Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My Daddy's tears

My dad was barely 22 when victory was declared in the Pacific theatre in 1945. He saw some shit that he never really told me about—no vets from that war ever do. You had to be a tough guy to weather the constant showering of Kamikaze planes and the unspoken fears of a massive land invasion of Japan that would mean certain death... for both sides.

But there was a softer side to my dad, a caring loving side. When something touched him, he wasn't afraid to cry. He never made a big display of that fact, except once—I've forgotten the movie we had seen together (I was barely 10 at the time), but I distinctly remember him turning to face me after the lights came up and pointing at his cheeks and saying with a hint of a smile, "See that? That's me crying."

I thought of this because I saw Rent this last Sunday night and cried most of the way through it, not because it was so sad (although it was), but because it's such a great musical and also such a wondrous celebration of life. My wife said she cried for the entire last half hour, and while I wasn't a Niagara myself, I was still very excited to see all these great musical numbers come to life in cinematic form. Musicals are a weird, tricky medium—my friend Brian once said that, "Musicals aren't realistic", which I can understand, if not relate to—and if done poorly are excruciating to watch. Rent, however, not only has good music and poetry... but it's fucking good drama, too.

One of my favorite pieces of poetry from Rent is "La Vie Bohème". Unfortunately, you can't really appreciate how musically creative it is unless you hear it performed, but the words are still stand alone ingenious.

Here is a classic excerpt:

Bisexuals, trisexuals, homo sapiens,
Carcinogens, hallucinogens, men, Pee Wee Herman
German wine, turpentine, Gertrude Stein
Antonioni, Bertolucci, Kurosawa
Carmina Burana
To apathy, to entropy, to empathy, ecstasy
Vaclav Havel -- The Sex Pistols, 8BC,
To no shame -- never playing the Fame Game

(toking up)
To marijuana!

To sodomy,
It's between God and me
To S and M


La vie Boheme!

Okay, but look at one part of it again, but this time read the CAPITAL LETTERS with a stronger emphasis—all commas are now removed, but the line breaks signify longer pauses:


to apathy to entropy to empathy
the SEX PIstols
to no shame never playing the fame game

Maybe I didn't get explain that well enough, but if you're intrigued and enjoy singing at all, then make sure you see Rent in a big theatre while you still can... some of the choral numbers will knock your socks off.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My debut

Today is a red letter day: I just found out that my name has officially been registered on the Internet Movie Data Base for my work as a Script Supervisor on Threading Over Dark. This is big news!

Here's the link:

Boat drinks for everyone...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

This year, my wife Tracie and I drove West to Dillon Beach to spend some time with our extremely amusing urban tribe, the Roy Clan. What I love most about this group is how un-pressured it is. If you want to spend the whole sunny weekend indoors reading a book, game on. Our total headcount this year was a startling 24. I'm still scratching my head how this weekend was planned so well... but it was fun!

Among some of the great games I got to play this time were Gin Rummy, Senat, Blokus, Settlers of Katan, Charades, and—my personal favorite—Werewolf. Every time this particular group plays Werewolf (usually only on Thanksgiving, though that looks set to change after this year), it gets a little more nuanced and more entertaining, probably because we're using the advanced rules now. And Dave becomes a better and better liar. Susan, too. (On my only turn as a werewolf, I had to apologize to my wife for offing her so early in the game, but she was sitting right next to me, and that just will not do if there's any chance at all she can detect my hand selecting my next victim!)

Ah, but the turkey. Oooooh, the turkey. Ecce turkus:

She's a beauty, ain't she? Okay, so see that thermometer sticking out of the thigh? After four hours, well within the suggested cooking time, that sucker was reading 195 degrees! I'm starting to think, SHIT! This baby's going to be overcooked and I'll have an angry crowd of villagers screaming to have me lynched! Jeepers! I took it out and started carving it.

