Wednesday, March 29, 2006

GHOTI: Trailer Pics 2

Here's the second set of pictures from my trailer for my feature film Ghoti. (There's a third set of pics coming later this week or next.) Click to enlarge all photos.

Here I simultaneously sip java and direct up my own personal SWAT Team to storm my house. I wish all Mondays could start like this.
Left to right: Brian Dahl, Mike Sheldon, Adam Neeley, Rob Thomas, Rick Mischke and me. Hey Mike, I need you to look more serious in this shot.

Poor Adam came unshaven to the set and—since no SWAT Team guy would look like that—we had to gave him a masked look. At end of day, he peeled off the mask and was crazy sweating. Never complained once. What a trooper!

These guys look so awesome. Hey... is that Cranium on the bookshelf back there?

Note the proper extended finger as per proper SWAT Team procedure. Never let it be said we don't have realism on my set, damn it.

Here my producer Max sets up a handheld whip pan from Rob in the window above to the storming SWAT team below him. To save time and blaze through our shot list, we used almost no lights, preview monitor or boom (most of the trailer was meant to be MOS or looped in post). And, since this was all video, there was no "cleaning of the gate" or any nonsense like that to slow us down. Max is using his Canon's XL-1 (which is so small, you barely even know he's holding it), the same camera Danny Boyle used for his zombie film, 28 Days Later. I really wanted to use Max's new Glidecam, too, but it hadn't arrived yet. It didn't matter—Max is gifted at holding a steady frame.

Lacie working her makeup magic on Rob. "Make it look like someone really clocked him good," I said. "This is meant to look like an interrogation scene, after all."

And wow, look at that shiner. Nice work, Lacie. By the way, that military coat has "MAXWELL" for the name badge... which is coincidentally my producer's name. Weird how that happens, huh?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Universal: If you can't beat them...

The best way to trump piracy is to adopt the same methods pirates use. Steven Soderbergh has tried something like this already with his latest film Bubble by releasing his film in theatres and DVDs simultaneously (which I blogged about here).

Now a major studio is leading the charge. If Universal is successful in offering films for immediate download until their DVD arrives, consumers could eventually see no need to incur risk by using illegal peer-to-peer networks like eDonkey and Limewire, especially if the quality of the download far supasseses most pirated copies. Universal has the right idea in trying to lure moochers back into spending money for entertainment, but their price point is still too high: $35 for a DVD??? WTF? Um, no thanks. I can buy an hour of Lost or Battlestar Galactica off of iTunes for $2. And new DVDs are only $25. Maybe DVDs are just studidly expensive in Britain. Most everything else is in Europe.

And, unlike Soderburgh, it seems as if Universal's films will only be available for download on the day the DVDs have been released, instead of the day that their films are released in theatres. So Universal isn't truly at the cutting edge here. Still, nice try. The wind is certainly changing.

Coming soon: Download-to-own films
Friday, March 24, 2006; Posted: 8:47 a.m. EST (13:47 GMT)

LONDON, England -- Universal Pictures and the online rental firm Lovefilm are launching what they say is the world's first download-to-own movie service in Britain next month.

Starting with "King Kong" on April 10, the companies say the new service will let people watch the latest movies on their laptops, home computers or hand-held devices while on the move.

Currently, films can be legally downloaded only for a short rental period, but this is the first legitimate means of downloading and owning a movie release, the UK's Press Association reported.

"Download-to-own has the potential to completely revolutionize the way people watch movies," PA quoted Peter Smith, president of Universal Pictures International, as saying.

Films will be available to download the same day the DVD is released. Consumers will get the film in three formats: two digital files available for instant download—one for a PC or laptop and one for a portable device—and a DVD copy sent by mail.

Initially, 35 Universal films will be available, including "Pride And Prejudice," "The Bourne Supremacy," "Love Actually," "Nanny McPhee" and "Bridget Jones."

They will be priced from £19.99 ($35) for the latest releases to £9.99 ($17.50) for older films. Downloading a film will take between 40 minutes and an hour.

"The time is only 12–18 months away when you will be able to put the kettle on, get the kids ready and then have a great movie ready to watch," Lovefilm chief executive Mark Livingstone told PA.

Eventually all 6,500 movies in the Universal catalogue could be made available for downloading, PA reported.

The films will be available on the Lovefilm and AOL Web sites. AOL, like CNN, is owned by Time Warner.

New films will be available at midnight on the day of release—meaning consumers could be watching a DVD on a hand-held device on their train journey to work before stores have opened.

Security measures will make it impossible to e-mail the film to somebody else.

"Consumers are becoming more and more demanding. They want quality products and more accessibility," said Eddie Cunningham, chairman of Universal Pictures UK.

"This service offers instant access and flexibility for consumers to watch films wherever they like."

Universal's research showed that 12- to 18-year-olds in particular are keen to watch films on their laptops or portable devices.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Superbowl in 3D... at the Cineplex?

The story below is exciting for two reasons: (1) 3D is finally starting take off as a viable medium and (2) movie theatres are starting to adapt their identity to survive the modern world.

The 3D thing is a little bit old news: James Cameron is already in production with his 3D animé Battle Angel (slated for release in 2009) and George Lucas has plans to re-release his two trilogies in 3D starting next year at the rate of one per year. Still, these directors are powerful players and they're leading the charge to establish 3D in the market—that's phase 1 of the takeover. Phase 2 happens when movie theatres step on the bandwagon, which is now happening. (Phase 3 is when the public embraces the new technology. Um, duh.)

As for (2), I've seen movie theatres pitch themselves as conference halls for big corporations and that's a clever way to make up for income lost to home theatre systems, but spotting a niche like 3D which the home consumer can't do and exploiting it? Genius! In fact, no one has ever gone to the cinemaplex to watch sports live before so this could quite possibly be the wave of the future.

Movie theaters aim for live 3D sports

Movie theater operators hope to be screening live 3D sports events by 2007 in a bid to lure sports fans away from their home theater systems and bolster sagging mid-week ticket sales.

Ticket sales at theater chains dropped 9 percent in 2005 from what analysts said was a combination of lackluster films, competition from other forms of entertainment such as video games, and the spread of large-screen, high-definition televisions and digital video recorders.

But while worldwide tickets sales are forecast to grow 12 percent over the next five years, exhibitors want to use new digital projection technology to change the way consumers think about movie theaters.

