Monday, June 30, 2003

One more thing:

I just found out that Bob Odenkirk will have a sitcom on FOX this September.

If there ever was a man who I'd be a "sketch comedy fan-boy nerd" for, it'd be Bob Odenkirk.

Which I am.

So I'm understandably excited.

Remember how in my last blog I was pondering how to balance "honest" characters and "contrived" plotlines?

Remember how I said it in reference to "David Mows Yards?"

Well, I've done something about it.

I've decided to cut a subplot from the movie. It's sort of difficult (I, of course, think that I'm losing EVERYTHING), but in the end, it'll be a good decision. The subplot's main purpose was to drive home the movie's main point - in a completely ham-fisted and unpoetic fashion.

So it's good that I'm doing this. I know the subplot would be the sort of thing that's so obvious and earnest, that it will haunt me in five years. Just like when I hear lyrics that I wrote as a senior in high school. And that was just three years ago. "Here inside my Catholic school/God is dead and beer is cool." Yes. Acknowledge that.

Now, the subplot will only be a brief 30-45 second glimmer in the spectator's eye. And that glimmer will create one single teardrop. And that teardrop will run down the spectator's cheek and into their butt.


Tonight, DJ, Jake, and I finished the "Alien" anthology. I will list them in order of preference (from VERY BEST to VERY BOOOO!)

1. Alien
2. Alien 3
3. Aliens
4. Alien Resurrection

Why do I feel this way? I will not say. I ain't no Leonard Maltin!

Sunday, June 29, 2003

On Saturday, I shot a scene with my mammy.

On Sunday, I re-shot a scene with my niece-y.

Today, I will shoot a scene with Frances Krull, a fellow LeMartian and Postal Playhouse favorite.

Started thinking about my writing... follow my self-obsession...

So I like characters, right? Who doesn't? Everybody likes characters. Even writers who write really bad characters will still say they like characters. I'm probably one of them. But whatever. SHUT UP!

Anyway, when I write, I'll concentrate a lot of my time and energy on characters' behaviors and hang-ups and speech patterns and worldviews. Yes. Worldviews.

Most of all, I want my characters to be able to have some sort of identification with its audience. Not in a "Oh, I really identify with this character" sort of way, but more like... "Oh, I recognize people like that. I've seen people like that. People like that actually exist." I like actuality. And some sort of honesty.

Because, you know... art never lies.

I would never lie to you, Jackie.

So, I've noticed that my desire to show characters in their natural, untapped state is sort of... bullshit. Because as much as I like honest characters, I also adore plot mechanics. O. Henry stories will always work. "Back to the Future 2" will always be better than the first. And "Three's Company" will always floor me with its pristine, air-tight plot constructions. This cannot be avoided. I am a boy and it is engrained in my foreskin.

But aren't these two opposing forces? I mean, can a character exist truthfully and honestly when it's constantly being manipulated by plot mechanics? I know that to some extent, a character will always be at the will of a writer's storytelling, but... for me, I'm having a really hard time finding a compromise between the two.

Because in a lot of the stuff I write, there's a major shift of events in the "last act." Some may call it "contrived," but I call it... "contrived." And in the end, these characters who were going about somewhat truthfully are suddenly thrown into a situation that's... less-truthfully.

I don't know. I'm struggling with this because "David Mows Yards" is pretty contrived at the end and I'm trying to come to peace with that.

But it has to be contrived.

To prove its point.

And that point is?

I'm a poor writer.

Friday, June 27, 2003

That scene with me and Alexis on the playground? IT'S GONE! The aforementioned blustery winds ruined all audio. We'd start talking, but all that'd come out was: WHOOOOSH. And trust me. I checked the script. There is no point where our characters say: WHOOOOSH.

So I'm scrapping that version and reshooting the scene at a different location. A location with four walls. This is good in audio terms, but as far as "beautiful shot" status goes... it's lost. Which is a shame. In the original version, there was this expansive, clear-blue Midwestern sky. Wide and gorgeous. Now it's gone. Which is a double shame because the scene was supposed to "open stuff up" and "let the movie breathe." Now it will suffocate under oppressive layers of wood-panelling and thick shag carpeting.

