All posts by Chuck Westfield

I studied Theatre at the University of Louisville where I was a directing major and worked for four years at Belknap. I hung and struck lights, I was the prop master for 2 semester and did work-study constructing sets and costumes for 4 years. I welded MacBeth's castle and all of their weapons- battle axes, maces, swords, all these kinds of things. I went on to eat. I started a career supporting Information Technology because I was hungry. I also played alot of video games to distract me from this life. I got married, and then went to film school. Graduated with a writing directing degree and finished a marketing degree at Regis University. Right now I am completing all the tasks I think I need to do BEFORE I start making movies. Well, that and as I build facilities for a creature shop, this is that blog.

Where we left off…

Once upon a time I attended the University of Louisville and majored in the Theatre Arts. I was an actor, but after two semesters my portrayal of the  gentlemen caller Jim from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (a modern reference for non-theatre folk below)  was described as ‘a character villain at best’.

I must admit there might have been a Magneto of X-men sort of undercurrent to my scene work.

Waiting For Godot starring Magneto and Professor Xavier
Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot starring Magneto and Professor Xavier

From there I switched to directing and did my work-study in the scene and costume shops. I spent many semesters building and painting sets,  a few subbing in at the costume shop and as prop master. (I also hung and struck a few lights). Not to toot my own horn, but I landed in the graduate level directing classes by what should have been my junior year and received a multitude of accolades from a pretty serious theatrical town.

One of the things we’ve (my wife and I) decided to do this year, now that the house remodel is under control is to shift my energies into doing more creative work I once found fulfilling before  I got suckered into a career in Information Technology.

I  build sets, costumes, and props. I direct actors- God I love that more than anything. I always dreamed of doing so in motion pictures, but at the moment ripping up stakes dropping into Los Angeles and starting over isn’t very pragmatic.

Since directing requires more people and resources than I can muster at the moment, I’ll spend a bit of time this year building a working shop of my own and maybe take on  a few commissions.

The reference that references Glass Menagerie in it as promised (skip to 35 seconds):

A gentleman caller, hurray!

My air compressor died…

Poor Little Pancake
Poor Little Pancake. He died as he lived… screaming.

I had hooked up my little red pancake so that my wife could detail her car and get the little crumbs and fur out of the crevices for the shop vac. I was quietly enjoying a cigar as he raged his little motor when I spotted flame.  Then he sputtered and died. I drained the tank one last time.

First I looked up parts to replace. In the olden days, garage shops would disassemble and repair. The part in questions was $148, which was more than it would cost to replace him with a comparable model. Next stop, upgrade at a pawn shop. In looking, I found used tools that were either overpriced, or simply just too good to ‘be true’. Price point again (after haggling) $145, with possible failure or repair in an uncertain future.

Craigslist turned up bub-kiss.  Again overpriced, more machine than I will ever use and out of the price range.  In the end Harbor Freight delivered. I replaced it with 4 times the volume, which means less raging noise, and only went $20 beyond the replacement price. It also means I can run a paint gun, which was going to be sketchy at best with the poor little pancake.

New air compressor.
We shall call her Sarah-Connor. She wanted to live.

As we inch forward…

Just Keep Swimming
What do we do we swim, swim, swim

It’s funny how you feel like you get nothing done today, even though you’re incredibly productive.

Yesterday I got nothing done.

  • I cleaned the kitchen and did all the dishes.
  • I vacuumed all the stairs.
  • I vacuumed the bedrooms.
  • Disassembled shelving in my wife’s office.
  • I vacuumed the shards of fluorescent tubing that shattered in the shop the other day.
  • More importantly, I (with a sprained knee) walked my dogs.
  • Shopped for a new air compressor.
  • Shopped for a used shop vac.
  • Did a lumber inventory.
  • Read a 100 page manual for building a Proto-Vacuform.
  • Shopped for aluminum sheet metal.
  • Bought the last Harry Potter book we need to complete the set.
  • Fixed my photo printer.
  • And worked a full day at the day job.