I must say... carving a turkey for friends and family is sheer delight. You get to finally see if your hours of shopping, planning, basting and cooking have paid off in a meal unable to be bought in stores. And, for a meal this size, it is a special treat when it all comes together. The problem is that this year's turkey was a little undercooked. Not all of it, thank the gods, just the bottom parts. It was about 90% finished. Whew. This was the 3rd turkey I'd cooked this year specifically in preparation for this day's event. If I hadn't got it nailed down after so much preparation, what had I done wrong?

My 22.75 pound beauty was from the recipe I posted earlier (pictured at left and covered in butter and turkey bits; click it to see a legible image), although I've since found that this recipe is flawed; the bottommost part of the chest plate was slightly uncooked. Generally, there are three tests for turkey-ness deliscioso: 1) the internal thigh temperature must be 165 degrees 2) a big bird like this has to cook 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours and 3) if you poke it with a fork, the juices run clear. This turkey passed all three tests, so I think I'll to poke the thermometer into the chest plate next time.

Even so, this year's big bird was scrumptious, the best yet. Slightly salty, and soooooo juicy. I can't wait until next year!

One other lovely addition to our Thanksgiving gastronomic abandon... Pierre Jacqueman's vinaigrette salad dressing, Liberé de Sucre. At this point, I could delve into the quaint signficance of Pierre Jacqueman, Thanksgiving's extroverted lumberjack from Canadia[sic], but that's a whole other post. Maybe next year.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving thanks... the greatest gift

Without really thinking about it, I asked my ex-wife the other day what plans she had for Thanksgiving. Normally, this wouldn't be such a silly thing to ask, except that she lives in France and it's not a holiday there. Duh!

That got me thinking... Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday, and actually a quasi-celebration of the creation of America itself (as we know America today, not the America it was before the Europeans came) and its ability to sustain itself in foreign lands. So it seems very fitting that families congregate and break bread together. Honestly, not even Christmas is this food-centered and there's something fundamentally fulfilling about sharing a well-cooked meal with family.

However, all holidays can let you slip into cynicism mode if you're not judicious about how you treat them. (Why, for example, are Christmas carols being broadcast in Kohl's when it's not even after Thanksgiving?) For that reason, I prefer spending some time on holidays to re-connect with the intent of that holiday. For someone who is not religious, this is about the closest I get to worship.

A few months ago, my wife's cousin was in a horrible helicopter accident. The two other people in the chopper did not survive the day, and by the luck of the stars, an ambulance happened to be four minutes away from the scene. As the paramedics arrived, my wife's cousin waved his hands slightly to let them know where he was in the crash and that he was still alive. A few minutes after that, he went unconscious.

If memory serves, he had a broken leg, two broken ribs, a collapsed lung and head trauma. After surviving a serious infection after surgery, he was put into a medically-induced coma to give him a better chance at healing. It became a waiting game, a nightmare time... a week passed, then two. If you don't wake up from a coma after that long, your chances of waking up at all become impossibly small. After four weeks, the term "persistent vegetative state" was probably being quietly discussed. After five weeks, most all hopes had faded. Still, his parents stayed by his bedside, clinging to whatever they had left inside that their child could still walk away from this tragedy and begin the path to recovery.

Forty days later, I got a tearful call from my wife: he had woken up from the coma. Unless you're a doctor, you don't really appreciate how impossible this kind of shit is—if this were to happen in the movies, the doctors would laugh themselves out of the theatre. We're talking the 0.1% chance here.

Finally, this last Tuesday, we received word that his cognitive therapist does not need to work with him anymore, and this Sunday, we'll be paying him a visit for the first time in months. Given that I haven't seen him conscious since before the accident, I can't wait to see him. In all honesty, I didn't know him as well as my wife does, or his own family, but the time I spent with him was good and full of laughter and he deserved to pull out of this ordeal. I get the impression that at some point, he stood before his Maker—if you believe in that kind of thing—and his Maker glanced over the interminably long list of people who loved him and concluded with a smile and shake of his head, "Sorry, I can't let you in just yet. Too many people love you... too many people deserve to have you back on Earth."