I was going to re-shoot the scene yesterday, but Alexis wanted to swim instead. I couldn't say no. This left me with nothing to do during the whole day. Which is extremely frustrating. I think of how much I have to shoot and how I'm not shooting and how I'm wasting valuable time. Tomorrow, I will shoot three scenes. I will shoot these scenes.

In other news, yesterday, I went to the dentist. I got two cavities. When I say "got," I mean "received." The dentist gave me two cavities at the appointment. These are my first-ever cavities in my adult teeth. Perfection lost.

When I was a kid, after I'd visit the dentist and I'd go home with my teeth smooth and clean, I'd resolve that I would brush my them three times a day. And each session would take 7 minutes.

I will keep my teeth clean.

I will shoot three scenes.

Tonight, I ate a whole Tupperware container of cantaloupe. When I told my mom this, she said I was going to "poop like a goose." When I inquired further, my mom said, "You're going to walk out onto the 9th hole and poop on the green." It's a LeMars golf joke. A good one at that. I laughed heartily.

Afterwards, my parents and I watched "About Schmidt." It was my fourth time.

This movie is perfect.

Like my adult teeth before yesterday.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Shooting continued today. There were a string of obstacles:

Everyone bitches about the control Hollywood has. Its control over American cinema. Its control over national taste-making. But you know what they control the most? God's elements. Every Hollywood film was shot in a soundstage. EVERY ONE. This allows them to avoid blustery winds and changing shadows and that goddamn train that toots its horn every five minutes during pivotal dialogue. Yeah. I'm talking to you, tooty train. Next time I see you, I'm putting a spike on your railroad.

W.C. Fields gave us so much sound advice: A) Drink alcohol until your face burns and blisters B) Killy whitey and C) Never shoot a scene with a kid. Kids act up, right? Kids don't remember their lines, yes?
But my 7 year-old niece Alexis? She does not act up! She remembers all her lines! She whispers your lines to you when you forget your own! This kid is a professional. Watch your back, Macaulay Temple.

Food is continuity hell. Don't believe me? Watch every croissant in "Pretty Woman." In one shot, there's a bite. In the next, there's not. In the one after that, it's covered in AIDS.

In this scene, Alexis and I were eating ice cream. Ice cream! In 80 degree heat! It melts faster than you can deliver your lines. It melts faster than you can deliver your child. How do you fix this? Easy. You buy five Dairy Queen Dilly Bars and continually eat them in one single hour. By the end of the day, Alexis and I were sick on cool treats. Who would have thought that ice cream could cause such pain? Such >major pain?

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I didn't tell any of you!

On Monday night, LeMars had the biggest rainstorm in its history. Or at least my history. Or at least my history within the last three years.

The storm was so big that it knocked the lights out. Power? OUT! Electricity? OUT! My mind? COMPLETELY BLOWN!

My mom and I sat in the living room, chatting. She laid on the floor. I was sprawled out on the couch. We talked about stuff I can no longer remember. It was important and all. I just think the lightning which occasionally filled the room has erased my brain.

Like I said... my mind? COMPLETELY BLOWN!

Since there was no power, there was no TV. And since there was no TV, I decided to rot my brain and read a book. I finished the one I'd been reading intently for the last couple weeks. It was "You Shall Know Our Velocity" by Dave Eggers. Which was... TERRIFIC!

There's a lot of ideas running through the book, but the one that I'll share with you is this... so these guys go on a trip around the world in one week and decide to give out money to people they see, right? The interesting thing is... they keep building up what an experience it will be. And so whenever they're stalled or they overslept or whatever, they're kicking themselves for having wasted their time. What was supposed to be this monumental thing just becomes boring and inconsequential.

This has so much relevance in my life. All the time I'm trying to create "fun" and "important" moments, but everyone knows... you can't force stuff like that. It only comes naturally.

