Sunday, February 21, 2010

Always Coca-Cola

Well, coming off USA's AMAZING win over the Canadians in Olympic hockey I'm afraid to drop a little bad news for all out there in BlogLand.

"REDNEZVOUS", my Coke commercial, did not win the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmakers Award.

The award went to "Message in a Bottle", a USC spot that was directed/produced by very good friends from my semester.

Now, of course, this is a disappointment as it would have been INCREDIBLE to win. But, as far as the competition goes, I thought we put a great commercial together and it just wasn't what Coke was looking for. We all knew what commercial we set out to make and that's what we did.

Furthermore, I am extremely proud of the final product and can't imagine making any other spot in the same position so I don't think I would have done anything differently and have no regrets.

Just the opposite, in fact. After getting over the initial news I had to step back and reflect on what a great ride it had been. I have ALWAYS loved Coca-Cola and to get a budget from Coke to direct a commercial that I pitched them was a fantastic experience. The evening I found out I went to my humidor, grabbed a cigar, and smoked it in my "yard" and just thought about how lucky I was...this was certainly something I wouldn't have foreseen when I first traveled out here two years ago.

Now, in the wake of the news I was a little bummed, and when Ash Wednesday snuck up on me I must confess I flirted with the idea of giving up Coke for Lent. For years I've heard about the negative effects Coke can have on the body and thought "Hey, maybe this is a sign that I should give up Coke, perhaps I'll find I get along without it just fine and wont need to drink it ever again."


That thought lasted about as long as Cubs momentum in the playoffs!

Coca-Cola has always and will ALWAYS be a part of who I am. I have changed a lot over the years, and some things have fallen by the wayside (oh Jagerbombs and MSNBC...what fond memories we had!) but there's a few things that are integral, that may very well be weaved into my very DNA, and I'm pretty sure the refreshing beverage in the bright red can from Atlanta is one of them.

It is so delicious. So familiar. So...AMERICAN, that I don't even want to think of a Mark Kosin who doesn't like a refreshing Coca-Cola. That guy would probably be an asshole.

I will be forever grateful to Coke for the opportunity to direct this commercial. And just cuz the contest is over doesn't mean this thing will sit under my bed next to "Chhk chhk BOOM and a Happy New Year" and collect dust. This baby's still got legs and I'm exploring the options to keep RENDEZVOUS out there (in festivals or on my reel or whatever) to squeeze out every bit of potential.

Not to mention it gets to stay on the CCRFA website for at least a year, so that's pretty cool.

Oh, and also, if anyone has any thoughts or comments there's no need to feel the impulse to tear apart "Message in a Bottle" or some of the other commercials.

After breaking the news I've had some anonymous friends say the winner was the worst. Well, if that's the case, how does that make me feel better? That I lost to a shitty commercial?

In the same vein, I'm FB friends with the winners and some had posts on their wall to the tune of "All the other commercials sucked". Does that make them feel good? Like, "Hey, good thing you faced a really weak pool of candidates! A 50 second movie of a llama chewing on a Coke can could have beaten that field of losers!"

Not a big deal, just something I kinda observed. I thought "Message" was one of our toughest competitors and I was right.

Though I do wonder what the "judges" were thinking. I wonder if it was close?

As far as I'm concerned, I'm going to imagine they broke down into a "12 Angry Men" style stalemate...logging late hours and going through case after case of cigarettes and Coca-Cola...until, at long last, they finally reached a painstaking decision. Only those in the room will know how close it was.

Hmmm...probably not. But, you never know. The thing to do now is focus on my writing and other endeavors and keep preparing myself for the inevitable cliff coming my way at the end of this year.

Hey, if things ever get too hot, there's always Coca-Cola.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"No More Ash" Wednesday

Is it me, or does Ash Wednesday sneak up earlier and earlier each year?

Now, don't worry for my soul or anything, I didn't forget. Was able to catch the noon liturgy at USC's Bovard Auditorium and got my ashes. Looked pretty good, actually. A far cry from some AW's at St. Pet's or Benet when the dispensers, in a rush to get through the entire student body before losing control of the mob, would leave me with a wonderful cross-shaped smudge. It looked more like a fly had spontaneously combusted on my forehead instead a symbol of repentance and faith.

