Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sunshine and blisters

We broke 70 degrees today! I put on shorts! Shorts! Oh heavenly sun, I praise you. It's true that those of us who reside in more northern climes tend to get a little batty toward the end of winter, especially when the weather starts doing that awesome "will it or won't it" snow-then-rain-then-sun-then-who-knows-what dance in early spring. We tend to become moody bastards, hiding away in our unwashed dens and subsisting on nothing but beer and centipedes (I hate those jerks).

Lousy Smarch weather.

But hey, 70 friggen degrees! And though I had writing to get done, there was simply no excuse not to get outside and enjoy the beauty. I broke out the Surly and pedaled off to the gym, followed by a jaunt around the isthmus to drop off my resume with a few coffee shops. Still looking for a part time gig to supplement my income. This makes six applications made and zero call-backs, but that's nothing, right? I'll keep plugging away until something pans out. You figure that with all the students leaving in a couple of months there will be a few openings. Yeah? Yeah.

Of course the down side of all this hoofing and pedaling after several months spent cooped up in a gym and/or on the couch is that my feet have gone soft on me. The result of this week's various outdoor excursions is one rather gnarly blister on my left foot. Part of the blame for that lies with the fact that I have two completely different sized feet (woman's 8 and 9, respectively), because apparently I'm a mutant. And since it's nearly impossible to buy two different size shoes unless you fork over the cash for two different pairs, that means the shorter of my feet tends to slide around a bit more than it ought to when I walk. Lucky me.

Don't scroll down if you don't want visual evidence of the gnar.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chapel: "Battered" (part one)

The new episode of our web series, "Chapel," is finally live! You can read about some of the experience of filming it here.

This was one of the more challenging shoots we've done, and simply because the first half is so dialogue heavy. That's a little new to us, being the action nuts we typically are. But it was a good challenge. We had some trouble with the sound, though I think learned many valuable lessons alongside the coronary inducing hiccups. On the plus side, my band mate (and the girl who plays Yvonne in the show), Meghan, wrote a great score for us, so there's that.

Anyway, hope you enjoy - and the second half will go up in early April.

Very, very NSFW by the way (words, not images):

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cinematic Torture: Live-blogging "Twilight: New Moon"

While I've got all this free time during the day (well, to be fair I'm still pretty busy even as a self-employed, loutish writer - but there are a few chunks of nothing-to-do to be had), I figured I'd pick a completely unnecessary project and roll with it for awhile.

On Thursday of this week, I'll be doing an actual live-blog of my first ever viewing of Gore Vidal's 1979 X-rated Roman romp, "Caligula." You can follow along as my brain either melts or I start to get ideas about blood orgies. Could go either way.

To get this Cinematic Torture project going, though, I've decided to start with some even lower hanging fruit. I'm also blogging this on Friday and posting it after the fact on Monday, so it's not really "live" but I'm sure you'll be able to see the progression (or regression?) of my mental state as we go along here. Consider this the test case for the main event.


Twilight: New Moon (2009)

You can follow along via your own copy of the movie (admit it), or get ye to Netflix to stream/rent it. Or you can skip my commentary entirely and check out the sure-to-be-superior Rifftrax version. Also be sure to read the Ultra-Condensed Movies synopsis, which is hilarious.

4:22pm It may be important to note as we start things that I have never read a single sentence of the Twilight books. I did see the first movie, almost by accident, and thought that it was a relatively pretty but soulless piece of filler that misused an otherwise reasonably talented director and cast.

4:25 Hey, that's a full moon, not a new moon. Do some damn research peop...oh I see what you did there.

4:26 Oh snap! Bella's running into the middle of an Eyes Wide Shut style orgy. But then it's all flowers and shit? But hey, Sparkle Vampire's here now. Seriously, what's with the diamond skin business? It's fine to make up your own, unique vampire mythology I guess but this just seems silly.

4:28: I'm distracted by Kristen Stewart's attractiveness. Which in turn makes me feel like an old creep. Which I am, so there's that.