"We want to transition our theaters from being traditional movie theaters to being community entertainment destinations, and what better way to do this than sports?" said Shari Redstone, president of the National Amusements theater chain.

In 2004, during Boston Red Sox baseball fever—the year they won the World Series for the first time since 1918—National Amusements, the controlling shareholder in Viacom, began screening high-definition broadcasts of Red Sox games in its Showcase Cinemas in several New England cities on weekday nights.

The cinemas brought in vendors to stroll the aisles with hot dogs, peanuts and beer, sold team gear in the lobbies and encouraged fans to loosen up as they would in the ball park.

"We are not just putting the game up on the big screen but making the experience like being in Fenway Park," Redstone, a Red Sox fan, said. "The experience is more important, really, than what you are showing."

Other chains are looking to much-improved digital three-dimensional projection for an experience theatergoers can't get at home.

But while the projection has greatly advanced from the early 3D days, special glasses must still be worn to achieve the full effect.

Michael Lewis, chairman of privately held REAL D, which created 3D prints for the Disney's "Chicken Little," said 3D technology has tested successfully on National Football League games, but unwinding who owns the rights to screen games in theaters may be tricky.

"We think the concerts will be the first because they are easiest to do," Lewis said. "Sometime in 2007, our goal is to get live sports programming to theaters. Some of the (sports) rights holders see it as cannibalizing opportunities in other venues that they paid a lot of money for."

Brave new world
Three dimensional filming is achieved by using two digital cameras set apart the same distance as human eyes.

Lewis would not divulge which distributors Real D is working with on 3D sports broadcasts.

Peter Brown, chief executive of AMC Theatres, owned by privately held AMC Entertainment, said exhibitors are in the early stages of trying to drive more live content into their venues.

"It's a bit of a brave new world," Brown said last week at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas. "The folks that control those rights or owners have to sort that out. (The contracts) weren't created with that notion in mind."

National Amusements had no problem securing rights to screen games because the Red Sox organization controls the New England Sports Network that broadcasts the team's games in the region—a lucky break, Redstone said.

"I have talked to some of the other (Viacom) entities about getting some more programming ... but it is extremely difficult to get through the rights issues," Redstone said.

Nor is it clear whether in-theater games would feature commercials or function more like pay per view.

National CineMedia, a consortium of Regal Entertainment Group, AMC and Cinemark theaters, has been working on ideas and relationships with TV networks and cable programmers, NCM Chief Executive Kurt Hall said.

National CineMedia has broadcast the NASCAR Daytona 500, Major League Soccer and part of the Tour de France in some of its theaters in past years, but wants to expand into regular sports and concert programming, especially during the weekday attendance lull.

"The intent is to cross-market the theater event and network TV programming and even start including the theater audiences in the TV ratings calculations," Hall said.

Friday, March 24, 2006

GHOTI: Trailer Pics 1

I'll be posting more pics later from the trailer shoot, but I spotted these on Rob Granados' Myspace profile, so I thought I'd post a few now. As you can see, we had real assault rifles and gear. Neat.

Rob Thomas, our resident tactical expert on set, and Rick Mischke. Both of these guys were real pros. Thanks for coming, guys!

Rick Mishke and Rob Grandados. Rob is pictured here after I kicked his ass for talking too much during takes. No, just kidding... he had a scene in an interrogation room, so we got him bloodied up thanks to Lacie Oakley's amazing makeup skills. Note that Rick Mishke doubled up roles as a SWAT team member and a two star general.

Everyone should have this chair

Thanks to this wonderful site, I found the pic below. Here's what the blog owner has to say about it:

Disney invites people to climb up and "Feel like a Kid Again," in this guerrilla campaign for Disney DVD Classic series. I wouldn't mind climbing up for a nap myself. Done by FCB, Sao Paulo. It would be sweet if Disney created an oversized movie theater and all the seats were this big—they could screen all their movies there. And everyone would pay an oversized price.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who walks around without smiling or talking to their work colleagues all day should have one of these chairs FedEx'd to them immediately.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

When Good Supertankers Go Bad

These pictures are really just too amazing not to repost. Most people probably forget that ships exist out there so large that they make the mind boggle when we see them. This effect is doubly magnified when we see them in settings where they don't belong. Take the story of the APL Panama, a supertanker which ran aground on a California beach on Christmas Day 2005.

Witness but a few "Oh my god!" pics (click to enlarge):

Just another day at the—HOLY CHRIST! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT DOING THERE!?!?!?

Time to offload with an Evergreen Sikorsky S-64 Sky Crane. How long do you think that took?

Here you can actually see the tanker lurching to her port side under the tugboat's pull. Alas, it would take many tries...

In the end, it would take until March 10 (over 2 months) to insinuate this topheavy lady back into her native waters, all because the captain was too impatient for the local pilots to come aboard and navigate her into port.

Take home lesson: patience is a virtue.

Almost forgot... this story courtesy of Todd "Gabrito" Huss.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Apple Strikes Back


Apple slams France as 'pirate' state
By Macworld staff

Apple has slammed France's decision to force manufacturers to make their digital rights management systems interoperable.

In a statement given to Reuters, the company condemned the decision as "state-sponsored piracy", Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said.

Kerris warned that if the law passes through the French Senate (its last step before ratification): "Legal music sales will plummet just when legitimate alternatives to piracy are winning over customers."

The law demands that online music retailers furnish digital rights management tools to convert songs between different formats so that tracks from any service will play on any device. All manufacturers and music services will be affected.

Kerris said: "iPod sales will likely increase as users freely upload their iPods with 'interoperable' music which cannot be adequately protected. Free movies for iPods should not be far behind."

Meanwhile, the French government has begun a diplomatic push to have its proposals adopted across the European Union.

Star Wars on TV!

It's true—Lucas is filling in the blanks of Star Wars between Episodes III and IV by running a TV show. Had this news happened 10 years ago, I would have been excited, but now, in the wake of what special effects can do to enhance Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, I'm positively ecstatic. It means we'll get to see a darker Star Wars, Yoda in exile, more Darth Vader, Obi-Wan... but those characters won't play a central role, if I'm guessing correctly. To maintain a 100 episode TV series, you'd have to introduce and maintain interest in a totally different set of characters. The world is obviously rich enough a tapestry to draw a viewership, so if the writers are smart, they'll give us the other half of the equasion—and on hyperspeed: good acting, intriguing characters, and great writing.

Ha ha—how funny. I didn't read the whole article below before starting this post and I was dead on. See the boldface.

Can't wait!

