Monday, September 17, 2012

Inch by Inch

My father has had his own small business for almost forty years. He survived the startup years, gone through seasons of bounty and seasons of famine, and now looks retirement. Many of his employees have been with him almost as long. My brother started his small business almost twenty years ago. Working internationally he's bridged language and cultural barriers and worked at odd hours to coincide with a client's time zone while weathering economic shifts, domestically and globally. So it only seems fitting I, too, would start my own business.

Radiologie is the beginning of a dream come true. I worked for several production companies back in my freelance days, and kept mental notes of how they ran things. Good and bad. What projects they choose, the vibe they established, the organization of their projects. I've waited to implement the things I learned. I've waited to give eager young kids the same opportunity given to me. I've waited to be paid for what I love. But I've learned filing your name with the state, getting a landline for your office, and metaphorically opening your doors for business is just dipping your toe in the entrepreneurial waters. I started the company to write, produce, and direct yet I spend most of my days working sales. Cold calls and emails, networking with past contacts and creating new ones, and negotiating short term deals for long term hopes, wondering when the next paycheck will come. I'm learning a whole new kind of perseverance. The dream will not be handed to me, it must be fought for. Everyday I must resist self-doubt, rejection, and disappointment, which is extremely exhausting day after day, just so I can handle the things before me. It's a lot like marriage. Success is more dependent on my commitment than my feelings.


Monday, September 10, 2012

The Commitments

I've tied, albeit unsuccessfully, to write more. Be it here or a feature screenplay, or anything, I allow life to take over and writing takes a backseat. I know I'm not the only writer to struggle with it so I take some comfort in the universality of it but it resist the tendency. One of the main hindrances is my internal editor. I do write things but a piece of me, a rather loud and controlling piece, declares it's not ready and must be finessed. So I put it in the queue with the other ideas awaiting my editing attention, and there it lives. Writing purgatory. Well, it's time to resurrect them but before I do I must conquer perfectionism. Or, is that a contradictory statement? Regardless, I think I need to learn just to get my ideas out, polished or not. And what better way then through my blog. Even though I have fewer followers than fingers on one hand you will nevertheless encourage me and hold me accountable to this decision. Especially in the wake of so many awesome things happening these days, particularly in film. Documenting it will help me remember in the future. So tomorrow, I will post something. Maybe brief, incoherent, a partial thought but it will be something. I'm inclined at this point to discuss my current endeavor, Radiologie Co., the video production company I started with my friend/collaborator. Until then...


Monday, April 9, 2012

Event Horizon

I was working at Reel Video in Berkeley when Event Horizon came out on video. I recall swarms of people asking for a copy, which naturally peaked my interest. What's so special about this film? Months later I finally got a chance to watch it. And, again, I asked myself what's so special about this film? And why did P.T. Anderson direct it? Oh wait, he didn't. Different Paul Anderson. Whew...

The point isn't to bag on a bad film but discuss my own event horizon. Maybe so I don't forget it. My journey as a filmmaker and the films I chose to produce. This entry functions more as a landmark for myself and less about others reading it. To one day look back and remember. Before my memory deteriorates, if it hasn't already (kids will do it to you).

One of my initial reasons for getting into filmmaking was wealth and prestige. See, I grew up watching a lot of PG-13 movies with the kid you hoped would get the girl (you know, Wonder Years-esque). And deep down inside I believed I could get the girl, the popular one. Like in the movies. I never did. So I turned to The Cure and Chris Isaak. Lots of self-loathing, which turned to bitterness. If I became rich and famous (cue Robin Leach) then the girls who wouldn't go out with me growing up would regret it. Super lame, huh?

I grew out of that phase and shifted into my brooding, artist period. Film for art's sake. Out with the story, the plot and conscious comprehension; in with pure emotional expression. Heavily influenced by my cinema studies in college (and the airs which came with it), I ventured into the avant garde. Creating films whose meaning emerged from the clashing of two independent images whereby the viewer is left to ponder the feelings of the piece rather than the story (italics added for snobbery). And if someone didn't get it, I became annoyed. I went from petty to pretentious.

Next came my David Lynch-phase. Having just decided to become a follower of Christ, I wanted to integrate my new belief/life into my work, fusing supernatural with reality. Christian movies felt a lot like the deus ex machina in Greek tragedy. Contrived and nothing particularly supernatural about it. Lynch, on the other hand, told stories depicting man's evil as a result supernatural forces. He infused the surreal, the bizarre, and made captivating films. Commercially successful films. Twin Peaks, his brilliant soiree into television, is about a city's dark underbelly and the horrific events stemming from it. But they weren't just the result of nature or nurture. Dark forces were at work. I concurred. I wanted to tell such stories. So I experimented with it. But after two years of exploration I found I was forcing it. It just didn't match my sensibilities.