Lately, I've been having problems experiencing life purely. It's constantly bogged down with expectations and artificiality. When I go to rock shows, I don't get lost in the music. Not like I did when I was 16. I just stand there, thinking, "Yes. This rocks. Right? This rocks? Yes. This rocks."

I've never done drugs, but I've always been convinced that if I did, I wouldn't be able to enjoy them. I'd be too focused on if they were working on me or not. I'd over-think to the point that I would just be dissatisfied and bored.

So there goes using drugs as a way of escaping.

This was a joke. Do not write your local congressman.

I watched "Aliens" tonight. At one point, Ripley tapes two guns together. Jake and I both spoke in unison, "That's pretty cool."

We are boys. Boys are we.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

ALSO: my 7 year-old niece Alexis pitched a movie to me. Here it is...

We'd get all my friends and split them into two groups. Each group would stand across from each other, glaring at one another. There is obvious hate.

Alexis and I, however, would portray hippies and walk between both groups, giving the peace sign and saying, "Peace, dudes."

So I could fully understand this, Alexis provided me with a pitch-perfect "hippie voice."

You will see this movie. And it will be entitled "Citizen Kane And Grand Illusion Have a Child."
Yesterday (Tuesday), I re-shot the opening scene for "David Mows Yards." After watching the footage, I realized I did not like it and needed to re-do it. You see, I vowed to myself that I would not settle for less with this movie. I am a cruel, intolerant perfectionist. Later, when Scatman Crothers recounts working on my film, he will break down in tears. Then, a year later, he will portray Dewey Stevens in "Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island." Best. Career move. Ever.

Afterwards, I edited the opening as well. Two minutes of the film are already complete! Now, only 118 left to go! I will bore all of you. All of you!

Actually, by reshooting the opening, I came up with a different "second scene," which consequently cut the orginal "second" and third" scenes. Already, I have skimmed a few minutes off this movie. I will not bore all of you. All of you!

Tonight, DJ, Jake, and I hung out. Yes, all of you frothy-mouthed My Business Failed in Three Weeks fans, we hang out. Just like normal people! What you see onstage is true friendship. It's not manufactured unlike other other bands I know. Right, Collective Soul?!

The three of us watched "Alien." We are planning on watching the entire anthology for the rest of the week.

For many of you, life in small-town America just got a whole lot smaller.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Ring a bell and punch a beggar! My movie "David Mows Yards" began shooting today. TRIVIA: The first scene we shot will be the first scene in the movie. Don't disbelieve me!

In case you didn't know, I am playing David. In today's scene, my mom played David's mom. My mom is my mom is my mom is my mom. Damn. I am so meta. Meta as "Godspell."

I watched the footage and realized I'll have to re-shoot a section. It was too dark and looked like dump. This is the way of the world.

At one point today, my mom had to drive over-the-speed-limit. She passed a cop in his car and... you know what? She kept speeding! True professional.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

I have returned to Le Mars, Iowa and have smelled its summer air. It is sweeter than anything you will ever know. This is not ha-ha mid-90's sarcasm either. This is truth. I smelled it tonight and realized how much I missed it.

Today, I took a flight from Oakland to Phoenix, then Phoenix to Omaha. The flight to Phoenix was amazing. I sat by five kids - two girls and three boys (ranging from the ages of 6-11) who were flying by themselves. And they were the snottiest, most awful kids. Mainly because they didn't have that innocent charm of most kids. They could have been totally rambunctious (sp?) and wild and loud and that would have been fine. I mean, it's fun to watch kids have fun, right? But these kids were just so jaded and vile. They were at that horrible age where kids start getting influenced by the adult world's "cool" attitude and "hot shit" behavior. And futhermore, they were riding on this airplane alone, which only increased their "I'm hot shit" attitude.

Example: this 11 year-old girl sat beside me and proclaimed to those around her, "I've ridden on soooo many airplanes in my life." Another example: she handed her friend some Kettle Korn and informed him that "This is the best Kettle Korn in the world." So, in her 11 years, this girl is already the authority on plane travel and kettle korn.

