Saturday, November 26, 2005
Strange how it has all led to this. I never would have guessed 2 years ago when I came to this city that I would wind up making a killer bigfoot movie. But that's exactly what happened. Well, not a full-length movie, but if everything works out like I hope, that won't be too far behind. A lot of time, effort, and love went into this project, and for everyone that was involved in its creation, I have nothing but deep admiration and respect. The 4 day shoot that made up "Footprints" was, quite honestly, the most fun I've ever had working on a film. I only wish it could have lasted longer. I'm confident, though, that when the final result of all our efforts are finally seen, the dream of making a real movie will be realized. There were some amazing talents brought together to pull this off, not the least of which was our director, Hiro Koda. It was a blast watching him turn the words of the screenplay into reality. He knew what he wanted, knew how to get it, and never once did I see him not smiling on set. His enthusiasm was infectious, and that carried over onto the entire cast and crew. I've never seen a group of people having so much fun making a movie. It was exactly how this business SHOULD work. Just a bunch of friends getting together and shooting something. There was an energy surrounding this project that was palpable. Even though it was 40 degrees at night and everyone was bundled up tight, you could feel the warmth radiating from everyone. Man, we've got to do this again.
Only next time, we'll really flip a car over...
Sunday, October 30, 2005
MASSIVE SHARP CLAWS come out of nowhere and SLASH Willie Carl across the chest. BLOOD spews forth from the long gashes. Willie Carl SCREAMS, clutching his chest in agony.
Willie Carl slumps to the ground and painfully tries to crawl away, but a giant, hairy Creature blocks his path.
The Creature grabs Willie Carl by the ankle and drags him back, lifting him straight off the ground upside down.
Blood pours out of the wounds in Willie Carl’s chest like a waterfall. It cascades down his face. Willie Carl blinks through the blood, trying to see what it is that has him.
The Creature smells the blood and GRUNTS with a primitive satisfaction. It has what it’s looking for. Its powerful jaws open and...
IT TAKES A BITE OUT OF WILLIE CARL.
Willie Carl SCREAMS his last scream.
To be continued...
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Inside a tiny workshop in Canoga Park, California, just off Alabama Ave. of all places, something big is taking shape. It's only clay, plaster, and paint at the moment, but little by little, a layer of laytex here and a clump of fake fur there, the pieces are coming together to create something big, something powerful, and something that will hopefully scare the bejeezus of everybody that comes into contact with it.
Or at least the ones who pay to see it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is my first attempt at creating a monster, so you'll have to forgive me if I get a little excited. This all started back in February, when I wound up writing a script for an action/horror movie called "Footprints." A throwback to the horror movies of the 70s, "Footprints" is sort of a cross between "The Breakfast Club" and "Jurassic Park." A group of 7 teenagers are sent to a work camp far off in the woods during what would normally be their Spring Break. But instead of working off their punishment for acting up in school, the kids are attacked by violent creatures living in nearby mountain caves. Think "Jaws" on land with Bigfoots instead of sharks, and you get the idea. Not the normal kind of stuff I tend to write, but it was fun to do and turned out better than I hoped. And now, in just a few weeks, a very talented group of individuals will be turning this little Bigfoot idea into a full-blown trailer, with stunts, special effects, and all the bells and whistles. Sort of a sales pitch demo reel, to sell the idea to studios and other interested parties. But the coolest part of this whole process has been seeing the creature come to life. This clay model was designed by Gary Tunnicliffe, a Hollywood make-up artist responsible for Pinhead in the Hellraiser movies, the vampires in Blade, and a ton of others. Over the next couple of weeks, hair and paint will be added and a full-blown BIGFOOT will arrive. Stay tuned...
Monday, August 29, 2005
Boy, was I wrong.
I arrived in Montgomery late Friday night. I was greeted by my family and got to meet the newest edition to the clan, my nephew, Ben. I slept well in my parent's house, expecting to stay for a couple days, then drive back to New Orleans on Sunday to resume work at the start of the week. Those plans abruptly changed with a call from my boss, Robin, on Saturday morning. Katrina had picked up speed in the Gulf of Mexico and was now nearing Category 5 strength. And it was heading right for where I had been staying less than 24 hours before. The film company was chartering a plane that afternoon to fly the film crew out of town and back to Los Angeles. Robin told me to stay put in Montgomery and not try to head back to New Orleans. I-10 had been shut down and the Governor of Louisiana had issued a mandatory evacuation of the city. It was uncertain if the film would be able to continue. Hell, it was uncertain if the city itself would still exist after it was all said and done. Katrina was coming and there was nothing we could do but get out of the way.
