Friday, November 13, 2009

The Real Thing

Benn awfully busy lately, but for a very exciting reason.

Last Thursday, my script was selected among 9 others to be finalists in the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmakers Award contest.


But what does that mean, exactly?

Coke has this contest where film students from the top film schools across the nation get a chance to direct their very own Coke commercial. The contest states that the commercial needs to show young people enjoying Coke in a way that also connects the the movie-going experience.

All the 10 finalists get a $7500 grant to shoot the script and make the commercial. Sooooo, that's pretty awesome.

The GRAND PRIZE winner gets $10,000, an award presented to them at ShoWest - a movie theater trade show, and has the potential for their commercial to be shown before features at a major theater chain. Also: pretty awesome.

I'm damn excited, as you could assume, and am also pretty blown away because out of the TEN finalists chosen this year, SEVEN of them are from USC. Fight on.

Now, that's pretty awesome too, except that the deadline for the finished commercial is due Jan 20, 2010 - meaning that it is going to be a big crunch of USC people and resources for the next 3 months. But, its still great to have such a huge presence for this prestigious (and delicious?) award.

Hey, our football team might be slipping (47-20 loss, to the OREGON DUCKS?! we're the godmaned Trojan Army!), but glad to know the film school is still riding high.

Anyway, will do the best to keep posting about how everything goes down, but don't be surprised if you don't see another post until 2010 either. School was already busy enough, and now its just gonna be INSANE.

But I can't wait. Its going to be lots of fun, especially since this commercial is for a product I known, drank, and loved for years that comes from a long line of amazing ads.

Which reminds me, anyone got the number for MEAN JOE GREEN?

Monday, November 2, 2009


Last year, I didn't get to have any fun for Halloween, as I was knee-deep in shooting, but this semester I actually got to have some fun during the week of All Hallow's Eve.

It worked out pretty cool actually, on Halloween Eve, b/c I got to visit the set of "The Ghost Whisperer", which is exec produced by my teacher for my television class.

They shoot on the NBC-Universal lot (even though the show is produced by ABC studios and airs on CBS), and a friend and myself drove on the lot and, after a bit of snooping around, got to the soundstage where they shoot and met some crew members who set us up with a couple of chairs set up by the monitor and headphones to hear the sound feed.

For those who don't know, Jennifer Love Hewitt (known simply as "Love" on set) is the star of the show. She IS the show, as my teacher likes to say. So she was indeed on set on Friday, and man is she gorgeous.

It was great watching her work. TV episodes are shot really quickly (they have to shoot a 42 page script in 5 days, whereas a 120 page movie script can shoot for 30-60 days).

"Love" is an old TV pro, obviously. She would knock out good performances and has hitting home runs by the final takes. Sometimes in the middle of a line just "-I'm sorry, let me try that again ..." without stopping rolling or anything. Watching how fast the crew moved around the set and got ready for different set-ups was great. We hung out from about 12 to 5, when they broke for lunch at 5 we decided to head home (Love was wrapped for the day).

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the parking garage: we got to see part of the taping of that night's Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

Conan, in his infinite wisdom, thought that it'd be a great Halloween treat to see the world's largest pumpkin get smashed by the "Grave-Digger" monster truck. And they decided to do this live, during the show, right in front of the garage. So we had some awesome seats to this ridiculous occurrence, and it was AWESOME. Watch for yourself.

It was pretty spectacular live but I think it all translates pretty good on television.

Though I had class all day Saturday at night headed to a bar to see a gang of zombies, aka USC's football team, lay down and die for the Oregon Ducks, and ended up at a really great Halloween party. All in all, a Halloween that, by L.A. standards, was a frighteningly good time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Plenty of Treats. What's the Trick?


So, I've got a lot of pretty awesome stuff goin' on the next 10-odd days but I'm a little hesitant to spend too much time typety-typing about it.

Blog traffic has been about as busy as Omaha at rush hour and I'll be home in just two weeks, and then home again for Thanksgiving.

Here's a rundown of things that I've done or am doing this week:

David Shore, creater of House coming to class
Visiting the set of "Ghost Whisperer"
Visiting the set of "How I met Your Mother"
I'm submitting to be a director of a Coca Cola commercial
I'm submitting to direct one of next semester's advanced projects
..........and Steven Spielberg is coming to the "Spielberg class" to answer questions from students.

Now, lots going on there, but here's the rub: do I bother filling in all the fun details right here on MGH, or do I just live my life and extrapolate when I get home?

If you're still reading me and want more posts, please do speak up.

Otherwise I can happily fill y'all in later and spend my free time sleeping and such.

The choice is yours.

Trick or treat.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Intern of Steel

Faster than a speeding golf cart, less powerful than a production assistant, and able to pick up tall lattes in a single run.....

Yes, its Mark Kosin: SMALLVILLE intern!

As I've mentioned before this semester has been designated the "Semester of Television", and nothing else I'm doing these few months can compare to the amazing experience I've had so far interning at the CW show Smallville.

Entering its 9th (wow) season, its no secret that this prequel series to the adventures of Superman had its highest popularity when it first started in the early 2000s. I'm not the biggest fan of hour dramas on TV, except when they branch out of the usual "doctor-cop-lawyer" cage, which is just what Smallville does. (Also see: LOST, MADMEN, and GLEE.)

Anyway, its been amazing because I'm working in the writers' office of an hour-long TV show being produced for network television and am getting a first-hand look at how a show really comes together and operates day-to-day.

Now, all the shooting takes place in Vancouver, Canada, so I don't get to go on set or see production at all. I did, however, get included in a bit of behind-the-scenes fun in post-production (which all takes place at Warner Brothers in Burbank).

They needed some extra ADR (audio dialogue recording) for tonight's episode and wrangled me and another intern to record some dialogue. It was really cool to see the facilities and the process (they do everything so QUICKLY). And so, if you listen in on tonight's episode (#4 - Echo, check local listings) you may briefly hear my voice coming in over the airwaves of the CW tonight.

Voice acting is just one of my many talents...the rest are of course linked to the usual office work, but its all good. Tons more little cool things happen everyday, which help keep my buoyant during the almost 2 hours of round trip commuting I do each day to get there. I don't mind it, though: all part of living and working in this damned city. The only way to really avoid it would be to fly, and that would be just...


Monday, October 5, 2009

Five Ring Circus

So, I waited all weekend for my blood to settle to talk a bit about Chicago losing the bid for the 2016 Olympics.

But, it didn't.

Even thinking about many of the contributing factors that led to Chicago finishing 4th (f***ing FOURTH?!) in the IOC voting just makes my blood boil and my head get so full of angry thoughts that it just isn't worth my personal health to get all riled up about it.

Much like last October, when a similar sense of loss pierced my soul, I am in an unfortunate situation. Though living out here in La-La it is a bit easier to just "move on" with life, as Daley suggested we all do in his postmortem on the bid, what is worse is a hollowness, an emptiness, because nobody out here CARES.

When my team loses its chance for postseason glory for the 10oth year, or my city suffers an astounding defeat in front of the whole world, then DAMNIT, I WANT to be mired in sadness for the next few days, surrounded by omnipresent reminders of the failure. It is through this process that true healing can emerge.

Instead, I'm forced to be in LA, where nobody cares about anything, and listen to idiots blather on about "its great for Rio" or "Let's go Dodgers!". Morons.

Being out here is almost worse, because it makes the pain and frustration seem unjustified, when I know if I was in the CHI there would hundreds of fellow mourners to connect with at local watering holes.

So when looking at the possibility of what could have gone better or who is to blame, instead of wrangling with the different demons of "not enough support locally" or a "failure to navigate international IOC politics" I pretty much just chose to forget the past and move on, not because it is the best thing to do, but because it is the only thing to do.

I made no secret of my passion for this particular endeavor for our fair city, and am still incredibly frustrated with the final results, but there's not a whole lot to be done about it now. Wish I could conjure up some more frothy ranting, built its just not there. Instead, just like after Game 3 last year, its just empty.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

It is better to give of yourself than to recieve..

...but, if you must receive, I personally prefer deep dish pizza, scotch, cigars, or any object with the word "CHICAGO" emblazoned upon its surface.

But, since this is my birthday, I do have a little gift that anyone out there in cyber-world can easily give me.

Last August I helped out on a public service announcement about breast cancer that some fellow USC students were shooting for a special contest.

Well, the cut is finished and the contest has started.

Go to this link and vote for the video ONE MILLION STRONG

(it's the first video)

Then, you know, email this post or the link to a bunch of people and have them vote and see the ads. It's a good cause people!

