, but in the meantime go over to ReWind to see video and photos of the long weekend.

Meanwhile, while I was in Palatine my alma mater's most famous grad, David Letterman, came back to campus to dedicate the new building named after him. I wish I had been there to thank him for the check he wrote me back in 1987, when I won a Letterman Scholarship.

Also, the Colts won! Life is good all around. And better after I get some sleep.

Give me a yell at

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

In A Far Away City, With A Far Away Feel

Loyal reader Dave writes, about DC Comics' "52" event:

I was suprised you hadn't already read it. You're in for a heck of a read, but I think my enjoyment of the series was greatly enhanced by the Comic Geek Speak (podcast) monthly specials, reviewing/discussing the 52 issues that came out that month. HIGHLY recommended if you have some free listening time to fill.

Though it is hard to believe, some epic nerd events have transpired without me. I am trying to play catch-up.

Microcinema Fest 2007 starts tomorrow: you can read my war journal of last year's event right here. Check out this year's lineup here. Look for posts on 2007 right here at this blog and probably at ReWind soon!

Until then, give me a yell at

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues

A student asked me to give him a list of books to read to learn about screenwriting in particular and the grassroots DV movement in general. Obviously this wise youth wants to avoid the terrible pitfalls that have befallen me, and learn from my bitter mistakes. It was nice to be asked and set me to thinking. In the end, I came up with the following list. There are some about screenwriting and some about the industry and some for inspiration. Your additions welcome.

Alex Epstein, Crafty Screenwriting

William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade

William Goldman, What Lie Did I Tell?

Jones & Jolliffe, The Guerilla Film Maker’s Handbook

Lloyd Kauffman, Make Your Own Damn Movie!

Robert Rodriguez, Rebel Without A Crew

Shari Roman, Digital Babylon

John Russo, Making Movies

Rick Schmidt, Extreme DV

Rick Schmidt, Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices

Bret Stern, How To Shoot A Feature Film For Under $10,000 (And Not Go To Jail)

J. Michael Straczynski, The Complete Book of Scriptwriting

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Makin' Love is Like Sifting Through Sand

A local group has decided to put on an Indiana film festival, where either the films have to take place in Indiana or have a writer/director/actor/somebody involved who was an Indiana native. They are sticking with older movies at first and have included such titles as FRIENDLY PERSUASION, KNUTE ROCKNE ALL-AMERICAN, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, BREAKING AWAY, SOME CAME RUNNING, A PLACE IN THE SUN, RAINTREE COUNTY, and TWENTIETH CENTURY. More modern titles that I thought of include CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, which takes place in my hometown of Muncie (and check out Richard Dreyfuss in the "Ball U" t-shirt) and THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, where Tim Robbins plays a bumpkin from the same said locale. As the saying goes, there is more than corn in Indiana.

Unfortunately I learned that artist Mike Weiringo died. He did a lot of good mainstream work, but on the independent tip check out TELLOS.

My pal Doug brought me the entire stack of DC's 52 yesterday and I stayed up late reading the first couple of issues. Better than Marvel's event, CIVIL WAR, by a stretch.

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