What I wanted to do was magically finish the workshop. Buy materials for the Proto-Vacuform and finish the Alien Queen.  What that all felt like I was doing was: surfed the web, walked around, and did things no adult gets credit for doing. In the end, the best thing I did was walking the pups.

 

Marvel Goodness

Hulkbuster Armor
One of the most exciting concept drawings released for Avengers 2 ties right back to the stinger on Iron Man 3

I’ve made my way back through the Marvel Cinematic universe. On first impression Captain America: First Avenger was a disappointment. I’m not sure if I took Stanley Tucci’s on-screen death a little too hard, but initially it all fell apart the second the Hydra personal sub showed up. Turns out I simply didn’t like the montage (which was necessary to the story).

In any case. getting really excited about Winter Soldier. Having grown up during the Cold War it will be interesting to see how the adept team of storytellers Kevin Feige assembles adapt characters born in that period of world history to the modern post 9/11 world. It’s almost as if Putin were in on the marketing for the movie with his annexation of Crimea.  Are super hero movies relevant because they are possible through CGI or because they make sense of a world that is evolving so rapidly its more scary than we allow head space for?

What is story or why does my wife do all the grocery shopping?

There are days when I walk around and I don’t see humans; I see monkeys. It can happen as a cute blonde teenager passes by and her forearm is held in just the right way, soft blonde hair shining in the light, and from that point on – monkeys. I feel my own skull and the coarse black hair I inherited from my mother and think about the silver-back gorilla at the zoo. When this perceptual shift happens, I watch the world and the people in it. The people stop having mundane problems and are simply gathering food before it gets dark. They scurry through the cash register line chattering about what shiny objects celebrities have gathered, and where to get them. They go home to their boxes made of clay and sticks, light their hearths and sleep someplace safe.

It’s from these visions where I derive the answer to what is story. In its simplest form, story is the answer to why. Why don’t we go exploring at night? Once upon a time there was a jaguar that waited patiently at the edge of our grove. He can see better than we can, he can move faster than we can, and he has sharp teeth and claws. You can wander into the night if you like, but no one who has, comes back. Soon it became a little girl in a red cape, who shouldn’t talk to strangers. She went to grandmother’s house and met a wolf. He ended up eating her, swallowing her whole. Then it became the gang members who were out trolling for a kill on a Friday or Saturday night. They drive with their lights off, and if anyone flashes their high beams at them in a Good Samaritan fashion, they follow them home and murder them in their own beds.

Story is the bridge between instinct and wisdom in our experience. We have instincts that initially guide us from our primitive roots to the ability to pass on our experience to those that follow. A broken leaf on a trail tells a story to a hunter who is experienced in tracking. Does it tell him when the last deer came through? Was it being chased? Was someone else who is inexperienced and sloppy hunting it? A painting on a wall can capture a moment in time. It can express the inner emotion of the audience. It can draw out the emotion of the audience from centuries in the past. Story is communication for the purposes of explaining why things are the way they are.  Why do tears come when someone we love passes on? Why do they stop? Why are we afraid of the dark? Why do we look both ways before crossing the street?

We have dreams and we have feelings and they come to us at times without a frame of reference and without a guide. That is the purpose of story – to guide our species forward with lessons from the past. Someone else has had these feelings, has encountered a situation like the one someone is going through today, and has chosen to pass the answer or the partial answer forward so that you, the present man, can experience something new.

Where does your network begin?

Oprah- Most Powerful Person in Hollywood 2010

There’s some simple realities of the entertainment business, one of which is: It’s all about who you know. Some interpret that to mean it’s important to saddle up to Entertainment Weekly or Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful People in Show Business. That’s not really what people who are successful are talking about when they give that advice. There is a reason your eyes gloss over when people start name dropping- its because all of those people are inaccessible. They are outside of the reach your circle. I only get interested when I hear about someone I can actually meet and form a relationship with, like these guys-

A few months ago a buddy of mine, Ben, was coming home to Boulder, CO from his first year in LA. Originally, I was hoping to have a project ready to shoot for him, but as fate would have it I was attached only as the director and had no control over shoot dates. Instead, we simply made plans to have lunch on Saturday at our favorite sushi joint.