Take a look at the others (two are NYU students...stupid NYU...the other USC student is actually a good friend and did a great job, but I gotta cheer my team on), cuz its definitely an important cause.

It'd be awesome if One Million Strong won cause I gave a good week to help put this together and work as a 2nd AD on set (I'll do a whole post about that on-set experience sometime soon).

Funnily enough, I'm actually going to be volunteering at church tomorrow, so in case anyone calls or texts or whatever I may not be able to get back to you until later.

Why am I devoting my big day to the Big Guy? Well, its really just a coincidence but i do suppose I've been around for 25 years and owe the Man up top thanks for that.

Or, it could be an ego thing since the church is called "St. Mark's".

Either way, I'm sure any good I do during the day will be undone tomorrow night when I plan to patronize a few local establishments with various peers of mine. Man, so happy to be Catholic....those alcohol-fearers don't know what they're missing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Kind of Party

It's no secret that I have a small amount of civic pride when it comes to sweet home Chicago.

In fact, you might even say that I think its the greatest achievement of a civilization in the history of mankind.

Either way, I love my hometown, and make no secret to the sunbathed masses out here that, like Douglas MacArthur to the Philippines, "I shall return!" to the city of deep dish and big shoulders to make movies and TV eventually.

So, you can imagine that when it came to my attention that a party for Chicagoans living in L.A. and working in show-biz (people like Jeff Garlin, Joe Mantegna, etc.) was going to be held this week in Santa Monica, right in my own backyard practically, it wasn't a matter of IF I would attend, just HOW.

Luckily, the woman who ran the event was in charge of the Illinois Film Office when I interned there waaaaaay back in 2006. After a few calls, some begging, some pleading, and some collective bargaining, I was able to secure a ticket to this fantastic, custom-made event, and attended this past Monday night.

There's a Sun-Times article about it here, but let me tell you it was AWESOME!

Firstly, it was hosted by the Melman brothers, who were behind the popular Hub 51 in Chicago (I've been there!), who have opened a brand new Lettuce Entertain You restaurant called Le Grand Orange in Santa Monica. Boy, did they know how to throw a party: deep dish from Lou Malnati's, Italian beef and hot dogs from Portillo's, 312 Goose Island beers.....I was in heaven.

Oh, and there were some people there, too. And since it was a pretty small venue, I got to at least rub shoulders with everyone, and had at least a few quick exchanges, including discussing deep dish with Joe Mantegna, talking Second City with prez Andrew Alexander and did some catching up with former Mainstagers Joe Canale and Molly Erdman from my interning days there.

One big regret was not saying hello to Jeff Garlin, who left pretty early. He's one of my favorite Chicago, guys, a great Cubs fan, and due for a REALLY funny season of "Curb".

I also got to have a pretty nice talk with former Fox morning show hosts Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano, who were on TV every morning before I headed out to catch the bus to good ol' St. Pet's.

Of course, since those were the people everyone wanted to talk to, I spent most of time chatting with a great assortment of random people who all shared a common interest in the City of Chicago and working in the entertainment industry.

Though I didn't make any blockbuster deals, I got to meet some pretty cool people, learned a lot from those who have a few years on me experience-wise, and made a couple of contacts that could always help out down the line (I mean, who would have ever thought that organizing location files in the James R. Thompson bldg 3 years ago would get me into a party in Santa Monica this week?).

Of course, as the Sun-Times article points out, the real attraction last Monday was former Monster of the Midway DICK BITKUS. With so much chatting going on, I wasn't able to snap many pictures, but there was one I was sure to nab.

We were both pretty drunk.

God, I love Chicago.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Welcome to TV Land!

Hey, so I'm finally back on the air after a protracted hiatus! There is a whole lot that's been going on and that will be going on, but for now just going to give the overview.

Many of you who I've talked in in the past months probably already have a good view of what my plan is for the semester, and for those who don't I can pretty much sum it up in two magical letters:


I have decided that, for the most part, this semester will be dedicated to that most beautiful of glowing boxes: Television! It's probably best described by Homer Simpson as "Teacher! Mother!...secret lover..."

With a narrowing of focus on my part to seek a career in television writing (at least initially) I have a 3 pronged plan this semester to master all there is to know about the amazing medium, and I'm calling it Project Snake. You may ask "why?"

Well, cause Project Snake sounds cool. Duh.

But, also, because my 3 pronged plan is made up of three S's..they are as follows: Staahl, Sander, and Smallville...SSS. Make sense yet? I'll show you what I'm talking about:

1. Staahl - As in Jim Staahl, a Second City alum + comedy actor/writer, who is teaching my Sitcom Class, where we learn to write a spec script for a sitcom on the air....(I'm trying my hands at '30 Rock'). Funny guy, good teacher, and he's been on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" before! This "S" could also be known as "Sitcom" or "Spec".

2. Sander - As in Ian Sander, the executive producer of the CBS show "The Ghost Whisperer" and longtime mover and shaker in the world of television who is teaching a class, appropriately titled "The World of Television". This class is going to feature an in-depth look at how TV shows come to be, from the initial pitch and pilot to the longevity of a series and syndication. It also great because Ian is a fantastic teacher who loves to tell stories and has a cool, realistic view of the TV industry.

and finally.....

3. Smallville - As in I have an internship at the writers office for the CW show SMALLVILLE! Yep, 2 days a week I will be schlepping up to Burbank to the Warner Brothers building and doing some daily intern duties to assist in the writing of a prime time television show. (And hey, its no Emmy's powerhouse - though it has won for sound editing and visual effects - but its a show that has been on the air for 9 seasons....I'll take that any day). Been there two weeks so far and really, really enjoying it.

Now, there is a lot more to be said about each part of Project Snake (which is actually sounding more gay each time I use it....may have to come up with something else....), but I just wanted to lay down the initial framework for the semester and some really cool things on the horizon.

*There's also a fourth "S" that is not TV-related but will be a big part of this semester. Hint: it rhymes with "Flielberg"!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blogger Ends Posts on Account of Scotch, Plans Triumphant Return

Hello friends,

Well, its been about 3 weeks since the last post (which, to admit, wasn't much of a post) and due to August-related activities in Chicago, a busy start to the semester, a bottle of scotch, and a curious lack of comments on recent posts, I've been on a bit of a hiatus.

Will get back to business come Monday with lots of exciting news and "hilarious" commentary.

In the meantime, quick question:

Has anyone ever heard of a fellow by the name of Bill Brasky?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Go School

Well, took a bit o' time off for those wonderful dog days of summer, but now it's back to school today and back to the blog.

In hopes to shine some light into this most depressing of times, a little education from "The Simpsons"

Also, couldn't find it on youtube but "Lunch Lady Land" from Sandler on SNL is sure to make you feel better about getting back to class, books, and over-priced, over-greased, underwhelming cafeteria food.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fanboys of Summer

Imagine if you will a magical place, where those usually shunned from society are courted by the biggest players in Hollywood. Where grown men and women wear costumes - NOT on Halloween - and are embraced for it. Where a baseball stadium sits empty and quiet while a convention center is filled with rabid fanaticism.

Yes, it's COMICON!

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of traveling to San Diego to attend an event built for fans of comics and movies, by fans of comics and movies.

I was fortunate because a classmate of mine had his 508 film (you remember that, fall semester, last year?) accepted into the ComiCon Independent Film festival, which meant that he had a couple of free passes. And so, with a comfy auto and a pretty good working knowledge of the city of San Diego, I was tapped to be the "+1" to this prestigious event.

There's a lot that could be said, but I think, in this instance, the pictures say more than words ever could.

Quick run-down of the pics
1. me yelling at C3-PO
2. me with Princess Leia, Jabba the Hutt slave edition
3. me getting attacked by sexy zombie babes
4. me with fellow USC students who made the trip
5. me captured by Boba Fett
6. one of the many ads for the HIGHLY anticipated (in my mind) movie District-9
7. COMICON banner
8. me with Sawyer's LaFleur Darma jumpsuit from LOST

For the record, since we had the screening of my friend's film to attend I wasn't able to see any of the panel, especially the preview screening for James Cameron's upcoming movie AVATAR.

But, as you can see, the day was more fun than a ride in the Millennium Falcon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Me fail English? That's unpossible!"

A great injustice and incredible took place last week that is so despicable the only word I can find for it is......unpossible.