At this point I was kind of at a loss. I had a visual style that, albeit still emerging, felt like mine. The stories, though, continued to allude me. What did I want to say? I had a knack for communicating emotions, but emotions as a result of heartbreak. There had to be more than that. I just didn't know. Then came The Dry Spell. The 'no-filmmaking' period, which, coincidentally, occurred right after I returned from my summer taking filmmaking classes at NYU. I had dreams of storming the Industry, instead I found myself asking God what happened. A lot. And for many years. Six years.

It started because I didn't I have money to produce anything (digital video was still in its infancy). It became clear, though, there was another reason I stalled. I was a single, immature, post-college grad. I knew nothing of love, struggle, or sacrifice. I didn't have anything to say. I wanted to tell stories with depth but my understandings were shallow. It's not going to stop until you wise up.

It wasn't too much later that I meet the woman I would marry. And through her, our marriage, and our family I would begin to learn. She forgave me when I had been selfish and had hurt her. She quickly learned the good, the bad, and the ugly of me and chose to love me everyday.

This part is harder than I expected. Everything prior was something I had thought and thought about. Not so here. This is new to me. How did the Lord transform me in this time? What kind of journey did I go through? I just looked and saw I wrote the word 'ugly'. Something about it caught my attention. My ugliness. Paul understood grace because he also understood his ugliness. He knew how much it took to make his life into something beautiful. I don't think I got that before marriage.

I also didn't 'get' doing something for someone else's benefit. Foreign. Making films started as something for me. I would be famous. I would have money. I would be happy. I would be in control. That was my model. My father was the dad from Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle". But my Heavenly Father sent His only Son, Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, and to die. Marriage and family taught me to the joy and hardship of serving. Fighting the urge to withdrawal. A battle I sometimes won and sometimes lost. Honestly, it's been a struggle. I often wonder if I'm balancing the two. I tend to lean towards the dissenting opinion. If I give this career the attention it needs then it seems I'm not giving enough to my loved ones. If I give family the attention it needs then my to-do list for film only grows. No one's happy, and I'm stuck in the middle.

As I write this I'm reminded of how my early stories developed. I would have these dilemmas and wanted answers. So I journaled about them. Prayed about them. Sat with the Lord and waited to hear. And when answers started to flow, and they always did, so, too, did a story. I think I need to wrestle with this situation and see what emerges. Maybe it'll influence what's happening these days.

A new phase has begun in my life, The Return. Filmmaking is back in my life full swing. It's not a daydream or a hobby. It's my day job. And doors are beginning to open. First was the creation of Radiologie, a production company started by myself and Jerry Yoon. Next came a breakfast with Ned Kopp, a Bay Area film legend, which led to the honor of having him first AD my latest short film. And now I think he's my mentor. Two weeks ago I was able to sit with Ralph Winter, producer of X-Men. He talked about what he does as a producer, he shared some of his wisdom (and behind-the-scenes stories from Star Trek II, III, and IV -- so cool), talked about how he has done family and film, and he watched my short film and gave me feedback! Then last week I met with a man who connects filmmakers with investors. Yes, people with money who want to give to people who need it.

I don't know exactly where all these moments are taking me but I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to where I've dreamed of being. And I'm loving it. But to make sure I don't become Icarus and lose myself or family in the pursuit, here's my song:

The Road to the Feature

Every year for 16 years I have asked myself, "Will next year be the year I make my first feature film?" And every year the answer has been no. Some years I didn't bother to ask. I questioned the dream. Was it something I should hold onto, or let it go and redirect my energies elsewhere? I was a pretty damn good office manager.

When I lost my job last year I could not have anticipated the whirlwind awaiting me. I had a 5 year plan and a feature film was the last item; the Lord seems to have put me on a more accelerated path, which I'm happy to oblige. It's something I'd like to share with others because it is so exciting. And so challenging. Maybe the mistakes I make will help someone else. I haven't done the best job in the past of writing here but I'm hoping this new sense of direction and momentum will provide greater diligence. It'll also be a record of my journey towards my dream so when things get hard or doubt sets in, I can look back and remember the Lord's faithfulness.

Thanks for reading and here's to hopefully more posts.