4:30 This bit in the parking lot is pretty high school accurate. I seem to remember lots of dry humping and gross PDAs. And there's the famous dreamcatcher. Jacob's really trying to turn Bella into a lesbian, I guess.

4:34 They're watching "Romeo & Juliet" in class. Subtle. (side note: I remember watching the 1968 version of the movie--which is what I think they're watching here--in class sophomore year, but the teacher insisted on standing in front of the screen when the scene with boobs in it came on. Buzz kill.)

4:37 "Bella, the only thing that can hurt me is you." I think I read that same line in a pamphlet about warning signs of domestic mental abuse. This statement is followed up by a way overkill shove that sends her flying into a table. Well done! That wasn't messed up at all.

4:43 That is a kickin' old truck Bella drives, though.

4:44 And then he jizzed. In. His pants. (Seriously, all that noise from a short kiss? I thought he said he wasn't actually a 17-year-old boy)

4:48 "Bella, I don't want you to come." Again with the mental abuse and control! That's just cruel. But it does explain his refusal to do more than give her a half-assed kiss.

4:54: Someone should be sure to turn Bella every so often if she's just gonna sit in that chair for month's on end. Poor thing's gonna get bed (chair?) sores. She also appears not to be changing clothes. Doesn't her dad at least notice the stench? Oh lord this is so damn emo.

4:57 "Don't be so pleased with your self-reverential cleverness." Hello, movie? Are you listening to yourself?

5:01 This whole "if I do something dangerous I totally see Sparkle Boy" set-up has to be the most convoluted plot line since...well...almost anything in a David Lynch movie. Only Lynch movies are generally, y'know, good.

5:04 I hope Jacob's actually teaching her something about building bikes as they go. This whole process would be incredibly dull for her otherwise.

5:10 Oh man, everyone knows girls can't ride motorcycles. This is a terrible idea. Of course, it might help her concentration if Glitter Pants wasn't manifesting himself every few feet as she goes. Also has no one heard of helmets in this world? Aaaand the shirt comes off. Nicely played, Jacob, nicely played.

5:14 Guns and adrenaline?! That's totally my thing, too! No way. Me and Bella, so much in common. Also can someone actually make a movie called "Face Punch" please? It would pretty much have to be better than this flick. Also also, real subtle with the proffered hands, guys. THIS FILM IS SO SUBTLE I CAN BARELY SEE IT.

5:20 Graham Greene, you're better than this.

5:23 Taylor Lautner is certainly a good looking kid, but I still don't get why they couldn't have cast an actual First Nation's actor in the role (Lautner claims to have something like a thimble-full in his ancestry, but really, it's not like there are a ton of roles for honest-to-goodness Native Americans in major movie projects. Raw deal).

5:27 All right! Finally, what this movie has been missing. Bad CG wolves.

5:33 This bedroom scene is just one extended excuse to have Lautner wander around topless for awhile. I can appreciate that. Honestly if that was the whole movie, no dialog, this might be easier to sit through.

5:39 Wolfmen love muffins (and one of them even has the muffin tops to prove it)! Who knew? Also apparently a flippant "Sorry" is enough to be forgiven for going into a rage, turning into a wolf, and attacking a girl for no very good reason.

5:44 So far the music is the best thing about this movie.

5:46 Yes! Dive into the waves, Bella! The cold, dark, end-of-this-movie waves! Oh who am I kidding, I know there are two more of these damn things to come.

5:50 Man, this really is just one giant "Men are animals but women should lust after the abusive ones anyway" fable, isn't it?

5:59 Why is everyone so concerned about Charlie? I didn't think this was a Vietnam War flick. (sorry, sorry, had to)

6:02 Yay, we're back at the Eyes Wide Shut parade! Apparently these people are idiots, though, all celebrating the expulsion of vampires from their city when apparently the most powerful ruling family of vampires still lives there and shit.

6:05 Stupidest reunion ever. And why does Bella keep staring at everyone's chins? Eye contact, woman! Try it some time.

6:08 Oh hi Dakota Fanning. Later you and Bella are totally going to make out.