And the worst part was that these kids still tried to be "kids." They were loud and played with Beanie Babies, but it was this fake childhood behavior. Like they didn't really believe in it. They were just going through the motions. And it was all mixed up with an adult mindset. They'd start fighting violently with the Beanie Babies and I think one girl had the Beanie Babies perform oral sex on one another.

It was depressing.

Before, I referred to it as amazing. Now it is depressing.

On a sidenote: I came home, unpacked my bags, and realized I forgot to bring something back.

Apparently, I left my heart in San Francisco.

This is truth.

Friday, June 20, 2003

I am finished writting the script for "David Mows Yards," the movie I'm shooting when I get back to LeMars. There will, of course, be a couple more revisions, but I got it all down on the page and that's something, I suppose.

I sent the script to my friend DJ who will be my "right hand man" when shooting this. I asked for his comments and he nicely gave them back to me in a timely fashion (many of them helpful). One of his comments noted how one of the scenes is incredibly similar to a part in "Swingers," a film I haven't ever seen. He warned me how people may think I stole the joke. Ugh.

You can't be blamed for things you did not intend. Can you?

My friend Aaron drove up to Berkeley yesterday and he's hanging out with me here until I leave tomorrow. We went to "Capturing the Friedmans" last night. It was a great documentary. There's a lot of stuff about people's need to document things without ever reaching an answer and the level of performance in people's dysfunction. And this neat motif of old 80's technology and its relation to pornography/confession (old Apple computer games, audio tape, dot matrix printers). Really great.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

I am done with my internship at San Francisco Cinematheque. I only have one scene left to write in my script. I return to Le Mars on Saturday. Everything has an end and I'm coming to all of them.

Today, Allison and I will walk across the Golden Gate Bridge - just like the pioneers did so many years ago.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Tonight, my friend Allison and I went to see Blur in concert. This was quite a treat. I'm a pretty big fan of theirs and the show was excellent. And that lead singer Damon Albarn is quite the little charmer. A charismatic lead singer is so rare these days. But he'd smile and wink and do faux emotive stances and offer himself to the audience, so they could clammer all over him. At one point, he made eye contact with a 10 year-old kid in the audience and smiled, totally making that kid's day - and the rest of the crowd's as well. It was awesome. Plus, he's the most gorgeous man in rock-n-roll (next to Tom Petty, of course).

Take a look at the sexy. He makes the entire world simultaneously question their sexuality. Both men and women.


Tuesday, June 17, 2003

I have two more days of my internship left. So far, it's been good to me.

One aspect that has been not-so-good to me is the walk from the BART station to the Cinematheque offices. (Note: BART is a public transit system akin to your city's subway. One difference? This bitch goes underwater!) As I head to work, I walk on Mission Street, which is one of the most sincerely depressing stretches of pavement that God has put on this sincerely depressing earth. Smells of industrial paints and rotten food waft over every step - smells I force myself to ignore or otherwise, I'd get headaches and dry-heave. Postcards of pornography are strewn about the sidewalks. Cops stand around, referring to the citizens around them as "motherfuckers."

It is on this street where society's unwanted second cousins reside: The homeless. The crippled. The mentally ill. Or the most common: the crippled, mentally ill homeless.

One morning, I saw a woman with no legs pushing herself in a wheelchair, holding a cardboard sign that asked for money, food, anything. If that wasn't unsettling enough, she was crying. That's right. She was pushing herself in a wheelchair and crying at the same time. Another time, I saw a sewer grate open up in the middle of the sidewalk and a man crawl out. He was living underneath our feet.

It's not only depressing, but threatening. Yesterday morning, I walked past a man who, at the last moment that our bodies crossed each other, sent out a fake punch towards me, narrowly missing my face.

Every morning, I walk this street.

And every afternoon, I walk down one more block for my lunch break. It's only one block away from Mission Street, but it might as well be located on the moon's surface. This place is populated with fancy cars and popular chain stores... people in expensive clothes and kids in hipster fashions.

It's at these moments when I realize that I'm located squarely on the corner of the Have and Have-Nots.

Watching. Observing. Taking notes.

