the awesome/terrifying freedom

out here, somewhere, figuring it all out.

notes from mamet

damn i'm jealous of the kids in the l.a. atlantic conservatory - they're not only getting this lecture series with mamet, macy, and others, but they're also getting him in their regular classes.

so last night was the mamet class. the man is all charisma, and seems to have an endless supply of energy. one thing is certain - he has a true passion for his beliefs, and loves to teach. he really just couldn't talk fast enough to get out his overflow of ideas. here's some notes:

• analyze the scene like a scientist. be a doctor. a patient comes to the doctor and says 'my foot hurts,' the doctor doesn't say 'but do you like your mother?' leave all that character bullshit behind. it's all distraction, it doesn't help, it's not part of your job. all the necessary details have been provided by the writer.

• theatre is not the province of the intellectual. theatre is the province of the entertainer. juggling is entertaining. learn to do it. learning to analyze juggling is not an entertainment.

• the plot will entertain and engross irrespective of its ability to surprise. this is why we see different productions of the same play - it's not because we're wondering if this time hamlet will live. this is also why the middle school production you saw of peer gynt was better than broadway: because the story got told, and the story was good.

• of a play - do we follow the story absent visual trickery? if not, it's crap. of set and costumes: always ask, are they better than doing the play on a bare stage in street clothes?

• on directors: directors are a construct and are unnecessary. theatre did not begin with directors. there's a story of a guy on a boat grabbing the railings, and he's convincing himself that if he pushes and pulls the railing, he's making the boat sway - that's the director.

• most directors do not direct. they become teachers, schooling the cast on the 'themes,' and the character backstories, which is not directing.

• mamet completely rejects the idea of totalitarian theatre - theatre with a 'purpose,' or that seeks to teach some kind of lesson, ie homophobia is bad, or, black people are people too, or, isn't it awful what was done unto them? it assumes the playwright and/or director is 'better' than the audience.

• totalitarian directors are those who will reject the text as meaningless and take over the role of the writer. - i personally do not find this as much of an affront as mamet does, though it largely describes the many great Crimes Against Shakespeare.

• leaving the text alone, totalitarianists are left to play with the plastic elements of the production - the 'setting.' 'i'm doing 'hamlet,' you'll say, and the first thing the asshole says is 'where are you setting it??' 'in denmark you piece of shit!' re-setting a play invites us to infer a meaning that is neither present nor intended.

when i was at mamet's book signing, there was a girl there - standing in line, who said in a huffy voice 'well, who does he think he is? doe he think he has some sort of monopoly on content?' and i think she did have a bit of a point. but what does she want to do? an all female version of glengarry? a gay version? if you like the play itself, why wouldn't you do it as written? maybe she's never written anything. i shudder to think how terrible a production of 'second' would be if the director made choices that destroy the ambiguities neal and i worked so hard to preserve in the text.

• the definition of modern art is: that which the execution of is inferior to its description. (this reminds me of someone i knew who was in an all male, naked production of macbeth. the description is fine. i don't need to watch it.)

• any director who 'does something interesting with' the text, does not understand the text.

• a good director:
helps the actors understand the mechanics of who wants what from whom.
stages the play to make the relationships between the actors clear.
resists discussion of character and theme, and gets the hell on with it.
follows the first rule of the physician: do no harm.

• someone asked him 'but what if you're asked to show emotion?' and he just about exploded: what we mean when we say to show emotion is to PRETEND. i'm sorry people, but that's it. it's make believe. we can't control our emotions. if we could control our emotions there wouldn't be any psychiatrists, there wouldn't be any sadness, there wouldn't be any anger. it's an impossibility and if you're gonna beat yourself up to try and -feel- something then you are the... (at this point he gestured to the crowd, and all the conservatory kids chimed in unison) SPAWN OF THE DEVIL"

• the play should not be read while sitting around a table at the first rehearsal. it will invaribly suck, and already you've begun rehearsing failure. associate success with the text. figure out the actions first, scene by scene.

• good actors should:
work on your voice
work on your physique
present yourself as a willing applicant to the job. ie, be professional.
memorize without inflection - rehearse correctly and the benefit will show itself: when people see the line come out as it wants to, they will call it talent.
invest in your choice of career.

• when you invest in something you protect it. what's the world's best off-road vehicle? a rented car. make an investment in yourself. feel ownership in your right to be there, doing what you love to do. if you give all of your leisure to something, you'll become an expert at it - so work on the thing you love, dammit!

• have pride in accomplishing a demonstrable skill. no one learns skills anymore. what's at the bottom of the resume? 'special skills?' what's really at the bottom of the resume? "can drive stick." "cockney." these are not skills! learn to juggle, learn anything and have pride in it.


• train yourself to function without security. train yourself to say without apology or arrogance 'i am an actor. i am a writer. i am a director,' whatever it is.

