Cowboys & Engines

In a sense, there can be a real benefit to being a day player. Today through Wednesday, I’m shooting second camera on a Wicked feature.  Unlike other projects where I’m the writer or DP, I didn’t have any discussions with the director, I didn’t scout, I didn’t prep. When the shoot is over, I go home and (assuming what I shot doesn’t suck) never hear about it again.

With everything going on in my life, everything I’m involved in, I find this very attractive. I have a strong impulse lately to sharpen my focus on what’s really important personally and professionally, and not sweat the rest.

This is a huge change for me. Normally, I take everything way too seriously. The trick is judging correctly what is and isn’t important. That’s why I make lists.

LL makes lists as well. She has her list of reasons we won’t work, I have mine. She has her list of guys she distracts herself (some more serious than others), I have my hookers, (far fewer than normal, none of whom are serious at all). And all of it is simply the two of us dancing as fast as we can to avoid the issue of “us.”

Because it is an issue. And where it’s concerned, LL & I are… confused… she is terrified of investing in me because I’m a bitter, dissolute, emotionally fucked up disaster. And who could blame her?

For my part, I vacillate between continued belief that we’re incompatible in the long run, and absolute certainty that we’re perfect for each other.

So, yeah. It’s a mess.

To complicate matters, we’ve had a shake-up in the Cowboys & Engines casting, and LL is now my female lead. So no matter what happens, we’re stuck with each other for a while. I imagine she’ll fall madly in love with one of her boy toys just when I decide I really want to get her. Such is my life.

Poduction on C&E has been pushed back to late February. This lets us end the Kickstarter campaign in late January when James Deen will be in Park City doing press for The Canyons at Sundance. I feel a lot better about this than ending the campaign near Christmas.

Overall, I’m thrilled. It’s just more prep time, and I’ll take all of that I can get.

I’m learning that it’s a dangerous thing to have a blog people actually read. You begin editing your comments based on who might stop by to see what you’ve said about them. It’s inevitable. Of course, then you run the risk of posting something so bland and vague no one will want to read it… which, granted, eliminates the problem.

LL is a perfect example; she’s living with me temporarily until she can get a place with her friend Amanda. It’s been about six weeks now, and there’s a lot I’d like to say about her, but she reads my blog (hi!). By writing about her, I run the risk of revealing something she considers private, saying something unintentionally hurtful, or, worst of all, posting something that reads as if I’m trying to manipulate her in a passive-aggressive fashion knowing she’ll read it.

Oy. Lemme just say it’s been interesting. We get along great, and despite the fact that we spend a fair amount of time discussing why we could never work as a couple, it kinda feels like dating. Well, dating with a lot less sex (we’ve fooled around three times since she moved in, which is about %7 or what I would expect from a relationship). Except for the times when it makes me feel infinitely more alone (because when I pierce the illusion and analyze what we’re really doing, I am), it’s been nice. It felt all warm and fuzzy to come home from Moscow knowing I wasn’t sleeping alone.

Speaking of, I know I still haven’t posted my Moscow pix, but I’ve been working almost non-stop since I got back. I’ve done re-shoots for the horror film I’m not yet allowed to name (I’m calling it REDACTED, not to be confused with the shitty Brian DePalma movie of the same name), done callbacks for Cowboys & Engines (that will be it’s own blog post to announce the Kickstarter campaign going up), I’ve plotted two scripts for Axel, shot for x3sixty and worked as the DP on Paul Thomas’ reboot of Behind the Green Door for Vivid.

The latter was enough to keep me occupied all on its own. PT likes to “deconstruct,” as he calls it, which amounts to not deciding anything until we’re on set, and then almost certainly doing anything other than what’s on the page. Having been down that road on his New Sensations movie, I was actually the calmest person on the production, but there were moments when Shylar and/or K (who was doing production design) wanted to kill him. I think if John Cassavetes had directed porn, this is very much what it would have been like.

A few days ago, against my better judgement, I went to see Vega. I would like to say it was motivated by something more than a need for butt sex and the desire to beat the crap out of someone… but I would be lying. If we had any chemistry outside the bedroom (or bathroom in this case), it would be a different story. But we don’t.

Today (if United ever stops cancelling our flights) I’m off to San Francisco to finish up Green Door. I even managed to set up a really interesting date for Saturday night with a hot redhead (can’t say I go for a type…).

I’ve got two more days of x3sixty when I get back, then it’s all C&E all the time. Which is how it should be.

