Friday, August 26, 2011


Helmut Newton shot a series of stories for Vogue in the 90s with Nadja Auermann set in Berlin. They were Fassbinder in feeling. Very transporting. I wondered if Berlin was dark and chic, like what I saw in pictures and heard in music.
It is.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shooting in an asphalt jungle

Developing a feature film is like climbing an invisible mountain. The uncertainties far outweigh what is known. The only thing that an independent filmmaker initially has on their hands is time. And then if any kind of financing comes through and a production is viable, there will begin the process of working in the most difficult schedule. & then if creative decisions have not been made, there is no time to dwell on them and things can be lost. So I am trying to concentrate on decisions now, like the look and locations of the film. I really want to make the city almost a character and strong backdrop for the actors. Chicago is hard, dark, concrete and steely. Shooting in an asphalt jungle it would seem. (A jungle is a metaphor applied to Chicago from time to time...) The film noir Asphalt Jungle, was a good place to go for inspiration-

The opening shots of Asphalt Jungle are shot on location. The film does not specify where the story takes place except that it's a city in the Midwest. The opening was filmed in Cincinnati. The author of the novel, W. R. Burnett, was from Ohio before moving to Chicago. The photography is great. Arthur Rosson, the Director of Photography, was adept at shooting a nice tight, B&W noir (he wasn't a slouch when it came to color either, he shot Wizard of Oz and Singing in the Rain). The exteriors at the beginning are open and vast before the film goes inside to the low angles and tight shots that fit the claustrophobic feel of the story. Sterling Hayden is running from the police and the architecture of the city works with him as he ducts behind buildings and into shadows.

The Asphalt Jungle is a nice, dark noir. Directed by John Huston, it has a silent jewel heist that is referenced in later films. Plus there's an early appearance by a young, cute MM.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

She's Dope

I want to say a word about my friend Sarah Weis. Sarah played the part of Joselyn in Kick and now we are working together again on my short film Reds and Blues.

We met when we were seated next to each other at a dinner party. She told me that she was an actress, which I thought was interesting. Even though Chicago has a vibrant theater scene, I really didn't know a lot of actors. She told me that she was performing in a play about the Essanay Studios, portraying a young Gloria Swanson. A year later when I was developing Kick, I was wracking my brain because I needed an actress, any actress really. I tracked her down online and I got in contact. I was apprehensive because of some of the subject matter in KICK. But little did I know. Sarah is also a media artist and she runs a production company with her creative partner Arturo Cubacub called i-cubed HYPERMEDIA. I watched some of their videos and there was no need to be shy, rather there was a similar sensibility I felt. Sarah has her hand in a lot of mediums but she is a great actress. She's really, really good and beyond what my expectations were. She has a filmmaker's eye on set and her insights into the story & character are invaluable. Not to overstate it but, my collaboration with Sarah has been one of the most important in my life and I am so happy to have that. I hope we are able to keep creatively associated with each other. & I'm pretty sure we will.

One of my favorite of Sarah & Arturo's videos is Greater Than or Less Than <> or Dollar vs. Euro. Among other things it addresses currency dominance and the relationship between Dolly, a power hungry woman in a powdered wig & Euro, a French maid. Here's the opening scene and a music video from the piece. That's oil that Dolly keeps drinking...

& girl's got some pipes. Sarah just released a tape on the Chicago label Plus Tapes.
Here's a music video for "Stretch"

My Favorite is Pennies from Heaven, she sang it for <>
Pennies From Heaven by Sarah Weis

Sarah is working on this song called Opiate girl, hence the title of the post
-Opiate Girl (pre-version)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jose Luis Rios

I've been discussing shooting my science fiction film and mentioning my friend Jose, who will be the cinematographer on the project. Here is his reel. I had not seen it before, and Nick the producer and I needed to send a copy of it in for a grant. It was even better than we thought it would be  ;)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Scout photos

This past winter Jose and I did a scout for my science fiction noir script. Al Cohn, a locations manager for "real movies" assisted with the scout, which was awesome. Noted locations were the Uptown Theater and Hilliard Towers Apartments. We got a hot dog break in there too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Noir-There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.

Thoughts on Film Noir, Chicago, night shooting, etc.

I have been thinking a lot about Film Noir lately. Actually I'm always thinking about Film Noir... What a murky American art form. My feature length screenplay has many noir elements. I'm hoping to keep pushing it in that direction, in the framework for the story and especially for the character's through lines. I've always felt that Chicago, where my script is set, is very noir. It can often be grey, dark and bleak. And it has always been my opinion that Chicago as a city is very undershot. A lot of film production takes place but mostly just on the North East side. I don't think the city has been well represented on film. Most times I do not feel a connection or familiarity with what I see on screen. The Fugitive and The Dark Knight are exceptions, I thought both of those films look like Chicago.
I'm excited to shoot around Chicago on location. Shooting a noir potentially means a lot of night shooting, which is always hard, but there's the basic issue of light. My hope, my hope is to at least shoot the short version of the script on film. Jose Luis Rios, my good friend and cinematographer on the project, and I have been having a lot of discussions about the photography. We would like to shoot on Super 16mm for the texture and the grain. I want the film to have sort of a distant "displaced feel" which S16 could provide. If I'm not able to swing film (still crossing my fingers), I'm not adverse to shooting digitally. Never have been. I'm currently shooting a short called Reds and Blues and we are shooting on the Canon 5D. I love the footage that's coming back. One thing that the 5D and 7D do well is shoot in low light. The image below was shot at about 8:30pm with only street lights providing illumination. It's dark but when Sarah turned her head towards the light she had a decent exposure on her face. It was nice and very noir.