"The future looks bright, I gotta wear shades."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daily Affirmation with...

"It's hard to rely on your good intentions. When my heads full of things that I can't mention." Yes, I enjoy a little Toad the Wet Sprocket here & there, and it coincides with today's thought. Resurrecting this blog has proved more difficult than I expected. A new season of life doesn't necessarily mean a new me. I've found it hard to make time to process my thoughts and write.

In September I competed in a 48-hour film competition, sponsored by the Producers Guild of America. It reinvigorated my passion for filmmaking. And it allowed me to have life-changing discussions with the cinematographer and editor. We each want to make movies yet fell into other things. In our desire to encourage the others to seek after more, we ended up guiding each other to an incredible, scary idea. Starting our own production company!

And that is what we have done. Our first goal has been to develop our mission statement. What are we about? What is our purpose? Why are we doing this? Why can't we get it done? I assumed it would be challenging but it's really quite hard. I come from a long line of opinionated talkers. We don't distill. We jaw. Add on all my soapboxes, throw in two other guys, and you have a task the size and dexterity of Jabba the Hutt. Although it's been a slow process we are making head way. So keep your eyes out for it. Probably on our website.

Besides our vision, our production company is doing what any production company does. Produce. My friend and restauranteur, Tanya Holland, has agreed to let us do a promotional video for her place, The Brown Sugar Kitchen (ala pro bono). A I'll-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine deal. She's gets a video for future investors and we build our portfolio, and someone who will spread the word of our work. She and her husband, Phil, OK'd the concept so me and Jerry, the DP, scouted the location today. Made some assessments of the lighting and possible shot locations, popped into DTC Grip & Electric to get some ideas on how to rig the lights, and now my job begins. Logistics. Planning. Scheduling. Researching. Budgeting. We shoot later this month and should have a final product by early December. I'll keep you posted. More importantly, I'll tell you when we get a paid gig.

"Money, it's a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash."
                       - Money Pink Floyd

Note: if you're in the Bay Area and you're a filmmaker, DTC should be your stop for all lighting gear. Great people. Great prices.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Look = New Direction

I haven't written anything here in a long time. Almost ten months. Writing was initially put on hold as my wife and I bought our first home. But then California's economy struck my employer. Only a few survived. I was not one.

Coincidentally, a few weeks prior to all this I had been wrestling with God. I wanted an answer and wouldn't let go until I got one! Are my dreams and His plans one and the same? Would I produce full-length feature films and hour-long TV dramas? Or, continue to perform administrative duties at an educational institution, doing the occasional short film here and there? I took a week off from media and listened. And listened. And listened. It was kind of like Naaman in 2 Kings. He had to dip seven times into the Jordan to be healed of his leprosy. He kept dipping and dipping, and nothing. I wonder if he felt like giving up on #5 or 6 because I did. But I couldn't give up that easily. This is my love and passion. At the end of the week I had what I had sought, a direction. A purpose. A promise! "Pursue your dreams and I'll take care of your family".

So no longer am I a Frustrated Filmmaker trying to put food on the table and make films but a Journeyman Filmmaker, taking my past experiences and leaping into the future.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I admit, I have watched the Olivia Newton-John movie (In high school I read the Coleridge poem referenced by the title but I didn't get it. Maybe I'll revisit it). A classic in its own right. You can't beat song and dance numbers that include roller skating and music by ELO, unless you just don't like musicals. Today I'm struck by the premise - an artist stuck creatively. Been there, done that. There were days I would go to write, buy a cup of coffee, sit down and realize I had nothing. So I sat. And sat. Then usually left earlier than I planned with feelings of disappointment. If I wanted to be a screenwriter shouldn't I be writing everyday? How do other writers deal with creative voids? I was stuck.

Then I received a book from my mom, "Making a Good Writer Great" by Linda Seger. I picked up a lot of ideas as I read through it. Well, one of them came in handy last week. I sat down at my local Peet's at my usual time of 6:30a and began to wonder what I'd write. So I utilized a writing exercise Seger suggested. Pick three random nouns (you know, a person, place or thing) and create a story that incorporates them. So I looked around and found one of each. I said my little prayer, "Come on, Lord, give me something! Anything. I'll take a "Lost" rip-off."

And it came! And to my surprise I liked the story. In fact, I really liked it. So I'm working on it now as the next short I do. Maybe later this year. We'll see how funding and logistics play out.

Have no fear, loyal supporters, the development of this short will not interfere with the completion of the others. My office is almost work ready. Editing, here I come!