Star Wars series to run and run

The TV series spin-off of the Star Wars film franchise will run to at least 100 episodes, according to producer Rick McCallum.

He told BBC Radio 1 the writing team would soon be meeting to start on the project, which would begin filming in 2008 and be ready the same year.

"Hopefully if we can make it work and everybody's excited and watches it we will keep on going," said McCallum.

The series will be set between episodes three and four of the film saga.

It would cover the 20 years in the life of Luke Skywalker growing up that remains a mystery to most film-goers.

McCallum said there would be "a whole bunch of new characters" and the series would be "much more dramatic and darker".

He added that it was unlikely any of the stars of the movies would be involved in the TV series.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Predictions About Our Digital World

Today my friend Todd forwarded me a link to an online Quake emulation which is pretty freakin' awesome. Its massive bandwidth and processor requirements made my measly 750 MegaHerz Macintoy chip creep along, but this emulation is a subtle reminder that the entire world will be going online. If online emulators can be this good, why can't everything go online?

When I was visiting the States in the late 80s, I remember asking my father—whose early childhood had been defined by a house without electricity—what he thought the future of newspaper publishing would look like given the latest proliferation of computers. The internet had yet to take hold of the world, so there was no way he could even fathom the new world that would explode just 10 years after that. Nevertheless, his vision was prophetic: "Newspapers will be sent to us at home through our telephones or fax machines, or some other such device, and we'll print them up at home to read." With the exception of the printing part, that is exactly how most of us receive the news today. Yikes.

About six years after that, I was chatting with a colleague about the future of cell phones. At the time, we were paying bills on a minute by minute rate. If you were on the phone for 10 seconds, you got billed for a whole minute. His prediction: "One day, we'll be buying chunks of time at a flat rate." Preposterous, I thought. Why would companies do something like that? And here we are today with cell phone companies selling 500 minutes/month. Interesting...

About 2 months ago, NPR was interviewing some bloke about the future of the newspaper industry. He was saying that news distribution has been shifting emphasis from paper media to online media, which is true because I myself no longer buy paper newspapers (the Sunday edition of The New York Times notwithstanding), but use RSS feeds with NetNewsWire to get as many as 100+ news stories every morning. And it's all free. So from my desk POV, it's astonishing that paper newspapers haven't closed up shop yet. And most of them will have to close shop as my generation, and all my subsequent generations, grow older. This guy on NPR wisely added that, in order to survive, paper news publishers are going to have to redefine themselves as information providers, instead of newspaper publishers. Good man.

And then last night, following my logorrheic tirade against the French Government's anti-business intrusions, my new friend Richard asked me an excellent question about how music and movies will be distributed in the future. He said he spent more money on music in 2005 through iTunes than on any music at all in 2004 because not only was iTunes offering access to music he'd never heard but music companies had always promoted music he didn't like. Would full digital delivery really happen?

My reply:

Full digital delivery is well on its way, I think. In 20 years, CDs will be coffee coasters for the most part. The democratization of music and motion picture distribution will soon devastate the music labels and film distributors until they revamp, restructure, and redefine themselves. I doubt they'll go under completely (TV did not kill radio, after all)—there will always be someone who excels at promoting music and movies and most artists would rather not be bothered with all that nonsense. The wave of the future could be a distribution company focusing on promoting artists who live all over the world, rather than promoting only artists who have moved to a major urban hub like L.A. and New York.

You don't have be Stephen Hawking to see the world is changing colors when it comes to distributing content online. The future in online. Everything will be online.

Ok. How will this look?

My Predictions For The Future:

  • All software applications will be online. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Quake, Quicken... everything.

  • We will pay a bulk rate to use software applications online. We'll also pay to add individual modules to our online software as needed: $1/month to use a spreadsheet formula or 5¢ for every instance of boldface. (The Three Musketeers was originally published in newspaper serials and Dumas was paid per line, not per word; this had the unintended consequence of Dumas writing brief dialogue, which gave birth to a new method of literature. And so our own communication habits will also be changed depending on the price paid, or not paid, for our communications.)

  • Local hard drives will eventually be backed up online with high-level encryption.

  • As we use more online applications, and our trust in handing our personal data over to encrypted serversg grows, we will use online servers as our primary storage... and our local hard drives will become our backup storage. If you don't believe anyone would trust their private data with on a remote source, just look how much personal information people post about themselves on Myspace. And how many people give their credit cards numbers to complete strangers to buy things online.

  • We will buy rights to music once and it will follow us forever so we can play it in whatever medium we choose, though this will obviously be streamed over the internet, because the internet will be everywhere. For online media, this will be good news: we will always have the best quality version available—no more broken CDs or DVDs will have to be re-purchased. For online media, this will also be bad news: future generations might not be able to experience our constantly upgraded media (stone tablets last thousands of years while videotape doesn't last more than 30 years).

These are but a few of my predictions. I have many more, but I must get back to writing. On my local hard drive. With my local-running version of Word. Wow, it just hit me that I've composed this entire post, and saved it, on my browser. Huh.

Do any of you have predictions on the shape of our world to come? Holla!

Monday, March 20, 2006

GHOTI: Trailer Shoot Update

What a crazy day. Got up this morning at 6:30 to make final preparations for the arriving hordes to film my trailer for GHOTI. Thanks to my wonderful, thoughtful, amazing wife, we all had plenty of drinks, pastries, muffins, English muffins, bagels, juice, and Snapple. Oh, and she did the dishes. Yeaaaaahhhhh boyyyyyyeeeeeee!!! My wife rocks.

The shoot went like a dream: we had seven SWAT Team guys in all—2 with kick arse riffle weapons, five with sidearms, and only two of the seven weapons were fake. With so much potential for bad juju on set, I was a little nervous until I gave my come to Jesus speech. But everything went great. One of the guys even worked for the government and gave superb advice on SWAT Team tactical attacks. The raw footage looked great... I can't wait to see what it's like after it goes through Magic Bullet.

The final set design looked good, too: 3 laptops, 4 desktops, 3 monitors, 4 keyboards & mice, 1 VCR, 1 DVD player, 2 external hard drives, 1 non-functional phone, 1 fax machine... On a $250K budget, we could do 100 times better but for a volunteer effort, this looked good enough for me.

