Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A SOUND Decision

Hello friendly world.

First of all, I am very sorry for the hiatus. It's hard for me to tell whether anyone's missed the posts, but that hasn't stopped my guilt from mounting.

Unfortunately, I'm doing too much. Of course this will be obvious to everyone who reads this, but for some reason I have trouble remembering that I can't do everything all the time always. There's such a thing as priorities. (Can you spot the grammar mistake? It was on purpose. So there.)

So, I decided to consolidate my online efforts.


As many of you doubtless know, I write movie reviews for an online magazine called SOUND. It's edited by a pretty stellar guy named Chase Larson, and I think the site has a lot of potential. But I sensed, a while ago, that he needed some support. And it turns out I'm pretty good at the kind of thing he most needs, like motivating people to contribute content, and keeping track of progress, goals, and overall vision.

Since this blog is and has been a solo effort, I figured it made a lot more sense for me to pour forth my time and talents and energy into helping SOUND, which is a collaboration between several very smart and talented people.

But don't worry! I'm not abandoning 2190. I'm just taking a step back to re-evaluate, and it may turn out that I only post here once a week, or perhaps less often. I will instead direct the majority of my online energies into SOUND. It's also likely that I will be cannibalizing the strongest aspects of this blog to help build up what the online magazine has to offer (think: a sexier Friday 'Stache...)

We've all heard that you shouldn't put all of your eggs into one basket, but I realized recently that I've been trying to occupy an increasingly unreasonable number of baskets.

Here's the short version of the preceding thoughts: Check out SOUND and "like" it. Because it's awesome, and it'll be publishing my stuff at least once a week from now on.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Friday 'Stache


Jeremy Warner, everyone:



I'm not sure what this is "teasing," but whatever it turns out to be, I'm pretty stoked. Mr. Warner is one of those people I would pay to see more often.

James Alexander is another one of those people. Here's the latest from a new channel he started based on one of his own personal character creations. I love this, because I think it plays to his best strengths as a comedian. I played it to the class I TA today, and it got some honest laughs.



I love this, because I think it plays to his best strengths as a comedian. I played it to the class I TA today, and it got some honest laughs.

*****

If this next one doesn't make you a little granola, I don't know what will. (Thanks, Courtney.)


honey harvest from tiger in a jar on Vimeo.

And, along those lines, DMS posted this video a week ago, and I've been meaning to share because, well, it makes me miss the West. Chances are good that it'll affect you the same way, even if you've never lived out there.


Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.


*****

Have I introduced you to Vihart, yet? I can't remember. Shame on me if I haven't. She is fantastic. I keep trying to come up with a way to describe what she does, and why it's so awesome, but I guess that's what videos are for. I'll let her work speak for itself:



And here's one that will break your brain into no fewer than six different pieces.

*****

I know I've talked about Julian Smith, many times. A while back, he started...call it a spin-off channel. Based on his character Jeffery Dallas. I've posted some things from that channel here as well. Recently. I'm discovering that I actually like the spin-off a little better, which surprises me. Perhaps it is just that Julian Smith is getting better. In any case, enjoy:



BONUS: click here for the longest 2 minutes ever.

*****

I hope you've enjoyed this week's 'stache. I hope it keeps you going all weekend. "Going where?" Oh shut up.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dickens


Today is Charles Dickens' 200th Birthday, as anyone who pays close attention to Google's homepage doodles will have realized by now.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine, including the important detail that the man is my favorite author. She's a novelist, and she said, "It's funny, everybody respects him, but not very many people say he's their favorite author." I said I guess that's true. It's because people don't read him.

"Yeah, what what is Mark Twain said about classics...that they're books 'that people praise but don't read.'" That about sums it up. I contended that if more people read Dickens, he'd find his way into more Favorite Author slots.

An aside: I know there are people who legitimately don't like the man's style. To them, I extend my pity, and a pass. If you've read him (and I mean more than one book in high school), I suppose you're allowed to dislike his writing. The sentiment baffles me, and always will, but it's allowed. Just like all bad opinions.

