24 February 2011

"I am a nobody filmmaker"

This is a repost, via A Filmmaker's Life from the blog Follow My Film

“I Am A Nobody Filmmaker”
by Christopher J. Boghosian, (FollowMyFilm, Girlfriend 19)

I’m a nobody filmmaker: I don’t have a recognizable name nor a recognizable film. In essence, most of the world couldn’t care less about me nor my movies. This sounds pathetic, I know, but coming to grips with this reality has truly liberated me and provided an invaluable perspective on my work and career.

As a result of the internet, mass media, and proliferation of panel discussions and seminars, beginning filmmakers can now listen in on the conversation between film industry experts. Insider tips and wisdom are readily available, from casting celebrities to negotiating a VOD deal. It’s true: gurus sometimes discuss broad principles and concepts that apply to every level of filmmaking, but more often than not, there is a buried assumption in their discussion: that a filmmaker or their project has a considerable amount of credibility, hype or leverage. As a result, many of these conversations are inapplicable to nobody filmmakers who have no reputable name nor a film with high salability. Nevertheless, in our earnest search for success, us nobodies continue to invest a lot of time, energy and money on experts.

A beginning filmmaker can learn all about financing, film production, marketing and distribution, but if s/he has little or nothing to back it up with, what’s the point? Living in LA, I’ve met countless filmmakers trying to raise thousands of dollars, even millions, with very little to their credit. Who do they think they are? What other business or profession operates like that? Like every other profession, filmmakers must earn the right to ask for thousands of dollars. They must earn the right to mass market and distribute their film. In the end, most of these filmmakers discover that only their friends and family are willing to invest in them, since that is with whom they have earned trust.

The baker bakes, the architect designs, and the filmmaker must continually make films. What baker bakes one loaf of bread and asks for thousands of dollars to open a bakery? What architect designs one home and expects to have thousands of fans on Facebook? None. It’s ludicrous. As a nobody filmmaker, I have come to realize that I need to earn my right to ask people for their time and money. And the way to do that is by consistently making films, plain-and-simple.

In fact, even the desire to make a great film must be earned. An expert baker who has studied and worked for years would scoff at a novice attempting to develop a great loaf of bread. It takes years of trial-and-error, blood, sweat and tears to bake great bread. How is filmmaking any different? Why do so many beginning filmmakers strive to make a great film? It’s presumptuous and disrespectful toward the art and craft of filmmaking.

Coming to grips with my nobody-ness as a filmmaker has set me straight in many ways. Rather than attempt to make a great film and attain thousands of fans, my focus now is to continually make the very best films I can within my means. Additionally, I have come to realize that I am, in fact, a somebody to a few folks out there. Most are friends and family members who watch my films, read my blog, and anticipate my future work. Thus, as I continue to make films and develop my craft, I will, first and foremost, share with them. Rather than create my own Facebook Fan page, I will call and email them, letting them know what I’m up to. And, hopefully, if my films are any good, they’ll spread the word and, maybe, create a Fan page for me!

-Christopher J. Boghosian

Christopher J. Boghosian is an independent filmmaker in Los Angeles, California. His blog, FollowMyFilm.com, focuses on the emotional side of filmmaking as well as highlighting the progress of his first feature film, Girlfriend 19.

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga (c) Solongo Mellecker

It is already here

Sid to Nancy

Once upon a time, Sid Vicious wrote a love letter to Nancy Spungen.

14 February 2011

Almost Blue - Chet Baker

It's a red day, but sticking with the blue theme for just one more post.

Derek Cianfance on Blue Valentine

I felt like the movie was cursed for so long. But what ended up happening was, I kept in touch with Ryan and Michelle, and I would have, you know, a nine-hour dinner with Ryan and Michelle, every six months or so, over those six years, and we would always talk about "Blue Valentine." It never got old to us, it just continued, you know? So much so that I would consider them to be kind of, co-writers on the film with me, because I would go home from these meetings with them, so inspired, and I would write the script based on what we talked about.

