Wednesday, September 29, 2004

L.A. Moment

Read the Onion's "News In Brief" No. 5 this week for a description of where I do all my grocery shopping.

And yes, I could see that happening at the La Brea and 3rd TJ's because at least half of the people there are shopping for more than food, if you know what I mean.

Jeez, and this summer there was an Onion "News In Brief" about the USC film school grad working at a video store. Are they following me?

Your Local Recycling Program

A couple weeks ago, someone put a loveseat out on the sidewalk on West Adams. It's possible that it was a fully functional loveseat at first, but by the time I saw it, it had been pulled apart into pieces and stacked up in a pile.
The next day, some of the pieces were gone and the pile had diminished slightly. The day after that, all the upolstery fabric was gone, leaving the yellow foam exposed. The day after that, some one had wiped their very dirty hands on the yellow foam, leaving small streaky handprints. The day after that, the pile had dimished again. I'm hoping someone will start in on the foam, leaving just the frame of the thing. Then maybe the frame will get pulled apart, leaving just a stack of random couch bones.
Is it one person revisting this couch over and over again, or is it a variety of people, getting their specific needs filled with what the couch provides?
Damn, the more I think about this, the more it sounds like my next film.
And a note the city's recycling program: you are supposed to throw anything recyclable into your big black bin and they come and pick it up, but they don't need you to seperate anything. Does this mean that they have some method of picking apart the mess of can, bottles, paper, newspaper, plastic containers and everything else at the recycling plant? How do they do it? Or does it all, actually, just go in the garbage?
Discovering love and practical uses for old things is still my favorite form of recycling. The couch person (people?) inspire me.

Friday, September 24, 2004

An Open Letter to LA Drivers

Dear L.A. Drivers,

Let me start off by acknowledging your special situation as drivers in this particular city. We all know that the transit system sucks (the fact that it advertises itself by urging us to "travel smart" is just another instance of hilarity in advertising). We also all know that this city is a weird conglomeration of districts with no clear center and getting from any one to any other necessitates the car. City planners thought they had created the city of the future with all those freeways but all it has meant is gridlock; I think it's pretty clear to everybody that there are just too many of us.

L.A. Drivers, I admire your mad skills when it comes to maneuvering your way around town. I thought I was a pretty good city driver back in Vancouver, but some of you leave me speechless with your bobbing, your weaving, your floating, your stinging. It's the stinging I'd like to discuss.

L.A. Drivers, I know it's a thrill to find an empty freeway, and I certainly can sympathize with the desire to whip around those beautifully engineered and banked curves. But a good driver is more than someone who can floor it; a good driver knows how to get through the traffic system in a way that supports that system. This means that sometimes you have to slow down. Sometimes you even have to stop. And signals: those things are more than just decoration, they serve to communicate to other people just exactly what it is you plan to do from your position, say, in the middle of oncoming traffic. Do I need to bring up the massive dents in your cars, L.A. Drivers? We've all seen them. What do you think those are from?

Please take these gentle suggestions into consideration.

Yours truly,


P.S. You have great left turns!
P.P.S. I know some of you are totally insane. Please avoid white Volvo station wagons from the eighties.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Modern Piracy

This first semester of film school is sort of boot camp situation. The idea is to get us to be on a constant cycle of pumping out little movies. On any given week, I'll be either in pre-production (writing, casting, getting locations), shooting, or editing, or, worst case scenario but likely, some combination of all three.

This brings up the problem of trying to write something that is decent enough to shoot. Anyone who enjoys a random sampling of the movies that get made these days knows that this is easier said than done.

Most of the time, I write stuff based entirely on small ridiculous details. I wanted to write something that involved a man putting on chapstick (because it's so great to watch: the action of applying chapstick is exactly like applying lipstick, and some men seem completely self-conscious about this fact, but others seem to just not know where their lips are) and this turned into a non-dialogue seven-pager about something totally different. So I'm searching for these little twigs, these little hooks to get me going.

I received a gem of a book for my birthday. I had admired it many a time at Michael's house and he somehow convinced his roommate to part with it: Modern Pirates by one Stanley Rogers, pub'd 1939. It's all about mishaps on the high seas in modern (ie- 1800 onwards) times. You'd think there were more things to worry about in 1939 than publishing books on swashbuckling that use the word "coolie" without quotation marks, but apparently not.

