Francois Truffaut famously said that whenever you make a film, there are actually three films: The film you plan to make, the film you think you’re making, and the film you discover you’ve made. I’m one week into the second film, and I’m ecstatic.
Sure, we had some issues. The first day on any set is always something of a clusterfuck. It takes time for a crew to gel. Usually we spend the first two days stumbling over each other, getting in the way, arguing and figuring out who is worth fucking.
I apologize. That’s an inside joke.
Once we got our gears all synchro-meshed like a three-speed Pontiac, everything moved pretty smoothly. That’s not to say we had no issues. We did, in fact, fire an entire department, and have replaced them (much to the film’s benefit), but this shit happens. I like to joke that it isn’t a day on an indie film if there isn’t at least one existential threat. Things like this are why I haven’t had a day off from Diminuendo since mid-July, and why I haven’t slept more than six hours in weeks.
And I don’t care. I love it. I love this job. I pace and I bark and I joke and I smile and I tease and cajole and push on set, and I love every minute of it. I also think I’m pretty good at it. Not only have we made our day every day this week, we’ve captured some absolutely amazing moments. Instead of forcing the film to fit my vision, the film has been telling me how it wants to be shot, and I have been listening. It works.
On Thursday, Richard Hatch made room full of grown men cry when he showed me layers to a scene that I didn’t even know existed. This is when what we do feels like sorcery.
The week ahead is a tough one. Three of our days ahead are huge, with a lot of extras and really complex scenes. And I’m nothing but excited.
When you’re making a film, there comes a moment. It has happened on every film I’ve ever made, and every one I almost made. It’s a moment of equilibrium, either gained or lost. A fleeting moment of critical mass.
You feel it. It settles as a moment of giddiness, or a crawling in the pit of your stomach. The moment where you know, with unshakable certainty, that the film either is or is not going to happen.
Y’see, unless you’re working at a very high level of film or television, production is never certain until The Moment comes. Every movie is like a snowball rolling downhill. It either takes on weight, gains velocity and feels as if it will continue under its own momentum, or it comes apart and disintegrates.
This morning, the moment hit me. Diminuendo is happening. It’s a beautiful thing.
You’re going to be hearing me talk a lot about this film over the next several months. Here’s the scoop:
Never fully recovered from witnessing Cello Shea, the love of his life, commit suicide in front of him, famous director Haskell Edwards has fallen into a nine year, alcoholic, drug-induced slump he isn’t even sure he wants to pull out of.
When a high profile tech-company invites him to direct a movie about Cello’s life, Haskell’s not sure if he should take the job, especially when they reveal the utterly lifelike robot that will be playing Cello.
Recruiting his old friends (and enemies) to help him produce a movie that honors Cello’s legacy, Haskell is forced to relive his whirlwind relationship with Cello and finally address the differences between love and obsession.
THE CAST includes Richard Hatch (Battlestar: Galactica, Cowboys & Engines, The Rainmakers), Chloe Dykstra (Nerdist, Drag Me To Hell, Spider-Man 2), Leah Cairns (Interstellar, 88 Minutes, Fargo [Season 1]), James Deen (The Canyons, Happy-ish), Gigi Edgley (Farscape) and Walter Koenig (Star Trek, Babylon 5) as Milton Green.
PRODUCING the film are Sarah Goldberger (Cowboys & Engines, X-Rated), Hollywood Heard (Range 15, Jake’s Corner), and Ryan Linderman of Lionsgate Entertainment. The Executive Producer is Michael Hemmerich (The Jokesters, Prey).
DIMINUENDO is directed by Bryn Pryor (Cowboys & Engines, Poker) and written by Bryn Pryor & Sarah Goldberger.
Rebel 11 and Faithless Films present Diminuendo, a Flamboyance Films production.
So, continuing (sorta) my return-to-blogging warmup from the other day, I wanna talk about a series most of you have probably never watched: Casual.
I’m a huge fan of Jason Reitman. I would fuck Up in the Air if I could, and I’m in the narrow minority who loved both Young Adult and Men, Women and Children. I respect him to the point that I don’t even care that he hated our script for Diminuendo.
(Full non-disclosure; he is, to date, the only person I’m aware of to have this reaction. In fact, everyone else has been ridiculously positive. Also, no, I won’t tell you what he said or how we got it to him).
I love his fucked up situational awareness and train-wreck characters. So, I thought Casual, being his series, might be worth a look. And it was. Until it wasn’t.
Look, I knew we were in for a show filled with awful people doing awful things they don’t know are awful. I expected that, and wasn’t disappointed for the most part. Until the end of season one. Earlier in the season, Alex, the lead trainwreck, adopts a chocolate lab puppy. In that arc, he wisely realizes he can’t even care for himself, much less a dog, and returns the puppy to the store.