It is unpossible to imagine that "Family Guy" became the first animated sitcom to get an "Outstanding Comedy Series" Emmy nod since "The Flintstones" in 1961. And though I could up to North Hollywood and shout my displeasure at the front door of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, I believe my diatribe would fall on slightly more receptive ears here.

Now, I will admit that right now, in 2009, the average "Family Guy" episode is probably funnier than the average "Simpsons" episode, but that does not excuse the Academy from setting a historical precedent just because they need a ratings grab for their failing award show.

Because clearly, that is all that this nomination is. It's the Emmys wanting more viewers so they've expanded the field to include a wider audience - the Oscars are doing the same thing by having 10 Best Picture nominations next year (I have my own thoughts about the Oscars, especially which categories I think they should cut, but I'll save that for another day). "Family Guy" earn this distinction is as blasphemous as building a monument to Jesse Jackson while uttering "Martin Luther who?" (my words, not his). MacFarlane gave the appropriate tip of the cap to "The Simpsons" after finding out "Family Guy" had gotten the nomination and he said "The Simpsons" should have won in the 1990's.

And to be clear, it's not as though "The Simpsons" went home empty handed in their heyday. Matt Groening an Co have trucked home enough Emmys to fill Mr. Burns' mansion since their first nomination for "Outstanding Animated Program" in 1990. The show has gotten plenty of respect for its writing, voice talents, musical score, etc. BUT, having been the most culturally relevant animated show since "The Flintstones", they definitely should have had the distinction of being the 2nd animated show in TV history to earn a nomination for "Outstanding Comedy Series".

Maybe I'm so fired up because "The Simpsons" was my first true love in a long, tumultuous affair with sweet madame TV...causing me to abandon the fresh air and sunshine of childhood for the cool, comfortable surroundings of the basement at 156 Montclair. And though saying that "The Simpsons" is the genesis for my even being out here in the Land of La-La might be a bit of stretch, it certainly played a major role. I would say that "The Simpsons" is probably why I have a better sense of humor than I do a mean breaking ball. Who knows? If the family at 742 Evergreen Terrace had never entered my life I might have been a middle reliever for Sweet Lou's bullpen....(which, in its current state, could still be a possibility).

I could go on for pages and pages about why I love "The Simpsons" (and very well may in future posts), but for now I just had to let off some steam.

Besides, I'm really not THAT pissed off. "The Simpsons" are like Coca-Cola or the '96 Bulls team - they are the best their ever was or will be with absolutely no debate (thought the idiotic media will always insist on trying).

I'm especially at ease because "The Simpsons" already got the last word over 17 years ago. In the episode "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", Homer is given $2000 because working at the nuclear power plant has drastically reduced his sperm count, and Mr. Burns decides to silence him with the $2K settlement, but fools him into thinking he's won the "Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence". The award is presented at a ridiculously overdone awards show, and after seeing the over-the-top opening musical number, Bart and Lisa have this exchange:

LISA - This awards show is the biggest farce I ever saw.

BART - What about the Emmys?

LISA - I stand corrected.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Land of the L O S T

One of the perks of living in Los Angeles is the myriad amount of opportunities to attend panels or Q&As with people working in the industry, and this week I had a particularly cool experience.

An anonymous friend (who likes fantasy sports and says "MERCY" at any opportunity) took me to an alumni panel of two of the writers and producers of the hit ABC show "LOST": Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis.

It was especially cool b/c this writing duo was also tapped to pen the new "TRON" sequel for Disney, which allowed them to speak about writing for TV and feature films..though obviously TV is their strongest suit so far.

Since it was an industry thing, most of the discussion and questions focused on writing, writing techniques, etc. But it was clear that anytime they gave examples from LOST everyone really ate it up. I thought that was funny, everyone trying to be "oh, i'm a professional writer, and will ask questions that reflect that." - an attitude I was probably most guilty of having.

Probably some of the best fanboy moments were when Adam and Edward talked about how the show "canceled itself" and they both talked a bit about the final season, promising that "there's a point". I was happy to hear that, because as much as I may have enjoyed The Sopranos final cut to black, I think if LOST did that I would flip out like Ben Linus' alcoholic father.

Another great little insight was when the duo discussed the scene in "The Lie" when Hurly recounts to his mom the entire history of the show in a desperate confession. They mentioned that originally the scene was almost purely comedic but as they wrote his speech and read it aloud it became clear that it was also very heartfelt and a crucial moment for the character and the episode b/c Hurly needs his mom to believe him. They said they were definitely surprised by the change in tone but that it ended up working better - something that often happens in writing.

They also had a few other cool stories about how they came out here, how they got their start, and all that stuff. All in all it was a pretty cool night.

I feel like any events like these that I get to go to are important to help me stay focused. When you get into a routine of working, class, or internships (plus when you spend time going to the beach, as I have a lot this summer), it is possible to temporarily forget I've moved thousands of miles from friends, family, and deep dish pizza to be here in L.A. to try and make it in the entertainment industry.

Hearing stories from successful people is great because they keep me motivated, remind me why I love this stuff, and probably, most importantly, save me from getting LOST.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I Think It Was the 4th of July

Above are some photos I took in the harsh light of day on the 5th of July, deciding to make sure there was some documentation of the extremely successful 4th of July BBQ I threw at my place in Venice.

I wish I had some photos of the actual party, but I was much too busy playing beach football, grilling like a pro, and downing a few beers (okay, maybe more than a few, but I was staying in Venice all night so there was no need to stay sober).

But indeed, it was a very good, very fun, and very patriotic celebration - from the bountiful American beer (Sam Adams Summer Ale mostly) to the recession-conscious $10 flag bunting I made myself (the Fashion District is one of L.A.'s best-kept secrets - full of street meat and cheap fabric). I was really pleasantly surprised by the high turnout: its not always easy to get people to come to Venice on busy holiday weekends...parking is INSANE.

But they did come, tons of classmates and their friends - not to mention a few cast and crew from some past projects. I probably went through almost 20 burgers and 30 hot dogs and brats. Not to mention the fact that almost everyone who came brought some beer and when I came out to clean the next morning I barely found a drop of alcohol left; so, indeed, a good time was certainly had by all.

It was fitting, too, as the 4th of July represents an anniversary for me: it's been one full year now that I have been living in Venice. Last Fourth I had just pretty much moved in and had reservations if it would be the right move. Now, a year later, I couldn't be happier living in Venice and am planning to stay for at least another year.

Aside from the obvious perk of living near the beach, one of the other things that is so great about Venice is that its a real neighborhood, or, even beyond that, a COMMUNITY. In a town like L.A. where people are often blase about civic pride, there is a definite attitude that I've found in Venice that sets it apart. Perhaps its the gritty Dogtown roots or the curious mix of rich condo-dwellers and drugged-up beach bums, but this area has a feeling all its own.

It also might be the fact that a seemingly lot of ex-Chicagoans live in Venice. I see more Bears fans on the streets and bars of Venice than I have anywhere else in L.A.

Don't worry though, I'm not getting too attached. Let's just say that Venice makes living 2,100 miles from a home a bit more....tolerable. Nothin' beats Chicago.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

MGH McNuggets: Get 'em while they're hot!

In hoping to buck the tradition of making promises on the blog and not keeping them (see, the 40 / 40 pledge and the political blog), I'm going to try and begin a new tradition that will not go the way of "Dewey Defeats Truman" (still an excellent title for a political blog, I believe).

Since a ton of stuff happens that I'm not always able to write a bunch about, I'm going to try and just spout off about a bunch of stuff at once, much like one may see a sports writer do to fill a section of the paper without actually doing the work to write a cohesive article. In fairness, its also a simpler read...especially at 7am.

I'm going to tinker with the formatting, but hopefully I'm gonna get in the habit of doing this each weekend to be ready by Monday morning....hopefully.

From June 29

I don't know why Lou just sent Milton Bradley home for the day, the whole team is playing like a child that needs a time-out..... Ozzie Guillen is like that drunk guy who's really obnoxious and funny to watch, until he gets in your face...the all you want is to punch him..... One of the funniest things on the internet right now is Roger Ebert review of "Transformers II", he RIPS it apart ......I think the religion videos I made for Mr. Bremner's class were funnier than "YEAR ONE".....smarter, too...... There's only one Michael I cared about in the 80's and 90's, and his last name is Jordan........ it was funny in LA b/c on KISS the DJ was like "sad sad day in the music here's some Flor Rida!" ......I watched the USA-BRAZIL game in a Brit pub in Santa Monica today, it was really crowded, all pulling for US..... at least USA scored more goals than the Cubs did THAT'S sad....... are all these periods annoying?...... or do they keep you reading..... Going to try and see Public Enemies opening night, I hope Bale doesn't use his Batman / John Connor voice the whole time....McG sucks...and is a tool.... Here's to hoping July has the Cubs playing better and decent films in the theaters.... and that I get Conan tickets....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Without Wisdom but a Lot Wiser

I didn't think it was all that bad at first.