The true value of this book lies not in reading it through, but in flipping it open at random and reading one or two sentences at a time. Check it out:

"Wheeling round and looking aft he saw a sight that froze his blood. Captain Wilkins, with his shirt spotted with blood, had sunk on his knees on the deck."

"He probably could not swim, for he threw up his hands and went down without reappearing again. This man knew the penalty for piracy was death, and he had evidently preferred to take this way out rather than face inevitable execution."

"As the head rolled on the deck it was the signal for a general attack on everyone on board."

So, yes, highly dramatic, brilliant (in the British sense) writing, dastardly schemes and bitter betrayals and all. I think cornstarch and red food colouring is the key to fake blood, but checking up on that is my next step.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Crazy From The Heat (with apologies to David Lee Roth)

On the weekend, I had the thrills and chills (and sunburns) of shooting my first short.

The absolute best part was when one of my actors started eating this meal and I was set up for the shot, and got the shot, but he just kept eating, and eating and he was eating so well, you know, it was such brilliant eating that I just kept rolling and grabbed the camera off the tripod and just kept shooting and he kept eating and I kept rolling and it was like, you know, so kind of cheesy, so cliched student film, but I tell you, he ate the hell out of that meal.

Also: there is some sort of AA meeting place on Catalina and West Adams. I drove past it the other night and it was alight with fluorescent glow and astroturf and evangelical amplified voices and folding chairs and believers. The sign says "Sobriedad" and the doors are like shutters, like half-way-up-the-doorway swinging doors with wooden slats, like, well, like saloon doors really, and isn't this part of the problem?

On Sunday I'm going to buy a bag of cherries and ride my bike down to the Zemeckis building across the street from the Shrine Theatre and watch Susan Lucci walk the red carpet, wanna come?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

My Neighbourhood and Other Animals

So the first thing you need to understand is that I live in South Central LA. I feel like it is "techincally" South Central because I am only just south of the #10 freeway (it lulls me to sleep at night), but nonetheless, sketchiness abounds in the blocks around my lopsided old green and white house.

I spend a lot of time in my room, because 1) I just moved here and don't really have much of a life beyond school, 2) I have a lot of reading to do and 3) I like my room. It's so freaking hot here that all available windows are always open, in my house and everyone else's (except, of course, for those lucky bastards with a/c) and this results in a lot of interesting ambient noise.

As I write this, I can hear the latino hip hop (heavy on the bass) of a passing car, distant children screaming at the tops of their lungs, overhead jets, car alarms, and the freeway.

Maybe it's just because I'm taking a brilliant class in film sound from Tom Holman, but I feel the need to list and categorize the ambient noise of my neighbourhood.

First up are the dogs. When I have the back door open and the windows in my room, the noise comes in in stereo. Across the street live three little hilarious dogs and two big scary dogs. The three little dogs hold frequent, frantic conferences that involve running in circles and propping their stumpy little legs up on the chain link to bark at nothing. Sometimes all five dogs get going at once, but that usually means that the neighbourhood kids are dancing around on the other side of the fence, taunting them.

The kids. This street is all about kids riding double on bikes, kids on horrifically small and loud mini motorcycles, kids running up and down and across and all over the street and screaming, all the time, screaming. Very possibly there is a non-stop tag game going on here.

The kids, of course, draw the ice cream and candy trucks, of which there are three that make constant rounds, each singing a tinny tune more pedophilic than the last (one actually starts its tune with hyper happy cartoon voice that says "hello!")

But it's a happy place. For the past two Saturday nights there have been big happy loud house parties that involve some kind of Spanish polka and dance music. Last night I heard the unmistakeable strains of "Achy Breaky Heart" in Spanish and last week the house across the street (not the one with the dogs, next door, right beside the one that was on fire two weeks ago) had some song playing that sampled the X-files theme song. This, with the frequent car alarms, backfiring engines, and helicopters overhead at midnight, makes for aural landscape that makes me feel truly part of the district, even when I don't want to be.

Oh, and someone down the block got a rooster last week.