Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The rant that fizzled...

I was going to write this enormous rant about journalism.

Inspired by my previous rant about indie filmmaking, I was going to go on this enormous tirade against the so-called "techno-journalism" that ruined the world of entertainment reporting with sloppy "cut-n-paste" interviews, which seems to have invaded the wonderful world of print, if Entertainment Weekly is any barometer of the current state of pop writing.

And I may still do this.

But not today.

Today, I'm celebrating the completion of the first new issue of Sirens of Cinema under my editorship.

Rick and Bob first approached me in mid-April, and we got the job done, from scratch, in about three months. This isn't akin to breaking land-speed records, but it's pretty amazing considering most of us involved were new to the game (at least to the positions we'd found ourselves in). And I think there's a lot to be proud of here. We're going to have a great Dave Nestler cover... it's gonna be swell.

So couple that with the final installment of my Land of the Dead premiere coverage going live on Film Threat and the incredibly-supportive Paul Scrabo's posting terribly dorky pictures of me from the Film Worker's Film Festival up on his site, and I'm feeling pretty good about the world today. Why ruin it by focussing on the evils that surround my specific skew?

I think I'll just finish up a few things today and enjoy, for once, some good karma.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Adding to our culture

(I started writing this yesterday, but my computer crashed before I could hit "post". I wasn't sure if I could recapture it, or even if I wanted to, but I'm having one of those rare days, both quiet and disquiet because I have nothing in particular that I have to do, so I figure I’ll give it another shot. I have to write something today, so it may as well be this.)

Invariably, at whatever job I’m holding down or enduring, the word gets around that I write and make movies (“invariably” because I usually tell people, to prove to them—and to myself—that what I’m doing now is my job and not who I am). And also invariably, after the mixture of bemusement and indifference works its way through the office or dock, someone will suggest, “You should make a movie about this place.”

To which, someone else will answer, “No one would ever believe it.”

And God knows movies have been made about more mundane subjects, so I generally nod, or crack wise about something going on with the establishment, and then we move on. Or the conversation will veer towards the fact that I don’t make any money doing what I’m doing, and that the movies have not granted me international success and fortune, because, obviously, I’m here, doing what I’m being paid to do, and not out hobnobbing with the stars. Just as they were and were not. So then, invariably, the subject will be gradually dropped, as they return to their careers and the things that fill up their lives outside of work.

These jobs are usually whatever I can get at the time I need them, so it’s rare that I get to work with anyone who has any frame of reference for the film community I live in. Working at a rural post office at the ass end of Pennsylvania, just a few short miles from the West Virginia border, bringing up Shockheaded or Witchouse 3 is the same as discussing life on the moon. No reflection on the people I work with—this is just beyond their realm of experience. “Movies” to them, are whatever just came out at the theaters or at the Giant Eagle video section. For most “average” people, and this is a hard fact we’re all in the community very aware of, our movies would be viewed as some sort of cute experiment and not “real” movies.

Maybe the same can be said about foreign films to some of these folks as well, or quiet, but big budget, “indie” films that spew from Sundance annually. The most in-the-know people at my post office reference “indie” films like Run, Lola, Run and Sideways and act like they’re on the verge of joining a secret society for having seen them. I suspect that you throw Scrapbook or even Tromeo and Juliet at them, or any kind of punk underground movie, and they wouldn’t know whether to watch it or feed it.

Which makes our jobs just that much harder, doesn’t it? It’s impossible to make a movie, doubly-so to get distribution for it, and triply-so to get anyone to watch the damned thing if it does come out. So what is “impossible” cubed? What is the outcome of these Herculean tasks we’ve set for ourselves? And why are we so content to litter our narrow market with junk? Because we’re constantly told by distributors that only sex and gore sell? We need higher body-counts. We need a higher tit-count? Push the envelope—but not too hard. Serial killers are in, in, in.

Okay, so you make a crappy serial killer film and get distribution for it and then what? Make another one so you can get that one distributed? Further add to the bigotry that all indie-made horror movies are shitty and shot-on-video? Why is it that even when we do things right, it’s still wrong? Because the market dictates what we will make, comes the answer, and the market is set by analysts who know just what the audience wants to see and nothing beyond will play.

I’ve made this rallying cry before: what if we defied the “markets” and gave the audience something it didn’t know it wanted? What if we all started making intelligent horror movies, the kinds we all grew up on? What would the “market” reflect then?