Last semester, one of my professors distributed a collection of basic screenwriting "rules" by James Dalessandro. There were ten of them. Here is number 10:
READ.
I saved the best for last. I know a screenwriter in Los Angeles who has written one successful movie and has yet to find a second commercial idea. He confided in me once that he has not read a book in fifteen years, since he graduated from college. I was speechless. Listen, and listen well. The keys to knowledge are called "books." The province of dreams, the wellspring of wisdom, the storehouse of human drama is books. All things marvelous and terrifying are in black and white on bound pages. From "Les Miserable" to "To Kill A Mockingbird" to "Forrest Gump," the great characters began on the printed page, not the silver screen. To write films, you must love films and read screenplays. But if you do not read books, if you missed Dante and Satre, Chekhov and Faulkner, Steinbeck and Kesey, you are missing cards from your deck. You can not play poker with a short hand.
Why don't people read? Have you asked them? I have. The answer is always the same: "I want to read, but I can never find the time."

OK. Do you eat? How do you find the time, I wonder? Well, you find it because you need to eat. If it wasn't essential, plenty of us wouldn't do it nearly as often as we do.

You won't read until you need to read. The sad truth is that few people are convinced it is actually a need. To the vast majority, reading is a luxury. It is one of the first things to get nixed from the list of to-do's when time gets short, and life gets crunched. If we don't make time to read, then deep down we don't think it's essential, and we are wrong.

It's a spiritual thing. You don't notice what you're missing when you fail to read great literature. But when you really start to dig in, you wonder how you ever survived without it. The fact is, we don't. There is, everywhere, evidence that our culture is perishing in what Mother Teresa called "a famine of the spirit."

It is an inadvertently self-imposed famine, though, for we are surrounded by that which could so easily satisfy, and deeply.

For instance, I have the complete works of Charles Dickens on my iPhone. It was $2.99.


Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens.


Friday, February 3, 2012

The Friday 'Stache


In honor of today's 'stache:



Ahh... Freddie W.

On an unrelated note, I'm working on a post-apocalyptic feature screenplay right now called "Wine of the Wrath" (it's a working title). I won't say much about it, other than that the story kicks off with a nuclear holocaust. And I've discovered since I began that it's easy to get obsessed with vintage Cold War phobias, and dig up pictures and videos of test explosions. It's fascinating to think that, just a generation ago, pretty much everyone was justifiably convinced that some kind of atomic war might descend upon our unhappy world any day.

Forty years was more than enough time to instill in our collective unconscious the fear of a "the big one," to the point that the image of a mushroom cloud still haunts us. There is something otherworldly, surreal, intuitively impossible about the magnitude of that kind of weapon. Fearful and awe-inspiring. We dread our creation, and rightfully. The unveiling of that technology almost single-handedly inspired the post-apocalyptic genre.

Here's why:



Alright, I won't bore you with my solemn contemplations any longer. I was motivated to spend a little time on it today because I had to pitch my feature idea to my fellow screenwriting students (and professor!) today.



It wasn't anything like that. But I was unprepared. I suppose if the stakes had been higher, I would have been more motivated to come up with a compelling delivery. As it is, my poor introduction didn't keep the class from contributing positively to my ideas, so no harm done. None of them had any money anyway.

*****

Fun facts about the Tsar Bomb: its fireball had a diameter of two and half miles. Read more about that bomb here.

For more information about what the aftermath of a nuclear war might look like, check this out. And this.

Hurray for Wikipedia!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

101 Films

A friend recently asked me to make a list of "essential" films everyone should see.


I can't imagine why I agreed to this. But it was impossible to stop once I'd started. It was also virtually impossible to finish. So I set some parameters, and defaulted on some disclaimers, and produced a list of 101 movies.

Parameters: No animated films, and no documentaries, and only "foreign" films that have broadly and thoroughly permeated the American cinema aesthetic. **UPDATE: After several people called me out on this, I realized I should clarify. I have a deep respect for documentary and animation, but felt that I needed to narrow the scope of this "survey" of films. Animation and documentary each deserve their own lists, but I feel even less capable, let alone qualified, to make them.**

Disclaimers: This list is completely subjective. I didn't include films I don't like, though they may be important. It is also totally inadequate. But I did my best, without sinking more than a few hours into the project. It is also alphabetized, because I think it would be unreasonable to try to order these movies in a qualitative way.