6:10 Mind reader fancy vamp thinks him not being able to read Bella is her power, but it could simply be that there's nothing in there. Just sayin'. Now why's everyone always gotta be fighting in slow motion? I thought vampires were all fast and stuff.

6:16 OMG BELLA'S GONNA BE A VAMPIRE. I would have never seen that coming. At least then she can be super mopey and emo in good company. Forever.

6:20 And we're back to the controlling abuser talk. "Can you forgive me? I hope so, because I honestly don't think I can live without you." Textbook, dude. Textbook.

6:25 Edward would like to thank Jacob for carrying the movie with his epic shirtlessness.

6:27 I can see why everyone is so in love with Bella. Indecisive, whiny, pouty, vaguely suicidal. I mean, what's not to love?

OK at this point it's just a lot of Edward begging her not to become a vampire and Bella pretty much not giving him a choice. Pouting. Hair touching. Longing glances. Oh and him saying that he has one condition for turning her, which is that she marry him. To which she gasps. OK I'm officially headed to the bathroom to throw up now.

Man, I felt like I've needed to sit through these movies just so I wouldn't be completely in the dark about one of the biggest cultural zeitgeists of our day - but now I kind of wish I hadn't. I've read/seen some terrible stories in my day and this one is right up there with the very worst. I'm fairly certain teenage me would have felt the same way. But to each their own, I guess. I'll stick with my vampires who actually have sex outside of marriage and female characters that display basic competency, thanks.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Updates! Updates! Updates!

My blog work over at The Daily Page finally has a permanent link! Huzzah for easy accessibility. Please to be bookmarking and checking it out: Emily's Post.

I've been hard at work actually interviewing people and going to city meetings (it's amazing what having all this free time during the day has done for my schedule--putting aside the copious amount of time I now spend pantsless, eating chips, and watching Xena). Hopefully some of the information I've been able to dig up will be useful to someone, somewhere.

In other news, my band, Little Red Wolf, has officially begun recording our first album and are currently two whole songs into the process. We'll be submitting one of them to Lilith Fair, which in addition to resurrecting itself this summer is once again taking bids for local bands to play their "village stage." Needless to say, if we got in it would be no small dream come true for me, as it was while watching Sarah McLachlan perform at Lilith Fair in '96 that I had the revelation that playing music for people was something I very much wanted to do with my life. Stay tuned, because I'll probably be harassing you all to vote for us when the time comes.

Keep your eyes peeled for (probably) next weeks' print edition of Isthmus, where I'll be ranting about the need for universal health care.

Also, the Chapel episode "Battered: Part 1" should be live in the next week or so here (and you can see a very short behind-the-scenes vid here). Part 2 will follow in April. It was one of the most difficult shoots we've done so far, but I think it turned out really well. It's also a bit of a tone changer from the past episodes.

I am also slowly but surely working on the whole becoming an LLC and working out my finances, accounting, health care, blah blah blah and should have a supremely tedious post about the process for you all to slog through soon. Excitement!

For now I leave you with this unrelated gem, courtesy of the completely rad Amanda Palmer:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Brass knuckles and skate punks: The making of "Chapel: Battered"

When I woke up Monday morning this week, it felt like the entire right side of my body had been hit by a truck. I was sore from deltoids to wrist, but it wasn't from any accident--I had done this to myself on purpose.

The things we do for art.

You see, all last weekend was spent shooting the next episode of our web series, "Chapel," in a dank, off-the-grid indoor skate park known affectionately as the Dust Bowl. Hidden among a series of nondescript warehouses somewhere in the sprawling (well, sort of) city of Madison--and that's as specific as I can get--the Dust Bowl was a location sent to us from dingy heaven. We'd been introduced to the place by our good friend and collaborator B, and knew from the second we saw it that we had to film something there.

Enter the next episode of the series, "Battered." This is the first (and probably only) episode based directly off a sequence in the prequel novel I wrote (that'd be The Fix Up) about the main character. Originally, the scene took place in an empty storefront, but once we knew we could use the skate park, changes had to be made. I'm not so attached to my writing that I would pass up such an opportunity. In fact, Rob Matsushita--the director of the series and writer of most episodes--did some very decent adaptation of my original work.