It is interesting getting the ashes here in L.A., especially at USC. Since I went to Catholic grade school, Catholic high school, and a Jesuit college (jokes? oh, I've got jokes) its been pretty well assumed (by me) that a lot of people get ashes on Ash Wednesday. But at the University of Southern California there are no brothers or fathers running around teaching and the Catholics are a bit of a, dare I say, minority?

(Actually, they're not, at least not in LA, which has about a 40% Catholic population, which is pretty much where Chicago's at. I thought Chicago had a bigger Catholic population, but then I saw the numbers and remembered the whole "bonus" population living here in Los Angeles - crippling the state government but too integral to the state economy to remove! Welcome to Cali-fornia!)

Of course, many of my classmates, especially in the Cinema school, are not Catholic. Can you guess what is a prominent religion among my peers? Peers in HOLLYWOOD?

If you guessed Unitarian, you'd be dead wrong!

Anyway, it was a kinda funny to do a little educating to those who weren't familiar with the Catholic faith, and acted as a reminder that I'm not in sweet home Chicago anymore (though the 75 degree temps should have already tipped me off).

Of course, the big question is always "What you give up for Lent?" and, in all honesty, I usually don't give up stuff for Lent, and instead try to focus on giving something BACK.

Yeah, anyway, this year I decided to cut the bull**** and give up cigars.

Since my schedule isn't too insane this year I'm thinking this will be a reasonable, but difficult, challenge. I certainly don't want to make promises I can't keep and have a repeat of last year's broken Lenten promise to all of y'all. I also know myself too well to try and give up something crazy like booze, TV or Facebook.

Especially Facebook. I've got a bit of an obsessive habit with it and kinda need to stop putzing around on it so much and spend more time writing. But its such a valuable communication device these days that giving up the FB would be like giving up your cell phone or...or....your vocal chords! You wanna give up your vocal chords? No? GOOD! Then I don't need to give up Facebook!

So, yeah, delicious, robust cigars are out until Easter. Though if I do sin (nobody's perfect) nothing that a quick confession can't take care of!

Man, its got it issues, but I continue to dig Catholicism to this day. Now, if only it had a symbol that was a little happier....something that really POPS...


Friday, February 12, 2010

Bloody Sunday

With respects to U2

Love-filled shows on TV all week.
Valentine's can make it hard to sleep.
Should I text or should I call?
Should I put a post up?
A post up on her Facebook wall?

Sunday, Bloody Sunday...

is Valentine's Day. And my Valentine's Day gift to you, close friends and random internet people, is something very rare: my personal life.

Easy! Now I'm not saying MGH is going Redtube or anything, but one of my resolutions for this blog in 2010 was to get a little more in-depth, a little more personal, in hopes of becoming a better writer. And what better opportunity to open up a bit of one's heart than the heartiest (?) of holidays.

I suppose this is my first year in Cali that I've really given much thought to ole' Feb 14. Back in 2008 I was so caught up in being in LA and USC that I barely noticed the day of days or thought about anything besides making movies, and on V-Day a bunch of my (then new) friends and I went to some anti-Valentine's Day bar party and got really boozed up and could barely remember where I lived, let alone what day it was.

And last year I was in crazy production mode again for the documentary. And in 2009 I was fortunate to actually have some company of a romantic persuasion and wasn't particularly worried about the hated Hallmark holiday.

But, alas, it seems this year its been pretty inescapable. All my favorite TV comedies had Valentine's-themed shows this week. I've got a good number of friends in relationships, some of them even MARRIED, and there's no crazy production schedule to keep my mind off of things. In fact, since this is kind of my big writing semester, I've been spending even more time than usual in my own head; which is a terrible place to be this time of year.

Now I don't want to get too much into the specifics of what kind of relationships I've had over the last few years, mostly because I'm a more of the traditional gentleman's mindset, which is to say a gentleman never kisses and tells (unless he's had a lot of whiskey and something crazy/sick/amazing happened).