And so, this Thanksgiving has a very special meaning for me, if only to be reminded that we are not immortals, that our time on this planet is silently counted by sunsets and sunrises, and that when we leave this place that we are remembered by what we leave behind and the memories we made and shared with those closest to us.

Sharing time with family. Breaking bread. Making memories. Today, I give thanks for this, the greatest gift one can ever receive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Harvey Pekar. You know, the guy that American Splendor is about. I listened to him being interviewed on NPR, and it was fascinating to hear how this guy, who had been beaten up every day at school, had such low self-esteem that he chose to do a lowly clerk job so easy that he felt he couldn't do it badly. Still, in the depths of his self-styled minimum wage madness, he created extremely insightful populist modern art and thereby carved his own niche of fame from it.

That is empowerment, in my book. He may not have seen the direction American Splendor was taking him, but Pekar saw his opportunity to do something he thought would be cool... and he did it. And, by the wind of good graces, other people thought what he did was cool, too. The point is, he embraced his dream and the universe rewarded him for staying true to his honesty. He took action.

So this post is... an invitation to explore what empowers you. Maybe you work a stupid job for a stupid boss for a stupid wage. Or you're a stay-at-home parent and your daytime is Oprah and Judge Judy. Maybe you even make $1 million a year, but you still feel something fundamental is missing in your life.

What inspires you? What really fires you up? What makes you stay up until dawn without knowing time has passed? Do you even remember the last time that happened? It's there, inside you, waiting for you to open the door and let it dance around the room. So wander around that grand hallway of imagination for a while, try this door and then that door, jiggle all the handles to see which door wants to be opened. Then open it! Find your dream. Get in touch with that part of yourself you remember as a child that was so facile and fun. Maybe you won't find it for a while. That's okay... keep looking. You know it's there, as do I.

Now—if you've successfully unearthed that glittering diamond—I offer you a challenge. In this age where the internet has leveled the playing field for businesses to compete, if you're dependent on a stupid job to make your mortgage payments, can you take that passion that fires you like no one else and turn it into a business to make you money? Or, if you already make a kajillion dollars, can you take that passion and turn it into an idea that makes the world a better place? Money is not the goal here—living with your passion on a daily basis is.

No one watches The Matrix fight scenes or listens to Star Wars: Episode I's Pod Race sequences for cool sounds as much as I. No one studies the story structure of The Usual Suspects as much as I. No one thinks every day about how to break into the film business, and reads in their spare time on how to do it, as much as I do. No one loves a well-made film as much as I. Why? Because film is my passion. Film is how I feel empowered.

So what empowers you? What could turn your life into what you want it to be? I don't want comments (unless you feel like volunteering them)... I want you to think of this as an invitation to find out what you really love doing, and ask yourself if you are in fact doing it. And if not, why not?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Safe Harbors is the sci-fi feature I'm developing with about 90% CGI effects. I know, I know, I've lost my gourd, I'm living the edge and all that. Hey, I like living on the edge... it's a great view.

Anyway, I've been tossing around the pros and cons of formats, things like whether to shoot film vs. mini-DV vs. hi-def, etc. (Mini-DV won that skirmish: cheap, easy and good quality.) But another major format decision was: 4:3 vs. 16:9 vs. 2.35:1?

The filmheads out there know what instantly I'm talking about, and maybe you savvy types also intuit what I'm talking about—you've certainly seen all these formats yourself, you just might not know their technical names.

Well, here's the difference: most TV is still 4:3 format, or 4 units wide by 3 units tall. Most newer TV, like Lost and other hi-def filiming—is in the wider 16:9 "letterbox" format. Finally, most high budget epic films are in the widest 2.35:1 "anamorphic" format. The Matrix was shot 2.35:1 anamorphic and wow, does it show:

When you're shooting a low-budget film like I am, but you really want to give the best impression that the film is still "epic" and big budget, you have to shoot anamorphic. It just looks so cool.