The Romans believed that Fortuna, the goddess of chance and destiny, moved your life slowly on a wheel so that you were always either on the way up, or on the way down. In between these parabola, events could describe mini-orbits that made the trip seem unstable, but on a long enough timeline, you were always somewhere on the big wheel.

I’ve spent the last four years or so making the downward trip, and it hasn’t been fun. The wheel is massive enough that it seems as if you’re wallowing around the bottom transit forever, but finally (I hesitate to say), I feel like I’m back on the rising circuit. While it’s true that I’m still broke ($14.73 in the bank at this writing), and still buried under projects that are about as creatively satisfying as frying apple pies at McDognuts, all of that seems likely to change.

Cowboys & Engines is going really well. We haven’t even set dates yet, but that’s because a lot is happening behind the scenes. A lot I can’t talk about — yet. Some people are going to be working on this project that I can’t wait to announce, and every day more doors open to make it bigger and bigger. To say that the scope and potential of this short have grown by a factor of ten since it was first conceived isn’t hyperbole at all. This movie is now becoming something that could transform the lives of everyone working on it. Well, maybe with the exception of James Deen, ‘cuz he’s on his way to being a star in his own right, so fuck him… ;)

Another thing I can’t really talk about yet is the low-budget thriller I was the DP on last November. As so often happens with films, there have been several snags on the path to delivery and distribution, but that mostly seems to have been solved. Once we finish a few days of re-shoots & pickups, it’s on its way to AFM screenings, festivals, and a theatrical release in both the US and the UK. I cannot tell you how excited I am to go sit in a movie theater and watch a movie that I shot. It may not be the greatest film ever, but for that 90 minutes, it will be to me.

Then there’s Russia. Assuming our visa’s come through as planned, on the 8th I’ll be heading to Moscow for two weeks to shoot the sculpture of an artist named Grisha for an art collective in Dallas. Not only do I get to travel to a country I’ve never been to on someone else’s dime, I’m getting paid pretty well for the privilege. When I get back, there’s work waiting on the internet series I was cast in (I’m their version of Walter White,) Behind the Green Door with Paul Thomas (which I’m also very excited about), a couple of parodies with il Douché, the completion of Rob Black’s Snow White (maybe… we’ll see…), the Nightmoves Show and shooting for Stormy in Tampa, etc., etc.

Plus I’ll be building a new editing system as soon as I get home, cramming in a lot of work for x3sixty (Paul Fishbein’s television channel), and holding callbacks for Cowboys & Engines. I’ll also finally be able to spill some of the rather large beans I’ve been keeping to myself about this thing.

On the home front, LL has moved in with me for a few months (much to Vega’s dismay) after leaving her boyfriend. We aren’t dating, and actually haven’t even banged (yet) since she’s been here, but we get along so well I have to admit it’s nice. In a very subtle way, it has reminded me what’s it’s like to be in a relationship with a real person. The only issue has been her dog’s fascination with my cats, and the cats’ irresistible desire to whack said dog when she isn’t looking.

I also want to mention that last week, I went to the live theatrical broadcast of the Rifftrax guys mocking Manos: The Hands of Fate, and it was awesome. If you don’t know Rifftrax, it’s basically the modern iteration of Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you don’t know Manos, it is (unlike merely foul movies such as Plan 9 From Outer Space) truly one of the worst films ever made, and it was one of the most popular episodes of MST3K (An exhaustive history of Manos is available here). If you don’t know Mystery Science Theater 3000, well… abandon all hope and kill yourself.

I’m assuming they have some form of internet in Moscow (coal-powered, I imagine) so I’ll try to blog from there if I don’t get the chance to post again before I go. In the meantime, I leave you with this small reminder of Clint Eastwood’s amazing performance at the RNC last night:

Well, when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard. That’s my policy.”

A million years ago, I was in the worst-ever-mounted production of Arthur Miller’s allegory of McCarthyism, The Crucible. We knew we were horrible. All of us. It hung over the production like a fog or nerve gas. At the end of our final rehearsal before opening night, the entire cast & crew gathered on stage for notes. The exhausted, defeated director ambled quietly down from the back of the house and looked at each of us in turn. For a moment of eternity, he stared at us. When he finally spoke, it was quiet, slow, and carefully enunciated.

“Act. Better.”

He walked out the nearest exit, and for the duration of the run, we never saw him again.

I was reminded of this story several times while casting Cowboys & Engines this week. We saw a handful of women for our female lead who were outstanding, and one or two for our male lead. Most of the rest were patently mediocre. And then there were the real standouts. The actors so bad we literally had to fight not to laugh at them. The actors I wanted to send flying from the room after 8 seconds (like a rodeo cowboy) but let finish out of politeness. The actors who were so belligerent before they started reading I already knew I hated them. The actors who had been kind enough to completely rewrite the script before coming in.

