Friday, December 23, 2011

Santa 'Stache (part 3)


Plenty of people play at it, some more successfully than others, but at the end of the every year, Christmas reminds us, quietly but firmly, that when it comes to the almighty 'stache...


No one beats Santa.

A warning: don't end with this first video (thanks Colleen).



A couple of years ago, before she left on her mission to Rome, Lauren Laws and I threw a party called... "Lauren Laws Presents a Jordan Petersen Christmas Extravaganza." It was legendary (5 points for the reference!) At one point, when the party had settled into festive dancing, we made a stupid little video. It's really, really dumb, but I really, really want to post it. If you see yourself in it, or know someone who is, comment! Let us be nostalgic together. After all, it was a golden era at BYU, now gone forever, but we'll have our lovely memories. And this remarkably stupid video:



Generally, I haven't been very enthusiastic about this channel (another Utah comedy thing), but this one got a little audible chuckle out of me, so...here you go! (skip this one if you're short on time)



Solid gift-giving advice:



I watched this year's Orabrush Christmas Special, and then decided I liked last year's better. It starts off a bit corny, but give it a minute and it turns into a pretty clever little satire:



Perhaps the best holiday arrangement of the year, Miranda's seasonal offering is at least six kinds of wonderful (can you count all six?):



OK, lest you come to the reasonable conclusion that I do not take Christmas seriously at all, I shall here introduce a tone of sobriety. First off, here is a link to the LDS Church's new "Bible Videos." I've been hearing about these productions for years now, so it's exciting to see them finally out and floating. All of the six that have so far been released (all under five minutes) are about the birth of Christ. Having seen them all, I can safely recommend that you check them out.

This one is my favorite so far, I think.

And, lastly, a really beautiful music video that I just discovered a few days ago. It's a song from one of the albums I mentioned in Monday's post, and the video came out in 2008.



Merry Christmas, everyone. May this weekend be whatever you most need it to be.

*****

UPDATE: If this had been posted when I was writing this post, I would most certainly have included it. Here's to hoping The Angel Murkurker gets back up and running next year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A 2190 Christmas Extravaganza! (part 2)

Already you know (because I've said it forthrightly) that I love Christmas. This is at least in part because I love winter, in general. Every year, I go a little crazy about hot chocolate. I'm on this constant search for the perfect cup of cocoa, and I've found some great candidates.

But there's no better way to get the perfect cocoa than to make it yourself.

Today, I will share with you a recipe I created, which I have lovingly called:

Hot Chocolate FTW:

(makes 6-7 cups)

5 c. milk
1 c. 1/2 & 1/2
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar (dark)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
Cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine ingredients in pot, wet first, then dry, heat to simmer, but do not boil. Stir constantly until ready to serve.

This recipe makes extremely rich, dark hot chocolate. Obviously, the better the quality of cocoa powder, the better the end product. This is a huge departure from any instant mix you may have tried, so beware. It's excellent, but people aren't used to hot chocolate that means business. 

There are two perfect activities to combine with the consumption of hot chocolate: hanging out with people you love and watching movies. In fact, I devoted an entire article to excellent Christmas movies/specials for Rhombus Magazine. I don't write for them anymore, and in fact I think that the magazine has stopped updating entirely, but you can still find that article here - Christmas Watchlist (original title). I even specifically mentioned that perfect trifecta at the end (yes, I'm quoting myself): 
It’s cold outside. Regardless of whether or not you have any interest in any of the titles I just listed, you will have wasted the season if you don’t spend a significant portion of it enjoying some great Christmas films with some hot chocolate and some great friends and family.  
So get to it, dear readers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A 2190 Christmas Extravaganza! (part 1)

Can you guess the album?
I love Christmas.

Sure it's wretchedly over-commercialized by corporations eager to fan the flames of unbridled consumerism, but that doesn't come from nowhere. As the indisputable king of all holidays, "the most wonderful time of the year" is an easy target for exploitation. So instead of bemoaning the nauseating frenzy of greed that threatens every year  to totally overwhelm what is most often referred to as the "spirit of Christmas," let's focus on that spirit, and enjoy what it motivates.

And boy is there a lot of that to go around. I'm not much of a gift-giver, but I'm absolutely a sharer. To that end, I've decided to devote this whole week to sharing Christmas stuff I love. Much or most of the stuff I share won't have anything to do with film studenting, but I figure since I'm on break, so should the blog be. And this week, I care much more about Christmas than I do about being a film student. To start, here's this:

The 2190 Christmas Mix - a downloadable zip file - 36 songs, about 2 hours of music

Since this mix is just a sampling, here is a list of my current favorite Christmas albums (linked to their respective Amazon pages for your convenience), from which I pulled most of the songs on the mix:


I also really dig the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas albums, and a lot of classics. But I find myself spending the most time on the stuff I listed above. After all, I figure I'll get exposed to all the classics in grocery stores and at home with family. 

I'm always on the lookout for excellent new Christmas music. Do you have suggestions? What are your favorite Christmas songs and albums? Share them in the comments, for the joy of all (mostly me)!

*****

This first annual 2190 Christmas Extravaganza! will continue this coming Wednesday, and conclude on Friday. There will be three posts total, and, just like all the best gifts, the content of the remaining two posts will be a surprise. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Man of Abominable Snow

Today I started outlining a feature I wrote two years ago. It's a script called "Abominable." It's about a boy who turns into a yeti. 
I found this picture on the Internet

Before you laugh--OK, go ahead and laugh for a little bit. I want you to. 

Anyway, the idea wasn't originally mine. It was this guy who wanted to have someone write a script about this concept. I thought why not. I wanted to write a feature anyway, and I needed the practice. Long story short, I ended up getting pretty into it, and I think I managed to come up with a decent story about a pretty absurd thing.