I didn't even know it was out until the dentist told me so and began stitching up my tender gum.

When he finished, I looked at the tray and any doubt I had was whisked away when I saw it - bulgy and bloodied - sitting next to the various tools and instruments.

My wisdom tooth.

Once I saw it lying there I was emboldened since I felt so little pain and decided to snap a picture on my cell. I sent the pick to some friends in the industry (dental, not film) to hear back confirmation that I had weathered quite an operation. I was actually feeling pretty good. Not so much anymore.

Yesterday, I had my wisdom tooth out and began my summer job as a TA* for a USC summer class. And yesterday I felt pretty good. Today sucked.

I felt brave and strong yesterday: had my tooth out and dinna even hurt that much. I felt truly bad-ass in my own mind, going up to new students and teachers with an ice pack against my cheek as if to say "Yeah, I had a giant tooth YANKED out of my JAWBONE a few hours ago. But I'm here biggie".

And it worked. Sure there was lots of blood and the pain seeped in at times but I soldiered through it. At home the bleeding got to be a bit much but I popped a teabag in my mouth and that helped. (Luckily, I thought better of posting on facebook "Mark has a teabag in his mouth") I barely ate anything all day, which was making me pretty tired, and hit the bed really early (for me), about 10.

But today has been bad - no longer bold, just tired. I have the pain and swelling but no giant ice pack to remind people how badass I am, just a bunch of students and teachers expecting me to do things. DONT THEY KNOW I'M IN PAIN HERE?!

I've eaten today...if you can call it eating. Barely able to open my jaw and chew, I have put myself on a diet most befitting a very old man or a baby chimpanzee. Soft foods....oatmeal for breakfast...a lunch of fries and a Frosty from Wendy's....soup and mashed potatoes for dinner.....mush mush mush....

And so now, as I sit here with my Frankenstein-gums and Brando-esque swollen cheek I look at that cell phone picture and cringe. I wondered at first why the dentists didn't hand the tooth over to me in a little baggie or jar, to keep as a pet or badge of honor.

Now I know. Because the thought of that giant chunk of calcium and enamel and nerves being ripped out of my goddamned SKELETAL FRAME just seems to intensify the pain.

I've just finished off my final spoon-meal of the day - a pomegranate frozen yogurt from Red Mango (it's a precursor to pinkberry...i don't know if we've got any in Chicago...) - and its given me just enough joy and soothing coldness that I've been able to share this highly heroic (yet extremely ordinary) tale with y'all.

Even though there's much to do, I think I may just pop a pain-killer and climb into to sweet comforts of sleep wishing that my grotesquely mangled mouth will be healed by morning.

Looking back at the cell phone pic from yesterday, I can't help but think how unwise it was to underestimate the grip that one little wisdom tooth held on me.


*Incidentally, at USC's cinema school we are called SAs: Student Assistant. I think this is just because we do end up helping the students a lot more than the teachers: we send out reminder emails, get them set up with equipment, and act as general information kiosks for the novice film student. It's not a big deal, but it's kind of the slang and I may come home in August an start sentences like "When I was an SA..." I want people to know what I'm talking about. Or maybe everyone will just think I'm a tool for explaining all that.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hyperbole We Can Believe In

I've found in the 18-odd months writing this blog its that mentioning Barack Obama on MGH is like tossing a grenade into a room full of fireworks and dynamite. But, with the Radio Correspondents dinner goin' down and a great new video on JIBJAB, I thinks its time to attempt to find a little common ground.

I take comedy very seriously. I think its one of the most amazing things in the world because it has the ability to trump, ridicule, and obliterate all the typical taboos of modern conversation, especially the dynamic duo of politics and religion.

I think the key to jokes that satirize the things people hold most dear is to zero in on something universal, and hit the right notes. When a joke comes from a purely partisan and political perspective (like the improv show that sprung up during last years GOP w/ Palin and Rudy) it's not as funny as when the joke is more truthful and everyone (with a sense of humor) can identify with.

That's why I think this new jibjab video is so great (as they always are) because it taps into the unbelievable love affair most of America has with Obama right now.

Jib-jab is the best at being even-handed, but careful watchers of Colbert and Stewart know that even though they have their lefty leanings they (and I) are ruled by one immutable ideology:


*and yes, in the first paragraph I did refer to this blog as MGH. deal with it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Drag Me to Health

You may have noticed some feelings of anger or discontent against chocolaty, sugary mocha coffee drinks recently... specifically in my last post.

I guess the reasoning behind it is that, after a semester of producing - with it's late nights, early mornings, long days and brief moments of relaxing and splurging - the first few months of '09 were not the "healthiest".

As summer approaches, with its promise of days in the sun and nights on the prowl, I have started taking steps to becoming healthier.

Notice how I said healthier, and not "healthy".

This is a big deal. I don't know if I ever want to be completely "healthy". Shit, I don't even know what that would be. But healthier I can do: change beef burgers to turkey burgers (or grilled chicken), bread and buns from white to wheat, 2% to skim, regular Coke to....

Nope! That is where I've decided to draw the line. And I think a line must be drawn. I won't start drinking Diet Coke. Nor will I stop drinking beer (I may cut down a bit, but never stop). And damnit, I'm still gonna have a chocolate shake every once and a while.

I know that I could start forcing drinking Diet Coke. Hell, after a while I may get used to it, even like it. I've been reading one of these health-type books and the self-testimonial author says - "after a few weeks of eating healthy, not only did I start to like eating healthy, but found I no longer had a taste for my old greasy temptation foods".

I shudder at the thought. I don't care what happens - the day that I don't want to eat a bunch of deep dish from Giordono's or a choco shake from Portillo's is a sad, dark day for Mark J. Kosin.

Obviously, this is going to make my summer-long quest to drop some fat and add some muscle tissue a little more difficult, as there will always be certain pleasures in life that I will not forgo. But I'm sure that I can figure something out. Especially since I know some many people who are semi-healthy. BTW - feel free to throw all kinds of contradictory advice* at me on the blog and in person.

Just remember, I'm not trying to be healthy. Just healthier.

*On the note of conflicting advice, one of my favorite lines ever about our health conscious society comes from the amazing LEWIS BLACK.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's a Wonderful Lifé

So, one of the more recent advertising campaigns that has been nearly impossible to not notice around L.A. recently (and the world, I presume) is McDonald's new McCafé line of coffee products. McDonald's has chosen to inform us of their wonderful new products with all the discretion and subtlety of a Micheal Bay movie: there's been bus ads, newspaper ads, magazine ads, bus stop ads, billboards, and a 4 story tall McCafé mocha drink busting out of a building I drive past on the way to my internship.

And of course, the TV and radio spots. The TV ads are my favorite - they usually tell people to "McCafé your Day!", which usually involves them buying one of McD's new McCafé drinks and (surprise, surprise) the product vastly improves the lives of those who purchased it.

I especially like the ads where people are doing lame, boring chores or work and then they buy a drink and McD's adds an accent mark and that makes it fun or classy - commute become commuté, chore becomes choré. Ignoring the grammatical pitfalls of such reckless use of the accent mark, I think McD's is also saying something very insulting to its customers.

Essentially, they are like: "your life sucks, and the only way to add a pitiful amount of joy into it is to suck on one of our caffeine-loaded, sugar-filled, 300+ calorie mocha drinks while you execute the same boring routine you do every day, giving you a moment of happiness while you plod along to an painful death brought on from Diabetes from drinking too many McCafé mocha drinks".

Maybe I'm overreacting a bit about it, but it realy seems strange that McD's shows boring people doing boring things while drinking their new McCafé drinks. What happened to the clasic "i'm lovin' it" campaign that showed snazzy hipsters eating from McD's Dollar Menu because they are too poor to buy better food? Now THAT was an ad campaign I got behind.

This new thing is just lame. Or should I say, it's lamé.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


So, earlier this week I did battle with a formidable foe: the Los Angeles court system.

Now, dont freak out. It was a small, incredibly stupid thing - last Dec I got a ticket for driving with a headlamp out. All I had to do was let the City of Los Angeles know that I had gotten it simple....right?