• the person who doesn't give up will have a career.

my first major awards show.. as spectator

through his work connections, sam got us tickets to the 'film independent's spirit awards' yesterday afternoon. it was a surreal, star studded event, in a giant tent right on the beach. it was very laid back, and probably more fun than the oscars, so there!

it was strange to see so many celebrities in the same place, all duded up, and mingling with each other. i felt like a reporter for extra!, except not talking to anyone.

some observations:

watching an awards show on tv, i never give much thought to the losers - but we happened to be sitting at a table directly behind several nominees - and when their category is being presented, a cameraman and a cord guy are right there, in their faces, ready to catch their reactions. once the winner is announced, the conrol room cuts to the camera at the winner's table - and the camera at the losers table immediately packs up and leaves, cable guy rolling up the cable behind him. which leaves the losers table very quiet indeed. there are shrugs, swigs of drinks, and overall disappointment. when you're at home, you lose sight of the fact that, as the show goes on, the room fills up with losers.

there's a lot of clapping. when you watch on tv, maybe you'll spontaneously clap when your favorite film wins - but when you're actually there, you're compelled to clap during all of those places that you hear the clapping on tv. which is, after every film name is announced, after every actor's name is called, after each acting clip has played, after the winner is announced, after the winner's speech.. it never ends. i had to stop after awhile.

many many of my idols were there, and i didn't say anything. sam and i were talking today, that we should have at least gone up and introduced ourselves to alan ball. he was right there behind us, not really talking to anyone, and we were just too shy. thinking back, we absolutely should have. it was a filtered audience, no riffraff around, and my god, he's the reason i moved here in the first place.

the sexy people really are sexy, but they don't look like themselves. they look like people tho look like celebrities. if that makes sense. you see them and go, wow, that guy looks a lot like toby maguire. oh. hi spidey.

as i push into 32, i can't help but wonder, what is it really that separates me from all of this? what can i do to ingraine myself into this group - the real group to become involved with - the cream of the crop of independent filmmakers? for starters, and ability to introduce myself would help a lot.

oscar prep

my block is a madhouse today. here's the view from my office:

my film

so now that it's premiered, on imdb, and is pretty much out there, i'm letting it go to the world... here's 'loaded'

you can see a better resolution version at gryllus glyphics.

back from boulder

flying into colorado this time was awesome.. we flew directly over the grand canyon, and colorado was covered in fresh snow, with the sun shining bright.

the film festival was a great experience. i learned a lot just by watching so many other films, and was overall really impressed by the quality of the selections. john august gave an excellent screenwriting workshop, and i finally got to meet him afterwards. he was extremely generous, standing in the lobby for an extra 45 minutes, answering each and every audience question.

i was extremely nervous about showing the film, like 'i think this plane is going to crash on the landing' kind of nervous. the drenched in sweat kind of nervous. but people laughed, the response was good, there were a couple questions from the audience, so many friends and family turned out to see it, and it was, as i said before, an overall great experience.

that said, my standards of quality for the next film are much higher. i don't want to be the low budget film that -looks- low budget anymore.

i just signed up for an advanced final cut editing workshop.

i'm also taking an acting class with david mamet himself next tuesday.

submitting 'thanksgiving' to 3 more festivals. i -will- get that movie into a fest.

forward.. forward.. always moving forward...

boulder film fest!

it's arrived! i'm back at home.. the opening party was very fun, and i'm extremely excited/nervous to see my movie play in the fest's largest venue sunday morning. will 200 people laugh? will it bomb? will mini-dv look unforgivably bad on a giant, giant screen? stay tuned!!

my dad and i did several 'red carpet' interviews last night.. the reporter from the daily camera mixed us up.. still, it's great to get some notice.. here's the article. the colorado daily girl got it right!

notes from macy

just got back from william h. macy's class at the atlantic. awesome. awesome. awesome. a lot of it was rehash of practical aesthetics week 1, but it's great to hear from the creator's mouth. here's some notes:

• there is no character, only the illusion of character created by the actor, the writer, and the audience.

• you cannot control your emotions, much less 'recall' them. you can only imitate them, which is a lie. what you can control is your -will-.

• you are sufficient. you don't need to be 'better.' you contain all the things you'll need to play any role. you may need to learn incidentals, how to walk in the shoes, but those are externals, and are not acting.

• 'i don't know' is an acceptable answer. also, it's fine, and brave, to just do nothing on stage.

• practice stillness. get comfortable in it.

• use eisenstein's unadorned moment. don't 'say' anything with what you do. just do it. let the audience glean what it means.

• the arc of the character is not your concern. play each scene like it is the only scene in the play.

• do the role. don't 'do something with it.' don't say 'it's a small part but i can do something with it.' understand the writer's intent, and fulfill it. just do the role.

• directing plays is one week of discovery and three weeks of babysitting.