The writers, apparently out of ideas for what else to do to end the season, brought that dog back into the story at the end of the season for no reason except to kill him offscreen. So they can make a joke about it. And it’s really, really not fucking okay. It is literally a pointless, unmotivated moment of ugliness that the character can simply never recover from. In the context of the real world, it doesn’t even make sense. A whole lot of things that would never happen have to happen for this puppy to be dead.
People who know me understand my love for animals. If you’re gonna kill an animal in a story, it needs to be motivated. Important. And I will still never forget. Game of Thrones, for example, will never make me care what happens to Sansa, no matter what abuse she suffers, simply because she was responsible for Lady being killed. To paraphrase Don Corleone, “This, I do not forgive.”
So, yeah, Jason? You can do better. And Casual, as an entity, can blow me. I can only hope that Hulu cancels it after season two since we are apparently the only people watching it anyway.
I’ve spent more words blogging about why I didn’t/haven’t/don’t blog than I have writing blogs. The excuses can all be found in previous blogs, and still work.
However, we’re in the final weeks of prep before we begin shooting Diminuendo, and I’ve been asked by the producers to begin blogging again so there’s something to hang early PR on.
“Diminuendo,” you say. “What’s that?” It’s a feature film I’m directing which I co-wrote with Sarah Goldberger. It’s stars Richard Hatch, Chloe Dykstra, Leah Cairns, James Deen, Gigi Edgley, Dia Frampton and Walter Koenig. It’s a science-fiction romance that starts shooting on August 14 and it’s gonna be awesome.
It’s also the only thing I’ll be able to talk about soon, so I’m going to leave it for another day. It’s the middle of Comic-Con, so let’s talk pop culture. Here’s a very brief update since my last blog…
- Zero Theorem. Was super-excited for this, but missed it. Still haven’t watched the disc.
- Men, Women & Children. Fantastic, which bears some relevance later.
- Gone Girl. Fine. Not Fincher’s best.
- Whiplash. Script-by-rote with one standout performance.
- Fury. So very ALMOST a good and interesting film, but… not.
- Birdman. Fucking AMAZING, and, yes, if you missed it, he’s dead.
- Nightcrawler. Interesting take on the creep-as-photographer.
- Horns. Stop. Don’t. You’ll regret it.
- Interstellar. I really should have done a full review on this guy, but overall, I loved it.
- Big Hero 6. Some Disney tropes I didn’t care for, but overall, a blast.
- Theory of Everything. Difficult and wonderful.
- Rosewater. Meh.
- The Imitation Game. An even more impressive and heartbreaking Breaking the Code.
- Exodus. The final plague was this film.
- Inherent Vice. Wait. Maybe the final plague was THIS film. Ugh.
- American Sniper. Absented from its various propaganda, this is a mostly entertaining film about a basket case with good aim.
- Blackhat. I’m one of the ten people who saw it, and I still don’t care.
- Jupiter Ascending. WTF did I just watch? Is this movie a joke? Makes Fifth Element seems gritty and real.
- SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water. Don’t ask why, just know that seeing this movie while not on drugs is apparently a mistake.
- Kingsman. Hated it. Thought the action sequences were over-the-top and silly. Cared about no one.
- Chappie. Neil Blomkamp is now 1 for 3.
- Ex Machina. The Unicorn & I seem to be the only people on Earth who thought this film was obvious and dull.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron. Liked it better than the first Avengers, but needed to be half an hour longer.
- Mad Max: Fury Road. The. Best. Movie. Of. The. Year.
- Tomorrowland. Not the worst, but close. Damn, Brad Bird, really?
- Inside Out. Stunning. The first Pixar movie in years that feels like Pixar.
- The Overnight. This was way better when it was Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.
- Tangerine. I hate this movie so goddamned much. If I could drag this into an alley and kick it until it died from internal bleeding, I would do it.
- Ant-Man. Thank Bob not every Marvel movie has to be about saving the world. Friggin’ awesome, and also, Giant Thomas!!!
- Mr. Holmes. A little too saccharine around the edges, but still a fine performance.
- The Fantastic Four. Every bit as bad as you heard. Every. Bit.
- The Diary of a Teenage Girl. This movie is fantastic. Tiny and warm-hearted and real.
- The Man From UNCLE. The Kingsman in the 60s. All style, ZERO substance.
- A Walk in the Woods. I love this book so much I almost made myself like the film. Almost.
- Black Mass. Between Johnny Depp’s hairpiece and his teeth, I forgot to watch the movie. Totally underwhelmed.
- Sicario. Well, it’s gorgeous to look at.
- The Martian. Loved it. This generation’s Apollo 13. Best Ridley Scott film in decades.