This was such a tour de force in bureaucracy it'd be funny if it wasn't so sad (or it'd be sad if it wasn't so funny).

First step was taking my car to an inspection station of sorts set up by the sheriff's dept. i pull my car in this big empty garage, theres one little office with tinted windows. Nobody, repeat: nobody, was in the garage area. i went into the office and handed my ticket to the most disinterested sheriff in LA County. Our exchange:

sheriff - [glances at ticket] what was the problem?

mk- I had a head lamp out.

sheriff- You fix it?

mk- [motioning to car] yes....

sheriff- [ignoring] .....fifteen dollars.

So I handed him my $15 in cash and he gave me a piece of paper saying that i paid, and i headed to the court building without anyone ever actually confirming that my headlamp had been fixed.

i go inside and the security guard vaguely directs me to the left side of a massive, impersonal room that looks like something out of "The Conformist". Out of the two lines i pick the shorter one. Shorter, but that moves excrutiatingly slower. And then, you get in the one line for so long and you get nervous like its the wrong line but theres no one there to help or ask questions...and then you FINALLY get there and its the wrong line.

So I head from the GC line to the cashier line (even though I already paid my $15). The cashier line was frighteneing. The people at this place...its like someone took all the buses in LA and said "you guys are too weird for the bus" and put them in this line. One guy briefly left the line so that he could go fish a discarded mcdonalds bag from the garbage can....

now, this is the point where i wanted to get out as fast as possible. but sweet lady government had other plans. after waiting in this line for 35 min (total running time is 1:25 now) i get told to go upstairs, to the fourth floor, to departmet 63. defeated and broken i head to the fourth floor.

i got up there and saw a line to my left. walked up and asked what line it was and was told it was the line for department 64. course, me being intelligent, i had elected NOT to write down which department i was supposed to head to, and just ASSUMED that it was department 64.

bad idea. after waiting in the dept 64 line for 20 min, I headed to the line for dept 63.

reaching the 3 hr mark now, waiting in line #4, (oh and having left my lunch in the car, thinking this would take under an hour, hungry as hell) is when a tremor shook the building ever so slightly. it wasnt a big quake at all, just shook the ground a bit, but it made me think "if i get killed waiting in this freaking line, i'm going to punch the first spook i see on the other line"

luckily, i didnt die, and was able to mercily reach the FINAL window and tell the city that i had paid someone fifteen dollars to "check" my headlamp.

hate to dump this litany of unfortunate events on everyone, but who doesnt love insights into our wonderful American bureaucracy?

department 63...department 64......


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Since I've Been Gone

Hello everybody!

Man, am I lame - after all kinds of blustering about writing 40 blog posts in a row I go ahead and take almost a whole month off.

Anyway, I'm able to meekly return to the blogosphere now because ...... (DRUM ROLL PLEASE)....


That's right, last Friday night - May 8th - at 7:30pm, "Round and Round" made its first debut to the film community at USC's Norris Cinema theater in front of roughly 400 students, parents, subjects, faculty, non-fiction enthusiasts and one very lost old man in a Lakers jersey.

Crowd response was very positive for this highly-anticipated expose on the fascinating world of merry-go-rounds (yikes, I've been writing way too much press for this damn thing). Since the I last posted we had just been picture-locking I won't go over everything I've been up to since then, but let's just say I wasn't twiddling my thumbs and whistling "Dixie".

In fact, all that needs to be said is I will do my best to bring a copy of the doc home to Chicago when I come back in early June. Hopefully, I'll be able to organize a screening and everyone can see what the hell I've been up to the last 5 months.

Now, other than a few final producorial duties, I'll be able to turn my attention back to fiction films, tv, sports, eating, drinking, sleeping, and, most importantly, WRITING.

I think its going to be a busy summer, but I'm going to try and keep this thing going from the bright nights of June through the dog days of August. So stay tuned for a wealth of fascinating commentary about life, love, film, food, culture, art, entertainment, politics, people, and places.

Although, let's be honest, it'll probably just degrade into more bitching about the Cubs within a week or so.

Damn, it's already begun.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lock, Rock, and Two Weeks of Soundwork

Today is picture lock for the carousel doc and it's been a non stop wham-bam of problems since getting back from my incredibly fun but exceptionally poorly timed trip back to Chicago.

Pic lock was supposed to be at 1:30pm PDT. It's now 5:30pm, and we're still not quite done.

This is how it always goes, though. A million little things always crop up when the final hours and minutes tick away on the final edit of the film. And though the editors will be partying hard once this is all said and done, I get to look forward to the next few weeks of overseeing sound, putting together a press kit, and scraping together the last pennies our production has to finish this damn thing.

Just so y'all know what I'm up to, and why the posts have been few and far between as of late.

Great times back in the CHI though, despite coming home with some kind of sore throat-cold-thing. Perhaps due to the hours of drinking in near-freezing rain Monday morning before the Cubs home opener.

Whatever: I regret nothing!!!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Hooray for the greatest day of the year! Didn't get to watch the entire Cubs game but caught the final three innings and saw Gregg close it out.

Can't we just move President's Day to the beginning of April?

Isn't that what the founding fathers would have wanted?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out like a lamb....

So, this crazy March has come and gone. Don't have too much to say right now, had a very funny and weird conversation at the internship today about Facebook and gmail and other internet stuff, made me think of a little fun thing to do tomorrow...

If you see what I'm talking about tomorrow, try and play it cool and not blow the surprise for people who may not be in the know. If you have no idea what I'm talking about that's totally fine, I'll fill everyone in later. It's got something to do with facebook....

Happy March everyone,


Saturday, March 28, 2009

The G and S Show: Part II

See? Told you it'd be a two-parter. How could I not follow up on my promise?

The big celeb-ridden party was a big success, apparently. A few of my classmates who worked for the Cinema School and acted as "tour guides" for the open house spotted Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Harrison Ford, among a sea of others. Obviously on hand were the ubiquitous Spielberg and Lucas, who gave speeches and did a lot of glad-handing for the new building bearing their names. In addition to being covered by Variety and L.A. Times, I also got some info over Facebook, wheres some friends have posted some pretty rad pics of the industry titans schmoozing in our school.

It's funny, with Spielberg and Uncle George, because they are elevated to such heights - especially among young film nerds, and even more especially at USC - and such a record of hits that they are almost like these fictional characters...more a state of mind than actual people. Its also fair to say that they've both incurred some recent scorn (Lucas more so) since Indy 4 came out and looked more like a G'd video game than an adventure film. Lucas has also come under more local criticism at USC because everyone likes to complain about little problems with the new building. Not that I'm complaining, but people may say thing like its too big, its too flashy, it more for architectural aesthetics than functionality, there's not a lot of areas to sit and work and meet, and that the money could have been better spent on scholarships....(I may share some of the opinions, but whatever).

Anyway, it almost is an afterthought that these two men crafted some of the greatest, coolest, most exciting movies in Hollywood history. This fact is made obvious by an amazing little item that has danced its way around the Internet and right here onto MGH.

It is a complete transcript from 1978 of discussions had between George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Larry Kasdan about the script for Indian Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Now, some of my more film nerd friends may already be aware, but to anyone who loves Raiders but hasn't read this yet it is AMAZING. The link to download it right HERE.

At 125 pages, it's quite a tall order to tackle but scrolling down to any piece of it is worthwhile, as the whole time they bat ideas back and forth. Lucas talks the most, but Spielberg's got the best ideas, and writer Larry Kasdan (who also wrote Empire Strikes Back) is just listening, occasionally stopping for clarifications.

There's a million great moments and I'm especially surprised by how often G and S mention the production realities and sometimes go into detail, like about the use of a tiger:

G - Then he finds an exit. I like the idea of Nazis putting tigers in there....You know what its like to fly a tiger in from South Africa.

S - It would have to be a neighborhood tiger.

G - There aren't any tigers out there.

S - I'm not in love with the idea.

G - You could have bats and stuff, make it slightly spooky.

So, yeah, apparently "Raiders" might've had a tiger. Then again, Spielberg isn't in love with the cool is this thing?! It's like sitting in, being a fly on the wall, in one of the most important conversations in moviedom.

Another excerpt I'll share is when G and S talk further about the action in the 2nd half of the first act and they broach the classic "snakes" line:

G - We shouldn't have any snakes in the opening sequence, just tarantulas. Save the snakes for now.

S - It would be funny if, somewhere earlier in the movie he somehow implied he was not afraid of snakes. Later, you realize that is one of his big fears.