Thus, I opted to go anamorphic for Safe Harbors and slapped together a few images in anamorphic format to assist my designers in getting a feel for where I want to go with this project. At the moment, I can't tell you all much of anything about the story for a loooong time (but oh boy is it gonna be good). Still, I do think these images are awfully swanky. And ain't that anamorphic framing the bomb?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

My favorite turkey recipe!

While dining one night at a Brazilian's house nearly twenty years ago, I recall going mad over what they were cooking. What, I asked, was in it to make it so good? This launched the cook and me into a long discussion about why he wasn't going to tell me—that in his culture, he thought it better for the guests to divine what was being cooked, to hang around the kitchen and learn by watching, like he did as a child with his own mother's cooking.

Crap, I say.

That kind of protectionist thinking only guarantees the gradual decay and extinction of cultures. It is the reason so many great recipes (and languages and religions) are lost forever, and the reason why Christianity is now a burgeoning religion—you are always welcome in a Christian church, no matter what faith you are. It's Branding 101: make your product accessible and get the consumer to own the product as their own.

This Thanksgiving, I'm making a turkey from a recipe I found in the newspaper. I've cooked this recipe five years running and always receive praises about it because the turkey remains juicy from being soaked in water overnight. In fact, this recipe is so bloody good, I can't not share it with everyone. Just knowing my friends and family may try it out fills me with appropriate holiday spirit! So, in honor of my (overly-protectionist and now-forgotten) Brazilian cook, here is the complete recipe I've made for five years straight, which I also plan on making this coming Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Happy Turkey day!

Last year, our staff cooked 28 turkeys to find the best method of producing a plump, juicy bird. Our favorite—by far—was the turkey that we brined before roasting. Brining produces an incomparably juicy turkey, with wonderful flavor and texture. If you don't have room to brine the turkey in the refrigerator, use an ice chest. Place the turkey and the brine in a double-layer food-grade plastic garbage bag such as Glad brand; bags made from recycled material may not be safe to store food. Smoosh out all the air pockets, close the bags and pack in the chest with ice. The bird will happily—and safely—brine away.

Brining works best with a 12- to 16-pound unstuffed turkey roasted at 400 degrees. If you need to serve more people, it's best to roast two smaller turkeys. However, if you do choose to brine a bigger bird, figure that a 20- to 22-pound brined turkey may take 3 1/2-4 1/2 hours to cook. The oven temperature should be the same (350 degrees) as for the unbrined Big Bird instructions that follow. Warning: roasting times may vary depending on the temperature of the turkey when it goes in the oven, the accuracy of the oven thermostat, and how many times you open the oven door (each time the door is opened, the oven temperature drops 75 degrees).

You can make gravy from the drippings of a brined bird according to the accompanying instructions.



For brining:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • A double-layer food-grade plastic garbage bag such as Glad brand

  • Ice & an ice chest (for bigger birds that don't fit in the fridge)

  • 2 1/2 gallons cold water

  • 2 cups kosher salt

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 bay leaves, torn into pieces

  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, or 4 tablespoons dried

  • 1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

  • 5 whole allspice berries, crushed

  • 4 juniper berries, smashed

For roasting & basting:

  • 1/2 cups chicken stock

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper

  • V-rack (to support the turkey)

  • Large turkey pan


  1. Place the water in a large non-reactive pot that can easily hold the liquid and the turkey.

  2. Add all the ingredients and stir for a minute or two until the sugar and salt dissolve.

  3. Put the turkey into the brine and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, depending on how salty you would like the taste. If the turkey floats to the top, cover it with plastic wrap and weight it down with a plate and cans to keep it completely submerged in the brine. Note: You may halve or double the recipe. (If the turkey is in an ice chest, smoosh out all the air pockets, close the bags and pack in the chest with ice; the important thing is to prepare enough brine to cover the turkey completely.)

  4. Before roasting, remove the bird from the brine and drain well. Pat dry.

  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread 2 tablespoons of softened butter over the skin 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper over the skin and in the cavity.

  6. Tuck the wing tips under, truss the legs (cover them waluminumnium foil) and place the turkey on a v-shaped rack in a roasting pan.