Meanwhile, in a small little haven of Littleton another good friend of ours, Lauren,  found herself in a bit of a pickle. You see her life had been consumed with teaching high school children how to tell stories with video in an awesome after-school program. They’d been shooting their final projects for weeks, and this was the third and last big shoot that required real actors. She had two of them lined up for this role (you have to be prepared).

Lauren somtimes goes by Lore

I was having a lazy Saturday morning, mowing the lawn and then taking a break between the front and back, checking my Facebook and Twitter accounts at my desk. I got an IM from Lauren.

Lauren: Hey are you there?
Chuck: yeah sure. (You see you have to play it cool as if you’ve always been there waiting for your friends)
Lauren: Do you know any actors? Both of mine flaked out.
Chuck: I know a few (Ha! I know plenty thats what I do. I get to know actors and then beg them to do stuff for me in exchange for hot home cooked meals- I’m an independent film director). What kind?
Lauren: 20s, blonde, male, not creepy
Chuck: I’m having lunch with… Ben Whitehair

You can literally hear the squeal of delight all the way from Littleton.

Lauren: do you think he’ll do it?

Ben had posted on his blog before about spending his days with kids and playing awesome characters like Dr. Poopy (yes Poopy) for the Young Storytellers Program in LA, so I was pretty sure he’d be hip to helping out the kids.

Chuck: Yes I think he’d totally do it. Here’s his number and if he needs a ride I’ll go pick him up in Boulder and drive him down there to Littleton myself.

And Ben was game.

It was like meeting this guy...
It was kinda like meeting this guy...

The first time I met Ben in real life felt like a slow motion scene out of Entourage. He had the Vinnie Chase sunglasses and smile; I was more of a cross between Turtle and Suit-Hating Billy Walsh. He walked from his car pulling off his reflective shades and sticking his hand out for a shake.

Actually it was more like this but you get it.
Actually it was more like this but you get the idea.

His arrival on Lauren’s set was described as “squeaks, squeals and whispers.”  “OMG OMG he’s so CUTE!” went up on every teenage girl’s (and a few of the guys)  Facebook pages within a half mile radius. The other actor began to worry as he was just starting out in the local denver scene. (This jealousy happens amongst actors before they realize they’re all in this profession together.)

Lauren reassures him, “Don’t worry he’s from LA.” meaning he’s not going to take away any jobs in the local market.

Ben and Lauren hug. Lauren’s student assistant Sydney is very professional except when Ben looks away she bites her thumb cutely and thanks me via Facebook chat on Lauren’s account.

They knock out the rest of the day like rock-stars.

Breakfast of Champions

On Sunday, Ben and I shared sushi and drank saki bombs. I have a feeling we were just testing the waters and that someday there will be a proper sake bomb celebration somewhere in Los Angeles.

When you find these kinds of quality people, people who think the needs of a friend outweigh a lunch you’ve been looking forward to for 5 months, people who think acting is acting whether it’s your first Network Guest Star or this after-school high school project because its fun, people who took your first updated head shots before you headed off to LA in exchange for a bowl of fondue, these are the people you surround yourself with and keep them close for your entire career.

Cherish them, maintain them, and add to them. We can never have too many good quality people in our lives as we break into the hardest business on the planet.

Ben can be found on Twitter, or here: http://www.benwhitehair.com Friend him, tweet with him, hire him.

Here’s my favorite Ben blog entry.

Lauren can be found here on Twitter, or at her superfun blog. Be very careful which Star Trek Captain you claim allegiance to she is very fickle about her Star Trek Captains.

Here’s my all time favorite Lauren Tweet.

Both are now based out of Los Angeles and would love to meet other filmmakers.

So now- tell us about your Christinas & Merediths (Grey’s Anatomy), your Chandlers & Joeys (Friends), the members of your Zach Galifianakisian Wolf Pack (From the Hangover). Give us a twitter page, or a Facebook page of your favorite people and even an anecdote if you have time. We would love to meet some great new people.

You just ordered the Sizzle: The Steak costs extra.