G - Maybe it'd be better if you see early, maybe in the beginning that he's afraid "Oh God, I hate those snakes." It should be slightly amusing that he hates snakes, and then he opens this up "I can't go down there. Why did there have to be snakes. Anything but snakes." You can play it for comedy. The one thing that could happen is that he gets trapped with all these snakes.

Who knew? Its just so cool to see that, almost 30 years ago, these guys went through the same idea tossing and brainstorming that all writers go through. I mean, this could have easily been just like a conversation I had with the Red and Yellow team about "Chhk Chhk Boom" back in Glen Ellyn (somewhere on Bryant, perhaps?) or in my writing classes at Second City or here at SC.

It's just very refreshing to take away the Oscars and the blockbuster records and the mutli-million dollar new building and the legendary status and see that it all comes from a couple of guys sitting around, talking about a story they want to tell.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The G and S Show: Part I

"When do we go into lockdown mode?"

This is the question I posed to a classmate earlier today, and since we don't have classes on a Navy submarine or State Prison or anywhere that might usually require a lockdown mode, you may wonder why.

Well, this weekend all students - except for students currently editing a project - are not allowed in our brand new multi-million dollar School of Cinematic Arts building. Which might be mildly annoying, except for the fact that the reason is because this weekend "Uncle" George Lucas is throwing big grand opening party for himself and all the other big Hollywood-types that ponied up the dough to build our splendid little superstructure.

The two most high-profile guests will be the two men for which each wing of the new building in named: George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

It's pretty wild thinking that these two barons of the blockbuster will be hobnobbing and schmoozing around the very same halls I stroll and saunter. Just think: Steven Spielberg sitting on the same bench I sit on, Steven Spielberg drinking from the same water fountain I drink from, Steven Spielberg crapping on the same - well, you get the idea.

And G and S are just the tip of the iceberg - top execs from all the major networks and studios will be milling about...Dreamworks, Paramount, NBC Universal, 20th Century Fox....the list goes on and on! It's the networking opportunity of a lifetime!!!

Which is why, of course, students will not be allowed within shouting distance of any of the entertainment elite this weekend. Starting at 5pm PST the building goes into "lockdown mode" - where only special staff and guests will be allowed entrance - until 5pm this Sunday. I can't say I blame 'em. I mean, I'm not one to get too starstruck but the thought of the ridiculous amount of movie moguls that will be hanging out at the SCA building this weekend is enough for me to "explode a Death Star" in my pants and run up to anyone and everyone with a script in one hand, a directing reel in another, and my mouth full of business cards.

Now the editors (including the editors of our documentary) will be allowed access to the labs in the basement for a limited amount of hours, but that comes only after being put on a special list and getting a special bracelet. Even after that, they have strict instructions to dress appropriately, not linger or loiter in the hallways, and explicit orders to not speak to or disturb any of the partygoers who are walking about during the open house.

So as much as I'd like to sneak myself in with one of those bracelets (and I certainly could) I've decied I'd get about as much access to these people as I would standing at the corner of Hollywood and Vine shouting at every dark window-tinted BMW that passed by. Plus, considering this is our LAST WEEKEND of filming for the doc, I'll certainly have enough to do already.

But is there a chance I may swing by campus for some silly reason and slowly meander in the proximity of the SCA building this weekend?

You bet your sweet X-Wing there is.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Worst. Post. Ever.

Sorry guys. I spent more than 40 min working on the today's post but then navigated away from the page and damn "blogger" thing didn't save ANY of it so I'm back to a blank page and am too tired and frustrated to rewrite it right now. I will hopefully game up and punch it out again tomorrow.

It's a good post, though. One of the best, maybe, if there are any posts that seem "better" than others. I don't know. I've always enjoyed June, 11 2008. Whatever. It may even be a two part-er.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


One of the cool thing about this crazy documentary I'm producing is that for the class - 547 - we also have a class that meets Mondays where we get to watch a relatively new doc and then someone associated with it, usually the director or producer, comes in a talks about it and there's a Q&A. Some of the notable doc we've watched are the Oscar nominated films The Garden and Man on Wire (which actually won the damn thing - the producer who came and talked was a real sport considering she had probably been out partying all night). Both are good and I would recommend them.

This past Monday we watched a film called WE LIVE IN PUBLIC - it's a crazy story about a millionaire who created this insanely voyeuristic underground compound in Manhattan in the late 1990's. Here's the trailer:

It's a great film and really, almost frighteningly applicable in this day and age. Especially if you paid attention to the facebook ownership dispute and all the other things about privacy and emails and identities.

But mostly its just a lot of crazy sh*t and drama happening, which is you really what you want from a good documentary. That's actually what we've been learning in class.

Well, not really. But its been true of every doc we've watched this semester. Whenever people give long-winded feedback in class on our docs, I think what they really want to say is: "It's good, but I just dont think you have enough crazy sh*t and drama going on...Could you shoot more? More crazy sh*t and drama, cuz that'd be great!".

We have our last weekend of shooting this upcoming weekend. I'm so excited and yet incredibly tired at the same time. I'd like to point out we've pretty much been filming for, like, 10 weekends straight almost.

I'm goin' to bed.


Monday, March 23, 2009


Forgive me Father, for it has been 11 days since my last blog entry.

Guess that making an open commitment to blog every single day of Lent has backfired because now I feel even MORE guilty for having gone AWOL that last week+4.

But, if you must know, I didn't just spurn one little promise to my readers and my God (well, I didn't really promise GOD that I would keep blogging - I'm not stupid), but I went all-out on breaking commitments, covenants, and commandants in a city where morals are about as celebrated as the NCAA woman's basketball tournament: a city of sin. Sin City.

Okay..... - I went to Vegas.

I know - it's bad. Here I am producing this doc, its Lent, the economy's bad and I scoot off to the land of lights and loose women. But it's only 3.5 hours away! And one man only has so much will power! It was spring break! I was young and stupid! (no, wait, that last one is my excuse for using steroids).

I tried to keep things relatively low-key, as low-key as I could, at least. but I did break my New Year's resolution / Lent "fasting" item of no fast food and splurged on a Double-double with fries and a chocolate shake from In-n-Out burger.

The burger is hyped up a lot by West Coasters and the In-n-Out burger is not so legendary for its taste, but for its addictive nature, kind of like cigarettes....though I'm not sure which is healthier.

Anyway, aside from the fast food (and a couple of other sinful / unlwaful activities which will be known under the umbrella term "shenanigans"), I spent most of the time just taking it easy since I knew that I'd have a heap of work to attend to upon my return to L.A.

Of course, I didn't actually attend to any work until after St. Patty's Day, but I assure you that after that I was all business. Seriously.

So, just to recap, my excuses for the past 11 days are as follows:

March 13-16th - Fast food and "shenanigans" in Las Vegas

March 17th - St. Patrick's Day

March 18-20th - Working on obtaining archival materials for the documentary

March 21-22nd - Back to filming in Hanford, CA.

Just so everyone knows: I may dodge commitments and break promises, but damnit! - at least I'll have a barely satisfactory list of excuses to cover my ass. Gosh, I just realized I that with that attitude I would be a wonderful asset to the Treasury Department!

OK, we'll keep this ridiculous train a-ridin' tomorrow, hopefully.

Even if i don't, I can assure you a damn good excuse.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Da Sears

So, seeing as how I felt the shockwaves all the way out here in LA-LA, no doubt everyone knows about the announcement that floored the Chicagoland and Northwest-Indiana area today.

My first response was much like Roddy Rod when he got the call from the Feds: "Is this a joke?"

But reports on, and phone confirmation confirmed it all.

They are going to change the name of the Sears Tower to Willis Tower.

Okay, so what I'm going to say next will no doubt cause similar shock, anger, and vitriol directed at me for being 'out-of-touch', for having gotten too much sun, or maybe, finally, truly, 'gone Hollywood'.

The thing is: I'm not that upset.

Saddened, yes. Defensive, a little. Outraged, no. As much as I usually really don't like him, columnist Eric Zorn made a decent point today about everything. Because here's the thing, having a great and deep love for this city and its landmarks I knew that Sears hasn't been the primary occupier of the Sears Tower since the mid-1990's. I also know that in this economy downtown occupancy rates have been steady, with a few new building getting put on hold or stopped completely, so its very nice to hear that big businesses are still interested in investing in the Loop, in Chicago.

