Accuracy and Authenticity

During the last rehearsal for Delta Phi I told my actors that is is much more important for us to be authentic than accurate. (I’m reading Judith Weston’s The Film Director’s Intuition and it’s putting so many of my imaginative convictions to words that I’m finally feeling confident enough to teach in ways that I didn’t know I should be).

The point being here that the script is not the master of the film. The beats in the script, the pacing, the emotions making their tiny visits from parenthetical to parenthetical are there for one reason: to deliver a problem to the creative team.


This is the problem, the script says, here are the ingredients. And here are a set of emotional assumptions to help you understand the problem of the story.


Then the actors, the directors, the people involved; we get to solve the problem. It boggles my mind how much time director’s spend trying to find new ways of telling someone how to feel as opposed to helping them to feel. For an actor to be present in an imaginary circumstance, to watch him behave and react in the way that is most authentic to him, is all the magic of filmmaking.

That’s not to say that there aren’t certain premises the actor must follow; you have to give him a box to think outside of, as Ben Toalson might say. The box is comprised of character motivations. It’s far better to tell an actor why a character is doing something than to tell them how the character has to feel about it. Even the why, to some degree, can be left up to the actor’s imagination, just so long as you prompt them to activate it.

We have our first big shoot this weekend and are tackling some ambitious shots. My DP is new to the field and remarkably competent. I can only hope to make my team half as excited as I am about Delta Phi, and that would be more than enough. I suppose the best way to inspire others to care about something is to be obsessed with it yourself. Obsession is not such a bad thing, so long as your preoccupation doesn’t take you away from God. Obsession can be productive. Such domination of the mind for a singular concept or goal can make incite focus.





What you don't hear about filmmaking

If you’re on the fence about whether to try filmmaking, this is for you: 

When I entered film school I found myself on the receiving end of a lecture indicating to me that this kind of work was an end-all be-all. Hard work. Inaccessible. It’s for people who simply can’t do anything else because passion etc. 

I’m sure it was meant to be inspiring, but there’s hardly a lack of the harshly linear, masculine-minded approach to motivation in most fields, even the creative ones. Of course, I still love that approach. It’s hard not to if you’re a hard working person living in the US. But I just wasn’t feeling the lecture. 

It’s not that it scared me away from film, but I was irritating by the sense that it was trying to. It wasn’t for me. It was for people who don’t know that they have to work hard, but I don’t see how hearing they they’ll have to is going to help them. Hard work is its own filter. Delivering a speech like that is usually more for the benefit of the speaker than the listener. 

I say this because it’s that kind of attitude that kept me away from film for so long. It didn’t matter how many resources landed in my lap as long as I heard all this stuff about filmmaking:

>You have to know the right people

>You have no control over your own ideas

>It’s a male dominated meat market

>You can only break in through porn

>You have to meet an agent in LA 

>You have to avoid a lot of sabotage

>It’s too expensive (note that I’m not saying it isn’t expensive, I’m just parroting the judgement that it’s too expensive)

>It’s not worth the time and energy

>Aw, you wanna be a director? That’s so cute! 

>Are you like a writer? Is that a notebook? That’s so cute.


Here are some of the cool things that you don’t hear as often from filmmakers: 

>I get to share a story as I’m making it

>I get to experience leadership from within a group that is united by that story story

>I get to play pretend and/or help others get to play pretend

>I get to buy stuff for my imaginary friends in the story

>I get to meet sensitive, creative people 

>I get to help those sensitive, creative people find their part in the story

>I get to keep a record of me and friends playing pretend to deliver a story

I don’t know what else I can say, here. What could be more fun and healing than telling a story? 




Props and Boilerplate

Doing stuff you love sure makes you do a lot of stuff you don't love. I hate buying clothes for myself on a good day. But when I need costumes, out comes my wallet and yelp app. 

Getting up early to watch Netflix? Nope. But I'll roll out of bed at 6 AM to write contracts in time for my next shoot. 

I can say I hate these things, but the truth is that I wouldn't and couldn't do them if I didn't care passionately about it. And I care passionately because I have a story to tell and will do whatever I have to to tell it right. 

Most successful people will tell you that hard work is the secret. And that's true. I also have a fair warning: when you love something, people take notice. They know you'll do anything for what you're passionate about it. So don't become a slave to your passion, and don't let anyone take advantage of your energy for their own purposes. Be willing to do stuff you don't like as long as you have a good reason. Who knows, maybe you'll come to love the things you hate. 