Actor: Free, Costume Designer: Free, Costume: $400

At the entry level of film-making, you will find yourself begging, borrowing and occasionally returning-for-refund everything you can. There are still two things in movie-making you can not cheap out on: Performance and Sound. You need those two things just to tell a story. To be competitive with an average filmmaker? You need pretty pictures with shallow depth of field, appropriate lighting, and decent art design. Something that says I didn’t shoot this in a cream-colored walled apartment with no decorations.

Now I am actually a very pragmatic guy who tries to make his way through the world with as much honor and integrity as possible. I do not like a hard sale, and I try not to perpetrate them on anyone. I’d rather be able to look you in the eye and say “we’re going to do the best work we possibly can, and work to get this film seen and recognized for all of our efforts.” I would be ecstatic if that and a handshake were all I needed to attract talented people; however, I’m not seeing this as a very successful method.

For example: I was reading a casting call for a short film that was looking for help this summer. In the first paragraph, they began with their accolades, Lead Faculty at a (checkbook) Film School, a Pro-Football Player who has sold several un-produced screenplays on spec, and a writer who will be making this his directorial debut (on this project) to demonstrate his ability to direct a feature-length film. He wrote a movie, $25 million budget, $27 million Domestic Gross released earlier this year. All three are represented by a Top 5 Hollywood Talent Agency.

You have 30 seconds to pitch me, son.

They claim, “the short film is already ‘scheduled’ to be
pitched upon completion to several influential persons in Hollywood. This will be used as a sizzle reel piece to shop a feature to be shot here in Denver. It will be marketed as the feature film that will help bring film incentives to Colorado.”

Interestingly, they get to the pitch in the third paragraph. The pay
will be low, most of the crew are working on it for exposure, and it’s touted
as a great opportunity for actors to be seen and/or be recognized when this film gets marketed to studios for feature funding.

Most of this is possible, but realize this posting is from Colorado – a state without any viable incentives. Colorado voters do not want to fund their K-12 schools, let alone subsidize the movie industry. The reality of this posting is that people, employing film students as free crew and looking for free talent, are hoping to get a bigger better deal for themselves via their already established contacts. Fair enough – they are selling an opportunity to be seen in passing, but there were a lot of shiny lights before they got to it.

Somewhere in here is a balance between professionalism and
opportunism. It reminded me of the article by Seth Godin, Rockstar to the Modern Man, and his article on Hope and the Magic Lottery.

Seth states, “you deserve better than the dashed hopes of a magic lottery ticket. Magic lottery hope is a damaging psychological force for people who are taking risks, and that hard work is the ultimate path to success. Hard work isn’t sexy or
glamorous.”

Lets face facts. You need some sizzle to sell your piece even if you tend to use the above board/honest approach. It seems that if all things are equal, actors and/or crew will go with the more sparkly option, the one that overtly offers a chance at the Magic Lottery Ticket. Even if you are adept at transferring your enthusiasm to your prospective volunteer, they have to see something in it for them.

So I ask you fellow filmmakers, how much do you play on people’s hopes
to inspire them to get on board your projects? Is it possible to do it
otherwise- with people you do not have a relationship with?

The 82nd Academy Awards- Thoughts and Predictions

Here are my thoughts on who should win what (a whole 6 days before the big night). I have highlighted my pics with  pictures. The text predicts who will probably win despite my picks.

Shorts

Should win: Instead of Abracadabra

The Door by Juanita Wilson and James Flynn

Its about Chernobyl. Like Indiana Jones 4: No Nazis so how good can it be? It really is too intense and too much for a short piece. It’s well executed and appropriately heavily emotional, but for me it’s like a million other this should have been a feature pieces.

Kavi by Gregg Helvey

It’s about a boy and his parents who work as slave labor in India. Sorry folks Slumdog Millionaire was last year. Probably no singing at the end either. It follows the formula of find a kid, put em in danger, and then somehow that’s more compelling for judges and audiences. Doesn’t work on me. Maybe because I had a rotten childhood, so you really have to have Mo’Nique throw a television at a kid to make it feel authentic to me. Pass.

