Friday, March 26, 2010

Good CHI-brations

Alright. Well, I'm back in LA (have been for a while) and guess its time to get back Los Angeles hobbies, which include blogging on MGH, wearing sunglasses more than is remotely necessary, and ignoring the giant cloud of pollution that hangs over this crazy city on a daily basis!

So, pretty much the first order of business since I've been back on the West Coast is preparing for my intermediate directing project that I'm planning to shoot the last two weekends of April.

For the intermediate directing class, called 533 (again with the numbers!), we are supposed to shoot a "sequence of scenes" - essentially a collection of 3-5 scenes that link together to form a cohesive arc. A simple exercise for class.

That's what we are SUPPOSED to do. However, for many reasons that I won't get into, the class has expanded a bit and people essentially shoot 10-20 min short films that they have high hopes for. People get all kinds of crew and equipment and the whole thing becomes kind of a big deal.

Anyway, I have slightly more modest expectations for my film this semester. It's an excerpt from a feature-length script I have been writing. The script (for those who I didn't talk to this about over green beer while in Chicago) is called "Tom Needs a Drink".

The basic hook is that it's about a guy - "Tom" - who, coming off a stressful week at the office, wants nothing more than to just go out for a night of drinking with one of his best friends. However, Tom's simple dream gets more complicated when a couple of girls that the guys knew in college come to town and a series of unfortunate events keep Tom from getting even a sip of alcohol.

The story is set in Chicago and I'm trying to give the whole thing a "one crazy night" structure in the vein of AFTER HOURS, HAROLD AND KUMAR, or SUPERBAD. The feature script is.... well....let's just say its a work-in-progress.

BUT I've lifted some of my favorite scenes from the feature script to make a pretty cool short film that I'll be directing for my "533".

Anyway, I've been casting and getting crew together for the last few days. It's been especially kind of interesting because I'm going to ATTEMPT to do a little recreation of our fair city of Chicago in the "chameleon" city of Los Angeles. There is nothing better than shooting on location in Chicago, but trying to do "LA for Chicago" has made me think more about what makes Chi-town so distinctive.

Just starting the location process now so will keep you posted on how it all goes, and if I have even the slightest chance of being able to pull this off.

Oh, why did I write for a scene to take place on an "L" car? I'm already screwed!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Greetings from beautiful terminal 76D!

Yes, its been a busy two weeks and I’ve finally found some time to type away since my flight home’s been delayed, not because of snow or terrorist threat, but by “Air Traffic Control”. I’d really like one of my pilot buddies to shine some insight as to what that means, because right now I’m assuming it’s the airports way of saying “the boys in the tower had a little too much fun at LAXXX last night”.

In addition to being delayed, I’m also typing along with glittery fingers. My hands were feeling a little dry after getting through security and I decided to swing into the BodyWorks and steal a little moisturizer…it was only after I’d applied two generous amounts from the in-store sampler that I discovered I had used the “shimmering” coconut cream. So now my hands look like I spent all night making a glitter-covered birdfeeder out of popsicle sticks. Or it looks like I had too much fun at LAXXX last night.

Anyway: last two weeks = busy. The past two weekends I was knee-deep in shooting, as I was producing a friend’s short film for our Directing Intensive class (aka 533). We’re pulling a little quid pro quo, as he’ll be producing my 533 short film in a few weeks. Just a little scheme we cooked up in Sundance: no big deal.

Besides that, though, one of the more interesting things to go down in this past fortnight was my appearing on stage at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater for a little improvised comedy.

You see for the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking improv classes through UCB’s training center my class is IMPROV 101, to be exact). At UCB, when a class finishes an 8-week run of classes the “graduation” is a live comedy show for anyone who cares to watch (and pay $5).

The show went really well. I was really impressed with my classmates and even my own performance was a bit better than I thought it’d be (though I did have a bit of a rocky start). Our show was supposed to start with a suggestion from the audience, which spurns a “monologue” from one of the improvisers. The rest of the show is then the improvisers devising scenes from the funnier parts of the monologue. Okay, so our suggestion was “family meat”.

What the f***?

I’m not very good at monologues and didn’t want to kick things off, but a suggestion like that kind of threw everyone, but I had one idea pop into my head and ran with it, because I happen to know a FAMILY that sells MEAT.

So I told a little story about my favorite neighbors who own a farm and chatted a bit about some other goings on of certain cul-de-sac in good ole’ GE. It wasn’t the most coherent story, but I put out enough material to get the show going.