My thanks goes out to an amazing cast & crew for today. The day could not have happened without all their time and energies, in no particular order:

Scott Chema, who opted to spend time on my set rather than on the last day of his job.
Lacie Oakley, who drove all the way from Ukiah!
Tyler Thompson, who came directly from his night job.
Rob Granados, who also came from his night job.
Richard Gross, who drive from Grass Valley.
Max Maxwell (my producer & DP), who hates waking up early and punched his alarm clock this morning uttering the words, "Fuck Ross Pruden!"
Rick Mischke, who stepped in to fill a role I hadn't yet cast and did a great job.
Rob Thomas, whose expertise made a qualitative difference in the SWAT Team filming
Brian Dahl & Adam Neeley, who sweat profusely playing SWAT team guys and never complained once!
Mike Sheldon, who never hesitated in helping out whenever needed. (Plus, he can do a great vomit imitation.)
And my wife, Tracie, Harris, without whom we would all have been very grumpy for lack of food.

Today's shoot was fun and the footage looks great. Stay tuned for pics, everyone!

13 Reasons Why Battlestar Galactica Rules!

Great god, I'm too geeky for words. I'm watching Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica (the new one) and am totally hooked. After speaking with Scott yesterday, I figured it'd be fun to go back and post the email I wrote all my other geeky friends when I first saw the mini-series. Evidently, I liked it:

I just finished watching the first episode of the mini-series remake of Battlestar Galactica. Hereafter is my review:

Wow. Holy shit. I mean, holy FUCKING shit, they didn't fuck it up! I mean, WOW HOLY FUCKING SHITBALLS, they actually did a great FUCKING remake!!! Without offering TOO many spoilers, I attribute the success of the remake to the following reasons...

1) We get to see the destruction of the home worlds, at least in part, generally the way one would experience it.
2) There's a human cylon as bodacious as Seven of Nine. Yowza! Oh, and did I say they have human Cylons?
3) The pilot radio "chatter" is heard like you're wearing a headset, not like it's recorded in a sound studio with $500,000 sound equipment filtering out rat farts.
4) The Cylons use nukes. Cool.
5) The Cylons aren't seen too much. At least, I haven't seen any so far... then again, I did tune in late. [They are introduced in the first few minutes, but not seen at all until the end of the mini-series.]
6a) The ensuing confusion over chain of command during a state of war is tantalyzingly real...
6b) ...and they reference a moment in history that REALLY hits home...
7) Galactica's crew members use WAX PENCILS in the war room, not ultra-high tech light pens that one would expect to see in sci-fi series—this small detail is a very clever way to get us "ancients" to relate to it since wax pencils are still used in current Strategic Command centers. Also, it's just a cheap way to portray the future. Likewise, there aren't any cheesy 'helmet lights' to signify 'invisible' protective shields. Oh yeah, they also use a kind of AWAC to relay data to the vipers... which further reinforces its real war feel.
8) Nearly all the special effects shots are kinetic, which feels like watching a Indy 500 with crash zooms and fast tracking shots.
9) The ships use maneuvering jets to do cool stunts. In fact, all the dogfights were exactly the way you always wanted them to be in the original, but you knew were frustratingly out of reach with 1970s technology.
10) Unlike Lorne Greene, whose resounding voice lended him a patriarchal feel, Edward James Olmas as Adama commands respect. Period. His XO kicks ass, too.
11) Oh and get this— Starbuck, the best fighter pilot in the fleet (with a 'tude that lands her in the brig), is a woman. Sha-WING! Rock on, Garth!
12) The Galactica can HYPERJUMP????? When do we see THAT?!?!?!
13) At the start of the series, Galactica is undergoing a decommissioning ceremony which puts the ship at a disadvantage to fight the Cylons, since most of their munitions have been off-loaded. While this story tactic of "crippling" the protagonist to turn them into the underdog is so familiar as to be nearly cliché (Die Hard, anyone? How about Pitch Black? Aliens? Soldier? Best of all, Jesus vs. Satan on South Park), it is nevertheless effective, especially for me since I have actually attended a decommissioning ceremony of a U.S. naval vessel.

You can rent the mini-series, I think... Apparently, the mini-series was so successful that it started off a regular series, which premieres this Friday on Sci-Fi.

Egads. I'm such a geek.

When does Season 3 come out on DVD???

Sunday, March 19, 2006

GHOTI: Last minute checklist

I know I'm forgetting so many things, but here's my checklist of items before shooting tomorrow's trailer:

  • Make Agenda for Monday morning

  • Get uniforms

  • Plan out shots

  • Secure locations

  • Move sofa downstairs

  • Make CIA labels for binders/folders

  • Make CIA badge for Laney

  • Organize shot list sequence

  • Do storyboards

  • Buy food for lunch & breakfast

  • Make prop of Ghoti's telephone number

  • Finish set design for loft

  • Pick up computers from Joe's house (14:00)

  • Pick up computers from Steve's house (22:00)

Friday, March 17, 2006

French Parliament Fights iTunes, Part 2

Some people commented on my blog about France killing its Golden Goose by saying France is only complying with EU standards, or that its citizens have the right to tell businesses how to make their money. I still stand by my original post: when government steps in to regulate successful big businesses which aren't exploiting workers or breaking any laws, the wealth of the nation and its workers are eventually jeopardized. Let the free markets decide what they want and don't want. Ultimately, this entire topic becomes moot if this new amendment forces Apple to pull iTunes out of France. At that point, discussion stops: the Golden Goose will be dead.

Still not convinced that could happen? In an article from The New York Times, Jonathan Arber—a research analyst in London at the technology consultancy Ovum—said, "My gut feeling is that Apple will simply pull out of France if these amendments get through. Weighed against breaking their business model for all markets, it doesn't make sense for Apple to continue operating with the iPod and iTunes in France."

The article goes on to say:

Apple would not comment on the legislation. Led by Steven P. Jobs, the chief executive, Apple persuaded the world's major record labels in 2003 to sell songs over the Internet at 99 cents each through the iTunes Music Store.

But the price of making it inexpensive, easy and attractive for consumers to buy online—rather than sharing songs on the Internet without compensating record companies or musicians—was the use of Apple's proprietary formats, making song buyers beholden to Apple and its players, which account for more than 70 percent of all devices sold.

Look, there is no free lunch—as a business, you incur costs to provide a service and as a consumer, you must pay a price to the company to access that service. No one holds a gun to your head to use that service. If you don't want it, don't buy it. In a free market, if no one buys the service, the business dies... or the business reinvents their service until they find a situation where you will buy it. iTunes' success shows that Apple has found the sweet spot where businesses can provide online entertainment and consumers will buy it.