• need to cry? fake it! the scene is never about your ability to cry. put your hands over your face! no one cares! the audience wants to know the story, not watch you try to work up real tears.

my pitch for stardom

i dunno. maybe i undersell myself. maybe i don't give a good enough idea of who i am or what i can do. eh, who cares. do i really want to be on a reality show anyway??

it was fun to clean up requiem 3 in final cut though. amazing how much you can fix bad lighting!

how to tell me apart from my dad

we have different middle names.

so close yet so far

yesterday sam and i had a nice dinner with some of his friends at a new restaurant in santa monica called rustic canyon. as we were leaving, jj abrams and his wife were arriving, handing the car keys over to the valet. one day.. one day jj will be like 'hey joe, what's good on the menu? oh, and what should happen in the 5th season of lost?'

i'm working the required personal intro to my submission for 'on the lot.' i can't believe i'm applying to a reality show. recording footage of myself, it's sadly aparent how i might appear on tv. i pause a lot when i speak. i 'um' a lot. i jerk my head around. i speak in a very, um, forced manner. i seem like an asshole. maybe i can pitch myself as a really really annoying villian character. it feels soo skeezy to even be applying for a reality show, especially one on FOX. i imagine myself horrifically falling into every reality show contestant cliche - crying. i think that's my biggest fear is that i will cry, that i will sob uncontrollably when i am booted. i think my strategy will be to edit my mistakes together in one deeply humiliating clip, rather than the tempting approach, made up of my good takes.


loaded has been listed! woohoo!

gatorville, google, mamet, macy


i spent the weekend back in gainesville florida, home of the 'inferno period:' the formitive years of my life, a time of unmatched intensity. before florida, i had never really known meanings to the words love, hate, cruelty, happiness, betrayal, elation - basically every extreme: went through it.

so it was a touch bittersweet to return. i hadn't been back since i sped away 6 years ago in my uhaul truck, back tires squealing towards new york (a day later i drove that uhaul off an icy bridge in pennsylvania - yay for new beginnings!).

i guess the maxim for existence is that "everything changes, and everything stays the same." it was so strange to see these old streets, my old apartment complex, the strip malls, the bars that had been the set decoration for a wholly disinteresting, melodramatic film starring an overwrought joe larue.

in any case, despite the bittersweet aspects, the trip was an overall wonderful experience, and a joy to see neal's play up on stage. i enjoyed meeting the current graduate students, and empathizing deeply with their struggles.

it was while watching neal's play that i had my first twinge of real regret about leaving. i had done a lot of work on this show, and here it was, poised to make the next big step, and i had essentialy abandoned it - and my theatre company.

there's a difference between regret and doubt. i still do not doubt that i made the best, healthiest choice i could have. but i do regret that i wasn't able to make more happen for the show while i was still in new york.

but all of this has emboldened my quest to get a movie version of 'second' made.


on monday david invited me to a google 'hollywood party' in which they redressed their santa monica headquarters as an upscale hollywood club, and invited 4 distinguished writer/directors to speak about their creative process and the impact technology has had on their art.

the speakers were craig brewer (HUSTLE AND FLOW, BLACK SNAKE MOAN), lauren greenfield (THIN, GIRL CULTURE), ted griffin (MATCHSTICK MEN, OCEANS 11) and jim uhls (FIGHT CLUB, SEMPER FI).

it was kind of a staggering event - open bar, amazing passed around hors deurves, shuttle buses from the office to the movie theatre where the talk was, multicamera setup with a crane over the audience (presumably to broadcast the panel on the google cable channel) incredible gourmet desserts served at the theatre, gift bags with cool tshirts..

of course it's nothing compared to the party david's been at this week - the next day the entire west coast office was flown out for two days of skiing and unimaginably huge parties. i asked him 'so do you have to go to meetings or conferences too?' his reply: 'nope!' google is amazing. they truly cultivate a work hard/play hard atmosphere.


tuesday night i went to a david mamet book reading and signing for his new book 'bambi vs. godzilla: on the nature, purpose, and practice of the movie business.' he read a chapter from the book, then took questions for an hour.

i realized that i've never actually seen mamet speak. i've read all of his theoretical books, nearly all his plays, and yet i've had no real idea of what his literal voice sounds like. it sounds like a chicago taxi driver. it makes a lot of sense that his early plays revolve around capital G guys, because he is so clearly a capital G, 'scuse me toots' kinda guy. reading 'true and false,' i picture an academic - but the reality is that mamet himself is an absolute no-nonsense guy. his acting technique is called 'practical aesthetics,' because that's exactly what he is: practical. he wants to get it done. quickly, efficiently, and with no bullshit.

he's also hilarious. he railed against 'sense memory' as a relic of freudian-derived misinterpretation compounded with communist-era hype, and thus passed on incorrectly through the ages and trickled down into every bad acting class in history. the crowd cheered. he signed my book and i told him 'true and false changed my life.' i don't think he really actually heard me. he was on to the next book. ah well. i'll meet him again, for real one day.


so i just signed up to take a master class with william h. macy, through the atlantic theatre school's LA program. it's next tuesday. the man, with mamet, invented practical aesthetics. cannot wait.

requiem 6!

finally! finally! it's done!

here is the youtube version - i would greatly appreciate high ratings and comments!

and if you love the youtube version, here is the better resolution version.

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  • 5: the man of genius

  • 4: blunders & absurdities

  • 3: conservative after dinner

  • 2: what lies below

  • 1: where there is no path

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