Monthly Archives: May 2003

6/1/03 Brooklyn, NY If the

6/1/03 Brooklyn, NY

If the life of a film you made can be directly translated to a child you raise, The Pink House just graduated out of middle school and is about to enter the scary world of being a freshman. It has survived most of its acne, knows how to hide boners, and is months away from its first real kiss. I say this because we just finished an output of the actual rough cut, which will be mixed in the sound lab this week, transferred to the right stock, and shipped to our first major festival by the deadline on Friday.

Is it the right movie for the festival? It depends mostly on the number of comedies they will get this year, and if the past five years are any indication, that means “not many” – which could swing in our favo(u)r. That said, there are many movies vying for space that quite simply outspent us by a factor of twenty, allowing them a certain look we couldn’t achieve – but our movie is scrappy, fights for rebounds, and plays excellent defense. It looks expensive, because we did lots of research before shooting (how to use digital video in the best way possible, using a lot of cool tricks) and certain technologies have caught up with us since 2001.

One such technology is our dual-processor 1.42 Ghz Mac G4, which wasn’t available while we were shooting the film, but has now shortened our “render” time from days to hours. Final Cut Pro also went from version 1.25 to version 3 during our journey, which allowed us to do a lot more stuff, and a little piece of software called DV Film Maker gave the video a “film look” that is almost as good as the real thing.

Past that, all you can do is hope your little kid enters Grade 9 with all the right school supplies, a bunch of clothes that won’t inspire ridicule, and a black belt in karate. When I entered 9th grade, I had but one of those things, and it’s not hard to guess which one.

with the leads of the film: me, Omar Scroggins, Pilar Punzano, Matt Dawson, Natane Boudreau, Tessa, Zack Ward and Heather Matarazzo (click for bigger)

5/31/03 Brooklyn, NY I know

5/31/03 Brooklyn, NY

I know there are books dedicated to the pervasive mentalities that encapsulate entire decades, but I’m more interested in the tiny trends that lasted 2-3 years or so: the “micro-eras.” Sowing the Seeds of Love came on the satellite radio today, and I was suddenly thrust back into a period lasting roughly from 1987 to 1991, when a song like that could have been taken seriously.

’87 brought the bucolic, verdant gorgeousness of XTC’s masterpiece Skylarking to the public consciousness, as well as the albums that influenced my younger brother and sister’s crowd (stuff by the Dream Academy and Aztec Camera, as well as “Louder Than Bombs”). Perfectly timed with the 20-year anniversary release of “Sgt. Pepper,” this little era brought a brief resurgence of kids asking what was so fucking funny about peace, love and understanding; it was an earnest time, when everyone’s friends seemed to live at each others’ houses.

The styles were all over the map. Tears For Fears brought out gold lam suits festooned with sunflowers, while De La Soul gave it a name: the Daisy Age. My sister pranced around America wearing a sexless, oversized T-shirt that said “Bread Not Bombs” and I bought paisley. There was also this intense “world music” thing going on in the nascent coffee shops of the late ’80s; also, a surge of interracial dating, which was finally losing its taboo and actually becoming cool. Tessa likes to call this period The United Colors of Benetton, what with the ads of the time featuring pasty redheaded girls wearing Sudanese hats and Somalian models in forest green sweaters.

I really liked this micro-era. The music was fabulous; the last gasps of the New Romantics and the final wave of British high-harmony pop was washing over New York – hip-hop could be dreamy and intellectual (“Three Feet High and Rising”), hilarious (Ice-T’s “Let’s Get Butt-Naked and Fuck”) or just fun on a road trip (“Bust a Move”). My roommate Salem and I listened to “Roam” by the B-52s for a year.

It might have been our reaction to Reagan exhaustion, the beginning of “opting out” before Slackerdom replaced youthful vigor with a hopeless sigh. Like most things, alcohol helped ruin the micro-era; what was once a sneaky bottle of Kahlua on my birthday became a slew of hard-edged bourbons for no special occasion. There was some critical moment when idealism turned to rage. I remember it happening very quickly.

But for those years, I was happy and had some hope, especially on Earth Day 1989, as I watched a one-man show at Carolina featuring a boy finally coming out (while Erasure played, naturally). On the way home, I put XTC into my Walkman and heard the opening strains of “Grass,” and I don’t think it has ever seemed that sunny since. But I’m working on it.