So why is the French government trying to kill iTunes when it's just getting off the ground? Because, in my humble opinion, the French and its government live under the mistaken conception that government is the tool by which capitalism should be sculpted, and it's not—the people themselves decide with their wallets. We wouldn't even be talking about this issue if France weren't the third largest buyer of online entertainment in Europe. Government's role in business is to step in when great injustices are being committed in the workplace, like child labor or sexual harassment. Past that, governments are meddlesome.

Finally, this last bit caught my eye:

In addition, the cross-border implications are enormous, he said. "Governments cannot operate in a technology policy vacuum with a global industry," he added, saying that decisions should be made at least on a European level. "You cannot decide overnight to create a nirvana."

And that's it! The French are trying to create a nirvana within France even if that nirvana conflicts with the pace and standards of the rest of the world. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a 6 week vacation and a 35 hour work week and job security and free health care and all the rest of it... but sooner or later, there is blowback to consider. Like high unemployment, a stagnant economy, high taxes—and worst of all—a feeling of entitlement: "I deserve to not ever be fired even if I do sloppy work or treat my customers like shit."

After living in France for eight years, there's nothing that got under my skin more than having a business not treat me as if I were the customer with the money. I don't want a salesperson or business owner to be a pushover, but I'm putting food in their children's bellies, so I'm the one with the power in this situation, not they. Now I'm not saying everyone in France is like this—I know it's a generalization which isn't true for a lot of people—but the overall cultural attitude in French business is still, "I am the business owner and I have the service you need. You should be lucky I'm offering it to you and if you don't want it, I really don't care." The only way the French get away with this attitude is that they know customers can't walk across the street and buy from someone else because they'll run into the same attitude at the competing business. Maybe I'm really wrong about this—after all, I do know plenty of really nice, pleasant French businesspeople—but I do know this: you would never ever run into this attitude in America. Ever. If you did, you could bet that business wouldn't stick around for very long.

Back to my point, if there is one...

To allow companies like Apple to fully compete in a global free market system, you have to be prepared that your own country is going to also make sacrifices at a national level. In this case, that means letting Apple call the shots on how the French get to listen to their music. And shit, man, it ain't a bad system! But if you step in and foul up Apple's business model, you're making rules that don't exist anywhere else. And Apple don't jive with that.

Instead, the French would rather have a contained system where everyone within it competes on the terms they dictate. The moment someone suggests that this closed market needs to be more competitive against other nations by working longer hours or having less vacation time, the whole country shuts down with a massive strike. All I'm saying is that if the miners go on strike because they don't like how much they're getting paid, they shouldn't be surprised when the owner of the mine shrugs his shoulders, slips the key underneath the welcome mat and walks off, never to return.

Great 8 minute short

If you haven't seen it already, take some time to see this Spin, an excellent 8-minute short film by Jamin Winans. As you watch it, take a guess about how much it cost to produce. I'll give you a clue: it was shot in Hi-Definition. When you think you have it guessed, and only after you've seen all eight minutes, come back and select the answer at the very bottom of this post. The answer is white text on a white background, which is why you can't see it until you drag your cursor over it.

This film recommendation courtesy of Will.

(And guess what, Gaby? These guys are from Denver. Go beat that with a stick.)

Answer: $500.00 <— amazing!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

David Mamet & Exposition

David Mamet was on Fresh Air last night talking about his new series The Unit and the topic of exposition: "The trick with exposition is to do always it dramatically. In the 19th century, we had the maid—Oh, Mr. Anders isn't in. He's with his friend Mr. Davies who used to be a handsome tennis pro 15 years ago but after a tragic accident he now walks with a limp which irritates him so badly that he has become very curt and intemperate which has pushed away everyone close to him, except for Mr. Anders who saved his life in the WW1. Now we have the computer—we read exposition on the screen."

Being a script that—for budget reasons—essentially occurs in one location with one actor, Ghoti (pronounced "fish") is running into precisely this problem: the supporting characters are establishing how smart Ghoti is by talking about it and then we're also see other data (an email!) which says the same. There was a time, perhaps, when audiences were tolerant enough to sit and watch people chatter, but now we're snapping our fingers going, "come on, let's go. Show me a cock fight or something juicy I can rip into."

When I was only 12, I saw some guy yelling at a bus driver. It wasn't just anger, but fury. I stopped everything I was doing and stood there, riveted. Why was he yelling? How would the driver react? How were the passengers reacting? Would he pull out a gun? Most importantly, how would this conflict resolve? Skillfully burying exposition in a setting inherent with conflict is the prize. I have to keep reminding myself of this...

Any scene where people are talking in a car or over the phone—and only talking in a car or over the phone—is a lazy stab at drama. I spoke about this with Josh regarding my feature script 62 Blocks To Battery Park which, admittedly, I wrote for myself to get back into the habit of writing again (and not to write something too commercial). As such, it's a walk & talk story, so I wouldn't hold it up as a shining example of my own dramatic savoir faire. Still, it sparked an email from me to Josh about exposition:

The "table" scene you mentioned (about how people just talking at a table bug you) reminded me of the Mission: Impossible "spaghetti" scene from the TV series—they usually got together at the beginning to talk about their adversary. As audiences grew more mature, these scenes have been interlaced by voiceovers and action montages. In fact, De Palma's first film version didn't have a "spaghetti" scene at all and someone said, "Where's the spaghetti scene? You need something to set up the damn story."

Here's that academic book about story modes I was telling you about... it's not really worth buying, but it is fascinating to browse for about a half hour: The Narrative Modes: Techniques of the Short Story by Helmut Bonheim. However, there are still some salient points worth mentioning. Let me quote/paraphrase:

The physical world has two dimensions, those of space and of time; the metaphysical world has one dimension—that of reflection upon the dimensions of the physical world. Fiction is a representation of matters in space and time, as well as the reflection on matters of space and time. We call the representation

—of things in space: description
—of things moving in time: action
—and the reflection on these: comment

Since action is either verbal or non-verbal, it is represented in fiction in speech (the character tells us what action is happening) or in report (the author tells us what action is happening).

This model achieves a kind of symmetry because each mode is distinguished by a different combination of the presence (+) or absence (-) of time and space:


This last chart has been useful for me, since a large portion of 62 Blocks is the characters talking about things, that is, only commenting. Since commenting has neither time nor space as an attribute, it's no wonder my script is considered "dull" by many who read it—nothing much happens. However, if I shrewdly swapped out their metaphysical commentary with amusing anecdotes illustrating their ideas, then I'd be trading comment for a kind of report, which feels faster to read because it's a representation of things moving in time, not simply a reflection.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Will France Kill Their Golden Goose?