Wondering which side I belong to. Which side makes me more comfortable. Which side is "right."

And ultimately...

doing nothing whatsoever.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

I'm back from Los Angeles. As I've mentioned numerous times, I went to Disneyland with my sister Amy, her boyfriend Scott, and Scott's family. At the gift shop for the "Star Wars" ride, I saw Nikki Six of Motley Crue fame standing by a rack of merchandise. Surprisingly, this wasn't even the highlight of the day.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Universal Studios with Aaron Galbraith, Dan Brooks, and Mike Brooks. We got to "ride the movies." At one point, a metal robot-skull flew out at me via the "Terminator 2: 3-D" show. Fortunately, it didn't talk. If it had, I would have been cleaning feces (and semen) out of my pants for weeks.

That night, I met up with some more friends, Mike Cassady and Neil Campbell. We went midnight bowling and I proved to everyone that... I suck at bowling. It was a good time though. At one point, I laughed for eight minutes straight at a joke that was meant to be laughed at for eight minutes straight.

Today, I said goodbye to my Amy and Scott. We both flew out of LAX, but Amy and Scott were going to Europe, whereas I flew back to the Bay Area. On the curb of a busy sidewalk, I cried on my sister's shoulder. It was tough. This is the longest-sustained time I've spent with her since I was 11. I'll miss her like she's my sister. Which she is.

This means, I'll be here in Berkeley/Oakland/San Francisco by myself for a week. That's cool. I'll get some writing done and I still got some "peeps" to hang out with. Then, it's back to LeMars.

All in all, the Los Angeles trip was great. For awhile now, I've been planning on moving out to LA after college. Nothing happened to deter me from this plan.

Friday, June 13, 2003

So, I went to Disneyland today. Amazing. So many stories. I can't share them all (i.e. using someone else's internet right now), but I will tell you them all soon enough, my darlings.

One story though:

I've leaving Disneyland at closing time, right? I've been walking all day. My feet are sore. The back of my thighs are tightening up. I'm exhausted. I've had fun, but I'm exhausted.

So, the last things you see before leaving Disneyland are this: the center square garden, the train that takes you anywhere you want to go, and finally, the lost-child headquarters. And as I'm walking out of Disneyland, I look into the lost-child headquarters and see a young mother sitting on a bench, holding her 4 year-old son. One arm wrapped firmly around his waist and another hand running down the back of his head. And if there's any moment she lets go of him, it's too wipe away the tears running down her cheeks.

She had lost her son. But she had found him.

And if you looked real closely, you could see the mother kissing her child's ear and whispering secret words - saying things like, "I'm sorry" and "This will never happen again" and "I can't imagine ever being separated from you."

Goddamn. Disneyland is beautiful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Last night, in bed, I discovered a way to re-structure my movie script. I was near completion (about 3/4 done), but I found a way to make the story push forward better. Before, I had the "arc" happen twice in two different areas. Now, I'm going to have them arc together. It's more concise. It makes more sense.

For me, the "plot pushing forward" aspect is one of the most important things to have in a movie (yes, I am your teacher. You are my pupils). People's attention spans seem to wane pretty quickly - especially with amateur videos like mine when there aren't superior production values to keep people hooked. So, if an audience member feels like the story is mowing forward and is heading somewhere, they'll be more apt to stay with it.

You know how a good essay has fluid transitions between each paragraph and even more specifically, fluid transitions between each sentence? Well, that's how I try to write scripts. Each scene flows into the next logically - continually raising a question at the end and answering it in the next. Over and over. I don't know if I necessarily achieve this, but I try. And who knows if it's even a good way? It could be too regimented and formulaic. It probably is.

But so far, I like it, so I'll keep doing it.

Kind of like my massive heroin addiction.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Yesterday, my friend Allison took me to the most glorious place in San Francisco (or on earth, for that matter). I will tell you what that place is... but not yet! Just know that I took pictures of me standing in front of this glorious place and I will hopefully post these pictures online when I return to LeMars. You are in suspense.