- Steve Jobs. Seriously, was there a story here and I missed it? I know nothing about Jobs at the end I didn’t know going in. He starts and ends as an aesthetics-obsessed difficult dick. That’s not a movie.
- Bridge of Spies. Feels like one of Frank Capra’s lesser efforts. This movie needed to be made in the 60s.
- Rock the Kasbah. God, I wanted to like this… but, alas.
- Brooklyn. Beatiful, simple, and delicate.
- Spectre. This movie proves that even people you respect can make a monumental, expensive turd when they just don’t care.
- The Big Short. Good overall, but feels a bit gimmicky.
- Where to Invade Next. It’s a shame this got such lousy distribution because I think a lot of the Michael Moore-averse would have liked it. Really more about solutions to problems than pointing out the massive bullshit we put up with in this country.
- The Revenant. Fucking gorgeous, but utterly without story. Two-plus hours of lovingly-photographed torture porn and a stunning achievement, but not a movie.
- The Hateful Eight. Saw the roadshow engagement and loved it. Classic Tarantino. Not sure what the hate was about.
- Hail, Caesar! The Coens doing golden age Hollywood and it was magical.
- Deadpool. Dumb as a box of rocks, but what a blast. Should put the nail in the coffin of all other superhero movies at Fox, since they seem clueless.
- Batman v Superman. Calling this giant disaster out as the pile of shit it is kind of feels like gut-punching a toddler with progeria at this point, but holy fuck is this a bad film.
- Captain America: Civil War. Epic. Amazing. The best superhero film ever made. More than a great Marvel universe installment, this is just a great film.
- X-Men: Apocalypse. Mentioning this because normally I would have been there opening night. Instead, I just couldn’t muster the interest to go. Still haven’t seen it, and have heard nothing compelling to make me want to fix that.
- Finding Dory. Yeah, it’s pretty goddamned great.
There. We’re all caught up. Let me wrap up by listing the big summer blockbusters I have skipped or plan to skip. Once upon a time, I would have been at every one of these. Now…? Movies have become such a shitshow I just don’t have the patience. Not seeing: The Nice Guys, WarCraft, Independence Day Resurgence, Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters or Star Trek Beyond.
Must be getting old.
I’m going to try to blog four times a week, even if it’s a short blast. For next time, it’s no secret I’m a big fan of Jason Reitman. I love his films, and think he’s a gifted director, so I want to talk about his Hulu series Casual, and how it made me want to put my fist through the screen.
In a bad way.
More than a few people have pointed out that a status report is long overdue, so I’m posting this EVERYWHERE. The status of Cowboys & Engines is it’s freakin’ AWESOME! I know it isn’t fair to gloat when I’ve seen the film and you haven’t, but I’m excited!
Before a film goes off for its final sound design, scoring and audio mix, it’s necessary to “Lock the picture.” As a director, this means stepping back and committing to no more tweaking of the cut, no more editorial changes. From the standpoint of flow and shot-by-shot juxtaposition, the movie is done.
I spent the last few days making little tucks and adjustments, and putting in temporary versions of some of our big establishing shots for timing purposes. So, even though I’ve seen the film (500 times? More?), I got to spend a lot of time seeing it as a whole, rather than focusing on its individual parts. And I’m so incredibly proud of what we accomplished, I want to shout. The impulse to share C&E, even though it isn’t done, is SO STRONG, that I feel more certain than ever that we have a winner.
You have to recognize that every director has largely gone cold on a film by the time you see it. It’s new for you, but for the creator, you’re sick to the teeth of it by the time you release it into the wild. You know every crease, line, wrinkle & wart on the old girl. The most you can reasonably hope for is comfortable affection.
But… once in a great while, you get a film so special that you rediscover it again on the other side. The blemishes fade, and what’s left is a magical piece of art that gives you chills and you think, “I helped create this.” This weekend, I learned that Cowboys & Engines is one of those projects.
So, there will be no apologies that we’re so late in delivering, or that we’ve taken so long to finish. The decision not to rush was the right one. What we’ve made has simply taken time. Because it’s special.
Enough ephemera. I know you’re hoping for some nuts and bolts information. On our current schedule, the film should be completed around the first week in October. Once it’s completely done, we’ll release a new trailer online, and schedule the premiere screening (which some of you may well be attending).
Post-premiere, password-protected download links will be emailed out to everyone. That will, hopefully, keep ya’all sated while we prep the physical packages. Discs have to be authored, artwork printed, t-shirts made, there’s the matter of a small book I have to write… etc.
Realistically, expect all the physical goodies to go out very early in the new year. I’d promise sooner, but, y’know, I’d be lying.
Yeah, this has all taken a lot longer than any of us imagined. And you know, I’m so very glad that it has.