Like I said, the whole show ended up going pretty well AND was pretty well attended – which was a real nice surprise since our show started at 4:30pm last Sunday…when usually there’d be nothing else happening except that LAST Sunday there was a tiny event going on at 5 o’clock in Hollywood…some kind of 82nd Academy Awards or something. Whatever.

Yeah, our tiny little improv show had to go up against arguably the biggest entertainment event of the year. But we still had a great showing, and I was especially touched that a big group of my film school buddies, to whom the Oscars are essentially the Superbowl, attended.

So, yeah, the whole UCB experience was really good and I think I’m going to continue it to level 201, 301 and beyond. I must I am proud also because with my UCB class I have now been schooled in the three great comedy/improv institutions: Upright Citizens Brigade, iO (aka improvOlympic), and The Second City.

Ever since my amazing summer 2005 internship at Second City, I have been a devout follower of the United Church of Improv and Satire (if there actually was such an institution....of cours it would probably have to ridicule itself).

There are few things that I take absolutely seriously, but comedy is one of them. And these venerable institutions have been serving up comedy for twenty, thirty, and sixty years (UCB, iO, and Second City, respectively). Of course, it should come as no surprise (to those that don't already know) that all these places come from Chicago. [Second City and iO are still based there, and UCB in New York came out of improvisers from iO]

I could drone on and on about the whole history of improv and its many amazing techniques and games and legends and rising stars but I'm getting increasingly more miserable as this f***ing plane to Chicago gets increasingly delayed....why didn't I fly out yesterday to get back to CHI in time for kegs and eggs?

I can't sit here contently anymore. Its the Saturday before St. Patrick's, I've got my green shirt on, I need a goddamned drink!

(which, ironically, is the loose basis for a feature script I'm working on. life imitating art I suppose)

Anyway, that's it. See you all in Chicago, hopefully with a drunken smile, double fisting green beers.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gone "Hollywooder"

About a week ago I took a big step in my journey from well-mannered, middle-class guy from Chicago to becoming a big fat Hollywood phony.

Or should I say, iPhony?

Yes....due to some recent SIM card troubles with my trusty ol' Blackjack II, I recently went in search of a new phone. Took a look at the Blackberry, which is great, but as I saw many of my friends who had joined the ranks of iPhoneNation, I came to a moment where I could not help but hear the voice of the wise old Rafiki....

"It is time...."

And, like Simba must embrace who he is and roar for all the kingdom, I felt it was time that I embrace my sleek, hip, Hollywood lifestyle and purchase an iPhone.

It's the Circle of Life....

The damn thing is just so damn easy to use which, for a technologically impaired person like myself, is a must. Though it wasn't easy...there's something about the whole Apple operation that feels like its wrong. I had a similar feeling of uncertainty when I got my MacBook almost two years ago and have had nothing but satisfaction since then. Still, I kind of felt like a "sellout", but I went ahead with it anyway, like all the animals of the plains were waiting for me to make the purchase.

But after just one week, I gotta say: it's awesome.

And I've started to try to change my own impression of Apple. Once it seemed like the enemy until I realized something. Apple is an AMERICAN company. Apple should be no different than McDonald's or Coca-Cola when it comes to a brand that deserves my loyalty. I guess that since Apple is a little newer in my life that true dedication is still going to take some time.

(Speaking of American, how bout that hockey game? Was there anybody NOT watching it? I'm disappointed as an American but encouraged as a Chicagoan as Toews and Kane both shined in big pressure situations... )

Anyway, like I said, the iPhone purchase does feel like another item on the checklist of "going Hollywood". Even though tons of people in Chicago clearly carry the cute little pocket computer, its still got that slick "Cupertino, California" feel to it.

I know I certainly feel like a douchebag now that I join the people I used to make fun of. The people who, at any lull at any point in their day will whip that phone out and start facebooking or emailing or playing DrunkSniper or DoodleJump.

I HATE those people - they represent how technology divides us and saps us of real life experiences! What ever happened to enjoying the world around you?! Stopping to smell the ros-






Sorry. Just wanted to check the latest news on my iPhone's "Variety" seems the cast of "Glee" is going to make a concert tour this 'bout that?

What was I saying?

Ah yes: I love my new iPhone. But enough talking about it. It's my new toy and I'm happy but its time to move on and just let it stand as a quiet reminder that I'm drifting farther and farther away from the anti-cool guy who insisted on getting a landline for the the first two years of college just because I wasn't ready to embrace a cell-only lifestyle.

Anyway, this'll be the first and last of the iPhone related posts. I hope. I promise.

Happy March everyone!

Sent from my iPhone.