The New Tenants by Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

Uhh… its a horror movie about 2 guys in an apartment. I like 80s horror where you get to see some naked bimbo and then she gets killed for being a tramp. I don’t see a Hard 10 in the cast on imdb. I don’t even see an ugly chick in the cast. It has star appeal. It has talent. It is a compelling story. I found myself unaffected emotionally. It’s strange because usually the experience in a theatre is amplified, but my pick was much better even though I first saw it on a computer screen.

Miracle Fish by Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey

I saw this at BIFF. It was… ahhh hate to say it was awful. I’ve seen better shorts at my film school and I go to a shitty film school. Luke (the producer) even said they slapped the Miracle Fish title on at the last minute and that shows due to it’s relative importance in the story. It’s meant to be used as a hook, but really it could have been a magic eight-ball or any other object. It is very predictable and slow. It has SOME nice cinematography, but any time they move the camera they border on the jutter limit and it looks like video. All in all it was very boring fair. Maybe we live too close to Columbine or something.

Instead of Abracadabra by Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellstrom

This is the northern european Napolean Dynamite meets Pixar’s Presto. It is very very good. It has great multi layer hooks. It has a meta-plot. It has great character. Nothing is lost in translation. The dark humor is laugh out loud humor. I hope beyond hope the penchant for dismissing comedy that critics and the Academy voters doesn’t manifest in this category. Comedies are an incredible art form that are sorely under-appreciated at the Oscars. This is one short that deserves the statue.

Sound Editing

Star TrekWho should win: Star Trek. Just listening to JJ’s commentary on the Blu-ray they really did try to push the envelope and incorporate new ideas to a franchise who’s sounds are iconic and part of our everyday culture. Who doesn’t know what the chirp of a communicator sounds like, or when the transporter powers up. They took something legendary to a new level in an original way with the use of dead space. Maybe that’s the mix, maybe its the edit. But I’d grant the honor to Star Trek.

Who will win? It will likely be Avatar because it is such an achievement in film. Did the sound team do anything more than they were expected to? I was in fact lost in the movie the first couple of times I saw it. It will likely win.

Sound Mixing

Wait a sec… Transformer’s 2? No.

My pick is still Star Trek… fuck off.

Again probably Avatar.

Visual Effects

I don’t think it’s any secret that the greatest achievement in visual effects comes in the form of Avatar. District 9 may have just as much bang for its buck/time. Star Trek is there just to round out the ballot, because having a ballot with just Avatar on it would cause people to bitch, even if its really this obvious.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)


Who’s gonna win? Up In The Air. Hollywood has a hard on the size of Texas for Jason Reitman. Don’t get me wrong- he’s made a few movies. But then again so did John Hughes. I think the majority of John Hughes’ movies were way better than Up In The Air. The script seemed lost to me, particularly with the Frequent Flier miles scene. It really felt clunky to me. It’s a minority opinion, and I find it’s not very popular to boot.

Who should win? I would like to see District 9 take something home. That movie made me feel something. It’s was mostly uncomfortable anxiety, but that was the point. Precious made me feel violated. UITA made me feel like I was missing something everyone else got.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

As mentioned in my previous post- Tarantino is well liked for his writing. But the golden rule for me is that even if you are good enough to do it against my will- you wont get my endorsement if you pull me out of the story. Period. I think he has an actual shot. It would be better if had been snubbed for Pulp Fiction, but this entry into his filmography is better than his usual fair.

A Serious Man will get the writers all excited, but like the movie- no one else.

Hurt Locker will probably take this one because of the gotta love the little scrappy movie that is taking on Avatar.

Who should win: Up truly deserves this nod. They took chances, they make you cry every time you watch it. Yes even manly men, on a horse. Again a minority opinion since Hurt Locker looks like a lock.

Short Film (Animated)

Animated greatness died with Mel Blanc. Uh… Wallace and Gromit are well beloved but I hear good things about the Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty. Didn’t get to see anything but the Wallace and Gromit.

Music (Original Song)

“The Weary Kind” in Crazy Heart. I wasn’t a fan of The Princess and the Frog this year… which is sad because I loved the Little Mermaid.