I didn't realize, before I started, that the simple exercise of outlining this thing would actually help me work out some problems that ultimately frustrated me to the point of dropping the thing two years ago. Turns out that outlining is helpful.

There's my student thought for the day. 

Now, a Little Dignity:


For the record (if by "record," I mean this blog, then that phrase ends up dissolving into meaninglessness), I wanted to do a Friday 'Stache today, but didn't have time to collect a good set to post. However, I'm working on a pretty rockin Christmas post. Expect cool schnauz, startling generosity, and a whole lot of strong opinions, as always. This promised post will either appear on Wednesday or Friday. I haven't quite decided. 

Now, I shall ready for my holiday, which will consist primarily of an intensive writing regiment I designed for myself in order to finish the first draft of a new feature and...other writing junk. I've committed to six hours per day during break. Perfectly reasonable.

Also, since this is an "Expert Film Student" blog, I shall wish you happy academic completions. Hooray!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carol of the Bells

This is what they call an impulse post.



Feeling festive yet?

Monday, December 12, 2011

From the train


There's no other way I'll be able to blog today, so I decided to take advantage of the Blogger app on the iPhone and post a thought. I took these pictures in the course of writing. So you know.

Anyway, life is great, but about as busy as it's ever been.


What about being a film student? Isn't that what this blog is about? OK. So lately I've been impressed by this process of artistic humbling. by that I mean: we are all really crappy at this stuff, relative to people who are better and more experienced, and certainly relative to our eventual abilities (assuming we continue to work and improve).

The trick, and it is a trick, is to both acknowledge and ignore this. There are two options: feel discouraged and give up, or feel humbled and work harder and more eagerly. Plenty of people victimize themselves into thinking discouragement is inevitable, and thus suffer the inevitable impoverishment of their work and passion.

I think most of us strive for the humility and succumb to the discouragement by turns, but I do believe there can be a point, with enough sustained effort, at which humility is the default, hard work the lifestyle, and discouragement the occasional hiccup in an otherwise productive career.


Anyway, I hope that. And the hope is encouraging. Directly self-fulfilling, in very fact.

This is where I am.

Friday, December 9, 2011

mini'stache

Today's post isn't grand enough for a real, or even a cleverly stylized 'stache. So instead, I will share this incredibly dumb drawing I just made on my iPhone.


So, I didn't know you could make a living doing this:




And here's a pretty wonderful rendition of "O Holy Night," a collaboration between some Provo musicians. I think you'll like it. In fact, I downloaded it immediately after I heard it, which is something I...don't ever do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Some light and grain

Guess when I remembered I needed to update this blog before the day was out.

9 minutes ago.

There are actually a couple of very significant posts I'm working on, but I don't have time to finish them up right now, so here's this picture of light and grain:

Near Harvard, a cropped iPhone picture

Soon, I will go out and grab some sweet shots with my Canon. Soon. Oh, let it be soon.

In other news, today was a very good writing day. I had taken a bit of a hiatus to re-evaluate the way I pick stories. Today, I dug deep, and I ended up breaking a new story that I'm enthusiastic about. It's as close as I've ever come to telling a story directly about my life. Kind of a cocktail of different things I obsess about, rolled into some coherent context, with, I believe, an entertaining premise. We'll see how it goes.

Good night, dear people.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Friday 'Stache


I'm not going to spend a lot of time typing at you today because you've got a lot of watching to do.

First, a pretty exciting promo for Dr. Fubalous, coming out this February. This little gem is pretty hard to find without knowing where to look--by design, actually. The creators wanted to give their growing audience a scavenger hunt. So if you want to hunt before you see the promo, click here. If you're lazy, like me, and just want two minutes of hypalicious video, just click here.

The cast they've got lined up for this series is surprisingly impressive: Donnivin Jordan (you might recognize him from Julian Smith sketches, like Malk), Flavor Flav (...I know), Danny Trejo, Colleen Ballinger (Miranda Sings), and...wait for it...Antoine Dodson

*****

Just in case you missed it when it officially released yesterday on YouTube, The Letter from Pearl Harbor:


As I predicted, it's beautiful. And the music is lovely. I'd love to hear what you think of it. You can just leave a comment below. Don't worry, this is a safe place. Gush or growl, it's doubtful more than six people in the world will read your comments if you leave them here. But I'm one of those six people, and I would really love to know what you think.

*****

I was asked to narrate the latest from Quiet Dignity: another installment of "Quiet Thoughts." Unfortunately, they needed it sooner than I could manage. Fortunately, they had Trent, who seems to be channeling me in his narrating. I'm flattered and impressed. 


*****

Mr. Graham, I am digging this:


*****

If you've been reading carefully, and following the links, you'll know why I'm sharing this last one:


*****

I do hope you follow those links when you can. Otherwise...well, I guess I've wasted my time in worse ways. Also, comment if you want me to love you more. It always works. Always.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Letter from Pearl Harbor



I've got to put out a quick word for this short film, which is getting released on YouTube tomorrow. I know almost all of the people involved. Two of the actors, Aurora Florence and Shaun Frenza, were in Weighted (my capstone film), and I took an upper-level screenwriting class with Katie Golden, who wrote The Letter from Pearl Harbor. Kristen Hillier, the film's producer, shot my capstone, and Jacob Schwarz (the director) and I have been friends for years.

It's a sure bet the film will be gorgeous and well-acted, so I very much encourage you to check out the trailer (below), and "like"the Facebook page, and watch it when its released online tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A List You Won't Care About

Here's what I have to get done this week:

  • 6 script coverages
  • Grade 23 8-page papers
  • Create 9 multiple-choice questions for an exam
  • Redraft 3 short scripts
  • Write the first 10-20 pages of a feature
  • Complete a 6-8 page (single-spaced) analysis of the film Ordinary People
  • Read and critique screenplays from fellow students
  • Study for and take an Acting final (I'm not real worried about this one)
  • Write a final paper for same (again...)
I'm not doing one of those, "Everyone look how busy I am!" things. I just couldn't figure out what to post about, but I really wanted to keep my commitment. So I figured I'd present a good overview of what my experience with grad school will be this week, so close to what other people refer to as "finals." 