Leave it to the French to kill foreign entrepreneurial business.

(This is not a tirade against the French, but against the wooden-headedness of their protectionist business policies. However, even if this were an anti-French tirade, I'd have every right to spew chunks far and wide because I lived there, ate fois gras, saussisons, Croque Monsieurs, Croque Madames, and drank Gendarmes under the Eiffel Tower. For eight years. As Harvey Keitel said in The Duellists, La!)

The French aren't bad people, really, but their most tragic character flaw is they fight to protect their way of life at the cost of driving good foreign business into the ground... and out of the country.

Example: 1991. Virgin opens up a Megastore on the Champs Ellyses, that huge thoroughfare running between The Arc de Triomphe and The Louvre. Virgin's Megastore—selling CDs, videos, etc.—is open all weekend, which is a "threat" to local businesses who don't open all weekend. Virgin is then accused of breaking labor union laws by "forcing" their employees to work over a weekend, and Virgin is told they'll be fined 100,000FF if they stay open on Sunday.


Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?!?

Let me get this straight... Joe Blow works for six days and wants to take off Sunday as mandated by French labor laws. Okay, that sounds reasonable enough to me. But then Joe's company wants to stay open on Sunday, too... Fine. Where is it mandated that Joe has to be the same person who works on Sunday??? If your country has nearly 10% unemployment like France did in 1991, are you really going to tell me Virgin is being the bad guy here because they're giving people more work?

What? Huh? Are you high?

Call me a pro-industry lobbyist or conservative snagglepuss, but when a family is unable to feed their children, how is any business doing a disservice to their country by letting its starving citizens have the work they're in such desperate need of?

Any small business threatened by Virgin's "Draconian" methods should have hired Sunday-only workers to stay open and compete against the "big bad boy" Virgin Megastore. Or they should have rightfully gone out of business. And good riddance, too! That's how business works in a free market. The problem is labor unions are too strong in France, which makes doing any kind of new business there an uphill struggle.

And so here we are 15 years later and France is at it again. This time around, they want to crack open Apple's stronghold on the digital entertainment venue. And guess what? Their new law may very well force Apple to close iTunes in France. Bein fait, mecs! Vous etes costand pour un pays industriel!

France May Force ITunes Open
Reuters 14:55 PM Mar, 13, 2006 EST

PARIS -- France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker's popular iPod player.

Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.

It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management -- the codes that protect music, films and other content -- if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.

"It will force some proprietary systems to be opened up…. You have to be able to download content and play it on any device," Vanneste told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.

Music downloaded from Apple's iTunes online music store currently can only be played on iPods.

The law, if enacted, could prompt Apple to shut its iTunes store in France, some industry observers say, to keep from making songs vulnerable to conversion outside France, too.

The heart of this polemic is how to create—and protect—a viable income stream from a spankin-new distribution method. I see France's point of view: they want to break Apple's monopoly of online media, which sounds fair at first glance. Look at it again, though: I want to buy online media from Apple, but I don't want to use an Apple product to view it. WTF??? That's the implicit contract from Apple: you buy it from us, you have to view it on our products. You want to see it elsewhere, buy it online elsewhere. If you can't, whose fault is that? There's no law that says other companies can't also provide online media.

If France succeeds in passing this law, then music or movies downloaded from iTunes could be converted to another format, then pirated endlessly. How, then, can Apple—or the artists whom they paid to distribute their work—make money from offering online entertainment? It may not be fair that Apple is the only goose laying the golden eggs, but is it really wise to kill the golden goose so everyone can be equally deprived of the service Apple offers?

[A follow-up to this post is here]

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

GHOTI: The Trailer Recipe

1 CIA Office Room
1 MI-5 Interrogation Room
1 CIA Analyst's residence
Guns. Lots of guns.
1 General's Uniform, metals included
5 (or more) black Swat team outfits, helmets included
Various Techno-Gadgets (Jabra, desktop computers, laptops, clié, speakers, TVs, fax machines, scanners, DVD players, VCRs, etc.)
3 Lead Actors
10 Extras/Production Assistants
1 Director of Photography/Producer
1 Writer/Director
1 Set Designer
1 Boom Operator
1 Script
1 Day

Cooking Instructions
Throw all ingredients together on Monday, March 20th, and let cook until done.
Coax out flavors from all the ingredients.
Be flexible as cooking problems arise.
Remember to have fun.

Serves 5-20 financial backers.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A TV Series is a Butterfly... or a Horse

Alex Epstein has a great screenwriting blog which I've recently started rereading. He had a post yesterday about which direction to go with a new series he has been developing for George Clooney. It caught my eye because—in this age of prolific cable channels to watch—choosing the right story and setting for an episodic series to decisively capture the attention of the market is extremely difficult.

Though intended as parody, there is more than one kernel of truth in the development assistant from Network pitching TV series concepts (boldface is mine):

These are those four outlines submitted by Universal for an hour series. The first one is set at a large Eastern law school, presumably Harvard. The series is irresistibly entitled "The New Lawyers." The running characters are a crusty-but-benign ex-Supreme Court justice, presumably Oliver Wendell Holmes by way of Dr. Zorba; there's a beautiful girl graduate student; and the local district attorney who is brilliant and sometimes cuts corners. The second one is called "The Amazon Squad." The running characters include a crusty-but-benign police lieutenant who's always getting heat from the commissioner; a hard-nosed, hard-drinking detective who thinks women belong in the kitchen; and the brilliant and beautiful young girl cop who's fighting the feminist battle on the force. Up next is another one of those investigative reporter shows. A crusty-but-benign managing editor who's always getting...

The dilemma about creating entertainment is your series can be either a horse or a butterfly. A horse is sturdy, it lasts a long time and gets you far, but everyone has a horse like yours, so there's no reason to look at your horse over anyone else's. Plus, horses are easy to get, which is why everyone has one. By contrast, your series could be a butterfly which by its nature might not last very long, but is incredibly beautiful and everyone wants to see it. Butterflies are also very rare and hard to find, which explains why everyone is compelled to look at them. To make really entertaining TV, you have to do something different that no one has ever seen before... you have to make a butterfly. But butterflies cost money and you'll fight an uphill battle to keep a butterfly alive long enough to get everyone to see it.