Bud and I recline in the air conditioning during the endless summer of ’87

5/30/03 Brooklyn, NY First off,

5/30/03 Brooklyn, NY

First off, I need to address a confusion that some readers might have about the two Seans discussed herein; one Sean is my brother (whose blog ramblings can be found here) and the other is my nephew Sean (son of my brother Kent) who is graduating from high school this week in Iowa City. He has been more commonly known to us as Sean Patrick, but as people grow into their late teens, it becomes harder to keep the additional names. Curiously, Sean Patrick is named after Sean Charles (my brother), whose middle name is, in turn named for his uncle Chuck.

Confused yet? Let me go further. The matriarch of our family is now our great aunt, and though she is descriptively “great,” I mean it in the generational sense of “my grandmother’s sister.” Her name is Idonna (yes, “Donna” with an “I” stuck before it) but we’ve truncated it to Auntie Donna.

We all grew up working at my uncle’s catering business (no, a different uncle), alongside our Mormon relatives known as the Startups. They weren’t a business, that is their actual name. The Startups are the extended sisters and nephews of my Uncle Steve’s wife Cheryl. In other words, I would be slicing ham with my second-cousins-once-removed-in-laws-by-marriage. We’re actually friends with that whole brood.

Want to hear something ever crazier? One of the Startup wives died, and the husband of another Startup died – and then the surviving widow and widower got married to each other. Thus, those kids who once were cousins also became step-brothers to each other.

I have 43 cousins (41 on the Mormon side) and each one of them brings something like this to the table. The one thing all of us have in common are large, full lips – and one ancestor known as William Willden. If he knew what kind of twisted mess he’d beget, he might have opted for the bachelor life, 1887-style.

5/29/03 Brooklyn, NY On my

5/29/03 Brooklyn, NY

On my nephew Sean’s graduation

(rapped to the beat of “Finger Lickin’ Good” by the Beastie Boys)

Old Skool Seano was dopin’ like Fagin

Born in the reign of Easy Ron Reagan

Forged in the depths of my parents’ divorce

Little Sean screamin’ till his mama was hoarse

Antiques flyin’, turkey’s rottin’

Christmas bells shakin’ and my family’s besotten

‘Stead of being angry and a little shit ranklin’, he was

Growin’ equinanimous like Benjamin Franklin

By the time he was fiddlin’ and groovin’ elementary

Sucka MC’s were try and shakin’ his belfry

But he be deflectin’ with a deft bon mot

Even fifth grader lakers couldn’t challenge his flow

Sean is his moniker, don’t be wearing it out

Named after uncle, the one without gout

Has a sweet hook shot, playa fast playa loose

Comin’ down the lane like a unhook’d caboose

Keep him on the baseline, know your own train line

His long-distance jumpers stroke trifectas so fine

Don’t be dissin’ on my nephew, ya jealous playa hata!

Just ‘cuz you can’t be the master debater!

Give him a country, playin’ Model U.N.

Shit, he’s got Uganda written all over ‘im

Give him a topic – debate all the day

By the time that he be done with you, you think you be gay

Graduating now to the halls of higher rhymers

He be havin’ him the smarts of fifty Robert Oppenheimers

And even though our Hawkeye family legacy’s rough

I’m going back to Iowa City, I do believe I’ve had enough.

5/28/03 Brooklyn, NY How Our

5/28/03 Brooklyn, NY

How Our Conversations Devolve, Part XIV

After a very long day of editing, Tessa and I crashed into bed, following our usual regimen of mutual wireless surfing on laptops. She put together a linen registry for her bridal shower, and I have to say, some of these things take a little getting used to. I’ve never seen that much linen in my life, in fact, I still use blankets and pillow cases I’ve had, literally, since 3rd grade. But I realized I’m also kind of a sentimental schlub.

Then we went over to Amazon, where I’ve registered for a couple of “boy items” that have nothing to do with cookware or bedding. She became enamored of the garden supplies, particularly a book called The Well-Designed Mixed Garden: Building Beds and Borders with Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs. We also stumbled on the much more sweetly named Trowel and Error, which led me to muse upon my own yet-unwritten gardening books, “Natural Born Tillers” and “Mulch Ado About Nothing.” Then we figured there should be a whole series of gardening books based thematically upon the works of Shakespeare: “Taming of the Yew,” “The TenPests,” “The Merry Vines of Vindsor,” “A Comedy of Iris,” “Richard the Turd” (you know, about fertilizer), “Hamlock,” and of course, “King Leaf” and “King Lawn” (you know, like “King Lear” and “King John”? HA HA HA!)