Also: as of a couple of days ago, it officially became OK to listen to Christmas music. I began yesterday with "Winter Moon," by Mindy Gledhill. 

If you want movie recommendations for Christmas, I published just such a list last year, when I was writing for Rhombus (which has unfortunately stopped updating entirely.) Here's a link

And here is a not-very-good picture I took:

Somewhere downtown. I can't remember precisely where. It was cold that day.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Friday 'Stache

'Stache action, go!
Stephen (V.) Nelson told me that Quiet Dignity is super committed to releasing a new video every week. So far, they're 6 for 6. Guys, I'm so, so impressed. Keep it up.




Speaking of Quiet Dignity...no, literally, I was speaking of Quiet dignity to a fellow BU film student, and she responded by showing me this lovely little piece:




Here's what you can do with your Thanksgiving leftovers:




And now that Thanksgiving is officially over, we're all allowed to start listening to Christmas music! This is the newest from Jake Justice. (Seriously, though, that name. Gosh.)



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where have all the film critics gone?

You may not know this, but it is nearly impossible these days to make a living as a film critic. We can thank crowd-sourcing for this. Go jump on Netflix and take a look at the user reviews. Some of them are reasonably well-informed, but even the highest rated reviews betray a kind of stubborn ignorance, in that they almost never break free of the "I liked it"/"I hated it" foundation of commentary. What is usually missing from lay-criticism is careful evaluation of the actual quality of a film, which should account for what the thing was trying to do, and whether it was successful. The personal response of the viewer/reviewer is a factor, but it is not the end-all.

The current landscape for movie reviews is a bit dismal. Film critics almost always get lumped together, as though they are in some kind of club that meets weekly and decides whether they liked a movie or not. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I don't usually agree with what the critics say." What does that even mean? Are you aware that "critics" differ vastly from one another, and that their opinions represent a wide spectrum of valuable analytical thought? You can't disagree with all of them. It's not possible.

It is possible, however, to take note of some kind of critical consensus, if and when it happens. If a whole lot of critics seem really enthused about a particular film, it's probably worth some consideration. If you find yourself in love with a film that most critics seem to hate, it might be time to acknowledge that you have  something of a guilty pleasure. Loving a film doesn't make it good, and hating it doesn't make it bad.

I digress. The point is that film criticism is a dying profession. It's now the hobbyist's world, and the hobbyist doesn't have to be any good, just passionate, and Internet-savvy. But it stands to reason that as the professional critics go, so goes the professional criticism.

Thankfully, we've still got Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic. Sure, they house a good number of idiots masquerading as film buffs, but those review aggregators are the last bastion of hope for professional film critics. To get included in the "tomatometer" requires significant accreditation, and so Rotten Tomatoes' scores maintain a certain value.

Unfortunately, that value doesn't seem to affect the box office over-dramatically. Here is a telling snapshot:

Striking, is it not?

Anyway, I was motivated to write this ranting, disorganized post because, despite the thanklessness of it, I can't seem to stop writing movie reviews. And while I try my best to make them meaningful, whether I succeed in that effort is not really my call.

Here's my latest. And it provides a great illustration of that thing I mentioned. I had major problems with Hugo, but it's got a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Does that mean that I think all critics are wrong and stupid? Of course not.

Anyway. I'm done.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Man Named John August

Because I am deeply generous, I have decided to share some things I recently found -- they are primarily the brain products of a man named John August. Have you heard of him? I hadn't, until several days ago. Though I probably should have.

Anyway, he's notable because he's doing what I'm sort of trying to do, albeit on a much grander scale. He's working in a craft he loves, and he's doing his best to help out anyone else who's interested in learning from him. I admire this so much I can't even describe it.

Here are the things:


If you have any interest in screenwriting at all, I think these are invaluable resources. Check it all out.

Also, my Mormon.org profile went up over the weekend. WARNING: It has absolutely nothing to do with film studenting. But I am pleased about it nonetheless, and figured I'd share.

Lastly, a picture I took.

Taken with my iPhone, using the Pano app, at the Boston Public Library. Click for full size.
Have a lovely week.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The 'Stache is Back

I know! You've so been missing the Friday 'Stache.

Ahem...

 

To start, a lovely new "Worst Roommate Ever" episode from Quiet Dignity (a really funny concept, executed surprisingly well):




My good friend Jake Justice just started his own YouTube channel, and I like it a whole lot. It's all about making dynamic a musical space. Plus, he's really, really good. Enjoy:




Here's a nice little doc about a must-see spot in Utah:




Lastly, Catvertizing (no further explanation needed):

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pulling a fast one on Failure.

What do I mean by that? I mean that I completely forgot about today's post until 10:45pm, which was 26 minutes ago. (The time is 11:11.) I spent all that time trying to figure out how to get scrippets (which is supposed to be, and, I trust, actually is magical) to work for me on Blogger. (Note: soon this blog will move to Wordpress, but until then...) No dice.

So now it's 11:13, and I don't really have any pressing things to talk about.

Well, I had an interesting experience today.

A couple weeks ago, I was in a bad mood in one of my classes. Everything that was happening in the class felt like a frustrating waste of time, and a not insignificant amount of it, too, since the class is three hours long. My bad attitude was largely a product of frustration with my own failure to write consistently, which was subsequently projected on, well, everything else. I'm talking here about a really bad mood. One of those inner-tantrums that you sort of let escalate to the point of not caring if it shows.