Without even blinking, you could probably name a dozen films that, by their absence, prove I'm an absolute idiot. Oh well. Enjoy!

  1. 12 Angry Men (1957)
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  3. The 400 Blows (1959)
  4. Alien (1979)
  5. All the President’s Men (1976)
  6. Amadeus (1984)
  7. Amelie (2001)
  8. Avalon (2001)
  9. Babette’s Feast (1987)
  10. Back to the Future (1985)
  11. Ben-Hur (1959)
  12. Better Off Dead...(1985)
  13. Blade Runner (1982)
  14. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  15. Casablanca (1942)
  16. Casino Royale (2006)
  17. Citizen Kane (1941)
  18. City Lights (1931)
  19. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  20. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
  21. The Dark Knight (2008)
  22. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  23. Dead Poets Society (1989)
  24. Deep Impact (1998)
  25. Die Hard (1988)
  26. Double Indemnity (1944)
  27. Dr. Strange-love (1964)
  28. Dumb and Dumber (1994)
  29. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  30. The Elephant Man (1980)
  31. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  32. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  33. Field of Dreams (1989)
  34. Forrest Gump (1994)
  35. The Fall (2006)
  36. The Fugitive (1993)
  37. Galaxy Quest (1999)
  38. Gladiator (2000)
  39. Godfathers I & 2 (1972, ’74)
  40. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  41. Good Will Hunting (1997)
  42. The Great Dictator (1940)
  43. The Great Escape (1963)
  44. Groundhog Day (1993)
  45. Harry Potter 
  46. Hero (2002)
  47. High Noon (1952)
  48. The Hurt Locker (2008)
  49. Inception (2010)
  50. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  51. Jurassic Park (1993)
  52. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
  53. The Lord of the Rings (2001, ’02, ’03)
  54. Malcom X (1992)
  55. The Man in the White Suit (1951)
  56. The Matrix (1999)
  57. Men in Black (1997)
  58. Metropolis (1927)
  59. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  60. Napoleon Dynamite (2004) 
  61. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
  62. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
  63. On the Waterfront (1954)
  64. Ordinary People (1980)
  65. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  66. The Patriot (2000)
  67. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  68. The Pianist (2002)
  69. The Princess Bride (1987)
  70. Psycho (1960)
  71. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  72. Rashomon (1950)
  73. Rear Window (1954)
  74. Rocky (1976)
  75. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  76. Serendipity (2001)
  77. Seven Samurai (1954)
  78. The Seventh Seal (1957)
  79. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  80. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
  81. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  82. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  83. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
  84. Social Network (2010)
  85. Some Like It Hot (1959)
  86. The Sound of Music (1965)
  87. Spartacus (1960)
  88. Star Trek (2009)
  89. Star Wars (1977-83)
  90. The Sting (1973)
  91. Take Shelter (2011)
  92. The Terminator (1984)
  93. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  94. Thank You for Smoking (2005)
  95. The Tree of Life (2011)
  96. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  97. V for Vendetta (2005)
  98. West Side Story (1961)
  99. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  100. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  101. Zombieland (2009)

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Shamed" - A Promotion

In lieu of the standard Friday 'Stache, I feel the need to promote a documentary film my friend Jordan Harker is producing about pornography addiction. Rather than describing what he's trying to do in too much detail, I'll simply link to the Kickstarter account.

Here, also, is the first "trailer" for the film, which is mainly just an illustration of its purpose, since the Kickstarter is in place to try and raise the funds necessary to actually go into production.



As I said, I know Jordan Harker. He is a fine specimen of human, as well as a talented, generous, and hard working filmmaker. I know how hard it must be to try to carry the torch for this kind of project.

I hope that today's post doesn't disappoint too much. I promise that next week I'll deliver a nice long selection of entertaining and absurd videos. Today, though, I feel that the least I can do to support this film, and the people behind it, is to add my voice to theirs in speaking out about the significance of this issue. That said, I also hope you'll take a minute or two and donate to the cause.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Me, in Caricature

My friend Laura illustrated me:


I tell you this because she recently decided to start doing personal illustrations for $15 dollars, and I told her I thought that was a great idea, and requested one immediately. So there I am, in glorious caricature.