I'm also just not as good when it comes to describing things of an intimate nature, and usually end up using a ridiculously over-complicated baseball euphemism in terms of the play-by-play of how an evening went down. Like the time I was out with a girl and I thought I had an easy home run or at least a base hit but got burned on an ugly check swing that was ruled strike three by the first base umpire.

What does that even mean?

In any case, if you couldn't tell, I've had a bit of birds on the brain lately. Part of that was the fact that in Sundance, almost every f'ckin movie was about some relationship gone south. Throw in the fact that in the past weeks and months I've been drinking with a few recently single (re: heartbroken) people and you've got yourself a cauldron of commiseration.

Now, I will say that my movie-mindedness puts me down a different path than the average guy on the street. Many a weekend have passed where I've had late nights ... working on set. Or spent an intimate evening ...with Avid editing software. Needless to say, filmmaking is a very time and energy consuming endeavor and, even when the cameras are away and I'm out celebrating a wrapped shoot, I'm usually more inclined to relax and drink with my friends than go five rounds of clever conversation with a table of pretty girls and THEN find out they all have boyfriends.

But 2010 is a big year, a year I expect to be different, and one I'd really like to get as much out of as possible, and part of that is going to be continuing to play the field. (Dating field, not the baseball field, I'm trying to cut down on the sex-baseball analogies)

At least I'm not bitter, or not too bitter, yet. I've had the pleasure of knowing some really nice girls on my 25 years on this earth and I try to remember the bright side of things and not get hung up if things ended poorly. Course, there's also the handful of girls that I probably didn't treat so well and any heartbreak that comes my way may still be a little deserved.

I have realized that being single is still pretty fun, something to be cherished while I'm still young and all that. But the mind doth wander into Relationshipsville from time to time, because, being the sucker and romantic that I am, I do believe there's at least one other person out there that can bring nine innings of happiness. I'm not sure who that is for me, but I could give you one idea about where this mystery Ms. Right may hail from, and it ain't Los Angeles. Most likely a Midwestern city...something bigger than St. Louis or Milwaukee, a place with a lot of sports teams, and maybe its on a lake. Who knows?

Anyway, I'd better put the brakes on this love train before it heads straight into Schmaltzilvania. But I'm not going to leave you, my bartender-position assuming readers whose ears I have bended, without a little token of my feelings for you:

"You...Choo-choo-choose me?"

One of my favorite episodes, and just what the doctor ordered for any achy-breaky hearts.

-"Mr. Simpson, the tar fumes are making me nauseous.."
-"Yeah, they'll do that."

Hope everyone was able to stomach this sample-sized portion of my inner-type thoughts that usually stay cozily nestled behind a very thick wall of quips, quotes, laughs and jokes.

Next post I promise I'll be back to my L.A.-hating, Chicago-worshiping, Cub-obsessed, whiskey-drinking, cigar-chomping regularly scheduled programming.

And as a parting gift here's a little SONG to go to all you lovers out there!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Commercial Appeal

Happy Super-Monday everybody and congrats to the New Orleans Saints for doing what the Chicago Bears could not do three years ago.

I am just coming out of a coma inspired by some Pacifico beer and the new, highly-touted Domino's pizza - which tastes a bit more like Little Ceasar's and has enough grease and fat to make Lance Armstrong lethargic, regardless of the beer he drinks.

The game was f'n great. What a decade this has been for Superbowls, starting way back in 2000 with Rams-Titans. I mean, they haven't all been close (coughBears) but we've had some pretty awesome finishes in the last ten years. Keep up the good work NFL, and we'll continue to overlook the widespread gambling and the long-term physical consequences to ex-players!

Of course, what a lot of Los Angelenos (RE: people who could care less about football) will be discussing tomorrow are the commercials. This year's crop was, in my opinion, mostly disappointing. I thought that the "Bud Light Auto-tune one" was the best, with a few others that were decent. In my eyes, however, nothing will ever compare to the Budweiser Lizards of '97.

That ad campaign was awesome for so many reasons, and really the number one reason was that it actually told a story. It was also great because it felt special, like these commercial could only exist during the Superbowl. I like commercials that have that "big" feeling to them, that make them stand out from the junk that usually clogs up my TV viewing experience.