Photo at top of post by Jack Delano link

There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in. -Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

poetry in motion

This is seriously one of my favorite poems

Julian Donkey-Boy, Harmony Korine 1999

A pause for the traveler

At times I have this image of myself standing by the door with a suitcase in my hand, unsure if I am leaving or returning. In past years I have lived or stayed in and come back and forth from Chicago, LA & Berlin. And in prior years New York was another port of call. There are legitimate reasons for travel as I work in the film industry and am an artist. But I know now that it was "the motion" the need to move and the anxieties that would catch me if I stayed in one place too long. Wanderlust in the truest since. There is a chaos or unrest in my head and motion subdues it. Either I have grown older and things have settled in my body & mind or I may be confronting that unrest. The questions I needed the discipline and the maturity to answer. The notion of "home" has for so long been unclear to me. I felt at odds with settling into my apartment. I've kept friends and relationships at an arms length. But I have felt a change and it feels positive and peaceful. I have been thinking about Chicago a lot, and realizing that in many ways that was a home for me for many years. And not fully connecting may have been a fear of a stable life that I could not see myself in. On my last return from LA I was surprised at how natural it was to reconnect with my crew to make another short film. I had not acknowledged that the years I had lived here had fostered support for my work. It could be that the "motion" I needed was the activity and progress of my projects. So I want to take a pause, welcome the present and see what an anchored environment can do for my work. This is not to say that I will not return to my other "satellite homes". I have true and dear collaborators in LA and my favorite city is a grey, chic city in Europe, but for now it feels good to feel still.

Image Sarah Maingot

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You Must Have Chaos


you must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star

Gif Bright Star
quote, Nietzche

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I am not afraid of storms

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
—Louisa May Alcott

Wrigley Building, Chicago

Monday, August 8, 2011

I have dreamed in my life


"I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind." Emily Brontë  

Pena National Palace

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Building Blog

In my research for my Sciencefictionarchitecturenoirfilm, I tumble into this undisciplined rabbit hole of research. I should be getting back to the actual script, concentrating on structure and writing. Initially I was self conscious about writing for characters as architects when I felt I knew little about architecture or design. I grew up in Wisconsin where every art teacher was quick to remind that Frank Lloyd Wright was from our home state and that architecture was something that was genius and dramatic. When I began my script I knew that I wanted my characters to be artists which led me to think of the most visual and firm art form I could think of. And over the years of writing and researching I've just fallen love with architecture. I love buildings. I get sidetracked as I delve into different styles and eras.

Often there is a Brutalist bent to some of the architecture in science fiction, like in this still from  Blade Runner.

Brutalism in real life can often feel dreary, I think of the UIC campus in Chicago. It's grey upon grey in a grey city. But I came across the work of Paul Rudolph, his work has a lighter touch to the brutal style. And speaking of architectural heritage, he is from Elkton, Kentucky, which is where my father is from (a rather random place for an architect to be from as there's not a lot of buildings there or anything else for that matter). He designed the white blocked building at the top of the post, the Milam house in Florida. It reminds me of Michael Mann. Like a house that would be in one of his movies, airy white and stark. Someplace where the guy that's been a bank robber his whole life retires to before he's pulled into one last heist. Or where the well-connected dealer stays. Or the house where William Petersen lived in Man Hunter.

Speaking of Man Hunter, THIS is awesome. This is my favorite scene from the movie. There's a lot of great things going on (like the ripping of the nylon off the dash), but I love how the door glows behind Joan Allen's head.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Another Still

 Here's another still from the camera tests I did for my Sci-Fi Noir. Ruth Barabe was the beautiful and emotive model who interacted with the buildings and skyline.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The one that I hold closest

I have been working on one thing for so long. Friends and family ask about it in vague tones wondering where it may be at and if it's still of concern. It is. Within the last couple of years I have been wading back into my craft. Something that is familiar but takes work and diligence.
I wrote a feature length script just out of film school. A science fiction noir that deals with architects in Chicago. Many years have past. It has sat in drawers, I've had to transpose it into different writing programs. At times when I couldn't sit down and work with it, the screenplay became loveless, a weight. But I still feel for the story, I am still drawn into it. But I have to work with it and practically reassemble it to bring the piece into the present. But it is still here, it's with me, and I am making footprints with it. A short has been written based on the feature length draft. Actors have been contacted. I am readying a film order (yes, film!), and camera tests have been shot. I am bringing the project that I love the most into the world. I'm thankful, delighted.