Anyway, here's Alex's post:
We're still trying to figure out if Untitled George Clooney Project is a soap, or if it has episodic A stories with soapy B stories. I don't really want to write a pure soap because you get boxed in by the plotlines, and because it would be hard to take advantage of the very rich territory we're mining for the show. So I've been spending the day coming up with springboards for episodic A stories. The problem is they are all over the place. A show like Grey's Anatomy, or any hospital, law or cop show, has stories that come in the door every episode. Very easy to find closure when people show up sick or injured, and by the end of the ep they've had a successful surgery or they're permanently impaired. Our territory doesn't have that kind of urgency. There is not an obvious immediate antagonist. So, do we manufacture urgency every week, à la, say, _________________, in a venue where the urgency is really more long term? Or do we focus on the quirky characters and their quirky issues, à la Northern Exposure? (No, we don't, we're trying to pitch a mainstream show.) Or something ever cleverer and subtler? And if so, what?

And here's my reply:
Seems to me that the most successful series are usually the most original in subject and tone. Lost and Desperate Housewives struck a chord because they were unlike anything else on TV at the time. Mainstream shows like ER and The Practice are formulaic... but have a new chance to reinvent themselves with each new funky case that walks in the door. The first two seasons of ER were some of the most hysterical—and gut-wrenching—TV I've ever seen. Same goes for Chicago Hope and Ally McBeal (except Ally wasn't so much gut-wrenching as nauseating watching Calista become more emaciated over time). The pattern seems to be that the most original stuff happens in the first 2 seasons and then it peters out and resorts to exploring soapy plotlines to keep from getting stale.

But I got off-track: what I meant to say was that choosing quirky introspective plotlines stands more of a chance of competing against mainstream formula settings nowadays. When I think of good drama and comedy, it's almost always the quirkiest stories that come to mind, even if they are nestled within a mainstream-type formulaic setting like in a hospital, law firm, police department, or Forensic department. The trick with a quirky or highly original series is, of course, keeping your producers from letting the show die before it finds its niche audience... which can then coax in a more mainstream audience—Star Trek being the most painful example, though Firefly comes in a close second.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

GHOTI Update: A Feature Film!

Two major developments happened tonight:

1) My producer gave me the greenlight to turn Ghoti into a feature film with big budget financing (well, bigger than low budget).
2) We decided to shoot a 3-5 minute trailer to help get the financing.

This is great fucking news for me. What was penned as a simple 12 minute short has mutated into a feature project 80-90 minutes long. My head is a little dizzy. I never expected my first feature to come down the road quite like this... there are supposed to be trumpets, right? At least, multi-colored Tiki Room birds. Or a cake.

We're shooting the three minute trailer two weeks from yesterday (Monday, March 20th) and since we plan on using it just to obtain financing—and not to make money from selling it—there are no issues involving copyright infringement when using company logos or selecting music. The shoot is going to be fast and loose, probably one 12-14 hour day and will likely not even have the same actors as in the feature film—I want the best talent on screen and if that means getting S.A.G. actors, then jam on it!

Monday, March 06, 2006

This Morning's Shower Limerick

I get soooooohooohooo bored in the shower sometimes and my brain starts to impetuously daydream. Today I was thinking about how my Christian cousins harp on me about how homosexuality is a sin, how I'm enabling them by not being as intolerant as they, etc. So, not to let negative energy weigh me down, but rather to use it as creative fuel, here is a limerick dedicated to them:

There once was a writer named Ross
Who made all his cousins quite cross
by insisting to wit
to be gay was not shit—
Not to try it, in fact, was their loss!

Stay tuned for my Oscar commentary.

P.S. By the way, I'm not gay. :)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Live Action Short Filmmakers (Heart) iTunes!

You know, in years past, I've always given up on seeing any of the live action shorts nominated for an Academy Award. I mean, come on, where in the hell would I ever see them? Unless it's a feature film, there was no distribution outlet for a short film.

Well, look no more. iTunes just made friends with every aspiring filmmaker.

I'm downloading all five of the nominated live action shorts... on the day of the academy awards. Swank swank super swank!!!

Oscar Nominee Ballots

Will it be Crash? Will it be Brokeback Mountain? Will that fat blonde kid who co-starred with Chris O'Donnell in Scent of a Woman finally get an Oscar?

If you, like me, enjoy keeping track of how well you predicted who should win the Academy's Golden Knight*, then you'll absolutely have no choice but to download their sanctioned ballot slip. And the academy is getting more clever each year... this time around, they provided PDF and GIF ballot slips. Super swanky.

I'm taking pictures this year of Joe & Melora's Hi-Def DLP home theatre, a.k.a. The Place Which Must Be Worshipped. Oh, I am beholden.

Remember, the pre-show starts at 4PM Pacific time. Let's hope Cathy Griffen didn't get invited back for "comic" commentary. (Sorry, Kathy, I'm really partial to redheads, but I only watch the pre-show for Joan Rivers or to make my own dress commentary. And for the remote chance to see Marcia Gay Harden in another glam 1940s dress. Which was red.)

* The "Oscar" statuette depicts a golden knight, holding a sword, standing atop a film reel. Come on. That's cool.

How The Oscars Are Decided

From this excellent article:

Picking the Winners

The first stage in selecting Oscar winners is narrowing all the possible honorees in a given year down to five nominees for each award category. To be eligible for nominations in any of the feature film categories, a movie must meet these basic requirements:

  • It must be more than 40 minutes long.
  • Its public premiere must have been in a movie theater, during the appropriate calendar year (during 2003, for the 76th Academy Awards).
  • It must have premiered in 35mm or 70mm film format or in 24-frame, progressive scan digital format.
  • It must have played in an L.A. County theater, for paid admission, for seven consecutive days, beginning in the appropriate calendar year.
  • If a producer or distributor would like their eligible film to be considered for an Oscar nomination, they must submit an Official Screen Credits form. This form lists the production credits for all related Oscar categories. The Academy collects these forms and lists the submitted films in the "Reminder List of Eligible Releases." In January, the Academy mails a nomination ballot and a copy of the "Reminder List" to each Academy member.

For most of the award categories, only Academy members in that particular field are allowed to vote for nominees (that is, only directors submit nominations for best director and only editors submit nominations for best editor). Foreign film and documentary nominees are chosen by special screening groups made up of Academy members from all branches, and everybody gets to select best picture nominees. Foreign film nominees are selected from a list of films submitted by foreign nations. Every foreign country can only submit one film per year.