Rehearsals for Delta Phi

Holding rehearsals is one of my favorite aspects of filmmaking. I often can't contain my glee at playing pretend with my colleagues. This isn't usually a problem but as I will be playing one the of leads in Delta Phi, I'm starting to wonder what I can do about it. It doesn't help that the script is funny by my standards (because I wrote it). 

I sort of hit the ground running after Real Boy since I knew I'd have more time and resources for my next project, so I started writing for Delta Phi sometime back in May of this year. Since I'm deeply connected to the subejct matter (it's about people who know they're not real and the woman who writes about them), the concept kept getting really heavy really quick, and humor was my best way to mitigate that. The script even has a sock puppet. 

We're shooting in two weeks and I have to solve this laughter problem, so I do a little research.

Laughter is a release in somatic tension. Our threshold for holding in laughter lowers based on the amount of tension we carry. Writers use this a lot in thrillers and action movies. Pretty much anything that breaks the pace will likely com across as hilarious. 

So I tried yoga. I'm practicing balance. Fixing my gaze on a single point. Breathing into my stomach. All the things that I tell my actors to do anytime we're on set, only now I finally get to hold myself to the same standard. I can manage not to laugh while I'm directing, but being engaged with the action, knowing that you're being observed, it's a different game. 

This past week we just practiced lines and a little blocking. I have yet to annotate the script so we haven't really dug in yet, although I do have concept maps and character sheets done. I'm hoping next week we can do some color coding and notate the tonal shifts with stickers. Time to go back to Office Max. 

It's fun though, I love it. Everytime we're acting it's like something invisible and special fills up the room, something so different from the seeming irrelevance of daily ilfe that it makes me wonder how anyone could want to do anything else besides make stories. 





Real Boy, an Allegory


Hi! Thanks for waiting on me. I just wanted to let you know that my primary focus during this hiatus has been the writing, direction and production of my new film, Real Boy, an Allegory.

Real Boy is a narrative film shot documentary-style about Rabbit and Mouse as they butt heads over Rabbit's flirtatious behavior to other animals in the community. Both Rabbit and Mouse have a lot of experience with being in stories and I was able to get quite up close and personal with them for this film. 

The film is in post production now, and you can follow the hastag #realboyfilm for updates from me and some other members of the cast and crew. 

Talk to you soon!


I've invested a lot of time over the last year holding open doors for my career, writing, studying business models and the like, and again and again I've come up against the secret of focus. To do one thing at a time is better and more productive than spreading yourself thin. It is in the spirit of this advice that I am officially and intentially taking a hiatus from the blog and podcast. 

I've committed to making two films over the next year and a half, as well as (hopefully) publishing my long term writing projects, some of which I have worked on for at least several years. There is so much work and planning for this site that never sees the light of day because it doesn't get the attention it needs. My plan is to put things on hold for now, and come back at a time when I can give undivided (or at least less divided) attention to teaching. 

Thanks for sticking with me this far. While the hiatus will go for at least six months on the blog, podcast, and youtube channel, you can still follow me on twitter in the meantime: 

I'll be posting updates on my writing and film projects on twitter for those interested in following along. Thanks again and keep writing! 


and then...pacing

I'm going to write this blog post in twenty minutes.

Almost anything you have planned in your day, especially those things that you'd rather not do, can be done in twenty minutes or less if you treat it as a mild act of meditation. 

Since everything is an act of balance, you need only balance the two opposing methods to productivity. On one side you have the masculine approach, that is, to enter problem-solving mode, wherein one can focus on one thing only until that thing is resolved or completed. On the other (feminine) side of things, you can do this thing called "mult-tasking," which doesn't really exist, as the brain can not do more than one thing at a time. So what multi-tasking really entails is the ability to switch quickly between tasks without worrying whether they have reached completion.

Marrying these two energies just means that you have to completely focus on one thing for a preset amount of time, and be able to leave it unfinished when your time is up. 

Defining completion in a work of fiction is about the moment you reach the exhale, the contraction of the lungs. Stories are the act of respiration, particularly novels. They are sequences of build-up and catharsis. 

So you might not want to leave your work until you have finished a particular scene or cycle. Or even a line. Yet most novelists (myself included) will advise you to leave a writing session while you still have a solid idea of what happens next. This sets you up for the next writing session with confidence; it gives you a place to begin and, more importantly, it helps settle that pesky problem of continuity. 

Don't worry about what part of your piece you want to finish writing today. Rather, make a decision about how much time you're willing to spend on it. It will help you be present with the work. It will teach you about your own process, your abilities, and about what the work needs. You may find that you work through some pieces faster than others. You'll have a better understanding of what the act of writing actually means for you. 

Well, it hasn't been twenty minutes, but I think I've made my point here. I hope it's helpful.