Top-shelf celebrities, blockbuster-scale spectacle, and lots of laughs are what make up the best ads for the Big Game. Another commercial from my youth that comes to mind is the amazingly inappropriate Pepsi ad with Britney Spears and Bob Dole. I also always thought the Career Builder monkey ads were great: I mean they're monkeys! Working in an office!

Oh well, maybe we'll have a better couple next year. I guess the only way to really get anything done right is to do it yourself.

Which reminds me, I've been really thrilled with the response to the Coke commercial. Gotten a lot of great compliments and I want to thank everyone who watched it and gave feedback. At the end of the day, just getting people to watch your stuff is the best thrill there is. Of course, in a CLOSE second would be winning the grand prize, but we're still a few weeks away from finding out about that.

Its been a real thrill and I'm very proud of all the USC Coke ads. I've mentioned this before, but its still pretty amazing, that out of the ten finalists, SEVEN are USC projects. I have no idea where the other three came from, though I think one is UCLA. No matter how it all turns out, I'm pretty sure that the final winner will be Trojan.

Anyway, just wanted to share a few more pictures, especially ones of El Toro Marine base in Irvine, CA where we shot for two of the days.

This first one is our wrap photo, from when we finished on Sunday. Its funny because I actually bought champagne to celebrate but, since the last shot was that great shot of the ice-cold Coca-Cola bottles in the cooler, once we finished everyone just instinctively grabbed a Coke and I realized that was the perfect celebratory beverage for our production. (I ended up giving the champagne to some other friends later that evening who were celebrating the screening of films they had worked on all semester. We also then participated in a tradition that I don't think I have mentioned on this blog yet but will....someday)

Anyway, enjoy these pics from El Toro (click on 'em to view the full-size version):

Most of these pics are courtesy of our talented and funny dolly-grip. I started with a picture of the crew again, because I cannot emphasize enough how fantastic everyone was. Any compliments concerning the professional look of the commercial is all because of everyone who worked on the project.

Working with everyone at El Toro was especially fun because there is a slight military mentality to the way a set is run and when we had to hustle to get a shot off before the sun went behind the clouds it was so cool to see everyone rush to their posts so we could go in time. There are few things as cool as barking out orders to a team of people in a giant aircraft hanger, especially over walkie-talkies.

Having such a big crew was great but also posed challenges. Parking, at least for our first day at the theater in Long Beach, was tricky. The base was great because, as you can gather from the pics, there was ample parking (day or night!).

Also, anytime you have people working on a shoot you need to feed them, and when you have a lot of people you need to feed ALL of them. For one of the days, we were given a VERY VERY VERY generous donation from Le Grand Orange restaurant in Santa Monica. Le Grande Orange is actually part owned by the Melman brothers, sons of Richard Melman - founder of Lettuce Entertain You Inc. I had been to Le Grande Orange before for a Chicago-Hollywood party and knew they were pro-Chicago. I was able to pitch one of the managers on myself and the project and they were totally down to help out.

They gave us lunch one day to feed our entire cast and crew (about 40 people) plus plenty of good breakfast bagels and muffins to start the day. I'm so grateful to them and, on the few occasions when I do eat out for a good meal, I try and go there, and will always recommend them to everybody.

Now that RENDEZVOUS is online I can finally kinda turn my focus back to school stuff and other things, but I wanted to put up a few more pics and give a little more behind-the-scenes on how everything went down with Coke last December.

And, speaking of closing old chapters and looking to the future, with this NFL season in the books and basketball and hockey coming up on their mid-season breaks, its already time again to look to the warm fields of Arizona where a certain baseball team's pitchers and catchers are only a mere ten days away from reporting for duty.

Cubs ..... in .......twenty....... ten?

I'll buy that.

Monday, February 1, 2010

100 Day!

Well, its been almost two years and I've probably arrived at this point a little later than I would have liked to but, nevertheless, this is officially Mark's Gone Hollywood post # 100!

There's something about the century mark that just gets people excited, going back to "100 Day" at St. Pet's grade school in which we all had to turn in a project of some sort. I suppose the slim academic value in this was learning to count, but it usually just led to 30 kids with 100 of some tiny object glued to a poster, eventually losing a few on the bus making it more like "93 Pennies Day" or "82 M&Ms but I Ate the Rest Day".