  7. Tent the breast with foil and place the turkey in the oven.

  8. After about 1 hour, remove the foil and baste the turkey with 1/2 cup chicken stock. Re-baste it with pan drippings and more stock, if desired, every 20 minutes.

  9. Start checking the internal temperature after about 1 1/2 hours of roasting time. If the legs begin to overbrown, cover them loosely with foil. Roast about 2-2 3/4 hours until the internal temperature measured in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. When pricked with a fork, the juices should run clear.

  10. Before carving let the turkey rest 20-30 minutes after taking it out of the oven; the internal temperature will continue to rise several degrees.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Prepare a 20- to 22-pound turkey as directed above, but double the amount of softened butter, salt and pepper.

  3. Roast and baste (using about 1 cup of stock) according to the above directions.

  4. Cover the legs with foil if they begin to overbrown.

  5. Roast until the internal thigh temperature registers 165 degrees, about 3 1/2 hours.



  • Pan drippings from brined turkey

  • 3 1/2-4 cups of turkey stock or chicken broth

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

  • 1 cup flour

  • Herbs, wine, or pepper to taste


  1. Pan juices from a brined bird may be saltier than from an unbrined one, so you may not want to use all of them.

  2. Strain the pan drippings from the turkey roasting pan into a freezer-proof container.

  3. Cool the drippings, then freeze them so the fat will rise to the top and harden.

  4. Meanwhile, combine equal amounts of unsalted butter and flour (about 1 cup of each).

  5. Cook this roux over medium heat, stirring, until it begins to look grainy, about 3-4 minutes.

  6. Heat about 3 1/2-4 cups of turkey stock or chicken broth or equal amounts of water and stock in a sauce pot.

  7. Whisk in a bit of the roux and bring to a simmer to thicken.

  8. Add more roux, whisking, until the gravy thickens as desired. (You may not need all the roux; any leftover can be refrigerated or frozen for later.)

  9. Remove the pan drippings from the freezer and discard the hardened fat off the top.

  10. Add the drippings to the gravy, a tablespoon at a time, to balance the seasonings.

  11. Add herbs, wine or pepper to taste, as desired.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A brief history of (my) films

All my free time is gone.

I suppose it's my own fault for being obsessed so much about my own films. Yeah, I own that. But wow, I'm also completely obsessed with blogging right now. It's been so long since I've wanted to put a lot of this shite on paper... I mean, "paper". Now I'm conceptually dry heaving all this bunk through the keyboard. Heh heh. Nice image, eh?

All my free time is gone because in addition to working a full-time job, I'm using my free Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays to work 20+ hour days on a feature film, and any time left over is furiously spent working on two other films of my own. Who has time to sneeze anymore?

Whoa, speed racer. How did we get here? Put it in reverse.

Well... I began studying film at NYU in 1988, but after a number of 6AM no-sleep film shoots, I deduced that this life was not for me. I like my sleep. A lot. I mean, a fuck lot. (Sorry, people, I do curse like a sailor at times.) I figured if I were going to lose sleep over a project, either it would be on my own film or it would be on a film worthy of losing sleep. So years crept by while I pursued a career in graphic design...

But burying the passion only means it takes root and bears fruit later. 1995: during my Underground commute in London one morning, I saw a promo ad about a contest to win a 35mm motion picture camera if you could read a copy of Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without A Crew and answered a few silly questions... It wasn't long before I was writing screenplays again. Soon my first feature script of It Runs In The Blood was complete. Blood garnered a quarterfinalist award with 1998's Empire Screenwriting competition.

Then one day, the digital revolution revved up and suddenly the once-exclusive endeavor called Filmmaking (cue random thunderclap and synchronized lightning flash) had been democratized for all to pursue. So in 2000, I wrote, directed and produced Metronome, my first three minute film, with my old college classmate and filmmaker fiend, Jena Starkes. Metronome was a fun little film to do and I treated it like a real film all the way from casting through making a press kit. Metronome even got selected for a local film festival where I once used to live in San Francisco.