This is always bad form, by the way. Such bad form, that I got an honest to goodness email from the TA, suggesting, with respect and affection, that I check myself and get my act together. Thankfully, I wasn't as sour when I got the email, and was therefore able to immediately realize that what he was suggesting was very sound advice. A duality of gratitude and shame washed over me, and I resolved that I would grow up and get over my issues before I invariably burned some important bridges.

Today, two weeks removed from my disrespectful display of insolence, I had a chance to talk to both the professor and his TA. The conversation went very well. I apologized and attempted to explain my behavior, and they encouraged me to come to them often with questions and the like--to use them as the resource they are, with a very personal understanding of how wretchedly difficult this whole business of writing can be.

Things aren't easy yet, nor will they ever be, I imagine. But I am both learning that I need to mature, and finding ways to go about doing it.

Today, I finished yet another first draft of a short script. If I can ever figure out how to more effectively post "scrippets" here, you'll get to read something. Maybe. I make no promises. ... Leave me alone!

So, I consider that I've pulled a fast one on failure, and in several instances. It is 11:24, which means I'll get this post published before the day is out. Is it a great post? Is it an essential addition to this blog, considering all of my interlocking mission statements?

At this point, I don't care. The point is that I promised to post every Monday and Friday, and, so far, I've kept that promise.

Maybe next time I'll remember earlier.

ALSO! I've been wanting to include pictures I take of Boston. I haven't been out playing the photographer like I'd planned, but I have grabbed a shot here and there. So, to that end:

Taken with my iPhone from a bridge over the Charles.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pick a different thing.

As many of you may know, teaching is still a part of my life. I'm still a TA, and though the circumstances are very different, I'm finding many of the experiences to be very similar.

For instance, I still occasionally have opportunities to talk with students one-on-one, usually about the class, but sometimes not. One of my students came to my "office hour" (I do not have an office) to go over some of her ideas for the next essay. She's interested in becoming a screenwriter, so she's thinking about focusing on certain aspects of that career's development alongside technology for her essay. I told her I think that's a great topic. 

I also told her that screenwriting is an excruciatingly difficult career choice. Let's think about it. You don't get paid unless you're very good, have great connections, and get lucky. No one is ever going to tell you how and when and what to do, so all of your hard work has to be completely self-motivated. In order to get to the point where you're any good at all, you have to bleed your life away at the keyboard, and somehow re-construct yourself into someone who cares more about writing than almost anything else. I should also mention that screenwriting is, quite possibly, the most grueling kind of writing to do well, or even correctly. And since so few people know how or even care to read screenplays, the best stuff you do will be almost totally unappreciated.

But don't worry, because for the first several years of painstaking sacrifice, everything you actually manage to finish will be total crap.

My advice? Pick a different thing. 

If you can't -- if you can't -- then you'd better start in on it now. The sooner you reconstitute your life around a core of daily, substantial writing, the better shot you'll have. 

The good news is, I don't know of many people who sacrifice hours writing every day for the better part of their lives and don't wind up with some degree of success. So the real question is, are you willing to make the offering that the craft demands?

In short, this mantra:

Write away, right away!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Promises, Promises

I'm going to make more promises. Perhaps this is unwise. Perhaps I will fail to keep them. Perhaps perhaps perhaps.

Here's a truth: If I don't make any promises, I'm certain not to keep them. Ha!

Promise #1: I will update this blog every Monday.

Promise #2: I will update this blog every Friday.

Promise #3: The updates can and will be about anything that fits within the admittedly broad context of this blog. Whatever kind of stuff you've seen before will about dictate what future stuff will look like. But I'm not going to be rigid about it. Because I can't handle that.

I guess that last was less a promise than it was a disclaimer. But so it is written, and so it shall be.

In other news, I've been a little better about writing every day. Or, I'll say, I was getting better. Last week. And then the week wound up with some slacking, and this week started with some mental exhaustion, and...

TOMORROW I will begin again my ongoing, gasping commitment to write for two hours every day.

Aside: Tomorrow is my favorite day of the week.

On an entirely unrelated topic, I've been reading "Born to Run," and everyone in the world should read that book. I don't say that lightly. In fact, I say it heavily. Everyone in the world should read that book. People who love running should read it, and people who hate running should read it, and people who don't give a hard little crap about running should read it. Which is a long definition of "everyone," in this context. (-10 points for overusing that word, Jordan.)

Now watch this:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Networking with Rafiki

Am I writing as much as I need to? No. But I'm progressing. And I have new goals and resolve. Same old story. Looking to affix a new ending. You know how it goes.

Here are some thoughts on networking.

They (yes, "they") say that it's not what you know, it's who you know. I've learned long since that it is very much both. You could be really well-connected and know squat about filmmaking, and you're not going to make a movie. You've got to know something. And you've got to have some talent and be willing to work hard. Only then will "who you know" matter at all.

So what about this idea of networking? It's always been a bit of an intimidating concept for me. I get overwhelmed. I think I've got to somehow meet everyone, know everything about them, and make them love me.

This is not true.

It's been my experience that if you proactively meet people and search for those who might share some of your passions, you'll find them. And as you find people with whom you seem readily compatible, you'll remember them, because they interest you. Then all you've got to do is stay in touch. Keep the relationship alive. Make sure that the both of you remember that you want to work together. Then, as opportunities to benefit from these people arise, you'll take advantage of them. And then you'll return the favor.

It's actually pretty simple. The hardest part is being the kind of person other people will want to know and work with, and then being outgoing enough to prove it to them--not obnoxiously, but confidently.

I met this guy named Chad. He's pretty stellar. It didn't take long to figure out that our senses of humor were similarly bizarre, so I sold him on Quiet Dignity, and now we're actively working toward turning out the first Quiet Dignity video from Boston. Here's the script I just wrote (as in, minutes ago):


INT. DINING ROOM 


GARY and JOHN pour out bags of candy onto a table. 


LATER


Gary and John are eating the candy, busily preoccupied with their binging.