What that did was, by the time we started shooting, they knew who they were, as characters. They had so much information, they knew where they went to elementary school, they knew what their best friend's first name was, they had stories about their first driving test. And when I started rolling the cameras, I felt like I was making a documentary about two people falling in love, because Ryan as Dean, was getting to know Michelle as Cindy in front of the cameras. Not to say we had single takes of everything… we shot all day. If we had twelve hours on set, we would shoot eleven hours. The scene where he plays the ukulele, and she tap-dances… well that scene came about because we had all night for Ryan and Michelle to get to know each other… and we just filmed Ryan and Michelle walking up and down the street all night long… getting to know each other. It was really the characters meeting on screen for the first time.

I also read that Cianfrance had Gosling and Williams live in the house that works as their movie house for a month, while they took a break between filming the scenes of their meeting and their present day. He had them figure out a budget for groceries, out of which they had to eat, live and get through.

Blue Valentine

Love can die.

Even the most passionate, romantic love between two beautiful infatuated people can slowly wither away. Blue Valentine's a delicate autopsy of that decay. With a compassionate -- but clear-eyed -- gaze, director Derek Cianfrance  probes into the lives of Dean and Cindy and the influences within and without them that break up their marriage.

The movie starts on a current Fourth of July weekend -- Independence Day. Dean wakes up on the chair, a few cans of beer around him, exiled, apparently, from the marital bed. He's great with their daughter, but also a bit too much of a big kid for Cindy, who's trying to get the girl out the door and herself to work. Their dog is missing, ominously. 

We learn how they met and fell in love six or seven years earlier, in a series flashbacks to the blossoming of their relationship. Those moments are as charming and lovely as the present is grinding and sad. Shot in warm and gritty 16mm, these scenes show us how they got there, filling us on details, explaining their reactions, helping us understand the flareups, rages and frustrations even as they offer some clues about what's going to break them up.

The director treats the two evenhandedly up to the end. Dean's trying hard, going the extra mile, being the good dad, trying to work it out with Cindy. But we can see that he seems stuck as an overgrown boy. Cindy, on the other hand: Cindy's cold -- cold with the chill of disappointment, with the hunger for achievement, bitter, wanting, like Emma Bovary, something. . . . more. Maybe it's the ex-boyfriend, the jock she bumps into. Maybe it's the doctor she works for. You can understand her: she wants something more, that indefinable "better" that tortures us. Maybe, she thinks, if her man did something different, picked up drawing or even music again. Did something beyond merely loving her.

But Cianfrance shows some wider forces at work, too. Their class differences that seem irrelevant when she's a student start to be a bigger deal as they cross the threshold into middle age. Their parent's failed marriages fuel a terrible irony. We see Cindy's father raging at her mother over meatloaf, the sad daily drama that makes children flinch and wish they were 10,000 miles away. 

So Cindy wants more than anything to avoid the bickering, the fights and the grinding conflict she grew up with.  Dean's mom, we hear, left his father, leaving him alone. He wants to make sure they stay together, no matter what. They each are fighting against that heritage, heartbreakingly, because we see that they're failing.

Confused gender politics plays its role, too. Cindy's the main provider. She's the authority figure, the responsible one, the person who's the foundation. Dean's the nurturer, kind, devoted, loyal, domestic. The final searing insults she hurls cut to to the heart of it: Dean's not a man. But the model of what masculinity constitutes is limited and brutal. And Cindy's not going back to full-time housewifery any time soon. They're stuck between lies, the lies of the past and the lies of the present.

Blue Valentine earns its comparisons to Cassavetes with raw performances and the gritty, bone-marrow deep emotions. Michelle Williams can age six or seven years, visibly but subtly. Its as if her soul itself gets worn down before our eyes. Gosling had some luxury in his externals: balding, slightly puffier, the smoked-lens glasses immediately telegraph his fall from winsome dude to That Guy on the Barcalounger. Gosling has no vanity, apparently. He can switch on the charm and radiate white-hot star charisma. But then he'll turn it off and be as vulnerable, repulsive or pathetic has he needs to be. Both of them are courageous, psychically naked, willing to be unappealing and yet owning great physical beauty and magnetism. When Dean breaks down and cries, it's ugly. You can feel the audience, particularly the women, recoil.