Music (Original Score)

*throws dart* Avatar… I like James Horner.

Make Up

Many critics are saying Star Trek. I have to disagree, due to a couple of small details. The crustacean sidekick of Scotty was really their best opportunity to show their stuff and he looked very foam latex based. Secondly, the signature eye brow raise of Spock, made it look like his skin was attached to a line underneath a wig.

I’ll give it to Young Victoria because I am a fan of the period. It’s a tragedy that District 9 isn’t in this category.

Foreign Language Film

What? No cute asian filmmaker for the best speech ever? The White Ribbon. It stays with you. I’m now becoming a huge fan of German Cinema because of the recent Oscar nominees.

Documentary Short

I’m gonna play some 3OH3 and Katy Perry if we don’t move a long soon. Nice legs, Daisy Dukes, Makes a man go *whistle*.

Shouldn’t be a category, unless my friend gets nominated next year.

Documentary Feature

I’ve actually caught a couple of these movies this year. Food, Inc. took a VERY smart tactic with their material. They didn’t beat you over the head with it. They just presented their material cleanly. They had great graphics and I was really pleased with the experience. It is having an effect on how my wife and I are choosing our food sources in a positive way. We’ve even gone so far as to try to see one of the farmers featured in the documentary speak live in our state.

It is likely that The Cove will take the prize. They did a wonderful job of promoting the film. I got very excited to see it, and when I finally sat down and watched it, the movie was mostly about the final scene. There wasn’t enough of a payoff for the amount of hype. In the end, both The Cove and Food, Inc. have been effective. I like Food, Inc as a re-watchable informative piece, and The Cove shut down that practice in that particular town in Japan.

Best Actor


Slam dunk and I love it. Jeff Bridges. I’ve grown up on him. King Kong! Tron! Fabulous Baker Boys! The Fisher King! The Vanishing! all that improv on Iron Man.

Best Supporting Actor


Christoph Waltz. German television actor. He’s superb. Lovely Bones wasn’t a stretch for Tucci, Plummer’s performance was lost in obscurity. Harrelson has been working is tuckus off as of late, and is deserving of the nod. Waltz carries his movie, and gave an iconic performance.

Actress in a Supporting Role


I liked Vera Farmiga, there wasn’t much in UITA that I found award worthy but she pulled it off in the sea of contradictions that make up that movie.

I thought Maggie Gyllenhaal a little overwhelmed in Crazy Heart. She won me over with her role in Batman, so here’s to next year.

Anna Kendrick, lets just put it this way- she might have hit all the marks for some critics, but for me it was all to safe and without risk. I liked her better in Twilight. Yeah I said it.

Who has to win- Mo’Nique. Not because she’s a comedic actress and went for the ‘monster’ role. It’s because she breathed not only life, but heart into an evil character. She played an antagonist on the level of Anthony Hopkin’s award winning Hannibal Lector.

Zoe Saldana should have been nominated for Star Trek. Shame on you all.

Best Animated Feature Film


Up is likely to win this and rightfully so. It makes me cry every time I watch it. Yeah I said it, but I’m on a horse backwards now.

Secret of Kells is really deserving of this honor as well. Perhaps its an honor to be nominated, but Pixar will be here again and again. Tomm Moore may or may not even though he earned it just as well.

Cinematography

Hurt Locker vs Avatar. I vote Avatar.

Art Direction

Hurt Locker vs Avatar. I vote Avatar.

Costume Design

*throws dart* Coco Before Chanel

Directing

Slam dunk- Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker. Even James (Cameron) wants it this way. Like Kathryn herself, I think her gender should be a non-issue.

Precious was good, it was an incredible piece, just not quite in the same league. I think the honor is in the nomination.

Quentin, well I thought it was good, just not Pulp Fiction good, and that’s gotta be hard having your greatest achievement behind you.

It’s a shame Neil Blomkamp wasn’t nominated. Truly is.

Actress In A Leading Role

First Zoe Saldana should have been nominated for Neytiri in Avatar. Double shame on you all. Anyway-

I loved Julie and Julia. I was so very surprised by it. I’ve said before that if you have to put a part of the story that almost distracts from the main narrative, it’s best to put Meryl up there because she is always phenomenal.