A year ago, I was in Monroeville, Alabama working on a film called "Heavens Fall" when Hurrican Ivan barrelled through town. The heavens truly did fall on that day in September, bringing a temporary halt to our production and causing massive damage to the town itself. Thankfully, no one was killed, but it left an indelible mark on my life. It's ironic that the film I am working now is called "Deja Vu." Watching the news reports today about the damage and flooding Katrina has brought with her makes me sad, not simply for the shut down of the film, but for the devastation and loss of life. I was only in town to make a movie, but there are families shattered and communities ruined because of the fury of Mother Nature. And that's not even counting the impact Katrina has had on towns hit even harder, like Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi.
Things like this really put everything in perspective for me. Many people I have encountered in the film business concern themselves only with the film they are working on at the moment, believing it is the most important thing in the world to the detriment of everything else around them. And I will admit, I have been guilty of feeling that way on more than one occasion on more than one film. But movies are just movies. It's entertainment, nothing more. Katrina is the real deal. The impact she leaves behind is far more profound or important than any film.
Friday, July 29, 2005
What on earth happened to the U.S. space program? I was not alive during the space race of the 50's and 60's, but as a child I was endlessly fascinated by the triumphs made by our country during those heady years of exploration. I would spend countless hours reading about the endless competition between America and Russia in those days, fighting it out for control of the heavens. I would watch footage of President Kennedy's speech vowing to put a man on the moon by the end of the 60's and I imagined what it must have been like to be a part of that concerted effort to dream and do the impossible. The cynical adult in me realizes now that much of Kennedy's lofty ideals were motivated by a "biggest stick on the playground" mentality to show up the Communists, but the sheer notion of sending men from this planet to another world is too powerful of an idea to dismiss as just jingoistic posturing. There is something magical and wonderful about looking up at the moon and knowing that once upon a time, men from earth trod on its soil and looked back at us from afar. To this day, I still get choked up watching footage of the moon landings. For a brief, shining moment, we stepped out into the universe, fulfilling the promise of our species as bold explorers seeking out the unknown. The entire world watched those grainy images from the Apollo 11 cameras being beamed back to our living rooms, holding its breath in awe with the notion that there is something bigger at work in the cosmos than us. The universe is a vast, infinite canvas of marvelous wonders and on that day in July 1969, this planet was witness to that. But to me, the most amzing part of it all is, we actually pulled it off. Our primitive, infant civilization was able to rub enough sticks together to actually get off this rock we call home and go visit the one next door. And it was all done without desktop computers, internet access, and Starbucks coffee. Amazing.
So it brings me great sadness to read that the space shuttle program has been grounded again, thanks to a piece of foam insulation half the size of the laptop I'm writing this on. FOAM INSULATION??? 36 years ago, we sent men to the moon strapped to the top of a Saturn V rocket without major incident, and yet today we're losing spacecraft left and right because of FOAM INSULATION. I have nothing but respect for the astronauts who travel into space, and the men and women at NASA are nothing short of American heroes to me, but when pieces of the shuttle can break off and actually destroy the ship, it's time to rethink the whole Endeavour. The shuttle being grounded is heartbreaking, but what's even more heartbreaking is that it's still being flown at all. The space shuttle is outdated and has outlived its usefulness. It was a marvelous machine, but time has caught up with the great craft and like all used cars, it needs to be sold for parts to make room for a new car in the garage. NASA needs to stop trying to fix the shuttle and instead it needs to come up with something better, something safer, and something that will get us back out into space as quickly as possible. Exploring the heavens, for a brief, incredible moment, united the world in a way nothing else has. And with everything else happening in the world right now, we sure could use something like that again. But I hate to say it, that will never happen if we keep pinning our hopes and dreams on a 20 year old spaceship.
I wish Kennedy were still around. He'd get us off our asses and into space again.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
July 4, 2005. Sunset. Burbank, California. 229 years removed from the signing of a piece of parchment on which our forefathers proudly proclaimed, in a nutshell, "We're sick and tired of being hassled by the man." I was sitting on a rooftop just off Magnolia Ave, watching 3 different fireworks shows at the same time. To the north, just above the treetops, my friends and I could plainly see the colorful explosions coming from Starlight Bowl. To the south, Universal Studios was giving the tourists a spectacular light show. And not to be outdone, the Hollywood Bowl was getting in on the act, illuminating the eastern skies with some stunning, and no doubt expensive red rocket glares. Our necks got whiplash for the better part of 2 hours as each boom and flash made us whip around to each successive and random firework light up the dark skies over the San Fernando Valley. It was like watching a technicolor tennis match made of light and magic. And it was free.
Like we are.
Happy birthday, America.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Tom Jones is the Man.