If you're interested, feel free to send her a message on Facebook, or leave a comment here, and I'll get you in touch with her. I've known Laura for quite a while, and I can vouch for both her professionalism and her skill.

As with many of my posts, you may be wondering what this has to do with being a film student. Well, nothing, directly. But I was very impressed by Laura's attitude. Why wait until some person tells you that you should be making money at what you do? You might as well start whenever you can. If you have a marketable skill, go market it!

*****

I am also to inform you that if you are willing to advertise her work, she'll drop the price to $10. Aren't you glad you kept reading?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Friday 'Stache

What have you done with my mustache?

A friend of mine (not pictured) recently recommended this channel, and mentioned not-so-subtly that I could perhaps blog about it. Well, I watched a few of their videos, and the concepts were clever, and the production value was reasonably high. But in terms of writing and acting...well, they were YouTube videos. But I felt a little sad that these great ideas, and impressive resources of technical tallent were being somewhat cheapened by these fundamental weaknesses.

I'm probably being too harsh.

In any case, this one went viral, and for good reason. It's not all that impressive in terms of story, and the idea is so simple it seems almost obvious. But it works. It's funny. It's cool. You'll like it.



Probably we can all agree that it works because of Dave Ackerman, who you might recognize as Morgan the Tongue from Orabrush, or perhaps from his own channel, which hits a unique and uncommon key in comedy.

Speaking of Morgan the Tongue:



Mmm...

OK, here's something really wonderful:



Julian Smith is kind of the man. This becomes clearer to me as time goes on. And time does go on.

Lastly, here's a thing you may have no interest in seeing, unless you know Josh Gibson. Let me tell you--I know Josh Gibson, and if you don't, you have my pity. If you'd like, you can pretend to know him while you watch this kind of personal video blog about an important event in his life. Be warned, it is a video blog. There is not what they call "production value." But Josh has one of the pleasantest personalities of which I am aware, so I don't think you'll be unhappy if you make it all the way through.



This is a great use of a medium, I think. This is 11 minutes that he and his family will probably cherish forever. Way to be, Josh Gibson. And, of course, congratulations.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Student Film Purgatory

Once upon a time, I made a goal to write and direct four short films, each less than 2 minutes, in one semester. Each of them, I decided, would take approximately four hours to shoot, and they would all be ready to show by the end of the semester.

Here's what happened: I made one, and it took a year.



The irony is that Stage Fright really did only take a few hours to shoot. I put a crew together, got a location, and cast it in something like two weeks. Then it went into post production and...disappeared. The guy I had editing it was overcommitted, and this little side project was just about his last priority. Then, when it was finally cut, my sound guy (who had been expecting it months earlier) was busy getting married. And so on.

There are three kinds of student film:

  1. Those that get finished
  2. Those that don't get finished
  3. Those that are currently in purgatory, whose final state is unknown

The films in purgatory are sort of like Schrödinger's cat, existing in both states, progress (life) and termination (death), simultaneously. Unlike the poisoned animal, however, the student film cannot be observed in this state. The box, so to speak, is sealed shut. 

Remember Weighted? Well, it never went into purgatory, thank goodness, which is why it got finished about eight months after I started writing the script. That kind of thing is vanishingly rare for student films--in fact, I know of no other capstone project that finished so quickly. It was a charmed project, in many ways, and I'm grateful.

Other projects have not been so fortunate. For instance, the following is a trailer for a capstone project that got started more than two years ago. It's a short film adaptation of a couple of scenes from the book "Ender's Game." 




By Jacob Schwarz's account, it's...well, it's getting there. The CG effects in this thing have been his personal nightmare for what probably seems like an endless eternity to him now, but he's still working at it. That's saying something, since he graduated and moved on to getting paid for what he does over a year ago.

So, if I had to guess whether this film will be dead or alive when it finally emerges from purgatory, I'd guess it'll be kickin'. Jacob isn't the kind of person to let something with so much cool potential just fade away. But he's running out of time. One of the frightening truths of student filmmaking is that your projects have expiration dates. There is a point, and it changes from film to film, at which completing it becomes an abject impossibility.