Gary holds a Kit-Kat, and notices its chocolate melt between his fingers. 


He pinches his fingers together a few times, still chewing. 


He looks up at John, who is still pre-occupied with his own candy. 


Squinting in concentration, Gary reaches up slowly, and John looks up just in time to see Gary’s chocolate covered thumb land on his forehead. 


JOHN
What--

Gary slides his thumb down the bridge of John’s nose, still chewing, candy stuck to his teeth.


GARY
Simba...


Gary takes his finger away and stares at John contemplatively.


John wipes his face roughly.


JOHN
What the crap, man.


Gary resumes unwrapping candy.


GARY
I been watching a lot of Lion King lately. 


JOHN
Oh OK.


CUT TO BLACK.

***

We're hoping to shoot it this weekend. You'll get to see pretty soon whether and how it turns out. Wish us luck.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Le Mime (a teaser)

As of several minutes ago, I completed the first draft of the first script I'm writing for my MFA. There will be many, many more (drafts AND scripts), but I figured I should celebrate this as a significant milestone anyway. To that end, here is a single scene... (Please forgive the sloppy formatting--Final Draft doesn't copy and paste well, I found out.)


EXT. POLICE STATION - NIGHT

A FAT GUARD sits in a chair outside the door of the station. He’s reading a magazine and chewing on something.

He notices a Mime approaching and watches him suspiciously. He watches everyone suspiciously.

The Mime appraises the guard and rubs his stomach thoughtfully, taking the stance of a fat man.

FAT GUARD 
Hey get outta here.

The Mime holds up his finger, high, like he just had an idea.

He pushes up his sleeves, ties on an invisible apron, and goes to work “cooking an omelette.”

The guard wrinkles his nose at the Mime, but sits up a little straighter to watch.

FAT GUARD 
Whataya doin?

The Mime pauses, looks at the guard, holds up his finger, and then goes back to work.

FAT GUARD 
You makin somethin?

The Mime nods and smiles at him as he moves the invisible frying pan back and forth across the invisible burner.

FAT GUARD
Whatcha makin?

The Mime flips the omelette a couple of times and then brings the pan over to the Guard.

He makes a little bow as he offers the invisible omelette to the man and waits for him to take it.

FAT GUARD 
Heh. No thanks. I’m not hungry.

The Mime stands up straight, shrugs, and tips the "pan" to drop the "omelette" into his own hand.

He smiles at the guard as he takes a bite and chews with a “you don’t know what you’re missing” expression.

FAT GUARD
Well look at you, gettin all
cheeky!

The Guard smiles as he watches the Mime finish the invisible food.

FAT GUARD
Alright, I get it, yum yum yum. Now
get outta here.

The Mime licks his fingers and then promptly brings the invisible pan up and conks the Guard over the head.

FAT GUARD
Ahh!

The Guard clutches his head in surprised pain and looks at the Mime in disbelief.

FAT GUARD
What in the--

With a worried frown, the Mime bashes the Guard’s head again.

This time, the Guard lurches forward in an attempt to tackle the Mime, but the Mime gets in one more blow before he reaches him.

The Guard lies motionless on the ground. The Mime, pan at the ready, peers warily at the body.

Satisfied, the Mime gives a quick nod, tosses the invisible pan, which clatters loudly as it hits the ground, and steps up to the station door.

The Mime looks around, then disappears into the station.

***

What do you think? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bad Writer, Bad Writing

I had two choices:
  1. Continue to avoid writing a new post because I technically don't have a new scene to share this week.
  2. Admit my failure and post anyway, favoring consistency over humiliation (and cowardice).
I am now hiding behind door #2. 

It's not that I haven't been writing at all, but what little time I have spent writing I've sunk into the short, for which I'm supposed to be turning in the first draft this coming week.

Wow, what a sentence. I can actually feel myself getting worse at putting words together. It's becoming a neurosis. You are witnessing a slow, excruciating collapse of a once-creative mind. What's it like, from your perpective? This is what it's like for me: sinking into a pit of loose, soft sand. I'm panicking, of course, but what can I do? It seems like the more I struggle, the deeper I sink, and plus there's all this sand, which, even if I get out, is going to be all up in everywhere ok I think this analogy is breaking down.

And now here's some venting:

I frequently (and unfairly) blame my failure to stake out more time to write on my job as a TA. Specifically, of late, grading papers. Like I said, it's unfair, because if I was more dedicated, I'd get my &#!+ together and quit whining. I'd have plenty of time if I'd stop wasting so much of it.

But that's not what I want to vent about. I want to say that the level to which we, as a nation, have allowed our standard, public education to sink is unforgivable. I don't blame the freshmen coming into a prestigious college for their utter inability to write coherently (I'm one to talk)--I blame the system that so recently regurgitated their ill-served brains. The sad fact is this: public high schools are failing utterly to teach the vast majority of their students to write at even the modest levels of competency. 

This is the pen I use to grade. I know, right?
Is writing really that important? 

Have you ever heard Lewis Black scream the word "YES" in an explosively incredulous rage? Well, that's my answer. 

Not only is an inability to write clearly and effectively an indication of a poor education, and a terrible handicap in the professional world, it is also, alas, directly related to stunted critical thinking. Writing is thinking, and vice versa. The two are inseparable. Learning to write well facilitates much better thinking. Without the one, the other stagnates. 

And so most of us are coming out of high school barely functional. It's not an age thing, it's a systemic failure thing. If our eighteen-year-olds are well-meaning idiots, it's not because they haven't seen two decades, it's because they have seen one decade of "no child left behind." 

I'm going to stop now, or I never will. 