Two years later, a wonderful soul named Josh Mehler invited me to help him on his superb A Fairy Story, and I saw what was possible with a G4 computer and three months of skullsweat. In fact, A Fairy Story would lay a great deal of the groundwork for the CGI project I'd be attempting five years down the road and had Josh foreseen the sheer magnitude of what I would be trying, he might have thrown himself on his sword right on the spot.

But once again, I—stupidly—let the creative bug be planted once more. Years passed... Then I got an email from my two friends about an college alumna who's a producer in Hollywood looking for scripts. It was starting to feel like the universe had me on a leash and kept yanking me back when I got off track. Suddenly, I'm writing screenplays again, and with vengeancece. About a year later I have about forty intriguing story ideas and the finished feature screenplay 62 Blocks To Battery Park under my belt. As a chatty romance about two people walking around Manhattan, it wasn't the most marketable script, but it helped me remember how much I love writing. It's hard work, but fun.

Finally, last year, I decided it was time to seriously jump back into the fray. When I was offered the chance to be a Production Assistant on a feature film here in Sacramento, I latched on and didn't let go. Oddly, I ended up being its Production Manager, then the Assistant Director... and then the Director! No thumbscrews, no Borgia rings... it just happened to me, I swear. One of my overriding goals, though, was to get to know as many people in the Sacramento film community as possible, and this was a great start.

Best of all, as often happens in the ways of the world, that project led to a referral for a Script Supervisor job on the inimitable horror flick Threading Over Dark, now my latest gig.

Today, at the end of my journey so far, I'm poising myself to shoot my 2nd short film—about 25 minutes long—and a major feature film project after that sometime in 2007. I am so excited about each of them that have to tell you them in separate posts. I will say this: the short film is a techno-thriller about a CIA super-analyst working from home, and the feature film is a 90% CGI film to be release online in webisode installments.

All my free time is gone. Because I'm up late at night writing this blog!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

And so... thy blog was born!


And it was so... my will has been done!

I've been sitting back, watching with a detached amusement, as blogs have gradually ebbed into popularity. I say amusement because I started a similar kind of blog on Egroups many years ago, in 2001. Sure, my Egroups blogs swelled and then faded away, and this one probably will, too. But, oh... things have changed... my god, how they have really changed!

Pictures, for one. Having a digital camera makes blogging really fun and fresh. Since I recently acquired a digital camera, blogging was a natural step in the process.

Adding links, too. That makes blogs cool and relevant.

But choosing a standard, a really popular and easy blog site, was a major factor—it seems like every few years, a new standard emerges: LPs, cassettes, CDs, mp3s... I can barely keep up. With any new technology or innovation, there's always this initial vetting and you can gamble with an early choice or wait to see who is victorious. My mom chose Beta over VHS—big mistake. I chose Word over MacWrite—wise decision. So I chose to wait this time until the battle of the blogs was over. Egroups really lost out, especially after they got bought out by Yahoogroups. Oh, I still use Yahoogroups (every day, in fact), but not for blogging. They missed that boat big time.

Archiving of posts was another juicy bite I had to digest without incident; what's the point spending hours of my life writing shite if no one is able to read it years from now? All my posts get emailed to me at home. Niiiiiiice.

So who knows how long this blog will last? It will be fun, that's for sure. A few things about which I'm likely to opine:

* my flourishing film career
* my upcoming short film, ghoti (pronounced like "fish")
* my 90% CGI feature film, Safe Harbors
* my exceptional wit in highly awkward situations
* my weird spidey-sense that happens every time I think I'm going to cut myself shaving, but then don't because of said spidey-sense
* my adoration for knowing arcane bits of information, especially about the English language, and even more specifically about grammar, and even more specifically about the proper usage of its (along with its common abuse)
* my favorite novel of all time: Perfume: A Story of A Murderer
* my web site:
* my Myspace profile
* my excessively manly head of hair
* my obsessive need to write too often about whatever

Unfortunately, I do have other things to do. So... bye.