Honestly, as opposed to being insulted or frustrated by someone adapting and changing something I wrote, I was flattered. Rob did a great job of interpreting the story and making it fit within the context of the new series. And he kept enough of my work that I didn't feel completely left out of the process. Some day, if I ever sell any work to be turned into a big studio movie, I should only be so lucky as to have it work out in a similar fashion.

So all day Saturday and Sunday we worked to film this two-part behemoth of an episode (the longest we've done for this series so far). That involved, among other things, maneuvering ourselves and our gear up and down the walls and lips of the bowls in the park, coordinating a small mob of unruly skater dudes, and enduring near freezing temperatures.

As an actor, though, you do your best never to complain. I've learned over time--through working with far more talented people than myself and through simple personal observation--that the rehearsal and performance process is made about a million times more enjoyable if the actors go through it all cheerfully. Your job as a performer, after all, is to be game for pretty much anything.

Fortunately, that's usually my natural state, but there are times when you want nothing more than to curl up in a blanket with a bottle of rum and hate the world. I distinctly remember beginning to feel that way on the set of "High School Sweethearts," the horror film in which my role involved sitting in pools of cold, fake blood on a cement basement floor in the middle of January. Thankfully everyone on set was very supportive and cooperative, which went a long way toward keeping me sane.

The Chapel shoot wasn't nearly so taxing. Plus, I had the chance to scoot around on a skateboard and re-learn some of the very, very basic moves I'd once actually been good at (oh, fifteen years ago? cripes). It also helped keep me warm between shots.

That sore right side, though? That was the result of a scene in which my character, Chapel, beats the living hell out of someone (with a pair of brass knuckles, I should add, an unexpected prop brought to us by one of said skater dudes--hooligans!). I knew going in what was likely to be the result of letting myself really go to it. I took boxing lessons for an all-too short time (plans to pick it up again soon) and learned very quickly that, pretty much no matter how much you stretch and are otherwise in good shape, the act of punching will inevitably leave you feeling like your arm is going to separate from your body and fall off. Unless you're an at least semi-professional boxer, that is. Which I am not. Quite obviously.

We got some really excellent shots, though, and I'm told that my performance wasn't half bad, either. I was especially impressed by one of the skaters we got to do the big stunt in the fight scene. The script called for a skater to get air over a lip between two bowls while firing a gun at Chapel, who would in turn be firing back, hitting the skater mid-air. The guy pulled the trick off over and over again and never seemed to hurt himself, even though he was pretending to be hit and fall instead of actually landing the jump. Impressive stuff, and I can't wait to see it in the final cut.

Special props must also go to my co-star and Little Red Wolf bandmate Meghan, who spent much of the shoot covered in fake blood and bungee corded to a chair. I've been there, so I have sympathy for the position, but she still pulled out the stops with her performance.

At this point we've still about two more days of pick-up shooting to do before both episodes are done (scheduled release at the end of March), but the really tough parts are done.

I have to say that I'm incredibly fortunate to be part of this project. It is beyond awesome to work with a crew that is so motivated, organized, fun, and also that gets shit done. Really the only thing missing at this point is a budget. But that's a story for another time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

OK Go make music videos cool again

I'm assuming you've already seen their now infamous treadmill video, but this new spot from the band OK Go really ups the ante. Seriously, these guys and their friends do amazing work, and make me optimistic about the future of music, art and film.

And on that note, I've got a post in the works about the filming process of the new episode of "Chapel" - an ongoing web series that I have the great pleasure of being involved in. We finished a sizable chunk of the shoot over the last weekend and only have a few small scenes left. Then we'll be releasing the new episode, in two parts, toward the end of March.

In the meantime, you should check out the hilarious radio play episode of "Chapel" that we made with the Film101 podcast guys. It was a hoot to make and, I think, turned out pretty well. Someday maybe we'll even get our act together enough to do something like this live, as radio plays are meant to be.
The Lost Albatross