One of my earliest memories is repeated listenings of my Mom's scratchy LP of "Tom Jones' Greatest Hits" when I was 4 years old. Dad was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska, so my family was living among the mountains and pines of the north. It's a beautiful place, but it is so close to the North Pole that for several weeks during the winter, it gets dark at 2 in the afternoon. And I mean dark. For a 4 year old, that's a tad confusing. Seasame Street is not even half over and all of a sudden it's nighttime. Combine that with snow, ice, and -40 degree cold, going outside to play is not an option. And some days the weather was so bad there would be no TV reception. Nothing but snow and snow. So, in order to entertain her very hyper toddler (and keep her sanity intact), my Mom would play albums for me on the monstrous record player that took up an entire wall of our house. I would sit next to the enormous cabinet, my ear close to one of the enclosed speakers, and I would sing along with whatever it was Mom pulled from the record collection. And my Mom liked to listen to Tom Jones more than any of the other albums in her collection. A lot more. To put it another way, I knew all the words to "She's a Lady," "Delilah," and "What's New, Pussycat?" before I could tie my shoes. But, as much as I enjoyed singing along with Tom's Greatest Hits, I didn't understand why my Mom liked listening to him so much. That is, until last Saturday night.
Imagine if you will, hundreds of women, of every age, race, and height you can imagine, all transfixed by a hairy, sweaty welcoming singing on stage. They scream, they swoon, they sing along. And with every song comes another pair of panties sailing through the air, like Victoria decided to give away every last one of her secrets, hurling each of them at the stage with the sexual frenzy of a giddy teenager. This is the power of Tom Jones, my friends, power I witnessed first hand at the Greek Theater last Saturday night. Thanks to my friend Staci, and the tickets she bought me for my birthday, I had a 16th row view of this unbelievable spectacle. Tom had every woman in the audience eating out of his hand. A wink, a smile, an extra-long final note; Tom charmed and excited the lot, flashing his million dollar grin to the crowd, hypnotizing each and every lady with his smooth voice, his tight pants, and his profuse sweating (two words: Niagara Falls). But Tom's persistent perspiration didn't matter to the ladies. They were his, and no amount of moisture could sway them. I'm sure some of them would have given up their firstborn child for one night alone with Mr. Jones. And the man is 65 years old. 65! One wrong move, one wrongly-timed gyration, he could fall and break a hip. Don't get me wrong, he puts on a hell of a show, but the man isn't as spry as he used to be. But despite the risk of bodily injury, Tom keeps going; one song after another, one dance after another, one sexual innuendo after another, all to the delight of his legion of screaming female fans.
Now I get why my Mom listened to him so much on those dark and stormy winter afternoons. It wasn't to entertain me, it was to entertain her!
I have new respect for the man, the myth, and the legend that is Tom Jones. If only I could harness a tenth of this man's mojo. I'm not asking for the power to make women throw their panties at me at will, just enough to make them at least consider the idea. Too much of Tom's mojo might be too powerful for everyday life. Strange women screaming at me and ripping my clothes off while I'm standing in line at the bank might be a bit awkward.
Fun, but awkward.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
The skies in L.A. are usually clear, but this year saw more rain fall on the city since, well, ever. But despite the flooding, the sinkholes, and the mudslides that made life miserable at the beginning of the year, there were a few days where the sky would clear up just enough to produce sunsets like the one above. So, for a couple days at least, the view from my kitchen window was almost worth the weather.
Monday, June 20, 2005
A horror known only as MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE.
On the surface, it seemed harmless enough. Deep in the heart of Fantasyland, flashing lights, loud music, and animatronic animals beckon to all who wander near, like some candy coated sirens' call. Step right up! Don't miss! The amazing magical joyride through the loveable world of Mr. Toad! See Mr. Toad sing! See Mr. Toad dance! See Mr. Toad having all sorts of Mr. Toad adventures! It's great for the kids! How can you go wrong with a pitch like that? And so there I was, dragging my uncle through the line, hopped up on my seventh $3 coke in the collectable Mickey Mouse squeeze bottle. After what seemed an eternity, we found ourselves at the head of the line, ready to board our Mr. Toad jalopy to set out on our Mr. Toad Wild Ride! The jalopy was a faithful recreation of the open-top, 1920's car that was so popular with talking woodland creatures circa 1978. My uncle picked me up and set my right behind the jalopy's enormous steering wheel and said, "You know what, it's your birthday, you get to drive." Then he gave me a wink and moved to the back of the jalopy. And before I could say anything, the jalopy took off without warning.
I was off on my wild ride with Mr. Toad.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is nothing more than a brisk journey through a funhouse full of singing animatronic animals dancing to cheesy music and cheap smoke effects. The jalopy winds its way along a track on the floor, all while avoiding the Mr. Toad characters that jump out at you, then deposits you on the other side of the funhouse, dropping you off at a conveniently located gift shop selling Mr. Toad shirts, dolls, and $3 cokes in collectable Mr. Toad squeeze bottles.