A few were truly notable. One man came in to read for a different character than I’d called him for, and did an entire, painfully slow, overacted death scene standing in the middle of the room, staring at the ceiling. Another turned almost physically into Snidely Whiplash when we asked him to read the villain. Then there was the Frenchman who has apparently just started acting despite the fact he really doesn’t speak English. His language skills were so bad, he couldn’t even pronounce the French words in an English script. Like “battalion.” And let us not forget our tall, manly Russian girl who plainly thought the entire enterprise — herself included — was utterly ludicrous.

To complete the quote in the title, we have a saying in porn: “If we can’t have good acting, we’ll have a LOT of acting!”

Casting sessions aside, things are moving behind the scenes. The project is beginning to take on a life of its own, and has started to feel like something that’s just going to get bigger and bigger, in a good way.

In the non-C&E world, Russia is happening. We have confirmed plane tickets and hotel rooms, which usually means the trigger has actually been pulled. This will be my 13th country, which is pretty exciting.

I was supposed to see Blue last night, but she wasn’t feeling well. However, I got a serendipitous invitation to come over from XJN, which led to an awesome, and surprisingly violent, evening. For those who have asked, have I still got a girl I can’t have stuck in my head? Yes. Two of them, actually. However, I’m working through both of them (in completely opposite ways, but that’s a blog I will never write unto itself).

Today is more editing and budgeting, tomorrow I’m shooting for a web series I’m in, Monday & Tuesday more casting, Wednesday meetings… ad infinitum, ad naseum. Really, I have so much to do for so many projects my head is spinning. I shouldn’t be whoring around at all. The problem is, when I’m motivated, I’m horny, and I’m feeling extremely motivated. Catch 22.

I’m sure there are worse problems I could have.

Irony is a funny thing. I don’t know if someone forwarded them my blog, or if it was just random chance, but apparently Backstage West posted our casting notice anyway. Ha…?

I spent Thursday night with LL. We had Thai food, snarked our way around Amoeba and went to see Ruby Sparks, which was not as good as Little Miss Sunshine, but still pretty terrific. At the end of the night, we made out like teenagers, which was pretty awesome.

Friday, we had our second production meeting for Cowboys & Engines. This is where things actually begin to happen. Your first meeting is just to rally the troops, and convince people your serious. The second meeting and onward is where things actually begin to happen. The casting process is proving to be very interesting. We’ve been approached by the agents and managers for quite a few people of the “oh, that’s that guy from that thing” character actor camp, and one or two whose names you might not know, but I guarantee you know the character they played.

We might end up with some “names” in this thing after all. Ha.

It also appears I might be going to Moscow (Russia, not Idaho) for two weeks to shoot art. I’ll clarify when I know if it’s happening. And when I actually understand exactly what the hell it is we’re doing.

In unrelated news, it appears I will be directing one or two movies for Wicked, and two for Vivid before the end of the year, and probably something… interesting… for Hot Video as well.

So, the weekend. On the one hand, I shouldn’t complain because I’ve gotten a lot done. On the other hand, it has turned into a massive, spastic clusterfuck of epic and expensive proportions. Let me explain;

Dude (let’s call him Z) from a particular production company (let’s call it XA) has been struggling to get a new line off the ground. Part of the struggle has been money, and part of the struggle has been fighting through his own incredibly disorganized inability to get his shit together. He’s booked me to shoot for him before, but I knew nothing would come of it.

After a long meeting recently, he booked me to work this weekend. Naturally, at 2/3 my rate, but I took it. It was supposed to be cash, and an easy day. I knew the last part would be bullshit, but I took the gig anyway. I like Z, and wanted to help him out.

On Saturday of last week, I got offered a gig this weekend at my full rate. I called Z to ensure he was actually shooting, and when he promised he was, I turned the gig down. He confirmed again on Wednesday and Friday morning that we were still shooting.

Naturally, at 1 am Saturday, he canceled the day. Sunday followed suit. SO I lost a lot of money this weekend, and won’t be taking dates from Z unless it’s either A: pay-or-play, or B: I bump him if anything else comes along. Which means I won’t be shooting for him. Someday I’ll learn.

For now, I’m heading over to Vega’s house to do terrible things to her and not spend the night.

Tomorrow, I’m shooting camera for Stormy, who has a pickup scene for a Wicked movie. Tuesday & Wednesday, casting begins. And god wept, I believe is the next verse.

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