And, let's be honest, and maybe this is my inner "Glen Ellyn-ness" coming in, but, when was the last time you went to Sears? I mean, if you need tools: go to Home Depot, if you need trusted brand clothing at great values: Marshall's or the outlet mall, and if you just want to feel bad about yourself, then head to Denny's!

I'm not happy about it, and I'm not saying it won't make me sad to see the giant SEARS TOWER sign on Wacker get changed, but we should all see the silver lining which is that Chicago is a city constantly changing, growing, expanding.

Chicago is at a very important crossroads as a city right now. We'll find out in just 203 days whether Chicago will be chosen to host the Olympics in 2016. We are the home (like him or not) of a sitting U.S. President, and a damn internationally popular one at that. In recent years we've seen the city undertake new construction like Millennium Park, Trump Tower, and the soon-to-be finished Chicago river walk.

Even though Chicago grew mightily out of its catalogue-selling big department stores like Sears and Marshall Field's, that's not who we are anymore (though THAT I am still pissed about, don't ask me why: %#!* Macy's). Listen, the mail-order catalogue is on the outs, the steel mills are closed and the only thing that's left of the mighty stockyards is the famous limestone gate. But WE are still here, because Chicago is a constantly changing and evolving entity - that's what makes us great.

And, hey, it could be worse. "Willis" ain't too bad. It's got an elegance to it (short of the Different Strokes gags, which have to be exhausted at some point). It could be stupid ole' L.A. where people don't even know the names of the buildings that dot their pathetic skyline [The really tall building in downtown L.A. is the US Bank building, and gaudily bears the name of that bank on its crown]. And let us REALLY count our blessing that we are only losing a name. The skyline remains the same, as we've seen how even that cannot always be a certainty due to the fanatical evil that permeates our time.

The Sears Tower will still stand, tall and proud. It's skydeck will still be available to anyone who want to recreate a favorite moment from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It's antennae will still be like a giant barometer for the heart of the city, turning green on St. Paddy's; red, white and blue on the 4th; and orange and blue on those very rare occasions when the Bears stumble their way into the playoffs (by the way, if we are going to get outraged about something in Chicago, how about the failure of Jerry Angelo to get us a real QB or of Pax to just about screw up everything?)

So though this occurence this summer will be sad, let's not get too down. We are still the "Stormy, Husky, Brawling, City of the Big Shoulders".

I do take solace that the label of this great building is forever immortalized in an SNL sketch when the Superfans were discussing New York vs. Chicago, and - as was often the case - a question was posed:

-Would you radder have da Empire State Building or da Sears Tower?



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Clutch = Dutch?

Having been busy lately with shooting and editing my directing project (now finished, thank God) and keeping up with the documentary, I've been doing my best to keep up with the goings-ons in the wide world of sports, but this weeks there have been two items that stand out. They are related by 2 factors: they both featured a clutch performance, and both further depressed me as a Chicago sports fan.

The first is Dwayne Wade's crazy winning shot against the Bulls in, what, double overtime? I mean, for me, right now, pretty much ANYTHING that I see about the Bulls depresses me (they lost again, by the way, helping the Orlando Magic clinch a playoff spot).

The second is the Netherlands surprising upset of the Dominican Republic. Now, at first, I thought this was great. What an awesome Cinderella story to give some spice to the WBC! But then I saw that the victory came at the expense of Carlos Marmol - a one-time unhittable Cubs reliever who has more recently shown some chinks in the armor. What's so disturbing is that if you watch the final innings it looks almost exactly like a typical Cubs meltdown.

Uusally, I can wait til Opening Day to even think about getting disappointed. Glad the WBC could freak me out early. Thanks Bud Selig! jackass.


Hard Day's Night

I hate to just complain (no, wait, I LOVE to complain) sometimes about film school. I am aware that most people are dealing with much greater issues and problems, especially in this economy - (a phrase which, by the way, deserves its own blogpost soon). That all being said, I'd like to briefly complain.

I love that USC constantly harps on us as student filmmakers for making sure we are always safe, and never working our actors too hard, having at least a 12 hour turnaround on shooting schedules, and then gives us workloads, classes, and expectations that flip those notions on their head.

I had my directing class tonight which runs from 7pm to 10:30pm. You'd think that 7-10 is enough, but I guess not. In fact, since the teacher will just talk and talk and and the SA doesnt say anything and we go 5 or 10 minutes over. Now its almost 11 o-clock. This all might be okay, except that I've got a class tomorrow morning that usually starts at 9 am BUT, oh happy happy joy joy, we're starting at 8:30 am because there's SO much to go through. AND that class is supposed to end at 11:50 am (it NEVER does), and usually can go to 12:05 or 12:10. Thank God my producing teacher usually lets us start 15 to 30 minutes later and always makes sure we finish on time. I guess thats one thing thats nice about being a producer - people can argue cuts and angles and sound and subjects and choices, but no one can argue with the location of the hands of a clock.

Which, as I can see, are waaaaayy too late for someone who needs to wake up in, like, 5 hours.



Monday, March 9, 2009

Dungeons and Hard Drives

Greetings from the annals of USC's post-production, located in the basement of the new Cinematic Arts building. This facility has quickly picked up the nickname "the dungeon" because of its subterranean location and endless blank hallways, from which there is little escape.

It's a real shame, since our last post-production building, though older and less technologically superior, was at least above ground level, and one could easily see daylight when taking a break. Now, with all the editing computers in the windowless basement, its like a casino where you lose all sense of time, weather, and the outside world in general. Its depressing, soul-sucking, and another little complaint on top of the large pile of petty problems with our fantastic new building.

Almost done, I'll be glad when I'm be out of here.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Quantity over Quality

[So as I try and keep up with a post-a-day, these things will often be shorter, but more frequent. Obviously, there's a trade-off. I'm still not sure which manner of posting I prefer.]

Currently in the process of editing a scene that I shot yesterday for my Intermediate Directing class. What we had to do is pick an already published work that is not a movie and find a short scene (so, essentially either from a play or adapting part of a book or short story) and rehearse and shoot it w/ actors.

I, by more luck than anything else, came across a very well-written little play called "Lip Service" from a scribe named Howard Korder (any theater people may be familiar with his most popular play - Boy's Life).

Anyway, its a really funny play, the scene I picked takes place in a bar and we shot it on location at a bar in Santa Monica. Have mentioned my love of bars? Hell, I'm even starting to warm to bars out in L.A. a little bit.

A little bit.

Shooting went well, editing now, talk to y'all later,


Saturday, March 7, 2009


So, I usually shy away from movie reviews on the blog, but since I'm trying to do a post a day I've got to do something to fill the time. (The 40 days of blogging has yet to garner any response from any of the 3 readers, making me assume that the long hiatus has pushed them over to the empty promises of

I dunno 'bout in Chicago, but here in La-La, Watchmen is being heavily pushed, almost like a summer blockbuster. It seems the whole town is interested in how this film will open (BIG) and if it will sustain anything.

Since I don't want to get into my own thoughts on the movie (which I "watched" tonight), I will defer to this review from the New York Daily News (or the Daily Snooze, to some Post-leaning Manhattanites), which pretty closely sums up my opinions on this, the first big movie of 2009.


Friday, March 6, 2009

The Hills

So, just as a little update since I've been away from the blog. In addition to producing this documentary about carousels and merry-go-rounds, I've also managed to get a nice little internship.

It's for a production company founded by Ivan Reitman (the comedic genius who produced Animal House and directed Ghostbusters). It's called the Montecito Picture Company and has recently produced such comedy flicks as Old School, Road Trip, and - a personal favorite of mine - Euro Trip. "Oh no, we're in .....Eastern Europe"

For the most part a lot of what I do is reading scripts or books and submitting coverage on them, essentially summarizing the story so that execs don't have to read 121 pages of crap. Occasionally, I'll make runs to get coffee, lunch, ect.

It's fun, and one of the coolest things is that the office is in Beverly Hills, which, up until now, was an area I only went to when someone visited and wanted to see Beverly Hills. Now, though, I work in 90210 two times a week, and am finding out a few things about the neighborhood.

Namely, it's expensive. Very, very expensive.

It's also kind of boring. I know I should be seeing celebs everywhere but I think I just kind of suck at celeb spotting. I need to, like, hang out with a guy fromTMZ or something and hone my stargazing because right now I don't think I could find Brad Pitt at an Ugly Convention.


(get it? because he'd stick out sense he's handsome? eh?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The 40 / 40 Club

The guilt, the guilt, oh Lord: the guilt!

I have indeed been panged with the big "G" these past few days, weeks. Okay, this whole month.

But whaddaya expect? That's what happens in Lent.