This blog is supposed to be a place to talk about being a film student/maker/person. So I've typed out my passionate plea for better writing with fear and fury, and now I want to ask you, am I overstating it? Am I alone in my anguish? Are there other perspectives outside of mine? I tend to assume there aren't, which, I recognize, is a problem. Help me fix it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Scene

I really like Blogger's new format. It feels less like an unfortunate collection of misplaced html. I approve of Google's new branding and design efforts. I know, Google, it was a long time coming, but I'm finally giving you the validation you were so craving. Now stop blubbering and get back to work.

I'm not very good at writing consistently. I know, this isn't news. So here's a development: I'm getting better! Further, the rate at which I am improving will ensure that I finish the first draft of my next feature sometime in 2018. Of course, I'll have to pick a story first, but that's a small detail in light of such unmitigated triumph.

But seriously. I had this idea. I will write a random scene every day. I will never spend more than one hour on this scene, and it does not have to relate to any particular project. It'll be sort of like writerly jamming. See what I come up with, remove the neurosis that typically accompanies, well, all of my efforts.

To nail this commitment into place, I now promise to post one scene here, right here, on this blog, here, every week. In keeping with the loose, calm atmosphere I'm trying to implement, the only guideline I'll make for myself is that I won't post anything I didn't write within the preceding week. Keep it fresh...Jeff. (I just made that up.)

To start: "Two-Man Job"

(HINT Click on the link to see the scene.)

Also, in the time since I last posted, those quietly dignified rock stars back in Provo graced the YouTubes with another video. It's funny. And short. In fact, very funny, and very short.

Bam:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Et Cetera

Here is the direct transcription of the pertinent task on my Wunderlist task list:
Blog! Sick, focusing, academia, QD, etc.
In an effort to keep things simple:

Sick

I got sick on the very first day of classes. Felt it coming on, then fought like crazy to keep it from getting bad. A few days later, I was feeling mostly fine, so I tried to jam way more into my days, and ended up getting sick again, but much worse. Took a week to find the end of it, where I found a sinus infection waiting for me. Getting rid of that was a pain, and now I'm...mostly ok. Still teetering, but trying to treat myself right with fear and trembling.

Also, herbal remedies. The next time you find yourself with a sinus infection, try this (apple cider vinegar tea). It works. Several times a day, for several days. It'll clear you out and allow your body to do the heavy lifting of actually getting rid of the infection. Seriously. I did it. It was great.

Being sick, by the way, is horrible. Not that you didn't know that, but I was reminded very forcibly of this most fundamental truth after the year (almost) I spent forgetting it.

Focusing

Back in the Utah, I divided my time between so many and such varied activities that I never really got good at anything. By now, I'm sure it's clear that I came here to focus on writing. I told myself that I needed to pick something, focus on it, and stick with it until I really developed the talent. Easier said than done, just like everything. It turns out that I still want to do all the stuff I was doing, and not doing it feels a little like giving up on life.

Of course, that sentiment is only exacerbated by my failure to write as often and as consistently as I VERY MUCH NEED TO, so that has been, or is becoming, my primary focus, as it were. I must write write write write. More on that later.

Academia

I'm not used to this. I feel like I spent a couple of years being a semi-professional, not getting paid, but doing all kinds of project-oriented things. I was doing things I loved, and things for which I would have been paid had I been out in the real world, but now I'm back in classes. Homework is hard, I'm rediscovering. Going to classes. Following syllabi. Frankly, it sucks. But I've only got a couple more years. They'll go by quick, and then it will be, quite literally, over for good.

QD (or, Quiet Dignity, for the uninitiate)



So proud of these guys for keeping it going after I left. I've been putting out feelers for how to go about setting up a coordinating group here in Boston. If you're a Bostonite, and you're reading this, and you're interested, let me know.

Et Cetera

Life is busy, and it's good. Quality. Full of good work and shining possibilities. But I'll admit I miss my old life pretty desperately sometimes. OK, often. But I brought it on myself by getting so close to so many wonderful people. And here I go again, trying to do the same thing here. I'll never learn.

Well, anyway. Check. Time to move on to my next task.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Story about Taking Pictures of Married People

I wrote this post over a month ago and forgot to post it. Look at me go. I promise a more current set of thoughts very soon. 

Last week, I had my first experience with wedding photography. It turns out I'm...well, about how I expected to be. Not great. Not terrible. Out of 1,060 pictures, I forced over 200 of them to be useable in some way, so I guess that's something.

I did it for free, because it was for a couple of dear friends, and it was my first time. I figured a practice-run photography gig was a suitable wedding gift. And while I most certainly don't regret doing it for free, I doubt I'll be able to afford the same generosity to anyone else in the future. The event went from 4 to 8pm, approximately, and then sifting though the seemingly endless pictures I had taken, and editing the ones that were salvageable--I think I clocked in another 8 hours. I will never begrudge a photographer his or her fees.

One of the reasons I was so eager to do this, though, was that I knew I'd learn a whole lot, and I was right. For instance, I found myself phobic of closing the aperture; for some stupid reason, I kept it stopped down as far as I could get it--all day long, in blinding sunlight. Instead, to limit the exposure, I throttled the shutter speed between three and eight hundred. If you know anything about cameras, you can go ahead and laugh at me now. Here's the other part: keeping the aperture open decreased my depth of field to the point that I had a devil of a time keeping anything in focus, particularly for a lot of the candid shots I tried to get.

I also ended up underexposing about half of all the shots I got, having failed to adjust appropriately for drastic lighting changes. Listen. Photography is hard, it turns out.

But it's hecka fun. I did learn a ton, and I think my friends will be happy with some of what I give them. Here are some of my favorites:












Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And Now I'm Here

It's been a long time, I know, and I'm sorry.

Here's what's been up:

I moved to Boston.

Undergoing such a huge move turns out to be psychologically, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and creatively draining. It's sort of like going into survival mode, where all I could really focus on was making it through the whole thing in one piece.

