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.

Your Thought For the Day

It’s been a long week. My intention had been to blog every day, but between work and the afternoon crashes from dealing with obligations back home every night instead of sleeping, it wasn’t gonna happen.

Moscow is fascinating. It kills me that I’m here working 16-hour days because this is the kind of city I could easily just head off into with no real destination in mind, the way K & I used to explore.

The everyday contradictions here are mind-boggling. These people very much want to be of the future, but their past still defines them.  As I write this, I’m shooting time-lapse footage of the Kremlin, an act that would have once landed me in Lubyanka prison without question. Today, everyone photographs the Kremlin, but we all do so expecting a tap on the shoulder. Even though I know nothing will happen, my passport is in the van so it can’t be seized if I get arrested.

The cognitive dissonance comes from the fact that so many people here expect the Communist era to return, and many of them, while they dread it, long for it at the same time. Every Russian over the age of 40 who has passed has eyed me and my camera with a combination of fear and indignation. They cannot believe my audacity, they cannot believe I’m getting away with it, and they long to turn me in… but there’s no one to turn me in to.

It’s apparent in the Soviet era monuments — and there are a lot of them — that they simply don’t know what to do with their history. They’re told to be ashamed of the Communist era, and they are, but at the same time, they have great nostalgia for it.

Hollywood & I in the Garden of Fallen Heroes

A perfect example is the Garden of Fallen Heroes, a park containing all the statues of Soviet era icons that have been pulled down over the last 20 years. There’s a huge statue in the Garden of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the father of the KGB. He was one of the most hated and feared men in the USSR, and yet today, someone is still putting roses at the feet of his graffiti-laden statue.

All of which is way too much to contemplate, so let’s talk about women.  Moscow women are striking. They’re tall, in good shape, and most seem to wear crazy-high heels, even when out walking. It’s a bit like visiting a city populated by high-class hookers. I approve.

The project we’re shooting is something I’ve never done. It’s a documentary about an artist, Grisha Bruskin, and his work. That seems straightforward enough, but the director, Shannon, a pretty young art history professor who hero-worships Bruskin, wants the doc to be a living analog to his sculptures.

As a result, most of what we’ve shot have been explorations of various sculptures. Hell, I’ve been here a week and haven’t shot a single human… just statues, buildings, and statues on buildings. If I’m being honest, I don’t think Grisha’s work is quite equal to the amount of attention we’re paying to it, but it is interesting.

Shooting a city’s architecture tells you a lot about its people. The Russians are obsessed with symmetry, and they were terrified of America. Everything in their cold war public works screams overcompensation.

When I say we brought a LOT of gear to Moscow…

Because we were so unsure of exactly what the hell we were filming until we got here, we brought an insane amount of gear. A lot of it will go untouched.  Naturally, a lot of shit we now know we needed didn’t come at all.

Getting this pile of equipment to Russia was actually easier than we expected, and everything arrived intact. Getting it out of Moscow airport was another thing entirely, and we sat in baggage claim for three hours while Hollywood ran from one end of the airport to the other working out how to get us through customs.

On Sunday and Monday, while Hollywood and Shannon scouted locations, I built and prepped cameras (the Sony FS-700U is fucking awesome). As a result, I spent the first two days at the hotel and didn’t really get to see the city until we headed out on Tuesday.

Moscow has a well-deserved reputation for horrible traffic. It’s partly from the awful road system, and partly from the fact that the drivers in Moscow treat all traffic signs, laws and restrictions as something to be ignored. Hollywood takes great pride in having driven in some of the most congested cities on Earth (say, Cairo) and he fits right in.

Since arriving, we’ve driven up one-way streets, driven on the sidewalk, been stopped for an illegal left turn and run from the police. He’s accomplished some of this stunt driving while texting and shooting pictures with a Canon 7D at the same time. Literally. He’s having the time of his life and I’m learning to read the Cyrillic for “restaurant” at a distance since slowing down simply isn’t an option, even when we’re looking for somewhere to eat.

The spire of the Cosmonaut Museum

Our first few days were spent shooting in Grisha’s apartment, which is in an old Soviet-style building. We had to take our gear up in a battered old elevator the size of a closet since the stairs had been gated off to build more apartments in the stairwell landings.

No, really. In a fire, those people are doomed.

That elevator actually worried me a bit, and I don’t spook easily. If the Indiana Jones ride were an elevator, that rattly little lift is what it would feel like. If it weren’t for the fact I know those old Russian women in that building have been using that Cabinet of Horrors since before the birth of Christ, I would have been genuinely concerned.

On Saturday, Hollywood and I got up at zero-dark-thirty to shoot time-lapse of sunrise over Moscow. Our lookout is apparently a popular spot for young Russians to get drunk and hang out all night. I had a drunken Asian Moscovite flirting with me in broken English (at one point, she grabbed my junk to illustrate some point about me being a man; I replied by grabbing her ass, which was met with approval.

Our interpreter, Natasha, and the mind-boggling USSR fountain

By sunrise I had a small cadre of Russian twentysomethings asking me questions. These were largely about what I thought of Moscow, asked so they could then expound on their feelings about Moscow.

Yesterday was more B-roll, mostly of gigantic monuments to the USSR. North of Moscow is a giant park dedicated to the various countries of the union, with the biggest, most ornate fountain I’ve ever seen. There’s also a museum dedicated to the cosmonauts, highlighted by a pretty stunning metal spire honoring Yuri Gagarin.

It’s been a great trip. The job can be frustrating, and I’m anxious to get back to work on C&E. I’ve been doing a lot of flirting with the girls back home, but mostly I miss LL. Looking forward to seeing her when she gets off work Friday night. Until then, I’m enjoying this bizarre city and it’s interesting, serious people. The Russians are so surly, they make me seem downright cheerful by comparison.

Can you imagine such a thing?

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.”

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When suicide is out of fashion we conclude that none but madmen destroy themselves; and all the efforts of courage appear chimerical to dastardly minds … Nevertheless, how many instances are there, well attested, of men, in every other respect perfectly discreet, who, without remorse, rage, or despair, have quitted life for no other reason than because it was a burden to them, and have died with more composure than they lived? — David Hume, Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul