Bryn Pryor

Welcome to my blog. I'm Bryn Pryor, aka porn director Eli Cross

Today is Star Wars day. Unless you have a serious lisp or a degenerative brain disease, I don’t want to hear about your “May the 4th” bullshit. On this date, in 1977, Star Wars opened nationwide.

This post is not about what Star Wars meant to me, or its place in film history. The first is impossible to put into words, and the second has already been exhaustively discussed and argued.

This is about something else, something wonderful. I’m referring to a careful fan who goes only by “Harmy” spending Bob-only-knows HOW long working from over a dozen sources to give us the only HD version of the original, unmolested Star Wars. And it’s glorious.

We all know George Lucas’ malicious defacement of his own creation was an absolute abomination, but the fact is, even without all the CG monsters, cute hopping robots, comically-bad Jabba the Hutts and other egregious bullshit, the Special Edition of Star Wars would still be a disaster. The color is all wrong; a pallette that seems comprised mostly of blues and greens. If you saw Star Wars in its original release, you remember it as a very warm-looking film. A film with grain and texture and life. Watching this version, I realized this is the first time Star Wars  has felt like Star Wars in decades.

George Lucas could never accept that Star Wars, like every film, is a product of its time. But we fans who had our lives redefined by it, understand this. Thanks to this incredibly painstaking restoration project, you can now see Star Wars as it was. Possibly for your very first time.

You might have to do some digging around to find the torrent, but I promise, it’s completely worthwhile.

I am haunted by incompletion. Projects left unfinished, half-finished or imperfectly finished surround me, and I cannot but suffer from their accumulated weight on my shoulders.

I don’t believe it’s arrogance to call myself creative. There is literally not a day that goes by without the seed for some new project popping into my head. Of these, a tiny percentage ever bridge the gap from idea to actual concept. Still fewer reach the stage of getting tucked into a subroutine in the back of my brain to be fleshed out and digested, and only the smallest fraction ever spark the desire to act on them.

These ideas, once confronted with the harsh realities of available time and resources, often settle back onto a dust-covered shelf in my brain. Maybe they were lucky enough to spawn a handful of notes that get tucked into a folder in a folder in a folder on my computer.

The very rarest become actual projects, and earn expended effort of varying degrees and complexities. As a result, my personal history is littered with artistic detritus; films, shorts, web series, animations, visual effects sequences, screenplays, plays, short stories, novels, histories, erotica, comic books, board games, RPGs, graphics, artwork, photography, and even an erstwhile autobiography.

A life’s work spreads out behind me, nearly all of it, for one reason or another, incomplete. Abandoned somewhere along the path between first spark and last polish.

Part of me wants to simply forget these fallen works and move on, but to paraphrase Ahab, they task me. I feel as if I’m building upon a weakened foundation by not knocking a few of these old relics off my to do list once and for all. And, yes, there’s an actual list. There’s always a list.

This blog is the first in a series discussing the Incomplete Works of Bryn Pryor. I’m making it a series rather than a single blog, partly to keep the length under control, but mostly so I can procrastinate and not finish this, either…

The Making of In Search of a Quest
1985-1986

This was the nominal sequel to Boston Clam Chowder: The Sequel, which was the first film I ever made, back in 1983. BCC is also one of the very few things I consider finished. In 2003, I had the original Super 8 scanned properly, re-did all the special effects, printed full-size one-sheet posters for the people involved and gave away Special, 19th-Anniversary Edition DVDs to the folks who’d worked on it.

Quest needs the same treatment, except moreso. I didn’t direct Quest, but I co-wrote and produced, and from day one, it was a troubled shoot. That first day, the entire problem was me, but as the shoot dragged on, it became apparent Ken Brodzinksi (the film’s director and co-writer) and I hadn’t really gotten what we wanted on the page. Nor, apparently, was it clear in our heads. Or anyone else’s…

Adding to the story problems were a collection of production disasters that were fairly epic for a tiny shoot. Equipment failures, talent failures, interpersonal failures. It was a nightmare in Super 8.