And now I'm here, in one piece. And classes have started, and I'm still a wretched writer, in that I almost never actually sit down and write. That's going to change, though, you'll see. Or, probably you won't see, but you'll hear abou--er, you'll read about it here, when I decide I deserve to let off some brag steam. But no such steam exists at present, so that'll have to wait.

Here's the deal with BU: it's different than BYU. Like, a lot different. I won't say it's better or worse, because I think it's an impossible comparison to qualify. They are different worlds. I guess there is one qualitative thing I can say--different is good. I love these buildings that are hundreds of years old, with dust on the windowsills that I'm willing to bet is older than my grandparents. I love the way everything in this city is crammed together, or was, a hundred years ago, and everyone has to just sort of shoulder past each other to get around.

I love that yesterday, it was so hot and muggy I thought I would drown when I walked outside, and today it's cold and rainy enough to be November in Utah.

I...well, I really hate that I have to furnish my own room in my new (very, very old) apartment, and I have no car to help me do it. But I LOVE that as soon as I step out of my door, I'm in Davis Square in Somerville, which is at least fourteen times cooler than any square in Provo.

I love living here. I'm so glad to be back. Immediately, I want to claim this as my home. I know that I need to put in some time before I get that right, but I'm willing to put that time right in.

So those are my thoughts right now.

And here's my "expert film student" advice for the day: Love where you are, or move.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Weighted is done.

Last Monday, Weighted was officially, entirely, totally, completely completed. As I'm writing this, the DVDs are in the process of being created, and people are being invited to the premiere, which is this Saturday. If you're reading this, you're invited. So go click "Attending" on the event page.

Even though the film was originally scheduled to be completed about two months ago, this is still record timing. I know of no other BYU student capstone being completed, from pre-production to premiere, in so little time. From the time we got funding to this Saturday, this film will have taken about six months. Of course, the early stages of story, writing, and conceptualization were happening months before that, but the actual course of production, the heavy lifting, as it were, was all done over six months. Pretty great. Especially for a bunch of students who were working on a multitude of other projects throughout the entire process.

Here's what I learned: filmmaking is hard.

At the end of the day, the actual film is...well, I'll let you be the judge when you see it. I'll just say that the script was better, as a completed thing, than the film is, which isn't at all surprising, considering our limited experience, time, and budget.

I also discovered that probably the hardest special effect anyone could ever attempt is to make a person fly. My VFX guy (Nick Dixon, everyone...) and I had a conversation about why that is, and I won't go into the dull details, but suffice it to say that there may not be more than one or two movies ever made in the history of the universe that made flying look natural for a human being. And that emphatically includes all the huge-budget Hollywood movies out there that try to pull it off.

This proves both that I and the people who agreed to help me with this film are (or were, at least) incredibly naive, and that we've all got that thing called grit, because while the effects may not astonish anyone, they're also not awful, and by golly they could have been. In fact I saw many versions in which they were.

I could probably talk forever about this movie, and the things I learned, and how I felt and feel about everything, but I won't. Unfortunately, the entirety of experience that goes into making a movie cannot be summed up effectively in any way. So, to end, these words: I'm glad it's over with, and I can't wait to do it again, and soon, by the grace of God.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Graduating

I walked because my mom demanded it. She's a single mother and I'm her only child, so of course I had to do the cap and gown thing. Here's some stuff that happened:

  1. Lots of sun and heat and sweat
  2. A long exodus from a distant parking lot to a huge auditorium
  3. Re-learning how to walk single-file
  4. Astonishingly dull speech-making by people I've never heard of and will likely never hear of again
  5. A bemused regard for the teleprompter that fate placed right behind me and to my right
  6. Immense gratitude for iPhones (and Sudoku)
  7. Admiration for Sarah and her GoPro camera
And that was just the first day. 

Joel Ackerman, bless him eternally, provided much needed comic relief, complete with Harry Potter glasses and a glittery wand. Thanks to him, I now know the words to the graduation song/music:

I'm telling you white boy
Stay away from me
(repeated ad infinitum)

The next morning involved waking up at 6am to be at the Harris Fine Arts Center (HFAC) for convocation (I discovered that this word, literally translated, means "assembly"), which was much less wearying than commencement, since instead of football stories by Alumni Association cronies, we got stories from students about more relatable achievements and experiences. I've long suspected that "fine arts" students are more interesting, on average, than pretty much any other kind of student, and our college's convocation was further proof of that notion. 

And then I walked across a stage, got handed a fake diploma, hugged Amy Jensen (whose presence was extremely welcome), got my picture taken, and sat back in my seat until it was over and they released all of us into the wild. 

What lasts is the dismal feeling of closure. I know, closure is supposed to feel good. Not getting it is supposed to be that unsurvivable psychological condition that causes depression. But closure isn't always  pleasant. I wanted to avoid thinking about the fact that I was finished at BYU, and I was doing a pretty good job of it until they forced me to don cheap, scratchy fabric, put a board on my head, and heard me into a huge colosseum with hundreds of other students dressed in like manner. 

The most surreal component was the constant stream of always-surprising congratulations from family and friends. As if the entire exercise was actually some kind of victory. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have finished my degree, and I've loved--no adored the vast majority of my time at BYU, but the arbitrary pomp and circumstance of graduation ceremonies...where's the victory there? Most of my contemporaries didn't walk, evidenced by the vanishingly small number of us in actual attendance. So what was the point?

I'm sorry. I know what's happening here. I'm a little broken up about leaving what has become my home, dear to me in a way and to a degree that I cannot adequately describe. Graduation was a long and forceful reminder of it, and now I'm venting. It's hard, this leaving business. I don't remember signing up for it, though I know I did in the very act of coming here in the first place. But this time, this ending event, was always so far off. It was far off right up until the day it happened, and I found myself saying, "Wait a minute," with a frown, "I'm not comfortable with this." And then graduation had its way with me, and now I just feel...