So you're probably asking yourself, "What's so scary about that?" Well, when my uncle lifted me up and stuck me behind the wheel of the car, I thought I was REALLY DRIVING. In my 6 year old mind, I was suddenly responsible for every move our jalopy made. If I steered left, the jalopy would go left. If I steered right, the jalopy would go right. And if I didn't do a good job and steer clear of Mr. Toad and his friends, not only could I crash into them, but I could also crash into the back wall of the funhouse, possibly killing me, my uncle, and any other poor soul unlucky enough to cross my path!
In other words, I was now responsible for the safety and well-being of myself and everyone else having a Wild Ride!
The jalopy rode along the track just like it always did, hundreds of times a day, thousands of times a year, each time narrowly avoiding hitting Mr. Toad, the wall of the funhouse, or anything else. But to the 6 year old boy behind the wheel of the jalopy, the boy with no concept of tracks, automated systems, or animatronics, this was a ride straight into hell. My small fingers gripped the oversized wheel in front of me with every once of strength I had. I frantically steered left, narrowly avoiding a head on collision with a hedgehog. But there was a giant mole coming at me! I steered right, speeding past the over-eager underground dweller. No time to catch my breath as another creature sprang up in our path! Sweat poured down my face as I turned the wheel. My uncle just smiled and waved at me, laughing at the Wild Ride we were on. What was he laughing for? Didn't he realize he put a 6 year old boy behind the wheel of a speeding car? Faster and faster we went through the funhouse, zipping past every kind of talking critter you can imagine, each one more determined than the last to leap out in the path of our speeing jalopy. And the jalopy had no foot pedals! I was behind the wheel of a speeding car with NO BRAKES! There was no way to slow us down! We were out of control!
The jalopy finally slowed down and stopped. Everyone got out. And while the other kids were laughing and clamoring for their parents to buy them something, I was shaking and trembling. I gripped the stair rail with white knuckles as I walked up to my parents waiting at the end of the line. They kept saying, "That looked like fun! Do you want to ride it again?" Hell, no, I don't want to ride it again! What are you people, nuts? You almost killed me! On my birthday! With a hedgehog!
It was right then and there I swore I would never take a wild ride with Mr. Toad ever again.
At least not until I was 7 and could handle the pressure better.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
One of the best pictures I've ever taken. Standing at the far end of an abandonded sea park on the edge of California's coast in Rancho Palos Verdes, November 2003, during the filming of "The Aviator." Directly behind me, Hollywood geniuses were recereating the spectacular crash of Howard Hughes and his XF-11 spyplane smashing into Beverly Hills. Take after take, fire, smoke, and exploding debris were set off, creating a magnificent pyrotechnic display for the whole crew to see. And just on the other side of the set, out of view from the camera, there was an entirely different light show going on. And this one only needed one take to get right.
Friday, June 17, 2005
So thanks to the TiVo, I found myself planted on the couch on a lazy Thursday afternoon watching an episode of "Lost" from 3 months ago. I sat there, mesmerized by the adventures of these 21st century castaways stuck on some new uncharted desert isle (whose predicament could easily be remedied if they would only do what the old bunch should have done, which is to ask the Professor to build a friggin' BOAT), but I digress. To make a long story short, that's when the couch started moving. Then the walls rumbled, the windows rattled, and the TV shook. I realized what it was. It wasn't the cat under the table. It wasn't someone running down the hall. It wasn't a big truck driving by.
It was an earthquake.
It lasted about 2 seconds.
It felt like 2 minutes.
My heart stopped, then began racing. I sat there, not moving, not breathing, waiting to see if more was coming. Nothing happened. I sighed, then laughed. There it was, my first earthquake. I knew when I moved to L.A. I would experience one at some point. Out of the blue, just like that. For a split second, everything in your world stops. Life takes a tremendous, ominous pause while the planet has a stretch and rearranges the scenery a bit. Then it's over. The moment hits like a thunderbolt, then is gone just as fast. And, as far as earthquakes go, this one was tiny. Geologically speaking, anyway. But it didn't matter. It was an EARTHQUAKE. I calmed down. I switched from "Lost" to the local news, knowing I could return to the folks stranded on the island at a more convenient time. And that's when it hit me. All the important moments, the ones you remember for the rest of your life, you get to see them one time and that's it. You can't rewind, go back, and watch it all over again. They just happen, then are gone. The moments that remain with us the longest are the ones we only get to see once.
Life has no TiVo.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
These are the things that keep me up at night.
Scientology is a cult. A very real, dangerous, and evil cult.
Someone needs to resuce Katie Holmes before it is too late. Tom is too far gone. But Katie can be saved. A hero needs to rise up and snatch her away from the disciples of Xenu. I suggest you check out www.xenu.net to discover for yourself the truth behind L. Ron Hubbard and his flock of certified nut jobs. Seriously, folks. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
Anyway, enjoy the blog. I'll try to keep it interesting.