In American politics "100" is like the king of numbers (and yes, I'm aware of the governmental non sequitur I've just committed and I don't care!). We've got 100 senators and everyone only cares about what a president can do in 100 days. We put our most beer-loving-est political figure on the $100 bill.

In entertainment 100 can be very important, especially if you're in television: 100 episodes means syndication, or should I say $YNDICATION! because once you're in reruns the money comes pouring in like MTV reality show contestants into a jacuzzi.

Does that mean that now that I've reached 100 I'm going to start rerunning old material? Just the same dated jokes about the failure of the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs or my occasional annoyance at the amount of driving I need to do in LA?


I mean...NOT AT ALL! Of course, I will continue to bemoan my favorite team's postseason failings and California's car-cancer, but this 100th post is a rejuvenating occurrence, beginning with the roll out of a BRAND NEW LOOK FOR THE BLOG!

Long-time readers will notice that the "look" has changed dramatically, most notably the new header (of my own design) which displays the two worlds in which I now live. Each element was carefully selected, and I'll give 100 MGH Points* to anyone who can correctly identifies every element of the picture. *Points NOT redeemable outside of the Federated States of Micronesia.

But, in a rare bit of seriousness, reaching 100 posts has made me look back and discover what a great joy its been to write and made me regret slacking off as much as I have in recent months. I may have, from time to time, insisted upon a wealth of reader comments (some requests have come as recently as last week's post).

For that I should apologize. Just the fact that people have been out there reading what I've been writing and, for the most part, ENJOYING it is an amazing reward. Hell, I can't believe I've even got some readers who don't even know me, but just keep up on the blog to hear about life at USC. How do they stand the constant references to deep dish pizza and Old Style beer? Hell if I know.

BUT all this means that in 2010, or TWENTYTEN as I love to call it, I'm going to have a renewed commitment to this blog. Every writer of value I've talked to says that writing every day is essential to getting better at writing, and how many people are lucky enough to have an audience for their random idiotic musings? (I mean, besides Jay Leno)

One of my good writer/blogger friends (and one of the earliest followers of this blog) taught me that the best writing often comes from the most personal place, and that will be a lesson I hope to employ this year. With 2010 being my third and FINAL year at USC film school, and with the real world precariously hovering over me like one of the spaceships at the start of Independence Day, I'm gonna be pretty honest and say that there is a good part of me that is scared shitless. Sans for seven months in 2007 when I temporarily worked at Second City's box office in between graduating Loyola Chicago and starting at USC I've been enrolled in academia since my folks dropped me off at Montessori School in Glen Ellyn way back in, what, like the 1980's?

So, I'm going to do my best to keep y'all along for the ride as I round out my time at USC and take that off-ramp exit into Adultland...which actually sounds more like a giant porn store than a metaphor for my entrance into the professional sphere....I'll work on that.

But we will travel together, much like we did way back when in Post #2 chronicling my big drive out to Los Angeles. On this road-trip we will share together in the beautiful vistas, in the bumps and tricky turns, and in the disastrously under-maintained roadside restroom stops.

And the first stop in this new journey is an exciting one, because just as I had hoped, my Coca-Cola commercial is on-line in time for the 100th post!

Now, I'm a little upset because, as of now, the powers that be at Coca-Cola (a company I have always, and will always shower with love and affection) have misspelled the title of our film in the title card for the commercial, RENDEZVOUS. Not a big deal, I'm sure they'll fix it or something. Didn't want anyone to get confused. I KNOE HOW TO SPELLE, OKAIY?

Anyway, here's the link:

Click on "2010 Finalists". Mine is "RENDEZVOUS".

I'm going to try and put up a full post about Coke next, because it was one of the coolest things I've ever been able to do in my life, and it went by so fast that its worth another look.

Thanks for reading, especially those who've been there since post numero uno. Hopefully you'll be there for the next 100 posts, or maybe the next 1,000? I'm game! I wanna keep riding this train as long as I can (wait, I thought we were working with a road trip metaphor?) and I'm forever grateful to any and all passengers on board.