This year I think and in fact hope it goes to Sandra Bullock. I wanted to see The Blind Side the second the trailer ended. It was a guilty pleasure sort of desire. But when I sat down and there was the girl I fell in love with from Love Potion #9. Then… she, the movie star, faded away and was replaced by this spitfire of a woman that reminded me off all the wonderful people I met when I lived in the south. It barely registered emotionally that the actual real life footage from The NFL Draft was a different person than the one who played her through the entire movie.

Best Picture

I think it’s a complete travesty that The Hangover didn’t get the nod. It deserved a nomination more than several pieces that were nominated.

Who’s going to win: Hurt Locker.

Avatar made me sit in my seat and feel truly humbled. I haven’t experienced awe like that since the original run of Star Wars. Its commercial and technological success is second to NONE. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s the best movie of the last three decades. But now the country wants an upset. They want the little guy (little girl just sounds too naughty) to win one.

Tarantino Baby!

I’m not sure who the hot filmmaker that every fan boy wants to emulate is today, but a couple of years ago it was QT. Guy Ritchie, Donnie Darko you know the drill.

We're too cool for film school.

You have a bunch of obnoxious proto-hipsters who love these movies, quote these movies, dress like they’re in Reservoir Dogs. It was always a script with two twenty-something’s in black suits with black ties and guns pointed at each other quipping not very witty crap and saying “fuck” a lot for no better reason than to be maverick filmmakers. Between that and all the film school clichés it can be excruciating to try to try discover your own voice. For my own sanity, I hold his work and his public persona at arms length. I’m always on the look out for a way to disarm a QT fan boy.

Reitman & Cody

The current darling of all aspiring filmmakers, and evidently Hollywood at large is Jason Reitman.

I like his movies, but it just appears as though he’s being lauded as the second coming of Orson Welles or something.  I was listening to Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment and Jason was discussing being a director, and he is as humble as can be. One of the things he said that I often hear in my editing classes is what makes a director (or editor) good is if what they are doing does not get in front of the story. If the cuts of the movie are super cool, you are paying attention to the edit not the story. It takes you out of it. Jason echoed this, directing is a series of binary decisions, and if they put the director in front of the story the audience is taken out of it. Good advice from multiple sources.

I happened to find QT’s Treatment episode and I gave it a listen. That’s when it occurred to me. Tarantino isn’t a director at heart. He’s first and foremost a writer. He’s a PhD dissertation of film genre and technique. That guy is SUH-mart. But he’s not a director that gets in the way of the story he’s telling. See it clicked in when I remembered the episode of Alias where he played a spy that took over Sydney’s (Jennifer Garner’s) base. He was supposed to be this hyper-cool spy in the vein of Tarantino’s Madonna-Virgin speech. Problem was he didn’t write it, and he’s not a great actor. So the episode flubbed as far as I was concerned.

QT

That’s when I realized that the parts of Tarantino’s movies where I feel like he’s getting the way of the story isn’t from his directing- it’s what he’s writing.

Specifically in Inglorious Bastards when Hans Landa is interviewing the French farmer, and he pulls this deus-ex-machina with the character’s language to bring the dialogue from subtitled French to English… it bugged the crap out of me. He literally reached out of the movie screen, tapped my chin, bopped me on the nose for looking down and then smiled smugly at how clever he was. He makes up for it by being a dialogue writer who is insanely creative and original. But the multitude of choices he made as a director… none of those distracted me from the story.

Yesterday I heard someone say that they wouldn’t watch the World of Warcraft Movie unless they got a good director like Quentin Tarantino to direct it. Well I realized that QT has gone up a couple of notches in my book but I’m not sure the world is ready for an Elven Mr. Pink, or a Dwarven Mr. White.

Do not get in the way of the story. Directing is a series of decisions that add up into the story you are telling. If you find yourself concentrating on putting your mark on the piece- you are not doing it right. You probably chose the piece for the wrong reason. It is a creatively fatal mistake.