The script -- revised 66 times -- is well and subtly structured. The approach is so naturalistic that the art disappears. 
Maybe a larger issue is lurking here, as well: the limits of naturalism. Blue Valentine excels at delivering the daily life we share in, and that's a huge achievement in the degraded media culture we live in. But you feel the lack of another dimension, which, I think, is the fault of naturalism itself.

Still, Blue Valentine is one of those rare films that tries to tell the truth about its subject. It succeeds, often with painful and cringe-inducing moments --  moments we've all experienced to a degree but hardly ever see on a screen. While Blue Valentine doesn't quite transcend itself the way, say, Last Tango in Paris or In the Realm of the Senses do, it stays faithful, tough, compassionate, and honest.

13 February 2011


We're lucky that boredom doesn't leave bruises.

Coppola on theme, choices and more

You can say that Coppola's something of a burned out volcano these days. We'll pass over the Louis Vuitton ads in silence. But few other directors have ever achieved the levels he did with Apocalypse Now, the Godfathers I and II or, to a lesser degree, The Conversation.

So when he talks, I listen. You can read a full interview with him at The 99 percent. Some key moments:
What is the one thing to keep in mind when making a film?
When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In “The Godfather,” it was succession. In “The Conversation,” it was privacy. In “Apocalypse,” it was morality.

The reason it’s important to have this is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair? Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme is always helps you.
I remember in “The Conversation,” they brought all these coats to me, and they said: Do you want him to look like a detective, Humphrey Bogart? Do you want him to look like a blah blah blah. I didn’t know, and said the theme is ‘privacy’ and chose the plastic coat you could see through. So knowing the theme helps you make a decision when you’re not sure which way to go.
 And more:
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given to your children, inside and outside of the industry?
Always make your work be personal.

And, you never have to lie. If you lie, you will only trip yourself up. You will always get caught in a lie. It is very important for an artist not to lie, and most important is not to lie to yourself. There are some questions that are inappropriate to ask, and rather than lie, I will not answer them because it’s not a question I accept. So many times we are asked things in our work or in life that you want to lie, and all you have to do is say, “No, that is an improper question.”

So when you get into a habit of not lying when you are writing, directing, or making a film, that will carry your personal conviction into your work. And, in a society where you say you are very free but you’re not entirely free, you have to try. There is something we know that’s connected with beauty and truth. There is something ancient. We know that art is about beauty, and therefore it has to be about truth.

You now have all the resources to do your own production, writing, directing. What’s the biggest barrier to being an artist?
Self-confidence always. The artist always battles his own/her own feeling of inadequacy. 

Read the full interview

11 February 2011

M & M


Posture is power

The Scientific American has published more research showing how you stand can affect your mood, your brain chemistry and the perceptions of others.

This reinforces my own experience doing work with postures, gestures and poses during acting classes. You discover quickly that if you assume a crouching, fearful pose, you can quickly work into an interior state that reflects fear and submission. Conversely, assuming open and royal postures -- head up, chin and chest out makes you feel powerful. Because you can exaggerate these in class more than in real life, the effect is more noticeable.

It's more reinforcement of how internal and external techniques can help an actor embody a character, an emotion, a human being. Just as Mr. Stanislavski and Mr. Michael Chekhov said.

Given the wide range of behaviors and cognition that power pulls into its sphere of influence, a fundamental question is how do people acquire power: what are its sources and bases? Many people answer “money, fame, or an important role in one’s social group.” Indeed, each of these may give you asymmetric control over valued resources, which is the very definition of power. But, are there other sources of power, other ways to both feel powerful and signal power to others?
In fact, there are many paths to increase one’s sense of power. The most obvious method is to have actual control over valued resources. But, power is also housed in our memories – simply recalling a time in which one had power has the exact same psychological and behavioral effects as giving people actual resource control. As memories of past power dance in our heads, we feel more powerful and act as if we are in charge in the present. However, although reliving powerful experiences can make one feel powerful, it doesn’t signal power to others.
As it turns out, there is a simple method to both transform people psychologically and signal power to others: altering your body posture. Across species, body posture is often the primary representation of power. From fish to reptiles to lower mammals to human’s closest evolutionary cousins, non-human primates, power is expressed and inferred through expansive postures, large body size, or even the mere perception of large body size through expansive postures.
 (This also reminds me of  Keith Johnstone's book Impro -- one of the most casually profound books I've ever read -- in which he devotes a section to dominance on stage.)