What we ended up with was a mediocre mess with minimal plot and no ending. Eventually, we decided we needed to do re-shoots, but Ken had blown a small fortune on Quest, and film — even Super 8 — costs money, so we carried on shooting… on VHS. The mockumentary format we were working in gave us a lot of latitude, but less than we imagined. We didn’t really finish the film so much as we simply got sick of shooting it. A couple of different cuts exist, none of them good.

I think this is what kept me from moving on to re-work Quest after I had finished Clam ChowderBCC was so much fun to do, and the end result was so awesome (terrible, but a wonderful kind of terrible), I came away from “restoring” it with a lot of momentum. And then I realized I just didn’t know what to do with Quest.

I could spend thousands on a great transfer, and months cutting and pruning, and still end up with a mediocre mess. It’s one thing to be George Lucas and destroy your own nearly-perfect creation. It’s another thing altogether to be Oliver Stone and just keep cutting Alexander because you know there’s a good MOVIE in there SOMEWHERE!!!

No.

And then a funny thing happened as I was considering this blog. Suddenly, I knew how to make it work. I felt like Fenchurch from The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy  when she’s about to figure out the Answer to the Question.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

I got it. It clicked. I now know how to make The Making of In Search of a Quest not just a well-polished relic, but something truly unique and brilliant and relevant. But there’s the rub. It’s now gone full-circle and become a new project. Which means it has to wait, and possibly never make it off the shelf.

Then I will have left it unfinished twice.

There is no such thing as a truly great moment; only a truly great memory.

If an instant is truly amazing, you will be too busy experiencing it, too wrapped up in the living of it, to appreciate its wonder. Moments only become great upon reflection. And the very best, the most fantastic moments of your life, grow in memory, rather than diminish. The details soften and blur, but the warmth, the glow of the moment, blossoms until it suffuses that memory.

I rarely take pictures for exactly this reason. You cannot be in the moment and documenting it at the same time.

Much of my life, since last August, has become wonderful memory. Suffused with the warm, penetrating glow of home.

Game of Thrones seems to want me to talk about it. A lot of people are up in arms over the scene in episode 403 in which Jaime rapes Cersei. All I can say is, What fucking SHOW have you been watching?!?

Here’s my take; Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a damned pretty man. Charming and charismatic enough for most people (okay, yeah, most women, ‘cuz I’m sure there are more than a few gay men who imagine flipping Jaime Lannister, but they don’t give a shit that he raped his sister) to forgive the fact that he’s also a ruthless, amoral, murdering monster. Yes, Brienne softens him a bit, and when he gets back to King’s Landing, he no longer has the stomach for the city, his family, his sister… but he’s still Jamie Lannister, except without a hand.

Which is really the point. I know there are millions of people (um, women), who secretly picture that life where they tame Jaime. Change him. Domesticate him. Just as in the real world, they fail to recognize that this polishing would remove the very edges they find so attractive, and leave him bland and smooth, but that’s going down a whole garden path hat leads to an ongoing philosophical discussion about the nature of men and women I’d like to postpone until a few decades after I’ dead.

Like most men, Jaime is a simple, two-dimensional creature. He’s bitter that he actually saved the realm, and yet endures being called Kingslayer. He’s completely ignorant of the ways of love, having never been intimate with anyone other than Cersei. Since (unlike most men), this denies him the right to value himself solely by the length, width and depth of his shaft, he esteems himself in direct correlation to his ability to kill… which he no longer has.

In the book, Cersei is (yet again) manipulating Jaime, and he goes along, desperate for a touch. And as log as it’s her using and manipulating him, nobody sees to object. Martin, himself, is fine with the scene as depicted, as posted on his blog. In my mind, this is simply another example of the show being better, smarter, sharper and more concise than the books. Martin is far too soft on Jaime as he realizes he’s almost literally worthless without his hand. Jaime has lost his worth; I don’t buy that he simply makes a few self-deprecating comments, begins training with his left hand, and essentially moves on with life.