In other "Paul shows off" news, I've been promised by Amy and Scott that they will take me to Disneyland on Thursday. I cannot express how excited I am by this. First of all, I love theme parks. They are amazing. I love them more than those old, crumbly cities that people adore and much more than that whole "nature" thing people go on and on about. Theme parks are the most beautiful places I will ever know. This is not sarcasm. If you could see my face, it would be straight. Straight-faced.

Second of all, when I went to Disney World in the summers of 1988 and 1990, those were two of the most awe-inspiring experiences for me as a kid. If I had to make a list of the top 5 coolest things that happened to me before puberty ruined everything, Disney World would be up there. Maybe number 1. Quite possibly number 1. Yes, number 1.

Unfortunately, I've never been to Disneyland.

This will all change on Thursday.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Last night, I went to "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" at Oakland's Paramount Theatre, which is an old Art Deco theatre from the oldie-times that was refurbished a few years ago. It was gorgeous. It was huge and had an upper balcony and everything. Plus, before the movie, they made it like oldie-times and showed a newsreel (!) and a Warner Bros. cartoon along with some past trailers ("King Kong," "West Side Story"). The entire place was filled with people - young and old alike - who laughed and hissed and cheered along with the movie.

The movie itself, of course, was great. In addition to "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," "Back to the Future," and the extremely popular "Cloak and Dagger," I'd say "Willy Wonka" was one of my most-watched movies as a little boy. So it was nice to see it again in such a spectacular setting. And goddamn... when Charlie gives Wonka that ever-lasting gobstopper at the end, that has to be one of the best moments ever. Not just in film. Ever.

On the previous night, I again watched "Shampoo" on DVD, which is a great movie as well. While watching the movie, I realized how close it is to the movie I'm writing right now (and planning to shoot this summer) - except without the sex. In fact, that will be the tagline for my movie. "It's Shampoo... without the sex." Or the political implications. Or the overall quality.

Thus far, I've compared my movie to "Shampoo" and Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree." Within a week, I will be comparing it to The Bible. You watch.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Right now, I'm experiencing what wizards and US presidents have often labeled as "melancholy." I can feel it heavy in my chest. Many times, when I'm experiencing this emotion, I try to doodle a picture or write a rhyming couplet or something else incredibly dorky in an effort to "EXPRESS" this feeling or more likely, "EXTINGUISH" in it. It rarely ever works. Usually, all what happens is that I get frustrated by the materials in front of me. I feel like the pen in my hand can't push hard enough into the paper and I end up scribbling circles until the paper tears a hole.

Or I write pathetic blogs.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Today, at work, I read about how in the last ten years of his life, Thomas Edison devoted all his time and energy to the invention of "The Electrical Wizard," which would be "a mechanical medium" allowing the living to communicate with the dead.

What a loony tune.

I love it when you hear about famed inventor's "failed inventions." Of course, inventors should be remembered for their great works (i.e. the telephone, the airplane, the Spin-Art), but there's just something so earnest and sad about their inventions that never worked out or caught on. I mean, who can't love an inventor who tries to benefit the human race, but fails on every level possible?

But, really... an invention to communicate with the dead? What the hell is wrong with you, Edison?

Of course, that hasn't stopped me from trying to come up with the same invention. I already have a prototype. It's a can of bug spray tied to a cowboy hat. I call it "The Skull Talker." Its ad slogan is: "The Skull Talker: Now you can talk to skulls."

In fact, last night, I tested it. And I totally talked to Jodie Sweetin from "Full House." I asked her if it hurt when she fell out of that rollercoaster as it did the loop-de-loop. She said no. Apparently, Mark Paul-Gosselar was there to break her fall.

So yeah, I can communicate with dead people.

Now, if only I could get through to The City and have them fix my potholes! Am I right? Am I right?

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

The best thing about California?

My sister has a channel, which airs Finders Keepers, a show I have not seen for 15 years. This is awesome.

Yesterday, on my way back to work after a lunch break, I walked by a homeless man who farted in his sleep.

One can only assume that this was related to his complete lack of watching "Finders Keepers."