Kidding. (not really) But I have felt really guilty because I have not written anything on the blog since the beginning of February. And I could make excuses, (like about how I'm producing a documentary, and am responsible for coordinating crew schedules, making plans with locations, getting permits, making travel arrangements, and keeping the director on track) but I'm not going to, because excuses don't make for worthwhile reading.

Indeed, the writer's guilt I feel is multiplied two-fold now that I, being the good Catholic boy that I am, am in the self-shaming period of Lent: a time when us Catholics prepare for the coming of the Risen Lord, fast in order to bring us closer to God, and grumble about having to pass on burgers or steaks on Fridays.

You may then be wondering what small-but-significant vice I am giving up for these 40 days and 40 nights, an especially good question considering the wide array to choose from...

Will I be passing on pop? (specifically, Coca-Cola?) Maybe, cutting out candy? Finished with fats? A cessation of Cinemax? A moratorium on mini-cigars? Or, probably the most ambitious, a personal prohibition on alcohol until April 12th?

Well, here's the thing....none of that's going to happen. Sorry. Film school is stressful enough without me pulling my hair out b/c I can't have a beer with friends or relax with mini-Ashton. Besides, I'm not sure God would be that proud of me biting everyone's head off just cause I didn't have a Coke with lunch.

I will say that throughout Lent I am continuing my New Year's Resolution of no fast-food* and, I've decided that in lieu of denying something from myself I am going to give of myself, to you, my friends, family, and random bored people on the internet. (Wow, if that's not a sin of pride, I don't know what is..)

Since I feel so bad about screwing up the whole of February, I am going to post SOMETHING, anything, on this blog every single day of Lent (which, is actually more than 40 days from Ash Wed to Easter Sun, but whose counting, right? Seriously, who? The Vatican? Bene XVI? God? non-partial Jewish accountants?). But the idea seems appropriate, especially since it will simultaneously culminate with Easter and my coming home (briefly) to Chicago for the Holy Weekend.

AND, since Lent started 7 days ago when I got ash'd up, I've got some making up to do. But, since I don't have the time/energy to go back and recount what I would have written the past 7 days, I'm just going to give a quick buffet of the entire past month since my last post.

I'll be honest, one of my favorite things about the blog is coming up with the post titles, so I present to you, with apologies to David Lettermen:


7. Horsin' Around (and Round)

6. The Road to Hanford

5. Jai-Ho!

4. Sandy Eggo

3. He's Just Not that into Bad Chick Flicks

2. P's and C's

1. Hooray for Mannywood!

See you tomorrow! (and the day after tomorrow.......and the day after that, and the day after that....)


*I mean chain fast-food, greasy burger stuff like McDonalds, BK, Wendys, Carls Jr, Jack-in-the-Box, In-n-Out, and others. Absolved from this field are any Chicago-based fast food, such as Portillo's, Giordano's, Flips, ect.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Months Beginning with 'Feb'"


Yeah, so it's been some time since the last post, but, hey, I've been a little busy, okay?

Besides, what's happened since Jan 19 anyway? The Steelers won the Superbowl...AGAIN, Kate Winslet was nominated for an Oscar....AGAIN, the Governor of Illinois left his office in disgrace......(sigh)...AGAIN.

So, see, there hasn't been that much new news to peruse.

The doc is going well. It's obviously eating up a lot of my time and energy, but its good: I like staying busy. Still have time to keep up with some of the favorite shows and maybe even grab a drink every now and then. I was able to squeeze in a hockey game last week at the Staples Center: Blackhawks and Kings.

Hawks lost, making me 0-2 in 2009 for Blackhawk games.

Listen, hockey gods, I didn't jump on this bandwagon and start kinda learning the players names (Toews? Toes? Thames?) just so I could root for another team that's going to consistently break my heart. I get enough of that from the Big 3 sports as it is. Say what you want about NASCAR but at least Jimmy Johnson wins Nextel Cups.

Anyway, that's my own little problem we'll deal with later.

Speaking of Chicago, I was saddened to see that there was a fire at Holy Name Cathedral. Thank you-know-who that the fire didn't spread much or hurt anyone, but its a shame since I knew they had just finished a long renovation.

Outside of St. Petronille's, I'd say Holy Name is my hometown church. I've been to plenty of masses there since going to classes downtown at Loyola and obviously with our family spending so much time downtown its become a bigger part of our lives. Luckily, the damage was mostly to the roof and some inside water damage, but it seems the main structure of the Cathedral is still intact.

Reminds me of when I was in Cologne (coming on four years ago, now) and you'd see pictures of the town in ruins but the Cathedral standing tall. And nothing is stronger than a Chicago Cathedral, as Cardinal George said "Chicago has bounced back from fires before, and we'll bounce back from this".

Anyway, heard also that there's some better weather coming CHI's way thsi weekend so I hope everyone gets a relief from the wintery-winterness thats been going on. Out here there's some rain in the forecast for the weekend (of course the rain in LA is about as intense as when the turn on the sprinklers at the gorilla house in Brookfield Zoo).

It's about time.

All these clear skies and 80 degree weather was starting to give me a sunburn.

Just kidding.*

Hope February gets off to a good start and I'll talk to y'all later.

*I always wear sunscreen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Year, New Building, New .....LICENSE?!?

If you don't think I look very happy in that picture, you're right. With most of my miles being logged in the USA's 31st state and a few close calls with the fuzz, getting a California driving license has become an unfortunate necessity.

And rip on me all you want for disobeying my Illi-loyalty, but if that frame was a bit wider you would have clearly seen I was wearing a Cubs shirt.

Yes, it has now been officially over one year since I started this little blog, and I have to say its been a good spot of fun so far. Now, 2009 is off and rolling and the business is going to keep on keeping on. I've got more on my plate this semester than John Madden at Superbowl party (by the way, the Arizona Cardinals?!? in the Superbowl?!? I will say I'm happy for Kurt Warner) and couldn't be more excited/nervous.

So in case you didn't know, this semester I'm going to be producing a documentary. The doc is associated with a class at USC called 547 (for anyone interested, the narrative films are called 546). It's called "Round and Round" and it is about carousels and incredible following of collectors, enthusiasts, and aficionados for these horse-laden amusement rides. (If this is news to you, just google "carousel collection" or visit and see the world I'm about to enter). The documentary was pitched by our director, a very cool girl (a few semesters ahead of me) named Liz and picked to be made (3 are made out of a pool of 7 or 8) by a board of faculty. I was not on the project originally, but was lured in by some friends already on board and decided to jump in because of the incredible amount of knowledge and experience I've heard one can gather producing a 547 doc.

I'll have creative input, but mostly that is left to the director, and as a producer its my job to do the paperwork, set the plans, manage the budget, ect, ect. I've already learned a ton about producing (and even more about carousels) in just my first week back, and I'm pretty sure I've got quite a crazy semester in store.

Plus, I'm really waiting for someone to ask "How's the carousel doc going?" to which I can straight-facedly reply "Oh, it's up and down".

By the way, if you think that joke is the extent of carousel related humor you are sorely mistaken.

Also new this year is the SCHOOL OF CINEMATIC ARTS BUILDING on campus. It's our shiny brand NEW BUILDING made possible by donations from GEORGE LUCAS and STEVEN SPIELBERG. If you think the boldfaced capital letters are unnecessarily big and attention-grabbing, that pretty much sums up the design and architecture of the NEW BUILDING.

By the way, I'd like to show some picture from the grand-opening party, but a certain brother of mine (hint: not Joey) misplaced my digital camera back in Chicago, but you can check out the USC website for a brief sense of the NEW BUILDING.

Hey, I'm not complaining. It's pretty awesome to have the coolest, most extravagant classroom facilities on campus, but do you think Spielberg and Lucas could have shown some restraint?

Oh right, I forgot who we're talking about....

Hey, I'll be honest: I didn't mind the aliens. It was just everything else in the movie that sucked.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. By the way, with this semester looking even busier than last, I may be changing the blog a bit--shorter posts, more posts about little things in LA or just pop culture, news, sports, Bill Hupp. If there is a big outcry to hear the details of the doc filming please let me know, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that most of y'all are not terribly interested in Gustav Dentzel and the Philadelphia Style of carousel carving OR how USC's doc budget allocation is divided into three different categories that must be organized on an Excel spreadsheet.

But, hey, if that kind of stuff gets your motor running please let me know and I will elaborate in great, great detail.

Or, better yet, how'd you like to produce a documentary over the next 4 months?