An Academy member can select five nominees per category, ranked in order of preference. For most categories, voters write in only the film title. For acting categories, the voters pick specific actors. It's up to the individual Academy voters to decide whether an actor should be nominated for leading role or supporting role. An actor can't be nominated for both categories for a single performance, however. The Academy assigns the nominee to whichever category the nominee qualifies for first. Producers often take out ads in Variety and other major movie industry magazines to suggest nominees for particular categories.

Academy members typically have a couple of weeks to submit their choices for nominees. Once the ballots are in, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers tabulates the nominee ballot votes in secrecy. Soon after, the Academy announces the nominees in an early morning press conference at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills.

A week or so later, the Academy mails final ballots to all Academy members. Members have two weeks to return the ballots, and then the "polls" are closed. Pricewaterhouse Coopers tabulates the votes in absolute secrecy and seals the results.

While all this is going on, production companies are sinking considerable funds into campaigning for their contenders. The Academy condones any efforts to get Academy members to see the films, but restricts production companies from mailing out inappropriate incentives. Production companies are allowed to send Academy members video copies of contender films, and to organize special screenings of their films.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oscar Picks & Predictions, 78th

As promised, I present my predictions for the 78th Academy Awards this year. The films I've already seen are struckthrough, the ones I think deserve to win have "(My pick)" next to them, and the ones I think actually will win have "(Likely to win)" next to them. (NB: as I see more films, I'll tweak this list, so keep checking back.) I also reserve the right to change my mind until the awards ceremony begins.

I haven't ever seen all of the films nominated in each category every year, but I do try very hard to at least see the all the films nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screeenlay, Most Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Here, then, is a list of films I must-see March 5th, broken into two distinct groups:

Still in Theatres
Walk The Line
Memoirs Of A Geisha
The New World

In DVD Limbo (not in theatres and not released on DVD until after the Awards... OMG, this is stupid!
Hustle & Flow
A History of Violence
Mrs. Henderson Presents
North Country
Match Point
The Squid And The Whale

With no further ado, here are my predictions:

Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences
78th Annual Academy Awards Nominations & Predictions

Brokeback Mountain
Crash (My pick) (Likely to win)
Good Night, And Good Luck.

Brokeback Mountain (Likely to win)
Crash (My pick)
Good Night, And Good Luck.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote (Likely to win)
Terrence Howard - Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain (My pick)
Joaquin Phoenix - Walk The Line
David Strathairn - Good Night, And Good Luck.

George Clooney - Syriana
Matt Dillon - Crash
Paul Giamatti - Cinderella Man (My pick)
Jake Gyllenhaal - Brokeback Mountain (Likely to win)
William Hurt - A History Of Violence

Judi Dench - Mrs. Henderson Presents
Felicity Huffman - Transamerica
Keira Knightley - Pride & Prejudice (My pick) (Likely to win)
Charlize Theron - North Country
Reese Witherspoon - Walk The Line

Amy Adams - Junebug (My pick)
Catherine Keener - Capote
Frances Mcdormand - North Country (Likely to win)
Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener (My pick)
A History Of Violence (Likely to win)

Crash (My pick) (Likely to win)
Good Night, And Good Luck.
Match Point
The Squid And The Whale

Batman Begins
Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, And Good Luck. (My pick) (Likely to win)
Memoirs Of A Geisha
The New World

Howl's Moving Castle
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (My pick) (Likely to win)

Good Night, And Good Luck.
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
King Kong (My pick) (Likely to win)
Memoirs Of A Geisha
Pride & Prejudice

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Memoirs Of A Geisha (Likely to win)
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Pride & Prejudice (My pick)
Walk The Line

Cinderella Man (My pick)
The Constant Gardener
Munich (Likely to win)
Walk The Line

Don't Tell
Joyeux Noèl
Paradise Now
Sophie Scholl - The Final Days

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Cinderella Man
Star Wars: Episode III Revenge Of The Sith (My pick) (Likely to win)


Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener (My pick)
Memoirs Of A Geisha
Munich (Likely to win)
Pride & Prejudice


"In The Deep" - Crash (My pick)
"It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" - Hustle & Flow
"Travelin' Thru" - Transamerica

King Kong (My pick) (Likely to win)
Memoirs Of A Geisha
War Of The Worlds

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
King Kong (Likely to win)
Memoirs Of A Geisha
Walk The Line
War Of The Worlds (My pick)

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
King Kong (My pick) (Likely to win)
War Of The Worlds

The Moon And The Son: An Imagined Conversation
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations Of Jasper Morello
One Man Band

Ausreisser (The Runaway)
The Last Farm
Our Time Is Up
Six Shooter

Darwin's Nightmare
Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
March Of The Penguins (My pick) (Likely to win)
Street Fight

The Death Of Kevin Carter: Casualty Of The Bang Bang Club
God Sleeps In Rwanda
The Mushroom Club
A Note Of Triumph: The Golden Age Of Norman Corwin

Friday, March 03, 2006

You'll be famous... and like it, ya ingrate!

Fisher Stevens called NPR yesterday to share his own experiences about being fired, which was the theme of that day's show.

While doing stage plays in New York, Fisher's agent got him a gig on a new TV sitcom, but sitcom work was a medium Fisher gravely disapproved of. Up to that point, Fisher had had some okay roles, most notably in Short Circuit as the bumbling Paki computer geek Ben Jabituya... and then later in a small role with Rae Dawn Chong (what happened to her?) and Sandra Bullock (WHAT???) in When The Party's Over. And a bigger role in Only You with Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomai. So Fisher was a named talent back then, which is why everyone on this new TV sitcom was glad to have him on the set.

But Fisher couldn't let it go.

"You shouldn't be doing this," he told his younger cast members. "This sitcom work is going to ruin your acting. You should go back into the theatre to stay sharp." After constantly harping to everyone and generally being a Grade A sourpuss, he finished the gig and flew back to New York—exit stage left!

Then something odd happened... he noticed that he was being recognized on the street, that strangers were saying how much they had loved his brief comic bit on that dreadful sitcom. After a while, Fisher Stevens called his agent: "Hey, is there any chance you could get me back on that show again? Nothing much is happening for me in New York." The agent called back: under no circumstance is Fisher Stevens ever going to work on our show again.

The show so deserving of Fisher's disdain was stratospherically successful Friends. Way to go, Fisher. What a maroon.