Well, homesick.

Friday, August 12, 2011

So Little, So Late...

I graduated today. More on that next week.

Also, finished Weighted today. As in, the film is completely complete. We'll be burning a couple of DVDs and Blu-rays tomorrow.

Also, I'm so sorry about the shabby state of this blog lately. It's been over two weeks since I've posted. I realize that. It shames me. Which is why I'm here, right now, putting some words together to break the streak of non-posting.

Really, more next week. I have all kinds of things to say, but no time, right now, to say them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Film School and Some Slowing

First, here's what was owed to you on Monday, but I failed to deliver:

Is film school important? 

There were a bunch of really great responses, several of which didn't end up in the comments, but emerged in private conversations over the next few days after I posted that question. 

Most people seem to agree about film school's potential usefulness. The predominating sentiment was: maybe you don't need it, but it certainly can't hurt, and there are a whole lot of advantages. 

I find myself in reasonable accord, with some qualifiers. Film school is, or at least should be if it's worth anything, a close prototype of actual filmmaking. In other words, you will get out of it only what you put in. Like all great opportunities for accomplishment in this life, film school should demand the best you can give it; it requires self starters, and rewards people who take on the work and responsibility of their own education. 

Many would argue that that very condition is what makes going to school for film a waste of time. If all that self-starting is needed, why not do it outside of the arbitrary demands and monetary cost of formal schooling? Why not just go do it on your own? 

I think of film school like a garden, of sorts. A plant can grow outside of a garden. A seed can find purchase in rough, dry dirt and somehow eke out a meager existence in blinding sunlight and the period deluge. The seed that finds itself surrounded by the careful cultivation of a garden, however, will have a much better opportunity to grow. Film school is that garden. Just as the soil and cultivation of a garden will not grow a seed--the seed must do it's own growing, and take advantage of the better conditions--film students cannot be made into great filmmakers or scholars. They must simply use the better resources that their school provides, so many of which were mentioned in the astute responses last week. 

I'm all for film school, but only for those who can manage to do their own growing. 

Speaking of growing, this blog is going to have to go through a bit of a transition. For over two months, I was good for my word, and posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But it sort of burned me out. The quality of my posts was degenerating, and my will to continue was waning. In short, I got into a rut. It may not have been the most responsible move, but I decided to step away from it for a week. And then, when I came back, I realized I couldn't really continue as I had been. It was sapping too much of my life. 

So, I will promise weekly posts. There may be more, but at this moment, I'll make no guarantees. If you're following this blog in any way (Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, obsessive daily visits to the actual website...), you'll know when I post, and hopefully rejoice profoundly when I do. 

In the meantime, I'm going to devote more of my time and energy to writing. After all, I'm going to be working on a screenwriting MFA soon, and I figure I'd better get into the habit of...well, screenwriting. Storytelling in general. Also, I'm leaving Provo in a month, and an inestimably important stage of my life will be over. I figure it would be tragic to waste what little time I have left here drowning this blog's tiny audience in too many posts. 

Bear with me. 2190 isn't dying, just dropping its heartbeat a little to outlast the insanity of the next few weeks of my life. 

For the sake of keeping the conversation alive, though, here's a parting, and very sincere question: What is or is not, has or has not been valuable about this blog? If you read 2190 regularly, what do you hope to see? What do you hope not to hear more about? What's helpful? What's not? I think you get the idea. I'm not really doing 2190 for me, so how can I make it better for you?

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Friday 'Stache

In an effort to apologize for the missing weekly Friday 'Stache, I present Yanni's luscious locks and seductive 'stache.













First, I am immensely proud of the latest from Quiet Dignity. We got permission from Spencer Russell to use a song from his former band, Mudbison, called "Promise Cutie." It fits perfectly. Enjoy:




Next, here's a thing I saw the other day that I think is pretty swell. I've always really loved kinetic text ("always," of course, just means "since I became aware of it," which was relatively recent), and to see it used to promote some basic tenets of my own religion was, well, neat.




And now for something disastrously wonderful:




My friend Josh Gibson made this a while ago, but he only recently showed it to me. I can't decide which is funnier: the clever (and obvious) humor that motivated it, or the avalanche of negative responses it elicited (really, go to the YouTube page and read the comments):



I was going to dive into a recent incident involving a friend of mine and a soulless, lying, trash-peddling corporation, complete with two short videos as evidence, but instead, I'll leave that for Monday, because I think the entire situation inspires an interesting and important question. So look forward to that, and be prepared to share your thoughts. 

For all you Utahns, enjoy the long weekend. I certainly will. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is Film School Important?

First of all, my apologies for the week-long break. I needed it, though, to stay enthusiastic about this here blog.

Let's go ahead and just pick up where we left off. It's Monday, and that means I'd like to pose a question that I think will be pertinent to many if not all of you.

First, though, I need to thank DJB for being the sole contributor last week. He shared some good thoughts, and I would encourage you to go back and read what he has to say. I myself would like to add one thing to one part of his comment:

Be literate. You cannot create anything new without knowing what has come before. Read, watch, listen.

While I agree absolutely with this principle (along with the rest of what you had to say), I would also say that there is no way anyone can be literate enough to know all of what has come before, and when it comes to telling stories, there really is nothing absolutely "new," in the strictest and most literal sense of the word, to say. However, one can never be too literate. It's vital to fill your eyes, ears, and brains with great artistic works, whatever their form. In that way, it is possible to then synthesize the best of what has been done and make it your own, contributing in your unique way to the body of human expression.

On to the new question:

Is film school important?

Is it necessary? This probably isn't a black and white question by any stretch, so I expect any answers to take some pains to explain their own context and justification. Of course my own hand is relatively obvious--for heaven's sake, I call myself an "expert film student." However, my opinions on the subject are certainly not cut and dried, so I'm very interested to hear what others think.

Comment away!

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