Man, we are so fucking funny it hurts!

5/27/03 Brooklyn, NY Whatever the

5/27/03 Brooklyn, NY

Whatever the Pink House movie is going to be, it is going to “be” in the next five days. The hours leading up to Saturday night will be the last we have with Jessie (our editor) before the deadline for the Toronto Film Festival, which has been earmarked on our emotional calendars for almost two years. Whatever frosting we can ladle on this cake, must be ladled in heavy quantities this week, and hopefully with lots of jimmies and rainbow sparkles.

Several huge things are about to go into the movie: my mom’s brilliant score (sounding exactly like a 60-piece orchestra), scenes that explain why the Pink House has their money stolen, why Old Man Maddox changes his mind, why we don’t see Heather Matarazzo until her grand entrance, and the denouement of Oxford and Chloe. Yes, none of this makes sense to you. I can only hope it does in a few months.

Laboring over the last part of any large project brings about two paradoxical phenomena: first, you believe you are on a steep betterment curve, meaning that every little change geometrically leaps the film miles closer to perfection. Second, if you were honest with yourself, you’d probably admit that nobody on earth who watches the film right now could tell the difference; they either already love it, or they wouldn’t have dug it in the first place.

The truth, like all things, lies somewhere in the middle. We would love to go to Toronto, but I ask myself: does it hold together? Will anyone think it is funny? Not one soul besides the principal departments (Rick Gradone, Todd Walker, mom, John Kelleran) has seen anything in two years from this film, besides a very effective 2-minute trailer. We’re about to pull our pants way, way down, and this week is going to be spent making sure our genitalia is as impressive as hell.

5/26/03 Columbia County, NY As

5/26/03 Columbia County, NY

As afar as birthday celebrations go, it’s going to be hard to compare to last year, when I dragged half my known universe up here to the Berkshires for a fabulous festival of red meat and basketball, but some years require a bit more solace than others. Besides, I don’t think one of my friends could have come this year: Chip just shot his NYC wad on a bachelor party, Scott has a huge CPA test, Salem is in Ohio, Dana & Lindsay are in North Cackalackie, even my own brother is in a play this weekend.

Besides, if you do any kind of meteorological research, you will find that wherever I am for my birthday, it is guaranteed to piss down rain. I think it has been ten years in a row, and that includes an early hurricane in 1995. Today it was twenty-three degrees below normal with a steady downpour all day long. If I’d had friends here this year, it would have just pissed me off.

As it is, we had a shitload of gardening to do before we leave for a few days – Tessa was hell-bent on getting all the annuals in the ground so that they are in full bloom for our wedding in ten weeks. If you’re coming to our wedding, be sure and tell Tessa how nice the flowers are, because she and Michelle slogged in the freezing mud for five hours today.

click for bigger

As for me, I had to plant my vegetable garden, but after an hour of being caked in wet cow shit and my fingers numb with cold, I decided that This Was Not How I Wanted to Spend My Birthday. I threw in the towel, postponed the planting until next week, and my sister, fiance and I went to Great Barrington to eat salmon and watch A Mighty Wind. A good, subdued time was had by all, and even when Tessa was upset that I might not “have had a good birthday,” I quietly reminded her that any birthday with her in my life outpaces those of Big Wheels, Millennium Falcons and any festival of red meat and basketball.

5/25/03 Columbia County, NY I

5/25/03 Columbia County, NY

I turned 36 a few hours ago. I’m not one to get depressed about aging, but this one kinda snuck up and bit me on the ass. I know how stupid people sound when they turn an age you’ve long since known (like this girl on the train who was horrified she was 27), but 36 is almost basically kind of “pushing forty.” I’m now officially out of the coveted 18-35 demographic – as if my Smiths predilection didn’t already do the job – and though I still feel unsettled, immature, and plagued by acne, it’s an age that requires a certain biting of the bullet.

If I’m going to go ahead and turn 36, there are a few things that need to happen, starting tomorrow. I’ll list a few here:

– no more rabid profanity at hoops. Time for that shit to stop. I know it’s some people’s favorite part of playing with me, but it just eggs on some of my lowest behavior and is an immediate path to misery.