No, there’s nothing wrong with escapism. It’s intrinsic—often the only thing keeping guns out of mouths at the end of the day. The working public needs its bread and circuses.

But as a culture, we need more than that. Every movie we make, in some way, adds to the zeitgeist of the culture we live in. Not just the snarky “ain’t I cool for knowing this” pop culture, but our collective unconscious, what makes our society more than just a collection of drones who work day in and out and wage war on different collectives. When we add shit to the culture, we’ve added nothing but shit. Add something interesting, even if unsuccessful, and you’ve added something that might just resonate enough to reach beyond the target audience hungry for boobs ‘n blood.

We’re all hungry. Everyone who makes movies outside of a studio, with our own tiny pockets of money, yearn to make bigger movies, to actually make a living doing this. So why start the career with the first steps taken adding to the mire? Why not make something that makes people think while they cheer the killer and drool over the naked girl? Even if the movie falls flat on its face, at least you tried to do something a little unusual. Why tell a story if its been told a thousand times before and a hundred times before better? Tell a story only you can tell. Don’t worry about developing a style. Tell a fucking story. And maybe a future generation will discover your movie for themselves and think it’s pretty cool and go on to be inspired to make something of their own. Now we’re adding to the culture, rather than just spreading the manure around. Ain’t none of us getting rich off this stuff. The best we can hope for is to make something we’re proud of at the end of the day. But project yourself into the last days of your life and look back. Do you really want to leave behind a legacy of noisy, forgettable schlock? Let Michael Bay have that epitaph.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

New Dead Men Walking blog entry

Just posted a new installment of the Dead Men Walking blog. It's a fucking tease. I'm sorry. I'll have actual information soon.

Why I've been too busy to post...

It's been a long couple of weeks. As usual. Most of the past few days have been spent editing the relaunch issue of Sirens of Cinema--which entails hunting down writers who were just dying to contribute, then vanished soon after pitching, hounding folks for pictures and generally wrestling with multiple programs just to beat the stuff that I had into some sort of order. I knew it was going to be hard work, so at least none of the above came as any sort of surprise. Still, I always believed that Sirens could be something great. I think we may be on the verge of that now. Our new issue should hit the stands in September.
Our very first Genghis Con ad runs in the new Videoscope magazine, hitting the stands soon. It was a little weird to see it in there. There's no escaping this show now. It's in print! We have to put it on!
I have a couple of pieces running up on Film Threat right now. First and foremost is the next installment of my Land of the Dead Premiere coverage. I'm really proud of this piece. It might be my Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas... or, at least my Thin Thighs in 30 Days.
There's also my interview with David Latt, whose version of War of the Worlds either just hit the shelves or is about to. It's really good. A terrific adaptation of the novel. You will believe that C. Thomas Howell can fly... or at least act.
My review of Death Defying Acts is running too. You can read about Debbie Rochon's adventures trying to sell this movie at Cannes in the new Videoscope too. (See how it all comes together? Call me a hack, will ya?)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Observing my life from a safe distance

I've said it before: I lead an odd life.

I started the day at 5am, finishing up an article about my adventures with Cameron Romero and his company, hobnobbing at the Pittsburgh Premiere of Land of the Dead with Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Greg Nicotero.

From there I went and spent a couple of hours at the Post Office, doing my time as the fill-in janitor while the full-time guy is on vacation.

I came back about 9, sat down and began editing the relaunch issue of Sirens of Cinema magazine, laying out my interview with Amber Benson and giving the once-over to pieces on Amy, Debbie Rochon and Brinke Stevens.

About 2 pm, I had to call it quits so I could make my second shift as postal janitor.

Around 5, I stopped at the stables to feed our horses. I didn't see another living soul until Amy came home about 6:30.

Came home, found our dogs lying in the grass on the front yard. I put them back in their fenced-in run, found the hole they'd dug under the fence, filled it in with a cinder block I found lying under the porch. I surveyed the weeds and vowed to call around to our neighbors this weekend to see if I could borrow a few sheep.

Went inside. Returned email from various indie producers and collected more pictures for the issue and my next Film Threat article.

Right now, it's so quiet, it would be almost unnerving if I wasn't so used to it. I haven't heard a car go by in almost an hour.

I knew I wasn't a city person; I'm still not sure if I'm a country person. But looking back at how I spend my average day, I can't get over how weird it is being famous and unknown at the same time.

Anyway... here's a new Severe Injuries review from Kevin Smith's Askew Reviews site.