In the show, he returns to form. If he can’t kill it, he’ll fuck it. That’s Jaime at his lowest. A Jaime I believe. A Jaime who’s still a monster. The fans (yeah, yeah) just don’t ike being reminded of it.

I wish I’d never read the Game of Thrones books. There. I’ve said it. Partly because it was a lot of hours from my life that could have been better spent, but mostly because they’ve slightly spoiled the show for me. And let’s be clear about one thing: the show is INFINITELY better.

To be fair, I’m not one of those people who always prefers the book. There are films I love that have no resemblance to the books they’re supposedly adapted from (Blade RunnerDie Hard). There are films based on books that are awful (No Country For Old Men — Sorry, but Cormac McCarthy is an overrated hack). And then there are films where both the book and the film seem to serve their own purpose, and have equal merit (Catch 22The World According to Garp).

But, buy and large, the book is usually better. By a wide margin. A Song of Ice and Fire is very much the opposite situation. The simple fact is, those books are a mess.

I think there are a lot of reasons. George R. R. Martin has been writing these things forever. The first book came out in 1991, and as we all know, he doesn’t exactly write quickly. Over the decades it’s pretty obvious that the plot has simply gotten away from him. I honestly don’t believe he knows where he wants the story to go, and it shows. In the later books, the characters become unfocused, and be the end of the most recent book, there’s virtually no one left in Westeros actually fighting the war that was supposed to be the whole damned point in the first place. In fact, most of the characters aren’t in Westeros at all.

If ever there was a central storyline to this series it, like the history of the First Men, has been lost to the mists of time. By the time I finished A Dance With Dragons, I felt like I was reading a fantasy soap opera. Nothing was relevant to the story I signed on for anymore. Now, I was just reading about a handful of “perspective” characters, all of whom seem to have completely lost interest in the main story themselves. There are dozens of loose ends and unresolved storylines in every book, and when you becomes an experienced Martin reader, you learn to just let it go. George might have planned for that little plot thread to go somewhere, but he’s forgotten it now. Best for us all to just move on and pretend it never happened.

In addition to the pointless narrative tangle, the books are a structural disaster as well. You can tell, as a reader, that Martin couldn’t be bothered to go back and re-read what he’d written before continuing a particular storyline. He reiterates the same information, sometimes in slightly different ways, over and over again. He gives you details presented as new information four, five, six times. Occasionally, with slightly different specifics. It’s maddening.

Then there are the damned characters. I’m not the first person to mock his use of a thousand characters to tell a story, but I’m hopping on the bandwagon. It truly is ridiculous. SO MANY characters, and the vast majority of them are simply irrelevant. Places in the narrative that could, and often SHOULD, be served by characters we’ve met before, but no, we get some cousin of a retainer of a bannerman who once shook Eddard’s hand a tournament in… After a while, it all degenerates into noise.

Finally, I really got tired of being the butt of Martin’s obvious food & clothes fetishes. We get only the slightest sense of what people or places look like; primarily notes about hair color or weight. But we are treated to a full and ample description of EVERY dish served at EVERY meal, and what EVERY GODDAMNED PERSON was wearing when they ATE IT. It’s fucking exhausting. At Joffrey’s purple wedding, there are literal pages of description just for the food.

The writers of the show seem to have made smart work pruning Martin’s meandering story into something like a cohesive narrative, and I’m grateful for every extraneous character and unsatisfying subplot they’ve excised. Unfortunately, having now read the damned books, I can’t stop myself from analyzing the differences as I watch it, which is distracting. I also suspect that the major beats of the story will probably not change much, and I regret knowing what happens so far into the future of the show (because god only knows how much ground they’ll be able to cover this season).

If you’re a fan of the show, do yourself a favor: stay far away from those massive doorstop novels. They will only serve to spoil one of the best shows on television.

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