– lose 20 pounds. It is in your late thirties, I believe, that you set a course for that vague patch of life that hovers before middle age. Being doughy, having a fucked-up back and hating every photograph is no way to slide into second base.

– lose contempt and embrace several things that you once found anathema: mornings, yoga, eating stuff that actually decreases cancer, etc. This list will grow, I hope, as my modus operandi becomes more expansive.

Oh, and so much more. It seems a bit morose, sitting alone on this dark night at the farm – Tessa and Michelle have long since gone to bed – but thirty-six still sounds old to me, and some things take a bit of meditation. I’ll have to redefine what the age means. Besides, the best thing about getting older is that everyone else does too – even you, fair reader.

5/24/03 Columbia County, NY When

5/24/03 Columbia County, NY

When you choose to be an artist, you are also signing up for a lifelong lesson in delayed gratification. Even stand-up comics hone their craft and sit in despondent sessions of self-loathing before they get the zinging heroin of a live crowd – to say nothing of novelists, sculptors and double-bass players, who, if they get kudos at all, get it heavily filtered through the reflective prisms of newspapers, gossip, and applause meant for someone else.

But not in this blog, where we are going to issue proper credit to an artist who has been creating some of the most beautiful, mostly-unheralded music for fifty years now: my mom. The score she wrote for the Pink House movie is so wonderful, so dead-on and perfect, that I feel a need to broadcast it far and wide, if only to hope the karma reaches back and allows her to quit her current suck-ass day job and do this for real.

If people want to hear some mp3 samples, I’ll find a way to post some snippets here, but for now, we just have to make sure the movie is good enough for the score. Or you’ll just have to wait for the film itself. Either way, it’s amazing to be in the family with an artist like her, especially when her orange sauce for waffles is so damned good as well.

5/23/03 Columbia County, NY Rick

5/23/03 Columbia County, NY

Rick Gradone, Sean, Tessa and me in Depression-era garb

Who knows if this will turn out to be true, but today was supposed to be the last shoot of the seemingly interminable Pink House production – an effort, I might add, that began on July 23, 2001. We’ve had two reshoots/pickup sessions since the initial production (see here and here) but this was an elusive shot that I’ve coveted since about Draft 2 of the script.

It goes like this: in the 1930s section of the movie, evil Maddox (Fred Weller) forces his fiance Chloe (played by Natane Boudreau) to come with him to New Orleans. My brother Sean, who plays Oxford, steals her back. This was always just “explained” in the movie, you know, the ultimate crime of telling and not showing. I always wanted a tiny scene where Chloe has obviously escaped the clutches of her betrothed and has traversed road, river and rail to get back to her true love.

Originally, this was meant to be shot at an old dock, somewhere in Brooklyn. Then we looked into shooting at Grand Central, but it just got too involved. Finding the Stockbridge Train Station was a happy accident on the way home from Target one day last month – it was an abandoned depot that had changed little in 75 years, and nobody would see us shooting.

Of course, the usual shit happened when we showed up today: it was squirting down cold rain, there a train there with pissed-off conductors, and the town had spent 3.5 million dollars on a Grand Scenic Railroad Re-Opening due for tomorrow. This is after eight years of laying fallow. The only thing worse was if we’d actually planned the shoot for tomorrow.

Tessa batted her eyes and wooed the hearts of the contractors, and we had a 45-minute window to get everything we needed before the Man would show up to shut us down. Quick as bunnies, we got into places, shot a medium establishing of the station, a close-up of Sean, then sent him back to Queens. Then we shifted over to Natane, who bravely fought the rain and cold to look delighted to see her beloved. We wrapped, threw everything in the car, and all of us bolted onto the freeway just as the Housatonic Train Authority arrived to give us the heave-ho. It was the last shot of our movie, and we made it by about thirty seconds.

The enchantress Natane Boudreau gets her eyelines straight

Rick and our delightful Assistant Camerawoman named Valentina (from Naples) rushed the film back to Manhattan for processing, while Tessa and I drove Natane to her home in Woodstock. Once there, we gossiped with her mother and stepdad (both way cool) for a few hours while Tessa got hopped-up on French tea. On the way home, we stopped in Kingston to see the new Matrix movie with the sound all the way up, an experience I thoroughly dug.

With my mom Fedexing the score to the film today, we finally have the raw materials to make the movie I have been trying to make for four years. Now it is only up to us.