Read the full article.

09 February 2011

Temptation of Christ

Temptation of Christ by the Limbourg Brothers from The Very Rich Hours of the duc de Berry

Burroughs on drugs, New Years Day 1965

INTERVIEWER: Why did you stop taking drugs?
BURROUGHS: I was living in Tangier in 1957, and I had spent a month in a tiny room in the Casbah staring at the toe of my foot. The room had filled up with empty Eukodol cartons; I suddenly realized I was not doing anything. I was dying. I was just apt to be finished. So I flew to London and turned myself over to Dr. John Yerbury Dent for treatment. I’ve heard of his success with apomorphine treatment. Apomorphine is simply morphine boiled in hydrochloric acid; it’s nonaddictive. What the apomorphine did was to regulate my metabolism. It’s a metabolic regulator. It cured me physiologically. I’d already taken the cure once at Lexington, and although I was off drugs when I got out, there was a physiological residue. Apomorphine eliminated that. I’ve been trying to get people in this country interested in it, but without much luck. The vast majority - social workers, doctors - have the cop’s mentality toward addiction. A probation officer in California wrote me recently to inquire about the apomorphine treatment. I’ll answer him at length. I always answer letters like that.
INTERVIEWER: Have you had any relapses?
BURROUGHS: Yes, a couple. Short. Both were straightened out with apomorphine, and now heroin is no temptation for me. I’m just not interested. I’ve seen a lot of it around. I know people who are addicts. I don’t have to use any willpower. Dr. Dent always said there is no such thing as willpower. You’ve got to reach a state of mind in which you don’t want it or need it.
INTERVIEWER: You regard addiction as an illness but also a central human fact, a drama?
BURROUGHS: Both, absolutely. It’s as simple as the way in which anyone happens to become an alcoholic. They start drinking, that’s all. They like it, and they drink, and then they become alcoholic. I was exposed to heroin in New York - that is, I was going around with people who were using it; I took it; the effects were pleasant. I went on using it and became addicted. Remember that if it can be readily obtained, you will have any number of addicts. The idea that addiction is somehow a psychological illness is, I think, totally ridiculous. It’s as psychological as malaria. It’s a matter of exposure. People, generally speaking, will take any intoxicant or any drug that gives them a pleasant effect if it is available to them. In Iran, for instance, opium was sold in shops until quite recently, and they had three million addicts in a population of twenty million. There are also all forms of spiritual addiction. Anything that can be done chemically can be done in other ways, that is, if we have sufficient knowledge of the processes involved. Many policemen and narcotics agents are precisely addicted to power, to exercising a certain nasty kind of power over people who are helpless. The nasty sort of power: white junk, I call it - rightness; they’re right, right right - and if they lost that power, they would suffer excruciating withdrawal symptoms. The picture we get of the whole Russian bureaucracy, people who are exclusively preoccupied with power and advantage, this must be an addiction. Suppose they lose it? Well, it’s been their whole life.


Norman Mailer quotes

Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit.

Growth, in some curious way, I suspect, depends on being always in motion just a little bit, one way or another.

The novelist is out there early with a particular necessity that may become the necessity of us all. It is to deal with life as something God did not offer us as eternal and immutable. Rather, it is our human destiny to enlarge what we were given. Perhaps we are meant to clarify a world which is always different in one manner or another from the way we have seen it on the day before.

Part of the ability to keep writing over the years comes down to living with the expectation of disappointment. It`s the exact opposite of capitalism. In capitalism you want your business to succeed, and to the degree it does your energy increases, and you go out and buy an even bigger business. In writing it`s almost the exact opposite. You just want to keep the store going. You`re not going to do as well this year as last year probably, but nonetheless let`s keep the store going.

Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.

There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be.

There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.