Here's to hoping Jake can drag The Third out of purgatory, and soon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

...Quoth Ira Glass

I've been a fan of This American Life (no, not my American life--I'm talking about the show) for years now. It is one of the few works of media that remains undiminished in its capacity to enrich its audience, despite the sheer size and nature of that audience. Ira Glass, the show's creator, has managed to preserve its whole integrity. As an artist and a reporter, as a thinker and a contributor to the world of media, specifically to radio, he is unsurpassed.

You have to trust a man with a desk in the mountains.
I say all this by way of introduction, because what follows is a quote that has earned its trip around the Internet. I'm not much for quotes, typically. Too often they're mis-attributed, or you don't know enough about who said it to make any difference. But if anyone is qualified to make this case, it is Ira Glass:


A friend and fellow screenwriter (one of my peers at BU) shared this on Facebook, and I was sufficiently impressed to want to spend more than a follow-up comment on it. Perhaps I'll better remember it now that I've dedicated a whole blog post to it.

I've spent a good part of the last four months feeling crappy about my work. I decided after reading this that that's good enough. I've had my fill of humble pie. It's time to dig in and, as Ira suggests, "do a lot of work." I can look at my writing, at my efforts and sweat and blood, and I can say, "This isn't very good." And then, instead of whining about it, I can say OK, and push it aside, and get back to work.

I will end with this open letter to Ira Glass:

Ira,

Thou art the man.

Respectfully,

Jordan.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Office Nerd Party!

Today, I let my inner-office nerd have full reign.

To start, a really, really cool stop-motion advertisement:




Are you a pen person? Do you get unreasonably excited when you discover the next "perfect" writing utensil? It's OK. I've discovered that there are a lot of us. And I have good news: I recently discovered the perfect pen:


Of course, it depends on what kind of pen you prefer, but if you're all about ultra-fine tip gel pens that don't smear a split second after the ink hits the paper, then I can safely say I know of no better alternative. You can get 3 for 5 bucks on Amazon. You're welcome.

Speaking of best things, when I ordered my last set of business cards, I went a little psycho looking for the best place to get them. After a whole lot of research (and an embarrassing amount of time), I came to the conclusion that OvernightPrints was it. I should probably qualify that by acknowledging that there are much, much more expensive options that will probably deliver much sexier products, but when it comes to quality/price ratios, OvernightPrints wins. 

Here's why I've been thinking about business cards: I'm getting new ones! I spent a good portion of yesterday and today designing what will become the spine of my self-branding, and here is the sum of my work:

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

As you can see, I'm struggling to decide how exactly to design the back. I need you. This is the moment you've been waiting for. Please vote on which option you think is most awesome. And feel free to elaborate if you'd like.

Also, is there a pen you adore, that you'd like to share abroad with songs of wonder and praise? Put that in the comments, too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

On Resolutions

Sorry about last week. Not REALLY sorry, but a little sorry.

I have ten minutes to write this post.

Also, here's a funny New Year's video:



I learned something about goals. There's a sweet spot, between too- and not ambitious enough. I set a goal to write for six hours every day of the three weeks I have in Utah. That has manifested itself thusly: I have written for an average of 2 to 3 hours every day since I got here.

That could be considered a disappointing failure, but how helpful would that be? Also, not accurate. So I haven't been writing for six hours. Guess what I have done--written a lot. I've made a lot of progress on two feature ideas. The act of writing has started to become habitual. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting close. The trick is that six hours sounded like a reasonable goal, so I got up every day with renewed determination to meet it. If I had set the goal higher, I would have ignored it completely. If I had set it lower, I would have procrastinated to the point that I got much less writing done.

This is helpful in considering resolutions. In 2012, I want to be better about managing my time and diligently working toward the eventual fulfillment of my dreams than I did in 2011. In short, 2011 was great, 2012 will be better.

That's the overarching theme of my life. In a consistant effort to make today better than yesterday, each year ends up being better than the last. It's sure I don't always succeed in making every single day better, but the effort is what counts, the never letting up. The specifics will change constantly, but the idea is always the same. It's about movement, progress, growth.

Onward and upward. 2012, despite what Roland Emmerich might say, is really nothing more or less than one more year. And that's...well, it's pretty great.

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